Spirit Page 74

The sirens were practically on top of them; they had to be coming up the driveway. Hunter hit the accelerator again, juggling the clutch as best he could as the car rocked and slipped over uneven ground.

He knew these woods, this path. He’d just run this trail with Gabriel a few days ago. As long as he could keep the jeep moving forward, he’d come out to the main road without anyone being able to put him at the Merrick house.

“How you doing?” he said to Kate.

“Oh, I’m swell,” she murmured.

“Hospital?” he asked.

“You’re crazy. He’d find us and shoot us in the waiting room.”

Her words were slow and almost slurring. Hunter ran a hand through his hair. He didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know who would help them. Everyone he knew was a target—or had left town.

Then he remembered one person who was “off the grid.”

Someone who’d refused to help.

Hunter didn’t have a phone, so he couldn’t call, but he knew exactly who to go to.

Becca’s father.


Bill Chandler lived in a little gray rental on the water. Hunter had only been here once, the day Bill had asked him to watch Gabriel, but he remembered the way. The clapboard siding needed a new paint job, and the gutters were coming loose along the left side of the roof, but it was secluded, private, and no one knew he was here.

Exactly what Hunter needed.

A green pickup truck sat out front, the DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES logo visible on the side.

Bill was home.

He opened the door when Hunter knocked. “Becca’s not here,” he said.

“Good. I need your help.”

Bill’s gaze sharpened, probably taking in the blood on Hunter’s clothes. “I told you not to bring your mess to me.” He started to close the door.

Hunter put a hand against the wood. “Help me or I’ll tell them all where to find you.” He paused, very aware that Kate could be bleeding to death in the front seat right now. “I’ll tell them about Becca.”

“Don’t you threaten me, kid.”

“Damn it!” snapped Hunter. He was ready to pull his gun and shoot this guy. Or himself. “Help me. Please. Just help me.”

If Bill said no, he didn’t know what he’d do.

He was officially in over his head.

“Fine,” said Bill. He gave Hunter a once-over. “You’re hurt?”

“Not me. Kate. Come on.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Then Bill shut the door in his face.

Swearing, Hunter went back to the car. Her eyes were closed, but she made a small sound when he pulled her into his arms. Her breathing was shallow.

She was so pale.

Hunter started for the front door, but Bill reappeared and gestured for him to walk around to the back of the house. They moved past the porch and down the grassy slope to where the terrain turned to sand.

“Put her in the sand,” Bill said, pointing. “Get her close to the water. I’ll get some logs.”

Hunter sat in the sand with her, holding her against him. He was beginning to think this was stupid, that he should have taken her to the ER anyway, but then the wind kicked up to swirl around them and the tide crawled up the shore to lick at Kate’s feet. Heat from the sun poured down, warming his skin and filling the air with power.

Casper rolled in the sand beside him, basking in it.

No, this had been the right decision. Hunter felt it now.

He pulled at the power, begging for more, begging it to heal her, hoping it would be enough.

“Careful,” said Bill behind him. “Don’t try to force it. The elements are willing; let them work.” He dropped some logs in the sand beside them, then some blankets and sleeping bags. “Get her pants off. I’ll start a fire.”

Hunter just stared at him.

Bill was arranging the logs into a pile and tucking dried brush between them. “Do you want me to take her pants off?” He glanced over. “We need to see how deep that wound is. She might need stitches.”

Hunter had to clear his throat. “I—can you lay out a sleeping bag for her?”

“She’ll do better directly on the sand. Come on, kid, you’ve never undressed a girl before?”

Um. No. Hunter shook himself and laid her down on the sand.

A few hours ago, she’d looked like the hottest thing he’d ever seen.

Now she was so pale, half soaked in blood. The copper scent stung his nose. That stole any hesitation he might have had. He unbuttoned her jeans and undid the zipper.

That hesitation was back. His breathing felt shallow.

God, she was practically dying in front of him, and he couldn’t pull her pants off.

Then Bill was beside him. He had a knife in his hand, and he ripped her jeans straight down from the waistband before Hunter could even think to stop him.

Hunter got a good look at the torn flesh along her hip, and he lost any thoughts of seeing her naked; instead, he almost lost himself to worry.

She’d been right—the bullet had just grazed her, but it had taken a lot of skin with it.

Bill whistled through his teeth. “She’s lucky. Lots of arteries in the leg, but you’d never have made it here if one of those had been hit. Let me get my suture kit.”

“Your suture kit? But—you can’t—”

“Did you want my help or not? There isn’t much difference between stitching up a wild animal and a human being.” He paused. “You can’t leave it all to the elements, Hunter. It’ll take days.”

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