48. (I Just) Died In Your Arms

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“Mmmmm, that feels good . . . Princess.” A slanted smirk appeared on his face.  

She quickly moved her hand away. What was she doing? Or more importantly, what was this guy doing to her? Venus batted him on the forehead with her fingers.

“Hey. What was that for?”

Ignoring his question, she said, “Lift your head so I can tuck a pillow under it.” She chewed on her lip, nervous. “Go on,” she urged when he didn’t move fast enough.

“Thanks.” 

“Of course.” She slid the pillow under his head. He still had a smirk on his face. “Are you even in pain, or pretending?” She tossed a pillow at him. 

“I’m in terrible pain. You saw what the oaf did.” His smile grew genuine.

“I’ll show you oaf. Give me thirty seconds, that’s all it’ll take to turn you into hamburger,” Zaren said as he walked into the room with a bag of frozen peas. He stood over Michael and dropped the cold bag onto his chest. “Here you go, kiddo.” 

“Gee, thanks Dad.” Michael stuck the bag of peas inside his shirt. “Ha. Cold.” He wriggled, trying to get into a more comfortable position, she supposed. “So, what’s the plan, Zaren, ole’ buddy. How are we going to help Venus get home?”

You have done enough. Might as well scat back to your . . . father. I’m sure he’s curious about the latest developments.” Zaren pulled Venus to him, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. His strength buoyed her spirits.

“Look, I’m sorry. Okay.” Michael removed the peas and tossed them on the seat next to him. “My mother had just been murdered, and I wasn’t thinking straight.” He looked right at Venus and she noticed the peculiar expression on his face. “Venus, I am really sorry. What Abe and Frank did, I know I can’t take it back.” He shook his head as though trying to clear the awful images of tests they’d done to her, away. “I swear I want to help. Tell me what to do.” He sounded full of regret.

Venus glanced at Zaren wondering what he’d say. There wasn’t any point in sharing her feelings about how Michael could help. He’d needed to fall in love and he hadn’t. If the Gods were still denying her return . . . her life was over. But she wasn’t mad at him. The assignment Ith and Aetha gave her had been difficult—important for some reason, but difficult. 

Zaren watched her face and sighed. “They—”

He wasn’t able to finish. A loud male shouted through a megaphone. “Come out with your hands up. We have the place surrounded.”

Zaren left her side and ran to the window. Venus followed. They pulled back the black curtain and saw several green military vehicles along with a white van and a lot of men with guns.

Michael came up behind them, “I’ll go out and talk to them. Zaren, get her away from here. I’ll meet up with you if I can. Where will you be?”

“The less you know, the better,” Zaren said to Michael, though his attention was focused on Venus, an odd look on his face.

What the cret is going on with these two?

It suddenly dawned on her that Michael and Zaren were jealous of each other, and Zaren was reading Michael’s thoughts. 

Knock it off, Formytian, she yelled internally.

“Let’s go, Venus.” Zaren started pulling her toward the back door.

“Wait,” she said, yanking her arm from his grasp. The idea of leaving Michael didn’t feel right. Venus knew it was the connection they had. “Zaren, can you give us a minute?”

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