Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(20) by Connie Suttle
Ashe wasn't about to say anything to the others. There was only one conclusion he could draw, though—Tony Hancock could mindspeak. That meant he had Elemaiyan blood in some measure. He was vampire, though, and Ashe didn't want to draw more of Tony's attention than he could help. He also felt a bit of guilt for taking off down the beach without greeting his father, but he had. Now he walked over wet sand while the gulf waters rose and fell around his ankles.
"You're a million miles away," Cori was suddenly beside him, Marco right behind her. Ashe had walked ahead of the others, hands stuffed in his pockets, mind working furiously.
"I wish I was a million miles away," Ashe mumbled, kicking at the water. His jeans were wet to the knees from the surf splashing around his feet.
"Ashe, you don't mean that," Cori looped her arm in his.
"Yes I do, Cori." How could he explain that the Council had likely sent someone to keep an eye on him? That troubled Ashe. Why would they be interested in him, unless they wanted something?
"I've got your arm, you're not going anywhere without me," Cori smiled up at Ashe, her blue eyes playful.
"Then Marco has to come along, too, I guess," Ashe said.
"Yeah. Marco has to come, too. Come on, Ashe. You're here with us now. This is a wonderful moment. Share it with us instead of getting lost in your head."
"Yeah, dude. There's more to life than hacking computers," Sali poked Ashe as he and Wynn walked by. Sali had an arm draped loosely over Wynn's shoulder. Dori, looking lost, trailed right behind them.
"I think your mom would like it if you went home with her and your dad tonight," Cori said, pulling Ashe along with her. She now walked with her arms linked with Marco and Ashe. "Wynn's parents are having a party for Marcie's boys tomorrow afternoon. They put an aboveground pool in the yard, so it'll be a swimming party."
"So, they're getting right into the whole beach thing," Ashe said, staring out over the gulf waters. The moon was in its dark phase. A few lights from the shore shone weakly on the water.
"Dad's thinking about buying a boat," Cori grinned. "He let it slip that he used to live in a fishing village in Wales."
"And might have made his living off the sea," Ashe sighed. "And Dad won't tell me a thing about himself." Ashe kicked at the water.
"I've always thought he was older than Nathan," Marco offered. "Just by the way he did things. Cori's dad has always seemed more relaxed. And that's a good thing, since Cori's such a handful." Cori removed her arm from Ashe's and smacked Marco lightly on the shoulder. Marco laughed and hugged her.
"Is there anything you want to bring home with you?" Ashe's mother asked later when Ashe and the others came back from their walk on the beach.
"No, Mom, I think I've got everything I need for one day," Ashe said. Trace had just come in—he'd driven from Oklahoma to Corpus Christi and looked tired. Ashe gave him a smile before walking out of the beach house with his parents.
"Good to see you, Dad," Ashe said. Aedan gave Ashe a rare grin and patted Ashe on the back as they walked toward the SUV parked out front.
"Wow, the patio furniture is amazing," Ashe liked what he saw when his mother proudly led him to their patio when they arrived.
"Got it yesterday," Adele said. "Your father and Nathan helped put up the O'Neill's pool. It's ready to go for the party tomorrow. What can you tell me about those boys, Ashe?" she changed tack quickly, asking about Jackson and Dustin Pruitt.
"I think there's a problem with their dad, and I think that's affected Jackson," Ashe answered truthfully. "He's a little strange at times. Tried to ask me about being a shapeshifter in public, once. Marco got onto him and there wasn't anybody close enough to hear."
"That's not good. Denise tells me he hasn't turned yet."
"Trajan said something about that earlier—he told me that the wolves who go to public schools sometimes don't change until they're eighteen or so. Jack's not eighteen yet. Trajan says that the wolf knows it's not safe, or something like that."
"Marcus and Jason are probably going to work with him," Aedan sighed, sitting on the glider with Adele. "And Marcus says Jason may ask to join the Star Cove Pack so the boy can try to fit in with the Pack. There's a college in Corpus, if he wants to attend after he graduates from high school."
"I've been thinking about that," Ashe said.
"Son, you've got two years yet," Aedan began.
"No, Dad. Not for me. For Mom. There's a school here that has a marine biology program. Mom said the other day that if she hadn't gone into business, she might have chosen that or veterinary medicine. Mom, I think you should go back to school. If you want to." Ashe gave his mother the most serious look he could. Adele blinked at him in surprise.
"Honey, I just never—gosh, that might be fun."
"Yeah, I think you'd be great at it," Ashe said. "Either of those things, actually."
"Is that something you might want, Adele?" Aedan stared at his wife.
"Well, the sale of the store could pay for my tuition, and I might be able to test out of a lot of things."
"Adele, I will pay for this if you want it," Aedan hugged Ashe's mother.
"I'll check the college out next week," Adele said, smiling. "It really does sound like fun."
"And then I can ask if you have any homework," Ashe grinned.
"Revenge, honey?" Adele laughed.
"Somebody told me there was home cooking," Winkler laughed when he, Trajan, Trace and Marco walked into the O'Neill's home the following afternoon.
"There is; it's potluck," Sharon O'Neill said, taking the bags of soft drinks and ice that Trajan and his brother handed over.
"Hey, Trace," Ashe, who'd come through the kitchen with Sali to get paper plates and plastic cups, greeted the werewolf who'd come to Cloud Chief twice to help out.
"You get taller every time I see you," Trace chuckled. "Tell me where to put this." He held up two bags of ice.
"There's a big cooler on the patio," Ashe said. "Follow me." Ashe led the way through the O'Neill's family room and through the patio doors where the pool party was in full swing. A volleyball net was strung across the pool and there were at least ten teenagers slapping a ball across the net.
"You'll pay for your day off tomorrow," Trajan grinned at Ashe. "I've got Ace ready to work with Jack and Dusty. We'll have a weight room and a few other things installed in the school building. It's time Principal Billings started paying more attention to physical education."
"I wouldn't say that to his face," Ashe grinned. "But you can." Trajan laughed. Ashe helped Trace get the bags of ice emptied into a cooler, then stuffed sodas into the ice.
"You gettin' in?" Trace nodded to the pool.
"Are you kidding? Ashe has knobby knees. He won't even wear shorts, most of the time," Sali grinned.
"Is that why you show up to lift weights in jeans? We have to fix that," Trajan said. "Your knees can't be knobbier than Trace's. He'll wear shorts tomorrow. I'll get some for you tonight on the way home, and we'll get weight-lifting gloves, too. You're gonna need 'em."
"Fine. If you buy shorts, at least get cargo shorts," Ashe pointed a finger at Trajan.
"I'll buy two pairs, if you'll wear exercise shorts to work out in."
"Deal," Ashe grinned. "As long as you don't make fun of my knees."
"Who's making fun of your knees?" Cori walked in with Marco. Ashe lifted an eyebrow; it looked to him as if Cori and Marco had been doing a little kissing.
"Everybody," Ashe said. "You see how I'm worn down and oppressed, don't you?"
"And it's stunted your growth," Marco laughed. Ashe was a good three inches taller than Marco, and likely to get taller.
"It's gonna be a great summer," Trace slapped Ashe on the back and grabbed a plate before heading to the buffet.
Ashe went through the books on his bookshelves later while Sali, Wynn and Dori lounged on his bed. He pulled a couple of paperbacks off the shelf that he hadn't taken to Dallas with him and stuffed those inside his backpack. As an afterthought, he also pulled the dictionary down that held the note from the one calling himself his grandfather. He zipped up the backpack after that and hefted it over his shoulder. Winkler, Trace and Trajan were taking him to Winkler's beach house, with a brief stop at a department store in Aransas Pass, first. Trajan was determined to buy the promised shorts and gloves.
"You ever played this before?" Trace held up a popular video game when they got back to Winkler's beach house.
"Used to play with Sali and Larry Campbell," Ashe said. "But they got tired of losing."
"I think the gauntlet just got thrown," Trajan said. "Come on, Marco and I will take you two on. We'll see who loses now."
"You're on, bro," Trace flipped on the giant flat screen hanging on Winkler's media room wall.
"What's going on?" Vampire Tony Hancock walked in and sat on a nearby sofa.
"I'd ask if you wanted a soda or something, but I know better," Trajan said.
"I'd just have to cough it up later. Discreetly, of course," Tony replied. "I've played this game," he added. "When my surrogate sire wasn't looking. He thinks it's a frivolous waste of time.
Ashe blinked at the former Director of the Joint NSA and Homeland Security Department, wondering what a surrogate sire was and why Tony had one. Figuring that he wasn't likely to get that question answered, he turned back to the video game. Tony Hancock had been vampire for twenty-two years. Ashe knew exactly what his date of death was in the official records. He'd died at age thirty-seven, so he'd be fifty-nine now and didn't look a day past twenty-six.
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