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   Chapter 22 Alliance

Alliance: Book Three of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 10442

Updated: 2018-02-26 15:09

Chapter 22

Elena's heart was pounding, threatening to break out of her chest. The rough stone of the wall scraped her elbow and she could feel a slow trickle of blood slide down her arm. The scent of orange blossoms surrounded her. She felt another heartbeat keeping time with hers and caught a whiff of a more masculine scent. Dazedly she wondered what Luigi would call the underlying notes as she looked at the man who pushed her out of harm's way and even now had her pressed against the aging stone wall of the sheltering building. Thompson looked pale and disheveled as he backed away from her.

"Are you all right?" He asked. He sounded a little shaky and Elena realized he was slightly out of breath. The question was echoed by strangers as they streamed over, eager to help now the danger passed, eager to offer assistance and eager to complain about the tourists.

Someone spotted the rental plates on the car, but no one caught the numbers. Thompson helped Elena and her many bags over to a small table outside of a nearby café. She left a trail of orange blossom scent in her wake as the broken perfume bottle leaked onto the sidewalk. He sat her down as though she were made of glass and might shatter.

Somehow she didn't think that her shattering would smell of orange blossoms. Elena was dimly aware that he ordered coffee for her and spoke to a couple of uniformed officers someone called. After telling them she saw nothing, they left her alone. In her mind's eye, all she could see was her cousin's face, her eyes glittering and her face hard with malice.

'Therese tried to kill me, ' she thought, knowing she might never say the words out loud. Around her, people muttered about the dangers of bad drivers who didn't know the roads.

'But Therese is a good driver and knows these roads like the back of her hand.' Thompson gave her a strange look and for a moment she thought she spoke out loud.

The crowd gradually dispersed, leaving her in Thompson's care. The general opinion seemed to blame a drunken tourist who was very lucky no one was injured. Elena tried to sip her coffee, but the cup seemed to want to jump around. Elena stared at the wobbling black liquid and thought 'earthquake' before realizing it was her hands that were shaking. She set the cup down with a clatter. The hot coffee splashed onto her hand and she felt the quick burn of the hot liquid.

"Just breathe, " Thompson said softly. He picked up a napkin and wiped the coffee from her hand. Elena looked up at him. He seemed impossibly far away.

'Therese tried to kill me, ' she thought again, her mind having a hard time grasping anything else. 'My cousin tried to kill me.' She blinked for a moment, sure she should say something. Sure that the something she should say was not the something she was thinking.

"Thank you, " she said finally, not sure whether she meant the napkin or the shove into the wall or both.

"No problem, " Thompson said with a small smile. He looked a little relieved that she began to speak. "Did you hurt anything?"

"My perfume, " she told him.

"That does explain th

thought for a moment. "Is his presence the benefit of military observation or was this a set up to engender trust?"

"I don't think he set it up, " Elena told him, once again seeing Therese's face, her lips pressed into a thin hard line. Elena shivered.

"Is that because you don't want to believe or because you know?" He asked. Elena looked up at him. He read the answer on her face before she could open her mouth. "I see. You recognized the car."

"It was a rental." He lifted an eyebrow at her response.

"You saw the driver?"

"Yes. I saw the driver."

"Who?" The word came out as a harsh order and she saw the same anger glittering in his eyes that she had seen the day news of her parents' deaths reached him. She felt like a seven year old again and fought the instinct to curl up and make herself a smaller target. She stared at him a moment and his face softened a little. It showed in his voice, but the question remained the same. "Who?"

Elena took a deep breath. Was it better coming from her? She didn't know. "Therese was driving the car." Her voice came out as a whisper, as though saying it louder would disturb something best left alone. The silence seemed to thicken around them until Elena could hear her heartbeat echoing. There was no sound of anything except the silence. It filled up all of the empty space and made it hard to breathe.

"I see, " Alexandro finally said breaking the spell. He took a deep breath and she could see pain flash briefly across his features. He seemed to deflate into the chair rather than sit. They sat in the heavy silence for a moment.

"You will speak of this to no one." Elena nodded, unsure what to actually say. Alexandro reached over and patted her shoulder. "I am glad you are unharmed, " he said. He let go of her shoulder and slowly stood. With carefully measured steps he turned and walked out of the room. Elena sat in the silence for a few moments then stood, picked up her shopping bags and climbed the stairs to her room wondering how to erase the image of Therese's face from her mind.

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