Storm Page 41

’’No,’’ said Chris. His thoughts felt pulled in too many directions. ’’He did that. He knows, Nick. What we are. He knows. He\s one of us.’’

’’We\ll find him. I\ll get Gabriel. You go ’’

’’No, you go.’’ Chris staggered toward the door. He wished his head would settle. He probably looked drunk. ’’I need to find Becca.’’

Finally getting outside helped immensely. The mist could feel his fury and danced on his skin, begging for a target. He pulled as much power as he could from his element. If Hunter was out here, Chris would be ready this time.

He asked the rain for answers. Water didn\ understand things like fear and intimidation.

Danger, he thought. Find me danger.

At first, nothing. The water agreed with his quest, but offered no direction. Then rain began to fall, solid drops.

This way.

Chris headed east, following the front of the building.

He couldn\ let go of what had happened with Hunter. He knew. And he was strong strong enough to turn Chris\s power against him. Another water Elemental? Chris had never met one, but he\d always thought he\d recognize someone who shared his abilities. This felt subtly ... different.

The Guide?

Chris almost stopped short and ran back to his brothers.

But Hunter had metaphysically punched him in the face and run. The Guide had caused a multi-car pileup and taken out the bridge, then tried to kill them with lightning. The two didn\ seem to match. And Hunter seemed like such a goody-goody;Chris couldn\ see him putting other people in danger.

Jesus Christ, and where was Becca? He\d almost reached the playing fields, acres of grass and darkness. No lights penetrated this far beyond the school. If he wasn\ careful, he\d be getting a face full of steel bleacher supports.

Lightning flashed somewhere in the distance, followed by the low roll of thunder. Chris walked to the middle of the first field and turned in a full circle. There was the school, the gym, the dark baseball fields to the west, the parking lot that you could probably see from space.

Rain hit his cheeks, every drop a message. Danger. Danger. Danger.

’’I get it!’’ he said. ’’Where?’’

And then he heard the scream.

Becca couldn\ see anything. She had no idea how far they\d dragged her from the school;it felt like it took an hour but had probably been fewer than three minutes. She fought the way Hunter had showed her, all elbows and knees, aiming for weak points. But there were too many of them.

At least it felt like there were. It was too dark to count. All she knew was there were enough boys to carry her and keep her arms pinned.

They weren\ so lucky with her legs. She finally got one of them in the crotch with her knee.

It seemed like a good idea. But then they dropped her.

Her back slammed into the ground and she forgot how to breathe for a moment. Grass poked through the material of her dress. Wet grass, damp from the slow drizzle of rain that was now collecting in her hair and sealing the chiffon to her body. Drew had started to tear at it, but his hands were clumsy and she\d gotten in a good yell during her struggles.

Now she was praying the corseted back would hold everything together.

She started to roll, choking on nothing, grabbing fistfuls of grass as if she could somehow drag herself away from them.

They shoved her onto her back. Pinned her wrists. She didn\ even recognize all their voices.

Light. God, she\d give anything for some light. The darkness trapped her as effectively as their hands.

Lightning flashed, a flare of light in the distance that revealed nothing.

The last time, she\d been drunk. She\d gone along far too long, until she didn\ know what she initiated and what they intended. The last time, she\d wanted to be there. They might have taken it too far way too far but she\d started it.

She\d put up with all the crap at school because she hadn\ been able to figure out just how much was their fault and how much was her own.

Now she knew. Now she wanted them to pay. To suffer.

Now she wanted to press charges, even if they stopped, got their hands off her legs, her arms, got their hands out of the top of her dress.

Would anyone believe her?

She bit the hand over her mouth. The guy swore and jerked his hand away.

She couldn\ think too hard about where other hands were. She\d lose it, turn into a puddle right here in the grass.

’’Touch me again,’’ she snapped, baring her teeth at him, ’’and I\ll bite your fingers off.’’

They laughed. The bastards. They laughed.

’’I\ll press charges,’’ she swore. ’’You\ll all go to prison. You know what they do to ra**sts in prison ’’

’’God, shut her up.’’

Seth Ramsey. She heard liquid slosh, the grunt of a guy taking a draw from a bottle.

’’I\ll tell everyone.’’ Her voice sounded like a rush of air through her teeth. ’’They already think you did it ’’

A body slid on top of hers, hot and heavy. Drew\s wool pants scratched her bare legs. His h*ps squared over hers, and she regretted the chiffon. She could feel everything. Everything.

She couldn\ breathe.

This was going to happen.

This was going to happen.

This was going to happen.

The clouds spun in the sky. Raindrops hit her cheeks and felt warm.

She saw stars. Grass dug through her hair to poke at her scalp.

’’Hey, Becca.’’ Drew\s voice. She could smell the liquor on his breath. ’’Don\ you want to be conscious for this?’’

Then he shifted, rubbing himself against her.

Even with clothes on, the feeling of violation was raw. She tried to curl in on herself, but there was nowhere to go.

He dropped his weight on her, his hand finding her knee and beginning a path up her leg. His hands were so hot. Rough on the sensitive skin of her thigh. She jerked away from him, but it put him more intimately against her.

She fought. She cried. She couldn\ help it.

He spat in her face. ’’God, you\ e such a f**king tease. You know you want it.’’

Some of his saliva got in her mouth. She coughed and spit, not wanting anything of his inside her. She thought she might vomit.

Maybe she\d choke and die.

’’No, no, baby.’’ His face must have been close. She couldn\ see anything but the faint glitter in his eyes.

She clenched her own shut.

’’You\ll take anything I give you,’’ he said.

Then he kissed her.

At first she choked on his tongue. Revulsion had her twisting her face, trying to escape the pressure of his mouth, but he caught her chin and held her there.

She wanted him to die.

She bit down. Blood filled her mouth.

He jerked back and screamed. Loudly.

More than her bite seemed to warrant.

Then he was rolling off her, and he seemed to be clutching at his chest. His screams were cut off, as if someone had pinched his lungs closed at the top.

’’Help,’’ he gasped.

The other guys weren\ moving, but she could feel their confusion. Two still had her hands pinned, but others were standing.

’’Dude,’’ said one. Seth. He shifted from foot to foot. ’’Dude, you okay?’’

Drew was writhing on the ground, hands clutched to his chest or his throat. She couldn\ quite tell. It sounded like he said, ’’Someone help me,’’ but his words were barely intelligible.

’’He\s having a heart attack,’’ she said.

She had no idea whether that was true. She couldn\ even make herself care if he died.

But she needed to get free.

It worked. They let her go to help their friend. She dug her toes into the wet ground and made to run.

Seth caught her arm and spun her around. ’’How do we know this isn\ a trick?’’

What an idiot. A trick? That Drew was in on?

She didn\ ask him. She just used that spinning momentum to drive her elbow into his face.

Something cracked. She felt wetness on her arm. And he was yelling, just as loud as Drew.

Then he was on the ground, yelling, clutching his chest.

What the hell was going on? The rain started to pour, hard and driving and soaking her dress.

And freezing. Her teeth started to chatter.

’’What the f**k did you do to them?’’ one of the guys was screaming at her. He grabbed her before she could see him coming, trapping her arms. ’’What did you ’’

A fist came out of nowhere and punched him in the face. Her arms were free. She couldn\ make out her savior, but two guys were grappling off to her left. Drew and Seth were still writhing on the ground.

The rain turned to sleet unheard of in September. Each drop stung, a wallop of power against her skin.

Chris. Chris had come after her. She almost started to sob.

But this wasn\ over yet. She wasn\ close to safe. They were still outnumbered;Chris just had the element of surprise working for him.

She could help with that. ’’Get out of here!’’ she yelled. ’’I\m calling the cops! Get the hell out of here!’’

Someone threw a punch, and she saw a shadow fall. She flinched, worried for Chris.

Then she heard his voice, low and lethal. ’’Get out of here before I kill you.’’

They did. Two ran off through the grass. Three dragged the other two, swearing while they went.

And then she was alone with Chris. For an instant, all she could hear was the freezing rain and the rush of her shaking breath.

’’Becca.’’ Chris moved closer, but he stopped a few feet in front of her. She heard the whisper of fabric as he shrugged out of his jacket. ’’Becca. Are you hurt?’’

She shook her head, then realized he probably couldn\ see it. ’’N-no.’’

He stepped close enough to swing his jacket around her shoulders, then stepped back. The lining was still warm from his body. She clutched at the material, pulling it close.

’’Put your arms through the sleeves,’’ he said, his voice low. ’’You\ll be warmer.’’

She nodded and threaded her arms through the holes. The sleeves were long, leaving her hands covered. She felt like a little girl wearing Daddy\s clothes.

The thought was so incongruous with what she\d just gone through she started crying.

’’Becca.’’ She heard the anguish in Chris\s voice. He\d stepped closer, but he didn\ touch her. ’’Becca, I\m so sorry.’’

She flung her arms around his neck, then pressed her face into his shoulder. It was probably wholly inappropriate, but she couldn\ stand here and carry all this weight by herself.

He stiffened, and for a fraction of a second, she thought he might reject her.

But then his arms came around her back, and his head dropped until she could feel his breath against her hair.

She held him tight, so tight, but he didn\ pull away.

CHAPTER 32

Chris stood in the rain and held her until she stopped shaking. Even then, she didn\ let go, so he didn\ , either.

Probably a good thing, since Drew and his friends wouldn\ have made it back to the school if he\d been able to go after them.

’’Did you make the rain warm?’’ she asked, her voice thick.

’’Yeah.’’ But he couldn\ make the air warm, so he probably wasn\ helping much.

A moment passed. ’’Thank you.’’

He nodded.

She drew back and looked up at him. ’’No I mean thank you. For for ’’

’’It\s all right,’’ he said. ’’Shh, Becca. It\s all right.’’

Lightning flashed. Thunder growled in the sky, closer now.

It sounded like a warning. He was alone in this field, a sitting duck at a time he should be with his brothers. The rain was still singing along his skin, looking for adventure.

Danger, danger, danger.

Becca pressed her face against his shoulder again, and he knew he wasn\ going anywhere.


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