Vision in Silver Page 9

<Upset about what?>

<Don’t know.>

Simon stepped up to the door, startling Skippy, who leaped away with a yelp of surprise and banged his head on Vlad’s knee. The vampire swore and grabbed for the Wolf, who proved he wasn’t ready to join a hunt for anything that had hooves or horns when he tried to escape by running between Vlad’s legs.

Henry caught Skippy, gently dumped the struggling Wolf in the enclosed yard next to the Liaison’s Office, then shut the wooden gate. Since Skippy couldn’t shift to another form and couldn’t keep his brain focused long enough to learn how to open doors, he’d stay where Henry put him.

And hopefully he’d quickly forget where he’d been a minute ago and why he’d been howling.

Of course, Skippy tended to remember things at the most inconvenient times. Like now, when, sitting behind the gate, he resumed his howl about Meg not letting him in.

Shaking his head, Simon tried to open the office’s back door.

Locked.

That door wasn’t supposed to be locked when Meg was in the office, in case she needed help in a hurry. Like when she used the razor.

Growling, he fished his keys out of his jeans pocket, opened the back door, and hurried inside.

“Meg!” Simon turned toward a sound coming from the bathroom. “Meg, what . . .” He stopped. Stared.

That was new.

He took a cautious step toward her. Then, intrigued, he took another step. “Meg?”

<Simon?> Vlad asked. <What is it?>

<Stay outside,> he replied.

Even after Meg came to the Courtyard, he hadn’t paid much attention to the physical appearance of the humans who worked for them. They did their work, and he didn’t eat them. That was sufficient. But they’d never had a blood prophet living in the Courtyard before, so maybe this was a normal seasonal change?

No, not normal. Meg looked upset, so this must be a new thing for her too.

“You shed your old hair,” he said. Well, she’d done something with it. He had a feeling this was one of those times when a male should express positive enthusiasm regardless of what he really thought—especially when he didn’t really know what was going on.

Fortunately, he did feel positive—and curious.

Meg’s weird orange hair was gone, and her head was covered by a coat that was glossy black and thick and so short it stuck straight up. He reached out, wanting to see if the hair felt as soft as it looked. “This looks like puppy fuzz.”

Before he could give her a scritch behind the ear, she jerked away from his hand and wailed, “I don’t wanna look like puppy fuzz!”

“Why not? Puppies are cute.”

Her breathing started to hitch, and her eyes had a panicked, glassy look that reminded him of a young bison he’d seen once when he was a juvenile Wolf living in the Northwest Region. The youngster had challenged an older bull and took a blow to the skull that had hurt its brain. He and the other Wolves had watched it stagger around and around, unable to change direction or even stop. It eventually recovered and followed the rest of the herd.

If the pack hadn’t already made a kill earlier in the day, that young bull would have been easy prey.

If you forced blood prophet puppies to see too many new images, their brains froze as if they’d taken a hard hit, just like the young bison. The girls he’d brought back from the compound had done that several times during the train ride back to Lakeside.

But this was the first time he’d seen that panicked look in Meg’s eyes.

“Meg!” he said fiercely. What could he do? How could he help her?

Same way he’d helped the girls during the train ride. Hide the strange. New things frightened.

Simon rushed into the sorting room and yanked open the drawers under the counter, growling as he pawed through the contents and thought of the nastiest human swearwords he knew. He found the floppy fleece hat stuffed in the back of a drawer. Grabbing it, he ran into the back room, plopped the hat on Meg’s head, then dragged her into the bathroom and positioned her in front of the mirror above the sink.

“Look!” he demanded, closing his hands around her upper arms and giving her a little shake. “This is Meg, wearing the floppy hat we bought to keep her head warm after she came home from the hospital. This is Meg, the Human Liaison for the Lakeside Courtyard. This is Meg, who is my friend, Sam’s friend, Vlad’s friend, Tess’s friend, Henry’s friend, Jenni’s friend. Look!”

He watched the panic in her eyes fade, watched her absorb the image of their reflections in the mirror. With the hair hidden, she looked the same as she had yesterday, except for the bandage on her left forearm.

Now confusion, and a touch of fear, filled her gray eyes. “Simon . . .”

Upset with her and for her, but gentler now that she sounded like Meg again, he led her into the sorting room.

<Simon?> Henry called.

<I want Merri Lee here now,> Simon said. <Once I find out what’s going on with Meg, the Business Association will meet.>

<Elliot too,> Henry said. <He has things to tell us about his talk with the mayor.>

<I’m going to deal with Meg first.>

<Is she all right?>

<She’s not hurt, but . . . I don’t know. I think this is a girl thing.> Wasn’t that what Meg had told Vlad? That she was going to do a girl thing as a symbol for a new beginning?

Simon studied Meg as she leaned against the sorting table, looking exhausted. He hoped he hadn’t bruised her arms when he dragged her into the bathroom, but if he had, he wouldn’t be surprised when Henry swatted him—hopefully with a human hand and not a clawed Grizzly paw.

Merri Lee rushed into the sorting room. “Meg . . . ?” She jerked to a stop. “Mr. Wolfgard?”

“Take off the hat, Meg,” Simon said. Merri Lee would look at Meg’s new coat, make a casual remark, and then . . .

“Wow! That’s radical.”

Meg’s breathing hitched. Simon turned on Merri Lee and snarled, “You are not being helpful!”

“Well, I’m sorry, but it is radical,” Merri Lee stammered. “I can understand why Meg needs time to adjust to how she looks with hair that short.”

“Not helpful,” he warned, showing his teeth.

But Merri Lee wasn’t paying attention to him. She was studying Meg. “You weren’t prepared for how it would look, were you?”

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