Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(39) by Jennifer Estep
She let out another breath.
“So that’s it. That’s my story. I’m sorry, Finnegan. So sorry. For everything. But I’m here now, and I want a second chance, if you’ll have me. Even though I know that I don’t deserve one.”
Deirdre stretched out her hand, a pleading look on her face. The sunlight streaming in through the windows added a golden glow to her hair, making her look like a fallen angel, begging for forgiveness and a chance at redemption. Her words, voice, gesture, expression—it was all beautifully done, right down to her trembling fingers and the fresh tears glistening in her eyes. Even I might have been suckered in by her, if I hadn’t known Fletcher. If I hadn’t known down to the very bottom of my black, rotten heart that he would never, ever hit a defenseless person, much less threaten the mother of his own son, unless he had a damn good reason.
But Finn . . . he couldn’t see that. He didn’t want to see it. Not right now, anyway. Maybe not ever.
Finn reached out and wrapped her trembling hand in both of his. “There’s nothing to forgive,” he said in a rough, raspy voice. “What matters is that you’re here now, and we have a second chance, just like you said.”
“Oh, Finnegan, you don’t know how happy that makes me.”
Deirdre smiled, and the two of them stared at each other, lost in their own little moment.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, please. Finn, don’t tell me that you’re buying this bullshit story. I’ve seen better acts at the carnival.”
Finn’s mouth gaped. He was shocked that I was raining all over this tender, tearful moment. Oh, it was raining, all right. And it was about to fucking pour.
“I know that Fletcher was your mentor,” Deirdre said in a soft voice, as though she were talking to an idiot and didn’t want to use too many words too quickly. “I know that he took you in off the streets and that you loved him very much. But just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you know everything they’ve done or everything they’re capable of.”
“And I know that you’re lying through your teeth about Fletcher,” I snapped back. “Maybe Finn is too starry-eyed to see the holes in your story, but I’m not.”
“What holes?” Deirdre said, her voice still annoyingly calm. “Ask me anything. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, Gin. Anything to set your mind at ease.”
I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest. “All right, then. Let’s play Twenty Questions. How many times did you think about Finn? Every day, once a week, once a month? How many times did you try to contact him? When? I could go on, but there’s really only one question that matters in the end. Why didn’t you try harder?”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“If I had a kid, I would do everything in my power to be a part of his or her life,” I said, my voice as cold as ice. “Not let someone keep me away because of a few threats. But that’s exactly what you’ve done, by your own admission.”
“I know this is difficult for you to accept, Gin, but Fletcher is the reason I stayed away for all these years,” Deirdre said. “He threatened me, just like you said.”
“Bullshit,” I countered. “Fletcher’s been dead for more than a year now. If you were so concerned about Finn and so truly desperate to finally see your son again, then you would have come to town the second you knew that Fletcher was dead. But you didn’t. You didn’t come back to Ashland after the old man died because you had other things to do. You stayed away because you just didn’t fucking care. Not about Fletcher and certainly not about Finn.”
Deirdre gasped, and more tears streaked down her face, as though my words had cut her to the core. I certainly wanted to do that to her with my knives but not in front of my customers. The few folks dining in the restaurant might not have heard my exact words, but the icy rage in my tone had been unmistakable and threatening enough to make them all freeze in their seats, eyes wide, sandwiches and sodas halfway to their lips.
Deirdre wiped away her tears, lifted her chin, and stared back at me. “I know that this is hard for you to accept . . .”
She started her spiel again, but I was tired of listening to her lies, especially the ones she was telling about Fletcher, trying to poison his own son against him. The old man wasn’t here to defend himself, but I was, and I would defend him. And Finn too, whether he liked it or not.
“You should know this,” I said in a cold, hard voice. “When you hurt Finn, I will kill you.”
Deirdre gasped again, her blue eyes widened, and her hand flew to her heart, as though she were truly startled by my poison promise. As if I were Fletcher threatening her all over again, like she claimed. In that moment, I supposed that I was exactly like the old man.
I was okay with that.
Her chin quivered, and her fingers trembled. I wondered if she’d practiced those moves in the mirror. Probably. She was certainly the best con artist I’d ever seen.
But her shocked, scared look had the desired effect on Finn.
“Gin!” he hissed, anger sparking like fireworks in his eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Watching out for you,” I snapped. “I can’t believe you’re falling for her lies. If she tells you that Santa Claus is real, are you going to believe that whopper too?”
Finn opened his mouth, but Bria cut him off before he could snap back at me.
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