Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(60) by Jennifer Estep
So I reached for the smallest trickle of my magic, letting it pool in the palm of my hand, until I had a single shard of Ice about as long and thick as a needle. I held my breath, looking and listening, but no one came running into the warehouse, so I felt safe enough to add another layer of Ice to my needle, then another, then another . . . until I had formed my usual Ice pick. I stopped, looking and listening again, but the warehouse was as silent and empty as before, so I reached for another trickle of magic and made a second Ice pick.
Once I had two picks, I released my magic, stuck my arms through the gaps in the bars, and went to work on the padlock. It was an awkward position, and the pounding in my head didn’t make it any easier. Time and time again, my picks slipped out of the lock.
“Come on,” I muttered. “Come on.”
If Finn were here, he would have already opened the lock, stuck his hands into his pockets, and been whistling while he strolled away. The thought made me smile and redouble my efforts.
Finally, the picks hit the necessary sweet spots, and the lock clicked open. I started to pull it off the door so I could open it and get out of the cage, but voices sounded outside the warehouse, along with several beep-beep-beeps, as though someone was punching in a security code.
So I put the lock back together as close as it would go without actually snapping it shut. It wasn’t my most brilliant plan, but as long as I was still in the cage, I could hope no one would do more than glance at the lock. I also reached up and probed my left temple. A goose egg had formed there, and I could feel the slash of a long cut that was still oozing blood. I dipped my fingers in the blood and smeared it down the side of my face. Then I leaned wearily against the cage bars, as if I were more seriously injured than I really was.
A giant guard opened the door, and Deirdre strode into the warehouse. She had changed out of her silver party dress and was now wearing a neon-purple pantsuit and matching stilettos. Her blond hair was sleeked back into a low bun, and her icicle-heart rune glinted under the lights. No doubt, the peacock was here to strut her stuff and crow about capturing me.
Tucker entered the warehouse next, dressed in a navy suit, although it was the two people trailing him who caught my attention: Dimitri Barkov and Rodrigo Santos.
Dimitri stopped in front of the cage and smirked at me. He was still wearing his tuxedo from the museum gala, although he’d ditched his bow tie and jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. Despite the styling grease on his toupee, pieces of his fake black hair had curled up in all directions, as though he’d sprouted a dozen devil horns on his head.
Given his sneers at the museum earlier tonight, it had been obvious that Dimitri was plotting something against me. Of course he would have aligned himself with Deirdre. She wouldn’t have even had to offer him anything other than my death to make it happen. I could have smacked myself for not realizing it sooner.
But Santos was the far bigger surprise. I’d thought that Deirdre might have had a hand in the bank robbery, but her genuine shock when Santos shot her had made me back-burner that theory. Just one of the many things I’d been wrong about lately.
Either way, it seemed as though Santos had been hiding out with Dimitri this whole time, which was why Silvio hadn’t been able to track him down. But Santos and Dimitri weren’t going to be problems for much longer.
And neither was Deirdre.
Santos also smirked at me. Instead of his usual dark, anonymous clothes, he was wearing a long, expensive black overcoat and shiny black boots. The front of his coat was open, giving me a peek at the dark gray clothes he wore underneath, although it seemed more like a uniform than a suit. Weird.
Tucker kept his distance from the cage, texting on his phone. Deirdre eyed me a moment, making sure that I was exactly where she wanted me, then turned to Santos.
“Is everything set?” she asked, her voice clipped and much colder than her usual syrupy-sweet drawl.
Santos nodded. “My crew and I are ready. Everything will go according to plan. Don’t worry.”
She gave him a flat look. “Well, perhaps this time you can manage not to shoot me.”
“I had to make it look good, didn’t I? Shooting Lane and slapping you around wasn’t going to cut it after Blanco started playing hero. Besides, you got the added bonus of saving your dear son. I got him to trust you, just like that.” The giant snapped his fingers.
So the whole point of the bank robbery had been about Deirdre ingratiating herself with Finn. No wonder she’d seemed genuinely upset. Santos shooting her hadn’t been part of the plan, but he’d done it anyway. Too bad he’d only grazed her instead of putting a bullet through her chest.
Deirdre’s red lips puckered, and anger filled her eyes at his mocking tone. It was obvious that there was no love lost between the two of them. Perhaps the giant would double-cross and kill her for me. Yeah, right. No way could I ever be that lucky. Besides, I wanted to end Mama Dee myself.
“Oh, yeah, the bank job went so well that you had to shoot your own men and leave with nothing,” I sniped, slurring my voice to add to my weakened appearance. “What are you going to do for an encore? Swipe some poor kid’s lunch money on the playground? That seems to me like that’s about all you can handle, Rod.”
Anger stained Santos’s cheeks. He opened his mouth to snipe back at me, but Deirdre held up her hand. “Don’t be an idiot. She’s just baiting you.”
I snorted and leaned a little more heavily on the cage bars. “Sugar, from where I’m standing, it looks like you’ve surrounded yourself with idiots.”
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