Page 5


Shit, it was hot. She could feel her skin prickle in warning—or maybe that was her shirt melting into her arms. But she had other problems.

Danny released his mask and put his face in hers. “Listen, James Franco, this isn’t fifty-seven hours!”

“The movie was 127 Hours!”

“Are you seriously arguing about that right now!”

“Tourney me and do it!”

“That’s it. I’m demanding backup—”

“Do you want to kill all of us? Either leave me or do it!”

She would have taken care of the problem herself, but the angle of the blade needed to be right . . . and oh, God, was she out of her mind? What was she saying?

“Cut my hand off or leave me!”

Chapter 4

Danny was rank furious as he tried to get Anne’s jacket back on her. Was she out of her fucking mind—

A resounding groan escalated into a roar, and more of the floor above collapsed around them, coming down the slope created by that panel held up by the beam tangle. Arching over Anne, he protected her, bricks and pieces of particleboard punching at his shoulders and crashing on his helmet.

When things stopped hitting him, he discovered an unexpected bene. Smoke was escaping fast in a new direction, the rush-hour-worthy evac suggesting a way out might have opened that hadn’t been there before. The flames were so thick, he couldn’t be sure.

“Cut it off!” she yelled at him.

“Will you shut up with that!”

He kicked shit out of his way and attempted to get her mask back in place again, but she fought him—even as consciousness began to go in and out for her, her eyes rolling back, her weight weaving. And still that goddamn hand of hers was squeezed in between a trap of beams and crap that looked like pieces of machinery and a desk.

“Pull with me!” He wrapped himself around the back of her once more and took her forearm in his palms. “On three. One!” Maybe this will work. “Two!” Please, God, let this work. “Three!”

They both strained, her strong body bowing until her boots slipped out from under her and he had to catch her.


As Anne barked his name, he refocused on her—and she put her free hand to the side of his mask.

“Do it, Dan,” she said. “Or you have to go. I’m okay with dying. Honest.”

He stared into her eyes through his facial shield. His breathing was a freight train in his ears. His body was shaking under his PPEs. His mind was racing through solutions, too many of them getting rejected.

Oh, wait, actually all of them getting tossed.

“Fuck,” he said.

“I’m sorry.”

Releasing his mask, he pushed it aside and locked eyes on hers without any barriers. It wasn’t supposed to end like this . . . although even as he thought that, he wondered what the hell their other option was. He and Anne Ashburn were both death-wish idiots, the kind of people who pushed limits, and themselves, until shit got broken.

Danny looked around one last time. Then he shifted his eyes to her arm and wondered, Can I do this?

“It’s the only way,” she said into the smoke and heat. “If you won’t save yourself.”

He didn’t make a decision. He just started moving. Because if he thought for a moment—for one goddamn millisecond—that he was going to hurt her? He was going to vomit the pepperoni-and-onion pizza, side of fries, two Cokes, and a cherry pie he’d had for dinner all over the fuck.

With hands that shook, he pulled off his gloves, unlatched the front of his jacket, and reached in through his bunkers to his woven nylon belt. When he brought the strap out, Anne closed her lids. And shrugged out of her heavy jacket again.

Danny drew the strap around her upper arm, busted the fork in the buckle, and pulled the length tight. She was right with him, reaching across with her good hand and taking the end, cranking it over until her bicep puffed up around the ligature.

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