Venus!

Michael took off in the direction of the noise. The thick trees and rocky terrain, along with the fact that it was dark, kept him from going too fast. Every once in a while he’d stop so he could listen again—make sure he headed in the right direction. But it’d been more than long enough and he still hadn’t found them. The final time he slid to a stop, Michael knew he’d arrived. 

He could hear voices. And, a lot of coughing.

He wasn’t sure what he expected to see when he came upon them—a ship, flying penguin creatures or even a unicorn . . .  Instead he only saw the two of them—Zaren and Venus. They were in a small clearing next to . . . emptiness. Snow covered the ground. Trees surrounded them, as though they were sentries, guarding Zaren and Venus from harm.

But, there wasn’t a spaceship. No flying contraption. Or anything else. Only the two of them, whispering.

Venus still had on his coat and wore that stupid hospital gown along with her boots. Her hair hung long, touching her waist. It glimmered, as did the pale skin on her legs. A gnawing started low, in his gut, and spread through his limbs. She looked gorgeous, drowning in his jean jacket, the slit of the hospital gown going up, barely covering her body underneath. His body tightened with longing. But she coughed again and one thought drowned out all others.

Save her.

He had to help her get back.

“Venus,” Michael called out, moving forward. She turned, and even in the moonlight it was obvious she suffered. Dark shadows sunk deep under her eyes, her face looked ashen and he could hear her wheezing. “Venus,” he said again when he reached her.

“Michael. How did you get here?” she asked softly, as though it hurt to talk.

Zaren stormed over and grabbed his shoulder, his grip like steel. “Why did you come? You’ve put us in danger.”

“Let go, Bluto.” Michael tried to pull out of his grasp, but it was like trying to move a bulldozer. He didn’t budge. “I came to ask a question . . . and to help.” Venus put a hand on Michael’s arm. Her eyes tore into him, questioning. But he could tell she was happy to see him, too. “Venus, I’m sorry. It’s . . . I think—”

Whirring from a helicopter blade thudded from a distance. Michael could also hear the revving and screeching of engines and brakes.

 “Crap!”

Frank said they had another way of tracking Venus. Maybe they’d found her without Michael’s help. Either way, they were up cret’s creek without a paddle.

“Great,” Zaren yelled, letting go. He ran back to where they’d been standing when Michael had first arrived.

Michael watched a shimmer ripple through the air. And he realized a ship of some sort was there, hidden. “That’s effin awesome.”

“Michael, what did you need to ask?”

He glanced at her, working to discern the look she gave him. She moved her hand to his. Her skin was freezing. He bent toward her, resisting a strong need to press his lips against hers one more time—hold her again. Doing so would only increase his desire, his love for her. Michael could see she was in such pain, every breath a challenge. Yet she still helped him, giving him what he wanted.

How could I have been so dense? He touched her cheek with his fingertips, trying to memorize her face. He couldn’t fathom how he’d ever, for one second, believed that Venus murdered his mother.

On the other hand, it was simple to see Vinny had the opportunity. His motives were still unclear. Probably the leader of The Order, but that didn’t give Michael the real answer. What did The Order have to do with killing humans? It seemed to Michael the murders accomplished nothing. The marks were a part of it, but there had to be more. Right now it didn’t matter. Once he had a weapon that could kill Vinny, the what’s and why’s to his questions would follow. He hoped Venus knew of a way to destroy Vinny. She had to . . . “Vinny killed my mother,” he finally blurted.

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