Spirit Page 46

She ignored that. “And Calla? You really did beat her up, didn’t you?”

“No. I wish I had, but no. She said that so I’d have to stay away from her.” He frowned. “Now that won’t be a problem.”

“Where does she fit in? Was she after the Merricks, too?”

“No. She wanted to bring the Guides here.” He pointed at her with the knife. “Mission accomplished, huh?”


He punched the ground with his fist. “I don’t know why! She kept threatening to keep starting fires if I couldn’t bring more Guides here. I never expected her to blow up the whole carnival.” His voice almost broke. “You think I wanted all those kids to die? I should have stopped her, Kate. I should have stopped her two weeks ago. I should have—”

He dropped her knife and pressed his fists into his eyes.

She could stab him right now and he wouldn’t move a muscle to stop her.

Her hands fell on his shoulders, light and gentle and completely unexpected.

He dropped his fists to look at her, and her face was close. She knelt in the leaves in front of him, her green eyes soft and close.

“You’re a mess,” she said.

He snorted. “No kidding.”

She leaned even closer, sliding her hands up his shoulders.

Her nearness affected him, making him want to pull her closer.


He caught her wrists. “Don’t play with me, Kate.”

“You’re still bleeding.”

“I’ll live.”

She rolled her eyes skyward, then leaned forward, her hands still trapped by his. Her breath eased against his throat, full of power, cool and hot at the same time.

He shivered before he could help it. Her full weight was on his hands. If he let go, she’d be against his chest, practically in his lap.

He pushed her back. “Stop.”

She drew back, but only enough to stare into his eyes. “You have a lot of enemies.”

He didn’t have anything to say to that. She was right.

“Sounds exhausting,” she said softly.

“You have no idea.”

“I don’t think I’m an enemy,” she whispered.

God, he was so tired of fighting with people. He let go of her wrists. “Do what you want.”

Her hands found his shoulders again, and she leaned forward. When her breath touched his skin, he closed his eyes. Power flared in the air to find the blood on his neck. He shivered.

Her voice was low, husky. “My mother used to say that the hardest part of being a Fifth was fighting the urge to help your enemies.”

“My father used to say the same thing.” Then he opened his eyes. “Is that why you’re helping me now?”

“No.” Her thumb stroked along his neck, and it didn’t even sting. “I think that’s why you’re helping the Merricks.”

“They’re really helping me.”

“Really? Did they follow you through the fire to stop Calla?”

He froze. No. They hadn’t. Gabriel had pulled him out of the fire—but Hunter had gone to face Calla alone.

“Are they helping you,” said Kate, “or are they keeping an enemy close?”

He’d be lying if he hadn’t thought about this already. Hadn’t Gabriel used those exact words the other night? Hadn’t Nick demanded to see his text messages? Michael had asked him to help with his landscaping jobs. Was he being nice—or was he making sure he knew where Hunter was?

When Hunter and Gabriel had been fighting Calla’s fires, Michael had done the same thing to Gabriel, dragging him all over town under the pretense of being brotherly.

Michael had talked about leaving town—in a week. Leaving Hunter here with nothing but a mess they’d all been part of.

“There are still more Elementals in town, aren’t there?” said Kate.


“You’re in a good position to help us find them.”

“Sure.” Hunter made no attempt to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “I’d love to help the guy who shot me.”

“He thought you were working with the girl who started the fires.”

“Why the hell would he think that?”

“Because you were negotiating with her.”

Hunter glared at her. “I wasn’t negotiating. I was trying to get her to stop—”

“I know. I know.” She paused. “And he knows. Now.”

Hunter sighed and glanced away. That familiar guilt was trapping him. Did he owe the Merricks anything? Was he betraying them by even being here? All this indecision was almost painful.

Then he realized: did it matter? They’d be gone in a week.

He stared back at Kate, at the crystal blue of her eyes, which were just now beseeching him.

“How am I supposed to keep you a secret?” he asked, his voice rough.

Then, just like last night, she was in his lap before he was ready, her fingers in his hair, her lips warm against his. It was like she had power in this, like the feel of her lips and her skin and her breath could control him. His hands grabbed her hips, finding an inch of skin between her jeans and the tank top.

Every Elemental in town could attack him right this instant and he wouldn’t care.

Everything about her kiss was so Kate, aggressive and gentle at the same time, like an attack you didn’t know to defend yourself from until it was too late.

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