Home > Lie (Betrothed #8)

Lie (Betrothed #8)
Author: Penelope Sky







It was late at night in the bar, the very bar where I’d ambushed Damien the night I’d intended to execute his old man. I had a scotch on the rocks, not my usual choice, but they were out of vodka.

Balto stared at me with a rigid expression, his large size blocking out a portion of my view because he had burly shoulders and his body was a thick mass. Whenever he grabbed his drink, he always used his left hand, and on his ring finger was the skull diamond identical to my own. “How’s Vox behaving?”

“I thought you didn’t care about that shit anymore?” When Balto handed over the reins, he’d washed his hands clean and wanted nothing to do with his former business. He never asked questions, never got involved, said he was a retired man.

“I care about the men staging a coup against my brother.”

“Not gonna happen.” I had eyes and ears everywhere, spies against spies. Vox wasn’t silent about his distaste for the new leadership, obviously finding Balto’s decision incredibly biased. Vox was a brutal man, a soldier who had the cruelty that was required in leadership. He probably would’ve made a good leader.

But too bad, because it was me.

“Don’t be arrogant. Never be arrogant.”

“You’re the most arrogant man I know,” I said with a laugh.

“I’m retired. I can afford to be headstrong.” He lifted his hand and pointed at me. “You can’t.”

Not too many rulers could get advice from their predecessors like I could. Former Skull Kings usually handed over their titles when they died. Balto’s retirement was unconventional. But now, I always had an experienced mind to give me advice, not that I needed it much.

“And Damien?”

That man was a goddamn joke. He’d pissed me off when he pretended to be too good to submit, but then he got my brother mixed up in the bullshit and that just made me angrier. Then he had the audacity to threaten me, again, when I was the one who let his sister go.

In his defense, he had no idea about Catalina. “He’s a pain in the fucking ass.”

“Still?” Balto eyed me incredulously, mirroring my reactions because of his identical features. “How can the man still be a problem? Your job is to eliminate problems. Why is this guy still walking around and breathing?”

“You were the one who saved his ass.” I took a drink, the ice cubes sliding and tapping against my lips. I let the booze wash down my throat and into my stomach, the usual burn absent because I’d been drinking hard for so many years.

“I owed him. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t honor my debts?” His arms rested on the table, and his shirt was tight on his muscular arms. He wasn’t the leader of an underground army anymore, but he kept his remarkable fitness at the same level as if he was still in charge.

“You never told me how he saved your life.”

“Doesn’t matter. Deal’s over.”

My brother wasn’t much of a talker. I was definitely more of a conversationalist. “How’s the wife?”

He gave me a glare.

“What? I’m not asking because she’s hot.” I loved to get under my brother’s skin, push his buttons, and talking about his brunette woman sitting at home was the best way to accomplish that.

His blue eyes darkened noticeably as his fingertips rested on the rim of his glass. He stared me down like he wanted to slam my face into the surface of the table. But, of course, he never did anything, because I was his flesh and blood. “She’s fine.”

“Shouldn’t your wife be more than fine?”

“Shut the fuck up, Heath.”

I leaned forward. “Maybe I could teach you some moves. Maybe you’ve gotten a little rusty—”

He slammed his glass down. “I will break this into shards and shove them into your eyes.”

I raised both hands in a form of a mocking surrender and leaned back. “Alright…just trying to help.”

A babe in a short dress came to our table, her eyes on Balto first. “Hey, I’m Tess.”

My brother became a committed and monogamous man when he met Cassini, which was fascinating because he used to be deep between a woman’s thighs every night of the week. He was either at the whorehouse or at the bar, picking up a new woman for entertainment. But ever since he settled down, he didn’t look, didn’t even glance, at someone other than his wife. That was exactly what he did now as he rejected her. “I’m married.” He brought his glass to his lips and took a drink, his eyes still on me.

Tess looked at me next. “Please don’t tell me you’re married too.”

I patted my thigh. “Nope. Come on down, sweetheart.”

She smiled as she moved into my lap, her arm circling my neck. “I prefer the tattoos anyway…”

I pulled up my sleeve to my shoulder and revealed my flexed bicep. “Then check it out.” I pointed out the different images in black ink, knowing women got a kick out of all the demented stuff I put on my skin. She touched me every chance she got, leaning closer into me like she was already prepared to sweat on my sheets.

Balto kept drinking, staring at his glass so he wouldn’t have to watch me get frisky with Tess.

She drank my entire glass before she pouted her lips. “All gone.” She got off my lap and stood near the table. “How about I get us a few more rounds?”

I relaxed into the wooden chair. “Good idea, sweetheart.”

She turned around and headed to the bar.

I looked at my brother again. “Jealous?”

His eyes smoldered in annoyance. “That bitch has nothing on Cassini.”

I shrugged. “Maybe. But she’s easy.”

“You’re easy.”

“Is that an insult?” My eyes went to the bar to watch my piece of ass fetch us drinks, but then I noticed somebody else who looked familiar. With long brown hair, an athletic and petite figure, and rocking heels that were so high they seemed impossible to walk in, she looked just like my former prisoner.

She was with a group of other women, all similar builds, all wearing short dresses with the intention of having a good time this evening. She ordered a shot right away, downed it, and then threw her arms in the air to release a shout. “Yaaasssss!”

Shit, it was her.

Balto noticed my sudden change in mood. “What?”

“There’s a woman over there that I think I know.” I continued to watch her hang out with her crew, hog the bar, and commander the bartender’s complete focus. The woman I’d had on my lap minutes ago was standing at the bar, being ignored because she couldn’t compete with that group of women.

A few guys stood at one of the tables, dressed in suits like they’d just finished their jobs at the office before coming to the bar to wind down. One guy in particular was staring at Catalina.

She ordered a vodka cranberry and did a little dance between her girlfriends, shaking her hips from left to right like she was ready to salsa.

One of the guys approached her, a playful grin on his face, and walked right behind her. He was a decent-looking guy, but I knew Catalina could do much better. He was about to get rejected, buy her a drink that would never turn into sex.

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