Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(9) by Connie Suttle
"I didn't realize wolves could be dyslexic," Ashe said. "Sorry, man."
"Not a problem. I like what I do. It suits me."
"Someday, maybe you'll teach me that Kung Fu stuff," Ashe said.
"We're working on that," Trace nodded.
* * *
"Are you sure this is what you want, Ashe?" Aedan leaned back on the glider with Adele.
"I think it is, Dad," Ashe said. "I mean, nobody really knows me anymore." He couldn't keep the bitterness from his voice. "What difference does it make how I finish high school?"
"Son, I don't know what to say," Aedan sighed. "It's almost too much. We've destroyed your friendships, I know. That's the only reason I'm allowing this now—perhaps you'll have new friends with Mr. Winkler's group. A few of them know what you are and what you can do."
"I like Trace, Trajan and Marco."
"I know. Don't give up on Sali just yet, Ashe. He's been a good friend all along. Perhaps things will work out eventually. In the meantime, I expect you to study and pass that test. We'll look into online courses over the weekend. You'll work four hours a day, Monday through Friday, for Mr. Winkler. The rest of the time you can devote to your studies. You won't have a teacher reminding you to turn in homework, son—you're on your own. Fail any class and this all goes away."
"Got it, Dad."
"I'm off to do patrol," Aedan rose and walked through the patio doors.
Ashe waited until he heard his father leave the house. "Mom, why is it always doom and gloom whenever I do something different? Does he expect me to fail now? I never have before."
"Honey, he's vampire," Adele said and left it at that.
"I think I'll go work out for a while and then study a little." Ashe stood and walked into the house.
* * *
"My Queen, your Jewels will not return." Friesianna had finally consulted Rabis. Even with injuries, her Sentinels should have returned or sent mindspeech. Her efforts to contact them had met with silence. If any had been conscious, they would have replied.
"That cannot be," Friesianna turned away from Rabis, but he'd confirmed what she'd begun to suspect. "The talismans," she whispered.
"I cannot see them," Rabis replied.
"What does that mean?" She whirled angrily, prepared to blow Rabis away from her.
"That can only mean one thing," Rabis bowed low. "I know of your opinion concerning the Ekdi H'Morr. But it speaks of this."
"Go," Friesianna said coldly. "Get that cursed book and read it to me. Now!"
"Yes, my Queen," Rabis bowed and hurried away.
* * *
"Honored One, I know your mind is made up, but I disagree," Charles ventured.
"I gave him fifty years. That ended yesterday. Can I help it that he wasted so much time?"
"But the boy is only sixteen, Honored One. Surely he needs his father close."
"Aedan is a very good Enforcer. One of my best. Draft the message and bring it to me before you send it."
"I think he expected an extension, sir." Charles knew not to beg. "Like the others received. He believed, I think, that you would allow him to remain where he is until his wife's death. Another fifty years is nothing to a vampire."
"Except I need him here. He should be thankful I'm not recalling Nathan as well."
Charles wanted to moan in exasperation, but that was conduct unbecoming. Wlodek had his mind made up and nothing would sway him. The information Charles gathered on underage turning had not revealed anything positive on the subject. The youngest turning on record was age twelve, and that had ended in disaster—the child became insatiable and was hunted and killed.
Older children tended to be morose and depressed following their turning, choosing to walk into the sun not long afterward. Besides, Charles had read the information on the Elemaiya. Ashe Evans was already immortal. The vampire race had nothing to offer him. Wlodek hoped to keep the boy under his thumb by compulsion—vampire law prohibited the turning of any human less than eighteen for a reason. "I will do as you say, Honored One," Charles left Wlodek's study.
"But you don't like it," Wlodek muttered at Charles's retreating back.
* * *
"My King, I was able to speak with one of our sources, after much effort," the guard stood before Baltis, panting with the exertion required to return to the King's quarters. "He has already spoken with the other spy and reports strange happenings."
"What sort of happenings?" Baltis asked.
"Water turned to fire to kill your Destroyers, my King. The Queen's Jewels died as well."
"May the gates be kind," Baltis muttered.
"I heard you bought a study guide," Winkler said at breakfast Friday morning.
"Two," Ashe held up two fingers. "Already started reading them. They have sample tests I can do online, too."
"You're scheduled to take it three days before school starts here," Winkler said. "I got it set up this morning. Flunk and it's Star Cove Combined for you."
"I won't flunk, Mr. Winkler."
"See that you don't. Let's go. I think you still have some files to go through."
"Yeah. I do." Ashe got up and followed Winkler and the others out of the house.
Ashe listened to the rumble of heavy construction equipment most of the day—a crew had come to pour the foundation after more electrical and water lines were laid. He watched for a few minutes after coming back from lunch. Buck was there, wearing a hard hat and supervising to make sure everything was done correctly.
Ashe handed the folders to Andy by the end of the day, pointing out two that had problems. Andy was quite happy with the results. "I think we'll have more for you on Monday," he said. "And Winkler wants to take everybody to Victoria's for dinner, including your mother. Be ready around seven; we'll pick you up."
"Will do." Ashe waved and walked out of the house. Buck waved, too, when Ashe walked past on his way home.
* * *
"The candidates for Principal will be here tomorrow afternoon," Winkler announced over a dinner of lobster, shrimp and pasta. The restaurant employees had already heard rumors that Winkler had purchased Victoria's and there was no lack of service at the table. Adele watched how they served the tables around them, since she'd be supervising the employees soon. "We'll put the applicants up with Marcus, Nathan and Jonas," Winkler added, accepting a drink from a solicitous waiter.
"That should make Sali happy," Ashe said. A guest meant Sali would be turned out of his bedroom, and Ashe wasn't sure he wanted to invite Sali for a visit while the candidate slept in Sali's room.
"We'll take the candidates out for a meal on Sunday," Trajan said. "Just to feel them out. It'll be a late dinner; we'll wait until Nathan is up for that one. Then the official interviews will take place on Monday night in Winkler's office."
"If we don't hire him, the shapeshifter has another interview in Missouri," Winkler said, dipping a chunk of lobster in warm butter before eating it. "Lissa used to tease me about eating two lobsters."
"So she really was rare," Ashe observed. He remembered Winkler telling him that female vampires were extremely rare.
"Only fifteen or sixteen like her," Winkler nodded. "And they married her off to Hancock's sire." Winkler didn't look happy about that. "He made her life miserable."
"An arranged marriage?" Adele asked. "I'm not surprised."
"Sold to the oldest and highest bidder, that's what I understand," Trajan grumbled. "Lissa saved my neck, once. I wish you could have seen that." He smiled at the memory. "Winkler was challenged outside the full moon, and the challenger wanted the Seconds to fight. Old Karl brought in a werewolf blademaster as his temporary Second, and I only fight with my hands." Trajan held up the hands in question—they were large and capable, but they'd never held a sword. "Lissa stepped in for me that night, and it was something to see," Trajan shook his head in amazement. "I wonder what happened to that video Hancock had? Thomas Williams was there as a witness, wearing a lapel camera Hancock provided."
"You know, I think you may have to tell me the whole story, sometime," Adele said. "You're making me curious."
"Any time," Trajan said.
"Lissa was the only vampire to be Pack," Trace explained when Ashe climbed out of Winkler's van later. "She saved the Grand Master's life, too."
"But if they married her off to an assassin, was she an assassin, too?"
"Ashe, walk with me a little way," Trace herded Ashe down the street while Adele stayed behind to talk with Winkler and Buck about the restaurant they were building.
"Lissa wasn't sanctioned by the Vampire Council when she was turned. Her sire didn't report it. That made her rogue. The Council sent Gavin Montegue after her. He hauled her in after watching her for a long time. She was working for Winkler, back then. The vamps almost killed her outright. Ashe, she had Elemaiyan blood. A quarter, if I understand right. She could mist and mindspeak. Gavin kept her on a short, tight leash, and they sent her out after the worst of the worst. That terrorist, Rahim Alif? She took him down. Several others, too, that Hancock or his successor, Bill Jennings, took credit for. And she took down the ringleader of all the Dark Elemaiyan vampires. I don't know that entire story. Winkler knows more, but he doesn't talk about it much. Somebody convinced her to go after another batch of bad ones after that. She died, killing them. Winkler wouldn't talk to anyone for a month after she was killed. Her grave is in Oklahoma, but there's nobody in it."
"Because vampires turn to ash when they die."
"Yeah. Let's go back. It's dark and I figure your dad will be out and about soon."
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