Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(23) by Connie Suttle
"Honored One?" Charles answered promptly.
"Inform Flavio that I am traveling."
"I will. I haven't spoken with my sire for two weeks. He will appreciate hearing from me."
"He will." Wlodek agreed and ended the call.
* * *
On my way, the text read. Winkler glanced up at his waiting army and nodded. They'd gathered on his wide, back deck. Winkler had Gavin and Tony, but found himself wishing he had Nathan Anderson and Aedan Evans with him, too. It never hurt to have vamps backing you up when you didn't know how many enemies to expect.
The Grand Master stood beside Winkler, surveying their troops. Matt Michaels was dressed in body armor and had a semi-automatic rifle slung over a shoulder. Gavin and Tony stood together, both dressed comfortably in jeans and pullovers for ease of movement. Trace, Marco and Ace had turned to wolf, while Trajan was prepared to do the same. Nobody knew how many of Tanner's trackers might appear, so it was best to cover all bases. Buck, Andy and Loren stood behind Trajan, each armed with a rifle and a pistol.
"They're on their way," Winkler said softly, pocketing his cell.
"Everybody ready to go?" The Grand Master asked. Nods came from everyone.
* * *
Ten minutes. Ten minutes before daylight would arrive, bringing with it an end to his suffering. Aedan settled on a large, flat rock positioned outside the underground safe house. For centuries, the stone had guided vampires to the safe house, which offered sanctuary from the rising sun. On this day, the stone would witness the destruction of vampire life instead of its salvation. Aedan knew the winds and coming rain would wash away his ash. A fitting end for any vampire born in the country called Ireland.
* * *
Adele always waited for her employees to get in their vehicles and drive away safely before putting her car in gear and rolling out of the parking lot. The ferry would take her to the mainland, and then a twenty-minute drive would get her to Star Cove and bed. Weekends always meant long days and exhausting work, and she was happy that she was working a later shift on Saturday. It meant she could sleep in and still have breakfast before driving to work again.
The ferry worker guided her onto the boat with repeated hand waves, indicating that she park in the center near the front. Only three cars were aboard, and one of those belonged to a restaurant employee. The ferry's engine rumbled as the boat moved away from the dock and glided through darkened gulf waters. Adele slipped out of her car and stood with an elbow propped over her open car door, letting the night breeze flow about her, lifting and toying with strands of her hair as she allowed the stress of the day to leach away.
* * *
How's everything in Star Cove? Ashe texted Sali. Winkler had asked him to stay inside his bedroom with the blinds shut and the curtains closed. Winkler hadn't asked him not to use his cell, and Ashe was restless. He felt that something might be wrong, but the headache persisted and he still couldn't sense anything.
Dude, it's almost one, Sali texted back.
Come on, you're probably playing video games, Ashe grumped back via text.
Hey, mind your own beeswax, Sali replied.
You were playing video games. Admit it.
Yeah. If Dad catches me, I'll probably get a life sentence of grounding.
I'll visit you in the slammer.
Gee, thanks. No offer of busting me out? Man, that's just cold.
Speaking of cold, I think I wouldn't mind some cold weather. Heat and humidity is awful here in August.
Dude, you're discussing the weather? Man, you must be bored.
Nope, just need a distraction. I'm kinda itchy right now, and I can't figure it out.
You can't figure it out? I thought you knew everything. Where were you earlier, when I needed help with Algebra? I had to call Cori and grovel.
I was asleep. Had some extracurricular activity last night. Will explain sometime.
Dude, I just heard your mom's car drive past. I think Dad's coming down the hall. Gotta go.
Adele shut the garage door and climbed out of her car. The blue Cadillac gleamed in the dim light cast from the garage door opener overhead. Buck kept the car washed and filled up for her. He was good to her in every way, but she couldn't help but think something was missing from her life.
Oh, she'd be comfortable enough with Buck, but that wasn't the problem. She wanted something more, and there was no way to explain it or to understand what it might be. Adele glanced at the tornado shelter cut into the garage floor and reflected briefly on its original purpose before punching in the code to deactivate the alarm. Sighing, she walked through the door into the kitchen and dropped her purse and keys on the island.
* * *
Winkler growled a curse. Tanner had sent fifteen, and more than half had come as wolves. Peyton had arrived with the fifteen on his heels. Gavin and Tony had six to deal with, while Weldon and Trajan had gone to wolf to combat the others with Trace, Marco and Ace. Buck, Andy and Loren were backing Matt, who was firing his rifle with a sharpshooter's eye. Winkler growled another curse and shucked his clothing. No way was Tanner going to take any more of his. No way.
* * *
The first fingers of light appeared in the east and Aedan blinked. He hadn't seen sunlight for more than eight hundred years. A curl of smoke lifted from his hand, just before the pain came. Aedan threw back his head and keened.
* * *
"Who could that be?" Someone rang the doorbell, catching Adele halfway up the stairs. It had to be someone from the community—the vampires wouldn't allow a stranger in past nightfall.
"I'm coming," Adele called as she turned to make her way down the steps.
* * *
Winkler exploded against three humans with guns; they'd appeared from nowhere to join the other fifteen, firing right into the knot surrounding Matt Michaels. Screams and shouts erupted around him—two humans were down swiftly, their throats torn open. The third thought to run. Winkler leapt after him.
* * *
Ashe could hear guns firing from his bedroom. He cursed and huddled away from the windows. He'd already attempted to turn to mist; he'd failed. Relocation attempts met with the same results. He doubted that he could send mindspeech, but his hearing was fine. He heard shouting, then, and knew someone had been hit. Whether friend or foe, he had no idea. Ashe hadn't felt this helpless since he was twelve and standing in Transformational Arts class, praying to turn.
* * *
"Oh, hi. Is something wrong?" Adele stepped aside to allow her visitor inside the house. She was stunned and then slumping to the floor as the point of a dart bit into her chest. Her heart slowed as she gazed in wounded confusion at her attacker.
"Why?" Adele whispered before her eyes lost their light. Her attacker became werewolf and ran silently through the streets of Star Cove.
* * *
"Where is he?" The Bright Elemaiya frowned at the dying shapeshifter, whose body lay slumped against the front door. He and three others had appeared as instructed, once the call came from Friesianna's spy.
"He's not here!" Another shouted as he raced down the stairs. He'd quickly searched the bedrooms—nobody else was in the house.
"What's happening?" A third managed to say before three vampires stormed into the house, removing heads before relocation could be achieved.
And then the light came.
* * *
"Child, what did you think to do? Speak quickly; it is nearly time for me to sleep." Wlodek handed a unit of blood to Aedan, who blinked in confusion at the Head of the Council. Wlodek had arrived inexplicably, hauling Aedan out of the sun and into the safe house before he was burned beyond help. Wlodek, dressed in a suit made specifically to cover a vampire in sunlight, tore the visored hood away and removed thick, black gloves.
"I have no reason to live," Aedan whispered. He stared at his hands—the skin had burned away, leaving raw, red flesh behind. He realized his face and other exposed skin looked the same. Why had he not thought to remove his clothing? Aedan shook his head. Would he have enough strength and courage to make a second attempt? The Honored One could not watch him every moment.
"Enough," Wlodek sighed. "Aedan, I had no intention of robbing you of your family. I have made a mistake, and it almost cost the race an honorable vampire. We have few enough of those as it is. I release you from your service until the death of your wife. Tomorrow, if you are able, you will board the jet and fly home. Make things right with your family. I will see you again in fifty years, perhaps."
"What about Casimir and the others?"
"Casimir may stay to assist you and Nathan in guarding the community. I am recalling Hector and Edmond. Your child will be approached by me or one of my agents when he is of age. If he does not choose vampirism, then perhaps he will consent to work for us."
"That is all I can ask," Aedan bowed his head. "I must sleep soon."
"I know. We will talk again when you wake."
"Why did you change your mind, Honored One?"
"Someone came to me and pointed out the error of my ways."
* * *
"What happened?" Ashe ran downstairs as Winkler and Trajan carried Buck inside the beach house. Blood dripped off Buck's fingers, causing Ashe to stop still in dread.
"He's not dead," Trace was slipping into a shirt after becoming human again. "He's in bad shape, though. Matt got wounded too, but he was wearing body armor. Has a bullet in his arm and two in a leg. He's still working to get a doctor out here for him and Buck. Vamps are putting tourniquets on while he makes calls. Andy's dead," Trace added, the words mumbled.
"Oh, no," Ashe dropped to a sitting position on the steps. And then he cursed while brushing away tears.
"Kid, he died a hero. He stood in front of Matt and took those bullets. They would have hit Matt in the head, if Andy hadn't stepped in."
* * *
Winkler's cell phone rang as he and Trajan laid Buck on the sofa in the media room. "Marcus?" Winkler growled low. "We're a little busy here, right now."
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