Jennifer Estep: Spider's Bargin

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Jennifer Estep Spider's Bargin
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    Spider's Bargin
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Spider's Bargin: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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This short story takes place before the events of , the first book in the Elemental Assassin series. In "Spider’s Bargain," Gin Blanco takes on a corrupt cop, but only one of them will be left standing in the end.

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 Spider's Bargain

Elemental Assassin - 0.5


Jennifer Estep

The cop was going to die tonight.

He just didn’t know it yet.

For Detective Cliff Ingles, this was just another Saturday night in the southern metropolis of Ashland, and he was spending it the way he did all his other Saturday nights—slugging down drinks and ogling the sultry vampire hookers at Northern Aggression, the most popular nightclub in the city.

Just before midnight, and people packed into the nightclub. Men in designer suits, women in skirts that barely covered their asses, all looking for their particular brand of poison. Blood, booze, drugs, sex, smokes. Northern Aggression offered all that and more, as long as you had the cash or plastic to pay for your particular vice.

Still, despite the veritable unwashed masses that surrounded me, I had to admit that the nightclub had a decadent style about it. Crushed red velvet drapes covered the walls, while the floor was made of soft, springy bamboo. But the most striking thing in the club was the bar that ran down one wall—an elaborate sheet made entirely of ice. Runes had been carved into the slick surface of the ice. Suns and stars, mostly, symbolizing life and joy. I supposed the symbols were rather appropriate, given all the people getting hot ‘n’ heavy in the booths in the back of the club.

Either way, I’d spent the last hour sitting at the Ice bar—along with Cliff Ingles.

The detective threw back his third whiskey of the evening, then leaned forward and murmured something in the ear of the vampire waitress who’d brought over his drink. The two of them were near the center of the enormous Ice bar, about fifty feet away from my position around the curve and up against the far wall.

Ingles never had a clue that I was watching him. No real reason why he would. If the detective had bothered to look in my direction, all he would have seen was another woman drinking her way through a night out on the town.

Even if the detective had noticed me, even if he’d come over and tried to pick me up, I would have told him exactly who I was. Gin Blanco. A part-time cook and waitress at the Pork Pit barbecue joint in downtown Ashland. A Stone and Ice elemental.

And the assassin known as the Spider.

The woman who was going to make sure Detective Cliff Ingles quit breathing before the night was through.

But there was no danger of Ingles noticing me. I wasn’t his type. The bastard preferred to force himself on young, helpless girls.

And with the five silverstone knives hidden on my person, I was anything but helpless.

I took another sip of my gin and tonic and studied my target, comparing the man in front of me to the photo that had been in the file of information that my handler, Fletcher Lane, had given me when he’d told me about the hit.

Detective Cliff Ingles stood six feet tall, which meant he was a good foot shorter than the giant bouncers who patrolled the nightclub and kept everyone in line. Still, at more than two hundred fifty pounds, Ingles wasn’t a small guy, although his once trim, hard muscle was slowly giving way to flabby fat underneath his expensive navy suit.

With his thick, honey-blonde hair, wide smile, and square chin, Ingles wasn’t an unattractive man. But his brown eyes got a little narrower and a little meaner with every drink that he had. Now, he reminded me of a copperhead, all coiled up and ready to lash out and sink his poisonous fangs into whoever crossed his path tonight.

Ingles wore his gold detective’s badge openly on the leather belt around his thick waist, along with his gun, almost like being a member of the Ashland police force was something to be proud of.

I snorted into my drink. Everyone knew that the majority of the Ashland cops were dirtier than the gangbanger graffiti that covered some of the city’s buildings. Ingles was no exception. Fletcher had dug up all sorts of nasty bits of business that the detective was involved in. Extortion, gambling, forcing vampire hookers to give him freebies in the back of his city-issued sedan. Ingles was a real classy guy all the way around.

But he wasn’t going to die for those particular sins. No, Cliff Ingles was getting my particular brand of attention because he’d raped a thirteen-year-old girl, beaten her after the fact, and left her for dead. Ashland was a violent city, full of bad people doing a lot of bad things. But Ingles was the lowest sort of scum for what he’d done to that girl.

And I was here tonight to make sure that he never had the chance to do it again.

Pro fucking bono.

Normally, I didn’t work for nothing. Mine was a highly specialized skill set, and I liked getting paid for it. I earned it, if only for all the blood I had to wash out of my clothes and hair after the fact.

And as the Spider, I got paid a lot to kill people. I’d been in the assassin business since I was thirteen. Now, creeping up on thirty, I had more money tucked away than I could spend in two lifetimes. Which was one of the reasons my handler, Fletcher, kept nagging me to retire. The old man wanted me to live long enough to actually spend and enjoy my ill-gotten gains.

So far, I’d only listened to Fletcher with half an ear. Killing people was all that I knew how to do. What the fuck would I do if I retired? Take up knitting? Adopt stray puppies? Get knocked up by some guy, move to the suburbs, become a soccer mom, and try to put my bloody past behind me?

None of those things particularly appealed to me. Well, maybe the puppies. I’d always been a dog person.

But the simple fact was that I liked my job. Sure, it was dark, dangerous work. But the blood and the screams didn’t bother me, and I’d long ago given up trying to save my own immortal soul from the fiery hell I knew I was destined for. Besides, every once in a while, I got to take care of somebody like Cliff Ingles. Got to make the city of Ashland just a little bit safer in my own twisted way.

It was the little things in life that made me happy.

A bit of cool magic surged through the air, interrupting my musings. I glanced over at the guy tending bar. His eyes glowed a blue-white in the semi-darkness of the nightclub, as he embraced his power once more. The Ice elemental responsible for keeping the bar in one piece for the night was feeding a bit of his magic into the cold, massive structure.

My own sluggish Ice magic responded to the familiar influx of power trickling into the bar. I was an elemental too, with the rare ability to use two of the four elements—Stone and Ice in my case, although my Ice magic was far weaker than my Stone power. Usually, though, I didn’t think too much about my magic when I was out on a job. As the Spider, I didn’t use my elemental powers to kill.

That’s what my knives were for.

Still, I uncurled my palm from around my drink and stared down at the scar embedded in my flesh. A small circle surrounded by eight thin rays. A spider rune. The symbol for patience. My namesake, in more ways than one. A matching scar decorated my other palm.

The spider rune had once been a medallion that I’d worn around my neck as a child, until a Fire elemental had superheated the metal and burned the symbol into my palms, marking me forever the night she’d murdered my family—

“Disgusting pig!”

The vampire waitress that Cliff Ingles had been propositioning spat out the words, then drew back her hand and slapped him across the face—hard. Despite the music that filled the club, I still heard the stinging crack of her blow at my end of the bar.

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