Vendetta(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 4)(40) by Connie Suttle
Then take your own advice, Ashe. Don't blame yourself because you couldn't save two people at once, Dori returned. Nobody blames you. You did the best that you could.
Dori, right now I don't know what my best is.
"Ashe?" Cori pulled away, wiping moisture from her cheeks.
"Cori, do you want me to take you to Marco?" Ashe brushed strands of blonde hair away from Cori's face.
"Yeah. Dori, tell your mom that I'm taking Cori to Marco." Dori nodded and Ashe and Cori disappeared.
"Cori?" Marco was sanding drywall compound but stopped immediately when Ashe appeared with Cori.
"Marco," Cori was in tears again as she flung herself into Marco's arms.
"I'd take a break on the beach, dude," Ashe suggested before misting away.
"Kid?" Winkler stood in Ashe's doorway as he settled in front of his window again.
"Mr. Winkler?" Ashe stood.
"Come on, let's go into Corpus. We'll have lunch while we're there. Like sushi?"
"Never tried it, Mr. Winkler." Ashe followed Winkler out of the house.
"You might like a spider roll," Winkler grinned, draping an arm around Ashe's shoulders. "And no, there aren't any spiders in it."
Ashe tried a spider roll but liked the salmon and cream cheese better. Trajan taught him how to eat with chopsticks while Trace teased. Winkler watched, smiling slightly while having an enormous platter of sushi. Ashe was dipping a tuna roll in soy sauce when he stiffened slightly.
* * *
Josiah stopped short as the hostess was about to seat him. William Winkler and three others sat at a table not far away. The werewolves hadn't caught his scent yet; the restaurant was too crowded and smelled of food. "You know, I just remembered an appointment," Josiah lied to the young woman. "I'll come back later." Josiah turned and left the restaurant quickly.
* * *
"Hell, no I don't put all my eggs in one basket," Ezekiel growled at Josiah over the phone. Josiah should have known better than to call Zeke when the full moon was so close. "But I have to tell you, if I catch up with Fergus before the Grand Master does, he'll wish he'd handed himself over tied up with a ribbon. Sending kids to do what I asked?" Zeke was quite inventive in his cursing.
"You had Fergus?" Josiah worked to keep his voice steady.
"I got a lot of wolves in the palm of my hand. All askin' for favors, just like you did. He stole from our target and wanted me to take Winkler out so's he could get away with it. Plus, he snatched away his Second's wife while he was at it. And since his favor so closely aligned with what I wanted anyway," Zeke said.
"You mean he wanted to shove Winkler's son into his father's position before he was ready, and in the ensuing chaos, Fergus could get away with theft from Winkler Securities? Talk about a death wish," Josiah muttered.
"Yeah, I thought it was stupid, too, but I wasn't about to tell Fergus that." Josiah imagined that Zeke was grinning. "It got me another one for my hit. Except he was too chicken to do it himself. Gotta hand it to him, though, if those kids were older and had more sense, he might have pulled it off. As it is, he's on the run now. I've got some of mine on his tail."
Josiah didn't say anything. You didn't cross Ezekiel Tanner and expect to live over it. The only good thing, as Josiah saw it, was that the two boys hadn't been informed that Tanner was behind the hit. Winkler would believe that Fergus pulled their strings. Josiah hunched his shoulders. Ezekiel Tanner had pulled his strings for a long time through his brother Obediah. Now he was doing the pulling himself. If Josiah could accomplish this last assignment, however, he'd be free of Zeke Tanner and have his ranch as well. The prospect brightened his day considerably.
Josiah didn't like it, though, that Zeke had brought in someone else without telling him. No matter, those boys were as good as dead and Fergus was on the run. Zeke's decisions weren't always sound but he frightened everyone too much to have that pointed out to him.
"We're still on," Josiah said. "We'll get it done."
"Good. I'm counting on it." Zeke hung up.
"Ashe?" Sali sat on the chair beside Ashe's desk. Ashe was working late to make up for time spent at the beach house and in Corpus Christi—Winkler had driven to the airport after lunch to talk with his werewolf pilots before sending them after Thomas Williams in Sacramento.
"What, Sal?" Ashe pecked away at his desktop keyboard, finishing emails to Andy on some of the files he was working.
"Hayes—they're gonna have the service tomorrow morning."
"That's what Trace said."
"Dude, are you going?" Ashe looked up at Sali.
"I don't know." Ashe lowered his head again.
"His mom and dad—they want all of us there. All his classmates."
"Are you sure about that? I could have saved Hayes instead of Cori. I made a choice, Sali. I chose one friend over another."
"Ashe, Hayes saved me." Ashe jerked his head up again as Sali crumpled.
Trace rushed into the room as Ashe tried to hold up a sobbing Sali. Help me, Ashe begged mentally.
"Ashe, being g*y doesn't mean I'm any better at this than anyone else," Trace muttered dryly, but he helped get Sali onto the chair again and patted his shoulder awkwardly.
"Sali, Hayes gave you a gift," Ashe finally broke down and hugged his friend. "You have to accept it, dude."
"Ashe, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," Sali wept. "I was stupid."
"Sal, is this about Hayes or about us?" Ashe pulled away and offered Sali his box of tissues.
"Both, I guess." Sali wiped his eyes. "Sorry, dude. Didn't mean for that to happen."
"Look, you two need to sort this out." Trace nodded to Ashe and walked out.
"Yeah. There's a lot to sort," Sali muttered.
"Dude, there's someplace I need to be," Ashe said, checking his watch. "Want to come?" Sali looked up at Ashe, confused.
"Where?" Sali asked.
"Canada," Ashe said. Gripping Sali's arm, Ashe relocated.
* * *
"They're here," Matt pointed out the location on his map. "We have to take them by surprise." He and a small army of humans, vampires and werewolves stood outside an entrance into the rail tunnels beneath Chicago.
"Then let us go in first," Gerard offered. He led the contingent of five vampires Wlodek sent. "We have the map memorized and can go in swiftly. We'll take out their front line of defense before they expect the attack, which will allow the wolves and the rest of you to finish what's left."
"Sounds good," Matt said. "Are we ready?" Everyone nodded. "Good. Let's go."
* * *
"Dude, where are we?" Sali hissed. They were standing on the shore of a lake in twilight, and it was cold. Sali stared about him—tall firs surrounded the area, making it the perfect hiding place. Or hunting ground, he corrected mentally. The wolves would love to run there. He'd love to run there.
"They're shielding the camp; you won't see it until we're in the middle of it," Ashe whispered. "I've got us shielded so they won't see," Ashe grabbed Sali's arm and pulled him along.
"But can they hear?" Sali was worried, suddenly.
"Shhh, I don't know if I have the kinks worked out on the auditory shields," Ashe hushed Sali. "Be quiet. I'll turn us to mist if there's a problem." Ashe hauled Sali farther along the lake's edge. Lac Savard, Ashe spoke mentally to Sali. Sali shuddered as they walked through something intangibly colder, and then he saw them. Elemaiya. Everywhere. Preparing for battle.
He and Ashe walked right through them, with none of them even noticing. Sali wanted to talk so badly, he could taste the words on his tongue. The questions crowded behind his teeth, settling at the back of his throat, bitter as bile. What were they doing here? Had his father been right all along? Was Ashe going over to the enemy? One nearly grown werewolf had no chance against the thousands in this camp, most dressed in metal or painted leather armor, much of it decorated with gems and gold. Elaborate helmets graced heads. Even the Romans would have been impressed, Sali thought, his head turning this way and that as Ashe dragged him through the camp. At times, they stepped around piles of equipment or warriors donning gear. He saw an ornate, hammered gold breastplate that would bring enough money to pay for college with a little left over for a car or three. Steady, Sali, we're on a mission, Ashe sent. Sali turned back to Ashe and left the thing lying in the grass.
Stay with me, Sal, Ashe reassured Sali as they came to the western edge of the camp. A long line of Elemaiya stood there, all dressed in battle gear, their eyes turned toward the west as if they were watching for something. Waiting for something. Sali saw what it was soon enough.
* * *
"Where's the kid?" Winkler strode through the house, raking fingers through his hair.
"He was here a few minutes ago—Sali came and well, there was an emotional meltdown," Trace said.
"Where did they go?" Winkler stared at Trace.
"He didn't leave the house. Not in the conventional sense, anyway," Trace said, rising from his seat. He'd helped himself to a soda from the fridge and sat down at the kitchen island to drink it. Now he was up and ready to look for Ashe.
"Matt's hitting those tunnels in Chicago tonight. If I find out Ashe went," Winkler huffed out a frustrated breath.
"Boss, settle down. It's too close to the full moon," Trace said. "Let me get Trajan." Trace pulled his cell from a pocket and dialed.
* * *
"And he said not to tell me, too?" Denise was shocked at Marcus' words. Marcus couldn't fathom why Ashe and Winkler had been so secretive about the whole thing. Denise, as the Packmaster's wife, had just as much right to know as Trajan did. Denise shook her head in bewilderment. "Surely not, Marcus," she said. "How can this happen?"
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