Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(29) by Connie Suttle
"How do you get in?" Ashe asked. He could see no evidence of a door, even a hidden one.
"I don't. You do. Go through the wall, Ashe. There's a room inside, with everything you might need. I count on you taking the rest of us with you if you go—and getting us out again when it's safe. But just in case, there's emergency equipment inside that’ll cut through the walls." Winkler's grin belied the seriousness of his voice. Ashe, Winkler and Trace were in the basement of the new beach house. Buck had studied the situation seriously, drawing up plans to keep the Dallas Packmaster safe from just about anything.
"Have you seen inside it?" Ashe asked.
"Not yet—I only have Buck's word that he furnished it comfortably and that it had a working bathroom and shower inside before he sealed it off. There are small air vents, but those are the only openings."
"Want to check on that?" Ashe asked, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"Thought you'd never ask," Winkler laughed. Ashe gathered Winkler and Trace into his mist and went right through the wall.
"This is better than I thought," Trace sat down at the small table inside. The room was long and narrow, running the length of the beach house, with a full bath on one end, a small kitchen on the other. In between was a sitting area with a flat screen on the wall, a computer on a desk nearby, a telephone, printer and any other electronic gadget one might need to conduct business. The space was already carpeted, painted and had a hidden closet and laundry area behind the sofa in the center of the room.
"Buck did a great job," Winkler agreed, examining the walls, cabinets and office space. Ashe settled on the sofa and used the remote to turn on the television.
"I think I could live here," Ashe said, flipping through cable channels.
"You have a bedroom upstairs. It's a suite, actually. Trajan and Trace have one on either side—those take up the southern half of the second story. Mine takes up the northern half," Winkler said.
"Cause he's the boss," Trace agreed good-naturedly.
"Take us upstairs, Ashe, and you’ll see what you're getting." Ashe turned off the television, tossed the remote on the sofa and turned to mist a second time.
"Wow." Ashe looked around at the suite Winkler was building for him. Carpet had just been laid and the walls were ready to be painted, but windows were bare of blinds or curtains and light fixtures were missing. Nevertheless, the suite was large. The bedroom was separated from an adjoining media room, and a small study lined with bookshelves was just off the bedroom. A sink and space for a small refrigerator was located at the back of the media room, as were a few shelves and cabinets. "You can live here," Winkler pointed out. "The basement is for emergencies only."
"Keep it to yourself, but we may be able to move in next week," Trace whispered. "We don't want our enemies learning our movements ahead of time." Trace's words were humorous, but Ashe recognized the gravity underneath.
"We will," Winkler acknowledged. "And we’ll do it right after sunrise. Those vamps won't see a thing." Winkler found that more humorous than anything.
"Have you met them?" Ashe queried.
"Last night. Seem all right on the surface." Winkler turned away. He didn't tell Ashe what else he was planning. Not then, anyway. He had some calls to make and explanations to give beforehand. "Now, let's go pull Trajan away from our construction supervisor." Winkler jerked his head toward the door.
* * *
"Where are we going?" Ashe asked as Trace drove toward Corpus Christi.
"Men's clothing," Trajan heaved a patient sigh. Winkler, sitting in the passenger seat, grinned at Trajan over the back of his seat.
"I’m not getting more monkey clothes," Ashe insisted.
"You're not, Trajan is," Winkler was still grinning at Trajan.
"But you had a nice suit on the other day," Ashe stated the obvious.
"I need a new one, apparently." Trajan sounded somewhat bewildered. "Boss, this can wait, you know."
"No, I want to do it now. Before school starts at the end of the month. We’ll get together the day we move into the new beach house. That's a good beginning, don't you think?"
"What? What's going on?" Ashe felt just as bewildered as Trajan.
"Trajan's getting engaged, that's what," Trace chortled.
"Bro, if I have to come up there," Trajan gripped the back of Trace's seat with a very large hand. Large enough to palm basketballs, Ashe noticed.
"You'd think they were six and eight, instead of fifty-six and fifty-eight," Winkler laughed.
"That's funny now. You have to tell my mother." Trajan poked a finger at Winkler.
"Yes, I suppose I do." Winkler was still grinning when he turned around in his seat.
"Dude, you're that old? I thought you were twenty-five or something," Ashe whispered to Trajan. Trajan and Trace burst out laughing.
* * *
"I like this one best," Trace looked his brother over with a critical eye. The suit—a dark-gray pinstripe, looked good on Trajan, although it needed alterations. The tall werewolf was broad across the shoulders, narrow at the waist and his legs—any basketball player would want those. Lean and powerful, Ashe thought as he watched Trajan turn this way and that for the store clerk to make small chalk markings on the coat and pants. Winkler was looking through expensive shirts and tossing several to Trace, who caught them expertly and placed them in a pile. Ties came next—Winkler pulled out six and handed those to Trace, who placed them in the growing pile. Shoes, socks and a few other items came after that.
"Your feet are almost too long for me to fit," the clerk grimaced, using a shoehorn to get dress shoes onto Trajan's feet. Ashe grinned helplessly—Trajan had mocked him when he'd tried on shoes only days ago. Now Ashe was getting payback.
"Dude, your pinkie toe is as big as someone else's foot," Ashe teased.
"Are you mocking me?" Trajan lifted an eyebrow at Ashe.
"Just checking," Trajan grunted as the second shoe went on.
"We’ll special order the next ones," Winkler promised as two pairs of shoes were boxed up and added to the waiting pile.
"When's the wedding?" Ashe asked.
"Not for another two years—it’ll be a long engagement," Trace murmured as he and Ashe watched Winkler pay nearly six thousand dollars for what they'd purchased. "This will give Trajan enough time to get to know his intended. And vice-versa."
"An arranged marriage."
"Yeah. Seconds are good marriage material. As are Packmasters, but most of those are married already. There are three hundred twelve Packs, so that means over three hundred Packmasters and more than three hundred Seconds. That's leaving room for the female Packmasters, who don't have any trouble finding a male. Females aren't common among the werewolves. Not anymore."
"What happened?" Ashe asked, his curiosity forcing the question.
"The race war," Trace said softly as he ushered Ashe through the door, following Winkler and Trajan who were loaded down with bags and boxes. The suit would be ready in two days, or so the clerk promised. "The vamps targeted the weakest among us, and those were often the females. Fewer females mean fewer births. The vamps regulate how many of them get turned, so when the wolves took down a vamp, it decimated their numbers as well."
"Trace, decimate by definition means one in ten. I think those numbers would have to be elevated to account for actual losses," Ashe pointed out as he climbed inside the van.
"Okay, on both sides, the deaths accounted for around two-thirds of both races."
"Holy cow," Ashe hissed.
"That's the bigger picture," Winkler had listened to both sides of the conversation. "We don't know how many shifters died—the vamps, some of them anyway, didn't like them either."
"Have they stopped killing shifters?"
"That was the agreement when they married some of them to the vamps. Shifters aren't organized, but a few are powerful enough and have enough connections throughout the race that they can bargain at times with Wlodek. Wlodek wanted shifters to marry vamps and see if they could have kids, substituting DNA into the egg. In exchange for the vampires leaving shifters alone. You're a result of that, Ashe."
"But Mom and Dad met in a bar in London. That wasn't arranged."
"You don't know that, Ashe. What if somebody knew your mother was going to be where she was? And conveniently sent in a vampire?"
"Trace, I have a headache." Ashe didn't want to continue the discussion. Too many ugly possibilities crowded his brain.
"Trace, enough." Winkler nodded to Trace, who settled into the driver's seat and started the van. "Ashe, we only speculate. We don't know truth. It won't ever change who your parents are. Remember that. And if things were normal, you wouldn't be having this conversation or worrying about it. Trace, drive." Trace put the van in gear and drove.
"You're kidding?" Dawn sat at Denise's table on the deck, while she and Randy sipped iced tea in the Texas summer heat. "He just up and left her behind?" Denise had explained Aedan's recall by the Council.
"Unfortunately, yes. Now we have three new vampires guarding at night. Marcus met them, I haven't."
"How dangerous do you think they are? Will they come after wolves again?"
"The Council sent them, so I assume they're safe enough."
"How did Adele and Ashe react to the whole thing?"
"Adele barely remembers she had a vampire husband, or a child with him. Compulsion, more than likely. I thought he loved her more than anything, so this has me completely confused." Denise poured more iced tea and pushed a plate of finger sandwiches toward Randy, who was eating and content to listen. He wasn't about to tell anyone that Ashe appeared and disappeared from his tiny Chicago apartment not long ago. Randy had made the move, too, and gone out on a date with veterinarian Sara Dillon shortly before his move to Texas. Sara knew about the move and promised to keep in touch. He hadn't told his mother yet, but Sara and he—well, Randy wanted to marry Sara, after only one date.
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