Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(43) by Jennifer Estep
“I do understand that, probably better than anyone else.” I sighed. “There’s no denying that Deirdre is your mother. She says she wants to be a part of your life. Okay. But where has she been for the last thirty-some years? What’s she been doing? Why didn’t she find some way to contact you sooner, Fletcher and threats be damned? Don’t you find all that suspicious? I certainly do.”
This time, Finn sighed. “Of course I find it all suspicious. Dad raised me too, remember? I might not have your insane level of paranoia, but I’ve got plenty of my own to go around. I want to know what Deirdre is doing back in Ashland just as badly as you do.”
“Then what’s the problem with my approach?”
Finn stuck his hands into his pants pockets and drew the toe of his wing tip back and forth, as though he were drawing a line on the dirty asphalt. It was several seconds before he spoke again. “Because I’m hoping she’s telling the truth. That she actually came back for me—just me, nothing else. Is that so wrong?”
And just like that, I realized how much this had already affected Finn and what an intense longing Deirdre had woken in him, one that I’d never even suspected he had. I’d never thought much about Finn’s mom, and I’d thought even less about the fact that he’d never had a mother to call his own. Even I’d had a mother at one point, before Mab Monroe murdered her.
I remembered Eira Snow, my own mother, fondly enough, although I’d often tended to get lost in the pack as the middle child. When she died, I wasn’t old enough to start becoming more of a friend to my mother, like my older sister, Annabella, but I also wasn’t young enough to still need her constant attention, like Bria had back then. So I could understand Finn’s longing, even if it was different from my own longing to have had a little more time and attention from my mother.
But that didn’t mean I was going to let him get hurt by it. Not when Fletcher had asked me to look out for him.
“All right,” I said. “All right. You win. I will give Deirdre a chance. Anything to make you quit giving me those sad puppy-dog eyes.”
Finn immediately brightened. “You will? You’ll really give her a chance?”
“Yes, yes, I really will.”
His eyes narrowed. “No more talk of conspiracies and knives and killing her, then?”
“No more talk of killing her.” I paused. “At least, not to her face.”
Finn glowered at me, but I shrugged back. That was the only concession I was willing to make.
“You’ll really give her a chance?” he repeated. “Cross your heart and hope to die?”
“What are you, twelve?”
He stared me down. “Cross your heart and hope to die, Gin?”
I rolled my eyes, but I drew a giant X over my heart. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Finn whooped with glee, threw his arms around me, and lifted me off the ground. He spun me around in a dizzying circle, making me laugh, before setting me back down. Then he hugged me. “Thank you, Gin,” he whispered in my ear. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
I grimaced. “Oh, I think I know exactly how much it means from my bruised ribs.”
“Oops. Sorry about that.” He dropped his arms, drew back, and grinned at me again. “So does this mean that I have your permission to bring Deirdre back here for lunch tomorrow? I’d really like the two of you to start over.”
I grinned back at him, although I had to clench my jaw to hold the fake expression in place. “Sure. Deirdre is welcome here anytime.”
“Terrific! I’ll text you the details later. This is all going to work out, Gin. You’ll see.”
He hugged me even tighter, driving the air out of my lungs and cracking my back at the same time. He beamed at me again, then opened the door and hurried into the restaurant, probably to whip out his phone so he could call Deirdre and tell her the good news.
I stayed behind in the alley, having zero desire to hear Finn chatter on with his mama. I hadn’t been lying to him, though. I was going to give Deirdre a chance. In fact, I was going to give her every single chance she wanted and then some.
Because the longer the rope I gave her, the sooner she would hang herself with it.
And when she did, the Spider would be waiting to cut down that rope—and put Deirdre Shaw in the ground for good this time.
Sometimes keeping your word really sucked.
But I kept my promise to Finn. Much as it pained me to do so, I held my tongue about Deirdre, and I even made nice with the woman whenever I saw her.
Which was every single day.
Over the next week, Finn spent almost all his free time with Mama Dearest. Sure, I wanted to keep an eye on them, but I was witness to far more of their bonding time than I would have liked. They strolled into the Pork Pit every day, sometimes lingering two hours or longer over lunch or an early dinner. And every time—every single time—Finn would wave me over and excitedly recount some silly story that Deirdre had told him about when he was a baby. How he had laughed at this or cried at that or always sneezed at her peony perfume.
Deirdre seemed to have an awful lot of those cutesy-wootsy anecdotes for someone who’d only been around for the first few months of her baby’s life. Not that I mentioned it to Finn. Or that he would have listened anyway, given how wrapped up he was in her. So I nodded and smiled and made the appropriate noises when necessary, thinking that if this kept up much longer, I was going to grind my molars into dust. As it was, I had an almost perpetual ache in my face and squint to my eyes from holding on to all my fake smiles.
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