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   Chapter 5 Alliance

Alliance: Book Three of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 16627

Updated: 2018-02-26 14:59


Chapter 5

The morning passed as Elena dove headfirst into the paperwork necessary for running two businesses. As she worked her way through Roger's notes, spreadsheets and charts she began to relax. Elena was deep down worried that the supplies they stocked over the season would run thin and be insufficient to support them over the off-season.

Given Roger's estimates and projections, that fear faded. They could work well with what they had. Should their client base increase dramatically, they might run short but otherwise they would be fine. Lunch time came and went with Elena nibbling on a chicken fiesta wrap ordered from All Wrapped Up, the sandwich shop Mateo lived above.

She was nearly ready to call it a day with the paperwork when she felt a sharp tug on her pants leg. Elena looked down and found herself staring into the bright blue eyes of a small child. His blonde hair appeared to be more fuzz than hair, making him resemble a dandelion and he was sucking on his thumb. The knees of his blue corduroy overalls, proudly emblazoned with the oshkoshbgosh logo had dust smeared on them as though he was still more comfortable crawling than walking.

"Hello there, " she said using a pleasant voice. He smiled at her around his thumb. "Where did you come from?" The child didn't answer, but pulled his thumb out of his mouth and held his arms up in the universal gesture symbolizing he wanted to be picked up. As he lifted his arms, his legs started to wobble and his knees to buckle. Elena picked him up before he could fall.

"Why don't we find out who you belong to, hmm?" She said standing up. She felt her spine pop, a sure sign she had been sitting too long. The little boy she carried laughed as she headed back down stairs.

"You certainly are a happy one, " she commented. As she reached the bottom of the stairs she began looking around for someone who looked like they were missing a child. Sure enough there seemed to be a full scale search in motion.

"Anyone missing something?" She said loud enough to be heard by the searchers.

"Andrew, " Emily said rushing forward. "There you are." Relief was written clearly across her face. Elena passed the boy over to the clerk of the Imports store with a smile. "His father dropped him off just a second ago, I turned around and he was gone. I should have thought to look upstairs, he seems to be finding stairs irresistible these days. I just thought he would find enough shiny things to see down here."

"No harm done, " Elena said. "This can't be Andrew." Elena remembered Emily starting maternity leave and sending flowers to the hospital. She squinted at the boy who giggled in return. "I wasn't gone that long."

"He's almost a year old, " Emily said with a laugh. While Elena was pondering how fast a child could grow in a year's time, her cell phone rang. Elena pulled it out of her back pocket, saw it was Mateo's number and answered it while Emily went to gather her purse and get ready to leave.

"Hello, " she said turning her steps back up the stairs. "Get bored already?"

"Hardly, " came her cousin's reply. "I will not be bored for quite some time. I just thought you would like to know that there is a sign on the office space located next to our lab indicating that it is for rent."

"Needing more space already?" Elena asked thinking of the large space that currently served as Mateo and Kiera's laboratory.

"Nope we're good for the moment, but I know you had mentioned the possibility of needing an office." Elena thought of the oversized purse she had taken to carrying so that she could keep the council law and guild rule books on hand. She absently rubbed her sore shoulder.

"That is a thought. Is Bob the listed real estate agent?"

"Yup, " Mateo confirmed. "It would also keep us from having crazy neighbors."

"Another selling point. I'll give him a call. Don't you forget about dinner at Dockside Annie's tonight. Remind Kiera as well."

"I'll remind her, " Mateo promised. "Is Andre coming along?"

"No, " Elena, said, ignoring the twinge of guilt. "Technically he's still a member of Peter's household not mine."

"Ah, " Mateo said. "So you just told him the basics?"

"Just that we were successful."

"I guess that is enough. I'll let Kiera know about keeping the details quiet."

"Thanks." Elena said. She hadn't thought about the others needing to keep details from Andre as well. Unfortunately, it couldn't be helped. Elena hoped he understood that. As Peter's family he was legally bound to his house. She ended her conversation with Mateo and scrolled through her contacts for Bob's number. Faith, his receptionist answered with a perky voice and after a brief consultation with Bob, told her to come on over.

Elena tidied her stacks, pleased that she made a substantial dent in the paperwork and would have a decent report for both Peter and her grandfather soon, and swung her heavy purse to her shoulder. The edge of one of the council books poked her in the back and she jiggled the bag a little to re-adjust the contents. Finding a safe place to stash the books would be a very good thing.

On her way out of the door, she caught sight of Faith, one of the employees of Nibbles. Faith had her golden blonde hair tied up in a French twist. Her skin had the just off the beach glow and her clothing was sophisticated and well thought out. With a start she realized that the Faith who worked as Bob's secretary was more or less trying to look like this type of Faith. Inwardly, she hoped that Bob's Faith allowed her out of the bottle orange tan to fade to a less oompa loompa like glow, before dismissing the comparison.

The day was warm and estimating that she had plenty of time before night descended, Elena decided to walk. Both Bob's real estate office and the building that housed the lab and potential office were within easy distance. She felt she would be able to make it through the rounds and back to her apartment to ready herself for the big dinner. As she walked, Elena planned out what she would say. There were little butterflies of nerves dancing in her belly.

This would be the first time her house would officially gather. Her House. Not her grandfather's. She would be relaying information to them from the Council, outlining plans for the future and placing them all squarely on a course of action. She had eighteen pilots, Mateo, Kiera and to some extent Benjamin Valentine. While he wasn't officially of her house at the moment, it was only due to the fact that such an announcement would hinder his investigation.

"At least most of the information I have is good news, " She thought as she reached Bob's office and pulled open the door. To her relief, Faith's skin had returned to a more normal shade.

"Ms. Calabrese, " Faith said. "Won't you please have a seat? I'll let him know you're here." Elena murmured her thanks and took a seat. She had barely settled when the door to Bob's inner office opened and he stepped out a smile on his face and a warm handshake at the ready.

"Elena, " He said. "Expanding so soon?"

"Not exactly, " she said with a laugh, following him back into the office. "With managers at both of the stores now, the small office space located there is taken up with the day to day things. I need a place for records and long term type things. You know, a place I can actually work on things."

"Of course, " he replied. "Smart too. If there were an accident of some kind then all of your records would be stored off site. Makes insurance type things a lot easier to deal with."

"Hopefully that won't be an issue, " she said.

"Of course not, " he said. "But the best way to avoid a disaster is to plan for it."

"Is that anything like if you carry an umbrella then it won't rain?" she asked.

"Something like that, " he confirmed with a smile. He pulled out the file with the particulars on it. "With this addition you would control the entire floor. There is no other available space up there. I don't know how much privacy is an issue, but I know that most places of scientific research tend to value seclusion either because they fear corporate espionage or because they are working with chemicals and such that the government req

uires strict control measures or simply because experiments require controlled environments."

"As it is mostly plant extracts and mechanicals I don't think there is too much concern, " Elena said. "But scientists do get territorial."

"True, " Bob said. "I've been managing various properties for the university for years and have yet to meet someone in the sciences who wasn't territorial. One time, we had maintenance changing a light bulb in the stairwell and a biologist wanted proof that he wasn't a spy sent to steal his work. We had to let the scientist examine the entire tool belt before he was satisfied. Most distressing."

"I can see how it would be, " Elena said with a smile.

"Anyway here are the particulars, " Bob continued handing her a sheet. Elena scanned over the rental agreement. It seemed more than fair and she wondered how long it had been left vacant. "There are five office spaces and a receptionist area, " Bob told her. "I believe the basic office furniture, desks chairs and a couple of empty filing cabinets have been left. Those you can choose to use or have them moved to the basement storage area."

"I see, " Elena said. "Do you have time to show me the space today?"

"Of course, " Bob said. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a set of keys. "Whenever you are ready. Do you mind walking?"

"Not at all, " she replied, standing. She folded the piece of paper she was given and tucked it into her already over full bag. Bob signaled Faith that they were leaving and the two walked out of the door and started down the street.

"Are you back in town for long?" Bob asked as they walked.

"For a while, yes." Elena replied. "I have my cousin Nate's wedding coming up and some buying trips in the late fall, but mercifully I'm home for a while."

"Must be a relief, " he said. "Traveling always wears me out. After a while it doesn't matter what fabulous sight is around the corner all I want is a night in my own bed."

"Yes, Lisa mentioned something about that after the last trip you two took. Athens wasn't it?"

"Ah yes. Wonderful trip. About three days too long in my estimation, but I think Lisa could have stayed forever."

"Didn't she start taking Greek language lessons after you returned?"

"Yes, she is getting quite proficient at it actually. It irritated her not to be able to ask the questions she wanted and to have to rely on a translator." Bob paused and glanced at Elena. "Have you spoken to Lisa since your return?"

"No, " Elena said. "I got back late last night and have been playing catch up all morning. Is something wrong?" Visions of hospital visits danced in her head. Lisa was the first friend Elena made after leaving the Guild. The thought of losing her made her oddly anxious.

"Not exactly wrong, " Bob said slowly. He sighed. "She probably won't like me telling you this, but she was laid off from her firm. They were downsizing. They cut everyone who had been there less than a certain amount of time and Lisa fell below the line. It was a hard blow to her and she is struggling not to take it personally. Financially, we are fine, but the hit to her ego was huge."

"I'll bet, " Elena said thinking of her friend. Being dismissed was not something she would take lightly.

"I tried telling her to look on the bright side. She never really got along with the partners and disagreed with some of the cases they chose to take. This way she has the opportunity to find a firm more in tune with her own ethical code."

"That would be one bright side, " Elena said thinking of some of the less savory cases Lisa mentioned working on over the past few years.

"Unfortunately, almost no one is hiring at the moment, which hasn't helped the ego thing. And with you and Tina both being out of town, she is really only hearing that she is wonderful from me."

"I'll call her as soon as we're done. Maybe see if she wants to get together for lunch tomorrow."

"That would be great, " Bob said, relief plain in both his features and his voice. They walked in silence for a little while.

"Did you say Tina was out of town?" Elena asked.

"Yes, for the better part of the summer."

"Huh, " she said. "I wonder where she went."

Bob shrugged. "I couldn't tell you. I only know she was gone because I tried calling her office when the folks at your stores told me you were on a series of buying trips." They reached the door to the converted warehouse and took the elevator to the top floor. As the doors dinged open Mateo looked over towards the corridor, waving when he saw Elena. She waved back and followed Bob into the vacant office space.

As he explained, it was larger than she needed, but at least it would serve as a place to stash her books. Each of the office doors locked and it would not be too hard to conceal the books in a room marked files. The tour did not last long and by the end of it Elena agreed that renting it would be a good idea. She signed the lease Bob carried from the office and after a brief search pulled out her checkbook and wrote out the deposit and first month's rent checks. Bob handed her the keys and after reminding her to call Lisa, he left.

Elena wandered over to the lab. Mateo had various mechanical bits spread out over the surface of his work station. Not far away, Kiera sat at her own work station making notes in a spiral bound notebook and occasionally glancing at the potted plant in front of her. Elena watched them work for a moment. Every now and again, Mateo would surreptitiously look towards Kiera, making sure not to be seen doing so. For her part, Kiera did the same.

"Interesting, " Elena thought, wondering what would come of the situation. True the string of girls trailing after Mateo dwindled recently. Elena chalked it up to him spending large amounts of time skyside, but perhaps there was a different reason. "It would certainly make Aunt Catherine happy." She thought. "Not that I would tell her, of course."

"I have an office space now, " she said out loud. Both of the room's occupants jumped and she tried not to laugh. "I rented the space across the hall."

"Great, " Mateo said. He and Kiera followed her out into the hall and back into the office space.

"Not bad, " Kiera said.

"Yeah, you even have space for an assistant, " Mateo said. Elena frowned at him.

"Let's not get carried away, " she replied. He shrugged.

"It's not so far-fetched, " Mateo replied. "You have two businesses to run along with dealing with the lab and the various details of your partnerships with Riko and the Librarians. Soon you'll have to keep track of imports and exports, most of which will be staying skyside. Then there will be all of the deals with various merchants for marketing wares, craftsman to transform the raw materials into goods. Plus you have to keep track of the other pilots of your house and the trade routes they run. An assistant might not be a bad idea. Especially if you get caught skyside during the off season." Both Mateo and Kiera looked at Elena.

"I don't want to think of an assistant." She said.

"And I don't want to think about global climate change, " Mateo responded. "Or the contents of the cream they put in Twinkies."

"We will also need a few more folks around here to fill out the lab staff, " Kiera added quietly, as if she were afraid to spook Elena.

"I'll need you guys to make a list of the types of people you will need and to work up some basic job descriptions, " Elena responded with a sigh. Mateo raised an eyebrow. "And I will think about an assistant." Mateo nodded, satisfied. "Oh and I spoke to Aunt Catherine. She needs your measurements for the tux at your brother's wedding." Mateo groaned at the thought of the tux and Elena felt a little better. She reminded them of the dinner, locked up the empty offices and prepared to leave.

Mateo made her promise to stop by later in the week for a meeting and on the way home Elena called Lisa, making lunch plans for the following day. By the time Elena reached her apartment, her mind turned to exactly what order she would make her House announcements. This thought process was derailed when she reached her apartment and found Smith and Jonathan waiting on her doorstep.

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