Written in Red Page 130

They hadn’t discussed what they were going to tell Meg, and he didn’t want to push Simon—especially when they weren’t on opposite sides. He would have preferred a more permanent solution to ridding themselves of Asia Crane, and he should have taken care of it last night. Since he’d made the wrong choice, he thought Simon should be the one to take the direct approach now—and provide them all with some blood and meat in the bargain.

But what would they have said to their Liaison? It’s like this, Meg. We didn’t like that Asia Crane, so we ate her.

When dealing with humans, honesty isn’t always the best policy, Vlad thought as he walked over to the BOW and opened Meg’s door.

“What’s going on?” Meg asked as she got out of the BOW.

“Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here.” He cupped her elbow as they walked to the back door.

Blair said something to Chris. The man jumped, whipped his head around in a way that must have made a few muscles twang, then pulled the door open wider for Meg to slip inside.

She swapped boots for shoes, hung up her coat, and went through to the other rooms to open up the office. Vlad followed her, then stood in the Private doorway while she leaned against the counter.

“What happened?” she asked.

“A breach of trust. Darrell broke one of the rules,” he replied, wanting to be blunt and direct as he would be with one of his own kind. But he suddenly wondered how much blood prophets in general, and Meg in particular, knew about sex and felt the need for caution when explaining why the human was upstairs last night. “He’s been dismissed. Since he had a key to the consulate as well as keys to this building, we’re getting the locks changed.”

“Do you do that every time an employee leaves?”

“Not every time.”

She paled, which alarmed him.

“Is Sam in danger?” she asked.

Interesting question. “I don’t think so.”

Of course, Nathan chose that moment to open the front door. He paused when one of the Crows cawed at him, then raised an arm in invitation. The Crow flew over, and the two of them came inside. The Wolf shot one look at the bed, then stomped the snow off his boots and approached the counter. The Crow hopped from arm to counter, sliding a little.

Meg looked at the two of them. “Good morning, Nathan. Good morning, Jake.” She slanted a look at Vlad. “Are you all going to stick around here?”

“Until the locks are fixed. Once the locks are changed, Blair will meet Chris at the Utilities Complex to make all the sets of keys. Front door lock will be changed too.”

“All this because Darrell broke a rule?” Meg asked.

“It was an important rule,” Vlad replied smoothly, trying to balance Nathan’s growl.

The crunch of tires on snow made all of them look toward the delivery area.

Meg pulled her clipboard from under the counter and accepted the pen Jake offered. “Try not to scare the deliverymen, all right?”

“Caw,” Jake said.

Vlad stepped into the sorting room, where he would be out of sight. It didn’t escape his notice that Jake was the only one of them to offer her any assurance about that.

He didn’t think it had escaped Meg’s notice either.

* * *

After giving her approach a good deal of thought, Asia walked into Howling Good Reads, satisfied that she had hit the right balance: makeup just a little too heavy, as if she were trying to cover up something; hair styled but not as well as usual; a cowl-neck sweater that would show off the bruises on her shoulders when she moved in certain ways, but didn’t shout that she wanted them seen.

The special messenger had done a good job pretending to be a milquetoast who suddenly turned rough. But if a Wolf shoved his nose where it had no business being, all he would smell was Darrell.

The girl at the register looked at her and paled. Asia thought it was because Heather had glimpsed the bruises. Then she caught her own name in big letters on some kind of flyer next to the register.

She took a step toward the register. The next thing she knew, Simon Wolfgard was blocking her, snarling in a way that destroyed any pretense of his being human.

“Asia Crane, you are banned from the Courtyard,” he said in a voice filled with authority and anger. “That includes all the stores within the Courtyard.” He took a step toward her, forcing her to take a step back. “That includes this one. You can leave this time, but if we see you on our land again, we’ll kill you.”

The customers at the front of the store froze.

Asia lifted her chin, switching her performance from rough-sex victim to defender of humankind. “You can’t ban me from a store. That’s discrimination. None of you would be able to buy any of your precious junk if human stores discriminated against you.”

“They discriminate against us plenty. That’s not the point. The point is, you went sniffing around where you don’t belong, and we caught you, but we’re going to let you and Darrell walk away this one time. Yes, we banned him too. As for the rest of you,” he said, addressing the other customers, “if you want to shop at other stores because we banned the two people who broke our rules instead of banning all of you, that’s your choice.” He turned back to Asia. “And you’re out of time. Get out now or die.”

He grabbed one of the flyers and slapped it against her chest. “Take this with you so you don’t forget.”

She took the flyer, crumpling it in her hand. She considered making a parting comment, but she realized he was looking for an excuse to kill her right there, right now. He would splash her blood over half the store and count the loss of merchandise as worth it.

Prev Next