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Venom (Elemental Assassin Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview

What kind of assassin works pro bono?

It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue...
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Venom (Elemental Assassin Series #3)

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Overview

What kind of assassin works pro bono?

It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Estep has really hit her stride with the gritty and compelling Elemental Assassin series. She surrounds her fascinating and complex heroine with a cadre of supporting players, each of whom are intriguing in their own right. Brisk pacing and knife-edged danger make this an exciting page-turner. Kudos to Estep, who is rapidly heading toward the top of the urban fantasy genre!"
- Romantic Times Top Pick, 4 1/2 stars

"Gin is an assassin to die for."
- Adrian Phoenix, author of Etched in Bone

" A raw, gritty, compelling walk on the wild side, one that had me hooked from the first page."
- New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh, on SPIDER'S BITE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439155455
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Series: Elemental Assassin Series , #3
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 14,284
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, Spider’s Revenge, By a Thread, Widow’s Web, Deadly Sting, Heart of Venom, The Spider, Poison Promise, and Black Widow, along with the e-shorts Thread of Death, Parlor Tricks, and Kiss of Venom, are the other titles in her red-hot Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Jennifer is also the author of the Black Blade and Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series and the Bigtime paranormal romance series. For more on Jennifer and her books, visit JenniferEstep.com and @Jennifer_Estep.
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Read an Excerpt


1

The bastards never even would have gotten close to me if I hadn’t had the flu.

Coughing, sneezing, aching, wheezing. That was me. Gin Blanco. Restaurant owner. Stone and Ice elemental. Former assassin. And all-around badass. Laid low by a microbe.

It had started as a small, ominous tickle in my throat three days ago. And now, well, it wasn’t pretty. Watery eyes. Pale face. And a nose so red and bright even Rudolph would have been jealous. Ugh.

The only reason I’d even crawled out of bed this evening was to come down to Ashland Community College and take the final for the classic literature class I was auditing. I’d finished my essay on symbolism in The Odyssey ten minutes ago. Now I plodded across one of the grassy campus quads and feverishly dreamed of sinking back into my bed and not getting out of it for a week.

Just after seven on a cold, clear December night. This was the last day of finals for the semester, and the campus was largely deserted. Only a few lights burned in the windows of the kudzu-covered brick buildings that rose above my head. The stones whispered of formulas, theories, and knowledge. An old, sonorous, slightly pretentious sound that was decidedly at odds with the sinister shadows that blackened most of the quad. No one else was within sight. Which is probably why they decided to jump me here. Well, that and the fact that kidnapping me would be such a bother.

One second I had my face buried in a tissue blowing my sore, drippy nose for the hundredth time today. The next, I looked up to find myself surrounded by three giants.

Oh, fuck.

I stopped, and they immediately closed ranks, forming a loose triangle of trouble around me. The giants were all around seven feet tall, with oversize, buglike eyes and fists almost as big as my head. One of them grinned at me and cracked his knuckles. Someone was anxious to get down to the business of beating me.

My gray eyes flicked to the leader of the group, who had taken up a position in front of me—Elliot Slater. Slater was the tallest of the three giants, his enormous figure making even his flunkies seem small in comparison. He was almost as wide as he was tall, with a solid, muscled frame. Granite would be easier to break than his ribs. Slater’s complexion was pale, bordering on albino, and almost seemed to glow in the faint light. His hazel eyes provided a bit of color in his chalky skin, although his thin, tousled thatch of blond hair did little to cover his large skull. A diamond in his pinkie ring sparkled like a star in the dark night.

Up until my retirement a few months ago, I’d moonlighted as an assassin known as the Spider. Over the years, I’d had plenty of dealings in the shady side of life, so I knew Slater by sight and reputation. On paper, Elliot Slater was a highly respected security consultant with his own platoon of giant bodyguards. In reality, Slater was the number-one enforcer for Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who ran the Southern metropolis of Ashland like it was her own personal fiefdom. Slater stepped in and either cut off, took care of, or permanently disposed of any pesky problems Mab didn’t feel like dealing with herself.

And tonight it looked like that problem was me.

Not surprising. A couple of weeks ago, I’d stiffed someone during a party at Mab Monroe’s mansion. Needless to say, the Fire elemental hadn’t been too thrilled about one of her guests being murdered in her own home when she’d been entertaining a few hundred of her closest business associates. I’d gotten away with it so far, but I knew Mab was doing everything in her power to find the killer. To find me.

I sniffled into my tissue. I wondered if Mab had figured out who I really was. If that was why Slater was here tonight—

Elliot Slater looked over his broad shoulder. “Is this her?”

Slater slid to one side so another man, a much shorter human, could join the circle of giants surrounding me. Underneath his classic trench coat, the man wore a perfect black suit, and his polished wingtips gleamed like wet ink in the semidarkness. His thick mane of gunmetal gray hair resembled a heavy mantle of silver that had somehow been swirled and sculpted around his head. Too bad hate made his brown eyes look like congealed lumps of blood in his smooth, tight face.

I recognized him too. Jonah McAllister. On paper, McAllister was the city’s premiere attorney, a charming, bellicose defense lawyer capable of getting the most vicious killer off scot-free—for the right price. In reality, the slick attorney was another one of Mab Monroe’s top goons, just like Elliot Slater was. Jonah McAllister was Mab’s personal lawyer, responsible for burying her enemies in legal red tape instead of in the ground like Slater did.

McAllister’s son, Jake, was the one I’d murdered at Mab’s party. The twentysomething, beefy frat boy had threatened to rape and murder me, among other things. I’d considered killing him pest extermination more than anything else.

Elliot Slater and Jonah McAllister tag-teaming me. This night just kept getting better and better. I sniffled again. Really should have stayed home in bed.

Jonah McAllister regarded me with cold eyes. “Oh, yes. That’s her. The lovely Ms. Gin Blanco. The bitch who was giving my boy a hard time.”

A hard time? I supposed so, if you thought turning him in to the cops for attempted robbery, breaking a plate full of food in his face, and ultimately stabbing Jake McAllister to death was a hard time. But I noticed that Jonah McAllister didn’t say anything about me actually killing his son. Hmm. Looked like this was some sort of fishing expedition. I decided to play along—for now.

“What is this meeting all about?” My voice came out somewhere between a whiny wheeze and a phlegmy rasp. “Are you taking up Jake’s bad habit of assaulting innocent people?”

Jonah McAllister’s face hardened at my insult. As much as it could, anyway. Despite his sixty-some years, McAllister’s features were as smooth as polished marble, thanks to a vigorous regimen of expensive Air elemental facial treatments. “I would hardly consider you innocent, Ms. Blanco. And you’re the one who assaulted my precious boy first.”

“Your precious boy came into my restaurant, tried to rob me, and almost killed two of my customers with his Fire elemental magic.” I spat out the words, along with some phlegm. “All I did was defend myself. What does it matter now anyway? Your boy is dead because of some weird heart condition. At least, that’s what was in the newspaper.”

Jonah McAllister stared at me, trying to see if I knew more than I was letting on about his son’s untimely demise. I used the lull to blow my nose—again. Fucking microbes.

McAllister’s mouth twisted with disgust at the sight and sound of my sniffles. Admittedly, it wasn’t my most attractive moment. He jerked his head at Elliot Slater, who nodded back.

“Now, Ms. Blanco,” Slater drawled. “The reason for this meeting is that Mr. McAllister thought you might have some information about his son’s death. Jake did have a bit of a heart condition, but there were also some suspicious circumstances surrounding his passing. Happened a couple of weeks ago.”

Suspicious circumstances? I assumed that was polite talk for a sucking stab wound to the chest. But I kept my face blank and ignorant.

“Why would I know anything about Jake’s death?” I asked. “The last time I saw the little punk was the day he brought his old man there down to the Pork Pit to threaten me into dropping the charges against him.”

Lies, of course. I’d run into Jake McAllister one more time after that—at Mab Monroe’s party. Even though I’d been gussied up as a hooker, he’d still recognized me. Since I’d been there to kill someone else, I’d lured sweet little Jakie into a bathroom, stabbed him to death, left his body in the bathtub, and washed the blood off my dress before going back out to the party. Nothing I hadn’t done a hundred times before as the assassin the Spider. I certainly hadn’t lost any sleep over it.

But right now, it looked like I might lose a whole lot more.

“See, that’s the problem. My good friend Jonah doesn’t believe you. So he asked me and some of my boys to come down here and see if perhaps we could jog something free from your memory.” Slater smiled. His lips drew back, giving me a glimpse of his pale pink gums. The giant’s grin reminded me of a jack-o’-lantern’s gaping maw—completely hollow. “We’re going to pay these sorts of visits to anyone Jake might have had a problem with. And your name was at the top of the list.”

Of course it was. I was probably the only person in Ashland who’d ever dared to stand up to Jake McAllister. Now his daddy was going to make me pay for it.

Slater took off his suit jacket, handed it to Jonah McAllister, and started rolling up his shirtsleeves.

I sniffled, blew my nose again, and considered the situation. Four-on-one odds were never terrific, especially since three of the four men were giants. The oversize goons could be hard to bring down, even for a former assassin like me. None of the giants showed any obvious elemental abilities, like letting flames flicker on their clenched fists or forming Ice daggers with their bare hands. But that didn’t mean they didn’t have magic. Which would make them doubly hard to get rid of.

Still, if I hadn’t had the flu, I might have considered killing them—or at least cutting down a couple so I could run away. Although I’d dragged myself out of bed this evening, I’d grabbed my silverstone knives on the way out the door. Five of them. Two tucked up my sleeves. One nestled in the small of my back. Two more in the sides of my boots. Never left home without them.

Of course, being an elemental myself I didn’t really need my knives to kill. I could just use my magic to take down the giants. My Stone power was so strong that I could do practically anything I wanted to with the element. Like make bricks fly out of the wall of one of the surrounding buildings and use them to brain the giants in their melon-size heads. Splat, splat, splat. It’d be easier than using an Uzi. Hell, if I really wanted to show off, I could just crumble all four of the buildings that ringed the quad down on top of them.

I was also one of the rare elementals who could control more than one element. Stone and Ice, in my case. Until recently, my Ice magic had been far weaker than my Stone power. But thanks to a series of traumatic events, I could do much more with it now. Like create a wall of Ice knives to fling at the men. I’d sliced through a dwarf’s skin doing just that. Giants weren’t quite as tough as dwarves, at least when it came to cutting into them. Even if they did have more blood to spare than their shorter compatriots.

But the odds or how to go about killing the giants wasn’t what was holding me back. Not really. It was the consequences; what would happen afterward when their boss, Mab Monroe, got involved.

Seventeen years ago, Mab Monroe had used her elemental Fire magic to kill my mother and older sister, a fact I’d only recently learned. She’d also tortured me, using her magic to superheat and burn a spider rune medallion into my palms. I was planning to deal with Mab myself after I figured out a few things, like why she’d murdered my family in the first place and where my long-lost baby sister, Bria, was now.

Taking care of Jonah McAllister and the rest of his hired help tonight would definitely tip my hand and draw even more of Mab’s attention my way. I didn’t want Mab and her minions to realize that I had any elemental magic. To suspect that I was anything more than the simple restaurant owner Jonah McAllister wanted dead for tattling on his son to the cops. At least, not before I killed her for what she’d done to me.

All that left me with only one option tonight—I was going to have to let the giants hurt me, beat me. That was the only way I could keep my cover identity as Gin Blanco safe, along with who I really was, Genevieve Snow.

Fuck. This was going to hurt.

Elliot Slater finished rolling up his sleeves. “Are you sure you don’t have anything to tell us, Ms. Blanco?”

I sighed and shook my head. “I told you before. I don’t know anything about Jake McAllister’s death except what I read in the newspaper.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Slater murmured.

The giant stepped forward and flexed his fingers, ready to get on with things. Time for me to put on a little show. I widened my eyes, as though it had just sunk into my flu-addled brain what Elliot Slater was planning to do to me. I let out a phlegmy scream and turned to run, as though I’d forgotten all about the two giants standing behind me. I ran right into them, of course, and they reached for me. Even though I had no real intention of trying to break free, I still struggled to keep up appearances. Yelling, flailing, kicking out with my legs.

While I fought with the bigger, heavier men, I managed to discreetly slip the two silverstone knives that I had up my sleeves into the pockets of my jacket. I didn’t want the giants to feel the weapons when they finally latched onto me. Most innocent women didn’t go around wearing five knives on them, and my being so heavily armed would be the final nail in my coffin as far as Jonah McAllister was concerned about my involvement in his son’s death.

The two giants laughed at me and my weak, exaggerated blows. After a minute of struggling, they seized my upper arms and turned me around to face Elliot Slater once more.

And that’s when the fun really started.

Slater snapped his hand up and slammed his fist into my face. Bastard was quick, I’d give him that. I hadn’t braced myself for the blow, and I jerked back in the giants’ arms. The force almost tore me out of their grasp. Pain exploded like dynamite in my jaw.

But Slater didn’t stop there. He spent the next two minutes beating me. One punch broke my drippy nose. Another cracked two of my ribs. And I didn’t even want to think about the internal bleeding or what my face looked like at this point. Thud, thud, thud. I might as well have been a piece of meat the giant was tenderizing for dinner. Every part of me hurt and burned and throbbed and pulsed with pain.

And he laughed the whole time. Low, soft, chuckling laughs that made my skin crawl. Elliot Slater enjoyed hurting people. Really enjoyed it. His hard-on bulged against the zipper on his black pants.

Slater hit me again and stepped back. By this point, I hung limp between the two giants, all pretense of being tough and strong long gone. I just wanted this to be over with.

A hand grabbed my chin and forced my face up. I stared into Slater’s hazel eyes. At least, I tried to. White starbursts kept exploding over and over in my field of vision, making it hard to focus. The light show was better than fireworks on the Fourth of July.

“Now,” Elliot rumbled. “Do you want to reconsider what you know about Jake McAllister’s death? Maybe you have something new to add?”

“I don’t know anything about Jake’s death,” I mumbled through a mouthful of loose teeth. Blood spewed out of my split lips and cascaded down my navy fleece jacket. “I swear.” I made my voice as low, weak, and whipped as I could.

Jonah McAllister stepped forward and peered at me. Malicious glee shimmered in his brown gaze. “Keep hitting her. I want the bitch to suffer.”

Elliot Slater nodded and stepped back.

The giant spent another two minutes hitting me. More pain, more blood, more cracked ribs. As I coughed up another mouthful of coppery blood, it dawned on me that Slater just might beat me to death, right here in the middle of the campus quad. Jonah McAllister certainly wouldn’t have any objections to that. Damn. Looked like I was going to have to go for my knives, blast them with my elemental magic, and blow my cover after all, if I still had the strength to do that—

“Enough.”

A low voice floated out from somewhere deeper in the shadows. A soft, breathy sound that reminded me of pieces of silk wisping together. I knew that tone, that sultry cadence, knew exactly whom it belonged to. So did my inner psyche. Enemy, enemy, enemy, a little voice muttered in the back of my head. A strange, primal, elemental urge flooded my body, the desire to use my Stone and Ice magic to lash out and kill whoever and whatever was within striking distance.

Elliot Slater ignored the command and hit me again, adding to the pain that racked my body.

“I said enough.” The voice dropped to a low hiss that crackled with power, menace, and the promise of death.

Elliot froze, his hand pulled halfway back to hit me again.

“Let her go. Now.”

The two giants who’d had their hands clamped around my upper arms dropped me like I had the plague. I lay on the ground, my blood soaking into the frosty grass. Despite the pain, I managed to roll over onto my side. I also slid one of my silverstone knives out of my jacket pocket and palmed it. The weapon felt cold and comforting against the thick scar embedded in my palm.

Something rustled, and Mab Monroe stepped out of the shadows to my left.

The Fire elemental wore a long wool coat done in a dark forest green. Her red hair gleamed like polished copper, but her eyes were even blacker than the night sky. A bit of gold flashed around her pale throat in between the folds of her expensive coat.

I couldn’t see that well, given the stars still exploding in my vision, but I knew what the gold flash was. Mab Monroe never went anywhere without wearing her signature rune necklace. A large, circular ruby surrounded by several dozen wavy rays. From previous sightings, I knew the intricate diamond cutting on the gold would catch the meager light and make it seem as though the rays were actually flickering. Or perhaps my vision was just that screwed up at the moment.

Still, I knew what the rune was. A sunburst. The symbol for fire. Mab Monroe’s personal rune, used by her alone.

At the sight, the silverstone scars on my own palms started to itch and burn. Mab wasn’t the only one here with a rune. I had one too. A small circle surrounded by eight thin rays. A spider rune. The symbol for patience. The rune had once been a medallion I’d worn on a chain around my neck, until Mab had used her Fire elemental magic to superheat and burn the silverstone metal into my palms like it was a cattle brand. That’s how she’d tortured me the night she’d murdered my family. I was looking forward to returning the favor—someday soon.

Enemy, enemy, enemy; the little voice in the back of my head kept up its muttered chorus.

Mab Monroe walked over and stood beside Elliot Slater and Jonah McAllister. She glanced down at me with all the interest she might give a cockroach before she crushed it under the toe of her boot. Her dark eyes swallowed up the available light, the way a black hole might. I lay very, very still and tried to look like I was a mere inch away from death. Not much of a stretch tonight.

“I said enough, Jonah,” Mab said. “Or have you forgotten that you and Elliot work for me?”

After a moment, Elliot Slater stepped back and bowed his head in deference. The other two giants did the same. But Jonah McAllister was too angry to heed the hard edge in Mab’s breathy tone.

“This bitch made problems for my son, and I think she knows something about his death,” McAllister barked. “I want her to pay for that. I want her to die for that.”

Mab stared down at me again. “You’re letting your emotions cloud your judgment, Jonah. Ignoring the facts. It’s most unbecoming.”

“And what would those facts be?” McAllister demanded.

“That Ms. Blanco is just a woman, a mere, weak woman with no elemental magic or other notable strength or skills. Otherwise, I’m sure she would have used everything at her disposal to keep from being so viciously beaten tonight. She’s not the person you’re looking for, Jonah. More importantly, she’s not the woman I’m looking for.”

McAllister’s brown eyes glittered. “You and your obsession with that blond whore. Why can’t you accept the fact that she’s dead? Buried somewhere in that coal mine, just like Tobias Dawson and his two men were?”

Mab’s eyes grew even blacker. She reached for her Fire elemental magic, holding the power close to her like she might a lover. As an elemental myself, I could feel her magic, especially since she was consciously embracing it. Just the way Mab might have been able to sense my Stone and Ice magic, if I’d been stupid enough to actually reach for any of it.

Of course, I would have felt Mab’s magic anyway, since she was one of the elementals who constantly gave off waves of power. The Fire elemental literally leaked magic, the way water would drip from a faucet. Unlike me. As long as I didn’t draw upon my own elemental strength, didn’t use it in any offensive way, others couldn’t sense my power. A trait that had saved me more than once over the years.

Mab’s magic pricked my skin like hot, invisible needles, adding to my misery, but I stayed still, giving no indication I could sense it—or that I knew what they were talking about.

“I doubt that hooker was a real hooker, and they never found her body in the rubble of the collapsed mine,” Mab replied in a cold voice. “Until I see her body, she’s not dead. I’m going to find her, Jonah, and then we can both have our revenge. She killed Dawson, and she’s the one who killed your son. Not Ms. Blanco.”

They were talking about the night of Mab’s party, when I’d dressed up as a hooker to get close to Tobias Dawson, a greedy mine owner who was threatening some innocent people. Dawson was the one I was supposed to kill that night, but Jake McAllister had spotted me before I’d had a chance to do the hit. Mab had caught me in the bathroom a few minutes after I’d stabbed Jake to death. Evidently, the Fire elemental had put two and two together and realized that I’d stiffed Jake, then done the same to Tobias Dawson later on in his own mine. Not good.

“I agreed to this little test with the understanding that Ms. Blanco would live through it, should she prove herself to be innocent of your son’s murder,” Mab continued. “She’s done so, at least to my satisfaction. Nobody would willingly let herself be beaten the way she has.”

So Mab didn’t understand the concept of self-sacrifice. Not surprising. I might have laughed, if it wouldn’t have hurt so much. Still, I was doubly glad that I’d let Elliot Slater hit me. Otherwise, I would have been dead by now, ambushed from the sidelines by Mab and her elemental Fire magic.

“Who cares if the bitch lives or dies?” Jonah McAllister scoffed. “She’s nobody.”

“That might be true, but unfortunately, Ms. Blanco is not without friends,” Mab replied. “Most notably the Deveraux sisters.”

“I don’t care about those two dwarves,” Jonah snapped. “You could easily kill both of them.”

Mab gave a delicate shrug of her shoulders. “Perhaps. But Jo-Jo Deveraux is quite popular. It might be entertaining, but killing her wouldn’t win me any favors. Besides, I have other concerns at the moment, most notably Coolidge.”

My dazed mind latched onto the unfamiliar name. Coolidge? Who was Coolidge? And what had he done to piss off Mab Monroe?

“You’ve had your fun, Jonah. Face it, Ms. Blanco isn’t the one who killed Jake. And she’s suffered plenty tonight for whatever insults she laid on him previously. Now, are you going to come quietly so we can talk business? Or should I start looking for a new attorney?” Malice dripped from Mab’s voice like acid rain.

Jonah McAllister finally realized he wasn’t going to win this one. And that if he kept arguing with his boss, she was likely to use her Fire magic to fry him where he stood. So the lawyer clamped his lips together and nodded his head, acquiescing to his boss’s wishes. At least for tonight.

Then the silver-haired bastard turned and kicked me in the stomach as hard as he could.

The blow wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still made me retch up even more blood. Something hot and hard twisted in my stomach. I needed to get to Jo-Jo Deveraux soon so the dwarven Air elemental could heal me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be breathing much longer.

“Fine. We’ll move on to the next person, then.” Jonah McAllister leaned down and grabbed my brown ponytail, pulling my face up to his. “You talk to the cops about this, bitch, and you will die. Understand me?”

Cops? Oh, I had no intention of going to the cops. No siree. I was going to handle this matter all by my lonesome. But to keep up the act, I let out a low groan and nodded my head. Satisfied that I was suitably cowed this time, McAllister let go. I flopped back onto the ground.

“Let’s get out of here,” the lawyer growled. “The bitch dripped blood all over my coat.”

Jonah McAllister stepped over my prone body and disappeared into the darkness. Elliot Slater and the other two giants followed him. But Mab Monroe stayed where she was and studied me with her dark gaze. Her power washed over me again, the invisible, fiery needles pricking my bloody skin. I bit back another groan.

“I do hope you’ve learned your lesson this time, Ms. Blanco,” Mab said in a pleasant voice. “Because Jonah’s right. Next time you cross one of us—any of us—you will die. And I promise you that it will be far more excruciating than what you’ve experienced here tonight.”

A bit of black fire flashed in her eyes, backing up her deadly promise. Mab Monroe smiled at me a moment longer, then turned on her boot heel and vanished into the cold night.

© 2010 Jennifer Estep

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  • Posted September 16, 2010

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    Readers will be engaged with Venom as Gin returns for another exciting elemental escapade

    In Ashland former assassin Spider turned restaurant owner Gin Blanco hides her Stone and Ice magic as she keeps a low profile after killing an associate of the deadly Fire Elemental Mab Monroe. However, she still loathes Mab for murdering her family seventeen years ago and remains dedicated to killing her enemy.

    Recently to her shock, Gin has found out that her sister Bria, who she thought died in the massacre, is alive. Gin wants to tell Ashland Police Detective Bria Coolidge that they are siblings, but their respective occupations make her hesitate especially with her plan to destroy her family's killer. Meanwhile Mab's prime enforcer gigantic Elliot Slater stalks vampire Roslyn Phillips. To keep Roslyn safe may mean putting her own life at risk from Slater's humongous fists and delay implementation of her vengeance scheme.

    The latest urban fantasy Elemental Assassin saga (see Spider's Bite and Web of Lies) is a great entry as the killer heroine learns her baby sister is alive, but ironically a cop. Loaded with action from the opening Slater fists to the finish, the key to this exciting thriller is the paranormal seems genuine due to little touches; for instance Gin recovers from the flu. Readers will be engaged with Venom as Gin returns for another exciting elemental escapade.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2012

    3rd book's a charm

    This is the 3rd installment of the Elemental Assassin series, and IMHO, the best so far. In this story, Gin Blanco finds someone from her past that she'd thought was gone forever, struggles with heartbreak and guilt, and finally sets events in motion to hopefully find closure to a tragedy in her past.

    I really enjoyed this book a lot. Gin seems the most "real" to me here as she tries to help a friend get out of a very dangerous situation caused by Gin's previous actions. Gin is trying to enjoy retirement, but it seems her job skills are just too handy to store away just yet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

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    Another wonderful book by this author!

    Review by Jen: We've been blessed to have Jennifer Estep guest with us for the release of each of her Elemental Assassin books. And I've had the great pleasure to read each of the novels. The stories keep getting more interesting as well as the development of the world Jennifer has created.

    The premise of the series is following Gin's vendetta against Mab, the very powerful fire elemental who killed her family. In Venom, she is one step closer to her revenge. But with the appearance of her younger sister, who she believed was dead, and a new love interest to distract her, Gin has her hands full.

    I just love the characters in this series. Gin is so tortured with her past, but has this heart of gold she tries so hard to hide. She's turned away from the assassin life, but isn't afraid to turn back to it when her friends and family are in trouble. Then you have the uber-villian, Mab, who is still quite a mystery to the reader, but we learn just a little bit more about her in each book as her minions keep making Gin's life miserable. Add in a cast of interesting supporting players, from her adoptive brother Finn, to the new love interest Owen, to the giants, dwarves, and vampires and all the other species of people living in Ashland.

    Jennifer has written another wonderful book and I can't wait for the next installment of the series to be released.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

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    Elemental Assassin's Killer Book 3

    Your friendly neighborhood assassin, Gin Blanco, is back in the Elemental Assassin's third installment, Venom. Blanco, equals Bada$$. Coolige, also equals Bada$$. But Jennifer Estep is definitely the biggest Bada$$ of them all, and Oh what tangled webs she writes. Venom proves Spider's Bite and Web of Lies was only the start of good things to come. With the set up and well established characters of Gin, her cohorts, and the world that is Ashland, firmly behind her, Estep confidently starts her descent into the point of no return. Before the end, lines will be drawn. Decisions will be made. And war will begin.

    In typical Estep fashion Venom starts off with a bang.... Or a fist in the face. Picking up where Web of Lies left off, paybacks a b!t@h, that Mab's minions are taking out on Gin's body. Getting jumped by a gang of giants lead by Elliot Slater, and Jonah McAllister, sets the tone for the difficult battle ahead. And it won't be easy with the new straight laced Detective Coolidge on Gin's back. In this episode Gin's case, is eliminating a stalking, serial murdering, rapist, with an eye for a certain madame. This will be her hardest mark yet, and Gin's not sure she will walk away from it alive. Compounding matters, he also happens to be at the top of Mab Monroe's inner circle, and getting this job done will be like declaring war. But Venom isn't just about present problems and relationships, there is also a healthy dose of the past. In this installment, Estep works in Gin's memories of the fateful fire that changed her life. We even find out why her family was targeted, along with learning more about Grayson's troubled past, and how Sophia does such a good job at cleaning up after Gin.

    With the abrupt departure of Donovan Caine, Gin is questioning her head and heart. The always confident assassin, is feeling quite self conscience about how new relationships will perceive her. Enter Owen Grayson, wealthy, sexy, quite possibly the most understanding man in the world, but Gin's weary heart is worried about his motives, and wether he'll be there in the morning when he finds out who and what she really is. Then there's baby sis Bria, who has moved back to Ashland, but Gin's not the only one who recognizes Bria. Life's just not fair for Gin, who's struggling with how to break the news to long lost little sis about who she is and what she does, while juggling to keep Bria alive and kill her mark. But it's all in a day's work for the barbecue betty.

    With luck abandoning her, Gin can't seem to catch a break. Retirement is becoming more of a full time hobby, and the assassin Spider, a murdering philanthropist, donating her skills to the less fortunate. Fortunately for us Estep is donating her writing skills to the masses. Venom's strong story line, action packed drama, and well written characters will keep you hooked. The few answers given will satisfy. And the new threads created will string you along for the next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good

    It took me awhile to get into this series but Venom was a lot better than the first two in the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

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    Can't Wait for the Next Book!

    In this third installment of the Elemental Assassin series, Gin has started moving forth on her vow on vengeance against the Fire Elemental, Mab Monroe, who murdered her family. But first, Gin must help a friend who has a stalker issue. Fortunately for her, the stalker is none other than Mab Monroe's goon, Elliot Slater. How is that for fate? I think Gin sums it up very well on page 102:

    "I'm just wondering how exactly I went from being the Spider to the Robin f***ing Hood of the greater Ashland area. Three months ago, I was killing people for money. Lots of money. Buckets of it. Now, tell me a good sob story instead and I'll take care of all your problems for free. Instead of stealing from the rich, I'm stabbing them to death for the poor."

    As you can see, Gin is snarky as ever. Also developing is her relationship with the gorgeous Owen Grayson. Hopefully she can get over the hurt that Donovan Caine has brought down upon her. And speaking of the absent Donovan Caine, it looks like fate has another surprise for Gin. The police force has hired Bria Coolidge (Gin's baby sister) to fill Caine's vacant spot. Gin isn't the only one that knows Bria is alive, Mab has found out too. Now Gin must protect Bria and figure out how to kill Elliot Slater.

    This was probably not my favorite of the series but it wasn't a letdown. By the end those feelings were erased and I became excited about what will come in the next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2014

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    Gin Blanco, a retired assassin named the Spider, returns in book

    Gin Blanco, a retired assassin named the Spider, returns in book three of the Elemental Assassin series. This time around, she's dealing with the consequences of her actions in book two. With a giant obsessing after a mutual friend, Gin is going to have to give it everything she has in order to save her friend and not expose herself all while somehow living to tell the tale. Add in that Gin's little sister that she thought died when she was a child somehow pops back into her life and this story just got that much more twisted.

    The love interest, Owen Grayson had me pushing aside my intrigue/anger of Donovan Caine and rooting for Owen. I have mixed feelings for Donovan at this point, and I'm hoping he stays out of the picture. I'm almost certain JEstep is going to bring him back later on just to f*** with us though so we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Owen seems like Gin could rely on him for support as well as comfort and I can't wait to see where there relationship goes in the future books.

    Jennifer Estep manages to weave such an intricate story that you're not sure where it's going to go, you just know you want to get caught in her web. The Elemental Assassin series is everything I could ask for in an Urban Fantasy series. I highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet! I'm already listening to the fourth book (audiobook) in the series.

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  • Posted September 7, 2014

    The more books I read in Estep's Gin Blanco series, the more tha

    The more books I read in Estep's Gin Blanco series, the more that I enjoy them.  Venom is another amazing installment in this series, and it also ups the stakes with the introduction of Gin's sister.  Gin goes through a lot in this book not just physically but emotionally as well as Mab and her goon target her sister which brings up Gin's conflicting emotions about family (her family by blood and the family she chose).  Gin also has to deal with her emotional feelings that Owen awakes in her as she realizes that he isn't planning on running from her like her last boyfriend did.  Estep really makes the stakes higher in this book because Gin risks not just herself but also those she cares about in order to stop Mab.  Overall Venom was an excellent adventure in the series, and I can't wait to read Gin's next adventure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    .

    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Bad sample

    Cant even read the sample. Blah!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Anonymous

    Like all of Estep's books, Venom, the third novel in the Elemental Assassin series, hooks you from the start amd won't let you go. Not that you would want it to! In Venom Ginlearns some shocking secrets while going toe to toe with another bully in Ashland. The question is, is she powerful enough to win?

    This is a must read, along with the rest of the series. You won't be dissappointed!

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    Love Gin.

    Love Gin.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Funny, irreverant and just plain fun

    I normally don't like anti-heroes. But this whole series appeals to me.

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  • Posted May 14, 2012

    Excellent Book

    Having read the previous two books in this series, this book was very enjoyable!..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Could have been better.

    Gin (The Spider) Bianco is supposed to be the best assassin in her city but, she sure gets caught and beat up a lot. I read and enjoyed the other books in the series but the scenes of Gin being beaten nearly to death came too often in this one to let me suspend my disbelief, too much S&M for my taste . Otherwise it was a fast paced adventure with lots of twists and suspense that kept me turning the pages.

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  • Posted April 15, 2011

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    I Also Recommend:

    Each book is better than the last...Wow!

    Gin Blanco, assassin, owner of the Pork Pitt (bbq restaurant), community college student and great cook has her hands full in this book. I like that she is a bad ass when she's "on the job." I also like that she, like many women, is just looking to be accepted for who she is, with knives and all. Donovan Caine, who has left town, has still left his mark on her making her wary of love and the possible happily ever after (well, as much as she could get that with her late night activities). When the beautiful vamp Roslyn is stalked by Elliot Slater, Mab's enforcer, Gin feels compelled to "take Elliot out." After all, he has been getting away with torturing and raping his "girlfriend" in the past. It gets plenty bloody when Gin puts her mind to her job. This book is the best in the series thus far. I can't wait for the next book. Read this series; you won't regret it.

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  • Posted February 12, 2011

    Gin cooks up some revenge.

    My thoughts...If you are looking for a fierce, no-nonsense character, then you will love Gin Blanco.

    This is the third book in the Elemental Assassin series, so if you have not read Spider's Bite or Web of Lies, you should definitely start there. This third book feels pivotal to me. Gin has reached an edge. She has lost so much in her short time and she has been defeated by love. This fact makes her character, while still tough as nails, very vulnerable. I developed a new appreciation for her character in this installment. She became so much more likable and relatable. Don't get me wrong, she is still just as fierce, even more so than before. But that vulnerability makes me like her more.

    I am pleased with the other characters in Venom as well. We get to read more about the handsome Finn. We see more of Owen Grayson, who I love compared to that close-minded detective. A bit more is revealed about the mysterious sisters and Bria.

    The action is once again non-stop. Estep leaves readers little time to catch their breath between scenes. It is still violent, bloody, and gritty, but retired or not, Gin is still the Spider. There were more world details revealed, as well as more fuel to the fire against Mab Monroe. As usual, I enjoyed reading the magic Gin created in the kitchen as well as the development of her elemental magic. I can't wait to see what happens in the fourth book.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Venom

    I strongly suggest you read the previous books in the series (Pre-prequel-Web of Deceit; Prequel- Spider's Bargain; installment #1-Spider's Bite; Novella-Web of Death; installment #2-Web of Lies) prior to reading this installment.

    Gin, our favorite assassin is back with a new purpose in life..to help those without a voice. I usually don't like books where the heroine tries to be goody-two-shoes all the time and thank goodness, this is not one of those books.

    Gin is tough, savvy and has a one hell of a mean streak. Gin's viciousness is only out done by her big heart. However, at the same time, she isn't overly emotional (which I can appreciate) and she gets right to the point. This book is action-packed and face paced. The bloody details of this installment are not for the faint of heart! This installment was one of the most gruesome of the series and I loved every minute of it.

    I highly recommend this book to fellow dark urban fantasy readers. I look forward to the next book Tangled Threads due out 4/26/2011. *I also recommend Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between - J.A. Saare, B&N doesn't carry this book but Amazon does.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    even better then the first two

    i liked this third installment better then the first two. the main character is more developed and has met her equal in her new romantic intrest. I felt that with the detective she questioned who she was and it made her character weaker. i definitly enjoyed this book the most out of the three and can't wait to see where she goes next in her relationship with her sister.

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  • Posted October 26, 2010

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    Venom is the 3rd in the new urban fantasy Elemental Assassin Series by Jennifer Estep.

    The weather may be cooling down in Ashland, but the action is as hot as ever and as usual Gin finds herself smack in the middle, she's still looking for her baby sister, but it seems her baby sister's found her, she still wants Mab's head on a platter but that will have to wait for a while. And most of all she's still very loyal to her friends and is a loyal friend in return and when one them is in trouble Gin will do right by them. It usually means more trouble, but Gin's used to that. She's also still nursing that heartache over super homicide cop and Mr. Moral Donovan Caine and she may just have found the right medicine in Owen Grayson, will he turn out to be more moral than common sense too or will he see Gin for what she is, an incredible woman who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty to help out her friends.
    Ms. Estep is one of those rare finds, an amazing storyteller, but what makes her doubly good is that her story is fantasy and still she makes it utterly believable to her audience. Her characters span the spectrum from mundane to unbelievable and we her readers can't help but want to know everything about them all. Her villains dose out more than just dirty looks, they pull their elemental magic up and blast their enemies with it. Her protagonist Gin is one of the most misunderstood heroines you could ever imagine, yes she's a former and sometimes reinstated assassin, but she's got heart and soul, she's feminine and not afraid to let it show and when she's working she's not afraid to show her dark side and now with her new love interest Owen Grayson we finally see a side of her that we've been waiting three novels to see, the proud side. This is not a romance, but there is a romance parked inside and it's a doozy and it's definitely worth the wait. The love scenes are sexy and earthy and sizzle on the page.
    So you say you're looking for something just a little out of the ordinary and with all the urban fantasy/paranormal series/stand-a-lones out there why should you spend your money on the Elemental Assassin series and Venom, because they're that good. Venom stands really well on it's own, but it would be like missing the meat out of the stew. Get the full Gin experience and read all of the novels

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