Written in Red Page 131

“What did I ever do to you?” she whispered, pleased with the natural quiver in her voice.

He leaned toward her, and his voice was just as low. “When I find out, I’ll come hunting for you.”

She walked out of the store, her mind racing. She’d always paid in cash for anything she’d bought at HGR or A Little Bite. Hadn’t she? She was Margaret A. Crane on all the ID her backers had provided for her, and that was a common enough name. So she wouldn’t be easy to find. Even Darrell hadn’t known where she lived.

As she got in her car, a patrol car pulled into the Courtyard parking lot. The officer who got out and headed for HGR was one of the cops who dropped by daily.

Asia’s stomach did a funny little flip. Was that Wolf going to hand out those flyers to the cops?

She was getting way too much attention, and all the wrong kind. If the special messenger got wind of this and informed his benefactor, it could be the end of a very lucrative arrangement. Even her backers now wanted her working in tandem with this benefactor’s men and would be keenly unhappy if her actions blew the whole operation by making the Others too antagonistic against humans.

But the benefactor’s special messenger had known what she was going to do today. After all, he’d helped her with this charade. So all she had to do was convince him that getting banned from the Courtyard had been part of her plan all along.

CHAPTER 21

On Moonsday morning, Meg opened the office, prepared her clipboard, and breathed a sigh of relief. After Darrell’s dismissal and Asia’s public banning, all the humans who worked for the Others had been edgy, especially the humans who worked in the Market Square and would have a harder time escaping if the terra indigene turned savage. But with the exception of more patrol cars driving past the Courtyard, Firesday and Watersday were ordinary workdays. Earthday had been an enjoyable balance of chores and a long, fun romp in the snow with Simon and Sam in their Wolf forms. The romp had tired her out so much, she fell asleep while they all watched a movie that evening.

And Simon didn’t say a word about her using him as a furry pillow.

She still wasn’t sure why Darrell wasn’t supposed to visit the Green Complex. He had worked for the consulate, after all. Surely there was more sensitive material in that office than whatever could be observed in the dark about the outside of buildings.

Except Darrell had brought Asia, who really wasn’t allowed to be there.

Meg gave her arms a brisk rub, relieved when the prickling under her skin subsided. Going out at night to look at the Green Complex was odd, but she’d seen plenty of training images of someone sitting in a dark car, watching a building. Obsessed ex-lovers. Stalkers. Police. Asia didn’t fit any of those labels, but Meg thought the other woman was impulsive enough to jump at a chance to see any part of the Courtyard. And since Asia had been so curious about Sam, maybe she’d hoped to get another look at the puppy.

Did Asia know Sam lived with Simon at the Green Complex? Meg shook her head, unable to remember. Well, it didn’t matter anymore. Asia was gone and Darrell was gone, and neither of them had been part of her vision about men dressed in black.

Giving her arms a final rub, she dismissed thoughts of Asia and Darrell and went about her day. She chatted with Harry when he came in with his deliveries, laughing at his jokes even when she didn’t understand them. She spent several minutes trying to convince Nathan that he couldn’t have entire boxes of dog cookies and had to choose which kind of cookie he wanted for a snack. When he insistently pointed a big paw at each box, she ended up giving him two cookies of each flavor, which he took back to his Wolf bed to crunch.

Around midmorning, she got tangled in a bizarre game of tug between Nathan and Jake. She didn’t know which of them had brought in the length of rope as a toy, but the Wolf, still lying on the bed, had his teeth in one end of it, and the Crow had his feet clenched around the other and was madly flapping his wings. Her mistake was thinking she could break up the game by grabbing the rope right in front of Jake’s feet. Suddenly Nathan was on his feet, wagging his tail while he growled at her, and Jake’s caws sounded suspiciously gleeful. Because the floor was a little snow-slick and her shoes didn’t have enough traction, she was pulled from one end of the room to the other and couldn’t figure out how to let go of the rope without falling on her butt.

She got out of the game only because Dan walked in with a delivery and started laughing so hard, he almost dropped the packages. After signing for the delivery, she retreated to the sorting room and pondered what game the Wolf and Crow really had been playing: tug the rope or trick Meg into playing with them.

It said something about human resilience that a week after Nathan had been assigned as the office’s watch Wolf, most of the deliverymen were accepting of his presence, if still justifiably wary. A few tossed a “Hi, how’s it going?” in Nathan’s direction before they took care of business with her. Only one company had a new driver coming to the Courtyard, replacing the man who had refused to enter the office the first time he saw Nathan.

Once the mail was sorted and packages going out to terra indigene settlements were properly tagged for the earth-native trucks, Meg peeked into the front room. Jake was on the counter, fluffed up and dozing. Nathan was on his back, paws in the air, also snoozing. At that moment, they didn’t look like much security, but she knew they’d be awake the instant they heard footsteps or tires in the delivery area.

Leaving them to their morning nap, she headed for the back room. The ponies would be here in half an hour, and she wanted to be ready.

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