5. I Know Your Out There Somewhere

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“Venus, we need to talk.” Lines creased his forehead. Zaren appeared anxious about whatever they were going to discuss. She studied his face. The angle of his jaw, the way his lips pressed together, and wondered what had happened.   

“Yeah, I’d say so. What the helker’s going on?” She teetered to her feet, brushing away the mental cobwebs. Her brain screamed that she’d slept through a problem of cosmic proportions.

“Someone sent you to Earth.” His intense green eyes watched her. Clear. Steady. Anxious.

She peered back, blown away.

Venus had always appreciated his straightforwardness. He never minced words or tried to hide the facts. It’s why they’d worked well together for so long. But this, well she wasn’t prepared. It was too outrageous. How? Why? Who?

“Wha—” She knew how un-princess-like that sounded. Nausea made her stomach turn. That explained why they no longer were speaking their language. Her head, clogged with jumbled madness, pulsed like a beating drum.

She remembered Amberlee had stomped from her room. Going backward over the details, she recalled her and Amberlee talking—about Sadraden and the necklace. The necklace. She reached a hand to her throat. It wasn’t there.

After Amberlee left, Venus had finished packing, dressed and . . .

 Blood.

Irrihunter blood. The deep blue substance seemed to have come from the necklace. What could’ve happened to it? Maybe the same place as her coverlette, which was missing, too. She wore only her boots and unisa.

“Princess, talk to me.” He grabbed her under the chin.

“I’m thinking.” Then she said, “Where are we?”

“Near Fort Collins, Colorado. In the United States.” Zaren stretched his arms above his head. Limbering up, Venus supposed. 

“Oh.” Why the helker would someone send me to Earth? From her studies, she knew Colorado was located in the western portion of America.

 Venus needed to pace. It helped her think when she didn’t have something to organize. So much needed to be done, she had to get back. What must her parents be thinking? They were probably worried sick. And her irrihunter, Sadraden. Holy cret! Venus could only imagine how anxious the animal would be.

Feeling Zaren watching her, she snuck a peek. His face lined with worry. Probably thought she was freaking out—losing it. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked, kicking a rock that’d been unlucky enough to be in her path. Technically Zaren’s position was that of a servant. Her personal guard. Her very own Formytian. But he and Venus were more. Not brother and sister, not even best friends anymore. Venus trusted Zaren with her life.

“Your eyes, they’re so beautiful.” His smile dazzled and she forgot for a moment she’d been sent to another planet. “No longer silver, but the loveliest shade of blue.”

“Really?” Venus couldn’t help but grin back. “Wait. They aren’t supposed to have changed yet. I’m not kelvieri.”

“I know. It’s probably this planet’s atmosphere. Your skin, too. It’s . . .” His large, tanned hand brushed against her arm. She followed his touch, unable to ignore the slight tingle. “. . . no longer metallic white.”

Lifting her arm into the light, she saw he spoke the truth. Her skin had changed color. Peaches came to mind. Definitely not even a hint of silver.

“Holy cretity-cret, you’re right.” She giggled in a very un-princess-like fashion. As the future queen, she probably needed to work on her demeanor under pressure.

His lips quivered, as though he were holding back a laugh. Lifting a piece of her hair, he brought it around for her to see. It glimmered against the sun’s rays, no longer stark white, but the color of the Phoebis Rurina. According to her Earth Studies book, the beautiful yellow butterfly originated in Peru. It’d been one of her favorites—the color of its wings melding from a light to bright yellow—as did her new hair color. Also, her hair curled at the ends, like a spring. She pulled at one and it bounced back into place.

“Much better, don’t you think?” She looked to Zaren for approval with a hesitant smile. His opinion meant a great deal to her. He’d been the only one to understand how much the constant kelarian sameness upset her.

With gentle hands, he brushed her hair back, off her face. “You’ve always been unique and lovely.”

Venus huffed.

He caressed her cheek with his thumb. “Yes, you look wonderful.”

She briefly relaxed and leaned into his caress. That was what she’d needed to hear. “Thanks, Zaren. I can’t wait to see my eyes.” She watched his face change, noticed the urgency in his features. That look. She knew the opportunity to check out her new features would have to come later. Right now, she needed to be serious. “How did this happen? Where are the Transports?” 

He dropped his hand and turned. From experience she knew this meant he wrestled with whatever he needed to say. “Zaren?” Venus touched him on the shoulder, turning him to face her. “Whatever it is, you might as well tell me.” She smiled, hoping it came out encouraging. He kept his gaze down and she followed. With a strange expression, he focused on her boots.

After the boots had been given, the Gods gave young kels one week to complete their journey. That meant she needed to get back quickly, to finish the ImmoTrans Ceremony. No problem, right? She hadn’t any idea how long she’d been out of it or what day it was. “Formytian? Talk to me.”

Their eyes met. She saw his worry. His anger. 

When he spoke, she sensed his fear. “I went to your room a few hours after you left your birthday party. You’d told both Agen and I you were to begin your journey later that night. The stable master came to me saying Sadraden grew impatient. He wanted to know when to expect you.”

Venus nodded, knowing Sadraden would’ve been upset. Worry for the irrihunter tugged at her. Venus hoped Agen had been able to calm the animal. Stress bothered her. Hopefully no one had died. Sadraden’s large razor-sharp claws and giant mouthful of pointed teeth were lethal. Her pregnancy had increased her ferociousness and she’d become moody in the, I want to kill, way.

He continued, taking her hand. “I knocked, but you didn’t answer. Protocol demanded I leave you alone, but . . .” 

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