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The Skull Crusher (Skull 2) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:51:58

“No. But why won’t you answer?”

“Because it’s none of your business. That’s why.”

His cold dismissal made me quiet, but it also made me curious. If he had been with other women, he wouldn’t care about hurting my feelings. It wouldn’t change our relationship since he didn’t owe me anything. So why would he not just tell me? “You weren’t.”

He slowly turned his head my way, staring at me with those cold eyes.

“You said you didn’t care about hurting my feelings, so you would just tell me if there had been others. I have no right to be upset anyway. I was still with Lucian at the time…even though I hated it. So the only reason why you aren’t answering is because there was no one else…and you don’t want me to know that.”

He had the best poker face in the world, an expression that was flat like a slab of concrete and cold like the winter winds. His thoughts were buried under his hostility. If he were my opponent across a battlefield, I’d shit my pants. He turned his head back to the ceiling. “One of the men under my ranks crossed me. Hunter Reyes has been one of my top drug dealers for the last few years. Always pulls in great numbers and stays out of my way. But one of my spies informed me that Hunter’s been skimming off the top, underreporting the amount of product he’s shipping, and therefore, undercutting my fee.”

I still wanted to press him for an answer, but I became so engrossed in his tale that I pushed it into the back of my mind. This sounded like a story that would lead to a war—with lots of causalities.

“I took sixty of my best men and confronted him on his doorstep. He had just transferred the product into the back of his van. I pride myself on being a fair and just Skull King. I don’t execute a man unless I’m positive that he’s guilty. And if he is guilty, depending on the severity of the crime, I always extend a less cruel punishment—if they earn it. But they have to be honest with me, look me in the eye and tell me exactly what they did. Unfortunately, Hunter Reyes insulted me by expecting me to buy his bullshit. He actually thought he could trick me and get away with it. It was disrespectful…and I can’t stand disrespect. So I broke into the van and caught him red-handed.”

This story didn’t have a happy ending. “What did you do?”

“I crushed his skull under my boot.”

My hand immediately went to my mouth as I silenced a gasp. The mental image popped into my head, a man begging for his life while this behemoth stomped his shoe so hard that it shattered his skull. Blood and brains must have spilled everywhere. It was a violent and painful death, so disturbing that it nearly made me sick.

“Don’t feel bad for him. I gave him a way out—and he didn’t take it.”

“What if he had told you the truth?”

“I would have beaten him to within an inch of his life—but he would have lived. He gave me no choice. My men respect me, and I can never lose that admiration. If I granted this man mercy, it would have made me weak. I didn’t want to grant him mercy anyway, so it didn’t matter. A man who crosses me like that doesn’t deserve to live. He deserves to be tortured and humiliated in front of his men.”

It took me a few seconds to recover from the tale, to understand what this man was truly capable of.

“Another reason I despise Lucian. He hides behind his bombs and explosives and detonates them when he’s safe somewhere else. When he kills his enemies, he has one of his men do it for him. The man isn’t a man at all. He’s just a genius with a fat wallet. That doesn’t impress me.”

Nothing about Lucian impressed me. “His men don’t admire him. They’re just afraid of him.”

“That’s not leadership.”

It was crazy to believe that this warlord had so much nobility and class when he was a murderer and a criminal. He was just and merciful. He never lied. He was transparent and respectable. He didn’t seem to care about money either, so why didn’t he pursue a different line of work?

“I respect your brothers. And respect is hard to earn from me.”

The mention of my family made me forget about Lucian.

“They came to the Underground, surrounded by hundreds of the biggest criminals in this city, and not once did they show their fear. They offered me everything they had if I let you go.”

My eyes closed as the emotion hit, thinking about my brothers willing to give up their pasta company just so they could have me back. My brothers were so fearless, especially Case. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for me—and I loved them from the bottom of my heart. “I’m guessing you said no.”