Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(5) by Jennifer Estep
I stepped onto the porch, then unlocked and opened the front door, scuffing the snow off my boots and making plenty of noise so she would know that I was home.
“Gin?” Bria’s light, lilting voice drifted through the house to me.
“I’m in the den.”
“Be right there.”
I locked the door behind me, tossed my keys onto a table, and walked into the back of the house, still holding the box under one arm. I stepped into the den to find Detective Bria Coolidge sitting on the couch, checking her phone.
In some ways, we were mirror images of each other, with our matching dark jeans and warm layers. But of course, her hands and clothes were clean and spotless, and her primrose rune glinted a bright silver against her navy turtleneck sweater. She was also far more relaxed, with her boots off and her socked feet propped up on the coffee table. Her gun and gold detective’s badge were on top of the scarred wooden surface, lying right next to . . . Fletcher’s file on Deirdre.
I froze. I’d been in such a hurry to dig up Deirdre’s grave before the snow hit that I hadn’t thought to hide the file before I left. Then again, I hadn’t expected to have a visitor tonight either. If an intruder had been hiding in the house, I would have killed him, and he wouldn’t have had a chance to tell anyone about anything.
But Bria was here, and she’d seen the file. She knew something was up.
Bria tilted her head to the side, making her golden hair gleam, and her blue gaze swept over my black toboggan, fleece jacket, jeans, and boots. Despite my dark attire, her sharp eyes easily spotted the dirt and blood crusting my clothes.
“Well,” she drawled, an amused note in her voice. “I see that the Spider has been busy tonight. Care to tell me where you were, what you were doing, and how many people you killed?”
“That depends on who’s asking—the cop or my baby sister?”
Bria grinned, a mischievous expression on her pretty face. “Well, this cop knows you’ve been up to something shady at Blue Ridge Cemetery.”
I blinked. “How do you know I was there?”
She started ticking off points on her fingers. “For one thing, it’s after midnight, and you’re wearing your usual assassin attire. You’re also covered with dirt and blood, which means that there was at least one body involved somewhere along the way. A cemetery seems like a perfect place for something like that to go down.” She paused. “And I might have tracked the GPS on your car when I showed up after my shift ended and you weren’t here.”
I frowned. “I don’t have GPS on my car.”
“Correction. You didn’t have GPS on your car . . . until Silvio placed a tracking device on it a couple of days ago.” Bria grinned again. “He wanted another way to keep tabs on you, now that you’ve started turning off your phone when you don’t want him to know where you are. Silvio is rather determined to ‘save you from yourself,’ as he puts it. Watch out, Gin. Next thing you know, he’ll be sewing GPS trackers into your underwear.”
“And I’m going to cheerfully throttle my overefficient assistant when he comes into work in the morning,” I growled. “After I take away his phone and tablet.”
She laughed. “Oh, taking away his electronics will be punishment enough. Silvio is rather attached to them.”
But her laugher faded, along with her grin, and she focused on the casket box. “You want to tell me what happened tonight? And what’s so important about that box that you’re clutching it like it holds all the secrets of the universe?”
“That depends,” I countered, shifting on my feet. “You want to tell me what you’re doing here? Not that I don’t love unexpected visits from my sister . . .”
“But you didn’t expect me to be here tonight. That’s why you sat in your car for so long. You were thinking about what to do, and especially what to tell me.”
Bria put her feet down on the floor and gave me a serious stare. “I’m here because you’ve been quiet this past week.”
I frowned again, not understanding what she was getting at. “Okay . . .”
“It’s the same kind of quiet I remember from when we were kids. The quiet that always fell over you whenever you were thinking about something serious. Whenever you were trying to solve a problem that no one else even knew about.” She smiled, but sadness tinged her expression. “Like when I broke Mom’s favorite snow globe, even though she had told me not to play with it, and you were trying to figure out how to cover for me. Do you remember that?”
Images flashed through my mind. Bria staring in wonderment at a globe filled with a lovely garden scene, the flowers crusted with real, tiny diamonds and other sparkling jewels. Her hand grabbing the globe and shaking it just a little too hard, making it slip from her grip and crash to the floor, shattering into a hundred pieces. My sister crying, not just because of the trouble she was in but because she’d destroyed something so delicate and beautiful. Such an ordinary memory but one of the few relatively happy ones I had from my childhood . . .
“Yeah,” I rasped through the hard knot of emotion clogging my throat. “I remember.”
“And do you remember how you handled it?”
I shrugged again, still not sure what she was getting at.
Her sad smile brightened, just a bit. “Annabella was planning on sneaking out of the house to party with her friends, so you blackmailed her into buying the same snow globe with her allowance, even though it cost a fortune. Mom never even knew that I’d broken the old one.”
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