Written in Red Page 133

“Let’s get this done,” Tess said. She shrugged out of her coat, hung it on a peg, removed her boots, and followed Meg into the bathroom.

Meg’s hands hovered over the button and zipper on her jeans. “I think this needs a bigger cut. I think the skin on my legs will work best. I need to remove my jeans.”

“Arrroooo?” A query. Not loud, since Nathan was in the front room and they were in the back, and there were several closed doors between them. But it meant the Wolf was awake and aware.

Tess flushed the toilet. “That will buy us a little time. But the next time Nathan doesn’t get an answer, he’s going to call Simon and Blair.” No need to mention that Henry and Vlad would also be looking for answers if the watch Wolf started making a fuss.

Meg stripped off the jeans and dropped them in a corner of the bathroom floor. On the toilet seat, neatly laid out, were the razor, ointment, butterfly bandages, a package of gauze, and medical tape. On the floor was a hand towel. Color stained her cheeks when she sat on the floor and examined the scars on her legs.

“How do you choose the place to cut?” Tess asked, sitting back on her heels so she was facing Meg and could watch the girl’s body and the expressions on her face as well as listen to the words.

“The Controller chose, based on how much the client was willing to pay for the prophecy.” Meg stared at her own skin. “Until I ran away, I didn’t make my own cuts. I don’t really know how to choose.”

“Yes, you do,” Tess said quietly. “It’s part of who you are.” She picked up the razor, opened it, and handed it to Meg. “You know where to find this prophecy.”

Meg took the razor and closed her eyes. Her free hand moved over her left leg, upper and lower, front and back. Her hand moved to her right leg. Her fingers stuttered just below the knee. Opening her eyes, she laid the razor on the right side of the shin bone, turned her hand, and cut.

Tess watched Meg’s hand shake with the effort to set the razor down with the blade turned away. She watched the girl pale, saw pain in those gray eyes that she found arousing, but there was also trust in those eyes instead of fear. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, kill trust.

“Speak,” Tess said, her voice rough with the effort to deny her own nature. “Speak, prophet, and I will listen.”

Box of sugar lumps. A hand withdrawing. A man’s hand wearing a thin leather glove. A woman’s hand, the nails polished a pretty rose color. A dark winter coat that had nothing distinctive. The sleeve of a woman’s sweater, the color a bright, unfamiliar blue. The ponies rolling on the ground near the barn, screaming and screaming as black snakes burst out of their bellies. Skull and crossbones. Sugar full of black snakes. The ponies screaming. A skeleton in a hooded robe, passing out sweets to children. A skull laughing while children screamed and screamed as the black snakes ripped their way out of those young bellies.

“Hands,” Meg whispered, her strength visibly fading. “Skull and crossbones. Black snakes in the sugar.”

“Your words have been heard, prophet,” Tess whispered. “Rest, now. Rest.”

With a moan that was wantonly sexual, Meg laid back on the floor. Her eyes glazed and her body suddenly had the scent of a different, and enticing, kind of arousal.

“Arrrrooooo!”

Out of time, Tess thought, springing to her feet. She looked at Meg, at the hand towel soaking up blood that continued to flow from the cut. She wasn’t sure how much blood was too much, but she knew what she had to deal with first.

As she pulled open the bathroom door, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the sink. Hair the color of blood turning black as the grave. She strode into the back room at the same moment Simon unlocked the outside door, leaping in ahead of Henry and Blair. Nathan squeezed between Henry and Simon, everything in him focused on the blood scent.

“Get out,” Tess snarled. “All of you, get out of this room. Now!”

“Don’t you dare give orders to me!” Simon snarled in reply. His head began changing to Wolf to accommodate the jaws and fangs that would serve him better as weapons.

“Stay out!” Tess said again. Something in her voice must have gotten through to Henry, because he grabbed Nathan by the scruff just as the Wolf launched himself toward the bathroom.

Nathan snapped and snarled, but he couldn’t break Henry’s hold.

“You all have to leave. That goes for you too, vampire,” Tess said as smoke flowed through the open door. If a fight broke out now, someone would die. If one of these males died, the rest would realize what she was, and she would have to leave. She didn’t want to leave. It was rare for her kind to find acceptance, let alone cautious friendship, even among other terra indigene. “Simon, there are things you all need to know, but it’s dangerous for you to be in this room right now. Meg needs tending. Let me help her.”

His eyes were red with flickers of gold, a sign he was insanely furious.

“You can do this?” Henry asked, his voice a quiet rumble.

Tess nodded. “She asked me to come and hear the prophecy. She asked for my help. Let me finish helping her.”

“There must be something we can do,” Henry said.

She started to deny it, then realized it was an order—and she realized why. Simon was snarling, almost vibrating with rage. Maybe it was the scent of blood pushing the Wolf, maybe it was because he, too, valued friendship. One of his pack was hurt, and because Meg wasn’t a Wolf, he didn’t know what to do.

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