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

Case grabbed the two suitcases. “I’ll put these in the car and wait for you in the lobby…” He pulled everything into the elevator before the doors closed.

My hand continued to grip her arm even after he was gone. My eyes didn’t deviate from her face. I stepped closer to her then pulled her into me. “You’re still my woman until you walk out that door.”

She turned away. “Don’t call me that…”

I tugged her harder into me. “I can call you that all I want.” I released my grip then moved my hand into her hair.

She turned her face and rested her cheek against my palm, living for my affection.

I pressed my forehead to hers and held her close to me. There was nothing to be said in that moment, nothing that hadn’t already been said over the last few days. The decision was set in stone. I could confess the feelings that resided in my soul, but that would only make things worse. And listening to this woman tell me she loved me made me deserve her even less. With eyes closed, I held her in front of me, dreading the final moment when I really had to let her go.

I didn’t want any other woman. I couldn’t picture myself bringing a woman home for a long time. And I couldn’t see myself enjoying it for a long time either. Whether it was a whore or a woman I met in a bar, it wouldn’t make a difference.

They weren’t Cassini.

She was the first one to pull away.

I wasn’t ready to let her go.

She grabbed the necklace from around her neck and held it out to me.

I stared at the diamond hanging from it and remembered how sexy it looked against her naked skin. When I made love to her, it was a turn-on to see it tucked between her breasts. It made me feel like I owned her, like she was really my queen. The diamond meant so much to me, but now I didn’t want it.

I took the necklace from her hand then put it back around her throat.

Her eyes widened. “Balto, I can’t keep this…”

“No.” She started to take it off. “I really can’t keep this—”

I steadied her hands. “I want you to have it.”

Still incredulous, she looked at me like she couldn’t believe what I’d just offered. “You just got your third diamond back. If you give this to me, you’ll be down to two again.”

“Exactly. I already have two. I want you to have the third. Keep it.” When I knew she wouldn’t fight me, I released her hands.

She stared down at the diamond against the front of her shirt. “I don’t know what to say…”

“It’ll protect you. Any man who wishes you harm will respect that diamond. They’ll know that you’re the Skull Queen…that you’re my queen.” I stared at the diamond before my eyes flicked up to meet hers.

Her eyes were soft and wet. “But it’s your ring…”

“I can make another.” I grabbed the diamond and tucked it underneath her shirt.

“You worked so hard to have all three diamonds, and now you’re just giving one away.”

I wanted the set to be complete, not because I intended to sell them, but because they were mine. But letting that ring go, the one I’d worn on my hand every day for half of the last decade, was the easiest thing in the world. “I want you to have a piece of me.” I held her gaze even though the sight of her tears killed me. “If you ever need anything, call me. If you want me to chase off a guy who won’t leave you alone, I’d be happy to make him shit himself. If you want me to kill someone, I will—no questions asked. I’ll be your guard dog, your scarecrow. Always.” I cupped her face and pressed a kiss to her forehead. My lips rested there a long time because I wasn’t ready to let her go. I wanted to keep her forever, freeze this moment in time so I could have her a little longer. But the longer I held her, the more difficult it became to let her go. The words she wanted to hear sat on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t bring myself to say them. It wouldn’t do either of us any favors.

I ended the affection and turned away. I walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out over the city in the morning light. It was foggy from the chill, and I could barely see anything. But it was better than watching her go.

I could hear the elevator doors slide open and her shoes thud against the floor as she moved. When her footsteps stopped, I knew she was inside the elevator.

I didn’t turn around. I was too much of a coward.