Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(35) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"Bear, I've made as many contacts as I can. Important shifters from all over the country." Opal informed Bear by cell phone. "We can be there next weekend. They're all interested."
"How many?" Bear sat at his desk at Star Cove combined, thumbing through invoices while he spoke with Opal.
"More than a hundred. Have you heard from Kerry and Thurmon?"
"Yeah. They have around fifty, each. With my choices and the shifters from Star Cove, we'll have more than three hundred. I contacted shifters from the other communities like this one, and they want in."
"Is that enough?" Opal asked.
"I think so. We've never had that many together at once. The school auditorium is big enough, barely, to hold all of us."
"Have you cleared it through Marcus DeLuca?"
"I went over his head and cleared it with the Grand Master. Marcus doesn't like it, but he'll have to deal. If we're lucky, we might have the basics hammered out in three or four days."
"I hope that happens. Will we make South Texas our base of operations?" Opal asked.
"I would prefer it, since this is where I work, but I'm willing to consider options."
* * *
"Matt, do you have anything?"
"I was contacted by Rockland, formerly Hancock, who explained the problem. We can't backtrack on that dead vampire's trail—it's cold. If Wildrif is making the turn to vampire somewhere, there's little chance of us finding him. New York is a really big place to search."
"This is crazy," Winkler muttered. "We don't need Wildrif as a vampire. We couldn't control Wildrif as three-quarters human."
"All I can say is if he makes the turn and shows up on the radar, we have to kill on sight. No waiting to question, we need him dead."
* * *
Wlodek, Head of the Vampire Council, dismissed Charles from his study with a nod. He'd given Charles plenty of assignments to keep him busy. Waiting for Charles's footsteps to recede, Wlodek pulled a key from his pocket and opened a locked desk drawer. Pulling out a framed photograph, he stared at the images.
The woman who'd appeared in his office had been quite brusque and businesslike as she'd lambasted him for his unfeeling treatment of Aedan Evans and his family. Wlodek thought to defend himself. Found he couldn't move from his chair. And then the woman presented him with the photograph. Wlodek had blinked at it in astonishment.
The woman in the photograph was beautiful in a youthful, perky kind of way, with short, curly blonde hair and a lovely smile. She stood in sunlight on the wharf in San Francisco, where little had changed through the years. What shocked Wlodek to his core, however, was the image of the one standing beside her. It was a photograph of him. Wlodek never allowed himself to be photographed. He knew this could not be. Yet it was. In the photograph, an almost-smile played about his lips as he held the blonde close to his side.
Wlodek felt as if he'd been punched in the gut as he gazed at the blonde's face. He wanted her, and he hadn't wanted anyone since Sarita's death.
"Is this a trick?" Wlodek's breath was short as he'd questioned the woman sitting before his desk. Her face had shone, making it impossible for Wlodek to see her features and hair color. He still found it unsettling.
"Not a trick," she'd replied. "Aedan is preparing to walk into the sun, because of your idiotic actions. There's still time to save him if you leave soon. Let him die and you'll never have what's in that photograph."
"Who are you?" Wlodek had kept his eyes on the photograph instead of looking up to ask his question.
"You can call me Love," she'd snapped. "And a greater amount of irony surrounds that name than you can possibly imagine."
Wlodek had looked up, then, blinking as the woman disappeared.
* * *
"Dude, how did you get here?" Sali asked.
"I got my misting talent back an hour ago." Ashe and Sali walked down the sidewalk toward the Evans' home. It was Wednesday afternoon, after school and the Grand Master and Mr. Winkler were at Marcus DeLuca's home, questioning Dawn Smith. Ashe had informed Trajan that he wanted to visit Star Cove and Trajan had given his permission.
"Coming back, one piece at a time?" Sali asked.
"Seems that way. At least I can mist, now. I felt na**d without it. Still feel like I'm in my underwear," Ashe nodded.
"Don't know what you have until you don't have it."
"I'd feel na**d if I couldn't turn to wolf," Sali said. "It's a part of me. Can hardly remember not having it."
"Yeah. I remember you in Transformational Arts, dude."
"Too bad you never turned to the bat in class. That would have been epic."
"Nah, people would have made fun of me."
"I don't think they'd make fun of you, now. If they know what you can do." Sali hunched his shoulders. "Jeremy—that was—I don't know."
"Yeah. I didn't do it for him."
"Randy's coming," Sali looked up. His sensitive nose, even in human form, had picked up Randy's scent.
"This may not be pretty," Ashe mumbled. "Sal, you may not want to stay for this." Ashe watched as Randy strode purposely in his direction.
"I'll stay. He's human. I'm werewolf, remember?"
"Ashe, did you have something to do with this? With putting my mother through this?" Randy flung out an arm as he swiftly approached Ashe and Sali.
"Randy, do you know what she was doing when she was sent back here?" Ashe asked, stopping so Randy could approach.
"She said she stopped to visit Sara on her way to Canada. Couldn't you just let her go?" Randy sounded close to tears.
"Randy, she had a gun. She was about to kill Sara. Have you talked to Sara?"
"She won't return my calls."
"No surprise," Ashe sighed. "If the prospective mother-in-law waves a gun in your face and tells you you're about to be dinner, it's usually a deal-breaker on the relationship front."
"I want to hit you," Randy snapped.
"Hey," Sali held up a hand.
"Something going on?" Marco had driven up with Cori in the passenger seat.
"Randy talked to his mom. Got her version of the incident in Chicago," Ashe said.
"I hear she was about to kill your girlfriend, Randy. You should be grateful Sara's not dead," Cori pointed out. "Daddy questioned her for Marcus last night."
"You're all liars," Randy shouted. "Liars." He turned and stalked away.
"He's had one parent killed already. Now the last one is about to go down," Ashe shook his head.
"Want to get something to drink?" Marco asked. "Cori doesn't have to be home for dinner for another hour."
"Sure." Sali and Ashe climbed into Marco's back seat and settled there. Marco drove them toward Dandee Burgers.
* * *
"Did you want to be there—you know," Sali asked as they drank sodas in a corner booth at Dandee Burgers.
"I wouldn't, either," Cori shivered. Marco placed an arm around her shoulders.
"I think your dad may go," Sali slurped his soda.
"Yeah. She did try to kill Mom. Would have killed Mom, if something hadn't prevented it."
"Daddy says he saw a woman."
"I heard," Ashe toyed with his straw. "I'm still not sure what that means."
"I don't think anybody knows what it means," Marco said. "Maybe your mom's death wasn't meant to be."
"Or somebody changed what was." Ashe sipped his drink.
"Can somebody do that?" Cori blinked curious green eyes at Ashe.
"I hear that they can. Maybe we've seen proof of it."
"Doesn't make any sense," Sali said.
"But lots of things don't make sense, Sal. To humans, we don't make sense." Marco tapped his chest.
"It doesn't make sense that Dawn would sell herself to the people hunting her son," Ashe drew a pattern on the wood tabletop. "Or that she'd involve herself in the murder of her son's best friend. Or that she'd take money to sell the kids in Star Cove to Zeke Tanner."
"Jackson's dead because of her," Marco growled. "He was family. Our cousin." Ashe looked up at Marco's words and blinked.
"Something wrong, Ashe?" Cori watched Ashe carefully.
"Just another piece of the puzzle falling into place."
"That's weird, Ashe." Sali pointed his straw at Ashe. He'd already finished his large soda and was now playing with the straw.
"Weirder than you know. Things are slowly coming around. Sort of."
* * *
"Can you be in Corpus Christi by Friday?" Zeke Tanner offered a backpack to Craig.
"Sure. No problem."
"Then hand that backpack to the werewolf waiting outside the Funky Panda Chinese Restaurant. Minus the gun."
"I'll keep the gun," Craig agreed.
"Just tell Winkler you have information for him. That ought to get you to him, quick enough."
"I'll take care of it."
"We'll have a boat on the shore to take you across the river."
"Thanks." Craig shouldered the backpack and climbed inside the vehicle Zeke provided. Hutch would drive him to the river, where another werewolf waited to get him across by boat. Craig figured he should have done this years ago. With the payday promised by Tanner if Winkler died, he'd never have to work again.
* * *
"Trajan? Can I talk to you?" Ashe knocked on Trajan's bedroom door. Trajan was reading reports on his cell regarding Pack business in Dallas.
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