Solatium (Emanations, an urban fantasy series Book 2)
fitness freak, and I was so unwilling to look bad in front of her that I pushed myself harder than I had for Gwen. Today we’d run four miles on the estate’s trails, and I’d almost broken the seven-minute-mile mark. That was a big step up for me. I’d left Justine behind.
    I wish I could say my combat training was coming along equally well. I’d definitely improved: I could actually punch something, now, but only if the something wasn’t moving. And the punch was probably more of a love-tap.
    Justine finished up with her hair and began lining her makeup up on the counter in a neat row. With a small inward sigh, I settled down on the locker room bench and pulled a book up on my phone. We were going to be there a while.

    “I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe he’d admit to being so blasé about human life. Actually, ‘admit’ isn’t the right word. It wasn’t even an issue. He just said she was always discreet.”
    I shook my head. It was hard to find the right words.
    Andy made a sympathetic face and patted my hand.
    He and Theo and Gwen and I were ensconced on the ugly couches in my room. I was telling them about the weirdest thing I’d seen in months: a Second running away from me.
    When Yellin and I had gotten back to the estate that afternoon, I’d pulled the car into its space in the garage and started to get out. By the time I’d closed my door, Yellin was already disappearing down the tunnel to the house. I’d never seen him get out of a car so quickly. Maybe it was an exaggeration to say he was “running away,” but he was moving awfully fast. Way faster than the beetle scuttle I’d seen him do that morning.
    Watching him high-tail it out of there sort of shook me up. Before fetching Justine, I’d texted Andy, Gwen, and Theo, asking them to come over after dinner.
    As soon as he’d walked in, Andy had put a sound-blocking barrier around us. Theo had brought beer. Gwen had brought her quiet calm. What I had were questions.
    “So, anyway, here’s the thing: when he realized he’d made me mad, he was scared. Almost shitting-himself scared. I think …” I paused, feeling out the realization as it came to me. “I think he thought I was going to hurt him.”
    I let it hang there among us, the crazy idea that a Second would’ve thought I posed a threat.
    “That can’t be it,” Theo said. “Maybe he was afraid you’d cause some sort of scene. You were on Central Park West, right? That’s pretty public.”
    “Yeah,” I said. “It still seems weird, though. Even if I’d caused a scene, he could’ve hidden it.”
    Andy shrugged. “He’s a Second. Whatcha gonna do? They’re all weird.”
    “Damn, I’ll drink to that,” Theo said.
    I lifted my bottle.
    “You’re both assuming Mr. Yellin’s stronger than Beth,” Gwen said. “What if he’s not?”
    The rest of us froze, beers halfway to our mouths. After a second, Theo and I set ours down. Andy sipped his, then frowned at the bottle as though he’d tasted something funny.
    My heart rate picked up — whether from alarm or excitement I wasn’t sure. I stared at Gwen, waiting for her to explain.
    At thirty-seven, Gwen was the oldest Nolander in Cordus’s household. Well, no, I should amend that: she was the oldest of those who were strong enough to be given the dangerous work of hunting down renegade Seconds. Most Nolanders couldn’t do a whole lot more than see workings. Those folks had safer positions as household staff. The ones who went hunting didn’t tend to survive nearly so long, even though they worked in teams.
    Gwen’s age was a testament to how good she was. She was a real ace with firearms and had a weird gift: she could make small things disappear. Not just go invisible or take another form. Any strong Nolander who’s studied workings can do that. I mean completely disappear, as in cease to exist forever.
    Even so, you could see Gwen had lived a rough life — lots of scars. She hadn’t endured by being

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