Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(7) by Jennifer Estep
“Back? Where are you going—”
“I can’t believe it!” Dimitri’s loud voice cut him off. “You’re not listening to me! Again!”
Dimitri threw his hands up into the air and started cursing at me in Russian again. Everyone else turned their attention to him, amused by his tirade, but I kept staring at the mystery waiter.
The man realized that I was looking at him, and he stared back, his eyes widening as he thought about what to do. He gave me a tight smile, then quickly looked away, focusing on Dimitri, even as he started shifting on his feet. He was trying to remain calm, but nervous beads of sweat slid down the side of his face, despite the cool November breeze. The waiter wouldn’t be hovering so close and suddenly so tense at my watching him if I weren’t his intended target.
I surged up out of my seat, and he turned and ran.
He raced across the deck and onto the walkway that ran the length of the riverboat. I took the most direct route after him, leaping up into my chair and then on top of the table. I sprinted straight across the table, knocking off the remaining platters of food, turning over drinks, and generally making a mess. Surprised shouts rose up behind me, but I focused on jumping off the table and chasing after the waiter.
Guilty people always run. I should know. I’m almost always one of them.
But the fake waiter had a head start, and he was moving fast. He flung open a door and ran through a glassed-in viewing room that overlooked the river, then shoved through the opposite door and kept on booking it toward the back of the boat.
Luckily, he left the doors open for me, and I was able to make up a few precious seconds on him.
But it wasn’t enough.
As I left the viewing room behind, the guy climbed up onto the brass railing at the very back of the riverboat, right next to the enormous white paddle wheel that loomed up over all six decks. Instead of looking back to see how close I was, he launched himself over the side in a perfect swan dive.
The waiter cut through the surface of the water with all the grace of an Olympic high diver, and barely a ripple showed where he had landed in the river. Impressive. I skidded to a stop and leaned over the railing.
The guy surfaced and started swimming toward the opposite shore as fast as he could. I started to hook my leg over the railing so I could dive in after him—
Bullets pinged off the railing, making me duck down behind the brass bars. I immediately reached for my Stone magic, using it to make my skin as hard as marble, even as I summoned up a cold, silvery ball of Ice magic in my right hand. I was one of the rare folks who were gifted in not one but two elements, and I was deadly in both of them. I peered through the gaps in the railing, searching for a target to blast with my Ice power.
But no more bullets zipped through the air toward me.
Five seconds passed, then ten, then twenty.
And still, no more gunfire.
At the thirty-second mark, I let go of my Ice power, although I still kept my skin impenetrable with my Stone magic in case the sniper was trying to lull me into a false sense of security. Then I rose back onto my feet and looked out over the water.
By this point, the fake waiter had reached the shallows and was busy shoving through cattails. I cursed, because there was no way I could catch him now. So I waited, wondering if the sniper might show himself. Whoever had been firing at me was too smart for that, unfortunately.
But he wasn’t too smart to peer at me through his binoculars again.
It was the same telltale flash of glass I’d noticed earlier on the main deck and one that I was all too familiar with, since I’d often used binoculars to spy on potential targets. I frowned, wondering why the guy would be content just to stare at me when I was standing upright, giving him what looked like a clear, easy shot.
But the sun kept winking off the binocular lenses, and no more bullets zeroed in on me. Across the river, the fake waiter finally slogged out of the shallows and scrambled up onto the riverbank. A few seconds later, he vanished into the trees.
So why was the sniper still training his lenses on me? He should have been hightailing it out of here with his buddy, not sticking around to watch the aftermath.
Unless . . . this wasn’t the aftermath he was waiting for.
I thought of the way the waiter had clutched the rim of the silver champagne bucket earlier. He might have escaped, but that bucket was still sitting there, right where he’d left it.
A horrible suspicion occurred to me. I’d wondered where the waiter’s weapon was, but maybe he hadn’t carried a weapon at all. Maybe he’d had something even more powerful and far more deadly, something that he’d purposefully left behind on the riverboat.
I turned and sprinted back the way I’d come, heading for the front of the boat.
Silvio and Phillip appeared at the far end of the walkway, no doubt drawn by the sound of the gunshots and coming to help me, but it was too late for that.
It might be too late for all of us.
I waved at them. “Get back! Get everyone off the main deck! There’s a bomb!”
Silvio must have heard me with his enhanced vampiric hearing, because he yanked on Phillip’s arm, and they both whipped around and hurried back to the main deck, vanishing from my line of sight.
Screams and shouts rose up from that area, although they were too garbled to understand. All I could really hear was the heavy thump-thump-thump-thump of my boots on the deck and the roar of my own heart beating like a bass drum in my ears. I ran as fast as I could, but with every step, I worried that I was going to be too late to save my friends. Because that telltale flash of glass still gleamed in the woods across the river, and I expected the sniper to remotely trigger the bomb at any second.
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