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The Skull King (Skull #1)
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My husband is cruel, ruthless, and despicable.
I hate him with every fiber of my being.
The only reason I haven’t killed him or tried to run away is because of the promise I made. I sold myself to save someone I loved…and this is the price I have to pay.
I was sitting alone in a bar when the most handsome man walked inside. Striking blue eyes, cheekbones as sharp as glass, and a muscular body fit for a war. He was gorgeous. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. When he bought me a drink, I didn’t say no. I’d been unfulfilled for so long, and I wanted a real man for the night. My husband had his affairs so why couldn’t I?
I noticed the peculiar ring on his right hand, a diamond carved into a skull. If only I’d known what that meant, I would have known who this man was.
The Skull King.
A man more cruel and ruthless than my own husband.
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Two Years Ago
The Mediterranean style mansion was several miles outside of Florence. Tucked away behind lush landscaping and a limestone wall, it was carefully hidden in plain sight. The iron gates with his family seal integrated into the metal were left wide open.
Tensions ran high.
This was the deal of the century.
Lucian was getting what he wanted.
As was I.
But we were exchanging two extremely valuable things, commodities men would sacrifice anything to get their hands on. Neither one of us wanted to give up what we had, but we also needed what the other offered.
Instead of meeting in a neutral, third-party location, I agreed to meet him at his estate. He might assume he had the upper hand, but I never went into a meeting without being prepared for battle.
Lucian sat across from me, a man nearly ten years older than me, with greasy black hair, sparse eyebrows of the same color, and lips so thin they looked like pencil marks. It made him appear constantly displeased. A gold cross hung around his neck, visible in the V neck of the shirt he wore. It was a hot summer day, humid as fuck, and it was no time to wear a suit.
I didn’t even own a suit.
Fuck that shit. I didn’t need a designer suit worth thousands to prove my worth. I could be buck naked, and people would know exactly who I was. They would know exactly what I was capable of.
He took one more drag of his cigar then put it out in the ashtray. “You first.”
I’d already agreed to have the meeting on his property, but that was because I was fearless, not cooperative. His limestone wall and armed men would be helpless if I decided to turn on him. I had every single man on this property targeted by a sniper, not to mention the man I’d brought with me to this rendezvous. I always came prepared—and I outsmarted my opponent before he even realized his lack of cleverness.
I pulled the box from my pocket and set it on the table in between us. We sat on the back patio of his home, a large area hidden from the sun by a thick overhang. There was a hammock to our left, a large patio seating arrangement to our right, and a huge pool with several naked girls splashing around.
I saw tits all the time, so I didn’t look.
The second Lucian spotted the box, his eyes widened with greed. His eyes needed several seconds just to acknowledge the ordinary box before he even reached for it. Like it was a bomb that could go off any second, he handled it with the utmost care.
“It’s just a diamond, Lucian. It’s not gonna break.”
His gaze flicked up, and that oily look in his eyes deepened into a callous expression. As an Italian, he had thick hair on his chest that contrasted against the gold jewelry he wore. He was a slimy man, a man who couldn’t get those women into his pool unless he paid them. “Sir Francis Drake took these from the Sentinelese off the coast of India hundreds of years ago. Only three in existence, these are no ordinary diamonds—but skull diamonds. So I will take my fucking time.” He lifted the box and popped the lid.
Inside the velvet lining sat the large diamond, carved perfectly in the likeness of a skull. Lucian wasn’t the kind of man that needed money, but he liked to collect expensive things nonetheless.
He stared at it for minutes, not to determine if it was genuine, but to appreciate its allure. “Beautiful.” He shut the lid then slipped the box into his pants pocket.
“Your turn.” I had all three diamonds, and the only reason I was giving up one was because Lucian had something I wanted. While he was a greasy man without a spine, he was brilliant. He knew how to construct special kinds of bombs, from small ones that were completely undetected, to large bombs that could destroy an entire city. They weren’t ordinary, instead specially designed so they couldn’t be defused once activated. They could be remotely detonated. And most interestingly, he created bombs that could be ingested. They could survive the lining of the stomach for twelve hours before the acid disintegrated them. But even those could be remotely detonated, exploding a man from the inside. The Skull Kings were a ruthless band of thieves and tyrants, but even we didn’t have access to that kind of fun. It would 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.