Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(11) by Connie Suttle
"I think I hate the Council."
"As do I. We just can't make this harder on your dad than it already is. If he has to go, then he has to go. I think our home is here, Ashe. Perhaps we might visit London sometime if we know Aedan is free, but we have no way to know if or when that might be."
"Mom, this is the worst. The Council knows that not everybody has time like they do. Are they that nasty and vindictive?"
"They're used to playing a very long game and it's usually to get what they want in order to protect the race. It's one of their fundamental laws—one of the things that drives them as a whole. The race war killed off more than half of the population on both sides, werewolf and vampire. So of course they'll be very interested in whatever will preserve and protect what is left."
"But can't they make more vampires?"
"That's a very difficult proposition. There are specific rules to follow before a vampire makes another vampire. They have laws governing how many others a single vampire might make. They're immortal unless someone manages to kill them or they walk into the sun, so that's another reason. They're very powerful, Ashe. They can't turn just anyone—imagine what would happen if a criminal was turned. He would continue with his crimes but as a vampire, he could cause all sorts of trouble. That's why there is such a need for Enforcers or Assassins—at times even the best of them succumb to the thrill of power."
"They don't turn women?" Ashe was very curious as to why there were so few female vampires.
"They try. Most of them don't live through the turn for some reason. Those who do usually don't live long—Aedan said once that a lot of them walk into the sun before they reach one hundred years of age." Adele looked troubled over that. Ashe watched her face—his mother looked very tired. Suddenly he knew that his parents had discussed this—the possible turning and how that might come out. Ashe knew without asking that his mother had already considered the idea and decided not to allow the attempt; it would likely fail anyway.
"So they're going to separate us. No matter what." Ashe stopped and kicked at a clump of dried seaweed. Piles of the stuff littered the beach on most days. Tractors came and raked up much of what washed up on the public portions of the beach early in the day, but more was deposited by unceasing waves afterward. Ashe squinted across the gulf waters, which seemed to stretch endlessly toward the east. He felt no different from a pile of seaweed at the moment; it held no control over the sea which birthed it.
"Ashe, I don't think there's anything in that envelope other than a summons for your father," Adele sighed.
"Yeah. I get that idea, too. What about Nathan? Will they call him back?"
"I haven't heard anything, and Lavonna has never said if Nathan was an Enforcer like your father."
"I just assumed that they were the same, somehow. I don't know why I thought that," Ashe shrugged and started walking again.
"We'll just have to learn how to do without your father," Adele brushed a tear away. Ashe hugged her closer and they walked in silence for a while.
* * *
"Do you want someone to be here?" Sharon O'Neill had come to check on Ashe and Adele. Jonas was at home, entertaining the shapeshifter candidate for the Principal's position. Marcus and Denise were hosting the female werewolf and her husband; Lavonna had her hands full with the single male werewolf. Until Nathan rose for the evening, anyway.
"We have to deal with this, Sharon. But I appreciate the thought," Adele sat at the kitchen island with a box of tissues at her elbow.
"If we didn't have to entertain the candidates for Principal tonight," Sharon grumbled. "What will we do without Aedan? We've always leaned on him. We depend on him and Nathan to keep us safe while we sleep."
"I don't know," Adele sniffled. "Nathan can't do it by himself. He and Aedan were stretched to the limit as it is."
"I always thought they'd replace Old Harold. That never happened," Sharon agreed. "Surely there's someone somewhere who can come. The Council agreed to help support these communities. As I see it, they haven't done a lot lately. At least not for this one."
Ashe sat and listened while his mother talked to Sharon. He'd looked forward to Saturday—had planned to relax and study a little. Now it was turning into something he couldn't identify, forcing his world to twist itself into a shape he no longer recognized. How could the Council take his father away? It made no sense at all. He sat gloomily at the kitchen island, sipping ice water and watching the clock. It was midafternoon and his father wouldn't rise for another six hours. "Mom, I'm going out to the deck," he said and walked toward the back of the house.
* * *
Ashe was preoccupied, dusting sand off his athletic shoes when a voice spoke right beside him, causing him to jump. He hadn't heard anyone approach and this man—tall, brown-haired and hazel-eyed, sat in a deck chair beside him. "They can't offer you immortality, you know," the man said while Ashe stared into his eyes.
"Who—who are you?" Ashe didn't know whether to be frightened and stay or be frightened and mist away.
"Who I am isn't important and generally I don't interfere with anything. Not long ago, however, I was informed that the giving of some information might not be interference. What you do with that information is up to you. The vampires can't offer something you have already. Remember that."
"Are you my grandfather?" Ashe worried that this was the person who'd sent the email message.
"No. I'm not your grandfather." The man smiled, making his eyes crinkle around the corners. It was a genuine smile, Ashe decided. "But I will say this—if William Winkler saw me, he would certainly recognize me. I must go." The man patted Ashe's shoulder and disappeared.
"What the—dang," Ashe breathed. Whipping out his cell, he hit Winkler's number.
"Ashe?" Winkler answered right away.
"Mr. Winkler, there was a man here just now. Just appeared from nowhere. He was tall and had brown hair. Sort of greenish-gold eyes. Said you'd recognize him if you saw him, but he wouldn't tell me his name."
Winkler cursed. "Ashe, what did he say to you?" Winkler demanded.
"He said that the vampires couldn't offer what I already had," Ashe replied, beginning to feel shaky.
"Where are you?"
"On the deck behind the house."
"I'll be there in a minute." Winkler hung up. He was there in little past a minute. "He was just here?" Winkler asked. Buck, Ace and Trajan were with him.
"Yeah. I didn't hear him come up or anything. One minute I was alone, the next he was sitting beside me. Who was that?"
"What did he mean; the vampires couldn't offer what you already had?" Winkler answered Ashe's question with one of his own.
"He was talking about immortality. What's that supposed to mean?"
Winkler muttered under his breath for a moment. "Ashe, I have it on pretty good authority that the half-children of the Elemaiya are immortal, just as the full bloods are. The quarter children aren't and that causes problems at times. I don't know why he chose to appear and tell you that, but it's true. If the Vampire Council says they can give you immortality by making you vampire, that won't be the whole truth. You already have that." Winkler sat in the same chair the other man had occupied.
"But who was he?" Ashe persisted.
"Ashe, how old did he look to you?" Winkler said.
"Maybe thirty. Might be a little younger. Why?"
"He's more than a hundred thousand years old," Winkler said. "And he can cause more trouble than you can possibly imagine."
Josiah Dunnigan watched his crew unload boxes of electronics. He had another truck waiting and it was nearing time to quit for the day. He didn't want to be kept late, just because his crew couldn't move a little faster. He didn't need the overtime, after all. Obediah Tanner had paid him well over the years—for information in addition to the occasional capture of a hapless shapeshifter for one of Obediah's lucrative hunts. Josiah was a member in good standing of the Amarillo Pack and he wanted to keep it that way.
He'd gotten away from the game preserve long before Obediah's bunch had been attacked and taken down that fateful night. He was now passing information to Zeke Tanner, Obediah's older brother. He didn't come by the information himself—he had several carefully placed informants, willing to help for a fee or the promise of revenge. They all fed him information and Zeke was perfectly happy to pay for what he received. In fact, if Josiah could manage to do this latest thing Zeke asked, he'd never have to work again and he'd be away from Ezekiel's demands. A ranch in Wyoming sounded very good and he could afford that, along with spending the rest of his life in leisure if he pulled this off.
"Bring William Winkler's head to me and you'll have ten million, free and clear," Zeke had said over the phone. Josiah intended to do just that. Only he was planning to have one of his sources do it. He could blackmail them, after all. Threaten to go straight to the Grand Master with what he knew. They'd cooperate, all right. Piece of cake.
"Hurry it up," Josiah shouted at his forklift driver. "We don't have all day, here."
* * *
"Keep it quiet—it's not something your father or Nathan can do anything about," Winkler advised Ashe regarding the unexpected visit.
"But what can you tell me about him?" Ashe asked.
"Kid, this is going to sound really strange, but knowledge of that race protects itself," Winkler sighed. "So I couldn't tell you much at all, other than what I've already told you."
"That's messed up," Ashe stared at Winkler. "Are you saying that even if I knew anything, I couldn't repeat it?"
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