Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(88) by Jennifer Estep
I frowned, not understanding what he was getting at.
“It’s true that Mab despised Eira and was worried about your magic. Those are some of the reasons your mother died.” He bent down so that he was at eye level with me. “But those aren’t the only reasons. Why, they’re not even the main ones.”
Cold fingers of unease crawled up my spine. “What are you saying?”
Tucker leaned even closer to me. “Mab killed your mother because we ordered her to.”
I sucked in a breath, my mind spinning in a hundred directions. Every word out of his mouth was like a grenade exploding at my feet, but I pushed aside my shock and surprise and forced myself to think things through. Tucker was a master manipulator. He’d been pulling Deirdre’s strings this whole time without my realizing it. He was just playing me now, trying to confuse me and get me to focus on his lies instead of escaping.
He hadn’t been there that night. He hadn’t seen my mother and Annabella die. He hadn’t heard their screams as Mab’s elemental Fire had consumed them. He hadn’t seen or smelled or touched their charred bodies. He hadn’t been tied down to a chair and tortured by Mab. I had been, and I knew exactly what had happened and why. Tucker didn’t know anything about my mother.
Not one damn thing.
“You’re lying,” I snarled. “Mab killed my family because she wanted to. Because she was an evil, vicious, vindictive bitch. Mab certainly never asked anyone’s permission for any of the bad things she did.”
“Oh, that’s where you’re dead wrong, Ms. Blanco,” Tucker said, his eyes still on mine, a snake trying to transfix me with the depths of his black gaze. “Mab was certainly all of those things, especially when it came to Eira Snow. But Eira was the one making problems within the group. She wanted us to abandon some of our more . . . profitable endeavors, just in the name of human decency. She actually threatened to go public and expose us. So we let Mab take care of her.”
“Right,” I drawled, my voice dripping with disdain and disbelief. “Just like you let Mab be head of the underworld.”
“Exactly,” he replied. “Mab was always a bit . . . showier than the rest of us. She was the perfect figurehead for all the petty crime bosses to focus on, while we carried on with our own interests behind the scenes. But Mab knew exactly what we were capable of doing, even to her, and she went along with us because it was in her best interests to do so.”
Part of me wanted to laugh in his face and thank him for the great bedtime story. But his voice, his words, his expression . . . they all held an air of cold, cruel certainty that I couldn’t ignore, that made twin knots of worry and doubt twist together in my stomach. Could Tucker actually be telling the truth? Could Mab have murdered my mother for some reason other than a petty family feud?
Could I have been wrong all these years?
But . . . but that would mean that I had been wrong about everything—my mother, what kind of person she had been, why she’d died, even my revenge against Mab. Every single thing that made me, well, me. It would all be wrong. No, it would be worse than that.
It would all be a fucking lie.
When I first found out that Deirdre was alive, I’d been worried about shattering Finn’s world and upending everything he knew about his parents. I couldn’t quite believe that the same thing was happening to me. That this wasn’t all just another manipulation on Tucker’s part.
But I couldn’t ignore the possibility that he was telling the truth.
I gave him a skeptical look. “I’ll ask again. Who, exactly, is this illustrious we?”
“You can call us the Circle. We’re the ones who run this town and everything in it. Mab, the underworld, the crime bosses, they’re all just useful tools to hide our activities. Unlike Mab, we see no need to let everyone know our business.”
“So you’re telling me that some secret group, some secret society of folks, are the true forces of power, greed, and corruption in Ashland?” I laughed. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard—”
Tucker palmed a knife and pressed it against my throat, cutting off my words and cutting open my neck. I winced at the cold sting, even as warm blood oozed down my throat. The bastard was fast. I hadn’t even seen him move. I wondered if his speed was a natural vampiric ability or the result of drinking other people’s blood. Maybe both.
“You stupid girl!” he hissed. “We can reach out and crush you anytime we want. The only reason you’re still alive is because it amuses us to watch your pitiful struggles.”
I stared right back at him, hate blazing in my eyes. “Then do it, already. Make good on your threat. Cut my throat, right here, right now. Otherwise, drop your fucking knife, quit posturing, and tell me what it is that you really want.”
Tucker dug the blade into my skin, making even more blood trickle down my neck. I glared right back at him, not showing a lick of fear. Finn might be Fletcher’s son, but I was the old man’s daughter in all the ways that truly mattered, and he’d passed down the same stubbornness to me, drilled it into me during all the years he’d trained me to be the Spider.
I wasn’t afraid, not of Tucker and especially not of the knife at my neck. I’d accepted the inevitability of my violent, bloody, messy death a long time ago. My solace here was that I wouldn’t be the only one departing this world tonight. Because as soon as he was done with me, Tucker would kill Deirdre, which meant that she would never have a chance to hurt Finn again.
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