Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(60) by Jennifer Estep
Fletcher had included several photos of Lorelei and Mallory’s estate in his file, and I’d studied the images before I’d left the house. As with most Northtown mansions, thick stands of trees separated their home from their closest neighbor’s, giving the illusion of privacy—and plenty of places for an assassin to hide.
A full moon glimmered in the sky, along with a bright blanket of stars, giving me enough light to navigate through the woods. Good thing, since I didn’t dare use a flashlight. If Pike was out here, I wanted to take him by surprise, which meant no lights and no noise of any kind.
I reached the edge of the tree line and hunkered down behind a large maple. I pulled a pair of night-vision goggles out of my black duffel bag, held them up to my eyes, and scanned the estate.
The mansion was modest by Northtown standards, three sprawling stories with about thirty rooms total. A pool was at the right side of the house, along with an impressive garden filled with bird baths and feeders. Thick, padded chairs shaded by umbrellas were arranged on a stone patio. I could easily picture Mallory sitting outside and watching the flowers and birds for hours on end.
To my surprise, Lorelei didn’t have all that many giant guards patrolling the perimeter. I only spotted three doing a slow circuit around the house, stepping into and out of the golden glows cast out by the numerous lights mounted on the mansion’s exterior. Given that Pike was gunning for her, I’d assumed that she’d have at least a dozen men on the premises, if not more. Or maybe she really did think she could take care of Pike by herself. If that was the case, I admired her confidence, even if it was most likely going to get her killed.
Once I’d scanned the grounds, I put away the night-vision goggles and pulled out a pair of binoculars, training them on the mansion itself. Some of the windows were covered with lace curtains, but it looked like every single light in the entire house was on. I wondered if that was because Lorelei wanted to see her brother coming.
I moved my binoculars back and forth, peering at all the doors and windows, until I spotted Lorelei sitting at a desk in a library on the first floor. She held her hand out in front of her, and a pale blue light flickered on her fingertips. A second later, the light vanished, leaving behind a rectangular piece of elemental Ice in her hand. She studied it a moment, then reached for her power again, creating another piece of Ice, this one shaped like a short cylinder.
Then another one, then another one.
I watched while she created and assembled all the odd bits of Ice, as though she were working a jigsaw puzzle. But the end result was far more interesting than a pretty picture.
It was a gun.
It looked like a small revolver, but it was made entirely out of elemental Ice, including the single bullet that she created and then loaded it with. An Ice gun . . . that must have been what I’d seen glinting in her clutch at the garden party. It would also explain the chill that had been radiating off her bag.
Impressive. I’d heard of such weapons, but I’d never seen one being made before, and I certainly didn’t have the skill to do something like that. An Ice dagger was about as complicated a shape as I ever made. Lorelei might not have as much raw magic as I did, but she more than made up for it with her finesse. Maybe she was better prepared than I’d thought. Maybe she was even better prepared than me. At least she wasn’t carrying around metal weapons that could potentially be used against her.
I scanned the other rooms, but I didn’t see Mallory. She must be somewhere deeper in the mansion. She wouldn’t leave Lorelei as long as Pike was alive.
So far, her brother had been playing games with her. Since he’d failed in his previous attempts, it would make sense for Pike to come here and finish what he’d started by trying to kill Lorelei. I was counting on it, and it looked like she was too.
Since the mansion was secure, I switched back to my night-vision goggles and scanned the woods around me again, but I didn’t see or hear anything unusual. Just the rustling of the wind dancing through the branches, the bzz-bzz-bzz of a few bugs droning defiantly against the growing cold, and the mournful hoots of an owl hidden in a tree.
So I left my hiding spot and did a perimeter sweep, keeping one eye on the guards patrolling the mansion and the other on my surroundings, just in case Pike had slipped into the woods without me spotting him. I reached out with my Stone magic, listening to the whispers of the rocks hidden under the brown, brittle leaves, but they only reflected back my own tension at what might happen here tonight.
I completed my circuit and was about to return to my initial hiding spot when a branch snapped off to my left. But what was even more interesting was the faint cursing that followed.
I frowned. Surely Pike wouldn’t be that sloppy, but perhaps the terrain had undermined him. Either way, I was going to take advantage of his blunder, so I palmed a knife and headed in that direction. Maybe this would be an earlier, easier night than I’d thought.
I sidled through the trees like a ghost, taking care where I stepped so that I wouldn’t give myself away like Pike had. When I was close to where the telltale crack had come from, I stopped and dropped into a crouch, looking, listening, and waiting for Pike to move and make another mistake.
One minute passed, then two, then three.
I didn’t hear any more cracks or cursing. Pike must have finally realized that it would be best to be quiet.
Scanning the woods, I spotted a shadow moving off to my left, creeping closer and closer to my location. My frown deepened. How could he possibly know where I was? I was wearing black from head to toe and staying perfectly still. I should have been just another bit of darkness to him.
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