Written in Red Page 31

So it was Meg’s fault that he hadn’t behaved correctly.

“Simon?”

He heard the warning note in Tess’s voice. “I won’t forbid Asia from visiting with Meg, as long as she stays on her side of the counter.”

“And I’ll talk to my employees about helping me befriend the Liaison,” Tess said.

“And keep a sharper eye on Asia?”

“That too.”

Her hair was still red, but the black threads were gone and the coils were relaxing.

Since it wouldn’t be viewed as a retreat now, Simon took a step back and looked around. “I don’t feel like opening up again.”

“No one will come in today anyway,” Tess said. “But tomorrow the fear will have faded just enough.” She smiled. “I heard John mention you received a shipment of terror books.”

“Horror books.” Now he smiled. “Including a couple of boxes of terra indigene authors I don’t usually put out for human customers.”

“Maybe you should make a display of them and put them on sale tomorrow. I expect we’ll be busy.”

“We could have tripled sales if we’d eaten one of the customers before they’d all gotten out.”

Tess laughed. “Maybe we can do that next time.”

Simon sighed. “I need a day out of this skin.”

“And I need a few hours of solitude. See you tomorrow, Wolfgard.”

“Tomorrow.” He tipped his head toward A Little Bite. “What about your shop?”

“Julia and Merri Lee will clean up and close up. I’ll tell them to take something over to Meg before they leave.”

Choosing to be satisfied with that, Simon pulled out his keys and secured the dead bolt on HGR’s street door. He checked the office, and stopped long enough to call Vlad and tell him the store was closed and also mention doing a display of horror books by terra indigene authors. Then he turned off lights as he went through the building, put on his winter coat when he reached the stockroom, and left, locking the back door.

He didn’t want to be in this skin. He wanted to wear the body of a Wolf. But he had to stay in human form until he got Daphne’s son, Sam, outside for a few minutes of fresh air—which was all the pup could tolerate since the night Daphne was shot. Once he got the youngster settled inside again, he could shift and run alone for a few hours.

So he set off for the Green Complex, hoping a walk on a cold day would frost some of his anger and frustration—and wishing again that he could find something that would break the fear that kept Sam locked in a single form.

* * *

Meg had her coat on and the bowl of carrot chunks on the sorting table with the mail when the ponies neighed. She opened the sorting room’s outer door and smiled at their grumpy faces.

“Good morning,” she said, hoping they couldn’t recognize forced cheer. “I brought a treat for all of us, since we’re all working hard to get the mail to everyone in the Courtyard. So let me get the baskets filled, and then I’ll show you what I brought.”

Maybe they aren’t grumpy, Meg thought as she filled the slots in Thunder’s baskets. Maybe that’s just what pony faces look like.

When Thunder moved away, she wanted to remind him she had a treat for all of them, and felt disappointed that he was leaving without giving her a chance to make friends. But he simply circled around until he was behind Fog and would be first in line again.

She brought the bowl with her when she picked up the last stack of mail for the Green Complex—Fog’s destination today.

Apparently, ponies did have more than one expression. When she offered two carrot chunks to Thunder, he took the first warily and the second eagerly. Bobbing his head, he trotted off while the others jostled one another to reach the bowl.

“Wait your turn,” Meg said. “I brought plenty for all of us.”

They settled down and waited for their treats, looking as interested in her as they were in the carrots. When Fog trotted off, Meg closed the door and felt that something had finally gone right that day. Setting the bowl on the table so that she could munch on the rest of the carrots while she worked, she went into the bathroom to wash carrot flecks and pony spit off her hands—and put a clean bandage on her finger.

* * *

As Kowalski drove down Crowfield Avenue, Monty noticed the Closed sign on Howling Good Reads’ door and said, “Pull over.” He studied the sign, then looked at the Closed sign at A Little Bite. “Is it usual for them to be closed when most other places are open?”

“No, it’s not,” Kowalski replied. “The Others can be whimsical about business hours, and sometimes the stores are closed to humans so that the terra indigene can shop without being around us. But when that happens, there is usually a Residents Only sign tacked on the door, the lights will be on, and you’ll see people in the stores.”

“So whatever caused this can’t be good.”

“No, sir, it can’t be good.”

Monty opened his door. “I see some movement in A Little Bite. Wait here.”

Getting out of the car, he went up to the door and knocked loudly enough to ensure that the two women in the shop wouldn’t ignore him.

The dark-haired one hurried to the door and pointed to the sign. He responded by holding up his ID.

She flipped the lock, pulled the door open, and said, “We’re closed.”

“Is there something I can do to help?” Monty asked, his voice quiet and courteous.

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