Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(22) by Jennifer Estep
Deirdre’s red lips creased into a sad, wistful smile. “You’re even more handsome than the photos I’ve seen,” she said in a soft voice. “I always thought you had my smile, ever since you were a baby.”
She reached out and slowly placed her hand on top of Finn’s. He started at the contact, but he didn’t automatically jerk his hand away. Instead, something flashed in his eyes, something I had never seen before.
A raw, naked longing that made him seem much younger than his thirty-three years. An old, aching longing he would do anything to ease. A bone-deep longing that worried me even more than all the pretty words Deirdre was spouting. In that moment, Finn seemed . . . vulnerable, in a way that I had never seen him be vulnerable before.
Finn shifted on his feet. From one moment to the next, he accepted what Deirdre was telling him as truth, that she was his mother. I could tell by the way he intently scanned her face, trying to find himself in her smile, her nose, her cheekbones. But the worst part was the way the longing in his eyes immediately flared up into a bright spark of hope.
“But . . . but how . . . why . . .” Finn stammered, for once at a loss for words.
Deirdre squeezed his hand. “I know you have a lot of questions and that I have a lot of explaining to do. Why don’t I give you some time to process this? Then maybe we can meet tomorrow and talk about . . . everything.”
No words escaped from Finn’s gaping mouth—he just kept blinking and blinking at her. So I stepped up beside him, put my hand on his shoulder, and took charge of the situation. I didn’t want Finn spending any more time alone with Deirdre. Who knew what lies and misinformation she had already fed him? Besides, I wanted to hear exactly what she had to say about Fletcher.
“Why don’t you come by the Pork Pit tomorrow?” I said. “Say three o’clock? Surely you haven’t forgotten where it is.”
Deirdre kept that soft, winsome smile on her face, but she couldn’t quite hide the annoyance that flickered in her pale gaze. She didn’t like me butting in on her reunion with her long-lost son. Too damn bad. Finn was my brother, and I was going to watch out for him.
“Why, that’s a fine idea, honey,” she said. “I’ll see Finnegan then.”
“We’re looking forward to it, honey,” I drawled right back at her. “After all, it’s not every day that a dead relative digs her way out of her own grave.”
Deirdre’s smile tightened at my sarcasm, but she ignored me and looked at Finn again. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” she said. “But most of all, I want you to know that I never wanted to leave Ashland. I never wanted to leave you.”
Finn stared at her, his eyes empty, his face blank now.
That wasn’t the response Deirdre wanted. Her lips puckered, and she opened her mouth, as though she was thinking about making some other calculated confession. But in the end, she just nodded and squeezed his hand a final time. “Until tomorrow, then.”
He still didn’t say anything.
Deirdre favored Finn with another sad, soft smile, then slid off her stool. “Right now, I’m going to go have a drink, get patched up, and pretend like that bastard didn’t shoot me and ruin my favorite dress.” She let out a laugh, trying to make a joke of things, but it was a thin, brittle sound, and we could all hear how badly she’d been rattled. “Did you find me a healer, Tucker, honey?”
“Of course,” the vampire murmured, his voice as bland and forgettable as the rest of him. “Mr. Lane’s info was most helpful. I’ve already made the arrangements. Please, allow me.”
He held out his arm. Deirdre looped hers through his, leaning on him for support. Given the shock and adrenaline still coursing through her body, she wasn’t all that steady on her feet, and she wobbled in her heels as Tucker escorted her away.
Finn watched them go, his gaze locked onto his mother, while Bria, Owen, and I hovered around him.
All around the lobby, people talked and texted, chattering in louder and louder voices to one another and the cops who had arrived on the scene. But our group was still and silent. I squeezed Finn’s shoulder, letting him know that I was here for him.
He shrugged off my hand without even looking at me.
“Finn?” Bria asked. “Are you okay?”
He didn’t answer her. Instead, he watched Deirdre slowly cross the lobby. She reached the front doors, stopped, and looked over her shoulder at him. Their eyes locked, and she smiled at him a final time before leaving the bank. The door banged shut behind her, seeming as loud as a clap of thunder, but Finn kept staring and staring at that spot, as if he couldn’t believe everything that had happened, all the bombs that Deirdre had dropped on him.
Deirdre Shaw might have lost some blood and her favorite dress, but she’d also gained something from being shot. Something far more valuable than the jewelry, watches, and phones that Santos had tried to make off with. Something far more important in the grand scheme of things. Something she wanted most of all.
* * *
Finn continued to stare at the door that Deirdre had stepped through.
Bria looked at me. I shrugged, so she eased up and put her hand on Finn’s shoulder. He blinked, as if her gentle touch had finally roused him from his fuguelike state.
“I can’t believe that Dee-Dee is my mother. That she’s alive. That she’s in Ashland . . .” His voice trailed off, and he stared at the door again.
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