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“Ginger, remember who you’re speaking to,” I snapped at her and her eyes shot to me.

“Fuck you again.” Her eyes swept me then she asked, “What’re you even doin’ here?”

“Escapin’ your shit which leaked to her house last night,” Hawk replied and Ginger’s eyes sliced to him then to me then to Hawk then to Dad and Meredith.

“I see, I’m your daughter, I got shit goin’ down and I can’t even have any of your precious water to take a f**kin’ shower but Gwennie, sweet, wonderful, perfect Gwennie¸ she can crash here with her f**k buddy,” Ginger said to them and I sucked in breath as I felt Hawk’s body get tight beside mine.

Meredith snapped, “Ginger!”

“What?” Ginger snapped back. “You’re givin’ me shit about bein’ here in the middle of the night but Gwen, perfect Gwen, she can play with her f**k toy right next door and you don’t give a shit?” Ginger asked.

I sucked in another breath as fury radiated in a swell from Hawk, Dad’s face got so red I feared he’d have a heart attack but Meredith, she moved. She walked right up to Ginger and slapped her hard across the face, snapping Ginger’s head to the side.

Everyone moved then because Ginger lunged to attack Meredith. Dad pulled Meredith safe and Hawk pinned Ginger against the wall again with his hand at the same time he held me back from getting in a hair-pulling, bitch-slapping fight with my sister, doing this with his other hand in my belly.

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I stopped pushing against him when Ginger fought him, kicking out at his legs with her feet (and not connecting) and tearing at his forearm with her tatty, peeling black painted nails (which I feared would inflict some damage) but he held her against the wall with one hand, his face set and tight, his jaw so hard it looked like it would shatter.

“Get your hand off me!” she shrieked.

“Calm the f**k down,” Hawk returned.

“I said get your f**kin’ hand off me!” Ginger repeated on a screech.

Then we heard it. Glass shattering. Everyone went still and stayed still except Hawk who, after his preliminary freeze, sprinted to the stairs. That was when we heard two more noises, glass breaking much quieter then two identical whooshes followed by two muted booms.

Then we saw the unmistakable dance of firelight from the stairs.

“Hawk!” I screamed, not thinking and dashing to the stairs.

Dad caught me around the belly with a strong arm and pulled me back. He tossed me behind him, lifted a finger in my face and ordered, “Stay here!”

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Then he raced down the stairs.

“Bax!” Meredith cried but I moved.

I turned to her and yelled, “Go! Put on some shoes and a jacket. Get some for Dad.” When Meredith didn’t move, I screamed, “Go, go, go!”

Meredith turned and ran to her room and I turned to Ginger.

“Be smart,” I snapped. “Stay here.”

She glared at me and returned, “Bite me.”

I didn’t have time for Ginger so I didn’t give her any. I ran to the guest bedroom, pulled on my boots and grabbed Hawk’s boots and tee. I was lifting up when I collided with something and that something was Hawk. He had a blanket and he threw it around me, wrapping me up before I could twitch then I was lifted into his arms and we were moving.

I smelled smoke and felt heat and then I smelled fresh air and felt cold. I was put down on my feet and Hawk’s arms left me. I struggled with the blanket, still carrying his tee and boots and got my head clear just in time to see him race back into the house, barefoot and bare-chested. I shrugged off the blanket, dropped his boots and tee in the yard and rushed to the side of house, down the incline and jumped down the short wall to the walkway to Mrs. Mayhew’s apartment. I banged on her door and shouted because sometimes she didn’t hear too well and I kept doing it until the outside light went on and her door opened.

Peering up at me from her old lady height, her blue hair looking like it normally looked not like she’d been sleeping on it, she breathed, “Gwendolyn, what on –?”

I cut her off. “No time, Mrs. M, get a jacket, put on a pair of shoes. Quick, quick, quick! There’s a fire upstairs.”

I didn’t wait for her to obey. I ran into her house, shooing cats out and darted to her bedroom. I had her fleecy, old lady robe in my hands by the time she got to me and I threw it at her then rushed to the closet. I pulled out a pair of fur-lined snow boots, hooked her arm with mine and scuttled her out the door.

When we were outside she stopped and held on to me to keep herself steady while she tugged on her boots and by the time we made it to the front of the house, Meredith was there, a cell to her ear, her body wrapped in a blanket. But I stopped and stared when I saw Dog, of all freaking people, with Dad’s front garden hose going full throttle, aiming it at flames coming out of the front window of the house.

“Where’s Dad and Hawk?” I shouted at Meredith and she took the phone from her ear and replied, “They’re in there. Bax got the fire extinguishers.”

Shit!

My father had been a volunteer firefighter for ten years. He had fire extinguishers everywhere. He and Hawk were so totally the kind of macho idiots who would try to battle a blaze with f**king fire extinguishers.

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I sucked in breath, told myself panic wouldn’t help anyone, nor would a screaming hissy fit, both of which I wanted very badly to do.

Then I pulled a quaking Mrs. Mayhew closer to my side and asked Meredith, “Ginger?”

Meredith shook her head and her eyes slid to the side of the house where the tree that Ginger used regularly to sneak out of the house was planted. Dad had threatened to cut down that tree down a million times but since there was another one on the other side of the house, Meredith refused to allow it, said the house would look wonky.

Now, even though my sister was a complete and total bitch, I was glad he didn’t because I knew she escaped down that tree.

This clashed with my thoughts that she took off and left her mother and me up there and didn’t say a word or think of another person in her family. Especially after my childhood home was firebombed because of her f**king shit.

I held Mrs. Mayhew closer and stared at the house, willing Dad and Hawk to come out as Dog kept the hose aimed in the window.

The sirens could be heard and the firemen came and it took them approximately a millisecond to get their shit sorted and start battling the blaze. Dad came out wearing a coat and boots but Hawk emerged from the dancing flames still bare-chested and barefoot.

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