Shadowed(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 2)(33) by Connie Suttle
"It's just not fair," Keith muttered, surprising Ashe. "We were just getting used to this. It's nice to be able to go outside and throw a football around without worrying you'll hit a car. And you can actually see the stars at night. I never knew there were so many of them."
"Edward, there's something I've been meaning to tell you," Ashe said. "About your mom."
"What about her?" Edward was immediately interested. After all, he barely remembered her; he'd been so small when she died.
"My mom doesn't know it, but last year I found her unconscious on the passenger side of her old truck, weaving down a road outside Cordell. I had to mist in and drive her truck home. My parents still think Mom managed to drive herself back, even though she doesn't remember doing it. She didn't. Those Dark Elemaiya tried to kill her like that last year."
"So, that's what happened," Edward said softly. "Can I tell my dad?"
"When you're away from here," Ashe nodded. "I don't need to be grounded again if that information gets out."
"Understood," Edward said.
"They'd ground you for saving your mother?" Bryce stared at Ashe.
"For waiting this long to tell them," Ashe replied. He was grateful that Edward, Bryce and Keith hadn't been at the Awards Assembly to see how winning the essay contest had turned into such an embarrassing failure. And that because he'd gotten upset over Elizabeth's death and misted home after saving someone else's life. "We're not destined to have normal lives," Ashe observed philosophically.
"Here comes Sali," Edward dropped off the porch as the young werewolf approached.
* * *
"The Queen would be better off without him," Ruby grumbled as they waited at a local diner for a waitress to bring their meals. Hilbah had been left behind in the cellar—most unwillingly. He was just as hungry as Diamond and Ruby, but Diamond was in charge and he'd left the whining Miriasu behind. Diamond ordered a third meal to go, and he didn't care that it might be cold when he brought it to Hilbah.
"Have any ideas how that might be accomplished?" Diamond studied his brother sitting across the small, Formica table in Betsy's Diner. "With Hilbah and his foolishness out of the way, she'd be forced to bring Rabis back. At least he knows what he's doing when he opens his mouth."
"Rabis won't come willingly," Ruby pointed out.
"But he is subject to the crown, just as the rest of us are. He'll be compelled to do as commanded."
"He'll resent it. After all, Gwynitha was his daughter," Ruby sipped the glass of iced tea he'd been served.
"Old news. Surely, he's over his daughter's death by now. And when she was Queen, she kept us in the regular guard, if you recall." Diamond halted his comments as the young waitress set a plate of food in front of him and asked if he and Ruby needed anything else. Diamond shook his head and waited for her footsteps to recede before continuing the conversation with his brother.
"We were always stronger than those fools Gwynitha kept around her. And she never saw Friesianna coming. Too bad she never asked her father to look out for betrayal from within. She kept Rabis busy searching for King Baltis and his horde." Ruby cut into his meatloaf. He'd been on worlds from one end of the universes to the other, and all of them had some variation of meatloaf available.
"She was always convinced that the Bright and Dark could never be on the same world together," Diamond agreed, dipping into a bowl of chicken and dumplings. "Yet, here we are. The only danger I see is that we kill some of them, they kill some of us."
"It is enjoyable at times to watch them die," Ruby observed with a smile.
* * *
Certain that he was being followed; Vince ducked inside the small bookshop and waited for his tail to catch up with him. Except it didn't—they'd stopped when he stopped. Vince wanted to report this to Director Jennings, but that would require that he be honest with the Director. That would be a mistake—one that would lead to a prison cell. And there was always the possibility that the Director already suspected him of passing information to the other side; that meant the tail was sent by Director Jennings to begin with.
Vince didn't know which might be worse—having the ones to whom he'd sold information trailing after him, or the Director and his many operatives. Either way, it could turn out badly for Vince. Cursing softly under his breath, he barged through the bookshop door and onto a busy sidewalk to continue his journey.
"Full moon is less than a week away," Adele Evans pointed out over dinner that evening. "Can you believe it? Honey, your birthday is less than a month away. Have you decided what you want?" Ashe was picking at green beans while he listened to his mother make conversation. He and Sali spent the day with Edward, Bryce and Keith, while Macy and Luanne had gone to visit with Dori and Wynn. Cori and Marco had driven to Oklahoma City to shop for the day, but Ashe had heard Marco's car drive past moments earlier and knew they'd made it home safely.
"I don't know what I want," Ashe replied listlessly.
"Honey, things will work out."
"But what if they don't? Mom, those people are hunting Edward and the others. They already got Elizabeth. The minute those kids drive past our boundary, somebody could be waiting for them. Edward and the others could die, too. Stupid Chump and Wormy."
"Chump and Wormy will be locked up inside Old Harold's house. It has no windows and Marcus will hold the keys," Aedan walked through the middle door and sat down at the dinner table with a sigh. "Marcus phoned the Grand Master last night. From the conversation I overheard he was not happy, and it's likely the Head of the Vampire Council will not be pleased, either."
Ashe realized his father was more upset than his face or his words indicated. It had likely taken a great deal of money and work to get the housing trucked in and arrangements made through Director Jennings' department just to move the families to Cloud Chief. And now, thanks to Cloud Chief's two mischief-makers, they had to leave again, less than a month after they'd arrived.
"Aedan, surely they won't try to blame you and Nathan for this," Adele reached out a hand to touch her husband's sleeve.
"I hope this is not so," Aedan's Welsh lilt came out with his words. "We were promised another vampire to help us after Old Harold's death, but that help has not come. Nathan and I are stretched to the limit as it is, m'love." Ashe stared at his plate, troubled over his father's statement. Aedan never complained about guarding the community. Never.
"You've called them already." Now it was Adele's turn to stare at her plate, half her food uneaten and growing cold.
"I left a message, Adele. I am obligated to report on the happenings here." Aedan rose from the table. "Finish your dinner, son," he said and walked through the kitchen door, closing it softly behind him.
"This could turn out so badly," Adele sighed.
* * *
Pierce used his small, handheld GPS to track the coordinates the new contact had given. Wildrif was an unusual name, but then Pierce had heard plenty of those over the years. The location turned out to be an old, broken cellar in the middle of an Oklahoma field. A house had likely stood nearby long ago, but traces of it had disappeared beneath tall grass and weeds after many years. Parking his motorcycle, Pierce cautiously approached the old cellar, worried that Wildrif might have misled him or sold him out. A raised, grass-covered mound with a cavernous opening on one side greeted him. A few brave wildflowers grew in the cracks of the broken concrete portal that once held a heavy door.
"Welcome," Ruby and Diamond appeared from nothing at Pierce's side. "Our accommodations aren't the best, but we won't be here long." Pierce was ushered toward the gaping hole in the ground.
* * *
"They plan to move the children in three days," Wildrif informed Obediah Tanner.
"So, we have to move in two nights," Obediah nodded. "I have Josiah nearby already, and I'll send out another six. That ought to be enough to deal with those kids. I don't care what happens to the parents. I'll let the warlock know." Obediah hauled a cell phone from his shirt pocket and tapped in a number.
* * *
"I've had word," Josiah informed Diamond. "You'll have to be there in two nights—the warlock and his associates will lower the shield, and I've told them to deliver the families to your coordinates."
"Nicely done," Diamond nodded at Josiah's words. Diamond was only now seeing Josiah in the flesh; they'd exchanged messages through the mundane method of cell-phone communications before. "I will bring a few others with me, and we will take the children and leave here. And if a few Dark Ones die, so much the better."
"I and my associates want no loose ends," Josiah shrugged. "Do whatever you want with the parents."
"Dead," Diamond shrugged callously. "They're human. We have no need for humans. And those children will learn soon enough what it means to be warriors in the Bright Queen's army. She will search out their gifts and employ them accordingly."
"Is that how you learn what they can do? She tells them?" Josiah was very curious.
"This is information that we normally do not give, but the greater gifts must be sorted out by the Queen, who employs the power of her crown to search for them. I will not tell you what some of those gifts might be—a few have never been written down anywhere, they are so rare. Not that I expect any of those gifts to appear in these—they are only half-Elemaiyan, after all. Fodder for the war and little else," Diamond added.
"No matter to me," Josiah replied, uncaring that any or all of the children and their parents might die. He only desired the promised payoff at the end. Diamond had offered a great deal of money for live children; Obediah and the Dark Ones offered slightly less to have them killed. Perhaps all might be satisfied in the end. Josiah intended to bring in the Dark Ones after turning the children over to Diamond, and the ensuing battle would likely destroy the children and their parents. Either way, he had already been given a down payment—by both sides.
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