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   Chapter 21 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 23287

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:29


Chapter 21

Elena didn't know if word spread that several Council ships were soon to arrive or not, but the convivial evening gathering she grew accustomed to failed to materialize. She knew that Consuelo had her hands full feeding the new arrivals. Mateo, Kiera, Lucas and Melanie were no doubt sequestered with her Aunt and Uncle, but she still felt somewhat abandoned.

"The one night I could use some distractions, " Elena muttered as she put away the day's paperwork."

"Where is everyone?" Thompson asked as he and Benjamin entered the quarters carrying far too much food for just the three of them.

"And I thought news would have spread faster than that, " Elena said as the men put the food down on the table. Clearly they had not heard of their anticipated new arrivals, or weren't as concerned as she was at the moment.

"Let me guess, wedding photo review?" Benjamin said. "I saw the Sea Rascal in port."

"For four of our merry band, yes, " Elena said smiling. "Mateo and Lucas's parents arrived today, " Elena told Thompson who nodded and winced in sympathy. "Consuelo is running a modified mess tent for new arrivals until they get the lay of the land so to speak. But the real reason that we will be on our own for a bit is the news Mateo gave me shortly before he was taken for wedding review."

"And that would be?" Benjamin asked as he began doling out the food.

"Several of the Council ships were spotted on the approach. They should dock sometime tomorrow. I think we'll be on our own until the Council gathers to pass a ruling."

Thompson took a deep breath and let it out slowly, seemingly at a loss for words.

"So tomorrow it begins, " Benjamin said, knowing Elena would announce her intentions publicly soon.

"So it would seem, " she confirmed. The three of them took their seats to begin dinner. "And I have a plan." She turned to Thompson. "Part of that plan is going to involve hosting the newly arrived Councilors here for a small social/informational event ending in dinner once they arrive."

"Which would go better if I were not present?" he guessed with a self-depreciating smile.

"The new arrivals have all been in somewhat a state of shock. Shock and upset when faced with calm military personnel is not going to be a good mix." She told him feeling a bit apologetic. After all, Thompson was living here too, it seemed wrong to kick him out, even if it was necessary.

"I can see that, " Thompson said. "But it will cost you."

"Cost me?" Elena said. Benjamin smiled into his plate and Elena got the feeling that he was trying to pretend he wasn't there until they were finished.

"Yup, " Thompson replied, gesturing with his fork. "I will stay away as you square things away with the Council, but in return you will owe me an official date."

"As opposed to an unofficial one?" she asked.

"You know what I mean."

Elena sighed, surprised that she wasn't entirely displeased by his request. "Fine one official date."

"Then we have a deal, " Thompson said.

"So we will be having the food here?" Benjamin asked rejoining the conversation as Thompson turned his attention to his food.

"Yes, I already spoke to Consuelo. She is going to make sure we are taken care of. I don't know if they will stay for an actual dinner or just the impromptu cocktail hour, so we will be winging it a bit on the details." Elena quickly outlined Benjamin's role and was surprised to find Thompson watching her speculatively.

"What?" she asked.

"Just realizing that something changed, " he said. Thompson smiled. "Not quite sure what but it should make things interesting." Shortly afterwards he excused himself and left to speak with his men, the rounds taking longer now that they weren't in one assigned barracks.

"Even if he hasn't figured out the details, he is right about one thing, " Benjamin told her. "Things are going to get interesting."

"Well, I could use a break from all of the tedium, " she replied airily trying to sound bored to tears while trying to quell the nervous butterflies in her belly. "I get bored so easily these days."

"I have a feeling that won't be a problem anymore, " Benjamin said with a laugh.

The next day as she finished her daily rounds, Elena decided he was right. At this rate, even if it had been a problem before, boredom was something she was never likely to be plagued with again. She returned to her quarters so she could pace in private. She debated her decision not to meet the arriving Council ships at the dock, instead sending Benjamin to wait, with messages for the Councilors.

She talked herself into going and out of going several times, each time holding herself back from the door. She knew that inviting them over after they settled somewhat in their own quarters was the right thing to do. It was however also terrifying. It was not the most submissive stance and she knew they would register that immediately. She also knew she could not afford to take a more submissive role.

"Not if I plan to take a Council seat, " she told herself. Elena stopped pacing and stood still in the center of the living room. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, holding it in for the count of three and slowly letting it back out.

Rather than the fear, she concentrated on the thin sliver of anger still inside her; the anger at the Council's abandonment of the DF when the Matrovean were a threat. The anger felt better than the fear. It warmed her numb hands and calmed the butterflies.

Elena opened her eyes. She didn't have time to waste on idle pacing when there were trade route proposals to read through. She pulled a stack of paperwork close and settled down at the long table. Work was much better than worry.

Benjamin returned and smiled when he saw Elena calmly working. "All three arrived, " he told her. "And were pleased to accept your invitation. They should arrive here after taking a little time to freshen up and acquaint themselves with their new accommodations. Consuelo has one of her minions looking out and will send the trays of hors d' oeuvres shortly after they show up."

"Excellent, " Elena told him. "I don't want to look like we are merely waiting for them to arrive as if we have nothing better to do, " she said starting to rise.

Benjamin motioned her back to her seat. "No need to stop just because I'm getting the drinks cart ready."

"We have a drinks cart?" Elena said mystified. Up until this point drinks in her quarters had been limited to coffee, water and whatever pitcher of beverages accompanied dinner.

"It's been an ongoing project, " Benjamin said proudly as he wheeled a glass and silver cart into the living room. "I was keeping it a surprise until it was finished. Ta da." He gestured at the cart and Elena rose to walk over for an inspection. The cart was of a silver metal that she was more than willing to bet was not one she could name. It had purplish h

prised they couldn't see it lifting her shirt as it thumped in her chest. She tried to breathe normally, noting that all three of the councilors now boasted a calculating look in their eyes.

"I see, " Riko replied. "That should make our first session very interesting."

"Indeed, " Peter said. "For once, we are actually in agreement."

Alexandro looked as though he wanted to speak with her, but was holding his tongue in front of non-family members. He was saved from his forced silence by the arrival of Evan. As Elena walked to the door to welcome him she thought she had never been so relieved to see anyone in her entire life.

The three Council members rose politely to greet the senior librarian. Evan winked at her as he entered and then smoothed his expression to his officious best. She was pleased to see more platters arrive with Consuelo's minions. In addition, others began arriving to begin prepping the table for dinner.

Evan's position as senior librarian and representative of the Librarians as a whole kept things formal. Elena began to see the benefit in formality as it kept the others from more personal questions. Questions during the pre-diner drinks and hors d' oeuvres were kept light and merely skimmed the surface of life in Haven. It was polite small talk and Elena realized that while she was comfortable with Evan, none of the others really were. To them the Librarians were outside of their realm. They were the ones who made the final decisions and who offered only pronouncements, not justifications.

With dinner, talk changed from even the light skimming to acceptable dinner conversation, including the weather, points of interest and of course, food. Consuelo used primarily locally grown elements rather than imported ones and created an epicurean delight. The plates that graced the table arrived looking like they belonged in a high end restaurant or a magazine cover. Consuelo's staff, several Elena recognized from Danvers, whisked away the empty plates, silently and efficiently, the courses almost seeming to magically appear. Elena had the feeling that Consuelo planned the execution of her meals with more care than most generals gave to battles.

Elena felt as though she fought a battle by the time the meal was complete and the after dinner coffee had been sipped. She hid her nerves and exhaustion behind a polite mask as the councilors prepared to leave.

"Once the council meets and things are settled, I would like to sit down and go over the reports, " Riko told her as she prepared to leave, Edgar offering her a hand. He made the gesture look gentlemanly rather than necessary and Elena was amazed he pulled so deft a maneuver. If she hadn't seen Riko's rather wobbly movements on the stairs she would have thought Edgar merely an escort.

"Of course Councilor, whenever you are ready, " Elena replied. Alexandro smiled and gave her a hug.

"I will be by in the morning before your meetings start to discuss the family, " he told her.

Elena nodded, somewhat surprised that he chose not to stay after the others were gone. "Come early grandfather and we will have breakfast ready, " Elena told him. He nodded and continued out the door, pausing on the threshold to look at Peter.

"I suppose I will have to try for lunch then, " Peter told her.

"That would be fine, " Elena replied. Peter joined her grandfather and Thomas and Marcus fell into step behind them. Marcus, who had been her grandfather's bodyguard for as long as she could remember, turned and winked at her, flashing her a quick grin as he wiggled his eyebrows before he went back to his stoic demeanor. Elena shut the door behind them and resisted the urge to lean heavily on it.

"I suppose that means that he approves?" Benjamin asked.

"Who Marcus?" Elena said.

"Yup."

"No, " Elena said with a smile. "It means that he believes grandfather approves of my behavior at the meeting." She smiled. "When I was little grandfather felt it important that I maintain a pleasant mask during business, not allowing nerves or worries to show, as any self-doubt could be used as a weapon by those who oppose you. In the beginning I wasn't very good at it. So when I managed to pull it off, Marcus would complement me by making his blank face into something silly for a moment. That's how I knew I did well." Oddly enough his gesture had made her feel a little bit better about the evening.

"Huh, " Benjamin said, pouring them each a cup of coffee as they settled down on the couch. "My grandfather just taught me how to play poker."

"To each his own I suppose, " Elena told him.

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