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“Lacey! Hold still, damn it!”

She felt him trip. They fell and he landed on her, forcing the breath from her lungs. She struggled to twist away. He had to get out!

“Don’t make me knock you out! Stop fighting me!”

His hands lifted her again, this time tossing her over his shoulder like a kid with a backpack. The jacket opened at her face and she breathed deep.

Her throat broiled, searing the tissues as she coughed and gagged. Her vision dimmed and she fought for air. There was none. She floated away on the smoke.

What was she doing?

Jack struggled to keep hold of Lacey, stunned that she was fighting him.

He’d seen his shots rip two holes in the bastard’s forehead, and then he’d lost sight of Lacey as a rapid chain reaction of charges ripped across the walls, instantly filling the room with black smoke. DeCosta must have hit the button just before the bullets connected. Dropping to his knees, he’d crawled in her direction, trying to hold his jacket over his nose and mouth. His eyes burned and watered in the potent smoke.

And then he found her. Curled up in a ball, coughing. Not even trying to get out.

She’d given up.

She’d fought him, kicking and swinging her tied hands. Her eyes clenched shut.

He’d sucked in a deep breath and held it, covering her face with the jacket and lifting her into his arms. But she was tied to the floor. He’d yanked at the ropes and panic had swept over him. He remembered Alex’s knife in his boot. With a sob of relief, he’d cut her loose and lifted her again. That’d worked until she’d made him trip by thrashing around.

He wasn’t going to screw this up.

He took a deep breath, held it, and tossed her over his shoulder. Bent over, he headed toward the door. “What…” A low table bumped against his shins, nearly knocking him down again. His mind scrambled.

Fuck! There hadn’t been a table near the door.

He’d lost direction in the smoke and confusion.

Lacey stopped kicking and slumped limp against his back. Lord, no!

Jack blindly turned ninety degrees and pushed through the darkness. His head spun from lack of air. He couldn’t hold his breath much longer. He felt his bare arms and face started to blister from the heat. Panic flickered in his oxygen-starved brain.

Where was the fucking door?

Mason and Ray ran through the trees after Pattison. If the commander was headed to the scene, then Mason was too. Generalized chaos was rippling through all the cops. Shouting and confusion reigned in the forest.

They emptied into a clearing. And into hell.

They couldn’t see the cabin. It was an inferno. Red and orange flames erupting with black, choking smoke. The heat singed Mason’s face through the icy air and he stepped back. And he wasn’t that close.

“Dear God,” Ray whispered, gaze locked on the fire.

Mason could only stare.

A loose circle of cops and SWAT was forming around the clearing. Everyone staying safely back, avoiding the smoke and sparks. Searching and hoping to catch a sign of life. Any sign.

Mason squeezed his eyes shut and felt the hot glow through his lids. What utter hell were Harper and Lacey suffering through?

A shout went up off to his right and a blonde woman stumbled out of the forest. Mason’s heart stopped for a double beat.

She’d made it.

He blinked away the smoke. It wasn’t Dr. Campbell. His heart fell into his stomach. Lacey was in the fire.

The woman rushed the burning cabin, and three cops grabbed her. She fought against their holds, screaming, but Mason couldn’t make out the words.

“Shit. That’s Kelly Cates!” Ray shouted over the din.

What the fuck was going on?

More shouts pulled their attention away from the woman. Something was moving in the flames. And it was human.

Mason’s jaw dropped as he watched Harper stumble out of the flames with Lacey over his shoulder. Harper dropped to his knees and fell forward, throwing her to the ground and ripping the burning coat from her face. His hair smoked and one arm of his shirt was on fire.

Every man dashed to the couple. Someone threw a coat over Jack’s arm and choked the flames out. Mason tossed his own jacket on Jack’s head, crushing the flames trying to start in his hair. He caught Jack as he pitched forward. The man’s face was black, his hands blistering. He tried to talk but no sound came out.

Officers dragged the victims a safe distance from the fire. Mason plunged Harper’s burned hands into the snow. Harper’s bloodshot gaze grabbed Mason’s and he tried to speak again.

Mason shook his head. “Don’t try to talk.”

The burned man pushed against Mason, trying to twist to see Lacey.

She lay unmoving on her back in the snow, arms spread out from her sides. Two men administered CPR.

A painful cry came from Harper’s burned throat, and Mason grabbed him as the man awkwardly lunged in her direction. Mason wrapped his arms around Harper’s shoulders and held on. Through Harper’s back, Mason could feel the man’s heart pound. He finally deciphered Harper’s garbled words.

“Is she dead?”

Mason couldn’t answer. The cops were still doing CPR. Don’t let her die. Harper’s shoulders sagged and he leaned heavily on Mason.

The cop at her head gestured for the other to stop his compressions. His fingers were curled under her jaw, feeling for her pulse. His head bent close, watching for the rise and fall of her chest. The pause seemed infinite. Then he grinned and nodded at the other cop. “She’s breathing, pulse is steady.”