As Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, I’m used to having a target on my back. But ever since I started investigating the secret society known as the Circle, that target seems bigger than ever.
Still, I’m trying to relax and enjoy the events leading up to my friends’ wedding when I learn that an old enemy has returned to Ashland. And that’s the just beginning of my latest nightmare. Soon, I have Circle goons watching my every move, but I have no choice but to continue searching for a key piece of evidence against the evil group.
The deeper I dig, the more horrifying secrets I uncover, and the more dangerous things become for me and my friends. Just when I think I finally have a handle on things, a shocking revelation shatters my heart and leaves me with an ugly realization—that betrayal is the sharpest sting of all …
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author who prowls the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.
Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Sharpest Sting, book #18, will be released on Oct. 8.
Jennifer is also the author of the Crown of Shards, Mythos Academy, Bigtime, and Black Blade fantasy series.
For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter. Jennifer is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one Smexy reader. Comment below no later than 11:59 pm EST on October 5, 2019 and we’ll choose a winner on Sunday.
Excerpt from Sharpest Sting, out 10/8
Owen and I both froze like two deer caught in the harsh glare of unexpected headlights on a dark, deserted country road.
Then I grabbed his arm and yanked him back, tugging him behind the large snowflake statue that marked my family’s graves. The sharp motion pulled Owen off-balance, and he lost his grip on the two shovels, which thump-thumped to the ground.
I grimaced at the unwanted noise, but I hunkered down behind the statue with Owen beside me. The seconds ticked by, and I strained to listen, but I couldn’t hear anything above the pounding roar of my heart and Owen’s quick breaths rasping in my ear. Maybe, just maybe, the giants hadn’t heard the shovels hit the ground, and they would go on about their business without realizing that we were here—
“Hey, Wynn. Did you hear that?” one of the giants called out.
“Yeah. I think it came from the top of the hill,” the second man responded. “C’mon, Vance. Let’s check it out.”
So not only had the giants and I picked the exact same time to dig up graves, but now they were coming to investigate the noise Owen had made. I bit back a curse. Lady Luck was really screwing me over tonight. But I couldn’t track what I couldn’t see, so I scooted forward and peered around the side of the statue.
The two giants were climbing the hill. Both were around seven feet tall, with thick, wide, strong bodies and guns clutched in their hands. Each man had brown hair and tan skin, but what really caught my attention was their clothes. The giants were wearing long black coats over black suits, and their black wing tips were as shiny as glass, despite the fact that they’d been digging up a grave. They looked like they’d showered and shaved just a few minutes ago, and I got a whiff of spicy sandalwood cologne wafting off one of them.
The giants weren’t mere grave robbers—they were Circle enforcers.
Once again, I bit back the curse dangling on the tip of my tongue. I had been so worried about someone following Owen and me from the rehearsal dinner to the cemetery that it hadn’t occurred to me that Mason might dispatch his own men here.
It seemed Uncle Mason and I were on the same wavelength, at least when it came to where Fletcher might have hidden Circle secrets. The fact that I might have anything in common with Mason made my skin crawl, but I shoved the disgusting thought aside and focused on the two problems at hand.
“Stay still and quiet,” I whispered to Owen. “Maybe the giants will think it was the wind and leave. I don’t want to fight them unless we absolutely have to.”
Owen nodded, and the two of us held our position behind the snowflake statue. I peered around the side of the stone again and watched the giants climb the hill.
They took their time, not hurrying but not dawdling either, and their heads swiveled back and forth as they scanned the grounds. Both men had their guns up, ready to shoot anything that crossed their path. They seemed well organized and well trained, which made them even more dangerous.
I looked past the giants, examining the rest of the cemetery, but the area was empty, and the two men appeared to be alone. Well, at least there wasn’t a whole squad of them. Maybe Lady Luck hadn’t screwed me over as badly as I’d thought.
The giants stopped about twenty feet away from Owen and me and turned around in a circle, once again scanning their surroundings. They must have seen the same emptiness that I did, because they relaxed and lowered their guns.
My heart lifted. Maybe the giants would return to Fletcher’s grave. The second their backs were turned, Owen and I could grab the fallen shovels, creep down the opposite side of the hill, and disappear into the woods beyond. Normally, retreating was a last resort for me, as was leaving bad guys alive to fight another day, but I didn’t want Mason to realize that I’d been here searching for clues.
The giants shrugged at each other, as if they didn’t know what had made the mysterious noise.
Go on, I thought. Leave. You don’t want to stand around with the cold wind whipping in your faces. Go down the hill, down the hill, down the hill…
I kept chanting the words over and over again in my mind. Maybe if I thought them long and hard enough, I could actually make them happen.
One of the giants moved as if to head down the hill, but then he stopped, and his gaze locked onto the two shovels Owen had dropped.
I let out a soft, resigned sigh. Nope, not going to happen. I should have known better than to hope for something as capricious as luck to fall in my favor. This would only play out one way now. Of course. This was how my late-night trips to the cemetery almost always ended.
“Hey, Wynn,” one of the giants said. “Did you bring some extra shovels up here?”
“Nope, Vance. Those aren’t mine. I thought you brought them?”
Wynn shook his head. The two giants exchanged a look and raised their guns.
I let out another soft, resigned sigh and tucked my knife back up my sleeve.
“What are you doing?” Owen whispered.
“I don’t want to kill them with my knives or my Ice magic unless I have no other choice,” I whispered back. “Stay hidden while I distract them, then follow my lead. Try to grab one of their guns and shoot them, if you can.”
Owen frowned in confusion, but he nodded. He always had my back, which was one of the many things I loved about him.
I loudly cleared my throat, got to my feet, and lifted my arms.
“Hey, fellas.” I stepped out from behind the snowflake statue where they could see me. “Funny running into you guys here. I didn’t realize the cemetery was such a popular late-night hangout.”