Storm Page 33

’’Just go,’’ she said. ’’I have your phone number. I\ll be fine.’’

’’All right, Becca. All right.’’ He turned for the door.

Then he paused. ’’Here, I want you to take this.’’

He was holding out a credit card.

Her own mother had never handed her a credit card. She stared at him. ’’I just told you ’’

’’I\m not swooping in, and I\m not solving anything. It doesn\ even have a high limit, so don\ go try to put down a deposit on a Porsche. But this might help you get started until the insurance mess is straightened out.’’

The plastic sat between his fingers, but she didn\ reach to take it.

It was hard. Was he buying her off?

She was too tired for this.

’’It\s not even a MasterCard,’’ he whispered. ’’Totally Visa.’’

That made her smile.

He smiled back and set the card on the hall table. ’’Lock up behind me.’’

And then he was gone.

She regretted his absence almost immediately.

Every creak had her imagining the Guide coming after her. The brothers had frightened him off but how long would that last? Did the Guide still think she was a part of it? She took the fastest shower in history and reconsidered calling Quinn.

No answer.

So Becca turned on all the lights and inspected every closet.

She wished her mom would come home.

Her phone chimed from her bedroom. It was the only thing to have survived the crash and the flood.

She\d used it to call her mom from the ambulance.

1 New Text Message

Had to be Quinn. Becca scrolled through the menu. She didn\ recognize the number, but the message was loud and clear.

What RU Up to? Practicing Krav Maga? :-)

Hunter had no idea about the accident. Just a normal boy sending a girl a text. Becca grinned. She couldn\ help it. She texted back.

Did you just text a smiley?

His return message was lightning quick.

Don\ girls love smileys?

She was blushing. At a text message. She whipped her thumbs across the keys.

Girls love the real thing.

This time there was a pause.

Or maybe he was typing something long.

Then her phone flashed. New message.

Is that an invitation?

Her heart kicked against her ribs as if the adrenaline on the bridge had been a warm-up. She remembered the challenge in his voice at the park. In or out, Becca?

Her fingers flew across the keys, typing quickly before she chickened out.

Sure is.

Still, her heart continued to pound. He could say no. He could say he was kidding. He could say something like, ’’Guess you\ll have to wait \ il tomorrow.’’

Then her phone flashed.

See you in ten.


Becca changed clothes three times. She\d pulled on pajamas after her shower, but she sure wasn\ greeting Hunter at the door in the threadbare cami set she\d had since eighth grade. Jeans and a sweater seemed too stiff, considering it was nine o\clock at night and she\d just climbed out of the shower.

She finally settled on black yoga pants and an electric-blue tank top, twisting her half dried hair into a loose knot at the back of her head and securing it with a set of hair sticks. She barely had enough time for blush and mascara before Hunter was knocking on her door.

He\d changed clothes since school or at least his shirt was different. A long-sleeved tee shirt clung to his chest and shoulders, red with some black silkscreening across the front in a design she couldn\ make sense of.

Stop staring at his chest.

She jerked her gaze up and found his eyes close. ’’Hey.’’

Holy crap, her voice sounded breathy.

He smiled, and goose bumps flared on her arms. ’’Hey.’’ His eyes flicked down her form, and for an instant, she wished she\d worn something completely different. More clothes. Less. Hair down, maybe. Something.

Then his eyes returned to hers, a spark of appreciation there. ’’Can I come in?’’

’’Yeah. Sure. I mean sorry.’’ She stepped back and held the door wide. ’’Come in.’’

Hunter stepped into her foyer, and Becca watched him look around for a minute, taking in the couch and TV in the living room, the photographs cataloguing her childhood that plastered the wall by the staircase, the stretch of hardwood leading back to the kitchen. Her mom kept the house neat as a pin, so at least Becca didn\ have to worry about anything embarrassing lying around.

Then he said, ’’So what\s with the pentagram?’’

Yeah, nothing embarrassing except maybe that. ’’Ah long story,’’ she said, almost stammering. ’’Stupid kids er, vandals.’’

He winced. ’’That sucks.’’

She stood there beside him and told herself not to fidget. She knew she should invite him past the front foyer, but where? The kitchen? The living room? She couldn\ figure out which room gave the wrong idea or the right one.

It hadn\ even occurred to her until now: She\d never had a boy over not even Drew.

Hunter was looking at her again. ’’Smells nice,’’ he offered.

’’Cinnamon.’’ Like he couldn\ figure that out. ’’I lit a candle.’’

He smiled and glanced past her. ’’Your mom\s in bed already?’’

’’Oh. No.’’ That brought her up short. ’’Mom works nights.’’

His eyebrows went up, just enough. ’’So ... there\s no one else here?’’

He seemed closer suddenly, warming the space between them. She shook her head and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. ’’Just us.’’

’’Interesting.’’ The word lingered in the air.

Then she realized what this looked like. She snapped her head up, folding her arms in front of her stomach. Now she wished for a sweater. ’’I didn\ mean it\s not like that.’’

His expression didn\ flicker. ’’Like what?’’

Her cheeks felt hot. ’’This is not a booty call.’’

He smiled and put his hands on her elbows, leaning in to speak along her jawline. His fingers were warm on her skin, and his breath brushed her neck. ’’Relax.’’

She inhaled, wondering if cinnamon was an aphrodisiac. Part of her wanted to pull away and a bigger part wanted to lean into him.

But he let her go and stepped into the hallway, leaving her swaying in the foyer. ’’Mind if I have something to drink?’’

Becca hustled to beat him to the cabinet. She grabbed two glasses and poured lemonade, then watched him take a sip. The flame in the jar candle on the counter fluttered and jumped, keeping time with her heart.

She had to stop staring at him.

’’Want to ... ah ... watch a movie or something?’’ she asked, then wanted to kick herself. What, was she six years old?

But he lowered the glass from his lips. ’’Sure, Becca.’’

She folded herself into the corner of the couch and prayed for something decent on cable. Apparently, Comcast wasn\ on her side. She settled on some adventure flick she didn\ recognize and glued her eyes to the screen.

Hunter dropped into the dead center of the sofa. He watched the movie for five seconds, then glanced at her. ’’Are you actually watching this?’’

’’I\m actually looking in that direction.’’ She tossed the remote at him. ’’Watching might be a little strong.’’

He caught it without looking and muted the television. ’’Talk to me.’’

She smiled and glanced up at him through her lashes. ’’About what?’’

’’Anything.’’ He set his glass on the coffee table, then leaned back into the cushions and hooked his thumbs in his pockets. It pulled his jeans down, just a little, but enough to show a millimeter of tanned skin at his waist, just the barest edge of his boxers.

Becca reminded herself to breathe.

’’What\d you do tonight?’’ he said. ’’Did you have to work?’’

That snapped her back to reality. She shook her head quickly, but her eyes kept flicking back to that strip of skin. ’’No I was driving home from school, and there was a storm, and I I totaled my car.’’

Hunter sat up straight, and his tone was almost angry. ’’You what?’’ He looked her over, his eyes intense. ’’Jesus are you okay?’’

’’No yeah, I\m fine.’’ She remembered that his father and his uncle had been killed in a car wreck, and her tone softened. ’’I\m okay. Really. My dad would never have left me alone otherwise.’’

He probably wouldn\ have left her alone if he\d known she was going to invite a boy over, either. Too bad for the absent parent.

Hunter looked distraught. ’’But totaled? Where?’’

’’The bridge on Old Mill.’’ She\d heard the paramedics recite the events so many times that it was easy to forget that supernatural happenings had almost led to her death.

’’The creek overflowed.’’ Becca hunched her shoulders. This was the last thing she wanted to relive. ’’It must have buckled the bridge supports or something ’’

’’I heard about it. A lot of people were hurt.’’ He ran a hand through his hair. Multicolored lights from the television danced across his features, making him look vaguely frightening or frightened. ’’Becca, I had no idea.’’

She stared at her hands in her lap. Hunter was so earnest, offering anything less than truth felt shady. ’’I didn\ want to be alone.’’

When he didn\ say anything, she glanced up. He was studying her, his eyes shadowed.

That was too much. ’’I\m fine.’’ She stretched out her bare arms. ’’Look. No bruises even.’’

He took her wrists in his hands, running his thumbs lightly along the inside of her forearms. ’’Hmm. No bruises.’’

His touch was making her shiver, but she couldn\ pull away. This was the exact opposite of grappling in a field but somehow she wanted to tackle him all the same. ’’Yeah. Chris and his brothers pulled me out of the car.’’

His fingers stilled, and his voice went hard again. ’’Really.’’

She nodded. ’’They were a few cars behind me.’’

’’Convenient,’’ he scoffed. His jaw was set, and he looked away, at the television. ’’Why am I not surprised?’’

Becca snatched her hands out of his. ’’What does that mean?’’

Hunter wasn\ easily intimidated he held her eyes and matched her tone. ’’It means the guy seems to be a magnet for trouble. For you.’’

She opened her mouth to protest, but she really didn\ have a leg to stand on.

’’Look,’’ said Hunter. ’’I don\ even know him. But every time I see him near you, you end up getting hurt.’’

Becca took a breath. ’’It\s ... complicated.’’

Hunter leaned in, his voice low and sharp. ’’I don\ know what\s going on between you and Chris, but that guy on the beach had a gun, Becca. He was firing at you. People shoot guns when they want to kill someone. And now you tell me your car is totaled and Chris was there?’’

’’It was an accident,’’ she whispered. Her throat felt tight.

His green eyes were hard. ’’I don\ believe in accidents.’’

She didn\ realize she was crying until tears rolled off her chin.

He swore, then shifted forward to brush the tears away with his thumb. ’’I\m sorry. God I\m a jackass. Becca, I\m sorry.’’

This couldn\ be more horrifying. She shook her head and swiped at her eyes. ’’I can\ believe I\m crying.’’

’’I think you\ e allowed.’’ He stroked a finger across her cheekbone, brushing a stray hair behind her ear. His voice dropped. ’’If I offer to hold you, are you going to think I\m making a move?’’

Was he teasing? She couldn\ tell. She blinked tears off her lashes and looked up at him. ’’I\m not worried. I know Krav Maga.’’

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