Written in Red Page 75

“Thanks,” Meg replied, jumping out of the BOW.

Sam tried to scramble into the front seat and follow her, but Vlad grabbed him as Meg closed the door. The pup struggled for a moment, then stared out the window, making anxious sounds.

<Listen to me, Sam. Listen,> Vlad said. <This building is a place where we deal with humans. There will be many of them coming and going. Meg will be talking to them. You’re afraid of them, but if you’re going to stay here with Meg, you have to be brave. Do you understand?>

No answer except that shallow, anxious breathing, accompanied by a whine.

Vlad sighed. How had Simon endured this silence from a pup he loved?

He got out of the BOW, carrying Sam so he wouldn’t have to dry off the pup. After setting him on the floor in the back room—and watching while Sam rushed into the sorting room to find Meg—he took the sacks and towel out of the BOW and carried them inside.

Moving silently, he entered the sorting room. Sam was sniffing one corner of the room, now oblivious to everything except the scent he’d found. Opening the Private door all the way, he looked at the tableau and thought, A Crow, a prophet, and a vampire walk into an office . . .

Then he huffed out a breath. It sounded like the beginning of one of those stupid jokes the terra indigene never understood.

Three deliverymen, all holding boxes and all standing back from the counter. Dropping the pen it was holding, the Crow cawed at them, walked to one end of the counter, selected another pen, then returned and tapped the pen on the paper clamped to the clipboard.

The men hesitated to approach, as if that small distance would make any difference. If Nyx wanted to feed, there wasn’t anything her prey could do to stop her. If she had been wearing jeans and a sweater, the men wouldn’t have known she was one of the Sanguinati. But Nyx preferred wearing a long, black velvet gown that had a modest train and those draping sleeves—the kind of garment female vampires often wore in the old movies Grandfather loved so much. Wearing it amused her because she said it was a way to tell her prey what she was, even before she began to feed.

Still in her winter coat, Meg took the pen from the Crow. Smiling and talking to the men, she quickly filled out the information while they set the packages on the handcart and kept glancing at Nyx.

Realizing none of the men were leaving, Vlad said, <Nyx.>

<I have done nothing. It is their own fear that holds them,> she replied, her dark eyes watching the men while she remained perfectly still. <Meg will do her work, and I will remain where I am.>

<Why stay?> he asked, although he made no move to withdraw.

<To teach the humans that they’re not prey when they are in this office. They will learn we do not harm those who deal with Meg, even if she is delayed. They will value her because of that and be a different kind of guard.>

<Have you heard something to indicate there is a reason for another kind of guard?>

<She pleases Grandfather. That is reason enough to keep her safe,> Nyx replied.

Meg smiled at the deliverymen as they walked out the door together and got into their trucks or vans. She continued to smile until they drove away. Then she blew out a breath and turned to Nyx and the Crow.

“Thank you for opening the office. I don’t mean to be late every morning. Things have gotten complicated the past couple of days.”

Looking over his shoulder at Sam, who was still busily sniffing his way around the sorting room, Vlad said, “That’s understandable.”

“It was entertaining,” Nyx said. “And Jake knew what to do.”

The Crow who was pulling pens out of the holder and arranging them on the counter looked at them and cawed.

“I think there is a package for Mr. Erebus from the movie place,” Meg said. “Do you want to take it with you?”

Nyx laughed. “And deprive him of a visit from you? No. But I will tell him a package has arrived.” She changed to smoke, from feet to chest, and floated over the counter. Returning to solid form, she held out her arm to the Crow, who hopped on to be taken outside.

Meg stared as the Crow flew off and Nyx changed completely to smoke that flowed toward the access way leading to the Market Square. Then she stared at the counter, and finally at Vlad. “Am I the only one who needs to use the go-through?”

Feeling Sam come up beside him, Vlad grinned at her. “No, you’re not the only one. At least for now. I’ll park the BOW in the garage for you. If you don’t find your key, let me know and I’ll drive you home.”

He didn’t wait for her answer. He needed to open HGR, and he wanted to let Henry know Sam was with Meg—assuming Jake hadn’t already told the Courtyard’s spirit guide.

And he still needed to find a subtle way of warning everyone in the Courtyard that, until Simon returned, he and Henry Beargard would be looking after Meg and Sam.

* * *

Meg put out kibble and water for Sam, smoothed the fur under the harness, and let him roam the sorting room without the leash. After she barely missed stepping on his tail or toes a couple of times, he settled down where he was out of the way but could watch her sort the mail and packages. The package for Mr. Erebus from the movie place was small enough to go with the mail, but remembering what Nyx said, Meg put it with the afternoon deliveries—including a special delivery for Winter that she hadn’t yet had a chance to make.

The morning passed quickly. When she heard the ponies, she snapped the leash to Sam’s harness and slipped the other end over her wrist before opening the outer door, just in case the pup decided to bolt outside. But Sam, while intrigued, was happy to stay with her as she walked back and forth from table to ponies. For their part, the ponies seemed curious but unconcerned about the pup.

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