Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(78) by Jennifer Estep
“You have far too much faith in your little friend.”
“Not my friend,” Finn said, his voice ringing with conviction. “My sister.”
Deirdre stared at him, the blue-white flames of her Ice magic still flickering on her fingertips. Finn lifted his chin, glaring defiantly into her eyes. In that moment, they were almost mirror images of each other—both cold, calm, and completely unwilling to crack, compromise, or give an inch.
“Forget him,” Santos growled. “You’ve been working on him for almost an hour now and haven’t gotten anywhere. Let’s get this show on the road. Unless you can’t hold up your end of the bargain?”
“I told you that I could get into the vault without the access code if necessary,” Deirdre snapped.
“Then quit wasting time and do it already,” Santos growled again.
She shot him a sneering look, but she turned away from Finn and marched over to the vault door. She stood in front of the tight, thick mesh of silverstone bars, staring at them and the vault beyond for a moment. Then she stepped forward, wrapped her hands around the bars, and blasted them with her Ice magic.
In his file on her, Fletcher had said that Deirdre was a powerful elemental, but the old man hadn’t fully communicated the depths of her magic. As soon as she let loose with that first round of magic, the temperature in the basement plummeted ten degrees, and the floor, walls, and ceiling began to frost over. Not because she was targeting them but because her magic was that intense. I shivered again, my breath steaming in the air. Beside me, Bria and Owen did the same. Deirdre Shaw was definitely the strongest Ice elemental I’d ever encountered, and I didn’t know how to kill her without getting frozen alive by her magic.
Deirdre was completely focused on the vault door, and she blasted it over and over again with her Ice power. At first, the bars soaked up all her magic, like a sponge absorbing water, since silverstone had the unique property of being able to hold and store elemental magic.
“What does she think she’s going to accomplish?” Owen whispered in my ear. “She doesn’t actually think she can get through that much silverstone, does she?”
I shook my head. Deirdre didn’t think it—she knew it.
Slowly, the silverstone began to soak up less and less of her power, and her elemental Ice actually started to coat the bars themselves, like layers of icing covering a cake. The blue-white crystals leaped from one piece of metal to the next, getting colder and harder all the while, the bars taking on the same pale, ugly blue color as the burns on Finn’s skin. That’s what Deirdre was doing with her power, using the bitter bite of her Ice magic to burn right through the metal.
Soon the entire mesh door was glowing with the blue-white light of her magic, and the metal began to creak and groan from its exposure to the intense, prolonged cold. Even the access keypad Iced over, the red light on the front snuffed out by Deirdre’s deep freeze.
It seemed to go on forever, although Deirdre’s assault on the metal bars couldn’t have lasted longer than a couple of minutes. Finally, she released her hold on her magic and stepped back, admiring her handiwork. If I’d used that much magic in such a short amount of time, I would have been huddled in a ball on the floor, too tired to even whimper. But Deirdre wasn’t even breathing hard. Santos gave her a sharp, approving nod. Bria’s and Owen’s mouths were both gaping open, and even Finn looked impressed, despite himself. Yeah. Me too.
Deirdre stepped forward again and flicked her long red fingernail against the very center of the mesh.
A single crack appeared in the metal and slowly spread out, forming more and more cracks, until the pattern resembled a spider’s web that had been carved into the middle of all that glittering elemental Ice. Deirdre studied the bars a second, then flicked her fingernail in the same spot again.
More spiderweb cracks spread through the metal, zipping through the entire vault door. Deirdre leaned forward and flicked her fingernail against that same spot a third time.
With a roar, all the elemental Ice shattered, crushing the silverstone bars and the keypad. It fell to the floor in one cold wave, and left a clear, open path into the vault.
Deirdre looked at Santos. “What were you saying about getting the show on the road?”
The giant ignored her gloating and reached into a duffel bag sitting on the floor. He grabbed a crowbar out of it, then stepped into the vault. He had moved out of my line of sight, but the screech-screech-screech of metal filled the air as Santos dug his crowbar into the first safety-deposit box, then the next. His giant strength let him pop the heavy metal boxes out of the wall as easily as I could crack a can of soda.
“So the bank vault was your endgame all along,” Finn said, his voice brimming with bitterness. “But why go to all this trouble? You could have just stolen the jewelry from the armored truck. You could have had Santos do that, collected the insurance money, and kept your cover intact. So why rob the bank too? Why blow your contacts and everything else you set up in Ashland? Why take such a big risk?”
“Big risk, big reward. You should know that. Every money man does.”
Finn glared at her, but she laughed, reached out, and patted his cheek. She put a bit of Ice magic into the gesture, making him hiss with pain and jerk away from her cold, cold touch.
“Don’t worry, Finnegan, honey, and don’t look so glum,” Deirdre crooned. “Soon you won’t have to worry about me or anything else. In fact, you won’t feel a thing. I promise.”
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