Harper sat down at the bar. Brittney was waiting there for her, and with a drink ready.
She was grateful for that. Her arm was cast, but it still hurt. She took a sip and looked around. “It’s quiet; I’m surprised.”
“Some concert downtown tonight,” Brittney told her. “Tickets were sold out, and all the reserve seats too. Very popular place to be right now.”
Harper smiled. “And you’re not there?”
“I’m exhausted with popular,” Brittney said, smirking. She picked up her drink and clinked it to Harper’s without waiting. “To my tenure with Afterlife.”
“You can’t,” Harper said. “It’s—”
“Dangerous, I know,” Brittney said. “Oh, who cares? You all need me. I rock a suit and badge, and those officers aren’t giving up. I could tell.”
Harper thought about arguing more but didn’t. She wanted Brittney there. “Okay then. To you joining Afterlife.”
They both drank again.
“You going to be able to work with Alec?” Harper asked.
“Are you?” Brittney countered.
Harper thought about the vampire. Alec hadn’t left his apartment in the three days since they’d left the unders. When she was up there, he stayed in his room.
“He needs time, that’s all,” she said, hoping it was true.
“Uh-huh,” Brittney said. She downed her drink. “Well, I promised to meet up with Chloe tonight. She wanted some advice on colors for her kitchen.”
“It’s almost eleven,” Harper said.
“So?” Brittney grinned. “We’re turning into vampires ourselves, Harper. I spend more time awake at night than I did in college. I’m out. Don’t forget to meet Sarah at noon tomorrow.”
Harper groaned. “How she expects me to train with a broken arm…”
“Your legs aren’t broken,” Brittney said, standing upright in a decent imitation of Sarah. They laughed, hugged, and she grabbed her purse and left.
Harper went back to the bat cave. Conner was there, but asleep. He’d set up a cot in the room. Just in case, he’d said.
“In case what?” Harper whispered, looking at the slow rise and fall of his chest. But she knew. Alec almost chose to keep drinking blood. He hadn’t, but he’d killed over thirty men and women in the tunnel and nearly himself too, just in case.
She went up to the apartment and let herself in. Alec must have come out while she was gone because it was immaculate. She shook her head, wondering if that helped. Scrubbing counters, vacuuming floors. Did it give him something to focus on?
Harper went to bed.
She woke the following day to someone knocking at the door. When she answered it, Afterlife was there.
Sarah bore breakfast sandwiches, Chloe and Brittney were balancing armfuls of coffee cups, and Conner had a laptop bag over his shoulder and a plastic sack full of some DVDs.
“What are you doing here?” Harper asked as she moved out of the way.
“Alec was wrong,” Conner told her as he tossed the bag on the couch and put down the laptop. “I’m no different at all. So tell him to get his ass out here. I brought movies and a laptop since he doesn’t believe in TV.”
Harper watched the team started setting out breakfast, already arguing about what movie to watch first.
She went to Alec’s room, wondering if this was worth it. For Conner — for any of them. When she knocked, he called out, “Come in.”
Harper opened the door and stepped inside. Alec was in his chair, reading the book from his desk. He looked up at her. “They’re here?”
“Yeah, they’re here,” Harper said. “Better come out before Chloe drinks all the coffee. Besides, a movie is about to start.”
Alec nodded and picked up a sleeved bookmark.
Harper stepped back, her heart racing. There was a flower inside. Centuries-old, pressed, and blue.