Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(11) by Connie Suttle
"When do I start? If the Corpus Christi Packmaster hires me, I mean?"
"I wanted to take you in for your driver's exam on Monday; I found out where to go," Adele offered a real smile this time. "And don't stand there and tell me you don't want your license."
"I do." Ashe cracked an egg into a bowl, followed by a second. Briefly, he beat the eggs with a fork; he liked scrambled eggs without milk added. Turning on the burner beneath the skillet, Ashe waited patiently for it to heat up properly before pouring in the beaten eggs.
"Then we'll go on Monday. There's a bookstore not far from the Corpus Christi Department of Public Safety. You can take your driving test first and go looking for books after that. Shirley Walker says Wednesday is soon enough for people to come and interview. She realizes we're still settling in."
"How did you find out about that?" Ashe stirred eggs in the skillet, watching them cook.
"Marcus, of course. Shirley contacted him as soon as he arrived, I think."
"How much does it pay?"
"Minimum wage, but that's still good for anyone without prior work experience."
"I have prior work experience." Ashe did—he'd worked afternoons, weekends and summers at Cordell Feed and Seed.
"Ashe, that was unofficial. You didn't get a real salary and paid no taxes. This is a chance to do both those things. Plus, Shirley's groves are guarded by werewolves."
"Fine." Ashe raked cooked eggs onto a plate, set the skillet on the back of the stove and turned off the burner. Grabbing the salt and pepper, he walked back to his seat at the island. "How many hours per day? What are the working conditions?"
"I think it won't be more than eight hours, but that's a guess, Ashe. Harvests are unpredictable, as you know. I miss our vegetable garden."
"The tomatoes were coming along," Ashe nodded. They'd had to leave their garden in Cloud Chief. Ashe loved fresh tomatoes.
"I know, honey," Adele sighed. "And your father doesn't want to purchase another business here until the old one sells."
"I understand that," Ashe nodded and scooped scrambled eggs into his mouth. "Were you going to do the same thing this time?"
"I've checked out the market; there are several shops around doing the same thing. I don't think another feed and seed would be a wise investment."
"And the beaches are glutted with souvenir and clothing shops," Ashe agreed. He'd already checked that for himself.
"I see you've done your homework," Adele smiled. "But there isn't a bookshop in Port Aransas. I think it would have to be a new and used, with a coffee shop and free wi-fi, but I think we could make it work. Especially if we sold soft drinks and treats, too. The space can't be too large or the rent won't be cost effective. So we'll have to make wise use of a small shop."
"How long will it take to sell the old store?" Ashe asked.
"I don't know hon. Jason called and said somebody came by yesterday, but he thinks it was just a tire kicker."
Ashe smiled at his mother's vernacular. A tire kicker was someone there to look only, more than likely. It came from the car sales industry, he imagined.
The doorbell rang while they sat together, dreaming up ideas for a bookstore near the beach. "I'll get it," Ashe said, sliding off his barstool.
"Nobody said I couldn't visit," Marco walked in with Marcus. Adele, who'd followed Ashe, gave Marco a hug. He grinned at Ashe's mother. "You may not want to hug me when I tell you what I came for," he was still grinning. "But I have to make a phone call, first." Marco hit a number on speed dial. Ashe heard it ring on the other end. He also recognized the voice when it picked up. Winkler.
"Mrs. Evans is here, Mr. Winkler," Marco handed the phone to Adele.
"Mrs. Evans?" Winkler said. Ashe could hear every word clearly. Marcus stood by, listening in.
"Mr. Winkler?" Adele said. "What can I do for you?"
"I hear Shirley Walker wants to put your son to work in the groves."
"She has offered jobs to the kids who are sixteen or older. Ashe turns sixteen on Sunday."
"I want to offer a job to Ashe as well. And it won't be twelve-hour days in the heat at minimum wage."
"Mr. Winkler, that sounds dangerous to me."
"It shouldn't be. He'll be working at the house with me. Seems word slipped out that he hacked into someone's computer before he was twelve. Now, I won't name any names, but those kinds of skills are valuable to me. I like to know which banks I provide security for are vulnerable. I'd like to give Ashe a crack at them and see if he can get past their electronic security, among other things. Send him to me for the summer, Mrs. Evans. He'll be constantly surrounded by my own security guards and paid a lot better. Talk it over with Ashe and your husband. I'd like an answer by Sunday evening, if that's possible."
"I was going to take him for his driving test on Monday," Adele sounded stunned.
"He can take it there or here. It doesn't matter. And I'll make sure he doesn't get into trouble."
Ashe stared at Marco, who gave him a grin as he took the phone from Adele.
"Ashe, do you want to do this?" His mother's golden-brown eyes searched his face.
Ashe considered it for a moment. It only took that long, after all. "Yeah, I think I'd like to try it."
"I think we'll have a sit-down soon and talk about hacking into computers, young man," Adele added. Marco laughed. Ashe knew the information had been passed from Cori to Marco, and then from Marco to Winkler. Ashe had hacked into Principal Billings' computer—twice—because Cori asked him to. The first time had been to check her math grade, not to change it, and the second was to look into Randy Smith's file that Billings had on his office computer. Billings knew about the first time. Likely didn't know about the second. Ashe wasn't about to own up to that.
"Look," Ashe reached out and tapped the front of Marco's shirt, causing Marco to look downward. Ashe flipped Marco's nose as he did so. Marcus burst out laughing.
"Son, I know you're still upset." Aedan sat on the end of Ashe's bed. It was Friday night and Ashe knew that Marco had taken Cori, Sali, Dori, Wynn, and two others to see a movie in Corpus Christi. They were likely going to eat while they were out, too. Ashe was missing it. He sat against the headboard of his bed, arms crossed over his chest while he examined the socks he wore. The white cotton stuck out against the faded black of his old jeans. He'd need new ones soon—these were getting short.
"If I allow you to work for Mr. Winkler, you have to obey him. Just as you would your mother or me. The only reason I'm allowing this is that Mr. Winkler's wolves can likely protect you as well as you'd be protected here. Nobody will suspect you're there, I think. I'll tell Mr. Winkler that if this doesn't work out to send you straight home. Is that clear? Screw up, Son, and you'll be right back here having another talk."
"I got it, Dad." Ashe still wasn't looking at his father.
"Your mother is still fretting over your birthday. She wanted to invite friends over, but didn't know if you'd want that."
"I don't." Ashe was ambivalent about it, but he stubbornly declared otherwise. He'd seen Sali, sitting in Marcus' van, his arm around Wynn when Marco drove away.
"Then we're back to what you might want or need for your birthday."
"I need new jeans. These are short," Ashe forced the hem on one leg down as far as it would go with the opposite toe.
"I know you're still growing, Son. I'll see what Adele wants to do. You'll leave Monday evening; Mr. Winkler's sending the jet. Marco will go back with you. That leaves time to get your license on Monday, providing you pass the test."
Ashe didn't say anything, he just nodded. He'd already gone through the Texas driver's education program online throughout the day. He fully intended to get his license on the first try. "I know I made a mistake, attempting compulsion. I broke a promise I made to myself when I did that," Aedan sighed, staring out Ashe's window.
Ashe figured his father could see everything outside that window quite clearly, although it was completely dark outside. "We have to trust one another, Ashe. You need to trust that I'm doing the best I can for you. To keep you safe and keep the family safe. I let my anger get away from me, and that's not good. The only excuse I have is that it frightens me when somebody hauls you off to who knows where, and you risk your life to save someone else. I wasn't awake to be consulted on the matter and you have no idea how frustrating that is to me."
"I know it frustrates you, Dad. I've been watching you for nearly sixteen years," Ashe mumbled. He had. His father didn't show emotion much of the time, so when he did, Ashe paid very close attention.
"I know. I like to think you get those observational skills from me," Aedan smiled wryly. "And as a vampire, I didn't think I'd ever get a child. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I can't truly describe how I felt the moment they placed a tiny baby boy in my arms almost sixteen years ago. Overwhelmed is the best word I can come up with. I thought I might break you, you were so small. Barely eight pounds, I think, and when vampires can bend steel with their bare hands, you can imagine how frightened I was, holding something that fragile."
"Dad, I don't like fighting with you."
"I don't like fighting with you or your mother. It hurts too much. Right now, your mother is barely speaking to me."
"Everything is my fault, Dad. The move, the whole compulsion thing that you and Nathan have to do to keep me hidden—all of it. It's because of me."
"Wynn would be dead if it weren't for you. We'd never have caught James' killer if it weren't for you. Paul Harris would have watched Randy Smith die by Pack Law and taken pleasure in it. He had that poor human girl murdered because Marco was showing interest in her. He never showed it, but he was racist in the extreme."
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