Spirit Page 81

Another snap, a heavy one. Malice in the air. Someone was definitely in the woods.

Kate’s eyes were wide and locked on his. Their trees were too far apart to risk talking.

Then she had her cell phone in her hand, her fingers sliding across the screen.

What was she doing?

Then she looked up and tossed the slim black phone to him.

He read the words she’d typed.

You go northeast. I go southeast. Set 2 trails.

Like he’d split up now. He looked up and very clearly mouthed No!

She clearly mouthed back Yes!

Then she took off.

Damn her and all that independence! Hunter ran. Northeast, like she’d wanted.

Only now he did it with no caution at all. He ran full out, not bothering to hide his tracks or be stealthy. He needed noise, so he’d be the target.

So Kate could get away.

She was fast, like a sprinter, flying through the trees somewhere off to his right. Then he realized he could see her, that bright pink T-shirt flashing through the trees.


Something cracked. That pink beacon crashed to the ground.

Hunter skidded to a stop. He said a prayer in his head, hoping she’d simply stumbled. At this distance, the pink was almost a blur, but he saw it lift from the ground. Keep running. Keep running. Keep running.

But he was already running toward her.

Only to skid to another stop and duck behind a tree.

Silver had an arm around Kate’s neck. She was struggling against him.

An arrow protruded from one thigh, and Silver had a crossbow pressed up tight against her neck.

“Come on, Hunter,” he called. “Come get your girlfriend.”

“He’s gone,” Kate yelled, and Hunter could hear her fury from here. “He ran the other way, you idiot.”

“I’d say the idiotic move was turning on your cell phone, Kathryn.”

Hunter peeked around the tree. He had a gun, but he didn’t have a clear shot at Silver from here. He needed to think. He needed to think.

“Run!” she yelled. “Hunter, run!”

Then Silver must have done something because Kate cried out, and the sound fractured into sobs. Hunter’s nails dug into the tree. He had to look. He had to look.

The pink shirt was turning red. Silver had shot her in the abdomen with the crossbow. She was crying.

Hunter made a small sound before he was aware of it.

“You can’t save me, Hunter,” she yelled, and her voice was weaker, breaking. “Run!”

“I can kill her slowly,” Silver called. “While you watch.”

Hunter couldn’t believe he’d ever thought for a moment that he could have turned out like this guy.

“Or I can stop,” said Silver. “We can work something out. We have similar goals, I think.”

“He’s lying!” said Kate. “Please—please run—he’ll kill all of them, Hunter—remember sacrifice—”

She screamed.

Silver had yanked the arrow out of her thigh.

Then he stabbed her through the side of her abdomen, driving the arrow up and into her body.

Kate didn’t scream, though she looked like she wanted to.

He’d pierced a lung.

Hunter was on his feet, the gun in his hand.

But an arm caught him around the neck and a hand slapped over his mouth, and suddenly Hunter was someone’s prisoner, too.


These arms were like steel. Hunter couldn’t even get leverage.

Especially since the ground wouldn’t let go of his feet.

“Stop fighting,” a voice growled in his ear. “I’m trying to help you, kid.”

Michael Merrick.

Hunter stopped fighting. Michael’s hand came off his mouth.

“We need to help her,” Hunter said. He felt like he was choking on his words. “We need to—we need—”

“If you run out there, he’ll kill you, too. Just—”

“Come on, Hunter!” yelled Silver. “You have three seconds.”

Michael tightened his grip before Hunter realized he was trying to surge free. A hand was over his mouth again.

“One!” said Silver.

Hunter couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see past his own rage. Michael wrestled him to the ground.


He had no idea what was going to happen at three, but he had to—

A gun went off.

For the longest time, Hunter couldn’t hear anything but the blood rushing in his ears.

He couldn’t think.

He couldn’t think.

Then he realized Michael still had a death grip and was murmuring in his ear. “Keep still. Come on, Hunter. Keep still.”

The leaves around them were shaking.

No, that was him, trembling, making the leaves shake.

Leaves. Foliage had grown up and around them. Hiding them from sight.

Or it would be if Hunter didn’t ruin the illusion. He swallowed hard, squeezing his eyes shut tight.

He felt tears on his cheeks.

Kate was okay. She had to be okay. It had to be a ploy.

But he’d seen those arrows pierce her body.

He’d heard the gunshot.

No. They would get out of this. He could heal her. Michael could help.


He couldn’t sense her at all. He could sense Michael’s fear and Silver’s patience and the danger in the air, but he couldn’t feel Kate.

“I think he’s leaving,” said Michael, his voice barely a whisper. “Keep still.”

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