Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(47) by Jennifer Estep
I crouched down, scanning everyone and everything in the garden and considering what I knew about Raymond Pike. Not much, just that he was a cruel, ruthless metal elemental who wanted to kill his half sister. Then again, what else did I really need to know?
A waitress carrying a silver champagne bucket walked in front of my hiding spot. My gaze locked on the bucket, wondering if it contained another bomb. But the waitress promptly carried it over to the bar area, pulled out the bottle, and popped it open.
My worry lingered. Given the bomb Pike had planted on the Delta Queen, it was entirely possible that he’d done the same thing here. I frowned. Why a bomb, though? When he’d murdered Smith at the hotel, Pike had proven that he had more than enough magic to take someone out face-to-face, given the spoon-turned-dagger that he’d thrown into Smith’s throat. So why go to all the trouble of building a bomb and killing Lorelei on the riverboat? Especially when he’d had a sniper rifle that he could have used to blow out her skull?
Unless . . . he didn’t want really want to kill her?
After all, the bomb had been planted at the opposite end of the conference table from Lorelei’s seat. And Phillip and Silvio had said that the resulting explosion had seemed small. So the bomb would have probably killed me, since I’d been sitting the closest to it, and maybe some other folks. But Lorelei probably would have escaped largely unscathed. Jack Corbin too.
Maybe . . . Pike hadn’t been trying to kill his sister. Maybe . . . he’d just wanted to scare her. Maybe . . . he’d just wanted her to realize that he was in Ashland and coming for her. Maybe . . . he wanted to torture her before he finally moved in for the kill.
There were no maybes about it.
From all accounts, Raymond Pike had grown up to be just like his father. But Renaldo had been taken away from him, and he’d spent years searching for Lorelei so he could take his revenge. Now he’d finally found her. It wouldn’t be enough for Pike simply to kill his sister. Oh, no. He would want her to suffer first, the way he had suffered all these years.
And the best way to make Lorelei suffer would be by taking away the person she loved most: Mallory.
I scanned the garden, searching for Mallory. She was sitting at her table, sipping tea, about twenty feet away from my position. I studied the bushes and trees around her, but I didn’t see anything suspicious. No branches moving back and forth, no bright swatches of clothing peeking through the limbs, no telltale flash from a set of binoculars.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Pike was here to kill Lorelei after all—
A waitress separated herself from the crowd and headed in Mallory’s direction. Instead of a bottle of champagne or a tray of food, she clutched a small box in her hand. My breath caught in my throat.
“Here you go, ma’am,” the waitress said, putting the box down on the table in front of the elderly dwarf. “A special party favor just for you.”
She bobbed her head at Mallory, then went back over to the bar.
So Pike was getting someone else to do his dirty work, just like he had on the Delta Queen. I wondered if he intended for the waitress to live through what he had planned. Probably not.
Mallory glanced at the box, but she didn’t make a move to actually open it. The so-called party favor was made out of rose quartz and looked like a fancy jewelry box. Even from here, I could hear the delicate murmurs of the stone, singing proudly of its own beauty.
But those weren’t the only murmurs I could hear.
Dark, devious notes of mischief and malice also emanated from the stone, telling me exactly what was inside: another bomb.
I held my breath, waiting for the bomb to explode, but Mallory kept sipping her tea, the box sitting innocently on the table. I exhaled. Pike wasn’t going to detonate it just yet. Why not?
I looked around and spotted Lorelei on the other side of the garden, her back to Mallory. That’s why. Pike would want Lorelei to actually see her grandmother being blown to bits. I wouldn’t be surprised if he called Lorelei on her phone, told her to turn around, and then boom!
Of course, I thought about running forward, snatching up the box, and throwing it as deep and far as I could into the trees. But Pike might recognize me if I approached Mallory and tried to take the box away. Either way, if he blew the bomb, a lot of people here were going to get hurt—or worse.
No, I had to find Pike and take him out before he could trigger the blast. So I circled the garden, moving from one bush to the next as quickly and quietly as I could, looking for his hiding spot.
Thirty seconds later, I found him.
He was leaning against a tree about fifty feet away from Mallory, staring out through the screen of leaves. His head swiveled from side to side as he looked back and forth between Lorelei and her grandmother.
My knife still in my hand, I crept toward Pike. The one good thing about my filmy dress and bare feet was that I didn’t make any noise as I sidled closer and closer to him.
Pike kept his relaxed stance, a phone in his hand. He was dressed in a dark blue suit, and the sun streaming in through the trees made his black hair as glossy as a crow’s wing. A photographer couldn’t have positioned Pike any better to show off his chiseled features and muscled body. A faint chill of metal magic wafted off him, but the sensation didn’t bother me, since it felt so similar to my own Stone power.
Pike straightened up. I stopped and tensed, ready to throw my knife at his throat, just like he’d done to Smith at the hotel. But the risk was that he might still be able to trigger the bomb before he died or I managed to get that phone away from him—
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