Flames flared on the staircase in front of him. A vampire’s worst nightmare—walking into one of the very few
things that could kill him. Then he saw Molly, cowering under her beloved piano as she clutched one of the
thick legs. He must be crazy. He forged ahead anyway, risking his own life to save a small, half-blind human.
The heat was intense and the noise nearly overwhelming. Fire was not a quiet thing, but a living, breathing
serpent that hissed and spat, wrapping its victim within its coils. Michael cringed, shrinking from the heat
reaching out with voraciously hungry tentacles. Now was not the time to keep up any pretense of being human.
He raced to Molly’s side.
“You must come with me,” he said against her ear. “I can save you.”
“My piano!” she wailed, desperate to save the only thing that really meant anything to her. Michael pried her
fingers from it, moving as gently as a human when all he really wanted to do was snatch her up and escape
as fast as he could. He could not risk working at his normal speed while he actually touched her.
“I’ll buy you a piano for every room in my house, if you’ll just turn loose now.” He kept his voice soothing, but
panic gnawed at his intestines. The groans of wood weakening struck his ears, and the encroaching flames now
licked at the walls, nearly searing his flesh. “We must go…now!”
Her clouded eyes focused on him for just a moment. She turned the piano loose to clasp her arms around his neck. He pressed her face against his chest, protecting her with his arms as he leaped backwards through the tall window and out onto the yard below. The glass shattered and they flew through. Flames swirled after them, grabbing at them, but falling short of the mark. Molly coughed, her frail body shaking with spasms as she tried to rid her lungs of the smoke she’d inhaled. In the relative coolness of the night air, she lay against him, her head resting on his chest. They had to get away for his sake and Molly’s because the fire would draw the very kind of attention he wanted to avoid. It would do her no good for anyone to discover she’d been left there on her own. Michael carried her to the Land Rover, buckled her into the passenger seat and darted around the other side. They raced away, heading east to London. The fire had forced the very decision he would have made anyway. Her stillness, other than a periodic coughing fit, alarmed him. She didn’t have the same healing powers he did. Since he heard no wheezing, he assumed she’d suffered no damage to her lungs or airways. All she needed was good, clean air. When she drifted off to sleep, he pulled over and moved her to the backseat where she could lie down. She barely stirred, sleeping the heavy, boneless sleep of puppies and children. Her face and clothing were soot-stained, and Michael was sure they both reeked of fire. He stroked her cheek. Despite the soot, her skin was as smooth and creamy as he’d imagined. He let his fingers linger for a moment. What was he to do with her?
Laura Browning Author
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