Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(83) by Jennifer Estep
I didn’t like it, but he was right. Us sticking around would just lead to all sorts of awkward questions. I squeezed his shoulder again. Finn gave me the same weak smile he had down in the vault, then turned away, staring out over the blood and bodies in the lobby.
Bria stayed behind with Finn, and Owen, Silvio, Jo-Jo, and I left the bank.
“He’ll be all right,” Jo-Jo said, once we were outside. “He just needs some time.”
I nodded, knowing that she was right. The dwarf hugged me, then headed off to her car to drive back to her salon. Owen, Silvio, and I went back to the parking garage.
“I’m going to the Pork Pit,” Silvio said. “Spread the word and get people to start looking for Deirdre.”
If Deirdre was smart, she was already on her way out of town, but I didn’t mention that. “Good idea. Thank you, Silvio.”
The vampire nodded, got into his car, and drove off.
I climbed into Owen’s car with him, and we sat there. I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t try to prod me into a conversation. Instead, he reached over and took my hand in his. Owen knew that Finn wasn’t the only one who was hurting and heartsick.
“I didn’t want to be right about her,” I whispered. “I know that I didn’t help matters, acting the way I did toward Deirdre, but I didn’t want to be right. I didn’t want Fletcher to be right. I didn’t want her to hurt Finn.”
“I know, Gin,” Owen said. “I know.”
I curled my fingers into his, soaking up all the warmth, comfort, and support he had to offer. Then I let go and buckled my seat belt.
“Will you drive me somewhere?”
Owen frowned. “You don’t want to stay here? See what the cops do? Make sure that Finn’s okay?”
I shook my head. “Bria will take care of him. There’s nothing else I can do here.”
“All right, then.” Owen cranked the engine. “Where to?”
I rattled off an address. His eyebrows shot up in surprise, but he threw the car into gear and left the garage.
Ten minutes later, he pulled into another parking garage, this one underground, and we took the elevator up to the lobby. I made a call to the doorman’s boss—Jade Jamison, an underworld figure that I was friendly with—who was happy to tell her guy to give me access to whatever I wanted. The doorman put his key in the elevator, and Owen and I rode it all the way up to the top floor of the Peach Blossom.
The doors slid back, revealing Deirdre’s penthouse.
Knife in hand, I stepped out of the elevator and into the suite. Owen was right beside me, gripping a gun and ready to shoot anyone who came at us. After a quick once-over, we saw that no one was in the kitchen or the living room, and no one was hiding in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Even more telling, I didn’t feel so much as the faintest trace of Deirdre’s Ice magic. When we’d cleared the suite, Owen and I went back to the living room.
That was where the mess was.
Deirdre must have come straight back here after the disaster at the bank, because a suitcase was sitting on one of the white sofas, clothes haphazardly sticking out of it. More luggage littered the rest of the living-room floor, all of it open, with clothes, shoes, jewelry, and makeup bristling out of the tops of the bags. It looked as though Deirdre had grabbed her things and tossed them into the suitcases, not caring where or how they landed.
Someone, most likely Deirdre, had dropped a heart-shaped perfume bottle onto the floor, breaking it into half a dozen jagged pieces. The overpowering scent of peonies filling the air reminded me of the broken bottle that had been in Fletcher’s casket box.
Owen poked his gun down into one of the suitcases, making bottles of makeup, hair gel, and nail polish rattle together. “Looks like she was in a hurry to leave.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “But she didn’t take any of her stuff with her. Why not?”
He shrugged. He didn’t know any more than I did.
We moved through the rest of the penthouse, but it was clean, except for the mess in the living room. No blood, no bodies, nothing that would indicate a struggle or that Deirdre had left against her will. If the luggage and her things had been gone, I would have assumed that she’d already skipped town. But Mama Dee wasn’t the kind of woman to leave so much as a toothbrush behind. Since her bags were still here, that meant she was most likely still in Ashland. So where had she gone? And why had she left in such a hurry?
I didn’t know, but I was going to find the answers—and her.
Unfortunately, the answers that I wanted, and the ones that Finn needed, were much harder to come by than I expected.
Despite all the feelers that Silvio put out, along with a hefty reward from yours truly for information about Deirdre’s whereabouts, we got exactly nowhere trying to track her down. It was like she had vanished into thin air. She was simply gone, with no trail to follow. I didn’t hear so much as a whisper about where she—or her body—might be.
The only bright spot was that things didn’t go nearly as badly for Finn as they could have. Stuart Mosley was plenty pissed that someone had tried to rob his bank, but Bria managed to spin the story that Finn had been taken hostage and had bravely fought off the thieves until help arrived. Mallory Parker also put in a good word for Finn, since she was all buddy-buddy with Mosley and an esteemed bank client herself. But most important, Mosley didn’t want anyone to know just how close Deirdre and Santos had come to grabbing everything in the vault. So he blamed it all on a gas leak and subsequent explosion, hired a crew from Vaughn Construction, made everyone from the construction workers to the cops sign confidentiality agreements, and got them to clean up the mess.
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