Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(36) by Connie Suttle
"Not all of us can be born werewolf," the congressman pointed out.
"Yeah. We're the lucky ones, all right," Zeke agreed. "Too bad the Grand Master thinks living alongside humans is a good thing. Sad, too, that the rogue vamps didn't win out a few years ago. We'd own the planet now, if they had." Zeke tapped the railing and turned to go.
"What? What are you talking about?" Howard hadn't heard that before. He assumed that vampires and werewolves were satisfied to live among humans.
"Just what I said. You're lucky to be alive, my friend." Zeke said the word friend with contempt. A tingle of fear crawled up Jack Howard's spine.
"I believe they will be here," Diamond had procured a paper map from a convenience store. He tapped the spot to show his brothers where the wolves planned to spend the day before hunting during the full moon. "The source says that they did not wish to spend that night caught on board the ship. Too many things might go wrong in such a crowded space."
"They are compelled to run," Sapphire agreed. "That cannot be accomplished aboard such a vessel."
"What will they do with the young ones? There are werewolves among them as well," Ruby asked.
"Cage them, perhaps," Diamond replied. "They will likely employ smaller boats to bring those cages ashore. Those boats will be moored not far from the coast, waiting to pick everyone up afterward. Baltis' Destroyers will likely be there to assist, in exchange for the one we seek."
"Then we must be there to wrest that one away. Are we prepared to take on all the Dark King's Destroyers?"
"They do not have the talents we possess," Emerald scoffed. "We will take them easily, and leave Baltis scrambling to replace them."
"It is our destiny to relieve Baltis of his Sentinels, don't you think?" Diamond gave his brothers a wicked smile. "And if we present their royal talismans to our Queen, she will be most appreciative."
"As bargaining chips, perhaps?" Sapphire touched the square gold medallion on his arm reverently.
"Of course. Those are irreplaceable."
"As are ours," Ruby pointed out.
"Then we must see that ours stay with us," Diamond nodded to his brother. "Think on this—we give the Queen five gifts—the half-blood child with the misting ability and the four talismans of the Dark King's Destroyers? That will be a fine day."
"Shall we position ourselves upon this small strip of land, then?" Sapphire asked. "We will conceal ourselves and wait for those allied with our Dark cousins to bring our target to us."
"Yes. Gather what you need and we will go."
"Ashe, you're different." Winkler settled into the guest chair inside Ashe's office the following morning, cup of coffee in hand. He sipped it while Ashe lifted his head from the work he'd been handed right after breakfast. Ashe wasn't talking to anyone after a bad night with blistered hands and a bout of sleeplessness.
"Ah, still not talking. Well, when you're different, things are handled differently. I know you've probably seen others get away with more while receiving less punishment. I understand that." Ashe bent his head and tapped a few computer keys. "It's not fair, most of the time. Life, that is. Are you going to talk back to me, now? I'll allow it."
"Mr. Winkler, I have no future. But you've already figured that out, haven't you?" Ashe snapped, his angry gaze focusing on Winkler's calm countenance. "I won't ever be able to make my own decisions, will I? The Elemaiya think they own me for some reason, and I figure the vampires and the werewolves are right behind them. Tell me I'm wrong." Ashe got up and stalked from his office, striding through the massive beach house until he reached the patio doors. He jerked one of the double doors open, walked through and slammed it behind him.
"Got it in one, kid," Winkler muttered before rising to go after Ashe.
Sali lifted another crate, passing it off to Hayes, who stood atop the flatbed vehicle, positioning the crates of peaches they'd picked that morning. The truck was nearly loaded. The driver would have to take that load to the barns to drop it off for shipping before returning for another load. A wind whipped the trees and Sali's hair; a spray of dust whirled into his eyes, nearly blinding him.
"Hey," Dori shouted. The wind picked up again, blowing her hat away. She chased after it, running between rows of peach trees. Sali turned his back to the fierce wind blowing from the west. He never saw what happened, but there was no mistaking the screams and gunshots.
Everything slowed for Ashe. He blinked. And then blinked again. Sali was werewolf, as was Hayes. Larry had turned to his bobcat, Dori to her ocelot. Jackson was nearby, with two others who retained their human shape. They were facing off against seven large werewolves, all of whom were growling. An adult driver lay in the dust beside a loaded truck, bleeding from wounds to the throat. Ashe knew he was dead. Others were coming with weapons, but there was no time. Four more appeared from nowhere. They seemed human, except for the delicately pointed tips to their ears. Ashe drew in a breath as those four began to glow. Then they, the seven werewolves and the Star Cove teens disappeared.
"No!" Ashe shouted. Winkler was standing before him, hands on Ashe's shoulders, shaking him.
"Winkler, they have them. All of them. From the groves. We have to go!" Ashe was still shouting.
"What? What did you see?" Winkler was trying to make sense of what Ashe said as his cell phone rang. Cursing, Winkler jerked it from his pocket and answered. Ashe heard a voice on the other end, saying the same thing he'd just explained to Winkler. Sali, Dori and several others—all teens—had just been kidnapped from Shirley Walker's groves. Several of Shirley's Pack had been shot during the kidnapping.
"They'll come for you next," Winkler was growling low as he stuffed the phone inside his pocket.
"Boss!" Trajan shouted inside the house. Ashe, who'd made it to the deck before the vision hit, jerked his head around before lifting Winkler into his mist.
"Micah, they've kidnapped those kids from Shirley's groves," Marcus stuffed a pistol into the waistband of his pants and pulled extra clips of ammunition from a drawer inside his study. "They knew to come in daylight so the vampires couldn't help."
"Where did they go?" Micah had come as soon as Marcus called. Greta and Denise stood in the doorway behind Micah, both frightened.
"No idea. Shirley's Second says the rogue werewolves were joined by four they didn't recognize, and their scent was off. And then they all disappeared—with Sali and the others." Marcus was struggling to keep his emotions out of the equation. Denise was terrified, he could tell. She was good in a fight as werewolf, but her son's life had never been on the line before.
"Are you going to stay home?" He turned to her with the question on his lips.
"Marcus, don't ask me to do that," she begged. He just nodded. Marcus stalked out of the house, Micah, Greta and Denise right behind him. Other werewolves were gathering outside his house, vehicles at the ready. Shirley Walker's groves were the first destination, to find scents. Then Winkler and his security force would join them as quickly as possible to help.
"Pruitt is behind this," Micah growled.
"With Zeke Tanner, more than likely," Marcus nodded. "Everybody," he said, addressing the crowd outside his home, "load up and follow us to the groves. Don't shoot unless you have a clear shot. Turn if necessary, but only if it's necessary. Don't endanger the children, whatever you do." There were nods throughout the gathered crowd. "Load up and let's go." Marcus jumped into the van Micah had already started.
Adele Evans watched, her heart beating triple time in her chest as she saw every werewolf from the Star Cove Pack drive away behind Marcus and Micah. Sharon, Jonas and Wynn O'Neill stood behind her on the Evans' front porch. Wynn wept softly. Lavonna and Cori Anderson joined them. Cori was pale and gripping her mother's hand tightly. "I wish Daddy was up," Cori couldn't hold the tears back any longer.
"Honey, I wish Aedan and Nathan were both awake," Adele gave Cori a hug.
"Why do they want Dori?" Wynn was frightened, Adele knew. "They got Jackson, isn't he the one they want?"
"Honey, we don't know why they took Dori and the others," Sharon held Wynn against her. "It doesn't make any sense at all."
"Marcie and Jason went, didn't they?" Cori looked up at her mother.
"Marcus wanted werewolves only," Lavonna sighed.
A car drove into the Evans' driveway. "What's going on?" Dawn and Randy Smith got out of the car. "We went to pick up a few things at the store," Dawn added, "and we saw everybody passing us on the other side."
"The kids have been kidnapped from Shirley Walker's groves," Lavonna broke down, then. "They took Dori." She dropped to her knees and sobbed.
"What?" Dawn sounded shocked. Randy looked stricken. Adele knelt next to Lavonna and put an arm around her friend. Cori knelt on the other side, weeping with her mother.
Trajan was wolf and snapping at two that tried to get past him. Ashe rushed downward and pulled Trajan inside his mist. The two attackers were shouting and hurling fireblasts at the spot where Trajan disappeared, setting the floor and walls of Winkler's beach house on fire. Get out! Ashe sent to anyone inside the house. Run toward the front, I'll pick you up. The desperation came through in his mindspeech as he rose straight through the roof. He could see that Marco, Trace, Gene and Gabe were all running away from the house. Ashe could have wept—Jimmy wasn't with them.
Flying downward when he saw the two assailants appear outside the front door, Ashe had the four werewolf guards gathered quickly before they could be hit with the power blasts the two attackers threw after them. Then, in a desperate effort, Ashe flew back inside the house, although he could feel the distress from those he held within his mist. Jimmy's body lay on the kitchen floor, a huge, charred hole in his chest. The house was in flames around him as Ashe rose through the roof a second time. He would have wept if he'd been corporeal; the werewolf cook was dead.
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