Heath made a disgusted face. “Our sandwiches were so much better than that.”
“I’ll remember that when your gut comes in,” Balto countered.
“Does that mean I’ll have a gut?” I asked.
“No.” Balto took a bite. “Women don’t have guts. They have curves.”
Heath rolled his eyes.
I smiled. “He always says the right thing…”
Heath grabbed another handful of chips and kept eating. “I told Cassini how you threatened to break off that whore’s hand when she kissed you.”
Balto kept eating like that meant nothing to him. “Why are you here, Heath?”
“Your brother can’t visit you?” he countered.
“I see you at work all the time.” Balto kept eating.
“Not the same,” Heath answered.
“And I see you at the gym,” Balto added.
“But we’re working out and your earbuds are in.” Heath kept snacking on the chips.
“Because I’m trying to tune you out.” Balto finished his plate, leaving nothing behind but the occasional leaf from the brussel sprouts.
“Well, I wanted to spend some time with Cassini,” Heath said. “The poor girl doesn’t get out much.”
“Don’t worry about my woman. That’s my job.” He grabbed his mug of coffee and took a drink. It seemed like all he ever drank was booze with the exception of coffee first thing in the morning.
Heath snatched the bag of chips before he stood up. “Alright, I know when I’m not wanted. But I’m taking these.”
He pressed the button on the elevator then turned to Balto. “We need to come up with a plan for Lucian soon. You’re the man who said we should never underestimate our enemies.” The doors opened and he walked inside.
Balto rested his arms on the table and stared at his brother.
The doors shut and Heath disappeared.
When his brother was gone, Balto turned to me. Now that we were alone, he stared at me with that hard gaze, giving me an unsettling feeling deep in my gut. Sometimes it felt like butterflies. And sometimes it felt like a threat.
“Heath told me about your parents. I’m sorry about your mom…”
He didn’t show a hint of sadness. “Thank you. But I don’t want to talk about her. I never want to talk about my family. That’s a topic of conversation I don’t participate in.”
“It was a long time ago. Not worth mentioning.”
“Well…I just wanted you to know I’m sorry.”
He faced forward again, dismissing my kindness. “It seems like every time Heath comes over here, he pisses off one of us.”
“He’s not so bad. I think he just wants some company.”
“He can afford a hooker.”
I rolled my eyes. “Men don’t just crave company in the form of sex. They need human interaction just like women do.”
He drank from his coffee. “What else did he say to you?”
“That you don’t have a plan for Lucian yet.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll figure it out.”
“I never said I was worried. I know you can handle him.”
He stared straight ahead.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No. You won’t be part of this. It’s between him and me.”
“I know, but I can be of some help. I know his house pretty well. I’ve had experience with his explosives—”
“Lucian isn’t like my other enemies. I can’t confront him head on like I would with someone else. He’s a coward, so he prefers to lay out booby traps. If I go to the wrong place at the wrong time, I could be caught in an explosion. So I have to think about this carefully.”
I knew this kind of war was beyond my skills, but I did know a few things. “I don’t think he’d let me die if he could avoid it. He wants me dead, but only after he tortures me first. If you keep me by your side, that’s just added protection.”
“I’m not risking you.”
This man could take advantage of my position, but he cared more about keeping me safe. It was a sweet gesture, the kind that would make me miss him more. It made me realize Evan had never really cared about me. Maybe Balto was the first man who ever truly did. “You saved my life by not giving me back to him. I want to help you in whatever way I can.”
He turned back to me, the anger in his eyes. “I said I’m not risking you. And I won’t change my mind.”
“No.” I locked my legs around his waist so he couldn’t pull away. “You’ve been gone every night for the entire week. Stay.” I slept in this enormous bed alone, his smell the only comfort I had. It didn’t matter how many times I begged; he never changed his mind. But I begged anyway…because saying goodbye was too hard. If I couldn’t let him go to work, I didn’t know how I would manage to let him go forever.