Home > Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(3)

Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(3)
Author: Anne Bishop

He grabbed the covers, and the brief game of tug had her sitting upright again.

“It’s not dark; it’s just early,” he said. “Come on, Meg. We’ll take a walk.”

“It’s not morning. The alarm clock didn’t go off.”

“You don’t need an alarm clock. You’ve got sparrows, and they say it’s morning.”

When she didn’t respond, Simon hauled her to her feet and steered her out the bedroom door and down the hallway to the bathroom.

“Are you awake enough to pee and brush your teeth?”

She closed the door in his face.

Taking that as a yes, Simon returned to Meg’s bedroom and pulled out the clothes she would need. Most of the clothes. Apparently a male wasn’t supposed to take a female’s underclothes out of a drawer unless he was mated to that female. And males weren’t supposed to see the underclothes unless females wanted the underclothes to be seen.

He didn’t understand why everyone fussed about taking clean clothes out of a drawer. Underclothes smelled a lot more interesting after the female wore them.

Probably not something human females wanted to know.

While he waited, he made up the bed, more to discourage Meg from falling back into it than because he wanted to tidy the room. Besides, running his hands over the sheets and breathing in her scent made him happy.

Why had he thought sleeping in his human form last night was a good idea, especially when it meant sleeping alone? If he had shifted to his Wolf form as he usually did, he could have stayed with Meg, could have curled up next to her in her bed.

All right, he hadn’t thought staying in human form overnight was a good idea, just a necessary exercise. Six Wolves from the Addirondak packs were coming to the Lakeside Courtyard next week to experience interacting with humans in ways they couldn’t in their own territory. Three were adults who were already dealing with the humans who lived in towns located in and around the Addirondak Mountains. The other three were juveniles who had completed their first year of the human-centric education that would train them to keep watch over the humans living in Thaisia.

Keeping watch to make sure humans kept to the agreements their ancestors had made with the terra indigene was dangerous work. The Others might refer to humans as clever meat—and they were—but they were also invading predators who grabbed territory whenever they could. And despite what their government officials said, humans weren’t really concerned with the overall well-being of their kind. Humans belonging to the Humans First and Last movement had howled about a food shortage in Thaisia and said the terra indigene had caused it. But it was the HFL humans who had sold the surplus stores of food to the Cel-Romano Alliance of Nations for profit and then lied about it. Those lies had spurred a fight in Lakeside that resulted in the deaths of police officer Lawrence MacDonald and Crystal Crowgard. By doing those things, humans had drawn the attention of terra indigene who usually stayed away from human-controlled places while their intentions were benevolent.

Those earth natives, who lived deep in the wild country, had decided that the humans living in Thaisia had committed a breach of trust, and all agreements between humans and the Others might be rescinded. Probably would be rescinded. Already there were restrictions on what kind of cargo could be carried by ships traveling on the Great Lakes. There were restrictions on what kind of human could travel from one human city to another. The human governments that oversaw human concerns on a regional level were reeling from the sanctions. If ships couldn’t carry food and merchandise from one region to another, if trains couldn’t carry food and fuel to cities that needed both, what would happen to all the humans living on the continent?

If the humans who were supposed to be in charge had paid any attention to Thaisia’s history, they would know what would happen to the humans. The invasive, two-legged predators would be eliminated, and the land would be reclaimed by the earth natives, the terra indigene, the Others.

But that wouldn’t be as easy to do as it had been a few centuries ago. Then, there was little that the humans built or used that would harm the land if left to decay on its own. Now there were refineries that processed the crude oil being drawn out of the earth. Now there were places that stored fuel. Now there were industries that might damage the land if left untended. How much would be harmed if those things were destroyed or abandoned?

Simon had no answers, and the terra indigene who watched over the wild country—the dangerous, primal beings who cloaked their true terra indigene nature in forms so old those shapes had no names—would not be concerned with answers. Even if everything else disappeared from the world to make room for the new that would be born from destruction and change, they would still exist.

The terra indigene shifters like the Wolves and Bears, the Hawks and Crows, referred to those forms as the Elders, a benevolent-sounding word for the beings who were Namid’s teeth and claws.

Meg returned from the bathroom, looking a little more awake and a lot less happy to see him. She was going to be more unhappy when she found out why he wanted to take this walk.

“Get dressed, Meg. We need to talk.”

She pointed at the bedroom door.

He was the leader of the Courtyard and she was an employee of the Courtyard, so she shouldn’t be allowed to give him orders, even nonverbal ones. But he was learning that, when dealing with humans, pack order wasn’t always maintained inside the den. Which meant Meg was dominant in her den and could disregard that he was dominant everywhere else.

   
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