I’d been expecting a different answer, so I couldn’t swallow my shock. “No? Are you serious?”
I leaned over the table, ready to slap my palm against his face. “You said—”
“I know what I said.” He slammed his glass down on the table. “But there’s shit you don’t know, alright?”
“Shit I don’t know?” I asked blankly. “What does that mean?”
He spilled some of his booze across the wood and didn’t bother cleaning it up. He took a drink before he looked at me again, his eyes filled with irritation. “Lucian called me a week ago. He went through your phone and discovered our affair.”
The air left my lungs as I let out a quiet gasp. When I’d left the house, I didn’t grab a single item. Everything was left behind, including my two phones. I hadn’t given it a single thought since I left.
“Wasn’t happy about it.”
Balto showed a small smile. “His pride was wounded. He was embarrassed. And then he threatened me…which was funny.”
“Threatened you how?”
“Said he wouldn’t negotiate with me. Said he would never give up the diamond and his intentions for you. Instead, he claims he’s going to take you.”
My heart started to race. I felt perfectly safe with Balto, but I didn’t underestimate Lucian either.
“Which is why I have to deny you your freedom. I’m not afraid of Lucian, but I’m not careless either.”
I never wanted to be with Lucian again. I never wanted to be that asshole’s plaything. I was Balto’s prisoner, but I felt more respected than I ever did with Lucian. I’d rather die than go back to him. “But I can’t stay locked up here forever.”
“I said I would take you to visit your brothers.”
“I need more than that. I want to go out to dinner, go shopping, just get out of the house…”
He gave me that unreadable expression.
“I’ve got cabin fever over here. I just can’t keep staying in the house all the time.”
“What do you want me to do?” he asked in a bored voice. “Take you out to dinner?”
His eyes narrowed in surprise.
“If I can’t go out by myself, then you need to take me places. I feel like an unwanted dog trapped in here.”
He stared at me for a long time as he considered it.
“Consider it a compromise. It’s too dangerous for me to go out alone. But I can go out with you.” Lucian was far more likely to snatch me if I was unprotected. I saw firsthand how scared Lucian was of Balto. That gave me a big advantage.
“I’m surprised you would risk it at all.”
“Well, staying here indefinitely isn’t the solution. And I know I’ll be safe with you.”
Balto stared at me for a long time, his eyes slowly softening.
“You really think he’ll try to take me?”
He nodded. “He’ll have his men try to take you. The pussy won’t do anything himself.”
That didn’t surprise me. Lucian never did his dirty work.
“He’s not thinking clearly right now. I humiliated him, and he’s livid. Now he wants to lash out and teach me a lesson, even though he provoked this entire ordeal. He’ll fail at the attempt, be humiliated once more, and then he’ll play nice. He’ll come back to the table as a negotiator.”
“And will you negotiate with him?”
He brought the glass to his lips and took a drink. “Depends on what he has to offer.”
“Are you staying home tonight?” It was almost nine, so if he was going to leave, he would do it soon. I sat on the couch with the blanket over my thighs while the game played on the TV.
He was still in his sweatpants, like he had no intention of going anywhere. “Yes.”
Anytime I knew he was staying home with me, there was a noticeable spike of happiness in my system. It wasn’t just about the protection, but the comfort. This man was beside me most nights, and it gave me the greatest sleep I’d ever known. When he was gone, I couldn’t sleep at all.
He sat beside me on the couch, and he turned to look at me once he finished the contents of his glass. “Were you like this when Lucian was gone?”
I almost rolled my eyes. “No. I was happy when he was gone.”
“You never felt unsafe?”
It had been just me and his men, and his soldiers weren’t entirely loyal. They didn’t respect Lucian, so it’s possible his men could have taken advantage of me while he was away. But I never cared about that possibility…probably because I didn’t have anything to live for. “I guess it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.”
“And with me, things matter?”
I shrugged when I couldn’t supply a better response.
He stared at me for a while before he turned off the TV. “Let’s go to bed.” He left his dirty glass behind and tossed the remote on the coffee table. As he rose to his feet, the cushion sprang back in place noticeably when his weight was lifted. He rose to his full height, his back turned to me, and he was a statue with endless carvings. For a man who constantly saw battle, it was surprising that his skin was so flawless, that he didn’t possess bullet wounds or scars from stabbings. He was completely untouched.