Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(57) by Jennifer Estep
I’d have to take care of myself, just like always.
So I studied the vampires. Paul, the guy in the middle, was obviously the leader, with a tall, strong body that made him the most dangerous. The other two guys were short and lean, closer to my size than his, but they were still vamps, and the blood they drank would make them stronger and quicker than me. I couldn’t let any of them get close enough to put their hands on me, much less sink their fangs into my neck. Too bad I didn’t have any of the knives Fletcher had been training me to use. In fact, there were no weapons on the porch at all, just a few small gardening tools that Fletcher had been using to clean up the yard for the coming winter.
“You need to leave,” I repeated. “I called the cops. They’ll be here any minute.”
For a second, worry flashed in Paul’s dark eyes, but he must have realized that I was bluffing because he grinned again. “Cops, huh? Well, then, I guess we’ll just have to be quick about our fun.” His gaze flicked up and down my body. “Or maybe we’ll just take you with us. You’re a little skinny for my tastes, but some guys like ’em just like you.”
My anger vanished in an instant, and bile bubbled up in the back of my throat. Not only did they want to steal from Fletcher, but now they wanted to steal me too.
I turned to run, but Paul was quicker. He grabbed my ponytail and jerked me back. I used the change in momentum to ram my elbow into his stomach. He gasped and doubled over, losing his grip on me. I opened my mouth to scream, even as I surged forward again.
But I’d forgotten about the other two guys.
One of them caught my left arm from behind, and I smashed my foot down onto his instep. He hissed, but he didn’t let go of me. The other guy stepped up and clamped his hand on my other arm. No matter how hard I struggled, I couldn’t break free of their tight, bruising grips, so I screamed and screamed, but the blaring music swallowed up my terrified cries. No one so much as looked out a window to see what might be happening outside.
Paul straightened up and marched over to me. He stared at me for a second, then slapped me across the face. “Bitch.”
Pain exploded in my face, and I would have fallen back against the porch railing if not for the two vamps holding me upright.
Paul hit me again and again, making my head snap back and forth. My lips split open, and blood filled my mouth. When he had finished with my face, he rammed his fist into my stomach, almost making me vomit on the spot. I groaned, but the thumping music once again swallowed up the sounds of my misery.
“Get her down on the ground,” he growled. “I want to sample the goods first to see if this bitch is worth hauling back to town.”
“And if she’s not?” one of the other vamps asked.
Paul shrugged. “Then we’ll have our fun, take her blood, snap her neck, and throw her body into the woods. Now, hurry up, in case she really did call the cops.”
Even though my head was spinning, I fought harder than ever before, biting, clawing, kicking, scratching. But it was no use, and the two vamps threw me down onto the porch. One of them pinned my arms down, while the other gripped my legs.
Paul loomed over me, a smile splitting his face as he reached for his belt buckle . . .
I woke up screaming and pounding my fists into my pillows, just as I’d tried to hit the three vamps so long ago. It took me a minute to remember that I was safe in Fletcher’s house, longer still to calm my ragged breathing and racing heart.
But the feeling remained—that awful, awful feeling that I was all alone. That danger was closing in fast all around me.
That no one was coming to help me.
It was the same feeling I got whenever I looked at Deirdre. That Fletcher was gone. That she’d taken Finn away from me, and that there was nothing I could do to get him back.
That I was all alone again.
I knew that it wasn’t true, that it wasn’t rational, that Finn, Bria, Owen, and the rest of my friends loved me. But my worried, traitorous heart still made me feel alone and small and empty.
And scared—so very scared.
I lay in bed for several minutes, catching my breath and trying to get my emotions under control. But the truth was that I had been decidedly out of control ever since Deirdre waltzed into Finn’s life. I could be hard when I needed to, as cold as ice even, but Deirdre . . . she was in a league by herself. With just a few soft sentences, she’d brought all my guilt, grief, and heartache about Fletcher’s death roaring back to the surface.
I kept waiting for her to slip up, to crack, to finally reveal her true nature to Finn and everyone else. I was the Spider, I was patience itself, but nothing I said or did so much as rattled Mama Dee. She was much better at this game we were playing. She was winning, and Finn was going to be her prize.
And I’d be damned if I could see a way to stop her.
* * *
Even though it was just after eleven, I didn’t even try to go back to sleep. Not when there were more nightmares swimming around in my subconscious like sharks waiting to take another bite out of my heart. Instead of tossing and turning, I decided to get up and do something useful.
Spy on Deirdre.
I put on my usual black clothes, topped off with a black silverstone vest, and made sure that I had all five of my knives. Then I grabbed a duffel bag full of extra knives and other gear, threw it into my car, and drove over to the Peach Blossom. It was just after midnight when I parked my car in a lot close to Deirdre’s building. I looked up and down the street, but it was deserted at this late hour, so I got out of my car, grabbed my gear, and hurried over to the building across the street.
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