I gazed at him in alarm. All he wore was his thin robe. “What about you?”
Ignoring my question, he scooped me up and flung me over his shoulder. I felt useless, unable to move because of how tightly he was holding me. I couldn’t see where he was going either with a blanket flapping in front of my face. But I sensed him hurry out of the room and back into the corridor. He moved along until he reached the window. The smoke had become so thick, I could barely see a foot in front of me.
Glass shattered, and then came a sharp spike in temperature. I held my breath and shut my eyes tight.
“Cover your head!” Caleb hissed.
“Wait,” I gasped. “What about you—”
It was too late. I only just managed to pull up the excess cover over my face and head before he leapt onto the window ledge and then took a dive off the building.
A wave of heat permeated my skin even through the thick blanket. I was terrified to think of the damage Caleb had just endured, and my chest ached for him as he let out a groan. We lurched into a freefall, Caleb’s hold tightening around me, so tight that it felt like my ribcage would snap. My gut turned in somersaults until Caleb’s feet hit solid ground with another painful jolt to my stomach.
He immediately lowered me to the ground and gripped my sides, freeing me from the flaming blanket. I staggered to my feet, away from the blanket, and gazed at Caleb in horror. Every part of his skin that was visible was raw and blistered, and his robe was flaming. I lunged for him and ripped away the burning robe, even as I tried to be careful not to touch his skin and cause him any more pain.
He now stood badly burned and completely naked in the woods. I was still in a state of shock, part of me unsure if I was just trapped in some kind of vivid nightmare. Caleb winced as he looked over the burns marring his skin.
My eyes lifted back up toward the treetops, toward my parents’ penthouse—but I couldn’t even make out the building. The blaze surrounding it was too thick. Chunks of burning debris showered down from the treetops to the forest ground.
“Where are my parents?” I asked, my voice rising to a hysterical pitch. “What if they’re still up there?”
“We need a witch.” Caleb picked up his singed night robe and rolled it on the ground, putting out the last of the fire. He pulled it back on before reaching for my shaking hand. “To the Sanctuary.” He hurtled toward the woods, dragging me along behind him. My knees were weak and shaking, but with adrenaline urging me forward, I ran like I’d never run before.
As we whipped through the trees, I began to yell for help. I hoped that a witch would hear us before we got to Corrine’s home.
I practically cried with relief when the familiar silhouettes of my father and mother came into view along the forest path. My grandfather was walking alongside them. They must have stayed out late due to the meeting and hadn’t yet returned to the apartment. Thank God.
Their faces lit up with alarm as Caleb and I reached them. They gaped at our disheveled, burnt appearance.
“Fire!” I panted. “There’s a giant fire eating up your apartment!”
Caleb’s hold on my hand loosened. “You stay and explain,” he said as he began sprinting away. “I need to get a witch.”
I looked desperately from my mother to my father. “I’ve no idea what happened, but Caleb and I decided to spend the night in my old room and when we woke up, the place was burning. We need to hurry before it spreads to the other trees!”
My father’s face drained of all color as my mother’s breath hitched. My grandfather grabbed my hand. “We should start evacuating the surrounding treehouses,” he said.
As the four of us raced back toward the Residences, I ground my teeth the whole way, praying that Caleb would be swift. Thankfully, he was. By the time we arrived at the Residences he was already there with Corrine. He’d reached the Sanctuary and then traveled back here by magic in the time it took us to arrive.
Water shot from the witch’s palms in torrents as she hovered in the air, aiming at the blaze. Although her efforts extinguished some of the fire, it was so monstrous, even her water wasn’t enough.
She looked down at us on the ground. “I need to get help,” she bellowed.
With that, she vanished, leaving us staring up at the wreck that had been my parents’ beautiful penthouse.
Corrine seemed to have tamed the blaze enough for it to not be an immediate danger to nearby trees, but Aiden hurried toward the neighboring treehouses to evacuate them all the same.
As I gazed up at the crumbling apartment, my eyes—still stinging—glazed over. I was sure that there wouldn’t be a single thing salvageable from this wreckage. Everything my parents owned, all the furniture, all our books, all the important papers in my father’s study, would be gone. Thankfully, Eli always kept backups of the most important papers relating to running the island in a safe in his own treehouse.
Corrine returned with Ibrahim, Shayla, and four other witches. Together, they doused the fire with torrents of water. By the time the flames were finally extinguished, it felt like an age had passed. A lone tear rolled down my cheek as I gazed up at what was left of the penthouse—of my childhood home. Practically nothing had survived. It had disintegrated into ashes, and even the tree trunk beneath the building had been scorched to a crisp.
My gaze traveled to my mother, who was looking too shaken for words. My father’s face was stoic as he stepped forward, staring up at the wreckage.
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