Spirit Page 35

Well then.

They pulled into the Merrick driveway, and nothing had changed—Michael’s brothers were still out.

Michael hesitated before getting out of the jeep. “I’m picking up Hannah in an hour. She wants to take James to the carnival, too. No one will be at the house tonight.”

Hunter had no idea who Hannah and James were. He glanced over at Michael and wondered what he was implying. “Do you not want me to be here by myself?”

Michael sighed. “Jesus, Hunter, take a breather. I want you to go be a teenager. You’ve got a car, there’s fun to be had. Go. Find it.”


Kate didn’t see how this carnival was supposed to make money for the senior class. The field was packed with rides and food kiosks, then lined with silly game stands. The lights and noise were overwhelming, a mash-up of neon and carnival music and the smell of popcorn and funnel cake.

Her senses couldn’t make heads or tails of anything.

Frustrating on a good day, but doubly so today.

Silver would be watching her every move tonight.

So she’d done a quick lap of the grounds and found the Merricks.

Nick was playing skeeball with that bitchy blond cheerleader.

Gabriel was with a dark-haired girl and a younger boy, throwing darts at balloons way at the end of the row of game stands.

Chris was sitting on a bench with the brunette who’d clung to Hunter in the hallway, and they were sharing a box of popcorn.

The crowds were giving her a headache, and she clung to the shadows between two tents, wondering which Merrick brother she should attach herself to.

“Looking for your friend?”

Kate turned. Hunter had found her.

And his eyes were full of suspicion.

Was Silver right? Did Hunter suspect what she was?

What they were?

But there was also a spark of challenge in his eye. If he knew they were Guides, wouldn’t he be doing something about it?

“What’s your problem?” she said. She slid a tube of gloss from her bag and ran it across her lips.

“Can’t figure out your angle.”

“My angle?”

“What’s with the little texts? Old boyfriend not doing it for you?”

She wanted to kill Silver for making it look like they were a couple. “Maybe I just like you.”

“Maybe I just like you back.”

His voice was quiet and intense, more sure than she was ready for. She turned away, suddenly flustered, heading into the darkness behind the tents. Even Silver couldn’t see in the dark.

“I don’t think that’s all,” Hunter said, following her. “I think you’re playing me for something.”

She hesitated. Suddenly he was closer.

“The problem is,” he said, “I just can’t figure out what.”

And then, before she had an answer, he was moving away.

God, he was making her insane.

She went after him. “Are you always this direct?”

“Saves time.”

She felt breathless, like he’d snatched control of this little interlude and was now playing keep-away with it. “I can’t even figure out whether you’re mad at me.”

She’d thrown a little plea into her voice, but he didn’t turn. “You’re not fooling me,” he said.

“I’m not trying to fool you.”

“Trust me, Kate, I know a lot about using people.”

What did that mean? She stared after him for a moment, watching him walk. He moved like a jungle cat, all purposeful, calculated motion—wrapped up in fluid grace.

She chased after him again. “I don’t get you,” she said. “Are you interested or not?”

“Not.” He kept walking.


He lifted a hand in a halfhearted wave—but didn’t even look back.

“Running from a girl?” she called.

He ignored her. So she went after him for real, grabbing his arm from behind and trying to spin him.

Even though she’d seen him fight before, his speed was a surprise. He used her spin to grab her arm. Her defense training kicked in, letting her drop enough to twist free and send an elbow into his gut.

Or it would have been, if he hadn’t deflected her arm. He blocked her next strike and caught her wrist, twisting it to pin it behind her back and pull her close.

Then he didn’t strike back. His eyes were dark, and he held her against his chest.

She stared up at him, feeling his chest rise and fall against hers. His fingers were gentle on her arms, sending little bolts of electricity along her skin. She’d only ever felt strength like this with pain behind it.

Gentleness was new.

“You’ve got some nice moves,” he said.

“Thanks. I was going easy.”

He smiled, but instead of humor it was a little sad.

“Let me go,” she said. “I’ll prove it.”

He let her go. “I really don’t want to play, Kate.”

But she swung a fist anyway, throwing real strength into it. He blocked and trapped her arm, but she twisted free to aim a high kick into his ribs.

She wasn’t ready for him to catch her ankle and take her to the ground.

He pinned her there, but he was smiling. “Still going easy?”

Her breathing was too quick. She almost wished he wouldn’t let her go.

But he did. The smile slid off his face, and he backed up to stand.

She launched herself off the ground to punch him in the stomach, using all of her momentum. Then a leg sweep. He went down.

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