Chapter no 15 – Evie

Assistant to the Villain

The Villain never missed a sunrise when she was there.

Evie had decided to go into the office early that morning. Her week’s end had been spent in the village’s very small library. The dust had gone up her nose as she sifted through page after page, looking for anything she could find on magical ink, and further, on explosives. But the limited selection only had one book on magic.

Her village was small, so informative magical texts were harder to come by as the prices increased, and few people ever developed magic. Fewer still were magical specialists, the educators of the magical world. They were charged with documenting and assisting when someone’s magic awoke, helping them understand it. Evie wasn’t aware of any new magic users in her own village, but she knew nowadays having a specialist was a privilege not many outside the Gleaming City received.

The book she had managed to find in the sad excuse for a library was useless. All the information was general, things she knew just from listening to the people around her. The breaking point was when she came upon the last five chapters that summarized controlling your magic before it could control you.

Evie had shut it tight, placing it back on the shelf, ignoring the lingering feeling of her mother’s unruly presence. Magic hadn’t just controlled Nura Sage; it had destroyed her and in turn destroyed Evie’s sense of safety. Her childhood gone in the blink of an eye.

This is what you get for reading books with no naughty words in them.

The chirping of birds brought her back to her present, determined to make this day a good one.

Lyssa had spent the previous night at a friend’s house, and Evie’s father had been in such good spirits, she figured she could spare the extra time that morning for herself.

Her original plan was to wander for a while. The dark mist of the morning air had yet to abate, giving the atmosphere a crisp bite as she

walked through it. But like a moth to a very bright flame, Evie’s aimless wandering led her right where she wanted most to be—at work.

You live a sad, sad life, Evie Sage.

She’d been here this early before, to help with odd tasks or check in weapons shipments to the manor. Evie looked down at her watch when she saw shooting colors of light begin to appear over the horizon. The office was expected to be full and bustling before the clock struck nine, and hers had yet to hit thirty minutes past five. Shaking her head, she touched the glittering barrier slowly forming under her fingertips, waiting for it to recognize the imprint of her palm, and swiftly entered the place she felt the most herself.

When Evie finally made it past the stairs of doom, she found her boss where he always was this early in the morning.

The grand balcony could be found just one floor below the main offices, and to Evie’s knowledge it was almost never used. Likely because it was accessed through the large training room for the guards and the rest of the staff. She imagined it was hard to find the time to enjoy the fresh air between brawls. Its large glass windows were clear, unlike the stained glass of the rest of the manor, lighting the space when the sun was well in the sky. The doors, plated against white wood, stood as tall as the high, vaulted ceilings, and unlike when she normally saw them, today they were flung wide open.

Evie had no way of knowing that this was how The Villain spent every morning. But the handful of times she found herself in this spot at this time, when the sun’s rays finally began to brush the gray stone railing, he was there.

Not wanting to disturb him, Evie turned on her heel and began to tiptoe slowly away.

She had made it two steps before she heard, “Sage, if you wanted to sneak up on me, perhaps you should’ve worn quieter shoes.”

Evie’s brows scrunched together as she turned around to see him fully facing her, knocking her nearly breathless. His black shirt was so loose, the deep V exposed most of his chest, revealing far more than a teasing amount of hard muscle. But it was his hair that made her eyes widen like saucers.

It was tousled from sleep, and though Evie had seen it in a variety of different states, she had never seen it like this, untethered, a little wild. Not

since they had first met, anyway. The stubble at his chin was slightly overgrown, and Evie quietly begged for the dimple to appear.

“People who want to sneak up on other people don’t usually creep in the opposite direction, sir,” Evie said, raising one brow at him. She resisted the urge to ask him what he’d done for the remainder of the week’s end, after they’d met his brother.

But he walked toward her, and Evie stiffened when the golden light of the morning brushed against his cheek, lighting only half his face. “Unless they’re lulling you into a false sense of security. Trying to keep you calm, levelheaded, so they can strike,” he said with a slight uptick of his lip. No dimple.

Damn it.

Evie’s grin widened. “Are you saying I make you feel calm and levelheaded, sir?” She tilted her head and eyed him with jovial condescension. “That is so sweet.”

He shook his head, looking at her with a gravity she didn’t understand. “I’ve never felt more turned around than I have in the entire time I’ve made your acquaintance, Sage.”

And then the dimple appeared.

The colors of the sunrise were beginning to spread over the rest of his face, surrounding the back of him. Lighting him from the inside out.

The Villain shook his head as if from a daydream and said what Evie was certain were his four favorite words.

“Cauldron brew now, Sage.”

After she placed what was sincerely just liquid sugar on her boss’s desk, it was still well before the rest of the office would arrive, so Evie had taken it upon herself to do what she liked, wandering back to the kitchen. She’d been munching on one of Edwin’s newest creations while sipping her morning brew. It was a confection of fried dough fashioned into a ring. He’d frosted it, and Evie was quite certain that it was the best thing she’d ever tasted.

Her next bite was interrupted by a series of crashes and Blade’s cries of outrage.

The dragon is awake.

Evie grabbed a second cup of brew for her friend and made her way to the back courtyard to say hello. She spotted Blade and the dragon almost immediately.

The creature was massive, with glittering, deep purple and green scales trailing up and down the spine of his large body. The dragon’s eyes were wild as he pulled and turned against his collar, while Blade struggled with one hand on the chain and the other held out to calm the poor thing.

“Hello, Blade. Hello, Draaagon.

The last words were said on a shriek as the creature barreled toward her, only stopping when Blade stepped before him and said, “No! We don’t eat friends; we talked about this!”

The dragon’s face dipped and calmed slightly at Blade’s censure, turning away from both and flopping into a large heap under the shade of one of the higher balconies, making the ground beneath them shake.

“Sorry about that.” Blade gave her a wide, dazzling smile. His vest today was the color of the pinkest of roses and his leather pants a bright red that clashed in the most charming of ways.

Evie’s heart had slowed back down enough to smile shakily and hand over the ceramic chalice she’d brought him, thinking it a miracle not a drop had spilled.

“You’re a vision!” Blade smiled back, raising his cup in salute to her.

“What has him so on edge this morning?” Evie raised a brow and looked to the animal. She swore he looked directly at her and rolled his eyes.

Am I receiving judgment from an overgrown lizard?

“He saw a mouse,” Blade said gravely, and Evie was seized by a boisterous laugh.

“Is he any closer to flying?” Evie asked lightly after she recovered herself.

Blade’s face took a quick turn of panic that was washed away immediately by a haughty expression. “Oh, don’t worry, he will. He’s just taking his time getting there, that’s all.”

“What about breathing fire?” Evie questioned.

Blade’s face remained unchanged, but Evie did not miss the way his fist clenched. “He sneezed enough to light a few candles last week.”

Evie raised a brow and pulled her lips into an encouraging smile. “Well, that is something, isn’t it?”

“Actually, Evie, would you mind grabbing my book on the subject from my quarters? I’d go, but I don’t want to leave him when he’s like this,” Blade said, giving the animal a pointed look of accusation.

“Of course, but where are your quarters?” Evie asked, scanning the area.

Blade pointed a long finger toward a set of spiral stairs that sat edged against the west side of the manor. “Those lead right up! It should be sitting on my bedside table. It’s red with gold lettering on the front.”

Evie nodded, and Blade kissed her cheek. “You’re a lifesaver, my sweet Evie!”

“All right. Enough.” Evie chuckled, making a show of wiping his kiss away from her skin and turning to climb the spiral staircase.

A door appeared at the top, and Evie pushed it lightly open, revealing a small but homey living space.

A wooden desk sat up against the window, adjacent to a narrow bed frame that Evie knew creaked just by looking at it. She smiled when she saw a little knit dragon sitting on the night table next to a wax candle that was nearly burned down the whole wick.

Evie gave a squeal of victory when she spied the burgundy-colored book with a cover that read, Training Magical Beasts: For Novices. Shaking her head and picking up the large volume, Evie realized that Blade must have embellished on his résumé about his “elite experiences” with magical beasts of all kinds if this was his evening reading. She tucked the book under her arm, straightened the knit dragon, which looked like it’d had many years of being loved, and turned back toward the door.

But the light coming in from the window suddenly caught against a gold paperweight peeking out from underneath Blade’s desk. So Evie walked over, bent to pick it up and place it where it belonged, when she saw a slip of parchment underneath. Angling her head and holding the parchment to the light of the window, she froze.

It was a letter requesting employment, and the name signed at the bottom sent a chill up Evie’s spine.

King Benedict.

Evie’s heart began to pound as she read over the certificate. Blade? It couldn’t be Blade; why would he—

A hand closed around her mouth, and Evie froze. “Please don’t scream.”

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