Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(12) by Jennifer Estep
Silvio slid over, taking the stool that Finn had just vacated. “Something’s wrong. Care to tell me what it is? And what it has to do with Finn?”
I eyed him, but Silvio’s face was neutral. He hadn’t seemed to be paying all that much attention to Finn and me, but I should have known better. His keen observational skills were one of the things that made him such a great assistant. First Bria, now Silvio. I was really going to have to work on my fake smiles.
“I have to give Finn some bad news, and I’m not sure how he’s going to take it.”
Silvio kept his gray eyes steady on mine, but I didn’t volunteer any more information. “Would this have something to do with Deirdre Shaw?” he asked. “Because I find it extremely odd that you want me to drop everything and focus on this one Ice elemental.”
I gave him a short nod, confirming at least that much. “I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. After I talk to Finn.”
Curiosity flared in Silvio’s eyes, but he knew better than to push me. He nodded back at me, slid over onto his previous stool, picked up his tablet, and went back to work.
I stared at that photo of Fletcher hanging on the wall. Dark hair, green eyes, great smile. My heart twisted with loss and longing. The young Fletcher in that photo was the spitting image of Finn today. The only real difference was in their temperaments. Finn had always been much more cheerful, boisterous, and outgoing than the old man, who had been serious, quiet, and reserved, sometimes to the extreme.
I wondered how Finn was going to react to the news that his mother was still alive. No doubt, shocked and confused for starters. I wondered if he would be curious about her. Hurt that she had never reached out to him. Angry that I hadn’t told him the second I found Fletcher’s file on her.
My heart twisted a little more, this time with dread.
I’d find out tonight.
At seven o’clock that evening, a knock sounded on the front door of Fletcher’s house. I opened it to find a man wearing a dark navy suit. He was a little more than six feet tall, with a solid, muscular frame that was the result of many long hours of working in his blacksmith’s forge. His blue-black hair gleamed under the porch light, which also showed off the rough, rugged planes of his face and his vivid violet eyes. His nose was slightly crooked, and a jagged scar slashed across his chin, but the imperfections only added more character to his features.
“Hey there, handsome,” I drawled. “Here to show a girl a good time?”
Owen Grayson, my significant other, grinned. “Always.”
He stepped inside, looked me over, and let out a low whistle. “Nice dress.”
A little black cocktail dress with long sleeves and a short skirt hugged my body in all the right places. My dark chocolate-brown hair was pulled up into a sleek ponytail, and smoky black shadow made my gray eyes seem larger and lighter than they were. I wore my spider rune pendant over the dress, the silverstone shimmering against the black fabric.
“As Finn would say, I clean up good.” I laughed, but the sound was weak and hollow.
He frowned¸ hearing the tension in my voice, but before he could ask me about it, I wound my arms around his neck, drew his head down, and planted a long, lingering kiss on his lips. Owen responded in kind, and we didn’t break apart until a minute later, both of us breathing hard.
He leaned down so that his forehead rested on mine, his warm breath caressing my face. The heat of his hands on my waist soaked through the fabric of my dress, making me want to kiss him again and again, until the rest of the world—and all my problems—melted away.
But I couldn’t do that. Not tonight. Not with Finn waiting for me to ruin his world, even if he didn’t know it yet.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Owen murmured. “But what was that for?”
“Luck? What would you need luck for?”
I should have made some airy, flippant excuse, but the lie got stuck in my throat, and I ended up shrugging instead.
He drew back, his gaze searching my face. “What’s up, Gin? What’s wrong?”
I grimaced. I was really going to have to get a better poker face. Or maybe I could get Jo-Jo Deveraux, my Air elemental friend, to give me some tips on how to fake a smile. Either way, I definitely needed to quit wearing my emotions on my face for everyone to see.
“Gin?” Owen asked again. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
I sighed. “I have to give Finn some bad news at dinner. Or maybe after dinner. It depends on how long it takes me to work up my nerve. But there’s no use ruining the evening before I absolutely have to. We should go. We don’t want to be late. Okay?”
Owen studied my face again, questions filling his features as he mulled over my cryptic words. But he trusted me enough not to press me for answers, and he nodded. “Okay.” He stared at me a second longer, then grinned, crooked his arm, and held it out to me. “Well, then, my lady, your chariot awaits.”
I laughed, grabbed my black clutch, and slipped my arm through his.
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Owen pulled his car over to the curb in front of a seven-story building that took up its own downtown block. First Trust of Ashland was carved into the gleaming gray marble over the entrance, and a genuine red carpet stretched across the steps and all the way down to the curb. First Trust was the city’s most exclusive bank, known for its stellar security, along with its utmost discretion and extreme dedication to seeing to all the needs of its insanely wealthy clientele, no matter how illegal those needs might be.
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