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Splintered: The Society Book 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 13033

Updated: 2019-06-11 13:11

Chapter 3

In the doorway, Ivy paused. She blinked, her eyes feeling nearly blind from the bright sun outside. When spots stopped dancing in her sight, Ivy continued inward. The same group of shifters was stationed on the couches beside the unlit fireplace. She spotted Russell immediately. When she became his mate something clicked between them and Ivy could feel many of his stronger emotions unless he blocked them. Usually, he was able to keep them in check. Now she could feel his nerves jumping like frogs in a pond. She doubted her run in with Carlson and Hamilton caused it and she let her gaze wander over the other Shifters. While she registered their presence, she didn't note exactly who they were earlier as she was preoccupied.

Those present were a veritable who's who of the Isliton pack. Hackett, wearing a shirt several sizes too large and pants that were short enough to show several inches of bare ankle, was sitting across from Russell. Even though Ivy found out his first name was actually Thelonious, she found it hard to think of the former Shadow Council representative of the Shifter clans as anything, but Hackett.

Next to him was Eric, one of Russell's brothers. Like Russell, he was tall, blonde and tended to resemble a marauding Viking even though his hair was clipped shorter. While his place in the hierarchy was somewhat unofficial, he was what the wolves considered a sensitive. He was able to sniff out the barest traces of magic, often tracking them down to their creators. It helped keep malignant mages from harming the pack. Ivy knew that of the sensitives in the Isliton pack, Eric was the strongest. He was also dating her sister Rose and started leaving clothing on site.

'Which is why everything he is wearing actually fits him, ' Ivy thought.

Next to Eric was another of Russell's brothers, Simon. Ivy spent very little time with Simon. He was polite, but reserved, with Ivy and her siblings, but as he wasn't at Wildwood as much as the others, she assumed the reticence was due to unfamiliarity. She knew there was some sort of pack issue going on and suspected his absence had more to do with that than anything else and thought once it was settled he might become almost as frequent a visitor as his wife, Sarah. She found mages and the concept of magic enthralling and peppered each of them with questions on each visit.

'Speaking of pack issues, ' Ivy thought, her gaze wandering to John.

The older man was Russell's uncle and the current pack leader for the Isliton Pack. Lately, there was talk of John turning over leadership to one of the younger males. The two top candidates for the position were Simon and Russell. Ivy wasn't too clear on the rules, but that seemed to cause some sort of problem. Ivy heard the click of nails of the floor and turned to see a large gray wolf crossing the floor to the closet. He nosed the door open and slipped inside. Recognizing the wolf, Ivy waited.

Sure enough, a few seconds later, Jerome Finch, still buttoning an oversized shirt, stepped out of the closet. His bare feet barely made the floorboards sigh as he moved. She knew he wasn't trying to be stealthy as he flashed her a smile walking towards her and wondered if it was long years of practice or merely a Shifter characteristic that had them all moving that way.

'It always makes me feel like a tromping ogre, ' she thought.

"I thought that was you, " she said.

Ivy smiled at the older man. Once part of the Rock Bridge pack, Jerome, along with her grandfather William, joined the Isliton pack when the engineered influenza outbreak decimated their pack in the nineteen forties. It was the notes he kept safe for William and passed to her that helped find a vaccine before history could be repeated in Isliton.

"Have you come for the super-secret pack negotiations or to raid the cookie jar?"

"Can't I do both?" he asked.

Reticent at first, Jerome was becoming a more frequent visitor, his standoffishness fading with each visit. Ivy had the strong suspicion he still considered her and her siblings part of his pack despite being mages rather than wolves.

"Of course, " Ivy replied. "And you are just in time. My company just left so Winston will soon relax his ban on the sweets."

"Then my timing is perfect, " Jerome said.

The two of them walked towards the occupied couches. Heads swiveled in their direction as they approached. "So is this the super-secret pack negotiations I've heard so much about?" Jerome asked. Laughter edged his voice.

Ivy chuckled and several of the men looked surprised.

"How did you know that?" Simon asked rising from his seat. Shock was clearly written on his face. He looked around at the others. "I didn't tell anyone." The others assured him that no one else gave the game away either.

"Fire mage, " Jerome said. He tilted his head towards Ivy. "They are really hard to keep secrets from."

Simon looked at Ivy and then at Russell. "I didn't tell her, " Russell said. He shook his head and looked resigned.

"He didn't, " Ivy confirmed. "But if you are going to have a super-secret meeting with the Council representative of the Shifter clans, the current pack leader, the two possible successors to the current pack leader and a wolf whose sensitivity to magic lets him detect when any is around, you might want to use one of the more discreet meeting places rather than the main lobby."

"We were going for casual get together since we all happened to be here, " Russell told her. He studied the group. "It seems casual."

"Only on the surface, " Ivy said. "Simon is almost never here, and then never for very long and this is John's second visit to the property. The first was after the attempted attack outside the gate. If you are going for casual run in, then they should have visited more often beforehand."

"I hadn't thought of that, " Russell said. Even though he smiled, Ivy could still feel a coil of tension inside him. The situation had him worried.

"Is that what the others were here about? To learn about pack business? You told them we were discussing the future of the pack?" Simon asked. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he studied Ivy. She felt a flare of annoyance from Russell, even though his face remained impassive.

"No, they weren't here about anything to do with the pack's business." Ivy said. She watched his nostrils flare as she scented the truth to her words. They tested true, but he seeme

d unsatisfied.

"I suppose you know why Jerome was invited?" Simon asked.

Ivy looked at Jerome. His face was a blank mask. "Offhand, I'd say you probably needed a neutral party for something or other in your discussions, " Ivy replied. She shrugged. "But not knowing what you are meeting about, I couldn't say much more than that." She looked back to Simon who was staring at her, a dumbfounded look on his face. She figured her guess was pretty close to the mark.

"I'm going to retrieve the tea trolley and report to Winston that he no longer needs to guard the cookie jar, " Ivy said, looking to Russell. Amusement now threaded through the concern. She felt it like a line of gold threaded through a particularly thick gray cloud. "I'll stop by so you can make a raid on the cookies and custard tarts before I head back to the kitchen."

Knowing he wouldn't welcome being questioned about it now, Ivy left the group and returned to the breakable meeting room. She was all for staying out of pack business unless it involved her, but whatever hiccup in their leadership change was spilling into her home.

'Which means there will be questions later, ' Ivy decided.

She piled the used cups on the lower shelf, along with Hamilton's half eaten tart. She wiped up the few crumbs decorating the coffee table and then wheeled the cart back down the corridor. In the lobby, the shifters claimed the remaining baked goods, carefully negotiating around the delicate china. Simon still favored her with a suspicious look when he took a tart from the plate. Eric rolled his eyes and shook his head at his brother's behavior.

"Was everything okay with Hamilton and Carlson, " Russell asked in a low voice as the others took the treats.

"It was interesting, " Ivy said. "I just didn't like the thought of Carlson wondering around on his own." Ivy shrugged. "Or the fact that he was behaving like a jackass. We'll talk about it later. Are you all right?"

Russell took a deep breath. "It's been interesting, " he said, giving her words back to her. He realized he was projecting and he blocked his feelings, the cloud of anxious nerves disappearing. "Sorry about that, " he mumbled. Back on the couch Simon cleared his throat loudly. Ivy didn't need to feel Russell's emotions to see the flash of annoyance across his face before he cleared it. "We'll talk later."

Ivy nodded as he claimed the last custard tart and joined the others on the couches. She turned back to the cart and wheeled it towards the long and winding corridor that would eventually take her to the kitchen. At the door, Ivy turned her back to it, bumped the swinging door open with her backside and pulled the cart into the kitchen.

"I already told you, no sweets until the company is finished, " Winston declared in an annoyed voice. Ivy looked at him. He had his back to the door as he worked at the stove and even though he heard the door open, clearly hadn't looked to see who entered his domain.

Ivy smiled. "That's good to know, but my company is now gone, " Ivy told him. Winston turned around, a blush staining his cheeks.

"Oh, Ms. Ivy, I'm sorry about that, " Winston started. Ivy waved off the apology.

"Completely understandable, " she said. No matter how many times she told him he could drop the Ms. and just call her Ivy, he never did. "Thank you for the cart and the sweets. They were well received."

"So I see, " Winston said. He eyed the cart and the empty platters. "I didn't think mages were as desert oriented as Shifters."

"We aren't, " Ivy replied. "Or at least I'm not. I stopped off in the lobby and let them pillage."

"Ah, " he said nodding slowly. "That explains it." He picked up the empty plates and Ivy picked up the used cups.

"I figured the excess would hold them until dinner, " Ivy said as she placed the dishware on the counter.

Winston snorted. "I wouldn't count on it, but it was a good thought."

When Ivy tried to wash the dishes, Winston shooed her out of the kitchen. Willing to bow out of the dishwashing chore, Ivy left the kitchen. As she walked, she found her footsteps angling towards the space designated for the library. The room was large and Alex installed floor to ceiling bookshelves along all of the walls. As the ceiling height soared to fifteen or so feet, he also installed a library ladder that ran on a track all the way around the room. The large well-worn Turkish carpet that once lived in their grandmother's living room covered the bare floorboards and comfortable reading chairs were scattered around the room.

Some of the books made it to the shelves, but most were still in boxes. The boxes were from various locations and showed a number of different handwritings on their exteriors. Some of the boxes came from their grandmother's house when they packed up the family library after her death. Ivy recognized her own handwriting on the boxes that came from her apartment. Alex and Max, two of her brothers and both earth mages, had similar handwriting, but she could see that each contributed boxes to the gathering as did Rose and Danny her other two siblings. There was also the neat block printing she knew belonged to Danny's wife Melissa and a barely legible scrawl that she was sure belonged to Russell.

"A lot of different contributors, " Ivy said, studying the boxes. "I suppose that could be remarkable." She turned as she heard nails clicking on the floorboards. Instead of a wolf, Bugsy poked his head around the corner. Spotting Ivy, he came into the room waggling his entire body with happiness.

"So I guess you were banned from the super-secret meeting?" She asked as she bent down and rubbed his head, scratching behind the ears as he liked. Bugsy barked, his tail moving at a fast blur. "Me too, " she told him. Ivy sighed and straightened. She hated being kept in the dark, especially about something that had Russell so concerned.

"Maybe he'll tell me when we talk, " Ivy said. Bugsy barked. Ivy nodded at him. "So, do you think our library is that remarkable?" Bugsy sat down and looked at her. "Yeah, I don't see it either. Maybe if we get more of the books out of the boxes something will explain why Hamilton thinks it's remarkable."

She moved to the nearest box and rolled up her sleeves as Bugsy flopped down on the carpet. His eyes were the only thing that moved as they followed her around the room. Ivy opened the first box and began to shelve the books.

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