Written in Red Page 121

Ah. “Henry talked Meg into playing deer hunt, claiming that Sam needed to work on his skills in chasing game. I think he was mostly making sure that she got some exercise. Meg is convincing in her role as designated prey, which is why Henry wanted to keep them in sight—in case Nathan became too enthusiastic or another Wolf mistook the game for a real hunt. In the end, it will build up Meg’s muscles and stamina, and build up Sam’s muscles and stamina, and Nathan will have a good time romping with them as a reward for guard duty.”

Of course, listening to John whine yesterday about not being allowed to go out and play hadn’t done anything for his own eroding self-discipline—especially because he could tell just by watching that Meg really did make a good squeaky toy.

Elliot smiled. Then he chuckled. “It’s good to see the pup playing again. Now, if we can just get him out of that harness.”

“He says he needs it to pull Meg out of snowbanks,” Simon replied, his voice bland.

Elliot laughed. As the laughter faded, he sobered. “I’m sorry I struck her. Her instincts are odd but from the heart, I think.”

Simon nodded. It was a little annoying to have Sam quoting Meg about human things when she actually knew less about the regular human world than every member of the Business Association, but her lack of knowledge about the Others was working to their advantage. What other human would accept the label of prey in order for a little Wolf to chase her?

“Darrell is having his assignation this evening,” Elliot said.

“We agreed to let him use one of the rooms above the Liaison’s Office,” Simon said.

“He also wants permission to bring his companion to the Meat-n-Greens for dinner.”

“Why? It’s not a fancy place, if you want to impress a woman. You go to a human-run restaurant for that.”

“But it is in the Market Square, a place very few are allowed to see. Some women become quite stimulated by the thrill of the forbidden.”

“Do you know who he wants to bring in?”

“It’s the female who was sniffing around you. At least, Ferus said he smelled Darrell on her.”

Simon nodded. “Asia Crane.” Forbidden thrill. That explained why youngsters from the university or the business and technical college were always sniffing around HGR and A Little Bite, or spending an evening in the social center in the hopes of rubbing up against the terra indigene. But he’d had the impression Asia had been sniffing around for something more. Did humans gain some status among their own kind if they were allowed in the Courtyard’s Market Square? Maybe he would ask the Ruthie the next time she came into HGR. She was proving to be quite reliable for a human.

“Give him a guest pass for the Market Square,” Simon said. “Tell Darrell he can take his female into any stores that are open. But make sure he knows it’s a one-time pass.”

“I’ll tell him.”

Simon pushed out of the chair. “I have to go. Vlad is handling the store today, but I promised to deal with some of the paperwork.”

He walked back to HGR, detouring at A Little Bite for coffee and a fruit tart that he’d sniffed earlier in the day. Taking his treat up to the bookstore’s office, he growled his way through some paperwork—and tried to shake the uneasiness he felt about giving Asia Crane any kind of access to the Courtyard.

* * *

Meg kept her eyes on the road as she followed the familiar route to the Chambers. “Today you are not going to jump on me and scare me into driving into a snowbank because you saw a deer and wanted to get out and chase it. Right? Because we do not need to get stuck two days in a row.”

She had really, really, really hoped that Simon—and Blair—hadn’t heard about the snowbank. Finding a short-handled shovel in the back of the BOW next to the snow brush and ice scraper had been proof enough that one—or both—knew about yesterday’s adventure.

Sam grinned at her and wagged his tail.

No help there.

Of course, she had never seen real deer before, and seeing a handful in what looked like a snow corral had been the other reason she hadn’t focused on the road those few seconds too long.

Not that she was going to admit that.

As she drove past Erebus Sanguinati’s marble home, she glanced to the left. Then she stopped and stared at one of the interior roads. Most weren’t plowed with any consistency, and the few that were led to buildings that had no designation. Since she didn’t need to drive along those roads to make her deliveries and didn’t think the BOW could muscle its way down them anyway, she stuck to the outer ring and the interior roads that provided access to all the complexes, as well as the Pony Barn and the girls at the lake.

Maybe in the spring, when those unmarked roads were accessible again, she would drive around the interior of the Courtyard and find her own little spot where she could go when she wanted some solitude.

But as she looked at that narrow, snow-covered road again, the skin just below the newest scars—the ones that had shown her where her life would end—began prickling so fiercely she wanted to scream. If Simon was right and this was some kind of instinctive defense the cassandra sangue possessed, then that road represented some kind of danger.

When she drove past the road, the prickling didn’t fade. In fact, it got worse, becoming more concentrated under the skin below those new scars.

She turned on the BOW’s headlights, wondering how she could have forgotten that she needed lights to drive at night.

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