Written in Red Page 9

Steady crunch.

She shifted to see more of the street.

Car moving down the street. The crunching was the sound of its tires on the snow. Her feet had made that same sound last night. Snow and bitter cold. Now she had a sound to go with what she’d seen and felt—a memory image rather than a training image.

Shivering, she got back into bed and huddled under the covers until she warmed up again.

She’d escaped and she’d run. She wasn’t sure where the compound was located—she’d been focused on where she needed to go and not where she had been—but it felt like she was a long way from the place where the Controller had kept his girls. He would send someone to find her. Even if she’d been used up enough for him to write her off as a loss, he couldn’t allow her escape to be successful. More girls might try to get away, and that was something the Controller couldn’t afford.

But for now, she had a job—and an employer who was a Wolf in his other form. That’s what his last name meant. Anyone named Wolfgard was a terra indigene who could change into a Wolf. Or maybe it was a Wolf who could change into a human. Even the Controller, with all his spies searching for information, couldn’t find out much about the Others that wasn’t known by almost everyone.

She thought about the snow and cold. She thought about staying snuggled in bed for a day.

Then she thought of being dismissed on her first day of work and being out there alone. So she got up and took another long, hot shower, because there was no one to tell her she couldn’t. Bundled in her robe, she rubbed her hair dry while she considered the clothes Tess had left for her. Not much variety. A pair of black jeans and a pair of dark blue jeans. Two heavy pullover sweaters—one black; the other a medium blue. Two cream-colored turtleneck tops.

The black seemed too solemn for her first day, so she chose the blue outfit. Relieved that everything fit, from the underwear to the shoes that looked clunky but were surprisingly comfortable, she went into the kitchen alcove, opening cupboards and drawers. She identified a small coffeemaker, which she didn’t know how to use, and a wave-cooker, which she didn’t know how to use. She found instruction manuals in one of the kitchen drawers, but a glance at the clock discouraged her from trying to understand either appliance. Her head was full of images, but they were pictures or snips of a complete action—enough for her to identify something, but not enough to figure out how to do anything for herself.

The cuts she had endured as punishment for lies and defiance had almost driven her insane, but they had also connected many previous images that she must have seen in prophecies, suddenly putting them into a useful context. If she hadn’t been punished, she wouldn’t have learned how to escape.

Not sure how long the food was supposed to last, she settled for a half glass of orange juice, two bites of a sharp yellow cheese, and one chunk of cooked chicken. Still hungry, she rummaged in the cupboards and found a box of dry cereal and a package of chocolate cookies.

She tore open the package and ate two cookies so quickly, she barely tasted them. Taking one more cookie, she ate it slowly, savoring the flavor. Then she put the package back in the cupboard and firmly shut the door.

Training image. Bugs crawling over open packages of food left in a cupboard.

Meg opened the cupboard and pulled out the package of cookies. It wouldn’t seal properly, so she rummaged through the other cupboards until she found small, glass-covered dishes in the storage unit under the wave-cooker. But none of them were big enough to fit the package—unless she ate more cookies.

She reached for another cookie, then shook her head and went back to searching the cupboards. She found a pot that was big enough and had a lid. A glance at the clock above the cooker warned her that she’d used up her time, so the pot would have to do.

She pulled on the boots, then tucked her shoes in one of the large zippered bags Tess had left. She’d have to see about getting a purse for any small personal things she needed to carry with her.

What things did women carry with them?

She walked toward the door, completely focused on recalling every training image of purses and their contents. A quiet knock made her squeak as she stumbled away from the door, her heart pounding. The second knock, louder and impatient, sounded more reassuring, in a scary way.

She turned the lock and pulled the door open enough to look out.

Simon Wolfgard stared back at her.

“Mr. Wolfgard.” She pulled the door open. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Weren’t you?” He stepped over the threshold, forcing her to back up. “Since you hadn’t done this kind of work before, I thought you’d like an explanation of your duties. And I thought you’d like to see the shortcut to the Liaison’s Office instead of walking on the street.”

How did he know she wanted to avoid being outside their territory as much as possible? Did he know who she really was? What she was?

He watched her. The wire-rimmed glasses he wore didn’t hide the amber predator eyes the way they did last night. But he wasn’t doing anything except watching her . . . because he was waiting for her to get her coat so he could show her to the Liaison’s Office before he went on to his own work.

In some movie clips she’d seen, people said “Duh” or smacked a hand against their foreheads to indicate a brainless moment. She had a feeling he already thought she was pretty brainless, and she didn’t want to confirm it.

She fetched the red coat from the closet.

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