Home > The Villain (Gentlemen Rogues #5)

The Villain (Gentlemen Rogues #5)
Author: Nana Malone








You can't do this. You're too sick. You need me to take care of you.

I shook the thoughts out of my head. My mother had no place here. I wasn't that same scared, too-sick-to-do-anything girl. I was a badass. And I was jumping off bloody Tower Bridge today.

Except when I peered over the ledge, I started to rethink my decisions. As I stared down at the mile-long drop, my heart thudded against my ribs. Okay, sure, I had some second thoughts. Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea to bungee jump over the Thames River?

I was a moron. I had choices here. I could get down. I could walk away from this.

Yes, walk away. You know how you get grand ideas, but you can't do any of them. You need to be taken care of.

Again, I shut my mother's voice out of my head with a slam of a steel door.

"Shit or get off the pot, Daphne. We don't have all day."

I chewed my lip, sliding a glance at my boyfriend, Christopher. "You know it's harder than it looks. Doing my best here."

Christopher was handsome. Sandy blond hair, decent jawline, and he was in shape. And boy, did he love his clothes and the trappings of his job. His killer smile was legendary.

However that smile was nowhere to be seen now. Right now he just looked annoyed. He shifted restlessly on his feet. "If you're not going to do this, come down. This is ridiculous."

I kept staring down over the ledge at the creek below. When I had suggested bungee jumping, I thought it would be fun, something for Christopher and me to do together outside of business hours.

Christopher and I worked at Baines Data. I was one of the account managers. Any data that needed to be securely encrypted in the CRM, I handled. We had been dating for nearly a year. But most of our dates consisted of places that we already went to for lunch with the team. Nothing exciting ever happened. It was like we’d gone straight into comfortable bored married phase. I would kill for a little excitement. Some effort from him.

Hell, I’d been the one to plan today’s date.

He never wanted to come to my place. All because he'd run into my sister Willow one time and she’d asked him a slew of probing questions. He was very uncomfortable about that.

If we did anything outside of work, it was always with his friends, never with mine. And it was always the same two friends, Chad and Mark. Occasionally one of them would have a girlfriend along, and their girlfriends were always scarily too young. Like barely approaching twenty or just out of uni. And come to think of it, they didn't seem like girlfriends. They seemed like hookups or casual things because they never brought the same girl twice.

I’m sure the company he kept said a lot about him.

And me dating him said a lot about me.

My therapist had suggested some time ago that I start doing things that scared me, things that meant I was really living, so I thought something like this would be a great idea. Because if I was being honest, I hadn't really branched out. Hadn't made new friends or done a lot to prove that I was really living my life.

And wasn't that the whole point of moving away from home and starting over? Burying my past. I got to be a whole new person in London. But funny enough, I was still terrified to do anything.

But standing here on the ledge, all harnessed up, I felt like this was a joke. That I was a fraud. When my vision swam, I stepped back away from the edge.

River, the bloke who was in charge of adventure jumps, sighed. I got the impression from his face that I wasn't the first person who’d chickened out. He didn't seem to be looking at me with condemnation, just resignation. I glanced back at Christopher as I stepped down. "Okay, maybe this was dumb."

He shrugged. "I told you. You look ridiculous. I swear you have more failures than wins. I’m going to make you a wall of shame for the office so we can all keep track." His glance shifted to River. "Remove all that gear from her."

He was always rude. Never said please. Never said thank you. He was rude to waiters and waitresses and busboys and valets. He talked to everyone like they worked for him. To make up for some of his rudeness, I always felt obligated to be twice as nice.

"You don't have to be mean, Christopher. Jesus."

Christopher shrugged. The embarrassment that always accompanied an outing crept up my spine and swirled around my shoulders. I’d chickened out…again. It wasn’t even a surprise.

It was kind of the joke between my friends. I’d get some hairbrained idea, be really up for it…then chicken out. But my own boyfriend didn’t need to make fun of me.

Christopher shifted on his feet as he glowered at me. "While River gets you out of there, I need to tell you something."

I frowned. "I get it. I failed. You don’t need to drive the point home anymore."

"I think we should break up."

River chose that exact moment to come back with the clamp that would release me from the straps.

"W-what?" I whispered.

"You heard me. Besides, it’s embarrassing for me to be with you."

"I don't understand. You pursued me."

"Let's face it, you were available. And it was easy."

Heat suffused my face, and a wave of dizziness crashed into me, leaving me unsteady on my feet. River immediately reached for me and steadied my elbow. "Why are you doing this, Christopher?"

"I've met someone else, so I'm trying to let you down gently."

I looked around and could feel the hysteria bubbling up inside me. "You call that gentle? You wait until I'm about to jump off a bridge and then tell me you're breaking up with me because you've met someone else?"

"I've known her for a long time. Kali Klausman."

My stomach roiled. She was one of our best paying clients. "That time I came into the office and you two were so close…"

He shrugged. "Accidents happen."

I stared at him. That incident was over a month ago. I'd walked in and felt the electric charge in the air. The way she had looked at him.

"So you've been cheating on me for over a month? I just want to make sure I’ve got that right."

He pressed his lips tightly together. "There's no need for drama. And it never seemed like the right time to tell you, but I'm telling you now."

My palms started to sweat and my heart squeezed in my chest. “What did I ever do to you?” I swiped at the tears that were rolling down my face with the back of my hand.

He took a weary step back. "Other than be pathetic? Isn’t that enough? Just so we have an understanding. Try and stay professional.”

A light buzzing sound started somewhere deep inside. Somewhere between standing over the edge of the creek, staring down, and then looking into his pale gray eyes and wondering what on earth I ever saw in him. Around quavering lips, I muttered, “I’m always professional."

Despite him wanting to stay quiet about our relationship, I was a rule follower. I’d disclosed to HR. Since he was my boss, we had to. Turns out it might protect me now. He couldn't fire me.

But he could make my life miserable.

His eyes narrowed as he flattened his lips. “That remains to be seen.”

A cold shiver ran up my back. Forget miserable, he was going to try to make me quit. Fury sparked somewhere deep inside, but the ignition switch wouldn’t turn on. I wanted to tell him I’d fight him. I wanted to rip him a new arsehole. But I didn’t.

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