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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:49

Balto ignored his words. “I’m the better choice. Take me instead.”

Sobs choked my throat. “No! Please!”

Lucian looked at me again before he turned back to Balto. “I have to admit, this is fun to watch. When I kill you, I can hunt her down.”

“You’ll never be able to find her,” Balto responded. “My men will see to that.”

“And before your men have a chance to hunt you down, I’ll strap you with explosives and blow you into a million pieces.” Lucian stared him down. “There will be nothing left to bury. There will be nothing left to remember. I accept your offer.”

“No!” I slammed my fists into Heath so I could get past. “Lucian! Take me! Please.”

Lucian smiled and turned away. “Cuff him.”

“No!” I slid to my knees on the asphalt.

Case was pushed forward so he would cross the center and come to our side. He walked slowly, like any false moves would get him shot. He came to our side then approached me. “Cassini.”

Lucian turned and punched Balto in the face.

Balto hardly even moved.

The men pulled his hands together in front of him and cuffed his wrists together.

Lucian punched him again.

Balto turned with the hit slightly then spat out blood. “If you really want to hurt me, have your men do it. You don’t know how to hit a man.”

Lucian snapped his fingers and walked away.

Two of his men stepped forward and started slamming their fists into his body, hitting him in the face and slugging him in the stomach.

“No!” I covered my face and sobbed because I couldn’t watch it. “God…” I heard their fists assaulting his hard body, heard the subtle grunts he made as he took the beating. Then I heard his body crash to the ground as the men started to kick him.

I sobbed harder than I ever had.

“Come on.” Heath grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into the back seat.

“Do something!” I smacked him in the chest. “He’s your brother! Do something!”

“Balto honors his deals.” He shut the door and enabled the child safety locks.

Case got into the truck beside me, his face bruised and swollen.

Heath got into the driver’s seat and pulled away, turning around so I wouldn’t have to see Balto’s body in the middle of the road, beaten and bloody.

Case wrapped his arm around my shoulder and held me, but he didn’t say any empty words to comfort me.

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“I didn’t want him to do this! I never would have asked him to do this.” My throat was sore from crying so hard, from leaving him behind when it was never his sacrifice to make. I should be the one who was beaten and bloody, not him.

Heath kept his eyes on the road as he drove away. “You didn’t have to ask him to do anything. That man will do anything for you—and you should have known that.”

I took Evan’s place, and now Balto took my place. I sacrificed myself for a man who didn’t love me, and now I had a man who would do anything for me. The realization only hurt me more, only made me die a million deaths. “We have to do something, Heath. We can’t just let this happen.”

He took a deep breath. “There’s nothing we can do. I have to get you to safety so Lucian never finds you. That’s what Balto wants. That’s what he asked me to do. And I’ll honor his last request.”

I was cuffed to the metal chair, sitting in a sterile room with only fluorescent lights overhead. When his men had driven back to the estate, I was surprised he wasn’t taking me to a more secure location. If he intended to make good on his threat, it didn’t make sense to do it on his own property.

Lucian stepped into the room, pushing a cart full of equipment. He came to the table beside me and laid out a vest along with wires and explosives. Meticulously, he set everything out so I could see it.

I glanced at his supplies then looked at him. “If you’re trying to intimidate me, it’s not working.”

“No.” He smiled, like this moment brought him so much joy. “I don’t need to intimidate you. I’m happy enough as it is.” He began constructing the bomb. “When I detonate this vest, you’ll be in so many pieces that even your teeth will be lost.”

“Good. That’ll be a bitch to clean up.” There was something oddly calming about imminent death. When there was nothing that could be done to avoid it, it was peaceful. I only had thirty minutes of life left to live, but I was okay with that. I’d never imagined this was how I would go, by taking the place of a woman, but I didn’t have any regrets. All I wanted was for her to be happy, to have the life that was taken from her. Now she knew how a real man treated a woman, how a man should sacrifice everything for his woman. She’d wasted her heart on Evan, a man who didn’t deserve her.