Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(37) by Connie Suttle
I'm taking you to the groves, Ashe sent to his passengers, and using the hopping ability he had, arrived there in less than a second.
The peach grove was crawling like an angry ant's nest when they arrived, and a few werewolves growled while others screamed when Ashe appeared and dropped his cargo in the dirt between rows of trees. Ashe was angry and wiping tears away at the same time. Winkler went straight to a tall, broad-shouldered woman who stalked angrily among werewolves in wolf and human shape.
"What the hell happened?" Winkler demanded.
"They came from nowhere," a wolf in human form explained. "Right out of thin air. Killed Brett and three others right off and then took those kids. Just disappeared, like that." He snapped his fingers. "There were seven werewolves and four others that looked human but didn't smell human."
"Did they smell a little like Ashe, here?" Winkler pulled Ashe toward the werewolf.
"Yeah. A little like that, all right." Ashe wanted to hit the werewolf for sniffing him.
"And we have no idea where they are now. There's no trail to follow," Shirley Walker was growling, too. Ashe had never heard a female werewolf growl quite like that. He knew immediately how Shirley Walker became Packmaster of the Corpus Christi Pack.
Winkler cursed and hauled out his cell. In seconds he had the Grand Master on the phone, explaining what had happened. Ashe felt impotent rage as he stalked away from the Dallas Packmaster. They'd taken Sali, Dori and the others. That was unforgivable. He'd hidden from the Elemaiya before. Was afraid of them. What was it his grandfather had said in the email? Make them fear you, grandchild, and beware the Diamond at the shining. Now, his backpack that contained the dictionary and the note were burning inside Winkler's beach house. If he found the ones who had done this, he was determined to do just as his grandfather instructed. They would fear him, all right.
Ashe heard every word as Winkler ordered guards to the local airport, bus station and rental car agencies. If there were werewolves passing through, they'd know by scent. Ashe didn't think it would be so simple. His head hurt from lack of sleep and worry. His cell phone rang. Ashe pulled it from his pocket.
"Ashe? Thank goodness. We heard Mr. Winkler's beach house was on fire." His mother was frightened, he could tell.
"Mom, they killed Jimmy," Ashe wiped away a tear.
"Honey, I'm so sorry. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mom. We're at the groves right now, but the kidnappers just disappeared with Sali and the others. There's no scent for anybody to follow. We don't know where they are." Ashe knelt in the dust between rows of peach trees, wishing his parents were there with him.
"Honey, they came after you, too, didn't they?"
"Yeah, but they don't know what I can do."
"Marcus and the others will be there soon. Don't do anything foolish. I wish there were somebody to bring you home."
"Don't ask that right now. I think if there's any way to get them back, I'll have to help."
"He's right, Mrs. Evans," Winkler sighed, stopping beside Ashe. "I wish it were otherwise, but we may need his help. Thank goodness, they didn't set the garage on fire. Hancock will have a fit when he wakes."
"Mr. Winkler, we have to find those children. Quickly. Nathan will go crazy when he finds out they took his daughter."
"I understand that," Winkler said. "I'm just glad Wayne and Wynter flew back to Dallas yesterday." Ashe jerked his head around—he hadn't even asked after Winkler's twins. Winkler placed an arm around Ashe's shoulders, giving a comforting squeeze. "We'll keep your boy as safe as we can."
"Bye, Mom," Ashe said and hung up.
"What can Ashe do?" Dawn Smith handed a cup of coffee to Adele after she hung up the phone. They'd all gathered inside Adele's kitchen.
"Dawn, Ashe is more than he seems," Adele sighed. "Thanks." She accepted the coffee and sipped, wishing Aedan were awake for perhaps the hundredth time.
"We needed others with us," Yindis whined. "With only two of us, we could not take on all the werewolves at once. We killed one inside the house before the others disappeared before our eyes. We never saw the boy."
"Werewolves do not disappear," Rend growled. He was the eldest of Baltis' Destroyers. They were four brothers, pitted against the four Jewel brothers of the Bright Queen.
"But they did," Terrin agreed. "We both saw. Four werewolves ran before us, and then vanished. We understand the boy can mist, perhaps he gathered them up."
"Impossible. A mister might lift smaller objects, but carrying others? That has never been accomplished." Rend glared at Yindis while he cowered. They were in a hidden spot on St. Joseph Island, toward the northern end. The southern end was where the tourists visited. Now, their makeshift camp was shielded from sight by a Dark Elemaiya with that talent. Altogether, the Destroyers had brought four others. Their King had been most specific—give the allies what they wanted, but under no circumstances should they allow the werewolves to have the target. Slash and the others were placing compulsion upon the young ones they'd taken from the groves. The children sat complacently among the dunes, tall grasses waving around them.
"What do you mean, you couldn't get the boy?" Ezekiel Tanner growled next to Rend. The Destroyer had failed to note the werewolf's approach.
"We never saw him. We only saw the werewolves there," Yindis muttered. He hated werewolves. Wanted nothing to do with them, foul creatures that they were. They would likely get him killed, too—his King would not understand his failure to collect the boy.
Zeke Tanner cursed. He wanted to wrap his fingers around Rend's neck and squeeze the life from him, then kill the other one after that.
"The others will be gathering. We will make a second attempt," Rend snapped. "All is not yet lost. Slash! Grind! Crush! To me!" He shouted at his brothers.
Time was ticking away. Ashe checked the time on his cell for perhaps the fiftieth time. Marcus and Micah were sequestered with Winkler, Trajan, Shirley and her Second, a werewolf named Carlos, inside Marcus' van.
"Ashe, we'll do our best." Marco sat beside Ashe. Ashe knew he was just as worried about Sali and the others as Ashe was. Trace came to sit on Ashe's other side, offering a bottle of water. Ashe took it, removing the top and drinking.
"Zeke Tanner's behind this," Trace said. "We just found out he's alive not long ago. Figure Dom Pruitt is with him in this. They were after Jackson, but what they wanted with the others is a mystery."
"Zeke Tanner?" Ashe didn't want to give away the fact that he'd eavesdropped on Winkler's conversation with the Grand Master.
"Obediah Tanner's older brother," Marco sighed. "Probably supplied drugs and animals, among other things, and all of it funneled through Mexico."
"How hard would it be to load drugs on a werewolf's back?" Ashe asked. "Nobody's looking for dogs or wolves. They're looking for people crossing the border."
Trace cursed. Rose, dusted off his borrowed jeans and cursed again. "I'll be back," he muttered angrily and stalked toward Marcus' van, where Winkler and the others had gathered.
"That would answer all sorts of questions," Winkler agreed. "He may have wanted Jackson at first, to do this for him. His wolves are aging, more than likely. And when he learned there was an entire community of young weres and shapeshifters at his disposal, it was too good to pass up." Winkler was pacing as he reasoned it out. "Just get the young wolves and the shifters who are large enough to carry drugs across the border and then bring the money on the return trip," Winkler blew out a frustrated sigh. "He could threaten or harm them if they didn't cooperate. Or, if they were willing, he might promise them all sorts of things. They could have money, cars—anything."
"The Grand Master," Trajan handed a cell phone to Winkler.
"Weldon, I think we know why Tanner wanted those kids," Winkler said right away.
Dori watched the others. They were as docile as sheep, now. Her father's compulsion was so much stronger than what these had placed. She still couldn't struggle out of her father's instructions, but this—it had slipped away as quickly as it was laid. Briefly wondering if resistance to compulsion could be built up over time, Dori pretended to be as dumbstruck as the others, whenever the captors looked in her direction.
"We'll watch them," one of the pointed-ears said. "While you change and run. Meanwhile, I'll send two of my brothers back to the groves. Surely, someone there will know where the other is. Compulsion will be placed immediately to discover the truth. We will collect him quickly, have no fear."
"You'd better collect him," the old werewolf growled. Dori shivered. The werewolf looked murderous. Cell phones had been taken away first thing, when they'd landed on the small island. Dori couldn't say exactly where it was, but it wasn't much different from the beach near Port Aransas. Wishing she had some way of contacting the Star Cove Pack, Dori bent her head and examined the old shoes she'd worn to the groves that morning. She almost jerked in surprise when she heard Ashe's voice in her head.
Dori, right now I wish you had mindspeech, Ashe sent. We're looking for you. Hang on, baby. We'll come as quick as we can. Ashe sighed. He'd sent almost the same message to Sali, not knowing if it would get through to either one.
Ashe, I wish I had mindspeech too. Is that what this is? Ashe didn't hide his jerk when Dori's voice filtered into his mind.
Dori, where are you! Ashe demanded.
I don't know. Ashe didn't mistake the quiet terror in Dori's mental voice. On an island. There are dunes and grass all around us, but we're the only people here. That I can see, anyway. The others are under compulsion. I heard one of the werewolves say something about boats. They're planning to run here tonight at the full moon before taking us somewhere else.
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