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The Skull Ruler (Skull 3) Penelope Sky 2022/8/5 16:55:01

“She’ll get used to it. Is that a yes?”

He lifted his gaze to meet mine. “Do you really care what I say?”

Normally, I would just do whatever I wanted. I never waited for permission. But this was different. “Yes.”

His eyes shifted slightly. “You have my blessing.”

I grabbed the ring and returned it to my pocket. “That’s all I wanted. I’ll go now.” I rose to my feet.

“You have a tough road ahead of you. She’s pretty stubborn.”

“I know. That’s why I fell in love with her.” I turned for the door.

“When are you going to ask?”

I turned back around. “Once I get her back.”

He nodded. “I’ll put in a good word for you. You’re going to need it.”

A slight smile spread across my lips. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”

I worked across from Case, snacking on a bag of chips I’d found in the kitchen. My stomach appeared to get bigger by the week, and my appetite mirrored it. I seemed to always be hungry, even in the middle of the night.

I worked on the schedule for the upcoming week while partially thinking about Balto. He hadn’t visited me again since that conversation in my apartment. He told me he wanted to be with me, but he still wasn’t willing to give me everything I wanted. Maybe I should tell him the baby was his, but that would only make him commit out of obligation. Right now, he was only sniffing around because he had competition.

Case kept staring at me.

“What?” I held up the bag. “You want one?”

“You know I don’t eat that shit.”

“Then why do you keep staring at me?” I dropped the bag and dug out another chip.

“Have you talked to Balto lately?”

The mention of Balto seemed to come out of nowhere. “Why do you ask?”

“I just suspect that we haven’t heard the last of him, not after he crashed your date like that.” Case had bills to pay and checks to make out to employees, but he didn’t seem to care about that. He gave me that knowing look, the same one Father used to have, like he could see right through me.

“Well, he came by my apartment last week…”

“Just dropped by?” he asked in surprise.

“Yeah…he likes to make an entrance.”

“He told me he wanted to be with me.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” He cocked his head slightly.

“But he’s only doing it because another guy is interested in me. It’s the only reason he’s contacted me in three months. When I went to his apartment to tell him about the baby, all he cared about was kicking me out. He didn’t tell me he loved me either…which is getting old. None of this is happening under the circumstances I want. So it feels…heartless.”

He nodded slightly. “Balto is a different kind of man. There are few words that can be used to describe him.”

“But you can’t expect him to wear his heart on his sleeve, not like other men do.”

“Whoa, hold on. Are you defending him?”

“No,” he said calmly. “I’m just pointing out that he’s different. He’s the hardest, cruelest man in this city. Saying pussy words like ‘I love you’ isn’t his forte. That was why you fell for him in the first place, right? Because he’s the manliest man out there.”

“That wasn’t the only reason…”

“I just think you should cut him some slack. I admit he’s a piece of shit for wanting nothing to do with the baby. You have every right to be angry about that. But everything else…is forgivable. Let’s not forget this man sacrificed himself for you. Maybe he’s never said those three little words directly to you, but he obviously means them.”

I looked away, feeling guilty for the lie I’d told. “Well…I never actually told Balto he was the father.”

Case raised an eyebrow.

“When I went to his apartment to tell him about the baby, he was such a jackass to me that I didn’t bother to mention I was pregnant. He told me he wanted nothing to do with me and I shouldn’t show my face again. Since he was so cold to me, I just assumed he wouldn’t want anything to do with the baby either.”

“Whoa…” He raised his hand slowly. “So, he has no idea the baby is his?”

“Then what does he think? It’s Lucian’s?”

Case sank back in the chair and shook his head slightly. “So this guy wants to be with you even though he thinks you’re pregnant with Lucian’s kid? A kid that isn’t even his?”

He stared at me blankly. “And you think this man doesn’t love you? I would never be with a woman who was knocked up by some other guy. Most men wouldn’t, especially a guy like Balto.”

“But three months came and went, and he only came after me when I had my first date. That’s pretty childish, don’t you think? He doesn’t want to be in my life because it’s what he wants. He just doesn’t want another guy to have me.”