Judge Montagnet tried to scramble up the stage steps, his eyes wide and a bloody slash on his cheek. I tightened my grip on my blade, but a young man behind him swung swift and sure with a double-sided axe, almost severing the judge’s head completely. The man yanked the axe free and climbed to the platform. Sin pulled out a revolver and fired two rounds. The man fell backward as others began to rush the the stage.
“Let’s go.” Sin threw me over his shoulder and dashed down the back stairs.
I got one more glimpse of the gratifying chaos before he carried me through the hidden door. Quinlan swung it shut behind us, and he and another larger man chained and barred it. The noxious scent of gasoline filled the air, and rows of gasoline cans lined the carpeted hall, a stark contrast to the hand-drawn walls and ornate chandeliers.
Sin put me on my feet. All eyes turned toward the door as pounding sounds and screams poured through it. The cries were silenced one by one.
I covered my nose, a futile attempt to avoid the gasoline fumes, and looked down the hall. Red lay on the floor in a puddle of crimson. Lucius stood over him, a bloody knife in his hand.
I nodded. “Good.”
Evie cried on Gavin’s shoulder as the screams rose and fell within the ballroom. Brianne clung to Carl, her stare far away. Gunfire continued sporadically, the stately chateau devolving into a slaughterhouse floor. My heart sang with each life that was snuffed out, their blood slowly dousing the rage burning inside me.
“It worked.” Teddy ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I can’t believe it worked.”
Sin whipped me around to him and pulled me into a kiss. I closed my eyes and reveled in our victory, in the turmoil and death beyond the door, and most of all in the man I loved.
“We need to get out of here.” Lucius knelt and wiped his blade on Red’s pant leg.
“Quinlan, are we good here?” Sin asked.
“It’s ready to burn.”
Sin pulled a roll of hundreds from his inner suit pocket. “Make sure no one gets out alive.”
Quinlan took the money. “Not a problem. Everyone’s cleared out, and I’ve got men with eyes on this place.”
“Thank you.” I met Quinlan’s eyes.
“After that last thing, in the fort.” He shook his head. “This was my pleasure.”
“Come on.” Lucius pulled Teddy down the hall. “We have to go.”
Sin scooped me up and ran with me, my heels clattering to the floor. Gavin, Evie, Carl, and Brianne followed. Quinlan and the large man brought up the rear.
We burst out into the cool night, but Sin stopped and set me on the ground.
“Stella gets to do the honors. Give them to her.”
The larger man pulled a book of matches from his pocket and handed it over. I turned the matchbook over in my hands, amazed at how light total destruction could be.
I opened the pack and pulled out a single match, the tip green. With a single flick of my wrist, the head flamed, a bright orange burst in the evening gloom. Time stopped, and only I and the flame existed, both burning, both bent on annihilation. I threw it, the flame flickering in the light wind. It bounced off the door, landed on the carpet, and then multiplied into a snakelike inferno. Orange flames raced down the hall in a whoosh, the carpet catching and the walls bubbling.
Quinlan slammed the door, and Sin scooped me up again and ran to the cars waiting for us.
“You.” He pointed to Gavin and then a car. “That one. Key’s in the ignition. Money’s in a bag in the trunk. Get far away from here. Take them with you.”
Sin tucked me into the passenger side of his sports car.
“Wait.” I got to my feet and dashed to Gavin, wrapping my arms around his neck.
He held me close. “I got your back.”
“I got yours.”
“You did it. I can’t believe you did it. You burned them the fuck down.”
“Stella!” Sin banged on the hood of his car.
I gave Gavin one more hard squeeze and ran back to Sin. He dropped into the driver’s side, waited for Teddy and Lucius to pull away, and then tore down the drive.
The gate was wide open, and we followed Lucius’s taillights down the main road, away from the chateau, and back toward home. Home.
I looked at Sin, his jaw set tight and his eyes flicking to the rearview.
A loud boom rumbled through the air. I craned my head back. Smoke rose over the trees, blotting out the stars and hazing across the moon. An orange glow marked the Oakman estate, fire wiping the slate clean.
Sin shifted into another gear, speeding faster, and took my hand, bringing it to his lips.
“I would gladly kill a thousand more for you.”