Spirit Page 5

Sometimes this whole arrangement just felt like a big cosmic joke. Where was the grandfather who’d take him fishing and put an arm around his shoulders and ask if he was sweet on anyone at school? Why did he get saddled with the guy who didn’t seem to give a shit that Hunter had lost the two people he felt closest to, less than six months ago? That he was starting at a new high school in his junior year? That he’d spent his life training for something he’d never get to do, because his father’s and uncle’s deaths had left him with no path to follow?

Hunter began stacking pots on the shelves of the baker’s rack. For an instant, he envied Calla.

He wished he could throw a few things himself. But he was a Fifth—his father had drilled endless lessons of self-control into Hunter’s head. He’d been trained well, and he wouldn’t let that training fail him now. Not over this.

His grandfather was still standing there, watching him.

Hunter wanted to punch him. Instead, he gently eased the Crock-Pot back onto the lowest shelf.

“Let me know how much everything costs,” he said. “I’ll figure out a way to pay you back.” He wasn’t entirely sure how. He didn’t have a job here, and while he had some money in an envelope in his dresser, it was slowly creeping toward zero each time he had to fill his jeep with gas.

Definitely not enough to replace everything that was lying in a shattered mess on the floor.

Maybe in between trying to stop a psychotic pyromaniac, he could find a job flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

Sometimes he wished he could just tell his grandfather about what he was, what he could do. How his military training would put Navy SEALs to shame. How he could sense the electricity in the walls, or the humidity in the air, or the anger in his grandfather’s head.

Then again, that talk would probably lend credence to this new drug theory.

“I’m done with this attitude, boy.”

Hunter looked up. “I’m not giving you any attitude. I said I would pay for everything.”

“It’s no wonder your mother can’t get it together, with all the trouble you give her.”

Hunter stiffened, but he didn’t say anything. He had no idea why his mother couldn’t get it together. He didn’t think it had anything to do with him, but maybe it did. The last time he’d gone up to her bedroom, her eyes had filled with tears. She’d put a hand against his cheek and said, “I wish you’d cut your hair again, Hunter. You used to look just like your father.”

He’d pushed her hand away. What are you so sad for? he’d wanted to ask. Dad was just using you.

His grandmother was no help, either. She didn’t rag on him like his grandfather did, but she’d watch him with pursed lips, and he could feel disapproval radiate through the room until he wanted to grab her by the shoulders and rattle her body and shout in her face.

“What?” he’d yell in this imaginary scenario. “Not good enough for you?”

And then he’d shake her so hard that her dentures would fall out, and she wouldn’t be able to make that expression with her mouth anymore.

Hunter almost smiled, but he only let himself enjoy it for half a second.

His grandmother didn’t even wear dentures.

A hand closed on Hunter’s arm, hauling him to his feet. “You think this is funny?” his grandfather demanded, his voice rising in pitch as well as volume. “Your friends destroy hundreds of dollars’ worth of our property, and you think this is funny?”

It took every ounce of self-control not to jerk free and drop his grandfather on his ass.

But Hunter met the man’s eyes. “Let me go.”

His grandfather’s grip tightened, his thumb pressing into the muscle behind Hunter’s elbow. It hurt, but Hunter wouldn’t let it show.

He knew some of this was his ability. His talents drew people to him—and that usually meant pulling their attention in whatever way they were wired to give it. Sometimes it was nice—like with Becca, his almost-could’ve-been girlfriend.

Sometimes it was not.

Like now.

“I should have left you in jail last Monday,” his grandfather said. “Let the justice system scare some sense into you.”

Like his grandfather had done anything more than pick him up at the police station. The cops hadn’t even pressed charges. No evidence—because he hadn’t started that fire. “Let me go.”

“You’re going to straighten up, or you’re going to be sleeping on the porch. You understand me?”

Hunter wouldn’t even consider that a punishment. He loved being outside.

Then again, it was getting into the thirties some nights, and all his camping gear was still in storage from the move.

“I understand,” he said. God, his head hurt. “Let me go.”

His grandfather let him go, adding a little shove. “Get this cleaned up before school. And I expect you back here right after, too.”

“Yes, sir,” said Hunter.

“And cut the sarcasm.”

Fuck you.

But Hunter didn’t say it. He wouldn’t give his grandfather the satisfaction.

Instead, he held on to his temper and cleaned up the mess on the floor.

If only the mess in his life would be so easy.


School had been closed for a week, but that didn’t mean Hunter felt any eagerness about returning. He sat in his jeep in the parking lot and watched students stream through the doors.

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