Storm Page 20

Becca faltered a bit. ’’Won\ your brothers be home?’’

’’Michael will. I have no idea if the twins have headed back yet.’’

She\d be lying if she said curiosity wasn\ spurring her to agree if for no other reason than to spend fifteen minutes alone with him, to let the questions in her mind spill off her tongue.

’’You\ e considering this?’’ said Hunter.

She looked at him, feeling a spot of warmth on her cheeks. She was glad for the shadows to hide it. ’’It doesn\ mean anything. I just my mother ’’

’’Wow, thanks,’’ said Chris.

’’That\s not what I meant.’’ She fingered the stones along her wrist, then glanced up at Hunter through her lashes. ’’Do you want these back?’’

Now Chris went still. She felt his eyes on the bracelets on her wrist, the bracelets that obviously had come from Hunter. That blush flared a little hotter.

Hunter was looking down at her, and he offered a small smile a private smile. ’’When you\ e ready.’’

She smiled back. She couldn\ help it.

Then he swung around to glare at Chris. ’’Look. If you drag her into danger again ’’

’’What? You\ll come after me with a loaded firearm?’’

’’Damn it, you are one pain in the ass ’’

She didn\ stay to listen to the rest. She rolled her eyes, turned on her heel, and stomped across the grass, heading for her car.

CHAPTER 15

Chris watched Becca waver a bit while she slid her key into the lock. She\d been drunk at the party right? And she\d practically drowned.

He reached out and took her keys.

’’I\m okay,’’ she said.

Like he wanted to find out the hard way. ’’Humor me.’’

That new kid was still standing nearby, watching their exchange. ’’I still think I should take you home,’’ he said. ’’Or at least follow you.’’

The only way this guy was coming along was unconscious in the trunk. Chris gritted his teeth and focused on getting her door open.

Becca left him with the keys and headed for the passenger side. ’’I\m fine, Hunter.’’ She hesitated. ’’Chris is all right.’’

Yeah. Bite me, dog-boy. Chris gave a firm yank to the door, and it swung open.

But Becca paused before getting in the car, pushing her hair behind one ear. ’’Thanks for inviting me,’’ she said to Hunter. ’’I had fun. I mean, before the whole gun thing.’’

Chris dropped into the driver\s seat and pulled the door closed. He sure didn\ have to sit here and listen while they exchanged digits.

But she slid into the car almost immediately, pulling the door shut behind her.

When he started the ignition, Becca twisted the dials to blast the heater. Her car protested and blew cold air, but she slapped her hand on the dash until it finally gave in. She pressed her hands against the vents and shivered, a rush of breath through her teeth.

Chris glanced at the clock on the dash. Barely ten. The water on her skin was talking to him, coaxing him to reach out and run a finger along her wrist.

Where those stupid rock bracelets were hanging.

Chris kept both hands locked on the wheel.

’’What\s wrong?’’ she said. ’’You run out of one-liners?’’

He kept silent for a long moment, then glanced over. ’’I didn\ mean to get in the middle of your date.’’

She didn\ look at him, but she mimicked his tone. ’’It wasn\ a date.’’

’’Oh. Okay.’’

’’Look, if you\ e just going to be a jerk ’’

’’I\m not.’’ He paused. Maybe he was. ’’Forget it.’’

She seemed to edge away from him somehow. He heard her sigh, a soft breath of air. Her shoulders looked tight, hunched against the cold.

Or hunched against him?

’’Thanks,’’ he said. His voice sounded rough. ’’For not telling him what I said.’’

She looked up. ’’Did you think I would?’’

He had no idea. He\d never told anyone before. That moment when they\d knelt in the surf and the water flowed between their fingers it felt intimate, powerful. The water liked her. He wanted to drag her back to the beach and do it again.

That frightened him, a bit. It felt as if he\d turned something loose that he\d never be able to catch. If he made this a big deal, would she?

He just shrugged and brushed wet hair out of his eyes.

’’Thanks,’’ she said. ’’For pulling me out of the water. For what you did.’’

A smile pulled at his lips. ’’I owed you.’’

’’I probably should have just taken the cash.’’

He laughed softly, but then silence fell between them again. He glanced over.

That was a mistake. Her shirt was slicked to her skin, catching the light from oncoming cars to accent the soft curves of her body.

He jerked his eyes back to the road. ’’If you don\ mind ... it\s probably better if Michael doesn\ hear about the gun.’’ Michael would shit a brick if he knew about that especially if he found out Becca was there.

’’Sure,’’ she said.

He hesitated. ’’It\s probably better if Michael doesn\ hear about any of it, really.’’

Now he could feel the weight of her eyes, and he did his best to keep his own on the stretch of dark pavement. She wanted answers. He didn\ blame her. If a kon*** like Tyler had been shooting at him on her account, he probably wouldn\ be sitting there as patiently as she was.

Then again, she was still shivering. Was it all cold? Should he reach out and touch her?

He remembered the way she\d snapped at him in the cafeteria, like the words had etched themselves into his brain. But he kept thinking of the feel of her hand in his, how she\d hung close to him in the water.

Or how soft her lips had been.

When you were performing mouth-to-mouth? You are one sick bastard.

’’Look.’’ Chris cleared his throat and rested his arm on the door. His fingers found a loose piece of upholstery there, and he picked at it. ’’This thing with Tyler it goes back a ways.’’

’’How far back?’’

He shouldn\ be telling her this. Despite Tyler, despite the fights there was safety in this community. Risking discovery and telling an outsider was definitely risking discovery was a mistake.

Then he remembered Tyler\s warnings, about the Guides. Maybe they weren\ safe here at all.

Stop thinking. She\s going to think you\ e a freak.

’’Pretty far,’’ he said. ’’My parents moved here when I was four. Michael was eleven he started middle school as the new kid.’’ He paused and glanced over. ’’That\s a tough age for ... ah, people like us. Things are starting to happen you know.’’

’’So you get your powers at puberty?’’

’’Powers.’’ God, this felt ridiculous, like she expected him to reveal that he secretly wore green spandex and could talk to marine life. ’’It\s not like in movies. He didn\ dream about earthquakes and wake up to find the house split in two or anything. It\s more like your element calls you to it speaks to you, I guess ’’ He broke off and glanced at her.

Again, a mistake. They were rolling past evenly spaced streetlights, turning the lines of her body into a neon sign.

On.

Off.

He swallowed and looked back at the road. ’’Michael hated school. Too many walls he wanted to be outside all the time. He\d sneak out of the house and sleep in the yard at night. Things like that.’’ These memories were hard to piece together sometimes his four-year-old self hadn\ understood, though he did now.

’’My parents knew what he was going through, of course,’’ he continued. ’’Especially my father. Dad was an Earth it was his idea to start the landscaping company. But it was a new town, they\d just started the business, the twins and I were still little kids they didn\ exactly have a lot of time on their hands. And they didn\ know Michael was a pure Elemental. Not then.’’

They\d come to a traffic light on Ritchie Highway, and he looked over. She was watching him, her expression patient. ’’Is that what you call yourselves? Elementals?’’

’’We don\ really call ourselves anything ’’ He shrugged and looked back at the road. She\d said it like it was something impressive. His cheeks felt hot. ’’But yeah.’’

She was frowning a little, but that was ten times better than laughing at him. ’’Your dad was an Earth ... so it\s not hereditary?’’

Wait. She sounded intrigued. He glanced over. ’’It is. It\s kind of like how brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed kid just, there are five different ... what\s the word?’’ He should have paid more attention in biology. ’’Alleles,’’ he finished. ’’So even though Mom and Dad were an Earth and an Air, we\ e all different.’’

’’So the twins aren\ really identical.’’

Chris shot her a smile. ’’That\s a point of family debate.’’ She started frowning again, so he lost the smile. ’’Whether you think what we are is natural or ... or not.’’

Her eyes were big in the darkness of the car. ’’Or supernatural.’’

Chris looked back at the road. She was staring at him again, and her scrutiny sat heavy on his shoulders. He wanted to shrug it off.

She cleared her throat, and he wondered if she was going to ask him to pull over so she could get out.

But then she said, ’’You were telling me about Tyler.’’

Chris nodded. ’’My parents moved here to be closer to a community of people like us. Their parents had been farmers, so they\d been raised out in the boonies, and they wanted us to be around our own kind. But they didn\ realize how strong Michael would turn out to be. And before they could hide it, the whole community knew.’’

’’But I thought it was a good thing to fall on a point.’’

She\d paid attention. ’’It\s a powerful thing. Too powerful.’’ He paused, wondering how she would take this next part. ’’What we are it can be very dangerous.’’

’’I got that.’’

He drew a breath, thinking of Gabriel\s lightning last night. He could still smell the scorched earth, feel the heat on his skin from the explosion. ’’More than you saw.’’

She was silent for a moment. He could practically feel her thinking. ’’Just ... how dangerous?’’

’’The elements don\ always want to obey. It\s easy to start something you can\ finish.’’ His free hand tightened into a fist. He\d lost her in that wave, when the water had been focused on nothing but destruction.

He\d almost drowned her.

’’I don\ understand.’’

He needed to stop beating around the bush. ’’We could kill people, Becca. Without meaning to. It\s not as simple as just controlling water or air or whatever. Gabriel can pull power from sunlight to burn someone in the middle of the day. Nick could get pissed and suffocate someone by accident. Michael could have a bad day and trees could rip out of the ’’

He stopped. She was looking panicked again.

’’Control comes with age,’’ he said, his voice more even. ’’Age and practice. I don\ have a lot of either, but I seem to be getting a crash course lately.’’ He took a breath and blew it out through his teeth. ’’I was eleven when my parents died, and they were the closest thing to a teacher that we had.’’

’’But Tyler and Seth they\ e like you,’’ she said.

He shook his head. ’’They\ e not like us. They aren\ the risk. We are.’’

’’Like ... when I gave you water. When you were unconscious in the parking lot, and you came up fighting.’’

At that, he did look over, meeting her gaze. ’’Yeah.’’ His voice was rough. ’’Or when we\ e being shot at.’’


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