Home > Consumed (Firefighters #1)(4)

Consumed (Firefighters #1)(4)
Author: J.R. Ward

Damnit double-clapped his happy tackle. “Seriously, I’ll sue. I will sue you, the city, him, this firehouse. There are rules, you know.”

“Oh, right.” Tom reached back and took the city’s human resources manual off his shelf. Cracking it open, he drawled his forefinger down the table of contents and then opened the thing at about the halfway mark. “I better make sure I follow procedure—okay, I’m supposed to give you a warning first.” He looked up at Damnit. “Damian Reichmann, Chuck Parnesi is about to turn you into a soprano. Chuckie, g’head.”

“Take it like a man, Damnit.” Chuckie smiled like Jason on the right Friday of the month. “Besides, it’ll help you hit the high notes in the shower—”

The clanging of the alarm bell going off was an eraser on the board, swiping away the fun and games.

“Back to work,” Tom said as he pivoted and checked his computer screen.

“What we got?” Chuck asked.

“One-alarm that’s now a two down on Harbor and Eighteenth. Looks like the four-nine-nine is already there.”

“One of those warehouses?” Damian said.

“Yeah. They’re only requesting one engine. You boys take the call. Ropes’s still got that bum shoulder from last night—”

Vic Rizzo, a.k.a. Ropes, broke into the office. He had a cell phone up to his ear, and one arm in a sling. “It’s Anne. Your sister’s trapped in there.”

Tom knocked his chair over as he burst up. “Is she alone? Where’s the rest of the crew?”

* * *

Later, Anne would wonder what exactly it was that made her look over her shoulder. It couldn’t have been a sound because her heavy breathing in her mask drowned out even the roar of the fire. And it wasn’t anything visual. She didn’t have eyes in the back of her helmet. But some kind of instinct called her from behind, and she pivoted against her left arm, glancing toward a wall of fire that had spread down the vertical particleboard.

From the midst of the swirling red and yellow flames, a massive figure plowed through the partition, its force so great, things didn’t so much break apart as powder into sparks.

And it had a chain saw.

There was only one person that size who would be insane enough to bring a gas-powered tool with him to rescue her.

As a lit part of the walling fell off Danny Maguire’s enormous shoulder, his head beam hit her square in the face, and she looked away as her retinas squeezed tight.

Thank you, God, she thought as she blinked to clear her vision.

“I’m trapped, Danny! I’m stuck—” When she didn’t hear her own voice over the radio, she realized her unit must have been compromised.

Pulling back against her hand, she pointed to show him what her problem was, and he nodded, that light of his moving up and down. With a powerful pull, he ripped the chain saw to life and came forward, wielding the twenty-six-pound piece of equipment like it was an empty coffee mug. Pumping the gas, a high-pitched whine rose and fell above the din as he assessed the wooden beam that had just fallen and was now part of the tangle. Moving herself to the side, she shoved something relatively light off her—a laptop, or what was left of one.

The blade and its chain came within inches of her facial mask, but she didn’t wince. As reckless as the man could be in real life, he was a surgeon with anything that cut wood or building materials—

Without warning, a ten-foot-by-ten-foot section of the ceiling fell on them, and she dropped her head, bracing against impact. When she wasn’t crushed, her first thought was that Danny was holding that whole part of the building up—but no. That beam he’d been about to cut had caught the load and was keeping it at bay.

But if he cut the length now, they would get buried.

The chain saw’s engine went silent, and as he put it down at his feet, she could tell he was cursing inside his mask, his eyes in a nasty squint as he scanned the collapse. Then, with an arch to rival a bridge span, he grabbed ahold of her jammed forearm. When she nodded and sank into her legs, she watched the brim of his helmet dip three times.

One . . . two . . . three.

They both pulled and the pain that shot up her arm and into her shoulder had her grinding her molars to keep from screaming. When she couldn’t handle it for a second longer, she shook her head and bumped her body against his.

Danny released her. Looked around again. Behind his mask, his mouth was moving; he was talking into his radio—and she could guess what he was saying.

Anne gave a couple more half-hearted pulls. Then, with a curse, she pointed at the wall he’d come through. “Go!” she yelled inside her mask. “Leave me!”

Danny leaned over and grabbed her arm again, that cranking grip of his locking on her so tightly her bones compressed. As he pulled with his incredible power, her teeth clenched, and her breath shot out of her ribs—and she took as much of it as she could.

“Stop! Stop!” She sagged as he relented. “Stop . . .”

Anne shook her head and motioned toward where he had entered. “Go! I’m done!” Moaning in her throat, she pushed at his huge body. “Go.”

When that got her nowhere, she released her mask and shoved it aside. Hot, deadly air, the kind that toasted your esophagus and BBQ’d your lungs, closed her throat.

“Go!”

Behind his mask, Danny was furious and his gloved hands went to try to force her oxygen supply back into place.

“No! Get out of—”

Creaking over their heads made them both duck on reflex. As sparks rained down through the smoke, Anne weaved on her feet. “You’re going to die in here! Go!”

Danny put his face in hers. He was ripshit and letting her know it behind his mask, and for a split second, she watched him from a great distance even though their faces were six inches apart.

I’m going to miss you, she thought. Of all of the people I work with, and everyone I know . . . I’m going to miss you the most.

Danny yanked his own breathing mask away. “Put your goddamn oxygen back on!”

“You’re going to die!” she screamed.

“I’m getting you out of here!”

“It’s too late for me! Go!”

As if the fire were excited by their yelling, a hot flare burst out next to them, roasting the skin on one side of her face. Danny cursed and forced her mask back on, and she was still hollering at him as he re-established his own air and then bent all the way over to the floor. Picking up the chain saw, he backed away a couple of feet and went on a discus spin, releasing the Craftsman at the top of the arc, the tool flipping end over end into the wall of fire. Then he covered her with his body, forming a shield.

The explosion was loud and immediate, the gasoline in that tank heating up until it created sufficient pressure to blow the Craftsman apart, the bomb detonating with a brutally hot kiss.

Anne ripped her mask off again. He was barking into his radio, but the time had come and gone for plans, and rescues, and her salvation.

“You need to go,” she ordered him. “Now.”

Danny stopped talking, his face going still behind his clear shield. And then he removed his oxygen supply. “We die together, then.”

He was every bit as resolved as she was, an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Exactly as it always had been between them. God, why did she think death would change anything? And the man wasn’t going to leave her. Between his brother dying on the job three years ago and then him losing Sol twelve months ago, all of his nope-I-don’t-have-PTSD was going to make it impossible for him to go through that kind of mourning again.

Anne looked down at her arm. It was her left one. Not the hand she wrote with. And she was never getting married, so it wasn’t like she needed to worry about a ring finger.

Clean cut, she thought.

“Cut it off,” she said over the crackle and spit of the fire. To help him understand, she pointed to her forearm. “Tourney and cut!”

Danny’s blue eyes flared, and he shook his head as he looked around again, assessing all of their no-go options.

Anne released the straps on her tank under her pits and let the weight drop off her. Then she bit her right glove off and spit it out. The fastenings down her fire-resistant jacket released one by one, and she kicked the heavy folds off so that that one sleeve pooled the entire weight at her trapped wrist.

   
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