Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(27) by Connie Suttle
"I'm coming in," Hayes, dressed in swim trunks and a T-shirt, grinned and pulled his T-shirt over his head before jumping in. He splashed water over everyone and effectively defused the situation.
"All right, five against six," Larry declared, sending Ashe, Wynn and Sali to the other side to play with Marco, Dori and Cori.
"Trade places with me, Ashe," Dori had her hands on Ashe's waist, moving around him in the water. "You can get the higher stuff from the back."
"All right," Ashe stepped backward, allowing Dori to move to the front. She wore a pretty, pink bikini, Ashe noticed, her dark blonde hair hanging down in a wet ponytail. She also had tiny earrings in her ears that matched the bikini. Ashe blinked a time or two before shaking himself and settling in to play.
"Here's someone to even things up," Sharon O'Neill was back with Jackson Pruitt. He waved at the crowd, slipped off the Hawaiian shirt he wore over a swimsuit and slid into the pool with the other five opposing Ashe's team. It did even things up but Cori, Marco, Ashe, Sali, Dori and Wynn were on a mission. Jeremy had hurled the insult, as was his way, and there was revenge to be had. Ashe's team won by two games when they finally came out of the water for lunch.
Denise DeLuca, Lavonna Anderson and Ashe's mother had brought sandwiches, Sharon handed out towels and everybody was wandering around or sitting on the deck, a towel wrapped around them and eating ham, turkey or tuna salad sandwiches.
"They're having a fireworks show in Corpus Christi tonight," Marco said, sitting beside Ashe on the deck. Cori settled down beside Marco, allowing him to play with her hair. Dori sat in a chair behind Ashe; Wynn and Sali were in deck chairs beside her.
"I love your mother's tuna salad," Dori patted Ashe on the back.
"Thanks," Ashe turned to grin at her. "Tell Mom. She loves compliments."
"Mrs. Evans, I love your tuna salad," Dori said, loud enough for Adele to hear.
"Thanks, Dori. That's really sweet of you," Adele smiled.
"Are you driving us to the fireworks show tonight?" Sali asked Marco.
"I could, if the parents are okay with that."
"I heard they're shooting them from a barge out in the water," Cori said. "So the show should be amazing. We could watch it from that spot just off the bridge going into Corpus."
"We'll have to take the long way around," Marco said. "The ferry was backed up when we came through this morning."
"I wouldn't mind seeing fireworks," Marcus DeLuca walked out on the O'Neill's patio and grabbed a sandwich.
"Then we can carpool and get everybody there," Denise smiled at her werewolf husband.
"I want to wait until Aedan is awake," Adele said.
"I want to wait for Nathan," Sharon O'Neill agreed.
"Mom, I'll come with you and Dad," Ashe said.
"I'll ride with Ashe and his parents," Dori offered. Rides to Corpus Christi were sorted out quickly. The afternoon was spent either in the pool or lounging on the O'Neill's deck with snacks and soft drinks. Jeremy had finally settled down, after a few serious glares from Marcus and Marco. He knew better than to push the Packmaster or his oldest son.
"Ready?" Aedan asked as he slid into the driver's seat of his SUV.
"This is a nice ride, Mr. Evans," Jackson Pruitt ran a hand over the leather seat in the back.
"Thank you, Jackson. Now, did anyone forget anything?" Aedan asked.
"I think we're good, Dad," Ashe replied. He was squeezed into the back seat of Aedan's SUV between Dori and Jackson. Aedan put the vehicle in gear and backed out of the driveway.
Parking was nearly impossible to find. Aedan ended up leaving the SUV in the parking lot of a bait shop about a quarter mile away. Lawn chairs were carried and unfolded at a good spot. People were everywhere, making Ashe feel slightly agoraphobic. Aedan, too, watched the crowd carefully. Ashe realized his father had done that always, he just hadn't noticed it so much until he was older. He also knew his father's sense of smell was nearly as keen as any werewolf's.
"Here you are," Marco, Cori and the others found Ashe's small group and began unfolding lawn chairs. The night was beautiful and clear, with a quarter moon hanging low over the waters of Corpus Christi Bay. The air was thick with moisture, but nobody seemed to mind.
"I haven't seen fireworks in a long time," Nathan said, standing on the opposite end of the small group from Star Cove. Ashe realized that Nathan stood at one end, Aedan at the other, and Marcus was behind, taking up that position. Marco, too, stood at the front, just off center so he wouldn't block Cori's view.
"Why didn't I see that before?" Ashe breathed.
"See what?" Dori had sat beside Ashe.
"I'll tell you later," Ashe patted Dori's arm. The fireworks began shortly afterward and Ashe couldn't have said exactly when it happened, but by the last fierce display, when it seemed the sky was lit with all colors of bursting rockets and falling stardust, Dori's hand was clasped firmly in his.
"Ashe, what are you doing?" Adele walked onto the back deck Saturday morning. Sali was in a deck chair, shirtless and wearing only sunglasses and a frayed pair of cutoffs. He watched Ashe while grinning hugely. Ashe, sitting cross-legged on the deck, tipped a glass of milk so Dori, in her ocelot form, could drink from it.
"Dori climbed over the fence. She's thirsty," Ashe said, watching Dori lap the milk. Her ocelot was beautiful, with stripes and spots evenly distributed over fawn-colored fur.
"Dorilou, what are you doing?" Lavonna Anderson was looking over the fence to see where her youngest had gone.
"She's having milk, I think," Adele frowned at Ashe, who shrugged amiably. Dori licked her whiskers, growled softly in thanks and leapt from the deck to the top of the fence before jumping down into the adjoining yard.
Ashe heard the back door of the Anderson's home open and close. Sali snickered. "I still have half a glass of milk here, wanna wear it, dude?" Ashe turned to Sali.
"Do not point the deadly Dori-contaminated milk in my direction," Sali laughed. Ashe was standing in a blink. Sali was over the fence and in his yard seconds later while Ashe flapped after him as the bumblebee bat. "Oooh, I'm so scared," Sali was waving his arms and doing a creditable imitation of Principal Billings.
"Ashe Aedan Evans, stop that this instant," Adele had to hide her laugh as Sali now ran around the DeLuca's yard, flapping his arms wildly while the tiny bat fluttered over his head.
"This is too good," Marco was outside the DeLuca's house and recording the incident on his cell phone.
"Salidar, what are you doing?" Marcus was now standing behind Marco, a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Oh, my gosh," Denise walked out of the house and started laughing.
"Sweetheart, don't laugh, it just encourages him," Marcus said dryly, and then began laughing as well.
"Hello?" Dawn and Randy Smith joined Marcus, Denise and Marco on the deck. "Is that Ashe?" Randy asked, watching Sali run around the yard, still flapping his arms in mock fear of the tiny bat.
"Yep. Welcome home, bro," Marco slapped Randy on the back.
"I've missed this," Randy sighed, settling into a deck chair. "Land of the free, home of the weird."
"So, working for a Chicago newspaper, huh?" Ashe asked later. Ashe had come over to the DeLuca's home to talk with Sali, Randy and Marco.
"It's not glamorous, by any means," Randy sighed, stretching his legs out on the ottoman inside the media room. "I get the assignments nobody else wants. Like going down to the abandoned narrow gauge rail tunnels beneath the city and checking out dead rats. Some people are worried that the tunnels may be flooding, and that's not a good thing. That's caused problems in the past."
"Man, I thought rats were good swimmers," Ashe said.
"They are. That's why everybody is so upset. They've got experts doing rat autopsies, to see if they drowned," Randy said. "If they drowned, that means the tunnels were full of water. Repairs could cost a lot."
"Dead rats aren't a bad thing. Maybe they shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth," Sali shuddered. "I hate slimy rats."
"Sali, they're not slimy. Not all the time," Ashe teased. "Besides, don't those wolves in Alaska eat rats?"
"Those are wolf-wolves, not werewolves," Sali tossed a corn chip at Ashe.
"Oh. Now I get it," Ashe rolled his eyes.
"This is the best stuff, and I can't ever write a damn thing about it," Randy grumbled.
"You know it will get us killed," Marco said softly.
"Yeah. I know that for sure. You think I'd take chances with my mother's life? I won't ever say anything. Or write anything. Been down that road before, remember?"
"How's Trajan?" Marcus sat on the sofa next to Ashe.
"Fine. Up and around the second day like nothing happened. Back to slave driving in the weight room on the third day."
"You lifting weights?" Sali stared at Ashe.
"Yeah. Trajan thinks I'm too skinny, so he's determined to build me up."
"Ashe is running three miles a day with me," Marco nodded. "Trajan's orders. We work in the weight room first, and then go for a run before breakfast. I think Ashe is looking better."
"But Sali's always been the pretty one," Ashe grinned. Sali threw more corn chips.
"Marcus," Denise walked into the media room where all of them had gathered. Ashe jerked his head around—his skin was suddenly tingling. Denise sounded frightened.
"Denise, what is it?" Marcus was on his feet already.
"Ben Billings is outside and he's issuing a challenge." Denise was twisting her fingers nervously.
"He can't go to wolf if it's not the full moon; he has to fight as a human."
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