Spirit Page 79

Kate swiped at her eyes again. “She pulled out her gun and told him she appreciated his willingness to do what was right.” A short, harsh laugh through the tears. “Can you believe that? His willingness to do what was right.”

“How did he kill her?” said Hunter.

“He didn’t,” said Kate. She sat up, moving away from him, pressing her hands to her eyes, sobbing into her fingers. “I did.”

“You? But—”

“I shot her. I shot her in the shoulder just to keep her from killing him. And she turned her gun on me, then fired.”

Hunter knelt in front of her, wanting to touch her, not knowing how she’d take it. “Did she know it was you?”

“Maybe not when she fired the first shot. But she aimed at me again. Twice. She knew it was me. I fired back. I didn’t—it was all too fast. I’d been through all that training—I just—it was me or her. She died, right there on the floor of his restaurant.” Kate looked up at Hunter, tears shining on her lashes. “And if I told anyone I did it, they’d kill me. If I told anyone the Water Elemental had done it, they’d send more Guides after him and probably destroy his whole family.”

“So you told them he killed her, and that you killed him.” He paused. “You let him go.”

She took a shuddering breath. “Yeah.” Another breath, steadier this time. “Do you think I’m a horrible person?”

Hunter reached out and stroked the hair back from her face. “I think you’re an amazing person who had to make a terrible choice at a terrible time.”

“I’m a failure. I should have let her finish.”

“No, you’re human, and you did what was right.”

“I don’t know what’s right anymore.”

He’d said those exact words to Gabriel, what felt like a lifetime ago.

So he told Kate the same thing Gabriel had said to him. “Yes,” he said softly. “You do.”


The blankets were warm, and the sound of the water was hypnotic, stealing tension from the air. Kate was pressed against him again, her head on his shoulder, an arm across his chest. Hunter stroked her hair absently, keeping still otherwise, sure she was asleep.

His father had been wrong. This trust felt a million times better than the walls Hunter had built around himself.

“Are you asleep?” Kate whispered, her voice barely carrying above the sound of the waves.

“No.” He turned his head and brushed a kiss against her hair.

She shifted until she was braced on his chest, looking down at him. The moon overhead caught her hair and filled it with golden sparks, leaving her eyes in darkness and her features in shadow. Her voice was full of sorrow. “I’ve never told anyone all . . . all that.”

He touched her face. “I’ll keep your secret.”

“I know you will. That’s why I told you.” She turned her head and kissed the inside of his wrist.

Then she lowered her head to kiss him on the lips.

It was different now, with no secrets between them, just the night sky to bear witness. Sweeter, somehow. Quieter. She tasted like strawberries and peanut butter, and the feeling of her weight on his chest was just about the greatest thing in the whole entire world.

She teased at his mouth with her tongue, sliding her hand under his shirt and tracing lines on his chest with her nails until he was sure she’d set the night on fire.

He broke the kiss, and it took just about every ounce of self-control he had. “Kate—you’re hurt—”

“Please,” she said, kissing along his jaw, finding his neck. She spoke into his skin. “Please. I need the distraction. Please, Hunter.”

She was crying again.

“Kate,” he whispered. “Kate.” He brushed a thumb across her cheek, stealing the tears.

“Just kiss me,” she said.

Then she didn’t give him a choice. She was straddling his waist, her mouth consuming his every thought, her tongue alive in his mouth.

His hands went immediately to her waist, but that skimpy tank top barely stretched past her rib cage, and he found bare skin, soft and warm and supple.

“Take your shirt off,” she said in a whispered rush—and before he could even consider it, she was already pulling at the hem, dragging it up his body and wrestling it over his head.

And she was sitting on his stomach, her bare legs practically wrapped around him.

He focused really hard on breathing.

Tough, since every breath made her move fractionally, and he was very conscious of every inch of warm skin resting against him.

“Kate—I don’t want to hurt you—”

She leaned down close, putting her forehead against his, the way she had when they’d wrestled around behind the carnival. “So don’t.”

Then she pulled the tank top over her head, and she was in nothing but a bra and panties.

All the breath left his body.

He couldn’t think with her straddling him like this.

Hunter caught her waist and rolled her gently, putting her back in the blankets, then caging her upper body with his arms. “You’re incorrigible.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Ah . . . no.” He kissed her lips, her cheek, her neck. His hand stroked the safe area around her navel, the base of her ribs. When his fingers brushed the thin line of lace along her hip, she drew a quick intake of breath.

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