Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(36) by Connie Suttle
"We'll be juniors, Sal," Dori wiggled a toe against Sali's side.
"Randy's girlfriend from Chicago is coming in on Friday," Sali leaned back to squint at Dori. The sun was shining right in his face.
"He's taking her to a hotel near the beach," Cori said. "But he still hasn't told his mother that she's coming. That ought to be a surprise."
"She's not leaving before the run?" Sali couldn't believe Randy so remiss as to forget about a full moon.
"Flight back is Monday morning early," Cori said, turning over. "She's a vet. Makes good money, according to Randy."
"Maybe she can take a look at Sali," Dori snickered.
"Hey, now," Sali slapped Dori's leg playfully. Dori dumped her iced tea down Sali's back, forcing him off the deck in a blink. Sali tickled her mercilessly after that, making Dori squeal with laughter.
"What's going on?" Wynn came through the patio door to witness Sali and Dori wrestling playfully.
"Kids," Cori muttered.
"Mom and Dad gave permission for me to date Ace," Wynn sat on the deck beside Cori's chaise.
"How old is he?" Cori asked quietly. Sali and Dori were still play fighting.
"He's forty-six; young for a werewolf," Wynn sighed. "I know there's an age gap, but he's just," she didn't finish.
"He's the right one? I think I got that vibe from Ashe, too. He thinks the same."
"I think we'll miss Ashe in school this year," Wynn said. "I can't believe he's just going to leave all of us behind like that."
"Ashe is different," Cori said and left it at that. "What did your parents say to Ace?"
"That he had to mind his manners," Wynn blushed. "He said he understood."
"The werewolf-shifter community is different, too," Cori agreed. "Werewolf females can be married off to somebody three or four times their age. I heard Mr. Winkler's wife was twenty-two when he married her at age eighty-six."
"Really? He's over a hundred now? He doesn't look it," Wynn breathed.
"Yeah. Mr. Winkler comes from strong stock," Cori said. "Anyway, that's what Marco says."
"Ace says he wants to give me a ring the minute I turn eighteen," Wynn said dreamily.
"Wynnie, are you sure you want all that so fast?" Cori sat up and looked at Wynn.
"I think so. Anyway, Mom said she was glad I had somebody who would protect me."
"Understandable," Cori sighed, leaning back again.
"What about you and Marco?"
"We're not ready to jump into anything," Cori replied. "But it's nice to know he's there."
"Hey, Sal," Hayes and Jeff walked onto the deck. "Dori's mom said you were here. How about a trip to the beach? We haven't been in days." The two young werewolves looked hopefully at Sali.
"That sounds great," Wynn said. "Sali, will you drive us? I'll ask Mom if I can go."
"I'm ready, if everybody chips in for gas money," Sali said.
* * *
"Let's go to the beach, man." Chad slapped Jeremy on the back. Diane Booth, Jeremy's mother, was running the vacuum. Chad hated the sound. He and Jeremy had been watching television at Jeremy's parents' home but the vacuum interrupted.
"Mom," Jeremy half-shouted over the cleaning din, "Chad and I are going out." Diane waved a hand at them and kept vacuuming the living room.
"I hate it when she cleans," Chad muttered as they walked out of the house. The keys jingled in Jeremy's hand as they opened the doors to Diane's small Chevy.
* * *
Ashe lifted his head twice to watch Sali's car speed out of the community, followed shortly after by Jeremy and Chad, driving Mrs. Booth's little white car. Sighing, Ashe went back to checking records Andy had given him.
"Kid, Winkler wants lunch in Port A and then we'll check on the beach house after that," Trace poked his head inside Ashe's doorway. "So drop those folders and shake a leg."
"Your leg or mine?" Ashe grinned at the werewolf.
"Yours—mine's already shakin'," Trace said. Ashe stood and stretched, allowing Trace enough time to walk over and pull one of Ashe's ears, hauling him out of his office.
"They're moving the kitchen equipment into the restaurant," Trajan pointed out as Ashe opened the van's back door. Winkler was already loaded into the front seat and Trace had climbed in on the driver's side. Ashe watched for a few seconds as a delivery crew unloaded a huge stove. Two large freezers were parked on the driveway, waiting their turn.
"Buck will have that finished before school starts," Winkler said as Ashe slid onto the seat behind him and shut the door.
"Where's Ace and Marco?" Ashe asked.
"Ace, Marco and Andy are at the beach house, getting Andy's and my office put together." Winkler leaned around the back of his seat to look at Ashe. "Don't tell anybody, but we're moving in on Friday, first thing after breakfast."
"Good," Ashe said. Perhaps that would take the sting out of seeing his friends drive past on their way to a day spent amid sand and surf.
"We're going to Victoria's, and your mother will be there," Winkler added. "Is that gonna bother you, son?"
"No, Mr. Winkler," Ashe sighed heavily and stared out the window. "Has she already taken it over for you?"
"Yeah. A couple of days ago. Kid, I'd fix this if I could." Winkler settled in his seat and stared out through the windshield.
"I know. Nobody can fix this, Mr. Winkler, except my dad. And he's not returning my phone calls."
"Ashe, we'll get through this." Trajan reached over and patted Ashe's shoulder.
"Yeah." Ashe was sinking into the mire of his misery as he watched the coastal community of Star Cove fly past his window.
* * *
"You're kidding." The service station attendant stared at the pile of bills and coins Sali dumped on the counter.
"Nope. Twenty-three dollars and seventy-six cents," Sali grinned at the man, who appeared to be in his early twenties. "Everybody chipped in so we could go to the beach."
"Which beach?" The attendant asked as he counted out bills and coins.
"Padre Island. At least we have a permit and don't have to pay to get into the park," Sali said.
"Yeah. I like going there, too, and the price of the permit is definitely worth it."
"My dad said it was cheaper than paying every time," Sali agreed.
"You're set," the attendant raked the money into his register and turned on the pump. "Have fun at the beach. That's where I'd be if I had time off."
"Yeah. School starts in a couple of weeks so we're going out while we can."
"Understood," the attendant said.
Hayes was already pumping gas when Sali got back to the car, and Jeff was washing beach scum off the windshield and windows while Wynn, Dori and Cori watched.
"Cori, did you pack any soda?" Sali opened the trunk to scavenge from the cooler.
"It's in there," Cori said. "I want an orange." Sali tossed the bottle of orange to Cori and lifted out a cola for himself. "Dori, what do you want?" he asked. Everybody had soft drinks in hand before they pulled away from the service station.
* * *
"Look—that's Sali's car," Chad pointed to a car waiting in line to get onto Padre Island. Sali's small red vehicle was three cars ahead of them.
"Let's follow them," Jeremy suggested. "Maybe the empty is with them."
"Yeah. Nobody here to protect the stupid little bat this time."
* * *
"Ashe, I've set up your new bank account in both our names; it'll make the deposits simpler," Winkler handed over a new debit card while they waited for their server to bring lunch. Ashe had seen his mother going into the manager's office near the kitchen but she hadn't stopped to talk with them. "All the funds have been transferred from your old account already. You can set up something online to keep track of everything. Half of your wages are going straight to a savings account and I have to approve any withdrawals."
"That's fine," Ashe said absently as he watched his mother walk out of her office and into the kitchen.
"Kid, do you even know how much you make?" Trajan tapped Ashe's shoulder.
"What?" Ashe turned to Trajan.
"He hasn't been listening," Trajan sighed.
"But," Ashe began.
"Kid, it'll work out," Trajan leaned back and sipped his iced tea.
* * *
"Jeremy, go away."
"What? We paid to be here, too. Where's the empty?" Jeremy lounged against the side of his mother's car while Chad growled at Sali. Hayes was pulling on Sali's arm.
"Dude, this isn't the time—it's too close to the full moon," Hayes whispered as Sali growled at Chad. Chad bristled right back and growled louder.
"Chad, Ashe isn't here. He's working, but that's something you wouldn't know about," Dori snapped. "Get out of here. We don't need a fight; there are humans!" The last word was hissed at Chad. Humans were all around them; Sali had parked in a popular spot on the beach and Jeremy pulled in right beside him.
"Look, we don't need to get into a fight," Hayes said. Jeff was now on Sali's other side, trying to pull Sali away. Cori was hugging Dori to keep her from helping Sali. Wynn was backing away, frightened by the potential conflict. Chad lunged at Sali, snapping his teeth at him. Sali broke away from Hayes and Jeff and the fight began. Chad had no idea how angry—or tough—Sali really was. Chad was shrieking in no time while the others watched helplessly.
"He's killing Chad!" Jeremy shouted as Chad shrieked again. Sali, being the werewolf that he was, bit Chad as he pounded and pummeled.
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