Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(62) by Jennifer Estep
She ran her nails along the bars a final time, then stepped away from the cage and faced me again. “After I had the baby, I told Fletcher that I wanted to reconcile with my parents. So I said that I was taking Finnegan to see them.”
“What did you do?”
“I took the money I got from the diamond in that pathetic ring and paid a homeless bum to slap me around. I also ripped up Finnegan’s clothes, as if he’d been attacked right along with me. Then I rushed over to the Pork Pit, crying my eyes out, and told Fletcher that my father had hit me and that my mother had tried to take the baby away from me. He never even questioned me.” She let out a dark, satisfied chuckle. “As for what happened next, well, you knew Fletcher. You knew all about his savior complex and exactly how far he would go to protect his family.”
My heart plummeted into my stomach. “Fletcher killed your parents.”
“Just like that.” Deirdre snapped her fingers, the sound as loud as a gunshot. “With my parents dead, I got my trust fund and what was left of the Shaw fortune. I wanted to leave right away, but of course, I had to wait for the estate to be settled. Three months was better than a lifetime of waiting, though, so I stuck around and pretended to be the grieving daughter and doting new mother. I’ll admit that the thought of all that money made me a wee bit impatient and that I didn’t play the parts as well as I should have. I think that’s when Fletcher first suspected that I had set him up. But I didn’t care. He was nothing but a tool, and I was done with him.”
“What happened?” I asked, wanting to hear the rest of it, even though I could guess how bad it was going to be.
“As soon as the estate was settled and all the money was mine, I went to that monstrosity that Fletcher called a house and packed up my things. I’d been planning to disappear without a trace, but he came home and caught me right before I left. He was devastated at the idea of my leaving him. He begged me to stay, if you can imagine that.” She laughed again. “Told me that he knew how much I was hurting over my parents’ deaths but that Finnegan needed me, that he needed me, and we could work things out. What a blind fool he was.”
“What did you do?” I whispered.
She looked at me, her blue eyes colder than I had ever seen them. “I told him the truth. About how I’d used him to get my money. You should have seen the look on his face. It truly was priceless. One of my fondest memories.”
My heart dropped again, like an elevator that just kept plummeting down, down, down. I’d once killed an innocent man, been tricked and manipulated into it much the same way Fletcher had been, so I could imagine how he’d felt. The anger, the guilt, the shame at how completely Deirdre had fooled him. The icy sting of her betrayal would have eaten away at him the rest of his life.
“Once he’d realized what I’d done, Fletcher actually tried to stop me. Pulled one of his little knives and came at me as if he thought he had a chance against my Ice magic.” Deirdre shook her head. “He put up more of a fight than I expected, and we beat each other up pretty good. Fletcher even had a chance to kill me.”
“So why didn’t he?” I muttered.
She shrugged. “Because I grabbed hold of Finnegan’s cradle. I threatened to freeze him to death if Fletcher didn’t let me go.”
Despite all the bad things I’d done, all the people I’d killed, all the gruesome torture I’d endured and dished out in return, even I sucked in a ragged breath at that. Dimitri and Santos both winced and shifted on their feet. Tucker kept messing with his phone, as bored as ever. Fletcher had warned me that Deirdre didn’t care about anyone other than herself, but the casual, matter-of-fact way she talked about killing her own son . . .
She wasn’t coldhearted—she didn’t have any heart at all.
“Of course, Fletcher let me go. I told him that if he ever threatened me in any way, I would kill Finnegan, along with those two Deveraux busybodies. Then I walked out the door and never looked back.” She shook her head again. “Although the same can’t be said for Fletcher. I knew that he kept track of me, crept around in the bushes and took pictures from time to time. As if there were ever any reason for me to come back to Ashland.”
“Not even for your son?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Finnegan?” She shrugged again. “He’s just another tool that I happen to need.”
“And once you’re done with him?”
“Then I’ll dispose of him, just the way I did Fletcher all those years ago.”
Her words chilled me to the bone, because I knew she meant every single one of them.
But she still hadn’t told me the most important thing: exactly what she needed Finn for. I opened my mouth to ask, but Tucker cleared his throat, cutting me off. Deirdre looked over at him, and he waggled his phone at her, reminding her that it was time to wrap up our little tête-à-tête. Whatever was going on, whatever their plan was, it was starting now.
“Santos,” she called out. “I believe you have an appointment to keep.”
The giant nodded and pivoted on his heel. The sudden motion caused his coat to fly out from his body, revealing his dark gray clothes again. I frowned. I’d been right about him wearing some sort of uniform, complete with a company name stitched on the breast pocket, but the coat dropped back into place, and he walked away before I could make out what it was.
“And I also have my part to play.” Deirdre fixed her icy blue gaze on me again. “Good-bye, Gin. Say hello to Fletcher for me when you see him. And do tell him that I’ll be sending Finnegan along shortly to join the two of you.”
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