Written in Red Page 106

Between was not encouraged in the Courtyards. Between disturbed humans too much, stirred up too much fear. Right now, he didn’t care. He shifted what he needed. His feet changed shape and acquired footpads, fur, and claws. His palms grew a pad, and his fingers changed to stubby, clawed digits.

The snow packed against the wall of his yard formed a ramp. He scrambled over the snow and down the other side of the wall, crouching beside the snowpack while he studied the van. Then, staying low, he crossed the open area and reached the passenger’s door.

A glance into the office. Meg talking to the intruder.

She didn’t look like she wanted to talk to that monkey. But he did. Oh yes. He did.

* * *

Simon chased a cookie across the floor, enjoying the silly game.

Meg hadn’t been upset when she saw him as Wolf. She had, in fact, been foolishly brave, daring to push the leader away from food. And they had played. He couldn’t remember ever playing with a human.

Chasing one you were going to eat didn’t count.

Did she play tug with Sam? What about throw? He didn’t think she was strong enough to throw anything very far, but it could still be an enjoyable game. The three of them could play. They could . . .

Simon raised his head, growling softly but not yet sure what he was sensing that had him primed to attack.

He stepped into the sorting room, sniffed the air . . . and knew.

Meg wasn’t just uneasy. Meg was afraid.

* * *

Her skin prickled so fiercely, it was everything she could do not to drop the clipboard and pen and pull out the razor to ease the awful feeling that had started as soon as the man walked into the office. Everything about him was wrong, but he hadn’t actually done anything.

“Must get lonely, working here all by yourself,” he said.

“Oh no. There are people coming and going all day.” Not to mention the Crows who kept track of who came and went.

Trying to ignore the prickling, Meg frowned at the back of the van. Not enough information and far too many blanks. Who was this delivery service anyway?

Giving up on the van, she turned toward the package, sliding her eyes to get another look at the man. Big. Rough-looking. No name stitched on the shirt pocket. No company logo or identification on the jacket.

“There’s no company name on this label,” she said. The box was tall enough that she could see the label but not read it easily. Another black mark for this delivery service that their driver didn’t think to tilt it for her. “Who sent this?”

He shrugged. “Couldn’t say.”

“It should be on your paperwork.” Her voice turned sharp. There was something about the look in his eyes that reminded her of the Walking Names when one of the girls dared to ask a question that wasn’t about a lesson. “Who is it for?”

“For one of them. What difference does it make?”

Something ugly in his voice now. But he was more frightening when he tried to go back to friendly, as if she couldn’t hear the ugliness under the words.

“Sorry,” he said. “Had a couple of rough deliveries earlier. Complaints about things I can’t fix. You know?”

That was possible, although she suspected he deserved the complaints. Setting her pen and clipboard on the counter, she reached for the box, intending to turn it in the hopes she could at least make out which complex it should go to. If she couldn’t read that much, she would refuse the delivery and write a memo to Simon and Vlad in case someone was looking for the package.

The man moved fast, clamping one hand on her wrist.

“Why don’t you come with me?” he said, smiling when she couldn’t break his grip. “We’ll get something to eat and get acquainted.”

“No.” She twisted, trying to break free. “Let go of my wrist!”

“Whatcha gonna do? Bite my hand off?”

Simon exploded out of the sorting room. He didn’t bother with the hand. His lunge took him over the counter far enough that his teeth just missed the man’s face.

The man let her go and scrambled back toward the door. “You f**king bitch! I was just asking you out for a meal. You didn’t have to sic your f**king dog on me!”

The “dog” snarled so savagely, the man bolted out of the office and scrambled into the van, his movements so violent the driver’s-side tires actually lifted off the pavement for a moment. But there wasn’t time to wonder about that, because Simon used his body to shove her into the sorting room.

He rose on his hind legs and shifted, but he didn’t revert back to human completely before he grabbed her, and his fury, like the look of him when he was a queer blend of human and Wolf, was a chilling heat against her skin.

“Where is it?” He pulled her close and began sniffing her. “Where is it?”

She tried pushing him away, disturbed by the sensation of fur covering a human chest. “Where is what?” When he bent to sniff at her waist and hips, she squealed and struggled to get away.

“Where is the cut, Meg?” he snarled.

“I didn’t cut!” She began fighting him. He was something out of nightmares now, and he terrified her. “Stop it, Simon! Let me go!”

She pulled away from him, smacking against the counter as a hand that wasn’t quite a hand yanked on her sweater. She heard the sound of material ripping at the seams. And she heard his harsh breathing as he stared at the upper part of her left arm.

“I didn’t cut,” she said, trying not to cry. “I was in the back room with you, and then I was trying to deal with that deliveryman.”

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