Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(22) by Connie Suttle
"Surely we need more than one boy, Father. Have you not thought to conscript others or to look among our ranks for those who might help? The boy and his family suffer, my sire."
"It is only two years. I will allow the marriage to continue after that, and Aedan can be instrumental in training the boy after he is turned."
"Father, while two years is nothing to us, it is quite a long time to others. Much can happen in two years."
"For us as well, never forget that."
"Whom do you plan to send to Texas?"
"I have contacted Hector, Edmond and Casimir. Casimir will perform the turning when the time comes. He is experienced and not so hard as some of the others might be. You see, I have some sympathy over this."
"Father, you should have left things alone. I feel this quite strongly."
"Child, we will disagree on this, I know. If Aedan gives Nathan a direct order, it will supersede anything I might command Nathan to do. This concerns me, as there may be information I have not or will not receive as a result. My three will act as spies in the community. I will have information on the boy regardless of the source."
"Father, someday your plans may backfire. I believe that is the modern term, anyway."
"Then hope it is not the term for this situation. We need the boy and we do not want him taken by the werewolves for their purposes or hired by the U.S. government for their own use against terrorists and such. We allowed the experiment, hoping for gifted vampires. This may be the most gifted of all."
* * *
"We need the kid in a suit. He’ll have to look as if he belongs there—as much as we can make him look that way," Matt Michaels looked Ashe over. Ashe, slightly offended, was dressed in a pair of cargo pants and a T-shirt with sneakers. His clothes were clean, at least.
"Come on, you," Trajan pulled Ashe away from the hotel room. Matt was putting them up in one of D.C.'s best. "Trace, let's go find tall and skinny here a suit."
"Where am I going to be that I have to wear a suit?" Ashe jerked his arm away from Trajan as they walked toward the hotel elevator.
"A hearing. A couple of members of Congress will be present when we question Jack Howard."
Ashe muttered a foul word; Trace laughed and pushed him onto the elevator when it opened. Half an hour and a harrowing cab ride later, Ashe was trying on suit coats in a men's clothing store. "Can you hem these now?" Trajan was eyeing the bottom of Ashe's trousers. They'd found a decent jacket that didn't have to be altered right away but the pants were another problem.
"Know how to tie a tie?" Trace asked Ashe when the salesclerk carried the pants toward the back for an emergency hemming.
"No. Never needed one," Ashe muttered. While the pants were hemmed, Ashe received a quick lesson on tying the tie Trajan picked out. Dress shoes came next. Ashe wasn't fond of those—the hard soles were aggravating.
"Kid, your feet are nearly as big as mine," Trajan grinned.
"He's probably not finished growing," Trace pointed out. "We may make a shooting guard out of him yet."
Ashe glared at Trajan. "I thought you gave up basketball," he grumped. The tie was tight around his neck and he didn't like it. "If I want a hanging injury, I can get one easier than this," Ashe jerked on the silk annoyance. "I need to make a call," he pulled the cell from a pocket of his cargo pants. "Can you leave me alone for five minutes?"
Trajan and Trace stepped back and allowed Ashe to move toward an empty corner of the store. Ashe hit his father's cell number—it was still night in England. The call went straight to voice mail. "Dad, I don't know why you did it, but you have to take it back," Ashe choked out. "You have to, Dad. Right away. You don't know what I know. Please, Dad." Ashe wiped tears away when he ended the call.
* * *
"Boss, this is the worst possible time to be doing this," Trajan informed Winkler after Ashe and Trace had gone to the coffee shop in the hotel for a bottle of water. "The kid broke down when he tried to call Aedan."
Winkler cursed and tossed a pillow across the room. "What the hell are we supposed to do, Trajan? What? I’m not the boy's father. He won't come to me for anything like this."
"I don't know. I wish he trusted us. I don't think he trusts anybody, now. We pulled that rug from under his feet." Trajan flopped onto the sofa inside Winkler's suite, rubbing his forehead. The incident had given him a headache.
"We’ll get this thing over with as quickly as possible tomorrow and go home," Winkler sighed. "Adele is home—I heard from Marcus. Denise went to pick her up at the airport. Said she seemed in a sort of daze and barely remembered to ask about Ashe."
"Compulsion. If Aedan thinks to protect them by doing this, I’m not sure I agree with that," Trajan looked up at Winkler, who prowled restlessly about the suite. "I don't believe for a minute he doesn't love both of them."
"This could be disastrous," Winkler said. "And Weldon called—said Wlodek is sending three vampires to help Nathan guard the community."
"Then we’ll be watching them, boss."
"Yeah. We’ll be watching, all right. I talked to Buck—told him he had to get the beach house finished in record time. We’ll move the kid there. See how Wlodek likes that turn of events."
"How long until it's done?"
"Soon, according to Buck. Weather should hold—unless we get an unforeseen hurricane or something. The new place is fireproof and can withstand winds up to two hundred miles an hour."
"Think that will keep us safe?" Trajan searched Winkler's face. They'd lost Jimmy, Spencer and Gabe to Tanner and his Elemaiyan allies.
"As much as any building can keep us safe. There are a few hidden rooms, too. I asked Buck for those in particular."
"Hidden doorways, boss?"
"No doors or windows of any kind—only small air vents. Ashe can get inside these rooms. We can't."
"That means he can get us inside if he wants."
"Exactly. They’ll all be built as safe rooms." Both werewolves heard the door open in the suite next door and stopped their discussion. Winkler tapped on the connecting door before walking inside.
Ashe handed a cup of coffee to Winkler, who lifted an eyebrow in surprise—he hadn't asked for it but was thinking about going downstairs to get some.
"Kid, I want to hug you right now," Winkler sighed.
"Maybe later," Ashe set his water bottle on the desk. Trace handed a can of soda to Trajan—he knew what his brother liked.
"Feel like eating in about an hour? I think we can get a haircut for you before we find a restaurant."
"It does look a little shaggy," Ashe admitted, settling into the chair beside the desk and lifting up a lock of hair. "It could use a trim. I wish I'd brought my laptop."
"You can borrow mine if you really need it," Winkler offered. "Take your water, we’ll get a cab and go out."
Ashe got his hair cut and styled at the hotel salon, after insisting that Winkler didn't need to spend so much on a haircut. A steak and seafood restaurant was next on the list. Ashe ordered prime rib while the others had rare steaks. Ashe's cell rang while he was eating. "Mom?" He said after checking the ID on his phone. "What happened?" Winkler and the others listened as Adele explained.
"Denise said I had to call you," Adele sighed. "Your father and I decided to separate," she added. "This wasn't going to work out between us so we parted friends. Marcus says you're in Washington state?"
"D.C., Mom," Ashe sighed. "Winkler had a meeting and didn't want to leave me behind."
"Probably a good idea. Are you doing what he tells you to do?"
"Yeah. Mom, did Dad say anything about me—about you and me?"
"No. I just walked away and boarded the plane after he went to sleep."
"That's not an answer. You know that, don't you?"
"Ashe, we parted friends. He's still your father. I just don't think you’ll see much of him. I get the idea he’ll be really busy from now on."
Ashe wanted to curse. Scooting his chair back, he rose and walked away from the table. "Mom, I can be home in no time. If you need me," Ashe wiped dampness from his cheeks.
"I’m fine. We’ll get through this. I'll just have to get the sale done on the store soon—we’ll need the money. I don't have your father's bank account to draw on any longer."
"Mom? He's not even—he's not going to help?" Ashe's voice broke. His father wasn't going to help support them?
"He said you had a job, now. You can take care of yourself."
"Yeah. I guess that makes me an adult and all."
"Don't look at it that way. I don't think he meant for you to feel like this."
"How did he mean for me to feel, then? How?" Ashe punched the end button on his phone and nearly ran out of the restaurant.
* * *
"This isn't good, boss," Trajan phoned Winkler after following Ashe out the door. Ashe wandered the streets of Silver Spring, Maryland, a nearby suburb of Washington, D.C., walking aimlessly down the street. Trajan relayed the phone conversation from both ends while chasing after Ashe. "And if he turns or hops, we’ve lost him."
Winkler cursed. "See if you can catch up with him. Try to convince him to come back. Damn. I wish there was some way to track that kid."
"Maybe there is, boss. Let's buy him a nice watch and put a chip in it," Trace suggested quietly. He and Winkler still sat at the table inside the restaurant while Trajan tried to reach Ashe.
"I’ve got one better," Winkler grinned. "We’ll have Matt give it to him. It’ll have the time zones on it and anything else the kid might want it to do, including checking the Internet. Trace, sometimes I don't give you nearly enough credit." Winkler whipped his cell out again and called Matt Michaels.
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