“You look really pretty today.”
Villanelle drops the comment casually as they enjoy a lazy continental breakfast in their hotel in Cologne.
Eve had wondered if this would get less interesting now that Villanelle is her girlfriend, whether they would lose the excitement now that Villanelle is no longer the forbidden fruit tempting Eve away from her old life. Though only three weeks since the first utterance of the word “girlfriend”, Eve is pleased that things are working well so far. She had been particularly worried about Villanelle losing interest in her - Villanelle has, after all, never been in a real relationship before. Yet Villanelle has proved her wrong in every way - if anything, her obsession with Eve seems to grow with each second they spend together.
“Really pretty,” repeats Villanelle. “Gorgeous. Like, I cannot stop staring at your face. And your hair? Just, wow!”
The compliments are something that Eve doubts she will ever get used to. Niko used to tell her that she was beautiful, but Eve always felt that he did so because it was his husbandly duty to tell her so. Villanelle tells her that she’s beautiful because she truly believes it. Villanelle is completely unashamed about her feelings and Eve thinks that perhaps it is because she has never had a relationship before that she is so willing to give Eve everything.
And Villanelle’s lack of shame extends into the bedroom too. Eve doesn’t remember ever having this much sex in her life. Three weeks in and Eve is pretty sure that Villanelle’s stamina is basically infinite, and while Eve is hardly going to complain about having incredible sex that only seems to keep getting better the more they practice, she is also very aware that she isn’t as young as Villanelle and her own stamina does have a limit. A limit that Villanelle is eager to test whenever possible.
Last night, for instance.
As Eve takes a sip from her very strong, very dark coffee, she makes a mental note to maybe not let Villanelle ravage her all night before their next assignment. They both need to have optimal levels of focus for this to go to plan.
Eve’s free hand instinctively goes to her neck, where she knows a dark purple bruise has already bloomed beneath the grey jumper she wears. Eve is going to be covering this one up for days.
“Your turtleneck is fooling nobody,” says Villanelle, smirking as her eyes track the movement of Eve’s hand. “I know what you’re trying to hide.” She leans across the table and whispers, in a low voice that almost has Eve thinking fuck the mission and dragging Villanelle back up to their hotel room, “I can’t wait to do it to you all over again tonight.”
“I am trying to eat!” protests Konstantin loudly, brandishing a slice of bread layered with thick slices of cheese and salami.
Eve’s cheeks burn red and she breaks from Villanelle’s intense gaze, turning her attention to her own breakfast. She almost feels sorry for Konstantin. Eve doubts that when he agreed to oversee Eve and Villanelle’s first assignment together, he prepared himself for the fact that he would also get a front row seat to the honeymoon period of their relationship.
“Konstantin, don’t you think that Eve looks pretty today?” Villanelle asks him, in a lyrical voice.
“I think that you are being extra annoying today,” counters Konstantin. He turns his attention to Eve, and says, “Good luck trying to handle her when she is in one of her annoying moods. Now that I won’t miss.”
“I can handle her,” says Eve, shooting Villanelle a look as if to say don’t you dare mess this up for us.
“Eve!” gasps Villanelle, as if what Eve has said is particularly scandalous. “Can you tone down the flirting? Poor Konstantin is trying to eat.”
“Yes, I am!” agrees Konstantin, glaring pointedly at Villanelle. “Why don’t you talk about your mission instead of each other? You know, Carolyn wants me to give her a report when we get back and at the moment neither of you are scoring high.”
“The mission,” says Eve, with a nod of agreement. She addresses Villanelle as she asks, “You know what you’re doing?”
“Eve,” says Villanelle, practically purring in a way that has Eve clenching her thighs together beneath the table. “This isn’t the first time I’ve killed.”
“I know,” says Eve. “But like Konstantin pointed out, this is our chance to prove that we can be successful together. We can’t afford to get this wrong.”
“And we won’t,” insists Villanelle. “I know the plan inside out. And I know everything there is to know about him.” Villanelle pauses, then adds, “His internet browsing history is horrifying. Such a dirty pervert. I’m looking forward to getting rid of this one. Trust me, I’m not going to mess it up.”
Eve settles back in her chair, takes another sip of coffee, and then says, “Good.”
Villanelle is excited.
There’s just something about killing that is incomparable to any other feeling. There are many benefits to Villanelle’s line of work - great pay, flexible hours, travel opportunities - but the exhilaration of actually taking a life is what really keeps Villanelle in the industry.
Some would say that it makes Villanelle a psychopath. Villanelle disagrees. She believes that this is what makes her more human than anybody else.
Today is different. Today is Eve’s first day in the field.
“He’s about a hundred yards ahead of you,” says Eve’s voice through the earpiece that is concealed by the dark wig that Villanelle wears over her own hair.
Of course Eve isn’t actually here with her. Eve is in a hotel room a few blocks away with Konstantin, carefully monitoring the whole thing on the network of CCTV cameras they’ve hacked into. Eve is her eye in the sky, no - her guardian angel.
“Yards? Use the metric system, Eve.”
“Metres,” Eve corrects herself. “A hundred metres. In the green sweater.”
Villanelle moves through the busy street and spots the target sitting outside a cafe just ahead of her.
Lukas Riegel is every bit as slimy in person as his personnel file made him out to be. He is middle-aged, slightly overweight, and his thinning blonde hair is slicked backwards with far too much hair product. The leather jacket he wears over his sweater is clearly a last-ditch attempt to cling onto his youth and he’s making no effort to conceal the flashy watch that peeks out from beneath his sleeve.
God, he’s going to be so easy to kill.
As Villanelle continues down the street towards the cafe where Riegel sits, she reaches into the right-hand pocket of her coat and pulls out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.
“Make sure you’ve got the correct ones,” Eve’s voice warns her.
“I’m not stupid,” mutters Villanelle, knowing that the tiny microphone concealed in the lining of her coat will pick up her words and relay them into Eve’s headset.
“I know,” replies Eve tersely. “I’m just being careful.”
“You need to trust her,” comes Konstantin’s gruff voice.
“I do trust her!” says Eve.
Villanelle rolls her eyes and flicks open the box of cigarettes, taking one out and bringing it up to her mouth. With the cigarette caught between her lips, she shields the end with one hand and tries to light it with the lighter as she continues down the street.
It doesn’t catch, although Villanelle already knows that it won’t. She keeps up the act for a few more paces, then stops in frustration outside the cafe.
Lukas Riegel’s head jerks up at Villanelle’s sudden exclamation. She pretends not to notice him at first, then when she feels his eyes still watching her, lifts her head to make eye contact with him.
“Sorry,” she continues in German, holding up the lighter. “My lighter is broken.”
Riegel stares at her, his eyes lingering on her face for a few seconds, before scanning down the rest of her body. It takes all of Villanelle’s willpower not to knock him to the floor and gauge his eyes out with her thumbs.
Subtle, Villanelle reminds herself. Discreet. This needs to go exactly as planned.
Which is why Villanelle, knowing that her miniskirt and understated makeup make her appear younger than she actually is, dons her most innocent expression and takes a step towards him.
“Do you have a lighter I could borrow?”
And because Riegel underestimated her that moment he looked up and realised she was a woman, he just leers at her and reaches into his pocket for a lighter.
“Anything for a pretty girl like you.”
“What’s he saying?” Villanelle hears Eve ask Konstantin over the earpiece. “My German is rusty.”
“He called her a pretty lady,” explains Konstantin. “I think he is flirting with her.”
“Gross,” replies Eve. “Men are all pigs. No offence, Konstantin.”
Villanelle accepts the lighter from Riegel, trying not to let her face react to the obvious jealousy in Eve’s voice, which she loves , and uses it to light the cigarette between her lips.
“Thank you,” Villanelle says to Riegel, once the end of the cigarette flickers into life. She returns his lighter and tries not to cough as the rancid smell of the cigarette clouds her face, then flutters her eyelashes at him. “You’re my hero.”
“Great,” says Eve. “Now offer him a cigarette from the other packet.”
“She does not like to be micromanaged,” says Konstantin, his voice slightly muffled, and Villanelle realises that the greedy bastard must be eating while he supervises, despite only having had breakfast a couple of hours ago. “She will get angry at you very quickly if you keep telling her what to do. And when she is angry, she is naughty.”
Ignoring them both as they continue to bicker in her ear, Villanelle reaches into her coat pocket again - the left side this time, and pulls out a second packet of cigarettes. She flips open the lid and offers the box out to Riegel.
“Would you like one?” she asks him. “As a thank you?”
Riegel considers the offer for a couple of seconds, before a slow smile spreads across his face and he accepts one without questioning it. Villanelle watches with delight as he raises it to his lips and lights it.
“You know,” he says, sucking in a lungful of smoke and then letting it escape out of the side of his mouth, “there are other ways you could say thank you.”
His tone is disgustingly suggestive and his eyes roam down to her stockinged legs again. Villanelle only just manages to conceal a shudder, not even daring to imagine what horrible thoughts about her are going through his perverted little brain. If the circumstances were different - if she wasn’t in a public place, if she wasn’t trying to impress Carolyn with her discretion, if Eve’s career wasn’t also dependent on their success today - she would teach him a proper lesson, starting off by throwing him to the ground and stamping on his balls, then perhaps cave the back of his skull in with a heavy object until that nasty brain is splattered across the floor.
“Time to get out of there,” Eve warns her. “He’s already a dead man. You need to be far away when he collapses.”
Ignoring Eve and continuing her faux innocence act with Riegel, Villanelle makes herself a little bit nauseous by playing up to what he wants and asking him, “Really? Like what?”
Riegel clearly thinks he’s scored with her, if the stupid expression on his face is anything to go by. So arrogant and so incorrect. Villanelle is staring at his mouth not because she is flirting with him, but because she can’t believe that he was stupid enough to accept a cigarette from a complete stranger. The deadly toxin coating the stub of the cigarette she offered him will already have started being absorbed into his bloodstream through the skin of his lips.
“How about dinner tonight?” he asks her.
He’ll have been dead for hours by then. In fact, Villanelle gives it fifteen minutes at most before he collapses, by which time the cigarette will have burnt out and been discarded, and she will have disappeared back into the crowds of Cologne.
Not that Riegel knows that.
Rich white men are such idiots.
They’re also stupidly easy to seduce, which is why Villanelle glances down at her feet shyly and says, “Oh, I don’t know…”
“It’s my treat.”
“Villanelle, what are you doing?” hisses Eve’s voice. “Get out of there.”
“How can I say no?” Villanelle says to Riegel, ignoring Eve again.
“Where are you staying?” asks Riegel.
Villanelle reels off the name of a hotel on the opposite side of the city to the one that she’s actually booked into.
“I know it,” he says. “I’ll pick you up at seven…”
He trails off and looks at Villanelle expectantly, and it takes her a few seconds to realise that he’s asking for her name.
“Sabine,” he repeats. “A pretty name for a pretty girl. I look forward to seeing you again, Sabine.”
When Villanelle smiles at him just before she walks away, it is because she knows he is about to die. She knows that he won’t follow her and waits until she has weaved back into the crowd, another forgettable face on the streets of Cologne, before she lets the half-burned cigarette fall to the floor and the smile fall from her face.
It takes Villanelle less than five minutes from leaving the target smoking the poisoned cigarette to make it back to the hotel room. Eve watches the entire thing on the network of CCTV cameras and knows Villanelle will be with them again in a matter of seconds when she sees Villanelle enter the hotel lobby from the camera outside the bakery opposite.
“That was too easy,” says Villanelle, pulling off the dark wig in a single slick movement as she enters the hotel room and closes the door behind her.
“You spent too long talking to him,” Eve chastises her straight away. “I warned you earlier, the longer you spent talking to him, the more likely somebody else is to remember seeing you together.”
Villanelle pulls a face and flops down on the bed.
“Wow, Villanelle,” she says, mocking Eve’s accent in an overexaggerated manner. “Nice job. I’m so proud of you.”
“You could have blown the whole thing.”
“Except I didn’t,” argues Villanelle, sitting up again and staring at Eve with a clenched jaw. “If I walked away after giving him the cigarette he could have chased after me and made a scene. You know what men are like.” Villanelle glances across at Konstantin, who is busy tipping crisps into his open mouth, and adds, “No offence, Konstantin.”
Konstantin shrugs and replies, “None taken.”
Turning back to Eve, Villanelle continues, “So I let him flirt with me and yes, he asked me out, but he’s sitting there smoking his cigarette thinking he’s got a hot date tonight and doesn’t realise he’s about to drop dead.”
Eve opens her mouth to say something, then shuts it again when she realises that Villanelle has a very good point. But then Villanelle’s words actually register in her brain and she realises what Villanelle has just said.
“Wait, he asked you out?”
Eve’s limited understanding of the German language didn’t allow for much comprehension of Villanelle’s conversation with Lukas Riegel while it was happening, with only a couple of comments from Konstantin and the occasional German word that sounds just like its English counterpart to guide her.
Villanelle laughs under her breath and then, with a cocky smile, asks, “Are you jealous, Eve?”
“No,” answers Eve, perhaps a little too quickly.
“Don’t worry, I only have eyes for-”
Villanelle cuts off mid-sentence, and leans forward until she is perched right on the edge of the bed, frowning at something just past Eve’s shoulder.
“Eve!” she cries out, pointing a finger. “Look!”
Eve jumps, half-expecting to see something horrific behind her like an enormous spider about to pounce, but she follows Villanelle’s outstretched finger and realises that she is pointing to something on one of the computer screens still displaying CCTV from around this part of the city. When she realises what Villanelle is pointing at, she leans closer to the screen and watches as the image of Lukas Riegel collapses, one hand clutching his chest and the other desperately clawing at the chair he has just slid off.
“It worked,” comes Villanelle’s voice from right beside Eve, having come to stand at Eve’s side so that she can get a better view of Riegel’s death in glorious black and white. “We did it, Eve.”
There’s a hint of awe in her voice, as if she can’t quite believe that they’ve pulled it off, despite three weeks of careful planning and Villanelle’s pre-murder attitude that bordered on arrogance about how easy it would be for her to carry out.
Eve doesn’t really know how she feels about it, as she watches Riegel stop struggling and his lifeless body lays still on the floor. People start to crowd around him, rushing to his aid as soon as they realise that something isn’t right, but Eve knows it is too late. Lukas Riegel is dead and it’s because of them - not just Villanelle, but both of them. Eve thinks she should feel at least a tiny bit of remorse for the man who has just lost his life, but she doesn’t, nor does she feel a particular sense of achievement at a job well done.
Until she looks up at Villanelle, that is.
Villanelle’s eyes are wide and she stares at the screen as if the image of Riegel lying dead on the paved street is solely responsible for giving her life. Eve has only seen this look in her eyes under one other circumstance - when they’re having sex.
The thought sends all of Eve’s blood south, and the ache that makes its presence known between her legs isn’t entirely unwelcome.
“Uh, Konstantin?” says Eve, unable to tear her eyes away from Villanelle’s face. “I think Villanelle and I can take it from here.”
Villanelle looks confused for all of about two seconds, before she seems to recognise the look in Eve’s eyes.
“Oh. Yes. Eve is right.” Villanelle wanders over to Konstantin and pretty much manhandles him out of his chair and towards the door, before she continues, “Why don’t you go out and explore the city while you’re here? I hear the view from the top of the cathedral is amazing. And let’s be honest,” Villanelle pauses and prods Konstantin’s belly with her index finger, “you could do with climbing all those steps.”
Konstantin pauses with one hand in his bag of chips and then narrows his eyes, his gaze switching between Villanelle and Eve, and then back again.
“Are you trying to get rid of me so you can have sex?”
“Absolutely not!” says Villanelle, feigning outrage as she opens the door and gives Konstantin a little shove into the corridor outside. “That would be unprofessional! Now go take your perverted mind to a museum or something.”
Villanelle closes the door without allowing Konstantin to say another word to them, returning her attention to Eve with a wicked smile on her face.
“Are you turned on by the fact we just killed a man?” she asks.
Eve notes Villanelle’s use of the word “we”, even though she was the one to kill Riegel, but decides not to question it. There are, after all, much more pressing issues.
“Absolutely not,” says Eve, parroting Villanelle’s words to Konstantin back at her, even as she gets to her feet and pushes Villanelle’s coat off her shoulders as she steers Villanelle towards the large bed in the middle of the hotel room. “That would be unprofessional.”
Later, when they are both sated and showered, Villanelle takes Eve out for dinner to celebrate a successful mission.
“To us,” says Villanelle, raising her glass of champagne.
“To us,” repeats Eve, lifting her own glass and clinking it softly against Villanelle’s.
“And to dead perverts!”
“Villanelle!” hisses Eve, glancing around to check that nobody has overheard them.
Luckily for them, one of the luxuries of dining in an expensive restaurant is privacy.
“I think we make a good team, don’t you agree, Eve?”
Eve trails off, because against all the odds, they do make a great team. Eve had been worried that working together would affect their personal relationship or vice versa, but today has proven that to be wrong. She wouldn’t have been able to get through today with anybody other than Villanelle, and Eve likes to think that she provides a similar grounding to reality for Villanelle too.
An excellent team. Partners in every sense of the word.
“Eve?” asks Villanelle, startling Eve out of her thoughts by reaching across the table and covering Eve’s hand with her own. “Is everything okay?”
Eve laughs to herself and then answers, “Yes. Everything is okay. More than okay. Much more.”
“You were gone for a few seconds,” says Villanelle, a curious frown on her face. “Stuck in your head.”
“I was just thinking,” confesses Eve. “I just find it strange to think that there was a time, not so long ago, that you weren’t in my life. Because now I can’t imagine you not being here. And I know it’s still only early, and that we’ve already had some pretty big ups and downs, but I’m glad we’re here.”
“Here in this particular restaurant, or…?”
Eve rolls her eyes and playfully slaps Villanelle’s hand.
“You know what I mean.”
Villanelle pauses for a few seconds, then says, “I always knew you would fall for my charm. I’m irresistible.”
“You’re an ass!” counters Eve.
Villanelle leans forward across the table, a wicked glint in her eyes.
“You love it.”
Eve squeezes Villanelle’s fingers, considering the words for a moment, then she finally concedes, “I do. I love it.”