Written in Red Page 84

Thanking John, she headed toward the back of the store, more and more nervous about the Wolf who seemed intent on following her. She breathed a sigh of relief when he hesitated, then turned and went into A Little Bite. Wanting to get back to the office before he began following her again, she flung open the back door of HGR and hurried to the open door of Henry’s yard.

A snowball hit her shoulder, surprising a squeak out of her. But it was the Wolf charging at her that made her scream so loud the Crows and Hawks that were all around Henry’s yard and the Liaison’s Office took off in a flurry of wings. Meg dropped to her hands and knees, then curled up, covering her head and neck with her arms.

The Wolf landed on her back, snarling fiercely as he slid off her in his attempt to grab at her arms.

Then a small head shoved its way under her arm, and a tongue gave her face a couple of quick licks. Sam talked at her for a moment before he pulled his head out of the space and happily jumped on her again.

Henry’s laugh boomed out. “You caught her good and proper, Sam. Now let her up.”

Meg counted to ten. When no one jumped on her, she slowly uncurled. A moment later, a big hand grabbed the back of her coat, hauled her upright, and began whacking the snow off her.

“You make a fine squeaky toy, Meg,” Henry said, his voice suffused with laughter. “Sam, it’s time for you to go.”

“That’s enough,” she gasped, brushing the snow off the front of her coat.

Henry picked up her purse and the carry bag, brushing the snow off both of them. “It was nice of you to play at being prey.”

She hadn’t been playing at anything. The red harness or the size of the animal hadn’t registered in her brain. All she’d seen was a Wolf heading toward her at a full run. Sam had looked a lot bigger in that moment, and dropping to the ground had been instinctive.

“I probably should have run,” she murmured, taking the purse and carry bag from Henry. Sam returned, mouthing one end of the leash as he dragged it behind him.

“No,” Henry said quietly, his attention on something behind her. “Running would have been the wrong thing to do.”

Taking the leash from Sam, she clipped it to his harness and slipped the other end over her wrist before turning to look at whatever Henry was watching.

The Wolf who had followed her in HGR was standing nearby, holding one of the insulated lunch boxes Tess used to deliver food or coffee to people working in the Market Square. He stared at her with a fury that bordered on crazed hatred.

“What do you want, Ferus?” Henry asked.

It was Sam, standing between her feet and snarling at the other Wolf, that finally pulled Ferus’s attention away from her. But not for long. He couldn’t seem to tear his focus away from the harness and leash that attached Sam to a human.

“Ferus.” Henry’s voice was both command and warning.

“Tess asked me to carry this for the Liaison,” Ferus said, the words almost lost in the growling voice.

“You should go now,” Henry said to Meg, resting a hand on her shoulder. “You’ll need to open up for afternoon deliveries soon.” He gave her a little push toward the office.

“Come on, Sam,” Meg said, too scared now to do more than whisper.

All the way back to the office, Sam ran to the end of the leash, then stopped and kept watch until she caught up to him. And all the way back, Ferus trailed behind them, a silent threat.

Memory. A movie clip showing a pack of ordinary wolves pulling down a deer. Beginning to feed before the deer was dead. Ripping. Tearing. Gorging on fresh meat.

They had watched that same clip for an entire afternoon because one of the girls had fought against being cut, and the resulting prophecy had been of inferior quality. And while the girls watched the clip, the Walking Names had whispered over and over, “That could be you. If we ever stop taking care of you, that is what the wolves will do to you.”

They took care of property, not people. Willing to risk her life in order to have a life, she had run and had ended up in a Courtyard, hiding among beings who were even more dangerous than the man who saw her as nothing but a living tool. Despite Simon snarling at her about one thing or another and always threatening to eat her because she had done something he didn’t like, and despite the conditioned fear of the Others the Walking Names had tried to instill in her, she hadn’t thought of herself as prey. Until now.

She didn’t need to cut skin to know that was exactly how Ferus saw her. To him, human equaled prey, equaled meat. She didn’t need the razor to know it wasn’t a question of if he would pull her down and rip her open like the deer she had seen in that movie clip; it was a question of when.

She had been so busy building a life here, she had forgotten the other part of her personal vision. She was going to die in this Courtyard.

But she’d also seen herself in that narrow bed, and Simon pacing in that white room. How could she be there if the Wolves tore her apart?

Sam yipped, and she realized they had reached the office’s back door. Her hands shook as she struggled to get the key in the lock.

Once she had the door open and Sam had darted inside, she dared to look at the other Wolf. “Thank you for carrying the lunch.”

He just stared at her. Then he held out the lunch box.

Taking it, she backed inside the office and closed the door—and almost wet herself when the furious howl sounded from the other side of the door.

Panting in her effort to breathe, she set all the bags on the small table and ignored the snow she was tracking on the floor. Slipping the leash off her wrist and stripping off her coat, she went into the bathroom, shutting the door before Sam could follow her.

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