Spirit Page 72

The kitchen was clean, no food left on the counters.

But no sign of struggle or distress, either.

Then again, the cars were gone and the power dead. The Merricks weren’t here, but he had no idea whether they’d left voluntarily.

Kate pointed to the refrigerator.

Hunter eased it open.

Empty. Completely empty.

The breath left his chest in a whoosh.

Empty. If they’d been chased from the house, or kidnapped, or whatever, they wouldn’t have emptied the refrigerator.

Hunter was completely unprepared for the crushing weight of disappointment and loss. It socked him in the gut and made it hard to breathe. He’d known they were planning on leaving—had actually counted on it—but he hadn’t expected them truly just to ditch him here without a word.

He dropped into one of the kitchen chairs and rubbed his hands over his face.

“There’s no one here,” he said. “They left.”

God, he sounded pathetic.

Kate dropped into the chair beside him. She didn’t say anything.

She was probably thinking he was such an idiot for trusting them. Or maybe he was the one thinking that.

He wondered if they’d been planning this all along. Throw a party, distract him, get him to hook up with Kate—

Wait. It had been his idea to leave.

For god’s sake, though, he’d stood outside and listened to Michael’s bullshit last night, and they’d been planning to walk out on him.

He’d felt guilty about the fight with Gabriel. About letting Nick down.

He wanted to put his fist through this table. Casper thrust his nose into Hunter’s hand, and he patted the dog absently.

“I’m sorry,” Kate said quietly.

He lifted his eyes to find hers. “I knew it was coming.”

She inhaled like she was going to say something—but must have thought better of it.

Instead, she reached out and put her hand over his.

And that meant more than any other way she’d touched him.

He turned his hand and caught her fingers, then squeezed.

Her phone beeped, and she jumped.

“Silver?” he said.

She glanced at the screen and shoved it back in her pocket. “No. Battery died. All that Internet searching.”

Hunter straightened. “If they’re gone, they’re safe. Let’s grab my files and get out of here.”

He shoved the gun into his waistband, pulling his shirt loose to hang over it so it wouldn’t be seen.

Pretty stupid, he realized later, since they walked back out the front door without any of the caution they’d used going in. He carried one box, and Kate carried the other. Their hands were occupied. Casper jogged out the door ahead of them.

Then a gun went off, the sound cracking from somewhere between the trees.

And before Hunter could even get it together to draw his own weapon, Kate went down.


Hunter got Kate back through the door. He hollered for Casper.

His dog was barking somewhere in the yard. Hunter yelled for him again.

Another shot hit the siding on the front of the house. Hunter flinched and dragged Kate farther along the slate of the entrance hallway. They got to the rear of the foyer, to where he could see the front door, but they were partially obscured by the stairwell.

“I’m okay,” she said. “I’m okay.”

She was not okay. Blood was everywhere, a long streak on the floor, a spreading stain on her jeans, a lengthy smear along his forearm.

“Jesus,” he whispered.

He pulled his sweatshirt off and balled it up. “Where are you hit?”

“Hip,” she said, and he heard the strain in her voice. “I think it’s just a flesh wound.”

He couldn’t tell—too much blood. He shoved the sweatshirt where most of it was. He would totally give anything for Hannah to walk through the door right now.

Another gunshot. Hunter jumped. Somewhere outside, Casper yelped, then whined.

Hunter struggled to position Kate more upright, to get her heart above the wound. “Casper!” he shouted. “Hierr!”

Then he held his breath. Kate held hers.

He heard nothing.

“Damn it!” he cried. “Casper! Hierr!”


“Casper!” His voice was breaking.

“Cops,” said Kate. It sounded like she was speaking through clenched teeth. “Call the cops.”

He could barely get the phone out of his pocket. His fingers were sticky with her blood and his brain wouldn’t stop thinking of Casper bleeding just like this, somewhere in the yard.

The touch screen didn’t want to work and his breath wouldn’t stop hitching.

“Casper!” he yelled again, and he heard the desperation in his own voice. He was ready to punch a hole in the floor.

Finally, the phone gave in to his panicked swipes. He dialed 911.

The line rang forever.

Someone was out there shooting. Calla? Silver? He had no idea.

The car was at least thirty feet from the front door, and Kate couldn’t walk. It wasn’t like this person was firing a musket. Hunter couldn’t exactly wait around for a reload so he could carry her to the jeep and back down the driveway.

And he couldn’t leave Casper.


Casper. Casper. Casper.

The dog had been licking his hands a minute ago, and now he was—


He had to stop. He had to focus. Or none of them would make it out of this alive.

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