Chapter One

703 85 442

Dammit, Zoe needed to breathe.

There was smoke in her nose, in her throat, in her lungs, drowning her even while she struggled to get the window open. Black spots danced across her vision as she fought against the onslaught, gasping and begging for a reprieve, for just a second to draw in a bit of fresh air...

She clutched the handles of the window above her bed, certain that if she could only get the damn thing open she'd be able to breathe again, but it wouldn't budge. The harder she tried, the more her need for air intensified, until her heart was racing and she was certain she was going to pass out.

Breathe, she willed herself. The dream's over. This feeling isn't real. Breathe!

She pushed away from the window and tumbled out of bed, hitting the floor with a thud that reverberated painfully through her elbows. She couldn't see anything clearly. Her head pounded, demanding oxygen. Her body felt heavy, her lungs screamed, and the smell of smoke had consumed everything. She couldn't get up. She couldn't get up!

Her fingers grasped at the threadbare carpet—a cool, fading emerald sea beneath her. She could feel the fibres, stiff from their long, hard life, digging in beneath her nails. She hated that carpet. Now she was going to die on the damn thing.

She felt nauseous. Her head spun, and with what was left of her vision she took in dark, blurred shapes before settling on white. Everything was white. Did that mean she was dying? Did it mean she was already dead?

No. She couldn't be dead. She couldn't leave her father like that. He needed her. She was all he—

Something hit Zoe's chest.

Her throat opened up, and she launched into a fit of coughing that felt like it was never going to end. She took gasping breaths between them, unable to get the crisp autumn air into her lungs fast enough, willing her body to relax, her heart to steady...

Her chest ached. She was light-headed and still felt the need to be sick, but at least her vision was clearing. Away went the white, replaced by the artificial warmth of a tungsten bulb. The room came back into focus around her.

There was her bed, the blankets heaped on the floor where she'd dragged them along in her fall. There was her window, still maddeningly shut, the Venus flytrap on its sill dying off for the winter.

And there was her father, leaning over her with panic in his green eyes.

He loosed a breath when Zoe met his gaze, falling back against her dresser. "Jesus, Angel. You scared the hell outta me!"

His dark hair was a mess, and his bare chest and faded sweatpants were a sure sign that he'd been pulled from sleep in a hurry. Zoe had done that—she didn't need his confirmation to know it. His hands were a comforting pressure on her shoulders, holding her tightly. Combined with the scent of his musky cologne, it was all the assurance she needed. She was home; she was safe.

And she was a trembling, terrified mess.

"I'm sorry." Hell, was that her voice? She sounded like a sixty-year-old chain smoker. She cleared her throat before she spoke again. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"I know you didn't." Her father's expression was wary as he peered down at her. He'd turned her lamp on at some point, and the light wasn't doing the worry lines around his eyes any favours. "Are you all right? For a minute I thought..."

Zoe saw her father's Adam's apple bob and knew that whatever he'd thought hadn't been good.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked instead.

The Angel of Vengeance | ✓ [EDITING]Read this story for FREE!