The Skull King_ Skull #1 - Penelope Sky Page 0,1

be an excellent torture technique, and it would also make it easier to conquer those who hadn’t been conquered before. Lucian was the only one with those explosives—and he was very selective about who he shared them with. It would give me an advantage my enemies would never have.

Lucian rose to his feet, not to retrieve his end of the bargain, but to dismiss the conversation.

My heart rate didn’t change. My adrenaline didn’t kick in. The move was anticlimactic because I expected this. Little was known about Lucian, including the validity of his word, so I didn’t arrive with high expectations. A man’s reputation always preceded him, and if he didn’t have a reputation, good or bad, that was never a good sign.

“We’re finished here, Balto. I got what I want—but you won’t get what you want.” A man of short stature, Lucian was only intimidating because of his obsession with explosives. There was no way to know where he kept them—or if there was a detonator in his pocket.

I didn’t rise from my seat, not finished with the meeting. “I don’t care how a man earns his living. I don’t care if he kills for a paycheck or he sells bread at a bakery. A man’s worth is dependent on his word. When the money, guns, and women are gone, that’s all we have left. Lucian, think about what you’re doing. Think about what kind of man you want to be.” My black T-shirt was thin enough to allow the slight breeze to breathe across my skin. My jeans felt a little loose because I wasn’t packing a weapon. I’d agreed to leave my pistol off the premises.

Lucian cocked his head slightly as his oily eyebrows rose up his face. “I want to be the man who outsmarted the Skull King. Now leave my property—and have a good day.” He extended his hand to the edge of the patio where the front of the house was located. My men waited there for me, prepared for anything.

I still didn’t rise. “My reputation precedes me—and I earned it. I strongly suggest you sit back down and finish this deal as planned.”

“Are you threatening me? You’re surrounded and outnumbered.”

“Am I?” I asked, maintaining the same calmness because that would only annoy him. The second a man got angry, he lost. And I was doing laps around this loser.

His eyes narrowed farther.

I waited for him to make the right decision and sit back down. He had no idea what was waiting for him at the front of the house if he didn’t uphold his end of the deal. Maybe he’d taken the most valuable diamond in the world, but he was about to lose something that couldn’t be replaced.

He chose wrong. “Leave. Now.”

I knew he wouldn’t shoot me because that would start a war he would spend the next decade fighting. But he’d crossed me because this exchange was personal rather than professional. I rose to my feet and left the table, walking beside him as we returned to the front of the house. My three cars were in the driveway, windows tinted and bulletproof.

We approached the gravel walkway as his armed men stood at attention, watching me closely in anticipation of a sudden movement.

“Leave,” Lucian said. “Before I tell my men to open fire.”

I walked to the middle car and opened the back door. Handcuffed and bound, a man sat in the back seat with the same oily black hair. His face didn’t have a single bruise because he’d been treated well while in my captivity. But all of that was about to change.

I yanked him out of the car.

He started to scream against the gag that swallowed his words.

Lucian stepped forward, visibly pained to see his brother be yanked out of the car and pushed to his knees on the gravel. “Let him go.”

I grabbed a pistol from one of my men and pointed it at the back of his brother’s head.

“Fire!” Lucian ordered.

Before his men could do anything, each one was hit by a sniper. They crumpled, dead around him.

His brother shook as he rested on his knees, his back rising and falling as he breathed through the tears that grew in his eyes.

Lucian held up his hand. “Alright. I’ll give you what you—”

I squeezed the trigger.

His body fell forward, and he was dead before his face smacked into the gravel. His body fell with an audible thud, and his blood soaked the rocks surrounding him.

Lucian’s previously cool persona was