Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(26) by Jennifer Estep
“Not this one,” Sophia muttered.
Jo-Jo gave her sister a pointed look, but Sophia just shrugged back.
“Of course, we knew Deirdre Shaw,” Jo-Jo said, focusing on Finn again. “From the day they first met at the Pork Pit, your daddy was plumb crazy about her, always talking and telling stories about her. He brought her by the salon a few times, but they mostly kept to themselves. That’s how in love they were.”
Finn’s eyes narrowed, but he waved his hand, telling her to continue.
“They’d been together a few months when Fletcher dropped by and told us that Dee-Dee was pregnant.” The dwarf’s face softened with memories. “Fletcher said it was the happiest day of his life, knowing that he was going to be a father.”
Finn shifted in his seat, some of the cold rage leaking out of his face. “So what happened?”
“Family emergency,” Sophia rasped.
Jo-Jo nodded. “We had an elderly cousin up in Cypress Mountain who was dying of old age and didn’t have any close family to help her. So Sophia and I packed up and went to stay with her. We thought we’d only be gone a few weeks, but it was much longer before our cousin passed. Of course, we came back to Ashland every now and then, but we didn’t see much of Fletcher. By the time we got through our cousin’s funeral and settled up her estate, several months had passed.”
“And you had been born, but your mama was gone,” Jo-Jo said. “Fletcher told us that someone had figured out that he was an assassin. This person had stormed into the Pork Pit one night with several giants while he was there with you and your mama. Fletcher said that he had to make a choice whether to save you or Deirdre—and he chose you. He said that the giants murdered your mama right in front of him. He managed to kill them all in the end, and he got rid of all the bodies except your mama’s. He made it look like she’d died in a car accident. He told everyone that was how she died, and he made Sophia and me swear to tell you the same story too.”
“Why? Why would he do that?” Finn demanded.
She hesitated. “Fletcher thought it would be easier on you if her death seemed like an accident. He claimed that he didn’t want you to blame yourself because he chose to save you and not her.”
“And you believed him?” Finn asked. “Just like that?”
“He didn’t want to talk about it,” Sophia chimed in.
Jo-Jo shook her head again. “Of course, we had questions, but Fletcher was so heartbroken that we didn’t press him about it. Besides, why would he lie about something like that? What reason would he have? After that, Fletcher threw himself into raising you, and Sophia and I helped him as much as we could. The years passed, and eventually, Gin came along, and well, here we are tonight.”
Everyone fell silent, digesting Jo-Jo’s story, and once again, the only sound was the tick-tock-tick-tock of the grandfather clock, punctuated every once in a while by a soft whine from Rosco.
Ever since I’d found out that Deirdre was alive, I’d wondered what the Deveraux sisters might know about her, and I’d thought about asking Jo-Jo and Sophia about her a dozen times. Jo-Jo’s voice had been strong, her tone sincere, her clear, almost colorless eyes steady on Finn’s the whole time. She’d told him everything she knew, but it only increased my frustration, since I still had more questions than answers.
If I couldn’t find out anything about Deirdre’s past, then I’d have to focus on who she was now. So I turned to the one person who could shed some light on that: Finn.
His nostrils flared when he realized that I was staring at him, but the rest of his features remain fixed in that cold, blank mask.
“Why don’t you tell us what you know about Deirdre?” I said, struggling to keep calm. “When did you meet her? You said that she’s a client of yours?”
Finn jerked his head. I thought he might stay quiet, just to get back at me for keeping this from him, but he sighed and finally set his glass of Scotch aside. “It all started back over the summer,” he said. “A couple of weeks after that mess with Harley Grimes up on Bone Mountain. One of the bank higher-ups came into my office and said that a big fish had just walked in the door, wanting to move her accounts and other business interests over to First Trust. He asked me to see what I could do for her. The next thing I know, Dee-Dee is strolling into my office. She was just like you saw her tonight—big, bold, confident. We hit it off right away.”
A faint smile pulled up his lips, easing some of the anger that tightened his face.
“At first, I didn’t think anything of her. She was just another client with old family money who spends most of her time lunching with the ladies and doing charity work. Your typical society broad. Apparently, she’d heard about me and wanted to see what I could do with her investment portfolio. Seemed like her last guy had been skimming and mismanaging funds from her charity foundation, and she wanted to get back on track.”
“And . . .” I prompted.
Finn shrugged. “And things just progressed from there. I looked at her finances, straightened out a few things, recommended some investments. She would come by the bank to check on things whenever she was in town. A few weeks ago, she rented a penthouse in Ashland to stay in while she puts together a local charity exhibit. After that, we started seeing each other more often, having coffee, meeting for drinks. Dee-Dee started getting a little friendlier, opening up to me. It happens once a client feels comfortable enough. We talked about movies, TV shows, books. All your usual chitchat.”
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