Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(8) by Connie Suttle
"Watch toward the northeast," one of the riders said, the horse loping easily beneath him, his gait eating up the desert beneath flying hooves. His rifle was pointed upward as he spoke to another rider, who also had his gun at the ready. The others had rifles in scabbards on saddles, but all were ready to arm themselves if needed.
Winkler, Ashe sent, a man with a bushy mustache said to watch to the northeast. Ashe slowed, following along overhead as the horses loped along.
"There!" A man shouted beneath Ashe's mist. "I saw a flash of white!" Ashe was suddenly terrified. More than anything he wished Wynn had mindspeech. That would make things so easy. Instead, he did what he could.
Run, Wynn! Run! I'll try to find you! Ashe flew higher, hoping to capture a glimpse of a racing unicorn.
They'd hit her with whips to make her change, and one had zapped her with a cattle prod to get her to run out of the tunnel. Now, Wynn thought she heard Ashe's voice in her mind. He'd told her to run. Her flanks burning, Wynn ran as fast as she could, ears laid back, gold horn pointed forward, mane and tail flying as her hooves struck the ground as fast as she could make them go. She'd have been weeping as she ran if she were in human shape. The moon was waning but still shone upon Wynn, illuminating her shining white coat. It would make her an easy target.
I see her! Ashe sent. But their horses are running faster, now. They've sighted her. I have to help! Ashe cut off the communication, diving down toward Wynn, who was losing ground against larger, faster horses. She wasn't used to running for her life, Ashe knew. Ashe swooped behind the man who was lowering his rifle, ready to take a shot as his horse ran beneath him. Turning the gun to mist, Ashe snatched it away, causing the man to shout and curse. Dropping the rifle behind him, where it hit the dry soil with a thunk, Ashe watched in dismay as one of the other riders tossed his rifle to the hunter without missing a stride. This one had paid to bring Wynn down. Ashe was going to take him down instead.
Ashe flew forward quickly, gathering the man inside his mist. The man screamed as Ashe dumped him in the dirt, his body rolling across sandy soil and desert scrub before coming to a stop in a cloud of dust. The hunter, unhurt, rose, grabbed his rifle and aimed indiscriminately. Several shots rang out. While the bullets flew harmlessly through Ashe's mist, one of the men racing away dropped off his horse and lay unmoving amid a stand of mesquite.
Choosing to ignore the one who'd been shot, Ashe went after the man with the bushy mustache; his rifle was now aimed at Wynn. Her unicorn's shining white coat could be seen clearly; her mane and tail were flying, her pursuers catching up. Ashe misted toward the one taking aim as he got a shot off. Wynn fell. Frightened and infuriated, Ashe misted the gun from the man's hands and before he thought, forced his hands to materialize as he hit the man across the face with the rifle butt.
They've hit Wynn! Ashe shouted mentally, blazing toward the white unicorn that was struggling to rise. A bloody smear stood out on her right shoulder. Ashe didn't take time to think, he gathered her inside his mist. The ones with rifles raised behind him were shouting and firing as they pulled their horses to a stop; they'd all seen the unicorn disappear.
Get them! Ashe said to whoever was listening. I've got Wynn, she's been hit, he repeated. Rising high overhead, Ashe watched as a storm hit the men below. Dalroy and Rhett had arrived, prepared to take down the hunters. Ashe had never seen vampires work like this—a whirlwind of dust was raised as men were pulled from saddles and knocked unconscious. Horses galloped away, frightened by the chaos. Ashe knew he didn't have time to worry about any of that; he had to get help for Wynn. He raced toward the vans on the western side of the game preserve.
"Ashe!" Sali was shouting and struggling against Marco's grip while Marco held his younger brother back. Marcus took Wynn from Ashe, who'd reappeared, Wynn in human form wrapped in his arms.
"It's just a shoulder wound," Marcus reassured Sali, who was trembling after Marco released him. Marco grabbed Ashe's clothing and handed it to him while Wynn was laid gently in the back of a van.
"Don't worry, we'll take care of this," werewolf David Lang had come, armed with medical supplies. Wynn was weeping and shivering while Marcus covered her with a blanket and David gave an injection.
"It'll be better if she's calm," he said to Sali, who was struggling in his brother's grip again as he tried to reach Wynn.
"Wynn, it's all right," Sali called, holding out a hand toward her. "We've got you, it'll be all right." Another of the werewolves who stayed behind was calling Wynn's father, Jonas O'Neill, on a cell phone.
"We've got her. She's wounded but it's superficial, I think. Dr. Lang is tending her now." Ashe was still watching David Lang work on Wynn as he pulled his athletic shoes on.
"She'll be all right," Marcus placed a hand on Ashe's shoulder. "How was the fight going when you left?"
"Good, I think," Ashe said absently as he watched Dr. Lang slip an IV into Wynn's hand. Someone else was there, holding up the bag of IV fluid while the wound was cleaned and bandaged. Wynn, lying in the back of the van while she received treatment, moaned softly now and then, but Ashe felt sure that Dr. Lang had given her something for pain already.
"A bad graze and some superficial wounds on her hips," Dr. Lang said as Ashe crowded close to Sali behind the van.
"I thought you were a paramedic," Ashe said.
"I work as a paramedic, Son. I'm more than a hundred years old. Got my medical license more than fifty years ago. I know what I'm doing. Now, what about you? Got the shakes?"
Ashe was a little shaky but didn't want to admit it. "I'll be okay," he said, watching Sali crawl into the van beside Wynn.
"Sali?" Wynn's voice was weak.
"Wynn, we'll take care of you, I promise," Sali whispered. Ashe heard it clearly. He also saw Wynn grip Sali's hand. Ashe knew he shouldn't have been shocked to see Sali lift the hand and kiss it. An unexpected wave of jealousy hit Ashe, and he struggled with that as he watched Sali comfort Wynn.
"If you need something, even to sleep, let Winkler or me know," Dr. Lang said, patting Ashe's shoulder and bringing his attention back to the doctor. "That was good work, young man."
Ashe nodded and walked to the back of the van, where Sali still held Wynn's hand. "You okay, Wynn?" he asked hoarsely. He'd been frightened out of his wits when the gun had cracked and Wynn had fallen. Now he wanted to be the one holding Wynn's hand.
"I'll be okay," Wynn sighed and closed her eyes.
"Look what we have here," Marcus grinned. Ashe whirled to see Winkler, his six werewolves and the two vampires bringing nine of the ten men out of the game preserve. All were handcuffed in silver chains. One of the men, the one with the bushy mustache, bore wounds across his face where Ashe had hit him. Ashe worried that the man who'd been shot now lay dead in the desert. He shuddered.
"Ashe, what can you tell me about these men?" Winkler asked.
"He's the one who shot Wynn," Ashe pointed to the one with the mustache, "but that was after I took that one's rifle away; he was going to shoot Wynn first," Ashe nodded at the other man.
"Congressman Howard, what do you have to say to that?" Winkler grinned. Ashe gaped. Congressman Howard? He knew that name, all right.
"Your son is fine and we have the culprits in custody. The rest of the Lubbock Pack is scouring the compound. Matt Michaels is on his way, and he'll shut the preserve down as soon as he gets here. They'll go over it with a fine toothed comb for evidence, too," Winkler informed Aedan over the phone. "Wynn was grazed by a rifle bullet, but thanks to Ashe's quick thinking, it wasn't any worse than that. What we haven't figured out is what to do with the esteemed congressman."
"He needs to rot in jail," Aedan hissed. Ashe, who sat on a chair inside Winkler's hotel room, listened to his father on the other end of the call.
"I think he deserves worse. Who knows who or what he's killed before? Dalroy and Rhett are attempting to get information from Tanner. What we learn may not be comforting by any stretch," Winkler observed.
"Let me talk to Ashe if he's there," Aedan sighed.
"He's here," Winkler said and handed the phone to Ashe.
"Dad?" Ashe didn't know what his father was going to say or do.
"Son, are you all right? Did they hurt you in any way?"
"They didn't have a chance. I do want to talk to you when I get home, though."
"About how I came out of my mist partially, to hit that man in the face. The one who shot Wynn," Ashe clarified.
"Son, if my heart were beating, it would have stopped just then. You became partially corporeal?"
"My hands," Ashe admitted sheepishly. "I wasn't thinking clearly, Dad. All I saw was the man shooting and Wynn falling. I was so mad I just did it."
"I'm not quibbling over the results of your actions, but that might have placed your life in just as much danger as Wynn's. Did they see your face?"
"Not until Winkler and the others brought them in. I pointed out which ones were the shooters."
Aedan Evans uttered a word Ashe didn't hear often. "Son, I know you aren't used to this sort of thing, but tell Mr. Winkler, if he's not listening in right now, to have those vampires place compulsion. I don't want any of those involved remembering what you look like or how you did what you did."
"I'll make sure it's done," Winkler said. He was listening.
"Good. I don't want my boy made more of a target than he is already."
"I understand," Winkler replied.
"Dad, tell Mom I'm okay," Ashe said.
"He'll be home in a day or two," Winkler promised. "We'll keep you apprised." Ashe handed the cell back to Winkler, who terminated the call. "You did very well, Ashe," Winkler smiled. "Don't let a bunch of old wolves and vamps worry you too much. Why don't you go see how Sali and Wynn are doing?"
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