Chapter no 18 – The Villain

Assistant to the Villain

His assistant was being painfully silent.

The two of them walked slowly back toward “Massacre Manor” after another disastrous family reunion. What spiteful god did Trystan anger to endure seeing not one but two of his family members in so short a span of time?

Trystan glanced over his shoulder to check on Tatianna, but his healer, one of the only tolerable people in his acquaintance, was staring at his sister’s front door with a longing expression.

He shrugged and continued bounding after his fleeing assistant. Tatianna would follow when she was ready.

More importantly, Benedict’s angle was beginning to become clear, sending the traitor through Trystan’s family members. To hurt him? Possible but unlikely. The king knew very well Trystan’s nature didn’t leave room to be hurt by petty power plays.

Though if anything stung, it was the anger Clarissa had inflicted when she’d called him a “monster.” It had not been his first experience with that word—he was quite at home with it, in fact; he’d learned to enjoy the sound of it. But it had been said with Clare’s face and her voice that was so like his mother’s that it felt like his chest had been cleaved in two.

In Trystan’s deepest, most private thoughts, he imagined what it would be like to walk into his brother’s tavern a different man. Clare and Tatianna would be sitting there, hands linked, waving him over with a glass of wine outstretched for him. Trystan would sit with them all, enjoy their company, and feel a sense of belonging among his family.

But that would never happen.

More proof that emotions were a useless inconvenience he needed to shove aside at every opportunity. Because of them, things kept going wrong in every sense of the word. Malcolm seemed to think there was some sort of truce between them, his sister looked at him like the scum on the bottom of

her shoe, his workers were growing more restless by the day with the impending threats, and his assistant…

His assistant was walking in long strides, swinging her arms so hard that she looked a bit like a windmill. “You’re being quiet…which is unusual,” he blurted out and almost smacked his palm against his forehead.

She halted abruptly and shot him an astonished expression.

Yes, I did just make an ass of myself. Thank you for noticing.

The regret he was feeling must have been a direct result of spending too much time with his assistant, for he never wasted time on it if he could help it.

Trystan blinked away from his thoughts and attempted to listen to the words spilling from Sage’s lips. But her nose was scrunched, and that seemed to be a confusing source of distraction for him.

“Are you listening?” she demanded, snapping him from his imaginings.

The tip of my sword appears to be a fine place to rest.

Empirically speaking, his assistant was beautiful. It would be inaccurate for him to even attempt to deny it. He’d thought it the moment they met in the forest, the sunlight spilling over her shoulders and the sharpness in her eyes softened by misplaced kindness. But beauty was inconsequential to him. Well, it usually was.

The women he allowed himself to be intimate with, when he did seek out such things, possessed a jaded view of the world that was familiar to him. He looked at sex like taking care of an intrinsic need, like eating or sleeping. He saw no sense in affection or admiration, though he felt a panicked twinge of both things when looking at his assistant’s face.

Even though now she was still looking at him like he’d kicked her. And that, for some reason, was…intolerable.

“Excuse me.” He cleared his throat. “There was a bee, and it distracted me.”

There was not a chance in the deadlands, where most spent their afterlife, that she would believe him.

“I’m sure.” She squinted, and Trystan began to feel a bit weathered by her stare.

He took a deep breath, ran a hand through his hair…and gave in. “The story between King Benedict and me is a long one. Only my family knows it in its entirety. It is not that I do not want to share it with you. I simply do

not think I know how.” It was honest, something he endeavored to be, if nothing else.

Her expression softened, and it felt as if it connected to a thread in his chest, pulling it tight. “I have things like that in my past, too. I understand.” Now that sparked a flare of curiosity so strong, it nearly knocked him off his feet, but he merely nodded. “Do we have a truce between us, then, Sage?” He held out a hesitant hand toward hers, and she smiled in a way that sent off warning bells in his head. The warmth of her hand distracted

him, however.

She leaned in a bit, a twinkle shining from the blue of her eyes. “Now where would the fun in that be, sir?” she said in a pseudo whisper before releasing him and turning away.

Suddenly, he was more afraid of exactly how his assistant would exact her revenge than the traitor he’d been hunting. Although both would likely be the death of him soon.

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