Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(55) by Jennifer Estep
I looked around and spotted Lorelei Parker talking with Bria and Xavier. I waved at Lorelei, who returned the gesture and then went back to her conversation with my friends.
I turned back to Mallory. “I didn’t think you’d be here tonight, especially since you didn’t donate anything to the exhibit.”
The elderly dwarf grinned. “I might not have donated anything, but I’m always happy to lust after someone else’s stones.” She nodded her head at the display case. “That necklace has been in the Shaw family for generations. Deirdre’s mama wore it to plenty of parties. I even tried to buy it from her when I heard that she was looking to unload some of her jewelry, but she was too snooty to sell it to me.”
I had started to respond when the scent of peonies filled the air. I bit back a groan.
“Gin! Honey! There you are!” Deirdre said, walking up to us. “I see that you’re admiring the heart of the exhibit. Hee-hee-hee. Isn’t it lovely?”
“Lovely,” I said in a wry voice.
Deirdre favored Mallory with a dazzling smile. “And Mallory Parker, how wonderful to see you again.”
“I wish I could say the same,” the dwarf replied in a tart voice. “But we both know that ain’t the case.”
Deirdre let out a trilling laugh and waggled her finger at the other woman. “I see that the years haven’t dulled that sharp tongue of yours. Why, you’re just as charming as ever, honey.”
Mallory slapped her hands on her hips and glared up at her. “You can spout your pretty words all you want, but I know it was you who sicced Raymond Pike on my Lorelei. I will get you for that, honey. You have my word. And unlike you, Deirdre, I always keep my word.”
The dwarf nodded at me again, then picked up her skirt and moved over to where Lorelei was standing with Bria and Xavier. Lorelei looked at me and raised her eyebrows. I shook my head, telling her that now was not the time to talk.
“She never did like me,” Deirdre murmured, still staring at Mallory. “Not even when Lily Rose and I were young. I have no idea why.”
“You know exactly why,” I snapped. “She just told you. Or did you forget about that letter you wrote Raymond Pike? The one wishing him happy hunting when he came to Ashland to murder Lorelei? The one with your icicle-heart rune stamped on it?”
She shook her head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I see that Mallory has been bad-mouthing me. Not that you need any added incentive to dislike me. Do you, Gin?”
“None at all, sugar.”
Deirdre’s scarlet lips turned down, and frown lines wrinkled her forehead, as though my obvious distrust greatly pained her. Even now, when it was just the two of us, she wasn’t breaking character, not even for a second. “I wish that you would give me a chance, a real chance. For Finnegan’s sake.”
I sneered at her. “Finn’s sake is the only reason—the only reason—you’re not dead yet. You should remember that and stop whatever scheme you’ve hatched against him. Before it’s too late—for you.”
Deirdre was completely unruffled by my threat, although her gaze slid past me for just a moment. I turned my head and saw Hugh Tucker, who was standing off by himself and checking his phone. He didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to her, though. If Deirdre was expecting her assistant to come over and save her from me, she was going to be sorely disappointed.
She turned her full attention back to me. “I see that Fletcher made you as paranoid as he was.” She shook her head. “For that, I am truly sorry, Gin. I didn’t come back to Ashland to hurt you. I just want to get to know my son. That’s all. But I suppose that it’s only natural for you to feel jealous and threatened by little ole me. After all, you were supposedly the only family Finnegan had left, after you got his daddy killed.”
I gasped, more surprised than if she’d slapped me across the face. Shock, grief, and guilt surged through my body like electricity, burning every single part of me before charring my heart.
“Finnegan told me all about it,” Deirdre continued in an innocent voice, as if she were just making conversation and not talking about one of the worst moments of my life. “How some assassin job of yours went wrong and how Fletcher ended up tortured to death inside the Pork Pit because of it. That must be a heavy, heavy burden for you to bear. No wonder you’re so protective of Finnegan. You don’t want history to repeat itself, now, do you?”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. All I could think of, all I could feel, was my own failure coursing through my veins like venom, reducing everything inside me to brittle ash. Just as it had the night I’d found Fletcher’s broken body in his own restaurant.
“But you don’t have to worry about me, Gin,” Deirdre went on, as if she couldn’t see the soul-crushing despair in my eyes. “Despite what you think, my intentions are good. All I want is to have a real relationship with Finnegan. I hope that you’ll finally give me that chance. Just think about it. Okay, honey?”
Despite all her hurtful words, I forced myself to nod at her and not let her realize how deeply she’d wounded me. “You’re right,” I said, my voice as empty and hollow as my heart was right now. “I haven’t treated you well. I apologize. I won’t stand in the way of you and Finn. Not anymore.”
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