Hleo

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Chapter 20

Ethan left me to myself all weekend. I only saw him occasionally, when he checked in on me to see if I needed anything, but his visits were brief and he kept the topics of conversation neutral. From the lines on his face and the drawn look in his eyes, I could tell that he was worried about me, but he refrained from commenting. I stayed in the house, even calling in sick on Sunday for my shift at The Patch. Carmen sounded concerned because I never called in sick, but I told her I thought it was just a 24-hour thing, nothing to worry about. I texted Katie to tell her the same thing so she would leave me alone as well. She offered to come over with chicken noodle soup, but I told her I just wanted to sleep and didn’t want her to get sick if I was contagious. I promised, with my fingers crossed, that I would be as good as new very soon.

Good as new. The sentiment seemed almost funny; after all Ethan had laid on me I didn’t think I could ever feel as good as new again.

After a quiet weekend of lying in bed with the covers over my head, processing and trying to accept the things in my past I would never be able to change, I decided what I really needed was to figure out exactly what ‘destiny’ had in store for me. If I could do that at least I would be prepared for whatever lay ahead. Ethan would have to help me figure it out. I only hoped he would be okay with answering more questions. The reluctance in his voice whenever we talked made me wonder exactly how much trouble he would get in if his superiors knew how much he’d already told me.

On Monday morning I decided I should apologize to Ethan

for breaking down and crying on his shoulder the way I had. One thing I had spent hours going over in my mind was the idea that Ethan was only here in East Halton, taking part in my life, because it was his job to keep me alive. After the time we’d spent together before learning the truth, it was a hard thing to accept, but the sooner I did, the better off I would be. I’d already been wondering who the woman I’d seen him with was, and now all of this cloak and dagger, secret society stuff made me certain that whatever romantic notions I’d thought existed between Ethan and me were just figments of my imagination. The attention he gave me was that of a bodyguard, and I wanted him to know, needed him to know, that I understood that.

I tracked Ethan down between classes. He leaned against his locker as he talked to two junior girls. He had a polite but bored smile on his face as he listened to them, but his focus sharpened at my approach and he straightened up.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?” Both girls shot me annoyed glances, but I ignored them.

“Of course,” he replied, and excused himself. He followed me into an empty classroom near his locker. We stood in the dimly lit room between the door and the teacher’s desk, just out of view from anyone in the hall.

“Hannah—” Ethan began, but I held up both hands to cut him off.

“I owe you an apology for Friday.” I bit my lip but kept my gaze locked with his.

“What? Why?” Ethan’s eyebrows shot up.

“For breaking down and crying on you the way I did. I know that isn’t your job, and I want you to know that I am stronger than that. As strange and overwhelming as all of this is for me, I can handle it, and from now on, I will handle it without tears.” I inhaled slowly. It was going to be harder than I thought to make myself accept that Ethan didn’t see me the way I had hoped. Especially when he looked at me with those beautiful green eyes, full of compassion, the way he was doing at the moment.

“Hannah, I think you are handling all of this really well, considering everything. The things I’ve shared with you, I know that they sound ridiculous and impossible. I’ve probably altered the way you look at your parents, and for that I need to apologize. Those aren’t realities anyone should have to deal with; most protecteds never find out who we are. I want you to know if you need someone to talk to, I’m here. It’s okay to be upset in front of me, or even at me if you need to be.” Ethan’s caring words made me want to slip my arms around his waist and pull him into a long lingering kiss, but I forced my hands to stay at my sides. Stay focused Hannah.

“Okay. Well, I’ve been thinking about everything you’ve told me and I have an idea. Why don’t you tell me what it is exactly that I am going to do that will change the world. What is the decision I need to make? If you tell me, I’ll do it and then everything can go back to normal, or as normal as possible.” I held my palms out in front of me as though offering both of us the best solution to our current situation.

Ethan rubbed a hand over his face before speaking. “That’s a very good suggestion, and I wish I could do it, but I can’t. No one knows for sure until the moment has come and gone. Protecteds can’t know the specific moment beforehand. If you knew what your moment was going to be you would always be looking out for it. In fact, it’s part of a Hleo’s job to keep protecteds from finding out they have been chosen. Protecteds need to make their choices purely on instinct. Realizing the potential gravity of an action could taint the way you do something. Or keep it from happening at all, if you become paralyzed with indecision.”

“Oh.” I exhaled sharply. His answer had not been what I wanted to hear. “So, I’m just sitting in some cosmic waiting room hanging out until my number is called? You can’t even give me a hint about what’s coming, and when, so I can be prepared?” I gritted my teeth.

Ethan’s forehead creased in concentration. “You already know way more than protecteds normally do. The attempts on your life the other night forced me to divulge the truth to you, and now that you know, everything has changed. It’s rare, but occasionally we protect someone who is marked to do more than simply make a decision; someone whose very existence plays a crucial role in history. I don’t know for sure if that could be you or not, and I’m not sure if it would be helpful or harmful for me to tell you more than I already have. I need to think it through.”

I drew in a deep breath. That was a little closer to what I’d been hoping for. “Okay, so what does that mean?”

“Why don’t you give me a few hours to consider how to handle this? I can come back to your house tonight and we can talk more about it then.”

I nodded and we went off to class together. I couldn’t concentrate on anything that was said, though. My mind whirled with everything I’d already learned, and with the thought that I might be able to find out something that would help all of this make sense.

Now all I could do was wait and hope that, if Ethan did decide to give me more answers, they wouldn’t end up being something even worse than what he’d already told me.

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