End of the Age: Final Deception HTML version

Chapter 2
The noise of high-pitched beeps pulled Jesse from sleep. She fumbled for the
button to silence the noisy clock before lifting her head to squint at red numbers. She
rolled onto her back with a soft moan—seven o’clock. Each blink felt like sand being
dragged across her eyes. Fighting the temptation to turn her face into the pillow, she
swung her legs over the side of the bed to pad barefoot to the window seat. Shielding her
eyes against the bright sun, she watched birds scamper across the front lawn in search of
their morning meal. At the sound of squawking, she noticed a blue jay flapping its wings
at competition before claiming a place at the bird feeder. As the larger bird’s weight tilted
the feeder, a sparrow darted across the yard to pick at the seed trickling down. She smiled
at the smaller bird’s cunning.
Yawning, Jesse stood up to stretch, thinking she should get dressed. What time
were they supposed to be at the hospital? She couldn’t remember. Had Gabriel said nine?
No, that’s when the doctor would sign off on release forms. He told her grandmother they
would be at the hospital earlier. At the sound of a knock, she pulled on her robe and went
to open the door. Gabriel stood on the other side holding out a mug. “I thought you could
use this.”
“Just what I need,” she said, taking the offered cup. “Thank you.”
He glanced at his watch. “I was hoping to leave before eight if you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” she said nodding, “twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” he repeated, looking doubtful.
“Less than twenty,” she said, smiling before closing the door. Taking a sip of
coffee, she closed her eyes, savoring the rich taste. He remembered she took sugar.
Gabriel walked into the kitchen just as Jesse was finishing the last bite of
pancake. “The maple syrup is really good,” she said, coming around the table with her
“Thank you. It’s an old family recipe.” He smiled, to say, “At least that’s what
the label says.” As she neared the sink, he took the plate from her hands. “We’ll leave
these until we get back. It’s getting late.”
Surprised, she stared at her empty hands before her eyes shot up. “I don’t
appreciate being treated like a child,” she snapped.
His back went rigid before turning slowly to look down at her. They were
standing so close that she could detect the clean, woodsy quality of his cologne. When he
crossed his arms over his chest, she fought the impulse to step back. Instead, she crossed