2. Chapter 2
The air is thick with smoke and every breath I take sends a sharp pain straight to my lungs. My throat is already raw from screaming Cassie's name but the pain doesn't stop me; I will scream until I have found her. I will scream for her until we have both emerged from this burning building, singed but alive. And once we have escaped we will hunt down those who dared to try and oppose the Assassins, and we will make them pay. And they will be the ones to die screaming. Not Cassie. Never Cassie.
I stumble into what used to be the grand hallway, trying to force my eyes to slide over the priceless paintings that are already burnt to the point of nonrecognition. The stairs are just in front of me but they are blocked by a wall of flames, growing higher and fiercer every second I stand staring at them in horror.
I don't even know if Cassie is upstairs but I can't not go up there and risk leaving her to die in this house. The house she's always hated and yearned for years to leave.
If she dies in this house...no. I won't allow myself to consider her death. She's my sister, my twin. She can't die. I won't let her.
"Cas-" My voice chokes on a cough and refuses to finish her name. Tears are streaming down my face and I desperately try to scream her name again but all that comes out is a raspy breath.
I run back up the hall, praying that the staircase on the other side of the house is untouched by the flames. My feet slap against the floor as I round the corner and ground to a halt, my heart thudding to a standstill.
The stairs are already burning.
The stairs that lead up to the burning second floor. And to Cassie.
Everywhere I look I see flames.
The heat is stifling and deep in my heart I know that there is no one else in the house but me, no one living that is. And if I don't leave now then I will join those who didn't make it out in time.
I wipe angrily at the tears streaming down my cheeks, my hands stinging with the blisters forming due to the unbearable heat. All I have to do is make it upstairs. I'll find Cassie and I'll get her out. She'll be safe. We'll both be safe.
Arms wrap around my waist and start dragging me back.
I want to scream at them to let go of me but my scorched throat refuses to co-operate. The cool night air beckons from behind as I'm dragged through the burning door and into the street. The cold pavement is a gift, but it's one I can't accept. Ignoring the pain tearing at my body I heave myself up off the ground and make to run back into the building.
"She's gone, Alex! There's nothing you can do!" The same arms wrap around me and slam me back to the ground.
I struggle against them, bucking in an attempt to get them off of me. My elbow shoots up and I hear a sickening crack as my captor's nose breaks. They release their grip slightly and it's all I need to wriggle out from underneath them.
I don't make it two steps before someone else grabs a hold of me and pins me back to the ground, sitting on top of my legs and restraining my arms. Tears are still streaming down my face because I know it's too late. Nobody left in the house could have survived.
I'm crying so much I can barely breathe and spots are starting to appear in the corners of my vision.
"I'm sorry, Alexandra, I'm so sorry." I recognize the voice as Aeris' and blink away the tears to look up into his grief stricken face.
His expression truly slams it home for me. His face has always been heavily guarded but I can read it easily now; Cassie is dead. She didn't make it out. She's dead.
I welcome the darkness as it swallows me whole.