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   Chapter 20 Alliance

Alliance: Book Three of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19426

Updated: 2018-02-26 15:08


Chapter 20

Elena sipped her ginger ale as her heart rate returned to normal. She decided yelling at Thompson would be pointless as she would no doubt have to explain why and having him think there was a possibility that she could alter the channels was not a good idea.

'Especially since I can't, ' she thought. No one could. Once a channel was shallowed out for winter there was no stretching it. 'Of course until this past year no one ever opened a new channel before.' She turned the thought over. 'I suppose someone would have to be truly desperate to even try it.' Elena recalled her mood during the dream. Desperate seemed to cover it. She was desperate to protect her cargo and determined it would not fall into her pursuers hands. She thought of Thompson's voice. Apparently, in her dream at least, he was the one in pursuit.

"Something's got you thinking pretty hard, " Thompson observed. "Anything you'd like to share?"

Elena stared at him for a moment. "What would you risk your life for?"

"Besides God and country?" he asked in a teasing tone.

"Not as in joining the military to fight. Not a large scale thing, but a personal risk."

"You think combat isn't a personal risk?"

"That's not what I meant, " Elena said frowning and not sure how to explain herself without going into the details of her dream. "I meant you personally against all odds, what would you risk everything to protect or possess."

"I don't know, " he said frowning for the first time since taking his seat. "What do you want to protect more than your own life?"

"I don't know either, " Elena sad, frowning at her plastic cup of ginger ale. She thought about how many of her dreams since she started paying attention to the Calling were representations of reality to come. The thought made her a little queasy. "I suppose we'll both find out sooner or later though."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Elena smiled. "Nothing, Will. Nothing at all." Elena turned her headphones back on. Leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes.

Thompson tried periodically throughout the flight to engage her in conversation. She steadfastly ignored all of his attempts. By the time the plane landed, she managed several cat naps, gone through all of the playlists she created and read the entire novel she brought with her. She tucked away her i-pod as they landed and stretched as best as she could while remaining seated. The forced inactivity made her bones ache. In time, the plane landed, belongings were gathered and the mass exodus of the plane began. Somewhere in the rush Thompson disappeared.

"Where's your friend?" Mateo asked as he and Elena moved through the airport towards their next gate. They had about two hours to get there so they moved slowly, reveling in the freedom of movement.

"I don't know, " Elena said frowning. "One moment he is glued to my side and the next, poof. Gone."

"You sound disappointed."

"It's just unexpected. I figured he would be here and he isn't. It's a little unnerving."

"Do you expect he is hiding in the rafters?"

"No, but I would feel better if I could at least see him." They each got something small to eat and drink before standing by the next gate for the last leg of their trip. Even though both of them were hungry, neither of them wanted to risk Catherine's wrath by showing up for a family meal with a full belly. They didn't speak much as they waited, both being somewhat numbed by the long trip. Elena kept worrying over Thompson, or rather his lack of presence. He still had not arrived when the call to board the plane came and she didn't see him get on after she did, although she tried to pretend she wasn't looking.

'It might be a strategic move, ' Elena thought as she took her seat for the final plane ride of the day. 'If I were going to spy on a wedding I would make sure that very few people knew what I looked like. In the family only Mateo and I know what Thompson looks like. Showing up with us would give us a chance to point out who he was to the others.' The plane took off and Elena decided not to worry about it. 'There is nothing I can do to stop it anyway.'

The plane landed and she and Mateo headed down the concourse and towards the baggage claim.

"Are you ready?" he asked as they approached security.

"Bring on the family, " she told him with a tired smile. Their passports and baggage were checked for propriety, both of them passing inspection. At the large doors to the outside, Mateo's father, Tomas, was waiting for them.

"I'm told to bring you directly to the house, with no stops along the way, " He told them with a laugh as he hugged them hello. "As the two of you are the last to arrive, the true craziness can begin."

"That sounds ominous, " Mateo said.

"You know we can't go into full insanity mode until all of the family is present, it would be uncivilized."

"Of course, " Elena said. "Imagine leaving one member of the family alone and sane. The horror." The three of them managed to stuff the luggage into the back of the small car and climb into the remaining space.

Remembering her uncle's driving techniques, Elena grabbed the back of Mateo's seat with one hand and the door with the other. Her cousin, she noticed wedged one foot against the dash and was gripping his door hard as well. Tomas got behind the wheel and they were off to the races.

Turns were taken at breakneck pace, other cars passed by mere inches, all with the normally quiet man yelling obscenities and driving critiques to the other drivers unfortunate enough to share the roadway with him. They pulled up in front of the house, coming to a stop by the side of the road with a jolt. Tomas turned off the engine and both Mateo and Elena sighed audibly with relief.

"It wasn't that

course.'

With that happy thought, she turned her attention to the various people placed at her table. Whatever restraint about discussing business anyone displayed the day before vanished as the night continued and Elena found herself talking trade routes and merchant sales in between the dancing and the eating. With the exception of the celebratory champagne toast to the newly married couple, Elena decided to stay away from the alcohol. Too much business was being discussed for her to want anything but a clear head.

While she never spotted Thompson, throughout the reception and the continuing party following, Elena caught glimpses of Therese. Each time Elena spotted her, Therese appeared to be scowling. Elena thought about going to talk to her, but decided she really didn't want to know what the problem was. For her part, Therese tried to stay as far from Elena as possible.

"Do you notice anything strange?" Catherine asked, sitting beside Elena after she collapsed into a chair.

"That depends are you talking about the multitude of ships eager to alter their trade routes, folks who have nephews who are artisans seeking new mediums or marketing personnel willing to create new sales pitches or would you be talking about otherwise sane people performing the chicken dance?" Elena asked her. Catherine frowned.

"I hoped they would hold off until after the wedding, especially with those meetings Dad set up for you, " Catherine said looking around the room as though those who breached protocol would have neon arrows pointing to them.

"Technically they did wait until after the wedding, " Elena assured her aunt. "Most even waited until after the cake was cut and the toasts were done." Catherine rolled her eyes and took a sip of champagne.

"The something odd would be with my middle child, in case you were wondering, " Catherine told her. Elena looked out across the dance floor to watch Mateo. He was leading a small girl maybe five years of age and only a little taller than his knees in an odd sort of swooping dance across the floor. Periodically he would spin, causing her feet to lift from the floor and a flood of giggles to erupt from her throat.

"I don't think it's serious, " she said. Her aunt frowned at her.

"You think I don't see?" She said. "He has danced politely with several of the unattached women but never more than once and he has danced many songs with the little ones." As they watched, the song ended and Mateo passed the little girl he was dancing with back to her parents, only to be grabbed by another small girl in a poufy party dress. With a laugh he swung her up into his arms and began to glide across the floor.

"Ha, " Catherine continued. "My point. While I know my son is good with children it is not like him to ignore the possibility of getting better acquainted with some of the ladies present." Elena looked at Catherine, a little surprised by the conversation. "I know my son, even when I don't approve. This is not normal behavior."

"Maybe none of those available appeal to him, " Elena said.

"Or maybe none of them appeal to him as much as someone who is not here?" Catherine countered.

"I think it is too early to be planning another wedding Aunt Catherine."

"No planning comes too early, " Catherine said. She plunked her empty glass on the table and stood up. "I am going to corral my husband into a dance. Try to do something other than business before you turn into my father."

"That is hardly likely to happen, " Elena told her.

"You'd be surprised." With that thought Catherine left, heading in Tomas' direction. Elena looked across the room and noticed that Alexandro was surrounded by people and was no doubt conducting his own business. She shook her head and smiled politely as another group approached her to ask about various avenues of trade.

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