Spirit Page 30

Hunter tried to jerk free of the sleeping bag. It wasn’t even four thirty in the morning—and he hadn’t drifted off until after two. “God, are you insane?”

Gabriel was already heading out the door. “Be grateful I didn’t light you on fire.”

“I’m going to break your ankles.”

“Have to catch me first, jackass.”

But the run felt good, getting out of the house and feeling the fresh air on his face.

Even if Gabriel didn’t talk much.

It made Hunter wonder how much of his conversation with Nick had been repeated.

Probably all of it.

There’d been breakfast, a selection of cereals like Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp. When he’d asked for fruit or eggs, they all looked at him like he’d grown a second head.

They weren’t mean. They weren’t indifferent.

They were just guarded.

It was exhausting.

By the time school started, he was ready to focus his attention on something else, no matter how mundane the subject.

But then he found Calla Dean by her locker—looking innocent as ever, applying lip gloss. As usual, she looked like a punk sex goddess, tight jeans, an almost see-through shirt, and black rubber bracelets lining her arms, crisscrossing over the flame tattoos. Feather earrings, a bright yellow streak in her hair.

His fists were tight at his sides, but he couldn’t approach her.

He’d gotten a lecture from Michael this morning. If you’re staying here, you go to school, and you stay out of trouble. We don’t need attention right now. Understand?


He turned at the soft voice and found Becca standing there, a spill of dark hair hanging over one shoulder. For the first time in a long while, her voice was gentle, and her eyes were intent on his.

She’d been the first girl he noticed in this school, the first one who didn’t look at him like something to eat—or something to despise. He hadn’t been able to parcel out the Merrick brothers’ powers at first, but hers—hers, he’d sensed from the beginning.

“Hey,” he said.

“Are you okay?”

He glanced past her. “I’ve been better.”

“Chris told me about your grandfather.”

Hunter gritted his teeth. “Yeah, well. I’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

Calla had put her lip gloss away and was staring at them now. She tapped her wrist and mouthed, “Tick tock.”

Hunter sighed. “Come on. Before Calla causes a scene.”

Becca followed him, and her voice was low. “Chris said she’s threatening to start more fires?”


Becca’s eyes hardened. “And we can’t just take her out ourselves?”

Of course Becca would immediately want to challenge her. “We need to find out who she’s working with. She had someone with her when she trashed my house. I’ve never seen him before.”

“Another teenager?”

“I think so, but I’ve been watching for him around school and I haven’t seen him.” He couldn’t figure that out, either. Calla’s friends looked at him like they genuinely believed he was roughing her up. They weren’t like Calla, calculating and manipulative, whispering taunts at every turn.

Who was the missing kid? And who else was she working with?

Becca was staring back at Calla now. “Can’t we just ask her?”

“She’s told half the school that I smack her around. I can’t even get close to her.”

“Can I ask her?”

Hunter shook his head. “Your dad would lose it if I dragged you into this.”

“All the more reason to help.” She turned on her heel as if ready to confront Calla right there in the hallway.

Hunter grabbed her backpack and hauled her back around. He smiled in spite of himself. “Easy, tiger. Let’s not get crazy.”

“Fine. Give me your gun. Let’s just shoot her.”

He didn’t bother getting shocked over her reaction—he thought about the same thing at least once a day. “My grandfather confiscated it. And you can’t just shoot someone.”

“People died in those fires,” Becca whispered fiercely. “Fires that she started. Ryan Stacey might have been involved, but she—”

“Yeah, I know.” Hunter held her eyes for a minute, then let go of her backpack. It was only eight a.m., but he was already exhausted. “I don’t want her to start any more fires, either. I’m just trying to figure out how to stop her.”

Becca stared up at him.

And then, to his surprise, she threw her arms around his neck.

Hunter caught her automatically. Her body was warm, and her closeness reminded him of the night she’d slept pressed against him. He’d never had a girl want to be so close to him, and for her to trust him enough to fall asleep in his arms that night—well, he hadn’t wanted to fall asleep himself, just so he wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

He’d wanted to tell her, then. About himself, about who his father was, about his reasons for being in town. He’d told her half-truths, about the accident and about his mom.

He would have told her the rest.

But then Chris Merrick had shown up to drive her to school.

Hunter’s cell phone chimed, snapping him back to the present. He ignored it. Being held felt so good that he didn’t want to let go for anything.

But she pulled back, and he had to release her. “What was that for?” he asked.

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