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Family Matters: The Society Book 4 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 16953

Updated: 2019-06-11 14:46


Chapter 1

Ivy's arm itched. "I will not scratch it, " she told herself trying to concentrate on the pages she held in her hands. Her nose twitched as she tried to ignore her arm. "Scratching won't make it heal faster, " she reminded herself. "In fact, it might slow it down."

A few weeks prior, Ivy was working in one of the reading rooms on the archival level of the building serving as the headquarters for the Shadow Council. Even though the council itself was disbanded as the Seers, Vampires and Fae pulled their support, the building continued to function as part of The Society's government. Each floor housed the headquarters for one of the hidden clans, whether mage like her, Shifter, Fae, Vampire or Seer and deep below ground was located their various archives.

During her time researching, the human security guard betrayed the hidden clans of The Society and let members of the Brotherhood, an organization bent on destroying all of the hidden clans, into the archives. While the damage was contained, the archives only losing two golems before the invaders and traitorous guard were dispatched, Albert had his leg broken by one bullet while a second one grazed Ivy's left arm.

"Hamilton fared worse, " Ivy recalled as her eyes drifted from the pages she was trying to read to her still healing arm. Her long sleeved shirt hid the shiny and still tender patch of healing skin. She found the wound easier to ignore if she couldn't see it and adjusted her wardrobe accordingly. If the itching would just stop she would be fine.

The leader of the Mage Clan, Hamilton Bridges was still healing from several stab wounds to the abdomen, incurred in a previous attack by the Brotherhood, when this attack occurred. Having a large rampaging golem throw him across a lobby filled with broken tile not only added to his injuries, but reopened his still healing wounds. When she and her brother Danny left town, Hamilton was recovering in the Eaglebrooke medical facility.

As she never used their services, Ivy wasn't entirely certain, but she suspected the facility was accustomed to dealing with injured members of The Society. While mages, unlike Shifters, didn't heal any faster than regular non-magical humans, when injured their magic occasionally bubbled to the surface in unsuspected ways as pain and medication affected control. When that happened, it was better to have them far away from the norms who generally thought that all of the hidden clans were more myth than reality.

When she and Danny left Eaglebrooke, Hamilton planned to spend a couple of days in their care, but for reasons Ivy was not privy too, his stay was extended. Ivy wondered if it was because his injuries demanded it or because his doctor didn't trust him to stay out of harm's way without the confinement.

"The doctor did seem rather upset with him for re-opening his wounds, " Ivy recalled. "Admittedly he wasn't thrilled with the rest of us either." The attack in the archives consisted of two separate incidents. The first was just her and Albert, where they were both shot. Ivy managed to get Albert up to Hamilton's office after that. That is when the doctor was called in the first time. Ivy was unconscious at that time so she missed his initial visit.

When Hamilton wanted to assess the damage, Ivy went with the group back to the archival level, where a second attack occurred. The doctor was once again called to deal with the injured, thus proving no one listened to his advice about bed rest and healing.

"If you scratch it will take longer to heal, " Russell said from the doorway.

Despite her best efforts as she thought about Hamilton, her hand crept towards the itch on her healing arm when her thoughts became distracted. She frowned at her arm then looked up as she moved her hand away.

"How would you know?" she asked. "Shifters heal so fast you can't even be bandaged properly."

"I've been around enough mages to catch the gist, " he told her. "Have you reached the grumpy stage of healing then?"

"I reached the grumpy stage last week, " Ivy told her husband. "Now I can still get some work done, but am still itchy and annoyed." She smiled at her husband Russell as he stood leaning in the doorway. His shirt was only half buttoned, his blonde curls windblown and, despite the cold, his feet were bare.

"Just in from a run?" she guessed. She eased her hand away from her arm despite the itch as he walked over and bent down to kiss her.

Bugsy, their half English Staffordshire and half god only knew what dog bounded in, his entire body wriggling with excitement. Russell pulled back with a laugh as Bugsy pushed his way in, shoving Ivy's papers aside. She kept them from sliding off the coffee table with one hand while using the other to rub his head and ears then scratch him along the spine as he liked. "Have fun chasing squirrels?" she asked him. Bugsy wriggled with joy at the mere mention of the creatures.

"He went after the deer again, " Russell told her. "But they were down wind and too fast for him."

"Uh huh and you didn't participate in any of the chasing, " Ivy said. Russell was a Shifter of the wolf variety and despite the fact that dogs in general didn't like wolves, Bugsy adopted Russell and his entire pack as part of his own on the day they moved in. Ivy suspected Bugsy thought he was a wolf as well.

"Just for a little while, " Russell admitted. "Then we ran into Hackett and headed back."

"Hackett's here then?" Ivy asked. She closed her notebook and set it on top of the files she was researching. While she was off dealing with the Brotherhood in the archives, Russell and his pack were trying to determine leadership. Russell's Uncle John wanted to retire from the position of packmaster and both Russell and his brother Simon were considered acceptable candidates.

Ivy knew that Simon was a wolf favoring an isolationist policy and who harbored a deep prejudice against mages. She also knew that while she was gone, Russell was made packmaster of the Isliton Pack. Thus far Simon had not returned to the house and no details of what Russell's change in status meant were discussed.

"So why is he here?" Ivy asked, wondering if she would actually find out about what was going on with the pack. While Russell was now their leader, Hackett was the Shifter representative on the Shadow Council prior to its disbanding. She knew Hackett was a part of the Isliton pack and held some authority, but not the details. Somehow she never got around to ferreting out the details.

"I believe he wants to talk to you, " Russell said as he settled himself on the couch.

"In here?" she asked looking around.

They were in what was designated as their private sitting room. The building started off life anticipating a future as a high end resort catering to the hunting and fishing crowd. While the sportsmen went off to hunt and fish, those they brought with them could luxuriate in the pool and spa. Or at least that was the plan. The man who dreamed up the plan ran out of money and then died, leaving the property to a son uninterested in pursuing the goal. Ivy purchased the house and land from the disinterested son.

Now the house was divided up into family suites and guest spaces. While most of the building was taking on a more lived in feel, there wasn't really time to set up the sitting room she and Russell used. Ivy spent more time thinking about the shared spaces than the private ones once the bedroom was set up. Here mismatched furniture was mostly shoved against the walls, boxes of personal goods were piled in corners, on and even under furniture and at the moment, files, loose papers, notebooks and books were scattered across their coffee table.

While there were several framed prints stacked against one wall, the only item actually to actually make it to the walls was a large square of paper Ivy taped up to aid her in her current task. On it was sketched a family tree. As she pulled names from the files, she added them to the page, trying to figure out who was who and how they were related. As several names were changed to hide their identity, it was not a straightforward process.

Russell laughed. "No, " He assured her. "I think he is planning to meet with you in the kitchen. That way he can speak with you then see what Winston has cooked up."

"It's Tuesday, " she warned. "The cookie jar ge

ts filled on Wednesdays so he is probably out of luck for sweets." Whether it was their high metabolism or some other genetic quirk she didn't know about, since marrying Russell and spending increasing amount of time around the Shifters, Ivy learned that all of them possessed rather substantial love of sweets. Cookies in particular were highly cherished commodities.

"Is he in the kitchen now?" she asked. While their cook, Winston was good about the sweet seeking shifters, if they spent too much time lurking in his kitchen he tended to get a bit grouchy.

"No, he wanted to meet with Eric first, " Russell told her. "I told him I'd bring you down in a bit."

"I see, so does this mean I am being let into some Shifter secret?"

"I think he is more concerned about bringing Seers into the area, " Russell said.

"As pack leader wouldn't that be more your concern?"

"If you agree to let them come, I'm sure you will keep them in line, " Russell said. "I'd only be concerned if they cause trouble. And then I'd come talk to you about it and let you handle them. I just need to warn the pack not to drink tea with them."

Ivy chuckled to herself thinking of Irina's first visit to the house. Ivy had been friends with Irina's grandson for years and considered them part of her extended family. She also considered them norms and Irina's penchant for reading tea leaves a quaint little quirk. Ivy always kept some of Irina's favorite tea in the cupboard for her visits. It was then that Ivy found out that Irina was raised as a Seer and was once married to a Shifter who was a wolf. The revelation came as a bit of a shock, not only to her but to her grandson, Nick, as well. While the tea was designed to relax a mage so that a Seer could get a more accurate reading, the same blend tended to make Shifters somewhat intoxicated.

"You were quite amusing when you were that giggly, " Ivy told him. "Even if you did sing off key. Although, I'm not entirely sure 'I'm a little teapot' has a correct key."

"True, " Russell said. "Speaking of Irina and her teas, when are she and Nick arriving?"

"This afternoon sometime, probably no earlier than three, " Ivy told him.

When she was in the city, prior to getting shot, two Seers approached her asking to join her House. While the Shadow Council functioned, the Seers clan kept apart from the others, their separation part of the agreement forming the council. With it disbanded, the laws reverted to the old ways. Ivy was reading through the regulations and still trying to get a handle on the changes, but knew prior to the council, mage houses could take Seers under their protection. As a former Seer, now officially claimed as part of her House, Irina agreed to come and help interview the two Seers before Ivy made the official decision to accept them or not. If she did they would be living in the apartments over the retail store in Isliton rather than at the house.

"The tea is safely locked up and the guest rooms are ready for them, " Ivy told Russell.

"Was that what the morning call was about?" Russell asked. "Their arrival time?"

"No, " Ivy said. "That was Albert."

She felt Russell tense automatically at the sound of his name and then waited as he forced himself to relax. Ivy couldn't blame him. Albert was practically a law unto himself. In return for some unspoken services to the Shadow Council, he was pretty much free to do whatever he wished. He took care of problems the council had no other way to address and his appearance generally struck terror into those around him.

Recently Ivy, and the rest of the household, learned that he was also her grandmother's twin brother. It was a secret they were holding as tightly as they could. Outside of the immediate family, only Hackett and Jerome knew of the relationship. Claiming The Society's boogie man as family was causing a lot of mental re-alignment on everyone's part.

"So, " Russell said, when he pushed back the knee-jerk reaction to Albert. "Did he want something in particular?"

"Well, he has reached the irritable stage in his healing, " Ivy told him. "With his leg being broken he is much less mobile and I think it is beginning to wear on him." After their adventure in the archives, Ivy was growing more comfortable with Albert as a person rather than as a harbinger of doom, even if she wasn't at the stage where she could think of him as Uncle Albert.

"He called to tell you he is grumpy?" Russell asked.

"No, " Ivy said with a laugh. "He called to tell me Hamilton is getting out of Eaglebrooke today."

"The medical facility?"

"Yes, " Ivy confirmed with a nod.

"That took longer than expected. How long before he is back in the office?"

"I wouldn't put it past him to drive straight from Eaglebrooke to his office, " Ivy said. "Even if he doesn't get back to work immediately, he'll want to make sure I left everything as he wants it."

When both Albert and Hamilton were unconscious, the golem who served as Hamilton's secretary and looked like Jane Russell, recognized her as the mage in charge. At the time it was convenient to have Jane taking her orders without complaint since so many things needed to be done. Ivy tried to put everything to rights and leave the office looking as it normally did, all bloodstains and bandages removed from the premises. While Hamilton's visitor's couch would be missing a chenille throw, Ivy didn't think she did too badly in restoring normality. She was more worried about his reaction to the files she took home with her.

'I'm pretty sure there are rules about taking files out of the archives, ' she thought.

She looked at the files scattered around the room. Before leaving, she asked her assistant to box up all of the files on any family member she could name. While the files were helping her fill in the missing spaces on the branches, they were also providing a wealth of information new to her. At the moment, she wasn't sure she wanted to return some of the files.

'I could probably cover up taking the files though, as long as he doesn't find out about the keys.'

While Ivy was fairly certain she could talk her way around taking the files, she knew the keys were a whole other concern. There was no way she could legitimately justify having a copy of Hamilton's mater key which could override the system in lockdown mode, or keeping the guard's keys which she picked up once he was unconscious.

'Hopefully he won't find out about those.'

"That I wouldn't doubt, " Russell agreed. "Does he think you moved his furniture around while he was gone?" Russell asked.

"I think he will just want to make sure everything is as it should be before he takes his doctor's advice and goes home to finish recuperating." Ivy said.

"Hmmm, " Russell said. "I suspect once he's back in his office, no one will be able to pry him out. Have you eaten lunch yet?"

"No, " Ivy said. She looked around for her cell phone, pressed a button and checked the time. "Oh, it is getting to be that time isn't it?"

"Why don't we see what we can find?" Russell suggested. "I'm sure by the time we are finished Hackett will be ready to talk to you. Besides if I go with you, Winston will be less likely to snap at me."

"If you didn't mess up his meal time plans, he wouldn't snap, " Ivy told him as she stood.

"He still likes you better, " Russell said as he joined her.

Ivy slipped her phone into her back pocket. "That's because I cause him less trouble."

"Uh huh, " he said. He lifted an eyebrow as Ivy rubbed her arm.

"I'm rubbing not scratching, " She told him irritably. "And I'm rubbing my arm above the injury. My muscles get sore from moving strangely to compensate from the injury."

"Fair enough, " he replied. He rubbed her shoulder as they moved towards the door. "Maybe we can take some time and soak in the hot tub later tonight after everyone is settled in."

"Sounds like a plan, " Ivy agreed. While she found it strange to have a complete spa located under her roof, and as a fire mage had little love of the pool and its related activities, since her injury she had been using the hot tub much more often. She got off lightly as far as injuries, but it caused her to move her muscles in different ways and to be much more aware of the movements in her arm and back. The hot tub was proving quite therapeutic.

"Good, " Russell said. "It's a date."

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