Hleo

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Chapter 28

“I’m home,” I called out as I walked through the door and turned on the front hallway light. The porch light had been on, but no other lights shone through the front windows. As I hung my scarf and bag up, I wondered if Ethan had left, but then I heard his voice coming from my dad’s study, so I headed in that direction.

“You’re sure she’s the one you protected in France?” Ethan talked on his cell phone while leaning against my dad’s desk. He faced the window, his back to the doorway, with his phone tucked between his chin and shoulder. As I got closer to him, I could see that he was writing in a small notebook, scribbling quick notes as he took down whatever the person on the other side of the phone was saying.

“I see… okay, thanks Gavin, that helps a lot… Yeah I’ll let you know if I need anything more from you.” Ethan finished up his call and slipped the phone back into his pocket before finally looking up at me. “You’re back.” He pushed away from Dad’s desk and walked over. The coolness that had been between us when I’d left seemed even colder now. He neglected to give me his usual smile when he saw me, and I couldn’t quite read the serious look on his face.

“I didn’t want to be out too late. I was anxious to find out if you’d made any progress with my drawings.” I forced as much cheerfulness into my voice as I could, hoping to jostle him into a better mood.

He nodded curtly. “I was able to confirm that thirteen more of your sketches are people who have been protected at some point in the past. Gavin alone recognized four of them.” He brushed by me and strode out of the room.

“Who’s Gavin?” I followed him out of my dad’s study and back into the dining room.

“Another Hleo.”

A number of my drawings lay on the table, turned over so that their backs faced up. Ethan had created four columns and written information in each of them. In the first he’d inserted a description of the sketch. In the next he’d written two names. After that he’d made a column with date ranges and last there was a section with information about the person in the drawing. I’d never seen the information he’d written in the final column before, so I figured those must be the real life details behind the image.

“What’s all this?”

“These are the images that have been confirmed. I’ve filled out information about each of them to compare with your other drawings. The first column describes your sketch, so we know which one we are dealing with without having to flip it over. The next column contains the name of the Hleo that identified the image and the protected in it; the dates are the timeframe in which the scene most likely occurred, and the last is information pertaining to the protected.” Ethan spoke matter-of-factly, as though he was trying to say as little to me as possible, and he wouldn’t meet my gaze. He kept his eyes on the sketches.

Grabbing one of my sketchbooks from the stack, he sat down and flipped through it to a drawing. He pulled the page out and turned it over, most likely to add the information he’d just gotten from Gavin to the back of it.

I was interested in reading the information on the different sketches, so I leaned over them, trying to ignore his behavior. “Wow, you’ve been busy.”

“So have you, apparently.”

My head shot up at the hardness in his voice. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Forget it.” He shifted in his chair so that his back was to me again as he transcribed his notes onto the drawing.

“Okay then.” I pulled out the chair beside him and sat down. The information on the back of the pages was fascinating. Most of the drawings belonged to the twentieth century, two were from the nineteenth, and one had been placed somewhere between 1778—1780. I released a slow breath, Hleo really were capable of living very long lives if one of them had been around in the 1700’s. The oldest sketch was of a woman looking into a mirror and holding a comb to her hair. Her name was Anne Cordeau, and she had apparently been a royal in King Louis XVI’s court. Her contribution to destiny had been the decision to deliver a secret message from another courtier to the king himself, a letter that ended up having a major impact on the French Revolution.

Another drawing, of a young boy in a sailor suit riding a carousel horse, was labeled 1926. His name was William Potter, and his destiny moment had been wandering away from the park where he’d been playing, in search of candy. He ended up lost and missing for days, and because of his disappearance, protocols had been developed so there would be a regulated procedure when searching for missing children.

On and on it went, people from different time periods living their lives and changing the world in ways they would likely never see or understand.

“This is incredible,” I breathed as I looked up from the last sketch. Ethan watched me silently, and the expression on his face surprised me. He looked like he’d been enjoying observing me, taking in my reactions as I discovered who the people in my drawings were, but when I met his gaze, his face tightened and his eyes went hard again.

“It’s a start; we have a long way to go.” He motioned to the pile of sketchbooks that still sat waiting for me to go through.

“To know that these people really lived, that they aren’t just inventions of my mind. It’s amazing.” My fingers traced the image closest to me of a man and woman eating dinner at a retro-style yellow linoleum kitchen table.

“I suppose,” Ethan said coolly and my excitement faded.

“Okay, what’s wrong?” I crossed my arms and glared at him.

“What do you mean?” Ethan’s eyebrows shot up.

“I mean you’re acting weird. Ever since I told you that Ryan and I were hanging out tonight you’ve had this attitude towards me. Are you jealous or something?”

Ethan’s jaw tightened. “I’m not jealous, Hannah. You should be doing normal teenager things like going on dates with boys. I’ve been consuming all your time recently, and that isn’t fair to you.”

My fists clenched. Hearing him refer to me as a teenager infuriated me. He might as well have called me a child. “If you’re not jealous, then why are you being so cold to me?”

“I’m not being cold; I’m being professional, like I should have been from the very beginning.” Ethan kept his tone even.

I narrowed my eyes. “Well, your professionalism is lacking.” I jumped to my feet and headed for the door. Once again he had shot me down without realizing it, and my pride was starting to ache from the ongoing rejection.

Ethan sighed. “Hannah,” he called out, just as I reached the doorway. I stopped but kept my back to him.

“Evelyn sent me some information from your date this evening, and it surprised me. It made me realize that I don’t know you as well as I thought I did, that’s all.” His voice had thawed a little, and I turned around to look at him.

“What do you mean?” I was totally baffled. I tried to go over in my head what sort of information Evelyn could have relayed to Ethan that would paint my evening with Ryan as anything more than an innocent night of two friends hanging out.

“What you do is really none of my business, but Evelyn took some photos of you and Ryan on your date and sent them to me, and I was a little taken aback by the contents, that’s all. She sent me a video clip as well.”

Heat rose in my chest. “Let me see.” I held out my hand.

Ethan stood up and handed me his phone, cued up to the received images.

The first shot was completely innocent, of Ryan handing me the bouquet of flowers. In the next one, Ryan was reaching across the booth we had been sitting in and touching my shoulder. What sort of camera did Evelyn have that she could have gotten such a close shot when she had been nowhere in sight?

After that was a picture of us walking together towards the golf course, but from the angle it was taken, it looked as though Ryan and I were holding hands. The next picture was me giving Ryan a hug after his thoughtful words, followed by a picture of Ryan, standing with arms around me, showing me how to swing a golf club, his face buried in my hair. It was an intimate-looking shot, but so misleading that I wanted to laugh. The picture Evelyn had painted with her photos was of two people on a date getting closer and closer as the night went on.

The last picture made my mouth drop open; it was a shot of Ryan pulling into The Sutcliffe Inn parking lot. I couldn’t believe it; I couldn’t comprehend why she would do this. Anger burned inside of me and I clenched my fists as I tried to stay in control.

“Those pictures are totally deceptive; they don’t show how our date went at all. We were just two friends hanging out, that’s it. I gave Ryan a hug because he said something nice. In the golf shot, we were just goofing around, and that last shot at The Sutcliffe…” I glanced back down at the camera. “Where’s the video clip?”

“The picture’s not clear, it was too dark, but you can hear the voices.” Ethan took the phone from my hand, touched the screen a few times and handed it back to me. Derek’s voice filled the room, asking Ryan about hitting that. I closed my eyes, warmth flooding my cheeks at Ryan’s reply.

“She sent it, asking me if she was going to have to baby-sit you for that portion of the evening as well. Then when you left with him instead of getting a ride back with Evelyn like we had agreed upon, and went off the radar for a while at a hotel, well …” My eyes flew open. I was so angry I could barely see straight. Why in the world would Evelyn only send Ethan such a highly edited amount of information? All it would do was hurt my image in his eyes. Understanding flowed through me. That was exactly what she wanted.

“That is not what it sounds like. It’s just one stupid boy saying something macho to another stupid boy. And Ryan was just dropping something off for his mom, who works at The Sutcliffe. I didn’t even get out of the vehicle, but I suppose Evelyn conveniently didn’t mention that to you. I can’t believe how ridiculous this is. She’s twisted the entire evening to make it look like it was something way more than it was. She’s mad at me over something I said on our way over to meet up with Ryan, and now she’s trying to make you think I’m the kind of girl that sleeps around so you won’t think I’m special anymore.” I clamped my mouth shut. I hadn’t meant to let Evelyn’s words slip out. Then I pushed back my shoulders, I didn’t care what I admitted to him.

Ethan frowned. “Why would she do that, Hannah? It doesn’t make any sense. Evelyn is always a professional. She wouldn’t do such an immature thing. If anything, I’m the one who’s gotten too personal on this mission. She keeps telling me I need to start acting more appropriately on this job, and she’s right.”

Again I was being referred to as a job, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. Ethan clearly wasn’t going to take my word over the evidence Evelyn had manufactured.

I lifted my chin. “Fine, believe Evelyn. Believe I’m that kind of person. Why do you even care? Why does it matter to you if Ryan and I did get a hotel room, or if we went at it in the back of his mom’s minivan, for that matter?”

“I thought you were better than that.” The control was completely gone from Ethan’s voice, replaced by hostility and betrayal. The accent that was so rarely heard rang through clearly.

Completely blindsided by the fight we were having, I stared at him from the doorway for a few seconds before I answered.

“I am,” I responded quietly. “And if you don’t know that, then I guess you really don’t know me at all.”

We stood there for a moment, neither of us speaking, until the overwhelming desire to be alone came over me. My chest ached. Ethan’s lack of faith in my morals and decision-making skills hurt me terribly, and I didn’t want to be near him at the moment.

“I would like you to leave,” I said flatly.

Ethan shook his head. “You know I can’t do that.”

“You can watch me from outside, in the shadows; isn’t that where you’re supposed to be anyway?”

Ethan’s green eyes probed mine but I refused to look away. Finally, he nodded in submission, and walked toward me. I stepped back so he wouldn’t touch me as he passed by.

I didn’t move until I heard the front door click shut. Then I ran up to my room and slammed the door shut, even though I was alone in the house. I paced back and forth, fueled by anger over Ethan’s accusations and his refusal to believe in me. After a minute, I stepped over to the window, peering through the glass to see if I could make anything out in the shadows of my backyard. All that stared back at me was blackness. I snapped the curtains closed in frustration, a sign to Ethan, on the off chance he could see me, that I was shutting him out too.

A lot of confusing things had happened to me over the past few days, but what had just happened between Ethan and me was the most confusing of all.

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