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   Chapter 15 Haven

Haven: Book Four of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19887

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:06


Chapter 15

Elena was bone weary when she reached her apartment. She parked in the garage and smiled tiredly to herself as she climbed the stairs, Spin following at her heels. At the top of the landing, Elena had to bite back a cry of dismay when she saw Andre leaning against her door.

"Just getting in?" he asked with a smile. It was a little too bright.

"I am, " she replied. "And I am really tired. Is there any way this can wait?"

"It will only take a minute, " he promised.

"Very well, " she said giving in to the inevitable. She unlocked her door and led him inside. Spin darted for the back bedroom. Elena closed the door behind her and looked at Andre.

"If I sit down I'm likely to go to sleep, " she warned him.

"Okay, " he said remaining standing. Andre shoved his hands in his pockets as though he was unsure what else to do with them. "Like I said it will only take a minute." He took a deep breath. "I thought a lot about our last meeting and I decided I would like to stay on here instead of looking for work elsewhere. I'd really like the chance to change your mind about me. I won't be passing any more information to anyone about anything."

Elena wondered how much of his decision was based on the fact that Douglas was no longer listed among the living. "Does this have anything to do with Douglas's death?" she asked, too tired to find a more politic phrasing.

"No, " he said. Elena noticed his neck and the tips of his ears turned red as he shook his head in denial. "I just want to prove to you that I wasn't betraying you." His face and voice looked a little too earnest for her to believe him.

"Fine, " she said, not bothering to argue. "I said I wouldn't kick you out, but you are only staying in a professional capacity."

"I understand. It'll take a while for you to trust me again. I hope I can make you believe me." Elena opened her front door, knowing she could never afford to trust Andre again. There was too much at stake for her to be wrong about him. He smiled at her as he walked out the door.

"Have a good rest then, " he said, grinning and looking very pleased with himself. Confidence seemed to be a trademark Baranov trait.

"Thanks, " she replied. Andre turned and walked down the stairs as she closed the door. Elena sighed and shook her head. She stepped over to the couch, sat down and began to remove her shoes. It seemed like a lot of effort. She let one and then the other fall to the floor. Elena thought about getting up and going into the bedroom, but the couch seemed too comfortable to leave. She lay down on the couch.

"Just for a minute or two, " she told herself. "Then I'll get up, shower and go to bed. Maybe get something to eat too."

Much later an insistent ringing forced her to pry her eyes open. She blinked to clear them, head still fuzzed from sleep. The sun's angle changed and it tinted her apartment red making her feel as though she were inside a giant ruby. Elena saw her purse on the floor by the door and managed to figure out that the ringing was coming from inside.

"Cell phone, " she said a second later, recognizing her ring tone. Elena wondered if she could develop the skill to cause the phone to jump from her bag and into her hand without having to actually get up.

"With my luck if I did, it would probably fry the circuits, " Elena told herself as she pushed herself off the couch and staggered across the room. Checking the screen before she answered, Elena saw that it was Victor. She would have to answer.

"Hello?"

"Elena, " Victor said, sounding relieved. "Riko called. She said she understands your constraints and is willing to meet you for dinner tonight at Antonio's at seven."

"What time is it now?" she asked running a hand through her hair. She frowned at the feel, wishing she managed that shower before passing out.

"A few minutes before six, " Victor said. "I tried calling earlier…" he began.

"But I didn't answer, " Elena replied with a nod of resignation. "Fair enough. At least I'll get the meeting over with. Anything else I should know?"

"Only that there are fourteen possible claimants to Riko's Council seat."

Elena frowned. "I thought there were twenty-two?"

"There were, this morning. Now there are fourteen."

"Fabulous."

Elena ended her call with Victor and stripped off her clothes on the way to the shower. Once there, Elena decided that cold water would serve her better than hot. She turned the cold water tap on full blast, yelping as she ducked under the spray. It wasn't pleasant, but it managed to do the trick. By the time Elena left for her dinner with Riko she was fully awake. She could feel the exhaustion in the space behind her eyes, waiting to spring out at her, but Elena thought she could hold it at bay until after dinner.

She managed to arrive at Antonio's with one minute to spare and was quite pleased with herself, until she saw Riko had already been seated. Elena joined Riko at the table, taking the seat the Councilor indicated was hers.

"I hope I haven't kept you waiting, " Elena said as she took her seat.

"You have not, " Riko replied. Elena smiled back at the elderly Councilor and was forced to swallow her surprise. While Riko reminded her of a delicate china doll, she always seemed like there was steel under the porcelain fa?ade. Now the woman looked brittle and almost hollow. Her skin had a slightly sallow cast to it and there were deep circles under her eyes. Despite the summer temperatures and high humidity, Riko wore a heavy jacket and gave the impression of being chilled. Not wanting to be caught staring, Elena turned her attention to the man to Riko's left giving him equal study time.

"I don't believe we have met, " Elena said politely.

"Forgive me, Captain, " the man said politely. His English had the crispness of Oxford and he had a look about him that marked him as Riko's

She picked up the file Victor gave her about her cousin Lucas. She scanned the cover letter with a smile. It covered the length of time he dated Melanie and the fact that as he would pass on the piloting gene to any of his daughters should he have any, he wanted Melanie to see the Guild and the life of its members before he asked her to marry him.

"I suppose it speaks well for the family that no-one wants anyone to walk into the Guild blindly, " She said to herself as she continued to flip pages. She read Alexandro's vetting and assessment of Melanie Holbrooke. She had one ticket for jaywalking and a membership in the Sierra club. Her parents were divorced and both remarried and had children with their new spouses.

Apparently after the divorce, Melanie, as the only shared child was at the center of a parental tug of war and as a result was close to neither side of the family at present. According to the file, Melanie used work to avoid family functions and had not done more than exchange cards with any family member since turning eighteen. Her schooling was paid for by a series of scholarships and part time jobs. On paper, Melanie seemed determined to cut ties completely.

"Sad but useful, " Elena muttered to herself. She heard of several of the scholarships Melanie had been awarded; they were quite prestigious. "Meaning Aunt Catherine won't have to worry about stupid grand children from that side either." Elena looked through Melanie's resume and nodded. While Lucas was a surgeon, Melanie was a physician.

"Excellent tag team, " Elena thought. "The specialties in tropical diseases doesn't hurt." Elena shrugged. Even without the specialties, she knew she would approve Melanie for inclusion. As Alexandro vetted her, she knew it was only a matter of time before the information trickled into her Aunt's ears. She certainly did not want to be the one standing in the way of Catherine's attempts to see all her boys settled.

"As long as Aunt Catherine leaves me alone, we will be just fine." Elena told herself. She picked up her cell phone and dialed Lucas' number.

"Elena, " he answered, proving her number was in his contacts list.

"How exactly did you manage to hide a girlfriend from your mother for nine years?" she asked. Lucas laughed.

"Skill, sleight of hand and several very packed schedules." He replied.

"Uh huh, " Elena said. "And the fact that she is now coming regularly into a port where both of you will be stationed?"

"Means she will find out soon I suppose, " Lucas said. "Does this mean that you are taking us both on?"

"I am, " Elena said. "But you can deal with your mother. I ship out the day after tomorrow. If you can be ready to go by then, you can sail with me. If not I can give you my assistant's contact and you can schedule a date with him."

"Actually we are both ready to go. We've been crashing with a friend until we found out something from you, suspecting that we would have very short notice if you said yes."

"Excellent, " Elena told him. "The sooner we can get a doctor's office in place, the better." They discussed times and gear.

"Since the crew is small, I've upped your weight limit to one hundred lbs of gear each for this trip, " She told him. "Just don't share that information."

"Thanks, " Lucas told her. "We'll make sure not to let anyone know of your horrible leniency. We wouldn't want anyone to think you are a softie."

"Appreciate it." Elena let him go, figuring she could catch him up on anything else once they were ship board. Besides, she knew he and Melanie would need time to pack and prepare to leave. She set her cell phone on the charger and yawned, feeling her jaw pop.

"Definitely time for bed, " she decided. Elena went to her bedroom and changed into pajamas. She made certain her alarm was off and then climbed beneath the sheets. Sleep sucked her in as though she tumbled into a bottomless pit.

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