Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(82) by Jennifer Estep
I lay down next to him, slid my good arm around his shoulders, and gave him a weak, understanding hug before my own strength deserted me.
“Shh, shh, it’s okay,” I whispered, trying to soothe him. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
But things were anything but okay right now, and the tears kept streaming down and freezing on Finn’s face.
Once they made sure that Bria was okay, Owen and Silvio ran upstairs to the lobby, but Deirdre was long gone, along with a couple of duffel bags full of cash.
Of course the bitch had escaped.
But she wasn’t going to be able to hide for long.
Not in Ashland. Not from the Spider.
Silvio called Jo-Jo, who rushed over to the bank. Silvio and Owen had carried Finn and me upstairs, laying us both out on desks. Jo-Jo took one look at the Ice burns on Finn’s body, slapped her hands down onto his chest, and blasted him with her Air magic. I rolled my head to the side and watched her work, too cold and exhausted to do anything else.
Once Jo-Jo was finished with Finn, she repeated the process on me. It hurt more than usual, since the dwarf had to slough off all the dead layers of skin that Deirdre had frozen solid with her Ice magic, but I clamped my lips shut and swallowed down my snarls. My pain was nothing compared with what Finn was going through right now.
When I was healed, Jo-Jo helped me sit up. Owen, Silvio, and Bria were still in the lobby, going through the thieves’ pockets, looking for clues, but I didn’t see Finn.
“Where is he?”
Jo-Jo jerked her thumb at the door that led downstairs. “Back down in the vault, darling.”
She stayed with the others, but I trudged downstairs. I found Finn sitting in the middle of the ruined vault, picking through the rubble, scooping up the loose, bloody diamonds, and arranging them in a neat little pile.
Jo-Jo had healed all those ugly blue-white burns on his skin, but he was still a mess. Blood, dust, and other filth covered his torn clothes, which were wet in spots from the elemental Ice that had melted and soaked into the fabric. His dark brown hair was rumpled, his shoulders slumped with exhaustion, and dried blood speckled his face like freckles. Finn looked nothing at all like his usual slick, charming self, but the thing that worried me most was the dull hurt shimmering in his eyes—the sort of soul-deep, heart-rending, bone-weary hurt that you never quite got over.
The same sort of hurt that Deirdre had inflicted on Fletcher all those years ago.
Finn sighed. “What a fucking mess. Mosley and the rest of the higher-ups are going to have conniptions when they find out about this.”
“They don’t have to know anything,” I said. “Everyone who saw us here is dead, except Deirdre. We could just walk out of here and pretend we didn’t know anything about what happened.”
“I can’t do that. Not when this is all my fault. I’m the one who helped Deirdre get inside the bank. She told me that someone had tried to rob the exhibit and that the insurance company was moving the jewelry here.” He picked another diamond out of the rubble and placed it on his stack. “So I hurried over here like her little lapdog and let her waltz right into the lobby with Santos and his men. I knew all the guards they killed. Every single one of them. Nice guys. They didn’t deserve this. Neither do their families.”
“Deirdre and Santos storming in here and killing the guards, that’s not on you. None of this is on you. It was their plan, not yours.”
“Of course it is.” His mouth twisted. “It’s all on me. And do you know what the really sad part is?”
I shook my head.
Finn picked another loose diamond out of the rubble. “Deep down, I knew that you were right. That Mama—” He stopped and cleared his throat. “That Deirdre was up to something. She was just too good to be true, but I ignored it. I ignored your warnings, my own gut instincts, everything.”
“It’s not your fault,” I repeated.
“Yeah, it is. Because I knew that she was up to something. I just didn’t care what it was.”
“We’ll find her,” I said. “Deirdre won’t get away with this. Not what she did here at the bank and especially not what she did to you. Not the torture, not the lies, none of it. I promise you that.”
Finn gave me a distracted nod. “Yeah. Sure. Thanks, Gin.”
I laid my hand on his shoulder, letting him know that I was here for him. He smiled at me, but his heart wasn’t in it, and he went back to picking through the rubble. I looked at the diamonds that he’d already gathered. I didn’t know if he’d done it subconsciously or not, but he’d arranged the loose, bloody stones into a familiar shape.
The diamonds formed a jagged, shattered heart, just like Finn’s.
* * *
Finn picked up a few more diamonds while I fished my knives out of the rubble. Then I coaxed him back upstairs. I asked again if he wanted to leave, but he said no and called Stuart Mosley. Bria pulled out her phone, called Xavier, and told him what had happened, then contacted her own bosses.
“They’ll be here soon,” she said, after she ended the call. “Probably fifteen minutes, tops.”
“You guys should go,” Finn said, his voice that same dull monotone as before. “No need for you to get dragged any deeper into this.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but he shook his head, not quite looking at me or anyone else.
“You’ve done enough for me today. Just go, Gin. Please?”
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