Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(30) by Jennifer Estep
I looked at Finn, expecting him to tell the girl that I was his cousin, since that was the cover story Fletcher had concocted to explain my living here.
But he gave me a sneer that was even crueler than the girl’s. “I didn’t invite any losers, Ella. She must have snuck in.” He flapped his hand at me, like I was a bug he was trying to shoo away. “Am-scray, kid. Go away and leave us alone.”
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open and hot tears stinging my eyes. For a moment, guilt flickered in Finn’s eyes, but then his face hardened into a cold, uncaring mask, and he made that shooing motion again.
“Go on,” he growled. “Get out of here. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Then he deliberately turned his back to me and started talking and laughing with Ella again, as if I had never been here to start with.
I bit my lip, trying to focus on that small, sharp pain, instead of the much larger ache in my heart, but it didn’t work. Two tears streaked down my face before I could blink them back. Ella noticed and laughed again. Finn turned to see what she thought was so funny, but I scrubbed my hands over my face, whirled around, and shoved my way out of the den before he realized just how much he’d hurt me.
It was bad enough that he’d humiliated me in front of that girl. I didn’t want him to know that he’d made me cry too. Especially since I had promised myself that I would never cry again. Not after my family had been murdered and I hadn’t been able to save them.
Besides, Finn insulting me wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t anything compared with living on the streets. I could put up with a little humiliation, as long as Fletcher let me stay here, as long as I had a warm, safe place to sleep and enough food to eat. At least, that’s what I told myself as I pushed through the dancing, laughing kids in the hallway, twisted the front doorknob, and staggered outside.
I stumbled all the way across the porch over to the wooden railing, clutching one of the posts for support as more tears traitorously trickled down my face. A sob rose in my throat, but I choked it down. It was bad enough that Finn had made me feel so small, so stupid, so worthless. I wasn’t going to start bawling like a little kid too. Finnegan Lane wasn’t worthy of my tears.
I stood there, clutching the railing with one hand, wiping away the tears with the other, wishing that I could stop them completely, when a sharp bang sounded over the loud, thumping music.
I froze, wondering if I’d only imagined the sound, but the bang came again, followed by some cursing.
Curious, I let go of the railing, walked the length of the porch, and peered around the corner.
Three guys were at the side door, hauling a safe out of the house—a safe that was filled with guns and silverstone knives, along with other valuables. I sucked in a breath. They were using the distraction of the party to steal from Fletcher.
This was bad—so very bad.
But instead of being afraid, anger roared through me. Anger that these lowlifes were stealing something that didn’t belong to them. Anger that someone would do that to Fletcher, who had been nothing but good to me. And especially anger at Finn for being stupid enough to throw the party in the first place. He was the one who’d invited all these people over, he was the one who was getting the house trashed, and he was the reason Fletcher was getting robbed.
Well, fuck Finn. I wasn’t going to get into any more trouble. Not for him. Finn didn’t deserve my silence. Not anymore.
“Hey!” I called out. “What do you think you’re doing?”
The three guys stopped and stared at me. For the first time, I saw that they were much older than the other kids, well into their twenties. I frowned. Maybe Finn hadn’t invited them after all.
The three guys looked at me, then at one another. They set down the safe and hurried in my direction, their lips pulling back into snarls, revealing the fangs in their mouths. Vampires, all of them. The men came closer, and I suddenly realized that Fletcher getting robbed wasn’t the worst thing that could happen tonight . . .
I woke up wrestling with my blankets, as though the soft layers of fabric were the three vamps closing in on me. Several seconds passed before I realized that I was safe in Fletcher’s house and that the party was just another one of my ugly memories.
I flopped back against the pillows and closed my eyes. This wasn’t the first time I’d dreamed about the awful things that had happened to me, but this particular nightmare hadn’t bothered me in a long, long time. But my subconscious was tricky like that, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that this dream, this memory, had everything to do with Finn.
I wondered if he remembered the night of his first—and only—party. We’d never talked about it afterward. Sadly, it wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to either of us. It wasn’t even the worst thing that had happened in this house—
A floorboard creaked downstairs.
My eyes snapped open. I lay there, waiting and listening. Five seconds later, another creak sounded. Not only that, but I realized that the stones were muttering. The bricks that made up parts of the walls and floors whispered of danger and dark, deadly intent.
Someone was in the house.
I grabbed the knife under my pillow, slipped out of bed, and tiptoed across my bedroom. I eased the door open, making sure that it didn’t creak and give away the fact that I was awake and alert. I wasn’t surprised that someone was here. More than a few of the underworld bosses had sent their minions to kill me, although most of them waited in the woods outside, rather than trying to break into the house.
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