Written in Red Page 28

“Simon does mind,” he snarled. “And the next time you swing a leg over a counter and try to put it where it doesn’t belong, you’re going back over the counter minus a leg!”

Asia bolted out the door and ran until she reached the sidewalk. Then she turned and stared at them before hurrying down the street.

Meg pressed herself against the wall, wanting to get farther away but not daring to move. “M-Mr. Wolfgard, I told her she wasn’t allowed, but it sounded like—”

“I heard what it sounded like,” he snarled. “I don’t pay you to yak with other monkeys when there’s work to be done. And if you want this job, there’s still plenty of work in there.”

“I—I know.”

“Why are you stuttering? Are you cold?”

Not daring to speak, she shook her head.

His next snarl sounded as full of frustration as anger. After one more menacing glance outside, he walked back into the sorting room.

Moments later, Meg heard the back door slam.

Shaking and still too scared to move, she began to cry.

* * *

Simon stormed through the back door of Howling Good Reads, stripped off his clothes, and shifted to Wolf, unable to stand being in that human shape a moment longer. Then he howled, letting all his fury ride in the sound.

He didn’t know why he was so angry. He just knew that something about the tone of Meg’s voice when she was trying to defend her territory—and being so damned inadequate about it!—had tripped something inside his brain.

John was the first to reach the stockroom, but one look at Simon had him backing away. Tess came next, her hair streaked green and red.

“Simon?” Tess said. “What’s wrong?”

Before he could answer, the back door opened again, almost smacking his hindquarters. He whirled and snapped at Jenni, who had shifted from Crow and now was a naked, shivering human.

She ignored the cold and she ignored him, which was beyond insulting since he was the leader of this Courtyard. Instead, she focused on Tess.

“Simon was being mean. He made the Meg cry. I’m going over to the store to see if I can find a sparkly that will make her smile again. The Meg smiles a lot—when the Wolf isn’t snarling at her.”

Jenni stepped back outside, shifted into a Crow, and flew off to Sparkles and Junk.

<Didn’t snarl at Meg,> Simon growled.

Swinging around him and following Jenni out of the door, Tess said over her shoulder, “I’ll talk to Meg and see if I can repair the damage.”

He wasn’t sure she intended for him to hear the muttered, “Idiot.”

He looked at John, who was now crouched to bring his head lower than Simon’s.

<Bring clothes,> Simon ordered. Then he bounded up the stairs to the store’s office.

John brought his clothes up, set them on the nearest chair, and hurried back downstairs.

Simon prowled the office, then howled again.

He hadn’t snarled at Meg. Not exactly. But he doubted there was a female in the Courtyard who was going to see it his way today.

Shifting back to human, he got dressed. Then he went to the window facing Crowfield Avenue and stared out. The streets were in decent shape. Not down to pavement yet, but passable.

Turning away from the window, he looked at the stacks of paperwork waiting for him because he had encouraged more contact with humans as a way of keeping better track of them.

“It was easier when all we wanted to do was eat them and take their stuff,” he grumbled.

And it had been easier when he hadn’t cared if he made any of them cry.

* * *

Asia shook so hard she couldn’t get the keys in the ignition to start her car.

Bigwig had told her dealing with the Others was a risky assignment, which was why he and the other backers had been willing to let her take her time infiltrating the Courtyard. In the months she’d been living in Lakeside and hanging around HGR, she hadn’t seen more than posturing and snarls from the Wolves and not even that much menace from the rest of the Others. Now she realized Bigwig had paid her so much up front because he had known that risky could mean deadly.

Pulling the flask out of the glove box, she took a long swallow of whiskey to steady her nerves. Then she took another to dim the image of her legs being torn off by a Wolf.

“Freaking Wolf,” she said after the third swallow. “Damn freaking Wolf should have been in his own store instead of sniffing around a no-looks female.” And he hadn’t just hired a female with no looks and no sense of fashion to represent the Courtyard; he had hired a feeb!

She had expected a man, had dressed to introduce herself to a man, had figured the reason Wolfgard hadn’t chosen her was because Liaisons were usually men and a man had applied for the job. Instead, Wolfgard had hired a feeble-minded, weird-haired girl who thought sorting mail was interesting.

Asia took another sip, then put the flask back in the glove box.

If Meg wasn’t a feeb, what kind of person would want the Liaison’s job for its own sake? Someone who had a reason to hide—that’s who. From what? From whom? The driver of that white van was keeping tabs on something or someone in the Courtyard, and Meg Corbyn was the only new employee.

She had a name and description to give Bigwig when she reported in tonight. That might help him figure out who would be interested in someone like Meg. Until he got back to her with whatever information he could gather at his end, she was going to be Meg Corbyn’s new best friend and use that friendship to learn whatever she could about the Courtyard. And that meant dealing with Simon Wolfgard.

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