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The Skull Crusher (Skull 2) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:52:00

He gave her a one-armed hug and kissed her forehead. “I missed you too, sorella.”

“What are you making?” She looked down into the strainer and saw the fettuccini that was still steaming. She picked up a noodle to place in her mouth.

He smacked it away. “Don’t be a pig.”

“I’m hungry. The only hot meals I get at Balto’s place are fish and chicken.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad to me.” He shook the strainer and dropped the pasta into a large bowl.

She stuck out her tongue. “You’re both annoying.”

He moved back to the stove, where he had sauce cooking in a pan. “I’m trying a new recipe, something a bit spicier. Trying to figure out if it would be better over pasta or stuffed inside lasagna.”

“Lasagna,” she blurted. “But let’s try it anyway.”

“Who said this was for you?” he asked with a chuckle.

“Oh, come on,” she whined. “I haven’t had a home-cooked pasta meal in forever. And where is your Italian hospitality?”

“I’m running a business, not a hospitality service.”

“Well, I own a third of that service, so a third of that is mine.”

He sighed and smiled at the same time. “Alright. I’ll get it ready.”

She clapped her hands excitedly. “I knew you’d cave.”

Case turned to me. “You want any, Balto?”

“No thanks.” I was surprised he even asked. It was unlike an Italian to feed their enemy.

“Yes, he’ll have some,” Cassini said. “This is the real deal. You aren’t going to pass it up because you’re afraid of carbs.”

Just a few carbs made a big difference. My frame was so muscled and tight because I didn’t eat carbs, which meant there weren’t any carbs to turn to sugar then to fat. It was the best way to keep this chiseled frame. “I said no—”

“And I said yes.” She turned to her brother. “Make him a plate. I’m going to say hi to Dirk.” She headed for the kitchen door. “Don’t kill each other while I’m gone.”

The door swung shut, and minutes of silence passed afterward.

Case prepared the plates and broke the tension. “To answer your unspoken question, yes, she’s always been that bossy.”

“I figured.” Judging by the way she pushed her brothers around, she’d been that way for a long time.

“Have you reconsidered our offer?” He placed the dirty dishes in the sink to be cleaned later.

He wiped his hands on a towel as he looked at me, his disappointment obvious.

“Just be grateful I’ve allowed her to continue her relationship with you. And definitely be grateful that I’m good to her.”

“Good to her?” he asked with a chuckle. “Keeping her as a prisoner is your idea of being good to her.”

“Trust me, it could be a lot worse.” I’d seen suffering that most people couldn’t imagine. I broke a man’s skull with my shoe, as I’d done dozens of times before. It was my favorite way to execute my enemies. One day, that was exactly how Lucian would die.

“I guess we have different definitions of worse.” Case was unusual because he wasn’t afraid to challenge me, whether we were alone or in a room full of people. His bravery wasn’t a fa?ade or false display of masculinity. He was a true man down to the bone. He refused to be intimidated, but he was also highly logical, making pragmatic decisions that spared his life. He didn’t want to fold when I demanded a cut of my business, but he was smart enough to understand he had no other choice. He didn’t think with emotion, but reason. His sister was very similar in that regard.

“When are you going to tell her about your little operation?”

“I’m surprised you haven’t told her already,” he countered.

“It’s not my secret to tell.”

His eyes softened, just slightly.

“I’m not a rat. But you need to tell her because she’ll eventually figure out that we had some kind of relationship before this came about. She’s very smart…which can be fucking annoying. And I’m not a liar. If she presses me into a corner, I’m going to have to admit there’s something there. Then she’ll be even more pissed off when she marches to your door and discovers the horrifying truth. And trust me, she’ll be horrified.”

“It’s not like I’m the Skull King. It’s not like I’m in trafficking.”

“Doesn’t matter. She’ll be pissed that you’re involved in my world at all. She knows the kind of shit I do at night and doesn’t want you to be part of that. She’s not going to be happy.”

“Then maybe she doesn’t need to know.”

I shook my head slightly. “She’ll figure it out eventually. Better to come clean about it.”

He tossed the towel on the counter and crossed his arms over his chest.

“She looks up to me. Don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”

I knew that wasn’t an excuse. He was simply talking out loud, not even directing those words at me.