Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(19) by Jennifer Estep
The giant’s mouth flattened out into a harsh line. He didn’t want to give in to my demands. He couldn’t, not without looking weak in front of his own crew. But he didn’t seem overly concerned by my threats either. No anger sparked in his dark brown eyes, no fear either, just cold calculation as he tried to think about the best way to get out of here.
All the while, I kept waiting for his gaze to skitter sideways, to lock with Deirdre’s, and get some silent order from her.
But it didn’t happen.
The giant kept his focus squarely on me, and he didn’t so much as glance at Deirdre, Tucker, or anyone else. Unease crawled up my spine. Could I be wrong? Could Deirdre be innocent of planning the robbery? Could she be just another rich target, like everyone else?
“Five seconds,” I called out. “Lay down your guns right now.”
The giant’s ski mask rode up on his face, as though he’d raised his eyebrows. “Or?”
I tapped my knife against the neck of the robber who was still in front of me. “Or I’m going to slit your man’s throat before I do the same thing to you.”
A collective gasp rippled through the crowd at the poison promise in my voice. The other five robbers shifted on their feet, staring at me, then at one another. Two of them decided to be smart about things, slowly bending down and setting their weapons on the floor. Those two robbers raised their hands and stepped away from the people around them, so that they were standing side-by-side near the middle of the lobby.
Those two robbers were close to Lorelei and Mallory Parker. More whispers sounded as Lorelei slowly stood up, tiptoed forward, and picked up their guns, staring at the other three robbers the whole time. But those three men didn’t know whether to shoot her or me, and they kept swiveling their guns back and forth between us.
Lorelei tiptoed back, so that she was standing in front of Mallory, shielding her from harm. Mallory took one of the guns from Lorelei, and then the two women trained their weapons on the three remaining armed robbers.
Lorelei gave me a short, sharp nod. I nodded back, then focused my attention on the giant gunman again. I made a show of twisting my knife point into the neck of the man I was still holding on to, deep enough to draw blood this time.
“Time’s up,” I called out.
“Santos, man, just give up already!” My robber sputtered out the giant’s name. “I don’t want to die just for some lousy jewelry!”
“No names, you idiot!” Santos snarled.
He pointed his gun at the other man and shot the robber three times in the chest.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
Everyone screamed and kissed the floor again. The robber’s blood sprayed everywhere, the coppery stink of it filling the air, and he slipped from my grasp and hit the ground, dead weight now.
Santos gave me an evil grin and raised his gun again. I reached for my Stone magic, hardening my skin, but instead of shooting me, he whipped around and fired at the two robbers who had surrendered.
Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack!
Santos coolly executed his own men, putting two bullets in the chest of each. More screams sounded as the men toppled to the floor, blood pooling underneath their bodies.
“Run, you idiots!” Santos screamed at the remaining robbers.
The three men sprinted for the front doors. I was too far away to stop them, but Lorelei and Mallory both stepped up, guns still in their hands.
Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack!
Lorelei got one of the fleeing robbers in the back, and he toppled to the floor. Mallory shot a second, also in the back, and he hit the ground too, but the third man managed to dart outside unscathed.
Knife still in my hand, I headed toward Santos, who was backing toward the doors.
Santos fired off a couple more shots. At first, I thought he was targeting the partygoers huddled in the middle of the lobby, but his aim was too wide for that, and the bullets harmlessly punched into the floor. But the shots made everyone panic, rise to their feet, and stampede toward the back of the lobby, running over and even knocking one another down as they tried to scramble to safety behind the tellers’ counter.
I stormed after Santos but got caught in the crush of people going the other way. Every time I took a step forward, someone bumped into me and shoved me back.
“Move! Move! Move!” I yelled, but the continued screams drowned out my words.
Santos took advantage of the chaos. He made it all the way over to the doors before stopping and raising his gun again. I didn’t care if the bastard shot me, but I was shoving other people out of the way, hoping that I could at least get everyone else out of his line of fire.
But Santos had other ideas. He whipped his gun to my right, aiming it at someone else. I looked over my shoulder, my blood freezing in my veins as I realized whom he was targeting.
“Gin! Gin!” Finn shouted. “I’m coming!”
Gun in hand, he was also fighting his way through the crowd, trying to come help me. Bria and Owen were doing the same thing, but Finn was the closest, about ten feet behind me. He pushed one of the waiters out of his way and skidded to a stop, realizing that Santos was aiming at him. Finn snapped up his own gun, but he wasn’t going to get the other man first.
Santos shot me a wicked grin, then focused on Finn again, his finger curling back on the trigger. He realized that shooting Finn would hurt me more than if I were wounded myself.
I raced in Finn’s direction, but I was no superhero, and I wasn’t even close to being faster than a speeding bullet. My foster brother was going to die, and it was all my fault.
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