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   Chapter 4 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 7041

Updated: 2018-02-02 12:58

Elena jolted awake with her alarm, her hand reaching out to slap it off even as she sat up. She blinked hard, puzzled by the light from the overhead lamp. As she struggled out of the covers, memory began to catch up with her and she remembered leaving the lights on in lieu of a nightlight to repel the military and other boogiemen in the night.

She shivered, not entirely from the cold and hoped her grandfather checked his messages early today. Elena tugged open her underwear drawer and reached in to grab a clean pair for the day. Her hand struck the bottom of the drawer. She leaned over looking in and blinking with surprise. Why was her underwear drawer empty? Her mind flashed on Smith and MacMillan.

Why would the military take her underwear?

Visions of camouflaged panty raids began to dance in her head. Before they could begin an organized tango, her morning-fuzzed brain began to wake up. The military had not stolen her underwear. They just derailed her Sunday afternoon laundry plans.

Elena stretched her hand to the back of the drawer and came up with one overlooked set of underwear. She whooped in triumph until she pulled it out of the drawer. It was a nice lacy set of date underwear; the kind that was very pretty and meant to be admired but not comfortably worn. She sighed.

"This does not bode well, " she said to the empty room as she shut the dresser drawer and walked over to her closet. Elena tugged the closet door open, expecting the pickings to be slim. Most of the hangars were empty, but towards the back of the closet she found a white cable knit sweater and grey woolen pants that were a little too thick for early fall. Resigned to a day of discomfort she dressed, and ran a comb through her short cap of hair. Elena made her way to the kitchen and stared stupidly at the empty coffeepot, wondering why the automatic brew cycle had not kicked in. She ground her teeth.

"Of course not, " she thought. "They stole my coffee. Maybe I could go back to bed and try again tomorrow." Images of her employees danced in her head. TJ with his intense need to have everything lined up in neat regimented rows, Max with his desire for artistic chaos and Emily, six months pregnant and watching the silent, polite and inevitable battle that would ensue between them with a giggle from behind the register. Elena rubbed her eyes.

They were a good crew, each contributing in their own way, but without a supervisor her customers would probably run screaming from the store. It wasn't that they were inept. Just very different from each other and very strong willed. They needed a referee to function effectively. For the good of all, she would have to see this day through.

Elena retrieved her shoes and sat on the couch while she put them on. She looked around her while she tied the laces. A casual observer would not be able to tell that her living room was the center of upheaval the day before. Or at least that's what she told herself as she left for work. Her stomach dropped down to her toes. What would happen when her grandfather got her message? Would Ian have reached the Families first? Elena walked down the three flights of stairs to the street entrance and opened the door to the outside world.

She looked around to see if anyone was watching. Her eyes scanned the street and a couple of people gave her odd looks as they passed. Elena rolled her eyes at her own behavior, realizing she was acting crazy. Even if Ian had reached t

he Families first, she would be held accountable to a tribunal. She wouldn't be gunned down in the streets.


She took a deep breath to steady herself and drew in the scent of fresh coffee. Her head automatically turned towards the smell, a smile tilting the corners of her mouth. Her eyes lit on the coffee house she visited the day before. Her smile fell and she turned grumpily from it, purposefully walking away from the coffee shop and towards her store. Maybe she could send Max on a coffee run later.

The sight of her shop brightened her considerably, as it always did. It was a classy, old-fashioned storefront done in rich browns, gleaming glass and artfully faded gold lettering. As she let herself into the store her fingertips traced the lettering. Calabrese Imports. She smiled and her world started to steady. Elena tucked her purse behind the counter and began the process of opening the store for the day. Max and TJ soon joined her, with Emily shuffling in a few minutes later.

"Sorry, " she called, stowing her bag beside Elena's. "Got halfway to the elevator and had to pee again." She confided in Elena.

"Not a problem, " Elena said quickly, cutting off all talk of bodily changes before Max and TJ headed straight to the back. "We've got a lot going on today. New merchandise just came in and we'll need to start switching out the fall displays for the holiday ones. We've got two scheduled corporate clients coming in today. One at 10 and the other at 2. Max would you mind doing a coffee run? It's going to be a busy day and I think we could all use a bit of a wake me up. My treat of course."

"Decaf for me, but with plenty of cream and sugar, " Emily said quickly. Elena smiled, knowing the coffee would send Emily running to and from the bathroom for the rest of the morning.

It was a good day, customers coming so thick and heavy Elena had no time to even think of anything existing beyond the confines of her own four walls. More mundane considerations shoved everything else to the side. The holiday shopping season had barely begun and they were already swamped. Personal shoppers were drawn to the store in droves and everyone in the city seemed taken with the notion of something new for their own homes or offices before the expected holiday company arrived. By the end of the day, she felt she walked several hundred miles.

Elena closed up the shop and walked the short distance to her apartment, promising her tired feet a rest once they got there. They would need more help at the store, that was a given. At least one, possibly two more people, one for heavy lifting in the back and another to help Emily at the register. Elena noted the out of order sign on the elevator with little surprise and began to climb the stairs. It was rare that the elevator worked for any length of time. She climbed the stairs slowly while her mind ran through lists of possible holiday helpers. As she crested the stairs and reached the plateau of her landing, she blinked in surprise and stopped cold, one hand still reaching for her house keys.

"I thought you'd be home a bit earlier than this, " the rangy man standing beside her door said. He had a half smile on his face and despite the tailored pants and shirt he still managed to look windblown and casual. His hair, which had been salt and pepper for most of her life had now gone completely gray, but was still lush and thick. She felt a smile tug to her lips.

"Hello Grandfather."

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