Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(23) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"Ashe, we have to find a way to deal with this. Do you think for even one minute that Winkler will allow you or your mother to starve?" Trajan had finally caught up with Ashe. "Your food is likely cold, but we can get them to reheat it." Trajan had a hand on Ashe's shoulder as Ashe walked aimlessly, his body hunched over and hands stuffed in the pockets of his cargo pants.
"Trajan, I know he has a reason for doing this, but did he mean to hurt us so much?" Ashe lifted his head to stare at Trajan.
"Kid, sometimes people do the worst things for what they think are the best of reasons. It usually turns out badly—for everybody."
"Why did he do this? Why?" Ashe leaned against Trajan for support. His mother's words had dealt a terrible blow. Perhaps his father meant to be kind by being cruel, but did he think it wouldn't hurt in the worst way possible? Ashe didn't expect a response from his father. Aedan had cut ties with his family. Ashe hoped his father's actions were meant to protect them instead of an indication that he didn't love them.
"Come back to the restaurant, Ashe. We have business tomorrow and you don't need to go to bed hungry." Trajan successfully steered Ashe in the opposite direction.
* * *
"Can we get these two dinners reheated?" Winkler asked their waiter when Ashe and Trajan sat down again. "Ashe, I know there isn't anything I can say or do to make this better for you," Winkler watched the waiter walk away before speaking. "All I can say is to give it time. I hope things turn out better. I hope there's a happy ending somewhere. I do. In the meantime, we’ll get through this, one way or another. Weldon contacted another physician in the area—he's sending somebody to our hotel with something that will help you sleep tonight."
"Fine." Ashe and Trajan's dinners were back in moments. Ashe didn't mind that his prime rib had cooked a little more but Trajan was forced to eat a medium steak instead of a rare one. Ashe wanted to apologize, but the words just wouldn't come.
* * *
"Brush your teeth and get into pajamas—this stuff works pretty fast."
Ashe eyed the syringe with distrust. The woman who held it looked to be in her thirties, was pretty enough and Winkler said she was werewolf, so the age estimate was likely far off.
"Drugs kill people," Ashe pointed out. He didn't want to voice his sudden suspicions aloud.
"Kid, are you saying you don't want this?" Winkler watched Ashe carefully.
"I think that's what I’m saying, Mr. Winkler. I'd like to be able to wake up if I need to."
"He doesn't want it," Winkler shrugged at the woman. He pulled a wad of money from his wallet and handed it to her. "I’ll let Weldon know you did your job."
"I'd like that," the nurse snatched the bills from Winkler's hand, shoved the syringe into her purse and hefted the bag over her shoulder. Ashe knew she wasn't happy, but there wasn't anything he could do about that. "What's your name?" Ashe asked.
"Trina," she snapped.
"Sorry, Trina. Maybe next time," Ashe apologized. "I’ll try to get to sleep on my own."
"You do that." Trina walked toward the door of Winkler's suite in a huff and slammed it behind her.
"I don't think she likes me," Ashe muttered.
"Kid, she just didn't want to catch a cab home. I think she wanted Winkler to drive her," Trajan grinned.
"Ah. You weren't going to uh, jump on that?" Ashe looked at Winkler.
"Nope. Got big fish to fry tomorrow. Maybe later. Come on, kid. Get your jammies on and brush your teeth. Trajan has an early morning."
"I can sleep late?" Ashe gave Winkler a wide stare.
"No, that was my tactful way of saying you have to get up with the chickens."
"I thought it was go to bed with the chickens."
"Kid, if you go to bed with chickens, it makes sense that you'd wake up with chickens. Hence the rooster crowing at sunrise or before? I thought you grew up on a farm." Winkler tousled Ashe's hair.
"We never had chickens. The Thompsons had chickens. Mom got our eggs from Mr. Thompson."
"You never chased chickens? Man, those are good memories," Trace sighed blissfully.
"Until Mom caught you and you got grounded for two weeks," Trajan observed dryly. "He was chasing them as werewolf at eighteen." Trajan offered Ashe a wide grin.
"You terrorized chickens?" Ashe stared at Trace.
"As much as I could get away with," Trace laughed. "Mom would hit me now if she knew about the times I didn't get caught. Besides, those were mean chickens."
"Come on, they have feathers and they're a foot tall," Ashe wagged a finger at Trace.
"And they'd peck if you got too close."
"Uh-huh. My friend the chicken-chaser." Ashe walked toward the bathroom to brush his teeth.
"Did you call me your friend?" Trace poked his head inside the bathroom door, watching Ashe spread toothpaste on a toothbrush.
"I said that." Ashe stuck the brush in his mouth to clean his teeth.
"Someday, I’ll ask for your autograph," Trace grinned.
"Yeah. Just like Sali is gonna ride in my convertible as a wolf." Ashe scrubbed his teeth while Trace supervised.
"Want to talk about that?" Trace leaned his shoulder against the bathroom door.
"Uh-uh," Ashe mumbled around his toothbrush.
"Kid, I don't think Sali would just throw your friendship away over nothing," Trace said. "Maybe we should get to the bottom of this before we toss him away as a friend."
"Hmmph." Ashe kept brushing.
"And Marco was only keeping his oath to Winkler. He wasn't looking to upset you or destroy the friendship. He wants to protect you just as much as Winkler, Trajan and I do. Kid, we're worried. We haven't heard from those folks you're related to and we're getting a little itchy over that."
Ashe spit into the sink and rinsed his mouth. "You think I’m not worried, too? Trace, how much more can I possibly be worried about right now? Care to answer that one?"
"No. If I had my way, I'd haul you to my parents’ farm and let you spend a week or two with Mom and Dad. Mom would feed you constantly and Dad would let you drive the tractor and the four-wheeler."
"That sounds like somebody's dream of grandparents." Ashe rinsed his toothbrush and slipped it inside the plastic holder.
"I think Mom and Dad would treat you like that—as a grandson," Trace smiled slightly. "They're always after Trajan to get married."
"So, nobody's on the horizon for him?" Ashe studied Trace's expression. Trace chewed his lip and hid a grin.
"I’m not supposed to ask, am I?" Ashe felt like smiling suddenly.
"Nope. Big secret. Come on, get in bed. We have to get up early tomorrow."
Trace had made Ashe feel better, but he was still restless and sleepless most of the night. What should have worried him wasn't what worried him. Trina kept forcing her way into his mind until he couldn't stand it any longer. Trajan was snoring lightly in his bed when Ashe gathered him into his mist, and then he made his way into Winkler's room noiselessly, carrying the still-sleeping Trajan. There he gathered up Trace and Winkler. Winkler was snoring louder than Trajan, but Trace wasn't snoring at all. Lifting his mist through the ceiling, Ashe went through the roof—Matt had arranged for the penthouse in a twelve-story hotel. He hovered overhead while three cars stopped on the street below and ten people stepped out. Ashe recognized Trina right away—she was the only female.
His sleeping cargo might have felt a bit of vertigo at the speed that Ashe dropped, but he was right behind the last man's shoulder as they made their way into the hotel. Trina flashed a key card at the desk clerk who shrugged and allowed her to pass. Ashe wondered that she'd managed to get away with one of the cards without alerting Winkler or his bodyguards. It might not even be one of ours, Ashe realized. It probably wouldn't be difficult to rent another room in the hotel or bribe one away from a staff member. Ashe hovered over the heads of all ten while they rode up the elevator to the ninth floor. Guns came out of pockets and waistbands.
Mr. Michaels, Grand Master, I hope you can hear me, Ashe sent. Trina is back with nine other people and they all have guns. I think they're trying to kill Mr. Winkler.
Matt Michaels shouted into his cell as he sped toward the hotel he'd booked for Winkler and his party. The Grand Master, too, was on the phone, waiting on another line. Matt had two vampires and six special agents nearly at the scene. He was concerned, too, about Winkler and the others and where they were at the moment. Winkler might attempt to take the attackers himself and that could prove fatal. And, if he were honest, Matt worried about the sixteen-year-old Ashe even more than the three werewolves.
"Just get in there and stop them—there are ten attackers, likely on the ninth floor. I haven't notified hotel security in case they're in on it!" Matt punched another button on his phone as his driver sped through traffic lights in the darkness. "Grand Master, the vampires have arrived—one of them knows William Winkler. I don't know whether the others with the nurse are human or werewolf, but we’ll know shortly. I’ll call with information as soon as I have it." Matt ended the call and held on while his driver screeched around a corner.
* * *
Ashe considered dropping his cargo in an empty room and handling the attackers himself. He had brief thoughts of gathering them inside his mist and then dropping them into the street from a great height before reconsidering. That would be ten deaths and not an easy thing to explain when someone had to clean up bodies later.
Ashe heaved a mental sigh and floated behind Trina and her companions as one of the men knelt outside Winkler's door and took Trina's key card. Someone else produced bolt cutters—the metal security latch was hooked on the inside. Trina must have gotten a master key from someone working at the hotel—the card worked and the door opened quietly. The bolt cutters were employed immediately after and three men rushed in, guns blazing. They might have gotten out again with none the wiser, except for Matt's vampire agents.
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