Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(16) by Jennifer Estep
I took her hand in mine. Her fingers were cool to the touch, but I expected that, given the chilly air that flooded the open, drafty lobby every time someone went in or out. What I didn’t expect was the Ice magic pulsing through her body, lying just beneath the surface of her skin. The cold, sudden shock of touching her was worse than plunging my hand into a bucket of ice water. It was a wonder my fingers didn’t turn blue from frostbite.
The truly troubling thing was that Deirdre wasn’t actively using her magic. If I could sense this much of her power just by touching her, I shuddered to think what she could do when she summoned up the full, frosty depths of it. She could easily Ice over the entire lobby with a single wave of her hand. Fletcher had said that Deirdre was strong in her magic, but I hadn’t expected this level of power. She was even more dangerous than I’d thought.
“Gin,” Deirdre said, smiling widely. “It’s so lovely to finally meet you, honey. I’ve heard so much about you.” She gave my hand a friendly little squeeze.
I squeezed back, although all I really wanted to do was yank my hand out of hers and try to rub some warmth and feeling back into my numb fingers.
“I just bet you have,” I drawled. “Although Finn hasn’t told me nearly enough about you. I’ll have to get him to rectify that, since the two of you have become such good friends these past few weeks.”
Deirdre’s hand tightened around mine, and she frowned, the faint lines around her eyes crinkling a little deeper as she tried to figure out what I meant. After a moment, she shook off her confusion and finally released my fingers. I bit my tongue to keep from hissing in relief.
Finn looked back and forth between the two of us, also wondering at my strange words. But he charged right on past the awkwardness and gestured to a man sitting at the bar, on the stool next to Deirdre’s.
“And this is Hugh Tucker, Deirdre’s personal assistant,” Finn said.
Tucker was a tall, wiry man in a black suit jacket with a dark gray shirt and tie underneath. His skin was a rich bronze, while his hair and eyes were midnight-black. A trimmed goatee clung to his chin. I would put his age close to Deirdre’s, around fifty or so, but the years had been as kind to him as they had been to her, and he could easily pass for someone ten years younger.
Despite his distinguished air, he was as subdued and forgettable as Deirdre was boisterous and flashy, although his understated diamond cuff links had definitely cost a pretty penny. No magic emanated from him, but fangs flashed in his mouth as he tossed back the rest of his Scotch. So he was a vampire, then.
Tucker slid off his stool and nodded politely at all of us, but he didn’t step forward, and he didn’t offer to shake anyone’s hand. Instead, he gave us all a bored, disinterested glance, as if he could care less about who we were. Not what I would expect from an assistant. If Silvio were here, he would have been examining Tucker and whoever else might be in Deirdre’s entourage to make sure they weren’t a threat to me and our friends. Before doing multiple background checks just to make sure.
What Tucker did seem interested in was all the other folks here. His black gaze flicked around the lobby, coolly assessing each person in turn. Maybe it was her dazzling diamonds, but he kept glancing over at Mallory Parker. At least until Lorelei noticed his attention and stared back at him, wondering who he was and what he was up to.
Tucker arched an eyebrow, as if he was amused by Lorelei’s dirty looks, then turned around, flagged down a passing waiter, and got a refill on his drink.
“Well, I should let you talk to your friends,” Deirdre said. “I’ll see you here tomorrow morning as scheduled, yes? And we’ll go over the final details for the exhibit?”
My eyes narrowed. Exhibit? What exhibit?
“Of course. I’m always happy to meet with my favorite client.”
Finn winked, then grabbed his mother’s hand, bowed low, and pressed a kiss to her knuckles, as gallant as any knight. He wasn’t an elemental, so he couldn’t sense her Ice magic. I forced down a shudder at how long his skin touched hers.
Deirdre grabbed her red beaded clutch off the bar, then playfully tapped Finn on the shoulder with it. “Oh, you flatterer. You certainly know how to dazzle this ole gal, don’t you? Why, I bet you’re the most charming man in three counties.”
Finn grinned. “But of course.”
Deirdre looked at Tucker, and the two of them started to walk away, but I stepped up and blocked their path.
“Actually, why don’t you and Tucker join us for dinner at Underwood’s tonight? My treat. After all, any friend of Finn’s is a friend of mine.”
I kept my voice smooth and my features schooled into a polite mask, but Deirdre’s forehead wrinkled, as if she was wondering whether I knew who she really was. Apparently, she wanted to find out, because a pleased smile brightened her face. “Why, nothing would give me greater pleasure, honey,” she cooed in a syrupy-sweet tone. “I’ve just been dying to meet all of Finnegan’s wonderful friends.”
“Family,” I corrected. “Finn and I are family.”
“Mmm. Yes. Family.”
We stared at each other. My face remained smooth and blank, but Deirdre tilted her head to the side, her gray-blue eyes sharpening with interest. She was wondering what I really wanted with her. I didn’t quite know myself. All I knew was that Deirdre Shaw was right fucking here, and I wanted to know every single thing about her—including what game she was playing with Finn.
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