Storm Page 30
’’No! He he just I don\ think I can see him outside of school.’’
’’This project will be mostly completed during class. Any additional work can be done here, in the library. You aren\ required to see him off school property.’’
This wasn\ going the way she\d hoped. Sitting next to Chris had been an experience. She\d come to school ready to lay into him. But he\d frightened her from the doorway, looking dark and saturnine with his hair falling into his eyes.
Then she\d sat next to him, leaving her aware of every movement he made, every breath he took. Despite everything Lilah had said, Becca kept remembering Chris\s hand on hers in the water Friday night. The way he\d sat with her on the beach in the moonlight, almost embarrassed as he talked about what he could do.
His affinity to water made sense. He reminded her of the sea, alluring and mysterious, calm on the surface, with who-knew-what brewing underneath. They\d read about the Sirens of Greek mythology in English last year, mermaids who coaxed sailors into the water to drown. Maybe she only felt it because she knew of his abilities, but when she was near him, she longed to find water, to stand in it with him and let it slick her skin.
You need to stay away from me.
Becca jumped. ’’Sorry.’’
’’So you will try to work out your differences with Mr. Merrick?’’
’’Yes.’’ She nodded. ’’I\ll try.’’
She found Hunter waiting for her in the hallway. Becca hadn\ expected that.
She tucked her hair behind her ear. ’’You didn\ have to wait.’’
’’I didn\ mind.’’
She hesitated, then headed for the cafeteria. ’’I wanted to ask about switching partners.’’
’’I figured.’’ Hunter fell into step beside her. He was quiet for a moment, a weighted pause like last night. ’’Rough class?’’
She shrugged. The class hadn\ been rough at all. Chris had left her alone, once she\d told him to. He\d stuck to his side of the desk, huddled over his notebook, and he hadn\ looked her way once.
Really, this was one of the most peaceful History classes she\d had in a long time.
It took her all the way to the cafeteria to figure out what had changed.
For the first time since school started, Tommy Dunleavy hadn\ dared to throw a note on her desk.
After school, Becca was starting the engine when Quinn said she wanted to spend the night again.
Quinn had stayed over after dress shopping, of course. And last night, Becca had found her friend in the kitchen, cramming for a Trig test and eating sugar cookies. That had been okay Becca had giggled over Hunter and made popcorn, glad to have something to keep her attention off the ’’graffiti’’ on the front door.
But now she kind of wanted to throw on sweats and hole up in her room, to have a few minutes of peace where no one could find her, where the only problems she had to worry about were which iTunes playlist would best suit her mood or whether to paint her toenails purple or fuchsia.
Becca didn\ respond to Quinn\s announcement, just put the car in gear.
Quinn was digging through her purse. ’’You know, if you don\ want me to stay ’’
’’I always want you to stay,’’ Becca snapped. ’’Don\ be stupid.’’
The second that tone escaped her mouth, she regretted it.
Quinn started gathering her bags into her lap. ’’Wow, Bex, with an engraved invitation like that, it\ll be hard to give up my dream of sleeping on the park bench ’’
’’Ugh. Stop.’’ Becca scrunched her eyes shut and threw the car back into park. ’’I\m sorry. It\s been a crappy few days.’’
’’Yeah?’’ Quinn fumbled for the door handle and shoved the door open. ’’Funny how you haven\ mentioned anything crappy happening. I mean, maybe almost making out with New Kid was kind of ’’
’’Quinn! Shut up a second.’’ Becca stared at the steering wheel. The big silver H was the only shiny thing left on the vehicle. ’’I\m just under a lot of stress, okay?’’
’’Got it.’’ Quinn swung her legs out of the car. ’’Wouldn\ want to add any more with my problems.’’
Damn it. ’’Quinn, wait ’’
Her friend slammed the door.
Becca glared after her, debating whether to climb out of the car and chase her across the school parking lot. Hunter sure had nailed it: Quinn seems to like attention.
And who was Quinn to get all huffy? She was practically living with Becca lately. Becca\s mom was making an extra plate of dinner every night and routinely washed Quinn\s clothes. Becca figured she should count her lucky stars that she and Quinn didn\ wear the same size or her closet might be empty.
But half a mile down the road, she felt like a total bitch. She rolled to a stop at the turn to Old Mill Road. Should she go back for Quinn? Would her friend have time to catch the bus?
Becca fished her cell phone out of her purse. She kept her foot on the brake and started a new text.
A gust of wind hit the car hard enough to make it rock.
Becca grabbed the steering wheel. The intersection looked clear and still, but trees set back from the road were swaying in the sudden wind. Clouds seemed to be rolling in from the south.
She thought of the mysterious Guides. She\d never bothered to ask Chris how they\d come after her. Would it be some kind of Elemental attack?
Then she told herself to knock it off. It was September. Maryland got the remnants of every hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It rained every other day all month. They always had a tornado drill the first week of school.
But maybe she should forget about texting Quinn and just get home. She shoved her phone into her pocket.
Wind buffeted her car as she pulled into the intersection. A few raindrops smacked her windshield. Then a lot more.
This wind was crazy. Her car didn\ want to stay on the road. She had a hard time holding the vehicle on the right side of the yellow lines.
Rain began to pour. An SUV swerved and honked as a strong blast of wind almost propelled her straight into oncoming traffic.
Becca screamed and yanked the wheel. The car fishtailed but leapt into the correct lane.
Slow down. Maybe she was going too fast. Her car was small, no match for this sudden storm.
Her foot pressed on the brake, but rain was coating the road now, and her car started to skid. The wind slammed her sideways.
Other cars were having trouble. Old Mill Road was turning into an obstacle course. She yanked the wheel again, hoping to straighten out. Should she stop? Keep going? Rain poured out of the sky to pound her windshield.
Didn\ Chris say water talked to him? Did he talk to it, too?
Please stop, she thought. Stop raining.
For a breath of time, she almost thought it worked. The rain whipping her car hesitated, a break in the noise like driving under an overpass in a storm.
Then a gust swept against her car, stronger rain beating the glass.
People bolted from the sidewalk, running for houses, for shops, for cover. Probably running from the swerving vehicles. Becca said a quick prayer that she wouldn\ end up on the sidewalk. She could see the creek ahead, usually a calm flow of water eight feet below the roadway bridge. But now the water was high, raging, passing only a few feet below the bottom of the bridge supports. That she could see water from a block away was terrifying.
Flash flood? Could that water swell over the bridge? She\d heard stories of people swept away in floodwater.
Then something caught her eye.
A lone figure stood at the crest of the hill, just before the woods that backed the road. The storm and the rain kept her from making out any features. Just dark clothes, some sense of focus in his stance.
Was he watching her?
One of the Guides? Was there only one?
A blast of wind shook her car, and she fought to keep hold of the wheel. The bridge loomed close, and the guardrail at the corner seemed small and flimsy. That man remained still.
He was watching her. She could feel it.
Ridiculous. He stood over a hundred feet away. She could barely see him no way he could see her through the windshield.
But that focus was there. Something about him seemed familiar.
What did he expect her to do, stop the storm? Prove she was one of them?
’’I can\ do anything,’’ she whispered. ’’Please. Stop.’’
Crash! The sound came from behind her. Becca flinched and almost lost the wheel. A Dodge SUV and a Toyota sedan had collided. The SUV pushed the smaller vehicle into the ditch on the west side of the street. The earth gave way, spraying mud and grass chunks into the road.
Brake lights lit up her windshield, and she realized she\d been staring in her rearview mirror too long.
A black station wagon had sideswiped the side of the bridge and stalled in the road.
Becca punched the brakes.
Too late. She ran right into it.
’’He wants to kill us.’’ Nick was in the passenger seat, his fingers wrapped around the door handle, his knuckles white.
’’No shit,’’ said Gabriel. ’’Keep it together.’’
Chris sat in the back, clutching his own door handle. He could feel the rain striking the car. This rain meant harm with every drop the kind of storm that sought to form tornadoes, to destroy.
The storm itself didn\ scare him. He wanted to be part of it.
That scared him.
Chris pressed his forehead against the window and shut his eyes. Wind rocked the car. He heard Nick suck a breath through his teeth.
’’I\m just going to drive us through it,’’ said Gabriel. ’’Okay? I\ll get us past this.’’
He didn\ sound frightened he sounded determined. And this storm carried no lightning. No fire, no natural burst of energy to draw Gabriel\s own abilities.
Maybe he could drive them through it. Chris lifted his head.
Bad idea. Rain sheeted across the roadway, every drop an invitation. The creek sat ahead, swollen with rainwater, raging with the strength of the storm. Chris could stand in that water, let it wrap around his body until he was drunk on power.
’’Hey.’’ Gabriel smacked him in the forehead.
Chris jerked back and almost fell down.
He didn\ remember unbuckling his seat belt, but he must have. He\d been leaning between the two front seats, kneeling on the floor there.
Nick had his hands over the vents.
’’Stop it.’’ Gabriel turned dials until the vents were closed, blocking the moisture of the storm. The air in the car almost immediately went stale. Brake lights winked ahead of them. Gabriel punched the steering wheel. ’’Jesus Christ, could these people drive?’’
A gust shook the car again. Nick shut his eyes. ’’There\s going to be a tornado.’’
’’Yeah, well, you\ e not going to be a part of it. Think of something else.’’
’’Yeah, right,’’ Chris muttered.
Nick gave his twin a look. ’’Like what?’’
’’First-round draft picks. Holly Sater\s ass. I don\ know.’’ Gabriel ran a hand through his hair, then grabbed the wheel as an oncoming vehicle swerved toward them. ’’Something.’’
Becca, thought Chris.
’’Hey,’’ said Gabriel, pointing. ’’Isn\ that your girlfriend\s car?’’
There, a few cars ahead, just moving onto the bridge, was Becca\s little brown Honda. Chris recognized the small dent in the frame.
Her car shuddered in the wind. She must have been struggling to keep it straight.
’’Get your hand off the door!’’ Gabriel snapped.
Chris let go of the handle. He\d been ready to go out in the rain, to pull her out of this downpour, to let his power protect her.
You\ e crazy. Now he felt like a stalker.
’’Look,’’ said Nick. ’’On the hill.’’
’’F*ker,’’ said Gabriel.