Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(12) by Jennifer Estep
I didn’t say the words because I didn’t want to jinx myself. But who was I kidding? This was going to get a whole lot worse before it got better. It always did.
I’d killed the supposedly unkillable Mab Monroe. And Madeline. And a whole host of other dangerous giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals in between. Even though I didn’t want the job, I was now the big boss of the Ashland underworld. Given all that, I should have been . . . safer. At least for a few weeks, until the other criminals cooked up some new schemes to try to get rid of me. But I should have known that something like this would happen. It always did.
Story of my life.
Just when I thought I’d proven myself to everyone, just when I thought I was in the free and clear, just when I was finally ready to enjoy a little (relative) peace and quiet, another elemental had . . . what, exactly? Targeted me? Tried to assassinate me? Wanted to murder a bunch of mobsters at the same time? That remained to be seen. But whatever was going on, I was going to get to the bottom of it.
One body at a time.
Owen leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead. I drew in a breath, letting his rich, metallic scent seep into my lungs.
He leaned back and gave me the same sort of critical once-over that Silvio and Jo-Jo had. Relief seeped into his face, replacing his tight, worried expression. Then he grinned and shook his head.
“I can’t let you go anywhere, can I?” he murmured, a teasing note creeping into his deep, rumbling voice.
“Guess not,” I drawled, determined to keep the mood light.
Owen got to his feet and looked at his best friend. “I thought I told you to take good care of my girl.”
Phillip shrugged. “Kind of hard when she jumps overboard with a bomb in her hands. I can only do so much, you know.”
Owen’s grin faded a little, but he still lightly cuffed Phillip on the shoulder. “I know. Gin makes it hard sometimes, doesn’t she?”
“Y’all do realize that I’m sitting right here?”
Phillip ignored me and cuffed him back. They grinned at each other, and then Owen looked at me, his smile slipping away and his face growing more serious.
“Who do you think did this?” he asked. “Emery Slater?”
“She does seem to be a popular choice among the peanut gallery, but I don’t think so. It’s just not her style. Not what I would expect from her. She’s more brawn than bomb.”
“Maybe that’s exactly why it is her,” Owen countered. “Doing something that you wouldn’t expect. Catching you off guard.”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” I looked at him. “You up for a little hike?”
“With you?” He winked at me. “Always.”
“Good,” I said. “Then let’s go see if we can track us down a bomber.”
Owen took my hand and helped me up out of the lounge chair. Silvio decided to stay on the riverboat to wait for Finn and Bria to arrive, while Jo-Jo left to go back home to work at her beauty salon.
Owen and I walked down the gangplank, with Phillip trailing along behind us. The Delta Queen staff members were standing in groups in the parking lot, talking, texting on their phones, and glancing up at the riverboat.
Phillip approached them, spreading his hands out wide. “Okay, folks, here’s what I know so far . . .”
The waiters and guards clustered around him, hanging on to his every word. I looked over the crowd, scanning every single face and taking in everyone’s body language. Wide eyes, tense shoulders, nervous tapping fingers and feet. All the workers seemed genuinely shocked and shaken up by what had happened. Even in Ashland, where violence was so common, no one expected to get blown up just going to work. It was enough to upset even me.
And the workers’ worry told me something else: the watcher probably didn’t have any of them on his payroll. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bothered sending that fake waiter onto the riverboat. And if one of the workers had known about the bomb beforehand, he or she wouldn’t have stuck around to get an explanation and reassurances from Phillip that this was an isolated incident. I supposed that someone here could be faking their shock and distress, but it didn’t seem likely. On one hand, I was relieved the staff wasn’t involved, since I didn’t want to trouble Phillip any more than I already had. On the other, it left me without someone to squeeze for easy answers.
But the workers weren’t the only ones in the parking lot—so were Lorelei Parker and Jack Corbin.
The smuggler perched on the hood of a sleek royal-blue Dodge Charger, with her guard leaning against the driver’s-side door, his arms crossed over his chest. Lorelei’s eyes narrowed as she spotted me, and she looked me over from head to toe. Her lips puckered, and she pulled on the end of her black braid, lost in thought. I frowned. Strangely enough, the gesture reminded me of . . . something.
“Friends of yours?” Owen asked, staring at them.
I snorted. “Not bloody likely. Lorelei probably wishes that I’d drowned in the river.”
Lorelei let go of her braid, hopped off the hood, and said something to Corbin. The two of them got into the car and peeled out of the parking lot, leaving the Delta Queen behind.
I stared at the empty street, wondering at the vague, uneasy feeling tickling my spine.
“Gin?” Owen asked.
I shook my head, putting all thoughts of Lorelei and her odd behavior out of my mind. “Come on. Let’s go.”
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