Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(43) by Jennifer Estep
Mallory’s smile widened, her expression sweeter, softer, and more innocent than ever before, even as her eyes gleamed with the cold satisfaction of a hunter having snared something in her trap. “Why, to kill Raymond Pike, of course.”
An angry blush bloomed in Lorelei’s cheeks, which turned as blood-red as the roses on the white trellis closest to our table. She shot me another hate-filled glare, as though this ridiculous proposal had come from me and not her grandmother.
“Absolutely not,” Lorelei ground out the words. “I don’t need Blanco’s help, Grandma. I can take care of myself—and you too. I’ve been doing it for years now.”
Mallory crossed her arms over her chest. “You are my granddaughter, and I will do whatever is necessary to protect you from that man. I’ve kept track of him. From what I’ve heard, he’s even more dangerous and depraved than his father ever was.”
Lorelei’s jaw clenched tightly. “And you think that I haven’t been watching out for Raymond too? That I haven’t been waiting for him to find me? I know exactly how twisted he is. I’m the one who lived in that house with him, remember? He always hated Mom and me. Was always jealous of how much attention our father paid her. Raymond tore Mom down with his cruel words and stupid pranks every chance he got. For years. Making Mom look bad and getting us both in trouble with my father was the thing he loved best.”
Mallory’s face softened at the mention of Lily Rose and the torture she and Lorelei had endured. “I know you can take care of yourself, sweetheart. But you should let me do my job and take care of you too. I love you too much to lose you to him.”
She reached over, put her brown, wrinkled hand on top of Lorelei’s pale, smooth one, and gave it a gentle squeeze. Another bit of power rolled off Lorelei, this blast even colder and stronger than the first one had been.
My eyes narrowed. I knew Ice magic when I felt it, but her previous pulse of power had been different, more like Pike’s metal magic. Ice and metal . . . Could Lorelei actually be gifted in two elements? Like me? If so, how had she managed to keep that hidden all these years? Especially given her position in the Ashland underworld? I’d underestimated her. It seemed she was even better at keeping secrets than I was.
For a moment, Lorelei’s face filled with raw, naked emotion, along with a bone-deep weariness. In that instant, I saw the wounded girl she had once been—and how part of her ached to just let Mallory handle everything. To stop being tough and strong, just for a little while, and let someone else take care of things for a change.
Take care of her.
Her hurt and heartache punched me in the gut and stole my breath away. Because they were feelings that I knew all too well, ones that had been building inside me ever since I’d taken out Mab and the Ashland underworld had discovered that I was the Spider and decided that they wanted me dead no matter what.
But Lorelei couldn’t step aside any more than I could, especially not now. The moment passed, the feel of her Ice magic vanished, and her face hardened again. She squeezed Mallory’s hand back, then released it and took hold of her black satin clutch sitting on the table.
“I’ll take care of Raymond,” Lorelei said. “Don’t worry about him—or me. When the time’s right, I’ll kill him. Like I should have done all those years ago.”
Once again, Lorelei shot me a harsh, accusing look, as if this was all my fault.
Mallory waved her hand, causing her diamond rings to flash again. “That’s all well and good, but there’s no reason not to get some added insurance by hiring Ms. Blanco. It’s not like we can’t afford her. That’s why we’ve done so many nasty things over the years—to have money to pay for little incidentals like these.”
“Incidentals? Let me make one thing clear: I’m not your fucking hired help,” I snapped. “So don’t talk about me like I’m not sitting right here.”
Mallory sniffed, then picked up her teacup and took a dainty sip, her pinkie perfectly positioned, as though she really were the sweet, innocent old lady she appeared to be and not a former smuggler who could curse better than a sailor and was trying to hire me to do a hit.
Across the garden, a woman said Mallory’s name and waved to her.
“Why, Delilah!” Mallory called out. “Bless your heart! Don’t you look lovely!”
Delilah beamed and gestured for Mallory to join the group of women she was chatting with. Mallory smiled and waved back. But as soon as Delilah turned her head, a dark scowl crinkled the dwarf’s face.
“I can’t stand that woman,” Mallory muttered. “All she does is talk about her stupid horses. But she gives the gardens a hefty annual donation, so I have to go make nice. You two should do the same. After all, we’re all on the same side now.”
I snorted. “I doubt that.”
Mallory ignored me and got to her feet. “Ten million should do it,” she said. “Ten million dollars for you to kill Raymond. It’s really quite generous, considering that it’s several times more than your going rate.”
“And how do you know my going rate?”
“I did several friendly deals with Fletcher Lane over the years, and I inquired about your services from time to time. Besides, I like to stay on top of these things for professional reasons. Helps keep me young.”
Fletcher hadn’t told me about any deals he’d ever done with Mallory Parker, and had never mentioned anything regarding her asking about hiring me. Then again, the old man had never told me anything about Lorelei either.
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