Storm Page 35
Hunter spent the night.
She fell asleep curled against his chest, warm and secure between his body and the sofa cushions.
And that\s exactly where she woke up, seven hours later.
Hunter\s eyes were still closed, his breathing slow.
Becca started to push herself away, shoving her hair behind her ears. It felt like a tangled mess. She blinked her eyes a few times to orient her contacts. Hunter shifted slightly, his arm tightening to hold her in place. His eyes cracked open. ’’Hey.’’
She froze. ’’Hey.’’
His hand came up to brush hair out of her eyes. ’’Don\ run.’’
Becca flushed. He was too perceptive. ’’I\m not. I\m gross.’’ She pushed herself upright, shifting into the corner of the sofa, wishing her cheeks would cool.
He watched her move. ’’You\ e not gross.’’
Hair fell across the side of her face and she didn\ bother to push it away. ’’I can\ believe you stayed all night.’’
’’Yeah.’’ His voice was careful. ’’That all right?’’
She peeked up at him. He looked too good, his hair barely in disarray, a trace of stubble lining his chin.
She probably had mascara bleeding into her eyelids.
And he was still waiting for an answer.
Becca didn\ have one to give him. It never mattered what anyone did. It only mattered what people thought. She had to clear her throat. ’’Does anyone know you\ e here?’’
’’I texted my mom to say I was staying at a friend\s.’’
’’But not you didn\ put it on Facebook or something like, about spending the night with me?’’ Her breathing felt a little quick.
’’No. I didn\ .’’ He paused. ’’I should have woken you up I\m sorry ’’
Becca shook her head forcefully. She was about to ruin this whole moment. She could feel it. ’’No. I\m being stupid. People just get the wrong idea about me, and I don\ like to give them more reasons to start something ’’
’’No one knows.’’ Hunter shifted forward and touched her face, brushing his fingers along her chin. ’’It\s all right.’’
His touch offered security, like the night he\d taught her self-defense techniques. She leaned into his hand.
’’Look, we have to be at school in a half hour,’’ he said. ’’Let me go home and change, and I\ll swing back to give you a ride. Then you can tell anyone who asks that I gave you a lift because your car was totaled.’’
Would anyone really notice? She was being a freak. She knew it. But she nodded. ’’Thanks.’’
Becca walked him to the door. Now that he wasn\ touching her, she wanted to ask him to stay. Her skin longed for his warmth, and she had to remind herself that they hadn\ done anything more than kiss.
Hunter held the front door closed when her hand reached for the knob. ’’Wait.’’
He stood very close, and she held her breath, sure he was going to kiss her again. But he took her wrist, the one with the stones.
’’You want them back?’’ she said softly.
’’Not yet.’’ He smiled. ’’But I\ll trade you.’’
His fingers slid along her forearm, untying the dark silver hematite. He replaced it with a rich red stone and a pale yellow one. They sat heavy against her wrist, warm from his touch.
Becca ran her fingers over the slick surface of each. ’’What are these for?’’
He stopped her fingers over the red stone. ’’Garnet, for confidence.’’
’’Garnet?’’ Her eyes flicked up to his. ’’For real?’’
’’Yeah.’’ A smile. ’’Don\ lose it.’’
She touched the paler stone. It felt warmer than the others, almost searing her fingertips. She had to let it go. ’’And this one?’’
’’Citrine.’’ Then he did lean forward and brush his lips against hers. ’’For courage.’’
His kiss seemed to breathe heat right into her body. She had to stop herself from grabbing his shirt and dragging him tight against her.
It was bad enough she was practically panting against the wall.
Hunter caught her hand and kissed her palm, laughing lightly. ’’I\ll see you in twenty minutes.’’
He turned the knob, letting cool September humidity sneak into the house, carrying the scent of grass and pollen. Becca inhaled deeply, glad for the fresh air to clear her head.
Then he pulled the door wide.
And there on the porch, his hand poised to knock, stood Chris.
Becca had no idea what to say.
Chris looked surprised for a bare instant then his blue eyes were walled up and ice cold.
’’So,’’ he said. ’’Guess you\ve got the ride to school covered.’’
She opened her mouth to respond but he was already turning, stepping off the porch, heading for his car.
His running car. With his brothers inside.
And Hunter was going after him. ’’Hey.’’
Chris ignored him.
’’Hey.’’ Now Hunter\s voice carried a thread of anger. ’’Chris.’’
There was no possible way this could go well.
’’Stop. Wait.’’ Becca leapt off the porch, feeling grit from the walkway scrape at her feet. She wasn\ even sure which one of them she was addressing.
Hunter grabbed Chris\s arm. ’’Hey, man, I\m talking to you ’’
Chris rounded on him. ’’Let go of me.’’
Becca felt the air flicker, or move, or something, like the humidity was a mere prelude to a storm. The hairs on her arms stood on end and she shivered.
Hunter must have felt it, too. His stance shifted, as if he was bracing himself. ’’I want you to leave her alone.’’
’’News flash: I was leaving. And I really don\ give a shit what you want.’’ He gave Hunter a solid shove, enough to dislodge the other boy\s grip.
’’Yeah?’’ Hunter shoved him back. ’’Need some convincing?’’
’’Hey! Stop.’’ Her voice was squeaking, so Becca tried again. ’’Stop it.’’
It bought her a moment of hesitation from Chris anyway. He drew back and gave Hunter a wicked smile but Becca saw the way his hands curled into fists. He jerked his head her way. ’’You going to pee on her next? Mark your territory?’’
’’Nice,’’ she snapped. ’’Look, guys, this is stupid ’’
Hunter cut her off, his attention focused on Chris. ’’I don\ know what your problem is ’’
’’You,’’ said Chris, heat in his voice. He got up close to Hunter and shoved him again just a little more roughly. ’’Right now you\ e my problem. You don\ even know what you\ e talking about.’’
Hunter shoved him back, harder. ’’I know enough.’’
’’Guys.’’ Her heart pummeled her rib cage. ’’Stop.’’
Hunter didn\ even glance at her. He spoke low, right into Chris\s face, punctuating his words with a shove for every sentence. ’’I know Becca gets hurt every time she\s near you. I know you put her in danger. And I know you\ e too selfish to give a crap what happens to her ’’
Chris punched him.
Becca jumped. He might as well have hit her shock knocked her back a few steps. He\d taken Hunter by surprise, too. The other boy almost went down.
He recovered pretty darn quick.
The twins were out of the car before she registered the sounds of the doors opening. She had half a second to worry whether Hunter could hold his own against three guys, and then Chris\s brothers were pushing them apart.
Wind swirled through the space between them, lifting debris from the driveway and reminding her she only wore a tank top and yoga pants.
The instant that breeze touched her, she felt power riding the wind, like silk streamers from the tail of a kite, flicking against her skin before whipping free to look for more interesting targets. But once she realized the power had just as much substance as something solid, she discovered she could grab hold and follow it to its owner.
He felt it, too. He\d been the one to block Hunter, but his head whipped around to look at her, as if she\d grabbed the edge of his coat and given a firm yank.
Was this how Chris told them apart? She\d never felt their abilities like this maybe something had happened on the bridge to give them more potency. Chris had mentioned that strength came with numbers, that tense situations stole their control.
Chris still looked ready to fight, his shoulders high, his fists locked. She could hear his breathing from here. But Gabriel was blocking him, a hand on his shoulder, speaking low. Talking him down.
Then her heart slowed enough for her to catch what he was saying or maybe the wind just changed.
’’... you want to beat the crap out of this guy, we\ll do it. But really, man, for what? Chris, I warned you about this chick. We could probably come back any morning this week and find a different one... .’’
Each word hit her like a fist. Her insides felt like dry ice, so frozen it was starting to burn.
Wind whipped across the driveway, harsh and fierce enough to scrape at her cheeks. There were no streamers now, just rage in the air.
’’Get out,’’ she said. She could barely hear herself over the wind. She was shivering and it was probably lucky her voice was steady. ’’All of you. Just get out.’’
Hunter took a step toward her. ’’Becca. Let me just ’’
’’No.’’ She had enough anger to share with him. He\d picked this fight. ’’I\ll get my own ride.’’
Then she leapt onto the porch, flung the marked door wide, and threw herself into the foyer.
And without a backwards glance, she slammed the door on the wind and the whole lot of them.
Becca rode the bus. She half expected Quinn to be there, but her friend must have gotten a ride from her mother.
Becca hadn\ done this since sophomore year, and she hoped she wouldn\ get another chance. The vehicle was crowded with freshman boys who must not have learned to shower in the morning yet. She hunched against a window with her English Lit book. She was supposed to have read two chapters of Anna Karenina the previous night, and she hadn\ even cracked the spine.
You should have had Mom write you a note.
She should have. But her brain was shot.
To think she\d almost liked Gabriel. What a kon***.
Then she remembered the way he\d tamed fire until Chris got her to safety.
The way he\d almost gotten himself killed.
This was too confusing.
Hunter was right: Trouble followed Chris around like he kept it on a leash. But that didn\ mean Hunter had a right to chase the guy off for offering her a ride to school.
Becca was dreading English, wondering how she\d meet Chris\s eyes after Gabriel\s little monologue in the driveway. But he must have skipped his seat stayed empty.
World History would mean Hunter and Chris in class together one of whom was supposed to be her partner. Would Chris skip two classes in a row? She almost ditched, but Hunter caught up to her in the hallway.
There was a bruise on his cheek, faint but present. ’’I\m sorry,’’ he said.
She shrugged her backpack higher on her shoulder and looked down the hall. ’’Does your face hurt?’’
He hesitated, like it was a trick question. ’’No?’’
’’Too bad.’’ She reached up to poke his bruise.
He was way too quick he caught her wrist. ’’I am, Becca. I shouldn\ have picked a fight with that guy. Seeing him show up, with what you\ e going through ’’
’’Chris and his brothers saved my life.’’ She pulled her hand free and turned away. ’’You have no idea what I\m going through.’’
He put an arm against the wall and blocked her way. ’’So tell me.’’
For a moment, it seemed his voice held a note of awareness, as if those three simple words meant more than they should have. She looked up to find his eyes close, intent on hers.