Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(45) by Jennifer Estep
I hoisted my bag back onto my shoulder, stuck my hands into my pockets, and walked away whistling.
* * *
My relief was short-lived. Deirdre maintained all her patterns, including her simpering-sweet behavior. By the time she and Finn finished their lunch at the Pork Pit the next day, I was wound as tightly as ever.
Normally, I was good at reading people, but I just couldn’t get a bead on this woman. She seemed so damn sincere in her desire to get to know Finn and so damn patient and understanding with me, despite all my snotty comments. She didn’t show a hint of annoyance or anger, no matter what I said or did. Instead, she just kept giving me smile after smile, as if my suspicious nature and thinly veiled threats amused her. Maybe they did.
Either way, I was completely stumped about what she might be plotting—if she was plotting anything at all.
I still had no concrete proof that she was up to anything, other than trying to get closer to Finn. All I had was that box of keepsakes and that vague warning letter from Fletcher. Not exactly hard evidence.
I’d thought about giving Finn the casket box of mementos and Fletcher’s letter to him a dozen times, but Finn was so wrapped up in his mother that I doubted he’d take the old man’s words seriously. He’d just dismiss them outright like he had all the other things about Deirdre that didn’t quite add up.
Besides, Fletcher had asked me to wait until after Deirdre was gone, whatever that really meant, before I gave Finn the letter. Maybe Fletcher had hoped that Deirdre’s intentions were genuine and that Finn would never have to read the letter and learn what horrible truths it most likely contained. Either way, I was going to honor the old man’s wishes, even if a big part of me just wanted to rip the letter open and read it for myself.
Still, as much as I loved and trusted Fletcher, Deirdre was starting to wear me down with her bawdy persona and relentless good cheer, and I was beginning to doubt my own instincts about her, along with my general sanity.
Or maybe that was Deirdre’s real plan. Drive me crazy so my friends would ship me off to some funny farm and she could have Finn all to herself. It was an admittedly absurd thought, but I was grasping at straws here. Yeah, my imagination and paranoia were definitely working overtime these days—
“What are you thinking about?” a deep voice rumbled.
I glanced over at Owen, who was snuggled in bed next to me, then focused on my phone again. I was spending the night at his house, and we were in his bedroom, watching a superhero movie on TV. Well, he was watching it. Along with concocting outlandish theories about Deirdre, I was reading an email from Silvio that told me all about Santos, the bank robber.
Rodrigo Santos was his real name, and the giant had a rap sheet a mile long for burglary, armed robbery, and assault that dated back to his teens. But there were no recent arrests, which meant that he had kept his nose clean—or had gotten better at not getting caught—now that he was in his mid-thirties. Rumor had it that the giant had worked his way up from a run-of-the-mill robber who knocked over convenience stores and gas stations to a highly regarded thief who specialized in getting into places that were supposed to be impenetrable. Museums, jewelry stores, bank vaults, Fletcher’s house.
The more I read about Santos, the more worry ate away at my stomach. Because the bank robbery had been a simple stickup job, not something that would require Santos’s special brand of expertise. But he’d been there all the same, shooting up the cocktail party. Why? What was the point? Did he have some grudge against Stuart Mosley or someone else at the bank? Had he just wanted to ruin the party? Or had he been in need of a potential payday? I had no way of knowing, and it bothered me.
Despite all of Silvio’s intel, nobody in Ashland had seen hide or hair of Santos since the bank robbery. Either he had skipped town or he was holed up somewhere, plotting some other job or his revenge against me. Or both. I was betting on both.
“Gin?” Owen asked again, nudging me with his shoulder. “I know you aren’t watching the movie, but are you even listening to me?”
I sighed and put my phone on the nightstand. “Sorry. I was reading through some info about Rodrigo Santos.”
“And it’s all good, solid intel, except for the fact that no one knows where he is. I can’t question the guy if I can’t find him.”
“You’ll find him. It’ll just take a little time.”
I sighed again. “I know, and I’m sorry that I’m such lousy company. I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Deirdre. It’s been more than a week now since she told Finn who she really is, and nothing’s happened yet.”
Owen turned on his side to face me and propped his elbow up on a pillow. “Well, maybe that’s because there is a possibility you haven’t considered.”
“And what would that be?”
He shrugged. “Maybe Deirdre is actually telling the truth about wanting to be back in Finn’s life. The two of them have certainly spent enough time together these last several days. She seems like she’s making a genuine effort to get to know him.” His face was blank, and his voice was carefully neutral, but his hand clenched into a fist.
I grinned. “You still want to punch Finn in the face for calling you a hypocrite, don’t you?”
A guilty flush crept up the side of his neck. “Yeah. A little.”
I arched my eyebrows at him.
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