Written in Red Page 89

Sam sighed.

“I know,” she said as she opened a couple of the delivery boxes and began filling them. “There are a lot of rules to remember when you go beyond the Green Complex—and even more rules when traveling outside the Courtyard. If you had let me take you home, you could have been in a warm house, watching a movie, instead of being out here in the snow.”

“Do you like movies, little Wolf?”

Meg jumped and let out a squeak. Sam responded by making puppy growls and snarls—which would have sounded more impressive if he hadn’t leaped behind her and then poked his head between her knees to voice those opinions.

She looked at the old man standing at the gate, smiling gently at her. “Mr. Erebus.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I know. I just didn’t see you.” She glanced at his mausoleum. The door was open, but there were no footprints marring the fresh snow on the walk. She had gotten so used to seeing smoke drifting over the snow, she hadn’t even noticed it this time.

Erebus didn’t comment. He just stood there, smiling gently.

“Sam does like movies,” Meg said to fill the silence. She closed the full delivery boxes, then went back to the BOW for another group of packages. “But I don’t think he watches the same kind of movies that you do.”

“I like many kinds of movies,” Erebus replied, looking at Sam. “Have you seen the movies called cartoons? I especially enjoy the ones where the animals or people do the most foolish things and still survive.”

Sam stayed close to her while she filled the boxes, but when she went back to the BOW for the final packages—the ones addressed to Erebus—Sam eased up to the gate to study the vampire patriarch.

Erebus opened the gate, crouched down, and extended one hand beyond the Chambers boundary. Sam sniffed the hand, licked a finger, and wagged his tail.

Erebus laughed softly as he petted the pup. “You’re a delightful boy. I’m glad you’re looking after our Meg.”

“Looks like you have another movie,” Meg said. When Erebus rose, she expected him to tell her to put it in the delivery box. Even when she had gone up the walk and delivered his packages at the door and he was watching, she had set them on the stoop per his instructions. But he had petted Sam, and she had a feeling that meant something. So she held out the package.

He hesitated. Erebus actually hesitated before he took the package from her hand.

“Namid is full of many things, some wondrous and some terrible,” he said softly. “And some of her creations are both. Thank you for bringing my movies, Meg. I do like my old movies.”

She opened the passenger’s door, made sure the towel was on the seat, and let Sam jump in. Once he was settled, she got in, waved at Erebus, and drove off.

Why had he always hesitated to take a package from her until now? Was there some taboo about Sanguinati touching cassandra sangue? Did he even know what she was? And why had he looked at her when he said some of the world’s creations were both terrible and wondrous? Yes, prophecies could be either and sometimes both, but she didn’t think Erebus had been talking about prophecies.

Which made her wonder what he knew about her kind that she didn’t.

The snow was falling faster. Meg stopped the BOW and took out the copy of the Courtyard map that she tucked into her purse each time she went out to make deliveries. She wasn’t ignoring the danger of taking a map out of the Liaison’s Office, but she was careful to keep it out of sight. And while it did show where each gard lived within the Courtyard, the map didn’t show any roads except the paved ones that were suitable for vehicles. It wasn’t anywhere near as detailed as the map of Lakeside that she had found in the Courtyard’s library.

The Controller would have paid a lot of money for even this much information about the interior of a Courtyard.

After studying the map for a minute, she tucked it back in her purse, put the BOW in gear, and turned onto an interior road. She’d make the other deliveries tomorrow if the roads in the Courtyard were passable. Right now, she wanted to get back to the Green Complex while she could.

By the time the BOW slid across Ripple Bridge, Meg was gripping the steering wheel and hardly daring to breathe. Even with the wipers going and the heater switched to blow on the front window, it was getting harder and harder to see.

The white horse standing at the edge of the road blended in with the swirling snow, and she wouldn’t have seen him on his own, but the black horse and his rider stood in the road, waiting for her.

She stopped the BOW and put it in park, afraid that if she shut it off, she would never clear the snow off the windows enough to drive home. Rolling down her window, she peered at the riders who came up alongside the vehicle. Not girls. Closer to adult women, but still looking a bit too young to be considered mature.

Their faces—eerie, seductive, and compelling—looked even less human than their child faces, but the green scarf confirmed the identity of the black horse’s rider.

“Winter?”

Winter laughed, and the snow swirled around them. “Yes, it’s me. Thunder and Lightning wanted to stretch their legs, so Air and I are out riding.” Her smile was chilling.

Meg stared at the horses—beautiful, otherworldly creatures with flowing manes and tails, who, except for their color, didn’t look anything like the chubby ponies who delivered the mail.

Then Thunder lightly stamped a foot, and sound rolled softly through the Courtyard.

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