Spirit Page 63

And Gabriel was leaning over him, and his voice was fierce. “Guess you picked enemy over friend, huh, jackass?”

Hunter saw Gabriel’s leg move, and just when he thought he might have to draw his weapon to avoid getting kicked again, Michael’s girlfriend appeared in front of Gabriel and put a hand on his chest. “Go on,” she was saying. “Take a walk. Cool off.”

Hannah got Hunter into the kitchen before he was fully aware that he was off the ground and walking down the hallway. None of the Merricks followed him, so he was alone with her, following directions like sit there and don’t move.

The chair came up faster than he was ready for, and he wondered how hard he’d whacked his head. He touched a hand to his temple and was surprised when it came away wet.


Hannah was in front of him again, a folded paper towel in her hands. “Press this against your forehead. I need to get my bag from the car.”

“I’m bleeding,” he said, like an idiot.

“I know.” Her eyes weren’t too concerned, though. “Can you hold that and remain upright?”

Either he answered and didn’t remember, or she left without bothering to wait for one. Whatever, she was gone, and he was sitting there, dazed and trying to make both eyes focus.

Then she was back, pulling a chair close to him and pressing gauze to his forehead instead of the paper towel. She had purple latex gloves on now, the kind doctors wore. “Hold that again,” she said, grabbing his wrist to put it in place.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. For a second, his addled brain wondered if she’d been on the porch with Michael during their argument, but he couldn’t make that line up.

She was digging in her bag. “I just got off work. Mike sent me a text ten minutes ago saying everyone was going to bed and we could have a quiet cup of coffee.” She laughed a little, but not like it was funny.

“Sorry,” he said.

She had a tiny flashlight in her hands, and she shined a light in his eyes. “It’s not every day I walk in the front door of a house to see two guys fall down the stairs on top of each other.”

Put that way, it sounded insanely childish. He looked away.

She tapped his chin. “No, look at me. What were you fighting about?”

“It’s not important.”

The light flicked to his other eye. “It rarely is.” She paused. “No concussion. You’re lucky you didn’t break your neck. I saw him kick you. How are your ribs?”

They felt like they’d be cussing him out tomorrow. He pushed her hand away. The haze was already starting to wear off, letting the ache settle in. “I’m fine.”

“I want to put some butterflies on that cut on your forehead.”

Now that his thoughts were clear, he didn’t want this. Gabriel was probably out in the hallway snickering, planning his next attack. Hunter pulled the gauze away from his head. “I’m fine.”

She grabbed his hand and put the gauze back. “Shut up and take some mothering for five minutes.”

It shut him up, but not because she said so.

Because a memory hit him right between the eyes.

Not his father this time, but his mother. He couldn’t remember how old he was, probably ten or eleven because everything in the memory looked bigger. He’d come home from school with his first split lip and a cut over his eye, and he’d been more scared of how his father would react than of all the bullies in the county.

His mother had dressed his wounds and given him a Popsicle and promised that she’d make sure his father wouldn’t be hard on him.

He couldn’t remember how that had turned out.

But he could remember trusting her.

Hannah was removing the backing from a butterfly bandage. “Doing all right?”

Her fingers were gentle when she pressed the adhesive strip against his forehead, and it was harder than it should’ve been to shake off the memory. “Yeah. Long day.”

“Tell me about it.” She pulled another bandage out of the box.

He’d assumed she was older than Michael, what with the kid and the job and the don’t-take-any-crap attitude, but now, sitting this close to her in the dim kitchen lighting, he realized she wasn’t very old at all.

“How old are you?” he asked.


“But you have a son,” he said, before realizing that made him sound like a moron.

She must have thought the same thing because she gave him a look and said, “Oh, so they’re not teaching sex ed anymore?”

He felt heat color his cheeks. “No. Sorry—I shouldn’t—”

“It’s fine. People ask all the time. I got pregnant my junior year of high school.” She shrugged. “It happens a lot. I’m lucky.”


She put a third bandage across his forehead. “Yeah. My parents are great. I can work and go to school part-time, and they help with James.”

“You go to school? But you have a job.”

“I’d like to be a full paramedic. I’m just an EMT now.” Her hands went still on his forehead, and she met his eyes. “You and Gabriel weren’t fighting over a girl, were you?”

Michael came through the doorway. “Jesus, I wish it were that easy.”

Hunter glared at him around Hannah’s hands. “I told you I’d end up punching him in the face.”

“Yeah, thanks. You left out the part about destroying the foyer in the process.” Michael stroked a hand down the back of Hannah’s head, then squeezed her shoulder. His expression gentled when he looked down at her. “You still want some coffee?”

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