Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(19) by Connie Suttle
"They're all worthless. Did you hear what Principal Billings said when Mrs. Rocklin asked if we should let them come to graduation?"
"That was epic," Jeremy agreed. "Why don't you send them to the human graduation in Cordell where they belong?" Jeremy puffed out his cheeks and lowered his voice, imitating Billings' booming speech. "Come on, Mom may be on her way back. We can't be caught out here." They'd begun walking toward the Booth home, half a mile away.
"Yeah. But this fall, we'll be far away from that meddling empty and the rest of these empty-lovers," Chad couldn't wait to get away from Cloud Chief. He'd gotten the news from Jeremy's father the night before that not only would Jeremy's car be sold to pay restitution for the burned home, but the money they'd planned to use to buy a second car for Chad's graduation gift would go to that cause as well. Chad was despising Ashe Evans more and more as time went on.
"When I think about what that stupid empty has cost us already," Jeremy's fists clenched furiously.
"If Billings had his way, there'd only be werewolves here," Chad said. "And none of this would have happened."
* * *
"I heard from Denise that the Booths are selling Jeremy's car and using that money plus what they would have spent on Chad's car to pay for the damage done to the Jansen's mobile home," Adele told Ashe as he set a ham sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup in front of his mother. She'd taken her shoes off the moment she'd come through the door, telling Ashe she'd been on her feet all day.
"At least some things turn out right," Ashe blew out a sigh.
"Ashe, you're not saying you don't deserve your punishment, are you?" Adele studied Ashe's expression.
"No. Mom, I knew I could get in trouble and I did it anyway. I just thought we needed to do what we could to make those kids feel welcome after what Chump and Wormy did."
"They have proper names, hon."
"Yeah. I know." Ashe wasn't meeting his mother's eyes as he sat down to eat his own hastily prepared meal.
"Ashe," Adele pushed a few stray strands of hair behind an ear, "my mother used to say that no good deed went unpunished. What you did was a kind thought, and possibly a good deed, too, but."
"I went off the reservation. Yeah. I get that," Ashe slurped a spoonful of soup after finishing his mother's thought. "What was my grandmother like? You never talk about her. Or my grandfather."
"Ashe," Adele lowered her eyes, staring at the sandwich on her plate.
"It's okay if you don't want to," Ashe shrugged and lifted his sandwich.
"No, honey, you deserve to know," Adele sighed. "Your grandmother—my mother, she was a Great Horned Owl. Your grandfather was a Cooper's hawk. Birds are rather rare in the shapeshifting world. Jonas O'Neill and I are the only two bird shifters in this part of the country. I was hoping that you might be one, too."
"Sorry, Mom," Ashe apologized quietly.
"Hon, with a vampire father, I was only dreaming," she reached out to ruffle Ashe's hair. "And now, we all know you got a little extra from the Elemaiya. I wish we knew more about them."
"Mom, they aren't my family. My family is right here."
"Yes we are, aren't we?" Adele smiled for the first time since she'd gotten home. "Hear that Aedan? Ashe's family is right here." Aedan walked through the door into the kitchen from the lower level.
"Where else would we be?" Aedan smiled slightly. "How's the penance coming?"
"Terrible." Ashe took another bite of his sandwich.
"Just what I wanted to hear," Aedan chuckled, this time. "The definition of penance to some is the confession of a sin, followed by punishment to make amends."
"Yeah, but most see it as self-punishment or abasement," Ashe pointed out. "Dictionary, you know."
"And this is certainly not self-imposed," Aedan sparred verbally with his son.
"In a way it is. I was just discussing with Mom that I knew what the consequences might be when I made the decision to go to Cordell. It was a calculated risk."
"Son, I should know better than to ever think you'd just go off without thinking about it first." Aedan sat down at the table and tucked more stray hair away from his wife's face.
"Is it bad? I didn't have time to look in the mirror today, it was so busy," Adele tidied her hair self-consciously. "And the chicken farm outside Dill City sent two trucks for chicken feed. They cleaned me out this afternoon and they didn't do very much to help load it up."
"Adele, I wish I could be there to help."
"I know, honey. But Ashe will be there to help in a couple of weeks, and maybe Sali too, if he wants."
"He wants to—he's already said so," Ashe said, brightening immediately. "And it doesn't hurt that he can spend some of his money on lunch at Betsy's." Ashe didn't say that Sali was jealous because Marco would get to spend his summer in Dallas, working for Mr. Winkler. "Dad, have you heard anything else on Amy's murder—the cashier from the grocery store?"
"No, son. But it's a little too soon, yet. Have some patience—you've already helped more than anyone expected. And just so you won't worry, those two agents will have compulsion placed before they get away from the area."
"Is that necessary, Dad? I think they can keep secrets."
"We're not going to take chances." The finality of Aedan's tone informed Ashe that there would be no argument on the subject.
"How ticked off are Chad and Jeremy gonna be over having their cars taken away? I guess Chad's was just a hypothetical car at this point, but it's almost the same."
"If they bother you, go straight to the Principal or a teacher right away."
"Like Principal Billings would do anything." Ashe was back to depression.
"Ben Billings is contractually obligated to protect all the students, not just some of them," Adele said, lifting her plate and soup bowl off the table and carrying them to the dishwasher.
"Contractually obligated?" Ashe shook his head. "That's not the Principal I know. He was almost dancing a jig when he handed that note to me last year."
"Ashe," Aedan's voice held warning.
"All right. I'll go study for my History final." Ashe carried his dishes to the dishwasher and loaded them in before slumping toward the steps leading to his downstairs bedroom.
* * *
"I hate grounding him," Adele said once Ashe's bedroom door closed downstairs.
"It's like grounding an adult family member," Aedan nodded. "Hard to do and harder to enforce. I get the idea that Marcus wouldn't have been so harsh with Sali if he hadn't gone off with Ashe."
"What?" Adele stared at Aedan in alarm.
"I think he doesn't trust what Ashe can do, somehow."
"But he's gotten into those crime scenes because Ashe can do those things," Adele snapped, rising and hugging her arms tightly about her waist.
"He's ex-special ops, Adele. He can respect a weapon, but he doesn't have to trust it."
"You're calling our son a weapon, Aedan? Listen to yourself."
"Do you think for one moment that others wouldn't see him the same way? I spoke with Trace and Jason, Adele. They told me they've seen the way those two agents—Lawford and North—look at our son after he gets them into those crime scenes. That's why compulsion will be placed; Nathan and I have discussed it already. Their Director is retiring, and if he thinks to place our son in danger, he'll get a visit as well."
"Aedan, one day Ashe is going to be an adult and he's going to make up his own mind. Would it be so bad if he worked for the government like some vampires and werewolves do? I imagine they'd pay him well for his efforts."
"My love, that decision may be taken out of our hands."
"You mean the Council, don't you?"
"Or the Grand Master. He knows whatever William Winkler knows, you can bet on that."
"I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I'd rather see him work for the Grand Master."
"I'm hoping the Council doesn't learn of his talents." It was Aedan's turn to rise and pace. "Radomir owes Ashe blood debt and has promised not to volunteer the information, but if it is requested, he will not only be compelled to give it, he will be punished for withholding it." Aedan referred to the Council Enforcer who'd come the previous year to investigate the murders in the Cloud Chief and Cordell area.
"I'll have nightmares, now," Adele moaned. "Tell me they won't take my boy away. He's so young. They can't—they won't," she didn't finish. The possibilities were too horrible for her to consider.
"Vampire law states that someone must be eighteen years of age before the Council may conscript. That age should be raised, in my opinion. Meanwhile, we will attempt to keep the boy from their sight as long as we can."
"He's not yet fourteen and already he's lost so much of his innocence, going off to those crime scenes. Ashe has been hunted and shot by that psychopathic teacher and those aberrations he associated with—and now the Council may take my child away? Turn him into something even I might not recognize?"
"I was an Enforcer. Was I so terrible when you met me?"
"You're different and you know it."
"Perhaps not. I have to go, love. Trace and Jason are waiting to be relieved."
* * *
Ashe floated over the five mobile homes lined up neatly in the pasture behind his home. His father was joined by Nathan Anderson as they walked toward the small tent Trace and Jason had erected to provide shade during warm afternoons. Ashe, as mist, had zipped past the tent, finding Marcie Pruitt there, talking with Jason and Trace about the worms they were having trouble with in the vegetable garden. He'd heard Marcie ask both werewolves if they'd like to come to her home for dinner. Jason accepted, Trace didn't.
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