Spirit Page 68

The car stalled and the engine died.

Kate swore.

“Put it back in first,” he said. “You tried to jump to third. Second is straight back.”

“Intuitive,” she said, looking at the little ball on the top of the stick.

“Well, for most people . . .”

Now she did smack him.

When she went to move the stick, his hand came over hers and stopped the motion. “Clutch first.”

She did, then moved into first gear.

She didn’t want to pull her hand out from under his to start the engine, but she had to.

When she put her hand on the stick shift again, however, his hand went back over hers.

“Accelerate,” he said. She did, and when the engine was struggling again, he said, “Now try.”

This time he helped her pull it straight back into second gear, and then, with more encouragement, she went faster and shifted into third. Wind was lifting her hair, and her heart was flying.

They came to the end of the parking lot, so she hit the brakes.

The car stalled again.

She swore again.

Hunter was laughing. “It takes practice.”

Kate looked at him. “Who taught you? Your dad?”

That killed his smile. “No, actually. My uncle. The jeep used to be his. He said if I learned on a stick shift, I’d be able to drive anything.”

She was quiet for a while. “Did he and your dad really die in a rock slide?”

“Yeah.” He paused. “About three miles north of here. Dad had military clearance, so they kept it out of the papers. Even the funeral was pretty private.”

She wondered if he’d pulled off for the driving lesson just so he wouldn’t have to drive through there again. “And you still don’t think the Merricks had anything to do with it?”

He looked at her. “I know they didn’t. Calla all but admitted to being behind it.”

Kate pulled the emergency brake and shifted on the seat to look at him. “She did? And you didn’t—”

He avoided her eyes and looked back at the dashboard again. “I should have.”

Her heart was thundering in her chest now. “Why didn’t you?”

“I couldn’t.”


“I had an opportunity—and I couldn’t pull the trigger.”

Kate swallowed.

Hunter looked at her. That streak of white hair fell across his eyes, catching the sunlight. “So I guess you’ve got one on me,” he said. “How did you do it?”

She blinked.

“Your mom,” he said. “When you went after the Water Elemental.”

Oh. Right.

She’d given this speech before, when she’d been questioned.

She’d spent an hour memorizing exactly how to answer.

“Two bullets,” she said. “He’d run to the end of a pier—going for the water, I’m sure. I got him first. A shot to the hip brought him down. One to the head took him out.”

Hunter didn’t say anything, and her words hung in the air, sharp and dark and painful.

Then he finally exhaled, and she realized she’d been holding her breath, too.

“What did you do with the body?” he asked.

“Pushed it into the water.”


Like before, she didn’t know if that was an insult or a compliment. “It was almost morning. I needed to do something quickly.”

“And how did you feel?”

She jerked her head around. “What?”

“How. Did. You. Feel?” His voice was quiet, yet deliberate.

She bit the inside of her cheek. “I don’t really want to talk about this.”

Hunter reached out and pushed a piece of hair back from her face, his fingers gentle against her skin as he tucked it behind her ear. “Last night I was wondering what it would be like to trust you.”

Her eyes flicked up and caught his. “I’ve wondered the same thing.” She had to take a breath. “About you.”

His expression was tight, as if he were thinking, or deliberating.

Finally, he said, “I don’t want any harm to come to the Merricks.”

“I know,” she whispered.

“I know Silver won’t fix the mess with Calla and the middle schoolers and just leave town.”

He was right. She couldn’t even deny it.

She wet her lips. “Then why are you helping us?”

“Because I feel like I have to.” He met her eyes. “You know.”

He was talking about his dad. Her mom.

Yeah, she knew.

He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “They’re leaving in a week. They don’t know I know.”

She sat up straight. “They’re leaving?” She wondered if Silver had any idea. He couldn’t possibly. He’d be bombing their house right now.

“I don’t know where they’re going,” Hunter added.

“Lucky for them.” This was—this was—she wasn’t sure what. Good? Bad? She couldn’t even nail down her emotions. Hell, she could barely catch her breath.

“I’m trusting you with this,” said Hunter. A note of desperation had crept into his voice.

Like maybe he’d be on the phone to Michael Merrick in two seconds if she gave any indication of passing this information along.

Silver would kill her if he found out she knew.

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