“Yeah, I’ve always gotten that hunch.”
“Watch out for him. The last thing I’m going to do before I leave is abolish the auction. You need to maintain that during your reign.”
Heath stared at me as if he couldn’t believe a word I said. “Are you serious? That’s one of the easiest ways for the Skull Kings to make money. It’s our main attraction.”
“Selling innocent women into slavery is wrong. We aren’t righteous men, but we’re principled. I’ve always killed men who deserved it and spared those who didn’t. The men respect me because I’m fair and just. But kidnapping those young women and selling them to psychopaths is a crime against humanity. I should have stopped it a long time ago, but I’m going to now. And you’re going to carry that on.”
“Why the change of heart all of a sudden? You’ve been the king for five years.”
I’d never cared about morality before. In my eyes, people became the predator or the victim. You had to choose—otherwise, life would choose for you. Those women didn’t make smart decisions and wound up as victims. But now that I loved a woman with my whole heart, I felt differently. She’d been sold to a man for years, been raped and abused for years. Now she was pregnant with his child, but she had too big a heart to terminate the pregnancy. She’d suffered enough, and I wouldn’t make a profit off those poor women to send them into a life anything like she’d been through. “Because Cassini was sold to someone. She’s never had any power, and if it weren’t for me, she would still be suffering. That woman deserves better. They all deserve better. How would you feel if you took the wrong route home and were grabbed by a group of guys? You’re outmatched and can’t possibly fight them off. Then they sell your pussy to a psychopath. You’re raped and beaten every day. How would you feel, Heath?”
He held my gaze but never answered.
“The auction is over. That’s final.”
“There will be consequences.”
“Don’t care. We make money in lots of different ways.”
“But it’s vital for networking.”
I turned to him, disappointment in my gaze. “What kind of man do you want to be, Heath? Do you want to be a man like Lucian? Someone who preys on the weak? Or do you want to be a man who fights men his own size?”
“The auction is irrelevant to me. I don’t care if it stays or if it goes. But it affects the entire ecosystem of our organization. Do I think selling a human being for profit is right? Obviously not. But just because we stop doing it doesn’t mean other people will stop. We’ll lose those clients.”
“If that’s all they care about, I don’t want them to be our clients anyway.”
Heath faced forward and grabbed his drink. “You just feel that way because you’re leaving.”
“No. I’d feel that way regardless. So, do we have a deal or not?”
He nodded. “We’ll need to introduce something else, something to distract them from losing the auction.”
“Not a bad idea.” He was already thinking like a king.
“What about Miss Lightning?” he asked. “Maybe we could substitute her for the auction. Our clients can pay for a night, not buy them for a lifetime. It’s not the same, but the women are definitely worth top dollar.”
I nodded. “That’s a really good idea. Talk to Miss Lightning about it.”
Working with her might solve all our problems. The Skull Kings wouldn’t let go of the auction easily, but if we had something good to replace it, they would shut their mouths. And if they could enjoy the women themselves…then they definitely wouldn’t have a problem. The best way to get a man to shut up was with pussy.
“I want to keep my mouth shut and let you do whatever you want. But are you sure you want to do this?”
“What, exactly?” With both arms resting on the table, I stared straight ahead, resisting the urge to order another scotch.
“The baby isn’t even yours. Why would you want to be with a woman knocked up by some other guy?”
It wasn’t ideal, and I would struggle to accept the kid for a while. When he had his own personality, perhaps I would stop comparing him to his father. I’d never wanted kids, and now I was signing on to be a stepfather.
“I wouldn’t be interested in that. It doesn’t sound like something you would be interested in either.”
I didn’t have a strong counterargument. My decisions were based on emotion and nothing else. “I love her, Heath. You said it yourself that I’ve been miserable without her. Months have gone by, and I haven’t even been with anyone else. I continue to rule the Skull Kings, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. I feel empty…like I’m missing something. I wish she weren’t pregnant, but I love her enough not to care. All I want is for her to be safe, and I want to be the one to make sure she is. I can provide for both of them. I can be a father to that kid since his own father was worthless. It’s not ideal…but I can’t live without her.” I didn’t know why I could say that so easily to my brother but not to her. She wanted me to tell her how much I loved her, but I still lacked the strength. Once I crossed that bridge, there was no going back. She knew that—which was why she wouldn’t cave until she got what she wanted. She would know I would be there forever.