Storm Page 43

Chris went sprawling. His head hit a tree.

It hurt. For a minute, Chris scrabbled at underbrush, trying to figure out which way to run. He was barely sure which way was up.

But the water knew he was coming, and he felt it calling him. The trees must have been providing some kind of cover, because lightning hadn\ struck since he\d fallen. He stayed low.

There was a twenty-foot stretch of grass between the trees and the creek. He could run it. Would he be a live target for lightning again?

Lightning hit a tree to his left. It didn\ so much catch on fire as explode. Bark and limbs went flying into the air.

Yes. He\d be a target.

But now there were flaming bits of debris in the air, and smoke curled through the rain. This was probably the best cover he\d get.

He burst out of the trees, feeling flaming bark catch at his shirt and burn. It didn\ matter. He\d be in the water in ten seconds. Nine. Eight.

He jumped a fallen branch. Seven. Six.

He could see the creek now, a dark roll of angry water, fed by the storm and his power. His enemy might be stronger here in the rain, but Chris knew instinctively, if he got in that water, he\d tip the scale of power in his favor.

Five. Four.

Three.

Screw it. Chris leapt into the air, arms outstretched. He could dive like an Olympic medalist. The water was there, below him, waiting.

Lightning cracked.

Chris felt his hands hit the water.

And then he didn\ feel anything at all.

CHAPTER 33

Becca ran for the front of the school, stumbling in her heels, sure she\d be the center of attention with her torn and soaked dress, Chris\s jacket hanging from her shoulders. But most of the kids from the dance were outside and just as drenched as she was. Apparently, there\d been quite a show when Drew and his buddies showed up, demanding an ambulance.

No one gave her a second glance.

Becca shivered under the flagpole and used trembling fingers to search Chris\s contacts for Nick and Gabriel.

Only Gabriel answered.

We\ll take care of it.

’’Becca!’’ Quinn appeared at her shoulder, her blond hair plastered to her chest. ’’Come on! We need to get out of the rain!’’

Becca let Quinn drag her, but stopped when she realized she was being pushed into Rafe\s car. The lightning had stopped that had to be a good thing, right? ’’Wait,’’ she cried. ’’I need I can\ ’’

’’Don\ worry,’’ said Quinn. ’’I told him we\d get you home.’’

Becca blinked at her. ’’Chris?’’

Quinn frowned and shoved her the rest of the way into the car, sliding in behind her. The scent of sweat and summer rain was thick in the air. ’’No, Bex. Hunter. He was really upset,’’ she said. ’’He got a call or something and had to go home.’’

That tore Becca\s attention off the cell phone clutched in her hand. ’’He just left?’’ It made her remember Chris\s comment. You started dating some stupid tool who couldn\ figure out letting you go with Drew was a bad idea.

’’He was flipping out. Something with his mom, maybe?’’ Quinn grimaced. ’’I\m sorry, Bex, there was just a lot going on. I was trying to look for you, and then the ambulances showed up ’’

That was the best part of this evening. Now people were suspecting Drew and his friends had taken a hit of something and had a bad reaction. First a ra**st, now a user.

She hoped they\d be expelled.

Becca flipped Chris\s phone open. No new messages.

What had happened? The Guide, for sure. But Chris and the twins had driven him away from the bridge. Would they be able to do it again?

Her own phone beeped. She almost jumped a mile, but got it together to dig it out of her purse.

Despite the fact that she was holding Chris\s phone in her lap, she had the uncanny hope that this would be a message from him.

No luck. But it was from Hunter.

Are you OK? So sorry to leave you.

She stroked her thumb over the display, deliberating how to respond. Then she tapped a quick reply.

What happened?

His response took forever, and when it came, it didn\ say much:

Family stuff. Too much for txt. 2morrow.

Figured. She sighed. But Becca kept hearing Chris\s question, right before the lightning started to strike.

Speaking of our local narc, just what do you know about him?

Did Chris think Hunter was somehow involved with what had happened?

She stared at his words on her phone, absently fingering the rocks on her wrist. New age nonsense? Or something as familiar to him as Chris\s water or Nick\s air?

She stared out at the night. Still no lightning. Just rain, whipped by wind to strike the car.

Quinn\s voice interrupted her thoughts. ’’You all right, Bex?’’

Was there an answer to that? Becca nodded, but didn\ look at her. ’’Fine.’’

’’You never told me what Drew said.’’

Becca gave a halfhearted laugh. ’’Too much. Not enough. I don\ know.’’

Quinn didn\ say anything, and Becca was suddenly aware of Rafe\s eyes on her in the rearview mirror.

’’What happened?’’ said Quinn, and her voice was low.

’’He didn\ want to apologize. He just wanted to finish what he started at that soccer party.’’ Now she looked up, meeting Quinn\s eyes. Her voice sounded flat, but it was better than the alternative. ’’It was a trick. He and his friends dragged me onto the soccer field.’’

Quinn shifted closer, taking her hand. ’’Oh, Bex ...’’

Becca shook her head, shocked to feel another tear roll down her cheek. She swiped it away. ’’It\s okay. He didn\ Chris stopped them.’’

Quinn\s eyes widened. ’’You mean how they looked on the quad ... Chris did that?’’

Becca squared her shoulders. She remembered the feel of her elbow smashing Seth in the face, the taste of Drew\s blood on her tongue. ’’And me.’’

Rafe whistled from the front seat. ’’You go, girl.’’

Quinn didn\ spare him a glance. ’’Do you want me to stay with you tonight?’’

’’No, I\ll be fine.’’ Becca gave her friend a weak smile. ’’You kids have fun.’’

Her house felt emptier than usual. Quinn had almost demanded to stay and Becca had almost let her. She just couldn\ bear the thought of reliving it all for Quinn, who would surely want details.

Becca sat at the kitchen table and stared at Chris\s cell phone, checking it every fifteen seconds.

Nothing.

She scrolled through his contacts again, letting her thumb stop on Michael.

Would Chris want her to call him? He and the twins had been pretty emphatic that they didn\ want him involved. And Gabriel had said they\d take care of it if they wanted Michael, they would have called him.

Right?

She opened the front door. The chill in the air seeped right through her skin and into her bones. The rain had stopped entirely, and a few stars peeked between broken clouds.

The storm was over.

She just didn\ know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Becca took a hot shower and dressed in flannel pajamas, curling beneath her comforter to combat her shivering. She checked the phone again. Nothing.

Then she lay in the dark and stared at the ceiling, remembering the feel of Drew\s body trapping her own.

The moment in the field had only lasted a minute, but here in the dark, it seemed to last an hour. Two. She watched the clock count the minutes. Just the thought of Drew was enough to trap her.

She couldn\ breathe.

But then she remembered the sleet on her face, slicing through her panic.

You\ e brave. And you\ e strong. Or did someone else break Seth\s nose tonight?

A tiny smile found her lips.

Then it was gone. ’’Chris,’’ she whispered.

She pulled his phone off the nightstand and checked the messages again.

None.

She switched his phone to vibrate and hugged it to her chest, staring at the ceiling until sleep crept out of nowhere.

Chris woke up.

And that right there was a frigging miracle.

He was lying on something cold and rough, like concrete. It hurt to move, so he didn\ try. Pounding filled his head and made him stay still for a long minute. For a panicked moment he thought something was wrong with his eyes he couldn\ see anything.

Then he realized there was no light.

The air felt stale, too. No ventilation.

And not a drop of water anywhere near. He felt like he\d lost one of his senses.

He slid his fingers along the ground. Definitely concrete, and cold.

Then he heard something shift against the ground, that soft rasp of grit against fabric. Then a hissed breath.

He rolled to a crouch. Every muscle protested, but adrenaline helped. ’’Who\s there?’’

The noise stopped. Chris put a hand against the ground and fought to hear. Something, anything.

Then a voice, rough and dry, barely more than a whisper. ’’Chris?’’

’’Nick?’’ Chris crawled forward a few feet, moving in the direction of the voice. For the first time, he had no sense of his brother he didn\ even know if he was guessing the right twin. ’’Keep talking so I can find you. Are you hurt?’’

A choked sound that might have been a laugh. ’’You remember when we were kids and Gabriel begged me to make a tornado because he wanted to ride one?’’

’’Yeah?’’ he said, just to keep Nick talking.

’’That idea is overrated.’’

Chris followed his voice. Straight ahead, a bit to the left. Maybe ten feet? He had no idea. Chris went slow, crawling, sliding his hands along the ground, not wanting to find a trap. His body didn\ like all this movement, but he told his body to get over it. His head wasn\ as easily convinced.

His hand hit something solid, and further examination discovered a steel pole. Chris was glad he hadn\ tried to bolt across the floor. He edged around it and kept going. ’’What does that mean?’’

’’It means I think my leg is broken.’’ Nick\s breath caught and trembled, then steadied. ’’Maybe other stuff, too. My hands are tied. I don\ think I can\ feel my fingers ’’

’’Hold on. I\m almost there.’’ Though Chris didn\ have a damn clue what he could do for Nick. Untie him, at least.

Unless he was chained.

Don\ panic. He kept crawling. ’’What happened to Gabriel?’’

It was the wrong question. Nick\s breathing accelerated. ’’I don\ know. We got caught the storm I don\ know ’’

’’Easy.’’ Chris kept his voice steady. Nick was usually the one to keep the rest of them calm. ’’If he\s not here, he probably got away.’’

The words hung there in the darkness. Nick didn\ say anything.

Chris kept moving.

’’You\ e close,’’ said Nick. ’’I can hear you.’’

’’Good.’’ So Chris rushed.

Stupid. His hand came down on something solid, with a slight give. Fabric over skin. Plus something with an edge that scraped against the side of his hand.

Then Nick was yelling and Chris flung himself back.

Nothing was worse than listening to his brother scream in the darkness. Chris slapped his hands over his ears, then felt like a total wuss.

He jerked his hands down. ’’I\m sorry.’’ God, it sounded like he was about to start crying. ’’Nick I\m sorry ’’

’’Chris.’’ Nick\s screams had given way to ragged breathing.

’’Yeah.’’ Chris kept his hands tight against his stomach. What had he felt? Had that been bone? Couldn\ you bleed out from a compound fracture?

’’Don\ do that again.’’ Nick was sweating now Chris could feel that. Every drop whispered pain.

Sweating meant shock, right? Or something else?


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