Chapter no 46 – The Villain

Assistant to the Villain

Trystan was dreaming.

Which surprised him, because he thought he’d lost the ability to dream ten short years ago. But here he was, having a dream, and it was a pleasant one.

He only saw Evie’s face for a moment before he felt soft lips press to his. His imagination made her taste like vanilla. Probably because of the ludicrous amount of vanilla drop candies the woman ate throughout the day.

It was comical to him that a trait he’d previously inwardly chuckled at was now something that was arousing him beyond belief. Enough that his eyes drifted shut and thoughts of gruesome, horrible things faded away.

If it’s just a dream anyway…

He sat up quickly, arms whipping around her, fingers pulling lightly through the soft locks of her hair. He tugged gently, nearly groaning when a gasp escaped her lips, and angled her head so he could taste her fully.

He licked at her lips, one of his hands coming down to her waist and squeezing, trying desperately to bring her closer. The small sounds she was making in the back of her throat nearly undid him. He’d never thought himself a man with a particularly good imagination, but the way she was holding on to him, sweet but fierce, and the passion behind her kisses… It ruined him.

How could the reality of kissing her possibly surpass the euphoria that was pumping through his veins at what his own imagination had conjured?

In a devastating moment, her lips pulled from his just an inch before the Dream Evie whispered, “Sir, they think—”

“Shhhh,” he whispered, pulling her in for one more slow touch of their lips. She resisted for a moment before settling once more against his mouth and gripping his cheeks in her hands.

He thought he heard someone cough, which was quite rude of his subconscious, but he pulled back anyway and watched as her lips drifted closer, wanting to bring her back to him.

“What were you going to say, love?” he whispered, smiling crookedly as he ran a hand down her soft cheek.

Her eyes widened with something like…hope? Before it vanished and was replaced with realization. “Oh,” she whispered. “You heard my lie to the knights about us being married? That’s why you—”

“What?” He tilted his head, the dream no longer making sense. He didn’t want to, but he looked beyond Evie to the crowd surrounding them. Valiant Guards were standing at attention, watching them with laser focus. Civilians were gathered around, and Arthur was leaning off in the corner, covered in blood.

It was all so—

Deadlands, this is real.

Before he could think, he stood, bringing Sage up with him, and shoved her behind him. His power boiled beneath his skin, wanting to destroy, needing to eviscerate. But before he could strike, one of the knights stepped forward.

“We mean you and your wife no harm. She explained everything.” My wife? He looked toward Sage and read the quiet communication behind her eyes.

“I told them about our troubles with conceiving, dear.”

The Villain was almost certain that if there had been an attempt made at conceiving with Sage, he would remember. Vividly.

“Yes. I see.”

Sage looked relieved as she closed her hand in his. He refused to enjoy it. “Everyone may go.” The knight with the kind voice emerged from the

crowd. “We’re sorry for frightening you further. And I assure all of you, we are doing our best to catch the guvre and capture The Villain.”

The crowd clapped lightly at the pretty speech, as did Trystan. He’d enjoy watching them try.

As the crowd dispersed, Trystan noticed for the first time since he woke that he no longer heard the guvre’s calls overhead. Either Blade and his sister had succeeded, or King Benedict had won yet another round of the battle between them.

He was determined to find out, but he was caught off guard by a shorter Valiant Guard hoisting Arthur up by his shoulders. “You need to see a healer as soon as possible, my lord. Please follow me this way.”

Rebecka followed as well, beside Arthur, holding a scrap of fabric that looked suspiciously like it had come from Evie’s dress. Both Rebecka and Arthur disappeared quickly in the darkness of the trees, and Trystan stepped forward to follow, mistrustful of anyone who answered to the king.

But he was interrupted by the knight who’d dismissed the crowd. He was speaking to Evie. “What did you say your name was, my lady?”

Trystan stepped quickly toward her and swept his arms about her shoulders, tucking her into his side. “She’s taken,” he said flatly.

The knight chuckled and began to lift his helmet but stopped when two other knights swept over.

One of the new arrivals removed his old helmet, revealing a crop of red hair. “I can take you to see the other healer as well, my lord, to look at your head.”

“I don’t need—”

“I insist,” the redhead said smoothly. “I’ll show you and your wife the way.” He turned toward the darkness of the wood, in a different direction from Arthur. Trystan would wait until they were nearly to the healer, and then he’d dispatch this man.

With reluctance, he followed, keeping Sage close to him, still feeling the tingling burn of her lips against his. He wanted to touch them to quell the sensations, but it would give too much away, and he was already horrified that his feelings had been on such public display.

The buzz of people leaving the peak faded into the night, and Sage’s gaze kept darting around like a cornered animal, looking for any means of escape. Another knight appeared, walking toward them from the darkness.

His helmet was off as well, and he had a weathered face, accompanied by gray peppered throughout his hair. “There you are,” the man said, smiling. “The healer’s this way, my lord. Let me help you.” Trystan wasn’t about to allow that, but the man’s arm snaked around Trystan’s before something hard slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground.

“No!” Sage screamed. Trystan reacted violently to the sound, turning over and moving to stand before freezing against the tip of the redheaded knight’s blade. The Villain nearly moved anyway when he saw the other knight grab Sage from behind, closing a hand over her mouth.

“Release her,” Trystan said darkly, feeling his power begin to surge.

The redhead pressed the tip of the blade into the skin on Trystan’s upper chest, drawing a drop of blood. “Erix!” he called to the other knight. “Be

gentle with the lady.” But he was smirking when he said it.

Trystan’s breathing hitched when he saw Erix lean toward Sage’s ear and whisper, “Yes, real gentle, of course.” He made a puckering sound against Sage’s cheek, and Trystan clenched his teeth so hard, they nearly shattered. But Sage did not wither or cry beneath the words; she began to thrash wildly. Muffled screams of outrage came from her covered mouth.

Erix tightened his grip, his arms struggling to hold her. “Be still, wench!

Fredrick and I simply want to ask you both some questions.”

“And how do you expect her to do that with your disgusting hand wrapped around her mouth?” Trystan had had enough of this little charade; his power was done waiting. It was time to slaughter these fools, but he halted when Fredrick said something that chilled Trystan’s blood.

“They have the core healer in custody. Your little wife over here was with him when we found him. We’re just being sure you are not accomplices.”

“What are the charges against him?” Trystan asked, his eyes darting back to Sage, who had not stopped thrashing and trying to break free for a second. The blade Fredrick was holding was still pressed to his skin, but The Villain would allow it, let the knights think they had the advantage.

Fredrick sneered and pressed the sword even deeper into Trystan’s skin. “That’s none of your—” He stopped when Erix began screaming behind him.

“Bitch! She fucking bit me!” The knight was shaking his hand out, faint teeth marks in his skin. All heads turned to Sage, who used her freedom to bring her booted foot up between Erix’s legs—hard. The man screamed and toppled over.

The other guard turned his head slowly to look at Trystan, still using the sword to hold Trystan down.

The Villain smiled at the man, enjoying watching the knight falter as The Villain’s hand gripped around the blade and squeezed. The sharp cut into his palm was nothing.

Blood dripped down Trystan’s hand as he used all his strength to push the sword in the other direction. By the grace of surprise and by the weakness of the other man, Trystan was able to knock the sword completely aside and spring to his feet, slamming his bloody fist into the knight’s face. He fell to the ground with a thud, and Trystan was on him.

He never understood why people would say their vision went red from their anger. His vision was often the clearest and the most colorful when he

was feeling a powerful fit of rage.

He struck out with his fist, snapping Fredrick’s head back with a sickening thwack, blood spurting from the man’s nose and mouth in a satisfying bloom of red. The knight fell backward, unconscious before he hit the ground.

The Villain stretched his neck from side to side and drew his sword as he stood to look at Sage and the other knight, who was still on his hands and knees.

Erix looked up, first at the bloody face of his companion and then between them. “We—we were told we’d caught The Villain. The core healer! We were just—just following orders, my lord!” The man stuttered over every word, shaking as Trystan stalked closer. “No! No, my lord. We just wanted a reward!” The man sobbed. “For catching The Villain.”

Trystan chuckled as he moved the tip of his sword to the man’s taut chest. “Oh, but I’m afraid you didn’t catch The Villain.”

He whispered the next words so quietly, even Sage wouldn’t hear. “The Villain caught you.”

Erix’s eyes widened, and he pleaded, “No, no, sir, we meant you no harm. Please, please let us go.”

“You meant her harm,” Trystan bit out, his power surging around him. “And that is enough for me.”

And then he shoved the blade into the man’s chest, piercing his heart and killing him instantly.

Trystan watched as the man’s lifeless body crumpled to the ground. Chest heaving, The Villain felt his power ache beneath his skin, wanting to be used, the rush of adrenaline pumping through him.

But when he finally looked up, Sage was staring between the body Trystan was hovering over and the unconscious one a few feet away. He stepped to the side, suddenly very aware of the blood covering his clothes and the spatter of spray marking her once immaculate dress.

There was a metaphor in there somewhere, and he had no desire to find


“Evie…” Her name sounded rough and awkward on his lips, instead of

soft like he’d intended. His last wish was to frighten her any further.

But she surprised him when she threw her arms around him and buried her face in his neck. “Thank you,” she mumbled into his shoulder while his arms remained stiffly at his sides. He wasn’t sure what to do. The last time

someone had hugged him—well, to be quite honest, he didn’t remember the last time someone had hugged him.

He’d forgotten how unnerving it was. “Um,” The Villain muttered awkwardly. “I don’t know what to do now.” He meant about the danger they faced, but instead she moved his hands in a light embrace. Leave it to his assistant to completely disarm him in her misunderstanding.

“You just put your arms around me,” she instructed, returning her hands to his neck. “It’s not hard.” She was breathing fast. “You ruined my dress.”

“I’ll buy you another,” he said, slowly bringing his arms up farther to circle her warmth, feeling frustrated and a little embarrassed at the stiff unsureness of the gesture. He was an intelligent person—figuring out the mechanics of affectionate touches shouldn’t have been so difficult.

“Good.” She exhaled into his neck, no doubt soaking her dress even more on the red dripping from his own shirt. Sage pulled back to look at his attire and smiled lightly, scrunching her nose. “I think you’ll need a new shirt as well, sir.”

He stared at her, wholly unfazed by the gruesomeness surrounding them. Acting as if he’d just closed a business deal rather than murdered a man in front of her.

And she was smiling at him.

The Villain came to an unbidden realization then, so completely tragic that his mind tried to reject the words. But they were there, so plainly it was almost comical.

He was in love with her.

Of all the foolish, horrific things he’d ever accomplished, falling in love with a woman he so completely didn’t deserve made the top of his list.

But he did love her. It wasn’t a question or even a sudden realization. He’d known, hadn’t he? He’d known from the moment she’d called him pretty. It was like a tether was between them, wrapped directly around his heart, that she had the power to push and pull at her leisure.

Evangelina Celia Sage was woven into his being; in the blink of his eyes, in the crinkle of his smile, in his rusty unused laughter, she was there. From the moment he’d met her, he thought of her like the sun. Bright and vibrant, untouchable.

But he was wrong.

She wasn’t light; she was color. Every single one, dancing otherworldly and bright over his unworthy eyes. She was the explosion of the vivid

gleams and glows of the world around him, like a constant rainbow, shining not after the rain but during.

She was everything he never deserved but longed for anyway.

He remembered the blood on her clothes, the employer who had hurt her before, the unjust way she’d been treated, and the final nail in the proverbial coffin was that echoing, agonizing word.

He was ruined.

But he loved her anyway.

He knew she might feel the same, by the way she responded to him, but he couldn’t encourage this, couldn’t give her any idea that they had any sort of future. At least not together. His future, more likely than not, would eventually be six feet under the dirt, and he refused to drag Sage there with him.

But just for now…

Trystan allowed himself just a moment to angle his head into the crook of her neck before he made a vow.

That he’d never tell her.

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