Written in Red Page 38

He huffed. She could have sworn his hair rose like feathers being fluffed in annoyance.

“There.” He went to the back of the BOW and opened the door. He sniffed, then began rummaging happily through her ordered stacks.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Mouse,” he replied, picking up each package and sniffing it.

“There aren’t any mice in the packages.” At least, she hoped there weren’t. “But there were mice around where the packages were stored.”

He stopped rummaging, apparently losing all interest. But he did help her carry the packages to the mail room. Judging by the cubbyholes built into one wall and the large table at a right angle to them, this was where all the mail for the Hawkgard Complex was delivered. The cubbyholes had numbers but no names, and most of the packages were addressed as Hawkgard with a number.

Come to think of it, a lot of the mail she had sorted for all the complexes was the same way. The gard and maybe an initial was the most identification shown. Hard to know how many of each race was living in a Courtyard if only a few, like Erebus Sanguinati and Simon Wolfgard, provided a full name.

Were they that uncaring about such things or that cautious about how much humans knew about them?

What did that say about Erebus that he used his full name? Was it a way of indicating his lack of concern about who knew he was residing at the Lakeside Courtyard or was it a warning?

She thanked the Hawk for his help, and had the impression he had to dig into his knowledge of humans for the “You are welcome” reply.

When she reached the bridge that spanned Courtyard Creek, she pulled over and studied the map. If she kept going straight, she would be at the Wolfgard area of the Courtyard, and she didn’t want to go there and take the chance of running into him. Besides, she needed to head back to the office. But she had time to look at one place that made her curious. So she drove over the bridge and turned left on the road that ran along the small lake.

When she spotted the girl skating on the lake, she stopped the BOW and got out. The air was so clean and cold it hurt to breathe it in, and yet the girl, wearing a white, calf-length dress with short sleeves, didn’t seem to notice.

Meg made her way to the edge of the ice and waited. The girl looked at her, circled away, then skated over to where she stood.

A girl in shape, but not human. The face, especially the eyes, passed for human only from a distance.

“I’m Meg,” she said quietly, not sure why she thought this girl was more of a threat than the Sanguinati.

“You stopped,” the girl said. “Why?”

“I wanted to introduce myself.” She hesitated. “Are you alone here? Where are your parents?”

The girl laughed. “The Mother is everywhere. The Father doesn’t spurt his seed in this season.” She laughed again. “You don’t like the spurting? Never mind. My sisters and cousins are with me, and that is enough. Our homes are over there.” She pointed to a cluster of small buildings that were made of stone and wood.

“I’m glad you’re not alone.”

An odd look. “That matters to you?”

“I know how it feels to be alone.” She shook her head, determined to shake off the memories of being isolated in a cell—or watching a movie clip in a room full of girls and feeling even more alone. “Anyway, I’m planning to make regular deliveries from now on, so I wondered if there was anything you wanted from the Market Square. It’s a long walk for you and your sisters. I could give one or two of you a ride up to the shops.”

“Kindness. How unexpected,” the girl murmured. “There is a Courtyard bus that comes through twice a day that any terra indigene can take up to the shops, and the ponies are always willing to give me a ride. But . . .”

“But . . . ?”

The girl shrugged. “I put in a request for some books from our library. They weren’t dropped off.”

“Wait a moment.” Meg went back to the BOW, retrieved the notepad and pen from her purse, and retraced her steps back to the lake. She held them out. “If you write down the titles, I’ll go to the library after work and see if any of them are available.”

The girl took the pad and pen, wrote several titles, then handed the pad and pen back to Meg.

“If your sisters are out when I return, whom should I ask for?”

Another odd look that was frightening because there was amusement in it.

“My sisters mostly sleep in this season, so only my cousins might be around,” the girl replied. Then she added, “I am Winter.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Winter,” Meg said. Her teeth began to chatter.

Winter laughed. “Yes. But you’ve had enough pleasure, I think.”

“I guess so. I’ll look for those books.” She hurried back to the BOW, but once inside with the heater doing its best to thaw her out, she waved to the girl.

The girl waved back, then turned to stare at the Crows and Hawks gathered in trees on the other side of the lake. They all took off in a flurry of wings, as if they were nervous about drawing the girl’s attention.

But Meg noticed at least some of them followed her all the way back to the office.

She and the BOW crawled into the garage, one turn of the wheels at a time. The opening was almost twice as wide as the vehicle, but Meg’s nerves still danced until she got the BOW inside and turned off.

Her nerves did more than dance when she got out of the BOW and saw the man standing there. Dressed in a mechanic’s blue jumpsuit, his only concession to the biting cold was a thin turtleneck sweater under the jumpsuit. He had brown hair, the amber eyes of a Wolf, and an annoyed expression that said plainly enough she had already messed with his day and he didn’t like it.

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