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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:50

I turned the knob and was pleased to find it was also unlocked.

I stepped inside and came face-to-face with Balto, who sat in the small chair and wore the exact expression I expected him to have. Stoic and emotionless, he didn’t look the least bit scared that a bomb was about to rip him into a million pieces.

But my heart ached at the sight. The vest around his body was attached to the chair, so he couldn’t move even with the door unlocked. This man took my place and accepted a fate he didn’t deserve. It made me want to cry again.

He finally said something. “What the fuck are you doing?” He wasn’t happy to see me. On the contrary, he was livid. The vein on his forehead pounded through the skin, and the red tint of his face showed his true rage. “Get the hell out of here. Now.”

I turned to the timer on the wall.

He only had two minutes left.

I kneeled in front of him and examined all the wires and nodes. Lucian had more explosives wired than usual, probably because he really wanted to decimate Balto’s body entirely. I pulled out the scissors from my back pocket.

“Baby, leave. Don’t make me ask you again.”

“Shut up, alright?” I felt the wires with my fingers and traced each one, trying to determine the correct one in order to disarm the bomb without making it explode. “I’m concentrating.”

“You cut the wrong wire, and we’re both dead. I didn’t take your place so you could die. Now, get out of here—”

“I’m not leaving you.” I lifted my gaze and looked at him, even though I was wasting time. “We’re in this together. If you die, I die. Man and woman, we go together. Now let me focus on what I’m doing. Lucian taught me how to disarm his bombs. If you would shut up for a few seconds, I might be able to figure it out.”

He clenched his jaw in irritation but didn’t say a word.

I looked at my hands and studied what I was doing. The color of the wire was meaningless in this case because Lucian didn’t build his bombs that way. All that mattered was the connection. I had to sever the wire that was connected to the power that would ignite the explosion. The only way to do that was to trace it.

It took me forty-five seconds to narrow it down.

“Baby, you need to leave. You only have thirty seconds—”

“I got it.” I held the scissors to the wire.

“Don’t cut it unless—”

Balto looked at the timer, in awe that it had stopped. Then he slowly turned his head to me, shocked that I managed to stop it in time.

I rose to my feet and pulled a knife out of my pocket. I sliced the vest off his body, getting him free so we could leave the explosives behind. “We’ve got to move quick. He’ll notice the clock stopped, and he’ll detonate it himself.”

Balto tossed the vest in the corner once it was loose then moved to the door.

We both got through the door and shut it just before the explosion hit.

The door immediately felt hot, going from a few degrees to a thousand. And the sound nearly popped my eardrums.

Balto took my hand, and we hurried outside.

Heath emerged from behind a tree. “This way. Come on.”

Balto gave his brother an incredulous look. “You’re part of this—”

Heath hugged him hard, lowering his gun so he could embrace his brother. “I love you, man.”

Balto dropped his anger and hugged him back. “I love you too.”

“Now, let’s get out of here.” Heath released him and nodded to the wall. “He’ll check on the damage any minute, and it’ll take two seconds for him to realize you didn’t explode with that bomb.” He moved to the wall and put his hands together. “Cassini, you first.”

I stepped on his hands and crawled over the wall. “Be quick.” I dropped to the other side.

Case grabbed my arm. “Did he—”

“Yes, Balto is okay. But Lucian is going to figure it out any minute, and we have to haul ass.”

My brother smiled at me, pride in his eyes. “I can’t believe you did it. You disarmed a bomb. That’s crazy.”

I shrugged. “Lucian shouldn’t have underestimated me.”

We piled into the SUV and took off. Heath pressed down on the gas, making us speed down the country road back to the city. We had only minutes before Lucian figured out what happened. He might send his men to chase us, or he might realize he was too late.

I was pissed about a lot of things.

I was pissed Cassini risked her life for mine.

I was pissed my brother betrayed me and helped her.

I was pissed Lucian tried to blow me into a million pieces.