A twisted thing dropped to the ground in place of the sign, startling a shout from Zared. She studied the clump of what had been metal and wood moments before and was now one mass, a combination of leaves and steel that was an indistinguishable mass. She hadn’t heard the clang. The men were not where she remembered them being. They were all out of position. Something had happened after she’d attacked the sign. Damn it, she must have slipped into a fugue state again. Hannah prayed it had been for a handful of seconds and nobody had become aware of her lapse.
Zared and Ian focused on the thing at her feet and then Quillan turned to Hannah. If they detected her blankness they didn’t mention it. Hannah breathed out a sigh of relief. She’d deal with what this meant later.
“You . . .” Quillan began, shaking a finger at her.
She swayed on her feet and the time paralysis shattered. Oriel blinked and then focused on where they were now, not where they had been before she enacted the freeze. There was a shout behind them from the parking structure. A face showed above the concrete and then vanished. A moment later there was a squeal of tires and the fast revving of an engine as the other talent floored it out of the garage. Quillan’s attention flicked toward the parking structure before centering back on Hannah.
Quillan’s shadow moved, but the man didn’t.
Jiana’s gaze followed the movement from her seat in the café across from Quillan’s office. Judging by the way his shadow bobbed before merging back into ordinary stillness, something was coming. Quillan, however, was unaware of that fact. If he had possessed shadow abilities as she did he would see the wrongness, but he didn’t have such tools.
The Federal Reserve Bank loomed over the Universe offices, casting its own ominous gloom. At this hour the sun was beginning to set. The buildings made triangular and rectangular squares in jagged patterns on the street, creating the sorts of shadows she could use. Soon it would be dark.
Darkness did not bring safety. Noon was best, when the sun was overhead and shadows more difficult. Even then there was always danger from the darkness. It went unnoticed by most people, but not to a shadow manipulator.
Quillan was looking toward the Sun Trust Tower, one of the highest buildings in the Richmond skyline. His shadow wrapped around him and then expanded toward the dense pack of cars on the road between them.
Jiana and her unwelcome companion were in the Soho Café Market, located in the east tower of the BB&T. She picked at the chicken and fruit on her tray, shooting glances out the window at the head of Universe. She watched an interesting shadow by the top of the buffet area. It was big enough to use to get out the door in a hurry if necessary.
She glanced at the man next to her and then back at Quillan, still waiting by the light. Tanner, the Night Stars agent was also eyeing the tall, bearded man. He did not seem to see the danger surrounding Quillan, but she doubted he cared about that. The man her uncle had assigned as her “partner” had no interest in anything except keeping an eye on Jiana.
A flow of movement around Quillan caught her attention, and she turned back to the scene. Shadows gathered and danced around him, their forms shifting ever closer. One shadow broke off, looming higher than the others, towering over the man. By her estimation Quillan was 6’2” or more, so that was no mean feat. It was joined by another, and then another. They advanced on Quillan, covering him in darkness.
Maya felt a gathering of minds, but one in particular pulsed across her mental landscape. She’d felt that mind before in the chaos of San Diego. Then, as now, it had a seductive quality, coupled with raw energy. Its power was every bit as strong now as it was then. She wanted to turn and run, but her roommate was weaving on unsteady feet to the back of the warehouse where three men were standing in a loose semi-circle. Their minds had an expectant air.
Maya focused on the men. The aura of the man in the middle glowed with a white-hot light that screamed of danger. It was the same mind signature from San Diego. The duo faded into the background compared to this man. She wanted to turn and run but found herself moving toward the men in Bobbie’s wake.
“I brought her,” Bobbie said, half slurring and stumbling forward.
Maya blinked as calm settled over her, stilling her movements and bringing her to a stop.
“You did well,” the startlingly handsome man in the middle said.
Maya picked up the name in her mind. Oriel.
It was all going to be okay. There was nothing to worry about. She could trust this man.
The soothing murmur flowed over Maya, and she relaxed into it, taking one more step forward. Bobbie lurched to a halt in front of Oriel and turned her gaze toward the man to his right, who clamped a hand on her arm and drew her back.