Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(10) by Connie Suttle
"Adele," Aedan rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, "That's not the only thing we have to be concerned about. We have to impress upon that child that he is vulnerable. He needs the protection the community can provide. And he can mist faster than anything I've ever heard of. The Council's misters take a couple of minutes to do it, so it's a weapon of stealth, mostly. They're always busy. The last time I saw Henri and Gervais they looked exhausted, and vampires don't normally get that way. Same with the mindspeakers. Anthony, Robert and Albert are constantly in demand."
"Will he be able to go to college? Do the things he might want to do with his life? Will he?" That question had bothered Adele of late. Was destiny herding her child into a life of complete concealment? At least she could open a business and run it as human, without fear that anyone would hunt her for the most part. Ashe deserved that anonymity. He deserved the right to go to college and work at something he enjoyed instead of slinking in the shadows. Even vampires appeared human when they walked among mortals.
"I don't know. Certainly he can take courses online."
"But that's not the same. I loved going to college, Aedan. I had friends among the humans and we had fun. Ashe won't get that, will he?"
"I doubt it," Aedan winced uncomfortably. Adele studied her husband's face, afraid to voice her concern. It wasn't time, yet. Ashe would turn sixteen on Sunday. He had two years, she hoped. Perhaps a few beyond that. What happened then might determine many things in Adele's (and Ashe's) future.
"I guess I won't be taking Ashe on that shopping trip, then, since you grounded him," Adele walked away from Aedan. "I have no idea what he wants for his birthday, and don't tell me that Wynn, her parents and Mr. Winkler don't owe him, Aedan. A lot of people do." The front door slammed behind Adele Evans, leaving Aedan in the kitchen cursing softly.
"Dori, Ashe has been grounded. He won't be doing anything until Sunday." Adele had decided to walk around the neighborhood. Dori, sitting on her front porch, had gotten up to talk with Adele as she wandered past.
"Cori will be here on Friday," Dori said. "She knows Marco is here, and she wants to see Ashe, too."
"She won't see Ashe until Sunday, Dori. Nobody will."
"Mom said she'd take us to the beach on Saturday," Dori was still trying to get around Ashe's punishment.
"Dori, don't ask. Ashe got in trouble and now he's being punished."
"All right." Dori trotted back to her yard, leaving Adele to walk alone again.
Ashe heard the phone ring, and then listened while his father answered it. He'd heard the front door slam moments earlier and was learning now which parent had left the house. "Sali, Ashe has been grounded until Sunday. You may not call or visit until then," Aedan said. The phone was hung up seconds later.
Ashe sighed as he unpacked his suitcase, tossing dirty clothes into his hamper and putting the rest in drawers or hanging it inside his new walk-in closet. He'd gotten the second-largest bedroom, which had its own bath and a small walk-in closet inside it. Nothing needed to be cleaned yet and he had nothing new to read. Sighing, Ashe pulled his battered copy of The Fellowship of the Ring off the shelf and flopped onto his bed to read it again.
"Ashe, are you coming down for dinner?" His mother poked her head inside his bedroom door an hour later.
"Not hungry," Ashe turned a page.
"You have to eat something. I know they didn't serve lunch on Winkler's jet."
"Don't mention that name to me, Mom." Ashe still hadn't looked at his mother.
"Honey, I understand you're upset. You have to eat and Mr. Winkler is doing what he thinks is best for you. He's not a bad man, Ashe. Besides, I wanted to talk to you about what you want for your birthday. I have soup and sandwiches downstairs. Come and eat."
"Not hungry, and I don't want anything for my birthday."
"Son, you will get up now and go downstairs to eat." Aedan stood in the doorway beside his mother, his eyes red and power in his voice. Ashe blinked at his father. Was he trying to place compulsion?
"Nice try, Dad. I'm not hungry and I don't want anything for my birthday."
"Nathan, I gave him the strongest I had on the second try, and it still rolled right off him. I don't know what this means," Aedan paced in front of Nathan. They'd gone to Nathan's garage and shut the door so Lavonna and Dori wouldn't hear.
"What would it mean if he were human, Aedan?" Nathan was trying to get Aedan to view the incident objectively.
"That would mean one thing, but he's not human."
"And what if that's exactly what it means?"
"I will not allow anyone to touch that child. Ashe will not become vampire unless he wants it. I'm telling you now to respect my wishes in this. I do not want this getting to the Council. They already know too much about him. Radomir promised he would hold off on telling Wlodek that Ashe can mist and mindspeak, because Radomir owes Ashe blood debt. You and I know how tenuous that promise might be."
"I know," Nathan nodded. "They won't conscript until he's eighteen at the earliest, so you have two years, at least."
"Do you want your girls looking eighteen forever? Do you? You know that anyone turned below the age of twenty will look that way for eternity. That law needs to be changed to twenty at the very least. Twenty-five if I had my way."
"We don't get to make or change the laws that govern our race, Aedan. The Council and the Aristocracy do that."
"I'm eight hundred sixty-seven, and they still treat me as a child most of the time. Even Adele doesn't know how old I am. I don't want to frighten her or Ashe with that."
"Father," Nathan sighed. He so seldom called Aedan that. Hadn't called his vampire sire that in a very long time. Nathan was nearing six hundred, and Aedan had never abused his vampire child. "Father, you fret too much over this. Let it go. You know I will keep this secret, but I cannot control what Radomir or Winkler do or say. I think Radomir liked Ashe very much, else I think the Honored One would already have come to test Ashe himself."
"He's just a boy," Aedan muttered, dropping into a folding chair Nathan had placed inside his garage.
"I know. It's too bad that Adele couldn't conceive on her own—that a fertilized egg had to be procured to birth your son. But he is yours, Aedan. Never forget that. Just as Corilyn and Dorilou are mine."
"He has my stubbornness, that much is certain," Aedan's Irish accent showed at times.
"I wasn't going to bring it up, but since you freely admit it," Nathan grinned.
Ashe had no cell phone and Sali and the others couldn't visit, but he still had his computer. He booted it up to go looking around the area that way. He also had email from Sali, Wynn, Dori and Cori. Then he came across something from someone he didn't recognize. He almost didn't open it. Afterward, he could never say whether he thought it a good thing or a bad thing that he did.
Greetings, the message began. I am your grandfather.
You are not obligated to me, the message continued, but I must take the opportunity to warn you while I may. Trust no Elemaiya. They may offer many things, but those offers conceal lies. On both sides. Above all, do not reveal yourself to them. All will attempt to kill you should you do this. I cannot offer anything to you and past this message, you must mistrust me as well. The Queen has forgotten me for many years, but she will come soon and I must obey. I leave you with these final warnings: Make them fear you, grandchild, and beware the Diamond at the shining.
I grant the love you are due,
"What the?" Ashe couldn't finish the sentence, he was so shocked. "How did you find me? Bloody 'ell," he quoted one of his favorite lines from a movie.
Ashe didn't have many listed in his email address book so he set about transferring those to a new email address and deleting his old one. After all, hadn't the one who'd contacted him said not to trust any Elemaiya, including the one sending the message? Ashe took him at his word. Before he deleted everything, however, he printed a copy of the message and slipped it inside the dictionary on the top shelf of his library.
"Time for bed," his mother's voice floated from down the hall. She knew Ashe would hear. Frowning grimly, he shut down the computer and went looking for clean pajamas.
"The Corpus Christi Packmaster has offered us space for a garden, and she has also offered summer jobs for anyone sixteen and older," Adele said Friday morning as Ashe sat at the kitchen island, eating a bowl of cereal. He'd gotten up before his mother because his stomach was growling. Adele had given the cereal an irritated frown before going to the stove to prepare an omelet. Now she sat opposite Ashe and was chattering away, although Ashe hadn't spoken, preferring silence except for the clinking of his spoon in the bowl and the sound of the cereal crunching in his mouth.
"What kind of work, you ask, and a female Packmaster?" Adele was asking the questions Ashe was considering, so he kept chewing. "Her name is Shirley Walker, word has it she can stop a speeding bus one-handed and she owns cotton fields, grapefruit, avocado and peach groves. She needs help with the peach and avocado harvests. And no, cotton isn't picked by hand any longer. Machines do that."
"Knew that already," Ashe said before he thought.
"And here I thought you'd lost your ability to speak," Adele gave a small smile. "You need more than a bowl of cereal, Ashe."
"I can make my own eggs," he grumbled, dipping up the last square of cereal and a half-spoon of milk.
"Then make eggs," Adele said. "You need more than that; you haven't eaten since early yesterday." She nodded at the now empty bowl. Ashe picked it up and walked to the new dishwasher. The appliance was nicer than the one they'd had in Cloud Chief. He then went to the fridge and pulled out the carton of eggs. His mother had gone to the grocery store, Ashe saw. The refrigerator was full.
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