Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(24) by Jennifer Estep
I grimaced at the mention of the other heist. I’d thwarted that one too but not before several innocent people had been killed. At least tonight only the robbers had died.
“Roslyn won’t be sorry she missed this,” he added.
Roslyn Phillips was Xavier’s significant other and a vampire friend of mine who ran Northern Aggression, a decadent nightclub.
“She’s on vacation with Lisa and Catherine, right?” I asked, referring to Roslyn’s sister and niece.
Xavier nodded. “Yep. Took them to the beach at Blue Marsh for two weeks. Roslyn called me this afternoon to tell me how great the weather was down there.”
We chatted for a few more minutes before the giant pulled a notepad out of his pocket, and Owen and I told him what had happened. Xavier asked several questions, writing everything down, then looked at me.
“Bria texted me,” he said. “She told me about Finn’s mom.”
I rubbed my aching head. “Yeah.”
“Go make sure he’s okay,” Xavier said. “If I need anything else, I’ll call. And tell Bria that I’ll check in with her later.”
I stepped forward and hugged him. “Thank you.”
Xavier hugged me back, then winked. “That’s what friends are for, right?”
One of the other cops called his name. Xavier waved at the man, smiled at Owen and me a final time, then headed off in that direction.
“You ready to leave?” Owen asked.
I looked out over the lobby, just like Xavier had done. In a matter of minutes, the elegant space had been ruined. The marble walls scorched and cracked by bullets, the floor littered with glass, crystal, and shell casings, the antique furniture smashed to pieces. This destruction was bad enough, but worry iced over my heart as I thought of how Deirdre might hurt Finn—and how much more permanent that damage might be.
“Gin?” Owen asked again.
I shook my head, trying to squash my troubling thoughts, but I wasn’t the least bit successful. “Yeah,” I said. “Let’s go check on Finn.”
Owen and I left the bank and drove over to Jo-Jo’s house. During the ride, I told him about discovering Fletcher’s file on Deirdre, digging up her grave, and finding the box of photos and mementos that had been hidden inside. I even told him about the letter that the old man had written to me. The only thing I didn’t mention was the second letter to Finn. I still wasn’t sure what to do about that.
When I finished, Owen let out a low whistle. “That is all kinds of messed up,” he said. “Why do you think Deirdre left Ashland? And stayed away and let everyone think that she was dead? Do you think she and Fletcher had some sort of falling-out?”
I shrugged. “Something had to have gone down between them. Something bad, judging from what little Fletcher said about her in his letter to me. I wonder why he didn’t write more, why he didn’t tell me exactly what happened between them.”
“Maybe Fletcher wanted you to make your own judgments about Deirdre and not be biased against her based on their history together,” he said. “Maybe he was hoping that she had changed, that she had become a better person than the one he knew, for Finn’s sake.”
“Maybe, but all I have now are more questions than answers.”
“I imagine Finn has the same,” Owen pointed out.
I sighed and leaned my head against the window. “I know, and I hate that I can’t give him those answers. But Fletcher said that Deirdre is dangerous. That she only cares about herself. If she really loved Finn like she claims¸ then why didn’t she come back to Ashland years ago? Why didn’t she reach out and try to have some kind of relationship with him before now?”
Owen looked at me. “You think she’s up to something.”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense. She didn’t just mosey into the bank and get hooked up with Finn by accident. She planned it, just like she planned on using that initial connection to squirm her way into his life. And then there’s the robbery.”
“What about it?”
I snorted. “I find it more than a little suspicious that First Trust, which has never, ever been successfully robbed before, just happens to get hit the night that Deirdre and Finn are there. That Deirdre just happens to get shot in the process of saving Finn’s life but that, miraculously, her wound is not serious at all. No one is that lucky.” I paused. “Well, not me, anyway.”
“But you saw Deirdre,” he said. “The shock on her face, the tremors, all of it. Whatever else she might be guilty of, she wasn’t faking how upset she was about getting shot.”
I let out a breath. “I know. And she did seem like she was a victim tonight, like everyone else. But something about her just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Owen frowned. He was as well acquainted with my paranoia as Finn was, although he didn’t tease me about it nearly as much.
He steered his car into a subdivision, then up a hill, and parked in front of a three-story white plantation house. Bria’s sedan was already here, and the front porch light was on, along with several more lights on the first floor.
We got out of the car, stepped onto the porch, and went inside. Owen followed me down a long hallway, which opened up into an old-fashioned beauty salon. Cherry-red chairs lined the back wall, and tables filled with beauty magazines were scattered throughout the room. A counter along one wall bristled with combs, curlers, and blow dryers, along with pink plastic tubs filled with lipstick, nail polish, and eye shadow. The air smelled of hairspray and other chemicals, along with a faint, soothing hint of vanilla.
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