Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(16) by Connie Suttle
His hearing still as sharp as it ever was, he heard voices on the lowest floor toward the front of the building. He'd dropped Trajan and the others on the second floor. Footsteps sounded on the stairs. At least two people were walking up. Did Trajan hear them? The six operatives had scattered in other directions, looking for terrorists and survivors. Ashe hovered right behind Trajan's shoulder as the tall werewolf stepped inside a room, concealing himself beside the door. Ashe realized Trajan was waiting for the two to come upstairs. Pulling a pistol from his jacket pocket, Trajan waited for the terrorists to walk past. Except they didn't. Instead, a grenade rolled right up to the doorway where Trajan stood. Ashe shrieked grenade! mentally and then gathering Trajan inside his mist again, rushed down the stairs ahead of the two who'd tossed the grenade.
Ashe didn't know where the six operatives were, but there was sudden shouting and screaming as at least a dozen prisoners, tied up and sitting on the lower-level floor, had a grenade tossed in their midst by another captor. Desperate, Ashe gathered the prisoners up as well, somehow leaving the grenade sitting on the floor. It and the one above stairs detonated one right after another as Ashe shot skyward, going straight through the roof with fourteen screaming people inside his mist.
Somehow, Winkler had found a bullhorn and was shouting through it. "Meet at the New Zealand Embassy," he yelled, his voice magnified by the device. Ashe, unsure where the New Zealand Embassy was, made a complete circle, confused. Then Winkler and the Director began pointing in the proper direction before climbing into a squad car and skidding away. Ashe followed overhead until the car pulled up before another, smaller building nearby. Ashe zoomed right through the walls, making his passengers shriek again before dropping them all in an entryway.
Screaming and crying, still bound and in a tangle, the hostages were attempting to wriggle away. Trajan, however, grabbed Ashe as soon as he reappeared and held him in a tight bear hug. Winkler, the Director and several others rushed in and began untying the hostages.
"This is gonna take some 'splaining," Ashe muttered. Trajan gave him an extra hug and let him go.
"Ashe, I know I don't have to tell you to keep this quiet; national security is on the line," Winkler said inside an office later. "Matt can be counted on to keep your secrets—he already knows about Amarillo." Winkler went on to tell Ashe that the hostages were being debriefed inside the same building, and Ashe learned that three of the six operatives had been found alive inside the rubble of the British Embassy. Ashe had done as much as he could, but felt bad for the ones who hadn't survived the attack.
"Mr. Winkler, something set those guys off—the terrorists," he said. "I think they knew we were coming, somehow."
"The Director thinks the same thing, Ashe," Winkler nodded. "But that's for him to solve. We've done what we came to do. Would you like something to eat or would you rather rest for a couple of hours before we find a ride home?"
"Can I do a little of both?" Ashe held his stomach, which had been growling for half an hour. It was nearly ten in the morning, Eastern Daylight Time. Trajan had gone in search of coffee for himself and Winkler.
"Lie down on that sofa," Winkler pointed to a sofa against the back wall of the office. It held a desk, the sofa and two chairs. "I'll see if I can get somebody to find food." Winkler walked out the door. Ashe flopped down on the sofa with a sigh, removed his shoes and curled up on it.
"He's sixteen, and you'll be opening a can of worms with the vampire and shifter communities if you try it now," Winkler pointed out. Matt was already talking of recruiting Ashe. "I have him for the summer, but that won't be true if his parents learn what he's doing right now. I'll take him back to Texas, but he'll be a flight away if something else comes up, Director."
Matt had to be satisfied with that. Ashe was underage and the President would have a fit if he found out who'd done the rescue. "All right, but do everything you can to keep him with you for the rest of the summer. Damn. If I could just keep that kid," Matt shook his head. He'd been impressed with the Amarillo thing. This was achieving the impossible. He and the President had been on the phone with the British government following the rescue at the Embassy. The official explanation was that the Special Ops team had gotten everyone out. Later, a bit of well-placed compulsion from two of Matt's vampire operatives would ensure that the victims' stories matched that explanation.
"What can I offer in payment, besides giving you a ride back to Dallas?" Matt asked.
"The kid hasn't had breakfast," Winkler grinned.
Matt shook his head later as he watched Ashe devour French toast plus ham and eggs over easy, with a glass of orange juice. "He's still growing," Trajan said softly.
"I can't do a lot right now, but here are a few souvenirs from the White House," Matt handed a duffle bag over with an official seal on it. Ashe took it, surprised that he'd gotten anything.
A private jet waited on them this time, with more comfortable seating. Winkler herded Ashe up the steps, with Trajan right behind Winkler. The unknown werewolf was noticeably absent this time. Ashe blew out a breath and looked around quickly before boarding the jet. He'd never been to Washington, D. C. before and hadn't gotten a chance to see much of it this time.
"Come on," Winkler placed a hand on Ashe's head to duck it below the top of the door.
"Ashe gets to sit in an air conditioned office and we're picking peaches in the humidity," Sali grumbled.
"Hey, you volunteered. And we get paid for this," Dori peeked around the trunk of a peach tree and wrinkled her nose at Sali. Wynn was still recovering, so she was at home with her parents. Several others from the community had taken the job in Shirley Walker's peach and grapefruit groves. A rush of wind blew past them, rustling the leaves and bending the trees, but it was gone almost as quickly as it arrived. Sali was grateful for the cooling wind; it was oppressively hot in the South Texas groves.
"Mom?" Marcie stared at her youngest son. She hadn't recognized the red Lexus that pulled up in front of Cordell Feed and Seed, but she recognized the two who'd climbed out of it.
"Honey?" Marcie was crying as she hugged Jackson Pruitt to her. Her oldest, Dustin, stood nearby as his mother wept and held onto Jack.
"Marcella?" Jason walked into the shop from the back; he'd been working in the greenhouse.
"These are my boys," Marcie stood back from both of them. "Boys, this is Jason Landers. My husband."
"Yeah. We heard," Dustin nodded respectfully to Jason.
"Boys, did your father allow this visit? And how did you find me?" Marcie wiped her cheeks with a shaking hand.
"We heard from somebody in Phoenix that you'd come here. Dad wouldn't tell us."
"Honey, your father will be livid."
"I don't care. I've already sent word to the Grand Master about him," Dustin muttered, a look of anger crossing his face. "And I sent photographs. He has my email address. If he forces us to go back, then he isn't much of a man. Besides, Jack will be eighteen next year. Dad can't do anything after that."
"You're still members of the Phoenix Pack," Jason warned. "There's protocol, Son. I'll have Winkler contact the Grand Master, too, but these things can take time to sort out. Especially if the Packmaster files his own complaint."
"Honey, I'm just worried your father will try to cause trouble," Marcie sighed.
"Mom, something's going on. I heard from Bob Greer that Dad didn't throw a big fit when we left, but a few days later something happened and he tore the house apart. I don't think we had anything to do with that, but we also don't know what caused it."
"Jason, I think we need to get the boys to Dallas as soon as possible," Marcie said, turning imploring brown eyes on her husband.
"I think so, too. Let me see if I can get Trace or somebody else up here to take over until the shop sells. I'll make some calls." Jason headed toward the office at the back of the store.
"He's a good man," Marcie said. "We'll get this sorted out. Are you hungry? There's a really good restaurant around the corner."
"Take the rest of the day off, Ashe," Winkler said. "Work out with Trajan and Marco, but that's it," he added. "That'll give you a long weekend. Marco can take you out later if you want to see Dallas." Ashe had slept during the trip back to Dallas, but still felt tired.
"I think I'll get in the pool for a little while and then go to bed for a nap," Ashe said, yawning wide enough to crack a jaw.
"That sounds great. I have to return some calls, but the pool sounds good." Ashe waved at Winkler's words, yawned again and headed toward the stairs and his bedroom.
"My Queen, how may I serve you?" Rabis bowed low before Friesianna.
"I have not forgotten that your gift is Foresight," the Elemaiyan Queen snapped. "I need your talents now."
"My Queen, what has happened to Hilbah?" Rabis knew very well what had happened to Hilbah. Hilbah was weak as a Miriasu, one born with Foresight. Hilbah's greatest talent had been telling Friesianna what she wanted to hear instead of the truth. Now, Hilbah's unexpected death at the hands of a human criminal left the Queen without a Miriasu. Rabis was the only remaining choice. He'd stayed away from the Queen's camp for centuries. Now he would be forced to return and serve her.
"I have a task for you, Rabis. One of our half-children must be brought to me. Of all those we made, only he has failed to hear the call and come to us."
"Is he of age?" Sixteen was considered an adult among the Elemaiya. "I heard that many half-children have been killed by our Dark cousins."
"Of course, he is of age. I would not ask otherwise," the Queen's temper was rising.
Rabis knew not to push her. He took in her beautiful, hand-embroidered silk gown and the crown she'd wrested from her predecessor centuries before. Friesianna had never been a proper Queen. Someday, Rabis knew, she would pay a price for her treachery and for subsequent mistakes made through the years. That time has not come as yet, more's the pity, Rabis thought sadly. Because Friesianna held Le'meruh, what many Elemaiya termed the rare ability of extreme compulsion, Rabis was compelled to obey her. He was faced with cowering before her now and performing the duties of a Miriasu.
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