Spirit Page 32

Michael obliged him, flinging it into the woods again. It cracked against a tree somewhere out of sight. Casper was off.

Michael glanced up at the porch. “She said she’d put the rest of your things together, if you want to come get them.”

Those words hit hard. Michael could have thrown the ball at him and the impact would have hurt less. Hunter couldn’t even speak. His voice would break and he’d look like a total wuss.

She hadn’t said, “Tell Hunter to come home.”

She’d said she’d pack up his stuff.

Splinters from the railing were beginning to drive up under his fingernails, but the pain was keeping him grounded.

“You doing anything right now? Have any plans?” said Michael.

Hunter swallowed and told himself to knock it off. “Nothing.”

“Good. Come on, I’ll drive you over.”

“I don’t—that’s—” He had to slow his thoughts down or they’d never make it out of his mouth coherently. “I don’t want to go over there.”


Because I don’t want to see her.

Because I don’t want to see him.

Because if I pick up my stuff, that means I really don’t have anywhere to live.

Hunter set his jaw. “What am I going to do, dump it in your basement? Keep sleeping on Nick’s floor?” His voice was hard, but inside, his heart was a frigging wreck. “Casper,” he called. “Hierr.” The dog bolted to his side, but Hunter was already off the porch and heading for the front of the house.

For his car.

“Hey,” Michael called after him.

Hunter didn’t stop.

But Michael was faster than Hunter gave him credit for, and he caught up before Hunter could close the door to his jeep.

Hunter slammed the door back at him, making Michael fall back a step. He followed it up with a solid shove. “Leave me alone,” he shouted. “Just leave me—”

Then his voice broke and he was crying.

This was horrible and humiliating and he wanted to throw the jeep into neutral and just let it roll over himself.

Michael didn’t touch him. Good thing, because Hunter would have punched him.

He imagined it, the motion, the impact, exactly how much force it would take, what a release it would be.

It didn’t help. If anything, he felt coiled more tightly.

He slammed the door and dropped onto the pavement of the driveway, leaning back against his car and pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes.

“Go away,” Hunter said, hating that his voice was thick and made him sound like a sniveling six-year-old. Casper jumped out of the jeep and lay down beside him.

Michael sat down on the other side.

“That is the opposite of going away,” said Hunter.

“Look,” Michael offered. “Your mom was worried about you.”

“I don’t want to talk about her.”

Michael didn’t say anything to that. He didn’t say anything for so long that Hunter swiped a sleeve across his face, then turned to look at him. “I’m not one of your brothers. Stop sitting here. Go. Away.”

“I don’t think,” Michael began slowly, “that your mom offered to pack up your stuff because she didn’t want you to come back.”

Hunter wanted to hit something. Unfortunately, the people who really deserved it weren’t available. “How the hell do you know?”

Michael looked out at the trees lining the driveway. “I don’t. Not really, I guess.” He paused. “You know, there’s not a manual to the whole parent thing.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means . . . I think your mom feels badly about what happened, and she’s not sure how to fix it.” Another pause. “I think . . . by offering to pack up your things, she might think she’s helping.”

Hunter rested his arms on his knees and didn’t respond.

Michael sighed. “I remember when I was eighteen, it was a total shock to realize my parents had been winging it the whole time. Like, there was this one time that Chris—”

“Save it,” said Hunter. “I don’t need any Merrick family anecdotes.”

“Fine,” said Michael equably. “How about a Garrity family anecdote?”


“You tell me, Hunter, because we—you and me—don’t have a history here beyond you trying to kill me, and me finding you ready to flatten the Home Depot. You’re not this mad at your mom just for letting your grandfather throw you out. What else is there?”

Hunter gritted his teeth and stared at the trees. The air was crisp and cold, biting through his clothes as easily as the chill in the pavement was biting through his jeans. But being outside helped settle his nerves.

And Michael just waited.

Hunter realized he was holding on to everything so tightly that it was all going to snap and come apart if he wasn’t careful. Like with Gabriel in the cafeteria.

Like with Kate in the car.

And just like that, he found himself talking.

“My parents were a bizarre couple,” he said. “I mean, I never really thought about it, but everybody said so. My dad was in the Marines for a long time. He went through special forces, the whole deal. Even when he got out, he worked private jobs—the dangerous kind. It went right along with being a Guide. I don’t even know all the jobs he took. A lot of them were classified—and now . . . well, now they’re going to be classified forever, I guess.”

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