Spirit Page 15

Hunter bristled. “No, you tell me. You searched my room?”

“A good thing, too, considering what we found.”

Hunter glanced at his mother. She wasn’t looking at him now. “Those are Dad’s,” he said, his voice low. “You knew I had them.”

She didn’t answer. His grandfather did: “I don’t care whose they were. Look at me.”

Hunter dragged his eyes back to his grandfather.

The man gestured to the table. “You think it’s appropriate for a fifteen-year-old boy to have access to these kinds of weapons?”

“I’m sixteen.”

“Don’t get smart with me, kid.”

Hunter gritted his teeth. “I’m not getting smart. I drove here, for god’s sake—”

“Cut the attitude.” His grandfather was suddenly on his feet. “You’re this close to being on the street.”

Hunter was so sick of the empty threats. Especially today. He moved to brush past him, to go to his room, to burrow under the covers until he had to wake up and start another day.

His grandfather grabbed his arm. “Don’t you walk out of here. You’ve got friends breaking in here at all hours of the night, you’re in trouble at school for roughing up your girlfriend, and now we find weapons in your bedroom.”

So Vickers had called the house. Great.

Hunter kept his voice even. “Let me go.”

“You’re not walking out of here until you apologize to your mother.”

Hunter looked at his mom again, wondering how she’d turned into this unraveled mess of a woman who had to be held together by her parents.

He didn’t even know what he was supposed to be apologizing for, but she was looking at him for the first time in days, and the disappointment there was more painful than anything his grandfather could say.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Her eyes filled and she swiped at them quickly.

Hunter swallowed—but then his grandfather shook him. “You’re selfish, putting her through this stress when she’s already going through a difficult time.”

Hunter felt guilty and resentful all at once. He couldn’t look at his mother anymore, but he didn’t want to look at his grandfather, either. “Just let me go.”

“You’re not staying under this roof until you tell us what you’re going to change.”

“Fine. I’ll sleep in the car.”

His grandfather let him go with enough of a shove to make Hunter fall back a step. “Good,” he said. “You’re already packed.”



“What are you talking about?”

His grandfather pointed. “Come back with a new attitude.”

Hunter looked. Two duffel bags—his duffel bags—were by the baker’s rack, stuffed full of what looked like clothes.

He couldn’t breathe. It felt like he’d swallowed hot tar.

He glanced at his mother. She wouldn’t look at him now.

“You’re throwing me out?” His voice almost cracked and he didn’t care.

“You’re not going to break the law and live here,” said his grandfather.

“I’m not breaking the law!”

“Something is going on with you, boy, and I’m sick of it. Do you understand me? I don’t know how your father raised you—”

“Don’t.” Hunter had to take a deep breath, and it shook. “Don’t you talk about my father.”

“What do you think he’d say about you hitting women?”

“It’s not like that.”

“What’s it like, then?”

Hunter almost couldn’t speak through the tightness in his chest. “It’s—it’s a misunderstanding.”

“Is this a misunderstanding?” His grandfather hit him.

The blow snapped Hunter’s head to the side. He’d seen it coming, but his brain couldn’t quite believe it, so he didn’t make a move to defend himself.

It hurt.

He’d been hit before, but there was something different about it coming from his grandfather, as if their history—not all of it bad—was loaded into that backhand slap.

Hunter sucked in a breath through his teeth. His mother’s hand was over her mouth, but she hadn’t said a word.

“You want to hit someone,” said his grandfather, “you pick on someone your own size.” His grandfather hit him again, an open hand slap this time. “How’s this feel?”

Hunter forced his hands to stay at his sides, but he couldn’t keep them from curling into fists. “Stop it.”

“Stop it? Can’t take it? Did she ask you to stop?”

Casper barked.

“It wasn’t—I didn’t—” Another hit, and Hunter flung up an arm to protect his face, but it didn’t help. His grandfather wasn’t being gentle. These were full hits with strength behind them.

An adult had never come after him this way. His eyes were burning, more fury than tears. Anger lay coiled in his chest, ready to spring free and slam his grandfather to the ground, but Hunter was having trouble fighting through this layer of bewilderment and disbelief.

His grandfather was hitting him. Hitting him.

And his mother was letting it happen.

Then his grandfather caught him on the cheek, a sharp hit that stung. Hunter shoved him back. His breathing was loud in the sudden silence.

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