The Villain

Page 101

“God, Ash, you need your own baby.” Sailor laughed, pushing her out.

“I’ve a feeling she’ll get one soon,” Belle murmured, closing the door behind them.

Kill flashed the door an irritated look, then turned his gaze back to me.

I raised my palms up. “I can’t help what leaves my sister’s mouth.”

“If you could, you’d have a full-time job managing it. Have you heard from Joelle this week? She asked when she could stop by.”

Shortly after Cillian and I got back together, I resumed my communication with Joelle Arrowsmith. She was going through a divorce from Andrew, who was still in therapy, working in the private sector as a legal consultant and trying to become a better father for Tree and Tinder. Joelle was relieved when I started visiting her again, often with Cillian, who kept an eye on Tinder and often provided Joelle advice and guidance.

I’d even taken the kids and my husband to see Mrs. Veitch for a Christmas celebration at her nursing home. She died a few weeks after in her sleep.

“I need to call her back, but I’m hoping the next time I see her, I’ll have a baby in my hands. Can you help me up? I need a shower.” I wobbled about the bed.

“I’ve got you.” He scooped me up in his arms and carried me into our en suite. There, I stood under the streaming showerheads, steam clouding the glass doors while Kill leaned against the marble countertops, keeping me company.

“Sailor is starting to show,” I observed, lathering my arms with soap.

“Hmm,” Kill answered noncommittally. I could see him stroking his chin from the mirror in front of us. “Does Ash really want a baby?”

I shrugged. “Wouldn’t surprise me. I’m twenty-seven. That makes her…what? Twenty-six? Not too farfetched even though she still has her residency to complete.” Ash was a doctor now. “We’ve always been the romantics out of the bunch. We’ve always wanted big families.”

“With the slight distinction that you were never obsessed with the king of the underworld,” Kill noted.

Sam Brennan was his friend, but he was also a man he didn’t want for his sister.

“No,” I agreed. “I simply fell in love with the media’s favorite villain.” I smiled, turning off the water stream and patting the tiles for my bathrobe. “Don’t worry, we’ve got your sister. We’ll keep her safe and won’t let her do anything too wild.”

“Just like they kept you from marrying me,” Kill said, unconvinced. “You are sweet but stubborn, and my sister’s much the same. I’m old enough to remember that when she was five, she almost dragged a fucking live opossum into the house because my parents had refused to grant her the pet she wanted so much.”

My husband cursed. Not often, and only in front of me and a small cluster of friends and family, but he did.

I flicked my hand to turn off the water.

Wait, haven’t I done this already?

“…will break every bone in his body and reassemble him to look like a Picasso painting if he as much as touches a hair on her head…”

“Kill,” I breathed.

“What?” He stopped talking, turning to face the shower.

“I turned off the water…” I murmured, looking down. “But the water’s still running.”

His eyes darted between my legs.

“Sweetheart, your water broke.”

We both looked at each other.

“Ready, Daddy Kill?”

“Let’s get it, Flower Girl.”

Astor Damian Archibald Fitzpatrick was born on the warmest day in Boston’s history. Warmer than the unfortunate day on our belated honeymoon in Namibia, when my wife fulfilled her dream to lie on a velvety yellow dune and look up at the sun defiantly. At one hundred and ten degrees, I sweated my balls off nearby, waiting for her patiently with a cold bottle of water.

It was so scorching hot, the power went down, generators had to be used to keep the electricity running at the hospital, and my wife looked like a liquid version of her former self.

Then he came into the world and everything ceased to matter.

“And my fourth-grade teacher said nothing would come out of me.” Persephone pumped the air when the doctor scooped the baby, laughing and crying at the same time, which, I’d learned during my time being with her, was apparently a completely valid thing to do for a human being.

“What’s her name?” I demanded. “I’ll make sure—”

“God, Kill, who cares about Ms. Merrill! Give me my baby!” There was definitely more laughing than crying now.

Astor did not come out kicking and screaming, as babies do, rejecting the very idea of leaving the comfort and warm safety of the womb in which they were created.

He came out quiet and stern. Too quiet, in fact. So much so, that the doctor swooped him away to a nearby table before we could see him properly and began patting him with a towel and suctioning fluid out of his mouth.

“I’m just trying to stimulate his first cry,” Dr. Braxman said calmly. “His pulse and color are fine, so I’m sure it is nothing. Probably just a tough, resilient baby.”

Persephone wrapped my hand in hers, squeezing me with the remainder of her energy, dripping sweat. After a twelve-hour labor, I was surprised she was still awake.

“Kill,” she moaned, cupping her mouth. I pulled her into a hug, craning my neck at the same time to see what Dr. Braxton was doing.

“It’s fine. Everything is fine. I’ll go take a look.”

She nodded.

As I made my way to the doctor, who was still patting and touching my baby, surrounded by two nurses, trying to make him cry, the escalating force of an impending Tourette’s attack crawled up my spine. My heart raced. My knuckles popped. My desire to protect my child burned so fiercely in me, I was pretty sure I could destroy the entire building with my two hands if something happened to him.

Just as I took the last step toward Dr. Braxman, Astor opened his tiny red mouth and let out a wail that nearly shattered the windows, curling his tiny fists and thrusting them in the air like Rocky.

“Ah. There we are.” Dr. Braxman wrapped my son like a burrito, then handed him to me, supporting his head. “Ten fingers, ten toes, a set of healthy lungs, and a lot of personality.”

The doctor moved quickly, settling back between my wife’s thighs, which had been covered with a cloth, and began stitching her up.

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