Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(76) by Jennifer Estep
I didn’t see Deirdre or Santos, but they had to be here somewhere, perhaps farther down from the vault in the hallway that branched off to the right and led to the lobby stairs. But I didn’t care about them right now, just the chair off to the left side of this hallway. The chair had been partially turned toward the front of the vault, but I could still clearly see the person sitting in it.
My brother looked like he had been wearing his usual suit before his jacket and tie had been taken from him and his white shirt had been ripped open and torn apart.
All the better to torture him.
Thick ropes bound Finn’s wrists and ankles to the chair, immobilizing him. Pale blue-white splotches dotted his skin from his forearms all the way up to his shoulders before spreading across his muscled chest, as though he had a terrible rash. But the marks were far more painful than any rash could be.
They were Ice burns.
Deirdre had used her Ice magic to torture her own son, horribly, given the number of wounds on Finn’s skin. Some of the burns were small, no bigger than a dime, as though she’d pressed the tip of her index finger against his body and let loose with her magic. Some of the wounds were much larger, like careless blasts of power. One mark right over his heart was particularly gruesome, as though she’d balled up her fist, pressed it up against his skin, and frozen that one spot over and over again.
Finn had been tortured by elemental magic much the same way Fletcher had been. Despite my best efforts, I’d failed to save the son from the fate of the father. My heart shattered, my throat closed up, and my stomach roiled. At that moment, all I wanted was to look away from his broken body, from the horrible reminder that I’d once again been too late to save someone I loved from being brutalized.
Beside me, Owen let out a whispered curse, while Bria’s fingers dug into my shoulder. But I tuned them out and forced myself to focus on my brother.
Finn’s head was hanging down, so I couldn’t see how bad the damage was to his face. But what made my heart shatter all over again was how utterly still he was. Too still. As if he were a statue sitting in that chair. As if Deirdre had frozen him in place with her Ice magic.
As if he were dead.
My gaze locked onto that blue-white, fist-shaped burn right over his heart, willing his chest to rise and fall—for him to still be alive. A second passed, then another, then another . . .
Breathe, Finn. Just breathe. Breathe, already!
And finally—finally—Finn’s chest moved up, then down, and he let out a weak, racking cough.
“Is that all you’ve got?” he snarked in a low, raspy voice. “I’ve had razor burn that hurt worse than that.”
Footsteps scuffed on the floor, and Finn slowly raised his head and glared at the person who stepped in front of him.
Deirdre fucking Shaw.
She’d put on a pair of gray coveralls over her purple pantsuit and had replaced her stilettos with heavy black boots. Despite the work clothes, she still managed to look cool and elegant, her icicle-heart rune glittering in the hollow of her throat just like always.
Deirdre moved so that she was standing between Finn and the silverstone vault door. More footsteps scuffed, and Santos appeared, still wearing his bank guard’s uniform, although he’d ditched the long black coat and gray jacket and had rolled up his shirt sleeves, revealing his snake tattoo. The giant leaned back against the wall across from Finn and crossed his arms over his chest.
Deirdre stared at Finn, her pale blue eyes chillingly empty, then shook her head. “You’re a stubborn, stupid fool, just like Fletcher was. All you had to do was give me the codes to the vault doors, and we could have avoided all this unpleasantness. But now you’re going to die just like your father did. Tortured to death in your beloved place of business.”
She circled around him. Finn turned his head, following her movements, and I finally got a good look at his face.
Deirdre hadn’t burned him there, but someone—Santos, most likely—had laid a good, old-fashioned beatdown on Finn. One of his eyes was black, blood dribbled out of his broken nose, and a deep cut slashed across his left cheekbone where someone had backhanded him. Deirdre had probably delivered that last blow, given the blood marring the heart-shaped diamond solitaire on her left hand.
Bria’s fingers dug even deeper into my shoulder, hard enough to make me wince and look at her. The rage and disgust burning in her eyes made them glow a bright, piercing blue, and I could see the matching shimmer of my own gray eyes and my own raging emotions reflected back in hers. I squeezed her hand, and she let out a breath and loosened her grip. We both turned our attention back to Finn.
“Just give me the code, and this will all be over,” Deirdre said. “There’s no need for you to suffer needlessly. I’m not a complete monster.”
“Oh, no,” Finn said. “Just a stone-cold bitch who’s A-OK with torturing her own son. Gin was right about you.”
She shrugged. “Then you should have listened to her. But that’s your mistake, not hers. She did everything but tar and feather me. Did you know that she was even spying on me in her spare time? Santos’s men took her down on the building across from my penthouse last night.”
“You captured Gin?” Finn’s entire body stilled. “What did you do to her?”
Deirdre’s lips curved into a wide, genuine smile. “I gave her to Dimitri Barkov as payment for services rendered. He was quite eager to get his hands on her. I imagine he’s still torturing her. Unless he got careless and accidentally killed her already.”
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