The Villain

Page 90

“Because you hated her,” I spat out, disgusted with myself.

She smiled.

I died a little inside.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I stood, gathering the paperwork on my desk to keep my traitorous eyes from wandering her way. Watching my wife was akin to watching the sun. The euphoric, blinding notion you were both immortal and pathetically human grabbing you by the throat.

“I suppose you’re here because your ex-husband has dumped you again. Am I the consolation prize?” I stuffed my paperwork into my briefcase, itching to go somewhere—anywhere—that was far away from this woman.

The pressure signaling an impending attack pressed against my sternum. Every time she walked into the room, I had to regain my control.

“You knew he was in town?” Her peacock blue eyes followed me intently.

“Your security cameras,” I pointed out, in case she planned on accusing me of slapping her with more private investigators.

She stalked in my direction.

“I threw him out the night he showed up. You’d have known that if you’d bothered to answer any of my calls or actually go through the pain of giving me the time of the day when I tried to visit you at your house.”

Your house.

Of course it was my house.

Why would it be ours? I’d plucked her out of the clinical apartment I’d put her in, stuck her in one of the guest rooms, and expected her to…what? Form any sort of attachment to the place?

“Would you like a prize for remaining faithful?” I arched an eyebrow. She stopped right in front of me. Her scent was everywhere in the room, drowning my senses, and I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Kick her out, kiss her, fuck her, yell at her. All these possibilities exhibited both emotion and complete lack of control.

“Sam told you, didn’t he?” She tilted her head, examining me. She meant Andrew Arrowsmith’s laptop. The tapes she must have watched.

“He is on my payroll.”

“So is the rest of the city.”

“You included, so do yourself a favor and stop sniffing around my business before I cut you off.”

“We both know I’m not here for the money. Now, I want to talk about what I’ve learned.”

She treaded carefully into the conversation.

“No,” I said flatly. “You had no right.”

“Had no right?” She laughed sadly. “I’m your wife, Kill. Whether you accept it or not. I wanted to help you. That’s why I decided to work for Andrew in the first place. To extract information. To get a glimpse into his most intimate place. I knew there was too much riding on this operation, and that you’d try to stop me because you’re too righteous to accept you needed my help.”

“Your job is not to save me.”

“Why?” She parked a hand on her waist. “Why isn’t it my job to save you? I’ve lost count of the times you’ve saved me. You saved me from Byrne and Kaminski, from a horse, from a poisonous flower, from my ex-husband. The list goes on and on. Why is it okay for you to give up your entire existence for the world, to put your father’s needs before yours, to walk through fire for the people you care about, but I can’t do you this one solid?”

“Because you didn’t accomplish anything!” I boomed in her face, baring my teeth. “You pretty little idiot, the videos you found won’t hold up in court. They are not legal evidence. They’re stolen, and probably fuzzy, and don’t capture his face. You’ve worked for nothing.”

The frustration of knowing she’d seen me at my worst, and for no good reason at all, maddened me. I grabbed my wife’s arms. “Your little stunt did nothing more than put another ten-foot dent in our marriage, which, by the way, was the worst mistake of my life.”

The words flew out before I could stop them. I’d heard of people saying things they didn’t mean while angry but had never experienced it because, well, I was never angry. This was an unwelcome, humanizing first. My wife’s blue eyes glittered with rage. I wanted to apologize but knew that the entire floor was watching through my glass office walls, and that an apology would achieve nothing.

We were done.

I was faulty. Broken beyond repair, and she wasn’t going to stick around long enough to try to fix me.

“You don’t know what I found out,” she said quietly.

“I don’t fucking care!”

In my periphery, I could see Hunter marching from his office to mine. He waved away the curious audience forming outside my door, shooting me a pull it together look.

I’d officially hit rock bottom. Nothing said you were a world-class loser more than Hunter goddamn Fitzpatrick telling you to chill.

I turned my attention back to Persephone, lowering my voice but still feeling that undeniable shake. “Nothing you found on Andrew’s laptop can help me win this case. The only thing you did was give him more ammo on me. Now he is probably telling people I sent my wife to sniff around his work and made her perform two jobs to try to dig up some dirt about him. Not only did you not help me, but you also put yourself at risk, and I…”

That’s where I stopped. And what?

Persephone slanted one eyebrow up, studying me with eyes so hungry, if I had a heart, it would break for her. She clearly wanted me to care.

“And you what, hubs?” she asked softly. “What would have happened had Andrew done something to me?”

A violent shudder ran through me.

The waterboarding.

The burns.

The beatings.

Getting locked in the confession booth for hours at a time in a dark church with only my demons to keep me company.

Coming back to him, asking him for more. To atone for my father’s sins. To grieve our friendship. To numb my feelings.

And just like that, I remembered who I was.

Who Andrew Arrowsmith had made me.

Who my father—my whole family—expected me to be.

A grim smirk slashed my face like a wound. I leaned down, my lips brushing my wife’s ear, my hot breath fanning her pale hair.

“And I wish he’d finished the job, Flower Girl, so I could finally go ahead and marry someone in my own league. You were a mistake. A foolish, horny mistake. Divorce couldn’t come fast enough.”

I felt, rather than saw her take a step back. That was when I realized I’d closed my eyes like a pathetic moron, inhaling her.

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