Written in Red Page 118

She didn’t think Simon would give a damn one way or the other, but she hoped he would lower his guard some if she no longer paid attention to him and didn’t have much time for Meg.

“There you are!” Asia said when Meg stepped up to the counter. “I was whittling my way down to nothing with worry, but this was the first chance I had to check on you.” A quick look over Meg’s shoulder. She didn’t see the Wolf pup, which was a disappointment, but she did see the box of sugar lumps on the big table. Confirmation enough that Meg brought out the sugar on Moonsday.

“Check on me?” Meg said.

“I heard the police were here and there was some big commotion. And then I heard you were injured, maybe even in the hospital, so I just had to see for myself that you were all right. Here. I brought you some hot chocolate.” Darrell hadn’t actually said anything about Meg. He’d just mentioned the ambulance being on the scene—and he told her some freaky story about a wolf man standing right out where everyone could see a lot more than they wanted to see.

“Thanks.” Meg took a sip and set the cup on the counter. “I’m fine. Someone brought in a suspicious box, that’s all.”

Not by a long shot, Asia thought. That little incident had the whole Courtyard buzzing right along with the cops. “Well, I’m glad to hear you didn’t take any harm.” Now she made a show of looking past Meg. “Say. Where is that adorable puppy that was with you the other day? He was just the cutest thing.”

“He’s not here today.”

Before Asia could push to find out where the puppy was when he wasn’t at the office, a full-grown Wolf appeared in the doorway, startling her into taking a couple steps back. Despite their size, the damn things were so quiet. After that Wolf rammed his nose into her crotch, she was a lot less interested in being around any of them unless she could pick them up and carry them away.

Meg looked at the Wolf, then said to Asia, “I have a different office buddy now.”

“All the time?” Asia asked.

Meg hesitated. “The incident on Watersday . . . It was alarming at the time, and with so many police officers responding, it caused a lot of fuss. So Mr. Wolfgard decided to add some security in the office during business hours—the same kind he has at the bookstore.”

She hadn’t appreciated how badly White Van had bungled the snatch, but this just confirmed how pointless it would be to continue hanging around Meg. Anything she said from now on would be reported to Simon.

A chorus of neighs gave her an excuse to leave.

“More friends?” she asked.

“The ponies are here for the mail.”

“And the sugar.”

“That too. Thanks for the hot chocolate.”

“I’d still like to go out to lunch one of these days,” Asia said. “You let me know when we might be able to do that.”

Not that it’s going to happen, she thought as she left the office. She looked toward the consulate, spotted Darrell in one of the upstairs windows, and blew him a kiss. I am going to be all kinds of distracted with my new boyfriend.

She sauntered to HGR and stayed long enough to make sure she’d been spotted. Then she picked a book at random, relieved that it wasn’t Simon manning the register when she went up to pay for it.

As soon as she returned to her car, she called Darrell. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to invite her out on another date.

* * *

Meg didn’t know where Nathan had gone when she went to A Little Bite for lunch and then walked over to the Market Square to browse in the library for a while, but he was waiting for her at the back door when she returned for the office’s afternoon hours. She wondered if he was making an effort not to startle her again, since his appearance that morning made it obvious that he could get into the building by himself.

She opened the doors and spread the Lakeside News on the sorting table to skim the paper for whatever might be of interest to the Others. Nathan was in the front room, sniffing everything.

When the Crows started fussing, she went to the counter, tensing when she saw an unscheduled delivery truck. Then it turned enough for her to read the Everywhere Delivery name.

“It’s Harry,” she said to Nathan as she hurried to open the door for the deliveryman.

“Was asked to make a special afternoon delivery,” Harry said when he put the box on the handcart. “Got the other piece to bring in, but you might want to make sure the floor is dry wherever you want to put it.”

“Good idea.” Meg hurried into the back room and fetched a towel. While Nathan paced, clearly not sure of where he should be, she wiped down the floor where he’d been lying that morning. “Right over here, Harry.” Since his boots were snowy, she took the bulky stuffed fabric from him and positioned it herself.

“Need your signature, Miz Meg,” Harry said.

She signed his slip, made her own notation on her clipboard, and waited until Harry drove off before she smiled at Nathan. “Go ahead. Take a look.”

He moved forward cautiously. He circled it, sniffed it, whapped it with a paw. Then he found the product tag and stared at it for a moment. Turning toward her, he lifted a lip in something that might have been a sneer.

“I know it says it’s a dog bed, but I’m sure a Wolf can use it,” Meg said.

Nothing but grumbly sounds from the Wolf.

“Fine. If you want to lie on a cold, hard floor instead of something comfy and warm just because Wolf is spelled d-o-g, you go right ahead.” She went into the sorting room and shut the door. Then she remembered the other box and opened the receiving door long enough to pull the handcart into the sorting room. If he was going to be so churlish about her trying to do something nice for him, she sure wasn’t going to leave six defenseless boxes of dog cookies alone with him.

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