Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(38) by Jennifer Estep
“So I called Fletcher and asked him to come over.” A ghost of a smile flitted across Jo-Jo’s face. “You can imagine what happened next.”
“Fletcher would have taken one look at Lily Rose and Lorelei and wanted to help them.”
Jo-Jo and Sophia both nodded.
“I also called Mallory and told her what was going on,” Jo-Jo said. “Turns out, she already knew. She’d gotten worried when she hadn’t seen or heard from Lily Rose in months, so she’d hired a private investigator. He told her that he suspected Renaldo was abusing his wife and daughter, and Mallory had been making her own plans to help them.”
“So what went wrong?” I asked. “How did Lorelei end up at the cabin without her mother?”
Jo-Jo and Sophia exchanged another look, sadness filling both their faces.
“Renaldo somehow found out that Lily Rose was planning to leave him, and he started beating her,” Jo-Jo said. “Fletcher was watching the house, and he went in as soon as he realized what was happening. But there were too many guards, and by the time he got through them, Lily Rose was already dead.”
Silence fell over the kitchen. I hadn’t known Lily Rose, but I could imagine the pain, fear, and terror that she’d experienced, being hurt, beaten, and tortured by someone who was supposed to love her. She hadn’t deserved that, and neither had Lorelei. No one did.
Jo-Jo wiped away the tears that had trickled down her cheeks. “Fletcher managed to stop Renaldo before he killed Lorelei too. He would have finished off the bastard then and there, if it hadn’t been for Raymond, Renaldo’s son from his first marriage. He stopped Fletcher from killing his father, so Fletcher decided to get Lorelei out while he still could.”
“Raymond Pike,” I murmured. “I’ve never heard of him.”
“You wouldn’t have,” Jo-Jo said. “The Pikes lived up in West Virginia, well away from Ashland.”
“Is that why Fletcher didn’t give Lorelei a new first name? I thought it was curious that he only changed her last name.”
“Fletcher thought it would be better for Lorelei to keep her first name. That it would be easier for her to remember and one fewer thing that she had to lose, since everything else had been ripped away from her,” Jo-Jo said. “But Fletcher didn’t just give Lorelei a new last name and forget about her. He kept tabs on Raymond. From what he told me, Raymond is just as ruthless as his father ever was. And worse, just as strong in his metal magic.”
“And now he’s here in Ashland,” I said. “To finally get revenge for his father’s death.”
“Revenge on Lorelei,” Jo-Jo corrected. “Since he holds her responsible.”
I couldn’t help but bark out a humorless laugh at the irony of that.
Just when I thought that I’d finally taken care of all the bad things in my past, just when I thought that I was finally fucking free of them, something totally unexpected like this popped up. Something I’d all but forgotten about. But my past was never truly over. It was nothing but a giant pool of quicksand, one that perpetually tried to pull me under and drown me. Right now, I was up to my neck in it and sinking fast.
And the truth was that I wasn’t all that different from Raymond Pike. I’d killed Mab because she’d murdered my mom and my older sister, and I’d killed Madeline because she had threatened me and my friends. So I could understand Pike’s desire for revenge. Appreciate it, even. But I’d never tried to blow up a riverboat full of innocent people just to get back at one person. I didn’t have many limits, but Pike had stepped way over the line.
Jo-Jo and Sophia watched the play of emotions on my face. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Weariness. Guilt.
So much guilt.
They could guess what I was thinking. Part of it, anyway.
“What are you going to do, Gin?” Jo-Jo asked.
I rubbed my head, which was suddenly aching. “I have no idea. There’s never been any love lost between Lorelei and me. She’s sent plenty of her men to kill me the past few months.”
I’d never done anything to Lorelei, but she’d tried to murder me the same as all the other bosses had. Just for that, part of me wanted to let her and her half brother have at each other. Either Pike would kill her and eliminate one of my enemies, or Lorelei would be too busy taking him out to plot against me for a while. Win-win for me either way.
Then there was the fact that Lorelei had never shown me anything but sneering disdain whenever our paths had crossed. I’d always wondered why she hated me so much, and I was beginning to think that it had everything to do with her father’s death.
But even more important, Lorelei had surely realized that her brother was behind the attack on the riverboat. That he was in Ashland and gunning for her. I was ostensibly the big boss now. If someone in the underworld had a problem, she was supposed to come to me about it. Lorelei should have immediately told me about Pike, but she hadn’t.
And I wanted to know why.
“Talk to her?” Sophia suggested.
I let out a tense breath. “Yeah. I need to talk to Lorelei. About a lot of things.”
Jo-Jo perked up. “Excellent. I know exactly where she’s going to be today. I was invited myself.”
I frowned. “You and Lorelei Parker were invited to the same shindig? What could that possibly be?”
Instead of answering me, the dwarf gave me a once-over, taking in my boots, jeans, long-sleeved T-shirt, and black leather jacket. “It’s a good thing you’re already here, darling.”
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