Written in Red Page 3

A couple more people were shrugging into winter coats and scarves, but there was no one else by the register.

Giving him a Bite me, I like it smile, she said, “Come on, Simon. It’s been over a week, and you promised to think about it.”

“I didn’t promise anything,” he said as he straightened up the counter space around the register.

She had blond hair and brown eyes, and he’d been told by a couple of human males who worked in the Courtyard that she was beautiful. But there were things about Asia that bothered him. He couldn’t point a paw at any particular thing, besides her pursuing him when he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested, but that feeling was the reason he’d refused to give her a job at HGR when she’d first come around. It was also the reason he wouldn’t let her rent one of the four efficiency apartments that the Courtyard sometimes made available to human employees. Now she wanted to be the Human Liaison, a job that would give her access to the Courtyard itself. He’d eat her before he gave her that job. And Vladimir Sanguinati, who was the store’s other manager, had offered to help more than once if Simon looked at Asia some night and felt peckish. A fair arrangement, since Vlad preferred the blood while Simon liked ripping off chunks of fresh meat.

“We’re closed, Asia. Go home,” he said.

She let out a theatrical sigh. “I’d really like the job, Simon. The one I’ve got barely pays the rent and it’s boring.”

Now he didn’t even try to sound friendly. “We’re closed.”

Another sigh, followed by a pouty look as she zipped up her parka, pulled on gloves, and finally left.

John, another member of the Wolfgard, left his spot by the door to do a check for any stragglers. So Simon was alone in the front of the store when the door opened again, letting in a blast of cold air that he found refreshing after all the scents humans used.

“We’re—” He glanced toward the door and swallowed the word closed.

The woman looked half frozen. She wore sneakers—sneakers, for pity’s sake—and her jeans were soaked up to the knees. The denim jacket was a light covering suitable for a summer night, and she was wearing a T-shirt under it.

She looked so painfully cold he didn’t have the automatic consideration of whether she’d be edible.

“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked.

She stared at him as if she’d seen him before, and whatever had happened made her afraid. Problem was, he didn’t recognize her. Not by sight or smell.

Then she took a couple of steps toward the counter. He suspected that was to get farther into the store, where it was warmer, than to get closer to him.

“I s-saw the sign,” she stammered. “A-about the job.”

Not a stutter, he decided. Her teeth were beginning to chatter. How long had she been out in that weather? It was a natural storm, coming off the lake. The first one of the new year. Being a natural storm didn’t mean it wasn’t a bitch.

“What sign?”

“H-human Liaison,” she chattered. “The sign said to apply here.”

Moments ticked by. She lowered her eyes. Probably not brazen enough to meet his stare now that she’d said what she wanted.

Something about her troubled him, but it wasn’t the same feeling he had when he was around Asia Crane. Until he figured out what that something was, he didn’t want to kick her back out in the snow. And except for Asia, this was the first human to ask about the job. That was reason enough to give her a few minutes of his time.

Movement at the edge of his peripheral vision. John, now in human form and dressed in a sweater and jeans, tipped his head by way of asking, What now?

Simon tipped his head slightly in turn and looked at the cash register.

“Want me to close up?” John asked, giving the shivering woman a smile as he approached.

“Yes.” He looked at the woman. “Let’s go next door and have a cup of coffee while we discuss the job.”

She turned toward the outer door and hesitated.

“No, this way.” He took a couple of steps past the counter and pointed to an opening in the wall.

The archway between had a lattice door that could be latched when one store was closed and the other was still open to customers. On the wall beside the door was a sign that read, PAY FOR THE BOOKS BEFORE ENTERING A LITTLE BITE, OR WE’LL TAKE A BITE OUT OF YOU.

The sign on the other side of the door read, SURE, YOU CAN TAKE THAT MUG. WE’LL JUST KEEP YOUR HAND IN EXCHANGE.

He didn’t think the woman’s brain was thawed enough to take in the words. After the first jolt of seeing him, he didn’t think she had taken in anything.

Tess was wiping down the glass display case when he walked in. The friendly smile she started to give him shifted to guarded when she noticed his companion.

“Could we have some coffee?” he asked as he took a seat at a table closest to the counter—and away from the door and the pocket of cold that seemed to settle around the tables close to the windows.

“There’s still some left in the pot,” she replied, giving the woman a sharper look now.

Simon leaned back in his chair, resting one ankle over his other knee. “I’m Simon Wolfgard. What’s your name?”

“Meg Corbyn.”

He heard the breath of hesitation that told him it wasn’t a name she was used to. Which meant it wasn’t a name she’d had for long. He didn’t like liars. Humans who lied about small things tended to lie about a lot of other things as well.

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