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   Chapter 2 Wildwood The Society Book 1

Wildwood: The Society Book 1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 18480

Updated: 2018-03-13 11:25

Chapter 2

The two of them reached the front of Ivy's apartment building and she wondered if he would expect to be invited inside. At the moment she wasn't exactly feeling companionable and was in fact wondering if he had only befriended her as part of his job, which somewhat soured her on his presence. Perhaps he was one of the watchers the Council assigned after all.

Russell shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at Ivy as she climbed the first stair. She turned, thinking she ought to say something, but unsure what would be appropriate. Even with the added height of the stair Russell was still slightly taller. Ivy did have a closer view of his eyes though. She was surprised to see concern in them.

"If it helps any, the summons isn't for anything bad, " he told her. Ivy lifted an eyebrow, certain that Russell was skirting the limits of what he was allowed to tell her and not quite sure why he would risk it.

"I appreciate that, " she told him. "But as the last time the council summoned me it was to tell me that my family was being permanently split up, it's hard to think of them doing anything good." Ivy sighed. "But thanks. Now go get out of the rain, no one likes the smell of wet dog."

Russell grinned and Ivy left him to figure out his next move. As the elevator was always cranky and never to be trusted, often getting stuck between floors, Ivy took to the stairs. She climbed the two flights to her apartment and pulled her keys out of her back pocket. She unlocked her door, stepped into her apartment and closed the door behind herself.

Finally alone, she dipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out the object Albert had passed her as she stepped away from the door. To her surprise it was a small flash drive. She had suspected Albert was as technophobic as the others and would never have thought he would use such a device.

A knock sounded at her door and she jumped as though caught in the act of committing a major crime. Ivy took the few steps back to the door and looked through the Judas hole. She saw Russell standing on her doorstep. On impulse she tossed the flash drive onto her favorite reading chair across the room. It slipped beneath the decorative pillow and was lost to sight.

"Come to borrow an umbrella?" She asked as she opened the door and took in the sight of Russell. He gave her a rueful grin.

"Not really, " he told her. "Stay exactly where you are." Ivy sighed and stood still as Russell slipped past her and inspected her floor for a moment. She found herself very glad her tossing the flash drive made no noise and hadn't required extra steps. Getting caught with unknown information didn't seem like a good idea, and while she didn't have a shifter's senses, even she could see her wet shoe prints on the floor.

"Russell, what is going on?" Ivy said as nerves began to dance in her belly. She allowed both her confusion and irritation to show.

"I was told to make sure Albert didn't give you anything, " he told her.

"He gave me a case of the creeps and a paranoid wolf, " Ivy told him. Russell smiled.

"Sorry, Ivy, " he told her. "Orders."

"Yeah, yeah, " Ivy replied, mentally cursing Albert for involving her. "Rain is wet, pack follows orders." She shook her head. "Can I at least take off my shoes? I stepped in a puddle and my socks are soaked. I'm getting a serious case of prune foot." Russell smiled and looked around. While careful to keep Ivy in sight, Russell grabbed one of her kitchen chairs and moved it to the center of the room. He made a sweeping gesture towards the chair.

"Go ahead, " he told her. Ivy unzipped her hoodie and slipped it from her shoulders. She handed it to him and squelched her way to the now centrally located chair. As she sat down and unlaced her soggy tennis shoe, Russell searched her hoodie for hidden data. She had the feeling she would be searched as well before he left and was thankful she no longer had the flash drive on her.

"Let me guess, " she said frowning as nerves began to dance in her belly. "I'm still not supposed to know what is going on?"

Russell shrugged and decided that her hoodie contained no vital secrets. He folded it and carefully placed it on the floor away from her wet footprints. Ivy wondered if he was being thoughtful or preserving evidence. She slipped off a shoe and handed it to him before peeling of her sodden sock. He inspected her shoe and set it down, taking her sock from her as she began working on the wet shoestrings of her other sneaker. It made a smacking sound when he placed it on the floor next to her other garments. She handed him a second shoe and peeled off her other sock as she watched him inspect it thoroughly. He set it down and took her other sock from her.

"You know these two don't match each other right?" He said looking from the soggy blue sock dangling from his hand to the soggy yellow sock laid out on the floor.

"I was just going for a quick cup of coffee, " Ivy told him with a shrug. "Who was going to see my socks?"

Russell shook his head, looking vaguely amused, but before he could comment further a knock sounded at the door. Without looking away from her, Russell opened the door and let in a second shifter. The man was big and gave off a different kind of energy than Russell did. His dark hair was slicked back from his face and Ivy couldn't tell if it was due to a style choice or the rain. He was nearly as tall as Russell, but seemed to be built of long lean lines making him seem sleek next to Russell's more muscular frame.

Russell frowned, not at all happy to see the new arrival. Thunder sounded in the distance and the new shifter shot a quick glare to the window when the rain seemed to increase. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. The two shifters eyed each other and Ivy thought it looked like a dog and a cat sizing each other up before deciding whether or not to fight. She darted a glance to the vase of flowers she had placed in the niche by the door and wondered if she ought to move it to a safer location.

In general, she had always worked more with the wolves than the feline shifters, which she guessed the new arrival to be, so as little as she knew about the packs of the shifter clans, she knew less about them. She was fairly certain a group of cats was called a pounce, but that somehow seemed like the wrong thing to call a group of feline shifters.

Mentally she chalked up her lack of knowledge to being more of a dog person than a cat person, but was smart enough never to say that thought out loud. Despite her siblings' opinions, she did occasionally keep her comments to herself. The feline shifter stalked forward placing one foot almost directly in front of the other as he walked, and reached out for her. Ivy stood up from the chair and stepped away.

"We have to search you, " he said plainly. His eyes looked her up and down, his gaze somehow feeling like it could already see through her clothes. She felt like the mouse that knew the cat had decided to play.

"David, " Russell said warningly.

"Have you let her out of your sight?" David countered, still staring at Ivy even though he dropped his hand back to his side.

"Not since the call, " Russell responded. "She walked from the door to here and then turned and walked back to the door when she heard my knock."

"And nothing is out of place?" David demanded.

"Just the chair, which I moved." Russell replied. Ivy wisely chose to keep her mouth shut.

"She looked at the vase when I came in, have you searched it? It is within reach of the door." David said.

"No I haven't, " Russell said sounding miffed that he had let the detail slip. David moved to the vase. He picked it up and searched the small niche, finding nothing but a couple of fallen petals.

"You two looked like you were going to go at each other and I thought it might get broken, " Ivy told them honestly. Russell shook his head and looked amused. Ivy shrugged. "What? I like the vase, " Ivy told him.

David pulled each of the flowers from the vase, crushing them and scattering the petals to the floor as he inspected them for anything Albert might have given her. When the petals were crushed, he examined the stems, tossing them casually to the floor when he was done.

"Is that really necessary?" Ivy asked, feeling annoyed by the mess he was deliberately creating. After all what could she hide in the flower petals in less than a minute's time? She was a fire mage. Illusion was more in an Air mage's wheelhouse. He turned the vase upside down letting the water spill to the floor. "Oh come on, like there isn't enough water on the floor already?" She protested.

David ignored her, peered into the vase and then dropped it on the floor, shattering it into several large pieces. He poked the shards with his foot. When he was satisfied there was nothing hidden in the remains he looked up at her and smiled showing, in her opinion, far too many teeth.

"I like to be thorough, " he said. Ivy swallowed back several comments, knowing none of them would help the situation. Russell looked annoyed as David walked over to her folded sweatshirt,

shoes and socks. He searched the items again, just as thoroughly a Russell had. However he did not refold the sweatshirt, merely discarding it in a heap on top of the puddle of water. David turned towards Russell.

"She will still need to be searched, " David said. "We have our orders."

"I will do it, " Russell said moving forward. Ivy took a step back. "Ivy please. It is either me or David. You can hand me the garments if you'd like."

Ivy sighed, realizing that she would be searched regardless of any protests she made. Her only options seemed to be whether or not the clothes were on her body or not when they were searched and who would be doing the searching. Given the thoroughness with which both men had searched her hoodie, she opted for off. She didn't want David touching her and despite Russell's assurance that he would be doing the searching, she didn't trust David to rely on Russell's findings.

"Fine, " she told the waiting men. Ivy quickly peeled off her t-shirt and handed it to Russell. David studied her as Russell searched the t-shirt for anything hidden. Ivy crossed her arms over her chest, thankful she had at least put on a solid green cotton bra instead of anything lacy. Her actions seemed to amuse David. Russell finished with the shirt and handed it to the other shifter. David let his hands run over the material while still looking at Ivy.

"Ivy, " Russell said. She turned her attention to Russell. Knowing what was next and wanting to just get it over with, she unfastened her jeans and slid them to her ankles, neatly stepping out of them. She handed them to Russell and David dropped the t-shirt to the floor, making some sort of purring noise in the back of his throat as he looked her up and down. Ivy flushed.

"May I have my shirt back now?" she asked glad that the sweatshirt had at least soaked up most of the spilled water leaving her shirt relatively dry. David smiled and said nothing. She crossed her arms over herself again. Her panties didn't match her bra any more than her socks had matched each other, but she was pleased she had at least put on a decent pair instead of one of the older items in her underwear drawer. She made a mental note to get rid of anything with holes in it once the men left. She didn't plan on being stripped and searched often, but on the off chance it happened again she didn't want to be caught wearing granny panties with shot elastic. She thought that might actually be worse than just putting up with David's hungry stare.

Russell handed her jeans to David. "We have to be thorough Ivy, " Russell said sounding half apologetic. Ivy realized he meant to have her take off her undergarments as well. She darted a glance to David.

"No, " she told him shaking her head and taking a step back.

"Mages can create illusion, only touch can be certain she is clean, " David said. His voice was lazy, like well-fed cat sitting in a patch of sun.

"Oh, hell no, " Ivy said, certain David meant to pat her down once she was naked.

"Ivy, " Russell said calmly.

"I am allergic to cats, " Ivy said knowing it sounded absurd, but nothing else came to mind. David frowned and Russell let the corner of his mouth quirk up in amusement before he slipped back into serious mode. He walked over to Ivy's discarded t-shirt and picked it up.

"You are certain the shirt hides nothing?" he asked David.

"Yes, " the word came out as a half hiss.

"Turn around Ivy and hold your arms out, " Russell told her, tucking her shirt into his belt to leave his hands free. Realizing that David was rapidly losing patience and that this was likely the best deal she was going to get, Ivy swallowed hard and turned around, putting her back to both Russell and David.

Ivy shivered as she held her arms out. She was certain that part of her chills were due to the fact that fall had chosen today to finally turn into winter and she had yet to turn on her apartment's central heat. The rest of it she was certain was due to the small primal part of her brain that was screaming in fear at the thought of turning her back on two large and not entirely friendly predators.

David made a disappointed sound as she turned away from him, but then laughed when she jumped at Russell's first touch. Russell's hands were warm and dry as he ran them over her outstretched arms and shoulders. He slid his hands down her back and dropped to his knees behind her. He checked out each of her legs and then stood back up. Ivy jumped again as he unhooked her bra and slid it from her shoulders. David laughed and Russell tossed her bra to him. Ivy shivered a little as his arms went around her waist. She tried not to think about how long it had been since she had been touched so intimately as he deftly searched for anything she might have hidden with illusion on her torso.

His movements were professional and as polite as possible given the circumstances. Ivy had to give him credit for that. Even though his touch was fairly intimate, he was trying to make it seem less as though her were trying to cop a feel which she appreciated. While she may often have fleeting thoughts about Russell in intimate situations, none of them involved someone like David watching.

Russell dropped her panties to the floor and kicked them backwards towards David, using his body to shield her from the sight of the other shifter. He felt warm and somehow comforting at her back, especially as he was placed between her and David. The scent of him was spicy and reminded her of camping trips taken in the deep woods. She realized she had never been this close to him before.

Remembering shifter's extra senses, Ivy decided to think about the heavy rain outside instead of Russell's oddly pleasant scent as he completed his search, hoping it would make it feel less intimate. As Ivy wondered if the cooler temperatures predicted for later in the day would turn the rain to sleet or even snow before night fall giving them the first snow of the season, Russell tugged her shirt over her head covering her back up.

She gratefully shoved her hands in the sleeves, thankful that the shirt was somewhat oversized and if she didn't move too much, might keep most of her private bits covered until she could get dressed again. The relief of not being naked anymore washed over her and she was certain it registered with both of the shifters. She just hoped they didn't think her relief was due to anything else as they had with her glance at the vase. She didn't think she could deal with a more invasive search.

Russell inhaled deeply as though taking in her scent and then stepped back as she settled her shirt in place. Ivy turned around carefully, arms holding down the edge of her shirt, hunching over a little to make it seem longer. She had the feeling she was mooning the window behind her and hoped her neighbor was not working from home today. She wasn't certain how to explain this particular situation to an outsider.

"She's clean, " Russell said to David.

"Are you certain?" David asked, a teasing tone in his voice. "Maybe I should double check."

Ivy heard a low growling sound and realized it was coming from Russell. David smiled and winked, seemingly enjoying taunting Russell as much as he had enjoyed toying with Ivy. "Of course, I'm sure you did a fine job." There was laughter edging the words. David looked to her. His eyes had gone amber and the pupil looked slitted, no longer entirely human.

"The Council thanks you for your cooperation, " he told her in a somewhat mocking tone. Ivy gave him a short, sharp nod knowing no other response to a Council representative would be acceptable. An objection to being searched could be taken as a complaint against the judgment of the Council. Offering a potential insult to the Shadow Council the day before she was set to meet with them did not seem like the smartest of ideas. David waited, but when no other response was forthcoming, he turned and strode towards the front door. His movements conveyed annoyance.

He opened the front door with a jerk that rattled the door in its hinges and stepped outside. Russell walked slowly to the door as though reluctant to leave. When he reached the door way, he paused and turned to look at her. He looked her up and down in much the same way as he had a thousand times before. This time his gaze felt hot and Ivy found herself blushing furiously. Somehow she could almost feel his hands still on her skin.

He smiled and shook his head as though clearing it. He sighed and turned back to her. This time the heat was gone and he was serious again. "Sorry about the mess." He ran a hand through his damp curls. "If David returns, don't let him in without a Council writ in his hands, " he told her.

Ivy nodded, her mouth suddenly dry, any lingering warm thoughts gone. Russell stepped out of her apartment and pulled the door shut behind himself. Ivy took a deep shuttery breath and started to shake. She gave herself a moment of reaction time before pulling herself together. As she got the shaking under control she looked down at her clothes and noticed that her underwear was missing from the pile.

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