Old habits die hard for assassins.
And I planned on murdering someone before the night was through.
That's what I did. Me. Gin Blanco. The assassin known as the Spider. I killed people, something that I was very, very good at.
Tonight I had my sights set on my most dangerous target ever-Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who'd murdered my family when I was thirteen.
I'd been plotting the hit for weeks. Where to do it, how to get past security, what weapon to use, how to get away after the fact. Now, on this cold, cold night, I'd finally decided to carry out my deadly plan.
I'd been on the prowl for hours. Three hours, to be exact. Each one spent out in the bitter February frost, including climbing my way up the side of a fifteen-story mansion one icy foot at a time. Hard bits of snow pelted my body as I tried to keep the shrieking wind from tearing me off the side of the building. It wasn't the most comfortable that I'd ever been during one of my hits, but it was necessary.
Too bad Mab knew that I was coming for her.
Oh, I hadn't expected it to be easy, but slipping past the massive net of security, first in the snowy woods around Mab's mansion, and then closer to the house itself, was a bit more problematic than I'd expected. The whole area was teeming with the giants that the Fire elemental employed as her personal bodyguards, not to mention nasty land mines and other traps strung through the trees like invisible spiderwebs. Of course, I could have dropped the giants, killing them one by one as I went along, but that would have resulted in the alarm being raised, and the security net tightening that much more.
So instead I'd opted for a silent, nonlethal approach-at least for now. It had taken me an hour to work my way through the woods, then another one to get close enough to the mansion to slither up the stairs to a second-floor balcony and then heave myself up onto part of the roof that sloped down there. After that, things had gotten easier, since there were no sensors, alarms, or giants posted on the roofs that covered the various parts of the massive structure. Not many people bothered with such things above the second floor, since most folks weren't brave or crazy enough to climb any higher, especially on a snowy night like this one.
I wasn't particularly brave or crazy, but I was determined to kill Mab.
A strong gust of wind slapped and then backhanded the mansion, screaming in my ears and hurling more frozen snow off the eaves and onto me. The chunks punched my body before disappearing over the side of the roof and dropping down into the eerie silver dark of the night.
I grunted at the hard, stinging impacts. As an elemental, I could have used my Stone magic to protect myself, could have tapped into my power and made my skin hard as marble so that the rocklike wads of snow would bounce off my body like bullets off Superman's chest. But elementals can sense when others of their ilk are using their powers, and I didn't want to give Mab any hint that I was here.
At least, not before I'd killed her.
By this point, I'd worked my way up to the sixth floor, where the mansion's blueprints had indicated there was a particularly large dining room. According to some chatter that my foster brother, Finnegan Lane, had picked up from his various spies, Mab was hosting a fancy dinner party this evening. Finn hadn't been able to determine what the party was for or even who had been invited, but that didn't much matter. Mab was getting dead tonight-I didn't care who was in the room with her.
I'd been in position for more than an hour now, outside the dining room window, lying flat on a part of the roof that plateaued before sloping down at a severe angle and dropping away to the ground far below. The blowing snow and murky shadows, combined with the glare of the lights inside, made me all but invisible to anyone looking out through the window.
But really, the worst part of the night wasn't the guards, the cold, the snow, or even the icy, treacherous climb-it was having to listen to the stones around me.
People's emotions, actions, and feelings sink into their environment over time, especially into the stone around them. As a Stone elemental, I could hear those emotional vibrations in whatever form the element took around me, from loose pebbles underfoot to the brick of a building to a marble sculpture. The sounds, the murmurs, the whispers that reverberated through the stones let me know what had happened in a particular spot, what sorts of people had been there, and all the dark, ugly, twisted things that they'd done in the meantime-or who might be lurking around in the here and now, trying to get the drop on me.
Fire, heat, pain, death. That's what the stones of Mab's mansion murmured of, punctuated by sly, smirking, confident whispers of power and money-both things that the Fire elemental had in abundance. But the most disturbing thing, the sound that made me grind my teeth, was the cackling of maniacal madness that rippled through the gray stones. Wave after wave of it, as though the rock had somehow been tortured until it was just as broken, burned, and dead as Mab's many victims.
After a minute of listening to the stones' insane, wailing cries, I'd blocked out the damned disturbing noise and had gotten on with more important matters, like checking my weapons. As always, I carried five silverstone knives-one up either sleeve, one against the small of my back, and two more tucked into my boots. The knives were my weapons of choice on most jobs because they were sharp, strong, and almost unbreakable. Just like me.
But Mab was a Fire elemental, which meant that she could create, control, and manipulate fire the same way that I could stone. And Mab wasn't just any mere Fire elemental-she was rumored to have more raw magic, more raw power, than any elemental born in the last five hundred years. She could easily fry me alive with her magic before I got close enough to even think about plunging my silverstone knives into her burning black heart.
I'd decided to play it smart and keep a healthy distance between us, just in case things didn't work out exactly as I'd planned tonight. So I'd brought another weapon along with me-a crossbow. It looked like your typical crossbow-heavy, substantial, deadly-made even more so by the rifle scope that I'd mounted above the trigger and the six-inch-long, barbed bolt already in firing position. Since it was made out of silverstone, a particularly tough magical metal, the bolt would rip through anything it came into contact with-glass, stone, flesh, bones.
The crossbow currently sat on the window ledge, with the barb pointing inside. I'd been in firing position for more than fifteen minutes, and all I had to do to release the deadly bolt was pull the trigger.
Good thing, as people were starting to arrive for dinner.
The black velvet drapes had been drawn to either side of the window, letting me see into the dining room. Closing the drapes was something else most folks didn't bother with above the second floor. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy of Mab's bodyguards not to see to a pesky little detail like that.