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   Chapter 26 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 12356

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:14

Elena stopped and fixed a pleasant smile on her face and waved to Jonathan. 'No need for him to think I caught him following me, ' she thought. He half jogged to catch up with her. It took him no time to cover the block separating them.

"I would be completely winded if I tried that, " she told him noticing his breathing was still relatively even as he stopped in front of her.

"I run marathons a lot, " he admitted with a grin. He was still too toothy for her taste, but this time the smile seemed more real. She shook the thought away. Thinking of him as a person was not a benefit.

"I only make coffee runs, and usually then I send out one of my employees instead."

"Seems fair, " he answered.

"Do you live around here or were you just going out?" she asked indicating the neon signs that were just beginning to hum to life in the cold evening air. The day workers had all gone home, the happy hour crowd still lingered and the partygoers would soon be arriving.

"No, " he said. "I was just having coffee before I headed out." Elena glanced at her watch, noting that several hours had passed since he had asked her out for coffee.

"Still? Wow you must really linger over that last cup."

"Well to be honest I didn't really want to go back out in the cold. So I more or less kept drinking coffee until I could face it. I probably slosh when I walk by now."

"So I guess you aren't from around here?"

"No ma'am, just stationed. I'm from Florida, out by Tampa."

"Ah, " she said. "Are you going this way?" She indicated the street she had turned on.

"Um, yes ma'am." There was a slight hesitation in the voice.

"Good then we can keep walking. It is a little too cold to be standing in one place very long as long as that wind is up." A gust swung her hair across her face for emphasis. She shoved it back with her hand and turned into the wind.

"I think that is a good plan, " he replied. They began walking. He seemed inclined to walk slower than her rapid pace despite his longer legs. She slowed to match his stride. She was pretty sure he was lying about just sticking around for coffee. Of course the coffee shop near her place had taken on ominous overtones in her mind at this point.

'Like the lair of the mad scientist where his minions receive their orders so they don't have to go into the laboratory.' She thought for a moment. 'I bet you could see my apartment entryway from there as well.' Elena frowned a little. 'Perhaps I should start using the alternate exit in the back.'

"Something wrong?"

"No, " she said. "Just thinking about your earlier snow prediction. I think you might be right." They made a little small talk about the weather and Elena wondered how to test him to see if he had heard any of her conversation with her cousin without giving anything away.

"So, " he began as the small talk ebbed. "Would those be the plans for the ship you have there?" He indicated the tube she carried tucked under her arm. She had been wondering when he would ask.

"Yes, " she answered. "I wanted a copy I could jot notes down on while still keeping the original clean."

"I see, " he said. "Are you sure you aren't just passing them along to someone else?"

"Like who, a rival ship builder to undercut your production?"

"No I meant someone in the Guild."

"There are no other Guild members around here. They all left with Ian."

"You could be sending a copy on, " he commented.

"I could."

"But you are not."

"There is no point, " she said. If Mateo passed a copy back to the Council that would of course be another matter. She might even suggest it.

"Why not?"

"Because they are of no use. The

her apartment building door when the phone rang again.

"Apparently, I am popular tonight." She said as she pulled the phone back out. The number was one she didn't recognize, but deciding she was on a good streak with phone calls she answered it anyway.


"How dare you!" The words were spoken with both venom and heat. The voice was of course familiar.

"Hello Therese." Elena answered. She stopped outside the door to her building. She would not bring this call in with her.

"That's all you have to say to me? You sneaky, underhanded little thief!" Therese spat. Elena rolled her eyes. This conversation was maddeningly familiar. When she had taken first place in a competition, Therese accused Elena of stealing her victory. The fact that Therese was often not in the competition was usually a moot point. When she had been accepted into early training and Therese had not, she was of course accused of stealing her cousin's place. The words rolled off Elena with no impact.

"And what have I stolen this time Therese?" There was no heat to her words just a heavy tiredness. Therese raged, sometimes sputtering into incomprehensible babble. Elena managed to catch the gist of it and sighed. She rubbed her temple.

"I take it you just left Uncle Tomas and Aunt Catherine's house?" She asked.

"I did. They are after all my family. I'm invited over quite often." Elena caught the emphasis on the words my and I'm and silently wondered if Therese had anything to do with the missing wedding invitation. "And if you think you can trick Mateo…"

"There was no trickery involved, " Elena said cutting Therese off before her tirade could continue. It was cold out here and her nose was starting to go numb. "He asked if I could use his help and I said yes. Aunt Catherine agreed. That is the end of the story and I can't see honestly how it involves you. Besides, Mateo is a person not an object to be stolen."

"It is not the end of the story. If you think you can just waltz right back into our lives…" Elena grimaced and pulled the phone away from her ear. She could still hear Therese. Elena shrugged and pressed the end button cutting her cousin off mid rant. She tucked the phone away and opened the building door.

"I wonder how long before she notices I hung up, " she wondered aloud. She let the thought go deciding the choice between pizza and Chinese food for dinner was after all, of much greater import.

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