Chapter 2--Alex Verin

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“What is wrong with you?” Andrew shouted. He shook me until I opened my eyes again. “Hasn’t Adam taught you anything? If I wasn’t…”

He trailed off in another language, and I realized there was no way I was strong enough to fight him. Given the strength it took to hold me, he could have snapped me in half. So I said the only thing I thought might get him to let me go.

“If you kill me, you’ll prove my dad right.”

His eyes dimmed, but he still held me against the wall for several minutes before he seemed to calm down. Then he looked up at me again. With the contacts, his eyes appeared to be a normal human blue again.

“Listen to me, Alex,” he said in a tone like a parent telling a child not to touch a hot stove. “Never grab a Hannarian from behind like that again. Do you understand? We can’t sense you like we can each other.”

He dropped me down to eye-level as I nodded, and I noticed he was actually a little shorter than me. Then he backed away and picked up our drink bottles from the floor, handing mine back to me. His was now only halfway full, and he seemed annoyed that he’d stepped in the puddle it had made.

“Just go.” He gestured at the stairs then walked away to grab a towel off a nearby cleaning cart. “I shouldn’t have turned my back on you.”

I was still too terrified to move. He noticed this and sighed as he laid the towel on the floor and stepped on it.

“You don’t even know what you did,” he said. I shook my head. “Give me a minute. I need to think about this.”

Looking up the stairwell first to make sure no one was coming, he took his contacts out. I figured he could still catch me if I ran, so I decided not to move.

“We have a biological self-defense system,” he explained as his eyes got brighter. “Think of it like glow-in-the-dark adrenaline, only for us it’s always flowing in a secondary bloodstream. That’s why our eyes glow, even when we’re not upset or afraid. When you grabbed me, you triggered that system. My reaction was involuntary. Does that make sense?”

I nodded.

“So you’re not mad at me?” I asked and pointed to the break room. “Even after all the things I said back in there?”

He shook his head. I was even more confused. He should have been furious.

“I can stop myself once I realize what’s going on,” he said then gestured at the wall. “As far as pinning you, I didn’t have time to think. My body just reacted.”

I nodded again, but something else didn’t make sense. Andrew had used Dad’s first name like he knew him, and it was obvious he thought I knew more than I did. I knew his dad’s full name from the meetings, but even if I could say it I’d have still used his title.

“My father knows you can do this?” I asked as I walked to the base of the stairs. Andrew nodded. “He’s never mentioned it to me, and I’ve asked him dozens of times just why your eyes glow. All he’s ever told me is it’s a way of telling your emotions—that you’d all be horrible at poker.”

“Well, that’s a half-truth.” He put his contacts back in then blinked a few times. “Dad has told him a lot trying to help them understand us, but it hasn’t worked out well. I know Adam must not have told you much, but I shouldn’t be interfering like this. He’s your dad—I get that, and I know why you think the way you do. I just don’t like that he’d neglect to tell you something so basic that it could impact your personal safety—not to mention my family’s safety. That’s all.”

I stared at him, debating on how much I should say. I shouldn’t have been talking to him at all, but unlike everyone else in my family a part of me did want to understand them.

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