Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(40) by Jennifer Estep
“What is it with all these girls-only parties?” Finn had grumbled. “First, y’all have your spa day at Jo-Jo’s salon a few months ago, and now this. I can look fabulous, eat cucumber sandwiches, and drink mint juleps with the best of them.”
“If you want to dress in drag and do the job for me, you are more than welcome to,” I’d replied in a sweet, syrupy tone.
“You’re just jealous that I would rock a garden dress way better than you ever could,” he’d countered.
“I’m frightened that you even know what a garden dress is.”
“Oh, baby,” Finn had crooned. “I know all about the finer things in life—and the ladies who enjoy them. I happen to be one of those finer things, you know.”
“I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.”
Finn had laughed, but he’d agreed to be on call in case I needed him. So had Owen. But I didn’t anticipate any problems. All I wanted to do was talk to Lorelei. After that, I didn’t know what might happen, but I figured that I deserved to hear her side of things. Yep, that was me these days. Mediation queen.
Jo-Jo, Roslyn, and I had arrived late, so all the boring speeches were already over with, and folks were now mixing and mingling, sipping drinks, and munching on their cute little sandwiches. The crustless pimiento-cheese creations had even been cut and pressed into the shape of roses. Somebody here had way too much time on her hands.
I scanned the crowd. Every woman in the garden was wearing the same sort of stupid floppy hat that I was. We all looked like Stepford wives. And Jo-Jo was right too. There were plenty of fake smiles to go around, and I heard more than a few folks murmur, Why, bless your heart. Which is the classic Southern way of pretending to sympathize with someone when you’re really just putting the other woman down and driving your stiletto straight through her heart at the same time.
Finally, I spotted Lorelei sitting with an elderly dwarf at a table that was front and center in the garden.
“Ladies, go enjoy yourselves,” I told Jo-Jo and Roslyn. “I have some business to attend to.”
They both grinned, then moved off to talk to their own friends and business associates.
I threaded my way through the crowd, a bland smile plastered on my face. The society ladies all smiled back at me, but their eyes sharpened, and their minds churned as they tried to figure out who I was, what I was doing there, and how they might benefit from it. The sharks smelled fresh blood in the water.
But I made it over to the table without getting waylaid by anyone, and I dropped into a seat across from Lorelei, who kept right on talking to the dwarf.
Mallory Parker, her great-grandmother.
A sign posted next to the podium a few feet away bore a picture of Mallory’s smiling face, proclaiming her as the proud sponsor of today’s event, the annual Lily Rose Memorial Fund-Raiser. Several charities were listed on the sign, the most prominent being the botanical gardens and a battered women’s shelter. I wondered how many folks here knew that Lily Rose had been an actual person and not just a name. Or maybe everyone thought Lily Rose was some sort of fancy hybrid flower that Mallory had picked to match the garden setting.
I focused on Mallory, who had removed her white hat and set it aside. I couldn’t tell how old she was, but I was betting well more than three hundred, given the deep wrinkles that grooved into her face. She was small, even for a dwarf, and her skin had the brown, weathered look of someone who’d done her fair share of work outdoors over the years. And she must have been richly rewarded for that work, since she had enough diamonds flashing on her neck, wrists, and fingers to fund a small army. Her satin dress was pale blue, with scads of matching lace, and her hair was a white, fluffy, teased cloud around her head, although I could see the pink of her skull here and there.
Mallory Parker was the perfect picture of an old-school Southern grandmother. Someone who was always polite, punctual, and oh-so-proper in everything from her speech to her dress to the way her pinkie crooked out just so as she sipped her tea.
Still, the longer I looked at her, the more I got the sense that there was more to Mallory than satin, lace, and diamonds. She might seem as old and fragile as the tea set on the table, but her blue eyes were sharp and bright as she took in everything around her.
“. . . go ahead with your Hawaiian vacation,” Lorelei said. “I can change your ticket so that you leave tonight.”
“But what about you, sweetheart?” Mallory said in a twangy voice that was far more hillbilly than high society. “We were supposed to take our annual trip together after the fund-raiser today, just like we always do.”
Lorelei flashed her grandmother a smile, even though it didn’t reach her eyes. “I have some business to wrap up, but I can fly out and meet you in a few days. So what do you say?”
“I say that it sounds like a grand old time,” I drawled. “I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii. Aloha.”
Lorelei shot me an annoyed look. She didn’t like me eavesdropping. Too bad. I was going to do a lot worse than that today. My frilly getup must have thrown her off, because confusion filled her face as she tried to figure out who I was. I tipped up the brim of my hat to reveal my face.
Her jaw clenched. “What are you doing here?”
Instead of answering, I flagged down a passing waitress and plucked a tall, frosty mint julep off her tray. I took my sweet time leaning back in my chair and arranging my ridiculous skirt around my legs before sipping the drink. The cold, tart liquid slid down my throat, leaving behind a refreshing zing of mint in my mouth. Mmm. Perfect.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online