The Villain

Page 98

“I’ve already used my Cloud Wish, Kill. I can’t have another one.” My voice broke.

“The wish is not for you to make, Persephone.” He smiled. “It’s for me.”

The children poured into the backyard like hot lava, spreading fast, crackling with delight.

Their small arms reached for the cloud, trying to grasp the ungraspable, stretching their fingers in an attempt to capture its magic.

I was the last to get out to the yard, stopping a few good feet away from my husband. Seeing him after weeks felt like dropping a heavy camping bag at the doorstep of your home. I wanted to bury my nose in his neck and breathe him in.

I didn’t ask him what he was doing here. I was afraid to believe. To hope.

Descending from Olympus didn’t make my husband any less regal and beautiful, and the Greek gods had a history of making mortals play into their own hands.

“This one is Dahlia.” He pointed at one of the kids, who was punching the smoke, trying to bring it to submission. “You call her The Little Mouse. Sassy, sweet, stubborn. This is Teo,” he continued, jerking his chin to Teo, “shy and reserved but observant. And that’s Joe,” he continued, looking at Joel, one of my favorite pupils. A dreamer with a shock of bright red hair.

“How did you know?” I whispered.

“I’ve been listening during our dinners,” he admitted. “To every word you said. Even if I pretended otherwise.”

My heart soared.

“You’re claiming your Cloud Wish?” I wrung my fingers together in my lap, turning into the same girl he’d met years ago in the bridal suite. Innocent. Unsure.


“Who said you have one?” A smile fluttered on my lips.

“Your aunt.” There was no hint of mockery in his voice, which I appreciated, considering he was fluent in sarcasm. “She said I have to be careful. That you only get one wish in a lifetime.”

Wait a minute…

It was the same thing Auntie Tilda told me. And I didn’t remember ever telling Kill about this particular part. It couldn’t be. It made no sense at all.

“What’s your wish?” I whispered.

The children were teeming around us, and I thought it was symbolic, that the reason we were brought together—heirs—engulfed us even though I hadn’t conceived.

“I want an hour with you. Sixty minutes of your time. That’s all I ask. When are you getting off work?”

“Four,” I answered. “Same as always.”

“I’ll wait.”

At least he hadn’t told me to ditch work this time.

“How did you make a cloud?” I pointed behind him.

“NASA has a manual. It’s nothing.”

“It’s amazing.”

“Third graders can do it.”

“I don’t care.” I shook my head. “Will you wait for me?” I motioned around us, to the school.

He smiled. “Persephone, my dear, I’ve been waiting for eight years. Four more hours won’t kill me.”

The drive to Cillian’s house was quiet. Before I got out of Little Genius, I put an alarm for exactly sixty minutes on my phone. Now, I fiddled with the strap of my shoulder bag, taking in the monotonous view outside, trying to regulate my breaths.

It was make or break time. A part of me always knew Cillian wasn’t going to simply accept the divorce. Maybe that was why I went ahead with the paperwork. Subconsciously, I knew it would be a call for him to come closer.

To seek me out.

To defy me.

“You stopped the drilling in the Arctic.” I cleared my throat, still looking out the window. It was twenty past. Damn Boston traffic. We had forty more minutes. Technically, anyway.


“That was…nice.”

“Giving you flowers is nice. Losing approximately 1.4 billion dollars a year in revenue is, at the very least, a romantic gesture of Shakespearean proportions.”

He said it so incredulously—so seriously—I couldn’t help but snort out a laugh.

“I’m not even sure how many zeroes that entails.”

“Nine.” His fingers tapped his knee, and I knew he was itching for a cigar but trying to be on his best behavior. “Ten, including me, if my plan today doesn’t work and I find out I did this for nothing.”

When we got to his house, I noticed Petar was out. So was the rest of the staff. I’d never seen the place so empty. I had a feeling it was planned.

“Should we go to your study?” I asked politely. A part of me still considered him a complete stranger.

He shook his head. “I want to show you something.”

Motioning for me to follow him to the backyard, he opened the double doors in his living room, and we proceeded outside. I’d visited his garden religiously. Not only was it gorgeous but I was still on the lookout for the elusive demon fountain. For the mysterious part of Cillian’s property I’d yet to discover.

I followed him, holding my breath when he stopped by the ivy-laced door with the high walls. I’d tried opening it twice, but it was firmly locked. Kill produced a key and unlocked it, pushing it open.

We both stepped in, and there was the demon fountain. With water pouring out of the bat-like monster with pointy teeth.

It was a small space—maybe as big as Belle’s apartment—and I wondered what made him close this section and isolate it from the rest of the garden.

Kill crouched down, hands-on-thighs, squinting. There was something about his body language that jarred me. A certain stiffness that was gone. His composure was an inch less than perfect. I liked it.

“What are we looking at?” I came to stand beside him, leaning forward. He caught me by the waist, tugging softly at my dress to keep me from getting too close to the flowers.

To the sea of flowers.

I just realized this section of the house was jam-packed with wildflowers. And not just any flowers. The pink and white flowers were shaped as little sad hearts. I swallowed, taking a step back.

“How long have you had those?”

“Almost four years.” He turned to me with a slight frown. “About a month after Hunter and Sailor’s wedding, my landscaper called me outside, insisting I had to see this. He said it was peculiar. That he didn’t plant the bleeding heart, so he had no idea how the flower had gotten here. His best guess was seeds from a nearby garden blew in the wind and settled here. But I remembered that after I took the flowers from your hair, I put them in a napkin. Later that night, when I arrived home, I went out to the garden to smoke a cigar, found the napkin, and tossed it. It was just the one flower, and my landscaper asked if I wanted to keep it. I immediately thought about your curse—wish,” he amended, “and said no. He yanked the bleeding heart out from its root the same day. A month later, another bleeding heart grew in the same spot. I had him wrench it out again. This time he went as far as poisoning the soil. On the fourth time, I gave up. A part of me wanted to see how damn stubborn you were. And look at it now. My garden’s full of them.”

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