Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(15) by Jennifer Estep
Once again, that hard tone colored her voice, one that I couldn’t quite decipher, but I nodded. “See you then.”
Lorelei and Mallory both nodded back at me and returned to their drinks, while Mosley finally deigned to wade into his crowd of admirers and start making nice with them.
“What was that about?” Owen asked as he escorted Bria and me over to where Finn was sitting at the bar.
“I have no idea.”
Finn saw that we were finally on our way over to him, and he leaned forward, talking to his client and pointing at the three of us. The woman nodded, then finished her drink.
We reached his side, and Finn slid off his stool, grabbing Bria’s hand and twirling her around.
“You look positively smashing,” he said.
“Don’t I always?” Bria arched her eyebrows, but the blush in her cheeks told me how much the compliment pleased her.
Finn twirled Bria around again, making her laugh, before lowering her into a dip. They stayed frozen like that for a moment, staring into each other’s eyes, before he kissed her, long and deep. Finn set Bria back up on her feet, leaned forward, and whispered something in her ear that made her blush even more.
I started to make a snarky comment about the two of them getting a room, but a floral aroma tickled my nose, and I had to clear my throat to hold back a sneeze. It took me a second to realize that it was the mystery woman’s perfume. She still had her back to me, so I drew in another breath, trying to identify the scent, since it seemed so tantalizingly familiar. My heart stopped as I realized exactly what it was and where I had smelled it before.
Peonies—the same scent that was in the empty perfume bottle in the casket box.
Finn strode over to the mystery woman’s side, gave her his hand, and helped her slide off her barstool. Together, the two of them turned to face us.
“And now, let me present my favorite new client,” Finn said. “Everyone, this is Deirdre Shaw.”
Deirdre Shaw, Finn’s definitely-not-dead mother, was standing right in front of me. In the flesh. And not just in Ashland but here, at Finn’s bank, schmoozing with him like they were old friends.
I thought back to all the times Finn had mentioned his new client over the past few weeks. Someone he was really hitting it off with. Someone he wanted to introduce us all to tonight. Someone who was far more to him than he realized.
It all made sense now—and it was all so twistedly, horribly wrong.
Beside me, Bria sucked in a surprised breath. I reached down, grabbed her hand, and squeezed it in warning. After a second, she squeezed back, realizing that I was asking her to hide her shock and her knowledge of who Deirdre really was.
Owen saved us both. He realized that something was wrong, stepped up, and held out his hand, making Deirdre shift her focus to him instead of wondering why Bria and I were both suddenly so slack-jawed.
“Owen Grayson,” he rumbled. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Shaw.”
Deirdre looked Owen up and down, then gave him a slow, exaggerated wink. “Well, aren’t you just a cold drink of water on a hot, hot day?” A sultry Southern drawl added even more charm to her fun, flirty voice.
She winked again, then shook his hand. “Actually, it’s Ms. Shaw, but call me Dee-Dee. All my friends do.”
Finn tucked his arm through Bria’s. “Dee-Dee, I want you to meet my lady love, Detective Bria Coolidge.”
Deirdre smiled at Bria, her expression warm and inviting. “Why, you’re even lovelier than Finnegan described. Charmed.”
“Yeah,” Bria replied in a dry tone. “Me too.”
Finally, Deirdre Shaw faced me.
Her shoulder-length blond hair had been styled into elegant pin curls, the soft, golden waves catching the light. Her eyes were a pale blue, bordering on gray, as though her gaze were filled with the elemental Ice she could control. Her porcelain skin was flawless, while her lips were a perfect red heart in her face. I didn’t know if she indulged in a strict regimen of Air elemental facials, like Jonah McAllister did, but she looked a decade younger than her fifty-some years. I had thought her lovely in all those old photos, but in person she was truly stunning.
Deirdre didn’t seem to go in for subtle, since her knee-length, flapper-style cocktail dress was a bloody scarlet and covered with sequins and crystals, as was the matching shawl draped around her arms. Her outfit was bold, flashy, and vibrant, the type of dress a gorgeous woman would wear to attract maximum attention and compliments. And Deirdre’s jewelry was also meant to impress. Ruby chandelier earrings framed her face, while a square ruby ring glinted on her right hand.
But her most interesting bauble was her rune necklace, that heart made of jagged icicles.
Or diamonds, in this case.
The heart pendant was as big as the palm of my hand, the diamonds in each individual icicle flashing and sparkling. Even among all the jewelry here tonight, I could easily pick out the diamonds’ proud, boisterous song as they continuously trilled about their own beauty. The gemstones alone must have cost a fortune. Add them to the exquisite silverstone setting and chain, and Deirdre Shaw easily had a million bucks of cold ice hanging around her neck.
Bria noticed the necklace too, and her face creased into a frown, as she tried again to remember where she had seen the rune before.
“Dee-Dee,” Finn said, “this is Gin Blanco. Gin, Dee-Dee.”
Deirdre looked me up and down the same way she had done with Owen and Bria, but she didn’t offer me some bawdy compliment. Instead, she simply held out her hand for me to shake, as if she knew that her charming words would be wasted on me.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online