The back of Dave’s skull felt like a cash register that had been smashed open with a crowbar. He put a hand to his head, groaning, and tried to get his bearings. His eyes were closed. Why were his eyes closed? Well, that was easy enough to fix. He opened them and saw a hole in the ceiling, sparks jumping from torn electrical wires. When had that gotten there?
Jeffries spat a curse.
Dave pushed himself up so fast that dizziness nearly took him back down again. But it wasn’t fast enough. Jeffries was already on his feet. His massive fist swung at Dave’s head, and Dave knew instantly that he wouldn’t be able to dodge in time. He flinched back on instinct, but Jeffries’ fist never made contact.
The bulky man screamed, clutching his head as if someone had set his brain on fire. Movement caught Dave’s eye near the hole in the ceiling, and he saw the Black Valentine glaring down at Jeffries like a vengeful goddess. Either she’d just saved Dave, or he’d hit his head so hard that he was hallucinating.
Jeffries’ eyes widened as he saw her, too, and he jumped a good four feet into the air. His meaty hand grasped for her feet, but she scrambled back just in time. Instead, Jeffries grabbed the edge of the hole and tore off a chunk of ceiling as he came down. The same chunk that the Black Valentine was standing on. She fell with a startled cry.
Dave was on the move instantly. Jeffries made to pounce on her the moment she hit the floor, but Dave tackled him before he had the chance. They crashed to the floor together, and Dave was afraid they were going to break through it again. But it held up under them—for now, at least. Dave had landed on top of Jeffries, who immediately tried to roll over and reverse their positions. Dave braced his knees against the floor, refusing to budge. Tile cracked beneath them.
Sitting on Jeffries’ stomach, Dave was at just the right angle to punch him in the face without Jeffries being able to reach far enough to hit him back, and Dave took full advantage of it. He rained down blow after blow, and Jeffries’ face was hard. Dave’s knuckles bashed into his jaw, splitting his lip. Blood splattered across the man’s cheeks, but Jeffries still struggled. What did it take to knock this guy out?
Jeffries caught Dave’s next punch. Then he shot up and slammed his forehead into Dave’s nose. The shock knocked Dave off balance, and Jeffries shoved him a yard back. Dave’s ass hit the floor, and his brain finally caught on to his busted nose. Pain swelled up and across Dave’s face, blocking out the rest of the world for a second. Then Jeffries was on his feet and coming for him.
Dave aimed a kick at Jeffries’ knee, dropping him. It was a race to see who could stand up first, and Dave won, swaying slightly as blood from his nose splattered onto the tile. Now Jeffries’ head was at just the right height for Dave to knee him in the face, and Dave didn’t let the chance pass. Jeffries swayed but still didn’t fall. Fine, then. This time, Dave grabbed the man’s head and pushed it down at the same time he brought up his knee. They collided with a crack, and Jeffries collapsed.
Dave stayed standing, the sound of his own panting in his ears. He wanted to wipe the blood that was dripping down his upper lip and chin, but his arm felt too heavy to bother moving. All the injuries that adrenaline had been numbing during the fight decided to make themselves known. And now that this was over, he had to climb back down all those stairs, didn’t he?
Jeffries groaned, and Dave felt like he’d just swallowed sleet. He stared as—impossibly—Jeffries put his palm to the floor and began to push himself up. He grunted, lifting his head to look at Dave with murder in his blue eyes.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” said the Black Valentine.
Jeffries froze, his eyes going glossy.
“Just give up,” The Black Valentine muttered, glaring at him as she walked up beside Dave. “Dumbass.”
Jeffries obeyed, lying back down onto the floor.
Dave let out a long breath. “Thanks,” he huffed.
She gave him that dazzling smile again. “You’re welcome.”
“You’re under arrest, by the way.”
She just kept smiling. “You realize I could mind-control him into punching you in the face again, right?”
“Why don’t you find out where he has the trigger for the bombs, instead?”
“Yeah, I guess I could do that.” She closed her eyes—only for them to fly open a second later.
“It’s not a trigger,” she gasped. “It’s a timer. And there were less than five minutes left when he started fighting you.”
The split-second that followed her proclamation seemed to last an eternity.
“Run,” Dave said. “Run!”
They sprinted down the hallway and barreled down the stairs. The Black Valentine took the steps three at a time, and Dave was right behind her. There had to be at least ten flights between them and the ground floor. Would they make it? How much time did they have? Dave felt as if someone had replaced his leg muscles with concrete. They were heavy and wouldn’t move fast enough. The Black Valentine’s quick breaths were all he could hear besides their pounding footsteps, and he willed her to go faster.
Three floors left, then two, then one. They burst into the lobby, and there it was: the exit. Sunlight beckoned through the glass doors, and they raced for it. Almost there—
The sound of the explosion rattled Dave’s chest, and the entire building came crashing down on top of them.
And that’s the end of the story, folks. Thanks for reading. 😉
Seriously, though, the next update will be Monday, August 29th. I’ll probably be posting in the evenings rather than the mornings from now on. I could post before work at my last job, but my new job has me waking up at five in the morning, so…yeah, after work is best for me now.