Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(31) by Connie Suttle
"Maybe you should contact him, then," Matt said quietly. "If we can all arrange to have him watched," Matt didn't finish.
"Agreed. I'll give him a call," Weldon nodded. "At nightfall in the U.K."
"Gavin said he and Tony are going to New York to track a rogue in the area tonight," Winkler offered. "Maybe Tony can give us a hand with this."
"Even better," Weldon said. "Perhaps Wlodek will allow him and Gavin to keep an eye on Curtis Roberts after they eliminate the rogue."
"That would be the best option," Matt agreed.
* * *
"Hey, Mr. Thompson," Ashe nodded to Amos Thompson, who walked across the deck to go inside for a break.
"Ashe, how are you, young man?" Amos offered Ashe a smile as he reached for the door handle.
Ashe had settled on the back deck with his new tablet, working on a reading assignment for the History course. Amos Thompson, more than six feet of tightly muscled shapeshifter, looked a bit ruffled after spending most of the morning guarding the property behind Winkler's beach house.
"I'm okay. Still not back to normal, though," Ashe replied, blinking up at the buffalo shapeshifter. Ashe knew Amos kept his clothing behind a dune on Winkler's property, so he could shift when necessary.
"Just give it time," Amos nodded and walked inside the beach house, closing the door softly behind him.
* * *
"What is your opinion?" Baltis handed the message to Laridael. "The Bright Queen has lost four of her trusted captains. We have lost six. Her Miriasu has said the boy intends to take our crowns. Shall we form a temporary alliance with the Bright race in order to eliminate this threat?"
"Do you believe she can be trusted, my King?" Laridael said, handing the letter back to Baltis. "Wildrif is dead—perhaps his death can be attributed to the boy as well, since his death coincided with that of our six. We found his mangled body in the desert."
"He had difficulty seeing the boy, that much is certain," Baltis agreed. "Shall we draft a response to this message, then? She designates a time and place to deliver a reply."
"If this is treachery, we will only lose one," Laridael observed. "If she is truthful in her desire, then I say yes. Let us ally and take down this threat. Then we can decide how to resume our long war, if that is your desire." Laridael bowed to Baltis.
"Exactly my thoughts," Baltis nodded regally. "Bring paper. We will reply."
* * *
"Everything is backed up here, so don't worry that you'll delete it forever," Ashe said. "See, here's the file." He clicked an icon on Andy's computer. "It's in the cloud."
"This is easier than I thought," Loren said. "Thanks."
"No problem." Ashe's cell rang as he slid off the office chair and let Loren take over.
"Mom?" Ashe answered the call.
"Hi, honey. I was wondering if you were planning to come home for dinner."
"Uh, I don't know. I have to ask Mr. Winkler," Ashe hedged.
"Marco can drive you home, if that's how he wants you to get here."
"Okay," Ashe said, suddenly uncomfortable. It was almost like speaking with a stranger, and his mother was completely out of touch. "I'll go ask," he added.
"Talk to you soon," Adele said and hung up.
"This is so weird," Ashe muttered and left the office behind, searching for Winkler.
* * *
"Mr. Winkler, I don't know what's happening, and I'm almost afraid to tell her what's really going on," Ashe said, settling on Winkler's guest chair.
"You can go home with Amos and Flossie, if that's all right. If you don't want to spend the night in Star Cove, call Marco, he'll pick you up. If you spend the night, come in tomorrow morning with the Thompsons."
"Thanks Mr. Winkler. This is so confusing for me, and I still haven't talked to Dad."
"This hasn't been easy on you, son. If things are uncomfortable in Star Cove, I'm just a call away." Winkler turned dark eyes on Ashe before nodding.
"Yeah. I'll let you know."
* * *
Dude, are you coming home, tonight? Sali's text caused Ashe's cell to beep as he rode in the back of the Thompson's car.
Coming now. Got a ride with the Thompsons, Ashe replied, his thumbs clicking swiftly on his cell.
Sucks, not being able to travel in your usual way, huh?
Sucks rocks, Ashe replied. Mom called and asked if I was coming home for dinner, like nothing happened.
Seriously messed up, Sali responded.
Seriously to the eleventh power, Ashe agreed.
What about your dad?
Haven't talked to him, yet.
What do you think he'll say?
No idea. I don't feel comfortable about it, considering how things went when I saw him last.
That's what Marco said.
He was there, so he'd know. Cori, too. Took a lot of guts for them to stand against a bunch of a**hole Elemaiya.
You should have taken me, Ashe. I would have helped.
Sal, don't go there. We have a truce going, remember?
Yeah. Sorry, dude.
* * *
"The money was moved and now he's disappeared," Calhoun dropped a folder on Curtis Roberts' desk. "He sent this, though. Gives two possible locations for the boy on the Texas Gulf Coast. One of the locations is William Winkler's vacation home in Port Aransas."
"Where the three I sent disappeared," Curtis grumbled.
"No word on bodies, and no answer on any cell phones," Calhoun said.
"Michaels is still around, so that means they either chickened out or they're dead."
"My vote is on the latter option," Calhoun nodded. "You've paid those three too well in the past and it should have been an easy hit."
"It was the ideal opportunity, to hit him while Tanner's thugs went after Winkler."
"I hear Winkler survived as well."
"Too bad. I could have offered those government contracts to someone else, in exchange for a few favors."
"Winkler's security software is still the best available."
"You think I can't get somebody to crack that code and duplicate it?" Curtis huffed at the thought.
"I figure you can," Calhoun chuckled.
* * *
"Sunset in an hour," Adele said the moment Ashe walked into the kitchen. Ashe felt as if he were twelve again, as his mother counted the minutes until his father would wake while she cooked dinner.
"Yeah," Ashe sighed. "Need any help?"
"You can put the salad together," his mother pointed to the fridge.
"All right." Ashe pulled romaine lettuce from the crisper and washed it before tearing it into bite-size pieces and dumping it in a bowl. Tomatoes and sliced red onion went in next.
"The salad dressing mix is in the pantry," Adele said, pulling freshly baked lasagna from the oven. "There's shredded parmesan in the fridge, too."
"Okay. When do you have to go back to work?"
"Tomorrow, at three. I'll be doing the late shift, but that works out pretty well, since your father will be wide awake when I get home."
"Is something wrong, honey?" Adele glanced at Ashe, a look of concern crossing her features.
"Nothing more than usual," Ashe shrugged, dumping salad dressing mix in the prescribed amount of oil, capping the container and shaking it.
"Talk with your father, then. He'll sort it out."
* * *
"We have a message from King Baltis," Parlethis handed the envelope to Friesianna with a flourish. "I hope it contains encouraging news."
"Let me see," Friesianna accepted the envelope and lifted the flap.
* * *
"Adele." Aedan went to her the moment he entered the kitchen and gave her a kiss.
Ashe placed the lasagna pan in the dishwasher and shut the door, switching on the machine. He wiped crumbs off the counter with a cloth and dumped them in the trash.
"Ashe?" Aedan's voice caused Ashe to freeze.
"What do you want?" Ashe's voice was flat.
"Son, come to the deck with me."
Ashe silently followed his father through the house. Aedan opened the door leading to the deck and allowed Ashe to go through first before closing the door behind him. "Sit down, son. We have to talk." Aedan's gray eyes seemed troubled as they briefly raked Ashe's face.
"You didn't want to talk the last time I saw you." Ashe knew his voice sounded sullen. He couldn't help it.
"I know." Aedan settled on the same chair Griffin had occupied a day earlier. Ashe felt as if a century had passed since then. "Sit down. I want to explain."
Ashe took the same chair he'd taken when he'd spoken with Griffin. Briefly, he wondered where Griffin was and whether he had a permanent residence or if he spent his time going from place to place, never staying long in any of them.
"Son," Aedan lowered his head and stared at his hands, "Nathan tells me there's something wrong. Not just between the two of us, but wrong with you—because you were given too much of a drug and it has impaired you."
"Yeah. On both counts."
"Ashe, I know you feel abandoned, and I don't know how to make that right."
"I don't know, either. I don't think things will ever be the same, since I'm not your son anymore."
"Ashe, people don't turn love on and off, like a faucet. I did what I thought I had to do, to protect you."
"I wish you'd let me in on it, then. You weren't here, Dad. You didn't hear Mom calling me that boy, like she'd never seen me before in her life."
"I know. She doesn't remember that. A part of me is glad, because it made things easier for me last night. I don't know if the near-death is responsible for that, or if it's something else. Somehow, I wish it had been the same with you, but I knew it wouldn't be. I knew the moment you walked out of the house, last night."
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