Chapter no 13 – The Villain

Assistant to the Villain

His brother stared at him with a disdainful expression, which was to be expected. Considering the last time he had seen him, Trystan had attempted to stab him with a spear.

Which was, in most circumstances, how their interactions usually went.

Even now, that urge overwhelmed him when he remembered his brother was responsible for the explosives in his office that nearly blew all he’d worked for to pieces. That he’d nearly killed—

No, Trystan wouldn’t think of it.

She was still there, breathing in front of him, with wide, confused eyes and in a dress that he refused to look at another moment or the table in front of them would find itself snapped in half.

Trystan stood to his full height, towering slightly taller than his brother, and narrowed his eyes. “I thought we were due for a chat,” he said sardonically.

Malcolm’s brown eyes shot wide, peering around each of Trystan’s shoulders. “What? No spear this time?”

“You know very well I don’t need such things to inflict harm.” Malcolm’s eyes darkened. “Oh, believe me, brother, I know.”

The pointed sting toward the destructive nature of The Villain’s magic no longer hurt him as it used to. Anger lived in its place. Sage’s eyes were darting between them as she clearly attempted to do her best to catch up.

“Do you know why we are here?” Trystan asked darkly.

He realized his mistake the moment the word left his lips. We.

Malcolm’s attention shot to Evie, who, to her credit, remained calm under his scrutiny. “I can’t say I know why you’re here, but I’d love to know about this lovely creature you’ve brought with you.” His brother raised Evie’s delicate hand, pressing his lips to the back of it.

She laughed nervously, and Trystan wondered how his brother would continue to sling drinks once he severed that hand from his wrist and lobbed it across the room.

“I’m Evie.” Her eyes shot to Trystan, a question there, but he couldn’t make it out. “I’m his—your brother’s assistant,” she finished finally, cautiously, like she wasn’t certain that was the right thing to say.

By the intrigue growing in Malcolm’s eyes, it wasn’t.

“His assistant?” Malcolm turned his attention back to Trystan, who was fisting his hands at his sides in an effort not to strike him. “Business that good, then?”

Trystan’s gaze scanned the busy tavern. “For you, too, it would seem.”

Malcolm took a step back, spreading his hands wide. “Can’t complain— all the ale, women, and cards I could ever hope for. It’s as good as it will get for someone like me.”

Trystan found it in himself to smile, though he was certain Malcolm could sense the malevolence through the turn of his lips. “Don’t sell yourself short; your clock making is something to be marveled at, indeed.”

Malcolm’s nostrils flared, and an undecipherable emotion flashed across his face—guilt, or the shame at being found?

He burned to throw his brother against the wall and watch the life drain from his eyes, but he knew there was a strategy to traitors, especially when it was one’s own family. He wanted his brother to struggle like a filthy rodent caught in a trap. He’d marvel in it, enjoy it to indescribable degrees.

Malcolm must have caught the bloodlust in his eyes, as he took a cautious step back. “Now, now, Trystan. I don’t know what you think you know, but I can assure you, you’re mistaken.”

Trystan could feel the dark power pulsating in him, homing in on every weak point of his brother’s body. The invisible gray mist surrounded his brother, leaving small, colorful lights behind all of the places he could inflict pain. After it curled away, he saw the blue light surrounding his knee. An injury from their childhood that, if struck in just the right way, would cause him immense, permanent pain. As always, the spot around his brother’s jugular glowed black, the kill spot. He’d be dead in moments.

He shouldn’t have brought Sage.

Trystan wanted to kill Malcolm, but it was unfortunate that his assistant would have to witness it if he did. He wasn’t sure why he’d extended the invitation for her to come in the first place; he could have easily found a way to blend into the background of the disgusting tavern on his own. But he seemed to make better decisions when she was near, less impulsive, more strategic. She steadied him like an anchor to a wayward ship, and he

couldn’t resist bringing her near so that he would not drift too far into his hatred.

Daring a glance in her direction, he knew it was a regrettable decision the moment his eyes caught her face, which was devoid of any visible fear.

There was never fear. It was disarming and confusing, enough to pull Trystan from the smoky shadows of his power and release the veiled hold he had on his brother, who gasped and fell to his knees. The tavern remained undisturbed. To the naked eye, Trystan had barely lifted a finger.

“You were going to kill me!” Malcolm gasped, face agape in realization.

Trystan nearly spit when he leaned over his brother. “It is the least of what you deserve after the reckless stunt you pulled.”

Malcolm shot to his feet, shoving against Trystan’s shoulders. “I don’t know what the deadlands you’re talking about!”

He barely moved an inch under the push of his brother’s hands. “That was a mistake,” he growled, raising a fist to deal a blow. But then he felt a warm hand wrap around his, bringing it down. Disarming him with the electrical shock that went careening up his arm at the feel of it.

“Sir, if you’re going to murder your brother, may I suggest you don’t do it in a room full of witnesses?” There was no censure in Sage’s voice, just concern and perhaps a touch of curiosity.

He looked down at his assistant, pulling on the muscles in his neck because of their height difference. A small, reassuring smile was painted on her lips, her hand still resting around his fist. His knees nearly gave out when he felt her thumb stroke, just once, over the back of his hand.

Clearing his throat, he shrugged his hand out from under hers, stretching his fingers wide to relieve the sensation. “Where can we talk privately?” he asked his brother.

“A creative way to put attempting murder, but since we’re blood and you have a beautiful woman to entertain, I suppose I’ll oblige.” Malcolm rubbed the back of his neck, a nervous gesture Trystan had seen him do countless times since they were boys. He shrugged off the sympathy.

“This way.” Malcolm nodded to the doors behind the bar. “Through the kitchen, in the back.”

Trystan turned toward Sage, intending to tell her to—

“I’m coming,” she said, just as he’d opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t tell me to stay here. Not when you dragged me out at the week’s end and didn’t bother to tell me it was your brother we were coming to meet.”

He reeled at the sharp tone he heard in her voice, foreign and unfamiliar. “You’re…angry?” He wasn’t certain she was capable of that emotion. It was an interesting development and, by the way his body reacted to the scrunch of her nose, an inconvenient one as well.

“Of course I’m angry!” She rolled her eyes, bringing her hands up to her temples, cheeks growing red. “You lied to me!”

“I did not lie,” he said flatly. “I merely withheld the truth.” “That’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not.” Trystan felt his brows pinch together in confusion. “Lying would have been to tell you we were going to a masquerade ball to meet a fairy king.”

Sage took a step back, narrowing her eyes. “That was oddly specific.” Angling her head, realization bloomed behind her light-blue eyes. “Do you have some kind of fairy king fantasies?”

The fact that moments ago he had been on the verge of murdering his only brother, yet now was being accused of having shocking fantasies of creatures he’d never even encountered sent an unwanted wave of laughter out of his mouth.

It happened so little that the sound was foreign, even to his own ears. Rusty and low, like a doorframe of an old house that was abandoned by the owners.

But the delight overshadowing any residual anger in his assistant’s eyes, that made it feel like that door was being thrown open so hard that it shook the walls, and he couldn’t begin to figure out how to close it.

“Are you coming?” Malcolm called back, seeming to break a spell that had been cast between them, one where they were just two people matching wits and exchanging smiles.

We are,” Evie said, smiling with satisfaction as she walked past him. He turned quickly to grab her cloak and draped it over his arm, following sullenly behind her.

Malcolm gestured a hand in front of him for Sage to pass through the kitchen doors. As he watched her dark head of curls disappear beyond the door, he moved to follow, but Malcolm brought a hand up to his chest, looking entirely too sympathetic.

“You laughed.”

“I know,” Trystan said, shaking his head, hoping to knock the building ache out of it.

“You’re fucked.”

Trystan shoved Malcolm into the doorway, hard, before walking through and calling out behind him, “Shut up.”

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