Vision in Silver Page 3

Maybe Merri Lee was right about telling Vlad before someone started howling about the cut and brought everyone running to demand answers.

“Merri?” Meg said as Merri Lee opened the office’s back door. “I didn’t see anything else about the Others?”

Merri Lee shook her head. Then she frowned. “Well, you did see paws digging.”

“Digging?” Now Meg frowned. “Why would that be important enough to see in a vision?”

“Don’t know. Maybe Vlad or the Wolves will be able to figure it out.” Merri Lee hesitated. “Will you be all right? You’re not dizzy or anything?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Remember to eat.”

“I will.”

As soon as Merri Lee closed the back door, Meg looked in the under-the-counter fridge. In the compound, the Walking Names who looked after the girls never gave them a choice about what to eat after a cut. They were fed well, but they were never given a choice. About anything.

Unable to decide, Meg warmed a small piece of quiche and half a beef sandwich in the wave-cooker. She poured a glass of orange juice, then took her meal into the sorting room.

She could select one of the CDs she’d borrowed from Music and Movies and listen to music while she ate. Or she could look at one of the magazines she was using to provide herself with images for the prophecies.

But she didn’t want new sounds or new images right now. She wanted to know what she had seen. She wanted to help figure out what the images meant.

And even though her friend had tried to be reassuring, Meg wanted to know what she’d seen that Merri Lee didn’t want to talk about.

*   *   *

Vladimir Sanguinati, comanager of Howling Good Reads, settled behind the desk in the bookstore’s office. Turning on the computer, he ignored the scant stack of paperwork and wrote a quick e-mail to Stavros Sanguinati, who lived in Toland, the big East Coast city where the largest book publishers were located.

Human book publishers, that is. Since the shakeup in the Midwest Region a couple of weeks ago, shipments of all kinds of material had slowed down, whether those materials came from the Midwest or not. So it was possible that the human publishers really were out of so many of the books he’d ordered for the store and were waiting for the next shipment of paper in order to print copies of backlist books and new titles. Or they could foolishly be out of stock only for orders sent in by the terra indigene.

Stavros would find out. Like Grandfather Erebus, he enjoyed old movies and often played at being a caricature of his own kind, the country vampire wearing blue jeans, a plaid shirt, and work boots who said things like, “Ve vant a six-pack of blood.” But when he was on official business for the Toland Courtyard, Stavros followed the Sanguinati tradition of wearing black, and there was nothing countrified about him when he arrived in a limousine, dressed in a suit of the finest material.

Stavros was euphemistically called the Toland Courtyard’s problem solver. Knowing how the other vampire solved problems, Vlad could almost pity any human who received an official visit. So Stavros would encourage businesses to put stores like Howling Good Reads first when they were filling back orders, and Vlad would be able to fill the requests coming in from the terra indigene settlements that received goods from the Lakeside Courtyard. The goods manufactured by humans were the only reason the terra indigene on the continent of Thaisia tolerated the continued existence of those invasive monkeys. If goods were no longer supplied, humans had value as only one thing: meat.

As Vlad sent the e-mail, he heard someone coming up the stairs. Hesitant footsteps but not furtive ones. Could be someone in the human pack wanting to use the computer in the Business Association’s room, which took up the other half of HGR’s second floor. They were supposed to ask permission before going into that room, and the newer employees were still getting used to working for, and dealing directly with, the Others. That could explain the hesitation.

When Merri Lee stopped in the doorway and he saw the look on her face, Vlad understood that the hesitation he’d heard was because she knew he wasn’t going to like whatever she had come to tell him. He closed the e-mail program and waited to see what the exploding fluffball wanted.

When Howling Good Reads had been open to human customers, he’d heard human females refer to him as “eye candy,” which meant his dark hair and eyes, his olive skin, and his handsome face easily attracted his prey. For him, feeding was often combined with foreplay.

But Merri Lee had never shown any sexual interest in him, which proved she was more sensible than other human females, and since she was dating a police officer, he didn’t think she was about to throw herself at him now.

Which meant he really wasn’t going to like her reason for coming up here to find him.

“Is there something I can do for you, Ms. Lee?” he finally asked when she continued to hover in the doorway.

She rushed in and sat in the visitor’s chair.

She’s shaking, he thought, suddenly wary. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Yet,” Merri Lee replied. “You need to tell the watch Wolf not to get upset and stir everyone up.”

It occurred to him that he didn’t know who was supposed to be on duty today. Nathan Wolfgard, one of the Courtyard’s best enforcers, was usually the Wolf on guard when Meg was working in the Human Liaison’s Office. But Nathan was on leave for a couple more weeks, running with the Wolves in the Addirondak Mountains, free to shed his responsibilities along with the human skin. The Sanguinati were more at home in human cities since smoke, their other form, made them ideal predators in an urban environment. But shifters like the Wolves, Bears, and various feline gards found life in a Courtyard a constant strain.

Working in a Courtyard was a sacrifice some terra indigene made for the benefit of the rest of their kind. They kept watch over the two-legged predators who had come to Thaisia from other parts of the world. They made it possible for humans to exist on this continent. Vlad wondered if any humans realized that—or realized what happened to the places granted to humans when a “civilized” place like a Courtyard disappeared.

But those thoughts weren’t important right now, not with this female staring at him from the other side of the desk.

“What will upset the Wolf?” he asked, having an uneasy feeling that he already knew the answer.

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