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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:55

I walked into the Underground with my shirt over my shoulder.

The men followed behind me with the taxes we’d collected. Millions of euros were stuffed into the leather bags to be placed in the vault. Tomorrow, I would meet with Cato Marino, the owner of one of the biggest banks in Europe. He convinced me to keep some of our money in his vaults because it wasn’t smart to store everything in one place.

We descended farther underground until we arrived at the enormous vault with a circular door constructed out of the strongest metal in the world. Over five feet thick, the door was impossible to drill through.

The men left the money then disappeared, giving me privacy so I could turn the enormous wheel and enter the code for the door to unlock. I didn’t use an electric passcode because that could be hacked. Old-fashioned locks had the better advantage. The only way someone was getting in here was if they got the code from me—and I wouldn’t crack. I wouldn’t die for money.

But I would die for pride.

I opened the door and revealed all the cash already stuffed inside.

“So, you just never wear a shirt now?” Heath’s voice emerged from behind me.

I turned around to look at him, displeased by his presence.

He stepped farther into the room. “Don’t worry. I stepped inside after the door was open.”

“I don’t let anyone down here.”

“I might be a thief, but I don’t steal from my brother.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at the bags of money. “Need help with this?”

“No.” I picked up two bags, carried them into the vault, and then returned for two more.

“Seriously, what’s with your shirt?” he asked. “Trying to encourage all of us to hit the gym?”

“Just you.” I placed two more bags inside then returned. “I got blood on my shirt.”

“And that bothers you?”

I pulled my shirt off my shoulder and held it out to him. “It was white before.”

He examined the red blood that had turned the entire shirt the bold color. “How did you manage that? And why are you keeping it?”

“Good point.” I tossed it on the ground and kept working. “Some prick crossed me. I took care of it.”

He rolled his eyes. “Why do they never learn?”

“They do learn. But they like to roll the dice.”

He shook his head. “Gambling is never a good idea—if you’re betting your life.”

I finished loading the money then shut the door. “Something you wanted?”

“Actually, yes.” He looked me in the eye once the door was shut and I was finished working. “You look like shit.”

I stared him down and noted his serious expression. “I did just work all night.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it.”

Ever since Cassini left, I’d been working all the time, trying to stay busy so I wouldn’t think about her. That plan wasn’t working so well. She came into my thoughts, no matter how hard I tried to forget her. When I closed my eyes, she was in my dreams. I replayed her final words to me over and over.

I love you, Balto. I always will.

And I never said it back.

The weak part of me hoped she would call, but she never did. Even if we only talked about the weather, it would be nice to hear her voice again, to know she was alright. I knew Case and Dirk would look after her just as well as I did.

Heath kept staring at me. “This is stupid, man.”

“You’re just saying that because you want to be king.”

“Even if that’s the case, I’m still right. Your heart isn’t in this anymore. You’re just going through the motions because you’re scared—”

“I’m not scared of anything.”

Heath didn’t back down. “You’re scared to change your life. It’s easier just to think about money and who you’re going to kill later tonight. But that’s not real life. It’s just a job, Balto. Cassini is your real life.”

I was too proud to sacrifice everything I’d worked for just because of a woman. “If it’s so insignificant, why do you want the job so bad?”

“Because I don’t have anything else to live for—you do.”

“You know I’m right. Stop being so stubborn. If you’re stubborn too long, she’s going to find someone else. A woman like that doesn’t stay single for long. She can walk into a bar on a Monday night and land more guys than she can handle.”

Picturing Cassini surrounded by men with hard-ons made me want to punch a hole through the vault door. I hadn’t been jealous before because there hadn’t been a reason to be. She lived with me and stayed indoors all the time. I never had to worry about another man rivaling me. But now that she was single, she could be sleeping with someone at this very moment.