Spirit Page 76

“I’m sorry,” Hunter said. He didn’t entirely mean it, but he felt like he should offer something in exchange for the food and supplies.

“Did you hate your father?”

The words hit Hunter so hard that he felt like he needed to take a step back. “No,” he said, his voice rough. “No, never. He—I just never knew where I stood with him.”

Bill smiled a little at that: a small smile, a sad one. “Really?”

Hunter couldn’t interpret that expression. “Yeah, really.”

“I’d say you stood in pretty high regard. Your dad went to some lengths to keep you a secret.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I knew your dad. And he never breathed a word about you.”

Hunter scowled—but something about this was meshing with what Silver had said when he came after him and Kate at the Merrick house. Or what Calla Dean had said at the carnival.

Had his father kept him a secret?

But . . . why?

His head was overfull with confusion, and he couldn’t take one more thing to second guess. “Maybe it means he just didn’t give a crap.”

“That’s not how being a father works, kid.” Bill gestured to the bags. “There should be enough food for tonight and tomorrow.”

So Bill expected them to sleep out here, on the beach. It was October, and the night air was already growing cold. Hunter glanced at the back door and deliberated for a long moment before swallowing his pride. “Any way we can crash on your floor?”

“Not an option.” Bill’s voice was hard again.

Hunter was too tired to argue. “Fine. We’ll sleep in the sand.” At least they had blankets.

“Sometimes decisions are about picking the lesser evil.”

Hunter rolled his eyes. “That’s really comforting, thanks.”

“Becca never understood what I was doing for her, and she hates me for it. Don’t make the same mistake, okay?”

Hunter just looked back at him, wondering how making two people sleep on the beach was some kind of sacrifice for Bill Chandler.

“Think about it,” said Bill.

“I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time,” said Hunter.

Then he turned his back, dropped to the blanket, and fished through the first bag to find the food.

Only to find he was disappointed when Bill moved away.

Especially since it took everything he had not to turn around and beg for more information.


Hunter woke up to someone moving against him.

He didn’t remember falling asleep, but now he was awake and alert. His eyes opened to meet Kate’s in the near darkness.

Hers were wide. “Where are we?” she whispered.

He heard the worry in her tone. “Safe,” he said. “We’re on the beach behind Becca’s father’s house.”

She shifted under the blankets to look at the sky. Night had fallen completely, and the moon and stars overhead were brilliant. The fire still burned beside them, throwing light across her face, turning her hair gold.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

She made a face. “Both better and worse than I expected. Do you have any water?”

“Yeah.” He secured a bottle from one of the bags and helped her to sit up, though she didn’t really need it. She didn’t even wince. She drained an entire bottle of water, barely pausing for breath.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “There’s food, too.”

When she nodded, he unwrapped a prepackaged peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jam sandwich. She tore into it.

He knew the feeling. He’d done the same thing to three of them earlier. So had Casper.

Halfway through the sandwich, she paused. “Did you take my pants off?”

“Bill helped.”

“Oh, that’s nice. Did you get a good look?”

Her voice was light, not bitchy. “Watching him put stitches in your thigh kinda stole the allure.”

“Stitches?” Her hand moved under the blanket. “Wow. I slept through that?”

“I’m not sure I’d call it sleeping.”

Wind tore across the water to make the flames flicker. Hunter shivered. There’d been clean jeans and a T-shirt in the bag Bill had provided, but nothing warmer than that. His fleece pullover was soaked with her blood, rolled up by the fire.

“Cold?” Kate pulled the edge of the sleeping bag back. “There’s plenty of room.”

If she’d said it in a dirty way, he wouldn’t have taken her up on it. But because he was cold and her voice was casual, Hunter scooted until his legs were under the top blanket and he was sitting up beside her.

Now that they were close, however, he didn’t know what to say.

Kate’s hand found his under the blanket. “Thanks,” she said. “For saving me.”

He turned his hand and laced his fingers through hers. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Silver pointing a gun at us.” She paused. “I didn’t expect to wake up.” Another pause, a longer one. Her voice was heavy. “Your dog . . .”

Hunter whistled. Casper came tearing up the beach from whatever he’d been investigating.

Kate’s face broke into a smile. “He’s okay!”

Hunter rubbed the dog behind his ears until he started the rawr-rawr-rawr. “He’s tough.” He stroked a finger down the line of Casper’s muzzle. “He’s the one you should be thanking. He attacked Silver.”

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