Spirit Page 78

His father had been all about duty—but then he’d kept Hunter a secret?

Hunter thought back to the day before they’d all left to go after the Merricks. His uncle had said something about its being surveillance—that was the only reason Hunter had been allowed to go.

But any time someone talked about that mission, they said that his dad was coming here to kill the Merricks.

Had his father’s mission been reconnaissance, in advance of killing the Merricks?

Or had he never intended to kill them at all?

And what did all the folders mean?

And if he’d never meant to kill the Merricks, what was he planning on doing?

Too many questions. Hunter rubbed at his eyes again.

Kate put a hand on his wrist. “Will Becca’s dad help us?”

Hunter snorted. “This is it. Blankets and food. He wouldn’t even let us come in the house.”


“Not weird. He’s an ass**le.”

“We can’t stay here forever.”

“We can’t just drive around, either. I’m worried the police are looking for me. A white jeep is pretty easy to identify.” His voice turned wry. “The bullet hole in the rear quarter panel isn’t exactly subtle, either.”

“My mom used to say that things look better in the morning.”

Hunter started to say that he didn’t see how that would be possible, but Kate moved closer and laid her head on his shoulder.

It put the line of her body against his.

He kept trying to tell his own body that she was injured, that she was seeking warmth, that this had nothing to do with anything.

His body was replying, DUDE. SHE IS NOT WEARING PANTS.

“I’m glad you took me for a drive this afternoon,” she said.

“You are?” he asked in surprise. “But that’s why the day went to shit.”

“I don’t think so.” She breathed against him for a long moment. “If we hadn’t left, Silver might have come to the Merricks’ house while everyone was still there.”

Hunter froze. He hadn’t considered that.

“You’re a good person, Hunter,” she said. “I know you care about them. I know you see it as a weakness, but it’s not. You’re trying to save them.”

“Kate.” He shifted to try to see her face. “Kate, are you crying?”

“No.” But she was. She’d pressed closer to him, as if that were possible, burying her face in his chest.

He stroked a hand over her hair. “Why?” he said softly. “Why are you crying?”

She didn’t answer him, and he just shifted until he was holding her more fully. She was such a creature of . . . of strength, that he wasn’t sure how to respond to this. He kissed her temple, whispering silly assurances.

Finally she stopped, and her breath was warm through his shirt.

Hunter held very still, feeling the tension in her body.

“I didn’t tell you the whole truth about my mother,” she finally said.

He waited, knowing this admission hung on a thin line, not wanting to upset the precarious balance of whether she’d keep talking.

“I knew she was going on an assignment,” said Kate. “I wanted to go. She said I needed to keep training.”

Hunter nodded and kissed her temple again. He knew a story just like this one.

His own.

“I went anyway,” said Kate. “I hacked her computer . . . found out what flights she was taking . . . I booked different flights for myself. I found out what her mission was. I followed her everywhere. She had no idea I was there.” Kate sniffed and swiped at her eyes.

“But then I saw who she was after,” she continued. “It was this little restaurant owner, up at one of the fishing towns in Maine. Tiny diner, right on the water. He was using his powers to draw the best seafood. Silly, right?”

She was still crying, and Hunter wasn’t sure what to say to that.

The bad parts were coming, though. He could feel it.

“I didn’t even think it was a big deal,” said Kate. “I mean—is that any different from having a gift that makes you a better cook? I kept waiting to see if he was hurting people at night, or if there was anything worse than that. Mom was learning his routine, so I learned it, too. She had no idea I was there.”

“And what did you learn?” asked Hunter.

“I learned that he had five kids,” she said. “I learned that he was a good man who gave restaurant leftovers to the homeless people in town. I kept waiting for him to do something wrong, and at the same time, I kept waiting for my mother to do the right thing and leave him alone.”

“She didn’t.” Not even a question.

“No. She went after him.”

“And he killed her.”

Kate shook her head fiercely. “She waited until he was alone in the restaurant, and she confronted him.” Now she was crying in earnest. “And you know what he said? He said he understood, and he wouldn’t put up a fight if she promised to leave his family alone. Then he put his hands up and said, ‘Do it.’

“He was willing to sacrifice himself for his family,” she said. “Just like that. He was going to lie down and die to protect them. And my mom was going to take a father away from that family. She was going to kill a good man because it was her duty.”

Hunter’s brain was spinning, trying to figure out how this man had gone from being ready to sacrifice himself for his family to murdering Kate’s mother.

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