Chapter Thirteen

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Her father was alive.

Zoe sat beside him while they were both checked out by paramedics, the whole time waiting for him to pass out again and not get back up. He looked like hell—pale and sickly, with dark circles under his eyes and the smoke trails still leading to his nose. Even the paramedic had cursed at the sight of him. They couldn't believe he was up and walking.

Neither could Zoe.

But the paramedics had deemed him fine, suffering nothing more than a little smoke inhalation and some "crisping edges" from the flames that had gotten a little too close. Zoe was the same. Her arms felt like they were suffering from a bad sunburn. She had blisters on her hands from where she'd gripped her doorknob.

"You're both incredibly lucky," one of the men had said as he removed the blood pressure cuff from her father's arm. He glanced back at the smoldering house. "Blaze like that? You should be dead."

He had no idea.

Paris looked as bad as Zoe's father. He was leaned back in the passenger seat of the Mercedes, eyes closed, while Nate stood with his back against the car and his arms crossed over his chest. He was watching Zoe and her father from a distance, his eyes only occasionally darting toward the house. She knew the expression on his face: We need to talk.

He was damn right they did.

Their entire street had come out to watch what was happening, and Zoe could only imagine what they were thinking. The poor Halsmans—two houses burned to the ground in less than ten years.

They must have been cursed or something.

It felt like an age before the paramedics told them they were free to go, and this only came after her father had argued that they didn't need to go to the damn hospital. He was staring at what remained of their house as the two men walked away, shaking their heads and mumbling about "stubborn idiots". There hadn't been much of their home left after the firefighters had finished spraying it down—just bare bones and charred belongings.

The Torana had all but exploded in their driveway.

Zoe should have cared. That car had been their ticket out of town, and the last thing they had of her mother—but in that moment, she couldn't have cared less that it was gone. Her father was alive, they had both made it out of their disaster of a house, and that was all that mattered.

Her father must have been thinking along the same lines. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and gave her a squeeze.

"We'll have to call the insurance company on Monday," he said. Zoe knew he didn't expect a response—he was just thinking out loud, so she nodded. "Fire Department will want to investigate..." He shook his head. "I don't know how we're going to do this."

She knew what he meant by this: their grand escape from Granton Ridge. She didn't know how they were going to be able to do it now, either. Not with no car, no home, and no money.

Nate chose that moment to approach, and her father fell silent.

Of the four of them, Nate had come out of the fire the best. There were little bits of soot on his arms and his shoes were covered in ash, but other than that he looked fine. Like he had hardly been in the house at all. Like he hadn't forced his way through a burning door to get to her dying father.

But they all knew that he had.

Her father gave Nate a long, hard look. "According to my daughter, you and your cousin saved our lives tonight."

She had told him that—when Paris had fallen away from her father's freshly revived body and Nate had finally let her go, and her father had looked up at the two boys in bewilderment. She had been a babbling mess, but the most important message had made it across to him: Nate and Paris had gotten them out. Nate and Paris had saved them.

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