“Nic! Kaine! Where the fuck are you?”
Varro “Duke” Ducati squinted through the thick smoke that muffled the sound of his voice. Stumbling out of the bedroom and through the hall, he headed in the direction he thought the stairs were in.
Gods damn, his head fucking hurt, he could barely think straight as it was. An oppressive heat licked at his skin, making sweat pour from his body and his oxygen-starved lungs felt like lead.
If he didn’t get out soon, he wasn’t going to make it out alive.
But he wasn’t leaving without Nic or Kaine.
Gods damn it, they hadn’t been expecting this.
They should have. They should have gone in expecting anything.
The house was empty. None of them had scented another person before crossing the threshold. They’d taken every precaution to make sure they didn’t trip any alarms, wards or spells. Kaine had assured them she hadn’t felt any so he had no idea what’d set off the explosions.
Nic had been on the ground floor, Kaine in the basement and Duke had been checking the top floor when the explosion had gone off below him.
He’d been knocked off his feet and hit his head on a nightstand in the room he’d been searching. When he’d regained consciousness a few seconds later, smoke had already engulfed the second floor.
Hands outstretched, he hurried forward, knowing the stairs could open at any—
A break in the haze revealed the stairwell directly in front of him and he ran for it, grabbing hold of the handrail, still cool to the touch, then took the stairs two at a time.
“Nic! Can you hear me?”
“Duke! Back here.”
Relief barely had time to register before he turned and ran toward the sound of Nic’s voice at the back of the house. The house wasn’t that big and it only took him seconds to reach Nic—
“Oh fuck.” He froze in the doorway.
“Where’s Kaine?” Nic’s voice sounded thready and weak.
“Don’t know. Shit, Nic. Don’t move.”
Tinia’s teat, the ceiling had fallen in, pinning Nic beneath a pile of rubble and a wooden beam.