The Villain

Page 79

I picked my phone up and typed my husband a message.

Me: Stop the Arctic drilling.

Me: You want heirs so much, have you ever stopped to think about what kind of world you are leaving for them?

His response came promptly.

Cillian: Yes. One where they’ll be filthy rich.

Me: Does being rich make you happy?

Cillian: Happiness is a feeling, ergo…

Me: You can’t feel it. Gotcha. What did Andrew do to you?

Cillian: He made me.

Me: And what are you going to do to him?

Cillian: Undo him.

My doorbell rang, nearly making me jump out of my skin.

It wasn’t Kill’s style to show up where he wasn’t invited. But I knew there was zero chance of it being anyone else. My parents didn’t know I lived in this apartment and not my husband’s house, Emmabelle worked nights, Sailor was probably off sneaking into archery ranges—only to be chased down by her worrisome husband—and Aisling very rarely raised her head up from the medical books these days.

Rolling up from the couch, I padded to my door.

“You really have some nerve coming here after the conversation we just had.” I opened the door, ready to give my husband a piece of my mind.

My heart dropped as soon as I saw who it was on the other side.


Just because I called off Sam’s private investigators didn’t mean I let go of my unhealthy obsession with my wife.

No. That would be the normal, sane thing to do.

Not my fucking style.

In my defense, I set my phone to receive notifications each time her apartment door opened, not because I suspected she’d cheat, but because I wanted to know she’d made it home safely.

Why I still gave a damn about her well-being was beyond me.

The piling evidence against her should have, in and of itself, made me drop her like a mic after an amateur rap night.

Persephone worked for my nemesis on a daily basis.

Visited Paxton’s grandmother.

What on earth made me believe she’d be faithful?

Nothing. The answer to that was nothing. And as I watched the blond, broad-shouldered man in the Next Door app shifting from foot to foot on her doorstep, head bowed, fingers tapping the side of his legs, waiting for her to open the door, I realized I’d been played.

Ridiculed and undermined.

Betrayed to the highest degree.

Sam warned me he was unfinished business, and I didn’t listen.

Now here he was, in the flesh.

Paxton Veitch.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

The F-bomb was a guest of honor in my vocabulary. I rarely used it but felt the urge to spit it out for this special occasion. My body shook so badly I had to grab the door handle to stop myself from collapsing.

My ex-husband stood in front of me, looking appallingly healthy for someone who’d been on the run for the past year. Tan, muscled, and at least as far as I could tell, still in full possession of all his teeth. His blond curls scattered about his head playfully, his soulful eyes blinking back at me.

“Babe.” His lips twisted in a relieved smile, and he let out a sigh. “Fuck, you look just as gorgeous as I remember. Holy shit, Persy. Look at you.”

He gathered my hands in his, bringing them to his mouth, laughing. Tears coated his sparkling eyes. I was too shocked to shove him away.

Paxton was here.

In the flesh.

After hundreds of unanswered phone calls, emails, and sleepless nights.

My head swarmed with questions. Where had he been hiding? When did he come back? How did he find his way into my building? There was a doorman at the entrance.

Mostly, I wanted to know why. Why did he leave me to deal with his mess?

And if I meant so little to him, why come back and stand at my doorway?

My hands were still in his, scorching with his betrayal. I snapped out of my reverie, pushing him away.

“I’ll repeat myself.” I took a step back. “What’re you doing here, Paxton? And how did you know where I live?”

“Dropped by Grandma Greta’s nursing home. Your name and address were listed as an emergency contact.”

“That’s right because you, her only living relative, were MIA.”

“I know.” His voice broke. “I’m here to make amends. Let me? Please?”

He kissed my cheek hastily, worming into my apartment uninvited.

I closed the door, knowing I was going to blow the rooftop with screams in about half a second and not wanting to get evicted or causing Cillian any embarrassing headlines.

“Give me one good reason not to tell Byrne and Kaminski you’re back in town.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

Paxton gave himself a tour around my living room, whistling as he drank in the expensive fixtures, gourmet kitchen, and quartz countertops. His neck craned as he studied the lighting, one hand brushing over a floor-to-ceiling art piece that cost more than the apartment we’d rented together while married.

“Wow. Okay. Nice digs.”

When he saw I was still standing by the door, fully ready to throw him out, he poked his lower lip out.

“C’mon, babe. It’s been a minute. We need to iron things out, but there’s a lot to talk about, don’t you think?”

No, my mind screamed.

Sam had told me I’d dodged a bullet the night of the storm, when I tried to accept Cillian’s proposal and found out he’d already withdrawn it. But the deadly bullet I’d escaped was the day Kill took me as a wife.

He made my problems disappear.

Put me out of harm’s way, no matter the price.

“I’m not buying your charade,” I said pointedly.

“Fine.” His voice dropped to a low growl. “Then let’s get real. I’m glad your bouji ass is living the good life. Got yourself a sugar daddy and found your sass, huh?” Paxton winked, his charming, dimpled smile on full display. He jerked my fridge open, taking out a glass bottle of juice. The kitchen had been stocked thrice a week by Cillian’s people.

The thought of Paxton being here, drinking an organic pressed juice at Kill’s expense made me want to punch him into a wall.

I hadn’t been fair to my husband.

He fulfilled his end of the bargain, providing me with everything he’d promised and more. In return, I pushed him into giving me things he was incapable of providing. Love, sympathy, and tenderness.

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