Spirit Page 24

“That’s what Bill said, too.”

“You told Bill? What did he say to do?”

Hunter snorted. “He said I made my bed, so I should lie in it.”

Michael made a disgusted noise. “What a dick. I don’t even know what that means, but it pisses me off.”

Hunter blinked, surprised at the vehemence—and a little shocked that Michael would take his side. “He said I should have killed Calla when I had the chance.”

“What a coward. He didn’t help pull those kids out of the library fire. You and Gabriel did. He’s the frigging Guide. If he wanted her dead, he should have gone and taken care of the problem himself.” Michael hit the turn signal a lot harder than was necessary. “So frigging typical, setting someone else up to do his job. Is that what this is about? The hell with him, Hunter. Seriously. Fuck him.”

It had been so long since someone had taken his side that Hunter had forgotten what it felt like. Some of the tension that was coiled around his chest slipped free.

“But he’s right,” he said. “I should have just shot her.”

“You’re a kid. You shouldn’t have been there at all, and you definitely shouldn’t be expected to kill someone. Jesus, I want to drive over there and shake some sense into that guy.”

Hunter didn’t know what to say to any of that, so he just looked out the window again.

After a moment, he said, “Thanks.”


Then he added, “I did shoot someone once.”

Michael glanced over, but he didn’t say anything.

Hunter realigned the rocks strung along his wrist. “The father of a girl I went to school with. Her name was Clare. He was beating up her and her mom. I hit him in the shoulder.” He paused. “My dad—he was disappointed I didn’t kill the guy.”

“Your dad was disappointed that you hadn’t killed someone?”

“Maybe disappointed isn’t the right word. He used to say that being a Fifth means it’s too easy to want to help people—even people who aren’t doing the right thing. He’d tell me that to become a Guide, I’d have to learn to overcome that.”

“No offense, Hunter, but I’m glad you didn’t.”

Hunter gave him half a smile, but it was grim. “Because otherwise I’d have shot you in the face when I came here to kill you all?”

Michael didn’t smile back. “No, because that sounds a whole lot like turning off your conscience. Who gets to decide right and wrong? You?”

“It’s not turning off your conscience.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just not.” Hunter made a frustrated sound and glared out the window again. “You don’t understand.”

“I’m not judging you.” Michael paused. “You’re talking about life and death here, Hunter. One of those, you can’t undo.”

As if he hadn’t been thinking of his father and uncle all day. Hunter didn’t say anything.

All of a sudden, he wanted to get out of the truck at the next stop light.

Especially when Michael said, “What happened with your grandfather?”

They were on the 50-mph stretch of Ritchie Highway, so Hunter just shrugged and said, “It was a misunderstanding.”

“About what?”

Hunter hesitated. The worst part was that he was embarrassed to say what had happened. “Vickers called the house and told him what had happened with Calla.”

Michael let that sit out there for a long moment. “And?”

“And he believed her.”

Another long pause. “You’re going to have to throw me a bone here, Hunter, because I don’t know what that means.”

Hunter swung his head around. “He believed her, okay? So did my mom.” His voice was shaky with fury, and he couldn’t stop it. “So they packed up my stuff, and they told me to get out, and when I tried to explain that it was a misunderstanding, he—he just—”

Hunter stopped, feeling his hands curl into fists. His breath was fogging in the air again, and Michael reached over to kick up the heat.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hunter finished. “I took my stuff and left.”

“Was this today?” said Michael. “Is that why you were so keyed up at Home Depot?”

Hunter shook his head. “Yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” Michael glanced over. “Where did you go last night?”

“I slept in the jeep.” His voice was small. “Behind Target.”

To his surprise, Michael reached over and smacked him on the back of the head. “Are you insane? Jesus, Hunter, you should have called the house.”

“Why?” he snapped. “So your brothers can keep giving me shit?” They were rolling to a stop at the end of Old Mill Road, just one turn away from the Merrick house. Hunter grabbed the door handle. “I don’t need this.”

Michael grabbed his arm. “Stop.” He didn’t let go, and turned the truck one-handed. “They might be giving you shit at school, but if you’d called and said you had nowhere to go . . .”

Hunter jerked free. “I can take care of myself.”

“Oh, really? Is that why I’m blasting the heat right now?” They were pulling up the driveway. Michael threw the truck in park in front of the garage. “Come inside and get something to eat. Your dog could probably use some water, too.”

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