Written in Red Page 123

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He had washed the cage and put it in one of the basement storage bins. He was willing to look the other way about the harness and leash for a while longer, especially now that he knew why Sam wanted to keep wearing it, but he couldn’t tolerate looking at that cage anymore.

And yet, when he opened the door to their apartment, Sam ran for that spot and huddled where the back corner of the cage used to be.

Simon removed his boots, went into the living room, and knelt beside the shivering pup.

<Sam? What’s wrong?> Besides the smell of blood on Meg.

Whining, Sam climbed into Simon’s arms.

<Did something happen when you and Meg were making deliveries?>

<Don’t know.> Barely a whisper, but at least Sam was responding. <The bad happened after.>

<Where did you go after?>

<Meg’s den.> Whining and shivering. Then, <I remember that smell. When Mom . . . Something in the bathroom hurt Meg, and there was that smell.>

Stupid bitch, Simon thought as he cuddled Sam. Why slice herself when the pup was still with her? Why couldn’t she wait until he’d gone home and wouldn’t pick up the scent of fresh blood?

Why indeed?

As the scent of her blood faded, replaced by the familiar scents of his own den, Simon’s anger also faded.

No euphoria if the words of a prophecy weren’t spoken. Only pain.

There were other reasons for a blood scent, especially in a female’s bathroom. Could have been an accidental nick. Could be a different kind of blood that a pup wouldn’t know about yet.

No. That kind of blood wasn’t mixed with a medicine smell.

He didn’t realize he was growling until Sam began licking his chin and making anxious sounds.

He’d been wrong the last time he accused her of cutting herself. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.

<Henry?> Simon called.

<Here.>

<I need guidance.>

<I am almost home. Meet me there.>

Relief washed through him. Maybe his own memories of finding Daphne and Sam that terrible night made it hard for him to be rational about Meg being hurt. Maybe he was just as vulnerable as Sam in that way.

“Sam? I need to talk to Henry. Can you stay by yourself, or do you want me to ask . . . Elliot or Nathan to stay with you?” It told him how much she had become one of them that Meg was his first choice to stay with the pup.

Sam shifted. Simon enclosed the naked boy in his coat, letting his own heat warm cold skin.

“Can I watch a movie?” Sam asked.

“You can watch a movie.”

“Can I have a snack?”

“You can have a snack that I will make for you.”

Worried gray eyes looked into his. “Simon? Is Meg going to die and leave us?”

Simon shook his head. “If Meg was badly hurt, she would tell us. And she didn’t look hurt, Sam.” Actually, she did. Her face, her eyes, still showed signs of pain when she answered the door and tried to pretend everything was fine. “I’ll check on her after I talk to Henry.”

He couldn’t do more than that for boy or woman, so he made a snack for Sam and put in the movie before he went over to Henry’s. The Grizzly had returned and was making tea when Simon walked into the Beargard’s kitchen.

He waited until they were seated at the table, the tea steaming in cups, before he told Henry about Sam and the scent of blood.

“Did she look wounded?” Henry asked.

“She’s not wounded,” Simon snapped. “She cut herself. You know it and I know it. But I don’t know what to do about it.”

“It’s not your decision.”

“I’m the leader. It is my decision.”

Henry sipped his tea and said nothing for a minute. Simon struggled to keep his canines the proper human size while he waited, understanding that Henry was making him wait.

“How many humans do you trust?” Henry finally asked.

“Not many. Hardly any.”

“I think our Meg trusts even less than you. In her own way, she is even more private than terra indigene, and I think she has been allowed so little privacy. Will you be like the human who used her and thought he owned her, or will you be a friend she can trust?”

Simon bared his teeth and snarled at Henry. Then the snarl faded because the Beargard had revealed the trap. If Meg cut herself, she saw a prophecy. If he forced her to tell him what she saw, she might believe she had traded one kind of controller for another. She might run again.

He sighed, a sound full of frustrated acceptance. “If she averages one cut a week for fifty-two weeks, how many years can she survive at that rate?”

“I don’t know,” Henry replied quietly. “The question to ask is, Where do you want her to spend those years?”

“With us. I want her to spend them with us.” He pushed away from the table. “Thanks for the tea.”

On the way back to his apartment, he climbed the stairs and knocked on Meg’s door. She answered so promptly, he suspected she’d been waiting for him.

“Sam thought you weren’t feeling well,” Simon said. “That’s why he was upset.”

“I’m fine.”

She didn’t sound fine, and she looked tired. He didn’t like her being alone when she looked that tired.

Wasn’t his place to push or demand. He didn’t like that either.

“Anything you want to tell me?” he asked.

She hesitated, then shook her head.

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