Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(20) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"Adele, I want you to stay here. I have a lead to follow and it requires speed and stealth," Aedan said. "My cell will be turned off. Do not attempt to contact me—it can place both of us in danger."
"I understand," Adele nodded uncomfortably. Aedan had been trained to do this, but he hadn't done it officially for fifty years. Adele was frightened. Aedan kissed her absently and stalked out of the safe house, his mind already on the task ahead.
* * *
"Cori broke up with me." Marco sat heavily on the sofa inside the DeLuca's media room. Marcus sat in an old recliner nearby. Denise was visiting Lavonna Anderson while Sali was out with Dori. Marcus and his oldest son were alone in the house.
"What happened?" Marcus tapped the remote, muting the television program he was watching.
"She said I owed Ashe and hadn't paid him back very well. She poked me in the chest and told me Sali could be dead or running drugs across the border if it weren't for Ashe. She's right, but I swore an oath to Mr. Winkler."
"Marco, the oath you give your Packmaster supersedes anything else. That's the way things are for any werewolf," Marcus frowned as he studied Marco's face, his dark eyes betraying no emotion. "How many other friendships outside the Pack have been fractured because of Pack Law? You can't have everything the way you want it, son. Some things are going to conflict with the laws we follow. If you hadn't reported it to Winkler, that could have cost you down the road. You don't need that black mark against your name as you're starting to make a place for yourself. Membership in the Dallas Pack carries a lot of prestige, son. I had hopes that you'd come back to the Star Cove Pack, but I think you have a better future with Winkler, now."
"Yeah. I wish Sali hadn't told me about Ashe," Marco grumbled. "I wouldn't have had the information to take to Winkler and Cori wouldn't be on the outs with me. That doesn't even cover what Ashe probably thinks."
"Ashe is young, Marco. What difference does it make what he thinks?"
"Dad, that's what you don't understand. I don't understand it, either. What Ashe thinks matters to me. A lot. And any respect he might have for me is really important, somehow. I don't know how to explain it better than that."
"Nathan has always wondered at Cori—the way she calls or emails Ashe for advice," Marcus rose from his chair and tossed the television remote onto the coffee table. "He always seems to be a step ahead of his classmates. I heard from the Grand Master that he's a pure-blood Elemaiya. They've gotten confirmation somehow. He's different, Marco. I don't know whether we can trust that or not. I told Sali that he had to bring any new information on Ashe to me. And to you. I know it's terrible to place suspicion on the boy, but you saw what that Elemaiyan filth tried to do to us."
"You told Sali to break the confidence." Marco stared at his father.
"As his father and Packmaster, he's obligated to me. It isn't my intention to hurt Ashe, but the Pack has to be protected."
"Good-bye, Dad," Marco snarled and stalked out of his parents' home.
* * *
Nathan hated himself. Hated that Marcus had given him the information and hated that one of the conditions that the Head of the Council had placed upon his marriage renewal was a promise from Nathan to bring any new information on Ashe to Wlodek. He'd made the call earlier, leaving a message for Wlodek before he woke. As if that would mitigate the guilt he felt—that indirect contact wouldn't hurt his vampire sire or his child as much. Now Wlodek was aware that somehow, against all odds, Ashe was completely Elemaiya.
In some way, the DNA of the Elemaiyan race could overcome that introduced from Aedan and Adele. He suspected it was the reason that those with a quarter or less of that blood managed to keep their mindspeech and misting abilities when they were made vampire. Nathan and Aedan had both known of the experimentation with the older children of vampire-shapeshifter marriages. The shapeshifting ability had not survived the turn, so the experiments were halted. Nathan was glad—the female shapeshifters hadn't survived the turn attempts, either. Wlodek had shut down that side of the experiment quickly, and that meant Nathan's girls were safe. He would never tell Wlodek that his youngest seemed to have mindspeech. Ashe would keep that secret, too. Nathan wasn't sure how he knew that, but he did. It made him feel worse that he'd betrayed Ashe and Aedan.
The only reason Wlodek didn't know that Ashe wasn't susceptible to compulsion was that Aedan, as his sire, had commanded it. A command from a sire overrode any other commands. Nathan was compelled to obey. This new information, however, Aedan didn't have and Nathan was forced to report it to the Head of the Council.
* * *
Ashe had seen so many things. Obediah Tanner hadn't gotten all of his animals for the hunt through Mexico. Polar Bears and other northern exotics, as well as shapeshifters aplenty had been funneled through Canada with the help of the Casper Pack. Dexter Beesley had brought that lucrative business with him when he'd moved to Colorado, shortly after his former Packmaster had been killed and one of Obediah's cronies had taken over.
They'd all filtered across the southern border over the years, joining Ezekiel's end of the operation. Dexter was the last of the Pack remaining in the U.S., now. Matt Michaels listened impassively as Dan and Keith, Packmaster and Second, spilled everything they knew after Ashe placed compulsion. They also revealed the names of several in the Boulder Pack who were involved with the smuggling ring. They'd suspected Dexter of the killings, but the money had started to come so they'd looked the other way.
"Ashe, go with Trajan, son," Weldon nodded to Ashe. "We have business to take care of." Ashe walked out of the building with Winkler's second.
"They'll be sent to North Dakota," Trajan squinted in the clear, bright sunlight once they were outside again. "Weldon will likely call in the Denver Pack. He knows the Second there really well. They'll send guards."
"What will they do? Are they sentenced already?" Ashe looked at Trajan curiously.
"The Grand Master or the Packmaster lays the charges according to Pack Law, kid. And then pronounces them guilty. They can say what they want in their defense then. It's a lot of whining and blaming somebody else, usually. That's why they asked me to take you out of there. I don't like listening to it either."
"They killed a lot of shifters, Trajan."
"I know. If the shifters had a Council, they could demand restitution."
"Then the shifters need a Council."
"Maybe they do." Trajan didn't tell Ashe of Bear Wright's plans. If the old grizzly was successful, Star Cove could become shapeshifter central.
"When are we leaving for D.C.?" Ashe changed the subject.
"Tomorrow morning. We have a hotel set up in Denver for the night. Winkler and Weldon will have dinner with wolves from the Denver Pack. After they round up all the guilty parties from Boulder, that is. They'll be shipped off to North Dakota tonight."
When Winkler, Weldon, Trace and Matt walked out of the building half an hour later, Weldon and Matt's bodyguards weren't with them. "Sent 'em out the back way with the bad guys," Trace said, grinning at Ashe's unspoken question. "We had a few from the Denver Pack waiting out back, too. Don't want 'em to get away from us."
* * *
"Mom, the only other place I'd like to live right now is Star Cove," Randy said over the phone. His mother had waited a week before calling him. Dawn had asked him to come live with her in New Mexico. Again.
"I think I can get a transfer to the Corpus Christi Post Office or one of the surrounding cities. Pack your bags, hon; I'll have this done before the week's out." His mother was completely serious, Randy knew.
"I have to have a job, Mom," Randy muttered, although the lure of living in Star Cove with many of his old friends appealed greatly.
"I have some money put back and there's still some of your father's insurance money left. We'll use that until you find work. It shouldn't be difficult—you're good at what you do."
"Let me talk to my boss," Randy sighed.
* * *
Ashe picked at his dinner. Trace and Trajan had taken him to a restaurant near the hotel while Winkler and the others had gone to a steak place recommended by the Denver Packmaster. "Ashe, if the chicken isn't any good, we'll send it back," Trajan offered.
"It's okay," Ashe said, setting his fork down. An uncertain feeling had settled in the pit of his stomach. Somehow, something had gone awry with his parents. He'd hoped to bring his father home with his mother. Something—he couldn't say exactly what—had wrecked that opportunity. His life was shifting and there wasn't anything he could do about it. "I feel sick," Ashe lurched from his seat at the table, rushing toward the restrooms on the other side of the restaurant.
* * *
"We can't get anything out of him," Trajan spoke with Winkler over the phone. "Other than the dry heaves."
"I think there's a physician's assistant in the Denver Pack. Should I send him over?"
"The kid doesn't want anybody to touch him for some reason. He's not happy about something, boss."
"We're nearly finished here," Winkler said. "I'll come back and talk to Ashe."
* * *
A part of Ashe felt embarrassment over the queasiness; another part felt the deepest of sadness. He sat in the back seat of Trajan's rented car, head in hands, wondering if he'd make it to the hotel without heaving again. He made it, by the barest of margins.
* * *
"Father, I received this." Charles handed the letter addressed to Flavio of the Council to his vampire sire. Flavio lifted the envelope from Charles's fingers. "Father, the Honored One refused to give Aedan Evans an extension on his marriage. Everyone else who asked received one."
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