Written in Red Page 94

It wasn’t that late, so it shouldn’t have been strange to see all the residences lit up. But it seemed like there were too many lights, too much brightness, making that dark space too noticeable, almost ominous.

Why was Meg sitting in the dark?

His uneasiness became an itch under his human skin, making him anxious to shift to a more natural shape. As Wolf, he had the fangs and strength to deal with itchy problems.

He heard Sam howl—and Elliot’s growl of reply. Opening his front door, he stepped into a tension that had him fighting not to shift and force both Wolves into submission.

Tossing the carryall toward the stairs, he stepped into the living room’s archway, treading snow on the wood floor. Elliot whipped around to face him, teeth bared, the canines too long to pass as human. Sam gave Simon one accusing look, then sat in a corner of his cage, his back to both adults.

<Sam?> Simon said.

No answer. Not even a grumble.

Looking oddly uneasy, Elliot turned his head and snapped at the pup, “Stop this foolishness, and come out of that damn cage! You don’t need to be in there!”

<In the kitchen,> Simon growled. Blood and anger. He could smell both.

“At least take off those snowy boots,” Elliot said snippily. “You’re tracking the wet all over the—”

Simon grabbed Elliot and pushed him against the hallway wall. “I’m not some human you can intimidate. And I’m not a pup anymore. You don’t tell me what to do. No one tells me what to do.”

He lengthened his fangs and waited.

Elliot stared at him for a moment. Then he closed his eyes and raised his head, exposing his throat to his leader.

Simon stepped back, not feeling sufficiently human or Wolf to decide how he should respond. Releasing Elliot, he walked into the kitchen, unlaced his boots, and put them on the mat by the back door.

Elliot fetched a couple of old towels and wiped up the floors. When he returned to the kitchen, Simon studied his sire.

“You stirred things up here,” he finally said. “Why?”

“I’m not the one who—”

“You’ve angered the Sanguinati, and that’s not going to help any of us right now.”

“You don’t know what’s been going on here,” Elliot snapped. “What that monkey-fuck female has done.”

“She’s not a monkey f**k, and she is not prey,” Simon said, his voice a low, threatening rumble. “She is Meg.”

“You don’t know what she’s done!”

“She gets mail and deliveries to the complexes on a regular basis. She has a routine with the deliverymen, so we get the merchandise we bought. And she got Sam out of that damn cage!”

“She put him on a leash, Simon. On a leash!”

“It’s not a leash,” a young, scratchy voice shouted. Or tried to shout. “It’s a safety line. Adventure buddies use a safety line so they can help each other.”

Elliot stared, frozen. Simon turned, barely breathing.

Small naked boy, wobbling on stick-thin legs. His hair was a gold mixed with Wolf gray that was rarer than a pure black or white Wolf. Gray eyes full of angry tears, and yet there was a dominance in that weak body that didn’t match Simon’s but was higher than Elliot’s standing within the Lakeside pack. Or would be when Sam was an adult.

“Sam,” Simon whispered.

Sam ignored him and glared at Elliot. “You made Meg cry, so I’m not sorry I bit you!”

Now Simon closed the distance between them and went down on one knee in front of the boy. “Sam.” Fingers hesitantly touched those skinny, weak-muscled arms. A nose twitched at the odor of an unwashed body. “Hey. Sam.”

Big eyes fixed on him now. He was the leader. He was supposed to make things better, make things right.

Just bite me, he thought. He understood pup. He wasn’t sure what to do with boy.

<Elliot . . . > Simon glanced over his shoulder at his sire, who looked pale and shaken.

<Say whatever words will keep him with us,> Elliot said.

“This safety line for adventure buddies is a new thing you learned from Meg?” Simon asked.

Sam nodded.

“It’s not something other Wolves have heard of. So Elliot thought the safety line was something else, something that might hurt you.”

“Meg wouldn’t hurt me,” Sam protested. “She’s my friend.”

“I know that, Sam. I know.” Another hesitant touch of fingers on the boy’s shoulders. Compared to the human form of the other Wolf pups his age, Sam was small and too thin. But that would change if the boy didn’t disappear again inside the Wolf.

“Is Meg going away?” Sam asked.

Simon shook his head. “No. She’s not going away.”

Elliot cleared his throat. “I will offer an apology tomorrow.”

Sam swayed. His leg muscles trembled with the effort of keeping him upright. But the look he gave Simon, while shy, clearly had a focus.

“Simon?”

“Sam?”

“Can I have a cookie?”

He wasn’t sure there was anything to eat besides Sam’s kibble. He was sure of what he wouldn’t find. “I’m sorry, Sam. We don’t have any cookies.”

“Meg does.” Sam licked his lips. “They smelled really good, but she didn’t know if Wolves could have chocolate, so we didn’t eat any. But I could have one now.”

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