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“What on earth did you summon off her?” Kelcie whispered at me fiercely. She pointed at the bloody handprint on Amber’s jacket as we walked down the hallway.

“Nothing,” I replied, but Kelcie was still glowering at me viciously.

“Rachael!” she hissed, trying to get in my way. “You can’t just summon creatures on a whim!”

“And I didn’t,” I whispered, pressing a hand to my cheek trying to stop it from dripping blood to the carpet.

She scowled more as we entered the closest room. “Then what the hell was that?”

“I imagine it was demonic destruction,” a deep voice said from the living room. Mr. Kinder looked over from the front window, where he was watching the fight. I nodded as Amber stared at me questioningly.

“Your arcane is improving,” he said, handing me a white handkerchief as the blood dripped into my mouth.

I pressed the cloth to my cheek gratefully. “Thanks.”

“But you cut your face?” she fussed. “For that?”

“Friendly fire,” I said, going over to the window and pushing aside the curtains. On the wall behind the sapphire brocade fabric, there was a small etched symbol. I touched it lightly with one bloody finger and it flared into life, shining a deep, purpley-blue.

“Is that necessary, Rachael?” Kinder asked. His frown creased wrinkles into his face as I let the curtains drop. He was wearing a heavy flannel robe and I hoped there was also some clothes underneath it.

“Your entire staff shows up at 2 AM with a swarm of harpies in tow and you wonder if the wards are necessary?” I asked, disgruntled.

Kinder sighed heavily. “Do what you must.”

“Fill him in, Kelcie,” I said, wandering off through the house. She glowered at me and I smiled back at her with blood covered teeth.

In a way, Amber had done me a favour with her accidental slash. The cut had been shallow enough that it barely stung when I flexed my jaw, investigating the wound with my tongue. And yet, it bled freely enough that I didn’t have to worry about a medium for my magic. I walked through the dining room, activating the runes on each window. They glowed as I touched them, drinking in the offered blood hungrily.

I slipped into the kitchen next. I could see the ugly birds circling the house but I didn’t need Kinder’s help in finding the runes. I’d etched them into his walls myself, a decade ago. When he announced he was going into semi-retirement several years ago, I’d refreshed the runes again, as well as everyone else on the staff. Well, almost everyone. I hadn’t gotten around to sealing Amber’s house yet.

I pursed my lips, trying to remember if Amber lived alone. She almost certainly hadn’t been on the team long enough to have made enemies. But with an outright harpy attack on a residential home, it was clear that the kiddy gloves were coming up. Someone out there meant business. I just wished I’d spent enough time studying the fae to guess what that business was.

A harpy slammed into the window as I finished up with the main floor, startling me. They were wising up to where we’d gone. I’d have thought they’d be more distracted with the fighters outside. I rushed past the massive fish tank beside the stairwell. All of the fish seemed to be asleep at the late hour. All except for the massive, spotted algae-eater, hiding under the log near the bottom of the tank. His freckled and whiskered face stared out at me as I hurried up the steps to the bedrooms.

Kinder had way too many bedrooms for a single man. I swore as I ran out of the first of them, flipping on the light in the second room. I was greeted by an explosion of glass and feathers as a harpy burst through the window. It screamed insults at me as I threw the door shut again. I heard it hit the wood with talons as long as a hatchet.

I took a deep breath, leaning my weight against the door and considering my options. Most of our staff had cross-disciplines in their fields. Mark threw fire almost as well as Nate did. Better, in some situations. Karen could have probably represented any of the primaries equally well. But I had dedicated myself almost exclusively to the indigo field, as much because no one else wanted it as anything else.

The reason no one wanted to cross train in my field was simple.

Demons required a sacrifice.

The harpy slammed against the door again, reminding me of my current issue. With no line of sight, my options were slim. I hadn’t bothered with the flashy skills of the fae discipline, there were no shadows to claim it, and it was preventing my access to my protective wards. The stupid harpy were practically wind demons yet here I was in a stand-off.

I winced as a taloned foot stabbed through the door above me. A very unbalanced stand-off.

And yet…

There was a wall socket beside me. With much luck, it connected to the wiring within the bedroom. Or at least that was my reasoning as I punched through the drywall beside it, grabbing onto the plastic coated wiring with the blood-soaked hanky.

I could see the shape I needed in my head. The perfect circle of metal and wire surrounding the room and the angry harpy. The wiring bent to my will, ripping itself out of the walls to encircle the beast. I willed the copper into the floorboards, etching beneath the doorframe. Based on the steady attacks on the door, I suspected the bird hadn’t even noticed the danger it was in yet.

The others might laugh that I knew the entire language by heart. But there was hardly a chance now to look up the rune in a book. I smeared a finger across a bloody cheek, writing three runes in red in front of the door.

Then I drew my pen knife out of my pocket again, testing the blade against my finger. I drew myself to a shaky stand in front of the shattering door, drawing the knife along my undamaged cheek to match the other. Three drops of blood fell onto the copper binding circle just as the harpy smashed the door into splinters.

The bird slammed into the magical barrier, inches from my face. It screeched obscenities at me, but the copper and blood barrier held firm, trapping it inside.

“Rachael!” I heard Kelcie scream from the living room. Her feet pounded on the staircase.

“I’m fine,” I yelled, trying to convince myself of the same thing. Kelcie froze at the top of the steps, staring at the mangled door and wall. Or maybe at the angry, raging monster. I couldn’t be sure anymore.

“What did you do?” she asked.

“Demonology follows certain laws,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt. I pointed at the torn out window behind the raging harpy. “Do you think you can activate that rune?”

“What, like, just walk through the angry harpy?” Kelcie snapped.

“Or you could teleport,” I said. “But don’t let me stop you from just walking through.”

I hurried into the rest of the bedrooms to activate the runes on their windows as Kelcie blinked away. Luckily the rest of the monsters stayed outside as we worked.

We left the rune by the front door for last, to give the others somewhere to run.

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