Spirit Page 67

She couldn’t decide which she hated more: his condescension or his violence.

She examined her fingernails. “I thought maybe he was working on something with you.”

“Jealous much?”

She glared at him and wished it were something as simple as jealousy. “This is my job. You’re the one living with the enemy. I earned this position.”


His eyes were intense, and there was no mockery in that question.

The answer was simple enough, but she faltered, trapped by his eyes.

When she didn’t say anything, Hunter volunteered an explanation for her. “Silver said you avenged your mother. That you killed the Water Elemental who killed her.”

She made her voice hard, until the edge almost hurt as the words passed her lips. “I did. So you see, this is my job. I earned it.”

He looked back at the steering wheel.

She studied him, the sandy blond hair that fell forward along his cheeks, the piercings in his eyebrow and ear, the foreign tattoos. She wanted to touch them, to find out if they were warm from his skin, to let power flow between them the way it had before.

What the hell was wrong with her? Weren’t they fighting?

“I haven’t talked to Silver,” he said. “Really, I thought I was going to be stuck here all weekend, waiting for school on Monday so I could try to question some of the other middle schoolers.”

She wondered just how he would have “questioned” them. “Gonna go break some more arms?”

“I didn’t break his arm.” He sounded bitter. There was a long pause. “I couldn’t have.”

No, he didn’t sound bitter.

He sounded disgusted.

She studied him in the sunlight. He looked over. “I’m not trying to take your job, Kate.” Then he flung himself back in the seat and ran his hands through his hair. “God knows I don’t want it.”

Her lips parted, and she was aware of breathing, but she couldn’t have said a word if she’d wanted to.

He didn’t want it?

His thumbs were running over the ridges in the steering wheel again. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, so I’ll do what I have to do. But that doesn’t mean I like it.”

“I don’t like it, either,” she whispered.

He glanced over. “Then what was all the bravado about your job?”

“What else am I supposed to do? All I’ve ever heard is that full Elementals are supposed to die before they can hurt anyone. And we’re supposed to be the ones to do it, because our connection to the Fifth element is what allows us the greatest connection to the spirit, to follow through and do what’s right.”

“I know,” he said, almost gently. “I drank the Kool-Aid, too.”

They sat there breathing the air for the longest time, until she shivered and regretted the cropped top.

Hunter put a hand out. “Keys?”

Sheepishly, she handed them to him. He started the engine and kicked on the heat—which seemed counterintuitive with the top down. But warmth rushed out of the vents, and she put her hands against them. “Thanks.”

“Sure.” Then he shrugged out of his pullover and handed it to her.

She took it in surprise, glad he was looking at the road as he pulled out, instead of at her. The fleece fabric was warm from his body, and it smelled like him, some faint delicious musky scent like a hint of cologne or body wash. She hugged it to her chest and inhaled.

After a minute, she looked over. “Where are we going?”

“Anywhere you want.” He threw a glance her way. “I can still teach you to drive a stick if you want.”

His tone was easy. Amiable. Almost desperate for some kind of normal.

Had her admission let them find some kind of truce?

She reached out a hand and clicked on the radio. “Just drive.”


“This feels kinda like that scene in Look Who’s Talking,” Tsaid Kate.

Hunter smirked. “Put your hand on my stick?” he quoted.


“That was a plane, and you’re not Kirstie Alley.”

“Yeah, well, you’re no John Travolta.”

“Thank god for that.”

She had no idea where they were—but she liked that. They’d driven for well over an hour, maybe two, until the highway started to wind through mountains and there were signs for falling rock. The air was cooler here, sharp and biting against her cheeks. Hunter had found an abandoned parking lot—in front of an abandoned department store—and he was teaching her to drive his car.

She’d only stalled the vehicle once before figuring out the balance between the clutch and the accelerator.

“You’re better at this than I thought you’d be,” Hunter said.

“Is that an insult or a compliment?”

“Lady’s choice.”

And now she didn’t know whether to smile or smack him. Everything felt tentative. Precarious, like a small tap in either direction would have them at each other’s throats again. “We’re only going ten miles per hour.”

“Want to try it on the highway?”

“What? No!”

“There’s no one here. Give it some gas, just don’t hit a light pole. See if you can figure out when it’s time to switch.”

She accelerated, and the car sped up, but she could feel the engine struggling in this gear, like something confined trying to break free. She hit the clutch, felt the release, and moved the stick.

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