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“Holy shit,” Kevin said, finally noticing the crazy amount of smoke tunneling through the cracks. “We’re actually on fire. Did I do that?”

“Yes, Urkel, you really did that!” Kylie’s mom tugged Kylie toward the door, but before they could get there, the ceiling suddenly collapsed, crashing down on top of them. Some of it was on fire, but thankfully not the pieces that hit Kylie. It took her a minute to dig out but she finally sat up, coughing, looking around for her mom. “Mom!”

“Here.” Her mom appeared as she sat up, covered in dust. In front of them, flames were flickering now, gaining strength.

Kylie dragged herself to her feet and then pulled her mom up too. “Where’s Kevin?”

“I don’t know!”

“Kevin!” Kylie yelled as her mom yanked her toward their exit. Together they stumbled and staggered up the stairs and off the boat, onto the dock, whipping back around to look for any sign of him. “Kevin!” Kylie yelled again and again, chest tight, panic gripping her. “Did he get above deck?” she asked her mom.

“I don’t know, baby.”

Suddenly the night lit up with a symphony of sounds and lights. First responders arriving en mass, appearing through the hazy smoke like avengers. Kylie felt herself sway a little bit and she sank to the dock as she stared at the craziness in fascination.

An outline of a man broke from the pack, running down the docks. “Found her,” Joe said into his comms, heading right for her, his team materializing behind him. “Kylie,” he said, voice rough, dropping to his knees in front of her.

Aw, look at that. He was worried about her, his eyes reflecting that and a lot more. In spite of himself, he cared about her. She knew that much. It wasn’t entirely his fault that he was so emotionally challenged, she thought, putting a hand on his jaw. “You’re so pretty, Joe. It’s really a shame that you’re such a dumbass.”

Lucas choked out a laugh, but at Joe’s glare, quickly turned to Kylie’s mom. “You okay, ma’am?”

“I will be if you never ‘ma’am’ me again,” her mom said, looking singed around the edges but thankfully unhurt.

Joe turned Kylie’s face to his, running his finger over a bump on her forehead that made her wince and slap his hand away. “Kevin’s still on the boat,” she said and gripped the front of his shirt in her fist. “We’ve got to save him.”

Joe pointed to a figure of a man sitting on the other end of the dock with an oxygen mask over his face.


She sagged in relief, sort of falling into Joe. He still knelt in front of her, looking her over, face grim, jaw tight—whether in reaction to her “dumbass” comment, or just the fact that she was here where she shouldn’t have been, she didn’t know.

“I didn’t mean to be here,” she said. “I—”

He put a finger over her lips. “We’ll circle back to that later, when your hair’s not still smoking.”

“I texted you.”

“Yes, and it said ‘Siri, text Joe.’”

“What?” She shook her head. “No, she was supposed to tell you where I was. That bitch. I also called. Did she tell you that?”

“I got the call. We were connected the whole time, which is how I got here in time to see you save yourself. Proud of you, Kylie.”

She tried to meet his gaze at that, but suddenly the ground was shaking so violently she was having trouble speaking. “Wh-wh-what’s happening?”

“Shh,” Joe said, pulling her in close. “You’re in shock.”

“Am not—Hey,” she said as Joe ran his hands over her, looking for injuries. “I’m okay.” But then she ruined that statement by nearly coughing up a lung. “Really. Totally fine,” she finally managed with a very hoarse voice.

This didn’t appear to ease his tension one little bit as he continued to hold on to her. “You’re bleeding.”

“What? No, I’m not. I’m—” She looked down and saw a long rip in her jeans from hip to knee, revealing a huge gash in her leg with lots of blood and gore. “Huh,” she said, her heartbeat pounding like a drum in her ears as her vision started to fade. “Look at that . . . I am bleeding.” Her vision went all cobwebby.

“Kylie.” Joe sounded more intense than she’d ever heard him and that was saying something. “Kylie, stay with me.”

Ha. If only he really meant that.

Chapter 32


Joe’s heart was still on overdrive from the crazy race to the marina while listening to Kylie handle the situation via her cell phone. The connection had been spotty so he’d missed a bunch of what was said, but the gunshot had come through loud and clear and he’d gone into heart failure until he’d heard her voice again. “Kylie, the paramedics are going to take a look at you now.”

She weaved and clutched at him. “I’m sorry you’re upset.”

“Let’s worry about you.”

“Five-by-five rule,” she said, cupping his jaw with both hands to stare into his eyes. “If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t let it upset you.”

He shook his head and hugged her close, pressing his face into her hair, trying not to embarrass himself, but he was going to need a moment. “You’re going to matter in five years, Kylie.”

She didn’t respond to that. Instead she pulled back to look earnestly into his eyes. “You get why I went without you, right? I didn’t mean to, but I had to go with my mom. I couldn’t let her go after Kevin by herself.”

“And you were amazing, baby,” her mom said, dropping to her knees on Kylie’s other side now. “But let’s allow the hot guys do their job and take care of you, okay?”

“I can take care of myself.” Kylie looked around with a frown. “Why is the ground still shaking?”

“Still you,” Joe said gently. He took an emergency blanket from Lucas and wrapped it around her shoulders. He was worried about the gash along her thigh, as it was bone-deep. There was another cut at her temple and along one cheek. Her pupils were dilated. And she was breathing like she’d just run a few miles. None of it added up to anything good. “You did great, Kylie. You took care of your mom. Now you’re going to let us take care of you.”

She closed her eyes. “But I’m fine.”

“And don’t I know it. But I’ve got you now. I love you, and I’ve got you.”

No answer.

He stroked the hair from her face. “Kylie.”

Nothing. She’d gone limp in his arms and for the second time in an hour, his heart about stopped. The next few minutes were a blur of action as he handed her over to the paramedics, not leaving her side until they’d loaded her up in the ambulance.

Her mom climbed in beside her, and then the double doors shut in his face and they were gone.

“Hospital,” he said to Lucas and headed straight for his truck.

Lucas beat him to it—quite the feat. “I’m driving,” he said.

Since Joe didn’t want to waste time fighting, he took shotgun and then proceeded to backseat-drive Lucas all the way there. “Turn here, it’s faster. Take the next left. Run the yellow.”


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