Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(55) by Jennifer Estep
But he was targeting the wrong person.
Lorelei hadn’t done anything to their father. I was the one who’d killed Renaldo, and Lorelei knew it as well as I did. So why wasn’t she shouting the truth to the high heavens? Why hadn’t she found some way to let Raymond know that it was really me who’d killed their father? Why was she sitting back and waiting for him to try to murder her again for something that she didn’t even do?
If she really wanted to eliminate threats, as she’d put it, then Lorelei should have whispered in Raymond’s ear that I was the one he really wanted. That way, she could have killed two birds with one truth. She could have let Raymond have his revenge and gotten rid of me at the same time.
But she hadn’t done any of that, and I wondered why.
Oh, the whys. They had caused me many a sleepless night.
And this one was going to be no exception.
Despite all the questions bouncing around in my mind, I managed to get a little sleep. I still had a barbecue restaurant to run, so I got up, took a shower, and went to the Pork Pit on schedule the next morning.
I did my usual check for booby traps, being extra cautious in case Pike had decided to leave me a little present like the ones he’d been dropping for Lorelei all over town. But the restaurant was clean, so I opened the front door, went inside, and started cooking.
The familiar rhythms of mixing, stirring, baking, and frying soothed me the way they always did. The thing I loved about cooking was that it was predictable, reliable, dependable. Measure the ingredients, follow the directions, set the oven to the right temperature, and everything always came out just fine. Too bad there wasn’t a recipe for life and all its messy complications.
So I threw myself into my routine to try to quiet my troubled thoughts. And it worked. By the time Sophia, Catalina, and the rest of the waitstaff came in, I’d already made two vats of Fletcher’s secret barbecue sauce, put the day’s sourdough rolls in the ovens to bake, and sliced up the vegetables for the burgers and other sandwiches. But most important, I felt much calmer, and I’d made an important decision.
To leave Lorelei Parker to her own fate.
I’d already saved her twice from her brother and his bombs, and she’d been an ungrateful snot every step of the way. She didn’t want my help? Well, that was just fine and dandy with me. She was an underworld boss. She had Ice and metal magic. She could take care of herself. Besides, it wasn’t my problem. Her feud with her brother didn’t have anything to do with me.
Even if a stubborn little voice in the very back of my mind kept insisting that it did.
Stupid voice. Stupid head. Stupid everything.
Silvio cleared his throat, interrupting my thoughts. He’d come in with Catalina a few minutes ago and was sitting on his usual stool, arranging his phone and tablet on the counter. “It’s nice to see that you are actually where you’re supposed to be. For a change.”
“Don’t tell me that you’re still bent out of shape because I didn’t take you to the garden party yesterday. It was ladies-only, if you’ll recall.”
Silvio sniffed, letting me know that he was indeed still miffed. “I’m not upset that I couldn’t attend the actual event. I find those sorts of social activities rather abhorrent.” His nose twitched in disgust. “It’s just that you didn’t check in with me before you went.”
The vampire gave me a chiding look. “So how can I be your assistant and actually assist you if I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing?”
I sighed. “I appreciate your wanting to help, Silvio. Really, I do. But you should know by now that I’m more of a do-it-myselfer. I’m still not used to having an assistant, especially not one as . . . dedicated as you.”
That was my diplomatic way of not saying that Silvio’s obsessive love of lists, schedules, plans, and details sometimes drove me crazy. I didn’t know if I would ever get used to having an assistant, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
My apology seemed to satisfy Silvio, who fired up his tablet for the morning briefing. For once, I listened carefully to everything he said, since almost all of it had to do with Pike.
“If he’s staying in a hotel in Ashland, he’s using an alias,” Silvio said. “More likely, he’s rented an apartment or a house under a fake name. Either way, there’s no trace of him anywhere in the city. No hotel sightings, no credit-card charges, nothing.”
I tapped my fingers against the counter. Not surprising. Pike had struck me as a careful sort who didn’t leave anything to chance, especially not the revenge he’d been planning for so many years. The fact that I’d mucked up his plans to hurt Lorelei and hadn’t been seriously injured myself was somewhat amazing. I just wondered how long it would be before my luck ran out.
No, I thought. My luck wasn’t going to run out, because this wasn’t my problem. Lorelei wanted me to stay out of her affairs; well, I was going to cede to her wishes. Besides, I still had enough problems of my own to worry about with the other bosses.
Still, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to keep an eye on the situation. After all, I’d messed up Pike’s schemes twice now. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he might turn his attention to me after he was done with Lorelei.
“Keep looking for Pike,” I told Silvio. “If you find him, don’t approach him. He’s too dangerous for that. Just let me know where he is.”
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