Spirit Page 36

She was straddling his chest before he could move.

“I can throw you off,” he said.

“But you won’t.” She felt breathless and exhilarated and wished he would. She loved the feel of his hands, the way his power sparked against her skin, the way she felt him in her space.

Hunter smiled. His eyes studied her face, and she knew she was flushed. Her heart was almost louder than the music from the carnival.

Crap. The carnival. She glanced around. Silver was probably watching.

Hunter felt the change. Kate watched his smile fade. “Get up, Kate. I wasn’t kidding. I don’t want to play.”

The Merricks could wait for fifteen minutes.

She put her hands on his shoulders and looked down at him, feeling her hair fall along her face. “Where’d you really learn to fight like that?”

“My father. Where did you learn?”

“My mother took me to some guy who lived in a barn and slaughtered animals to make cured beef. He taught me.”

“Now that’s a touching story.”

She wondered what he’d say if she told him the whole story, how every night Roland had come after her with the same knives he used on the beef.

She wondered why Hunter didn’t know who Roland was. She’d been told that every Guide went to Roland first.

If Roland broke you, you were out.

Hunter was still looking at her. Either he was the greatest frigging actor in the world, or he didn’t know what he was.

Or what she was.

She smiled. “He taught me enough to bring you down, didn’t he?”

Hunter gave her a look, like he was merely tolerating her weight on his chest. “What did your dad think of the slaughterhouse treatment?”

“He didn’t think much about it at all.” She paused and shrugged. “I never knew my father.”


“Nope, my mom said she got what she needed out of him.” She raised a suggestive eyebrow. “Get it?”

He frowned and reached up a hand to push a strand of hair out of her eyes.

Such a simple touch, but her breath caught.

She knocked his hand away. She couldn’t take simple touches right now—this was throwing her all off balance. Was she really talking about her mother?

Kate leaned closer to Hunter. “How about a ride?” she whispered.

Hunter’s eyebrows went way up.

She pointed at where lights rose high above the ground, blues and yellows and reds. “Ferris wheel?”

He looked like he was going to refuse.

“Come on,” she said. “Don’t make me kick your ass again.”

He pushed the hair back off his face and sighed.

She put her forehead down to his, until she could feel the rings in his eyebrows, until his breath was warm on her lips. “Don’t make me stare at you.”

He smiled—but pushed her shoulders back until she was sitting upright.

“You’re dangerous,” he said.

She smiled and rolled off of him. “You have no idea.”

Hunter pulled the door closed and latched it with the little chain. The air whispered to him about the oil of the machinery, the sweat of the college kid checking the latch, and the apple and cinnamon spice of Kate’s lotion or shampoo or whatever.

He didn’t want to admit how much he’d liked their scuffle behind the booths.

It was such a contradiction to the argument with Michael, or the confrontation with his grandfather.

She’d said she was going easy, but she’d aimed hard. He’d had to use true effort to deflect without hurting her, nothing like when he practiced with Becca, or fought with Gabriel. Finding a perfect balance took mental energy and forced clarity, and it was nice to put his worry aside for one minute of the night.

He shouldn’t even be at this stupid carnival. None of them should. But what was the alternative? Sitting around the Merrick house listening to Gabriel’s scanner app? Waiting for Guides to come to town again?

Everyone else had a girlfriend. Hunter had clung to the shadows, looking for Calla. She hadn’t made good on her promise yet—but it was only a matter of time.

And then he’d seen Kate.

He shouldn’t have said a word to her.

But every time she crossed his path, he couldn’t stop thinking of those flirting texts, the way she’d been in class that first day.

Here he was trying to protect the whole county from a psychotic pyromaniac, and he couldn’t stop thinking about one random girl.

“You okay?”

He glanced over. Kate was curled onto the bench, her bright hair flashing with the colored lights on the Ferris wheel supports. She looked so perfect, like an angel trapped in this steel car with him, her trendy clothes so at odds with his piercings and rough-cut hair.

It reminded him of Michael’s comment about the picture.

“I’m fine,” he said.

“You were glaring at that bar like you wanted to snap it.” She gestured out at the night sky, where stars hung high above, bright in the crisp air. “It’s a beautiful night.”

“I have a lot on my mind.”

“I know.” She paused. “Want to spill?”

He sighed. For a split-second, he was tempted.

Then Kate shifted closer. “Why don’t you tell me about Calla Dean?”

His head snapped around.

Kate shrugged. “I heard you had a bad relationship with her.”

His jaw tightened. “You heard wrong.”

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