Spirit Page 29

“I get it.” Another pause. “Gabriel can come on like a freight train, but he doesn’t hate you.”

Hunter wasn’t too sure about that.

“Chris, either.”

“Really? So Chris turning the water ice cold while I was in the shower was friendly?”

“Gabriel paid him twenty bucks to do that.”

Hunter smiled.

Nick added, “And then he felt like a moron when I told him he could have just turned off the hot water in the basement . . .”

Hunter laughed softly.

And all of a sudden it nailed home how lonely he’d been. The Merricks had each other. He had no one.

He lost the smile. The air in the room suddenly felt heavy. Hunter looked back at the ceiling.

Nick sighed, then rolled up on one arm. “Do you want some space? I can go crash with Gabriel.”

Hunter had no idea what the right answer to that was.

“Seriously, man,” said Nick. “I can feel your tension in the air.”

That made Hunter look over. “Really?”

“It woke me up.”

Hunter looked back at the ceiling. “Sorry.” He paused. “My dad always used to say that Air Elementals were the ones you really had to watch out for.”

Nothing but silence for a moment. Then, “I think it’s a breathing thing. People breathe differently when they’re stressed.” Another pause. “It’s new. I’ve only recently been able to sense emotion that way.”

Hunter remembered a day when Nick had gotten into a fight with Gabriel and made him stop breathing, and Hunter thought maybe his father had been right. “My dad told me about this one guy who always knew if someone was lying, using that same thing, I think. He said he was the strongest Air Elemental he’d ever seen. The guy could jump across buildings, like in Spider-Man, you know?”

“Now that would be useful.” Nick sounded intrigued, but then he hesitated. “What happened to him?”

His father had never said specifically—but if he had known the guy, he hadn’t known him long. Hunter looked away. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah, you do.”

Hunter gave him a sharp look. “Then so do you. You know what my father was.”

Nick didn’t back down, but he didn’t say anything, either. That weighted silence again.

Then he said, “Why aren’t you like that? Aren’t you supposed to be in some training program or something? Isn’t that what happens with you Fifths?”

Nick’s tone almost mirrored the way Hunter’s father used to talk about pure Elementals. “I would have. This fall. I wanted to go when I was younger—when I first knew, you know? But my dad wanted to wait, to make sure I was strong enough.”

And he hadn’t been strong enough. He’d thought he was: he’d begged his father and uncle to take him along on their last assignment. Uncle Jay had argued on his behalf, claiming it was just supposed to be surveillance—only his dad had put his foot down.

But his dad changed his mind. They came back for Hunter.

And then one of the numerous rock walls along the Pennsylvania Turnpike had come loose, and the car had been crushed.

Calla claimed responsibility. But Hunter knew it was his own fault.

He shouldn’t have been in the car with his dad and his uncle when it crashed. He shouldn’t have been along at all, because they shouldn’t have turned back for him.

If he hadn’t pitched such a fit, the car wouldn’t have gotten trapped in that rock slide. Calla and her friends would have been too late.

“Do you know other Guides?” said Nick.

Hunter shook his head. “Calla thinks I do, though.”

“Would you bring them if you could?”

“I don’t know.”

“She’s going to kill people.”

Hunter looked over. “She’s going to kill people either way. If I convince a bunch of Guides to come here, is that better?”

“Michael says they’ll come anyway, if she keeps this up.”

“He’s right.”

“So I’ve got a question.”


“When they do, whose side are you on?”

Hunter didn’t move. He couldn’t. He’d never nailed it down to such a fine point.

But Nick was right. If the Guides came, they wouldn’t stop with Calla and her crew. They’d take out the Merricks, too.

Hunter had no idea where that left him.

Nick rolled out of bed, dragging his pillow and his comforter with him.

Hunter sat up. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to crash on the floor in Gabriel’s room.”

Hunter didn’t know whether to apologize—and before he could figure it out, Nick was through the door.

He probably should have offered to go downstairs himself.

Nick stuck his head back in the door. “We’re not trying to screw with you, man. None of us are. We’re trying to help you.”

Hunter didn’t look at him.

Nick snorted before pulling the door closed. “Maybe doing the same for us wouldn’t be out of line.”


Living in the Merrick house was both complicated—and not. Hunter hadn’t thought it would be possible to feel so isolated in the middle of so much . . . energy. Gabriel woke him up at the crack of dawn with a cup of water to the face and a kick in the ribs.

“Get up, slacker. Don’t you have a marathon to run at the end of the month?”

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