Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(13) by Connie Suttle
"The Grand Master was in the Navy?" Sharon sounded surprised.
"Nah. He was a Marine. I was Navy. He could have taken them down on his own, but how could you explain that afterward? With my help, no explanation was necessary."
"Quick thinking," Winkler said.
"Had to do something. Couldn't allow a fellow shifter to get in trouble, could I?"
"Uh, could you tell me—do you mind telling me, that is," Ashe began.
"I’m a bear," Bear Wright grinned. "Hence the nickname."
"And what do you think of shapeshifters who turn into tiny bats?" Ashe had to know.
"Kid, every shifter can do amazing things. I don't care if they're a gerbil. Ever see the damage a gerbil can do to walls and carpet? They’ll try to tunnel through anything."
Ashe tried to cover a snicker, and then just let the laugh go. "Heard you had a bad day already," Bear Wright observed when Ashe stopped chuckling. "Don't let things get you down, kid. We're in this together."
* * *
The hour or so that Ashe had spent with Bear Wright was the highlight of his day. Now the uncertainty was back as he waited in the kitchen with his mother. Nathan would be asked to deal with Dexter Beesley when he woke—Aedan usually handled those assignments but there was the letter to consider. Marcus had already told Adele that he'd have some of his werewolves patrol the community. Aedan had the night to spend with his family.
Aedan always knew when something was wrong. Adele sat at the kitchen island, staring at her hands. Ashe had never seen her so defeated. "What is it?" Aedan sighed as he took a seat beside Adele.
"This." Adele pulled the letter from the drawer and handed it to Aedan. Aedan hesitated, as if he could hold off the news and keep his life as it was for a few moments longer. Finally, his fingers grasped the envelope. Ashe watched as the weight of it settled onto his father's shoulders. Slitting the envelope open with a slightly extended claw, Aedan pulled the folded paper out and opened it.
* * *
"Take him to Shirley's groves," Weldon instructed on Winkler's speakerphone. Nathan had placed compulsion, Winkler asked questions while the Grand Master listened in and now Dexter Beesley was scheduled for termination. "I’ll call the Boulder Packmaster and schedule a meeting. Winkler, how hard will it be to bring Ashe to Colorado in a day or two?"
"Let me get back with you on that—I don't know if the Council is recalling Aedan and how quickly he might have to leave if they do."
"Understood. Let me know."
"Will do," Winkler muttered. "Come on, filth," he hauled Dexter Beesley from the chair he'd sat in for questioning. Nathan watched the Dallas Packmaster, his Second and three other wolves carry Dexter Beesley out of the house. Sighing, he walked out behind them, hurrying to get to Aedan's home.
* * *
"I go tomorrow," Aedan said. Ashe watched his father pace on the deck behind their home. "The Council's jet will be here to take me to New York, and then from New York to London on Monday night."
"Aedan," Nathan had come to join them.
"Nathan, it's time they knew," Aedan raked fingers through his hair. Ashe and his mother stared at Aedan. "You have to watch over them, son."
"What?" Ashe started to say something else when Nathan agreed quietly.
"I’m Nathan's sire," Aedan admitted, sitting beside Adele on the glider. "I’m eight hundred sixty-seven years old, Ashe. You’ve always wanted to know—there it is. Nathan, I charge you with taking care of Ashe and his mother."
"I will, father."
"Aedan, don't put this on him. What if they want him back, too?" Adele stood and walked to the edge of the deck, arms folded tightly across her chest.
"Adele, they renewed Lavonna and me last year," Nathan sighed. "Wlodek may be an ass at times, but he seldom goes back on his word."
"So we're not married anymore?" Adele whirled on Aedan. "Go on, say it. Say we're not married anymore." Ashe felt like crying. His mother was in pain and there wasn't anything he could do about it.
"Only in the Council's eyes." Aedan was beside Adele in less than a blink.
"Ashe," Nathan had his hand on Ashe's shoulder, urging him up. Ashe rose from his seat and followed Nathan into the house. "We’ll patrol the perimeter while your parents talk," Nathan said. Ashe dutifully followed Nathan from the house and walked beside him as Nathan navigated the street through the Star Cove paranormal community.
Worried over what his parents might be discussing, Ashe shadowed Nathan as Nathan sniffed his way through the addition, looking for anything unusual or out of place. Finally, Ashe spoke. "Nathan?"
"Hmm?" Nathan's focus was elsewhere.
"Dori was able to send mindspeech to me," Ashe said. "I think that's something that ought to be kept away from the Council." Nathan stopped dead at Ashe's words.
"When?" Nathan's eyes shone silvery in the moonlight.
"When the others were kidnapped and held on St. Joseph Island. I was trying to send mindspeech to her and Sali. I didn't get anything from Sali, but I did from Dori. She probably doesn't remember that now, so forget I said anything."
"Ashe," Nathan sighed, "Send mindspeech to me. I’ll try to send something back. That runs in families, you know."
Can you hear me? Ashe sent. Nathan tried to send something back, but was unsuccessful.
"No luck," Ashe sighed. "I couldn't hear a thing." Nathan pulled his cell phone from a pocket and dialed. Lavonna's voice came through clearly to Ashe's enhanced hearing. "Love, will you meet me in front of the Dodd home?" Nathan asked.
"I’ll be there in a moment," Lavonna answered and hung up. Ashe, worried that he might have stirred something up unintentionally, waited while Lavonna made the trek to the other side of the neighborhood, finding Nathan easily in the dark.
"Love, Ashe will send you mindspeech. When you receive it, see if you might send something back. Concentrate hard, my darling."
"All right," Lavonna nodded. Can you hear me? Ashe sent.
I can hear you! Lavonna's mental voice indicated her astonishment. Ashe was no less surprised to get something back from her.
"It's from you," Ashe whispered, staring at Lavonna Anderson.
"We will not speak of this outside this circle," Nathan instructed softly. "No one else is to know."
"I understand," Ashe said. He did. Nathan didn't want his wife to be targeted by the Council, any more than he might. With the information he'd gotten from his mother on the attempts to turn women, Ashe worried that Lavonna's life might be in danger.
"This is important," Nathan said, gripping Lavonna's shoulders.
"Nathan, I know what they're doing to Adele and Aedan. There's no way I want that to happen to us. The secret stays here." She patted Nathan's cheek gently and walked away.
"It stays with us," Ashe agreed and began walking down the street.
"Ashe, they’ll try to pull you to them," Nathan said. "I had a choice when Aedan made me. He asked me as I lay dying upon the road. I was attacked by thieves," he added. "Aedan appeared and asked me if I wanted to live, no matter what. I said yes. I woke four days later thirsty for blood. You, on the other hand, may not be given a choice."
"Yeah," Ashe nodded, staring at his shoes. "Nathan, I’m sorry if your life has been difficult." Ashe nudged a small rock with the toe of his athletic shoe. It skittered down the paved street a short way before rolling to a stop. Ashe sighed as he watched it.
"It has been bliss, the past fifty-one years," Nathan replied softly. "I hope for another fifty years or more with my Lavonna. And my daughters."
"I hope you have that and more," Ashe said.
"I won't ask that you forgive the Council or any vampire, Ashe," Nathan said. "They can be quite selfish at times in their desire to protect the race."
"I’m glad you won't ask," Ashe said. "Because I won't forgive them. When Dad leaves tomorrow, I don't think things will ever be the same again." Ashe walked away from Nathan.
"If it ever comes to it, try not to let them know you're not susceptible to compulsion. Unless you're ready to defend yourself against them," Nathan called out softly.
"Don't worry about that, all right?" Ashe walked faster.
* * *
"Who wants to take this?" Winkler eyed Dexter with distaste. Trajan, Trace, Marcus, Marco and Ace had all come to a vacant portion of Shirley Walker's groves. Plowed ground and piles of dead vegetation surrounded them as Dexter Beesley's fate was considered.
"I’ll take it," Ace began to unbutton his shirt.
"No. Dad," Marco looked at his father. "It's time I bloodied my muzzle."
"Then do it, son. Don't stop until it's finished," Marcus commanded. Marco jerked his head in a brief nod.
"Come on, filth," Marco growled at Dexter. Winkler and Trajan began to remove the chains from Dexter Beesley's hands and feet. "Get out of your clothes and turn."
* * *
When Ashe arrived at his home late the evening before, his parents had taken the SUV and driven away. He didn't hear them come in until nearly daybreak. Ashe didn't know what that might mean. His mother had gone to bed immediately after, his father had locked himself inside his underground shelter. Ashe, lying in bed awake, hadn't gotten to speak with either of them. He tiptoed out of the house after putting breakfast together and walked past the DeLuca's house to get to the beach for a run. Bear Wright was just coming back from a walk, carrying a few shells in rather large hands.
"This is a lettered olive," Bear held up a brown-patterned shell. It was two inches long and appeared smooth and shiny. "Olives are like that, right after the animal dies. If they lie in the sun too long after washing up, the shell will be bleached white." Ashe fingered the smooth shell in his hands. That's what he felt like that morning—an empty shell. He might appear smooth and normal on the outside, but his insides had been emptied out. He was hollow. His life would never be the same. He knew that, now.
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