Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(20) by Jennifer Estep
“Sorry,” I drawled. “Just making sure that no one had left me a present inside overnight.”
Jade pushed her sunglasses up onto her head, revealing her green eyes. “Oh, you mean like that bomb on the riverboat yesterday?”
I kept my face blank, although I was mentally wincing. I’d known that the rumors would fly hard and fast, but I’d underestimated the Ashland grapevine. “You heard about that?”
“Oh, I heard. The entire underworld has heard by now. Matter of fact, that’s the reason I’m here.”
“And why is that?”
She snorted. “Oh, please. Don’t give me the stink-eye, and don’t even think that I had something to do with it. I’m not stupid enough to believe I can kill you. And why would I want to anyway? You kept your word and got Leroy off my back. I haven’t heard a peep from him since your little visit. As far as I’m concerned, you can be the big boss for as long as you live.” She paused. “However brief a time that might actually turn out to be.”
“Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence,” I replied wryly. “But what’s with all the cloak-and-dagger?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t want anyone to see me talking to you. Just in case your reign is particularly short-lived.”
“There you go again with all that confidence. It’s enough to overinflate a girl’s ego.” Still, her words intrigued me. “Why do you want to talk to me?”
Jade looked me in the eye. “Because I know where you can find the guy who planted that bomb on the Delta Queen.”
* * *
A hundred questions popped into my mind, most of them focused on where this guy was right this second and how quickly I could get him to give up the bomber’s identity and location and kill them both.
But as urgently as I wanted that information, I decided to be polite about things. Besides, from what I knew of Jade Jamison, she was stubborn enough to dig in her heels if I rushed her. So I ushered her into the storefront, closed all the blinds on the windows so that no one would see her, and gestured for her to sit on one of the stools close to the old-fashioned cash register.
“Chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla?”
She frowned. “Um, strawberry? What kind of question is that?”
Instead of answering, I went into the back and returned with milk, ice cream, a carton of fresh strawberries, and more. I also grabbed a parfait glass from a rack of dishes in the corner.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Cooking,” I said, dumping everything onto the counter in front of her. “It helps me think. So start talking.”
Jade’s sculpted blond eyebrows shot up in her forehead as I grabbed a bottle of homemade strawberry syrup. “Isn’t it a little early for a milkshake?”
At her words, my fingers clenched around the ice-cream scoop in my hand, my grip so tight that I could feel the metal handle pressing into my spider rune scar.
I frowned and forced myself to relax my fingers. It was early for a milkshake. So why had I decided to make one for her? I couldn’t come up with an answer. I’d just thought milkshake for some reason. Weird.
Jade cleared her throat. “Silvio texted me last night and told me what happened on the riverboat. He asked if I or any of my folks had heard about any new elementals in town, particularly one who can control metal.”
I looked at her. “Then why are you here? You said that you have information about the bombing.”
“I do. At least, I think I do.” She drew in a breath. “One of my girls went out on a job two nights ago. New client. Staying at the Blue Moon Hotel. You know it?”
I scooped out a generous portion of vanilla-bean ice cream and put it into a blender, along with some milk, fresh strawberries, and several squirts of strawberry syrup. “Yeah. Fancy place over on Carver Street. Has a nice view of the river which adds another hundred bucks to the bill every night.”
She opened her mouth to continue, but I punched the button on the blender, cutting her off as I zapped the ingredients. When everything was combined, I poured the thick strawberry liquid into the parfait glass, then topped it off with whipped cream, several drizzles of strawberry syrup, and a couple of slices of fresh strawberries. I slid the milkshake across the counter to her.
Jade plucked a straw out of one of the dispensers, stuck it into the liquid, and took a cautious sip. The surprise on her face quickly melted into pleasure. “That’s a really good milkshake.”
“Of course it’s good. I made it.”
She rolled her eyes. “Your modesty is showing again.”
I grinned and leaned my elbows down on the counter. Jade took another sip of her milkshake, then set it aside.
“So,” she continued, “this guy at the Blue Moon Hotel. Bit of a slob but average-looking, a decent tipper, and so on.”
“But my girl noticed that he had a uniform hanging on the back of the bathroom door.” Jade looked at me. “Black shirt, black pants, and a red tuxedo vest.”
That got my attention. “A waiter uniform for the Delta Queen.”
She nodded. “Of course, my girl didn’t think anything of it at the time. But after Silvio called last night and I asked around, she told me about it.”
“And you came down here to deliver the information to me in person.” My eyes narrowed. “Why?”
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