Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(41) by Jennifer Estep
But she was right, and I had to try. So I stepped behind the counter, yanked off my apron, and hung it on a rack on the wall, just to give myself a few more seconds to cool off. When I felt calmer, I headed toward the double doors, where Jo-Jo and Sophia were now standing, both with worried looks on their faces.
I stopped in front of them. “What did you think about what Deirdre said?”
“Bullshit,” Sophia growled, her nostrils flaring in anger. “Every single word.”
Well, at least I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Then again, Sophia had loved Fletcher too, especially since he’d saved her from a horrible situation, and she was just as biased about him as I was.
“Forget about what she said for now. Go make things right with Finn,” Jo-Jo said. “He’ll come to his senses, sooner or later.”
I nodded and flashed her a smile, but my heart remained heavy as I pushed through the double doors. Because part of me couldn’t help but wonder if it was already too late for Finn.
* * *
The waitstaff must have been as transfixed by the ugly scene with Deirdre as the customers were, because the back of the restaurant was empty. Good. I didn’t need to have anyone else see me lose my shit today.
I moved past the metal shelves full of sugar, cornmeal, and ketchup and headed for the back door. I reached for the knob, but the door had already been left open a couple of inches.
I should have opened the door and gone outside to talk to Finn, but instead, I peered through the gap, wondering what he and Owen were saying—and how much Finn was probably cursing my existence right now.
My foster brother was pacing back and forth in the alley behind the restaurant, his shiny black wing tips snap-snap-snapping like rubber bands against the dirty, cracked asphalt. Owen was on the opposite side of the alley, leaning one shoulder against the brick wall, his arms crossed over his chest as he watched Finn pace.
Owen shook his head. “Do yourself a favor, Finn. Don’t be that guy.”
“What guy?” he growled, and kept right on pacing.
“The guy I was when Salina came back to town. The guy who doubted Gin. The guy who hurt Gin with those doubts. She’s just looking out for you, man. Nothing else.”
Salina Dubois had been Owen’s ex-fiancée before I killed her. At the time, she’d been trying to murder me and all the people she blamed for her father’s death, but her appearance in Ashland and subsequent death at my hands had driven a rift between Owen and me, one that had almost been the end of us.
But here was Owen, sticking up for me and trying to keep Finn from making the same mistake. Owen knew how much I valued my relationship with Finn, and he was doing everything he could to keep the situation from getting any worse. My throat closed up with emotion, and my heart swelled with love for him. He always did the thoughtful things that meant so much to me.
Finn snorted. “Well, she has a funny way of showing it, threatening to kill my mother.”
Owen shook his head. “You really don’t see it, do you? How suspicious this all is? Your mom suddenly coming back to town? Surely you can understand why Gin is worried.”
“Of course I know it’s suspicious. I’m not a complete idiot. But apparently, Gin thinks that I am. I can take care of myself, you know. I did it for years before she came along.”
“And you know Gin,” Owen replied. “She always looks out for the people she cares about. That’s one of the things I admire most about her.”
Finn snorted again. “You are such a fucking hypocrite sometimes.”
He stopped pacing and pointed his finger at Owen in accusation. “You—you’re a hypocrite, Grayson. You’re absolutely right. You were that guy. You were the guy who doubted Gin, who pushed her away, when all she was trying to do was help you. You were an idiot for believing Salina’s lies. We all knew it, but Gin stuck by you anyway. She put her life on the line for you time and time again, and when the truth about Salina came out, what did you do? You walked away from Gin. Just like that.”
He slapped his hands together for emphasis. Owen winced at the sharp sound.
“And now here you are, lecturing me about doing the same thing? Like I said, fucking hypocrite.” Finn started pacing again.
Owen’s hands clenched into fists, and he pushed away from the wall, like he was thinking about pounding Finn into a bloody smear on the pavement.
That was my cue. I opened the door and stepped out into the alley before things got any worse between them. They both turned at the faint creak of the door swinging open.
“Hey, Gin, you’re just in time to bail out your boy toy.” Finn sneered. “He’s about to fall off that high horse of his.”
“Shut it, Lane,” Owen snapped back. “Or I will mess up that pretty-boy face of yours so badly even Jo-Jo won’t be able to put it back together again.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
By this point, the two of them were nose-to-nose, jaws and fists clenched tight, eyes narrowed and glinting with anger. I put my hands on their shoulders and pushed them apart. The last thing any of us needed right now was a brawl.
“That’s enough,” I said. “Separate corners, boys. Now. Owen, I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
Owen glowered at Finn another second, then leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Anything you need, Gin. You know that.”
“I do know that. Now, go. Please.”
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