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   Chapter 23 Haven

Haven: Book Four of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 29291

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:11


Chapter 23

Elena felt a little like a tightly strung wire. Benjamin loaned Thompson his e-reader and she could see him spending a lot of time reading the documents she gave him on their return to the planet. He also spent a lot of time staring off into the black. Elena had the feeling he was not star gazing.

Elena was having the dream of dancing every night now. In fact it was playing in a loop, continuing repeatedly from the time she closed her eyes to the time she opened them. As long as she made sure to keep the channel opened long enough for Thompson to make it through, everything was fine. The headaches stayed away and she was still able to function.

'Bring them home, ' the thought in her dreams, the thought echoed by Evan, circled in her brain even when she was awake like a song with a catchy chorus. She debated the wisdom of giving Thompson the list and hoped it was the right thing to do. Over everything, there was this feeling as though she were rushing towards something, something big. On the planet, they picked up Kiera after dropping off some supplies as she had a few things she needed to pick up at her apartment before the party.

They stayed earthside overnight and the next morning drove back to the docks. Elena gave a little nod when she saw Thompson waiting. Kiera and Jennifer boarded the ship while Elena looked Thompson over. In addition to his normal gear, he was carrying a pair of black dress shoes, encased in plastic to protect them from the ocean.

"I practiced my dancing all last night, " he told her. Elena nodded, knowing that he decided to be her escort. The path everything took after the party would be determined by how things progressed. The feeling of rushing towards something increased.

On Planet RJ457, they dropped off supplies, and picked up Mateo, Evan and a handful of Kiera's people who would be standing in as her House. They were given the emerald oak leaf as their House symbol and Kiera deliberately only chosen males so there would be no questioning of their piloting skills. The fact that they could all sense channels, but not open them was not a topic Elena wanted others to discuss. As the bulk of Elena's House was female and most of them did not have escorts, Kiera's choices helped balance things a little.

Lucas and Melanie left with Mateo's parents a few days earlier. Catherine made certain Melanie had a dress and that Lucas was provided a Calabrese House symbol rather than an Andreseti one as he was now a part of Elena's House and not Catherine's. She hoped the absence of doctors would not cause an issue on the planet.

Elena explained Thompson to Kiera and Mateo. "Shouldn't you start calling him Will if he is going to be your escort?" Mateo said, too full of his own nerves to worry overly much about revealing the Nelson House.

"Possibly, " She admitted, realizing that most of the time she tried not to call him anything. She left Mateo to his own nerves and noticed he was wired almost as tightly as she was by the time they docked.

The three days before the party were taken up in a whirlwind of last minute details. Elena checked the arrival of the flowers and made certain the menu was going to come off without a hitch. She was well aware that she was using the details to control her own nerves, using minutia to keep her fears at bay.

The day of the event arrived and the few men in her house found themselves cast into the sea of feminine preparations. The men dressed and camped out in the living room as the women got ready. As many of the dresses and hairstyles required at least one extra set of hands to accomplish, there was much rushing about from room to room. To Elena's surprise, Consuelo arrived as the last of the girls were getting ready. Benjamin invited her as his escort as he was not dating anyone at the moment.

"I also thought it might be nice to have someone who could assist if things go all crazy tonight, " He confessed. Elena nodded and smiled with relief. As she would have to fulfill her duties as the Head of the House, she would be unable to circulate as freely as some of the others. Since Melanie was just being introduced to the Guild, both she and Lucas would be otherwise occupied for much of the evening. Mateo and Kiera, as the happy couple would be the center of attention and would be solely occupied keeping their own heads above water. Having at least two people floating loose in case of trouble made her feel a lot better. Consuelo waved Elena's thanks away with an indulgent smile.

"This is more fun than I have found for myself in years, " she told Elena. Elena shrugged off the chef's notion of fun and mentioned that a couple of chefs were working with the new produce on the planet if she would like to visit and perhaps place requests for her restaurant. Consuelo seemed delighted by the prospect and Elena hoped it would prove beneficial enough to serve as thanks.

Finally in a steady stream of scent and finery, all of the pilots with their permanent crews and apprentices associated with Elena's house left the quarters and headed to Danvers. Elena knew that there would be one large group photo made and many individual photos. As Devon was still in charge of the underage apprentices, he would be there as well to look out for the girls. Everyone was as safe as she could make them.

At their departure, Elena, Thompson, Mateo and Kiera were the only ones left. Everyone made last minute adjustments to their attire and tried to swallow their nerves. Elena looked at herself in the mirror, one final wardrobe check. She fluttered a hand to her neck where the necklace from her dreams lay against her skin. Already the heat from her body was making it glow slightly.

'Perhaps the dreams will go away after tonight, ' she thought, letting her hand fall. She debated fiercely with herself about wearing it tonight, and even though it was fastened around her neck, the internal debate still raged. Several times she reached up to remove the necklace but stopped just shy, leaving it in place.

Shortly before they left, Alexandro and his escort, a handsome older woman by the name of Isabella, and Mateo's parents arrived. Catherine's eyes were suspiciously moist and she looked as though she wished to hug everyone, but didn't want to cause anyone to wrinkle. The group made their way down the corridor. Alexandro took in Thompson's appearance, his eyes settling on the House symbol he wore around his neck. He smiled tightly.

"That should prove interesting, " was his only comment. Elena was not sure if he approved or not and he moved away before she could ask him.

At Danvers, the small party went up a back staircase so they could be properly presented to the assembled group. Elena could hear the murmur of the crowd as they waited and tried to remember the exact wording of the speech she needed to give. She could only hope that Thompson remembered the few instructions she gave him regarding his role. Her hand rested lightly in the crook of his arm and he patted her hand reassuringly as Catherine and Thomas stepped into the entryway. Dancing aside, she was glad she had some sort of escort as her knees felt a little shaky.

As Mateo's parents, it was their right to go first. Traditionally Kiera's parents would follow, but as both of them were deceased, the presentation of the non-Guild family was skipped. At their wedding, Mateo and Kiera would make a formal acknowledgement of those considered part of her House. Elena knew that Mateo started to work with Evan on the precise wording needed to claim protection for all of Kiera's people under Guild law.

If nothing else, it would allow them the right to use the newly opened planet as a haven of sorts. Elena suspected the planetary settlement was likely to become more permanent in the near future. They were using part of the Mother Nelson file to frame their requests. What the outcome of that would be, Elena had no clue, but for good or ill, she heeded the warnings her dream gave her and hoped it would bring a little peace.

Elena heard the formal presentation of her Aunt and Uncle. She heard a gusty sigh as Alexandro and Isabella stepped into the chamber like a mass indrawn breath. She knew it wasn't for Isabella's presence. She was Alexandro's chosen escort for the past fifteen years. It was the fact that Kiera's parents weren't present that threw them. Most would have noted the House symbol on the invitation and assumed she was Guild raised. Elena tried to steady her nerves, knowing that Mateo and Kiera would have to deal with Guild expectations. Elena saw her grandfather hand a piece of paper to the man serving as herald.

The man's deep rolling voi

beating of his heart. Despite the crowd and the fact that they were both formally attired, it had almost the same intimate quality that she sensed when she met Thompson in the darkened hallway. Thompson smiled down at her as the music began and they began to dance. She smiled back, but felt the smile go brittle as she recognized the song. Carl VonWeber's Invitation to the Dance. Elena swallowed hard and Thompson looked concerned.

"Is there a problem?" he asked. His eyes looked away from her, scanning the crowd for the source of her distress. How could she tell him that it had nothing to do with an external enemy?

"I'm fine, " She said. She smiled and he relaxed slightly. She could see the concern still in his eyes, but outwardly, they both looked calm and composed.

'I swear if the crystal starts to fall like rain, I will scream, ' Elena thought as they turned and turned about the dance floor. She did not choose this song for the first required dance and wondered how it was added. It was not even in the play list that she approved.

She checked.

Twice.

The first round ended and the second group of dancers joined them. Every now and again, Thompson's eyes would look up and quickly scan the crowd.

Elena dared a glance around the floor. Elizabeth's smile looked slightly grim as Ryan led her around the floor. Ryan, her husband, looked slightly bored by the whole affair, but then he usually looked bored. Most events involving the Calabrese family he skipped, claiming some excuse or other.

If there was a time when Alexandro tried to interest his son-in-law in the family, that time passed long before Elena was born. Elena could actually count the number of times she saw him on one hand and knew that her grandfather had more or less written him off. Elena couldn't even remember if he was at Nate's wedding. She wondered what pressure was brought to encourage his presence tonight.

Therese's harsh smile looked fixed as her dance partner led her in the dance. She moved woodenly as though trying to distance herself from the events around her. Elena thought she recognized Isa's older brother Timothy as her dance partner. Elena smiled in amusement as she realized that every time their steps took them close to either Elizabeth or Therese, Thompson would shift so that they gracefully swirled away.

"That's some clever footwork, William Thompson, " she commented when he did it enough times to know it was intentional.

"I do my best, Captain, " he replied smiling at her. Elena smiled back. Everyone else looked as though they were enjoying themselves and Melanie was even laughing as Lucas spun her around, improvising a step or two. The third round began and other couples joined them on the floor.

'So far no rain, ' Elena thought, beginning to enjoy herself. Thompson was a good dancer. The fact that he was not wearing gloves, a cravat with a diamond stickpin and a porcelain mask also helped her relax considerably. The song ended and another one began. It had a faster tempo and Elena laughed as Thompson spun her around. Only after a few steps did she notice that he had deliberately spun her away from Peter and Anya.

"Is he on the 'to avoid' list as well?" Elena asked when she caught her breath.

"He looked like he wanted to cut in and I didn't fancy trading partners, " He told her with a grin.

"Not a fan of bombshell blondes?" she teased.

"Not tonight."

They danced three more dances in rapid succession and Elena felt a little like a small boat lost at sea in a storm. All around her swirled various colors as ball gowns swished to the music that the band poured into the air. She couldn't see the floor for the swirls of fabric which helped with the illusion. She was so relieved that the chandelier stayed put throughout the first song and that she hadn't been transported that she felt slightly intoxicated with the force of it. When they were both out of breath, Thompson led her to one of the small tables off to the side. He snagged two flutes of champagne and handed one to her as they both took their seats.

Elena was happy to rest her feet for a while and was pleased when Benjamin and Consuelo joined them. "So far so good, " Benjamin reported.

"Yes, everyone is on their best behavior, " Consuelo told them letting forth one of her staccato bursts of gunfire laughter. Her dress was as black as midnight and the beads sewn on it cast odd flashes of light as she moved. The streaks in her hair were no longer green and purple. Tonight they shone metallic silver, like trapped starlight. Elena thought she looked like an avenging angel or some ancient god temporarily poured into human form. Devon joined them and took a seat next to Thompson.

"Such a wonderful event, " Devon said. "All my girls look like princesses." He looked to Thompson and grinned. "One of Mother Nelson's boys, " he said. "Who would have thought?"

"Descended from them at least, " Thompson said, smiling back.

"Doesn't that just beat all." Devon said. He noticed one of his girls without a partner and excused himself. Elena watched as he led the girl to the dance floor. Elena caught sight of Jennifer and Meghan chatting with the group of Kiera's family members from the planet. To Elena's eyes they appeared to be having a good time. The champagne was cold enough to frost her throat as she sipped it. So far the first event of her House was going well. As soon as she caught her breath, Thompson stood and led Elena back to the dance floor.

"As soon as you stop moving, you start to worry, " he told her. "Let the worry go for a bit, it'll still be there in the morning." He spun her in a circle in time to the beat and they swirled into the dancing couples. Elena left her worry behind and laughed, enjoying the dance.

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