Another howl, easily heard despite the closed windows.
We are here.
Above her, somewhere on the roof, she heard several Crows cawing.
We are here.
Something that had been wound tight inside Meg since last night began to relax. There weren’t any humans around this part of the Courtyard today, but she wasn’t alone. She could spend the afternoon reading or napping, maybe even do some chores now that she’d learned how to clean. Not all human stores were closed on Earthday, so there were cars going by—including, she noted before stepping away from the window, a police car. She would be safe enough while there was daylight.
She could decide later about where she would hide after dark.
* * *
That afternoon, Asia Crane slowly drove past the entrance to the Liaison’s Office and the consulate. As usual on Earthday, a chain stretched across the street entrance, a metal Closed sign hanging from the center. It was a simple but efficient way to keep people from using the delivery area as a parking lot for the restaurants and other businesses across the street from the Courtyard.
Bigwig hadn’t been able to give her any information about the white van or the driver who seemed to be casing the Courtyard. Probably nothing more than a disgruntled husband or boyfriend looking for an opportunity to haul his dumb-ass woman back home. Although why anyone would go to that much trouble for no-looks Meg was a mystery.
She didn’t care about the who, how, or why as long as Meg no longer filled the Liaison’s job, leaving it open for her to have another shot at access to the Courtyard.
Damn it! There wasn’t anything that looked like the Help Wanted sign taped to the office door. That meant White Van Man hadn’t taken care of business yet. Well, she might be able to help with that.
Tomorrow she would make a two-prong attack. She would test her welcome at Howling Good Reads, and she would make an effort to befriend Meg.
Her next step would depend on her reception, but one way or another, Simon Wolfgard was going to pay for her backers becoming impatient with her lack of progress.
Simon flipped the lock on Howling Good Reads’ front door, flipped the sign to Open, put on the wire-rimmed glasses, and started the rest of the routine for opening the store.
A minute after he opened HGR, Asia Crane strutted through the door. She was a determined bitch, so he wasn’t surprised that even a bad scare hadn’t kept her away for long. If he’d liked her at all, he might have admired her determination to lure him into having sex.
And if he ever found out she was sniffing around the Courtyard—and him—for something more than a walk on the wild side, he would kill her.
Asia gave him a slashing look as she opened her parka and walked toward the display of new books, every bump of her hips a sharp movement in the skintight jeans.
He watched the shallow way her chest rose and fell under the short, tight sweater, watched the way her encased hips kept moving even though she was picking up books and looking at the back copy—almost like she didn’t dare stop moving because there was a good chance she wouldn’t be able to start up again. When he saw her little, self-satisfied smile, he realized she was watching him watch her. Why would she be satisfied? Considering the way she struggled to expand her chest, she didn’t even look bitable this morning.
Or maybe he was still full from the deer they’d brought down yesterday and wasn’t interested in another weak animal.
He focused his amber eyes and most of his attention on Heather, one of his human employees.
“If you’re going to man the register, do you want me to stock the shelves?” She gave him a hesitant smile and suddenly smelled nervous.
“You are a sensible female,” he said, raising his voice so Asia would stay at the new books display and not feel the need to slink over to hear what he was saying.
“Thanks,” Heather said. “Um . . . why? I haven’t done anything yet.”
He waved a hand at her. “Your clothes don’t lock up your body. You can take a full breath. If you were being chased, you wouldn’t fall down after a few steps from lack of air.” He was thinking of her escaping a human pursuer. A Wolf would run her down in seconds whether she could breathe or not.
Heather stared at him.
He continued to study her, understanding by the fear scent that he had taken a misstep somewhere in the past minute. He’d been indicating approval, because it was now clear to him that Asia did those exaggerated hip movements to hide the fact that she couldn’t walk quickly without being out of breath. He didn’t know what he’d said that had frightened Heather, but the look in her eyes made him think of a bunny just before it tries to run.
Even when he wasn’t hungry, he liked chasing bunnies.
“I’ll go stock some of the shelves,” Heather said, backing away from him.
“All right.” He tried to sound agreeable so that she wouldn’t quit. Vlad hated doing the paperwork as much as he did when a human employee quit, which was why they’d both made a promise not to eat quitters just to avoid the paperwork. As Tess had pointed out, eating the staff was bad for morale and made it so much harder to find new employees.
When Heather came out of the back room with a cart of books—instead of running out the back door after leaving the words I quit on a note taped to the wall, like a couple of previous employees had done—he turned his attention to Asia.
She must have been waiting for that moment. Her cheeks were a blaze of color and she looked ready to spit stone. She slammed a book back down on the display and raised her chin.