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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:52

He didn’t want me, and he wouldn’t change his mind. He preferred the criminal underworld to me. He wanted to go back to his whores and one-night stands. Falling in love wasn’t a reason for him to stay in love. This was just a period in his life that he would look back on, nothing more than a memory.

I was already a memory.

The door opened, and Balto stepped inside, still in his sweatpants.

I ignored his look and stared at the TV.

When I didn’t meet his gaze, he stepped farther into the room.

“I’m going to stay with Case until I find my own place.” My brother’s house was enormous, too big for a single person. I would have all the space I needed, and he probably wouldn’t even know I was there.

Balto stood beside me, his hands in his pockets.

“He’s picking me up tomorrow.”

Balto didn’t speak. Spending the afternoon alone obviously hadn’t changed his mind about anything. He was too stubborn and cold to second-guess his decision. He treated the situation like a practical transaction. He was so logical about it that it pissed me off. Obviously, sacrificing everything for a woman didn’t make sense on paper, but when he lived in the moment, I didn’t understand how he could make any other decision.

After everything we’d been through together.

I couldn’t even enjoy Lucian’s death because I was too heartbroken.

Balto continued to stand there.

I slowly turned my gaze toward him, seeing the beautiful man who held my heart in his palm. We’d been through so much together, were so loyal to each other that going our separate ways seemed like a crime against society. “If you have nothing to say, you should leave.” I faced forward again, hoping he would walk out so I could cry in private. He was so cold to me that I refused to let him see my pain. I was too proud to let him see my defeat. I’d already given my heart to him, and he’d thrown it away. I wouldn’t let him have any more of me.

“Sleep with me tonight.”

I kept my eyes on the blank TV, thinking about that large bed with the rumpled sheets. The bed smelled like me. It smelled like him. It’d been my safe haven for weeks now, the place where I felt untouchable from the rest of the world. It was the place where I made love to the man who stole my heart, where our souls wrapped around each other as we kissed and touched. When he’d told me I never loved Evan, he was right. Now that I’d truly fallen in love, I realized Balto was the only man I’d ever loved—truly loved. All the other men before him were just practice for the real thing.

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I knew he wasn’t the right man for me, but that didn’t stop me from falling head over heels.

He continued to hover over me. “Please.”

I didn’t know that word was in his vocabulary.

“I don’t express my emotions very well, but trust me, I’m hurting.”

Not hurting enough, apparently.

“And if this is my last night with you, I don’t want to sleep across the hall.” He moved between my legs then lowered himself to his knees so we would be at eye level with each other. His large hands grabbed my hips and dragged me closer to him, bringing our chests together. He glanced at my lips before he looked at me again. “I don’t wear my heartbreak on my sleeve. I don’t shed tears. But just because I seem indifferent doesn’t mean that’s how I feel. You’re the only woman in the world who has ever meant anything to me. I would die for you—always. You won’t be part of my life, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have my heart. You’ll always have it with you, no matter how much time has passed. Even when you love someone else, my heart will still be yours.”

“I can’t see myself loving someone else…”

“You will. But he better be good enough for you.”

“He has big shoes to fill…”

“Yes. He does.” His hand slid up my cheek, and he brushed his thumb along my bottom lip. His blue eyes softened slightly, his emotion finally shining through. He worshiped me with his gaze, made love to me with just his eyes. His fingers lightly played with my hair as he waited for permission, as he waited to have me.

The proud woman inside me wanted to turn him away, to hurt him the way he hurt me. But when those intense eyes were on me, I felt powerless to fight the magical pull. If this was really our last night together, I didn’t want to spend it across the hall and alone. I wanted to enjoy the man I loved, to savor the feeling of his kiss. It might hurt more tomorrow, but I was too weak to say no. I leaned in and pressed my mouth to his.