Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(21) by Jennifer Estep
I studied her carefully, but her surprise seemed one-hundred-percent genuine. I didn’t want to admit it, but perhaps she really was an innocent victim tonight, like everyone else here.
What really concerned me, though, was the fact that Finn was right by her side, smiling and chatting while he dabbed at her minor wound with another cocktail napkin, even though he had a much more serious, oozing cut and a purple knot on his forehead from where he’d hit the floor.
Bria was standing right next to him, dabbing at Finn’s wound the same way he was dabbing at Deirdre’s. Owen was there too, a thoughtful expression on his face as he watched Bria watch Finn watch Deirdre.
Hugh Tucker had resumed his previous seat on Deirdre’s other side. He eyed her wound for a moment, then started texting on his phone, probably trying to find an Air elemental to heal his boss. That’s what Silvio would have been doing.
I stopped long enough to find my stilettos and slip them back on so I wouldn’t cut my feet on the shattered crystal and broken glass, then headed in their direction. Bria sopped up another bit of blood from Finn’s face, tossed her dirty napkin aside, and hurried over to me, making sure we were out of earshot of the others.
“Did you get him?” she asked in a low, hopeful voice.
“Sadly, no, but I’ll sic Silvio on him. Santos won’t be able to hide for long. If he’s smart, he’ll leave town.”
“Well, here’s hoping that he’s not so smart.” Bria jerked her head at Finn and Deirdre. “And what do you want to do about that?”
“I have no idea,” I muttered.
Finn realized that I had come back into the lobby, and he waved at me. I let out a breath and walked over to him. Owen stepped up beside me, hugging me to his chest. I gave him a quick kiss before turning to Finn.
“Gin, there you are. I was just finishing up with Deirdre’s wound.” He shot her a grin. “Just a graze. Nothing to worry about. Why, you don’t even need stitches. A few minutes with one of those Air elementals I told Tucker about, and you won’t even have a scar.”
Deirdre drew in a deep breath and let it out, pushing away her shock and steadying herself. Then she winked back at him. “I’ll take your word for it.”
“You were lucky,” Finn said.
“Yeah,” I muttered. “Lucky.”
His eyebrows drew together in puzzlement, as he wondered why I was being so snarky to the woman who had just saved his life, but I wasn’t about to explain the irony to him.
“Oh, don’t mind her,” he said in a cheery voice. “She’s just upset that the bad guy got away, and she couldn’t give him the smackdown she wanted to. Right, Gin?”
I ground my teeth, but Finn didn’t notice that I didn’t answer him. Instead, he fixed his green gaze on Deirdre, curiosity filling his face.
“Although I have to ask you something, Dee-Dee,” he said. “Why did you shove me out of the way of that bullet? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But it was a really brave and heroic thing to do, especially for someone you’ve only known a few weeks.”
“Well, good investment bankers are hard to find. I didn’t want my favorite asset to get hurt.” She winked again, then let out a loud laugh, trying to play it off as a joke, trying to charm him the same way he’d done to countless other people over the years.
But Finn wasn’t that easily swayed. “No, seriously,” he said. “I really want to know. Why did you risk your life to save mine? Why did you think to protect me like that?”
Deirdre froze, her smile slowly slipping away, her expression turning serious, until she was staring at Finn like he was the only thing that mattered. She clamped her lips shut, then opened her mouth, then clamped her lips shut again, as if she was having trouble getting out the words.
My stomach twisted with dread. I knew exactly what she was going to say, but there was nothing I could do to stop her.
“I’m your mother.”
Everyone had a different reaction to Deirdre Shaw’s bombshell.
Bria bit her lip and stared down at the floor. Owen blinked and blinked, trying to process Deirdre’s words. Tucker glanced at his boss, his black eyebrows arching a bit, then went back to his phone, still searching for a healer. My hands clenched into fists so tight that my nails dug into the spider rune scars in my palms.
And then there was Finn.
He stared at Deirdre for several seconds. Then his eyes crinkled, his lips twitched, and he burst out laughing.
He just . . . laughed.
And laughed . . . and laughed some more . . .
Maybe he’d hit his head harder than I’d thought.
“Oh, Dee-Dee, you’re a hoot, all right,” Finn said between deep belly laughs. “But my mother died in a car accident when I was just a baby. You know that. We’ve talked about it several times now.”
My jaw clenched, and my hands fisted together even tighter. I wondered exactly what Finn and Deirdre had talked about. How long had she been pumping him for information? How long had she been insinuating herself into his life? How long had she been laying the groundwork and buttering him up for this moment?
Deirdre lifted her chin and squared her shoulders, still staring straight into his eyes. “That’s what Fletcher wanted you to think. But it’s true, Finnegan. I’m your mother, and I’m alive. I’ve been alive this whole time.”
Finn kept chuckling for a few more seconds, until he realized she was serious. His laughter died on his lips, his entire body stiffened with shock, and he didn’t even breathe for several seconds. He blinked, then blinked again, peering at Deirdre in a close, intense way that he never had before. I could practically see the gears grinding in his mind, all the memories he was calling up, all the mental calculations he was doing, trying to reconcile the woman in front of him with what little Fletcher had told him about his mother.
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