North American CoalitiON

    Zone 7, Ottawa City Central

    Earth Year, 2116






    Evangeline sat perched on her office chair with her long, slender legs crossed at the knee. One high-heeled foot tapped angrily on the tiled floor. She glared across the vast expanse of the antique desk, staring down Nancy O’Neill, a former member of her private security detail.

    Evangeline favored the enormous desk, an old world monstrosity with its intricate and aged design. It was at odds with the sterile white walls and tiles of her corner office, but it gave off an air of superiority that made her visitors feel small. It diminished their confidence, a point that was driven home by the elite security guard who stood across from her now. Nancy’s posture was rigid, her eyes glued to some invisible point behind Evangeline’s head. From the tight set of her mouth, it was clear Nancy knew she’d crossed a line.

    Evangeline thrummed her cherry-red nails on the embossed leather desk pad. She was furious. How could a six-foot-five Elite Breeder disappear in a city full of women?

    “You’ve done nothing to help your plight,” Evangeline said to Nancy, her voice dripping with rage. “Not only did you betray me by fucking my favorite Elite Breeder behind my back, but now, when I’ve given you the opportunity to rectify the matter and find him, you come up empty handed!”

    “Ma’am, we believe he’s crossed over into the Dead Zones and that he’s getting help.” Nancy glanced nervously at Evangeline. “The Network knows how to hide their tracks. We’ve exhausted every—”

    “Exhausted!” Evangeline interjected, her voice like a cracking whip. She stood up and slammed her hands down on the desk, her long brown hair swinging around her face. “Tried isn’t sufficient!” She leaned forward, meeting Nancy’s eyes, making the younger woman pale with a single withering look.

    “He never should have made it to the Dead Zones!” Evangeline yelled, her painted red lips twisting into a scowl. She bared her teeth, fists clenching tightly at her sides. “You’re going to have to fix this mess you’ve made. Losing a Class 5 Elite Breeder is unacceptable. I already have the Council breathing down my neck. I don’t need to tell you how rare e-breeders are. They want him back and so do I; this kind of loss carries serious consequences.”

    It was bad enough that Troy had gone missing on the night of Evangeline’s annual Valentine’s Day gala—the most prestigious social event in the district, which she hosted. She’d barely been able to conceal his disappearance from said event, and it was only a matter of time before the truth got out. It was humiliating to ask the Council for their help in locating him. Evangeline shuddered when she thought of the pandemonium that would ensue once the media found out.

    She would be a laughingstock.

    The newsfeeds would be all over it, like flies on shit. The mere thought made her feel sick to her stomach and left an acerbic taste in her mouth.

    “You need to rectify this problem as soon as possible, before he disappears forever,” Evangeline continued. “And if that happens, you’ll never work in security again. Even as it is, your prospects are looking slim.”

    At least Nancy had the sense to cast her eyes downward as if she were searching for something on the floor. Her cheeks reddening.

    Nancy wasn’t solely responsible for what had happened. The fact that she’d fucked Troy behind Evangeline’s back, that was unforgivable. But Evangeline had allowed her e-breeder to roam freely around the estate after three years of being together. His betrayal was profound and stung deeply.

    She’d known that Troy had run in the past, but she’d believed he was content with his position and happy to be by her side. After all, hadn’t she put him on a pedestal and granted him all sorts of privileges?

    And then there was a slight complication—Evangeline loved Troy, was in love with him, even though he was eight years her junior. A top-tier Elite Breeder, trained in bed play, he was highly skilled between the sheets, and his virility only made him more appealing. Evangeline used every trick in the book to delay his transfer from under her Keepership, inventing all sorts of fertility issues. All lies, every last one.

    The Lottery, a draw for fertility treatments—or even better, access to breeders—was closed to most women once they reached thirty, and then their baby-making days were over. But they gave politicians some leniency when it came to their reproductive capabilities and timeline.

    Evangeline was nearing thirty-five. She was running out of time. She had no intention of ever having a baby, too focused on her career as Governor of Zone 7. However, she was notorious for getting what she wanted, and she wanted Troy back—regardless of his betrayal. At best, they’d had another two years together before the Council took him back into their fold, but his disappearance threw a wrench in her plans. She wasn’t sure they’d allow her to keep him after this fiasco, but Evangeline would try her damnedest to make it happen.

    “Gather personnel and send them to the Dead Zones.” Evangeline straightened up and smoothed her dress suit back into place. “Recruit the most competent trackers by whatever means necessary. Determine who aided in his escape. Go back through the staff roster for any clues. I need evidence that I can present to the Council before we can confirm a Network tie-in. Nothing is off limits, understood?”

    “Yes, Governor.” Nancy inclined her head, her face a mask of neutrality. “May I take my leave?” She kept her gaze fixed forward and continued to avoid making eye contact with Evangeline at all costs.

    Evangeline dropped into her chair and waved Nancy off with a dismissive flick of her hand. “Go.” She spun her chair around and took in the expansive view from her office, scanning over the pristine low-rise landscape. Troy was out there somewhere. Just imagining another woman near him, touching him, twisted her insides into a painful knot. It made her green with jealousy.

    Nancy was desperately trying to make amends for her misconduct, but no amount of grovelling would sway Evangeline. She’d make sure Nancy faced the consequences of her unfortunate actions. She kept dangling the promise of redemption in front of the woman, but once Troy was returned, she’d strip Nancy of every hope and ambition, leaving her with nothing. If all went according to Evangeline’s plan, Nancy would never work in a high-level position again.

    Evangeline clenched her fists on the armrests and gritted her teeth, a fierce determination filling her heart. No one touches what belongs to me—ever.

    And Troy was hers.