Home > The Villain (Boston Belles #2)

The Villain (Boston Belles #2)
Author: L.J. Shen

Prologue

Chapter One

 

 

Cruel. Cold-blooded. Hades in a Brioni suit.

Cillian Fitzpatrick has been dubbed every wicked thing on planet Earth.

To the media, he is The Villain.

To me, he is the man who (reluctantly) saved my life.

Now I need him to do me another small solid.

Bail me out of the mess my husband got me into.

What’s a hundred grand to one of the wealthiest men in America, anyway?

Only Cillian doesn’t hand out favors for free.

The price for the money, it turns out, is my freedom.

Now I’m the eldest Fitzpatrick brother’s little toy.

To play, to mold, to break.

Too bad Cillian forgot one tiny detail.

Persephone wasn’t only the goddess of spring, she was also the queen of death.

He thinks I’ll buckle under the weight of his mind games.

He is about to find out the most lethal poison is also the sweetest.

 

 

Sub Urban: “Cradles”

Bishop Briggs: “River”

White Stripes: “Hardest Button to Button”

Gogol Bordello: “Sally”

Milk and Bone: “Peaches”

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: “Red Right Hand”

 

 

To Cori and Lana.

 

 

Lost in Hell, Persephone,

Take her head upon your knee;

Say to her, “My dear, my dear,

It is not so dreadful here.”

—Edna St. Vincent Millay, Collected Poems

 

 

The bleeding heart is a pink and white flower that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional heart shape. It is also referred to as the heart flower or as lady-in-bath.

The flower is known to be poisonous to the touch and deadly to consume.

And, like the mythological goddess Persephone, it only blossoms in spring.

 

 

My love story started with a death.

With the sound of my soul shattering on the hospice floor like delicate china.

And Auntie Tilda, wilting inside her hospital bed, her breath rattling in her empty lungs like a penny.

I soaked her hospital gown with tears, clutching the fabric in my little fists, ignoring Momma’s soft pleas to get off her ill sister.

“Please don’t leave, Auntie. Please,” I croaked.

The cancer had spread to her lungs, liver, and kidneys, making it excruciating for my aunt to breathe. For the past few weeks, she’s slept sitting upright, falling in and out of consciousness.

At twelve, death was an abstract concept to me. Real, but also foreign and faraway. Something that happened in other families, to other people.

I understood what it meant now.

Auntie Tilda was never going to scoop me in her arms, pretending to strum her fingers on me like I was an air guitar again.

She’d never pick Belle and me up from school with Ziploc bags full of apple slices and strawberries whenever our parents worked long hours.

She’d never braid my hair again, whispering magical tales about Greek gods and three-headed monsters.

My aunt tucked wisps of blond curls behind my ear. Her eyes shimmered with sickness so tangible I could taste it on my tongue.

“Leave?” She belched. “Oh, my, that’s a big word. I’d never do that, Persy. Dead, alive, and in-between, I will always be there for you.”

“But how?” I tugged at her gown, clinging to her promise. “How will I know you’re really here after your body is gone?”

“Just turn your face up, you silly goose. The sky will always be ours. That’s where we’ll meet, between the sunrays and the clouds.”

On hot, sticky summers, Auntie Tilda and I would lie on the grass by Charles River, cloud-spotting. The clouds came and went like passengers at a train station. First, we’d count them. Then we’d choose the funny-shaped, extra fluffy ones. Then we’d give them names.

Mr. and Mrs. Claudia and Claud Clowdton.

Misty and Smoky Frost.

Auntie Tilda believed in magic, in miracles, and I? Well, I believed in her.

While my older sister, Emmabelle, chased after squirrels, played soccer with the boys, and climbed trees, Auntie Tilda and I admired the sky.

“Will you give me a sign?” I pressed. “That you’re there in the sky? A lightning? Rain? Oh, I know! Maybe a pigeon can poop on me.”

Momma put her hand on my shoulder. In the words of my sister Belle—I needed to take a chill pill, and fast.

“Let’s make a deal,” my aunt suggested, laughing breathlessly. “As you know, clouds are more reliable than shooting stars. Common, but still magical. When the time comes and you grow up, ask for something you want—something you really want—when you see a lone cloud in the sky, and I will grant it to you. That’s how you’ll know I’m there watching. You only get one miracle, Persephone, so be careful what you wish for. But I promise, whatever your wish may be—I will grant it to you.”

I’d kept my Cloud Wish for eleven years, harboring it like a precious heirloom.

I didn’t use it when my grades slipped.

When Elliott Frasier came up with the nickname Pussyfanny Peen-rise sophomore year, and it stuck until graduation.

Not even when Dad got laid off and McDonald’s and hot water became rare luxuries.

In the end, I wasted the Cloud Wish in one, reckless moment.

On a doomed desire, a stupid crush, an unrequited lover.

On the man every media outlet in America referred to as The Villain.

On Cillian Fitzpatrick.

 

 

Three Years Ago.

 

I was drunk before noon the day my best friend, Sailor, got married.

Typically, I was fun-drunk. Responsible drunk. The kind of drunk who talked a little louder, snort-laughed, and danced like no one was watching, but also called an Uber, saved her friends from bad hookups, and never let anyone in my vicinity get a tattoo they were going to regret the next morning.

Not this time.

This time, I was crank-up-the-Enola-Gay plastered. The kind of hammered to end up in the hospital with an IV drip, an oopsie baby, and a criminal record.

There were a variety of reasons I was so drunk, and I would point all of them out if I were able to hold a steady finger in the air.

The problem was, now was the worst possible time to be indisposed. I was on bridesmaid duty. The twenty-three-year-old—drumroll, please—flower girl!

Was it weird to be a full-grown flower girl? Why, not at all. It was an honor.

Okay, fine. It was a little embarrassing.

And by a little embarrassing, I mean soul-crushingly humiliating.

Yet saying no was out of the question.

I was Persephone.

The easygoing, even-tempered, roll-with-the-punches designated friend.

The one who kept the peace and dropped everything when someone needed help.

Aisling, who was about to become Sailor’s sister-in-law, was in charge of holding the eight-foot train, à la Pippa Middleton, and my sister, Emmabelle, was responsible for the rings.

Thorncrown Chapel was a luxurious wedding venue on the Massachusetts coastline. The medieval castle looming over a cliff boasted fifty acres of old-world architecture, French-imported limestone, private gardens, and a view of the ocean. The bridal suite was an oatmeal-hued apartment that offered a claw-foot tub, a front porch, and four fully equipped vanities.

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