Spirit Page 57

His tone was a smack to the face.

But what did she expect?

She traced a fingertip over the tattoo on his forearm, something scripty and long. She recognized the symbols as Arabic or Persian or something, but she couldn’t read the language. “What’s this really say?” she said, making her voice provocative. “Something dirty?”

He smacked her hand away, as if she were a troublesome fly.

“So touchy,” she whispered mockingly.

“You don’t need to be here,” he said. “I told Silver I didn’t need you.”

“You and Silver are besties all of a sudden?”

“Let’s just say he didn’t climb in my lap to get his point across.”

Well, that stung. She sat in silence after that, letting the last bits of rain collect in her hair and chill her neck. She didn’t want to be sitting next to him now, but getting up and leaving would let him know he’d gotten to her.

After a minute, Hunter sighed, a breath full of weight, like he was going to apologize.

But he didn’t.

They sat there for the longest time, just breathing the same air, waiting for the end-of-class bell that would send students through the doors.

Maybe she was the one who owed him an apology. Or at least an explanation.

“I was never trying to play you,” she said quietly.

His posture tightened, as if he was going to snap back—but then he didn’t say anything. It gave her courage to continue.

“When I got here,” she said, “I didn’t know who you were. I was just supposed to find the Merricks and figure out how hard they’d be to kill. You were kind of like . . . a wild card.”

He didn’t say anything, but he was listening. She could feel it.

“That first day—you defended me in the school office, but then you had some issue with Calla, and then the fight with Gabriel Merrick—I couldn’t figure you out.” She paused. “I still can’t.”

“I can’t figure you out, either,” he said, his tone sharp. “I mean, you throw yourself at every guy you see—”

“I do not!”

He gave her a look.

She sat up straight and gave him one right back. “What?”

He sighed and turned his attention back to the rear door of the middle school.

Then he abruptly looked back. “What happened to your face?”

She blinked. “What?”

“You have a bruise.”

Kate put a hand to her face, and he shook his head, reaching out to touch her opposite cheek. “Here,” he said.

His hand was warm, and she was surprised how it almost made her breath catch, just that little bit of contact.

If she said something about it, he’d probably mock her. So she brushed his hand away. “Sparring with Silver.”

He made a small sound, a disbelieving sound. “Sparring, huh?”

She wanted to hit him. “How did it feel when people didn’t believe you about Calla?”

That got his attention. “This is nothing like that.”


His eyes were intense now, locked on hers. “Yeah. Really.”

She had a retort on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t say anything, not with the way he was studying her.

“Did you really kiss Silver?” he asked.

“He kissed me.” It was nothing to blush over, but her cheeks disagreed.

“And when you jumped me on the Ferris wheel, wasn’t that an attempt to shut me up?”

“You don’t have a very high opinion of me, huh?” But her cheeks still felt hot, because his words were absolutely true.

That didn’t mean she hadn’t enjoyed their time on the Ferris wheel.

“See, there’s the difference,” said Hunter. “I never hit Calla. The only time I ever laid a hand on her was when she was trying to kill me.”

“I think you’ve got this all wrong.”

He swung his head around to look at her. “You would, wouldn’t you? I’m surprised you’re not throwing yourself at me right now, just to end the conversation.”

She snorted. “Like you’d know what to do if I did.”

He recoiled, and she regretted it immediately. But she’d needed to sting him back for everything he’d been saying, as if the only thing she could offer this mission was a little physical distraction wrapped up with a pretty smile.

That was how Silver treated her.

And how her mother had treated her.

Hunter’s shoulders were tight now, and he was peeling the label off his water bottle. He very determinedly was not looking at her.

Mocking him should have felt good. It didn’t. It felt like crap.

“I’m sorry you don’t think you can trust me,” she finally said.

He didn’t say anything. He probably could recite the label by heart he was studying it so hard.

“I don’t trust anyone,” he finally said.

That surprised her. “You trust Silver.”

Hunter looked her way. “Trust isn’t the right word. He’s the first person I’ve met in a long time who brought it back to black-and-white.”

And Hunter respected that. She could hear it in his voice. He might not like Silver, but he respected him, he respected what he was doing here.

“So you’re going to turn on the Merricks.”

“I’m not turning on anyone. They’re not on my side.”

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