The Villain

Page 34

With the clear intention to signal my future husband I was not to be tamed, I chose wildflowers for my bouquet.

I decided on having a church service only. No party. No big hurrah. My feelings toward Kill were as strong as ever, but I wasn’t going to do all the work for him. If he wanted a successful marriage—which I doubted he did—he was going to have to put in the effort, too.

A part of me doubted Cillian would even show up to the wedding. After all, he went back to ignoring my existence quickly after I accepted his offer. If it weren’t for Devon, or the realtors, bankers, jewelers, and personal shoppers he sent my way, fawning over me, I’d think he’d gotten cold feet.

Should’ve known better.

Cillian Fitzpatrick never got cold feet.

It was everything else about him that was made of ice.

I sat in the limo in front of the church. Mom and Dad came from the suburbs. They were disoriented by my shotgun wedding but happy, nonetheless. They knew how hurt I’d been over Paxton and figured I decided to marry my good friend Aisling’s older brother because we’d always had this amazing, nurturing connection.

That was the story I fed them, anyway, and that was the version they chose to eat up. Dad, who had just recovered from a knee surgery, couldn’t walk me down the aisle.

I’d found it to be an omen more than a coincidence. I’d asked Hunter to do the honor of giving me away (“Personally, I’d prefer to hand you over to Vlad the Impaler, but I’m too scared for my life to deny Kill anything”).

“Knock, knock.” Ash’s thin, church bells voice rang in the air. She flung the door to the limo open and slid in, wearing a blood-red bridesmaid dress.

“Hey.” I mustered a smile, realizing I was clutching Belle’s hand in mine a bit too tightly. I let go before my sister’s hand needed amputated due to gangrene.

Ash handed me a crown of wildflowers.

“A good luck charm for the bride. A Fitzpatrick tradition.”

“Is this from Kill?” My eyebrows shot up. I thought about the poisonous flowers he’d plucked from my hair all those years ago. Ash shook her head, turning a shade of maroon that went well with her dress.

“My bad. I should’ve clarified. I made it for you. It’s an Irish custom that the bride braids the crown in her hair on her own. Brings good luck to the marriage.”

“My hair is harder than a rock right now,” I pointed out.

“Is this bitch for real?” Belle snatched the flowered tiara from Aisling’s hands. “Sis, you need all the luck you can get. You’re putting this thing on if it’s the last thing you do. And while you’re at it, here.” Belle dropped the tiara in my lap, rummaging in her clutch. She found an orange bottle of pills, took one, and shoved it into my mouth.

“What’s that?” I murmured around the tablet.

“A little pick-me-up.”

I swallowed, weaving wisps of my hair into the crown of flowers while Belle put a glass of champagne to my lips.

“The church is jam-packed. All the pews are filled to the brim.” Aisling crawled into the back seat as we waited for the event coordinator to call us out. “Sam locked the church doors on Kill, another Irish tradition to make sure the groom doesn’t run away, and Hunter slipped a sixpence into his shoes. Kill wasn’t happy.”

“When is he ever?” Sailor sassed, making the three of them burst into laughter.

I glanced out the window up at the sky. There was only one lonely cloud.

Auntie Tilda.

I grinned. My late aunt worked in mysterious ways, but she couldn’t pass up coming here today.

“I can’t believe I’m getting married again,” I whispered to her more than to anyone else.

“It’s not too late to change your mind,” Sailor reminded me. “Really. Ask any Julia Roberts movie out there.”

“Cut it out,” Belle warned our redheaded friend. “We’re going to give the asshole the benefit of the doubt, at least for today.”

“You’re right.” Sailor rubbed at her nose. “Sorry, Pers.”

The event coordinator shoved her head past our open window.

“We’re all set. My God, you look like a movie star, Persephone. Hunter is waiting for you by the church’s doors. He is the person giving you away, correct?”

“Actually,” Belle piped, lacing her arm in mine, “we’re all going to give her away.”

“Reluctantly.” Sailor laughed.

And so I walked down the aisle with a herd of my friends and family, feeling loved, cherished, and protected.

Just not by the man I was marrying.

After weeks of not seeing him, his presence hit me like a wrecking ball.

Everything about Cillian standing in a full tux in front of a minister reminded me why I’d been pathetically obsessed with him before Paxton.

Why giving him up had been the hardest thing I had to do.

He was tall, dark, and commanding, dripping untamed power and magnetism money couldn’t buy. He stared directly at me as I walked down the aisle, clutching my bouquet in a death grip. A live band began playing “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. The guests stood, whispering and murmuring. Aisling was right. There were hundreds of people in this place, and most of them, I didn’t know.

That was when it hit me.

Cillian didn’t ignore the wedding.

He simply ignored me.

He sent out invitations promoting the idea of him being a family man.

Bastard even chose a song for me to walk to the chapel.

In other words, he was involved in all the parts that mattered to him, and I wasn’t one of them.

My heart jackhammered, and my mouth dried around the rich tang of champagne.

My eyes flicked to his golden-specked ones. He looked calm, serene, utterly unaffected.

“Did he tell you he doesn’t have any feelings? He takes pride in that.”

Sailor’s voice drifted back into my memory.

He did. Multiple times.

Still, I wanted to whack him with my bouquet and yell at him to feel something while swearing his alliance to me.

I stopped in front of him, certain the imprint of my heart could be seen through my dress every time it slammed against my rib cage.

Minister Smith began the ceremony. My eyes dropped to Kill’s lips, which were pursed in mild displeasure.

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