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