Chapter no 57 – The Villain

Assistant to the Villain

Sage had an unfamiliar look on her face. It wasn’t pity, nor was it horror, but whatever it was, it made him feel good, which was unbelievable, considering he was reliving his worst nightmare. Trystan walked back toward her and took his seat once more on the sofa.

“You escaped?” she said incredulously. She shook her head back and forth, and the silky strands of her hair brushed against his arm, making him shiver.

“The king didn’t anticipate that his efforts to protect the public would unleash me upon them.” He smiled then, a real one, and Sage did, too. “One day, the guards grew particularly sick of me. I’d spent an embarrassing amount of time begging to be released, and I think they’d had enough.”

“What did they do to you?” she asked, hesitant, like she didn’t want to ask for more than he was willing to give. She didn’t realize everything he was already belonged to her.

Licking his dry lips, he continued. “They had a way of seeing through the darkness in the cellar. I never knew when they would next beat me. I just felt their fists against my body, the pain.”

Sage took a sharp inhale, her face open, honest. She didn’t move an inch, and yet he felt her physical presence like a deep warmth. “I hope you made them suffer.”

There was a wicked disposition melding with the kindness in her heart, and it was wildly intoxicating.

He felt his eyes widen at the crooked grin that pulled at her lips, dripping with a lovely malevolence. By the gods, she would kill him. “My magic awoke then. I felt it pulse underneath my skin, and it lit up the entire room

—it healed me. I could see the door of the cell, the light coming from the guards… And I slaughtered them all.”

She bit her lip and wrung her hands together. “Good.”

“I escaped out a tunnel that led me to my first drop of light I’d seen in weeks: the sunrise,” Trystan said darkly. “I vowed then that if the king

believed me a villain…that was exactly what I would become.”

He remembered staring at the colors of light as the sun rose above the hill, like it was illuminating his purpose before his eyes.

“It’s a hat you wear well,” Sage said, kindly, sadly. “But why would King Benedict wait so long to try and end you, if he really believed you to be so dangerous?”

“Who says he hasn’t?”

Evie was rocked by a sudden realization. “Oh my— The men in the dungeon. The ones you torture. There must be over three dozen at least.”

“All sent by our benevolent king to capture me or end my life. It’s a mystery why he went to all the effort to come at me through your father,” Trystan said, realizing too late how thoughtless the comment was.

Because at the mention of the man, Evie’s once-calm face went chalk white and her eyes went dark. “Why would he do that?” She stood, pacing back into the kitchen, taking another large swig of wine, and he followed helplessly behind her.

“Sage, I apologize. I shouldn’t have mentioned—”

She bent over like she was struggling for breath. “Oh gods,” she choked out. “You’re trying to tell me about your trauma, and I’m hyperventilating like a selfish ass.” She held up a hand, keeping her head down. “Give me a moment. I’ll be right with you.”

“It was a long time ago, Sage. I believe you’re allowed to be upset by the your father’s betrayal, which happened literally an hour ago.”

“Too many things happening. My brain can’t process.” She moaned, flipping her head up. Her hair was wild, teased like she’d just been—

He would not finish that sentence.

“What can I do?” he asked sincerely.

Sage nodded to herself, pushing a hand through her dark locks, tossing them over one shoulder. “I think… I think I need a hug…please.”

It was the slight please at the end, lighter than her other words, that absolutely destroyed whatever might have been left of him. “Sage, I’m not good at hugging. That time in the forest, you caught me off guard—I do not and cannot make ‘hugs’ a regular occurrence.”

“But you did it so well before.” The little tornado’s eyes scrunched in confusion, and he resisted the gratified feeling that she enjoyed their hug so much that she thought another was well-advised.

“All right. Fine. A hug.” He lifted a brow, seeing no other possible recourse. He smoothed the still-damp front of his cloak. “Like this?”

He walked closer to her, and her stormy eyes widened. She stepped toward him, looking like she was beginning to doubt how to go about the act herself. Which he knew wasn’t true; he’d seen her throw out hugs like they were hellos to everyone in the office. He’d never wished to be on the receiving end of one of those hugs, but… All right, he was a liar.

There was no distance left between them, and if one of them didn’t move soon, Trystan was sure that every ounce of self-control he’d gathered over the years would evaporate and he’d do something truly unforgivable.

It was both appallingly horrific and devastatingly wonderful that this small wisp of a woman had undone years of building pillars of protection around himself. That he would take apart any wall that kept him from her.

His tornado, his— He sucked in a sharp breath when she raised her arms up and around his neck, straining slightly because of their height difference. He’d always thought being tall and large was a point in his favor, but he’d never thought of the distance it would keep him from her embrace.

He felt her fingers brush against his hair, and he leaned into it, feeling no better than a house cat desperate for attention. But the worst had yet to come. Because when he felt her body press against his, he thought he finally understood true torture. Not the kind he inflicted on the men in his chambers, but real, to the core of a person, life-altering torture. He’d never felt anything as sharply or acutely as feeling every curve nestled into his body, which was quickly responding.

As broken and black as his soul likely was, Trystan had never once felt like there was anything missing from himself. Not until now.

His body, his power, settled in her presence. There and still deadly, but it welcomed her. In fact, he was certain it would rear and flare when they inevitably separated. The thought gave him the courage to lift his arms and wrap them carefully around the small of her back.

His chin tucked on her shoulder, and he fully let himself settle against her. His body let out such a deep, contented sigh, it was almost a growl. Like it had been waiting for her, and now that she was here, it would only live half as what it had been before, forever waiting to be whole again.


Well, he knew how the guvres felt now.

She spoke against his neck, sending a shiver down his spine. “You’re a good hugger.” He felt wetness against his skin and realized she was crying, and he tightened his arms around her, thinking if anyone dared come near her in this moment, there was nothing and nobody that could stop him from slitting them in half.

“I’ll admit, I’m out of practice, so that’s good to hear.” Did he sound normal? He didn’t want to frighten her with the yearning that was pulsing through him. No need to burden her with his lack of self-control.

“You’re telling me you haven’t been giving the interns hugs after Scatter Day?” Did she realize the effect of her fingers playing with the locks of hair at the nape of his neck? No, she couldn’t, or she’d shove away from him and slap him. He was inches away from slapping himself.

“I cut it back to once a month.”

“The hugging?” She smiled against him; he couldn’t see it, but he knew. “Scatter Day,” he said flatly.

She snickered, and he couldn’t resist burying his head farther into her neck, scrunching his eyes like it was almost painful, and in a way it was. But for now, he’d enjoy it, and try to hold this memory in his heart until the day of his inevitable horrific death, which wouldn’t matter because he’d gotten to hold her.

“Can we do this a little bit longer?” Evie asked, her lips nearly brushing against his neck again.

Forever, he thought. But instead, he coughed uncomfortably and said, “If that’s what you want. I’m sure I can endure it for a little longer.”

Kingsley appeared over Sage’s shoulder, looking so small against the doorway, but the little shake of his crowned head might as well have been screaming at Trystan.

As they pulled away slowly, Trystan was knocked breathless by how close his face was to hers. Evie seemed to be as well, by the way her light eyes widened. But she didn’t move back farther, and neither did he. After the harrowing night she’d had, she still was so achingly beautiful, with the smell of vanilla candies on her breath.

He took a sharp inhale as her face drifted closer, like she couldn’t help it, like they were drawn together. He angled his head down, gripping the back of her dress, lightly urging her near. Their lips hovered so close, he could almost taste her.

A crash broke them apart, both breathless as they looked toward the source of the noise. It was Kingsley, who’d crashed into the kitchen table, knocking a plate to the ground.

I’m going to kill that frog.

But his anger was replaced by gratefulness, for if he kissed Sage again, there would be no coming back from it.

He looked at her sheepishly, as she did at him, before she mumbled, “I’m going to…go grab some of my and Lyssa’s things.” She turned quickly and started up the stairs, leaving Trystan and Kingsley alone.

The Villain looked upon the frog with a different lens, and for the first time in ten years he found himself relieved that Kingsley remained a frog… and not the kind and noble human prince he’d been once upon a time. For if Kingsley was a prince once more, The Villain knew how stark his inadequacies would feel against his old friend’s benevolent chivalry.

Trystan had just wanted to enjoy that moment with her, where he could pretend that he was good, that he was hers. He could still feel her warmth around him, and he savored it, the memory of it, knowing it was all he was allowed to have. Because women like Evie Sage didn’t end up with The Villain.

She startled him from his thoughts, appearing with two large bags. “Ready to go?” she asked hesitantly.

“Ready,” he said with a slight upturn of his lips. She headed for the door first, scooping Kingsley up as she walked. And The Villain followed her, leaving the memory behind.

Where it belonged.

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