EIGHT

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Mark was standing closer to the warehouse, in the shadow of trees that formed a dividing line between their property and its neighbor. After hearing about the fire, he had come down to do some investigating of his own. Louis, his driver, stood beside him.

They made an odd couple standing side by side, Louis dwarfed by Mark's height. But what the shorter man lacked in vertical advantage, he more than made up for with attitude and strength. No one dared to call him a small man.

The two of them stayed silent as the building slowly disappeared beneath the unstoppable flames. They were just as much in the dark about the fire as the people fighting it were. According to Louis, it had been a good twenty years since they'd had any accidents of this magnitude. Louis would know; he was considered an old-timer in the business despite the fact that he was only forty-nine. He had started working for the Chilvatis when he was sixteen and knew more about the day-to-day inner workings of the family than anyone.

The scream coming from the group of fire trucks cut through the roar of the blaze. Mark watched a woman bolt from the crowd, dark hair streaming behind her as she ran. A number of hands reached out to grab her, but she wrestled free and ran at full speed toward the building.

It's her. Officer . . . no, Lieutenant . . . "Robins," he said aloud.

Louis's head twisted around, his question conveyed by popped-up brows. Mark pointed at the woman running parallel to the line of trees with the unmistakable intent of entering the burning building.

Just as she passed them, Mark made a split-second decision and lunged at her.

They both hit the ground hard. With a messy scramble she tried to get back on her feet, but he had his arms locked around her waist and wasn't about to let go. She twisted and strained, trying to pry herself loose, her sole focus still on the death trap in front of her. He pulled her in tight to his chest, throwing one leg over—

An elbow nailed him in the forehead.

He barked out a curse and shifted positions, pinning her beneath him. She bucked and kicked and had the vocabulary of a trucker, but he used all of his weight to hold her down. When she finally looked at her subduer, it took a few seconds for his face to register in her frantic mind.

"You!" Rage clamped down on her features.

The other cops had caught up. Mark rolled off of her and stood while those coming to her rescue reached down and helped her up, containing her in their grip.

Probably a wise move.

"Did you do this?" Crazed eyes looked from him to the fire and back as her body bowed, fighting to break free from their hold.

Mark raised both hands in the air. "Easy there, lady. I just saved you from certain death."

"If I find out you did this"—her voice cracked from the anger or the struggle or both—"I'm coming after you, Spinelli! I swear to God, I'm coming after you."

The cops managed to turn her around, half-walking, half-dragging her back in the direction of the trucks. She twisted in their hold with her arms flailing and eyes peeled wide to yell back at him, "You won't get away with this!" After that her body went limp, succumbing to her escorts' control as if all the fight had drained out of her. They pretty much carried her from there.

Mark walked over to Louis before bending down and brushing the dirt from his jeans. "Let's go," he grumbled.

Once on their way, Louis couldn't seem to help himself as he chuckled into the rearview mirror of the limousine. "That kitty had claws. She gave you a fight for your money there, boss. You okay?"

Mark glared at the reflection of upturned eyes across empty seats.

"Man, she was pissed at you." Louis shifted his gaze, big shoulders shaking as he carried on with the laughter, his focus now back on the road.

Mark could not get the look on Lieutenant Robins' face out of his mind. It was unsettling to have her think so ill of him.

But there was something else troubling him as he watched the ferocity of the fire diminish with distance until there was nothing but a soft glow spilling into the night sky. Why was she willing to risk her life to get inside that building?

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT

These last two chapters were not easy. I liked Jack. It wasn't easy killing him off. Originally, he was in a few more scenes, but the story seemed to be going off on a Jack tangent, so I had to tone it down. What do you think?


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