Vision in Silver Page 38

“Are you standing at the archway to avoid scaring Lizzy?” Monty asked.

Nathan and Blair snorted a laugh.

Simon stared at Monty. “We’re standing there because, for a small human, the Lizzy is territorial. She’s already whacked Skippy for coming over to take a sniff, and we can hear everything just fine from the archway.” He paused. “Besides, Boo Bear really stinks.”

Kowalski coughed.

The Wolves made room for Monty to stand in the archway and observe his daughter. She seemed fine, chatting away with Sam and Meg, pausing every so often to relay a comment from that silly bear.

Gods, Elayne had been furious with him when he came back from an outing with Lizzy and had that bear instead of the doll Elayne had said would be a suitable toy. But Lizzy hadn’t wanted a doll. She’d focused on that furry brown bear, pulling it off a shelf she could barely reach and holding on so fiercely he’d had the choice of taking the bear or leaving the child.

The dolls were dutifully played with when Elayne insisted Lizzy play with something that looked human, but it was Boo Bear, her bestest friend, who went everywhere with the girl.

Apparently that was still true, despite Elayne’s infatuation with Nicholas Scratch and his damn HFL movement.

Meg looked toward the archway. “Lizzy,” she said as she pointed.

Lizzy turned and saw him. “Daddy!” She scrambled out of her chair and ran to him, dumping Boo Bear on the floor.

Monty dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her.

“Lizzy.” He kissed her cheek, her forehead. “Lizzy girl. You okay, baby?”

“We’re okay. We were on the train, and there was a bad man, and the Wolf police scared him away!”

Monty looked up at Nathan. “Thank you.”

The Wolf shrugged. “Should have . . .” He glanced at the girl and stopped.

“Nathan’s teeth got really big,” Lizzy said. “I saw them!”

One of the Wolves behind him sighed.

“Lizzy, where’s your mother?” Monty asked.

Her eyes held a blend of guilt and fear, an expression he knew well. She looked that way anytime something happened because she’d been doing something she’d been told not to do. Lizzy understood that actions had consequences. She just didn’t want to believe that applied to her. Of course, his transfer, and the disruption in all their lives, was a powerful example of actions and consequences. “Lizzy?”

“Mommy got hurt. She said I needed to be a big girl and go on the train by myself. Me and Boo Bear.”

Hurt could mean a lot of things to a child. “Where did she get hurt?”

Lizzy placed a hand over her belly.

“No!” Meg shouted.

Monty looked up. Lizzy turned and yelled, “Bad dog!” and ran toward the table just as Skippy grabbed one of Boo Bear’s stubby front legs and tried to run off with the prize.

“I’ll get him!” Sam said. He pushed down his shorts, yanked the T-shirt over his head, shifted into Wolf form, and rushed at Skippy, chasing the juvenile Wolf in and around the tables, both of them banging into chairs.

Lizzy ran back to the table, grabbed the last bite of her sandwich, and threw it at Skippy, distracting him just long enough for Sam to get his teeth into one of Boo Bear’s back legs.

The fierce game of tug only lasted a few seconds before seams split and Skippy darted under a table with a fuzzy front leg. Sam dropped the torn back leg, grabbed the rest of the bear, and brought it back to the table. He dropped it at Lizzy’s feet before shifting to the form of a naked, grinning boy who was so obviously pleased with himself.

No one spoke. Getting to his feet, Monty felt laughter bubble up at the absurdity along with a father’s panic. Lizzy wasn’t wailing about Boo Bear being in pieces—yet—but that was probably because she was getting her first good look at a naked boy. Sam didn’t look that much older than Lizzy, and he wasn’t doing anything, but still. Naked boy.

Simon pushed into A Little Bite, followed by Nathan.

“Sam, put your clothes on,” Simon said mildly. “Meg? You okay? Meg!”

“Can I help?” Kowalski asked, easing around Monty.

“Keep an eye on things,” Tess said. She strode to the table where Meg stood frozen and took the girl’s hand. “Meg and I need some air and time to settle. We’ll be at the Liaison’s Office.” She led Meg out of the coffee shop.

Watching the two females leave sobered Monty. Meg Corbyn was the key to so many things, and, so far, she was the only cassandra sangue who had managed to live outside a compound without having breakdowns. If she was starting to break now, how much would break with her?

Simon scooped up Boo Bear’s hind leg, then approached the table where Skippy lay mouthing the front leg and growling.

The Wolfgard snarled. Skippy dropped the mangled front leg and scooted farther under the table.

Nathan went around the counter. He came back out and held up one of the Wolf cookies. “Skippy. Cookie.”

Skippy leaped up and thumped his head on the underside of the table hard enough to be momentarily stunned. Nathan hauled the juvenile Wolf away from the table and half carried him out the back door.

Simon looked at Sam. “Go with them.”

Sam stared at his uncle for a moment before running to catch up with Nathan.

Which left Lizzy literally hugging the stuffing out of Boo Bear while Simon, Blair, Kowalski, and Monty formed a circle around her.

“Daddy?” Now the tears began to fall. “Boo Bear got hurt.”

“I know, Lizzy girl. But . . .”

“I have called the Wolfgard bodywalker,” Henry Beargard rumbled as he stepped through the archway and joined them. “She will meet us at the medical office and do what she can.”

“But he’s a bear,” Lizzy wailed. A little more stuffing dribbled out from the torn spots.

“So am I,” Henry said. “But I am the only Grizzly in the Courtyard, so when I am hurt, the Wolf tends to me.” He held out a big hand.

“Henry is the Courtyard’s spirit guide,” Simon said. “He is wise.”

Lizzy hesitated, then gave Boo Bear to Henry.

The Grizzly studied the toy bear. Then he sniffed the face, the places where the legs had been torn off, the seam along the back.

Watching Henry’s face, Monty eased Lizzy behind him. He felt Kowalski shift position to provide additional protection.

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