Venus heard the knock at the door and for the briefest moment thought she’d returned home. Stiff muscles, which constricted her body, reminded her otherwise. Her shin, where Tawny had kicked her, was still sore. The bed was not comfortable, especially when she couldn’t move about as she usually did. If she’d been on her journey, she would’ve slept on the ground or the back of Sadraden and still been more comfortable than she was right now, on this horrible, lumpy bed. With a sharp laugh, which wasn’t happy at all, she realized her journey would’ve been over by now, had she gone as planned.

Three. Two. One. “What is it?” Venus growled.

“Phone’s for you.” Dervinias hollered from the hallway, way too chipper. “Cheverly wants to know if you want to hang out.” He opened the door. Venus hastily pulled the covers up to her chin.

“Dervinias. Leave!” 

Ignoring her, he strolled in and sat on the edge of her bed with a bounce. “Really she wants to know how you feel about Michael. If you’re trying to put the moves on her guy. She hopes not because she likes you, but she’s willing to kick serious . . . butt—”

Venus raised her eyebrows at his distinct choice of word.

He chuckled. “I’m quoting her thoughts, V.”

She glared, trying to kick at him through the covers.

He shrugged and continued, “. . . if you put your scrawny paws on her man.” He watched Venus intently. She gave him her best crustie until he stuck out his tongue.

“Helker,” she swore, which lifted her spirits some. “You’re impossible. Give me that thing—cellular telephone.” She scrunched her face, unable to stop herself from cracking a tiny grin. “And stop calling me V.”

“It’s a cell or a phone. Don’t call it a cellular telephone. Makes you sound like you’re eighty-five.” He chuckled.

“Fine, give me the phone.”

“Oh, and you’d better be nice to Chev . . . V. She’s starting to get impatient. Beginning to wonder if you think you’re all that.” He pulled the phone from his pocket, pushed a button, and handed the phone to her with a smirk. 

“Seriously?” She reached out and grabbed the phone from his hand, putting it to her ear at the same time.

“Retaliation,” he mouthed.

“Seriously what? Is this V?” Cheverly asked with a tone which sounded confused.

Holy Cret, what is the deal with V? Ugh! Into the phone, she said, “Yes, this is Venus. Sorry about that. I was talking to the crazy alie—Vinny. He’s such a—he’s weird.” She waved him out of her room, but he wouldn’t leave, and the doof had a big ol’ grin on his face. Probably still reading whatever Cheverly was thinking. “Hang on a sec, Chev.” Venus put her hand over the phone and said to Dervinias, “Get out of my room. I mean it and stay out of—other places as well.” He finally left, closing the door behind him. “Hey, I’m back. So what’s up?”

“Vinny told me you like to ride. I have lots of horses and wondered if you wanted to join me?”

Venus’s heart lurched at the idea. She’d never ridden a horse before. Kelari had animals which were similar, four-legged. Of course nothing could compare to flying with an irrihunter, but it’d be nice.

“Cheese, V.” Cheverly sounded edgy. She heard a tap-tapping in the background.

Was she stomping her foot? She secretly laughed at that, and the cheese comment. “Um, yeah, that sounds like fun. I’d love to.”

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