My heart panged to think of my childhood once again going up in flames.
Arthur hugged me harder. “Tonight, we take back what was stolen from us. Tonight, we begin our true vengeance.”
I didn’t say a word as men continued to tip any combustible liquid they could find into small trenches kicked into the mud, all leading to a center point where a small beehive of jerry cans, turpentine bottles, and half-empty spirits rested. The reek of chemicals and petrol swirled around us on the intermittent breeze.
Arthur didn’t move or put me down as we watched the commotion before us. It didn’t take long—the men worked efficiently, rigging the entire place to disintegrate.
A biker I didn’t know with greying hair and a large belly came toward Arthur and presented a tequila bottle with a rag already drenched hanging from the mouth. With the pomp of ceremony, the biker lit the dripping rag and held it away as the flames gusted into being.
He made eye contact first with me, then Arthur. “All yours, Kill.”
Arthur shifted me in his arms, somehow balancing me to take the bottle all while protecting me. He held the flaming Molotov cocktail reverently, almost as if he were about to give last rights to something sacred.
The glisten of rainbow oil on the dirt a couple of meters away beckoned for someone to start the catastrophe waiting to happen. The houses poised—as if they knew their existence was at an end.
“Ready to say goodbye?” Arthur murmured.
A twist of emotions filled me. This place had held so much love and family. So many happy memories. But all that happiness had vanished the night Rubix tried to destroy me.
Anger boiled in my stomach. “Fire already ended my world once. Let it burn this one, too.”
Arthur smiled, then … he handed me the bottle. “Burn it, Cleo. Put an end to this place.”
I gasped, accepting the volatile torch uncomfortably. “I don’t think …” Stretching out my arm, I did my best to keep the fiery rag from getting too close. “This is your closure, your triumph.”
With a soft but dangerous look, he said, “It’s both of ours. I want you to be the one to do it.”
I held eye contact for a long moment. This was his retribution—not mine. He needed this to find an ending.
Arthur held me firm. “Do it.”
The fervor in his voice forced me to obey. My blood flowed faster.
With a pathetic swing and an arm that didn’t completely remember how to throw, I tossed the tequila bottle toward the liquid fuse.
I jumped in Arthur’s embrace as the bottle bounced. It didn’t shatter against the soft dirt, but the fire didn’t care.
We held our breath as it rolled the remaining distance, spitting out liquor and flames until it hopped straight from the rag to the path laid before it. It took a second … one second and that was it. Almost as if the universe held its breath with us, waiting to see what would happen.
In a blink, an electrifying yellow and blue whip tore up the center of the compound, devouring the road set before it and branching off seamlessly into each abode.
For a minute, there was no noise. Just the gentle hissing of fire devouring gasoline. It lulled me into a false sense of anticlimactic apprehension.
Then … the first explosion sounded.
It ricocheted around the world like a ring of Saturn.
Both Arthur and I cried out at the pain ringing in our ears. He stumbled backward as the windows of the Clubhouse suddenly detonated outward, raining in an almighty storm of glittering shards.
“Boom!” Grasshopper laughed, clapping his hands as Arthur staggered toward his brothers.
“Perfect night for fireworks, huh, Kill?” Mo winked, his face alight with erupting fire.
Another explosion followed, thumping through the night sky like a battle drum. The pressure of it sent shock waves pulsing around us.
Larger and larger.
Hungrier and hungrier.
Dagger Rose was completely engulfed.
The bigger the flames became, the more entranced I was.
Fire had hurt me. Fire had almost killed me.
But I couldn’t hate or fear it.
That was the thing with flames. It was neither friend nor foe. It had no feelings or agendas. One moment it was a necessity of life: a giver of both heat and safety; then, without warning, it could become the greatest of enemies.
I’d crawled through its painful embrace.
I wore its mark upon my skin.
I was part flame, part human.
And in a way, I understood it. Appreciated its singular purpose with no favorites between wicked and right.
We stood silently, each wrapped up in the symphony of explosions rocking the night around us. And as I watched my old home become consumed by fiery teeth, I felt a purging.
I hoped Arthur felt it, too. I hoped he’d finally begun the journey to moving past the hatred and finding salvation.
My amnesia still toyed with my memories, but I knew enough of my birthright that our enemies should quake in terror at the formidable force Arthur and I would create.
This was just the beginning.
This was the start of our reign.
Holding out my arms, I hung in Arthur’s embrace, giving myself once again to the fire.
Only this time, I didn’t burn.
I could solve any equation.
I could find any sequence or pattern.
But I was completely idiotic when it came to understanding Cleo Price.
She said she wanted me as her friend. Yet when I did my utmost to remain in the parameters of friendship, she demanded more from me. And when I told her I wanted to give her more but she was too young, she no longer wanted to be my friend.