Spirit Page 26

Or he’d just walk to the fridge, fetch a bottle of Gatorade, and toss it.

Hunter snatched it out of the air but hesitated before unscrewing the cap. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

Gabriel watched this whole exchange. “What the hell are you doing here?”

There was something reassuring about the hostility. This, Hunter could deal with. He took a sip and made Gabriel wait for the answer. “Your brother blocked my car and forced me into his truck at Home Depot.”

Nick’s eyebrows went up. He looked at his older brother, who was dropping into a chair at the end of the table. “Really.”

Michael shrugged but didn’t say anything. He reached for the package of Oreos.

“Gee, Mike,” said Gabriel. “I’m sure that didn’t look sketchy at all.”

Michael didn’t answer him; he just looked up at Hunter. “What are you going to do tonight?”

Hunter shrugged and leaned against the doorjamb, swirling the Gatorade in the bottle. “I’ll be all right.”

“What’s tonight?” said Nick.

Then the front door slammed, and a pair of feet came down the hallway. Hunter moved to the side, and Chris appeared in the doorway, his eyes narrowed. “You’re here.” He tossed car keys on the counter. “Well, that was a wasted trip.”

Hunter raised his eyebrows. “Meaning?”

“Becca made me swing by your house before I dropped her off.” Chris made it sound like Becca had asked him to swing by the county dump. “You weren’t in school and then you didn’t return her texts. She was worried.”

Becca was worried. Hunter was oddly touched.

Then Chris said, “Your grandfather said you left.”

Hunter’s chest tightened until it was hard to breathe again. His grandfather said he’d left? Like he’d just walked out?

“I figured you’d skipped town,” said Chris. He dropped into the chair next to Nick. “Guess we’re not that lucky.”

“Guess not,” said Hunter. His hand gripped the Gatorade bottle so tightly the plastic crackled. His thoughts were spiraling like a tornado, and he couldn’t make them settle. His mother had watched—his grandfather had—his mother—his—

“Casper,” he called. “Hierr.” The dog shot to his side and nosed at his hands. Hunter glanced at Michael. “Will you drive me back now?”

“Why don’t you wait,” said Michael. “Have some dinner.”

Hunter glanced at the bowl of crushed cookies in milk. “Thanks, I’ll pass.”

“You going to sleep in your car and skip school again?” said Michael.

Well, that changed the tenor of the room. Hunter couldn’t look at any of them now. He could feel them staring, and that was bad enough.

“Forget it,” he said. “I’ll walk.”

The night air stung his face when he stepped out of the house, and Hunter pulled the hood of his sweatshirt higher against his neck. No one followed him.


He was dirty from helping Michael, and a hot shower would have helped ease the soreness across his shoulders, but that would have to wait until tomorrow morning. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep using the school gym showers without someone noticing he wasn’t going to class, but he’d do it as long as he could keep it up.

Your grandfather said you left.

Hunter swallowed. Stupid old man. Like he wanted to be there anyway.

He thought of the Merricks, sitting around the kitchen table, a room full of aggression and old wounds—but full of camaraderie and solidarity, too. The brothers didn’t always get along, but they knew each other.

His grandfather didn’t even know that Hunter would never have hit a girl.

His grandfather hadn’t even hesitated before hitting him. Hunter had to swallow again.

God, stop being such a wuss.

His father would be so disappointed.

Hunter rubbed at his eyes.

His cell phone chimed, and he yanked it out of his pocket, stupidly hoping it would be his mother.

It wasn’t.

Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Bueller.

Kate. Hunter smiled and wanted to kick himself. He stared at the text and wondered how to respond.

He felt a flicker of guilt at the way he’d thrown her out of his jeep.

Sneakers ground on pavement behind him, and Hunter whirled, hands up. Then the air sparked with Gabriel’s presence.

He shoved the phone in his pocket and kept walking.

Gabriel fell into step beside him.

Hunter didn’t even glance over. “Leave me alone.”

“Having a good cry?”

He wasn’t, but Hunter set his jaw anyway. “Go to hell.”

“So yesterday,” said Gabriel. “Remember when I flipped your tray?”

“No. I forgot all about it.”

“Totally didn’t know you’d have soup on there. Jesus, I didn’t even know the cafeteria sold—”

Hunter stopped on the street and looked at him. “What do you want, Gabriel? What?”

“I want to know why you pretended to be my friend.”

Hunter started walking again.

Gabriel kept after him. “Michael said your grandfather threw you out because of what happened with Calla.”

“So what?”

“Does anyone trust you? Or do you just feed everyone a line of crap until it catches up with you?”

Hunter couldn’t look at him now. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

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