“COLLIN! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, GET DOWN THE LADDER!” I hear D.J. yell from down below.
“Get your sorry ass up right now!” I shout down at Jordan as he continues to try and struggle away from me.
The sound of a small explosion downstairs rattles the entire house, sending me backwards. I let go of Jordan as my ass slams into the windowsill and I have to throw my arms out to either side of the window to prevent myself from tumbling backwards out to the ground below.
Smoke curls around me as the flames from down below make it upstairs, climbing along the hallway and bursting into the doorway. Jordan turns and stares at the fire, frozen in shock as it inches it’s way across the floor towards him.
“I just wanted you to burn,” Jordan mutters to himself, staring wide-eyed at the fire that’s dangerously close to his legs.
I could tell as soon as I saw him out in the hallway when he first confronted me that something wasn’t right with him. His eyes were unfocused and he had all the telltale signs of someone under the influence of something bad. He’s not making any sense right now and, as much as I want to continue shouting at him to get the f**k out of the house, something tells me he’s so far gone that he doesn’t even care anymore.
I soften my tone just like I would with any other victim I encounter out on a call to do what I can to ease their fears. “Hey, it’s alright. I don’t care about any of that. Let’s just get out of here, okay?”
Jordan shakes his head back and forth as he continues to stare at the flames. “I wanted your heart to blister with the pain of losing her, just like mine did. I know I never deserved her, I know I f**ked everything up, but she was mine. You shouldn’t get to make her happy if I couldn’t.”
The inflection in his voice has a singsong quality to it like he’s reading from a children’s book and that’s when I know he has officially lost his f**king mind.
I want nothing more than to just turn and race down the ladder right behind me and let him burn down with the house, but my conscience won’t let that happen. Everyone deserves to be saved. I push away from the window to try to grab him one more time when he speaks again.
“I never meant to kill her. I never meant for any of this to happen. I deserve this. I deserve to feel the heat and the fire and let it burn every inch of me for what I’ve done,” he mutters.
The fight leaves my body along with my good intentions. The heart that used to beat with the love and hope for the future that was finally within my grasp has been tossed into the fire right in front of me, scalding and melting with the burn of my pain.
“I wanted your heart to blister with the pain of losing her.”
He won. He got what he wanted.
My body slumps backwards until my ass hits the windowsill again.
He killed her. He killed her. He killed her.
Up until this moment, I still had hope that she would be okay. I still believed she could be saved. I knew D.J. would do everything within his power to bring her back to me. My only goal was to get Jordan safely out of this house so that I could make my way to her.
This weak bastard sitting on the floor a few feet from me with the fire just inches away from his feet, he killed the only thing in my life worth living for. He couldn’t handle the idea of her being happy without him, so he masterminded the ultimate revenge. He took her from this world, from this life, from me. I’ll never again see her smile, hear her laugh or feel her lips against mine. I’ll never get to tell her how much I love her, how much I’ve loved her every single day since I was fifteen years old. All those dreams, all those plans we made for the future while I held her body against mine and felt hear heartbeat under the palm of my hand… ruined, all of it ruined. She’s gone and nothing will ever be the same again.
Everything inside of me that I’ve known to be true, every instinct that told me no matter what he did, I needed to save him, it all disintegrates and I can’t find it in me to care. I want him to die. He deserves to die. He took the only woman I’ve ever loved from me before I even had a chance to tell her.
I’ve made the decision to get onto the ladder behind me, climb down to safety and leave a man behind to burn. The ethics instilled in me, the ones I’ve imparted on every single man who has ever come through my firehouse, fade into nothing in the blink of an eye.
I turn my body to the side so I can swing one leg out of the open window until I’m straddling the sill. I look at the back of Jordan’s head one last time, knowing as soon as I get on that ladder and leave him in here that I’ll never be a fireman again. By turning my back on him, ignoring every single vow I’ve ever made, I’m saying good-bye to the only dream I ever had until I found my way back to Finnley. It’s only fitting that I lose them both in one day.
Jordan’s head suddenly whips around when he sees me exiting the window. I can tell by the wild look of fear in his eyes that he suddenly realized what was about to happen to him. He was going to be left behind; left to burn alive.
Jordan lunges for me.
The entire foundation of the house begins to shake and I hear people screaming down below. I move to get on the ladder and, all of a sudden, a hand grabs onto me and pulls. The house beings to fall and I follow right behind.
Down, until there is nothing more.
Chapter 22—Up in Flames
IT BURNS, OH, God everything burns.
I want to scream in pain but my voice is trapped, stuck inside a throat that feels like it’s been ripped to shreds and then lit on fire. Every breath I take hurts so badly that I just want to stop breathing altogether to make the pain go away. I want to open my eyes and see what the hell is going on, but every time I try to blink them open, the sting of tears blurs my vision and I quickly snap them closed.