Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(17) by Connie Suttle
"I will serve my Queen gladly," Rabis lied, bowing low.
"As you should," she snapped. "Come. We have little time."
"Come on, you can do better than that," Trajan watched as Ashe bench-pressed one hundred twenty pounds. Ashe was doing it—barely. "We've got leg presses after this," Trajan was back to torturing him, it seemed, and Ashe was still expected to run afterward with Marco.
"Trajan, I have another one for you. Maybe two." Ashe knew that voice.
"Jason?" Ashe said, working to get the weights up again.
"Young man, I heard you were drafted," Jason's face appeared above Ashe. The old werewolf was smiling.
"Currently undergoing torture," Ashe hissed out a breath.
"He's so mistreated," Trajan muttered sarcastically. "Who's this?"
"Marcie's youngest, Jack," Jason introduced someone else Ashe couldn't see. "And her oldest, Dustin, is parking his car. He'll be in shortly."
"I can take both of 'em, if that's what you want."
"I do, but Dustin is past twenty. We'll have to ask."
"Good enough. Let me know," Trajan agreed. "Ashe, all the way up," Trajan said, watching Ashe wobble the weights.
"Jackson Pruitt, but everybody calls me Jack," Ashe took the hand offered to him when Trajan let him up from the weight bench. Jack was dark-haired like his mother, with the brown eyes common to Marcie and Denise's family.
"If you're done, Ashe, get to those leg presses," Trajan rumbled.
"Dude, are you sure you want to do this?" Ashe hissed loud enough for Trajan to hear. That earned a flip to the ear from Winkler's Second. Ashe was pretending permanent harm as he walked toward the contraption where he'd do leg presses.
"Looks like fun," Jack said, sealing his fate.
"Mr. Winkler, Dom was involved in something, I know it," Marcie said. She and Jason sat inside Winkler's spacious office. "He went out of town at least once a month. At first, I thought it was another woman, but I don't think that was it. Several times, I found evidence that he'd been to Mexico. I knew better than to say anything, though." She had known better; Dominic Pruitt had beaten her throughout their marriage. If her father had known what Dom Pruitt truly was, he'd never have consented to the marriage.
"Why don't you let me work on this?" Winkler steepled fingers beneath his chin. "I'll do some credit card traces and such. We'll see what we can find. In the meantime, I'll call the Grand Master. If he'll approve a temporary transfer for your boys, we'll get this sorted out."
"Thank you, Mr. Winkler. You have no idea how much this means to me."
"Jason, you can move those two boys into a bedroom upstairs if you want. Nobody will get to them unless they can get past all my guards."
"Thanks, Mr. Winkler." Jason stood and nodded to his Packmaster.
"Grand Master, Pruitt may be part of the supply chain that Tanner had going. Those drugs and most of the animals had to come through Mexico."
"You know we don't have a good way to police some of the Packs in Mexico," Weldon Harper growled over the phone. "It's just too dangerous in some areas. Most of them obey, but there are outlaws. It wouldn't surprise me if Tanner wasn’t funding them through his illegal hunting operation. I didn't get as much as I'd like from him."
"Too bad he's dead," Winkler muttered. "Do you have anyone who can track Pruitt?"
"I've got one of my trackers in. Do you have anyone I can put with him? If you do, I'll fly him through Dallas."
"I can send Grady."
"Good. I'll have Clayton on a plane by tomorrow."
Ashe stood in line outside the theatre complex in a Dallas suburb with Marco, waiting to buy tickets to a summer action film. Ashe was hoping Trajan would come along, but Winkler's Second had work to do. Jackson Pruitt had come, though. Ashe wasn't sure what to think of the young werewolf; Jack wasn't Sali, whom Ashe had known all his life. New friendships were always difficult for Ashe. He had to find something to talk about, so common ground might be discovered. Jackson at times seemed distracted. Haunted, perhaps. Nevertheless, Winkler had handed Marco a wad of cash and told him to take Ashe and Jackson out to dinner and a movie that Friday evening. Dinner had been at a popular steakhouse, and then they'd driven to a nearby theater.
"So, you're a shapeshifter," Jackson said as Marco asked for three adult tickets at the window.
"Yeah." Ashe stuck his hands into the pockets of new jeans. He didn't feel comfortable talking about the bumblebee bat in private. Talking about it in public, albeit quietly, made Ashe particularly uneasy.
"Don't say those things in public." Marco placed a hand on Jackson's arm before handing out tickets for the film.
"Didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," Jackson became defensive.
"Would you talk about yourself in public?" Marco's low growl at Jackson surprised Ashe. Marco seldom became so upset. Not since high school, anyway.
"Sorry, man," Jackson hung his head.
"Come on, I'll buy popcorn," Ashe sighed.
"That wasn't bad," Marco said as he, Ashe and Jackson walked out of the theatre two hours later. The action adventure film had been more entertaining than Ashe originally thought. As they walked, Ashe searched the parking lot for their vehicle; Marco had borrowed one of Winkler Security's unmarked vans to drive to the restaurant and theatre. Winkler's business owned a fleet of them; most marked with the logo, a few not.
Lights mounted on tall, steel poles illuminated the parking lot as they made their way toward the van, but the large lot was still dim to Ashe's eyes. Ashe slid the side door of the van back, preparing to climb in while Marco and Jackson loaded into the front.
"Hold it right there," two men with guns climbed out of a car parked next to the van. "You," one of them, a tall man with close-cropped hair, waved his gun at Jackson, "get in the car and nobody gets hurt."
Marco, standing on the opposite side of the van, growled. That spelled one thing to Ash—Marco wasn't growling low; this was an angry growl from one werewolf to another.
"Shut up or you'll die," the other werewolf snapped at Marco. This would-be kidnapper was shorter and shakier than the one with short hair.
"Don't hurt them, Hicks," Jackson had his hands up, pleading with the shorter male. Ashe had seconds, perhaps. His gaze was locked on Hicks' gun, which was pointed at Marco. He could try to get Marco on the other side of the van and then attempt to pick up Jackson, or he could grab both werewolf assailants at once, since they were very close together.
Marco, I'm getting them. I'll take them back to Winkler's kitchen. Have somebody meet me there, Ashe sent. He then went to mist and lifted both Hicks and his shorthaired partner before racing toward Winkler's home.
"What the?" Jackson shouted as Ashe and both men from his father's Phoenix Pack disappeared.
"Shut up and get in the van!" Marco yelled, jerking his cell from a pocket. Climbing into the van and starting it, he had Winkler on the phone as he raced out of the parking lot.
"Winkler, two wolves were here trying to grab Jackson. Ashe is bringing them to your kitchen. They're both armed! Gotta go." Marco punched the end call button and screeched out of the theatre parking lot with Jackson hanging on, frightened and shaking in the passenger seat.
"What happened?" Jackson shouted as Marco raced toward the highway.
"Can't talk," Marco hissed. "Just hold on and I'll try to get us there in one piece."
"Don't hit Ashe," Winkler growled at Trajan and three other guards. He and Trajan were the only ones who knew how Ashe would arrive. The others were blinking in confusion at an empty kitchen. All five were armed with rifles. Winkler wished at that moment he had mindspeech—he'd tell Ashe to release his prisoners in the floor and remain mist so he wouldn't be placed in danger. "And don't kill unless you're forced to," Winkler added. "We need to do some questioning."
"What are we looking for, boss?" Grady cast a puzzled glance at the Dallas Packmaster.
"They'll be here soon enough," Winkler said. "Raise your rifles and remember what I said."
Ashe barely paid attention to the two werewolves inside his mist. He was worried over the same thing that concerned Winkler—getting shot if he appeared in the kitchen with the other two. He was almost there; he could see the roof of Winkler's mansion. I'll drop them in the kitchen, he sent to Winkler. I'll stay mist and meet you in my bedroom.
Ashe thought that best, in order to keep anyone else from seeing what he truly was. And to keep from being shot, he added to himself. His passengers screamed in terror when he flew through the roof of Winkler's home, then screamed twice more as he dropped through the ceilings of two more floors. Get ready! Ashe shouted mentally and dumped two werewolves in the kitchen floor. Gunfire erupted behind him as he zipped through the house toward his bedroom.
Winkler came upstairs with Marco half an hour later, shirtless and with a bandage on his right shoulder. Ashe wanted to slink away. He'd gotten the Dallas Packmaster injured.
"It's nothing," Winkler sighed at Ashe's expression. "We've got them locked up."
"They're from the Phoenix Pack. The shorter one recognized Jackson," Ashe said. "I think they were trying to kidnap him."
"Probably," Winkler agreed. "Trouble is; Dominic Pruitt isn't in Phoenix right now. His Second is running things and he says Dominic didn't tell him where he was going or when he'd be back. Now, as a Packmaster myself, that's generally a problem. If Trajan doesn't know where I am and can't get in touch with me, then I've been kidnapped or I'm dead. I don't think Dominic Pruitt is either one of those things. As soon as Hicks and Burton are conscious again, we'll ask questions. The Grand Master wants to know what those answers are, and pretty quick."
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