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Chapter no 4 – Evie

Assistant to the Villain

Evie spent the rest of the day drowning her sorrows in the mystical effects of the cauldron brew while warily looking at her fellow workers. Someone was guilty, and as much as she’d like it to be Becky, the woman was too much of a staunch rule follower for her to think she’d be capable of that kind of deceit.

Groaning as she straightened, she felt her back crack as she twisted and turned. The ache in her muscles was demanding her attention, and she’d finished the suspiciously little work she had to get done before the end of the workday.

Any minute, the large bell in the north tower would toll, and everyone in the room would scatter back to the monotony of their lives outside of this place. The pixies would return to the wood, whatever creature was wreaking havoc upon the interns would slink off to its cave, the interns would drag themselves back to whatever hovel they could afford, and the remaining employees would head home as well.

There were very few who resided in the manor full-time, Tatianna being one of them, Edwin another, and the only person keeping the dragon currently in their courtyard calm, a man named Blade.

As though thinking of him summoned the charming dragon trainer, she looked up and there he was, striding through the office, a large gash on his forehead.

“Is Tatianna available?” He grinned sheepishly down at Evie, the way he did every time he came in with another injury from the scaled beast they’d acquired shortly after her employment began.

Evie shook her head, smiling. “I don’t know, Mr. Gushiken. Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Blade leaned down, exposing a large expanse of chiseled chest above his very tight vest. Evie was never certain if he did it ironically, but the dragon trainer always seemed to be wearing colors that drastically opposed each

other. Today his vest was a green so bright that it hurt her eyes, and his pants were an orange that reminded her of sunsets and butterflies.

He mock grabbed his chest and said, “So formal, my sweet Evie! You wound me.”

Evie giggled at the hopeless flirt, closing her catalog of names. She stood up from her desk, then walked around to face him head-on. His amber eyes were warm, much like the rest of his personality. He smiled, his full lips pulling up at the corners, softening the sharp angles of his cheekbones and the narrowed edge of his dimpled chin. Blade was the person in the office closest to her age, only younger than her by a year.

“I’m not your anything, you big flirt.” She reached up to brush his dark shoulder-length hair off his forehead, then grimaced at the skin torn away from his scalp. “That thing is going to kill you one of these days.”

When Blade had first arrived, the dragon was barely the size of her palm, and she’d even held the little creature a few times, cooing at it like it was a defenseless infant. But the beast had grown in just a few short months to an alarming size, snapping and growling at everyone. Only Blade managed to get close, but even he didn’t come away from the encounters unscathed.

He was the one who’d found the egg, after all, in the mountains to the east. He’d been hiking there, ever the explorer, and found a nest abandoned by the mother. He’d told Evie after the creature hatched that it took to him immediately.

He’d bonded with the little beast, couldn’t bear to be parted from it, but the upkeep was far more than Blade could afford. Fortunately, it was around that time that he came across an advertisement from someone calling themselves “The Villain,” requesting any and all magical beasts. So Blade turned up on the front steps two weeks after Evie did, offering the dragon in exchange for a place to sleep and a position as the dragon’s tamer. The boss had agreed to his terms, but they’d yet to have any use for the dragon, for many reasons.

One of them being that when it wasn’t trying to bite Evie’s head off, the animal was afraid of everything.

Blade’s smile widened. “That thing is a sweet creature with the occasional temper tantrum.” His eyes brightened as he caught sight of Becky moving past them, carrying a stack of papers to the board pinned to the wall. “Like you, lovely Rebecka!”

Becky froze in her tracks, turning her wide-eyed gaze toward them. “That is not an appropriate way to address a coworker, Mr. Gushiken.” Her disapproval practically oozed off her, but to Blade’s credit, her disdain didn’t seem to faze him.

In fact, he seemed to be oddly fueled by her censure. “Perhaps we should discuss this further at the Evergreen Tavern.” He somehow found the bravery to wink at her. “You can read off your very long list of complaints.” Pushing her glasses farther up her nose, Becky sniffed and looked at him like something foul she’d stepped in. “I would rather drink paint than converse with the likes of you in my free time. The only reason I’m doing so now is because I am being paid to tell you that your hygiene leaves

everything to be desired.”

She eyed the blood sliding down his cheek, gritting her jaw before adding, “Your blood is as offensive as your smell. Take care of both immediately or you’ll find yourself without a paycheck at the end of the week.”

Evie rolled her eyes as the she-demon stormed away. “Why do you press her like that?”

Blade shrugged, using one of his leather wrist cuffs to dab up some of the blood. “Because it’s fun when she gets ruffled.” Eyeing the closed doors, Blade lowered his voice. “I’ve heard there’s been another bust on a shipment. How’s he handling it?”

“Did you see the entryway?” she answered dryly.

“So normally, then?” Blade chuckled and then froze, remembering how close they were to The Villain’s office.

“You can speak freely. He’s been everywhere but here the past couple of days.”

“No arson for you today?” Blade gave her a mock pout.

Evie huffed a laugh, which was unsettling because the man was hardly joking. She’d started quite a few fires since she obtained the job, figuratively and literally. “That’s not my only job here, you know.”

He nodded quickly. “Oh, I know. I heard from someone you’ve cut the boss’s destructive tirades down to two a week.”

“I don’t let him talk to any of the interns before he’s eaten breakfast— that’s the key. He’s crabby on an empty stomach,” she said, wondering just how many of their workers’ lives were saved because of a frosted pastry.

Evie leaned back against her desk, gaze going to the large clock on the wall. The loud clang of the bell rang throughout the room, startling some workers at their desks and causing others to bolt from their seats, their bags already gathered to return home to their loved ones.

A few stopped to eye the closed door of The Villain’s office. It wasn’t often the boss was absent at the end of the day. He usually opened his door to indicate he wouldn’t kill anyone for making their daily escape.

Evie looked at them and nodded with quiet authority. “Go on. He’s gone for the day.” She’d reap the consequences if the boss was angry.

Without question, they all scurried toward the hidden door, the bounding of heavy footfalls on the stairs ringing in their wake. Moving to her own bag, Evie packed up her few belongings, trying to ignore the uneasiness she felt.

Where in the deadlands had The Villain gone lately?

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Blade reassured, waving to Tatianna as she ventured through the hallway into the open room. “Hey, Tati!”

“I wasn’t worried about him—” Evie started.

But Blade was already running toward the healer. Tatianna studied his forehead, then gave him a long-suffering expression as she pointed him in the direction of the healer’s quarters, following closely behind him.

Evie gathered the rest of her things, giving the boss’s closed office door one last, longing look.

Don’t care more than you should, Evie. Sighing to herself, she headed for the stairs. Too late.

She passed through the doorway, unable to stop herself from glancing back at The Villain’s closed door again, wondering if one of these times he wouldn’t return.

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