Written in Red Page 74

“Or a mallet.”

He looked baffled—and very amused. “I don’t understand.”

She shook her head.

He locked Simon’s front door and handed her the keys.

“Thank you,” she said, dumping the keys in her purse and digging for the BOW’s key. “I’m having a difficult morning. Sam! Stop tugging at me!”

“Is it that time of the month?” Vlad asked.

Some feeling blew through her. It might have been embarrassment, but she suspected it was closer to rage. “What?”

He studied her. “Is that not an appropriate question to ask?”

“No!”

“Odd. In many novels I’ve read, human males often ask that question when a female is acting . . .” Puzzlement as he continued to study her face. “Although, now that I consider it, they usually don’t make that observation to the female herself.”

“I have to go to work now,” Meg said, enunciating each word.

“Ah.” He looked at Sam, then at the carry sacks and the towel. “Where is Sam going?”

“He’s coming with me.”

Something in Vlad’s eyes. Surprise? Panic? She would be okay with panic. It would mean she wasn’t the only one who felt out of control today.

Although a vampire feeling out of control might not be healthy for the people around him.

“I’ll help you with those,” Vlad said.

She didn’t argue, especially since she hadn’t found the BOW’s key yet. Vlad flung the towel over his shoulder and held the handles of the carry sacks in one hand as if the sacks weighed nothing, then led the way to the garages, leaving her to deal with Sam. She shortened the leash to keep the pup from running around her in circles. The way things were going, she would end up face-first in the snow. Again.

The way things were going, if she didn’t put her foot down, she would end up puppy-sitting a little tyrant.

She was still trying to find her key—and wondering if she’d left it on her kitchen table—when Vlad dipped a hand in his pocket, pulled out a key, and opened the back of her BOW.

“What?” she stammered. “How?”

“Any BOW key works for all the BOWs in this Courtyard,” Vlad said. “Makes it easier, since very few of them are designated for a particular individual.”

While she stared at him, he picked up Sam, wiped the pup’s feet, then placed pup and towel where Sam could look out between the front seats. He tucked the sacks in the back. “Are you riding in the back?” He wagged a finger at the leash still looped over her wrist.

She stripped off the leash and tossed it in the back. Vlad closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side. He was courteous, and except for that crack about PMS, he was polite. But she had the distinct impression he was laughing at her.

“It’s my BOW, so I’m driving,” she said.

“Found your key yet?” He didn’t wait for her answer. “Since I do have a key, I’m driving—and neither of us will be too late for work.”

She made a growling sound that had his eyebrows shooting up in surprise, but she was beaten for the moment, so she went around to the passenger’s side and got in.

* * *

The BOWs were built to tootle around an enclosed community like a Courtyard, but knowing Elliot had been grumbling over the Liaison’s tardiness, Vlad nudged the vehicle to its top speed, aware that Meg was trying to watch him without appearing to watch him. From what the members of the Business Association had been able to piece together by observing her, Meg absorbed what she saw and heard with unnerving clarity, and those remembered images became her reference to the world. What she saw she could repeat and do—up to a point. There were gaps, omissions of information, that they suspected were deliberate, so that blood prophets could do very few things independently. From what Tess had gleaned from questioning Merri Lee, Meg could identify a lot of objects, but she knew what very few of them did.

Which made her escape from the compound where she had lived to her arrival at their Courtyard all the more remarkable. Somehow, she had figured out enough to run away—and stay alive while she did it.

Thinking about what Henry and Tess—and Simon—would say if Meg ended up in a ditch because of watching how he drove, Vlad slowed to a moderate speed and took care not to do anything that would be considered bad driving. That was something they had agreed on—be precise when showing the Liaison how to do something so that she learned what she needed to know.

Of course, Simon had ignored that completely when he rushed off and dumped a Wolf pup in her lap.

Something new, Henry had said about her. Something little known and not understood. She was all of that. And she was a potential threat, because someone with Meg’s ability to remember images and accurately describe them could tell an enemy too much about their Courtyard and about the terra indigene.

He pushed those thoughts aside when a Hawk, an Owl, and four Crows all came winging toward them from the direction of the Liaison’s Office.

<Monkeys are waiting for the Meg,> the Hawk told Vlad.

<We’re almost there,> he replied to all of them. <The humans will wait for her.>

<We will tell Nyx,> the Crows said as they circled around, and went winging back.

He wasn’t far behind them, so a minute later he pulled up at the Liaison’s Office, parking close to the back door. “You go in and get settled. I’ll bring Sam and the bags.”

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