Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(27) by Connie Suttle
"Sort of," Sali hung his head. "He's my dad, Ashe. What was I supposed to do?"
"I don't know, defend me, maybe? Say I’m not like that? But then you don't know, do you? Your brains are scrambled, so I’ll let that go. If Marcus doesn't want me in Star Cove, I think I can fix that." Ashe stalked out of the restaurant.
* * *
"Mr. Winkler, I messed things up. That's why Ashe didn't come back here." Sali fidgeted in Winkler's guest chair.
"What did you do, Salidar? Where do you think Ashe went?" Trajan stood near the door to Winkler's study, ready to go if Sali gave him a location.
"I told him the truth—that Dad doesn't trust him because he's Elemaiyan. Dad told me to bring everything I saw Ashe do to him and to Marco."
Winkler was cursing and dialing Marcus at the same time. "Get your ass over here. Now," Winkler snapped when Marcus answered the phone. "Salidar, you need to go. This is between the Grand Master, your father and me. I don't want your name in this. Trajan, get Sali out of here. Try Ashe's cell. See if he’ll answer." Trajan grabbed Sali by the collar and hauled him from the room.
"What?" Marcus was inside Winkler's study within ten minutes. The Grand Master was on speakerphone, waiting for Marcus to appear.
"Marcus," the Grand Master spoke, "If I have to take you down myself to keep you from torturing that boy, I will."
"It doesn't matter how he found out. He likely has foresight, in addition to a few other things. And we have this." Winkler slapped a copy of the email sent by the one claiming to be Ashe's grandfather. Marcus read it quickly, and then again, more slowly the second time.
"What does he mean, guard him closely if you value your lives and your planet?" Marcus handed the sheet back to Winkler.
"I might have dismissed this as a prank or a lie of some sort, except that someone else has taken an interest in Ashe," Winkler snapped. Marcus knew he wasn't in Winkler's or the Grand Master's good graces at the moment.
"Who?" Marcus couldn't help asking.
Weldon Harper cursed over the speakerphone before saying one word; "Griffin."
"It's not something we can discuss—he and his race cannot directly interfere," Winkler sighed. "They're not dangerous to you, me or any of us unless we attempt to attack them. If you want to die and do it quickly, then by all means," Winkler flung out a hand. "Griffin has come to Ashe twice now. He's interested in this for some reason. Interested in Ashe for some reason. Marcus, do you believe that Ashe means you harm in any way? Do you? This is preposterous," Winkler rose and shoved his chair beneath the desk with another curse. "I don't think this one is lying when he says the survival of the planet depends on keeping Ashe safe. As much as we can, anyway. Marcus, if you’ve lost him for us," Winkler growled.
"What am I supposed to think?" Marcus defended himself. "I am Packmaster, here. It is my responsibility to keep the inhabitants of this community safe."
"And everything you’ve seen Ashe do up to this point leads you to think he’ll turn on you?" Weldon Harper snarled. "He saved Winkler and the others in D.C. two nights ago. That doesn't sound like someone who means harm to me."
"Those things took my boy," Marcus snarled back.
"And Ashe got Sali back. The Elemaiya came because they wanted Ashe. Zeke Tanner wanted your son and the other kids. Dom Pruitt led him right to your boy and the others. The Elemaiya came for Ashe, not Sali or the others. They only agreed to help Tanner to get to him. Dom Pruitt and Zeke Tanner led them here because they were after Dom's boy, Sali and the others. Now you're punishing the one who killed the Elemaiya that helped take Sali and the others. Ashe killed them, Marcus, to protect that community you're so worried about." Weldon was throwing things—Winkler could hear it in the background of Weldon's phone conversation.
"He won't be a nuisance to Marcus much longer—I’ll take him with me to the beach house and then to Dallas," Winkler pointed out. "I’m not worried that he’ll turn on me. The boy lifted me, Trajan and Trace into his mist the other night. Just picked us right up while we slept. He could have killed us in so many ways. Ashe saved our lives instead."
"What I’m concerned about is where he is right now." Weldon said. "Marcus, you'd better hope we find him and quick. The vampires took Aedan away, and that was one line of defense Ashe had. They’ve sent those other three to act as spies, no doubt. I'd watch my back with them instead of Ashe."
"Next time, maybe you’ll let me in on your schemes and secrets before I start thinking what any normal werewolf might think," Marcus snapped.
"You forget who you're talking to, Packmaster."
Marcus jerked back in his seat. "My apologies, Grand Master," Marcus muttered.
"This talk is getting us nowhere. I need to look for Ashe," Winkler said. "Grand Master, I’ll keep you informed."
"See that you do," Weldon ordered. "You, too, Marcus. Get some of those wolves of yours off their asses to help."
"I’m on my way, Grand Master." Marcus stood and walked through the door of Winkler's study without a backward glance.
"Marcus is pissed," Winkler muttered to Trace as he walked toward the door. "Any word from Trajan?"
"None, boss. I’ll call him now."
"Nothing," Trajan said when he answered Trace's call. "I drove by the beach house and didn't see anything. With Ashe, that doesn't mean a thing, though. I asked the workers—they haven't seen the boy."
"Keep looking," Winkler said. "We’ll do the same."
Winkler's cell rang shortly after Trace ended the call with his brother. Andy was calling. "Boss," Andy said, "I got a hit on Ashe's debit card—he used it in the café at the bookstore in Corpus."
"Drive," Winkler snapped out the order. Ace, who was driving a Winkler Security van with Winkler and Trace inside, hit the gas and sped toward Corpus Christi.
* * *
Ashe settled into a comfortable chair to sip his frozen caramel mocha and read a science-fiction book. An employee recommended it and Ashe was engrossed from the first page. "Ashe, we were worried." Winkler knelt next to Ashe's chair.
"Marcus doesn't want me in Star Cove," Ashe stuck a thumb in the book to mark his place.
"We heard. The Grand Master had a talk with him and set things straight," Winkler explained. "Your mother is probably wondering where you are."
"My mother has been brainwashed. She barely remembers she has a son."
"Ashe, come home with us now. We’ll put you up in the beach house soon and you won't have to deal with Marcus."
"Why did he believe that? Why did he set Sali to spy on me?" Ashe gazed levelly into Winkler's nearly black eyes.
"Ashe, you know Marcus was in the military. He dealt with terrorists. He didn't trust anyone from certain tribes or races. I think that has tainted his views on this. I’m not making excuses for him; I’m just explaining things as I see them. He should never have involved Sali in this. I’m sorry that your friendships have soured with Sali and Marco. I think Marco still likes you—very much. You’ll just have to play it by ear with him. And with Sali, too, if that's what you want."
"Mr. Winkler, I don't really know what I want anymore. I want my dad back, but that's not gonna happen."
"Son, I can't do anything about that," Winkler sighed. "I wish I could. Come on, I’ll buy your book and we’ll go to a restaurant down the street for dinner."
"Yeah. I didn't get my burger earlier."
"I heard. Let's go."
* * *
"Did you mean to do this, Dad?" Ashe left another message for his father. "Mom barely recognizes me. I might as well be a distant relative. Thanks for fighting for us." Ashe hung up angrily. When Winkler had gone with him to help explain why he'd been missing, Adele dismissed it lightly, as if nothing had happened and her son hadn't been away from everyone for hours. Winkler asked Adele if he could put Ashe up at his house again. Adele agreed readily, as if that were perfectly normal and acceptable. "I’ll have breakfast ready for you and the others tomorrow morning," she promised as Ashe walked out of the house with Winkler, Trace and Trajan.
Ignoring the upheaval in his life, Ashe spent the rest of the evening doing laundry and reading his new book. He barely glanced at the GED study guides in his makeshift office and bedroom. All his new clothes were clean and hung inside the small closet when he went to bed.
* * *
Nathan was patrolling the community with Edmond when his cell vibrated. Aedan's number appeared on the screen. "Aedan?" Nathan's question was in his father's name.
"Child, I may have made a mistake," Aedan said quietly. "Are you alone?"
"This conversation needs to be held in private."
"Sorry, Edmond," Nathan walked away from the other vampire. "Father, I am near the ocean and am away from the others, now. What mistake?"
"I placed compulsion on Adele before she left, as you likely know. Ashe left a message earlier, saying she barely recognized him. I was too zealous in my instructions, I think."
"What did you tell her?"
"To forget me and what we had together."
"And that includes Ashe."
"Yes. I see that now."
"Father, I cannot undo your compulsion. And layering more compulsion over yours may cause damage."
"I know that, Nathan. I know not what to do. My boy is suffering as a result of my stupidity and haste to do the deed."
"There was a problem earlier," Nathan ventured to say. "Marcus has Sali spying on Ashe because he distrusts the boy. His worries are baseless, but he now suspects anyone with ties to the Elemaiya. He thinks of Ashe as one of them and set his own son to spy on Ashe and bring any new information to him. I hear there was quite a meeting between Marcus, Winkler and the Grand Master, who was teleconferencing. And all this while Ashe was missing for hours."
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