Written in Red Page 119

She tucked the boxes—three boxes for puppies and three for large dogs—in the cupboards under her sorting table. Then she went back to reading the paper until the Crows announced the next delivery truck.

* * *

Simon walked into the front room of the Liaison’s Office and stared at the Wolf curled up on . . .

“What is that?” he asked, stomping snow off his boots as he stepped toward Nathan.

<Mine,> Nathan replied.

“How did it get to be yours?”

<I am guarding, so it is mine.> Giving Simon a smug look, Nathan added, <I got cookies too.>

Ignoring the warning growl, Simon ran a hand over the fabric, squeezed the stuffing, and looked at the tag.

“Where did you find this?” Not only did it look comfortable; it would look neater than the pile of old blankets he now had in his office for the times when he wanted to shift to Wolf and nap for a while.

<Meg found it.> Nathan put his head on his paws and watched Simon.

The leader always had first choice of food, of females, of anything that came to his attention. A leader who always took what another had was a leader who ended up constantly fighting to retain the leadership.

“This one stays here for whoever is on guard. I’ll ask Meg to order another one for me.” He glanced at the closed door and wondered why Meg hadn’t come out, since even human ears should have heard him talking to Nathan. <Any trouble?>

<No, but a Hawk told me the Darrell asked Elliot for permission to use one of the above stairs places. I think he found a female for sex.>

He had a good idea which female Darrell had found.

The first time Asia came in to Howling Good Reads and indicated she’d like to have sex with him, he’d tried to imagine being with her. Something about her interest hadn’t felt right, and all he could picture was a trap with steel teeth hidden under leaves and twigs. But that was his reaction to her, and, to be honest, he was relieved she’d turned her attention to a human male and would leave him alone now.

He didn’t like her, so he didn’t trust her. He didn’t care if that was fair or not. Just like he didn’t care if it was fair to wonder if the Others should continue to trust Darrell once he began having sex with Asia. After all, males did plenty of foolish things when they wanted sex.

He didn’t say anything to Nathan. His new reservations about Darrell were a discussion to have with Henry and Vlad. But right now, he had to face another discussion.

Using the go-through, he went behind the counter, studied the closed door, debated a moment, then knocked before opening it just enough to say, “Meg?”

No answer. Walking into the room, he didn’t find a woman. Before he had a chance to howl about her being gone, he heard the toilet flush. Her whereabouts discovered, he opened cupboards until he found the cookies. He had his hand in the box when Meg walked into the room.

He stuffed a couple of cookies into his coat pocket, then closed the box and put it back where he’d found it.

“Where did you get the bed for Nathan?” he asked.

She sighed. “Does it really matter that the tag says dog instead of Wolf?”

It would if they decided to send some into the settlements, but he could ignore the words here in the Courtyard. “I wondered because I would like to get one for my office. And maybe a couple of extras to put in our general store.”

“I ordered it from the Pet Palace.”

He winced, thinking of what Elliot would say about purchasing anything from such a place. Well, he just wouldn’t tell Elliot where the beds came from.

“Order more.”

“All right.” She gave him a puzzled look. “How did you know about the bed?”

“I didn’t. I came over to see if Sam can stay with you for the rest of the afternoon. I’ll fetch him from school. He can go with you on your deliveries, or you can leave him with Henry.”

“All right.” Now she looked uneasy. “Simon? Asia asked about Sam. She saw him while you were out of town, when he was here with me.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I told her he wasn’t here today. Then she saw Nathan. She and I talked for a couple of minutes, and she left. Sam is cute, and humans do like cuddling puppies and kittens.” She shrugged. “I don’t think she meant any harm by asking, but I thought you should know.”

“Good.” He nodded. “It’s good you told me. I’ll take your BOW and go get Sam now.”

He went out the back door. As he crossed the space to the garage, he looked back at the stairs that led to the two small apartments over the Liaison’s Office. A meeting place. An overnight place. A sex place for those among the terra indigene whose status in the human world required more privacy than was available in the rooms above the social center.

A trap with steel teeth. He needed to figure out what he didn’t understand about Asia being with Darrell before that trap snapped shut.

CHAPTER 18

With Sam beside him in the front seat, Simon drove away from the Courtyard’s school and headed for the Liaison’s Office. The school was tucked near the center of the Courtyard, well hidden from prying human eyes.

It wasn’t safe for terra indigene youngsters to go to school with human children, so Courtyards provided their residents with an education similar to what humans received. A human couldn’t cheat a Wolf who could add and subtract like anyone else. Two plus two equaled four, no matter what species you belonged to.

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