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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:54:57

“I’m worried about you.”

I kicked off my boots then moved to the couch, barely able to stand because the room was spinning. I did my best to pretend everything was normal, that I could stand on my own two feet. “Your worry is unnecessary.”

“Is it?” He came toward me, his hands resting in his pockets. “Cassini has been gone over three months, and in that amount of time, you’ve slipped further and further into this black hole. I’ve known you my entire life, witnessed every dark period in your life, but this tops the list.”

Alcohol usually helped me not think about Cassini, but right now, it made me think about her harder, with more emotion. The longing was powerful, and I felt stranded without her. I would have thought that three months would be long enough for me to forget about her.

I think I loved her even more.

Heath kept staring at me. “How many women have you slept with?”

I shrugged. “Too many to count…”

He shook his head slightly. “None.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about—”

“And you don’t lie, so why are you lying now?”

My gaze turned to the floor, the shame moving through my veins.

“Cut the bullshit and make this right. Get her back. I can’t believe you’ve let this go on so long.”

Even if I wanted her, I couldn’t have her. So much time had passed that she was probably with someone else. “I saw Case last week. I asked about her…he said she was doing well. I asked if she was seeing someone, and he refused to answer.”

“Who cares if she’s seeing someone or not? Never stopped you before.”

“Heath…I was such an asshole to her.”

“You’re always an asshole. She’s used to it.”

I shook my head. “This was different.”

“And she still loves you. I know she does.”

I lifted my gaze to look at his. “Why do you think that?”

“Because when she thought you were going to die, she was a complete mess. She wouldn’t stop sobbing. And she was ready to bash my head in if I got in the way of her rescue plan.”

“That was months ago…”

“Doesn’t matter. People don’t risk their lives like that unless it’s real. Grow some balls, and get your woman back.”

I rose to my feet, doing my best to stand upright. “I can’t. Nothing has changed.”

He rolled his eyes. “You’re the Skull King, and you’re miserable. Fucking miserable.”

“The job doesn’t make me miserable—”

“But not having her does. I think the decision is pretty clear. You can live without the Skull Kings…but you can’t live without her.”

“Case, I’m not going on a date.” I sat at the table with him across from me. He was eating lunch while I took care of the accounting. As my pregnancy had progressed, my appetite had changed. There were only certain things I was willing to eat, and unfortunately, pasta was something the baby didn’t want.

“Why not? Alessandro has always had a thing for you.”

“And I’m sure my pregnant belly is a big turn-on,” I said sarcastically.

“I told him, and he doesn’t care.”

“The only thing he cared about was if you had a man in your life. I told him the father of your baby didn’t want to be part of your kid’s life, so he’s gone.”

Alessandro was a good-looking guy. He was my brother’s age, and I’d met him a few times. I’d always found him attractive, but I was never single when he was single. “Even so, it’s too soon for me to be dating.”

“Too soon?” he asked incredulously. “It’s been three months.”

“A month would have been long enough. Balto is a fucking asshole. Don’t wait around for him.”

“I’m not waiting for anything. I just don’t think it’s fair to Alessandro. Maybe Balto isn’t around anymore, but I still think about him. How is that fair?”

“Everyone is always hooked on someone at any given time. I’m sure Alessandro is still sleeping with someone until he finds the next best thing. That’s how the real world works. Stop making excuses.”

“I’m not making excuses—”

“I’m going to have a baby in a few months. I’ll be too busy to date someone.”

“Not true. Uncle Case and Uncle Dirk can babysit anytime. You need to put yourself out there and find a good man.”

“Why is this so important to you?”

He sighed before he answered. “If you won’t live with me, then I want you to end up with someone. I want someone to take care of you. I hate Balto, but when you were with him, it was a relief. I knew he could take care of you. I knew he would protect you. But he’s not around anymore.”

“Case, that’s sweet, but I don’t need a man to take care of me.”

“Not true.” He shook his head. “Balto always kept you safe—and that was one of the reasons you loved him.”