Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(30) by Connie Suttle
* * *
"My King, my spies report that our encampment may be attacked soon." Beldris informed his brother. He'd made the trek from Canada to speak with Baltis regarding the impending attack.
"Friesianna thinks to do this when I am not present to help protect our own," Baltis paced restlessly. The painting that hung on his brick wall was getting old. Perhaps he would ask his guards to change it.
"I believe that as well," Beldris agreed.
"Then we will exchange places. You know of the plan for London. Execute that for me, brother, and we will give the Bright Queen a surprise she will not soon forget."
"That is the brother I admire," Beldris smiled.
* * *
"Gather as many as we can send, and station them here," Friesianna tapped appropriate locations on a map laid out atop a makeshift table.
"My Queen, I counsel against this," Rabis said softly as Friesianna spoke with Parlethis, who was now captain of her guards.
"You will not interfere with this. We have not had such an opportunity in many years. This is our chance to take our Dark cousins by surprise and eliminate many of them, including the Prince. We will cripple them in one blow and they will be forced to admit defeat. Perhaps I will allow Baltis to live, after he offers his crown to me."
"My Queen, you may not wield the Dark Crown," Rabis interjected. "It is forbidden."
"You think that Baltis will hesitate to take mine and use it?" Friesianna snapped. "Go. I do not have any questions for you concerning this."
"As you will it, my Queen."
"Yes, I will it. Take yourself from my sight." Rabis was more than happy to do as the Queen dictated.
* * *
"Ashe, we're going to a movie." Ashe looked up from his study guide to find Cori and Marco standing before him. It was Sunday afternoon and he'd taken (and passed) three sample tests since breakfast.
"So the reconciliation is complete and you want my blessing?" Ashe asked, setting his book aside. Cori's hand was firmly held in Marco's. Her expression was hopeful as she smiled at Ashe.
"No, we're asking you to come with us."
"Dude, that's just—I'd be an extra," Ashe admitted lamely.
"Sali and Dori are coming," Cori said, trying to coax Ashe.
"Cori, that's not—it doesn't feel cool," Ashe said. "You're dating. I’m not." And thanks for making it so obvious, he added silently. He wanted to sit in a dark theater with his arm around a girl. Perhaps steal a kiss now and then. Ashe had no girl, hence none of the other things as well.
"Wynn's coming," Cori said brightly.
"But does Wynn want to come with me?" That was the trouble. Ashe had seen the way Wynn looked at Ace. The way she'd gone out of her way to touch Ace. Somehow, he knew it was right, though Ace was likely much older than Wynn. He wondered if the werewolf had enough courage to approach the O’Neills with his request to date their daughter. Ashe might have leaped at the chance not long ago, but he had other things on his mind. Chasing after Wynn when she was destined to belong to another, well, that was an exercise in futility.
"Ask Ace if he wants to go," Ashe suggested. "I have studying to do." He deliberately raised the study guide and pretended to read.
"Ace is outside," Marco said, steering Cori out of Ashe's room. Ashe went to mist and followed behind them. "Ace, want to go to the movies with us? Wynn's going," Cori said. The werewolf was kneeling beside Winkler's van, checking tire pressure on a rear wheel. Lifting his head and grinning, Ace nodded. Ashe misted to his room again, sighing once he came back to himself. No doubt about it, Ace was smitten with Wynn syndrome. Ashe was surprised three hours later to get a call from Marco, saying they'd gone to a pizza restaurant in Port Aransas after the movie. Ashe was invited to come eat with the others.
"All right, I’ll come," Ashe dumped the study guide on his cot and stood to stretch. Pizza Neetsa was in a dome-shaped building on the outskirts of town, about three miles from Winkler's beach house. Ashe knew where it was—he'd seen it every time he'd passed through Port A. He hopped to a spot right over the building, turning to mist before he became visible. Dropping through the roof, he landed in an empty stall inside the restroom and walked out to find the others sitting at a long table. Sure enough, Wynn was leaning against Ace, who wore a bemused look on his face, as if someone had given him a winning lottery ticket. For a lot. Ashe scooted into the chair next to Cori, who didn't mind leaning into Marco to give Ashe room. Marco put his arm around Cori possessively.
"He’ll want sausage and mushroom," Sali said when Ashe was about to place his order. Dori slapped Sali's hand for being rude.
"It is what I want," Ashe handed his menu to the waitress. "With extra of both." He hadn't had lunch and it was nearly time for dinner. Winkler, Trajan and Ace had been absent most of the day, on business, Winkler said before they'd taken off in one of the two vans Winkler kept in Star Cove, leaving Ace and Andy there to stand guard.
"See, I am good for something," Sali hung his head.
"I never said you weren't," Ashe pointed out. "I just said I didn't trust you. That's all." Ashe wished he could take the words back as quickly as he'd said them. "Dude, I didn't mean it quite like it sounded," Ashe apologized as best he could.
"Let's leave that for now. We’ll agree to disagree," Ace said. "Salidar, sit up straight. You're mortifying your date." Dori was certainly staring at Sali.
Dude, I’m sorry. I think Dori wants you to put an arm around her or something. Ashe's silent sending had Sali straightening up and slipping an arm around Dori. He went one better and kissed Dori's temple. Dori leaned against Sali with a sigh of contentment. Sali gave a brief nod to Ashe and things were better after that.
"I can get myself home," Ashe said when they went to load into the van later.
"No, ride home with us," Cori held out a hand. Ashe squeezed in beside Cori, and that's how he ended up hopping Cori and Marco to London when he knew his father was in trouble.
* * *
"Winkler, I don't know what happened—Ashe yelled 'Dad' and he, Marco and Cori disappeared from the van. We're on the side of the road—I pulled over as soon as they were gone." Ace phoned Winkler after stopping the van.
"He's in London," Winkler's voice held little doubt. "I’ll get the Head of the Council on the phone right away." Winkler hung up, leaving a frustrated Ace kicking a tire he'd aired up earlier.
* * *
Marco and Cori had turned. Cori's panther yowled at the six Elemaiya who were threatening her and Marco, her tail flipping angrily at them. Ashe, as invisible mist, hovered over Marco and Cori's heads, sending mindspeech. Don't let them attack you—just look menacing, Ashe instructed.
His father's body was nearby—the Elemaiya had managed to drag it out of a nearby house, securely wrapped in a black cloth. Ashe figured they wanted to question Aedan as soon as he woke; that meant they were looking for him and they hadn't found him near his father. Sunset was close, too, and Ashe knew his father would wake fighting—Aedan always drew in a heavy breath when he woke. That would tell him he was outside and not inside—a vampire's nose was as sensitive as any wolf's.
At the moment, Aedan's wrapped body lay on the grass outside a large cottage, somewhere in the English countryside. Ashe might have thought it was pretty where they were if not for the direness of the situation. The Elemaiya intended to use Aedan—perhaps blackmail him, in order to find Ashe. Ashe was determined to remain mist as long as possible, allowing Cori and Marco to hold off the kidnappers.
"Just let us have this—it's dead anyway," one of the Elemaiya cajoled, pointing to Aedan's wrapped body. Cori yowled louder. The Elemaiya stepped back. They weren't prepared to take on a panther and a werewolf. Things might have gone well; sunset was very close and Marco and Cori were holding the Elemaiya off, but another half dozen appeared from nowhere. When the Elemaiya already present saw the newcomers, turmoil erupted.
* * *
Winkler checked his watch and hit the number again. Sunset would arrive any moment in Great Britain. Many older vampires woke a short while before sunset if they were inside a dark, safe place. They moved sluggishly at first and would, as long as any sunlight might reach them. Once the sun dipped below the horizon, they were prepared for anything. "Come on, pick up," Winkler muttered frantically.
"Charles speaking," Wlodek's assistant answered the call.
"Charles, this is William Winkler. I have reason to believe Aedan Evans is in trouble and that his son has gone to help," Winkler's voice was breathless. The Dallas Packmaster was rattled and he was never rattled.
"I’m dialing one of our Assassins on another phone," Charles was calm in a crisis. "Gavin, how long will it take to get to Aedan Evans’ home?" Charles had placed the call on speaker.
"I can be there in twenty." The line went dead.
"That's one on the way," Charles announced and placed a second call.
* * *
Twelve Elemaiya, six on six, now stared one another down after a brief altercation that had turned into a standoff. Ashe, feeling itchy, became corporeal and jerked the cloth off his father the moment the sun dropped below the horizon. Marco's wolf and Cori's panther held their ground between the Bright and Dark Elemaiya when Ashe and Aedan joined them. Aedan had claws and fangs out in a blink. "Go home," Ashe snapped, glaring at the twelve. "You have no business here." He lifted the short sleeve of his shirt, displaying the gold medallions. Elemaiya on both sides stepped back in surprise.
"You have no authority over us," one of the Bright Ones said.
"Come closer and find out for yourself," Ashe snapped. "Your people need you. You have no business here."
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