Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(10) by Jennifer Estep
“Gin?” Silvio asked. “Are you okay?”
I turned away from the photo. “Forget about the morning briefing. I have someone I need you to start digging into. Her name is Deirdre Shaw. She’s an Ice elemental.”
I reached down, grabbed a copy of Deirdre’s file from a slot under the cash register, and passed it over to him.
Silvio stared at the icicle-heart rune I’d inked on the folder tab. “And what is so interesting about Ms. Shaw?”
I couldn’t tell him the whole truth. Not when Finn deserved to hear it first. So I went with the next-best thing. “She’s the one who was friendly with Raymond Pike. I think she’s the person Lorelei Parker did business with.”
Silvio’s eyebrows arched. “You mean the person who revealed Lorelei’s real identity to Raymond? The person who pointed him at Lorelei so he could try to kill his own sister?”
“Among other things.”
“Have you talked to Lorelei about this?” he asked. “If she’s had dealings with Ms. Shaw, then she might have some insight into her. Mallory might too.”
It was a good point and one I’d thought of myself, although I’d wanted to confirm that Deirdre was actually alive before I started asking questions about her. But I couldn’t keep this from Finn any longer, so I might as well use all the resources at my disposal.
“Please add Lorelei and Mallory to my to-do list.” My voice took on a snarky note. “Exactly how long is said list today?”
Silvio perked up, completely missing my sarcasm, and started swiping through screens on his tablet. “Well, it’s actually a light day, since you haven’t let me schedule anything for this week, but I can make some calls, and we can squeeze in a few pertinent last-minute meetings . . .”
My eyes glazed over as Silvio rattled off a long list of people I needed to meet with, bruised egos that required soothing, and other complaints, rivalries, and problems that demanded my time and attention, both as the head of the underworld and as the owner of the Pork Pit. While he talked, I started chopping up vegetables for the day’s sandwiches, letting the steady thwack-thwack-thwack of my knife drown out most of his words.
Everyone thought that running the underworld was so glamorous. That I had so much power. That I inspired so much fear in so many people. Fools. All I really did was take meetings, sit in on conference calls, and listen to people complain about things, just like any other CEO. Granted, they were all criminal things, like who was selling knockoff designer goods in someone else’s territory, who was jacking a rival’s gun shipments, who was kneecapping the competition.
Blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.
I wondered if Mab Monroe, the former queen of the underworld, had to listen to as many people complain before I killed her. Probably not. Mab had been known far and wide for her cruelty and ruthlessness. No doubt, she’d been able to shut up most people with a mere withering glance or a bit of elemental Fire flashing on her fingertips. And of course, she could have always just used her Fire power to roast the most excessive whiners outright.
Maybe I should start doing something similar with my magic. Let little Ice spikes shoot out of my fingertips when someone annoys me. Maybe even give them a cold glare and casually threaten to freeze them on the spot. Silvio would complain that scaring people into submission wasn’t the best policy, especially with the crime bosses who were already plotting against me. Then again, he wasn’t the one who had to listen to them whine.
I’d despised Mab for murdering my family and had taken great satisfaction in ending her existence. But maybe—just maybe—I should strive to be more like her in this one small way. Food for thought.
The first of the day’s customers stepped into the restaurant, saving me from the rest of Silvio’s recitation of my ever-increasing to-do list. Catalina Vasquez, Silvio’s niece, was already here, rolling up straws and silverware into napkins, along with the other waitstaff, and we all got busy, cooking, cleaning, and checking on our customers.
In addition to my regular, law-abiding customers, several underworld crooks came in during the lunch rush to subtly pay their respects to me, the big boss, by eating in my gin joint. A few folks, like Dimitri Barkov and Luiz Ramos, were less than thrilled by my reign and spent most of their time glaring at me in between big bites of barbecue. They were under the mistaken impression that their petulant pouts actually bothered me.
Barkov ran some shipyards along the Aneirin River, importing and exporting everything from guns and drugs to shoes and uniforms. Ramos focused on illegal sports betting and high-stakes gambling. The two of them were minor-league players but with ambitions to move up to the big time.
A couple of weeks ago, they’d been fighting over the right to buy some coin laundries from Lorelei Parker, but I’d given the businesses to someone else instead. Dimitri and Luiz were still plenty pissed about that and no doubt plotting some sort of foolish move against me. But for now, they seemed content to sit in my restaurant, get their barbecue on, and give me dirty looks.
Dimitri realized that I was staring at them. His dark eyes narrowed to slits, his cheeks reddened, and his entire body puffed up with anger. Even his very bad, very obvious, very shaggy black toupee seemed to bristle with indignation. But instead of returning my stare with another hate-filled one, the Russian mobster grinned, picked up his soda, and saluted me with it. Then he put the glass down, leaned forward, and started whispering to Luiz, who gave me a quick, nervous glance over his shoulder before dropping his head and focusing on his food again.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online