Marked in Flesh Page 17

It wasn’t his fault. One moment he was happily asleep; the next, Meg screamed and threw herself on top of him, startling him enough that he yelped. Loudly. And since the windows were open, and since terra indigene all had excellent hearing, the scream and yelp had brought the rest of the Green Complex’s residents running to find out what was wrong.

Vlad approached the desk. “She just had a dream? You’re sure she wasn’t cut, even by accident?”

“No cuts. No broken skin.”

“You’re sure?”

Simon nodded. Before Henry Beargard pounded on Meg’s front door and Vlad, in the Sanguinati’s smoke form, flowed through the screened bedroom window, Simon had planted a paw on Meg’s back and given her a quick but thorough sniff to make sure there wasn’t any blood.

Not that he was going to mention that to anyone.

“You’re not starting the day that much earlier,” Simon growled. “And you were the one who said we needed to get our book orders in today to make sure the store was fully stocked when the Addirondak Wolves arrived next week.”

“Fine. I’ll start on those, and you can . . .”

The phone rang. Simon grabbed the receiver on the second ring. “Howling Good Reads.”

“Simon? It’s Jackson. We need to talk to Meg.”

Simon looked at Vlad. <Get Meg. Now.>

Vlad opened the office’s back window, shifted to smoke form, and flowed down the side of the building—the fastest way to reach the back of the Liaison’s Office.

“Vlad is fetching her,” Simon said. “Is the pack all right? Are you?”

“Yes. Look, we have the phone on the speaker thing. Grace and Hope are with me.” Since Jackson had finished the sentence with a snarl and needed to talk to Meg, it was easy to figure out who had caused trouble for the Sweetwater pack.

Footsteps on the stairs. Then Meg rushed into the office.

“Simon?” She sounded a little breathless. He was going to have to chase her more to build up her lungs. “Vlad said—”

Simon waved her toward the desk. When she hesitated, Vlad gently gripped her shoulders and steered her behind the desk.

“Jackson?” Simon said. “I’m going to put you on speaker now that Meg is here.”

“Meg?” A timid female voice.

Meg sat in the chair, so Simon leaned a hip on the desk while Vlad stood to one side.

“Yes, this is Meg.”

“Tell her why she was a bad puppy!”

Hearing anguish beneath Jackson’s anger, Simon’s canines lengthened in sympathy. He poked Meg’s shoulder. “Yeah, Meg. Tell her why she was a bad puppy.”

Vlad gave him a sharp look.

“I just needed the color!” A wail.

“I remember you,” Meg said, pretending she hadn’t heard his comment. “You were called cs821.”


“Did you choose a name for yourself?”

“Hope.” A sniffle. “Hope Wolfsong.”

“That’s a wonderful name.”

<After being snarled at today, I wonder if that will be her name tomorrow,> Vlad said, sounding amused.

But not really amused, Simon decided after studying the Sanguinati. There was nothing amusing about a cassandra sangue using a razor.

“You liked colors, liked to draw,” Meg continued.

“Yes. I’m allowed to draw now. Or I was.”

Poor puppy, Simon thought. She sounded scared. But he would still take Jackson’s side because the Wolf was probably scared too.

“You drew a picture,” Meg prompted.


“And then you cut yourself, using the razor?”

“Yes. No. I wasn’t trying to cut; I just needed that shade of red.”

Simon poked Meg’s shoulder again. “Tell her the rules.” He raised his voice, even though Jackson could hear him just fine. “There are rules.”

Meg stared at him and bared her teeth.

Vlad muffled a laugh.

Meg leaned toward the phone. “Hope? Is this the first time you’ve cut since you left the compound?”

“Not exactly.”

“The first time with the razor?”


“Well, Simon is right; there are rules.”

“Told you,” he said quietly.

Meg huffed. “Hope, sooner or later, cutting will kill you. You know that, don’t you?”

A whispered, “Yes.”

“Cutting is about revealing prophecy, and the euphoria that we feel when we cut is our bodies’ way of protecting our minds from what we see. The only way we can remember the visions is to swallow prophecy—if we don’t speak, if we don’t describe what we see, we’ll remember it.”

“I can see my drawings,” Hope said.

Meg nodded even though Hope couldn’t see her. “It’s different for you. But your drawings also mean you don’t have to cut to release the visions of prophecy.”

“I made a drawing for you.”

Meg leaned back. “About me?”

“No. Yes.”

“There is a shop in the Intuit’s part of Sweetwater,” Jackson interrupted. “They have a camera that will take a picture that can be sent through e-mail. We’ll have a picture made for Meg and send it to you, Simon.”

“That’s fine.”

“I’ll create an e-mail account for Meg, adding it to the ones we have for Howling Good Reads,” Vlad said. “She’ll be able to receive mail for herself in a day or two.”

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