Title: The Skull Crusher
Author: Penelope Sky
Publisher/Year: Penelope Sky 5/7/19
Length: 187 Pages
Series: Skull #2
Balto stole me from Lucian without raising a finger.
I thought I would finally be free, finally get my life back.
But Balto has other plans for me. Now I’m his prisoner. He’ll keep me and enjoy me as long as he wants.
Until Lucian gives him back the Skull Diamond.
I never want to return to Lucian again, not after being with a man like Balto. The only chance I have is to become more valuable than that diamond, to have Balto want me enough not to trade me back to Lucian.
But can I ever compete with a diamond worth billions?
Oh how this story gets more and more complicated as we go. We were lulled into a false sense of security here thinking that Balto cared about Cassini, yet that wasn’t the case. She’s just a pawn in this game now that he knows who she’s married to, and as such, she’s a slave, a prisoner in an entirely different cage. One that seems like it could be better, if and only if Cassini is able to make herself the most valuable thing in the world.
The bulk of our story lies around this idea that Cassini is now in another hell, and she doesn’t know what to believe, she doesn’t know how safe she is and for how long, and she doesn’t know what to do with the fact that she trusted a man who seemed to care for her, seemed to want to protect her but really just wanted to use her.
The power and arrogance that Balto has is something that comes out on every page in this second installment. He’s confident that he can keep himself protected and safe, confident that he can remain the leader of the Skull Kings, confident that he can make Cassini do whatever he wants, because he’s so confident that she wants it. What he underestimates though is that Cassini is one of the strongest women out there and what he wants isn’t going to matter for long. He quickly finds that she has the control because she has what he wants. The sexuality and allure that no other woman has.
We spend much of this story wondering how Cassini will get her freedom back and remain happy. She needs to feel safe and wanted, and loved (liked even) and when she thought that she was getting that with Balto, she learned that she was wrong. What our author does here in the way that the story is written is that she keeps us on our toes. Whatever preconceived notions that we had of Balto and his organization, they are often flipped and changed around.
As is usually the case in this genre, in addition to a story that gives us so much torment, war, fighting and concern over trust, we also continue to get some of the deepest romance and engagement. We see that there’s so much more connection and desire between our mains and that’s partially because of raw animal connection but also partly due to the insanity that they live in.
When about 2/3 of the way through, Lucian reappears, learning that Balto and Cassini were having an affair before everything went down, war is declared. He’s on the hunt and he won’t compromise at all until he gets his wife back. Balto’s not about to let that happen, and we see the sheer terror that Cassini has at the prospect, but we know that there’s an inevitability here to see that a trade will happen soon. Because Cassini is a prisoner, once Balto gets what he’s after, she’s worth nothing to him. And that’s where we end this second book.
Balto agrees to a trade, and we know that Lucian is out for the maximum pain and punishment since he feels that not only was he betrayed by his wife, he’s been humiliated beyond recognition. Cassini overhears the planned trade, knows that there’s nothing left for her to do but resign herself to a painful death and then….end book.
Case and Dirk as quickly becoming favorites of mine in the story, as is Heath. What’s nice is that the brothers, the family in this series are not only supporting characters but characters that keep us grounded and emotionally bound. There’s a different bit at stake for them as they look at what Balto and Cassini are playing at, and to see how that dynamic is written into the story takes us to another level.
I’m left wondering what’s going to happen. Who’s going to die first and who will be responsible. What will have to be lost for anyone to find happiness and will a diamond, a skull diamond be at the center of it all forever. So, now i actually have to wait a bit since book 3 isn’t out until June, so i’ve got a lot of time to ponder. Enjoy!