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Chapter Four: Natalia

After school on Wednesday, I went dress shopping at our local mall for the stupid formal TWA party I was being forced to attend in order to keep my cover. Todd's unrelenting pursuit of me was destroying any chance of a good mood, but my particularly bitter mood today couldn't be fully attributed to Todd.

Yesterday, I waited for Jesse to show up at my school to the point I was almost late to biology. I hoped he would redeem himself by showing up today, but no such luck. I guess whatever important thing he had to attend to pulled him away sooner than he thought.

I found a dress shop on the top floor of the mall called Dress Experts. It looked like it had once been a large shoe store but recently was converted to hold the formal dresses TWA officers loved to buy for their balls and parties. Sadly, I was the only customer in the entire store. I watched as the clerks fought over me behind the counter like I was the last scrap of food at dinner.

Great.

A lady with blonde, poofy hair with make-up caked on her face came to meet me at the front of the store. She plastered on a smile that made me uncomfortable. "Can I help you?"

I smiled at her as politely as possible. "I'm looking for a dress for a TWA party this Friday."

The rep changed quickly, straightening her back in the process. It was funny to watch humans change their demeanor around Telepaths. They thought it would be the thing to protect them from a Telepath's wrath. Of course I "wasn't" one of the Telepaths.

"Of course. Right this way. How long have you been in the TWA, if I may ask? You seem so young, but I guess age doesn't matter when you have such great potential flowing through your veins." The compliments seemed to pour from her mouth without her noticing.

The rep grabbed a couple of dresses off the racks that didn't impress me. In my mind, I already tried on each dress. None of them were going to be flattering. "I'm not a Telepath. My date's soon to be a trainee."

The rep relaxed, making me miss her squirming. "Try these on, darling. Let's see if we can find you something to wear. What type of Telepath is your date?"

I stepped into the dressing room with the ugly dresses as I tried to decide which one to try on first. No wonder this store is empty. "He's a Storm Telepath. He has these piercing gray eyes I'd like to match if at all possible." I heard the lady clicking and clacking her way through the racks. I put on the best dress out of the bunch.

The dress was a beautiful teal color that could enhance the dark brown of my contacts, but that was all the dress had going for it. There was a massive bow squarely on the chest which was so huge it touched the top of my jaw on both sides. The dress went straight down to my knees without detouring at a single one of my curves. I didn't have many but this made me look like an unflattering stick.

There is no one on Earth that would look flattering in this.

I stepped out of the dressing room to find the rep with at least five more dresses worse than the batch in my dressing room. "How do I look?" I asked her. I could already tell she was going to fail my test.

The rep smiled. I could tell she's been in the business a long time without having to read her mind. It was written clearly on her face. "You look amazing. Your boyfriend is going to love it. We have that dress in silver if you'd rather have that color."

I pushed at the bow smacking me in the face as I reached out to her mind. There was no way she thought this look worked. Easy commission.

I stepped back into the dressing room. I would've burned the dresses right then and there to save the next poor sap from this torture if I was a TWA officer. I changed back into my regular clothes instead and resigned to gathering up the horrible dresses in my arms.

"I don't like being lied to." I threw the dresses at the clerk.

I walked toward the racks myself. The clerk's shoes clacked on the tile floor as she ran after me. "I never lied to you, my dear." I hardened my eyes and straightened my body like every TWA officer had done before trying to break me down. The clerk flinched.

I searched the clearance racks for a silver dress that would highlight my Telepath features as well as accent Todd's eyes. He was the one who mattered at this party. I was only arm candy.

"You aren't a very good liar, ma'am." My hand brushed the perfect dress.

I slid the hook off the rack to stare at my treasure. The dress was silver from the sequins littering every inch of the fabric. The dress had a slit on the left side allowing for easy movement; it could come in handy in the lion's den. I headed for the dressing room slightly giddy.

I slipped into the dress and zipped it up without help from the clerk. I stared at the mirror in my room, stunned by the sight in front of me. The silver made my brown eyes pop while leaving the peeking emerald of my iris muted. My auburn hair danced over the sequins, giving me the Telepath look I wanted without overpowering the human innocence. The slit I noticed earlier went up to the middle of my thigh, allowing the perfect amount of movement for running while adding the sexy element Todd requested.

I checked the price tag hanging on the side. It was originally $200, but was reduced to $50. I wasn't complaining.

I stepped out of the dressing room for the clerk to take a good look at me. She examined me closely; I felt like I was under a microscope. Better get used to it. "Let me find you a better dress."

I flexed my index finger, causing the lady to slide toward me. I focused on her eyes, putting a little of my power behind it. She tried to glance away, but I had her locked in. "I want the truth."

The lady bit her bottom lip in an attempt to keep her opinions to herself, but my will was stronger than hers. "You look amazing in that dress, but it's much cheaper than the other dresses I picked out for you." I blinked, releasing the lady from my control.

I entered the dressing room and changed back into my normal jeans and white wolf t-shirt. I had the urge to rearrange the lady's impulses to make her tell the truth forever but that would easily blow my cover. Instead, I opted to erase her memory and the security cameras to hide my little outburst.

I exited the dressing room. "I'd like to buy this dress." I held up my chosen dress, knowing the clerk wouldn't remember I picked it. The clerk's eyes were still glazed over as my power worked its way through her mind.

She quickly recovered. "Of course."

I bought my dress and stepped out of the boutique, running into Todd immediately. "Watch it, human."

I brushed myself off. My dress hit the ground and I was thankful for the bag covering it. "How about you watch it?"

Todd focused on my face. "Natalia. I see you have your dress for Friday."

I smiled as genuinely as I could manage. "Of course." I kissed him on the cheek. "See you tomorrow at school."

I walked off, knowing he was as confused as ever. His eyes followed me as if he was trying to see into the inner workings of my mind. I turned into a random shop to get away from his prying eyes.

I stood off to the side behind a few racks of merchandise in the mystery store. I tried erasing the feeling of Todd's cheek on my lips as I steadied my shaky breath. "This might help." My lips were hit with a burst of heat.

The kiss ended just as quickly as it started. Standing in front of me was Jesse with his glowing emerald eyes. "What are you doing here?" I peered out the window to see if Todd was following me. "It's not safe for you here." There was a pause as my mind caught up with my eyes. "Where the hell have you been?"

Jesse's jet black hair was ruffled and a few twigs were poking out among the mess. I reached up to pull them out. "You know I can't tell you."

I looked around the store to notice it was empty except for the two employees behind the checkout counter. "Can't or won't."

Jesse grabbed my wrist and tried to pull me deeper into the store where the workers couldn't hear us. "Let's not do this."

I slapped his hand away, making sure it stung with some added electricity. "No. You said you'd meet me at school yesterday, but you never showed. You didn't even leave me a message or anything." I headed out into the mall, fuming. I couldn't be near him right now or hear his lame excuses.

Jesse popped in front of me from a portal that appeared in a blink of an eye and disappeared just as fast. "I couldn't get away to see you. Plus, your little Telepath friend isn't making it easier for me."

I pushed past Jesse. "Those are just excuses."

Jesse grabbed my free hand. "They're the truth."

I shook my head. "The truth would involve you telling me what you do. Why the secrecy?"

Jesse looked down at his feet. I sent out my little feelers only to hit a wall around his thoughts. If I was able to use more of my power without alerting any Telepath around us, I would've easily torn that wall down. "Good-bye, Jesse."

Jesse didn't run after me and that hurt more than anything he could've said to me. I walked down the steps to the food court, holding back the tears that wanted to break free. I stepped out the sliding doors of the mall to find my mom waiting patiently for me in the pickup lane. I wiped my eyes quickly before hopping in. I couldn't let her see me in this distressed state.

"Did you find a dress?" she asked cheerfully.

I looked out the window as we pulled away. My brain flashed an image of Jesse running after the van, screaming my name before I returned to reality. Jesse was nowhere to be seen. He wasn't coming after me.

“Yeah.”

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