Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(26) by Connie Suttle
"Mom told me," Jeremy shrugged, as if the subject didn't interest him.
"Are you opposed to being organized?" Bear leveled a thoughtful glance at Jeremy.
"No. The werewolves are organized. The vampires are really organized."
"I suspect that not much will change, if we do organize," Bear said carefully. "But a Shifter Council might have some leverage when it comes to criminal activity, both committed by and against shapeshifters. I have no idea how much you know about that game preserve they shut down in the Texas Panhandle, but plenty of evidence was found indicating shifters were hunted and killed there. Most of them were rare shifters—ones we can't replace."
"Don't know about that," Jeremy scuffed a toe of his athletic shoe on the polished tile floor of Bear's office.
"Maybe you should know about it. Ask Marcus—see if he’ll tell you," Bear lifted the last file box and maneuvered it into place. Each box was neatly labeled with the contents inside.
"I’ll ask," Jeremy lied. "Is there anything I can do to help?" Jeremy raised his eyes and asked.
"Nope. Just finished. Have to make calls now. See you later." Jeremy took the hint and left.
* * *
Andy was waiting at the airport with a van and a pile of messages for Winkler. Winkler looked through the stack while Andy drove Ashe and the others toward Star Cove. "Mom, I’m back; we're between Corpus and Star Cove right now," Ashe told his mother.
"Hi, hon. Buck and I were going over the plans for the school cafeteria, and we’ll update the kitchen at Victoria's when that's finished," she said brightly. Ashe wanted to sigh. Whatever his father had done, he'd been thorough about it.
"I’ll see you when we get in," Ashe said and hung up.
"Kid, don't let it get you down," Trace pulled Ashe into a bear hug. "We’ll work this out. You’ll see."
Ashe sat back when Trace let him go and stared at his new watch—Matt Michaels had given him the timepiece before he'd boarded Winkler's jet. The watch was a nice one—it gave temperatures, elevations, time zones and even had an Internet connection. The manufacturer was committed to the idea of keeping up with cell phones and other devices while still looking elegant on a wrist. Ashe had looked the watch up on its Internet connection, whistling at the price. Matt said it was in appreciation for what he'd done for the country so far and patted Ashe on the shoulder. "Here's my card, kid. That's my private number," Matt added. "If you have information for me or ever need anything from me, I’ll answer if possible."
"All right," Ashe promised. "Thanks for the watch." Ashe had boarded the jet shortly after that, pulling the watch out of the box and placing it on his wrist. Made of platinum, it had a square face and a few diamonds around the bezel.
"That's a nice gift," Trace nodded at the watch as Andy drove them home.
"Yeah. I guess." Ashe would give that up and more if he could have his family together again.
* * *
"Good news," Buck was waiting for Winkler when the van pulled into the drive of Winkler's home in Star Cove. "You can move into the beach house in a week. We won't be done, but what's left can be finished while you're there. The kitchens and the bathrooms are done and carpet laid in the bedrooms. We're putting up stucco this week and painting next week."
"I’ll come look after dinner tonight," Winkler promised. "How's the Star Cove restaurant doing?"
"Just fine—it’ll be ready right before school starts. Adele is working out menus with the cooks and putting cost sheets together for you. You’ll have those in a day or two. We're storing canned goods and supplies in the school for now—we might hire some of the kids to move those over when the time comes." Buck was happy with what he'd accomplished so far, Ashe could tell. He was certainly motivated. Ashe didn't want to examine that thought closely at the moment. He wanted to lie down somewhere and go to sleep.
"Dude?" Sali was suddenly beside him, dressed in shorts, flip-flops and a tank top, with his hands stuffed in pockets. He lifted his head shyly to give Ashe half a grin. "Want to get a burger?"
"Where's Dori?" Ashe couldn't help but ask.
"I told her we had business, so she and Wynn are lying in the sun on Wynn's deck right now."
"Cori and Marco are still fighting, so Marco went to Winkler's beach house to help do some stuff over there. You should see the place—it's like an anthill, they're so busy."
"Fine. Let's get a burger and then you can drive me by the beach house." Ashe gestured for Sali to lead the way.
"Do I need to go?" Trace looked at Winkler. Winkler thought for a moment before shaking his head. Ashe followed Sali around the U-shaped street toward the other side. His feet and legs felt cramped after the flight and he needed to work out a few kinks. Trajan would likely put him through hell over the next few days since he hadn't exercised while they were gone.
"Slow down, dude." Ashe was running without realizing it while Sali called after him. Adele had come out of the house and was standing in the driveway of their home. Ashe ran up and hugged his mother.
"Ashe, don't be upset," Adele held him away from her. "Your father—I’m sure he still loves you." Her expression was nearly blank. Ashe watched his mother's face carefully. He was going to call his father again. Aedan hadn't replied to the last message, but that didn't mean he hadn't gotten it. His mother seemed a bit dazed to see Ashe and the mention of his father had no emotion crossing her face. His father was much better at compulsion than Ashe realized. He cursed it and the Head of the Council silently. "I’m going to Aransas Pass to get a burger with Sali. Want anything?"
"No, I just finished lunch a little while ago. Go have fun." Adele shooed him away.
* * *
"What did you do in D.C.?" Sali asked as he drove his Honda toward Aransas Pass.
"Winkler took me to Banana Republic and I bought a ton of clothes," Ashe said. "We had to buy another suitcase to carry all of it."
"Dude, that's not all you went for."
"It's all I’ll tell you."
"Fair enough." Sali's words held a growl.
"Come on, Sal; tell me why we're fighting. Tell me. Or do you not remember. Like always?"
"Dad let me remember."
"How nice for you." Ashe leaned his elbow on the armrest and stared out the passenger side window.
"Ashe, we’ve been friends for a long time."
"Yeah, but I never ratted you out."
"Yeah. I’ll give you that." Sali made a turn after going through a yellow light that turned red. Less than twenty seconds later, a local policeman pulled Sali over.
"The light was yellow when I started through," Sali complained as he handed his license to the officer.
"But you were going forty-five in a thirty-five mile per hour zone," the officer pointed out. "And then you went through a nearly red light. I’m not ticketing you for that—I’m ticketing you for speeding. Here's the ticket," he passed the slip of paper to Sali. "The court date is on the back if you want to dispute the ticket. Have a nice day." The officer walked back to his car and drove past Sali and Ashe seconds later.
"Dude, you could have put your mojo on him," Sali grumbled as he put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb.
"Putting my mojo on somebody got us where we are today. Maybe I should have let you tear into those drunks and then get hauled off to jail. Look at it this way—you only got a ticket this time and I’ll pay half."
"It's ninety-five dollars, dude." Sali handed the ticket to Ashe.
"Then I’ll pay the whole thing. Since it appears to be my fault." Ashe couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
"Do you want a ride home or not?" Sali snapped.
"Dude, I don't need a car to get around."
"Yeah. I remember that, too." Sali pulled into the parking lot surrounding a low, square building. Dandee Burgers was spelled out in red neon over the doorway.
"Dandee Burgers? Could they come up with a worse name?" Ashe climbed out of the car and shut the door.
"The burgers are good." Sali's voice was sullen.
"Dude, maybe we should have waited. As reconciliations go, this one isn't going so well," Ashe pointed out as they walked to the entrance. The door was dark glass with a paper Open sign hanging on the inside.
"Ashe, just go in and sit down. I have something to say and it isn't gonna be easy," Sali muttered, knowing Ashe would hear. Sali went to the counter and ordered for Ashe and himself before coming to the table with two soft drinks in his hands.
"So, what is it, Sal? What do you have to say? We were already on the outs. Maybe you should have left it that way."
"Dude, that's not the whole story," Sali muttered. "Dad—he didn't like it that I almost got hauled off by Zeke Tanner and a bunch of your people."
"My people?" Ashe goggled at Sali, confused.
"You know—what you are." Sali flushed uncomfortably.
Ashe stared. Started to speak and went back to staring. "Are you telling me that your dad suspects me because of what those people did?" He finally spoke, unwilling to believe what Sali was telling him.
"Sort of." Sali wouldn't look at Ashe.
"So. I pull you and the others off that stupid island and bring you home, and Marcus DeLuca thinks I’m like them. Sali, I’m leaving." Ashe pulled what cash he had from his pocket and dumped it on the table.
"There's more," Sali whispered before Ashe could take three steps away from the table.
"Oh, this is too good to pass up. What else do you have, Sali? What else can you do to me? I suppose your father ordered you to tell him everything you know about me. Is that it? Marcus thinks I’m a murderous criminal now. Is that what you're saying?" Ashe whirled to face Sali.
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