An Excerpt from: Whispers in the Wood

Copyright © 2008 Kelly Madden

All rights reserved, Freya's Bower.

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Hana shook her head. Only a businessman. A wealthy, world-renowned businessman.

“But please know, I don’t believe you’re in any danger,” he continued. “It’s only my relatives who suffer these accidents,” he said, gazing at her. The clock struck out the hour. Worry crossed his face. “I’m late to a meeting. Please, Hana, tell me you will at least examine the room. This restoration is very important to me.”

She studied his expression, but he gave nothing away. Definitely more to the story, but alternate sources could provide the color. And another cup of tea sounded very nice, even though she hated to leave him.

“I’ll stay. This whole thing sounds quite interesting.”

The lord’s face broke into the happiest smile Hana had seen so far. He took both of her shoulders as if to embrace her, but then his arms dropped woodenly.

He cleared his throat and turned towards the fire. “Thank you, Hana. I’m most grateful,” his voice distant once again.

Hana’s heart raced; she had wanted that embrace. Wanted it like nothing else. She waited a few seconds to pull herself together and then mirrored his calm response. “Very well. I want to sketch the house, mostly outside, and the inside original parts. After that, I’ll need to see the room you want restored.”

“Of course, make your drawings.” He hesitated for a moment. “I need to leave. For business.” He looked away. “For your own safety, please stay in your hotel at night. And this time, wait for me to escort you to the room. If you finish your sketches and I have not returned, I will compensate you for your idle time. Until we meet again.” He bowed stiffly and left.

Hana stood open-mouthed. He had been so talkative. But the last bit sounded so distant, almost dismissive. She took a few deep breaths and then wandered out of the room. Running her hand along the wood she felt again the age and the thread of spirit still left within the smooth surface. Her fingers stopped at a whorled knot, and she examined the depressed surface. A jolt of electricity raced through her body.

The life force grew stronger, tall, strong, straight as an arrow, hands reaching for the sky, the sun infusing skin with pure sweet rays, pain, betrayal, blood.

Hana swayed and pulled her hand away. She shook her head and rubbed her shaking fingers. Sap, not blood. Leaves, not hands. She took a ragged breath. The whispers in the wood spoke differently in this house. Something seemed very wrong here.

But there was no one to ask and no one to tell.

She had never told anyone what happened when she touched, really touched, wood. Hana never felt comfortable asking her mother. Her grandmother often hinted of strange powers in the family tree, but the old woman died with that knowledge. Over time, Hana learned how to apply the odd skill, channeling it into architectural work. But she kept the abilities at arm’s length, at times refusing to acknowledge, even to herself, the capacity for sensing the life force in wood and hearing its ancient stories. And for the most part, Hana could ignore the whispers in the wood, indoors, at least.

She leaned against the wall. Lord William. She grimaced. William. This attraction distracted her like no other. Her infatuations usually emanated from work assignments and old buildings. Since Hana refused to date clients, opportunities were few, even if she had the inclination. She flushed, remembering how he had grasped her hands—and then dropped them as if he had no interest. Could he be attracted to her? And did he know her feelings? Hana shook her head as she walked back towards the car. Whatever Lord William’s desires, she couldn’t let her own get in the way of the job.

Even if she had never felt so strongly.

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