Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(89) by Jennifer Estep
My voice was light, but it was a legitimate concern. My past experience with Madeline had taught me that you never knew when another relative of a dead enemy was going to pop up, come to town, and try to screw you over every which way she could.
Lorelei chuckled, then shook her head. “It was just Raymond. Trust me. This is done. You don’t have to worry about anyone else.”
“Good,” I drawled. “One near-death experience a month is plenty for me.”
Lorelei laughed again, but the sound faded away all too quickly. She stared at me, emotions flashing in her eyes. After a moment, she nodded at me. I nodded back.
I didn’t know if we would ever truly be friends, but we weren’t enemies anymore. And that made me happier than I’d thought it would.
Lorelei and I walked over to where Sophia was still crouched down, measuring Pike’s body. In the distance, a police siren wailed. Bria and Xavier would stall the cops as long as they could, but Finn was right. We needed to leave.
“Sophia?” I asked. “Are you going to haul the bodies back to the vans?”
“Then what are you going to do with them?” Lorelei asked.
The Goth dwarf glanced over at Corbin, then back down at Pike. A grin split her face, and her black eyes brightened. Sophia rasped out a single word.
* * *
Sophia found a shovel in one of the maintenance sheds and quickly buried Pike and Corbin close to the pagoda. She’d just finished when voices started drifting through the hedge maze, indicating that the cops were here. Silvio had already texted me to say that Finn and the others had moved the vans and sedans off the road and out of sight. Once Sophia was done, the rest of us left the garden and went our separate ways.
The next day, life was pretty much back to normal—or as normal and nonviolent as it ever truly got in Ashland.
And it stayed that way over the next week. A story ran in the newspaper about a mysterious disturbance at the botanical gardens and someone vandalizing one of the rock gardens, but the cops attributed it to mischief-making kids, and that was the extent of the news coverage.
No one seemed to be missing Raymond Pike. Silvio scoured the news outlets in West Virginia, but there wasn’t so much as a whisper about Pike disappearing. It looked like Lorelei was right, and he was the end of the line. I hoped so. Although I kept thinking about what he’d said to me in the garden, about his source being a coldhearted woman. Something about his specific words chimed a warning bell in the back of my mind, although I couldn’t figure out why.
“Well, well, well,” Finn drawled. “Lookie here on the society page. Mallory has made a sizable donation to the botanical gardens to help clean up all the recent vandalism, along with another anonymous donor.” He snapped his newspaper down and stared over the top of the pages at me, his green eyes sharp and accusing. “You wouldn’t happen to know who that is, would you, Gin?”
“I thought the gardens might need some more fertilizer.” I paused. “Other than what Sophia provided.”
Finn sighed. “First you offer that bounty for Pike’s whereabouts. Then you pay those giants to double-cross him. And now you’re handing out charitable donations. If you keep giving away our money at this rate, there won’t be any of it left!”
“What’s this our money nonsense? It’s my money. I’m the one who earned it. I’m the one who bled for it.”
Finn ignored me and elbowed Silvio in the side. “Tell her I’m right. After all, she has to pay your salary too.”
The vampire shook his head. “Oh, I don’t think there’s any need to worry about Gin’s finances. Not given how healthy business has been at the restaurant over the past few weeks. Just look at everyone piled in here today.”
The restaurant was as crowded as ever. Most of the folks were just here to chow down on a hot plate of barbecue, but more than a few underworld types were in the mix too. Apparently, eating at the Pork Pit was one of the ways to show your support for me, the new head honcho. At least, that’s what Silvio kept claiming. Maybe I should start selling T-shirts with my spider rune and the words Team Gin on them. Heh.
Finn finished his lunch and left to go meet some new client. Thirty minutes later, the bell over the front door chimed, announcing the arrival of two customers I could have done without: Dimitri Barkov and Luiz Ramos.
I still hadn’t settled their business dispute, and the two of them were getting antsy. Silvio had invited them to come to the Pork Pit so we could decide things once and for all.
It was three o’clock on the dot when they stepped up to the front door, both trying to enter at the same time. They ended up getting stuck in a logjam, glaring at each other, neither one willing to give an inch, not even so they could get inside. I grinned. This might be more amusing than I’d thought.
Sophia, who was wiping down one of the tables, went over, grabbed hold of their arms, and yanked them through the doorway. Dimitri and Luiz both stumbled forward before righting themselves. They started to glare at Sophia, but she crossed her arms over the black figure of Death that decorated her bright pink T-shirt and stared them down, daring them to give her a dirty look.
Dimitri and Luiz both swallowed and turned away. They were smart enough not to want to mess with the Goth dwarf, especially when she was eyeing their heads like she wanted to crack them together and leave them both addle-brained puddles on the floor.
The two mobsters smoothed down their ties and headed over to where I was sitting behind the cash register, reading For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming for my spy literature course over at Ashland Community College.
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