Chapter Four

Verity

She hadn't meant to look at him. Verity ran into his back and fell. It was instinct, really, when someone turns around, you look. But she looked right into his eyes, his silver blue, glowing eyes. He was handsome in an eerie way. Tall and lean with dark hair. She'd never thought Immortalis could be good looking. When she couldn't watch a person, it was hard to decide whether she like their looks or not.

He was a young Immortalis, she knew because he was walking the sectors. When they came of age, the elders sent them out into the community to see the humans. She didn't know why. None had ever conversed with her before.

Hunter was tall and his strides were long so that she had to walk quickly else fall behind. She wished he'd let her fall behind. People looked at them, or at her, for humans weren't supposed to watch him.

Humans only walked with the Immortalis, if the human was being taken away.

"Do you like school, Verity?" he asked, eyeing her.

"It's all right, I guess." She wished he'd release her hand, people were going to talk, and Verity didn't like the dry, icy feel of his skin. It reminded her of poor Sally Jenkins after they'd pulled her frozen body from the pond. She had been sickly pale. Verity had touched her arm as they carried Sally Jenkins through the crowd…hard as stone and bitterly cold. His skin wasn't quite so chilly, but felt just as hard as Sally's had.

The school, white paint chipping from its clapboard siding, filled with students. Thankfully, they stopped walking, so he would let go of her hand soon.

"Well, it was nice to make your acquaintance, Verity. I hope to see you again some time." He let go of her hand and bowed. He bowed. How formal and odd. Quite regal, she supposed.

"Verity," Jay growled, coming up behind her. He wrapped his hand around her upper arm and pulled her away from Hunter. "What are you doing?" he said under his breath.

"I…I…fell."

"So, you get up." Still tugging her by the arm toward the building, he seethed.

"Let go of me," she snapped and shook her arm from his grasp.

"What? You allow that Immortalis to hold your hand, but I can't touch your arm? What's the matter with you?" He turned and jogged the rest of the way to the steps. Jay was inside the building before she even set one foot on the stairs.

The snow continued falling, blanketing the ground and everything it touched in pristine white. The land looked clean and fresh covered in snow, not its usual soppy brown.

She shook her head to remove the wet snow from her hair, and before she opened the door to go inside, glanced over her shoulder at Hunter.

With his hands in his trench coat pockets, and one foot jutting out, he watched her, too. Those silver-blue eyes reminded her of icicles, just as lovely and just as cold.

When school ended, they filed out like ants, and Jay caught up to her.

"You still want to do something tomorrow?" he asked.

"Sure."

"I'm sorry about this morning." Jay cleared his throat. He looked contrite, but she knew he had been worried for her safety. She couldn't be too angry with him.

"It's all right."

Jay bent, gathered a handful of snow, cupped his hands around it, and threw it right at her chest. She gasped, brushed off the snow, and then bent to fill her hand, tossing it right into Jay's face.

The look he gave her made her double over, holding her stomach, laughing. When she lifted her head to sneak a peek at him, he remained frozen with his mouth in a perfect oval, snow clinging to his nose and eyes.

Breathing deeply to squelch a case of the giggles, she went to him and cleaned off his face. His eyes watched her as she wiped away the snow, their bodies inches apart.

He smelled of soap and laundry detergent. His warmth migrated to her. Funny, she never realized how warm his body was.

Finished cleaning the snow from his face, her gaze met his. A frizzle of excitement hit her stomach, and she touched her belly to settle it.

Tiny, white clouds floated from Jay's mouth, and she could tell he was breathing rapidly. This was Jay, her buddy, her go-to. This was weird. She stepped back severing whatever had been building between them.

They walked the rest of the way home in an awkward silence. Neither of them seemed to know what to say. Perhaps he didn't want to hurt her feelings by joking about it, uncertain how she'd perceive making light of a strange moment.

Jay and Verity neared her house. He slowed, put a hand on her arm, stopping her.

Please let me go inside. Please don't say anything, Jay.

"Meet me at the creek tomorrow," he said. She breathed a sigh of relief. She'd been mistaken, making something out of nothing.

"What if it's snowing?"

"So? Plan on being pounded by snowballs." Jay lifted his hand, touched her cheek, sliding his hand toward her jaw before he let go. "See ya, Vee." He turned and jogged to the right of her house, past fourteen houses toward his home.

Inside, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet, and found her mother in the kitchen making a pot of tea.

"Hello, Verity. How was school?" She filled the kettle with water.

Her mom made their house a home. Her smooth voice welcomed them. Her arms hugged them. The warm, tangy scent of tea would always remind her of Mother, as she always made tea.

Mom put the kettle of water on the burner of the small stovetop and got the jar of teabags down, plus two cups. She wiped her hands on her gray apron that had once been virgin white, but after having it cleaned over the years, the material looked sullied.

"Okay," Verity answered with her standard response. Should she tell her about the Immortalis that she'd met? It might worry her, but if she didn't tell her, word would get around and Verity didn't want Mother finding out from the local gossips. "Guess what?" Deciding she wanted to tell her, she broached the subject gently. Besides, gossiping had a way of adding to stories, which aggrandandize them.

She put tea bags in each cup and glanced at Verity. "What?"

"I met an interesting…person today."

"Oh, yeah?" The kettle whistled. She took it off the heat and poured hot water over the tea bags.

"It's kind of funny, in a weird way. I was running—didn't want to be late for school—and didn't see the…person stop short in front of me."

"Honey in your tea?" Verity nodded. Her mother asked, "Why's that funny?"

"Well, it's funny because of who I ran into." Would she be upset? Would she have any overt reaction? With a soft chortle, she continued, "His name was Hunter, and he's an Immortalis."

She stilled with her hand holding the cup of tea en route to Verity. Green eyes misted over, and she put the cup on the counter, then turned away.

"Mom?"

When she faced her daughter, her eyes were red, and her hand shook. As she handed the cup of tea to Verity, the liquid threatened to slosh over the rim.

"Go on," she whispered.

She took it, sipped, and made an appreciative sound.

"He wasn't upset. In fact, he took my hand and helped me stand."

"You touched him?" Her face paled making her green eyes greener and red lips appear painted.

"Well, yeah. But he wasn't mad, Mom. He talked to me for a while and then I went to school and he went where ever Immortalis go."

She put a hand over her mouth and turned her back to her daughter, grabbing a washcloth intending to wipe off the stovetop.

Verity put a hand on her mother's shoulder. It trembled.

"Mom? Why are you upset? I know I'm not supposed to look at them and I even told him that I hadn't meant to, but he didn't care."

She turned around then, tears spilling over the rim of her eyes. Verity stepped back.

"Darling, he may not care, but the elders will." She pulled Verity to her and hugged her.

"Mom, you're scaring me. Will they do something to me?"

"No." She kissed the top of her head. "Not if your father and I have anything to say about it."