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   Chapter 18 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 15092

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:09

Elena pushed open the door and entered the restaurant. Peter followed and looked around the room. A look of approval crossed his face. Elena couldn't decide if the approval meant the restaurant was upscale enough to suit his tastes or if the tables were far enough apart for their conversation. She shook her head.

'The last place I want to be is inside a council member's head, ' she told herself. The hostess walked towards them with a smile.

"Elena, " she said reaching out both hand and pulling Elena in for a peck on the cheek. "It is nice to see you."

"Hello Maria, " Elena said returning the smile. She noticed Maria's gaze travel to Peter. "I'd like you to meet Peter Baranov. He is an old family friend in town for a few days on business."

"A pleasure to meet you, " Maria said.

"And you as well, " he replied with a smile. From the twinkle in his eyes Elena was fairly certain he found his introduction amusing. Maria escorted them to a table and told them the waitress would be right over.

"You seem to rank a very nice table, " Peter commented. Elena raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly around the room, taking in the only two other occupied tables.

"All of the tables at Enzo's are nice tables, but an early dinner meant there are many more choices."

"Of course, " Peter said. "And I'm sure everyone gets as enthusiastic a greeting as well."

"Maria is a friend of mine, " she said. "There is nothing wrong with having friends."

"Nothing at all, " Peter said. "Just as there is nothing wrong with having employees who care about you."

"You do not like my staff at the store?" Elena asked stiffly. Peter waved off her offense.

"I didn't mean that, " he said. "I merely found it of interest that you are so well liked."

"Because I am not worth liking?"

"No, I didn't mean…" Peter sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. Elena found watching Peter trip over his words to be an interesting experience. "May I begin again?"

"If you think it would help."

"Thank you, " he said, inclining his head slightly. The waitress interrupted Peter's restart to ask for their drink choices. She handed them menus and recited the specials of the day. Elena barely listened to the specials and didn't bother opening the menu. Today she wanted comfort food and that meant chicken Parmesan. The waitress left to bring their drinks.

"Most people in the Guild tend to be insular, " Peter began as she left. "We tend to associate with only those we can safely tell about our exploits. Which means we associate closely with pilots and other family members. The pilots are often the most insular. I did not expect that you would have…" Peter searched for the correct word and Elena got the impression he was trying not to insult her again. She took pity on him.

"Blended so well with normal society?" She finished the thought.

"Yes, " he said with relief.

"When I left the Guild, I ceased having exploits to hide, " she said with a shrug.

"Those who leave the Guild are often the worst at blending in. It is as if to do so means that they must fully acknowledge that their world has changed. They often return after only a year or so, more often less."

"Ah, " Elena said, unsure how else to comment. The waitress set their drinks on the table. Elena squeezed the lemon into the water and dropped it into the glass. She took a sip while Peter perused the menu.

"So what is good here?" he asked.

"Everything, " Elena replied. "I am partial to the chicken Parmesan though." She turned towards the waitress. "I would like to order that please." The waitress nodded and turned towards Peter.

"I believe I will have the same, " he said. She left with their menus tucked under her arm and their orders tucked into her head. Elena sipped her water and looked at Peter. The soft lighting suited him. It softened his edges and made him seem more charming than dangerous.

'But maybe that is just the atmosphere, ' she thought. The mood of Enzo's had always struck her as romantic. The soft lighting, warm colors, low candles floating in small bowls of water all combined to have a romantic feel. 'Which is why they are always booked three deep for Valentine's Day.' Even though the room was a large one it didn't feel overly large it felt as though each table were it's own separate world. 'Perfect for a romantic liaison. Or, ' she thought wryly, 'The perfect place to have a private conversation in a public venue. Just my luck I got the secon

y not it."

"You are going to lead a team including two members of the military on an extremely politically charged trip through the channels, you have also agreed to take time out of your already busy schedule to act as Guild liaison, which should ultimately lead the military to the conclusion that it is a completely impractical endeavor for them to even bother with the channels and you warned us of Ian's betrayal. This is not something that should be cheaply reimbursed. Inadequate reimbursement would send a message throughout the Guild that the Council does not care about its people."

"And high compensation would bring more information. I'm not so sure about the military though, " she warned him. "I can see where they would find the channels to be very useful." She forced herself to resume her meal even though her fingers itched to grab the papers and pour over them like a greedy child. Elena tried not to look at the packet as if she had just been offered the moon and several of the stars to do something she would have done anyway.

"You will not be allowed to take them on your ship of course, " he cautioned her.

"Isn't that why you gave me the Storm Chaser? If it is a new ship then it is a blank slate no history or old log books to deal with."

"It also has the latest technology, " he reminded her. "The military is all about high tech. The Wind Dancer has been volunteered as the ship to make the trip. It is older, you are familiar with it, the Calabrese Family owns it and its entire crew is Italian. All very good points."

"That makes sense, " she said. "Will they all be speaking Italian for the duration of the trip?"

"Of course, " he said with a wink. "We don't plan on telling the military that and with luck the person or people they send will not have the language and only be able to speak to you. Besides if they continue to believe that a pilot must sail under the direction of a separate captain it will be safer for you."

It was logic she could not dispute so she let it pass and they finished their meal in companionable silence. As they left the building the black sedan pulled up to the curb and as far as Elena could see Peter had not summoned it. She chalked it up to mental telepathy and got into the car. They drove directly to Elena's apartment building without her having to provide directions, a fact she restrained herself from commenting on. As she got out of the car she wondered if she was expected to put the two men up for the night. Somehow she couldn't see them sharing her pull-out couch.

"We will pick you up at nine, " Peter said, laying her fears to rest.

"Sounds good, " she said. The car stayed where it was until she entered the door to her apartment building, something she also appreciated. She climbed the stairs with the leather packet clutched tight in her hands. Soon she would see the details of the Storm Chaser.

"My own ship, " she said to herself with a smile. Elena took the stairs two at a time.

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