Spirit Page 64

She turned her head to smile up at him. Her voice softened. “That’d be great. Thanks.”

Hunter watched this exchange and instantly felt like a third wheel.

But he also felt envious, similar to the way he’d felt watching Noah Dean with his mother.

He’d seen his parents like this before, this gentle consideration for each other. Hunter had always believed it, until his father had destroyed everything, dropping a bomb about using women, and every personal relationship being a means to an end.

It meant that there’d never been anything honest about his father’s relationship with his mother.

But worse, Hunter didn’t know what it meant about his father’s relationship with him.

Even now, watching this casual touch between Michael and Hannah, he wanted to examine it and see what each was after.

And of course the minute he tried to decipher it, he erased the magic. Just like Kate jumping into his lap in the Ferris wheel car, it was all a carefully maneuvered ploy. Michael’s hand on Hannah’s hair was a mechanical touch to coerce her to stay, just like her soft voice had been a way to get a cup of—

“Hey,” said Michael. “Are you listening to me?”

Hunter pressed his hands to his eyes. God, he was going to make himself crazy. “No. Sorry.”

“I said I told Gabriel to knock this crap off. He said you were hassling Nick . . .”

That didn’t match what Gabriel had said in the hallway, but Hunter didn’t have the mental energy to figure it out now. “I wasn’t hassling Nick.”

Michael put up a hand. “Nick said the same thing, and then they started arguing, and I just wanted to blow my brains out because I didn’t realize I was living in a juvenile detention center.”

“Nice,” said Hannah.

Michael looked down at him. “Do you think you can make it through the night without breaking any bones?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter.

Michael glanced at her. “Is he fine?”

She looked at him. “Are you fine?”

He shoved out of the chair. “Yeah. Thanks.”

Gabriel was nowhere to be found. Nick was in bed again, reading the same book. Hunter felt like he’d already done this hours ago, though it had only been about twenty minutes.

He probably should have taken a Motrin before coming up here.

“Welcome back,” said Nick.

The funny thing was, his voice had lost its earlier edge. Hunter glanced at him. “Thanks.”

“When Chris was ten, we pushed him down the stairs. This was twice as entertaining.”

Hunter couldn’t tell if he was teasing or not, and it was hurting his head to try to figure it out. “Glad to amuse you.”

“It sure as hell made up for having to work tonight.”

Hunter still wasn’t sure how to take that. He climbed under the quilt on the air mattress and wished sleep would just take him away for a short while. After a bit, Nick clicked off the light, and Hunter’s thoughts started to fade.

Unfortunately, they kept solidifying on Kate, on the feel of her breath against his skin. He kept comparing that to the image of Michael’s hand on Hannah’s hair in the kitchen.

“You still like that Kate girl?” said Nick out of the blue.

Hunter almost choked on his own breath. “She’s all right.”

“She texted me to see if anything was going on this weekend, so I invited her over. Becca will be here, and Layne and her little brother—”

Hunter looked over at him in the darkness. “You—invited Kate over?”

“Yeah.” Nick’s voice was a little challenging. “That okay?”

Hunter told his heart to quit knocking around his rib cage.

Nick had asked her over.

She was probably coming for some sort of reconnaissance or something.

But Nick had asked her. And she’d accepted.

When had this happened? Why hadn’t she mentioned it?

Kate hadn’t texted Hunter all evening. He checked his phone just to be sure.

No messages from her.

He didn’t care.

He didn’t.

He didn’t.

Oh, who the hell was he kidding?

A pillow hit him in the head, and Hunter jumped a frigging mile.

He was so keyed up it was probably a miracle he didn’t draw his gun.

“Easy there, Zen Master Ninja,” said Nick, a wry note in his voice. “I invited her over for you.”

Hunter didn’t move for a moment. He studied Nick’s silhouette in the near dark. “For me?”

“Yeah,” said Nick. “Because seriously, dude, if anyone needs to cut loose with a chick for an hour, it’s you.”


Hunter was hiding in the basement.

Well, not really hiding. He was showing Simon how to break some basic holds. But if he was down here, he didn’t have to see Kate, and he didn’t have to listen to Gabriel’s minute-by-minute jabs. Much more of that, and Hunter wouldn’t give a crap about his promise to Michael—he’d finish what they’d started last night.

Everyone else was out on the back porch with pizza and soda, a scene straight out of a deodorant commercial or something.

He hadn’t started out hiding, but he’d heard the doorbell, the resulting footsteps overhead, and finally Nick’s yell that “everyone” was here.

Hunter said he’d be up in a minute and asked Simon if he wanted to keep working.

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