Dervinias lived in a tiny house. The kitchen/dining area felt cramped with the three of them pressed into the rickety, black table, which snuggled next to a rusty-red stove. Behind Venus, the morning sun shone through the window. Its warmth, along with the heat of the stove, was making her sweat.  

 “Where’s the body?” Zaren asked through clenched teeth. The table separated Venus and Zaren, yet she still felt the force of his anger. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, and she figured he was mad at her, too.

“It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that I have some people who helped out. He’ll be found. His family will be able to mourn the crazy S.O.B. . . . It’s all good,” Dervinias said, forking a piece of pancake and shoveling it in his mouth.

Zaren pounded a fist on the table, rattling the silverware. A bit of her milk spilled. Venus rose to get a towel and clean up.

“I’m sorry, Zaren.” She kept her focus on wiping up the mess.

Tenderly, he replied, “Venus, you’ve no reason to apologize. I’m the one who’s sorry. I should’ve been there to help you. I can’t understand why I slept through your danger.” She looked up in time to see him glare at Dervinias.

“What?” Dervinias smirked. “Be grateful I arrived when I did or you’d have a dead princess on your hands.”

“The kid was working for someone else. He kept saying ‘he’. He also mentioned my destiny. Where would he get such ideas?” Venus chimed in, throwing the wet towel at Dervinius.

“Don’t look at me, unless you want to say thank you for my saving your life. You could be a bit more grateful.”

She didn’t feel gratitude though. She felt angry, edgy. “Thank you.”

“And you,” He threw the towel at Zaren and continued, “sleeping through the whole thing. Did you dip into the alcohol last night? Sip a little too much sauce?”

“I don’t know . . .”

***

Rage flashed through her. How dare he speak to Zaren that way? “Speaking of dead, I have six days to make Michael fall in love or your rescue won’t matter.”

Zaren heaved a deep sigh, but she continued to focus on Dervinias.

“True. You’d better get crackin!” Dervinias stuffed another bite of pancake in his mouth and then took a huge gulp of milk.

Venus wanted to wipe the floor with his arrogant hide. Grabbing her fork, she stabbed it into her breakfast. Pancakes. The food she’d been most excited about trying. She’d read about them, drooled over the imagined flavor. Now that she finally had the chance to try them, her excitement was tempered by memories of the dead boy.

Still, the pancakes on her plate were large, thick and fluffy. The brown syrup covering them tasted delicious. Dervinias had warmed it and his house smelled of maple and butter. Better than the death stench in my room. Even with everything that had happened, Venus managed to eat three. They tasted better than she’d expected. Problem was she’d overdone it. Her tummy rumbled in frustration.   

Venus pushed her plate away and studied Dervinias. His physical appearance remained close to that of a kel before the change, except his skin, which was exceptionally tan. His hair was white-blond and his eyes were dark gray. At the moment, he wore a light pair of jeans, black boots and a plain gray t-shirt. A lanky guy. Very handsome. He’d made all the ladies giddy at dinner last night, including their middle-aged waitress. Why go to high school? At his age, it must’ve been boring for him.

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