15. Of All the Plans . . .

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Nicky's POV

It's getting harder and harder to breathe and I fall to my knees, coughing and gagging on the air surrounding me. Black dots begin to invade my vision.

Suddenly I feel a pair of arms wrap around me and haul me to my feet. I feel their strong grip as they carry me quickly through the flames. I hear the curses that they mutter as they're forced to take different turns and navigate through the smoke and flames.

My eyes drift shut as darkness continues to try and pull me in. I hear the cursing get louder and feel the arms tighten around me more, but I'm barely aware of anything else. My chest burning and my head spinning.

"Dammit Nicky," I hear a voice say. The voice sounding echoey and far away. "Wake up. Do you hear me? Wake up, Nicky!"

I feel someone shaking me roughly. I let out a groan and open my eyes. I'm lying on my back on the hard ground, black smoke is filling the sky, there's a burning building behind me, and Ryder's concerned face leaning over me.

Relief at seeing him alive floods through me. Volkov was lying. "You're alive," I whisper softly. Another thought comes to mind. "I think that's the first time I've heard you actually use my name."

He frowns down at me. "And you clearly don't know how to follow orders," He mutters as he helps me into a sitting position. "I told you to run. Not hide. Run. Stupid. Completely stupid."

Suddenly I'm not all that glad to see him.

I narrow my eyes at him. "I-" I let out a yelp as his fingers dig into my leg.

His gaze is focused and full of concern as he assesses the wound on my leg. "What happened here?"

"I got hit by a car."

Ryder pauses with his hands on my leg and looks up at me. Some kind of a mix between anger, concern, and amusement lights up his eyes. "Are you serious?"

"Yes," I reply.

"And I missed it?"

"I hate you."

"Hey, I just took down several gang members and ran into a burning building to save your ungrateful ass. I'm entitled to a little enjoyment of my own."

I guess I can't exactly argue with that. Doesn't mean I won't try though.

He removes his jacket and places it to the side before removing my sweatshirt. He tosses the smoke-filled sweatshirt aside and wraps his jacket around me. His fingers brush my arms as he secures the jacket around me.

His gaze goes to my face, his eyes once again full of concern. "Seriously, are you okay? Nothing's broken?"

I shake my head. "I don't think anything's broken. It just hurts, but I can walk."

He nods. "Good, cause we need to get the hell out of here. I took down the guys guarding this exit, but pretty soon the rest of them are going to be heading this way."

He grabs hold of my arms and pulls me to my feet, walking me quickly out of the alleyway and away from the burning building. His hand is at the small of my back as he leads me away and his gaze continuously darts over his shoulder, watching for anyone following.

I hear him swear and his hand at my back pushes against me with more urgency than before. I don't have to look over my shoulder to know that we've been spotted. To know that we're being followed.

I go to cross the street and try to put some distance between us and them but Ryder grabs my arm and pulls me in the other direction.

"There's a party going on at the park. I saw it when I drove past. The park's just around this corner and we can blend in with the crowd until we can get around to my rental car," He says quietly. He glances down at me briefly and grimaces. "Well, I don't know exactly how much blending in we'll do. You look like a train wreck."

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