Written in Red Page 72

While she was discussing that story idea with Bigwig, maybe he would be able to find out why so many people were paying attention to the Courtyard’s Liaison.

* * *

Meg knelt in front of Sam’s cage. She had hoped that everyone else would still be working, but apparently even the businesses available to human customers sometimes closed on a whim.

Or maybe the pizzas Henry took up to the social room were the reason the residents of the Green Complex were home early.

If she waited until dark to try this, they had less chance of being seen, but it might be scarier for Sam. So they would do this now.

“Sam,” she said. “I think we should try the buddy system so we can go outside together.”

He whined and shivered.

“When humans climb mountains, they tie a rope around themselves that connects them to their buddy. That way, if one of them gets stuck in a snowdrift, the other can pull him out.”

She was mashing images together in a way that might not make a realistic whole, but she figured Sam wouldn’t know that. Besides, there weren’t any mountains in the Courtyard, but there were significant drifts that could bury either one of them.

“So I bought these.” She held up the leash. “See? It’s a safety line. I loop this around my waist, like this.” She slipped one end of the leash through the wrist loop, then stepped into the bigger loop and pulled it up to her waist. “This end clips to a harness that you wear, since that’s better than squashing you around the middle.” She clipped the leash to the harness and held it up for him to see. “Want to try the buddy system? We wouldn’t go far. Just a walk around the inside of the complex. What do you think?”

She opened the cage door. She was pretty sure Sam couldn’t get out of the apartment, but she remembered movie clips of what a house looked like after a dog, chased by a human, ran through it.

If that happened, Simon would take one look at his home when he returned and eat her.

Sam crept to the door of the cage and stretched his neck to sniff the harness. He looked at the harness, then looked at her . . . and stepped out of the cage, making anxious little sounds.

“All right,” she said brightly. “Let’s go walk in the snow!”

She shimmied out of her end of the leash and put the harness on him, double-checking to make sure nothing was too tight. Then she put on her coat and shimmied the leash back up to her waist. Sam hesitated and looked ready to bolt back into his cage, but he followed her to the front door and pressed himself against her legs, which made putting on her boots a balancing act.

Zipping Simon’s keys into her jacket pocket, she opened the front door, and she and Sam stepped outside.

Closing the door, she took a deep breath, grabbed her end of the leash before the loosened loop slipped down, and moved away from the building. After a moment, Sam followed her.

“There’s Henry and Vlad,” she said, spotting the vampire and Grizzly on the other side of the complex. “Let’s go over and say hello.” She started walking but stopped as soon as she felt a tug around her middle. She looked back at Sam, who hadn’t moved but was now studying the red leash stretched between them.

Meg smiled. “See? Safety line.”

His tail began to wag. He trotted up to her, and the two of them followed the walkway until they reached Vlad and Henry.

She couldn’t identify the expressions on their faces. Since they weren’t yelling at her—or threatening to eat her—she gave them a bright smile and said, “Sam and I are mighty adventurers, just like in the movies.”

“I can see that,” Henry replied after a moment. He looked at Sam. “You can follow a scent better than she can, so you make sure our Liaison doesn’t get lost.”

Sam replied in Wolf, and she and the pup continued their circuit around the complex.

* * *

Watching the woman and Wolf pup, Vlad felt relieved that Simon wasn’t going to be within easy reach of a telephone. When he’d promised to keep an eye on those two, he hadn’t anticipated Meg doing anything like this.

“That’s Sam,” he said, struggling to keep his voice neutral and not provoke the Grizzly.

“It is,” Henry agreed.

“That’s Sam on a leash.” Because their second form couldn’t be contained by such things, the Sanguinati didn’t have the hatred of chains and cages that filled the shifters, but even he felt anger at seeing a terra indigene being treated like a . . . a . . . dog. He could imagine what Blair or, even worse, Elliot would say if they found out.

Hearing the Crows, he amended that thought to when they found out.

“And that’s Meg with a leash around her waist,” Henry said as Sam ran around her in circles and pulled her legs out from under her, dumping them both in a snowbank. “Hard to get away from what’s on the other end, but a good way to haul someone back if there’s trouble.”

A good way to capture two instead of just one. But Vlad didn’t say that. He just watched while girl and pup got untangled and climbed out of the snow.

“Something frightened her at the plaza,” Henry said. “For a moment, the air carried the scent of the man who tried to break in to the efficiency apartments. But with all the police around, it was not a good time to hunt.”

Vlad watched as Meg and Sam started the second circuit around the complex, heading back toward him and Henry. Sam was ahead of Meg now, sniffing at everything. Then he bounced back to Meg for a moment before bounding into the lead again.

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