Letting Venus go hurt like hell. When she was near, he felt more himself—like the person he was supposed to be. The further she went, the stronger the pain in his chest grew, like their connection was being ripped out.

As he headed out of the house, Frank ran toward him, gun aimed at his chest.

“Don’t move!”

What an idiot!

Frank patted him down. Michael thought about hitting him, but a sense of right grounded him. Kept him in check. He needed to be here for a reason.    

“What were you thinking?” Frank shouted.

Michael shrugged. “She shouldn’t have been in that place. Venus didn’t kill my mother.” Michael took a steadying breath, catching Frank’s cinnamon and bourbon breath. He shifted his gaze from the crisp, dead grass to Frank’s livid face, refusing to back down.

       “That doesn’t matter. She. Is. An. Alien. Don’t you get what that means? What she meant to us?” He grabbed Michael by the arm, dragging him toward the street. Michael went along, following his instincts.

“You were going to kill her. I couldn’t let that happen.”

Frank stopped and shoved Michael against a white van. “I should’ve known you’d side with them!” Frank stalked off, speaking into his walkie-talkie.

Michael pushed away from the van, bugged. Bugged that Frank was such an ass. Bugged that he’d had to let Venus leave. Bugged that he had to stay behind, at Vinny’s house, of all places, while Venus and Zaren left. Where was Vinny? He seemed to disappear whenever he, Zaren and Venus were together. He hadn’t been around when they’d gone riding, and he was gone now . . . Again he went over the night his mother died. He’d been at the ranch with Chev, Venus, Zaren and . . . Vinny hadn’t been there at all, except near the end. Was Vinny a . . . alien? The dude was friends with Zaren and Venus. He’d always known Vinny ran faster than normal. The jerk had seemed different right from the beginning.

Realization of the truth nearly knocked him over. Of course Vinny was an alien. He’d never seen him, or Zaren for that matter, wearing boots like hers, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have them. All sorts of questions bombarded him. Michael had a feeling Vinny had the answers. He also knew the answers wouldn’t make him happy.

Still he had to know why. If Vinny was responsible for his mother’s death and the others, that meant he was a part of The Order. Maybe he was The Order—the leader. Confronting him might get Michael killed. Frank had said, and Venus confirmed, that Earth’s resources were useless. Where did that leave him? How could he defeat an unbeatable opponent?

But, what other option did he have? There was no way he’d sit back and allow Vinny to continue to kill innocent people . . . that is, if Vinny was involved.

He is, a voice spoke into Michael’s mind. With that murmured confirmation followed the knowledge that Venus could prove a valuable ally. If anyone knew how to kill a kelvieri, she would. Or Zaren would.

Michael ran over to Frank and blurted, “I know who killed mother.”

Frank said into the walkie-talkie, “Hang on.” The two of them were standing next to a white van. “Is that thing still in the house? Are there more?”

“No, she isn’t. You already know that, though. I’m sure one of your people saw what happened and told you.” Michael rested a hand on the van door handle.

“Some of the men did say they saw a girl in a young boy’s arms . . . and then it was like they vanished.” He stuck his gun into a holster inside his jacket, turned to Michael and continued, “Do you know how that’s possible?”

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