Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(17) by Connie Suttle
"A slight deformity." Winkler rose and went to the fridge to pull out a beer. Trajan and Trace got one, too. Ashe asked for another soda.
"Will it bother you that I’m not a half?" Ashe asked.
"Kid, I don't care if you're a stink-eyed humpback," Winkler said, making Ashe laugh. He had no idea that Winkler had gone to see any of a popular movie series, which depicted many fictional characters.
"Read the books, too," Winkler said. "To my kids. They couldn't get enough of that stuff."
"I caught him reading ahead—several times," Trajan whispered theatrically.
"How's Marco doing?" Ashe asked.
"He's fine. Coming to terms with his place in the world," Trajan opened up the box containing their dessert—a pineapple upside-down cake from an Aransas Pass bake shop.
Ashe accepted his slice of cake with a glass of milk. He cleaned up the kitchen afterward, too.
"Have everything you need? Clothes? Toothbrush?" Winkler stuck his head inside Ashe's office, where a cot had been set up for him.
"Yeah. I got it," Ashe said.
"Don't stay up too late," Winkler warned. Ashe was flipping through one of his study guides.
"I’ll be in bed by eleven," Ashe promised. Winkler closed the door.
* * *
"The father and mother are in transit," Wildrif bowed before Baltis. I will tell you when they settle for more than three days. Then you may send your guards, my King."
"Do so. Leave me now, I wish to think on this in peace."
"Of course, my King." Wildrif bowed a second time.
"Send word to my brother. Have Dauntless brought to me. I will send you, Dauntless and four others after the boy's parents as soon as they remain stationary." Baltis extended the royal seal to Fearless, his personal guard.
"Shall I carry any other message, my King?" Fearless asked.
"Yes. Tell my brother to remain hidden. We will take the boy for our own and Beldris will instruct him in our ways. He will either obey us or die."
"You do not believe the H’Morr?" Fearless asked.
"Faugh—that worthless bit of prophecy? You saw what happened to its author, did you not?"
"Saldis, my King? Of course I know what happened to him. He died at the hands of Diamond, the Queen's Chief Sentinel, when he refused to serve her after the coup against her predecessor."
"Didn't see that coming," Baltis laughed at his own joke. "Go now and visit my brother."
"As you say, my King." Fearless bowed respectfully before relocating.
"What happened?" Ezekiel Tanner asked Josiah. Zeke contacted Josiah after the relocation of Zeke's compound outside Juarez was complete.
"Dexter managed to get himself caught, that's what," Josiah grumbled. "But my source says that the vampire didn't question him about anything other than his little indiscretions. We're still in the clear on that quarter."
"But we were going to pair him with your other source," Zeke muttered angrily. "Who do you have to replace him?"
"Nobody available at the moment. I may go myself."
"Might be risky. Winkler may suspect the Amarillo Pack. The Grand Master didn't ask any of you to help take down my brother. Find someone else if you can. If not, then go to Corpus Christi but remain hidden as long as possible. I want Winkler's head hanging in my trophy room—wolf or man, doesn't matter."
"I’ll arrange it, Mr. Tanner," Josiah promised.
* * *
Ashe was already on the weight bench the following morning when Sali walked in with Wynn and Dori. Ashe was surprised that Wynn didn't bear animosity toward Dori or Sali, but she didn't. Trajan put the new arrivals to work right away. Sali worked out with the butterfly machine while Wynn and Dori lifted dumbbells. Trajan wanted to build their arm strength before setting them harder tasks. Ashe thought Trajan might be underestimating Dori—she'd hit him with a good right hook.
Trajan pushed them hard that morning, with Trace working with Sali and Ashe while Trajan watched over the girls. Ashe thought Dori might balk when it came to running down the beach, but she gamely kept up with Wynn, who was used to running on the full moon. Dori, as the ocelot, went prowling with her mother's lioness and Cori's panther, when Cori was home.
"You're running better, bro," Marco ran up at the last, Cori trailing him gamely. Ashe spared a grin for Cori, who'd been noticeably absent for the past two days.
"Went to enroll for the fall semester at Corpus Christi University," Cori said. "Got everything transferred down, I just had to finalize my classes."
"Good for you," Ashe said. "I’m going to take online courses with the University of Texas. Winkler insisted, and since he's paying," Ashe shrugged.
"Have to pass the GED first," Sali poked Ashe in the ribs.
"Sali, wait up," Dori moaned behind him.
"Sorry, baby," Sali dropped back to run with Dori.
Baby? Ashe mentally poked at Sali.
"You had your chance, dude," Sali grinned.
"Don't forget to stretch again," Trajan called after Dori, Wynn and Sali as they walked toward their respective homes later. Sali, nearly out of breath, waved at Trajan and kept walking.
"So—a man now and all?" Ashe stretched beside Marco. Cori was nearby, listening.
"A calculated risk, Ashe," Marco huffed as he pulled a leg up from behind to stretch it. "He wasn't going to live, one way or another. I decided to take it."
"He was a terrible person," Ashe nodded. "I’m still glad I didn't see it."
"Pack law dictates that executions are all Pack, unless someone from another race is instrumental in the capture. You could have gone if you wanted, Ashe. We didn't figure you'd want to."
"Yeah. You were right." Ashe shivered in the early-morning light. He still had a few screams in his head he couldn't easily banish after seeing Dexter Beesley's memories. "Marco?"
"What?" Marco was pulling the other leg up this time.
"Who killed Paul Harris?"
"Ah. Well, Dad took that one himself."
Ashe nodded. "I’ll get in the shower," he walked toward Winkler's house. "Oh," he turned back to Marco one last time. "I still don't understand how Billings thought he could take on your Dad. I don't know much about him, but if I were a werewolf, there's no way I'd make a challenge against Marcus. Unless I wanted to commit suicide."
"And you'd be right to think that," Marco agreed. "I’ll see you for lunch, maybe."
"Yeah." Ashe walked through Winkler's front door.
* * *
"We’ll take a trip to Boulder on Tuesday, and continue to D.C. on Wednesday," Winkler sat beside Ashe's desk. Andy had found a chair somewhere so Ashe could have an occasional visitor. "Someone will go with you to pack more clothes tonight after work. Pack some nice stuff, too. We can go out to eat afterward."
"What are we doing in Boulder and D.C.?" Ashe asked. While he waited for Winkler to answer, he handed two folders to Andy. No information was contained in either folder to tell him whether these were Winkler Security divisions or something else. Ashe decided he didn't want to know. "I circled the questionable entries," Ashe said. Andy flipped the top folder open, nodded and walked out.
"Weldon wants to meet us in Boulder and question the Packmaster. We want to know if he had any inkling of what Dexter was doing and just failed to report it."
"How am I supposed to help with that?" Ashe asked. "I thought interrogation was your area."
"It is. But it seems that Sali told Marco about an incident on the beach yesterday. I'd like to see how that might help us out, Ashe. In Boulder and D.C. After all, a vampire is only awake during the night. You're available twenty-four-seven."
"Does everybody tell on me now?" Ashe rose from his desk chair, angry immediately.
"Ashe, I didn't say that to upset you," Winkler attempted to calm Ashe. "Marco has sworn oaths as a member of the Dallas Pack. He's loyal to me and tells me what I ask of him."
"Is that how it works?" Ashe snapped. "I haven't sworn any oaths, Mr. Winkler."
"You're too young and you're not Pack. Werewolves do the oaths the first time they run with the Pack. Human children or mates of werewolves do a different oath and they have to be at least eighteen to take it."
"But the people I think are my friends can betray me at every turn? Is that it?" Ashe was prepared to go to mist. He wanted to scream and cry. The bitterness almost overwhelmed him. Sali had promised. He'd promised.
"Ashe, no." Winkler had him gripped in an embrace quickly. "We're the people who care about you."
"Yeah?" Ashe hopped to the other side of the room, away from Winkler's hug. "All I see are people trying to use me." He wiped dampness from his cheeks. "The Council takes my dad, because that's a way to take me. The Elemaiya hunt me because they want to kill me or bend me to their will. And I can't trust anybody, can I?" Ashe disappeared before Winkler could stop him.
* * *
"Teenage hormones," Trajan set a cup of coffee in front of Winkler. Winkler muttered a rude oath and lifted the cup. "Now, we just have to figure out how to find him."
"If he's not back by ten tonight, call his cell," Trace suggested.
"I know now not to tell him that Marco is bringing me information," Winkler blew out a sigh.
"He thinks of Marco as a friend. You just ended that friendship," Trajan observed.
"You think I don't know that? Sometimes I should have a lock on my mouth."
"The relationship with Sali was tenuous, too," Trace said. "And that may be over as well. After all, Marcus would have been hauling Sali out of jail if he'd jumped those drunks. Ashe took care of the situation."
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