Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(10) by Connie Suttle
"If you say you smelled ozone, then there was probably ozone. Come on, I'll make dinner and we'll have cookies for dessert. Sali's mother had to run an errand and asked if Sali could come over until she got back."
"Sweet," Sali grinned.
* * *
"Hey, Mr. Evans," Sali said when Aedan joined them at the dinner table nearly two hours later.
"Salidar," Aedan smiled at Sali. "How's your brother Marco?"
"Marco's okay, but Mom says he's depressed." Sali picked at his green beans while Ashe watched his friend. Ashe knew not to talk about Marco. Sali felt overshadowed by his older brother much of the time so Ashe hadn't brought Marco up the past few days. He figured if Sali wanted to talk, he would.
"I'm sorry to hear that. What about you, Sali? Everything all right?"
"Yeah. I'm good." Sali speared two whole green beans and stuffed them in his mouth.
"You can take your cookies to Ashe's room if you're careful with the crumbs," Adele handed a plate of cookies and a small glass of milk to Sali after the dinner dishes were done.
"I wanted to do some surfing anyway," Ashe received his plate of cookies next. He led the way toward the middle door separating the upper and lower floors. Aedan closed it behind them as they clumped down the steps. Ashe heard, even though Sali didn't. His mother was explaining to his father about the scent of ozone Sali picked up behind the shop in Cordell.
* * *
"Dad, has any shifter or paranormal ever been able to disappear?" Ashe stood beside his father as they watched Denise DeLuca drive away. Sali waved from the passenger seat of the DeLuca's Honda sedan. Ashe waved back as he waited for his father to answer the question.
"Son, that's impossible, I think. Maybe some of the witches or warlocks can put up a shield so people can't see them, but they're not truly invisible. There are two very rare types of vampires, though, and one of those can turn to mist. The other can mindspeak."
"Really? Some vampires can turn to mist and read minds?"
"They can't read minds, but they can send messages to someone else with the talent," Aedan smiled down at Ashe. "And that may be more useful at times."
"What about the ones who can turn to mist? How do they do that?" Ashe blinked curiously at his father.
"Ashe, only two or three of those exist at the moment," Aedan herded Ashe inside the garage and shut the door. "The rest of us don't know much at all about them. All that information is kept secret and I imagine all of them work for the Council in some way or another."
"But what happens after they turn to mist? Are they still shaped like their bodies?"
"I've heard tales through the years that misters can slip through the smallest cracks or keyholes, even. And I heard an old vampire say once that their clothing and such turned to mist as well. I didn't believe that. After all, your mother and all the others must disrobe before they turn or their clothing can hamper them in their other shapes."
"Yeah. I've gathered up clothes for Sali and the others in class," Ashe agreed gloomily.
"It'll come," Aedan misinterpreted Ashe's comment. "Just relax. It will come." Aedan placed an arm around Ashe's shoulders as they walked into the kitchen together.
* * *
"You missed your chance to grab the boy!" Wolf's hands clenched as his eyes angrily grazed his two accomplices. They'd missed a perfect opportunity. Ashe Evans wasn't like the others and didn't belong in Cloud Chief. Let the shapeshifter mother and the vampire father worry over the boy's kidnapping and subsequent death. If human authorities found the body, there was nothing to indicate the boy wasn't just as human as they were. Wolf growled—they'd botched a perfect opportunity. At least nobody could connect him to the crime when the boy was captured and destroyed; he'd refused to give these accomplices his real name, ordering them to call him Wolf instead.
"There was much danger that we might be seen. The boy's mother was nearby and he was not alone; you said yourself that no more werewolf children were to be harmed." Only one of the two accomplices could speak; the other was misshapen—a genetically enhanced warrior whose specialty was killing.
"You could have distracted the other boy," Wolf hissed. This was turning out badly, all the way around. James's death was a mistake and threatened to tip their hand. Now, others would die before both targets could be acquired and disposed of. And all to cover up the first death and point accusing fingers in other directions. "You know what you have to do," Wolf snapped. "Do it!" Shockingly, both accomplices disappeared before his eyes, leaving the scent of ozone behind.
* * *
Ashe awoke Thursday morning with a terrible taste in his mouth, only to discover it was still dark. Turning on his side with difficulty, he searched for the bedside clock, finding only more darkness. What the heck? Dang. He was buried beneath the blanket. Flopping and struggling with the fabric that felt extremely heavy for some reason, Ashe worked his way toward the edge of the bed—and then dropped out of it. Well, plopped out of it might have been a better term. The word aptly described the sound he'd made after falling out of bed.
Ashe looked around, blinking in astonishment. Everything was huge. Really, really huge. And he could see popcorn and cookie crumbs on the carpet beneath his nightstand. What was going on? Ashe crawled toward the nightstand in question. The space between the wooden legs, normally a spare two inches off the floor, now looked like a massive cave entrance. Ashe crawled and fumbled his way toward that entrance. What was the matter with him? Was he dreaming? This might be the strangest nightmare he'd ever had, except he could feel the carpet fibers beneath his—wait. Those weren't hands.
Forcing himself to remain as calm as possible, Ashe flopped and tumbled toward his dresser. A mirror was there and he'd get to the bottom of this as quickly as he could. Provided he could climb up the dresser that now resembled a forbidding vertical mountain of polished wood, that is. Hooking a tiny claw into a crack between the side of the lower drawer and the dresser, Ashe heaved himself up. Then, hooking the opposite claw into a higher position in the same crack, he heaved again. Ashe figured it took the better part of half an hour (with much slipping and scrabbling) to make his way to the top of the dresser.
Panting as he reached the top, Ashe navigated around the brush, comb, deodorant and pile of unread books that now dwarfed him until he could hook a claw into the bottom frame of the mirror. Cautiously he lifted himself up, frightened and unsure of what the mirror might tell him.
Dude, you're screwed, Ashe thought as he examined his image in the reflective glass. He knew exactly what stared at him from the mirror; he'd studied it in science class. A tiny, not yet fully-grown bumblebee bat frowned back.
I can't tell anybody about this. This is too embarrassing. Backing up against the bottom of the mirror frame, Ashe wrapped tiny wings around his body as he shivered, envisioning all his classmates laughing as he turned into one of the smallest mammals on the planet. His minuscule, fur-covered torso was reddish-brown, tipped with golden-hued fuzz about his head. Ears that seemed too large for such a small body picked up every sound inside the house. A tiny, pig-shaped snout wiggled a bit as he sniffed the air around him. He still couldn't scent things as well as Sali, but then bats relied on echolocation to find their prey. While they flew.
Unfurling wings that trembled with uncertainty, Ashe dragged himself to the edge of the dresser. Gulping in a breath, he launched himself off it, hovering briefly in mid-air before dropping to the floor with a squishy plop. Thankful that he had thick carpet on the floor, even if he did see that it needed vacuuming from such close range, Ashe flapped his wings and lifted partially away from the fuzz-filled rug. And then dropped immediately to the floor. Determined now, Ashe pulled himself up and tried again.
It took at least ten tries with partial successes before he was flapping and hovering around his room. The hovering was great—Ashe flapped for several seconds before the mirror, watching as his wings kept him aloft and bobbing about in the early-morning air.
"Ashe, time to get up!" His mother's shout and subsequent knock on the bedroom door brought him back to reality with a bang. Ashe lost his concentration and dropped onto the dresser, bumping his tiny head on the corner of a book. He discovered he could read while a bumblebee bat; The Last of the Mohicans' title looked to be as wide as Ashe's wingspan.
Need to be human, need to be human, Ashe chanted mentally and promptly dropped off the dresser in human form, completely na**d and knocking a shower of books, toiletries and other bric-a-brac down on top of him.
"Ashe, are you all right?" His mother was still standing outside his door.
"Yeah, I just knocked some stuff off the dresser. Books and stuff," Ashe called back. "I'll be out in a minute."
"Clean up the mess," his mother said as she walked away. "Breakfast is nearly ready."
Ashe was still trying to get a heel stuffed into his right sneaker as he pounded up the steps to the kitchen. Somehow, all the changing had made him ravenous.
"Hon, slow down," Adele cautioned as Ashe pulled two more pancakes onto his plate and added syrup. Ashe was getting a taste (literally) of what Sali went through every day. "Sali's mother called, Sali won't come with us today. Marcus wanted him to ride along to the city to pick up the investigator."
Ashe nodded, his mouth full. His mother didn't like it if he attempted to talk around his food. "When?" he asked after swallowing. His mother answered while Ashe busily cut another triangle of pancakes to shovel into his mouth.
"The plane arrives at one this afternoon, so I figure they'll be back around three or four. They'll probably take the investigator out to eat before leaving the city."
"Are they gonna be out in the pasture behind the house?" Ashe and the others had been warned to stay away, but he now had the means to investigate with no fear of being caught. He could turn to mist or to bumblebee bat and fly around the area without ever putting a foot to the ground.
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