The beeper went off at the same moment her companion started pulling her panties off, with his teeth.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Gabriel sighed, his forehead coming to rest on her stomach as her panties snapped back into place. “This is the first time I’ve seen you in three months Kiera.”
She was already sliding out from under him. “Duty calls, I’m sorry.” She looked back at Gabe after she cleared the mattress, lying in the nest of furs next to the flaming hearth, his pants down to only just past his hips, his tunic and fur lined coat strewn on the floor at her feet. “You have no idea how sorry.”
“I was your duty once.” Gabriel reminded her, coming to stand before her, but she was already slapping her Kevlar helmet into place over her mussed flame coloured curls. He was so handsome, battle scarred, tormented, and he wanted her so badly he was gagging for it. Just the way she liked her men. But that didn’t matter now, she had a job to do.
“And now he is.” She clipped the beeper to her garter belt and picked up her shield. “We’ll see each other soon.” She assured distractedly, mind already on her charge, blew Gabe a kiss and vanished in a wisp of silver stardust.
The beam missed him by an inch, belching sparks into the air around him. Cuddling the five year old to his chest Jason back-stepped out of the way, and found himself between a rock and a hard place, or rather a brick wall and a raging fire.
The child’s fingers curled into his neck, her head buried in his shoulder. She thought she was about to die, and even Jason had to admit the situation didn’t look good from the outside. What little Helina didn’t know was that he was Jason Briggs. He’d once had a grenade go off less than a foot away from him and he’d walked away without a scratch. He’d fallen through the weakened floor of a different flaming building not a week before and though he had a rather spectacular bruise on his hip from it, he’d been able to walk away.
If anyone could save little Helina from this fire, it was him.
Even if his mind was slipping a little.
Sliding along the wall, carefully testing the boards with his toes before shifting his weight Jason made inch by painstaking inch. Pressing the oxygen mask to Helina’s mouth Jason searched for options, found one, and proceeded forward.
When another ornamental beam swung from the ceiling towards his head, Jason made a mental note to have a word with the decorator as he flung himself and Helina out of the way. “That was close.” Like the grenade had been close.
There was a fine line between being lucky and being good, as his drill sergeant always used to tell him, normally right before telling him that in his case, it was all luck.
A spiders web of cracks appeared in the window glass beside him a second before it exploded out into the street with a crystalline scream.
Around him what remained of the wallpaper that had once decorated the hallway was charred and blistered, like human skin after a bad burn. Dismissing a chill of fear and foreboding that skittered down his spine, Jason pushed forward.
Then he remembered why he hadn’t planned on taking this route in the first place. The hot water heater.
It blew right as he came up level to it, the burst of energy, boiling water and flame knocking him on his ass and ringing his bell like he’d just gone ten rounds with the heavy weight champ.
And that was when he saw her.
Flame haired and pissed off, just all the other times he’d seen her. She was braced between himself and the explosion, a huge dented shield thrown before herself, pushing the flames and debris away from him and little Helina. His eyes slid up and down the woman, sure he was hallucinating from the concussion he knew he’d just received. Or the PTSD the guys were all convinced he suffered from. What other explanation could there be for the 5’6 Valkyrie posed before him, wearing some of the sexiest lavender and black lace lingerie he’d ever seen?
Admittedly, he’d always been more of a panties and one of his shirts kinda guy, but there was something about the lace corset that caught his attention, and the lace topped thigh high panty hose hooked onto the garter belt.
The Kevlar helmet she was wearing, was the best part however. He’d always had a soft spot for badass chicks who could handle themselves.
“Who are you?” He wondered, muttering it under his breath. The death screams of the building giving way around them would have drowned him out anyway.
Recovering his footing Jason took one step on the now soaking hard wood and felt it give way with a sodden crunch.
The wood had taken too much damage from the fire, the water and the stress of so many support pillars and walls giving way to flame and ruin. Like a nightmare he plummeted downwards cradling defenseless little Helina in his arms as the floor gave way.
He had survived everything from an ambush in the middle of nowhere that left him with no food or water and 100 miles of arid desert at the height of an African summer, to an engagement to a high maintenance heiress that would have killed him twice as fast. Yet as the floor gave way he watched his life pass before his eyes as what appeared to be a lake of fire below him appeared among the falling debris.
This was how he died.
Helina screamed, the sound almost lost in the soggy shrieking of the building around them and the roar of the fire.
Strong arms slid under his armpits, wrapping around both himself and Helina as a feminine body moulded itself to his back and a female voice ground out, “DAAAAMMN HEROES!!” The energy the woman brought to their fall altered their trajectory, her body curving them towards the exit doors now mere feet away, they had been hidden by smoke seconds ago, but the shifting air currents of their arrival opened a small window of visibility. His boots hit solid wood a second before the woman shoved him towards the door with such force he collided with the wood, curving carefully to make sure little Helina wouldn’t be hurt.
Turning to catch another look of the woman to make sure she was behind him and thus on the way to safety he saw her, smoke streaked pissed off and crouched in readiness with her eyes glued to him. He watched as her eyes rounded with surprise, as if she didn’t expect him to be able to see her. Her mouth fell open, her stance losing tension as she started to shake her head slowly from side to side in dismay tinged with surprising sadness.
He took a step towards her, prepared to grab her arm and drag her out of the death trap the house had become, but recoiled just as the roof above collapsed on top of the woman, burying her under flaming debris.
“NO!” He roared in denial, but he knew he couldn’t save her, he didn’t even have the time to try. With an instants reluctance he turned on his heel and threw his shoulder into the door, bursting it open and admitting himself and little Helina into the crisp evening air. Safe and alive.
Keira materialized in her bedroom, dazed.
She sank onto the bloodstained chair in the corner. The one she always sat in when she patched herself up after a nights work. She often had to do that, patch up a scrape, stitch up a laceration, ice a thousand bumps and bruises. Beside the chair was a carefully organized, medical kit and she numbly began treating the burns from the fire and the few bleeding lacerations from debris and shrapnel.
He’d seen her.
Closing her eyes Keira covered her mouth as grief and shock consumed her, leaving her silently sobbing in the realization that the bastard she’d run herself ragged over had just done the one thing she wasn’t ready in the least for him to do.
Little Helina was okay, she’d spend the night in the hospital due to smoke inhalation, a bonk on the head and very protective parents, but she was a brave kid and had already been squealing with delight when the driver of the ambulance agreed to let her ring the siren.
Jason leaned against the fire truck as his boss reamed him out for being a “damned glory hound who’s going to get himself fucking killed”.
Jason knew his boss was right, not about getting himself killed, about Jason being a glory hound.
He was. He loved being a hero and doing what no one else even dared think of trying. He prided himself on being a hot shot, even when it almost cost him.
He’d never been burned, not really and the others around him never did either.
He was fucking charmed!
The lecture was finally over, ending with a gruff. “But that aside, I’m glad you got the kid out.”
Yet tonight, his victory was a hollow one. “I didn’t save the woman.”
His boss looked at him sharply. “What woman? The only one left in the building was the little girl.”
“There was a woman. Red hair. 5-6. Sturdy. Somewhere between thirty or forty years old.”
His boss scowled. “You need to see a shrink Briggs. This damn woman you’re seeing everywhere and don’t think I don’t recognize the description. All you ever talk about is this damn imaginary woman. You’re so far off the deep end hot shot that you can’t even see how crazy this sounds. You are seeing a woman who is not there.”
“She is real.” Jason insisted, but he knew it sounded crazy. Hell, it was crazy. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t really happening, it didn’t mean she wasn’t real, and it didn’t mean that he hadn’t seen her die. “And I’ll prove it.
Keira picked up the phone and realized there was no one to call. She had spent all her inordinately long life dedicated to protecting her charges, not crafting friendships or strengthening social bonds. Even her former charges weren’t an option. Aside from occasional meaningless sex she had nothing to do with them after they died. Many weren’t even an option for sex anymore since they had married or reincarnated by now.
Briefly she thought of her former husband, despite the swell of nostalgia she felt, she knew he wouldn’t take her call. Not the way she would want him to hear her. She needed an ear, a shoulder to cry on.
This was the part of the job she had never learned how to live with. Listlessly she put the phone down and walked over to the smooth crystal orb sitting on a lake of black velvet and said his name. Jason Alexander Briggs.
A flash of light nearly blinded her before it dulled to reveal Jason’s weary determined face. Streaked with sweat and smoke, he still fought the fire, working the hose now with the others. The building was lost, they all knew that, but they fought regardless. Fought now to save the surrounding forest.
Stroking her fingers down the glassy surface her heart clenched in her chest. Why him?
He was the biggest pain in the ass she’d ever had to protect, a constant five alarm disaster demanding her attention, her service. She was so far past exhausted from this man that she could barely see straight. She barely had enough time to shower off one life-endangering insanity before the next one had begun.
She looked into his brave stalwart brown eyes and felt tears rise in her own once again at the thought of those eyes closing forever.
She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, of the seperation that always followed the death of one of her charges. It always happened so fast, they would move on and she would begin her job again on another.
The way her life had always been.
She’d always imagined that Jason would be different. There was such fire in his heart, such power in him. She was immortal, and yet Jason was the one who seemed as if he would live forever. Of course, much of that invincibility was her own doing. Her blood, her sweat, her pain that kept him alive and breathing for one more day before he put himself in danger once again and his soul called her own for salvation.
Sighing, exhausted, Kiera dropped into a big soft chair before the orb, letting the stuffing drag her deeply into the comforting cushion and soothe her as the tears streamed down her cheeks. She watched him as his team slowly doused the fire, a heavy lethargy weighing down on her as she watched him survey the charcoal skeleton of the old building. So handsome. So strong. So arrogant.
Oye was he ever arrogant, enough to rot your teeth out.
As she watched he led his team into the wreckage and when she realized what he was doing she slowly rose to sit straight in her chair.
Tossing aside beams and wreckage Jason searched through the rubble for her. It was the place the roof had caved in on her, he was trying to find her.