Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(77) by Jennifer Estep
“That’s why I’ve taken care of everything,” I cut in, annoyed by the whining tone creeping into his voice. “I’ve already hired the moving vans, and my friends are coming over later to help Lorelei and Mallory pack up some more of their things. Lorelei will ride in the front van with me, and we’ll make Mallory comfortable in the back of another van.”
Lorelei zipped up her laptop bag, then moved over and started pulling books off one of the shelves along the wall. “Mallory wants to stop by the botanical gardens before we leave for good. She and my mom spent a lot of time there when Mom was younger. And so have Mallory and I over the years.”
“I suppose we have time for one last nostalgia stop before we get you out of town,” I said. “We’ll take Huckleberry Road. It runs right by the gardens, and there’s never a lot of traffic on it. We’ll stop, let Mallory say her good-byes, and be on our way. By the time Pike realizes that you’re gone, you and Mallory will be in another state, with new identities, and he’ll never be able to find you again.”
Lorelei nodded and kept pulling books off the shelves. I eyed the titles. Lots of fantasy and spy books, along with a sprinkling of Southern literature. I approved of her reading choices, especially since I spotted a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows. My heart squeezed as I thought of Fletcher. The old man would have been happy that I was here, helping Lorelei. And so was I.
Corbin looked back and forth between us. “It sounds like you’ve thought of everything.”
I turned away so he wouldn’t see my sly smile. “Yeah, I think we have.”
“Well, if you’re sure that there’s nothing I can do . . .” Corbin’s voice trailed off.
“I’m sure,” Lorelei said.
She stopped her packing, walked over, and laid her hand on Corbin’s shoulder. “You’ve been a big help already, Jack. Don’t think that I haven’t noticed—or that I don’t appreciate all your hard work for me.”
She reached out and hugged him. I was facing Lorelei, and I arched my eyebrows at her sweet, syrupy words. Lorelei rolled her eyes before her face smoothed out into a neutral expression. She drew back and stared at Corbin.
“I’ve arranged for you to receive a nice bonus. One that should tide you over until you can join someone else’s crew. I’ll also put in a good word for you with the folks I know.”
“Thanks, boss,” Corbin said. “Well, if you don’t need me for anything, I guess I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Corbin smiled at Lorelei, nodded at me, then left the office and shut the door behind him. Lorelei opened her mouth, but I held up a finger in warning. I hadn’t heard Corbin walk away.
“Let me help you with those books,” I said. “They look heavy.”
Lorelei and I moved around the office, lugging books from one side to the other. After about a minute, a floorboard creaked, and I heard soft footsteps retreating down the hall.
I dropped the books I’d been holding onto a nearby sofa and cracked open the office door. Corbin was gone, and the hallway was deserted. Good.
Closing the door, I turned to face Lorelei, who’d dumped her own armful of books onto her desk.
“Do you think he bought it?” I asked. “That we weren’t too obvious?”
Lorelei snorted. “I didn’t hire him for his brains. He bought it, all right. Hook, line, and sinker.”
I grinned. “Well, then, let’s see what our bait catches us.”
At six o’clock that evening, I was sitting shotgun next to Bria in a white moving van, watching the world pass by. We were in Northtown, on Huckleberry Road, driving by the lush landscape of the botanical gardens, although the setting sun was already turning the thick clusters of plants more gray than green. Iron streetlights had already sputtered to life along this narrow, curvy stretch of road, their golden glow highlighting the growing shadows.
“Are you sure this is going to work, Gin?” Bria asked. “It seems like a big risk to take.”
“This is our best option. Trust me.”
“But what if Pike does something unexpected?” Bria pressed, worry creasing her face. “What if things go wrong?”
“Pike has been fairly predictable up to this point. I don’t expect him to deviate too much from his standard plan of attack. Even if he does exactly what I think he will, things will still undoubtedly go wrong. That’s just how my bad luck rolls. But that’s why we’re doing it this way. To minimize the risk to everyone.”
I glanced in the side mirror. Two vans identical to ours cruised down the road behind us. Finn was driving the second vehicle, Xavier riding shotgun, while Sophia was steering the last one, with Owen and Silvio as her wingmen. Despite the fact that he’d almost died last night, Owen had insisted on coming. I loved him for it, but it also made my stomach churn with worry, just like it did for the rest of my friends. Because as long as Pike was alive, they were all in danger, especially being here with me.
Bria didn’t say anything else, but she alternated between looking at me, at the road ahead, and in the rearview mirror. One of her hands wrapped around the steering wheel, while the other crept up to fiddle with her wig—a dark brown ponytail. I thought it went rather well with the head-to-toe black clothes she was wearing.
“You’re going to mess up your hair if you keep pulling on it like that.”
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