Written in Red Page 116

Backing through the Private doorway, she eased the door closed, turned the lock, and bolted for the telephone in the sorting room. Her hands shook, making it harder to dial, but she got through to Howling Good Reads.

“There’s a Wolf in the Liaison’s Office!” she shouted.

Bewildered silence filled the phone line before John Wolfgard said, “Isn’t there supposed to be?”

“Not a furry one! Where’s Simon? I need to talk to Simon!”

More silence. Then, warily, “He’s there, at the office.”

“No, he’s not. I know what Simon looks like as a Wolf, and that’s not Simon!”

“That’s Nathan,” Simon said, walking in from the back room. “He’s on duty this morning.”

Meg hung up the phone, then picked up the receiver, said, “Good-bye, John,” to the dial tone, and put the receiver back on its cradle.

“Did you open the front door?” Simon asked, fishing in a drawer for the office keys. Finding them on the counter next to the phone, he picked them up and took a step toward the Private door.

“No, I didn’t open the door. There was a Wolf in the way!”

He stopped and studied her. Gave the air a little sniff. “You’re acting strange. Is it that time of the month?”

She shrieked. His human ears flattened in a way human ears shouldn’t, and he backed away from her.

In the front room, the Wolf howled.

Then Simon seemed to remember who was the leader. He stopped backing away, and his amber eyes suddenly had that glint of predator.

“You weren’t afraid of me when I was Wolf,” he said. “Why are you afraid of Nathan?”

“He’s got big feet!” Which was true, but beside the point. It was just the first thing that popped into her head.

“What?”

An insulted-sounding arrrroooo came from the other side of the door, a reminder that Wolves also had big ears.

Meg closed her eyes, then took a deep breath and let it out. Took another one. She wasn’t going to get anywhere with either one of them if she kept sounding like a ninny. And she was having some trouble explaining to herself why she had that moment of panic. “A strange Wolf is scarier than a familiar Wolf, especially when you’re not expecting any Wolf at all.”

Simon waved a hand, dismissing what she thought was a perfectly logical point. “That’s Nathan. He’s staying. As the Courtyard’s leader, I made that decision.”

“As the Liaison, I should have been informed before a change was made to this office.”

Simon took a step toward her. She took a step toward him.

“Arrrooooo?” queried Nathan.

“Someone paid that man to take you away, Meg,” Simon growled. “Someone tried to hurt you. So a Wolf will be on guard when the office is open. Nathan is an enforcer for the Courtyard. He’s one of our best in a fight.”

“But—”

“It’s decided.”

She wasn’t going to win, wasn’t even going to sway him enough to have Nathan stay out of sight. She glanced at the Private door and lowered her voice. “What happens if he bites a deliveryman?”

“That’ll depend on whether he’s hungry.”

She wanted to say, Ha, ha. Very funny. But she was pretty sure he wasn’t joking.

And she was sure he was right about the man who grabbed her. Sometimes dealing with the Others filled up her head so much, she forgot about the Controller.

“I should have been consulted.” She tried that tack one last time.

His only answer was to open the Private door, then unlock the front door and flip the sign to OPEN.

At least he had to use the go-through, since there was a Wolf clogging up the counter. When he came back into the sorting room, he tossed the keys in the drawer—and tossed her a look that made her want to slug him.

“Mr. Wolfgard . . .”

He turned on her, baring teeth that lengthened as she watched.

“If you say another word about this, I will eat you, and I won’t leave so much as an ear for him.” He jerked his head toward the front room.

Then he was gone. She flinched when the back door slammed.

She peered into the front room. Nathan was no longer hanging over the counter. He was lying on the floor, staring at the Crow perched on the wooden sculpture outside. As soon as she stepped into the front room, he looked at her.

She tried a smile. “Good morning, Nathan. Sorry about the confusion.”

He lifted a lip to show her some teeth, then pointedly turned his head and went back to staring at the Crow.

Yep, Meg thought. He’s insulted, and I’m not going to be forgiven anytime soon.

Retreating to the sorting room, she flipped through the Pet Palace catalog to see if there was anything she could order that would change that.

* * *

“Harry, Nathan. Nathan, Harry.”

The deliveryman looked at the Wolf and paled. The Wolf looked at the deliveryman and licked his chops.

Meg figured the morning was going to go downhill from there. But Harry surprised her.

“Heard on the news that there was some trouble here,” Harry said. “No details, but there never are about such things when it involves the Courtyard.” He studied her. “That trouble was here, in this office?”

For answer, she pushed up her sleeve enough to show him the bruise on her wrist. “A man pretending to make a delivery grabbed me. Mr. Wolfgard showed up before he could do anything else.”

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