Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(44) by Jennifer Estep
Mallory noticed the surprise and suspicion on my face and let out a small, trilling laugh. “I might be old, but I’m not dead yet, sweetheart. At least, not until someone like you comes to visit me in the black of the night.”
I didn’t respond.
“I’ll arrange for you to receive the money any way you like. Cash, gold, bearer bonds.” She paused, then waggled her fingers again, showing off her rings. “Although I prefer diamonds myself. They are a girl’s best friend for a reason. Several, actually. Easy to transport, easy to fence. After all, you just never know when you might need the money to leave town in a hurry. I’ve found that it’s best to be prepared for anything, haven’t you?”
I still didn’t respond.
Mallory picked up her white hat and arranged it on top of her head before turning her steely blue eyes back to me. “Think about my offer, Ms. Blanco. It’s one of the most lucrative you will ever receive. I will expect an answer by the end of the day. Finnegan knows how to reach me. Until then. Ta-ta, y’all.”
She nodded at Lorelei and me, plastered another syrupy smile on her face, and moved off into the crowd to swim with all the other sharks.
* * *
Across the garden, Jo-Jo waved her hand to catch my attention. She tilted her head at Mallory, who was now holding court in the middle of a pack of society dames. I shook my head, telling Jo-Jo that nothing had been resolved. She nodded back, then turned and started talking to Roslyn.
“Well, well, well. Your pet dwarf and your nightclub madam,” Lorelei said in a snarky tone. “I see that the Gin Blanco gang is out in full force today.”
“Jo-Jo healed you at the cabin that day,” I snarked right back. “And you do business with Roslyn just like all the other bosses do. So shut your mouth about my friends before I shut it for you. Permanently.”
Lorelei leaned back in her chair, unconcerned by the cold threat of violence in my voice, although she kept one hand on the table, next to her clutch. “I guess you remember me now, huh? I was wondering how long it would take you to figure it out. Why, given all the hype surrounding the great Spider, I would have thought that you would have been knocking on my door long before now. But it’s been, what, two days? And you’re just now confronting me?” She clucked her tongue, mocking me. “Very disappointing, Gin. Mab Monroe would have already resolved this whole situation.”
“I’m not Mab,” I said, in an even icier tone than before. “Something you should be extremely grateful for, sugar.”
“And why is that?”
“Because you’d be dead, along with Mallory—and Raymond too. Mab never was very merciful to troublemakers or their targets.”
Lorelei scoffed. “Well, at least she would have killed him. And that is definitely something I could drink to.”
She dragged over the mint julep she’d been sipping before I’d sat down, raised it to her lips, and threw back the rest of it. Lorelei put the empty glass down and pushed it away so hard that it snagged on a wrinkle in the tablecloth and almost tipped over before slowly righting itself. The teetering motion made the ice inside the glass rattle around like dominoes.
“All these months, you’ve known that I was the Spider, all the times our paths have crossed, Mab’s funeral, that night at the Briartop art museum, the Monroe mansion a few weeks ago . . . Why didn’t you tell me who you really were?”
Lorelei gave me a flat look. “Tell you what, exactly? That my father abused me and my mom? That he basically kept us prisoners? That every time she tried to leave him, he only got more jealous, violent, and vicious? That he finally murdered her right in front of me? Forgive me for not bringing up my unhappy childhood.”
The longer I stared at her, the more anger tightened her face.
“Besides, I always thought you knew who I was,” she said in a harsh voice. “How could you have forgotten?”
Her words came out as a bitter accusation, one that made my stomach tense up with guilt and shame. Because I had forgotten—completely.
Oh, back when I was younger, I’d wondered what had happened to the girl and had constantly pestered Fletcher for updates about her. But all the old man had ever told me was that she was safe, so I’d slowly quit thinking and asking about her and had moved on to other things the way that kids, people, so often do. And I’d had plenty of other things to focus on. My assassin training, all the jobs I’d done, getting my revenge on Mab, all the other folks I’d gone up against over the past year. I doubted that I would have ever realized that Lorelei was that same girl, if not for Pike trying to bomb the Delta Queen.
But I wasn’t about to admit any of that to her, and I certainly wasn’t going to let her see my guilt over it. So I shrugged. “What can I say? I’ve killed a lot of people since then.”
“So have I,” she snapped. “Funny, though, how that one day is still branded in my mind, like it just happened yesterday.”
For the third time, magic rolled off her body, a mix of cold and hard power that confirmed my suspicions about her having both Ice and metal magic. The power cut off as quickly as it had before, but Lorelei couldn’t hide the slight sag of her shoulders, the twist of her mouth, or all the horrible memories that darkened her eyes, just like the blood and bruises that had blackened her face all those years ago. So her magic was tied to her emotions, and she only lost her grip on it and let it show when she was particularly upset.
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