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

That was true. I couldn’t stand it when he left at night. And if it weren’t for him, I would have died as Lucian’s wife. I never would have known freedom. “There’s only one Balto…and no other guy will compare.”

Case was going to argue more, but my phone rang.

I looked at the screen and noticed Heath’s name. “I’ve got to take this…” I took the call. “Heath? Everything alright?” I hadn’t spoken to Heath since before Balto dumped me. He wouldn’t call me for a chat. He would only call me if something were wrong.

Case dropped his pen and stared at me, obviously tense that the phone call was taking place.

“It’s been a while, huh?” he asked. “How are you?”

“Fine…what about you?”

“Eh. I’ve been better. Worried about Balto.”

“Why are you worried about him?”

“Because he’s a loose cannon. He’s been drinking too much. And for Balto, that means he’s drinking a lot. He should get a blood test and see how his liver is doing.”

“And you’re telling me this why…?”

“Cassini, you know why. He’s doing all of this because of you.”

When he’d come to the factory last week, he’d questioned Case about me. It seemed like he cared. He was much softer than he was when he yelled at me in his apartment. “I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”

“He’s miserable without you.”

If only that were true. “I think you’re misreading him.”

“No, trust me,” I said. “You are.”

“If I’m wrong, why hasn’t he slept with anyone in three months?”

The idea of him sleeping alone lifted a weight from my chest. Every time I pictured him with someone else, I felt sick to my stomach. It made me want to cry a million tears. “Maybe it seems that way from the outside, but—”

“I’m with him all the time. We hit the bars together almost every night, and he always goes home alone. He gets plenty of offers, but he turns them down each and every time. The guy is a walking zombie. I’ve never seen him hit rock bottom like this.”

Even if everything Heath said was true, there was nothing I could do. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

“Because I was hoping you would talk to him.”

“That’s never going to happen.” I’d told him I loved him even when he dumped me. Then I’d tried to tell him I was pregnant, but all he wanted to do was remind me how much of an asshole he was.

“Because you’re over him? I don’t believe that.”

“No. I went to his place a few months ago to talk, but he threw me out. If he really wants to be with me again, he needs to be a man and fight for me. He needs to get on his knees and beg me to take him back. And even then, I’m not sure I would.”

“He hurt you pretty bad, huh?”

“He killed me, Heath. You have no idea.” Growing his child inside me every single day just made me miss him more. Regardless of how much I hated him now, I would always love him because he was the father of my child.

“So, don’t call me and tell me how much he’s suffering. If he wants me back, he needs to do it himself.”

“He didn’t ask me to make this phone call, Cassini. He has no idea I called you. I just wanted you to know that the man is falling apart. Instead of getting better as the breakup goes on, he’s getting worse. He’s not fucking anyone. He prefers to drink and hide away in his apartment. He’s still doing his job with the Skull Kings, but his heart isn’t in it anymore. I don’t understand why he’s being so stubborn, but he continues to lie to himself.”

“Yes…he’s the most stubborn man I’ve ever met.”

He sighed into the phone. “You know, I remember when you’d only been living with him a few weeks and we were in the gym together. I told him that he loved you, that it was written all over his face. He wouldn’t admit it to me, but he wouldn’t deny it either. That was a long time ago, long before you fell in love with him. I don’t know why he struggles to be open about his feelings. He’s the most fearless man in the world, unafraid of anything. But when it comes to this…he doesn’t get it. He’s afraid to give his heart to someone. He’s afraid to sacrifice his lifestyle for someone else. I don’t understand it.”

“Because he’s too proud. He cares more about his reputation. He wants his life to be what it was.”

“Well, that’s never going to happen,” Heath said. “Too much has changed.”

“And yet…he still hasn’t come after me.”

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“And I don’t think he will, Heath. He was so vicious to me the last time I saw him. Maybe turning me away killed him, but that didn’t matter. He believes in his principles too much, which is fine. But I’m not going to wait around for him to make up his mind. I have a date tonight, actually.”