Spirit Page 55

A branch cracked and split somewhere to his left, and he was off the table in a heartbeat.

He landed in a crouch and surveyed the pine trees. Nothing.

His hand found the gun, but he didn’t draw it—the last thing he needed was for some teacher to catch him with a firearm.

The trees were still, aside from slow drops of water rolling from leaf to leaf. The air was full of information, centering on the fact that someone hid nearby.

Yesterday, Kate had dropped out of a tree to tackle him. He glanced up, though all he found overhead was sky.

Then he felt motion before he saw anything, and he was moving, spinning, dropping, all before his brain registered the attack.

Everything was too fast—he couldn’t even tell who’d come after him. Sheer size said it was a guy; light hair said it wasn’t one of the Merricks. Then the air dropped ten degrees, turning thin and hard to breathe. Ice formed on his cheeks, stinging his eyes and stealing his vision.

Then a fist caught him in the shoulder. The left one, exactly where he’d been shot.

The sudden pain almost knocked him down. It felt like he’d been shot again. No, it felt like his whole arm was dislocating from his body.

His power flared without direction, pulling strength from the ground and the air, and when he swung a fist, he connected hard.

But he didn’t stop there. Most people fought to drive an enemy away—not Hunter. He’d been taught to pull an enemy close, to cause the most damage. He blinked frost out of his eyes and threw his joints into retaliation, drawing strength from the ground, connecting, punishing.

He knew the moment when his attacker wanted to get some distance, and Hunter felt the surge of victory as he got the upper hand.

Then a fist snuck inside his guard and jabbed him right in the throat.

Hunter went down. Worse—he couldn’t breathe. He was on all fours in the grit and pavement of the school patio, and he was going to choke to death because no one else was stupid enough to be out here in the rain.

He sensed movement, and the gun found his hand.

The movement stopped. “You’re better than I thought you’d be.”

He had an accent, leaving the words clipped.

Hunter coughed and it hurt like a bitch. But it meant air was working its way into his lungs, so he couldn’t complain.

Get up. Get up, you wuss.

He shoved himself to his feet to face his attacker, keeping the gun pointed. At least his hand was steady.

The man was tall, younger than Hunter expected, with darker skin and ice-blue eyes. He looked military fit, with close-cropped hair and a steady stance. He also looked like he didn’t take any crap—he was here to do a job, and he was going to do it.

Hunter briefly wondered if this was how he would have turned out, if his father hadn’t died.

“Do us both a favor and put the gun away,” said the man.

“You’re Silver,” Hunter said. It sounded like he was talking through a throat full of gravel. “You shot me last night.”

A nod. “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you last night.”

“You’re lucky I’m not killing you right now.”

“I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Put the gun away.”

Hunter didn’t move, and the man raised an eyebrow. “You were the proverbial sitting duck a few moments ago. Surely you realize I would have already killed you if I meant you harm.”

Hunter rolled that around in his head for a moment. He couldn’t sit here all day holding a gun, either. His father used to say, “Pointing a gun means nothing if you’re not willing to fire it.”

Could he shoot this guy?

No. He couldn’t.

He slid the gun into the holster. “Where’s Kate?”

“I had doubts about her ability to evaluate whether you were a threat.”

Hunter rubbed at his throat. Again, he was reminded of Gabriel’s comment that first night. Keep your enemies closer. Or the old saying, The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Silver had shot him, had just about kicked his ass right here in the school courtyard, but Hunter didn’t get the impression that the guy was really here to fight with him.

“If you’re here to stop the Elementals who are starting fires, I want the same thing,” said Hunter. “I’m no threat to you.”

A smile. “I’m not worried about you being a threat to me.”

God, this guy was cocky. Hunter bristled. “I told Kate I would help her figure out who the others are.”

“I’m curious—why would you agree to turn in some, but not all?”

He had to be talking about the Merricks. “I don’t have to turn in anyone. You know who the Merricks are. It doesn’t matter anyway. They aren’t the ones causing trouble.”

A frown. “You know what your father was, do you not?”

Hunter frowned back at him. He wasn’t sure where this conversation was going. “Yes.”

“And you have no problem with the Merricks’ continued existence?”

“I told you—they’re not hurting anyone.”

Silver leaned against the picnic table. “Did Kate tell you about her mother?”

“She told me she was killed by a Water Elemental.”

The man nodded. “Did Kate mention that she went after the same Water Elemental to finish the job?”

They’d talked about vengeance, but they’d never talked about killing anyone.

Then again, he hadn’t known what Kate was. Not then. “No,” he said. “She didn’t.”

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