Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(21) by Connie Suttle
"You've already read this?" Flavio lifted the flap. Charles seldom called Flavio father, unless he wanted something very important from his vampire sire.
"You asked that I screen all your mail that comes through this address."
"Yes, I did, didn't I?" Flavio sat on Charles's guest chair. Charles's office furniture was seventeenth century German and quite sturdy.
Flavio was Wlodek's second oldest child, a member of the Council and high in the vampire aristocracy. Charles's office was large and filled with file cabinets, his desk, the guest chair and four computers, one of which was his laptop. Flavio watched his vampire child fidget anxiously while he drew the letter from the envelope.
Honored Flavio, the message began, I send this to beg you to intercede on my behalf. My name is Ashe Evans and Aedan Evans is my father.
* * *
"Ashe, you don't know that for sure," Winkler was trying to bring Ashe around. Ashe stared at the Dallas Packmaster.
"My gut says otherwise," Ashe muttered. "Mom will be home soon. And everything will be different."
"Kid, will you be able to fly tomorrow? Matt Michaels is riding back to D.C. on my jet."
"I'll try to have things under control by then," Ashe said. He sat on the edge of his bed—he was bunking with Trajan while Trace had settled into Winkler's suite to provide protection for the night.
"I got this," Winkler handed over a bag filled with remedies for upset stomachs he'd gotten from a nearby pharmacy.
"Mr. Winkler, I just have to come to terms with this." Ashe rose from the bed and walked toward the window. It provided a nice view of downtown Denver, with the mountains in the background. The first of August had arrived and a sliver of moon hung in the sky.
"Full moon in twelve days," Winkler said softly over Ashe's shoulder. "Ashe, did you turn last time?"
"Mr. Winkler, I don't have to turn. It was fun going out with the others, but I don't feel the pull of the moon like you and the shifters do. I understand that now, since I learned I'm all Elemaiya."
"How does that make you feel? That you're a pure-blood and not half like we thought?"
"Lost," Ashe admitted. "And it's worse now that the Council has managed to tear the only family I have apart. I'm tired, Mr. Winkler. I think I'd like to go to bed now."
* * *
Three rogue vampires—Aedan had taken all of them down in a single night. The ash from their bodies was drifting down the street, floating with runoff from the rain that fell. Aedan had been particularly angry and his prey unusually stupid. Streetlights reflected on the rain-soaked streets and narrow alleys that surrounded Aedan.
The Head of the Council, once called Sanguis Rex by his subordinates, had refused to renew Aedan's marriage, even with Aedan offering to come back to the Enforcers. He had nothing left to offer Adele. The Council would not sanction his request for renewal and the companion vote would go against him. He worried for Adele—and for Ashe. That meant only one thing—he had to send Adele away. If she no longer recognized Aedan as her mate and husband, perhaps that would keep Ashe safe from an early turning.
If Wlodek thought to lure Ashe because he held Aedan's reins, then Aedan was determined to make that as difficult as possible. He fully intended to convince Alvin Wright, the new Star Cove Principal, to form a shapeshifter Council and accept Ashe into their ranks as quickly as possible through Adele. Surely, Wlodek would not offend an organized shapeshifter community.
Adele wouldn't want to leave and Aedan had only placed compulsion on his wife once. But his marriage, along with his promise not to place compulsion on Adele again, would end tonight. Aedan drew out his cell and dialed a familiar number. Charles answered on the other end. "They're all dead," Aedan reported. "You can send the jet for me tomorrow evening."
"How many will be traveling?" Charles asked.
"Only one," Aedan replied gruffly and terminated the call. If anyone had been awake to see or hear at that late hour, they'd have witnessed a vampire weeping for the loss of his family on a narrow, brick lane in Amsterdam.
* * *
"Cori, how long can you keep this up?" Lavonna sat at the breakfast table next to her oldest daughter. "You and Marco—I thought you were made for one another."
"We are, Mom, but I can't deal with this right now. Ashe saved us—he saved Dori and we treat him like this?" Cori tossed a hand out in frustration. "Marco should have told me before he went to Mr. Winkler."
"Marco is a werewolf, Cori. The rules are different."
"Then we may have to stay apart." Cori got up and walked away from her mother. The sun was shining outside, the heat and humidity were already present and Cori felt betrayed and abandoned by the man—or wolf—she loved. Closing the back door behind her, Cori sat on a deck chair and stared, unseeing, at the Anderson's back fence. Dori walked out to the deck minutes later, a plate of eggs and toast in her hand. Silently, she sat on the empty deck chair beside Cori's and began to eat.
They were expected in the exercise room in less than half an hour—Marco and Ace had taken over Sali and the girls' training since Trajan was out of town with Winkler, Trace and Ashe. Ace was quiet, efficient and thorough. He explained carefully what he wanted and then watched to make sure his instructions were followed. Wynn was doing better than anyone expected. She even ran alongside Ace and talked with him occasionally. Cori received mostly grunts from Winkler's bodyguard, but Wynn got better answers.
"Still on the outs with Marco?" Dori ventured to ask.
"Don't start," Cori warned as she stood and stretched. "I'm going to brush my teeth before we have to exercise. Dori, you never intended to give Ashe a fair shake—it was Sali all along. So don't get all sanctimonious now."
"I said I was sorry I hit him."
"You don't get it, do you?" Cori stalked into the house, slamming the patio door behind her.
"Get what? Ashe said it was okay," Dori grumped. She chewed her toast harder than necessary.
* * *
Weather delayed the flight for an hour in Denver. Ashe and the others waited on the jet until the rain stopped coming down in buckets. Raindrops continued to pelt the tarmac as the jet backed away. Matt Michaels had made calls on his cell and fretted over the delay—he had meetings scheduled later in the day.
Ashe had wakened earlier at the hotel to find a voice message from his mother on his cell—she was getting a flight out of Amsterdam and would be back in Star Cove Friday afternoon. Not a word was said about his father. Ashe intended to call Aedan as soon as he was in D.C. It was likely his father wouldn't tell him anything, but Ashe already knew enough.
"Here, you haven't gotten enough protein lately." Trajan plunked a bottle of protein drink in front of Ashe while the jet taxied along, preparing for takeoff. "There's more where that came from," Trajan said. "Matt has arranged for us to exercise at an FBI training facility if we have time. He says they have a place there where his paranormal division works out."
"Sounds like a barrel of laughs," Ashe said.
"I always feel better after I work out. My troubles sometimes vanish completely."
"Say that to me when your parents split up." Ashe cursed before calling the Head of the Vampire Council a few names. His mother would be shocked at the words Ashe used. Trajan listened patiently and never said a thing.
The flight was bumpy over Colorado, but smoothed out and became boring. Ashe didn't want to read, although he'd brought two books along. Trajan and Trace failed to pull him into conversation—Winkler watched occasionally through hooded, worried eyes. At one point Winkler called the Grand Master, but Ashe failed to hear the conversation. He was too deep in depression to care.
The jet landed at the airport around six, local time. Winkler's cell rang. The noise of flight had abated, allowing Ashe to hear every word as the Grand Master confirmed his fears—Wlodek had refused to renew Aedan's marriage to Adele. Weldon added that Wlodek was upset that Weldon had called about it, saying that three new vampires would be sent to Star Cove to guard at night. Ashe sighed—he'd have three more spies to avoid.
"You heard that, didn't you?" Winkler asked as Ashe pulled his backpack over his shoulder and prepared to deplane. Winkler had walked to Ashe's seat as soon as the conversation with Weldon was over.
"I heard." Ashe wasn't looking at Winkler.
"Kid, I'm sorry."
"You can't be anywhere near as sorry as I am."
* * *
Josiah Dunnigan lifted his bags from the luggage carousel at the Corpus Christi airport. He'd be meeting with his contact soon and together they would devise a plan to eliminate William Winkler. Josiah gripped the handles of his suitcases and walked through the small terminal building toward the rental car aisle. He'd get a car and drive into town, searching for a suitable hotel. Soon—very soon—Winkler would be dead and Josiah could retire on his ranch, set for life. Josiah grinned and stepped up to the rental car agent, pulling his suitcase behind him.
"Child, I refused to renew in order to separate them. Aedan will never willingly consent to turning the boy—I have that information from Nathan. I have no desire to fight Aedan Evans when it's time to take his son." Wlodek gave Flavio a hard look. "I’ll send three to keep an eye on things and help guard the community until Ashe Evans turns eighteen. I intend to conscript immediately after."
"You're using Aedan's vampire child against his sire."
"Child, do not point the finger at me, I have already gone over this ground," Wlodek sighed and rose from his seat. He had chosen his library as a place to talk and now Wlodek pretended to gaze across a shelf of ancient titles. "Is it fair to the boy? No. Is it fair to Aedan or his wife? Certainly not. You know as well as I that the vampire race is in peril. Many of our citizens are turning to crime after the last wave of economic crises. They lost much—if not all—of what they have. We have more rogues than ever before. We need the boy, Flavio. If the information we have is halfway accurate, he will be the answer to our problems."
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