Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(15) by Connie Suttle
"But why did he keep it from us?" Wynn was upset that Ashe hadn't come forward before.
"I think they told him not to," Dori pulled at a blade of grass. A few stray clumps of the reedy stuff grew next to the concrete porch and Dori had yanked up a bit of it. "Are you sure you're not upset over Sali and me?"
"Huh," Wynn scoffed. "He was at the right place at the right time. You're welcome to him. Just watch out. And don't buy him any jewelry."
"Yeah. Sometimes he's a butt."
"Well, we should probably agree not to talk about Sali."
"Yeah. So—Ashe can do some pretty serious stuff." Wynn lifted one of Dori's grass stems and chewed on it.
"Looks that way. We can't tell anyone, Wynn. It will get all of us in trouble."
"I know. At least we know again." Wynn wasn't happy that their memories had been altered.
"I feel bad for Ashe," Dori whispered. "And I hit him."
"You sure did. Sali said his jaw was sore afterward."
"I didn't mean to hit him that hard," Dori admitted. "But I was mad."
"Remind me not to make you mad like that," Wynn snickered. "And Ashe said I could go talk to him?"
"He said so."
"I think I will." Wynn stood and brushed dust from the back of her denim shorts. "Want to walk with me?" Dori rose without a word and followed Wynn.
* * *
"Let's go have lunch in Port A," Ashe suggested. He was doing all sorts of things that Sunday, most of which would get him in trouble. Sali had caught up with Wynn and Dori as they walked toward the Evans home, joining the girls as they'd made their trip to see Ashe. It was early afternoon and nobody had eaten lunch, so Ashe suggested they leave the house and go out to eat.
"Let me tell Mom," Sali pulled out his cell. Wynn and Dori did the same. Ashe, who still had paper and pen on the kitchen island, left a note for his mother. A few minutes later, they were inside Sali's import and on their way to the Aransas Pass ferry, which would take them to the barrier island. Ashe hadn't been invited to ride in Sali's car until then. He climbed out of the car once they were on the ferry and pointed out the dolphins to Wynn. She stood next to him, pulling long, white hair from her face when the sea winds whipped it about.
"Look," Wynn was bouncing on her feet as she pointed out the gray backs of three dolphins as they came up for air. Dori, standing next to Wynn, had Sali's arm draped over her shoulder. Ashe watched her and knew she was happy. He wasn't about to begrudge that. Besides, he was happy enough just to stand next to Wynn as she watched the dolphins, an expression of wonder clearly on her face.
"This is amazing," Dori said as they walked into Victoria's Restaurant. The glass windows operated like garage doors and all of them were lifted to allow the breeze off the water to circulate.
"Winkler's buying it," Ashe whispered when they were seated at a table near the outside deck. A fishing boat and a sailboat went past, floating toward deeper gulf waters. "And Mom is going to manage this and the restaurant in Star Cove," he added.
"This is so cool," Wynn said, looking around at the décor. Everything had a beach or nautical theme, with shells, antique fishing equipment and boat oars hanging on the walls. Ashe glanced toward a nearby table, filled with young men staring at Wynn and Dori. Dressed in shorts and T-shirts, they'd likely been on the beach already, leaving it long enough to eat before going back.
Dude, those guys are staring at Dori and Wynn, Ashe sent the mental message to Sali. Sali cut his eyes toward the table before reaching out to rub Dori's back. Wynn, reading over the menu before deciding, seemed oblivious of the stares and subsequent whispers.
"Still planning on taking the GED?" Sali asked, ignoring the nearby table. He and Ashe both heard the whispered conversation between the young men. "They're drunk," Sali said softly, knowing Ashe would hear.
"Yeah. I get that," Ashe agreed softly. He didn't want to hear anyone saying those sorts of things about anyone, especially Dori and Wynn. "I’m studying the manuals I bought," he said in a normal voice. "Winkler says the GED test is three days before school starts in Star Cove. I have to pass it before I can enroll in any online courses at the University of Texas."
"You're going to work for Winkler part-time and take online college courses?" Wynn lifted an eyebrow in surprise. She hadn't heard this before and was understandably curious. Sali had to explain after bringing it up.
"I think so," Ashe said. "And since Chad and Jeremy are staying in Star Cove now, well, I think I'd like to beat them at their own game."
"Those creeps," Wynn sniffed. "I heard Jeremy met a girl at the mall in Corpus."
"Is that why they're staying? True love?" Sali laughed.
"Jeremy wouldn't know love if it bit him on the ass," Dori muttered. Ashe had to stifle a snicker.
"Get what you want, I’ll buy," Ashe said as Wynn and Dori continued to discuss menu items and what they might be able to afford.
"Ooh—shrimp cocktail," Wynn said. She and Dori shared the appetizer while Ashe and Sali split fried cheese sticks. Ashe had grilled shrimp for lunch, Dori and Wynn chose fried shrimp and Sali had the catch of the day—flounder.
"This is so much fun," Wynn sighed after they'd left mostly crumbs and a few bits of food on their plates. "Can we go to the beach now?"
"Maybe for a little while," Ashe agreed. Sali was already nodding. The table of young men had left earlier. Ashe was happy to see them walk out the door—they'd been rude in their comments, wondering aloud if Dori and Wynn were available, in addition to other, less savory remarks. Sali had growled a time or two while they ate; fortunately, Wynn and Dori were chatting at the time so they hadn't paid attention.
Ashe paid the check, leaving a generous tip—the waiter had treated them very well, smiling and joking a little. Ashe noticed he didn't do the same with the other table. Those patrons had been loud and obnoxious, demanding more pitchers of beer and then arguing that they'd been charged incorrectly at the end. Ashe was glad they were gone. "Ride up front with Sali," Ashe told Dori when they reached Sali's car in the parking lot.
Sali pulled his shirt off the moment they reached the public beach, tossing it into the front seat. Without thinking, Ashe did the same. Wynn stared at him after Ashe dropped his T-shirt in the open window.
"Did you get a tattoo?" Wynn stared at Ashe's left arm.
"Uh, I guess," Ashe said uncomfortably.
"Dude, what is that?" Ashe recalled that Sali hadn't seen it either. Sali, Dori and Wynn were scrutinizing the eight gold imprints on his skin. "That is so cool," Sali breathed. "Mom and Dad won't even consider letting me get one."
"This was an accident," Ashe muttered, feeling embarrassed.
"A good one. That's amazing. Come on, let's take our shoes off and walk in the water," Dori pulled Sali toward the surf. Sali only halfheartedly protested.
"Want to go?" Wynn stood before Ashe, shading her eyes and looking up at Ashe.
"Sure. Can't let Sali wander off too far—he’ll get lost."
"Just what I was thinking," Wynn grabbed Ashe's hand and hauled him along.
"Mr. Wright found one of these this morning," Ashe handed the sun-bleached olive shell to Wynn. "Only his still had color. This one is bleached out."
"Still pretty," Wynn said, putting it in a pocket. She and Dori had worn shorts and flip-flops, but the flip-flops were left behind in the car. Sali and Dori, arms about one another, walked ahead of Ashe and Wynn.
"Look what showed up." Ashe jerked his head around—he'd been watching Wynn as she searched for shells on the sand. The pack of young men from the restaurant now stood in front of Sali and Dori. They were likely still drunk too, Ashe thought. "And it's the one with boobs," one of the young men taunted Dori.
"Look, it's the stupid jerks from the restaurant," Dori said before Sali could stop her. "Didn't your mother tell you it was rude to refer to women as body parts? Oh, wait—you don't have a mother. You have a zookeeper. Escape the leash today?" Sali was doing his best to keep Dori back—she was about to land on her tormenter.
"You let her do the talking for you?" Sali was being taunted, now. The young man looked to be around twenty-two or so, as did the others. All wore swimsuits, no shirts. Ashe imagined they thought highly of their abilities if it came to fighting. Sali growled.
Dude, settle down, Ashe hissed mentally. Sali could likely take on all four of them; as a werewolf, he was stronger than he looked. Dori, too, could hold her own against humans. Ashe didn't want to start a fight with four drunken frat boys on the public beach, though. He stepped forward.
"Man, what's wrong with his eyes," another of the would-be assailants asked when Ashe came to stand before them.
"You will leave," Ashe commanded. "And you will forget you ever saw us." All four turned obediently and walked away. Ashe and the others watched as they climbed into a car parked a short distance away. Spinning tires sprayed sand in their haste to get away. Sali pulled Dori close and they resumed their walk on the beach, but the day had soured after the confrontation. Ashe was silent, pondering a frightening new ability as he walked beside Wynn. He'd only meant to scare the young men away—he was taller than all of them and hoped his presence might seem intimidating. Instead, he'd commanded and they'd obeyed. As much as he hated compulsion, it had turned into a blessing in this case.
* * *
No mention of compulsion was made during the trip home. Sali draped his shirt over the back of the driver's seat and leaned against it, shirtless, to drive away from the beach. Ashe had slipped his on again, hiding the medallions on his arm. "You okay, Wynn?" Ashe turned to her as Sali navigated his car onto the ferry.
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