Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(42) by Jennifer Estep
He turned around and stormed back inside the restaurant, slamming the door shut behind him.
For several seconds, Finn and I were still and quiet, and the only sound was the rumble of traffic on the surrounding side streets, punctuated by the occasional honking of a car horn. Finally, Finn lifted his chin, his mouth a stubborn slash.
“Going to tear into me for daring to question your boy toy’s loyalty?” he growled.
Finn had been ready to argue the point, and my simple answer took some of the wind out of his sails. He settled for glaring at me instead. “Good. Because in case you’re forgetting, I’m the one who’s always been here for you, Gin.” He stabbed his finger into his chest, right where his heart was. “Not Owen, not Bria, nobody else. Just me.”
“You and Fletcher,” I said in a soft voice.
Finn’s mouth twisted, and pain flashed in his eyes, mixing with his anger. “Well, Dad’s not here anymore, but I still am. And for the past year, I’ve always had your back, no matter what happened and how bad things got. That hot mess with you and Donovan Caine? I was here. You taking on Mab? I was here. You battling Madeline and the underworld bosses and anyone else who came at you? I was always right fucking here.”
“I never said you weren’t.”
But Finn was on a self-righteous roll now, and he threw his hands up into the air and went on as though I hadn’t even spoken. “And now, when the tables are turned and I need something, when I need a little support and understanding after getting the shock of my life, what do you do? Threaten to kill my mother right out of the starting gate.”
I shrugged. “I was just making the consequences of being in your life crystal-clear to her.”
“Oh, you made them clear, all right. As clear as the point of your favorite knife. It’s a wonder she didn’t run away screaming.”
“Oh, I don’t think Deirdre is quite the delicate flower she appears to be.”
Finn crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me again.
I sighed. “Okay, okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have whipped out the I’ll-kill-you card right off the bat.”
“But she didn’t run away, did she? And now she knows exactly what will happen if she screws you over. C’mon, Finn. Don’t tell me you’re actually buying into her act.”
His chin jutted out. “And what if I am?”
“Then you’re a fool.” I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth, but it was too late to take them back.
Finn stared at me, but instead of the anger I expected, a mixture of hurt and weary resignation flashed in his eyes. That made me feel worse than if he’d started shouting. “You really believe that, don’t you?” he said, a sad note creeping into his voice. “That you’re the invincible superhero who always knows what’s best for everyone, and I’m just your cheerful, carefree, idiot sidekick who shoots people for you on occasion.”
“I don’t think that—not at all.”
“Of course you do.” Finn shook his head, his voice even sadder than before. “Because that’s exactly what Dad trained you to believe.”
I didn’t know what to think about his accusations, much less how to respond to them. Of course I didn’t think I was a superhero, and I definitely didn’t view Finn as a sidekick. He was my brother, and I loved him, simple as that.
But the way he was looking at me right now, with such . . . disappointment, wounded me more than all his harsh, angry words had. Even worse, it was like every single thing I said only pushed him farther away. I had to fix this—now.
“C’mon,” I repeated. “Do you really believe what Deirdre said about Fletcher? That he threatened to kill her if she ever came back to Ashland? If she ever tried to contact you?”
“You know Dad,” Finn said in a gruff tone. “He was capable of it.”
“Certainly,” I agreed. “And I also know that the only reason—the only reason—he would have made a threat like that was to protect you. Deirdre might be your mother, but she’s been playing you like a fiddle. She’s dangerous, Finn. Surely you can see that.”
“Of course I can see it,” he snapped, a stubborn note creeping into his voice. “But maybe I want to give her a chance anyway.”
I frowned. “Why would you want to do that?”
“Because I never had a mother,” he said in a soft voice.
Finn stared at me, the same raw, naked longing on his face that I’d seen last night at the party and again here at the restaurant. A bone-deep yearning for something that he’d never had, that he’d never experienced, that he’d been missing out on his whole life.
“I never had a mother,” he repeated in a louder voice. “I never had anyone to kiss my scraped knees or bake me cookies or sing me to sleep. Yeah, Dad did his best, but he wasn’t exactly the most open and forthcoming person, especially when it came to his emotions. And we weren’t exactly alike, especially as I got older. Not like you and he were. Jo-Jo did her best. So did Sophia, for that matter, and I’m grateful to both of them that they cared enough to even try.”
He blew out a breath. “But it wasn’t the same. It was never the same. And now my mother—my real mother—is here, and I can see so much of myself in her. It’s like I’ve suddenly found a part of me that I didn’t even realize was missing. Surely you can understand that, given how long it took you and Bria to really reconnect after she came back to Ashland.”
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