Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(2) by Jennifer Estep
Just as I had killed her mother several months earlier, I took out Madeline with my Ice and Stone magic, and with no more Monroes left to grapple for control of the underworld, the other bosses had made me their de facto leader. At least until they started plotting how they could murder me and one of them could seize the throne they all coveted so very much.
I almost wished that one of them would succeed in putting me out of my misery.
Contrary to popular belief, being the head of the Ashland underworld was not a bed of roses. It wasn’t even a bed of thorns. It was just a giant headache—like the one throbbing in my temples right now.
I’d thought I’d been a popular target over the summer, but now the bosses sought me out more than ever before. And they actually wanted to talk to me. Incessantly. About business deals and treaties and who was letting their gang members spray-paint rune graffiti in someone else’s territory. As if I actually cared about any of those things. But as the big boss, it was apparently my job to listen. At least, according to Silvio.
Lorelei was the one who’d requested this meeting, although she’d actually approached Phillip about settling the dispute instead of me. Apparently, Lorelei didn’t want to acknowledge my new authority or involve me in her affairs. That, or she just hated me for some reason. Didn’t much matter either way, since I cared as little about her as she did about me.
But Phillip was my friend, and he’d told me about the get-together. So here I was, about to mediate my first big dispute as Gin Blanco, the Spider, new queen of the Ashland underworld. Yeah, me.
Still, I would have been perfectly happy to skip the polite nonsense of the meeting and let Dimitri and Luiz duke it out until one of them killed the other, but Silvio had pointed out that if I resolved their feud today, they wouldn’t show up at my restaurant, the Pork Pit, tomorrow. Since I didn’t want the criminals scaring my customers, I’d decided to be a good boss and put in an appearance.
Everyone had been sitting at the conference table when I’d walked on board with Silvio. But at the sight of me, Dimitri and Luiz had shot to their feet and started shouting accusations at each other, as if they thought that I would side with whoever yelled the loudest and the longest.
Now Dimitri was cursing at Luiz in Russian, and Luiz was returning the favor in Spanish. Since it didn’t look like they were going to stop anytime soon, not even to take a breath, I tuned them out as best I could and stared out over the brass railing.
The Aneirin River flowed by the white riverboat, the swift current causing the vessel to sway ever so slightly. The November sun glinted off the surface of the blue-gray water, making it sparkle like a sheet of diamonds, while a faint breeze brought the smell of fish along with it. My nose wrinkled at the wet stench. A few crimson and burnt-orange leaves clung to the trees that lined the far side of the river, although the breeze would soon send them spiraling down to the ground—
Something flashed in the trees directly across from me.
I frowned, leaned to the side, and focused on that spot. Sure enough, a second later, a small gleam of light caught my eye, the sun reflecting off something hidden back in the trees—
Silvio nudged me with his elbow again, and I realized that Dimitri and Luiz had stopped shouting and were staring at me with expectant faces, their arms crossed over their chests. Behind them, their guards wore similarly hostile expressions.
“Well, Blanco?” Dimitri demanded in a low, gravelly voice. “What’s your decision?”
“Yeah,” Luiz chimed in, his tone much higher. “Who gets the laundries?”
I looked back and forth between the two of them. “Um . . .”
Dimitri frowned, and anger sparked in his dark brown eyes. “You weren’t even listening to us!”
“Well, it was kind of hard to follow,” I admitted. “Especially since I don’t speak Russian, and my Spanish is rudimentary, at best.”
Dimitri threw his hands up in the air and spewed out more Russian words, all of which sounded like curses.
Phillip leaned over. “I think he just insulted your mother.”
I groaned, but I held my hands up, trying to placate the mobster. “Okay, okay. That’s enough. Stop. Please.”
Dimitri finished his cursing, but he still gave me a disgusted look. “I knew this would be a waste of time. I should have just killed Lorelei and taken the laundries. Just like I should have put a bullet in your head the night of Madeline’s party and taken control of the underworld myself. Just like I should do right now.”
Silence descended over the deck, and the only sound was the steady rush of the river flowing by the boat.
I laid my hands flat on the table, then slowly got to my feet. The scraping of my chair against the wood was as loud as a machine gun.
I stared at Dimitri. “That was exactly the wrong thing to say.”
Everyone could hear the chill in my words and see the ice in my wintry-gray eyes.
Dimitri swallowed, knowing he’d made a mistake, but he wasn’t about to back down in front of everyone, so he raised his chin and squared his shoulders. “I don’t think so. There’s only one of you. I have three men with me.”
I smiled, but there was no warmth in my expression. “That’s because you need guards. I don’t. I never have. So if I were you, I’d start apologizing to me. Pronto.”
Dimitri wet his lips. “Or else?”
I shrugged. “Or else your men will be dragging what’s left of you off this boat, and Phillip will be sending me the cleaning bill.”
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