Opposition (Lux, #5)(8)

The little girl in my arms squirmed, managing to wiggle an arm free. Swinging on me, she knocked my baseball cap off, and my hair spilled down my back. The Luxen stepped forward, lips peeling back to bare its teeth.

Not good.

With my arms full of a kicking and screaming child, I knew when to retreat. Spinning around, I took off down the nearest aisle. The scent of burned flesh and plastic was strong as I rounded the corner, kicking rolls of bread out of the way. I slid to a halt. Whoa.

Holy naked aliens everywhere.

Even if I wasn’t a hybrid and knew to check out the peepers to see if someone was an alien undercover, it would be quite easy to pick out the Luxen right about now, considering they apparently had no modesty issues when it came to being completely naked.

Dumbly, I realized I was seeing more male and female flesh than I ever wanted to see, but as I turned, spying Archer coming to my side, a bigger concern took hold.

We were surrounded.

“Happy?” Archer gritted out, his amethyst eyes burning bright.

At least six Luxen were staring at us, trying to figure out exactly what we were. Three were in human form, standing next to the crumpled bodies of those they had assimilated. The other three were in their true forms, their bodies tinged in reddish-white light. Behind us, the female Luxen from the front of the store appeared.

Not a single one looked like it wanted to hug and love us.

My heart kicked against my ribs as I knelt down slowly, looking into the tearstained face of the little girl. “When I let go, you run,” I whispered. “You run as fast as you can and you don’t stop.”

I wasn’t sure if she understood me, but I prayed she did. Exhaling roughly, I let her go and gave her a little push toward the gap between two aisles. The child didn’t disappoint. Spinning around, she ran for the space, and while I wished I could do more for her, I stood.

One of the glowing Luxen glided forward and then stopped, head cocking to the side. The rest of them, the ones in their true and human forms, all looked toward the woman who I’d snatched the kid away from.

This is going to end badly. Archer’s voice intruded. Is it assuming too much that if I tell you to run, you will?

I took a deep breath. I’m not going to leave you.

One side of his lips curved up. Figured as much. Let’s go on the offense. Clear a path toward the front.

During my time with Daedalus, I’d been taught to fight not only in the very human way, but also using the Source. I’d tapped into that training while in Vegas, and while there was a part of me that was confident I could throw down with the best of them, an arctic blast of fear slid its way up my spine.

Without any warning, Archer went all badass.

Snapping forward, he reared his arm back. A ball of pure energy traveled down his arm, erupting from his palm and slamming into the center of the Luxen’s bare chest, knocking the alien out of its human form and into the glass door of the dairy section. Containers exploded, sending rivers of milk over the floor.

One of the glowing Luxen shot toward Archer as he whirled and took aim at the naked woman. I pulled from the Source. The light that whirled down my arm was nowhere near as intense as Archer’s, but it did the trick. Arcing across the aisle, it smacked into the shoulder of the Luxen, spinning it around.

I geared up to let loose another bolt of energy when pain burst along my shoulder. One second I was standing, and the next I was on my knees, my left shoulder smoking. I reached around, gently touching my shoulder as I forced myself to stand. My hand came back smudged in red.

Turning around, I nearly took a meaty fist in the face from a Luxen in its human form—a young male. Stumbling several steps, I caught myself and raised my knee. Air stirred around me as I planted my foot in an area I didn’t want to look at.

The Luxen male doubled over.

Smiling grimly, I grabbed hold of its brown hair just as it started to shift, warming my hands as I slammed my knee into its nose. Bones cracked, but I knew that wouldn’t keep the Luxen down.

And I knew what needed to be done.

Archer let loose another blast as I tapped into the Source. It flowed down my arm, cascading over the top of the Luxen’s head as he lifted it, eyes glowing like white orbs.

The next second, I was flung backward like a car had smacked into me. The air cracked with static as I hit the hard floor on my back, momentarily stunned while I stared up at the broken, swaying tray of fluorescent light.

Holy ouch.

Groaning, I rolled onto my side and blinked tightly. The Luxen was also on its back, several yards away. Struggling to my feet, I saw Archer flinging a Luxen into the freezer section. He spun toward me, saw me standing, and nodded.

There was a path cleared, down by the spilled cartons of ice cream. Not a very clear path. Luxen were sprawled on the floor, flickering in and out, down for a moment but not out for the count.

An explosion from somewhere in the grocery store rocked the tall shelves. The freezer doors imploded as Archer and I ran down the aisle, glass shattering inches behind us. Skidding across the slippery floor by the bakery, we reached the front. Around us, humans scurried toward the broken windows, bloodied and shell-shocked.

My heart dropped into my stomach as the parking lot and the buildings beyond came into view. Smoke poured into the air, shooting up in great plumes above orangey-red flames. An electric pole was down on a row of cars with crumbled roofs. Sirens screamed in the distance. A car zoomed across the parking lot, slamming into another vehicle. Metal crunched and gave way.

Jennifer L. Armentro's Books