I never cared what Lucian did behind my back.
The lines had become so blurred that I had no idea what I was doing.
Was I going to live here indefinitely?
Or was Balto going to give me back to Lucian once his demands were met?
Would he really do that to me?
Balto stepped out of the elevator at seven in the evening. He’d said he had to take care of a quick errand, but it still took him two hours. Drops of blood were on his gray t-shirt, and judging by the way it had sprayed against his clothes, it seemed like it belonged to someone else.
“Torture someone?” I stood at the kitchen counter and strained the pasta. I wasn’t a big cook, but since Balto only made boring meals, I had to cook for myself if I wanted anything decent. I pressed the excess liquid out of the noodles then tossed them with the sauce—the Cardello sauce.
“Yes.” Like that was a normal answer to give, he walked by and headed down the hallway. He hopped in the shower, and by the time he returned, I’d already finished my dinner.
I sat at the kitchen table and stared at my empty plate. Only streaks of sauce were left.
Balto returned, in just his sweatpants. His hard body was on display like a work of art. If he just killed someone, he didn’t seem affected by the murder. Like nothing happened at all, he walked into the kitchen, whipped up something, and then took the seat across from me.
He chewed slowly as he stared at me, silently asking me to elaborate.
“The man you killed.”
“Then what did you do?”
“Made him wish I killed him.” He took another bite, his masculine jaw working slowly. He made eating fish somehow sexy, all because of that hard jawline.
He stabbed his asparagus with a fork. “Betrayed someone I know.”
“You exact revenge for other people?”
“Then this person must mean a lot to you.”
He lowered his fork as he finished chewing, his gaze focusing even harder on my face. He said nothing, letting the silence fill the room with even more tension.
I was used to this palpable focus, when he made the entire world go quiet because he was locked on to his target with such enthusiasm, but I was never comfortable with it. It always made me feel like prey—and he was the predator. That was the status of our relationship. We weren’t man and woman. We weren’t man and lover. We were predator and prey. “I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve behaved. It’s time you upheld your end of the bargain.”
“And what is that, exactly?” He finished his food and pushed the plate to the side. His elbows rested on the surface, and he leaned toward me, his piercing blue gaze drilling holes into my skin.
“You said you would give me my freedom.” I wanted to go shopping, visit my family, take a drive through the countryside. I just wanted to have some control over my life. “I haven’t felt the sun on my face since I came here. At least with Lucian, I could go outside and sit by the pool.”
“Don’t compare me to him.”
“I’m not. I’m just saying—”
“Would you rather go back to him?”
“Then don’t compare me to him.” He grabbed his glass of booze and took a drink.
“You said you would give me my freedom. Are you a man of your word or not?”
He shook the cubes in his glass before he set it down. “Always.”
“Then I want to leave. Either give me a car, or I’ll walk everywhere.”
He chuckled like the suggestion was stupid. “Not gonna happen. You think I’m gonna let you walk around by yourself in this city?”
“I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
“That was before you got yourself mixed up with two crime lords. All those freedoms you used to enjoy are long gone. You will always look over your shoulder as long as Lucian and I are alive.”
Balto wasn’t the one I was afraid of. I never had to look over my shoulder because it didn’t matter if he was there or not. “I fuck you every night when you come home. I’ve made an effort with your brother. It’s your turn to uphold your end of the bargain.”
That amused smile spread across his mouth. “Let’s not pretend you fuck me out of obligation. You fuck me because you want me. Let’s start there.”
Whenever he was a pompous asshole, I wanted to smack him upside the head. I wanted to do that now, but when he stared at me like that, I felt immobile. “Doesn’t matter. We made a deal. Are you going to honor that deal or not?”
He rested back against the chair while his fingers held on to his glass. With his head slightly tilted, he looked at me long and hard, like he was considering his final answer before he gave it. “No.”