Spirit Page 7

The main office was crowded: kids clamoring for late slips, a guy on crutches with medical forms in one hand, two men in suits who looked like salesmen but were probably college recruiters, and the hottest girl Hunter had ever seen.

For half a second, he could barely think to put one foot in front of the other.

She was standing by the main secretary’s desk, a messenger bag slung over one shoulder. Her hair was thick and blond and chin length, and a few strands fell across her face, framing green eyes. Striking eyes, full of intelligence instead of boredom. Her lips were pink and full and almost pouting. Her clothes were fitted and current and expensive-looking: a short brown leather jacket that flared from her waist, jeans that clung to the slight curve of her hips, and knee-high boots with just enough buckles and zippers to be intriguing.

But it wasn’t just her looks that held him spellbound. It was the energy in the air around her, as if the light and the air flared with tiny sparks.

Her eyes flicked sideways and she caught him looking.

Now his pulse tripped, but at least she couldn’t see that. He needed to shut this down. Girls were a complication he didn’t need right now. He shifted his bag higher on his shoulder and didn’t flinch from her look.

Her eyes narrowed and she tossed the hair off her face. Her lips parted, as if she were about to speak—but the secretary hung up the phone and held out a packet of papers to the girl. “Miss Sullivan, here’s your locker combination and some emergency forms for your parents to fill out. First period is about to start, so . . .”

She was a new student. Maybe fate was repaying him for that crap with Calla this morning. Maybe he’d been called down here to escort her around school. Maybe—

“Alice?” A voice called from the guidance counselor’s office. “When Hunter Garrity gets here, can you please send him in?”

Damn it.

He sighed and headed toward Ms. Vickers’s door.

As he moved past the new girl, he caught her scent, something sweet with a spicy kick to it, cinnamon over apples.

She was still watching him. “Like what you see?”

She said it boldly, but not cattily. Like a genuine question—without any doubt of the answer.

It embarrassed him anyway. He shouldn’t have been staring.

He opened his mouth to answer, not even knowing what to say. An apology? Something cocky, like Yeah, I do?

But one of the guys in the late line said, “I like what I see, baby!” And the guy next to him gave him a high five and said, “Why don’t you show us a little more—”

“Leave her alone,” Hunter snapped. He took a step toward them, and they mocked him, pretending to be afraid.

“Boys!” said the secretary.

The girl rolled her eyes, shoved the papers in her messenger bag, and turned for the door.

So that was that.

Like it mattered. He turned back for Vickers’s office. The door was half open, and he pushed it wide, wondering why on earth he’d been called down here.

And then he saw the student in the chair, the girl with a tear-streaked face who was cradling her wrist, and his heart just about stopped.

Calla Dean.

Kate stood in the empty hallway and checked her phone. Already, a message from Silver.

Honestly. She’d been here fifteen minutes.

Surveillance only. Do not engage.

As if he hadn’t told her that enough times this morning. Like she was stupid enough to engage with a bunch of rogue Elementals right here in the middle of school. The caution tape lining some of the hallways was proof enough of their propensity for destruction.

What did Silver think she was going to do? Start a fight in the cafeteria?

Her phone buzzed, the silent feature loud in the empty hallway.

Meet anyone interesting yet?

She snorted at the phone. The secretary had been interesting because she’d misspelled Kate’s name twice—and how hard was it to spell Kate Sullivan? The boys in the office had been interesting because they lived up to every promise about high school, leering at her like she was a pinup poster instead of a real live girl.

Except that boy with the piercings and the white streak in his hair.

He’d been interesting because of the way the air hung quiet around him, as if he walked in a sphere of his own control.

The phone buzzed again.


God! She was tempted to take a picture of her middle finger and send it back. Her fingers flew across the screen.

Heading to first period. Maybe you can do something more useful than texting me.

As soon as she pressed SEND, she regretted it. Silver stood between her and more missions like this. She started to type a new message that would take the sarcasm out of the first, when one of the classroom doors flew open.

A middle-aged teacher in a tweed sport coat and wire-rimmed glasses stood there. Students in his classroom, seated by twos at lab tables, peered out curiously.

The teacher didn’t look so curious. He gave her a knowing look. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Miss?”

Kate slid the phone into her bag and flipped blond hair out of her eyes. She could charm anyone. She had a bedroom answer ready, but the way this guy was looking at her told her it wouldn’t be appreciated. She slapped a distressed look on her face and yanked at one of the sheets the secretary had given her.

“It’s my first day,” she said, making her voice plaintive. “The secretary said she’d have someone escort me to my first class, but then she got busy . . .”

The teacher nodded and snapped his fingers at a student in the front row of the classroom. “Nick. Show her where she needs to go, and come right back.”

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