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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:47

I lowered my sandwich back to the plate, imagining the scene in my head. “He didn’t tell me that part.”

“Because it makes him look like a dick. Threatening a woman? Not his style.”

He tried to keep women off him, but there was only so much he could do. But the fact that he’d tried was sweet. He didn’t seem like a one-woman kind of man, but that was exactly what he’d been with me. He was committed, loyal, and honest. It was sad to think that this arrangement would be over soon…once Lucian was gone.

“You know he’s obsessed with you. It’s written all over his face.”

Yes…I’d noticed a few times.

Heath studied me. “And you’re obsessed with him.”

“As are all women…” Any time he stepped into a bar, every woman wanted to keep him for themselves. He was sexy, strong, and protective. I’d never thought I needed protection, but now that I’d found a man who erased all my problems and kept me safe, I never wanted to lose him. It was the greatest feeling in the world. “So what brings you by?”

He shrugged. “A bit bored, I guess. Balto doesn’t have a plan for Lucian yet, so we’re just waiting around.”

“I’m sure he has a plan. He’s just not sharing it with you.”

“Maybe.” He picked up his sandwich again. “What are you going to do once Lucian is dead?”

“I don’t know… I can’t even imagine.” I’d never really had freedom. Ever since Balto had taken me, I’d been locked in his compound and not allowed to leave. The few times I made trips were under Balto’s supervision. The one time we went out to eat, we were attacked, and we barely got to enjoy ourselves for a full hour. “It’d be nice to walk to a coffee shop and get a cappuccino. Or just go shopping. Little things like that.”

“Where are you going to live?”

“I don’t know… I’ll probably move in with my older brother until I get a place.”

He nodded. “I’ve never met your brother, but I’ve seen him a few times. Balto says good things about him.”

“Because he’s a good man.”

“You guys must come from a good family.”

He finished his sandwich then stared at me across the table, having the same stern expression Balto possessed.

“Balto hasn’t mentioned his family to me. I know he has you, but he doesn’t talk about your parents.”

“Not much to say, really.”

I grabbed a chip from the bag and popped it into my mouth. “I’m guessing they’ve passed away.”

“Yeah, it’s been a while. Our father was an abusive alcoholic. He used to come home and beat our mom a lot. When she tried to run away, he beat her worse. When Balto and I became adults, he hurt her so bad that she died in the hospital.”

Heath didn’t possess any emotion for the heartbreaking story. “Then Balto and I hunted him down and killed him. That’s our entire family story. We stuck together after that even though we had our differences. But no matter what happens, we both know we are all each other has. Neither one of us will marry or have children, so we’re protective of each other.”

“Why won’t you marry?”

He shrugged. “Neither one of us wants to. In our line of work, it wouldn’t be a good idea. And kids would be an even worse idea.”

“It’s not safe. If someone wanted to hurt us, hurting our wife and kids would be the best way to go about it. Our lives are always on the line, so it wouldn’t be any different for them. Having a family would be irresponsible, frankly.”

Family was the most important thing to me. I grew up surrounded by loud voices, family dinners, and Italian traditions centered around food and wine. There was nothing I wanted more than to have three kids of my own, just the way my parents had had three kids. The idea of sacrificing that for a job…sounded heartbreaking. “I wouldn’t trade having a family for anything.”

“Then it’s a good thing you don’t have to worry about it.”

Balto came down the hallway a moment later in his gray sweatpants. He took one look at Heath and showered him with coldness.

“Before your thong gets too tight, Cassini said it was fine if I came over.” He grabbed a chip and tossed it into his mouth.

“I did say that,” I said in agreement.

“You forget this is my house, not hers. And I don’t want you here.” He walked into the kitchen then started to cook his lunch.

Heath brushed off the insult like he was used to it. “Is he always this cranky first thing in the morning?”

“No. But he’s a grouchy guy in general.”

He chuckled. “I’m sorry you have to deal with it every day.”

I shrugged. “It’s not so bad…”

Balto took the seat beside me, along with his plate of fish and greens.