Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(86) by Jennifer Estep
“There we go,” he said. “That’s better, isn’t it?”
And it was. Not a lot, not enough, but it was better than before.
Finn’s gaze moved slowly, from me to Ella and the three vamps sprawled across the porch to the party inside, which was still going strong. He winced. “How are we going to explain this to Dad?”
“We?” I snorted. “There is no we in this equation. There is only you, being a jackass over a pretty girl.”
Finn glared at me a moment, and then his face melted into a sheepish smile again. “Yeah, you’re right. Just do me a favor, okay?”
“Don’t forget about me, since Dad will probably banish me to my room for the next ten years.”
I rolled my eyes. “I couldn’t forget about you even if I tried.”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?” he asked, making an X over his chest.
I rolled my eyes again, but I mimicked his motion. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Now, that’s what a guy likes to hear.”
Finn slung his arm around my shoulders, grinning at me again—
Cold water hit me square in the face, snapping me out of my dream, my memory. I gasped and opened my eyes . . .
Just in time to get hit in the face by another round of cold water.
Some of the water went up my nose, while still more trickled down my throat, and I doubled over, sneezing and coughing at the uncomfortable sensations. When I’d finally gotten the worst of the water out of my lungs, I reached up to wipe the rest of it off my face.
That’s when I realized that I was shackled to a chair, with silverstone handcuffs glinting on both my wrists. I rattled the cuffs, but they were securely anchored to the metal chair.
“Well, that finally woke her up,” a familiar voice called out.
I raised my head.
Deirdre Shaw was sitting across from me.
For a second, I thought she was the one taunting me. Then I noticed the gleam of silver on her wrists and ankles. It took me a moment to process that they weren’t heavy bracelets. They were handcuffs.
Deirdre was shackled to a chair just like I was.
My muddled mind struggled to catch up to my eyes and process what was going on.
Deirdre a prisoner, just like me? Then that meant . . . that meant that she was in serious trouble too. That she wasn’t the one in charge.
That she was working for someone else—and had been this whole time.
Surprise flashed through me, burning the cobwebs out of my mind. And I realized that not only was Deirdre handcuffed, but she looked far worse for wear than I did.
Her gray coveralls were gone, although she still wore the same purple pantsuit and black boots she’d sported during the bank robbery. But her appearance was anything but elegant. Her jacket and pants were covered in blood and grime and torn in more than a dozen places. I didn’t know how long she’d been chained to that chair, but it must have been a while, given the stench of urine that surrounded her and the puddles of liquid on the floor.
Her blond hair was a sweaty, frizzy mess, and her blue eyes were dull and glassy with pain. Cuts, burns, and bruises covered her face and exposed skin, along with several puncture wounds, as though a vampire had taken a bite or two out of her. She’d been thoroughly tortured, the same way she’d tortured Finn.
Deirdre realized that I was staring at her. She snarled and jerked forward, although the silverstone cuffs on her wrists kept her as securely shackled to her chair as I was with the ones on my wrists. Her ankles had also been chained down, and all she could do was rock her chair back and forth, since it was on rollers. My chair also had rollers, but my feet were free and not tied down.
I ignored her hissy fit and studied my surroundings. Bare bulbs hanging down from the ceiling. Stacks of crates and shrink-wrapped boxes everywhere. Concrete floor and walls. The metal cage in one corner where I’d woken up the last time I was here. I was back in Dimitri Barkov’s warehouse.
And I was surrounded.
Several giants stood in a loose circle around Deirdre and me. They were all carrying guns under their suits, and one of them was holding a metal bucket with a leaky water hose curled up at his feet like a snake dripping venom. Nothing unusual there, but the longer I looked at them, the more worried I got. I didn’t recognize any of their faces, not a single one. This wasn’t Barkov’s crew—it was someone else’s.
“So this is where you’ve been hiding,” I said, turning my attention back to Deirdre. “What charming accommodations. Bet you wish you were back in your penthouse right now, honey.”
“You bitch!” Deirdre hissed, spittle flying out of her bloody, swollen lips. “This is all your fault! I should have killed you when I had the chance.”
“Oh, yeah. You absolutely should have. I’m just sorry that I wasn’t the one who got to work you over. They did a half-assed job, if you ask me. Considering that you’re still breathing.”
Deirdre snarled at me again, and I bared my teeth right back at her.
“Now, ladies,” that same voice I’d first heard called out again, a voice that I now realized wasn’t Deirdre’s. “There’s no need to be so nasty.”
Footsteps scuffed on the concrete, and Deirdre stopped snarling at me. A mulish look settled over her face, but she couldn’t quite hide the fear flickering in her eyes. She’d failed to rob the bank for her employers, whoever they were, and now there was to be a reckoning. One that included me, since I was the reason her scheme had gone sideways. Lucky me.
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