The Villain

Page 96

Speaking of Athair, I spotted the old sod pacing the boardroom from the corner of my eye and made a quick, sharp turn toward it. An overhead TV replaying my press conference danced on the wall behind him. Upon a closer look, I saw Mother was there, too, perched on one of the seats by the kidney-shaped desk, fixing her makeup.

I opened the door, closed it, and waited for the storm. I didn’t have to wait long.

“You little piece of—”

“I would not finish that sentence if I were you.” I raised my open palm, wearing an easy smile on my face. “You’re talking to the CEO of Royal Pipelines. Disrespect me, and you’ll find yourself escorted out of my building.”

“Your building?” he sputtered. “That’s a good one. No. You would never,” my father spat out. I didn’t have to grace that with an answer. He already knew I was capable of pretty much anything.

He fell into one of the seats, grabbing his head in his hands, shaking it. “I don’t understand.”

“I am under no obligation to make sense to you,” I informed him.

“Green Living dropped the lawsuit. This could’ve been the most lucrative oil-rig operation in the world. I mean, you were the one who pushed for it. You were the head of research. You spent three goddamn months living on an iceberg, managing this project closely. This was your baby, Cillian.”

“Yes,” I said. “And now I’m interested in another baby. A human one. Which is why I’d like my wife to be as content as she can be.”

“This is what it’s about?” Mother jumped to her feet, finally justifying her oxygen consumption in the room. “Sweetie, we appreciate you marrying this…this sweet, common girl, but there are others out there. Just as pretty, and they won’t interfere with your business. I didn’t interfere with your father’s business.”

“No,” I agreed. “You also had jack-shit to say about anything, from our upbringing to our education. At the risk of sounding disrespectful—which, by the way, I am happy to take—I don’t want your kind of marriage. It looks awful, inside and out. I don’t want manageable. I don’t want my wife to be a ghost of a mother. A yes woman. A prop. And I like my common wife just fine, Mother.”

More than like her.

Persephone sacrificed more for me in our short marriage than Mother did since I was born.

“This beats the entire purpose of you getting married!” my father thundered, jumping to his feet. “Losing this 1.4-billion-dollar opportunity for a…for a…”

“Say it.” I smirked. “For pussy, right? No other organ in a woman’s body counts for you. Least of all a heart.”

It didn’t for me, either. Not until recently.

“Yes!” my father boomed, throwing his arms in the air, his face red, a drop of saliva staining his lower lip. “If I knew that was the case, I’d have never pushed you to get married.”

“I’m glad you did.” I opened the glass door. “This marriage has taught me an important lesson. A lesson Evon, Yale, and Harvard combined couldn’t. Now, allow me to apply some of the conclusions I’ve come to in recent months and throw you the hell out of my office—yes, my office, if I put in the sixty hour work week, I’m the one calling the shots—with this tip: never, ever tell me what to do with my job, my life, and my marriage.”

I jerked my chin out the door. Both my parents stared at me, wide-eyed.

“Go on. You know how to use your legs, don’t you?”

Walked away from me enough times in your lives, I was tempted to add.

Mother’s eyes glittered while she tried to pull herself together while Athair kept a solemn, dignified expression. The line had been drawn. They began to make their way out of the office. Mother stopped by the door and cupped my cheeks, gazing up at me.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice so soft only I could hear her. “I’m sorry for everything. You are right. You deserve better than what we made of our lives, Cillian.”

I kissed her cheek. “All forgiven.”


I gave her a curt nod. “Now get out.”

Next, it was my father’s turn to stop by the door. His eyes crinkled with a mixture of annoyance and delight.

“Mo òrga.” He inclined his head. “You keep surprising me with your strength. Your brother has always been a wild card but simple to crack. That’s why I unleashed the Brennan girl on him. Your sister…well, she is a saint I don’t have to worry about, but you.” He inhaled, closing his eyes. “You were my damaged child, which made you so much more dangerous because we both knew you could survive anything. You think I don’t know,” he whispered in my ear, getting close, too close—the closest he’d ever been to me physically—“but I do. I know about your demons, Cillian. The same ones live in the basement of my heart. Only difference is, you seemed to have slayed yours. Good for you, son.”

Disoriented and in need of a stiff drink, I strode to my office.

“Mr. Fitzpatrick!” Sophia jumped from her station, sprinting in my direction as soon as I walked out of the boardroom. “You have a visitor.”


“Ms. Penrose.”

“Call her that one more time and you are permanently blacklisted from working at any respectable Boston company.”

Forcing myself to keep my steps even, I made my way to my office, finding Emmabelle Penrose sitting in my executive chair, her long legs draped over my chrome desk. She wore a pair of Louboutins I was pretty sure belonged to my wife, a pencil skirt, and a blouse that didn’t leave much to the imagination.

And the day just keeps better and better.

“Never mind. Wrong sister.” I waved Sophia off, pushing open the glass door and closing it after me. I leaned a shoulder against the glass wall, tucking my hands into my front pockets.

“Cillian! How’s life treating you?” Emmabelle purred, looking up from her phone.

“Like I fucked its underage daughter, and now it’s out for revenge,” I answered blandly, pushing off the wall and taking a seat in front of her. I was—and always would be—unruffled by her entire Dita Von Teese on steroids act. Her cry for attention fell on deaf ears in my case.

“Feet off the table,” I instructed. “Unless you want them broken.”

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