Chapter no 39 – Evie

Assistant to the Villain

Where have you been?” Her sister’s screech filled the airy space of their home as Evie came through the door.

Her tiny arms wrapped around Evie’s middle, shaking slightly. A pang went through Evie’s chest as she knelt to wrap her arms around her sister. The Villain, as requested, had dropped Evie a healthy distance from her house, Rebecka frowning in the back seat. Evie had waggled her fingers at the woman before leaping out for the second time that day and running to her home.

To her family.

“I was trapped at work because of the storm. Didn’t the raven make it here last night?” Evie smoothed down the back of her sister’s braid, willing her to calm.

“It did, but Papa couldn’t get out of bed yesterday, and I couldn’t get the door to latch.” Lyssa pulled back, wiping her nose on the back of her sleeve. “It was unlocked all night, and I was afraid a bandit would come steal me and trade me for treasure.”

Smiling through the mental assault of imagining her little sister desperately shoving at the door, Evie brushed a tear off Lyssa’s face. “Oh, you silly goose. A bandit would never sell you for treasure.” Evie paused dramatically. “They’d almost certainly trade you for something more fun, like a giant bee.”

As desired, the sadness disappeared from her sister’s face and her eyebrows shot up, one side of her mouth quirking. “Can someone own a bee?”

“No, but I think you can rent them.” Evie began laughing as soon as Lyssa did.

They both doubled over onto the floor, rolling to their backs, side by side. Evie reached out a hand and placed it over Lyssa’s smaller one. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”

“That’s okay. I know your work is important, and we need food, after all.”

“Lyssa!” Evie laughed through a gasp. “That is a terrible thing to joke about.”

Her little sister nodded, looking satisfied. “That’s why I said it.”

Evie laid her head back down, trying to keep the pride from her face. “You are so my sister.”

“Evie?” her father’s weak voice called out from his bedroom. “Is that you?”

She scrambled to her feet and rushed into her father’s room.

Griffin Sage lay pale in his bed, with a stillness that sent fear spiking underneath Evie’s skin. “Father?” She shook his shoulder, letting out a deep sigh when she saw his chest move.

The man, who looked far older than he had a day ago, smiled weakly. “Evangelina? You’re home safe.”

“Shhhh. You need to rest.”

Sighing and sinking farther into his pillows, her father reached out his hand for hers. He seemed so grateful to see her, so she squeezed his hand back and added, “I’m sorry, Papa. I would’ve tried to get home, whatever it took, if I knew you were feeling ill.”

“My sweet girl. It wasn’t your fault.” Her father tensed for just a moment, as though he wanted to say more, but then he relaxed again. “I think you’re right. I need to sleep. I’m glad you’re home, Evangelina.”

Evie lifted his head gently to give him his medicine, then laid him back onto the pillow, brushing sticky sweat from his forehead with a damp rag. She watched him fade into sleep, the steady rise and fall of his chest a small comfort to her guilty conscience.

Creeping to the door, Evie inched back to her own bedroom, lying flat on her bed.

The nearly set sun glimmered one last ray through the pane of her window, catching on something gold sitting on her desk. Rising against the ache of her muscles, she walked over to the table and picked up the envelope with foiled lettering on the outside that read:


I thought this would be of interest X You know who I am.

Evie nearly dropped the note as her head whipped around the room, expecting whatever intruder had placed it there to be standing in a darkened corner or lurking under her bed.


“What?” Her sister peeked her head in the room, looking irritated.

“Did you put this on my desk?” Evie held up the envelope, freezing when she saw that the lock to her window was unlatched and there was a slight gap between the frame and the glass.

“No. That wasn’t there when I checked your room this morning. What is it? Can I see?” Lyssa bounced through the doorway, and Evie felt a shaking of her nerves that wouldn’t calm.

“Not right now, Lyssa. This is for work; you can look later,” Evie said kindly. Her sister rolled her eyes and shut the door.

The envelope was torn before she heard the click. Her fingers ripped out the parchment, bold letters etched to the front.

To Evangelina Sage Looking for a cure?

Briar’s Peak Tonight

Dress for a formal celebration hosted by the core healer This invitation permits one person and one person only

Evie placed the invitation down on her desk and ran a hand through her hair, tugging at the strands. Someone had broken into her room to give her something that would help her. Help her family? It must have been the spy

—why else would they be so secretive? And for that matter…so creepy.

And the core healer? Was this a myth come to life? Or a trap?

With your luck, it’s probably both.

Her mind was racing, her stomach reeling and nauseous from the thought of a dangerous stranger in the same home as her family, standing so close to where she lay her head at night. Across the hall, her father groaned in pain.

Damn it.

Running to her bed, Evie bent and pulled a large box out from underneath it, throwing it on the bed and ripping off the lid. She gripped the fabric in angry fists, pulling it up and out with none of the satisfaction she’d had when she bought the dress.

Evie had seen it in the window at the seamstress a town over and had allowed herself this one indulgence. She’d been making more than enough

to support her family at that point, so there was no reason not to allow herself some luxury. At the time, she had no idea where she’d wear it, but now was as good a time as any.

The fabric appeared white, but when the light hit it, it shone every color, like a walking rainbow. It shimmered, the bodice hugging, and the thin sleeves draped off her shoulders in an enticing fashion. She maneuvered around, somehow managing the clasps without falling over or breaking a wrist. After pinning her hair back with her mother’s butterfly pins, she stared at herself in the mirror.

She did one twirl and laughed before collecting herself into a serious expression. It wasn’t every day she wore such a pretty dress.

She sighed at the small pot of rouge sitting off to the corner of her desk. It had been her mother’s favorite lip shade. She’d given it to Evie on her last birthday before she left, but Evie hadn’t been able to bring herself to touch it since then.

Sucking in a deep breath, she gripped the small pot in her hands, dipped a finger into the red, and gently applied it to her lips. They stood out bright and vibrant, and Evie had the strange sense that this person in the mirror was who she was always meant to be.

She smiled.

But then her smile faltered, her brows knitting together as she realized this dress might be what she was buried in if she wasn’t careful tonight.

She sighed. At least it was sparkly.

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