Written in Red Page 11

Oh, gods. She’d been in a hurry to disguise herself in some way, so she must have done something wrong when she’d used that bottle of red dye on her hair. I guess the change in color that I saw this morning wasn’t bad lighting in the apartment’s bathroom.

“Get this into your head, Meg Corbyn. We don’t let humans live in our part of the world because we like you. We let you live here because you can be useful, and you’ve invented things that we like having. If it wasn’t for that, you’d all be nothing but meat. Which is something you should remember.”

“Being mad about my hair isn’t fair,” she muttered, trying to hide that she was starting to shiver. She didn’t think shivering would be a good idea right now.

“I don’t have to be fair,” he snapped. “You’re in the Courtyard. Whatever rules humans have for employers aren’t my rules unless I say they’re my rules. So I can hire you even though you don’t have any idea what you’re doing, and I can fire you for having stinky hair!”

“Unless you want me to cut it all off, there’s nothing I can do about the hair!” she snapped back. And then she felt terrified that he might want her to do exactly that.

Growl. Roar. Shout. She couldn’t begin to describe the sound that came out of him.

She shook. She couldn’t help it. He still looked human, but he also looked wild and savage.

“Is this a bad time for an introduction?” a voice rumbled.

Big man with a shaggy mane of medium-brown hair that tumbled to his shoulders. Jeans and a flannel shirt, with an open coat, as if the cold didn’t bother him.

“You going to keep her shivering in the cold or show her where she works?” he asked, looking at Simon. “Or should I—”

Simon snarled.

The big man just waited.

Pulling a set of keys out of his pocket, Simon opened the door. Then he tipped his head toward her. “She’s Meg Corbyn.” He gave the man a narrow-eyed stare. “And that’s Henry Beargard.” Without another word, he shoved her inside and closed the door.

Even through the closed door, Meg heard Henry’s booming laugh.

“Pegs on the wall are for coats,” Simon said, sounding snappish. “The mats are for wet boots and shoes. Floor can be slippery when it’s wet. Our bodywalkers don’t know anything about mending actual humans, so if you slip and break a leg, we’ll eat you same as we would a deer.” He took off his boots and put on a pair of loafers that were on the mat. “Toilet and sink behind that door. Storage area is next to it. The bins that have clothes are for the terra indigene. Don’t touch them. Under-the-counter fridge. A wave-cooker and an electric kettle to heat water. Cups, plates, and utensils are stored in the cupboards below. You’re responsible for cleaning what you use.” He gave her a slashing look. “Well? Are you just going to stand there?”

She took off her coat and boots, put on the shoes she’d brought with her, and remembered to take the keys when he growled at her.

He was not a nice man, and she was going to learn this job as fast as she could so she wouldn’t have to deal with him too much.

He opened another wooden door that led into another big room.

“Sorting room,” he said as he moved to a panel in the wall and flipped a switch. “This panel unlocks the delivery doors. They stay locked unless you’re accepting an approved shipment or handing out mail.”

“How will I know if it’s appro—”

“The pigeonholes on this wall hold mail for the Market Square stores. The larger partitions hold packages and anything that needs to stay flat. Parcels can also be stored under the sorting table or in those cupboards.” Simon gave her a hostile look as he opened another door and pointed to the sign screwed into the wood. “See that? It says PRIVATE. No one who isn’t terra indigene comes into the sorting room except you. Is that clear?”

“It’s clear but . . . why?” she asked.

“Because I said so. Because what goes on inside the Courtyard is no one’s business except ours.” Simon looked at the clock on the wall and growled. “I have other things to take care of, so you’ll have to figure out the next steps on your own.”

“But—”

“Deliveries are accepted from nine a.m. to noon. Afternoon deliveries usually arrive from two to four in the afternoon. Terra indigene delivery trucks come at other times, but those aren’t your concern. There’s a list of phone numbers in that drawer. If you have questions, you can call Howling Good Reads or A Little Bite. All those bags of mail and those packages have to be sorted for delivery. We did what we could while we were looking for a Liaison, but we all have our own work and don’t have time to do yours.”

“But—”

“The door opens at nine,” he said as he headed out of the room.

Meg stared at the door leading to the back room, then jumped when the outer door slammed shut.

She held her breath until she was sure she was alone. Then she let it out with a muttered “Bad Wolf,” and hoped she could figure out how to start her workday.

* * *

Simon wanted to bite someone, but the person leaning against the wall next to HGR’s back door was Henry, and a lone Wolf didn’t mess with a Grizzly, especially when that Bear acted as the Courtyard’s spirit guide and was one of the few beings Simon could talk to without guarding his thoughts or words.

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