Storm Page 51
The sirens were getting closer. She was so mad she almost couldn\ see straight. ’’The Merricks are terrorizing the other families? Didn\ you ever think to check your facts? You\ve been gone for years. You shouldn\ be here now. You\ e helping nothing.’’ Her voice broke again, and she started to lower the gun. ’’You\ e hurting everyone, just like before.’’
’’Becca.’’ His voice softened. ’’Becca, please.’’
She started to waver. She had no idea what was true anymore.
She tightened her grip on the gun. It suddenly felt like it was falling, slipping out of her hands.
No, that was her. Falling because of the earthquake.
’’Holy shit! It worked!’’ Chris had his hands pressed to the concrete. The floor had started to move.
’’It worked!’’ he said again, bracing his hands against the floor. He recognized his brother\s power. He knew it. He knew it.
’’Yeah,’’ Nick said, and it sounded like he was speaking through clenched teeth. ’’This feels great.’’
The floor shook harder. Nick swore, and his voice vibrated with the rocking of the earth. ’’I\m g-going to k-kill Michael.’’
Steel started to whine and creak from pressure, and Chris heard bolts pop somewhere across the room. Metal sheeting ripped from a wall or the ceiling and rattled onto the concrete floor, a deafening sound.
Chris had a moment of panic. Were they underground? Was this a basement?
’’Air!’’ cried Nick. ’’New air. Check the door.’’
Chris scrambled across the floor, terrified that any moment a sheet of metal was going to come crashing down on his head, and he\d be as incapacitated as Nick. The trembling floor kept throwing him off, and it took him too long to find it.
But when he did, it was open. He had to fight with the hinges to convince it to let him through, but suddenly he was outside the freezer, in a small corridor. They were in a basement. A flight of stairs sat just to his left.
Stairs. How was he going to get Nick out of here?
’’Go,’’ Nick yelled. ’’He has to be close. Don\ try to drag me. I can\ ’’
Crash. More metal sheeting.
’’Nick!’’ Chris yelled. ’’Nick, are you all ’’
’’Go, Chris. I\m fine.’’ His voice sounded weak. ’’Just hurry.’’
Hunter had her hand and they were running.
Or he was running. Becca kept falling. Cars were veering all over the place on the main road, and they narrowly missed getting creamed in the parking lot. She lost track of her father entirely.
Casper, however, was easy to keep track of, loping beside them despite the shaking earth.
Hunter must have reclaimed his gun. She had no idea what had happened to it.
’’Where are we going?’’ she said, clutching his arm to keep her feet.
’’Michael\s making the earthquake,’’ he said.
Hunter glanced at her. ’’That means something\s happened.’’
Michael and Gabriel weren\ where they\d left them, but it wasn\ hard to follow the power radiating from the ground.
The epicenter was five stores down from the McDonald\s, behind an abandoned restaurant. The exterior walls were old wood, practically crumbling from the effort of keeping the place upright during the earthquake. Michael stood in the middle of the cracked parking lot, his hands on the pavement, pouring power into the ground.
’’What happened?’’ she yelled. ’’Michael, what are you doing?’’
’’I felt Chris,’’ he said, and she could hear his panic even over the cacophony caused by the earthquake. ’’They\ e here. They\ e close. I just don\ know ’’
She caught his arm and it took more effort than it should have. ’’Michael. Stop.’’
He lifted his hands from the ground. The earth rumbled to a stop.
They heard nothing for a long moment.
Then pounding from inside the restaurant. Gabriel made it to the locked doors first, fighting with the rusted handle.
Then Michael, his hands beside his brother\s, rammed the door with his shoulder. Becca felt him pouring strength into it, but those old doors were built to last.
So she added her strength.
Hunter added his.
And together, they pushed it through.
This time, Chris and Nick ended up in the Emergency Room. Becca didn\ get to go with them. Too many people too complicated. They were already trying to come up with a good story, something about getting drunk on a dare, and sneaking into the restaurant and well, she couldn\ keep up with it all.
Hunter drove her home.
’’Are you worried about your dad?’’ he asked quietly when he parked in front of her house.
She was. But she didn\ want to talk about him. ’’I\m more worried the cops are going to come after me.’’
’’For the gun thing?’’ Hunter shook his head. ’’With the earthquake mess, I\ll bet no one remembers it happened.’’
She stared at the front door of her house. ’’I will,’’ she said. ’’I could have shot my father.’’
’’No, you couldn\ ,’’ said Hunter.
He was probably right, but she turned to look at him anyway. ’’You didn\ think I could do it?’’
He smiled, a little sadly, a little knowingly. ’’Becca, I\ve never doubted your resolve.’’ Then he leaned in, his voice a bit wry. ’’But your finger was never on the trigger.’’
He walked her to her door, but that was it. She slid her key into the lock, and he turned to go.
He stopped, but he wasn\ looking at her. ’’Yeah?’’
She didn\ think she could ever trust him again but she had to know. ’’You and me,’’ she said. ’’How much was real?’’
He turned. ’’Time will tell.’’
Then he was in his jeep, and then he was gone.
Chris sprawled in the desk chair in Nick\s room. The moon hung low outside the window, a cloudless night. No chance of rain on the horizon. Eighteen stitches formed a crooked line along Chris\s forearm, and he wondered if he could keep the cut out of water long enough for a scar to form.
Nick was flat on his back in bed, fighting to stay awake through the painkillers they\d given him at the hospital.
Gabriel was helping the effort by sitting on the end of the bed and heckling them both.
’’So, Chris,’’ he said, ’’you couldn\ make a smaller cut?’’
Nick\s eyes were closed, but he smiled. ’’Chris asked me to bite him first.’’
Gabriel gave him a disgusted look. ’’You are one sick bastard.’’
’’I was desperate.’’ Chris smiled, too, but then he dropped it. ’’Desperate people do crazy things.’’
They fell silent for a long moment. Chris wondered if Nick had fallen asleep.
Chris wouldn\ be far behind. His eyelids felt heavy, but Gabriel would never let him live it down if he went to bed before ten.
Gabriel spoke into the silence, his voice weighted and quick, as if the words had to rush past his lips. ’’I\m sorry I couldn\ save you.’’
’’You idiot,’’ said Nick, his voice amused. ’’You did save us.’’
’’No,’’ said Gabriel. ’’Before. And I provoked them into calling the Guides ’’
’’This wasn\ your fault,’’ said Nick. His eyes opened to look at his twin. ’’Not even a little.’’
’’I\m glad you provoked them,’’ said Chris, feeling heat in his voice. ’’I\d do it again.’’
’’Hey.’’ Michael appeared in the doorway and leaned in. ’’This started way before that mess with the truck and the fertilizer, okay? None of you started it. None of you. If anyone did, it was Mom and Dad, when they made the deal in the first place.’’
The sudden silence smacked Chris in the face. He just stared at Michael standing there in the doorway. So did his brothers.
It must have taken Michael by surprise, too. He looked slightly abashed. His hands dropped from the molding and he drew back. ’’Not too late, okay? You all need to get some sleep.’’
Gabriel inhaled quickly, and Chris braced himself for words with an edge, some comment that would ramp up the tension in the house again.
But Gabriel just nodded. ’’All right.’’
Then Michael glanced at each of them, and without another word, started to move down the hallway. Chris met Gabriel\s eyes across the room and held them.
’’Hey,’’ called Chris. ’’Michael.’’
Michael came back to the doorway, his expression wary, as if he thought their acquiescence a moment ago had been too good to be true. ’’Yeah?’’
Chris straightened in the chair, surprised to find himself uncertain now. ’’We\ e just talking about stuff. Want to come in?’’
’’Yeah, come in,’’ agreed Gabriel. He looked up at their oldest brother, not an ounce of mockery or derision in his expression now. ’’Join us.’’
By Sunday, Becca still hadn\ heard from her father.
But late in the afternoon, Chris came to see her.
Remembering the last time he\d come for a visit, she peered around him at her driveway, finding nothing but weakening sunlight sliding across the pavement. The SUV sat there, but it looked empty.
’’No brothers?’’ she said.
He smiled, but it was cautious. ’’No brothers.’’
’’Want to sit on the porch?’’ she said. ’’My mom\s sleeping, so ... if you want to talk ...’’
So they sat on the porch swing, barely rocking at all.
’’How\s Nick?’’ she asked. ’’I bet he\s bummed about the cast.’’
Chris shrugged as if pleased she\d introduced a safe topic. ’’Actually, no cast. He just has to wear one of those Velcro things. Even that, probably only a week.’’
’’I thought you said he had a compound fracture!’’
He grinned. ’’Yeah, well, air is everywhere, Becca. He\ll heal pretty quick now that we\ e out of that room.’’ Then he lost the smile. ’’How are you?’’
Her turn to shrug. ’’I haven\ heard from my father, if that\s what you\ e asking.’’
’’It\s not.’’ He leaned close, his voice low, intense. ’’You, Becca. How are you?’’
She shifted on the bench and looked out at the yard. ’’Confused.’’
’’Yeah?’’ Chris reached out a hand and brushed a piece of hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
His touch was gentle but electric, and it made her breath catch. But that was all he did before settling against the backrest. Maybe it was a casual thing. She shouldn\ read meaning into it, the way she had with Hunter.
’’I don\ know why my father would keep this from me,’’ she said.
’’From what Hunter told me, he had his reasons.’’
She sat up straight. ’’You talked to Hunter?’’
’’Did anyone throw a punch?’’
He raised an eyebrow. ’’Not the way you mean. But Gabriel asked him about that self-defense stuff.’’
’’So you\ e all friends now?’’
’’Not by a long shot.’’ He shook his head. ’’Michael says Hunter\s lonely. I actually think he feels bad for the kid.’’
’’You know Hunter held a gun to his head. He came here to kill him.’’
Chris shrugged. ’’Guys bond over weird stuff, I guess.’’ He leaned in again and sighed. ’’Jesus, Becca, it\s impossible to get you to talk about yourself. I didn\ even mean the Elemental stuff. Are you okay?’’
She stared across into his blue eyes, just now wide with emotion.
And then she realized he was talking about what had happened at Homecoming.
’’Yeah,’’ she said, and she hated that her voice was rough. ’’I wasn\ going to say anything. It was you stopped them.’’ Her shoulders felt tight, braced against the wood of the swing. ’’I didn\ think it would do any good. I figured everyone would be talking about me again, and I just I didn\ want to go through that.’’ She gave a little laugh, and was surprised when a tear rolled off her cheek to land on her finger.