Storm Page 26

This close, she could hear his breathing, just a little quick from the exertion. He looked good, all dirty and rugged and streaked with dust. She felt like she should move away.

Michael came around to their side of the trailer, and she felt Chris stiffen. Becca almost wanted to duck behind him. But his brother held the clipboard out to her. ’’Here. You want to stay? Keep count.’’

She opened her mouth. Closed it. ’’Ah ... okay. Sure.’’

He didn\ even stay to explain what she was counting, just handed her the pen and walked off to grab a bag for himself. Chris followed him. The clipboard held a carbon form, with scrawled handwriting listing different products she\d never heard of. But she made out Limestone Screenings, followed by the number 18.

She hustled to count. ’’You need three more,’’ she called.

The other twin had to be Nick lifted his shirt to wipe his face. ’’How many bags of pavestone?’’

And just like that, she found herself playing foreman.

They worked fast once they found a rhythm, and she did her best to keep track of what was what, especially when each brother started loading a different product. She called quantities when they asked for them, making tiny marks to keep herself straight. The labeled bags were easy, but who the hell knew the difference between flagstone and granite pavers? Or arctic slate and pavestone dividers? At first she felt awkward, especially when they were clearly looking to her for direction on what to put on the trailer.

But it felt good to have a task to occupy her mind, to do something normal.

Less than an hour later, the trailer was packed with bags and equipment, and Michael stopped in front of her, his hand out for the clipboard.

She gave it to him, ready for a snide remark.

He didn\ give her one. He just read down the list checking her numbers, she guessed then glanced up. ’’Nice work.’’

Becca waited for the other shoe to drop. ’’Thanks?’’

He reached into his back pocket for his wallet. Then he pulled a twenty out of the fold and held it out to her. ’’No, thank you.’’

She shook her head quickly. ’’I didn\ you don\ have to pay me.’’

’’Sure I do. You worked, you get paid.’’

’’Take the cash!’’ called Gabriel. He\d found a basketball somewhere, and despite the fact that he\d been hauling eighty-pound bags for the better part of an hour, he was tossing it at the basket above the open garage door. ’’We\ll get a pizza.’’

She blushed and faltered, surprised at the sudden camaraderie. ’’But ’’

’’Would you take the money?’’ Michael thrust it forward. ’’I\m late.’’

’’Fine.’’ She snatched it out of his fist.

He turned away to slide the clipboard onto the dash of the truck. ’’Come on, Nick.’’

Nick was already climbing into the cab. He\d pulled a baseball hat onto his head, a red one with a logo that matched the one on the truck. ’’See you, Becca.’’

Michael leaned out the window and looked at his brothers. ’’Stay out of trouble.’’

Gabriel bounced the basketball off the side of the truck. Hard. ’’No promises.’’

Michael actually looked like he was going to get out of the cab and go after him, but Nick grabbed his arm. ’’I have his keys. Let\s just go.’’

Now Gabriel flung the ball at the truck. ’’Nicky, you suck.’’ But Michael was starting the diesel engine, and then they were pulling down the driveway.

She stood there for a moment, feeling awkward. She\d flown over here, ready for everything to fall apart at the seams. Finding them doing normal Saturday things left her thrown.

Chris was watching her;she could feel it. Just when she\d worked out how to get back in her car and pull down the driveway without looking like too much of an idiot, he said, ’’You hungry?’’

She hesitated and it was long enough for him to turn away, for her to realize he expected her to refuse.

’’I am,’’ said Gabriel. He\d reclaimed the ball, and threw from halfway down the driveway for an easy three-pointer.

’’Come on,’’ said Chris, and she wasn\ entirely certain he was talking to her. ’’Pizza sounds good. Let\s go inside and call.’’ He reached up and grabbed the garage door, giving it a yank to start it rolling.

Becca was still deliberating whether Chris had issued a real invitation or whether he was just waiting for her to leave. So she didn\ pay attention to the stripes of red spray paint on the light blue of the wooden panels as they rolled, and she didn\ make out the pattern until the whole thing had slammed to the ground.

But there in the middle of the garage door, as tall as she was, sat a red pentagram.

CHAPTER 19

Becca couldn\ stop staring. ’’A pentagram.’’

Gabriel whistled through his teeth. ’’Wow, brother, you do pick the Mensa candidates.’’

Chris shot him a glare. ’’Shut up.’’

Becca couldn\ even get offended she was still staring at the garage door. This couldn\ be a coincidence. ’’But ... what does it mean?’’

’’It\s a warning,’’ said Chris.

’’Wrong,’’ said Gabriel. ’’It\s a target.’’

A target. She glanced between them. ’’I don\ understand.’’

Chris came to stand beside her, staring at the door. He lifted a hand to rub at the back of his neck. ’’It means they\ve called the Guides.’’ He hesitated. ’’Nick found it this morning. Michael doesn\ know.’’

Gabriel snorted and flung the ball at the center of the pentagram. ’’Like it would matter.’’

She bit at her lip. ’’But that doesn\ make any sense.’’

’’They\ve been threatening this for a while.’’

’’No,’’ she said, rotating to face them both. Her fists clenched at her sides. ’’It doesn\ make any sense because there\s one on my door.’’

They both stared at her for the longest moment.

Becca didn\ like the way they were looking at her a little too intensely. ’’My dad painted over it this morning. Aren\ the Guides the ones who kill people? Who take out the accused and the accusers?’’

Gabriel shoved Chris on the shoulder. ’’I see you held nothing back.’’

Chris ignored him. ’’When did you find it? This morning?’’

She nodded. ’’So ... does that mean Tyler put it there?’’ That would make sense, since Tyler clearly thought she was involved. It would make her feel better somehow, as if she could extricate herself from this mess with a simple explanation or a written note.

To whom it may concern: I\m not involved. Honest. Hugs, Becca

’’It doesn\ have to be Tyler. It could be any one of them.’’ Chris shrugged. ’’The Guides come to town in secret, just to observe.’’

’’Then,’’ said Gabriel, emphasizing his words with another three-pointer, ’’they judge.’’

’’How are you so calm about this?’’ she demanded. ’’They\ e going to kill me, and you\ e ’’

’’Shh.’’ Gabriel put a finger over her lips. Her eyes widened.

’’First,’’ he said quietly, ’’anger is not our friend right now. You get me?’’

His hand was warm against her face. She stared up into his eyes and remembered the coil of flame on his palm last night.

Or Tyler\s grip on her arm in the pet store.

She swallowed and nodded.

’’They\ e not going to kill you,’’ he said. ’’Because you don\ matter.’’

He didn\ mean it the way it sounded. She knew that. But the words still made her flinch, just a little.

Chris grabbed his brother\s hand and shoved him away. ’’Leave her alone. She doesn\ know.’’

’’You should have kept it that way,’’ said Gabriel. ’’The more naïve she is, the better off she\d be.’’

’’She is standing right here,’’ said Becca.

’’The Guides won\ bother you,’’ said Chris. ’’Sure, they might be watching you ’’

’’Watching me?’’

’’ but you aren\ one of us. They\ll realize that you aren\ an Elemental.’’ Chris leaned in, and she heard the strain behind his voice. ’’When I said they\ e judge, jury, and executioner, I meant they don\ f**k around. But they aren\ stupid.’’

Her breathing felt too quick, matching his.

’’What about you?’’ she finally said.

His blue eyes hardened, and his voice was flat. ’’If they\ e watching you, you should probably stay away from me.’’

A phone started ringing, and it took Becca a minute to realize it was in her pocket. She looked at the display of her new phone and recognized Quinn\s number.

She pushed the button to answer and skipped the greeting. ’’How did you know I have a new phone?’’

’’Called your house. Your mom\s pissed.’’ Quinn sounded pissed herself.

’’Why?’’

’’Because you told her you were with me.’’

Crap. ’’What\d you say?’’

’’That she shouldn\ worry;I\d only seen you drunk behind the wheel a handful of times. Where are you that you need a cover?’’

Becca glanced up and swallowed. Chris hadn\ moved. He still stood in her personal space, very close. He could probably hear Quinn.

She turned to face the front walkway and had to clear her throat. ’’Chris Merrick\s house.’’

There was a very obvious pause. ’’Uh huh,’’ said Quinn.

’’Is that a girl?’’ Gabriel bounced the ball across the driveway. ’’Invite her over.’’

’’Is that Chris?’’ said Quinn. ’’Did he just invite me over?’’

Were they crazy?

’’His brother,’’ Becca ground out. ’’And he\s kidding ’’

’’Listen,’’ said Quinn, ’’if you\ e busy and all, I get it, but I was wondering if you\d go to the mall with me for a few hours.’’

’’Now?’’ Becca felt heat crawling up her neck. Chris had to have moved close she could feel the warmth from his body again, could smell the limestone dust on his skin.

’’Well, you\ e working tomorrow,’’ Quinn prattled on, ’’and I need a dress ’’

’’Go,’’ said Chris.

He spoke right at her shoulder. She couldn\ focus on both of them at once. ’’A a dress? For ’’

’’Homecoming,’’ said Quinn. ’’See, after last night, I thought Rafe might ask me, and I wanted to have some ideas ’’

’’Go,’’ said Chris. There was no give in his expression.

’’Hey, Quinn. You know what?’’ she said into the phone. ’’I think shopping sounds like a great idea.’’

CHAPTER 20

Sunday. Work.

Becca\s nerves were shot. Thank god she could work in the back today, where no one would see her. Scrubbing the kennels wasn\ glamorous, but it was in a locked room with no windows. She\d trolled the mall with Quinn for almost three hours yesterday, nodding and murmuring through dress after dress for some date Quinn didn\ even have lined up yet. The whole time, she\d felt like she was traveling in the sights of a sniper rifle.

Becca couldn\ stop thinking of Chris and his brothers, of these Guides who\d been sent to kill them. Would they run? Lie low? Michael had been heading off to a job yesterday afternoon, but they\d all seemed tense. Were they just going to go about life as usual?

But maybe that was the point. To prove they were harmless.

I think you should stay away from me.

By four, she was glad to lose her smock and grab her purse.

When she was winding through the displays of cat gyms, someone stepped in her way.

Becca\s hand was fumbling through her purse for her keys, and her head was down. She just sidestepped without looking.


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