End of the Age: Final Deception
Downstairs, Jesse could hear Gabriel’s voice in the living room. She stepped
inside the door before hesitating. Rachel and Gabriel were talking to three men she didn’t
recognize. From across the room, Gabriel motioned her over. “Jesse, there’s some people
here I’d like you to meet.” As Jesse approached, Rachel casually stepped around to
position herself between Gabriel and Jesse. Appearing not to notice Rachel’s tactic,
Gabriel introduced Jesse before starting to name each man in turn.
Matthew Sanders was a tall, muscular African-American with sharp, black eyes.
The scar across his cheekbone lifted a fraction in a smile as he inclined his head in
greeting. Several details about the man—buzz haircut, erect posture and carefully creased
trousers, suggested the military training Gabriel confirmed. Probably in his late thirties or
early forties, the man chosen to organize a security team struck Jesse as a self-controlled
man, a man who would prove to be fearsome in battle.
Anyone might think Steve Owens and Paul Sinclair were brothers. Although
Steve’s auburn hair was a few shades lighter than Paul’s, they looked a lot alike. Jesse
guessed the young men were in high school, possibly seniors, and their ruddy
complexions made her wonder if they played some type of outdoor sport.
Jesse's guesses were wrong but she hadn't been too far off. The cousins had
graduated high school the previous year and they did spend a great deal of time outdoors,
but not in any sport she would have imagined. Both were avid hunters, known in the area
for their tracking skills. Even with their hunting credentials, Jesse was surprised to hear
the young men were the first volunteers for the security team. Their open, boyish smiles
and carefree laughter made her wonder if they had the toughness and strict self-discipline
Matthew Sanders might expect.
When Jesse commented that Paul and Steve could be mistaken for brothers, Paul
threw an arm around his cousin’s shoulder. “We might as well be brothers,” he said,
ruffling the back of Steve’s hair. “We lived next door to each other all our life. Steve,
here, has three older sisters and I have two. We had to learn survival skills early on.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, smiling. “A fella’s sure not safe with that many females in
the house—tea parties, dolls.”
Paul shook his head. “And dress up,” he said, starting to laugh. “Remember the
time Becky and Trista tried to make you play dress up? If you hadn’t taken Becky’s
favorite doll hostage, you’d a been wearing lipstick that day.”
Jesse found it difficult to concentrate on the cousins’ humorous account of
growing up with sisters while Rachel was fondling Gabriel’s arm and brushing
nonexistent substances from his clothes. She might have ignored the message Rachel was