Home > Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(5)

Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(5)
Victoria Scott

Something is definitely up.

That or my family is auditioning for a remake of The Shining.

I stop by Cody’s door on the way to my room. I want to keep walking, to pretend for once that he’s okay and everything is back to the way it used to be. But I can’t. So I pad into his room on tiptoes and lean over his bed. Now I’m the one being a creeper.

Once I’m certain my brother is still breathing, I go into my room and collapse onto the bed. One hour. That’s how long I’m waiting before I search every corner of this blasted house. Then the contents of that mysterious blue box will be mine.

Four hours later, I wake up.

So much for Operation Sly.

I push myself up from the bed, rubbing my face and berating myself for falling asleep. I’m, like, the biggest weakling on planet Earth. Sliding my shoes off so I make as little noise as possible, I create a mental list of where to check first: the coat closet, the hallway bathroom, maybe the kitchen. The kitchen. I wonder if there’s any cherry cheesecake left in the fridge. No. Find device. Then cheesecake.

I’m about to open my door, but something stops me.

It’s smoke. A lot of it. And it’s coming from outside my window.

Crossing the room, I keep an eye on the smoke as my scalp tingles with nerves. I start to imagine my house catching on fire. Or one of my parents’ cars. How would anyone find us out here? I like to think someone would, eventually. Probably a fireman who happens to be my age and carries an ax over his left shoulder like a Greek god. Fire would rage behind him as he saves us all and he’d smile to reassure me and, my Lord, he has dimples.

I slide open my window and the smell of burning wood fills my room. Though I’m terrified that something horrible is happening, I can’t help but relish the scent. It reminds me of being home in Boston, of cold nights when Dad would make a fire in the fireplace and we’d drink cocoa with pastel-colored marshmallows.

The smoke billows from left to right and leads me to believe the fire is coming from in front of our house. I’m about to wake up my parents when I see a flash of red and black. I’d know that shirt anywhere. It’s the plaid flannel my dad wears when he goes hunting with Uncle Wade.

What is my dad doing in front of our house at two in the morning?

I contemplate going out the front door to ask him. It’d be a reasonable question. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night to find her dad embracing a new pyromania habit. But something stops me. Maybe it’s the way he’s been acting since he saw the talking device, or the weird way he whispered with my mom before dinner, or even the way he nodded at Cody like there was something big the two of them were hiding. Regardless, I decide to move in closer without revealing myself.

Crawling out the window, I think of how ridiculous I must look. How if my best friend back in Boston, Hannah, could see this, she’d be laughing like a lunatic. Thinking about her laughing in turn makes me laugh, and I have to cover my mouth as I drop down on the side of the house. This afternoon, I was bored to tears, and now I’m acting like a friggin’ CIA agent.

I really am losing my mind out here.

I creep along the wall toward the front of our house and hold my breath as I peek around the corner. My dad is standing in front of a bonfire, just staring into the flames. He looks like an assassin, all crazy in the face. The fire is actually much farther from our house than I originally thought, which makes me even more nervous. It’s like he’s covering up something. Just doing a bad job.

Running a hand through his thick curly hair, my dad sighs. Then he opens his other hand and looks at something in his palm. I narrow my eyes to try to see what he’s studying, but I can’t make it out from here. Whatever he’s holding has a short life span, because he pulls in a long breath and tosses it into the fire. It arcs in the air for only a moment, but it’s long enough for me to see the flash of white.

It’s my device.

And now it’s gone.

I lean back against the side of the house in a panic. Now I’m certain this was no practical joke. There’s no way my dad would go to such lengths to get rid of something trivial. And in the dead of night, no less. Something was on that thing, and now I’ll never know. I rack my brain, trying to remember everything the woman had said.

The Brimstone something or other.

An invitation.

Forty-eight hours.

When I peek back around the corner, my dad’s eyes meet mine. I slam back against the house and mutter a string of profanities. From far away, I hear the sound of his footsteps. They come closer and I squeeze my eyes shut. I’m like an ostrich, hoping if I can’t see him, he can’t see me. Seconds later, the front door opens and closes. My muscles relax and I almost laugh at having escaped being caught.

I’m not sure what I’m so afraid of. It’s not like I did anything wrong. He stole the earpiece. He acted weird about it. He built a fire and burned what was mine.

Anger surges through my veins. That blue box was meant for me. And now a strange sensation tells me whatever was in it was extremely important. How dare he rob me of knowing what that was?

I wait for a long time, longer than I think I’ll be able to, and then head toward the fire. The white device will be burned into a lump of plastic goo, but I want to see it with my own eyes. I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t pick it up and storm into my parents’ bedroom, demand to know what’s going on.

As I near the fire, I realize it’s diminished considerably. Only a few flames lick the cool night air, while the rest of the wood glitters red, fading quickly into ash. Coming to a stop where my dad had stood, I inspect the area. When I see it, I take a step back.

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