Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(6) by Jennifer Estep
Bria’s gaze drifted up to two drawings I’d sketched that were propped up on the fireplace mantel. One was a snowflake, symbolizing icy calm, and the other was an ivy vine, representing elegance. Matching pendants were draped over the respective frames. The runes for Eira Snow, our mother, and Annabella, our older sister, both murdered long ago.
Bria’s hand crept up to her throat and her own primrose rune, the symbol for beauty. The motion made two rings glint on her hand, one embossed with snowflakes and the other with ivy vines. I wore a similar ring stamped with my spider rune, a gift from Bria, with a matching pendant hanging around my neck, buried under my layers of clothes.
My sister stared at the drawings a moment longer before dropping her hand from her necklace and focusing on me again. “That was the very first time I realized how much you loved me . . . and just how sneaky you could be.”
I cleared my throat, pushing away the memories and the melancholy heartache they always brought along with them. “So you came over here tonight because I’ve been quiet?”
“Too quiet, as they say.” She kept staring at me. “Your special kind of quiet that means something is up. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think anyone else has noticed yet. Not even Silvio, despite all his GPS trackers.”
Bria was right. I did have a tendency to get quiet—too quiet—when something was on my mind, just like when we were kids. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or annoyed that she knew me so well. Or just plain worried I hadn’t been able to hide my inner turmoil any better.
“Now,” she drawled, “I am a trained detective, so I figure that whatever has been bothering you most likely has to do with that file on the coffee table.”
I tensed, my arm curling even tighter around the box I was still clutching.
“I didn’t look at the file,” she said. “I respect your privacy too much for that.”
“But . . .”
“But I would like for you to tell me what’s going on, since it’s obviously much more serious than a broken snow globe.” Stubborn determination filled her face. “And I especially want you to tell me how I can help. No matter how bad it is, we can figure it out—together.”
I suddenly wanted to confess everything to her, but still, I hesitated, shifting on my feet again, moving the box from one arm to the other. Despite Bria’s desire to help, I was still me, still the suspicious assassin Fletcher had molded me into, one who knew that secrets could be more dangerous than anything else.
Sure, I had a burning desire to know every little thing that was in the box, especially since the old man had carved my spider rune into it, a clear message that he had wanted me to find it. But an even bigger part of me was worried about what might be inside—what dark, ugly, painful truths Fletcher had gone to such great lengths to bury, literally.
Truths that could hurt Finn.
Bria sensed that I was wavering, and she kept her gaze steady on mine. “Let me help you. Let me carry some of the load. Please, Gin.”
Her voice was even softer this time, but her tone was sincere, strong, and filled with understanding. She got to her feet, stepped in front of me, and held out her arms, waiting for me to let her help, waiting for me to let her in.
And just like that, all the resistance drained out of me.
I slid the silverstone box into her arms. Then I stepped back and massaged first one arm, then the other, trying to ease the dull ache that had built up in my muscles. Funny, but I hadn’t realized how heavy the box was until now.
Bria nodded at me, then put the box down on the coffee table, right next to Deirdre’s file. She eyed my spider rune carved into the top of the box but didn’t say anything or make a move to open it. Instead, she waited while I shrugged out of my dirt-and-blood-crusted jacket, spread a blanket out on the couch, and plopped down on it. Bria dragged the coffee table over to the couch and sat down next to me.
We both stared at the box, quiet and still. The only sounds were the steady tick-tick-ticks of various clocks in the house, along with the whistle of the wind whipping around the windows.
I drew in a breath. “Remember Raymond Pike and how he bragged that he was working with what sounded like a whole group of people?”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well, I found out who one of them was.”
“Her name is Deirdre Shaw.” It took me a second to force out the rest of my confession. “And she is Finn’s not-so-dead mother.”
Bria’s eyes bulged, and her mouth dropped open into a wide O. For a moment, she was frozen in place, her entire body stiff with shock. She sucked in a breath, then exhaled and shook her head, as though she were trying to rattle my words right out of her mind. Her gaze flicked to the file on the table, then the box, then back to the file.
“Are you sure?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I’m sure. I found that file in Fletcher’s office, hidden in a secret desk drawer, as if he didn’t want anyone to discover it ever. That file claims that Deirdre Shaw is Finn’s mother and that she is very much alive.” I paused, once again having to force out the words. “So tonight I went to Blue Ridge Cemetery to dig up her grave to see if she was actually buried in it . . .”
I handed Bria the file, then told her everything that had happened tonight. My sister stayed quiet through my cold, clipped recitation, absorbing and analyzing everything I said as she read through Fletcher’s file.
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