Venus heard him shout. Michael. But ignored him. He might be a challenge . . . Nah. He was human after all. It’d still be easy. He only had to fall in love, for cret’s sake. And love was an uncomplicated, silly emotion. Right?  

Zaren had moved on ahead of her. She guessed he was frustrated. Venus used the opportunity to admire his broad shoulders and narrow waist. The confident way he walked. Proud, yet calm. Collected. Until he whipped around, apparently done with his momentary skulking, and came back, towards her.

With a grin, he lifted her into his arms.

“Seriously,” she ranted.

He ignored her and ran.

Fast.

But he was more than running. Her people called this method of travelling:  Britorent—to bend time. All Zaren or any kelvieri had to do was move and think of the destination. Then, as though time were an accordion, the fabric of space between where they began and where they wanted to go would fold together. The amount of time it took to get from one place to another depended on the planet and the parameters within that planet.

On Earth, Zaren could move four miles in one second.

Venus had experienced the sensation once before. When she was seven, she’d opened a door within the family castle and discovered a child—dead. The first thing she’d noticed was a substance dripping like rain from the ceiling. The room had been dark. When she felt something sticky wet hit her head and then the back of her hand, she’d commanded the lights to turn on. Blood had been everywhere. In the center of the room, she’d seen the girl, curly white hair spread out around her as though she rested on fluffy cotton. Venus ran to the girl and screamed. She’d kept screaming until her father came. He’d lifted her into his arms and used britorent to take her to their shaman . . . 

She shook her head, trying to get rid of the memory.

Wind rushed through her hair and pushed against her body. She leaned her head on her Formytian’s shoulder and watched the barrage of colors, like a Monet painting, swirl around her.

When Zaren set Venus down, she had to lean over to catch her breath. Within a few moments, the dizziness evaporated. She stood and peered into the window of a little clothing shop.  

The store was called Casual Treasures. It sat near the end of a long strip of stores in between two food businesses. One was a cupcake bakery with the name, SweetCakes, and on the other, a Subway. The sugary aroma and the smell of freshly baked bread hit Venus from both sides. Her stomach growled. 

She’d read about different kinds of cupcakes—Bavarian cream, banana, chocolate-chocolate. Each had looked more delicious than the first. Her mouth watered. Maybe I’ll try one of each.

Zaren watched her, his arms crossed. He appeared to be worried. She had a feeling she knew why. Michael. He’d known the boy was there, at the stream.

“You knew. That’s why you didn’t hurry to catch up to me. You knew I’d run into the human.” Venus really wanted to be angry with him for not telling her . . . Her natural reaction, to ream him, but she didn’t. 

“Yes, I knew. I’d hoped a friendship would form. Hadn’t planned on him being so vile.” He grasped her hand and pulled her into the store.

She almost didn’t have time to hold her breath.

Zaren stopped immediately inside the shop.

Venus was glad. Her eyes needed to adjust to the change in light. With a quick scan of the area, she slowly released the air in her lungs. Zaren made a noise, like he was choking. 

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