Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(14) by Connie Suttle
"Looks like you had a successful hunt," Ashe handed the shell back.
"I heard that one of my fellow candidates was eliminated last night. I spoke with the Grand Master," Bear said, his eyes searching Ashe's face. "And I hear your father has been called back by the Council."
"I think I hate them," Ashe muttered, his eyes settling on the water between Star Cove and the barrier island that lay eastward.
"Hate is a strong word," Bear cautioned. "It's best to know what it is you hate, before you say that word and mean it."
"You're saying I should study the enemy before I slap a label on him?"
"Something like that. Try to keep an open mind. Your father is vampire, after all. Do you hate him?"
"No." Ashe turned his gaze to his feet. He'd need new athletic shoes soon. Running on the beach had nearly worn them out.
"I don't believe you hate Nathan Anderson, either."
"Study your enemies. Make sure that they're not your allies before you apply the H word," Bear advised. "The Council isn't just one vampire." Bear Wright, candidate for Principal of Star Cove Combined walked toward the paranormal community, leaving Ashe behind to run and think.
* * *
"Dude," Sali was standing in Ashe's driveway when Ashe arrived at the house after his run.
"You should have gone out to run with me," Ashe said before he thought. He had to think of Sali in different terms, now. As an acquaintance and not a friend.
"You didn't ask," Sali pointed out.
"Would you have gone?"
"Don't know," Sali hunched his shoulders. "Marco. Marco—he uh," Sali stuck his hands in the pockets of his shorts, uncomfortable, suddenly.
"What is it?" Ashe was concerned, now. "Is Marco okay?"
"Marco's good—a few bites and bruises but that’ll heal up while he sleeps," Sali muttered. "Marco bloodied his muzzle last night."
"What?" Ashe stared at Sali in incomprehension. He drew in a breath when the realization hit him. "Marco took the execution?" Somehow, Ashe hadn't thought of Marco in those terms. He did now.
"It's a mark of accomplishment," Sali said, scuffing his sneaker on the concrete of Ashe's driveway. "A sign that you're looking to move up in the Pack."
"Sali, come in the house but be quiet. I hope Mom's asleep," Ashe said. "I’ll get you some juice and eggs."
Ashe dumped scrambled eggs onto a plate for Sali, handing that plus a plate of buttered toast to the sixteen-year-old werewolf. Sitting down with a glass of juice, Ashe watched Sali dig into the pile of cooked eggs before speaking again. "I keep forgetting that everything is different from what we see on television," Ashe sighed. "That werewolves and vampires hand out their own justice. That shifters won't ever lead a completely human existence. Humans outnumber us, Sali, and it confuses things. They're considered the norm, so I expect things to fit into that norm. And that won't ever happen as long as we are what we are."
"We get lessons from Dad on how to be werewolf. About the laws and protocol governing the werewolf race. Every pup is expected to learn and recite those laws. You move up in the Pack if you seek Pack justice, under the Packmaster and the Grand Master, of course," Sali stuffed more eggs in his mouth.
"Dude, I’ve never heard you talk like that. Your intelligence is showing, Sali."
"Doesn't pay so much to be smart if you're an omega wolf," Sali muttered. "Marco might be a beta—a Second one day. Me? I’ll be farther down the food chain. I’ll just be muscle for Dad or some other Packmaster. That's it."
"Sali, that's a terrible attitude," Ashe said, pulling paper from a drawer and digging around for a pen. His mother always kept pens, paper, envelopes and stamps in a kitchen drawer so they'd be found easily. "Dude, you could be a werewolf physicist or something. Surely, the Grand Master would recognize that. And that werewolf doctor who came from Chicago? Man, I'd like to have his money." Ashe pulled the cap off the pen and settled in to write.
"You think I could do that? Be a doctor?" Sali stopped eating for a moment.
"Yeah. Dude, I always said you were smart. You just have to believe that for yourself. Study hard in biology and science. Do a few extra assignments. Read up on those science fairs and stuff." Ashe worried his lower lip as he struggled to write something appropriate.
"So, Salidar DeLuca, M.D.?"
"Sounds good. It’ll look great on a plaque outside your office." Ashe scribbled through what he'd just written.
"Somebody's at the front door," Sali interrupted Ashe's censorship.
"Dang," Ashe disappeared in front of Sali and appeared on the front steps. Dori had a hand poised to ring the doorbell. "Mom's asleep; we don't need to wake her." Ashe hauled Dori against him, turned her to mist and landed her in the kitchen a second later.
"Ashe, what did you just do?" Dori and Sali stared at Ashe.
"What I’ve been able to do all along. Except the vampires don't want you to remember. So you don't. Now, if you want to remember what you just saw from now on, you have to keep your mouths shut, all right?"
Dori fumed quietly while Ashe begged her not to be angry with her father. "Dori, do you want to know this or not?" Ashe snapped without meaning to. "Your dad loves you and Cori. More than you can possibly imagine. He's just trying to keep you safe from the ones who hunt me and from the Council. There may be others, too. I’m trusting you with an awful lot, here."
"But how?" Sali was still trying to come to terms with what Ashe could do.
"Elemaiya. I’m half. That gives me a little extra." Ashe, Sali and Dori were all sitting on Ashe's bed while Ashe attempted to explain what he was.
"But I thought," Dori whispered.
"Mom and Dad had to arrange for a fertilized egg. That egg came from the Elemaiya."
"Holy, cow, dude." Sali flopped onto his back a hand over his eyes. "This is messed up. What are you?"
"Here." Ashe pulled three sheets of paper from his desk drawer and handed them to Sali. "This is what the Council sent me. I think there's a lot more they're holding back." Sali sat up and read the first page quickly before passing it to Dori, who also began to read. Dori was gasping in a breath and staring at Ashe shortly after. Sali handed the second page to Dori, who read that and then the third when Sali was finished. "How many of these things can you do?" Sali asked in a hushed voice.
"I’ve always had acute hearing," Ashe pointed out that talent on a page Dori held. She nodded in agreement. "I have mindspeech, I can mist, I can do this," Ashe tapped relocation on the second page. "And I can shapeshift. Shapeshifting is all they'd let you remember before." Ashe didn't tell them about the talents of illusion or manipulating elements—one could get him in trouble and the other was just too scary. Images of water burning and Elemaiya dying were imprinted on his mind.
"Dude, that says you're royalty, if you can do four or more. You have five, man."
"Yeah. For all the good it does. Sali, you have to keep this secret or we’ll all be in trouble. Dori, I’m sorry I hurt you. Can we still be friends?" Ashe begged.
"We can be friends," Dori sighed. "Ashe, we just thought," Dori didn't finish.
"I know. I wanted you to think that, too, because I didn't want you to be in danger because of me. Believe me, it was the worst few days of my life."
"We’ll have to tell Wynn," Dori said.
"Why don't you and Sali tell her? If she has questions, tell her to come and ask me," Ashe added. "And she has to promise to keep this secret. You can't tell Hayes or Jeff or anybody else."
"We know that," Sali huffed.
"Ashe, I just remembered why I came to see you," Dori said, even as Sali pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her waist. Ashe hid his surprise as well as he could.
"What's that?" Ashe asked, ignoring the budding relationship.
"Chad and Jeremy are transferring to Corpus Christi University," Dori said. "They won't be going back to school in Little Rock next month."
* * *
"So he's leaving without a backward glance," Denise stared at Marcus.
"Aedan has been summoned by the Council. You don't ignore a summons from that bunch of old vamps."
"I can't imagine what Adele is feeling over this."
"Hasn't he been through enough? Marcus, how many of us might have died if he hadn't done what he did—I’ve never heard of anyone burning water. I’ve heard of oil burning on top of water, but burning oxygen from the water? That's incredible."
"I can't believe the Council is pulling Aedan away," Marcus said. "But that may make it easier for them to take Ashe whenever they please without fighting his father."
"I’m glad Anthony Hancock went home when they all thought Ashe was dead," Denise went to the coffeepot. "Want some, hon?"
"Sure." Marcus took a seat at the kitchen island and waited for the coffee to brew. He'd had a late night, after all. Marco was still sleeping after taking the execution. Marcus had been surprised by his oldest son's offer. Denise had responded to the news with a tightening of her mouth. Marco wanted to move up in Winkler's Pack instead of coming home eventually and joining with Marcus. Marco was twenty-one, though, and old enough to decide for himself.
* * *
"Wynn, it's all just a big plot." Dori had taken Wynn to the new school and now they sat behind it on a small, covered porch. They'd been inside the building a time or two while a crew of werewolf construction workers put up walls, built classrooms and a library. The new cafeteria was being built next door, which meant a gym was going in now. A weight room had already been installed—that's where Ashe and Sali were working out most mornings.
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