Burn for Me Page 29

A second text popped under the first. It said, “Whos the guy?”

Rogan focused on the phone. “Pierce.”

I texted back, “Where are you?”

“Outside ur house.”

My heart hammered. Mad Rogan leaped up and took off for the door. My mother moved. I hadn’t seen her go that fast since she left the Army. Grandma Frida dashed to the motor pool, Bern ran to the Hut of Evil, while I chased Mad Rogan. I caught up with him by the door, slipped into my office, and tapped the keyboard. A grey thermal camera image filled the screen, split into four parts, each section of the screen showing the view from a different side of the house: the parking lot and street in front of the motor pool at the back of the warehouse, the trees to the right, the street to the left, and the front door, with Mad Rogan’s Range Rover parked next to my car.

I held my breath. Nothing.

Mad Rogan leaned over me. His chest brushed against my right shoulder.

On the screen the night spread outside the house, a charcoal painting came to life. Nothing moved. No cars passed the house. If my mother put a bullet through Adam Pierce’s heart, we could kiss the agency good-bye. If he came to burn us to death . . . he shouldn’t be able to burn us to death. Hellspawn was a higher-order spell. It would’ve tapped him out the way Mad Rogan was now tapped out. At least I hoped it had.

The intercom on the phone flashed white. I pushed it.

“Three people in the building across the street,” Bern said quietly. The image on the monitor zeroed in on three white human silhouettes on the roof of the warehouse to the north. One of them lay in the familiar sniper pose.

“Those are mine,” Mad Rogan said quietly.

We waited. Trees rustled gently in the night breeze, barely visible on the screen.

My phone buzzed. Another text.

“Ma’am, this is the police. The call is coming from INSIDE YOUR HOUSE.”


“Did I freak you out?”


I pushed the intercom. “Just got another text. I think he’s screwing with us.”

“Sit tight,” Mom said.

I typed “Asshole” on my phone.

“Heh. Tell your new friend I said hi.”

On the screen the Range Rover exploded. Thunder punched the door and wall with a huge, invisible fist. The warehouse shook.

The intercom lit up. “Do you have the kids?” Mother asked.

“Yes,” Bern said. “They’re with me.”

Flames billowed out of the Range Rover’s metal carcass, bright white. Going out there was out of the question. We’d all make lovely targets silhouetted against that fire.

We sat, and waited, and watched the Range Rover burn until the fire department barreled down our street in a blaze of glory, lights, and sirens.

“Take your shirt off.” Now there’s something I never thought I’d say to the Scourge of Mexico.

Mad Rogan pulled his shirt off, and I tried my best not to stare. Muscles rolled under his tan skin. He wasn’t darker than me, but I tanned to a reddish gold, while his skin had a deeper, brown undertone to it. He was perfectly proportioned. His broad shoulders flowed into a muscular, defined chest that slimmed down to the flat planes of his hard stomach. Handsome or athletic didn’t do him justice. Dancers or gymnasts were athletic. He had the kind of body that should’ve belonged to a man from a different time, someone who swung a sword with merciless ferocity to protect his land and ran across the field at a wall of enemy warriors. There was a brutal kind of efficiency about the way muscle corded his frame.

I hadn’t even realized how large he was. Because all those suits streamlined him and his proportions were so well balanced, he looked almost normal-sized. But now, as he sat in my kitchen chair, dwarfing it, there was no way to ignore it. The sheer physical power of him was overwhelming. If he grabbed hold of me, he could crush me. But I didn’t care. I could look at him all night. I wouldn’t go to sleep. I wouldn’t need to rest. I could just sit there and stare at him. And if I looked long enough, I’d throw caution to the wind, reach out, and slide my hand over that powerful muscle. I would feel the strength in his shoulders. I would kiss . . .

And that was about enough of that.

Underneath all of that masculine, harsh beauty was cold, the kind of cold that could stab a helpless man with a knife, feel the tip of it scrape the bone, and do it again and again and not be bothered by it. That cold scared me. Mad Rogan, unlike other people, rarely lied. I didn’t know if it was because he knew I would call him on it or if it was simply his way. When he said he would kill you, he meant it. He didn’t make threats or promises, he stated facts, and when he wanted something, he’d do whatever he had to do to get it.

I opened the med kit and pulled out gauze and medical tape.

The fire department was gone, having drowned the sad remains of the Range Rover in fire-retardant foam. It was almost surreal how quickly their questions had stopped after Rogan had given them his name. My mother insisted on staying in the crow’s nest she and my Grandmother had installed while I’d gone to talk to Bug. The kids had gone to bed. Grandma Frida had too. One of Mad Rogan’s men had come to personally take responsibility for failing to prevent the explosion. When Arabella was about two or three, she didn’t like to be in trouble. She didn’t want anyone to be mad at her, and the suspense of waiting until the exact nature of the punishment was decided always proved too much for her, so when she would do something bad, she would announce, “I’m going to punish myself!” and march off to her room to be grounded. I saw that precise look on the man’s face as he stared at Mad Rogan in quiet desperation. He would totally punish himself if he could.

He was gone now, and the warehouse had fallen quiet.

I crouched to take a better look at Mad Rogan’s so-called bandage. “I’m going to pull it off now.”

“I’ll try not to cry.”

I rolled my eyes, sighed, and yanked the duct tape off. He winced. A shallow gash cut across his ribs on the right side, more of a scrape than a deep cut, but it was three inches long, and it had bled. At least it wasn’t a gaping wound, so we could get away without stitches. I got the saline solution and clean rags.

“Sorry about your car.” I squirted the saline solution into the gash and blotted it.

“We agreed on full disclosure,” he said. “When were you going to tell me that Pierce is obsessed with you?”

“He isn’t obsessed with me.”

“He called you to let you know he was starting his fireworks today. He claims he’s in lust. Then he texted you to make sure you saw him blow up my car. That’s twice he notified you before he did anything he views as impressive.”

I smeared antibiotic ointment on the cut and placed a gauze pad over it. “Adam is a flake. He’s impulsive and he likes people to reassure him he is cool and awesome. I’m a young woman, I’m attractive, and I indicated that I wasn’t impressed by his shenanigans.” I began to tape the cut. “He discussed bringing me home with him to meet his mother just so he could see the look on her face. He got a giggle out of it. It’s not obsession, it’s . . . passing fancy, or whatever people call it.”

“These are things I need to know,” he said. “I can use this. If I’d known this, I would’ve handled today differently.”

“Funny how it’s always ‘I’ with you. It’s never ‘we.’” I taped the other side of the gash.

“What did you do that would make him infatuated? Did you kiss? Did you hold hands?”

His voice had taken on a distant tone, but there was a slight edge of heat to it.

“I gave him a peck on the cheek. It wasn’t sexual. He was trying to get me to run away with him, and I didn’t want to rebuff him so hard that he’d slam the door shut. I still have to bring him in.”

“Then why is he infatuated?”

“I don’t know why,” I said, exasperated. “Probably because I’m chasing him and I said no. He can’t comprehend that I’m chasing him because MII will throw my family out on the street. His House has been on top forever and he can’t even picture someone doing that to them, let alone try to understand what it would be like. He probably thinks that I’m pursuing him because I’m secretly fascinated with the glittering jewel that he is.”

Oops. Said a little too much. I didn’t really want Rogan to know that Montgomery held us by our throat. There was no telling what he would do with that information. I straightened. “Look, right now there are two people in this kitchen. One is an overindulged, filthy-rich Prime, and the other is me. You have more in common with Adam than I do. Why don’t you tell me why he’s doing things?”

Mad Rogan looked at me, his eyes clear and hard. “I’m nothing like him.”

On that we could agree. Rogan was nothing like Pierce. Adam was a teenager in a man’s body. Rogan was a man, calculating, powerful, and stubborn.

Bern walked into the kitchen at a near run and stopped. I realized that I was standing about two inches from a half-naked Mad Rogan, who was looking up at me.

“Should I come back later?” Bern asked.

“No,” I said, stepping away from Mad Rogan. “He was interrogating me while I patched him up, but we’re finished.”

Mad Rogan glanced down at his side. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Bern put a laptop on the table. “I found it.”

On the laptop, a video feed played an image recorded with the regular camera at the front door. The time stamp said 20:26. Twenty-six minutes after eight. It had to be just a few moments after we arrived.

A pair of teenagers came skating down the street on their boards, one in a blue shirt and one in black. They looked like typical Houston kids: dark hair, tan, about fourteen or fifteen. They shot by the Range Rover and kept going. The clip stopped with the kid in a black shirt holding a cell phone to his ear as he rolled off.

Bern clicked the keys. The image rewound in slow motion, and I saw the kid in blue bend ever so slightly as he jumped over the curb and toss a small object under the Range Rover.

“Is that . . . ?”

“It’s a bomb,” Bern confirmed. “He must’ve remotely detonated it.”

“He used children to place a bomb?”

“Yes,” Bern confirmed.

“Children?” My mind couldn’t quite wrap around it.

“And one of them called him to report.” Mad Rogan’s eyes iced over.

I sank into a chair. “What if it had detonated early? Who hands a bomb to kids? And for what? To make a lousy point?”

Mad Rogan tapped his phone. “Diego? He used children. Yes. No. Just let me know.”

He hung up.

Two young boys had skated by our house, holding a bomb. What if one of them had fallen? What if someone had been in the car? What if one of us had gone to the mailbox? Then we would have had more dead bodies. The death count for today would have been more than six. Six was more than enough, especially because three of those six deaths happened because of me.

My chest hurt. I killed people today. I took their lives. They would’ve taken mine, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter right now. My grandmother barely survived. My house had almost been burned to the ground, then two children threw a bomb under a car parked next to it. It all crashed down on me like an avalanche.

“Are you alright?” Mad Rogan focused on me.

“No,” I said.

Bern was looking at me too. “I can make tea,” he said. “Would you like some tea?”

“No, thank you.” I turned to Mad Rogan. He was a Prime, and right now we couldn’t afford to pass up on whatever protection he could offer. “Can you do any magic at all, or are you completely dry?”

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