For the first time, the full origin story of Gin Blanco's transformation into the fearsome assassin known as the Spider—book ten in the red-hot Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.
How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands? Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong. . . .
Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time.
This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control . . . right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it. . . .
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The day the box came started out like any other.
I opened up the Pork Pit, the barbecue restaurant that I ran in downtown Ashland, right on schedule. Turned on the appliances, tied a blue work apron on over my clothes, and flipped the sign on the front door over to Open. Then I spent the rest of the morning and on into the afternoon cooking up burgers, baked beans, and the thick, hearty barbecue sandwiches that my gin joint was so famous for. In between filling orders, I chatted with the waitstaff, wiped down tables, and made sure that my customers had everything they needed to enjoy their hot, greasy meals.
All the while, though, I kept waiting for someone to try to kill me.
Not for the first time today, my gaze swept over the storefront, which featured an assortment of tables and chairs, along with blue and pink vinyl booths. Matching, faded, peeling pig tracks on the floor led to the men’s and women’s bathrooms, respectively. A long counter with padded stools ran along the back wall of the restaurant.
Since it was after six, the dinner rush was on, and almost every seat was taken. The waitstaff bustled back and forth, taking orders, fetching food, and topping off drinks, and the clink-clank of dishes filled the restaurant, along with the steady scrape-scrape-scrape of forks, knives, and spoons on plates and bowls. Murmurs of more than a dozen different conversations added to the pleasant mix of sounds, while the rich, hearty smells of cumin, black pepper, and other spices tickled my nose.
Everything was as it should be, but I still looked at first one diner, then another. A few folks swallowed and quickly glanced away when they realized that I was watching them, not daring to meet my gaze for more than a second. But most were happily focused on their food and their companions and paid me no more attention than they should have. They were just here for the Southern treats the restaurant served up—not to try to murder me and cash in on my reputation as the Spider, Ashland’s most notorious assassin.
“Gin?” A deep male voice cut into my latest examination of the storefront and its occupants.
I looked over at the man perched on the stool closest to the cash register. Despite his slightly crooked nose and a scar that cut across his chin, he was ruggedly handsome, with intense violet eyes and black hair shot through with blue highlights. His navy business suit and white shirt highlighted the coiled strength in his chest and shoulders, and I wasn’t the only woman who paused to give him an admiring glance.
“Is everything okay?” Owen Grayson, my lover, asked.
My eyes cut left and right one more time before I answered him. “Seems to be. For the moment.”
Owen nodded and went back to his meal, while I grabbed a rag and started wiping down the counter.
Actually, so far, the afternoon had passed in a perfectly normal fashion, with the glaring exception that no one had tried to murder me—yet.
Thinking that I might actually get through the workday unscathed for a change, I let myself relax, at least until the bell over the front door chimed. I glanced over at the entrance, expecting to see some new customers ready, willing, and eager to get their barbecue on.
Only this wasn’t a customer—it was a short, thin man wearing a delivery uniform of black boots and matching coveralls.
The guy glanced around the storefront for a minute before his eyes locked on me, and he headed in my direction. I tensed, eyeing the long white box in his hand, and dropped my right arm down behind the counter out of sight. A second later, a knife slid into my hand, one of five weapons that I had hidden on me. This wasn’t the first time someone had dressed up like a deliveryman to try to get close to me at the restaurant. The last guy was still in the cooler out back, awaiting the skills of Sophia Deveraux, the head cook at the Pork Pit, who also moonlighted as my own personal body disposer.
But the guy stepped right up to the cash register, as though this was a simple delivery.
“I’ve got a package here for Gin Blanco,” he said in a bored voice. “Is that you?”
“Here. Sign this.”
He shoved an electronic scanner at me. I slid my knife into a slot below the cash register, where it would still be out of sight, and took the device from him. The man waited while I used the attached pen to scrawl something that sort of looked like my signature onto the screen. The second I was done, the guy snatched the scanner away from me and shoved the white box into my hands at the same time.
He tipped his head at me. “Have a nice day.”
He started to walk away, but I reached out and latched onto his arm. The guy stopped, looked at me over his shoulder, and frowned, as if I’d violated some sort of secret delivery-guy protocol by touching him. Maybe I had.
“Yeah?” he asked. “You need something else?”
I carefully set the box down on the counter. The seat next to Owen was empty, so I was able to slide it several precious inches away from us. “What’s in the box?”
The guy shrugged. “I don’t know, and I don’t care. I just deliver ’em. I don’t look inside.”
He started to pull away, but I tightened my grip on his arm. “You should really tell me what’s in the box.”
He rolled his eyes. “And why should I do that?”
“So I can be sure that there’s nothing . . . nasty inside.”
Confusion filled his face. “Nasty? Why would you think that?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I drawled. “Why don’t you check the name on the delivery order again?”
He glanced down at his scanner and hit a button on the device. “Yeah, it says deliver to Gin Blanco, care of the Pork Pit restaurant, downtown Ashland. So what? Is that supposed to mean something to me—”
Comprehension dawned in his eyes as he finally recognized my name and realized who and what I really was. Gin Blanco. Restaurant owner. And, most important, the assassin the Spider.
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down in his throat. “Look, I don’t want any trouble, lady. I’m just a delivery guy. I don’t know what’s in the box, and that info’s not on my scanner. I swear.”
I kept my grip on his arm, staring into his eyes, but I didn’t see anything but a burning desire to get away from me as fast as he could. Smart man. Still, I let him sweat a few more seconds before I released his arm. “Okay. You can go now.”
The guy whipped around. He had started to take a step forward when I called out to him again.
“Wait. One more thing.”
He froze. He teetered on his feet, and I could almost see the wheels spinning in his mind as he debated making a break for the door. But he must have realized how foolish that would make him look, because he finally turned and faced me again. I crooked my finger at him. The guy swallowed again, but he eased back over to me, although he made sure to stay out of arm’s reach and keep the cash register between us. Very smart man.
By this point, my words and actions had attracted the attention of a few of the customers, who stared at me with wide eyes, as if I were going to whip out a knife and slice open the delivery guy right in front of them. Please. I preferred to be a little more discreet about such things, if only to keep up appearances.
I stared at the delivery guy for a few more seconds before reaching down and grabbing something just below the cash register. He swallowed a third time, and beads of sweat had formed on his forehead, despite the restaurant’s air-conditioning. I raised my hand, and he tensed up more.
I reached up and tucked a hundred-dollar bill into the pocket on the front of his coveralls.
“Have a nice day,” I said in a sweet voice.
The guy stared at me, his mouth gaping open, as if he couldn’t believe that I was sending him on his way without so much as a scratch on him. But he quickly got with the program. He nodded at me, his head snapping up and down, as he backed toward the door.
“Y’all come back now,” I called out. “Sometime when you have a chance to sit down and eat. The food here is terrific, in case you hadn’t heard.”
The delivery guy didn’t respond, but he kept his eyes on me until his ass hit the doorknob. Then he gulped down a breath, threw the door open, and dashed outside as fast as he could without actually running.
Owen raised an eyebrow at me. “I think you about gave that poor guy a heart attack.”
A grin curved my lips. “Serves him right for not being able to tell me what was in the package.”
His gaze flicked to the white box sitting off to the side. “You going to open that?”
“Later,” I murmured. “When we’re alone. If there is something nasty inside, there’s no use letting everyone see it.”
“And if it’s not something nasty?”
I snorted. “Then I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m not holding my breath about it, though.”
• • •
Owen finished his cheeseburger and onion rings and had a piece of cherry pie with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert, while I spent the next hour working. Slicing up more potatoes for the last of the day’s French fries. Checking on the pot of Fletcher’s secret barbecue sauce that was bubbling away on one of the back burners. Refilling drinks and ringing up orders.
I also took the package into the back and placed it in one of the freezers. I didn’t know what surprises the box might contain, but I didn’t want my staff or customers to get injured by whatever might be lurking inside.
Finally, around seven o’clock, the last of the customers paid up and left, and I decided to close the restaurant early for the night. I sent Sophia and the waitstaff home, turned off all the appliances, and flipped the sign over to Closed before locking the front door.
Now all that was left to do was open the box.
I carefully pulled it out of the freezer, took it into the storefront, and put it down on the counter in the same spot as before. I made Owen move to the other side of the restaurant, well out of range of any elemental Fire or other magic that might erupt from it. Then I bent down and peered at the package.
A shipping order was taped to the top, with my name and the Pork Pit’s address. But there was nothing on the slip of paper to tell me who might have sent the box or where it had come from. All of that information had been left blank, which only made me more suspicious about what might be inside.
And the box itself didn’t offer any more clues. It was simply a sturdy white box, long, rectangular, and about nine inches wide. No marks, runes, or symbols decorated the surface, not even so much as a manufacturer’s stamp to tell me who had made the box. I hesitated, then put my ear down close to the top and listened, in case someone had decided to put a bomb with an old-fashioned clock tick-tick-ticking away inside. Stranger things had happened in my line of work.
But no sounds escaped from the container. No smells either, and I didn’t sense any elemental magic emanating from it.
“Anything?” Owen asked from his position by the front door.
I shook my head. “Nothing so far.”
The lid of the box had been taped down, so I palmed one of my knives and sliced through the material, careful not to jiggle the package any more than necessary. Then I waited, counting off the seconds in my head. Ten . . . twenty . . . thirty . . . forty-five . . . sixty . . .
After two minutes had passed, I was reasonably sure that nothing would happen until I actually opened the box.
“Here goes nothing,” I called out to Owen.
I slowly drew the top off the box and reached for my Stone magic, using it to harden my skin, head, hair, eyes, and any other part of me that might get caught in a blast from a bomb or any rune trap that might be hidden inside. A sunburst rune that would make elemental Fire explode in my face, a saw symbol that would send sharp, daggerlike needles of Ice shooting out at me, maybe even some sort of Air elemental cloud design that would suck all of the oxygen away from me and suffocate me on the spot.
But none of those things happened, and all I saw was a thick layer of white tissue paper wrapped around whatever was inside.
I carefully pushed one side of the paper out of the way, then the other, still holding on to my Stone power to protect myself from any possible problems. But to my surprise, the box held something innocuous after all: flowers.
Roses, to be exact—black roses.
I let go of my magic, my skin reverting back to its normal soft texture, and frowned, wondering who would send me roses. I picked up one of the flowers, mindful of the sharp, curved thorns sticking out from the stem, and turned the blossom around and around, as if it held some sort of clue that would tell me who had sent it and why.
And it did.
Because this wasn’t your typical rose. The stem was a milky white instead of the usual green, while the thorns were the same pale shade. But really, it was the petals that caught my attention, because they weren’t black so much as they were a deep, dark, vivid blue, a color that I’d only seen one place before.
“All clear,” I said.
Owen stepped over to the counter and looked into the box. “Roses? Somebody sent you roses?”
“It looks that way,” I murmured.
A white card was lying on top of the flowers, and I picked it up. Only two words were scrawled across the front in black ink and tight, cursive handwriting: Happy anniversary.
That was it. That was all the card said, and no other marks, runes, or symbols decorated the stationery.
I rubbed my fingers over the card. Not what I had expected it to say. Some sort of death threat would have been far more appropriate. Then again, I hadn’t thought that I’d get a package like this today either. But most troublesome was the fact that the two simple words gave me no clue to the writer’s tone, state of mind, or true meaning. The card, the message, the roses could have been anything from a simple greeting to the most biting sort of sarcasm. If I was betting, though, I’d put my money on sarcasm. Or perhaps a warning. Maybe even a promise of payback, retribution, revenge.
“Happy anniversary?” Owen asked, peering at the card. “Anniversary of what?”
I glanced to the left at the calendar that I’d tacked up on the wall near the cash register. August twenty-fifth. It had happened ten years ago to the day. Funny, but right now, it seemed like ten minutes ago, given how hard my heart was hammering in my chest. I breathed in, trying to calm myself, but the sweet, sickening stench of the flowers rose up to fill my mouth and slither down my throat like perfumed poison. For a moment, I was back there, back with the roses, back in the shadows, beaten and bloody and wondering how I was going to survive what was coming next—
“Gin? Are you okay?” Owen asked. “You look like you’re somewhere far away right now.”
“I am,” I said in a distracted voice, still seeing things that he couldn’t, memories of another time, another place.
Owen reached over and put his hand on top of mine. “Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked in a soft voice.
His touch broke the spell that the roses had cast on me, and I pulled myself out of my memories and stared at him. Owen looked back at me, his violet eyes warm with care, concern, and worry. It always surprised me to see those feelings reflected in his face, especially since we’d almost called it quits for good a few months ago. But we were back together and stronger than ever now. More important, he deserved to know about this. He deserved to know why I am the way I am—and who had helped make me this way.
I gestured for him to take his seat on the stool again, while I laid the dark blue rose back down in the box with the others. I kept the card in my hand, though, my thumb tracing over the words again and again. Then I sat down on my own stool, leaned my elbows on the counter, and looked at Owen.
“Get comfortable,” I said. “Because it’s a long story. Funny enough, it all begins with a girl—a stupid, arrogant girl who thought that she could do no wrong . . .”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Spider by Jennifer Estep is the 10th book in her wonderful Elemental Assassin series. The majority of the story takes place 10 years earlier, when Gin was still in training to be the lethal assassin she is today. The story starts in the present, as she receives a gift of black roses, wishing her “Happy Anniversary”. She thinks back to the date, and reminisces with Owen about what happened 10 years ago. It was great to be able to see Fletcher again, when he is still training Gin; the wonderful secondary characters, Finn, Sophia, and JoJo are also part of her life then. We also get to see how Gin met Owen for the first time, even if brief. Fletcher has been hired to assassinate one Cesar Vaughn, a rich and powerful elemental, who was also suspected of abusing his 13 year old daughter, Charlotte. Fletcher gives Gin her first case to do alone, and along the way she makes some grave mistakes. We see a younger, somewhat naïve, more fun loving, and a less experienced Gin. She does things that the present day Gin would never do, but it will teach and mold her to what she is today, The Spider. When she thinks she has completed her assignment, she allows herself to be attracted and fall for the charismatic Sebastian Vaughn, ignoring many of the lessons taught to her by Fletcher and his rules, which will come to haunt her & put those close to her in danger. Gin also allows her own past to affect her decision making, knowing about Charlotte, which takes a disastrous turn. Gin is still learning her elemental powers of Ice & Stone, and finds herself up against a family that has powerful elemental powers. The Spider was a terrific story that I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, I didn’t expect to like going back to the past, but Jennifer Estep did such a fabulous job writing this story. It was fun to see a different Gin; the story was very exciting, action filled and tense. With her life on the line, and that of Fletcher and Finn, we sat at the edge of our seat anxiously waiting to see what will happen. I read this book in 1 day, as I could not put it down. The ending back in the present was a nice twist. I love this series, love Jennifer Estep’s writing, and I love Gin Blanco, who is one of my favorite kick ass heroines.
It is a flash back of Gin when she is starting out. You see so much of how this got started and you meet everyone in the early stages. It was wonderful. You also get to see another side of Gin. Don't skip this one. You will love it.
In this origin story of Gin Blanco, the reader gets a first hand chance to see what helped shape her into the tough cookie she became. It's great to see some of the old nemeses back and to make more connections about Gin's experiences and motivations. Not my favorite in this series, but I'd read it again.
It was a typical Gin Blanco story filled with highs and lows, blood and mayhem. It was nice to see Gin taking advantage of a learning opportunity. It was also nice to see the complexity of consequences when life cannot be wrapped up nice and neat with a bow. I feel like this book gives a better peek into the tragic heroine and inner workings of Gin.
This series is awesome! The characters are interesting, vivid, and there's a good mix of action, humor, emotion, etc. It's a story you can follow without feeling like there's any gratuitous scenes thrown in to keep you "hooked." You're hooked because the charactors are easy to love and the story line is exciting and keeps you interested all the way through.
The Spider is the 10th book in the Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep. I have been a huge fan of this series since the first book and was thrilled to get the book through Netgalley. Ms Estep has kept me on the edge of my seat through out the series and though many series would be slowing down at this point, that is not the case here. I will be honest and say that when I saw that this book wasn't really going to be furthering the plot line along, I wasn't expecting much. Of course I thought, 'Yeah! Another Gin book!' But who seriously wants to read a retrospect at book 10? I figured it to be a filler book, something to give us some background and hold us over until the next installment. Hoo Boy was I wrong. This book started out slow, but eventually built into a massive moment of "OMG! I can't believe she did it." My respect for Ms. Estep as an author and storyteller continues to grow. The 10th book is a milestone, and the way that the story is presented, showcasing the the intricacies of the intertwining plots and foreshadowing that went all the way back to book one, blew my mind. If you haven't had a chance to check out this series, this is NOT the book to start at. Go start with Spider's Bite, book one, and read the entire series. You won't be sorry you did. I gave this a solid 5 stars on Goodreads.
Jennifer Estep is a wonderful writter. I can't wait until her next book. I don' t have it on nook yet, but I have it in paperback. Excellent book.
An origins novel gives us more insight into the training and motivations that created the Spider, assassin extraordinaire and much enjoyed main character in Ms. Estep's Elemental Assassin series. Prepare to be hooked in to the early days of Gin Blanco's career and life as told by our heroine. Definitely worth the money and time to read this offering from Jennifer Estep.
I have read all of the Elemental Assassin Series and I love them. If you like a woman who can kick butt and stand on her own, then these books are for you. If you want to read some more good books, check out all of the other books by Jennifer Estep. There great.
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Vivacious Valkyrie - Marta: --Actual rating 4.5 Skulls This series is Urban Fantastic at it's very best! A world not unlike our own is explored, but the addition of magic and supernatural creatures adds to the fun. This is a series well worth reading from the beginning, but this - the 10th book - is a prequel of sorts, so in many ways, a good place for new readers to start. Although the story begins in the present, the author has cleverly allowed the lead character Gin to take a trip down memory lane and what an intriguing journey it is. Gin is an assassin who is known as The Spider. She is very unusual, as she can control not one element, but two - Stone and Ice. Trained by the notorious Tin Man, she has learned to be careful about the hits that she takes on, but she wasn't always as honed in her abilities and in this book we get to peek at her past exploits and realize jus how far Gin's journey has taken her. The Tin Man had given Gin an assignment, but something just didn't quite make sense. If the information they'd been given was correct, why did it seem as if something or someone was off? The younger Gin is more trusting and possibly a lot more naive, but her deadly skills are never in doubt. Gin's target seems to be a straight forard one, but she makes a costly mistake, and it's one that she could live to regret. Heartbreak and death can sometimes be linked! Love this tough heroine that Ms. Estep writes about, but in this book we get to see a different side of her, which just opened her up even more. Loving that some of the regular characters in the series popped up as it added to the fun, and it's really nice to get inside Gin's head and see through her complicated layers. The ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series is never afraid to tackle revenge, and Gin never shies away from it either. If you are looking for a heroine whom is never afraid to be brutal, then you will lap up these books! A world of magic that is seldom black or white, and full of action and danger. There's humor in these books as well, but most of all, the author always gives her readers a fabulous story. Go get yours!!
FINALLY! The story that we have all been waiting for, Gin’s! I have been wondering how and why Gin became the way she was. Now the reader sees the young, naïve Gin during her training with the Fletcher Lane, aka The Tin Man. Another great part about this installment is the reader gets to enjoy having Fletcher there all the time instead of the brief flashbacks that normally is interjected into each book. The Spider takes place 10 years before Spider’s Bite and is Gin’s first solo mission. I don’t want to give any spoilers but Gin learns the hard way that mixing business with pleasure will only lead to complications. Fletcher lets her learn on her own even though it might mean she will end up hurt or worse, dead. An interesting aspect in this book is how Gin comes across several secondary characters, including a few characters that become more prominent as the series goes on, not knowing that their paths will cross again. I really want to go back and re-read this series now that I am armed with all this information. It helped me understand a lot of frustrating traits about Gin. This is a must read for all Elemental Assassin fans and for those that are new to this series, this would be the perfect starting point. (Book provided by publisher for an honest review)
Excellent book. I don't know how Jennifer Estep does it, but she makes an assassin completely relatable to the common person/reader. I think it is because Gin is not goodie goodie, nor is she all evil -- she's just a woman with a talent for killing who only wants to do what is right. At first I didn't know if I wanted to read this book as it is a prequel, but let me assure those who usually don't like a prequel that you should give this book a chance. Often prequels show the character as a whiny or ditzy unformed character because it's before they have "come into their own". Ms Estep does not follow that failed formulae. Gin Blanco (aka the Spider) is relating the story of who essentially she is as a person in this book. She's not weak and she's not stupid -- overconfident and impatient, yes. In this story you can see how she learned to be so patient and what it cost her before she learned her lessons. You can also see why she had so many hard layers protecting her heart. Another important aspect to the overall Elemental Assassin series is seeing Gin as a touchstone for all of the people who are slowly introduced throughout the series in the various stories. This book as well as the previous one really demonstrate Gin realizing her dream of a family and all of the things that go along with being a family. Gin's relationship with her foster brother, Finn, is explored a little bit more in this book taking what was shown in Web of Deceit and expanding it. One thing I have liked about the series is Gin is kicka$$ but through the help of friends and family, she prevails. In this book, she prevails on her own because it is what she needs to grow as a character and as a person. It leads to the confident, uncocky heroine we have grown to love in this series.
A thrill ride through an earlier time in "The Spider's" career. A time when she believed her own hype, acting rashly, and arrogant and learning tough lessons along the way! Broken hearts, risked lives, manipulation, revenge, and brushes with people who would become important in her in the life she lives now.
Love this entire series, have read everything she's written!
Found it to be tedious. I Skipped the middle And read the end. Hope the next one is more interesting. Sorry! At least I'm still reading them
Love Jennifer Estep!
I am a huge fan of this series. True Urban Fantasy without goopy romances to get in the way. Gin in this book was stupid, totally stupid which the Spider is not. I understand that this was a sort of prequel to show how her career began but it really wasn't. She was already doing her "work" so she wasn't a newbie. She ignored Fletcher, Finn, her own instincts-basically lost her mind, because she was in "love"? I knew by page 50 where this story was going. Just to check, I skipped ahead to page 200 for a hint to see if I was right (hoping was wrong). Unfortunately I was right. The rest of the book was awesome. Too bad I spent so much money for a short story. This should have been a"bonus episode" at the end of any of the previous books. What a let down! Will I buy future books--already have because I have loved every other book. Am I a happy fan about this one? NO! Ms. Estep, you are a gifted author and I admire what you do but in my opinion, you really missed on this book.
Sucked at his di.ck more
One of the best books I've ever read it is truly outstanding