Spirit Page 69

But she’d seen Gabriel step into the line of fire to pull Hunter to safety. She’d seen Nick’s kindness firsthand. She’d been with Silver when they watched Michael drag Hunter out of a mood and take him on a job. She’d seen them operate as a family, both with their Elemental abilities and without.

What had Silver ever offered? What had her mother?

She felt like she was running a race, right here in the driver’s seat of his jeep.

“If you tell Silver,” said Hunter, “it’s really no different from you pulling the trigger yourself.”

“No kidding,” she snapped. God, she couldn’t think.

“I don’t think you want to harm them, either.”

“Yeah? How do you know that?”

He looked at her, hard. “Because I don’t think you really killed that guy on the end of some pier.”

She threw her hands up. “Where do you think I did it, then?” she cried, incredulous.

“I don’t think you did it at all!”

He might as well have shoved her out of the car and slammed her head against the pavement. She was sitting in an open top jeep and she couldn’t breathe.

Kate flung the door open and swung her legs out. She had to walk.

She should be texting Silver about the Merricks right now. Right now. This was the kind of thing that would get her back on his good side.

Hunter caught her arm and swung her around.

Kate stared up at him. She should disable him somehow, steal his jeep and his phone and take off down the highway—

Then again, she’d probably only make it about half a mile.

Whatever, she’d have no trouble flagging down a ride. She’d be back in Annapolis, Hunter would be stranded here, and the Merricks wouldn’t be much more than a memory and a closed file.

Hunter caught her other arm, and his hands were gentle. She almost wished she’d given him back the pullover so she could feel his palms against bare skin.

Then he didn’t say anything.

She had a thousand insults to fling at him, words to deflect his attention.

Instead, she said, “How? How did you know?”

“Because you’re not callous,” he said carefully.

“You’re wrong. I am.”

“No. You’re not.” He paused. “You called my name, the night Silver shot me.”

She looked away.

“You did,” said Hunter. “I know you did.”

“He misunderstood what you were doing with Calla.”

Hunter brushed it off with a wave of his hand. “You were upset when you thought I broke Noah Dean’s arm.”

“Because I thought it was a stupid move on school property.”

Hunter smiled. “You didn’t kill me the morning after the carnival.”

“I was busy. Figured I had time.”

Now he laughed, but he quickly sobered. His hands found her cheeks, blocking the wind, his palms warm against her face. He leaned down until his forehead was touching hers and they breathed the same air.

It felt so good to be held this way, just the two of them in a deserted parking lot on the side of a mountain, nothing around but earth and sky.

Far, far away from Elementals and death and danger and betrayal.

“I’d like to kiss you,” said Hunter softly. “But I’d really like to try it without any lies between us.”

For some reason, that made her eyes burn, and she worried that tears had found their way to her eyes.

His thumb stroked along her cheek, terrible confirmation.

“I don’t remember how to do that,” she whispered.

A smile found his lips. “How to kiss?”

She squished her eyes shut and shook her head quickly. “How to be true.”

He kissed her eyelids, first the left, then the right. “Yes you do, Kate.”

She let a breath ease out and was surprised to find that it shook. She’d never spoken these words to anyone, and saying them now almost burned because the weight of her failure was behind them. “I didn’t kill the man who killed my mother.”

She was ready for him to dig, to ask why, to turn this into an interrogation. But he hesitated, his breath warm on her temple. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. God, no.”

Then the cord of tension snapped, and his mouth found hers.

Hunter was fierce and gentle, but there was nothing aggressive about this kiss, nothing angry. This felt like a first kiss—not just with him, but . . . but ever. No pretense, no games, just a boy kissing a girl because of wildfire attraction.

And here, in the middle of nowhere, there was no need to shield their abilities. His power surged and whispered against her skin. The air chilled and warmed her simultaneously, but she felt heat in his touch. The earth rejoiced that they were here, full of energy and talent and letting it ride out in streamers.

His tongue brushed her lips, teasing. Her lips parted, allowing him in, drawing at his mouth until she pulled a gasp from his throat and his hands snaked under the sweatshirt.

They’d done this before, but now was different. Somehow new and familiar at the same time. Her insides were melting away, and it was a good thing his hands were there to hold her up because she was falling against him. A hand cupped her breast, and she moaned into his mouth, arching her back when his thumb found the most sensitive bits.

Suddenly she wasn’t chilly at all.

In fact, she could do with a lot less clothing.

Her hands explored under the hem of his T-shirt, stroking along the planes of his stomach, tracing the muscles of his chest. One of his hands stroked down her back and found its way beneath the waistband of her jeans, just an inch, maybe two, but just feeling his fingers on more sensitive skin had her panting into his mouth.

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