Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(23) by Jennifer Estep
People moved in and out of the stores, all dressed as professional businesspeople or professional shoppers, out to purchase more of the same designer brands and bling that they already wore. The staff members were gussied up in garments that were just as expensive, and the only way to tell a hotel worker from a guest was by the silver crescent-moon pin tacked to their suit jackets.
Finn was right. In a fancy place like this, blending in was the key to keeping a low profile and not attracting the attention of the roaming giant guards, who were always on the lookout for potential shoplifters. So Finn, Owen, and I had all dressed the part in dark suits, with Finn also carrying a silverstone briefcase to add to the illusion that we were corporate drones, in town for some sort of meeting, passing through the lobby on our way to get a drink, get dinner, and get back to the insanely expensive and exceptionally slow Wi-Fi in our rooms.
Finn glanced around the lobby, making sure that the guards were ignoring us, then pointed over at a shop to the right of the revolving doors. “There’s the cigar bar. Let’s go take a look.”
We headed in that direction. The name of the place, Puff, was spelled out in bold, blocky letters that lit up one red neon light at a time. When the entire name was illuminated, the outline of a cigar flared to life at the end of the sign, complete with a gray spiral of smoke wafting up from its burning ember. The cigar sign and flashing letters cast a dull red glow onto the floor, making the blue veins in the marble look like blood running through the stone.
We reached the glass doors. Finn grinned and waggled his eyebrows at me, and I held out my hand, graciously telling him to go ahead. Owen looked back and forth between the two of us, not understanding our long-standing silent code.
“Owen, my man,” Finn chirped, “I think it’s high time that I introduced you to the wide, wonderful world of cigars . . .”
Finn pushed through the doors, grabbed Owen’s arm, and steered him inside. Owen looked at me, clearly wanting to stay outside, but I fluttered my fingers at him.
“You boys have fun,” I drawled.
The glass doors swung shut behind them, and I moved over to the corner of the shop, leaning against the wall and pretending to check my phone. Finn made a beeline for a woman mixing drinks behind a wooden bar along the wall, with Owen following him. Finn favored the woman with a dazzling smile, then popped open his briefcase and pulled out a plastic bag that held the cigar stub I’d found in the woods. The woman stared at him a moment, and then a slow smile stretched across her face in return.
Finn was a natural schmoozer, and I was confident he’d be able to charm the woman into telling him what kind of cigar it was and who might have purchased one recently. Of course, if I were the bomber, I would have used a fake name and paid in cash, but maybe he wasn’t that smart, and we’d get lucky. Hope sprang eternal, right?
I stood at the corner of the glass, still pretending to check my phone, although I was really scanning the storefront and everyone inside the place. In addition to the bar and the bottles of liquor on the mirrored glass shelves behind it, Puff featured clusters of oversize dark brown leather chairs and small tables, situated several feet away from one another. The chandeliers overhead were turned down low, and gray plumes of smoke snaked up into the air, adding to the hazy, elegant atmosphere.
The usual crowd had gathered inside—businesspeople conducting meetings, more casually dressed folks who looked like vacationers, and some very attractive men and women roaming around with drinks in their hands, hoping to pick up a paying date for the night.
No one stood out to me. I was about to turn my attention back to Finn and Owen, who were still at the bar, when I spotted a man in the shadows with his back to the wall.
He was the only person who was sitting by himself, and he was busy looking at his phone, so he didn’t notice my staring. He wasn’t smoking, but a crystal tumbler of Scotch sat on the table in front of him, along with a bottle. The man was tall, with a muscular build that was similar to Owen’s. He wore a perfectly tailored dark blue suit with a pale blue shirt and matching tie, and a silverstone watch flashed on his left wrist, while a silverstone signet ring glimmered on his right hand. His black hair was slicked back over his forehead, revealing a square jaw, chiseled cheekbones, and overall movie-star good looks. Cary Grant had nothing on this guy. Everything about him whispered of understated elegance, money, and power.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed him, and one of the working girls approached the man, flashing him an inviting smile. He looked up from his phone, revealing pale blue eyes, and shook his head. The woman pouted and leaned down, showing off the ample assets squeezed into her tight black minidress. The man didn’t say anything, but he gave her a cold, flat look that had her standing up and moving away from him in search of more amenable prey for the evening.
The Puff door opened, and Finn and Owen walked over to me. Finn peered over my shoulder, trying to see who I was looking at.
“Uh-oh, Owen,” Finn said, elbowing him in the side. “I think you might have some competition for Gin’s affections.”
“It’s not like that,” I protested.
“Sure.” Finn drawled out the word, determined to tease me. “We just come out here and catch you ogling Mr. Tall, Slick, and Handsome like you want to take a long drag off him. I’m sure that’s nothing.”
I wasn’t about to tell Finn that something about the guy nagged at me the way so many little things had been doing over the past two days. The bombs with their nail shrapnel, the mace rune carved into the tree, even the milkshakes I’d made for Jade Jamison. Finn would have said that I was being paranoid again. He might have been right about that.
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