“I smell the smoke but I see no fire.” He has to practically shout to be heard over the alarm. “I called 911 and Tellar. It’s an old house. It could be electrical.”
I all but flinch at exactly what had been said about my old family home. He exits the closet and I follow, ready to get out of here. I know exactly how fast flames appear and consume a home. Liam pauses by the bed and grabs my purse, sliding the strap cross body over my head and I know it’s for the gun. He doesn’t believe this is electrical or a coincidence any more than I do. The picture is pretty clear. Us hunkering down inside had forced someone to act, perhaps trying to kill us where we sleep, or since we see no flames as of yet, drive us out into the open.
Holding onto my hand, he leads the way out into the hallway, and my stomach forms knots as we start down the stairs. I think of Alex’s dagger collection we’re leaving behind. Liam’s piece of his past.
My teeth chatter with the intensity of the screams of the alarms and a stunning realization washes over me. The alarms in my Texas home had not gone off. Not one, and we’d had several.
Tellar’s shout comes a moment before he appears on the bottom level staircase, and we follow him back down. “There’s smoke on the lower right exterior of the house but no flames,” he reports over his shoulder, pausing to face us as we hit the garage, and I shiver at the cold blast of November winter wind gushing in through the open doors as he adds, “The gates to the house are open, too, for the emergency crews, and Derek has security clearing the building next door to be safe.”
“Good. I don’t want this exploding on us and leaping over there.” Liam curses and runs a hand over the dark dusting of stubble on his jaw. “I have to go back for the travel documents.”
Anxiety shoots through me. “What? No. That’s insanity. You can’t go back inside the house. You can’t.” He cups my face. “I’m getting you out of here before I can’t.” He eyes Tellar, his jaw set in steel like his tone. “Do not let her out of your sight.” He lifts me by the arms and pretty much hands me to Tellar.
“No, Liam.” I jerk forward and Tellar shackles my waist. “No. Don’t do this, Liam! Don’t go in the house again!” But he’s already running back toward the door.
“What’s happening? Where’s Liam?”
At the sound of Derek’s voice, I grab for the distraction and kick Tellar. He grunts. “Damn it. Stop it, Amy.”
“He’s in the house, Derek,” I explain, squirming against Tellar, trying to see Derek and make my case to him. “Do you hear me? He’s in the house. You’re not on his payroll. You don’t have to listen to Liam and let him get himself killed.”
“That’s low, Amy,” Tellar snaps and then says to Derek, “Liam’s fine. He went back in to grab some paperwork.”
“He’s not fine,” I insist, twisting in his arms. Finally I manage to free myself enough to face him. “Let me go, Tellar.”
“There are no flames, Amy. He’s fine and I’m not letting you run back into the house.”
“If there are no flames and he’s fine, why is that a problem?” I challenge.
A fire truck roars loudly into the driveway behind us and pain splinters through my head. I lean into Tellar, pressing my face into his shirt and for a moment, I’m back on the roof of my old house, reaching for that tree limb and being blasted off the edge.
Tellar starts dragging me out of the garage, snapping me back to the present. I’d assumed the blast at my house had been from the fire, but...I dig in my heels and yank hard on Tellar’s arm. “I think there was a bomb in my house in Texas. What if there’s one now? Get him out of the house. Get Liam out now!”
“Fuck,” Tellar growls and now I’m shoved at Derek. “Get her away from the house.”
Tellar runs toward the building and that’s when the world spins and all my vows to stay calm evaporate, leaving me with nothing but panic. My mother’s screams play in my head, shredding parts of my mind and soul with every repetition. I can hear Chad yelling for me to jump. He never thought he’d make it. I should have helped him. I should have stayed and now Liam is going to die. Everyone I love dies. And God, what if Tellar dies now, too?
I start pushing and shoving against Derek, fighting to get to Liam and Tellar. I screwed up. I did this all wrong. A sob rips from my throat, and sounds are coming from my throat I don’t recognize as being from me but they are.
Derek curses. “Woman, you’re going to hurt yourself and I can’t let that happen.” He bends at the waist and hikes me over his shoulder. I yelp with the insanity of the moment, and he starts to run.
Blood rushes to my face, tears pouring over my forehead and I suck in so much cold air that I start to cough and choke. Firemen are everywhere. People are everywhere. I can’t breathe or think until finally, Derek slides me to my feet and when I think I’ll yell at him, the minute I see the concern in his eyes, I sob and melt against him. “I can’t lose him. I can’t.”
He holds me to him, hugging me. “You’re not going to lose him. I promise.”
I push back and glare at him. “Like my brother promised he was coming out of the house? Like that, Derek?”
“Because he didn’t come out.” My voice quakes with anger and heartache. “He. Didn’t. Come. Out. None of them came out.”