Chapter Sixteen: A Little Diversion

“Do you feel that?” Aaron said, halting suddenly. Lucia stopped just ahead of him and glanced back. He crouched on the sidewalk, hands out like he was catching his balance.

“Feel what?” she asked. But as soon as the words were out her mouth, she felt a tremble through the sidewalk. It was barely strong enough to be more than a brief sense of movement, and if she hadn’t been paying attention she would have missed it.

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Chapter Fifteen: Patrols

“Ready to go?” Selena asked, pulling on her glove. Extra charge crackled through her skin as she flexed her hand. The fit was better, but the reinforced leather still felt bulky under the cuff of her jacket. She’d also strapped guards around her shins, plated with armor similar to what she’d made for Carter. She knew what happened to squishy things in fights.

Carter hesitated before climbing on behind her. “Mom would kill me if she knew I was riding this,” he said.

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Chapter Fourteen: Heavy Metal

Brennan and Molly walked through town, looking for trouble. It was dark, and pretty quiet. After three days of relief efforts, most of the blockage had been cleared away. But even in normal times, the town was pretty dead at night, and these were not normal times.

“So why aren’t you patrolling with Lucia?” Molly asked. As restless as she normally was, she seemed unusually so tonight—walking on the balls of her feet and tapping her wooden sword impatiently against one leg. “I was surprised that she decided to go with Aaron.”

Brennan sighed. “We had another fight,” he said.

“Really? You seemed fine this morning.”

“We were.” He crossed his arms and glared at a passing alley cat. “Then we just—” He clenched his fist and took a deep breath. “Lately, it seems like all we do is argue.”

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Chapter Thirteen: Upgrades

Carter was angry. Angrier, in fact, than Aaron had ever seen him. Of course, all his twin did was frown and cross his arms as they walked toward the cabin, but he could tell. It had been late afternoon before they could all manage to sneak out at the same time, so Aaron had filled Carter in beforehand. It didn’t go over well.

“I’m sorry, okay?” he said, for the twelfth time.

Carter glanced at him, eyebrows knit together like a second frown. “I just can’t believe you went out looking for her without telling me.” Steam puffed out of his mouth as he sighed. “I really can’t.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”  Aaron kicked a pebble in his path and watched it skitter down the hill. “I was kind of pressed for time.”

“That’s a lousy excuse,” Carter said. He gave Aaron another sideways glance and stomped onto the porch. “I thought we were over this martyr complex of yours.” He opened the door and stormed inside without another word.

“I said I’m sorry,” Aaron muttered one more time. He sighed and hurried after his brother.

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Chapter Twelve: Means of Persuasion

Town was creepy at night.

It was always a little weird, since everything shut down around nine and the only two stop lights in town switched to a single blinking yellow light. But with the addition of blown-out windows and the abandoned cars, it looked more like a set from the zombie apocalypse. Lucia kept expecting someone to lurch out of one of the dark storefronts and moan at them.

“I wonder if my power could sense zombies,” she said.

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Chapter Eleven: Hearth and Home

Aaron lay on his bed, fighting the worst headache he’d had in weeks.

The vision was still a jumble in his head, but he’d sorted out the gist of it. The girl from the school needed his help. He’d seen her hiding in dark places, fleeing from shadow to shadow. An overwhelming aura of fear drenched every image, every sound and scent. That, and a sense of loneliness so intense it burned like a physical pain.

What he didn’t know was how to find her.

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Chapter Ten: Avalon

Molly stared.

Somewhere through the deafening panic, she found a thread of sanity.  “You’re my grandmother,” she said. It was an idiotic thing to say, but finding her voice seemed to jumpstart her brain.

“Yes, dear,” she said. The words sounded right, but the woman at the table was anything but grandmotherly. For one thing, she wasn’t nearly old enough. Evelyn Lakefield should have been in her seventies, and this woman barely looked old enough to be her mother. The resemblance to that thirty-year old photograph was uncanny. Identical, except for a few slight signs of aging: crow’s feet around her eyes and a crease over her nose that suggested a permanent frown. A few stray white hairs. And not a trace of frailty, either in her poise or in the sharp, knowing glimmer in her eyes.

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