Spirit Page 82

He didn’t want to keep still. Silver was standing right there. Shock was filtering into fury, and Hunter wanted to shoot that motherfucker in the head. His fingers were itching for a trigger, to feel the kick and recoil and taste vengeance.

“Go ahead,” called Silver, as if he felt the rage in the air and found it satisfying. “Try to shoot me.”

Michael tightened his grip. “No, Hunter. No. You blow our cover and we are screwed.”

So they waited.

Silver waited.

The sun crept into the sky and fed warmth into the woods, narrowing shadows between the trees. Tension slid through the leaves and choked Hunter, until he was ready to shoot Michael, just to escape it. His shoulders began to ache from being pinned so long.

It felt like hours.

It probably was hours.

She was alone out there. Probably in pain.

Hang on, he thought. Just hang on.

Finally a cell phone rang, out there in the woods. Silver’s. He answered, but his voice was too low to carry.

Hunter caught the word terminated.

He couldn’t breathe again.

But Kate could be faking. Waiting Silver out, too. Like Casper had been waiting at the house.

The conversation was short. Silver slipped the phone into a pocket and strode out of the woods.

Michael still didn’t let Hunter go.

“Wait,” Michael said. “I want to wait until I feel a vehicle leaving.”

Finally—finally—Michael released him.

Hunter swung around and hit him. As hard as he could.

Then he was scrabbling through the underbrush, stumbling once he found his feet, slipping out of his shoes in the mud. His breath was hitching again.

When he saw Kate, it was like his brain didn’t want to process all of it. He saw her shoes, the borrowed jeans, again splattered with blood.

The pink shirt.

The bloodstains. The arrows. The flies, already collecting.

Then he saw her head and wished he hadn’t seen any of it.

She hadn’t been waiting. She hadn’t been in pain.

He wanted to touch her and he didn’t.

He was going to be sick.

Michael caught him and jerked him back. “Don’t,” he said. “You can’t touch her. You can’t have this traced back to you.”

Hunter shoved him in the chest, throwing all his strength into it. His voice was raw and edged with pain. “You made me wait! We could have saved her.”

“No, Hunter—”

He hit him again. “We could have—she’s—”

“It was too late. He’d stabbed her through the chest. Hunter, it was too late.”

“Damn you!” Another shove. “We could have—she’s—she’s—”

And then he was sobbing and Michael caught him, holding him tight.

“I’m sorry,” Michael was saying. “I’m sorry.”

Hunter let himself have about fifteen seconds of pity. Then he shoved free of Michael’s hands and swiped the tears off his face.

He didn’t want pity. He didn’t want anything.

His fists were clenched at his sides, and he suspected he’d completely lose control if he let go.

“We need to move,” Michael said quietly.

“I’m not just leaving her here.”


“I’m not just leaving her to get eaten by insects and wild animals.” His voice was shaking with fury. “Do you understand me? So either get a shovel out of your truck or I’ll dig by hand.”

“No shovel,” said Michael.

“Fine.” Hunter took a step forward.

Michael caught his arm. “I’ll take care of it. Just give me a minute.”

Then he knelt in the dirt and put a hand against the ground.

He was right: it only took a minute. The earth just swallowed her up, gradually at first, her body sinking into the dirt as if the ground was simply giving way. But then the hole began to fill in over her, grass and foliage growing back into place.

As if nothing had happened.

Hunter stared. He’d thought this would be better—but it was worse. He needed the action, the physicality of digging a hole. He needed the closure.

This was more like erasure. He dropped to his knees and touched a hand to the ground.

The last twenty-four hours had gone too fast. From mistrust to friendship to—to what? He felt like he’d almost caught something precious, only to have it shatter as soon as he touched it.

He knew better than anyone how life could change in the blink of an eye.

But this—this seemed too unfair. His throat tightened and made it hard to breathe again.

He had nothing to remember her. Nothing. Not even a picture. He didn’t even have her texts on his cell phone.

The phone.

He fished her phone out of his pocket. What had Silver said?

I’d say the idiotic move was turning on your cell phone.

He’d been tracking her. Hunter turned it off.

But he put it back in his pocket.

She’d mentioned sacrifice. She’d done this for him, lost her life to protect him.

Well, hell if he was going to let that go to waste.

He looked up at Michael. He couldn’t talk.

So he just stood up and started walking.

They sure as hell couldn’t drive his jeep anywhere. But Michael didn’t have the truck or their SUV—he had a rental car.

Casper was locked inside.

That was shocking enough to make Hunter stop short.

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