Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(56) by Jennifer Estep
“Oh, Gin, honey!” she squealed. “I’m so glad to finally hear you say that!”
Before I could stop her, Deirdre swooped me up into a tight hug, her hands pressing into my back, her body plastered against mine, her peony perfume snaking down my throat, making me want to vomit. Even through the thick velvet of my gown, I could feel how cold her hands were and the elemental Ice magic pulsing through her entire body. My chest and back went numb in an instant, the cold so swift, sudden, and intense that it brought tears to my eyes.
At least, that’s what I told myself was causing the waterworks. Not Deirdre’s words and especially not the ugly, ugly truth in them. That I was jealous of her and threatened by her. That I was the reason Finn didn’t have any family left.
That I was the reason Fletcher was dead.
“And what are two of my favorite ladies up to?” Finn called out, striding over to us.
Deirdre dropped her arms, stepped back, and gave me a conspiratorial wink. “Oh, nothing special. Just some long-awaited girl talk. What about you, handsome?”
The two of them started chatting, but I just stood there, my face frozen in a hollow smile, tears trapped in my eyes, and my gaze locked on Deirdre’s icicle-heart rune.
Cold, broken, and jagged—just like my own heart right now.
It took the better part of two minutes for the chill of Deirdre’s Ice magic to leave my body, but her words continued to sting my heart. I mumbled an excuse to her and Finn, but they’d already turned away to talk to some other folks, and neither one of them heard me.
Owen had finally extricated himself from his business associate, and he met me in the middle of the rotunda. He took one look at my face and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Do you care if we leave now?”
“Are you sure? I thought you wanted to keep an eye on Finn.”
I looked over at Finn, who was still standing by Deirdre’s side, chatting with her latest round of admirers. “Don’t worry,” I said in a sad voice. “He won’t even realize that I’m gone.”
And he didn’t.
Owen and I stopped long enough to say good-bye to Bria and Xavier and wave to Mallory and Lorelei as we made our way toward the exit. Finn never once looked in our direction.
On the ride back to Fletcher’s, Owen tried to get me to tell him what was bothering me, but I just didn’t have the energy to recount how Deirdre had rubbed my face in all my past mistakes and failures—and that she’d been right about every single one, especially Fletcher being dead because I hadn’t been good enough, strong enough, fast enough to save him.
Owen offered to stay the night, but I told him I was tired and was going to bed. He kissed me, told me to call him if I wanted to talk, and left.
I stripped off my spider gown and took a long, hot shower. We’d left the exhibit early, and it was just after nine, but I was exhausted, so I crawled into bed. I drifted to sleep almost immediately.
The three vampires who’d been robbing Fletcher’s house crept closer and closer to me.
The smart thing would have been to sprint back around the porch, throw open the front door, and run inside. But it wasn’t like I would have gotten all that far. Not given the logjam of kids still partying in the house. Besides, I was too angry to think straight, so I stood my ground.
The three vamps spread out in a line across the porch in front of me.
“Lookie here, boys,” the guy in the middle crooned. “A little girl’s come out to play with us.”
My hands clenched into tight fists. If there was one thing I wasn’t, it was a little girl. Not anymore. Not for a long time now.
Another vamp laughed. “Well, I say we play with her. Right, Paul?”
Paul, the vamp in the middle, nodded. “Yep.”
But I was still too angry—at them, at Finn, at everything—to back down. Besides, they’d be on me like a pack of hyenas the second I turned my back.
“Leave now, and we can pretend like this never happened,” I said. “Like you weren’t trying to rob this place.”
Paul laughed and looked at his friends, who joined in with his chuckles.
“What’s so funny?” I muttered.
Paul stared at me. “You know why we like parties? Because the kids are too busy drinking, smoking, and screwing to notice who comes in the front door, much less what they take out the back with them. You’re not ruining that for us.”
So they’d done this before. Slipped into a house during a party and walked out with whatever they could stuff into their pockets and carry away. And if the homeowners noticed that their valuables were missing, then it was just too bad, and they’d most likely chalk it up to their kids’ friends having swiped it and ground their own kids as a result.
It was a sweet little scam. I wondered who had told them about Finn’s party. Someone had to have clued them in, especially since Fletcher’s house was out in the boonies. It wasn’t like they’d seen or heard the noise from down the street and had come to investigate. No, someone had to have tipped them off. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here.
But my main problem was that there were three of them and only one of me. I glanced at the windows. The other kids were still inside, just a few feet away, but the music was so loud that I doubted anyone would hear me if I screamed. Even if they did, they’d probably think somebody was just messing around and not in any real danger. Either way, none of them would come and help me.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online