Spirit Page 83

Michael shrugged. “He was in the woods. I saw him first. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”

Hunter nodded. He knew he should say thanks—but he wasn’t ready to thank Michael for anything yet. He didn’t care about this car or why Michael had it. He didn’t even care where they were going.

But when he climbed in the car, Casper put his head on Hunter’s shoulder and whined. Hunter rubbed the dog’s muzzle.

Michael pulled a phone out of his pocket and dialed. When whoever answered, he spoke low. “Hey, it’s Michael. Can you meet us at the hotel? Yeah, I found him.”

Had to be Hannah.

Hunter’s throat felt thick again.

He still couldn’t believe Kate was dead.


He was shaking again.

One girl, reduced to nothing more than a memory and a cell phone. Her mother was dead and she’d never mentioned a father—would anyone else even miss her?

With a start, he realized he didn’t even know if Kate Sullivan was her real name.

And he wasn’t sure how much of his reaction was shock and how much was mourning. He’d known her a week. Somehow it felt like a lifetime, so much intensity crammed into such a short span of days.

Hell, so much intensity crammed into the last twelve hours.

They’d escaped Silver at the Merrick house only to . . . what? It would have been easier if this had happened there.

Fate must f**king hate him.

He could still remember the smell of her hair, the way her skin felt under his fingertips.

The whole thing was senseless.

“You okay?” said Michael.

Hunter shook his head. He had to press his fists into his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Michael said. His voice was rough. “Jesus, kid. I’m sorry.” He put a hand on Hunter’s shoulder.

And that—that—was too much. Hunter smacked his hand away. “You’re sorry? What the hell do you care, anyway? You left me here! You left! You fed me some line of bullshit about caring about the target on my back, and then you were gone! No one gives a shit about me until there’s a mess, and then suddenly everything is my fault! I can’t please anyone, and every time I try, I’m just one big f**king disappointment. Everyone is on me to pick a side. How the hell am I supposed to pick a side when everyone hates me? And the one person who didn’t hate me was just killed in front of me.”

Michael took a long breath. “I don’t want to kick you when you’re down, but you don’t exactly make it easy to trust you, Hunter.”

Great. Of course. His fault again. He looked out the window.

“Yesterday afternoon, you left suddenly, right?” said Michael. “With Kate, a stranger, someone you’ve been very secretive about.”

Hunter didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to listen to any of this, but the alternative was thinking about Kate’s body disappearing into the earth as if she’d never existed at all.

“And then,” Michael continued, “there’s a news report that Noah Dean disappeared and a pentagram is painted over his door. This happened while you were gone. Gabriel said you’d attacked the kid Friday, after telling us that you weren’t going to do anything. What were we supposed to think?”

Hunter couldn’t deny any of that—especially since he’d been in the mountains, wondering if the Merricks had something to do with Noah’s disappearance.

“You were still going to leave,” he said. “I heard your conversation with Gabriel, when you didn’t want me to know.”

Michael looked somewhat stunned. “My conversation with Gabriel?”

“The morning after the carnival. You were talking in the kitchen, and you specifically said, I don’t want him to hear us.”

Michael opened his mouth. Closed it.

“Save it,” said Hunter.

“No,” said Michael. “I just—Jesus, if you thought we were leaving, why didn’t you say something?”

“Because you didn’t want me to know!”

“Okay, first of all, we weren’t talking about you. We were talking about James.”


“James. Hannah’s son. When I said I didn’t want ‘him’ to overhear us, I meant the five-year-old with ears like a tape recorder. If we were going to leave, I wanted Hannah to hear it from me, not a rumor from her kid.”

This had to be bullshit.


“Fine. If you didn’t care whether I knew you were leaving, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because that’s as far as the conversation went. The movies make it sound like it’s easy to pick up and change your identity, but it’s not—especially not for four people, two of whom are identical twins. They’re all underage, easily identifiable—hell, I’d probably get in a shit ton of trouble with the state if they knew I’d even considered it. But no, Hunter, our plan was not to pack up the house and leave you here, with no warning at all. Is that what you’ve thought? All this time?”

Hunter stared out the window at the trees whipping by, and felt about six years old. His eyes were raw and his throat swollen. “Yeah,” he finally said.

“God, you’re as bad as my brothers.”

It loosened something in Hunter’s chest, this revelation. He didn’t feel quite so alone. “You really weren’t going to leave?”

“No. We were going to do exactly what we discussed, together : let the Guide deal with the middle schoolers and wait to see if that would lead to more trouble.”

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