Spirit Page 62

“Was there a point to this conversation?”

Michael’s eyes flashed, and Hunter braced for more lecturing, but the oldest Merrick simply picked up his coffee. “Can you help with a job on Sunday?”

Hunter blinked, suddenly off balance. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved the grilling was over—or disappointed.

Like it mattered. “Sure.”

“Don’t forget this time, all right? Nick and Chris said they’d help, too, but it’s a big job, and I don’t want to lose the income.”

He didn’t want to lose the income. Probably stocking up for the big move. But what could he say? Hunter forced words past his lips. “I won’t forget.”

Chris’s and Gabriel’s doors were closed when Hunter climbed the stairs, only darkness visible under the doors, but light flooded the hallway from Nick’s room. Hunter half knocked before entering.

Nick was reading a paperback, something with an old-fashioned painting on the cover. Had to be a school assignment. He looked up when Hunter came in. “Hey.”

Hunter dropped his backpack next to the air mattress, beside the two plastic crates. “Hey.” He paused, trying to get a read on the feeling in the room. The air told him nothing, but Nick’s voice had carried the slightest edge. “Reading for school?”

“Yeah.” He held up the book.

“Heart of Darkness?” Hunter bent to unlace his shoes. “I think I’d use Wikipedia for that one.”

“Sounds about right.” Nick turned back to his book.

Hunter almost wished he’d left his shoes on. “What’s with the attitude?”

“I had to help Mike dig an irrigation trench because you didn’t show up.”

“Sounds like your problem.” Hunter felt his voice gain an edge.

Now Nick looked up. “You’re going to pick a fight because you screwed up?”

Hunter hesitated. “I’m sorry. I got caught up in something. I didn’t know you’d get stuck with it.”

“I have three papers due Monday. I really could have used the time.”

“I said I’m sorry, all right?”

“All right.”

But Hunter didn’t feel like he’d been forgiven.

At least Nick shut up after that, and Hunter left him to his super exciting novel in favor of getting ready for bed in the bathroom.

Gabriel was waiting for him when he came out. He blocked the doorway.

Hunter sighed. He probably should have driven to the Target parking lot. “Can’t you all just confront me at the same time?”


“Nothing. What? I’m tired.” And he was. As he said the words, exhaustion climbed on his back, grabbed the coils of tension holding him together, and gripped tight.

“I want to know what’s going on with you.”

Hunter snorted and pushed past him. “Join the club.”

Gabriel grabbed him and shoved him into the wall. His voice was low. “I heard someone from the high school went after that Noah Dean kid when school let out.”

Hunter shoved back, breaking his hold. “So what?”

Gabriel wouldn’t let him pass. “What are you doing, Hunter?”

Hunter glared back at him, wondering if he should tell them what Noah had said. About Calla being alive.

Then Nick appeared in his bedroom doorway. “Hey. Leave him alone.”

Hunter didn’t even know which one of them he was talking to.

Gabriel got closer. “What are you doing?” he said, his voice low and dangerous. “It was you, wasn’t it? You went after Noah. After agreeing that we should stay away from them.”

“Back off.”

“Are you f**king with us again?” Gabriel shoved him harder.

The corridor was narrow, with drywall on one side and a bannister on the other, and Hunter got leverage to shove him back. “I said, back off.”

But Gabriel would never back off, and really, Hunter didn’t want to be left alone. This was someone who’d fight. When Gabriel swung at him, Hunter blocked, throwing real force into it, unleashing the anger he’d been holding on to all day. That coil of tension slipped free, and Hunter threw power into his strikes until the air was ice cold and biting the inside of his chest.

But the narrow hallway worked to Gabriel’s advantage, too, and he knocked Hunter’s feet out from under him. Gabriel might have been stronger, but Hunter was faster and knew how to work an enemy’s weight to his advantage. Hunter got leverage to roll him, throwing extra force into it.

He just hadn’t considered how close to the stairs they were.

Or that Gabriel’s momentum in the roll would throw Hunter ahead of him.

They both went down. Every step hurt like a bitch. The slate flooring of the foyer hurt worse, first on his shoulder, then on his head.

Especially since Gabriel landed on top of him.

Then the weight was dragged away. A relief, since Hunter needed to figure out which way was up. By the time he had it straight, Michael was glaring down at him.

Then Gabriel kicked him in the stomach. Pain exploded through the base of his rib cage, and Hunter curled in on himself, forgetting how to breathe.

God, he hadn’t been hit in the stomach in . . . forever. He couldn’t decide if that hurt more than his head.

Both. Both hurt.

Voices were yelling overhead, but he couldn’t make sense of them through the overwhelming need to breathe. It felt like he’d been choking for half an hour. There was a good chance he was drooling on the floor.

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