Written in Red Page 86

“I’m not sure. I’m looking after Sam, and he’s a handful.”

A thump, followed by Sam loudly talking back at something.

“I have to go,” Meg said, hurrying into the back room.

For a moment all she could do was stare. Sam had somehow dragged a chair across the room and was climbing up to reach the box of puppy cookies she’d left on the counter. The fridge door was open, and scraps of her cheese sandwich were scattered on the floor, along with the wrapping, which had been ripped into pieces. Either he wasn’t interested or he hadn’t been able to grab her container of soup. She didn’t want to think of how much of a mess that would have made.

Deciding she would drink her now-cold peppermint tea before dealing with Sam’s helping himself to her lunch, she grabbed the pup and went into the sorting room, firmly closing the door to the back room.

That’s when she saw the box of sugar on the table and realized she no longer had the sugar lump she’d taken from Jake and had no clue where she’d dropped it.

Slipping into the front room to retrieve her tea, she saw Ferus standing outside the consulate, talking with Elliot Wolfgard and gesturing toward the office. Easy to guess what they were talking about: Sam on a leash. Vlad and Henry didn’t seem concerned about it when she and Sam walked around the complex, but she had a feeling the Wolves weren’t going to be as understanding about buddies and safety lines.

“Crow in the front room, puppy in the middle room, crazy Wolf outside,” she muttered. “Could today get any better?”

Apparently, it could. Fortunately, she noticed the bug Jake must have dropped in her tea as a peace offering before she took a sip.

* * *

Entering the Stag and Hare, a restaurant directly across from the Courtyard’s delivery entrance, Asia settled at a table by the windows. The cold came off the plates of glass in waves, and most of the customers were huddled at the tables closest to the fireplace in the center of the main room.

Keeping her coat on, Asia placed her order and stared out the window, turning over the things she had seen as she considered what she could use to her advantage.

Meg had screamed, and all the terra indigene in that part of the Courtyard had responded, even those who worked in the consulate. According to Darrell Adams, a human who worked for Elliot Wolfgard, everyone at the consulate thought of the Liaison’s Office like a poor relation—something that had to be tolerated but was ignored as much as possible.

Poor relation or not, even they had paid some attention when Meg screamed. So there was a way to redirect the Others’ attention, if only for a minute or two. Plenty of things could be accomplished in a minute or two.

And there was that Wolf pup wearing a harness. Could he shift into a boy, or did the harness constrict his ability to change into human form? If one of the Others could be contained and controlled, her backers probably knew a few collectors who would risk the wrath of the terra indigene to have a Wolf for a pet, if only for a little while. They might even consider using a tamed Wolf in a few horror movies—at least until he became old enough to be dangerous.

Asia smiled at the waiter when he brought her a bowl of soup. As the simple meal warmed her, she looked at the Courtyard and smiled again.

Meg was looking after a pup while Simon Wolfgard was away. Didn’t need to be a genius to add up two and two and get money.

After all, holding someone for ransom was often a lucrative, if risky, business.

CHAPTER 13

On Sunsday morning, the new set of bowls and the dog bed for the office were delivered as promised, and Sam was delighted to have his own comfortable spot where he could watch Meg as she sorted mail and packages. Boone brought over a small container of chopped meat, claiming it was now a regular order. Meg didn’t ask what kind of meat it was or who had placed the order. She just warmed up the meat and stirred it into the kibble.

That morning, there was no sign of Jake Crowgard. There was also no sign of any of the pencils or pens he’d been playing with—including the three that were supposed to be hers. Between deliveries, she called toy stores, found what she was looking for, and got a promise from the store that she would have the merchandise by that afternoon.

Sometimes Sam hid from the deliverymen; sometimes he watched them from the sorting-room doorway—and Meg watched the way a couple of them studied the red harness just a little too long for her liking.

And too often throughout the day, when she thought about the vision of the men in black and Sam howling in terror, she found herself rubbing her arms to relieve the prickling under her skin while she struggled with the craving to make another cut.

* * *

By Windsday, Meg and Sam had a workable morning routine, and for the first time since beginning her puppy-sitting stint seven days ago, they got to the office without rushing.

As she opened the front door, Meg stuck her head out and smiled at the Crows who had taken up their usual position on the wall. “Tell Jake I have a package for him.”

After setting up for business, she unclipped the leash and removed Sam’s harness. She made that decision after waking up twice, scared by dreams she couldn’t remember. She would keep the harness and leash handy, but she didn’t want him wearing it when it wasn’t necessary.

Besides, Merri Lee told her that Ferus had been reassigned to work with Blair at the Utilities Complex. And yesterday Henry suddenly came into the office several times to check on a delivery or look through a catalog he claimed he didn’t have. It hadn’t escaped her notice that the Grizzly showed up every time Elliot Wolfgard left the consulate. Realizing Blair and Henry had done those things because some of the Wolves were upset about the harness was another reason for Sam not to wear it.

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