Vision in Silver Page 36

“It’s soft and thick,” Sam said, running his hand over her hair. “Feels like Wolf.”

The soft, and deliberate, scuff of a shoe on the ground just behind her.

Meg snapped upright and whirled around.

“Simon.” She tried—and failed—to recall a training image that matched the look on his face. Baffled annoyance with a touch of hurt feelings?

“Wait for us inside, pup,” he said. “And don’t shift in front of the little human.”

Big gusty sigh. Then, having made his point about being put upon by entertaining a human, Sam opened the door and slipped inside A Little Bite.

“I should . . .” Meg pointed at the door.

“You growl at me because I want to feel your hair, but you don’t even grumble at him?”

Definitely some hurt feelings.

“He’s a puppy!” she protested.

“So?”

“Well . . . but . . .”

“I don’t growl at you when you want to pet my fur,” Simon said.

“But . . . that’s different!”

“How?”

Meg opened her mouth to explain exactly how it was different—and couldn’t think of anything to say. It was different, wasn’t it? He never objected when she ran her fingers through his fur. He was a Wolf. And fluffy. Less fluffy now that he’d shed his winter coat, but still!

Had she been intruding on what a magazine article called personal space without realizing it? He’d never objected, but he’d never actually given her permission to pet him.

She looked at him patiently waiting for an explanation and realized he didn’t see a difference between his tactile curiosity and hers. And right now she couldn’t figure out the difference either.

“Fine,” she muttered.

Not like Sam’s touch. Simon’s larger hand slowly moved over her head, those strong fingers finding the spot behind her ear where the muscles were tight. Pressing. Circling. Coaxing the muscles to yield and relax.

She swayed. Didn’t even realize he’d moved until her forehead rested against his chest.

“Oh,” she breathed. “No wonder you just lie there when we’re watching a movie.”

His breath ruffled her hair when he said laughingly, “Well, yeah.”

Too soon Simon lowered his hand and stepped back. “Sam’s getting impatient—and curious now that he’s gotten a look at the Lizzy. You should go in. The Lizzy wouldn’t tell Nathan what happened to her mother, but she might tell you.”

Meg nodded and walked into A Little Bite.

Not just Lizzy, the Lizzy.

Ruth was the one who had realized the terra indigene had a verbal hierarchy they used when talking about humans, a way of indicating the degree of interaction with an individual. Ruth had been the Ruthie when she’d been a customer at Howling Good Reads, but since she’d started working in the Courtyard, she was just Ruthie. Meg was Meg, the Meg, or our Meg depending on who was talking to her or about her.

And humans the Others didn’t like had “that” added to their names.

Simon came in behind her and gave her a gentle nudge, which made her realize she’d stopped moving while she pondered name distinctions.

As she walked up the hallway that led from the back door to the front of the shop, she pictured the customer area of A Little Bite with its tables and the counter where Tess worked. She pictured Sam sitting at one of the tables. She hadn’t seen Lizzy yet, so she recalled a training image of a young girl. Now she had some idea of what to expect.

Then she heard a young female voice say, “Bad dog!” She heard the whap of two things connecting, followed by a yelp. And then Skippy bolted down the hallway and almost knocked her over in his haste to escape.

“You should deal with that,” Simon said, giving her another nudge. He turned and went out the back door with Skippy.

Deal with what? How many things had she dealt with because Simon assumed that she could? And how many things had she dealt with because she didn’t want Simon to know that she couldn’t?

Something to think about another day.

Shaking her head, Meg walked into the coffee shop’s front room.

“I’m making grilled cheese sandwiches,” Tess said. “You’re the referee. You can tell Miss Lizzy over there that Boo Bear does not get his own sandwich. He’ll have to settle for a bite of hers.”

Since Tess’s hair was green and curling, Meg didn’t argue and she didn’t ask. But she wondered why no one had mentioned that a member of the Beargard was visiting the Courtyard.

Sam, who had been standing near the counter, grabbed Meg’s hand and whispered loudly, “She whacked Skippy. With a bear.”

The pup sounded impressed. Meg felt confused.

Unable to recall any training image that would match what Sam had said, she whispered, “Come on, let’s introduce ourselves.” Holding his hand, she walked up to the table where the girl watched them. “I’m Meg. This is Sam. Can we sit with you?”

The girl nodded. “I’m Lizzy. This is Boo Bear.”

Looking at Boo Bear, Meg understood why he wasn’t going to get his own sandwich. She just hoped Lizzy understood the difference between Boo Bear and a real bear.

Tess came over and set two plates on the table. Both held a grilled cheese sandwich cut in half and a sprig of red grapes. “I’m bringing yours,” she told Meg. Then she looked at Lizzy and Sam. “Sit down. Eat. Try not to cause a riot.”

Was that supposed to be amusing? Meg wondered.

Sam sat on the edge of a chair, one foot on the floor in case he needed to make a quick escape. He picked up one half of his sandwich and took a bite, all the while watching the girl and bear.

Meg took a seat and thanked Tess when the third plate of food and three glasses of water were placed on the table. For a minute, she savored the experience of eating—the taste and texture of toasted bread and melted cheese, the crisp sweetness of the grapes.

After she’d eaten half the sandwich, she focused on the girl. What to say? What to do? What if something bad had happened?

Of course something bad happened, Meg thought. Lizzy is here, alone. Sort of. The police should be the ones who ask about that. But I need to say something.

Then she knew exactly what to say because she’d had a similar experience a few months ago.

“How did you like riding the train?” Meg asked. She addressed the question to Lizzy, but it felt like she was talking to the team of Lizzy and Boo Bear.

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