Chapter 23: It’s Complicated

As the evening wore on, Chantal entertained her dinner guests. The conversations flowed effortlessly for everyone, except Miles, who was absent in the midst of all the chatter.

Chantal has changed, he thought. There is something different about her. She was charming as the perfect hostess when mother and I arrived, but I can’t help but feel as though my status has been relegated to that of a mere friend. He remained drowned in his observations until Devlin called out his name, and asked him a question.

“Miles,” said Devlin.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Chantal told me that you’re in Woodbine on an assignment to investigate the gas explosion that occurred several weeks ago.”

“That’s right,” said Miles.

“How is that going?” asked Sierra.

“It’s a work in progress. So far, our accident division has worked closely with the Chemical Safety Board, and determined that sabotage was the cause because of similarities to an incident at our company headquarters in California,” said Miles.

“I don’t understand it. Our company always had an outstanding safety record,” said Miles’s mother.

“Perhaps, that is why Ian considered that a disgruntled former employee was involved.”

“Ian is my uncle. He’s the president of our company,” added Miles.

“Is he the one you were staying with in California for the summer?” asked Chantal.

“Yes. At any rate, we were fortunate there were no serious injuries or deaths.”

“Thank goodness or we may have gone under due to bankruptcy from more lawsuits,” said Miles’s mother.

“How long do you expect the investigation to last?” asked Devlin.

“It varies depending on different factors from eyewitness accounts to the safety of the plant’s operating infrastructure, and the proper management of combustible chemicals to prevent hazardous reactions.”

“What’s your role in all of this?” asked Sierra.

“Yeah, how have you contributed to the investigation?” asked Devlin.

“I worked with the hazards prevention team to compile the data about the errors that caused the accident, to formulate a root cause analysis to prevent a similar accident from occurring again,” said Miles.

“Wow,” said Chantal. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” said Sierra.

“It sounds like you will be around for some time,” said Devlin.

“I believe I will be,” said Miles turning to Chantal with a smile on his face. The deadpan expression on Devlin’s face concealed his recognition that Miles would be his rival for a little while longer.

“That’s enough shop talk for now,” said Miles’s mother. “Chantal, how about a stroll in that storybook courtyard of yours to work off some of these calories?”

“I would be delighted to show you around. We’d better hurry before it gets dark,” said Chantal.

“Lovely, Sierra, you must invite me back again for a complete tour of the entire estate once you’ve finished the restoration. I will fly back into town just for that,” said Miles’s mother.

“Sure,” said Sierra.

By this time Ella and Leslie had entered the dining room and began clearing items from the table.

“Chantal, if the courtyard is as romantic as you’ve said it is, I’m eager to see it too,” said Miles.

After a brief sigh, and feeling slightly awkward, Chantal looked at Devlin and said, “Perhaps you can join us and give an oral history of Brooke Manor.”

Meanwhile, being aware of the approaching darkness, Sierra was inconspicuous as she carefully studied Devlin’s reaction to Chantal’s question about whether he would join them. She watched as he glanced up at Ella. She saw their eyes meet as if they were reading each other’s mind. Then, she noticed that they both looked over at the miniature Gothic styled Junghans clock on the dining room table at the same time. It was eight o’ clock.

Finally, Devlin said, “I’m sorry Chantal, but I can’t stay. I must go now.”

Here we go, and I bet Ella knows why Devlin can’t stay, thought Sierra.

“That’s fine,” said Chantal.

“Chantal, I will go with Mrs. Banks and Miles to the courtyard while you say goodnight to Devlin,” said Sierra.

“Thank you,” said Chantal.

“You don’t have to leave your guests. I can show myself out,” said Devlin.

“I don’t mind,” she said. “Everyone, please excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

“Goodnight Mrs Banks. Goodnight Miles. It was a pleasure to meet both of you,” said Devlin.

“Same here,” said Miles.

“I look forward to seeing you again when I return for the tour,” said Miles’s mother.

“I will be here,” said Devlin.

“Goodnight Sierra.”

“Goodnight,” said Sierra.

Sierra left the dining room with Miles and his mother. They went to the courtyard when Chantal and Devlin walked into the foyer.

“Devlin, I don’t want Miles to get the wrong impression.”

“Don’t worry, his mother will make sure he doesn’t,” said Devlin. “I think they know that we are a couple.”

“Can you please stay just a few minutes longer until they leave?” asked Chantal.

“I wish I could, but I can’t,” he said.

“Why not?” asked Chantal with a melancholy look on her face.

“It’s complicated,” he said. “I will explain it to you later.”

“OK, I will wait since there is nothing I can do about it.”

“We’ll talk soon, I promise. Goodnight,” he said.

“Goodnight.”

Devlin kissed Chantal on the lips and walked away, unbeknownst to her, to his final resting place.

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