Storm Page 46
She didn\ falter until she noticed the ground knitting itself together, mending the break between them.
’’That\s all you know?’’ said Michael. His tone implied it wasn\ very helpful.
’’Yeah. That\s all.’’
’’Was there gunfire last night?’’
She thought back, to the chaos on the field. ’’No. I don\ think so but the thunder was loud.’’
Michael looked out across the field again. ’’Tyler came after you with a gun because it\s one of the few surefire ways to kill us.’’ He shook his head. ’’I can\ believe they wouldn\ tell me.’’
She was beginning to sweat beneath her dark hoodie. She pulled it off and knotted the sleeves around her waist, glad she\d worn a tank top underneath.
Michael glanced at the sky. ’’I\m going to walk the rest of the field.’’
He walked, and she followed, stopping at points where lightning had scorched the earth. She wished she could do what he did, that the ground could whisper secrets to her and create a path for her to follow.
She swiped a hand across her forehead. Crazy hot for September. It had been sixty the day before.
Then she felt the heat trickle along her skin, as if the sunlight had fingers. The hair on her arms stood up. She held her forearm in front of her eyes. ’’Michael? Do you feel that?’’
’’Yeah.’’ He turned in a slow circle as if expecting to find someone. The field was empty. He frowned at her. ’’You do, too?’’
Did she? She rubbed her arms to get rid of the sensation but it didn\ help. ’’Maybe. I don\ know.’’
That morning at her house when the brothers had fought with Hunter, she\d felt Nick\s power like the tail of a kite, a tangible thing she could grab hold of. This felt like nothing so substantial it lacked direction and force.
’’Can you follow it?’’ she asked.
Michael took a step forward, his hand held out. ’’It\s vague. Weak. It might not be anything.’’
But he walked anyway, and she followed him. Sweat developed between Becca\s shoulder blades, running a line down the center of her back. Michael had been stopping at the scorch marks, but now he kept walking, moving more quickly as they neared the edge of the athletic field and the woods that led to the creek. It felt stronger here, a definite wash of power in the sunlight.
Michael didn\ hesitate, he strode into the underbrush as if a clear path was carved there. Becca saw nothing move, but she could swear that plants shifted out of the way of his boots, leaving her to scramble after him in the tangles of vines and thorns. The heat made her feel like they were fighting through the rain forest.
Just as she was about to snap at him to slow down or make the foliage move for her, too, he stopped short. So short, she nearly ran right into him.
Then she brought her gaze up from the solid line of his back, to see what had made him stop.
’’Gabriel,’’ he said, his voice full of something like wonder and relief.
Gabriel sat against a tree. His eyes had been closed, but they cracked open when Michael said his name. He still wore dark-colored slacks from Homecoming, but they were damp and filthy. He\d lost his dress shirt somewhere along the line, but he still had a white tee shirt, also wet and clinging to his chest. Water dripped out of his hair, tracing lines though the dirt on his face. He looked like he\d crawled through a pile of leaves soaking wet. He didn\ move.
All the heat in the air seemed to be pulling toward his body.
’’Are you all right?’’ asked Michael.
Gabriel shook his head. ’’I lost them.’’ Then he put his hands against the ground to struggle to his feet.
Michael rushed forward to help him.
Gabriel shoved him away, a motion full of so much fury that he knocked himself back to the ground. ’’Get off me.’’
The rage in his voice forced Becca back a step. The heat in the woods seemed to flare, singing her skin.
’’Yeah, yeah.’’ Michael caught him under the arms and pulled him the rest of the way to a standing position. ’’You\ e so tough.’’
’’Shut up.’’ Gabriel fought him, wrenching free of Michael\s grip to shove him away again. ’’Shut the f**k up.’’ He punched Michael in the chest with both fists. ’’I hate you.’’
Michael fell back, but his arms were tight, his hands clenched at his sides.
Becca skittered back, out of the way. She could barely breathe. The heat in the woods was almost unbearable.
’’I f**king hate you,’’ Gabriel said again, his voice fierce. ’’First Mom and Dad now Nick now Chris ’’ His voice broke, and he struck Michael in the chest again. ’’You killed that girl. We should have let them take you we should have let them ’’
God, Becca could feel his anguish through the heat, tightening her chest.
Michael was moving forward, reaching for his brother. ’’Gabriel ’’
’’Don\ touch me.’’ Gabriel hit him again, his voice thick.
Michael caught his wrists and held them.
Gabriel fought him, wrenching his hands free to strike at his brother, over and over again, driving Michael back through the underbrush. She could hear every hit, could feel him pulling power from the heat in the air to add force to the blows.
’’I hate you,’’ he said with every strike, his voice breaking. ’’I hate you.’’
The violence stole what was left of her breath. She stared, digging her nails into the tree she\d grabbed for support.
Then Michael caught Gabriel by the back of the neck, and she knew Michael was going to knock him out, or throw him down, or retaliate somehow. The fury in the air was electrifying, crackling along her skin, begging for release.
But Michael pulled him close and held him there, too close for Gabriel to get a good swing.
’’I\m sorry,’’ he said, his voice soft, rough, almost lost in the air. ’’Let me help you.’’
Gabriel went still. His breathing was ragged. There were tears on his cheeks.
Then he was struggling. ’’F*k you.’’
Michael tightened his grip. ’’I\m sorry.’’ His face was close to his younger brother\s. ’’I\m sorry.’’
’’Whatever.’’ Gabriel sniffed and gritted his teeth and looked past him. ’’I don\ care. You don\ care.’’
’’Goddamn it, Gabriel!’’ Michael shook him. ’’I loved them, too.’’
’’So what? Mom and Dad would have wanted to fight they would have kept us safe they would have ’’
’’I\m trying!’’ Michael drew a breath, and his voice sounded strained. ’’Okay? I\m trying.’’
Gabriel said nothing. The air hummed with power and emotion, and Becca clutched tight to her tree, afraid to move, to upset the balance.
Then Gabriel\s shoulders drooped. ’’It was my fault.’’ He spoke low, almost too quiet to hear. ’’It was my fault they broke the deal.’’
’’They were looking for a reason to break the deal.’’
’’They sent a Guide. We didn\ tell you ’’
’’It\s okay. Tell me now.’’
’’He had Chris, and Nick and I thought we thought we could take him.’’ He gave a soft laugh, a broken sound with no humor behind it. ’’We were wrong. Nick had the wind, but the Guide took control of it. Then Nick was hurt ’’
He stopped, his eyes fixed on the ground. His silence said enough.
’’You got away?’’ said Michael.
Gabriel nodded. ’’Barely. I hid.’’ He sounded ashamed.
Gabriel\s eyes flicked up, and for the first time, Becca saw the spark of his usual defiance. ’’The last place he\d look for me.’’
’’In the water,’’ she said.
Gabriel lifted his head and looked at her, then shrugged off Michael\s hands.
He\d clearly forgotten she was there if he\d ever noticed at all.
Then he ran a hand through his wet hair, pushing it off his forehead. ’’Yeah. In the water. Almost all night.’’
’’All night?’’ said Michael, his eyebrows raised.
Gabriel pulled at his wet clothes. ’’Yeah. All night.’’
’’Do you have any idea where he took them?’’ asked Michael.
Michael sighed. ’’Well, let\s go back to the house. The Guide came looking for me last night, too;maybe he\ll show up again.’’
Now it was Gabriel\s turn to raise his eyebrows. ’’You got away by yourself?’’
’’Maybe you\ e not the only tough guy around here.’’
Gabriel stared at him for half a second, as if trying to decide whether Michael was making a joke or picking a fight. He didn\ say anything, just turned to walk.
As they started off across the field, Becca couldn\ help wondering about a Guide who could take out Chris and the twins especially after the demonstration she\d seen at the bridge but not Michael.
Tough guy or not, the facts weren\ matching up.
Becca walked between the brothers. She hadn\ picked the arrangement, but it made her feel like a needed barrier. Gabriel was still pulling heat from the sky, and it was like walking next to a sunbeam.
Her phone chimed, and she fished it out of her pocket. Sunlight glinted across the face.
Her mom, asking if everything was all right. She tapped out a quick response. Hunter\s rock bracelet bounced against her wrist now that the chain wasn\ trapped under her sleeve.
Gabriel glanced down at what she was doing. ’’Who are you texting?’’
His voice still echoed with the pain and uncertainty she\d heard in the woods. She wanted to give him a hug, but Gabriel didn\ seem like the kind of guy who\d take it well.
’’My mother,’’ she said. ’’Checking up.’’
’’Your mom\s nice,’’ said Michael. He glanced down, too.
Then he caught her wrist and hauled her to a stop. ’’Where did you get these?’’
He was looking at the bracelet, holding her wrist up so the stones caught the light.
’’From a friend,’’ she said, snatching her hand back. ’’Why?’’
’’Oh, just a friend?’’ he said. ’’You mean you\ e walking around with these on your wrist and you don\ know what they are?’’
’’They\ e rocks,’’ said Gabriel. ’’Leave her alone.’’
’’They\ e not just rocks.’’ Michael glared at her. ’’Are you playing me? Was this a trap to find Gabriel ’’
’’No!’’ she cried. ’’What the hell is wrong with you?’’
’’I\m so stupid,’’ he said. ’’The way you felt the sunlight, the way you knew we\d find ’’
’’What are you talking about?’’
’’These.’’ Michael grabbed her wrist again. ’’These rocks. They\ e full of power. Who are you, Becca? What do you ’’
’’They\ e not mine!’’ She was ready to tear them off her arm. ’’They\ e not!’’
Michael\s face was right in front of her. ’’Then whose are they?’’
She took a deep breath. ’’Hunter\s.’’
’’That punk kid?’’ said Gabriel. ’’The one who got into it with Chris last night?’’
’’Yeah.’’ She glanced between him and Michael. ’’He said they were his mom\s. He said they were for silly things, like ... like ... confidence, or clarity of thought.’’ Then she realized what Gabriel had said. ’’Wait. He got into it with Chris?’’
’’Yeah. Nicky, too. I don\ know what happened, because all hell broke loose, but he said they had a run-in.’’
’’What were they fighting about?’’
Gabriel snorted and gave her a look. ’’Guess.’’
’’These rocks are for a lot more than confidence or clarity of thought,’’ said Michael. ’’Take them off.’’