Kelcie was in my face the moment I opened the door. “What’s the status?” she said worriedly.
“The harpies are gone,” I said pushing Jeff into the house first. “So’s Karen.”
Kelcie frowned, but she’d never missed a good opportunity to lecture me.
“You were just supposed to go yell for someone!” she said scoldingly, “Not go run into the fight!”
I stifled a yawn. “And leave our people out there?”
“You know Karen can take care of herself!” Kelcie said, grabbing at my bleeding hand.
I shook her off, tucking it behind my back. “And so can I. So why are you worrying?”
She sighed, turning to Jeff. “And I suppose you’re fine too?”
“No, he’s not,” I said, cutting off his reassurances. “He was running on fumes, and then I pushed him further.”
He scowled at me as Kelcie started fussing over him instead. “I’m fine,” he said, trying to shrug off the shorter woman’s tending. I grinned at him and slipped into the living room.
“Rachael has good reason to worry,” I heard Kelcie saying behind me. She wasn’t entirely wrong, if Jeff wasn’t feeling it yet he would be in the morning. But right now, I was more worried about the reason I’d gone out there. Mark wasn’t in the room anymore though. I could see the red stain where he’d sat, but not where my friend had gone.
“He’s in one of the bedrooms,” Kinder startling me from his place at the window. “Asleep. Nate is with him. They’re both fine.”
“Not the one with the harpy, I hope.”
He scoffed. “I’m not so helpless I can’t take care of one harpy, Rachael. It’s in the basement.”
“Still alive?” I asked curiously. Kinder nodded and I collapsed into one of his chairs. “Good.”
Kinder frowned, and I pulled my bleeding hand away from his upholstery, letting it drip onto my jeans. They were ruined by now anyways. My self-inflicted cuts were still dribbling. Amber was gone too. Hopefully she was also asleep.
“So, harpies are gone?” Kinder asked. He’d gotten dressed since I left the house, and was now wearing a faded set of jeans and collared brown shirt. Despite the greying hair and casual wear, he looked imposing. He could have looked intimidating even in his housecoat. Which he had.
“Gone or trapped in your old garden,” I said. “I saw at least 20 bodies in there. Not worried about them.”
“And Karen? Are you worried about her?” Kinder asked. From the corner of my eye, I noticed Kelcie had returned, standing in the doorway with her arms crossed.
“I’m always worried when she doesn’t come back,” I confessed. “But she’s done this before, and I can’t get through her forest. I almost didn’t get out again.”
“Seriously?” Kelcie asked, her voice a mixture of sarcasm and disbelief.
I turned to her. “Well, not without sending you into a motherly panic.”
She grunted. “Maybe I’d worry less if you ever stopped to consider your own limits. How much blood did you lose this time?”
I sighed, holding up my uninjured hand. It quivered, barely. I looked back up at our fae expert.
“Not enough to wake up Nate,” I said grinning. “And no demons to clean up.”
Kelcie rolled her eyes. “Thank god for small miracles. Give me your hand.”
I hesitated and she glared at me, holding a roll of bandages. “You said the harpies are gone. You don’t need to bleed all over the place until we find Karen.”
I sighed, helping her to wrap my hand in gauze. She was far more nimble with one hand than I would have been.
“We should get that cast off you,” I said, yawning. I blinked, trying to fend off the adrenaline crash.
“In the morning,’ she said. “I think everyone was too primed for a fight tonight.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Killing them all wasn’t necessary,” Kinder said. “You had the house defended within minutes, they’d be gone by morning.”
“And instead,” Kelcie continued, “We have all our biggest hitters all down for the count because they tried to get fancy.”
“And you worry about me over-doing it?” I said, flexing my bandaged hand.
Kelcie scoffed. “Have you looked in a mirror lately? You don’t look like you showed much restraint.”
“So little faith,” I said, sticking out my tongue. “I know what I’m doing.”
“Speaking of,” Kelcie said, turning to Kinder, “what are we doing?”
He’d been staring out the window when Kelcie asked the question, and he seemed to be surprised when she asked. “Tonight?” he said. “Sleeping, I’d imagine.”
“I’m not sleeping,” Kelcie said quickly.
Mr. Kinder gave her a curious look. “You complain about her overdoing it, but you have as well. Your energy is nearly drained as well.”
I snorted at the indiginant expression on Kelcie’s face.
“I’m fine!” she protested.
“Yeah, and all those glamours in the library were nothing?” I asked. “How are you doing?”
She turned on me angrily. “Someone needs to stay up and maintain the wards, and it won’t be you!”
“And why not?” I asked. “I’ve already gone and activated them.”
“Enough, ladies,” Kinder said, “Both of you need sleep. We can handle the books in the morning.”
“Someone needs to manage the wards,” Kelcie said. She reminded me of the one weak spot in my shield, the ward she had activated. I could still feel that one spot glowing in the indigo dome.
“Kel’s right,” I said. “I can do it.” I pushed myself to my feet wavering as I stood. I grabbed the arm of the chair to get my balance. I hadn’t spent that much blood, had I? My cheek had bled far too much already, but I hadn’t even needed to summon something inside the forest. Or was the forest to blame?
“I don’t think so,” Kinder replied. He stood up from his seat on the windowsill, tapping the rune beside his window. It flared into a bright, copper glow, pulsing blue in the core. A quick check let me see that all the defenses were now under his control. “Now then Rachael, my bedroom is the first one to the left of the stairs. There’s an attached bathroom. Please take a shower before you get in my bed.”
I gave up on arguing, leaving for the promise of a shower and bed. Behind me, I could hear Kelcie and Kinder still talking.
“If Karen’s still out there, when should we expect her back?” Kelcie asked.
“Hard to say,” Kinder responded. “Last time, she came back at dawn.”
I lost the rest of the conversation as I entered the bedroom. It was weird using his room, but even his big house wasn’t prepared for 6 bloodied and exhausted librarians to crash in. His bed was still unmade from when we’d woken him up.
In the bathroom, I could see why everyone was freaking out. Amber had scored me from my hairline to the corner of my lip, and the blood had dripped all down my neck. My own cut on the other cheek was shorter and shallower, but it had still smeared blood over most of my face.
I saw the shower but just the idea of undressing to stand under it sounded exhausting. Grabbing a washcloth, I wiped away the worst of the blood off my face and hands. I lay two of the towels from the bathroom over his bed, kicked off my jeans and jacket, and collapsed into the bed.
When I woke up, the sun was high in the sky, and Karen still wasn’t back.