Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(54) by Jennifer Estep
“I’d almost forgotten what Mom looked like.” Bria’s voice rasped with emotion. “I just wish I had a picture of Annabella too.”
I linked my arm through hers. “You’ll never forget Mom or Annabella, because you see them every time you look in the mirror. You’re the spitting image of both of them.” I winked. “Only prettier.”
A wry smile curved her lips. “Thanks, Gin.” She drew in a breath. “But I need to talk to you about the photos—”
“Bria! Honey! There you are!” Deirdre’s voice boomed through the rotunda, and she sashayed over to us. “I was wondering where you’d run off to.”
“I doubt that,” Bria muttered.
Deirdre turned her dazzling smile to me. “And Gin, so nice to see you tonight. You look lovely. Red really is your color.”
I smiled back, my eyes as cold and hard as hers were warm and soft. “You have no idea.”
Some other people came up to us, insisted that they just had to introduce Deirdre to their friends, and whisked her away. Since Mama Dee was otherwise occupied, Finn finally deigned to wander over and grace Bria and me with his presence. Still, all the while, he looked across the rotunda and beamed at Deirdre, proud of her splashy success.
“She really is something, isn’t she?” he crowed.
“Mmm.” Bria and I made the same noncommittal noise in unison.
Finn crooked his eyebrow at our less-than-enthusiastic response.
“The exhibit is impressive,” Bria admitted. “Especially when it comes to the security.”
She tipped her champagne flute at a giant standing guard at the back of the room. And he wasn’t the only one. More guards were stationed throughout the rotunda, along with an equal number of cops, not to mention the security cameras mounted on the walls that swiveled around and around, recording everyone here tonight.
“Mama Dee didn’t spare any expense,” Finn said, his voice warm with pride. “She knows that the exhibit is a potential target, and after what happened at the bank’s party, she’s determined to make sure nothing jeopardizes it. She’s promised everyone that their jewels will be safe.”
Of course the exhibit would be a target. This much jewelry in one place . . . it was like offering candy to Ashland’s criminals. I thought of Rodrigo Santos and the thief’s expertise in breaking into places like Briartop. But I just didn’t see how he or anyone else could get past all the cops and security guards, much less snatch the jewels and actually make off with them. It would be suicide to even try. Still, something about the whole situation nagged at me, like an itch between my shoulder blades that I couldn’t quite reach.
Finn kept prattling on about Deirdre, all the hard work she’d put into the exhibit, and how much money tonight’s event and subsequent ticket sales would raise for her charity foundation. I tuned him out.
Deirdre was now talking to some society ladies, and she gestured for Finn to come join them. He headed over to her without so much as a backward glance at Bria or me, leaving my sister to glare at his back.
“Have you talked to him?” I asked. “About how much ignoring you like this hurts?”
“I’ve thought about it.”
She sighed. “But then he starts going on and on about what a connection he feels with Deirdre. How he’s so glad that she reached out to him. How he wants to make up for lost time with her. And I just don’t have the heart to burst his bubble. Besides, it’s not all his fault.”
“No,” I replied. “It’s not all his fault. Deirdre came along and offered him something that no one else could. Anyone would be taken in by her. Even I might believe she was legit if not for Fletcher’s letter to me. Even then, all I really have are the old man’s warnings and this vague, uneasy feeling that slithers up my spine every time Deirdre smiles at me—and especially at Finn. But she can’t keep up this act forever. She’s bound to show her true self sooner or later. All we can do is be there for Finn when it happens.”
“Even if we want to murder him ourselves in the meantime?” Bria snarked.
I grinned and threaded my arm through hers. “Even if.”
* * *
Xavier entered the rotunda to take the place of one of the other cops, and Bria headed over to speak to him. Owen was still chatting with his business associate, so I got a fresh gin and tonic and wandered through the room, looking at all the jewels again.
I finally reached the center of the rotunda and the pièce de résistance: a diamond choker that featured dozens of exquisite, sparkling carats. Each diamond was shaped like a heart, with a large heart in the center and subsequent hearts gradually becoming smaller and smaller until two tiny hearts hooked the whole thing together in the back. According to the identification card inside the glass case, this necklace actually had a name—Hearts of Ice—and was from Deirdre’s private collection, with an estimated value of more than ten million dollars. Now, that was some nice ice.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” a voice murmured.
Mallory Parker stepped up beside me. The elderly dwarf wore a long-sleeved blue ballgown and was decked out in almost as many diamonds as were in the entire exhibit. Large solitaire rings flashed on every one of her fingers, diamond studs the size of small pebbles glinted in her ears, and an impressive tiara sparkled on top of her head, nestled in the fluffy mound of her teased white hair.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online