Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(77) by Jennifer Estep
She waited, her smile growing wider, expecting the news of my kidnapping, torture, and supposed murder to demoralize Finn, perhaps even break his spirit enough to make him give up the keypad code to the vault door.
She really should have known better.
In many ways, Finn was Deirdre’s son. A flatterer, a charmer, a smooth operator, who desired and enjoyed all the finer things in life. But Finn was also Fletcher’s son, and the old man had been the toughest son of a bitch I’d ever met.
Oh, it wasn’t that Fletcher had been stronger or more resilient or more immune to pain than anyone else. He had simply been more stubborn. The more you tried to get the old man to do something he didn’t want to do, the more you tried to bend his will to yours, the more you tried to break his spirit, the harder he dug his heels in and defied you—a trait that Finn had gotten from him in spades.
So instead of being concerned or cowed by my capture, Finn actually brightened, his shoulders lifting and his face creasing into a smile, despite the blood and bruises that blackened his features.
“You gave her to Dimitri Barkov? Seriously?” He started laughing.
Deirdre frowned. “What’s so funny? Barkov had Gin well in hand when I left them.”
Finn kept laughing and laughing, his gleeful cackles so hard and loud that he doubled over from the force of them. Tears streamed down his face, and I had the feeling that he would have even slapped his thigh in amusement if his hands had been free.
“And these were your mistakes,” he said in between chortles. “First, that you didn’t kill Gin right off the bat. Second, that you left her with Barkov. The only one who’s dead is him. Trust me on that. But none of those is as bad as your third mistake. That’s the one that’s really going to come back and bite you in the ass.”
“And what would that be?”
“Thinking that you could hurt me and get away with it.” Finn smirked at her. “Gin is going to come here and slit your throat for that. I just hope I’m still alive to see her do it.”
Deirdre stared at him, her forehead wrinkling, as if she was concerned by his unshakable confidence in me. She looked at Santos. “You told me that Barkov could handle Blanco.”
“Correction. I told you that Barkov wanted to handle Blanco. Not that he actually could,” Santos snapped. “You’re the one who left her alive instead of killing her like I advised. Lane could be right. She could be on her way here right now. So either get the code out of him or get started on the door yourself. My guys are taking care of the cash cages upstairs, and I drilled through the outer door already. The only one holding us up right now is you.”
Deirdre’s hands clenched into fists. “Don’t you dare speak to me that way.”
Santos laughed, pushed away from the wall, and stepped up so that he was looming over her. “I’m the one who’s done all the hard, dirty work of planning and executing this thing. All you had to do was set up the jewelry exhibit and charm your boy so that he’d give you unrestricted access to the bank and let you in this morning. But now you can’t even get one lousy access code out of him. So I’ll speak to you however I damn well please.”
I frowned. Back at the warehouse, I’d thought that Santos was Deirdre’s minion, but he made it seem like they were actually partners in this.
Deirdre glared at Santos, but he just smirked back at her. She stared at him another second, then turned back to Finn.
Deirdre reached for her Ice magic, and her hand began glowing an eerie blue that was so pale it was almost white. The light grew brighter and brighter, until small blue-white flames flashed to life, flickering on her fingertips like cold candles. Even from here, I could feel the intense chill of her power, icy enough to make me shiver, despite my heavy clothes. Having her actually touch her fingers to your skin even for an instant would be painful—so fucking painful. I didn’t know how Finn was so calm, resolute, and resilient after being tortured by her. I would have still been screaming.
Deirdre leaned down and waggled her fingers in front of Finn’s face, a clear threat that he should give up the code or else. But he stared right back at her, never flinching, never wavering, never showing the slightest hint of fear. He wasn’t giving up the code no matter what. Stubborn to the end, just like Fletcher would have been.
I was so damn proud of him in that moment.
“Tell me one thing,” Finn said. “Was any of it real? Did you ever feel anything for me?”
Deirdre leaned in even closer, trying to crack his calm façade. But Finn didn’t flinch, so she pulled back and stared down her nose at him. “I suppose I could lie and tell you that I felt something. That you’re my son, and some small, motherly part of me actually cares about you. But I’m just not wired that way. I never was. Fletcher was so disappointed that I didn’t feel the same way about him that he did about me. That he couldn’t wish me into the person he wanted me to be. I think that’s the reason he didn’t ever try to kill me. I think he was still hoping that I would change someday, even though he knew deep down that it was never going to happen. He was a sentimental fool that way. And so are you.”
“Yeah, I was a fool when it came to you. Like father, like son, I suppose.” Finn barked out another laugh, but this one held no humor. “Do me a favor, will you?”
“When Gin tracks you down and kills you, tell her that I’m sorry I ever doubted her.” He paused. “On second thought, forget it. You’ll be bleeding out before she gives you the chance to sputter out so much as a single word.”
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