Spirit Page 6

He didn’t want to go inside.

He shared American Lit with Calla. How was he supposed to sit there in class with her and pretend nothing was going on?

Calla had been using Ryan Stacey to start fires in an effort to bring the Guides to town. She’d been drawing pentagrams in lighter fluid inside each of the houses they burned—a mocking call to the Guides, who painted pentagrams on houses where they suspected pure Elementals lived.

Now Ryan Stacey was in jail, and Calla had renewed her threat. She and that mystery boy would start burning down houses until he brought Guides here. How the hell was he supposed to do that?

And even if he could, was that any better? Luring people into a death trap?

He pulled out his cell phone, scrolling through his contacts until he found Bill Chandler.

They hadn’t spoken in days, but Becca’s father answered almost immediately. No preamble, just: “Hunter?”

“Calla Dean broke into my house this morning.”

“What did she want?”

Hunter couldn’t get a read off his voice. No curiosity, no anger, no boredom or exasperation. Hunter never had any idea where he stood with Becca’s father—which was reassuring in a way because he’d never had any idea where he stood with his own, either.

“She wants me to bring the Guides here.”

A pause. “This isn’t news.”

“She said she’s going to keep burning down houses until they come.”

“If these arson attacks continue, she’ll bring the Guides here on her own, eventually. She doesn’t need you.”

That wasn’t the answer Hunter was looking for. “Do you have any idea who she could be working with?”

“No, and I don’t care.”

Hunter blinked. “You don’t . . . care?”

“No. The Guides will come and eradicate the problem. If I get involved, it puts Becca at risk.”

“Calla will kill people. She’s not making little fires. She—”

“She’s alive because you missed an opportunity, Hunter.”

Shock trapped the words right in Hunter’s throat, lodging there until he could barely breathe around it.

“I told you to make sure Gabriel Merrick didn’t cause trouble. Instead, you helped him find it. You shouldn’t be involved.”

Hunter gritted his teeth. Yeah, Bill had asked him to keep an eye on Gabriel Merrick, a Fire Elemental with a temper to match. But Gabriel had been using his abilities to rescue people from the mysterious fires popping up all over town.

Hunter had helped him.

But when Ryan Stacey had set the library on fire, Calla had revealed herself to be the Elemental behind the arson attacks.

She’d also taunted him, claiming to be responsible for his father’s death. Hunter had drawn his gun.

And then he’d been unable to pull the trigger.

Hunter squeezed his eyes shut. “People would have died—”

“They didn’t. You saved them. But you allowed Calla Dean to get away, and now she has leverage.” He paused, a weighted silence full of judgment. “You made your bed, kid. Now you lie in it.”

The phone clicked off.

The shock settled into something like fury—at himself. Twice before, he’d had the opportunity to fix a problem, and he’d hesitated before employing lethal force.

And then he’d stood in the library, surrounded by fire, listening as Calla recounted her crimes.

All that training, and he couldn’t pull a trigger.

Now he’d have to confront her. Here, at school, where she couldn’t cause a scene.

The school hallways were crowded: the main corridors that led past the library were blocked with yellow caution tape, forcing people to go through the basement locker areas just to cross from one side of the school to the other. Hunter was bumped at least three times while he was trying to get his books together for morning classes.

Then a hand came out of nowhere and shoved the books straight out of his arms, sending them skidding across the tiled floor. “Welcome back, jackass.”

Gabriel Merrick.

The gesture had been casual. The venom in his voice had not.

Hunter stared after him, wondering if he should retaliate—or if he should swallow his pride and take it.

Because he kind of deserved it.

“Hey,” he called.

Gabriel flipped him off and disappeared around the corner.

Hunter figured he was lucky Gabriel hadn’t set his books on fire.

In homeroom, he ignored the morning announcements and tried to think of a plan. He shared fourth period with Chris and Becca. Maybe he could start there. If they knew what Calla was up to, they’d want to help.

Or they’d tell him to screw off.

He needed a backup plan. He couldn’t stop Calla by himself.

Someone cleared her throat, and Hunter blinked, realizing that the room had gone silent. Everyone in class was staring at him, including the elderly teacher who only monitored homeroom and study hall.

He’d missed something important.

“Hunter?” Mrs. Goodchild said. “Did you hear the intercom, dear? You’re wanted in the guidance office.”

Hunter sighed and grabbed his things. This would be the third time he’d been called to the office since school started. It seemed like every week they needed a new form signed by his mother. Maybe they needed another backup-backup emergency form filled out in triplicate. The headache from this morning was back, like a ball-peen hammer at the back of his eyeballs.

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