Home > Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(4)

Etched in Bone (The Others #5)(4)
Author: Anne Bishop

She had been hurt by the humans who had caged her and used her. Hurt in ways that made her fearful of the human male form. While he occasionally wondered if having sex with a human would feel different if the human was Meg, he wasn’t willing to risk their friendship, wasn’t willing to break the bond they already had. So he needed to be extra careful now for her sake, for his sake, for everyone’s sake. How much human would the terra indigene keep? The Elders had asked that question without specifying if they meant human population, human inventions, or the intangible aspects of a form that were absorbed along with the physical shape if you lived too long in a particular skin.

Simon shut off the water and dried himself before pulling on a pair of denim cutoffs.

When the Elders had first asked that question, he thought they expected an answer in words. But after the recent war that had broken the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations on the other side of the Atlantik, and the Elders’ decision to thin, and isolate, the human herds in Thaisia, Simon understood that the answer would be shaped by what the Elders learned from the things that happened in and around the Lakeside Courtyard.

• • •

Meg fussed with the dishes on the small table in the summer room, but her mind was still replaying the image of Simon and Karl Kowalski standing by the water trough, talking. Simon had looked happy. Karl had had his back to the summer room, so she hadn’t seen his face, but he’d seemed tense. She wondered why Karl would feel tense about something that pleased Simon so much. Then again, a Wolf and a human didn’t often see things the same way.

But looking at them, their bodies communicating opposing emotions, she noticed the similarities. Unlike Henry Beargard, who was big and muscled even in human form, Simon and Karl had the strength and lean muscles of hunters who chased their prey—although she didn’t think Karl usually had to run after the people he arrested. They both had dark hair, but Karl’s was cut shorter than Simon’s. The real difference, at first glance anyway, was the eyes. Karl’s were brown, while Simon’s were amber whether he was in human or Wolf form.

And when Karl left, she noticed the parts of Simon that weren’t usually seen. She noticed—but she wasn’t sure how she felt. Scared, yes, but also a little curious. She and Simon were friends, and she adored his nephew Sam. But more than that, they’d become partners who were committed to keeping the Courtyard—and the city of Lakeside—intact. And they were partners who were committed to helping the cassandra sangue survive in a world that was too full of sensation.

In the stories she’d read, people who were drawn to each other seemed to fight a lot or have misunderstandings or had sex and then broke up before eventually getting together. But those were humans, not a blood prophet and a Wolf. There were things that had been done to her in the compound that her body remembered but were veiled from her mind—things that made it much easier for her to be around Simon when he was in Wolf form. She knew in her heart that Simon would never do bad things to her like the men in the compound had done, but the furry Wolf still felt like a safer companion, despite the teeth and claws.

And yet, this time, seeing Simon without clothes . . . Scary, yes, but thinking about it made something flutter inside her, something that made her wonder what it would be like if they . . .

“You’re upset.”

Startled, Meg almost knocked over a glass of water. She hadn’t heard Simon enter the summer room.

“No, I’m not.” But looking at him, she was distracted by the male body that displayed everything but the scary bits, which were hidden by denim cutoffs. Then she remembered that she wasn’t wearing anything except a thin cotton shift and panties. That hadn’t seemed important when she’d put them on after her shower.

She was asking for it. Meg couldn’t remember if she had read that phrase in a story or if it was part of a rememory—an image from an old prophecy. But she knew it was the excuse a man used in order to blame a girl when he forced her to have sex with him.

She hadn’t given a thought to how little she was wearing, but if she was noticing Simon’s body, was he also noticing hers? And if he was . . .

She was asking for it.

No! A human male might think that way, but Simon wouldn’t, not even when he was in human form. Her brain knew that; it would make things easier for everyone if she could convince her body.

“Yes, you are.” Simon stepped closer, and his amber eyes narrowed—but not before Meg saw the flickers of red that indicated anger. “You smell upset—and a little lusty. But mostly you smell upset.” He snarled, showing fangs that definitely weren’t human. “Did Kowalski upset you?”

“No.” Her insides were feeling shaky, but her reply was firm and definite. The last thing she wanted was for Simon to be angry with any of her human friends. “I was thinking of something that made me unhappy.”

He stopped snarling and cocked his head, looking more baffled than angry. “Why would you do that?”

She stared at him. She didn’t want to tell him what she’d been thinking about, which would be his next question, so she shrugged and changed the subject to one she knew would interest him: food. “I couldn’t decide what to eat, so I brought a lot of stuff, including this.” She picked up a container and a spoon, then hesitated.

“What is it?”

“Yogurt.” She swallowed a spoonful and wondered why Merri Lee and Ruth said it was yummy. Was this an acquired taste? “Try some.” She filled the spoon and held it out to Simon, wondering what he would do.

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