Written in Red Page 164

He refused to consider why the Elementals had put in a request for a handful of the caught-in-a-storm titles.

He stopped and let a shudder run through him. Even among the terra indigene, it took a little time to stop feeling afraid when the Elementals lashed out in rage.

But even Winter was calmer now that Meg was home.

Elliot’s meeting with the acting mayor had also helped calm everyone. The man had been quick to assure the Courtyard consul that all the wanted posters that had provoked such a tragic case of mistaken identity had been destroyed, and the police would do their utmost to apprehend anyone who caused Ms. Corbyn any distress in the future.

All the Others living in Courtyards throughout Thaisia would be watching to see if the human government in Lakeside would keep its word.

The man who sent the enemy into the Courtyard, the man who had given Meg a designation instead of a name, was still out there. Her skin was still worth too much profit for him to stop trying to get her back.

That Controller was still looking for her, and now the terra indigene were looking for him. The governor hadn’t known much, but he’d told the Elementals who came visiting his house in Hubbney everything he knew about Meg’s enemy. Sooner or later, the Others would find the man, and a human piece of Thaisia would be reclaimed by the wild country.

Simon looked at his hands, which had grown furry. He snarled when he couldn’t get them back to looking human, a sign that he was too agitated to wear this skin. Since he didn’t want to scare off Heather, he did the sensible thing.

He stripped off his clothes, shifted to Wolf, and went to the Liaison’s Office to have a few minutes of playtime with Meg.

* * *

Meg put in a music disc and turned on the player. She didn’t want to listen to the radio anymore. She didn’t want to hear about the people who died in the storm or the damage the city had sustained. Maybe she should feel bad about not wanting to listen to the news, but what happened wasn’t her fault. If she had let those men take her, the Elementals still would have savaged Lakeside for the death of old Hurricane, if for nothing else. She could argue that, being the reason the storm ended, she had saved more people than she had harmed by being here.

Didn’t make her feel any less sorry for the people who had been hurt. And it made her wonder whether Lieutenant Montgomery felt the same way.

She had expected to die in the Courtyard, had seen the images from the prophecies come to pass. But the outcome had been different. Not only had she survived, but she had also prevented Asia Crane and those men from taking Sam.

She would always be short, but she wasn’t helpless and she wasn’t small. Not anymore.

She glanced at the clock. Bracing for the sound, she set the mail on the sorting table a moment before Nathan howled. Apparently, he intended to do that on the hour, every hour, while the office was open.

The Meg Report. Meg is here. Meg is fine.

She hoped he would grow bored with this particular game very soon.

Hearing a sound from the back room, Meg picked up a stack of mail and barely glanced up when Simon trotted into the sorting room.

Something had changed between them while she was in the hospital. She wasn’t sure if Simon considered her a friend, a playmate, or a valued toy, but he seemed to enjoy playing games with her.

Speaking of games . . .

Standing on his hind legs, Simon rested one forepaw on the table and extended the other to touch her nose. She suspected the name of this game was Plop the Hat on Meg. If her nose wasn’t warm enough according to whatever criteria he was using at that moment, he would fetch the floppy fleece hat he had bought for her and make her put it on.

But she was no longer helpless or small. If she was going to be a squeaky toy for big, furry playmates, she was also going to have some say in the games. Starting now, with the choice of game.

She pulled back her head and glared at him. “If you try to touch my nose again today, I won’t give you any cookies.”

Simon withdrew the paw, seemed to consider that for a moment, then reached out again as if testing her.

“I mean it, Simon. No cookies for the whole day.”

Nose or cookies. Hard choice. But in the end, the cookies won.