Spirit Page 91

Gabriel’s voice was quiet, no mockery at all now. “Why?”

Hunter was suddenly so tired. “Go away, Gabriel.”

“No. Why would you do that?”

Hunter squeezed his eyes shut. His lashes felt wet, and he pressed his fingertips against his eyes. “Because Kate sacrificed herself for me. She was the only person who’s ever trusted me.”

“Dude. Hunter. No. She wasn’t. She was just the only person you’ve ever trusted back.”

Hunter opened his eyes. Gabriel was right. He should have trusted the Merricks long before this.

He had a lot to make up for.

“I’m sorry I was a shitty friend,” he said.

“I’m not sure ‘shitty’ covers it.”

“I can’t believe I almost killed you two weeks ago.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I can. You’re kind of a moron.”

A dark-haired nurse knocked at the door and didn’t wait for a response before entering. She had a tray of food. “I’m glad to see you’re awake,” she said brightly. Her voice carried a touch of an accent. “Feeling hungry?”

“Not really.”

“Leave it,” said Gabriel. “I’m always hungry.”

She set the tray on the table and plugged a stethoscope into her ears. “May I get your vital signs?”

Hunter held out his arm for the blood pressure cuff.

She tightened the Velcro, then traced a finger lightly over the tattoo above his elbow. “Ah,” she said. “My favorite proverb.”

“It was my dad’s, too,” Hunter said.

“Did he serve in Afghanistan?”

“Yes. Just six months.”

“Wait a minute,” said Gabriel. “Someone knows what the secret tattoo says?”

Hunter gave him a look. “It’s not a secret. It’s on my arm.”

“Enough with the suspense already. What does it say?”

“Nothing important,” said Hunter.

The nurse smiled and released the pressure in the cuff. “It says, The first day you meet, you are friends. The next day, you are brothers.”

Gabriel lost the smile.

Then he clapped Hunter on the shoulder.

Hunter frowned at him. “What was that for?”

“Brotherhood,” he said. “Welcome to the family.”


Hunter sat in the grass and closed his eyes. The sun was warmer here, the air more crisp, as if Kate’s body drew power to this spot even after her death. He could swear he smelled cinnamon and apples.

He touched his fingers to the grass and opened his eyes.

“I wish I could stare at you right now,” he said.

Air swirled through the small clearing, lifting dead leaves and rustling the foliage.

He’d thought coming here would give him some kind of closure. But instead he missed her more intently. Every brush of air, every scent of earth, every sound of water hitting the distant beach reminded him of their last night together.

“I’m going to stay with the Merricks for a while,” he said. “I’m still working some things out with my mom. I mean—Michael was right. She was wrong. But I was, too.”

This felt stupid, talking to grass.

But he swallowed and found he couldn’t stop. “I was wrong about my dad, too. I think—I think he would have liked you.”

His voice broke.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

The breeze kicked up fiercely, lifting his hair and drying the tears that swelled in his eyes. Then the air went calm, soothing against his skin.

And he felt her in that, too.

“I couldn’t kill him for you,” he said quietly, touching his fingers to the grass. “I failed again.”

A hand rested on his shoulder. “You didn’t fail,” said Michael.

Hunter didn’t say anything to that.

“You kept Silver from killing those kids.”

“I didn’t kill him. I should have killed him.”

“Vengeance isn’t a solution, Hunter. I think your dad knew that. And I think you know it, too.”

He was right. Hunter wasn’t ready to let go of the vengeance yet, but he was right.

Michael hesitated. “My dad used to say something that made me nuts. ‘If you can’t fix what went wrong—’ ”

“Then fix what you can make right.” Hunter looked up at him. “My dad used to say that, too.”

“Good advice.”

Hunter looked back at the ground. The air felt peaceful.

“Thanks,” he said to Michael. “For bringing me here.”

“You ready to go? Or do you want more time?”

Hunter touched the grass one last time. Then he stood. “I’m ready. Let’s go home.”

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