The Villain

Page 43

He was surprised and a little flustered by my state, shoving me out the door as though he, too, was afraid my husband would get to me.

It was only when I was tucked in an Escalade on my way back home that my heart slowed and my mind started working again.

My husband had a deep, dark secret that could ruin him.

Something he was ashamed of.

A weakness I’d almost unveiled.

And tonight, I got very close to finding out what it was.

I tossed and turned in my bed for the rest of the night, going through every emotion in the feelings book. I was angry, scared, worried sick, and vengeful. I hated Cillian for acting the way he did, but I also knew I played a big part of it. He’d always been mean and snarky with me but never cruel. I pushed him, and he felt hunted.

An injured animal thrown into fight-or-flight mode.

A text message lit the pitch-black bedroom. I reached for my nightstand, grabbing my phone. It pained me that I didn’t even consider it could be from him.

Hunter: Your husband is an asshole.

Me: Tell me something I don’t know.

Hunter: All polar bears are left-handed. Bet you didn’t know that.

Hunter: Also, and relatedly, your husband is an asshole who checks his phone every five seconds. Are you guys texting?

Me: No.

Hunter: Weird. He always logs off during poker nights.

Me: Can you do me a favor?

Hunter: What kind? I’m a married man. I know Kill is nowhere near the realms of my perfection, alas, you missed the train.

Me: A—delusional. And B—not even if you were the last man on earth.

Hunter: What’s the favor?

Me: Keep an eye on him. See that he is okay.

Hunter: And you care because…?

Me: He is my husband.

Hunter: I thought that was only on paper.

Me: You thought wrong.

Hunter: Other than the phone shit, he looks like the same old Kill to me. Chain-smoking, drinking devil who needs a good hug and a great fuck.

Me: Night.

Hunter: Obvs, silly. x

Cillian had managed to overcome whatever it was that happened to him in less than an hour. That was peculiar. And alarming. But at least I knew he was remorseful enough to check his phone for a message from me.

Guilt was a feeling, after all.

Unless he is checking it for work-related stuff.

When dawn broke over the sky, I padded to my terrace barefoot, relishing the heated floorboards and extravagant French doors. Looking outside, I spotted a lone cloud sailing north.

“What do I do, Auntie Tilda?” I whispered.

She didn’t answer.

I picked up my phone to type my sister a text. Ask her if she remembered the days when Auntie took us to the carnival. How delirious with joy we were.

To my surprise, there was a message waiting for me.

A message from a number that had yet to answer all twenty-seven text messages I had sent it while I planned our mutual wedding.

Cillian: It won’t happen again.

Even though I knew exactly what he meant, I decided to press where it hurt. Lure him out of his cave a little more.

Me: The sex part, or the part that came after it?

Cillian: The part I’m not proud of.

What was he doing awake at five? Maybe he had trouble sleeping after last night, like I did.

I sat on a recliner on the balcony, rubbing at my forehead.

Me: Still doesn’t answer my question.

Cillian: My outburst was out of line.

Knowing he’d been pushed far enough—I’d never heard my husband apologize to anyone—I changed the subject.

Me: My Auntie Tilda, the one who chose my name, told me that every time I see a lone cloud in the sky, she is watching me. There’s only one cloud outside now.

After putting my phone on the table by the recliner, I stood and went about my morning. Brushed my teeth, curled my hair, and got dressed, knowing there was no chance my husband was going to grace me with an answer.

When I returned to the balcony table, after flicking the coffee machine on, I noticed my cell screen was lit with an incoming message.

Cillian: Are you on drugs? Sobriety was not a part of our contractual agreement only because I assumed it was a given.

Snorting out a laugh, I typed back.

Me: Look outside. Do you not see it?

Cillian: Your dead aunt on a cloud? No.

Me: She is not ON it. She IS it. Let me send you a pic.

I raised my phone to the window, snapped a picture of the perfectly fuzzy cloud, and sent it over to him.

Me: Well?

Cillian: Nice to meet you, Persephone’s aunt. You two look nothing alike.

Me: Who is being cute now?

Cillian: Me, apparently.

Me: Don’t worry, I know you’re incapable of anything good and moral. Having a sense of humor won’t tarnish your wickedness.

Cillian: Is that a hint?

Me: What do you mean?

Cillian: The Arctic drilling.

Did I hate the idea of him drilling holes inside the Arctic to see if he can find oil, ruining an already fragile part of the world? Of course I did. It made me sick to my stomach, to think the man I loved and directly profited from did that. But I also recognized talking about it with him now, when we were starting out, wouldn’t make him move an inch. If anything, he’d probably drill in a few more places just to spite me.

Me: It’s not a hint. I think my position on the matter is clear.

Cillian: Batteries over SUVs.

I grinned, remembering the sex toys innuendo he’d made at his office yesterday afternoon.

Me: Correct.

Cillian: Look at your garage, Flower Girl.

I made my way downstairs to the building garage.

Sure enough, there was a brand new red Tesla sitting on my apartment’s allotted spot.

He bought me a car.

An electric car.

The type of vehicle that was supposed to put him out of business eventually.

Not missing what it meant, I typed my husband a reply with shaky fingers.

Me: Thank you.

Cillian: Batteries are for pussies.

I managed to successfully avoid my wife for the rest of the week.

That did not stop her from sending me daily text messages about her dead aunt hiding in clouds every time the sky was clear.

The messages, like my prayers to have a sane wife, remained unanswered.

She had suggested we meet up a few times, despite the radio silence on my end.

The thought of seeing her again disgusted me, so I decided not to consider it until I cooled down.

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