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       Venom, p.3

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  The corners around my lips curved up slightly at the thought of me telling her the same thing when she’d been worried about her brother.

  “Otherwise, how do you feel?”

  “I just told you how I feel,” I said confused.

  She giggled. “No, I'm talking about physically. You are seventeen now, and you are growing closer to your Ascending.”

  “Oh.” I now understood what she meant. “Fine, I guess. Nothing’s changed.” I didn't feel any different, and except for the dream where I turned into the Sun-Blast that killed Brian, nothing paranormal was going on with me.

  The waitress finally came around and Sammy had to smack her hands together to get the two love birds’ attention.

  “You guys want to drink something, or is George’s saliva enough for you, Becky?”

  Eww, she didn’t just say that!

  “Oh, shut up.”

  George chuckled as he rubbed his nose.

  “I’ll have a watermelon cooler, thanks,” Becky said turning back to George once again.

  “Make that two,” I added. The watermelon cooler tasted as if you’d jumped into the juice of a watermelon. It had a little bit of chili after taste, but not so much that it burned your throat. It was just perfect.

  “I’ll have Firebeer,” Sammy spoke. Firebeer was like our Rootbeer. It was home brewed with no alcohol and sprinkled with Fire-powder.

  “Make mine a Fire-banger.” George gave his order while his arm was still around Becky’s neck. When the waitress left, they automatically sucked onto one another’s lips again.

  Looking around the room, I noticed that the place had filled up quickly and the same claustrophobic feeling I’d gotten from the Wall started to lay heavy on my chest. I huffed and mimicked Sammy’s pout when she saw Tabitha as Arianna waltzed into the pub.

  Plenty of guys greeted her with two kisses on each cheek, even Jimmy.

  She showed her perfect teeth with one of her million dollar smiles as a girl with short auburn hair stood beside her. She seemed familiar but I couldn’t recall where I’d seen her.

  A silent thank you came from my heart as both of them walked up the stairs leading to the room with the mirrors.

  “What is that?” I asked Sammy pointing to staircase they’d just disappeared up.

  “VIP,” Sammy said. “Whenever celebrities or someone like Arianna comes here, the crowds can be overwhelming for them; not that Arianna doesn’t love every moment of it, but Jimmy put up the VIP room for all the famous people that don’t.”

  I laughed at the way her nose scrounged up every time she mentioned Arianna’s characteristics.

  She could do whatever she wanted for all I cared, just not marry Lucian.

  After a couple of minutes the two bobbed down the stairs once again.

  Sammy sighed a wanting sigh and my eyes jumped back to her and then in the direction she stared at. Dean, one of Lucian’s best friends at Dragonia, was speaking to a couple of guys in the far corner. Whenever he was near, Sammy’s entire posture seemed to change. I guessed it had something to do with them guarding Dragonia together a couple of months ago but she never spoke about it. Sammy just sat up straighter as she stared his way. A small smile broke over her face and I couldn’t stop staring at her. Her eyes caught mine and she smiled lowering her gaze back to the table.

  “You like him?” I bumped her softly.

  Becky immediately broke her kiss with George. “Likes who?”

  We just looked at her and burst out laughing, they really needed to get a room!

  “Dean.”

  “That guy seriously blossomed over the summer,” Becky said appreciatively. The three of us had bumped into him two weeks ago, and all of us couldn’t stop gaping.

  “He finally Ascended?” George asked. “What do you mean he blossomed?”

  She gestured at Sammy with her eyes and gave George a huge smile. He just stared at her for a while and then he got it. Yeah, George wasn’t the type of dragon that caught things easily. He should thank his lucky stars that he would soon be able to see into the future. I wondered if he would ever reveal them like the Viden, but the thought made me smile because hearing riddles coming from his mouth was too hilarious to even contemplate.

  Becky stared at him and dimples appeared on his cheeks. They did that a lot lately and I swore sometimes they could read each other’s thoughts.

  The three of us slouched into our chairs and just stared at Dean as Arianna dug her nails into his arm, pulled him closer to her and whispering in his ear.

  “She really is a pain in the ass,” Becky said, venom injecting into her voice.

  Sammy’s smile vanished as she stared at the drink the waitress dropped off a minute ago.

  “Hey,” I bumped her softly and she huffed.

  “She’s a Princess. Every guy sees royalty when they lay their eyes on her. I’m sure Dean is no different.”

  I put my arm around her shoulders trying to comfort her.

  “It doesn’t matter; he would never go for someone like me.”

  “Someone like you?” Both Becky and I asked confused.

  “You know… poor.”

  “Oh, please,” I said a bit too harshly.

  “What, Elena, it’s the truth.”

  “Not everything is about money, Sammy. I had absolutely nothing and I ended up with Lucian.”

  She sighed. “It’s different.”

  “No, it isn’t.”

  “Are you ready to have a good time?” Blake’s voice came over the microphone, sending the room into an uproar as our conversation ended abruptly. Everybody cheered, whistled and went wild, even Sammy, Becky and George.

  I just kept staring at Sammy. She made me so furious selling herself short because her family didn’t own a dime. Any guy would be lucky to have her by his side; she was a beautiful being, and that was something money couldn’t buy.

  “My buddy just came back, George,” Blake yelled again.

  George jumped up on the sofa and roared with his arms stretched over his head and his fingers folded into two rock and roll signs. Everyone turned around and raised their glasses in his direction.

  “Welcome back.”

  I could hear the band starting to count off and the drums, guitar and key board began to play an upbeat tune. All of Longbottoms went in a rant as they started to jump in one spot with their hands held high in the air.

  A million goose bumps rippled over my flesh as Blake’s voice sent a thousand tiny electrical jolts throughout my body. I could listen to him sing all night.

  Sammy’s head bobbed from side to side with her eyes closed, as she lip synced the words of the song.

  Of course she knew every word. Her brother probably practiced every new single at home before giving it to the band. Then again, he was the Rubicon and had no problem with confidence.

  The next song I’d heard before. Lucian had played it for me that day we went to the gallery. My eyes closed as I listened to the words and the melody wash over me.

  The strain in his voice was overwhelming as he sang about this girl he hadn’t met yet. I couldn’t help but wonder how Tabitha felt about that one.

  Jarring me from my trance, my Cammy suddenly buzzed inside my jacket pocket. It could only be one person and I was done with ignoring him. I got up, squeezed past the crowd as fast as I could, and went outside for some privacy.

  I found the quietest spot at the end of the verandah and pressed the button.

  Lucian’s face appeared and he looked absolutely miserable for a second. When he saw me though, he’s entire face lit up. “Hey sweetheart, decided to stop ignoring me?” He squinted and the wrinkles I loved around his eyes and cheeks appeared. “Are you having fun without me?”

  “Never. George came back, so I was forced to come with. How’s the trip? Killed a helpless little deer yet?”

  He stared at me with a sour pout. “It’s called hunting and we don’t drug them. They are not so helpless.”

  I started
to laugh. “Whatever helps you sleep better at night.”

  “I sleep just fine, thank you.” He sighed. “I wish we could come home, now. I really hate not being there with you. My Dad really needs to get with the program. It’s not the dark ages anymore. We don’t need alliances or anything.”

  He was the second person to comment in that way.

  “You need one ruler for Paegeia though.”

  “Then Arianna can rule for all I care.”

  “Lucian, you don’t mean that.”

  “If it means I won’t have to marry her, I do.”

  I huffed and gave him a small smile. I could hear his name being called in the background again.

  He grunted. It was something that always happened just as we really got into our conversations. “I’ve got to go. Just don’t ignore me again, please. Love you.”

  “I love you too,” I said softly though my heart was breaking a little.

  “Have fun, but not too much.”

  “You too,” I whispered.

  He laughed.

  “Bye, Sweetheart.”

  His face disappeared with a click and I placed the Cammy back into my pocket. Turning to go back inside, I almost bumped into Arianna who was standing right in front of me. Was she eavesdropping on my conversation?

  Her arms were folded against her chest and the girl that I’d seen come in with her sat at one of the tables closest to us; her feet swinging in the air.

  Arianna looked stunning with her cream leather jacket and top which showed a bit too much cleavage for my taste.

  “What do you want Arianna?” I asked clearly irritated with her presence.

  She gave me that smile of hers; the one that told me she was gloating. “I told you before. Lucian is off limits, Elena.”

  I huffed, smiled and started to walk away. She grabbed my arm forcing me to stop.

  “We are going to get married two years from now. You’ll just end up getting hurt.” Her face was close to mine and her fingernails dented deep into my arms.

  “It’s a chance I’ll take. Be careful that you don’t end up with the broken heart.” My voice sounded harsh but still soft.

  She and the girl cackled with laughter. “Oh, how rude of me. This is Nicole, Lucian’s cousin.”

  “Lucian’s cousin?” That took me by surprise.

  “I have no idea what he sees in you,” she said in a sweet tone as her eyes scanned me.

  “Pleasure to meet you too,” I said in the most sarcastic tone I could muster.

  Arianna laughed again. “They are never going to accept you, Elena. As a matter of fact, I’m quite close to all of them. Nicole is one of my best friends, for crying out loud. I’m always there.”

  I fumed inside, but Lucian’s voice appeared inside my head. Don’t give her the satisfaction of showing her how badly this upsets you.

  “Enjoy it while you can, Princess.” I pulled my arm out of her grip.

  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Elena. I’m only looking out for you. You know I’m right.”

  Brushing past her I stopped at the door. Everybody had turned our way by now, drawn into the juicy drama that was clearly unfolding.

  “Looking out for me? You only care about yourself.”

  She looked shocked at my words.

  “Excuse me, who do you think saved your butt on that mission?”

  I froze as a couple of Cammy’s were pointed my direction. Oh, crap. I wasn’t wearing a hoody and I tried to hide my face the best I could while running back inside.

  I thankfully found Becky in two seconds. “I need to get out of here, Arianna…and now everyone is trying to take a snapshot of me.”

  “Elena.” She gave me a disapproving scowl. We’d spoken about this so many times and her advice was to pose and wave.

  “No, please. I don’t want my face plastered on every newspaper tomorrow.”

  Becky wanted to protest but stopped when George pulled off his hoody and put it over my shoulders. “We can come back, Becky.” He said flashing me a look of concern.

  “Fine, just wait outside. I’ll have to tell Sammy we’re just leaving for two secs.”

  George pulled me toward the exit. Jimmy still wanted to ask why we were leaving, but George gave him a quick answer of wannabe paparazzi trying to make a buck or two.

  “Where is Sammy?” I asked George as we ran down the stairs as fast as we could and hid under them. Thank heavens I’d worn pumps, if I had been in the boots Lucille had bought me I would surely have ended up with broken ankles.

  “Shhh.” He whispered as a couple of people ran down the stairs.

  “Did you get it?” I heard one of them say.

  “Not entirely. Her hand was in front of the camera.”

  “Doesn’t matter, that picture is still worth a fortune.”

  “We can still get another one, if we can find her.” The guy that had taken the picture laughed as if I was some sort of thoroughbred horse. “Come, she couldn’t have gone far.”

  Crouching low we waited for them to disappear.

  “It’s not a good picture, Elena,” he assured me trying to calm my fears.

  “Still, it’s going to be in every newspaper tomorrow. People know what I look like, George.”

  “What happened?” He asked concerned

  “The same Arianna-crap. I’m never going to get rid of her, am I?”

  “Don’t underestimate Lucian. He’s been fighting against marrying that girl even before you came.”

  I sighed knowing he was telling the truth.

  “You shouldn’t let her get to you like that. Arianna is such a pushover.”

  “Yeah, well, she’s a pushover with a lot of power. And she’s got the only thing I truly want, a chance with Lucian.”

  “Just be patient. I’m sure you’ll get it.”

  A couple of other people ran down the stairs too. I froze like ice every time more footsteps echoed off the wooden stairs.

  “George!” I heard Becky voice yelling softly.

  “Down here.”

  “You guys need more help?” Jimmy’s voice came from the top of the stairs.

  “No, we’ll be fine,” Sammy voice answered next to him as her footsteps made a dull, clicking noise down the stairs. What was she doing, giving up a dance with Dean!

  “Phone me, Sammy. No matter what help you need,” Jimmy said simply. “You don’t know what those idiots will do to get a picture of her.”

  “Thanks Jimmy. They’ll see their ass with me.” She laughed at her own joke.

  “I’m sure they will.”

  “Seriously, why didn’t you just pose?” Becky reached us as I still wondered about why Sammy was leaving with us. Becky’s tone was really starting to annoy me.

  “I’m not like you. Besides, the paparazzi hate me. I’m The Boyfriend Snatcher remember, who knows what they’ll print tomorrow, Becky.” I remembered one of the headings they’d printed when they’d caught Lucian and me on our only date this summer. After that horrible day at the gallery, I was hiding my face underneath my hoody constantly when I was with Lucian. It was starting to become a trend every time I went out.

  “You should really suck it up, Elena. You only make it harder on yourself.”

  “Sure, one day. Just not tonight,” I grunted at her. She was so pushy, but then again that was Becky.

  Sammy’s Beetle roared to life as she came as close as possible to our hiding spot underneath the stairs. I wondered how it had gotten here tonight.

  “She didn’t want to spoil George’s reunion, so she insisted that you sleep over at her house tonight. Blake drove her car here, and said he would fly home,” Becky explained at my questioning look. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  “Thanks for everything,” I grabbed Becky around her neck.

  She stroked my back and I knew she really cared, even if she was being a pain. “Be careful. I’m only pushing this because your life might get easier.”

  “I know. I’m just not read
y yet.”

  “Okay. Take care, and phone me no matter what.”

  I nodded and looked at George as I started to take off his jacket. “Thanks, George.”

  “Keep it, I’ll get it tomorrow,” he assured me with a smile.

  “You sure? It might get chilly.”

  They both started to laugh.

  “He’s a dragon, Elena. They’re always hot.”

  “Thanks, Babe, you’re hot too,” George joked and Becky slapped him with the back of her hand playfully.

  I sometimes forgot that George was a lightning breather, meaning his core was always warm no matter the weather.

  Turning from them, I ran as fast as I could to Sammy’s Beetle. She opened the door from the inside and it almost hit me on my hip.

  I climbed in, closed the door and Sammy drove off. She hooted twice at Becky and George as we turn into the road.

  When was this nightmare going to end?

  ’M SORRY, SAMMY. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” I said, slinking back into my seat embarrassed.

  “It’s fine, Elena,” she assured me with a sharp nod in my direction.

  “So, dancing with Dean, huh?”

  She nodded with a huge smile and a dreamy look on her face.

  I flinched. “I’m evil.”

  “No, you’re not.” She looked at her rear view mirror. “When I saw that cow walking in, I knew trouble was going to follow.”

  I huffed, agitated with Arianna all over again.

  “She was with Lucian’s cousin. Not a friendly little thing either.”

  “That’s Lucian’s cousin?”

  I nodded.

  “Rumor has it her father is trying everything to get her into Dragonia.”

  “Perfect, maybe you can light her ass on fire then.”

  We both laughed at the image my comment produced and I couldn’t pretend it didn’t make me happy to have a dragon at my back.

  “Just drop me off, and go back. I’ll be fine.”

  “Are you insane? What kind of a friend will I be? It’s okay, really.”

  “But you danced with Dean.”

  “Dean is not my best friend, yet. When he is, well, that’s a different story.”

  “Thanks Sammy. You are so different from Becky.”

 
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