Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(4) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"Winkler, I think the boy's about to be sick," Trajan warned. Sam Sheridan, Winkler's brother-in-law, had come to pick them up at the airport. He jerked the van over and Winkler shoved the door open just in time for Ashe to lean out and heave. Winkler accepted a bottle of water from Trace and handed it to Ashe when the bout of nausea looked to be over. Ashe rinsed out his mouth, embarrassed that this had happened in front of a van loaded with werewolves, including Winkler, Trajan and Trace.
"It's understandable," Winkler offered a wad of tissues so Ashe could clean himself up. Feeling shaky, Ashe climbed back in the van and the journey continued. Twenty minutes later and feeling sick again, Ashe arrived at his home in Star Cove.
"Here he is, a little shaky and nauseous," Winkler said quietly as he and Trajan brought Ashe inside the Evans home. Ashe was grateful for Trajan's arm around his shoulders. He wasn't sure he could walk into the house on his own without it.
Adele ran straight to Ashe and hugged him while Winkler and Trajan stepped out of the way. She was weeping, just as Ashe feared she would. His father stood nearby, a stricken look on his face. Nathan, Marcus and both families were in the background. Sali was growling; Ashe heard it over his mother's crying. Adele finally stepped away. Ashe was about to apologize for worrying everyone when Dori rushed forward, slapped him as hard as she could and ran out the door.
* * *
"Son, we're all upset. We thought the worst," Aedan handed an ice pack to Ashe, who held it to his throbbing jaw. Who knew Dori could hit that hard? It stood to reason, though—she was an ocelot shapeshifter with a lioness mother and a vampire father. Ashe figured there was more of Nathan in Dori than anyone knew. Adele hovered nearby—Nathan and Lavonna had hurried out the door after Dori. Cori, Marco, Sali, Marcus and Denise were still there, and Wynn had come in with her parents. Now, Sali was holding onto Wynn while they watched Ashe curiously. Winkler and his small group of werewolves were doing their best to stay out of the way.
"Dad, I didn't mean to hurt anybody. You have to believe that." Ashe's queasiness hadn't gone away—in fact, it was worse. He worried that he might have to mist to the bathroom.
"Honey, I know you were trying to protect all of us. But we're stronger than you think," Adele soothed. "We lost a few, but they lost a lot. Ask Mr. Winkler. That Tanner jerk brought at least fifty wolves with him, and he had Elemaiya there, too. Only three werewolves got away, and they were swimming. There's a good chance they didn't make it. Mr. Michaels had his agents send out boats, but we haven't heard anything."
"He found Congressman Jack Howard floating unconscious in a raft, but that's it so far," Winkler said. "The esteemed Congressman is now in an Austin jail, waiting to be sent to D.C." He didn't add that the Grand Master had passed information to Matt Michaels on Tanner's compound outside Juarez—only time would tell if that information paid off. He also didn't add that Jack Howard admitted to Matt's agents that Ezekiel Tanner was still alive. That fact was one of several reasons Winkler was back in Corpus Christi—Weldon Harper asked him to stay in the area in case help was needed to track Tanner.
"They need to lock that creep up forever," Ashe muttered, meaning Jack Howard.
"Honey, you shouldn't worry about that right now," his mother said. "Are you hungry? Thirsty? You look tired."
"He was sick on the way here," Trajan said. "Probably from not eating properly." Ashe silently thanked Winkler's Second for not saying it was nerves.
"Not hungry, Mom," Ashe mumbled. The ice pack was numbing his jaw nicely.
"He's been sleeping on the floor," Winkler pointed out. "Might be nice to lie on a bed for a change."
"Certainly. We can sort this out later," Aedan said. Everyone scurried from the Evans home shortly after, while Aedan pulled the ice pack away to examine Ashe's jaw. "Might be bruised a little," he assessed, allowing Ashe to replace the pack. "Take a shower and get in bed, son. We'll talk tomorrow."
"All right." Ashe slid off the barstool at the kitchen island and walked toward the stairs.
* * *
Ashe glanced briefly at his computer after stepping out of the shower and toweling off—it felt good to be clean. Sighing, Ashe ignored the computer, pulled the covers back on his bed and climbed in. He fell asleep immediately.
* * *
"Mr. Winkler is staying in the house Marcie and Jason had," Adele said at breakfast the following morning. Trace had arrived moments earlier and was now sitting at the breakfast bar, having a plate of food with Adele and Ashe. Trajan winked at Ashe as he settled on a barstool to eat breakfast.
"Trajan, Ace and I are staying in the house with Winkler; the others are moving into the empty house next door. We lost Gene on St. Joseph Island," Trace mumbled around a mouthful of food. "Gabe, too," Trace added before sipping coffee. Ashe nodded. He'd liked Gene, Gabe and Spencer. They'd always treated him well, unlike other werewolves under Winkler's command. But Jimmy, Winkler's werewolf cook—Ashe would miss him most of all. "Mom, did they have a service for them? For Jimmy, too?"
"There was a nice service held in Shirley's groves, for all the fallen. Only the werewolves know where they're buried. To keep their secrets, you know, since some died as wolves." Adele settled at the island with a cup of coffee.
"Yeah. I understand that. What about Dominic Pruitt—Jackson's dad?"
"Dead, too. They buried the rogues at sea. Marcie identified him, since he died as wolf."
"He got his own son killed." Ashe had trouble accepting that. "Just signed right up with Tanner and his rogues. He was going to force Jackson to work as a drug runner."
"People do terrible things every day, Ashe. We can only do as much as we can do to stop all of it." Winkler walked in with Ace and Trajan. "We've got the weight and exercise room set up at the school. And I haven't let you go, yet. You still work for me," Winkler ruffled Ashe's hair. "Andy could use your help, most likely."
"How did you get in here?" Adele gave Winkler a speculative glare.
"Master key." Winkler held up the key in question. "Sorry. Won't happen again. We just heard you talking and came on in so you wouldn't have to walk to the front door."
"Once is okay. Twice and I'll bomb you from overhead," Adele shook a finger at Winkler.
"Fair enough," he laughed.
"Feeling better today?" Trajan asked Ashe.
"A little. Want breakfast? We have enough eggs to serve everybody, I think."
"Yeah." Winkler and the others settled in at the island. Ashe helped his mother make bacon, eggs and toast for all of them. Adele poured coffee while they waited for food to cook.
"If you'll do breakfast most mornings, Adele, I'll pay," Winkler munched on crispy bacon.
"That's fine, what time?"
"It's when we usually get up and around," she said. "That shouldn't be a problem. What do you like, so I can shop?"
"I'll make a list," Winkler replied. Adele handed over a pad of paper and Winkler pulled a pen from his pocket. "There'll be two more coming, too."
"I'll pull in an extra couple of chairs."
The doorbell rang, so Ashe got up to answer it. "Check who it is, first," Adele called after him. It was Sali. Ashe opened the door.
"Dude," Sali stood with hands in the pockets of his frayed shorts.
"Dude," Ashe said and stood back so Sali could come in. "Happy Birthday. Want breakfast?"
"Sure." Sali walked in, nodded to Winkler and his crew and accepted a plate of food from Adele.
"Nathan's thinking about opening a fishing business. He may hire Jonas and a few others to work with him. He'll still guard the community at night, but others can handle the business for him," Adele said.
"Really?" Ashe was surprised. The Star Cove community really was digging in its heels.
"Then I may have a proposition," Winkler grinned. "How about we take one of those lots where a house burned down and build a restaurant there? You could run it, Adele, with no trouble."
"Well, there's an idea." Adele poured more coffee for Winkler.
"And if you hired the people who cook for the school, you could provide lunches for the kids," Winkler added. "That will free up space at the school for a gym. It wouldn't be a hardship for the kids to walk to a restaurant nearby, now would it?"
"No. Not at all," Adele agreed. One of the burned houses was next door to the community center-turned-schoolhouse. "And it might be nice for them to get away from school for an hour."
"And their parents could have lunch with them, if they wanted," Trace teased. Sali blinked, a horrified expression crossing his features.
"Kidding," Trace held up a hand.
"We'll have a werewolf work crew in here, clearing the debris from the burned buildings and working to rebuild," Winkler went on, pointedly ignoring Trace. "That will mean more business for the restaurant. I'll put up the money, Adele, and you can run the place. If you want."
"I'll do it. But I may make time to take a night class or two in marine biology," Adele smiled at Ashe. Ashe shrugged at his mother, giving her a smile in return.
"You can take the early shift and knock off around three or four, as soon as lunch is over. Let somebody else handle dinner. The place can shut down around nine. That gets everybody home at a decent hour."
"Sounds good. I'll work it out with the others," Adele agreed. "It'll be good to have a business so close to home."
"I can get you hooked up with my sister's husband and father-in-law for fresh vegetables. They grow tomatoes, avocados, potatoes and other things to sell locally. The citrus they ship out."
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