Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(3) by Connie Suttle
Ashe looked into his father's gray eyes as he spoke. He'd seen them go red at times if Aedan were angry. Aedan's eyes weren't red. Breathing a sigh of relief that his father surely heard, Ashe shrugged. "Son, I realize this is embarrassing for you, but you could have said something. The last grade card we received had satisfactory on it."
"But Dad, three of the others hadn't turned at that point. Now I'm the only one," Ashe slapped a hand over his mouth at the outburst.
"Ashe, will you keep trying? Please?" his mother sat next to him on the sofa, placing an arm around his shoulders. His father had settled on the coffee table, facing Ashe so they could have one of their man-to-mans, as Aedan called them.
"I always try," Ashe muttered, bowing his head. He was almost as embarrassed now as he was during Transformational Arts class. Rubbing a spot of smeared dirt on his jeans, Ashe couldn't meet his father's steady gaze.
* * *
Raking a hand through jet-black hair, Aedan watched his son carefully. Ashe was slight of build, although tall for his age, at five feet, four inches. Aedan was nearly six-four, so he wasn't surprised that Ashe was taller than normal. The boy would fill out in time.
Ashe had slightly curly, light-brown hair and inquisitive blue eyes that examined the world around him, eager to learn everything he could about it. His grades were always good and his bedroom was filled with shelf upon shelf of books; Ashe loved to read.
Aedan had decided quickly not to tell Ashe about the contents of the note and the possibility of his expulsion from Cloud Chief Combined. He had no desire to place more pressure on his son than he already bore. The summer months were coming and if Ashe failed to exhibit any ability by that time, he and Adele would talk to him then.
"Son, all we're asking is that you keep trying. Just relax, it'll come," Aedan quirked a smile. "Any homework?"
"No, Dad. But I think I flunked a spelling test today."
"Perhaps you should do a little studying anyway."
"All right." Ashe slid off the sofa and shuffled toward his room.
* * *
"Aedan, what if the fertilized eggs got mixed up? Sharon and Jonas O'Neill donated, but what if the clinic didn't use it?" Adele turned worried eyes on her vampire husband. "Ashe could be human, Aedan."
"There would be no child if the egg came from a human. You should know my DNA will destroy any human element introduced into it."
"I don't know, Aedan. What if this is an exception? What if our child is human anyway?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Aedan muttered. "We have a child. Most vampires don't ever get that. Will it matter if he isn't like us?"
"I'd like to think it wouldn't matter to anyone, but you know the community won't see it that way. Most of them, anyway."
"There's still time. Time for him to prove them wrong. Ashe is special. Smart. Persistent."
"There's a part of me that might be glad if he's human. You know the Council will come calling if he shows anything special."
"Stop worrying about that. If they follow the rules, he'll only be offered vampirism when he's older. Much older. And able to make that decision for himself. At least that's how it was explained to me when I was offered the chance to have a child. Only a few vampires were allowed to have children. Or to attempt it, at least."
"At least Nathan's girls are safe." Adele hugged herself and turned away from Aedan. "Girls don't turn. They die. So they don't attempt it."
"It would be foolish to do so," Aedan agreed softly. "There hasn't been a female vampire successfully turned in nearly seven hundred fifty years."
"But what if Ashe ever shows anything exceptional, Aedan? How would the Council look at him, then?"
"You know they have a different set of rules regarding enrichment of the vampire race. If they find someone that will benefit the race, they'll bring them in and make the turn, forcefully and early." Aedan looked away. Adele watched as a sadness she couldn't explain briefly crossed his features.
"Yes. I do know that. I wish Lavonna hadn't told me." Adele sighed. "Well, it looks like we won't have to worry about it anyway. Our son may be human, despite our DNA. And we'll have to deal with it."
* * *
"Ben didn't bother to tell me he was sending the note," Greta Rocklin's mouth tugged into a frown as she slammed the refrigerator door harder than warranted. "Ashe tries so hard and he never says a word about having to pick up and carry for his classmates. Aedan and Adele are probably going crazy. I would if I had to send my child off to Cordell Junior High in the fall." Greta was one of thirty-eight adult werewolves in Cloud Chief. They had their own Pack—Marcus DeLuca was Packmaster; Greta's husband Micah was Marcus' Second. Greta's hair was nearly black, her eyes deep brown, while her husband's hair and eyes were black. Both were tall and lean as most werewolves were. Usually in a sunny mood when her husband came home, Greta now vibrated with unhappiness.
"It's not werewolf business, it's shifter business," Micah reminded his wife. "Would you say anything if it were a human-shifter mix?"
"No, but they should realize what they're doing going in. That poor child. This will cause harm, Micah. Aedan is always the first there if someone needs help. Aedan, Nathan and Old Harold rebuilt the O'Neill's barn in four nights after the tornado last year."
"You're saying that Billings is letting his racism show. That's a serious charge, Greta."
"I didn't say that." Greta hugged herself and walked away from Micah.
"Good. If you didn't say it, I don't have to report it."
"Ashe, you may go first today. Take your time; we're not in a hurry." Ashe jerked in his seat at Mrs. Rocklin's words; she never asked him to go first. Scrambling to his feet when Sali hissed at him to stand up, Ashe wavered for a second, momentarily stunned into immobility. "Don't force it, just relax," Mrs. Rocklin encouraged. Ashe tried to relax. Really. He just couldn't. Everybody was watching.
Cheeks warm with embarrassment amid inescapable whispers, Ashe struggled with both the desire and the effort to turn. His mother always said his animal would speak to him when it was ready. Nothing spoke to Ashe. After ten minutes of exertion with no results, Mrs. Rocklin asked him to sit, moving on to other classmates who mostly met with success. Dori botched her turning, as did two others; the entire class was distracted over the beginning of spring break.
"Dude, you don't know how to relax," Sali said over lunch. Ashe pushed his tray over so Sali could spear his uneaten carrots. Sali didn't care what the food was; he was hungry.
"And I suppose you're going to tell me?" Ashe snapped, his voice harsher than intended toward his best friend.
"Nope. I don't do yogurt."
"That's Yoga, furball," Cori settled beside Ashe. "Besides, your animal is a given with two werewolves as parents. I heard Mr. Harris got a letter from Randy Smith."
Ashe might have been less surprised if a grenade had been tossed inside the cafeteria. He and Sali jerked their heads toward Cori at her statement. "But," Sali said.
"Yeah. That's what I said. I don't know that he would do something like that, especially after he was expelled and we had to move away. His mom and dad went to live in Santa Fe." Cori opened her milk carton and stuck a straw in it.
Ashe watched as Cori went through the routine of lunch, but her hands shook as she placed a paper napkin in her lap and lifted her fork. The news about Randy Smith's letter upset Cori more than she was letting on.
Ashe didn't know Randy Smith personally; he'd been five years old when Randy, the son of a human-werewolf marriage, was forced to leave their community at age thirteen and ordered to attend a human school. Children born to human and werewolf parents would never be werewolf. Barely six months later, Randy let something slip in the presence of humans regarding the hidden paranormal community and everybody had to pack their things and leave their homes in New Mexico.
Randy's parents had also been forced to seek a home elsewhere. Now, the exiled boy would be old enough to attend college and the community was comfortably settled in Cloud Chief. Randy's name was still whispered angrily among the adults, however. None of them had forgotten their betrayal at the hands of a thirteen-year-old half-human.
Only Randy's age had prevented the death penalty from being levied against him at the time. Revealing information on the Pack carried an automatic death sentence for any adult. Ashe's parents didn't think he knew anything about Randy Smith, but everybody did. The gossip at school was enough to give nightmares to the younger students.
"What did Mr. Harris do? When he got the letter?" Sali chewed carrots he'd taken from Ashe's tray. Cori frowned at him for talking with food in his mouth.
"I don't know. I just overheard the stuff about the letter when I went past Principal Billings' office. I'll bet the information is in Billings' computer, though." Cori smiled hesitantly at Ashe.
"Don't look at me. I had scary dreams for weeks after the last time." Ashe stared at his tray—Sali had emptied it. "I dreamed Billings turned into a bull and chased me through Cloud Chief."
"He never knew," Cori scoffed. "And all you did was get in to check grades. You didn't change anything." The year before, Ashe had hacked into the Principal's computer after Cori begged him to do so. Terrified that she wasn't passing algebra, Cori was sure her parents would ground her for a failing grade. Ashe discovered she had a low C after breaking into the Principal's computer, and Cori was satisfied with that. "I'll bet the password is still the same," Cori added, toying with her meatloaf.
Ashe snorted a laugh at Cori's statement. He figured Billings' password was still the same, too, unimaginative as it was. BigWolf had gotten him right in the first time. Benjamin Billings was an old werewolf, born long before the peace treaty between the vampires and the werewolves. The two races now cooperated and had for the past forty-seven years. Ashe knew his father was old, too, but Aedan never talked about the times before. Neither Ashe nor his mother knew how old his father was. When he'd asked once, Aedan had carefully steered him away from the subject.
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