Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(5) by Connie Suttle
"That will be perfect," Adele said. "Can I get a number?"
"Sure." Winkler wrote it down and handed it to her. "Just tell them who you are and that you talked to me about it."
"Are we going to meet your sister?" Ashe asked, curious. He'd seen Sam Sheridan twice but hadn't seen Winkler's sister.
"Whitney is pregnant, so Sam is overly protective," Winkler grinned. "I'm gonna be an uncle."
"A new Winkler?" Sali asked.
"Well, Sheridan, but it's almost the same thing. If we hurry on the restaurant, I'll bring her here for dinner."
"That will be so nice," Adele said. "We haven't seen a new one on the way for a while."
"Ashe, do you need to help clean the kitchen before we haul you to the dojo?" Trajan asked.
"He can go today, I'll clean up," Adele said.
"Good. Are you coming willingly, or do we have to put you in a headlock?" Trajan grinned. Ashe was glad that nothing seemed to have changed with Winkler's Second. Sali had barely said anything to him since walking inside the house.
"I'll come," Ashe said.
"Sali, you and Marco should come tomorrow—I'll start working with both of you," Trajan said. "We need all the muscle we can get."
"Really? I can?" Sali sounded excited.
"It's hard work," Trajan said. "But you'll be better off. You don't get out of running, either. We'll work on getting a track sorted out."
"I'll be there," Sali promised.
"Good. See you tomorrow, kid. Come on, indentured servant," Trajan pulled Ashe off his seat.
"You actually know what indentured servant means?" Ashe lifted an eyebrow.
"Ashe says stuff like that all the time," Sali grinned. "He even counts the syllables in my words."
"Then I'll employ the vast vocabulary," Trajan said. "Come on." He herded Ashe toward the front door.
"Vocabulary—five syllables," Sali laughed.
* * *
"Sit down, Ashe," Winkler had an office set up already in the house Marcie and Jason had lived in for such a short while. Ashe marveled at how quickly Winkler was able to get things done. Ashe slid onto one of Winkler's guest chairs.
"Now, you probably know as well as I do that it wasn't any accident this community was located so quickly," Winkler began. "There's a leak somewhere, and it's possible that even with all the killing, we still didn't eliminate it. I want you to put your mind to that, whenever you're not doing anything else. Find the traitor for me. It's possible he's still here inside the community. If that's the case, he could sell us out again." Winkler's hands tightened into fists. Ashe knew what that meant, all right. Winkler wanted the spy. And he wanted him dead.
"Have you shown those things to your parents?" Trajan nodded to the gold medallions wrapping Ashe's left upper arm.
"Not yet," Ashe grunted, lifting two hundred ten pounds. He'd taken his shirt off and now lifted weights dressed only in shorts and athletic shoes. "I don't know what Dad will say. Especially since I have no idea what they are or how they got there."
"Damnedest thing," Trajan muttered. "At least they're not ugly. And they might attract women."
"Doubt it," Ashe huffed, pushing the weights up. "You see how Dori slapped me and all. I guess it was doomed from the start. She wants Sali."
"For real?" Trajan settled in to talk.
"Yeah. I thought she was gonna have a fit when Sali started dating Wynn."
"Don't sell yourself short, Ashe."
"Why not? There's not much here," he said. "And since I'm back from the dead, well, they won't remember anything except the bat pretty soon. Sali's a wolf. That's more attractive than a measly bat."
"You think they'll modify memories again?"
"Story of my life. Nobody needs to know. So they don't."
"Kid, I don't know how you deal with it," Trajan said softly. Ashe's acute hearing caught the words anyway.
"Not everybody has a vampire for a father," Ashe observed. He didn't add his current fear—that the Council might be dictating his father's compulsion on the community. Surely, they could just order his closest friends not to tell anyone what they knew—that would make things so much easier. Instead, their memories were muted altogether.
Ashe was glad his father couldn't place compulsion on him. At least nobody was attempting to suppress his memories. He worried, though, that the Council might learn of his resistance to compulsion. He also wondered what they might do if they did know. So much mystery surrounded the Vampire Council. His father, too, if he were honest. Would he ever know how old his father was? That was likely a no. His mother didn't know. Why should he?
"Ashe, buddy, you're done. Go do leg presses," Trajan brought him back to the present.
* * *
"Trace, I have to get something for Sali's birthday," Ashe breathed as they ran along the narrow beach near Star Cove.
"Ah, sixteen today," Trace grinned. "I hear Marco took him to Corpus to take the driving test."
"Then I know what I have to buy for him," Ashe said. "I have to find a Cadillac key ring. He's always admired vintage Cadillac convertibles. He used to say that someday I'd have one of those cars and he'd sit in the passenger seat as wolf and ogle people on the highway while I drove." Trace laughed at the image. "Sali likes to hang his head out the window," Ashe said, making Trace laugh louder.
* * *
"Yeah—that one looks good." Ashe accepted the key ring from the salesclerk. Trace had allowed Ashe to hop him to a nearby auto dealership, where a key ring could be purchased. The fob was polished chrome with a gold inset and the Cadillac emblem on it. Handing the cashier his debit card, Ashe watched while the item was placed in a bag.
"If he doesn't pass the test, you'll be in trouble," Trace grinned as they walked out of the dealership.
"He'll just take the test again," Ashe said. They had to find a secluded spot where nobody might see so Ashe could hop them back to Star Cove.
* * *
Everybody stayed out of Zeke Tanner's way. He'd growl (or worse) at the slightest provocation. Two of his wolves sported healing knife wounds after failing to move fast enough. The entire compound was in the process of packing; Zeke had reports from a trusted source regarding the visitors who'd come to call in his absence. Two of those visitors were vampires and he didn't want them invading his territory again. He'd have to move farther south—another compound waited for him there. "Damage any of those heads or the taxidermic animals and you'll join them," he snarled at the hired movers clearing out his trophy room.
Of everything he owned, Zeke was particularly proud of the things he'd killed and stuffed. If he had his way, William Winkler's head, wolf or human, was going to join his collection. He suspected that Winkler was personally responsible for Dom Pruitt's death, and was sure Winkler had called in vampires to help. Tanner had the greater number of wolves and they would have won the battle if Winkler hadn't had several of the vampire filth there to fend off the attack.
"Are you sure it was a good idea, setting Jack Howard adrift in that raft?" Hutch, Zeke's new Second, asked. "He could tell everything he knows about the werewolf race."
"You think I give a damn about that?" Zeke hissed. "Let the Grand Master explain to the whole world that werewolves exist. They're not gonna come down here and ask us about it." Zeke pulled a semiautomatic rifle from a gun cabinet and slung it over a shoulder. "Come on, we're driving to the new location. Now."
* * *
"What can possibly cause rat's hearts to explode?" Randy Smith looked over the reports from the veterinarian. She'd done autopsies on dozens of dead rats from Chicago's old underground narrow gauge rail tunnels. The rat's bodies seemed in good health—except for their exploded hearts.
"No idea. No traces of chemicals or anything else, and those wouldn't cause this kind of damage." Sara Dillon worked for the city animal shelter. She'd been drafted into doing the autopsies after so many piles of dead rats were found in parts of the tunnels. "Honestly, rats are vermin. We should count it as a blessing, unless other animals start dying for the same reason."
"Haven't heard of any," Randy shrugged. Sara was close to thirty, but was very pretty and looked younger. Randy thought about asking her out. Her red hair was cut collar-length and curled riotously about her head. Green eyes and a pretty mouth smiled often. At Randy.
"Well, uh, let me know if you hear anything," Randy stammered uncomfortably. "About other animals dying the same way, that is."
"I will," Sara said brightly. Randy, shy suddenly, let the opportunity go. He waved and walked out of Sara's office, the folder of autopsy reports in his hand.
* * *
"Mom, how can I write an article about this?" Randy sighed. Dawn, his werewolf mother, had come to Chicago to spend a few days before going back to New Mexico. She worked for the Post Office there and had more than enough vacation time saved.
"About what?" Dawn pulled a pan of lasagna from the oven. Homemade lasagna was Randy's favorite meal.
"These autopsies show that the rat's hearts exploded. The vet says she has no idea how that happened."
"Really?" Dawn went to the fridge, pulling out mozzarella cheese to make garlic cheese bread.
Dawn's hair and eyes were a dark brown, while Randy favored his father, Terry Smith, who'd had lighter brown hair and green eyes. His Uncle Ted looked very much like Randy's father, too, and still talked of Terry's murder as if it were three weeks ago instead of three years. Ted had never known of Dawn's heritage—Terry had kept that secret. Protecting the werewolf race was of paramount importance and every human who married a werewolf swore an oath never to reveal the werewolves to other humans. Randy, too, had never mentioned it to his uncle, although he'd lived with Uncle Ted and Aunt Mary while attending the University of Illinois, finishing in three years instead of four.
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