Written in Red Page 6

“We need a Liaison, Tess.”

“A fool’s idea, if you ask me. The only humans that want the job are thieves who think they can steal from us or ones hiding from their own law. The last one you threw out for being a lazy bag of shit, and the one before that . . . the Wolves ate the one before that.”

“We weren’t the only ones who ate him,” Simon muttered.

But he had to admit that Tess had a point. Liaisons barely had time to learn the job—if they even bothered to learn the job—before a replacement needed to be found for one reason or another. Humans always had a reason for wanting the job that had nothing to do with the job. Wasn’t that one of the reasons he wouldn’t give it to Asia? Wanting the Liaison job was just her next attempt to make him notice her. He didn’t need her sniffing around him more than she already was.

“What is Meg Corbyn running from?” Tess asked. “She didn’t start out around here. Not with the clothes she was wearing.”

He didn’t respond because he didn’t disagree. Meg might as well have runaway stamped on her forehead.

The green streaks faded from Tess’s hair. She sighed. “Maybe she’ll stay long enough to clear out some of the backlog of mail and packages.”

“Maybe,” he said. He didn’t think Meg Corbyn, or whoever she really was, would stay beyond receiving her first paycheck. But she had said she wanted to learn, and none of the other humans had said that. Not even Asia.

An awkward silence.

“You should go,” Tess said. “Naked girl in the shower. Strange man. I read these kinds of stories in books the humans write.”

Simon hesitated, but Tess was right. “Tell Meg I’ll meet her at the Liaison’s Office at eight thirty tomorrow morning. That will give me time to go over a few things with her before deliveries start at nine.”

“You’re the boss.”

Setting the keys on the table, he left the apartment—and wondered if, by leaving Meg alone with Tess, he’d just murdered the girl.

* * *

The hot water pouring over her hurt, and it felt wonderful. She used the shampoo and soap that was in the shower rack, then just stood there with one hand braced on the wall.

Safe for now. The wind and snow would have scoured her tracks away. She would be seen by humans, and that was a danger, but as long as she stayed within the boundaries of the Courtyard, no one could touch her. Not even . . .

Shaking, she held out both arms. Thin, straight scars marched down the tops of both arms from shoulder to elbow, one-quarter inch apart. The same kind of scars marched down the top of her left thigh and on the outside of her right thigh. There was a line of them down the left side of her back—precise in their execution. They had to be precise or the cut was worth less—or even worthless. Except for punishment.

Ignoring the crosshatch of scars on the upper part of her left arm, she studied the three scabbed lines on that forearm. Those scars she wouldn’t regret. The visions she’d seen when she made those cuts had bought her freedom. And had shown her a vision of her death.

A white room. A narrow bed with metal railings. She was trapped in that room, in that bed, feeling so cold her lungs couldn’t draw in a breath. And Simon Wolfgard, the dark-haired man she’d seen in the prophecy, was there, pacing and snarling.

She turned off the water and opened the shower stall door.

A moment later, someone tapped on the bathroom door.

“Meg? It’s Tess. I’m going to open the door and leave some pajamas for you. Okay?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

Meg grabbed a towel and held it in front of her, glad the mirror had steamed up so that no one would see the scars the towel didn’t hide.

When Tess closed the door again, Meg got out of the shower, dried off as quickly as she could, and dove into the pajamas. Wiping the condensation off the mirror, she double-checked to be sure she wasn’t showing any scars, then opened the door and stepped into the rest of the apartment.

“Give me your wet clothes,” Tess said. “I’ll get them dry for you.”

Nodding, Meg fetched the clothes she’d left in the bathroom and handed them to Tess.

“There’s a bit of food in the cupboards and fridge,” Tess said. “And two sets of clothes. I guessed at the sizes, so you can exchange them at the shop if they don’t fit. Simon will meet you at the Liaison’s Office at eight thirty tomorrow morning to go over your duties.”

“All right,” Meg said. Now that she was warm, staying awake was almost painful.

“Keys are on the table.” Tess headed for the door.

“You’ve been very kind. Thank you.”

Tess turned and stared at her. “Get some sleep.”

Meg counted to ten before she hurried to the door. She wasn’t sure it was possible to hear anything by pressing her ear against the wood like people did in movies, but she did it anyway. Hearing nothing, she locked the door and switched off the overhead light. The streetlights on Crowfield Avenue provided enough light for her to make her way to the windows. She pulled the heavy drapes over one window, then hesitated and left the second window uncovered. Feeling her way to the bed, she got in and lay shivering until the sheets warmed from her own heat.

Death waited for her somewhere in the Courtyard. But it wasn’t coming for her tonight. No one was coming for her tonight.

Breathing out a sigh of relief, Meg closed her eyes and fell asleep.

* * *

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