Written in Red Page 114

He shook his head, as if that would send the thoughts flying.

Meg said she was all right with him being Wolf while she watched the movie with Sam. He didn’t think she was lying.

He went upstairs and got Sam out of the bath, half listening to the grand plans the boy thought would fit into the couple of hours before bedtime. He let Sam dither over which movie to watch while he went into the kitchen and made the popcorn. Even in this form, the stuff didn’t have any particular appeal for him, but it was a traditional human treat when watching movies, so he made a big bowl of it for Meg and Sam to share.

He had just finished pouring the melted butter over the popcorn when someone knocked on the front door. Sam let out a sound that was part boy squeal and part Wolf howl as he rushed to the door and pulled it open.

The boy’s words tumbled over one another so fast, they made little sense except to convey happy excitement. Then Meg’s voice, still close to the door.

Simon cocked an ear. Why was she still close to the door? Had she changed her mind about spending time with them?

No, he realized as he heard her voice in the living room now. She had stopped to take off boots and coat. Why hadn’t she used the back door? Was front door a different message than back door?

He’d worked hard to learn the rules of doing business with humans, but there could be a whole other set of rules for personal interactions.

Frustrated now—and suspecting he was making a simple thing complicated—Simon brought the popcorn into the living room. He went back to the kitchen for two large mugs of water. Placing everything on the table in front of the sofa, he greeted Meg and retreated to the kitchen to shed the clothes and shift.

He crept toward the living room, silent and waiting. Sam and Meg put the movie disc in the player and got it started. He listened to the bits and pieces about other movies, listened to boy and woman settling down on the sofa. He waited a couple of minutes longer, then slipped into the living room.

They were tucked at one end of the sofa, the bowl of popcorn on Meg’s lap, their eyes focused on the television.

A dart behind the sofa to come around the other side.

A moment’s tension. A moment’s fear. Then Meg patted the cushion and said, “I think we left enough room for you.”

He climbed up on the sofa, filling the remaining space.

“Popcorn?” Meg asked, tipping the bowl toward him.

As an answer, he turned away from the bowl, lightly pressing his muzzle and forehead against her upper arm. More tension, but when he did nothing, she slowly relaxed and began eating the popcorn.

Simon closed his eyes. Keeping his head against her arm, he breathed in the scents that were Meg. The hair was still stinky, but not so much now, and the rest of her smelled good. Pleasing. Comforting.

After a few minutes, he nudged her arm until his head rested on her thigh. Another moment of tension. Then, making no protest, she shifted the popcorn so she wouldn’t keep bopping him with the bowl.

A few minutes after that, he felt her fingers shyly burrowing into his fur.

The first time she sucked in a breath, he almost sprang up, thinking she’d heard something outside. Then he began to understand the rhythm of her touch and Sam’s comments about the story. Dozing, he could follow the story through Meg’s fingers and breathing, only half listening to the boy’s “This is a scary part, but they’ll be all right,” and “Watch what happens now!”

Pleasure. Comfort. Contentment.

Except for the hair, she really did smell good.

Simon came fully awake when Sam said, “We can watch another one.”

“You can, maybe,” Meg replied. “But I have to work tomorrow, so it’s time for me to go home.”

“But—”

<Enough, pup,> Simon said. <Brush your teeth as I showed you. I will see Meg home and check the ground around our den. Then I will come back and read you a story.>

<Meg could read me a story.>

Simon raised his head and looked at the boy.

Sam slid off the couch. He gave Meg a shy smile and Simon a wary glance.

“I can come to work with you tomorrow,” Sam said.

“You have school tomorrow,” Meg replied, smiling. “And I’m not going to agree to something without talking to your uncle first. So good night, Sam.”

He poked out his lower lip, as if trying to see what kind of reaction he would get. When Meg and Simon both stared at him, he sighed, said good night, and went upstairs.

Meg set the bowl on the table, then looked at her hand. “Guess I should have gotten some napkins at some point.”

He stretched his neck and swiped a tongue over her palm. When she didn’t pull away, he took another lick, and kept licking until he cleaned the salt and butter off her skin.

She smelled good. She tasted even better.

“That’s good. Thanks,” she said. She picked up the bowl and mugs, pushed to her feet, and walked out of the room.

Getting off the sofa, he yawned and stretched, then followed her into the kitchen.

“I’m not sure if popcorn goes in with the compost or in the incinerator bag,” Meg said. “So I’ll leave that for you.”

Retracing her steps, she put on her coat and boots.

It was hard not to crowd her, hard not to jump, hard not to invite her to play. But it was almost time to sleep, and he didn’t want Meg to get riled up or worried about being around a big Wolf. He could go for walks with her and Sam if she wasn’t afraid of the Wolf.

He went out with her and walked her up to her own door. He waited until she was inside, then took a thorough sniff around her porch before going down and checking the rest of the complex.

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