Spirit Page 4

God, his head hurt, and the whack to his skull downstairs was only part of it. “Get out of here, Calla.”

“Or what? You can’t do anything to me, Hunter. I’m not working alone, you know. I’m not the only one who can start fires.”

Hunter glanced at her friend by the door. Dark hair, pale skin, a little on the skinny side. Close to their age, if not a little younger. Totally not familiar, but Hunter had only been in school here for a few weeks, so that didn’t mean anything.

The guy noticed Hunter’s scrutiny and grinned, though it looked a little crazed. He flipped hair out of his eyes. “Maybe we should start a little one, let you know we’re serious.” Then he shoved the microwave off the counter. It hung from its cord for a long moment, then jerked free and crashed to the floor.

Hunter heard a muffled curse from upstairs, then the floorboards creaked.

His grandfather.

Hunter felt pretty sure an adult wouldn’t help this situation.

He so didn’t want to deal with this. He sighed and picked up the cordless phone from the holder on the wall.

“Who you calling?” said Calla. “You think the Merricks can help you?”

The Merricks were probably the last people who would offer to help him, but Calla didn’t need to know that. “No,” Hunter said. “I’m doing what you’re supposed to do when people break into your house.” When she raised her eyebrows, he added, “I’m calling nine-one-one.”

Her smile wilted around the edges. “Liar.”

He spoke into the phone. “I’d like to report a break-in at one-eleven North Shore Road—”

“Calla!” said the guy by the door.

“Hang up that phone!” she hissed.

“They’re still here,” Hunter said into the receiver. “They’re armed.”

Calla dropped the knife. “I’ll kill you, Hunter,” she seethed. “You know I can—”

“Please hurry,” said Hunter. “They’re threatening to kill me.”

A siren started wailing somewhere in the distance. The dark-haired guy grabbed Calla’s wrist and yanked. They bolted through the door.

Hunter set the phone back on the receiver. He’d never dialed at all.

That siren had been sheer luck.

What a mess. Hunter ran his hands through his hair. The length of it still shocked him every time. He hadn’t cut it in months.

The floorboards in the hallway creaked, and Hunter swore under his breath. He had no idea how to explain this. If he said someone had broken in, his grandfather really would call the cops.

After he’d been arrested for his involvement in the fire in the school library last week—a fire Calla had started—Hunter didn’t need any more interaction with cops.

Thank god the gun was still downstairs.

His grandfather stopped short when he saw the mess. It was too dark to make out his expression—not that Hunter wanted to try. The man was tall but lean and muscled from years of farm labor, with short gray hair and a permanent look of displeasure. He hit the switch on the wall, and the light made things look a hundred times worse. His eyes narrowed at his grandson. “You’d better have a good explanation.”

Like Hunter had woken up in the middle of the night and started trashing the kitchen.

But really, this was exactly how every conversation with his grandfather went.

“I didn’t do this,” he said. His father had never had much tolerance for attitude, so Hunter was well practiced in keeping it out of his tone. It had just never been this much of a challenge with his dad.

“Who did?”

“Kids from school. A prank.” He paused. “I’ll clean it up.”

“And you’ll pay for it.”

Hunter set his jaw, but didn’t say anything.

When he and his mother had first pulled up the driveway six weeks ago, his grandfather had watched Hunter climb out of the car, then said, “We’re not going to have any of your nonsense here, you understand me, boy?”

Hunter had turned to his mother, looking for . . . something. Direction, maybe. A cue for how to respond.

But his mother had already been crying on his grandmother’s shoulder. If she’d heard the comment, she didn’t acknowledge it. And then she’d allowed herself to be hustled into the house, to be comforted over tea.

While Hunter had been left to unload the car under his grandfather’s glaring eyes.

He’d learned pretty quickly to make himself scarce.

Even now, he probably had about three minutes before he’d hear a lecture about his piercings, about how he needed a haircut, about how if he was his grandfather’s son, he’d clean up his act or he’d be sleeping on the porch.

At first, Hunter had tried being perfect. He’d done chores without being asked. Taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, doing all his own laundry. He’d fixed the two loose boards on the porch, then repaired a shutter that was hanging crooked on the front of the house—things his father would have expected him to do. No backtalk, just respect for his elders.

His mom was no help. She was so lost in her own sorrow that even talking to her about his grandfather seemed petty and insignificant.

So he’d tried to get along. He’d tried hard.

“It’s drugs, isn’t it?” said his grandfather.

Hunter sighed and carefully stepped around broken glass to right the baker’s rack. “No. I don’t do drugs.” He barely ate processed food, and this guy thought he’d put drugs in his body?

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