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from Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold

Copyright © 2021 Dacia Arnold

Chapter Eighteen

“I have to get back to Caleb.” Valerie pushed out of her tall chair and walked to the elevator. Lucas was far enough away she could get back to her room and give everyone a fair warning, maybe even tell them of her pregnancy before he did.

“He knows now, doesn’t he?” Hyka asked, frustrated.

“He was going to find out either way.”

“Who’s the dad?”

Valerie stopped in front of the elevator and looked at Hyka, ready to slap her. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know your life.” Hyka threw her hands up in the air.

“It’s my husband’s child.”

They stood in silence waiting for the elevator.

“This is taking too long. I was the last to use this elevator. It should have been here.” Valerie paced.

When the door opened, a man in a black suit and necktie stepped out, blocking their entry.

“Dr. Jarrett would like to speak with you, ma’am. He felt you should be given a fair warning in order to collect yourself. I apologize for the late hour, but he asked the control room to notify him once you finished resting.” The uniformed man maintained a smug grin and spoke only to Valerie. He kept his hand near a 9mm pistol secured in a tan leg holster.

Valerie was not impressed, nor was she threatened.

“Rest?! Is that what we call recovering from being shocked unconscious? Lucas is a coward.”

“Ma’am, you will be careful how you speak of your DiaZem.”

“My DiaZem? I am a DiaZem! You should be careful how you speak to me. I have been through a lot this week thanks to your DiaZem, and I am not looking to put up with much more.”

He stepped out of the elevator, allowing the door to close behind him. The closer she felt Lucas was, the more anxious she became. She needed to be with her son. She needed to protect him. This man in the suit was standing in her way; something she vowed she would never let happen again.

“If you do not move now, you are going to need your own time to rest,” Valerie said through clenched teeth. She did not want to kill him, but she did not know how to use her ability to hurt people without killing them.

Valerie blinked back tears of rage, but they escaped despite her best efforts. In a split second she took to close her eyes and release her frustration, she was staring down the end of his 9mm.

“Threats are not taken lightly here, Ms. Burton,” the man said, remaining calm and collected. He held a finger to his ear and spoke again, not to her. “Yes, we are fine here, just coming to a mutual understanding. Yes, sir.” He looked at her again, “Ms. Burton—”

“It’s Russell, for the last time. Valerie Russell,” she interrupted, teeth still clenched, fighting the quiver in her voice.

“Yeah, well, have a seat, and Dr. Jarrett will meet you momentarily.” He dismissed her and holstered his weapon while keeping his eyes on Hyka, who could have killed him with the look on her face.

Lucas was not far away by the time she sat down, and all she could do was wait. She wanted to scream and fight the man with the gun, but doing so would put Hyka in immediate danger. She did not know Lucas well enough to know how he would react. She did not put it past him to hurt her family as retribution. She swore at herself for leaving Caleb, for needing to go for a walk. She also cursed Hyka for guessing she was pregnant.

The attraction to Lucas grew stronger with every second. She chewed a cocktail straw and mulled over the magnet example Hyka had given. Two magnets of opposite polar attractions will always be attracted to each other. She racked her brain thinking of every science class she ever took. She knew there had to be a way to demagnetize a DiaZem if the properties were the same.

Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of the elevator opening. Deep down she still hoped August would get out, but knew it was Lucas. She fought her instinct to go to him and remained seated, not even looking in his direction.

“Ah, my beautiful bride,” he said.

“You’re such a pig,” Valerie said before she could stop herself. She tried to refocus her rage at him, but she was weak.

Hyka spit out Valerie’s drink she had helped herself to in disbelief.

“Now, I’m not that bad. I am positive there are worse people you could be paired with. I mean the pond is pretty narrow, my dear. The sooner you come around, the better. We don’t want to give the World Council the impression we aren’t in the game. The last DiaZem group to start a rebellion did not have a happy ending. The Council frowns upon such things.” He stood behind her. She was so in tune with him, she knew how he was standing, how he motioned with his hands when he spoke, all without looking at him. Her heart raced, and her mouth was dry. Her instinct was to reach out to him, to be comforted and loved by him. The sensation ripped her soul apart at the seams. The emotional wounds from losing her husband were still fresh enough to help keep her wits about her. He placed his hand on her shoulder. Her head tilted just slightly, welcoming the warmth of his hand. She hated him yet wanted his affection. She did not know how long she could fight, but she would. Inhale, exhale.

“Where is August?” she asked, to spite him.

Lucas grabbed her by the hair and yanked her out of the chair to face him. The anger in his eyes faded and he pulled her closer, keeping his firm grip. She turned away from him, fighting her strong urges.

“You are far sexier angry than I could have ever hoped for. Maybe I should spread out the execution of your family to keep you in a constant state of rage. You’re more fun when you play hard to get.” The last words he whispered in her ear.

Hyka jumped up and was met by the 9mm held by Lucas’ assistant.

“You are quite feisty, too. Having both of you will be a treat. A birthday present, maybe?” Lucas winked at Hyka. “Rob, what’s going on?”

Lucas released Valerie and flung her toward Hyka.

His assistant held a finger to his earpiece for a moment before answering his boss. “I think the departure of Dr. Wilkes needs to be expedited.”

Valerie looked at Hyka, who was listening to her earpiece. Hoping he would leave to deal with August, the women moved to the elevator.

“Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa!” Lucas shouted as he caught up with them. He grabbed Valerie’s wrist and forced her hand into his. “This is a great opportunity to show you around, and you can even wave goodbye to your boyfriend.”

Valerie could not handle any more. She chopped him in the throat with her free hand. When he released her, Hyka pushed her forward, and the women sprinted across the lobby. Two bullets whizzed by and hit the glass doors in front of them. A third caught Hyka in the leg. Valerie stopped running and glared at Rob, Lucas’ assistant. She found the small spark inside of his rib cage flickering with his pulse. Then it was gone. His face went white, and he collapsed to the ground.

“Listen here, bitch,” Lucas began.

Valerie tried the same, but Lucas absorbed every effort she made to pull his energy. He continued his advance, ...

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