Spirit Page 84

Hunter scowled. If he’d known that then, he probably wouldn’t have talked to Silver on the quad on Friday. He wouldn’t have attacked Noah Dean, and he and Kate wouldn’t have been on the run.

And she might still be alive.


“But now,” said Michael, “we’re hiding in a hotel.”


“Yeah. The Guide obviously went after that kid, and we didn’t know if we were next.”

Probably smart, considering that Silver did show up at the Merricks’ house. “You didn’t answer my calls,” said Hunter.

“We didn’t bring our phones because they’re easy to trace. We’ve got two prepaid ones right now.”

His voice was a bit hollow, and Hunter ran his finger along the edge of Kate’s phone in his pocket. He really wanted to turn it on and read through their texts, but if it was sending out a homing beacon to Silver’s phone or whatever, that was the last thing he could do.

“How did you know where I was?” he finally asked.

“Bill called Becca and told her what happened.”

“Bill.” Hunter snorted. “He wouldn’t even let me in his house. I didn’t know he cared.”

“He wouldn’t let you in his house? Jesus, that guy is an ass**le.”

“Tell me about it.”

Hunter almost laughed.

Then his world came crashing back down.

He folded his arms across his stomach, trying to hold in the pain.

“Hey,” said Michael.

Hunter glanced over.

“I’m sorry about what happened,” Michael said quietly. “But you’re not a disappointment.”

Hunter took a breath, and his voice broke. “I let her die.”

“Hunter, that guy was not messing around. She was dead before I even grabbed you.”

That didn’t make it better. Hunter choked on another breath.

“Did you know she was a Guide? All this time?”

Hunter nodded.

Michael didn’t say anything, but Hunter knew what it sounded like—that he would have turned on the Merricks.

“I didn’t rat you out—I thought you were leaving. I thought I’d have to fix everything by myself.”

“I let you into our home, Hunter. I said you could stay as long as you needed to.”

Hunter was having a hard time hanging on to his emotions, and despair poured out of his mouth with alarming force. “I know, okay? I know.” His voice almost broke again, but he saved it. “I’m sorry. I f**ked up everything. This is my fault. I’m sorry.”

Michael put a hand up. “Stop. I’m not—I don’t want to chastise you. I’m just saying you can trust me. Us. All of us. You always could.”

Hunter stared at him. He’d never trusted anyone, and his whole world had been turned upside down.

And now he probably didn’t have any options. “That was then,” he said. “What about now?”

Michael glanced over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Even now, kid. Even now.”


Michael had a hotel room in a little Residence Inn by the airport. It was more of an apartment, with a kitchenette and two bedrooms. Hunter was ready for the younger Merricks to glare at him as he came through the door.

He wasn’t ready for his mother to be sitting at the table.

This was too much. He couldn’t take it.

He could have handled a fight. He could have handled planning. Details. Distraction.

Something about seeing his mother there just stole all the fight from him.

He was crying before he knew it. And when her slender arms came around him, he couldn’t fight her off. He just cried into her shoulder. He didn’t care that the Merricks could see him; he didn’t care that this was the same woman who’d watched his grandfather belt him across the face and throw him out of the house.

This was his mother.

And right now, he’d do anything for one minute of her comfort.

Especially since she was giving it.

She smelled like cotton and cloves and vanilla and home. He didn’t want to let her go.

But doing this forever wouldn’t solve anything.

When he finally raised his eyes from her shoulder, he was surprised to find that they were alone.

“They went to get some food,” she said softly. “They’ll be back in a bit.”

He went to the sink and splashed cold water on his face. All of a sudden, the distance between them, packed with unspoken secrets and betrayals, felt like miles.

When he turned, she was sitting at the table.

He wanted to be sharp, like he’d been the last time she’d visited him. But now life had shifted, leaving him stronger, yes, but also more vulnerable.

“What are you doing here?” he said slowly.

“Michael called and said he’d found you.”

So that had been the phone call in the car. Not Hannah.

He leaned against the counter and studied the tiles under her feet. “Were you missing me?”

“Hunter, I’ve been missing you since the day your father died.”

He jerked his head up. “You couldn’t prove it by me.”

She blanched. It should have been satisfying. It wasn’t.

But then she recovered. “Will you sit and talk to me?”

He sat. He crossed his arms on the table and didn’t look at her. He felt weak now, for breaking down upon seeing her.

She put a hand on his arm. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you cry since your father died.”

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