Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin) by Jennifer Estep - Romance>Fantasy
Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.
I'm Gin Blanco.
You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I'm retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren't aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I'm a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn't made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive.
"Freeze! Nobody move! This is a robbery!"
Wow. Three clich - s in a row. Somebody was seriously lacking in the imagination department.
But the shouted threats scared someone, who squeaked out a small scream. I sighed. Screams were always bad for business. Which meant I couldn't ignore the trouble that had just walked into my restaurant--or deal with it the quick, violent way I would have preferred. A silverstone knife through the heart is enough to stop most trouble in its tracks. Permanently.
So I pulled my gray eyes up from the paperback copy of the Odyssey that I'd been reading to see what all the fuss was about.
Two twentysomething men stood in the middle of the Pork Pit, looking out of place among the restaurant's blue and pink vinyl booths. The dynamic duo sported black trench coats that covered their thin T-shirts and flapped against their ripped, rock star jeans. Neither one wore a hat or gloves, and the fall chill had painted their ears and fingers a bright cherry red. I wondered how long they'd stood outside, gathering up the courage to come in and yell out their trite demands.
Water dripped off their boots and spread across the faded blue and pink pig tracks that covered the restaurant floor. I eyed the men's footwear. Expensive black leather thick enough to keep out the November cold. No holes, no cracks, no missing bootlaces. These two weren't your typical desperate junkies looking for a quick cash score. No, they had their own money--lots of it, from the looks of their pricey shoes, vintage T-shirts, and designer jeans. These two rich punks were robbing my barbecue restaurant just for the thrill of it.
Worst fucking decision they'd ever made.
"Freeze!" the first guy repeated, as if we all hadn't heard him before.
He was a beefy man with spiky blond hair held up by some sort of shiny hair-care product. Probably a little giant blood in his family tree somewhere, judging from his six-foot-six frame and large hands. Despite his twentysomething years, baby fat still puffed out his face like a warm, oozing marshmallow. The guy's brown eyes flicked around the restaurant, taking in everything from the baked beans bubbling on the stove behind me to the hissing french fryer to the battered, bloody copy of Where the Red Fern Grows mounted on the wall beside the cash register.
Then Beefcake turned his attention to the people inside the Pork Pit to make sure we were all following his demands. Not many folks to look at. Monday was usually a slow day, made even more so by the cold bluster of wind and rain outside. The only other people in the restaurant besides me and the would-be robbers were my dwarven cook, Sophia Deveraux, and a couple of customers--two college-age women wearing skinny jeans and tight T-shirts not unlike those the robbers sported.
The women sat shocked and frozen, eyes wide, barbecue beef sandwiches halfway to their lips. Sophia stood next to the stove, her black eyes flat and disinterested as she watched the beans bubble. She grunted once and gave them a stir with a metal spoon. Nothing much ever bothered Sophia.
The first guy raised his hand. A small knife glinted in his red, chapped fingers. A hard, thin smile curved my lips. I liked knives.
"Chill out, Jake," the second guy muttered. "There's no need to scream."
I looked at him. Where his buddy was blond and beefy, robber number two was short and bone-thin. His wispy hair stuck up due to uncontrollable cowlicks instead of an overabundance of product. The locks were a bright red that had probably earned him the nickname Carrot at some point. Carrot shoved his hands into his holey pockets, shifted on his feet, and...