Storm Page 50

’’No.’’ His voice was sharp again, and he caught her hand and pulled her into a jog as Casper rounded a corner into the strip mall parking lot. ’’I knew you couldn\ have done it. I figured that out right away. But I thought maybe the Merricks were using you. And you trusted me. You were an easy link to follow.’’

’’God.’’ She shook her head. ’’And I thought all those rocks were so special. I\m such an idiot ’’

’’They are,’’ he said. ’’They are.’’ He pulled her to a stop, looking down at her in the middle of the blacktop. The breeze lifted hair from her neck, wrapping around her body and urging her close to him.

’’Just the quartz tracked you,’’ he said. ’’Everything else did exactly what I said it did.’’ He paused. ’’Do you trust me, Becca?’’

She licked her lips, uncertain. He\d lied about so much. Was he lying now?

Casper barked again, halfway across the parking lot. He was heading for the grocery store area, where dozens of cars were parked in a big colorful mass, drawing sunlight like gems.

’’Shit,’’ said Hunter. He took off after his dog.

She took off after him.

Casper was dodging between cars, leaping onto hoods and down, probably reliving his good ol\ days as a police dog.

’’Casper!’’ Hunter called. ’’Hier! Fuss!’’

Casper didn\ hier. Or fuss.

He dove down another row, and Hunter and Becca almost caught up to him. The dog stopped on the far side of a green pickup truck, and she heard a man yelling. It sounded like groceries hit the pavement.

Becca had almost forgotten who they were tracking. She\d succumbed to the more immediate worry that Casper was going after someone who had a bag full of hot dogs or something. So though her brain registered the logo on the side of the truck, though her mind registered the familiarity of the voice, she didn\ put two and two together until she skidded around the side of the bumper.

And there was Casper, snarling viciously at his prey, the man Hunter had ordered him to track.

Becca\s father.


Chris had found a crack in the concrete floor. He was spitting at it.

’’This is kind of a stretch,’’ said Nick.

Chris spit again, running his finger along the four-inch crack, making sure he wouldn\ lose it in the darkness, coaxing his saliva into the opening. ’’What else do we have to do?’’

’’That crack would have to go all the way through the concrete. Like, through the foundation. And Michael would have to be within ... what, fifty feet? A hundred?’’

’’Again, what else do we have to do?’’

Silence for a while, during which Chris silently agreed with Nick. His spit was evaporating before it could travel too far. He didn\ have enough power to force it more quickly.

’’Pee on it,’’ said Nick.

Always practical. He could probably feel Chris\s frustration.

Chris had thought of that anyway. ’’I\m worried if I stand up, I\ll lose the crack.’’

He kept thinking of the power on the bridge, how he\d drawn such strength from the water. He\d saved Becca\s life. She hadn\ been breathing. He\d never felt such a strong connection to his element.

Why couldn\ he do that now?

There\d been the car accident. The fire. Becca had been trapped. He\d pounded on her window, desperate.

He had no shortage of desperation now.

He\d been standing in water. Was that it? He\d been standing in water that night he called the wave on Sillery Bay, at Drew\s party.

No, but the bridge power was even stronger. He\d been so desperate to get her out of that car, he\d punched right through her window. Blood had gone everywhere, diluted from the rain.

That night Becca saved him, his face had been a mess. She\d poured water down the side of his face, over the cuts on his temple.

Blood. He needed blood. His blood, mixed with the water.

If he thought about this too long, he\d chicken out.

He put his teeth against his wrist. And bit down.

Goddamn, it hurt. He hadn\ even broken the skin, and he was already sweating.

’’Nick,’’ he said. ’’I think I\m going to need you to bite my arm.’’

’’I think I\m going to need you to run that by me again.’’

’’Shut up! I need to bleed. I think if I can get blood in the crack, it will make a difference.’’

Nick was silent for a long moment. Then he cleared his throat. ’’You can\ just stab yourself with the prong on your belt buckle?’’

’’That\s better?’’

’’From my angle, yes. It\s better.’’ He paused. ’’Scrape it against the concrete for a few minutes. You can probably get a pretty sharp point.’’

It worked. Too well. Chris barely felt the prong slice across his wrist before blood was running down his hand and across his fingers.

But the blood found the crack. It went all the way through. Chris could feel it.

And then his blood found the earth.

Becca couldn\ make it add up in her head. This had to be a mistake. Her dad had to have some raw meat in his bag, or Casper must have picked up on something else, or maybe the Guide had parked here yesterday.

At least Casper had him distracted. Her father hadn\ even noticed her.

Hunter had hold of her wrist, and he was trying to drag her back, away, around the front of the truck.

’’Wait,’’ she said, struggling, still trying to piece this all together. ’’That\s that\s my ’’

’’Becca?’’ Her father sounded confused and he sure didn\ look like some terrifying Elemental Guide, the way he was backed up against his truck. He glanced between her and the dog growling at his knees.

’’Dad,’’ she said, choking on the word.

Well, that made Hunter stop pulling at her arm. ’’Holy crap,’’ he said. ’’It\s your father?’’

Her dad seemed to notice him. ’’Is this your dog?’’ He glanced back at Becca. ’’What are you doing here?’’

’’Dad,’’ she said, feeling her heart pound. Like on the soccer field, the air felt alive with sunshine. She could reach out and touch it. ’’This is a mistake. We\ e just this is a mistake.’’

’’It\s not,’’ said Hunter, his voice low. ’’Becca it\s not a mistake.’’

Her father still looked confused. ’’What\s not a mistake?’’

She\d been so ready to find a James Bond type, someone sleek and muscled, someone with terrifying charisma and the type of power that could cause car accidents and destroy bridges. Someone with the will to kill teenagers. Her father had showed her how to set the wing of a baby bird. He protected wild animals. He\d comforted her after the car crash.

How could he be the same person who had attacked them at the bridge?

How could he have terrorized the brothers to such an extent that Gabriel would spend the night hiding in the creek?

She still couldn\ speak.

But the longer she stood here, the more her shock started to turn to fury.

She\d been on that bridge. She\d been on that soccer field.

’’Could you call off your dog?’’ her father said to Hunter. ’’I don\ know what you kids are doing, but ’’

’’Casper,’’ said Hunter. ’’Platz.’’

The dog dropped to his haunches but he stayed right in front of her father.

’’It\s you,’’ she said flatly. ’’I guess we can forget the crabbing violations. I don\ know why I\m surprised. What\s one more lie?’’

He frowned. ’’Becca, I\m not sure ’’

’’You\ e the Guide.’’

She\d hoped the accusation would hit him between the eyes, but he didn\ even flinch. He lost the frown, and his eyes hardened. He didn\ look away, didn\ move. ’’Becca, you don\ know what you\ e talking about.’’

’’Did you take out the bridge behind the school?’’

He didn\ answer.

Her voice was rising. ’’Did you attack us on the soccer field?’’ ’’Becca, you don\ ’’

She stepped closer to him, wanting to hit him. Her voice came out as a whisper. ’’Did you kill my friends?’’

’’They\ e not your friends,’’ he said. ’’Becca, they\ e dangerous ’’

’’You\ e dangerous,’’ she hissed. ’’They are my friends! You have to ’’

’’Becca.’’ Her father\s voice sliced right through hers, and he stepped toward her. ’’We are in the middle of a grocery store parking lot.’’ A hand reached out as if to grab her.

Hunter seized her wrist and dragged her behind him. ’’Keep your hands off her.’’

Her father glared at him, but then glanced around the parking lot. They\d already earned a few looks from other patrons. ’’Becca,’’ he said quietly. ’’We can talk about this somewhere else.’’

’’Unless this somewhere else is where you\ e holding Chris and Nick, we\ e going to talk about it right here.’’

Her father took a step forward making Hunter take a step back. She was right up against him now, her hands against his lower back, her hands brushing the holster.

I don\ believe in accidents.

She hadn\ even thought it through before her hands were on the gun.

And then she was pointing it at her father.

He went white. At least she had that satisfaction. ’’Becca this is crazy. You have no idea what you\ e doing.’’

A woman screamed, somewhere nearby. A guy was yelling for someone to call 911.

Holy crap. She was pointing a gun at her father.

A father who\d tried to kill her. More than once.

’’Becca,’’ whispered Hunter. He took a long, slow breath. ’’Give me the gun.’’

’’Talk!’’ she cried. ’’Where are they? Did you kill them? Did you ’’

’’I didn\ kill them,’’ her father said. ’’Becca, if you know I\m the Guide, then you know there are things we can get away with. Shooting someone in public is not one of them.’’

’’Do you hate me?’’ she said. Her voice cracked at the end.

’’What?’’ He shook his head. ’’Becca no ’’

’’Do you?’’ she cried. ’’You left me. You left me. And now you\ e back, and you\ve tried to kill me twice ’’

’’I have not tried to kill you. I\m trying to keep the Merrick brothers away from you. When I left, I did it to protect you. Do you understand me? I\m trying to protect you.’’

’’Bullshit.’’ She wished she knew how to c**k the gun, just for effect. But she was worried she\d shoot him by accident.

She heard sirens.

Holy. Crap.

Her breath was shaking. ’’Talk fast.’’

’’No one knew about you,’’ he said. ’’Your mother isn\ one of us, and I wanted to keep you out of it. I wasn\ even sure you\d come into your abilities. But when you were eleven, a girl died, and the Merrick brothers were involved. A Guide was called.’’ He was looking at her significantly. ’’Me, Becca. They wanted me to take care of it.’’

The gun was heavy. She felt her arms starting to waver. ’’I still don\ understand.’’

’’We lived in the same town! You went to school with one of them. When I went to the house well, their mother was very convincing.’’ His tone was grim. ’’She knew about you, Becca. For the first time, someone had leverage against me.’’

’’Skip to the part where you left,’’ she snapped.

’’Damn it, Becca! That\s why I left. She swore to leave you alone if I did and she kept that promise. I couldn\ take the chance of someone else finding out. I didn\ want this for you. The pain of having to destroy others, the regret ’’ His eyes flicked up, to Hunter, hardening for an instant. ’’I didn\ want you to be another teenager trained to kill. But then I got called for the family again only to find out their parents had died in a fire. Now another Guide has been killed apparently they\ e terrorizing the other families in town ’’

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