Home > Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(5)

Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(5)
Author: Anne Bishop

Meg stopped walking. “What does that mean?”

“That’s the other thing we have to figure out.” He tugged on her hand to get her moving again, but she just stared at him, her gray eyes the same color as the morning sky.

“How much human will you keep? What are you supposed to decide? If the terra indigene in human form get to keep things like fingers and thumbs? Because fingers and thumbs are really useful. Henry is a sculptor. He wouldn’t want to do without them. Neither would you.”

Simon studied her. Maybe human brains really did take longer to wake up than terra indigene brains. When he woke up, he was awake. He yawned, he stretched, and he was ready to play or hunt or even deal with the human work generated by the Business Association and Howling Good Reads, the bookstore he ran with Vladimir Sanguinati. Even though Meg was a special breed of human, apparently her brain didn’t have a speedy wake-up button.

But he slept with her most nights, and he knew she wasn’t usually this slow. So maybe sparrows were a sufficient call to morning for the body but the brain needed the mechanical alarm clock? Or maybe it was a difference between human males and females? He’d have to ask Karl Kowalski, who was Ruthie Stuart’s mate as well as one of the police officers assigned to working with the Courtyard.

He started walking again and pulled Meg along for a couple of steps before she moved on her own.

“It’s not about the shell.” Simon thumped his chest with the fingers of one hand. Then, because this was Meg and they were learning together about a lot of things that involved humans, he told her more than he would have told another human—he told her his own fears. “In a way, it is about the shell. Namid shaped the earth natives to be her dominant predators, and we continue to be dominant because we learn from the other predators who walk in our world. We take their forms to blend in and watch them, learn how they hunt, how they live. We absorb a lot of their nature just by living in that form. Not everything. We are first, and always, earth natives. But because the animal forms have become a part of what is passed down to our young, a terra indigene Wolf isn’t the same anymore as a terra indigene Bear or Hawk or Crow. Those forms have been around for a long time—and forms like the Sharkgard have been around even longer.”

They walked in silence for a minute.

“Are you afraid of becoming too human?” Meg asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, you won’t,” she said fiercely, squeezing his fingers. “You’re a Wolf, and even when you’re not a wolfy-looking Wolf, you’re still a Wolf. You’ve said so. Looking human or running a bookstore won’t change that.”

Simon thought about what she was saying under what she was saying.

Meg didn’t want him to be more human. She needed him to remain a Wolf. Because Meg trusted the Wolf in ways she didn’t trust a human male.

He felt a lightness inside him that hadn’t been there a minute ago. Working in a Courtyard, especially for the terra indigene who had to spend so much time around humans, was a danger because there was always the risk of absorbing too much of the human form and no longer fitting in with your own kind. That had worried him, more so lately as his exposure to humans became personal. But Meg wouldn’t allow him to become too human because she needed him to retain the nature and heart of a Wolf.

He slanted a glance at her, with her clear gray eyes, and fair skin with those rose-tinted cheeks, and that thick black hair that was cropped so short it felt like puppy fuzz. Short and slim, and gaining some visible muscle beneath that fragile skin.

How much human would be too human for Meg?

Simon shook off the thought. He had enough challenges at the moment.

“You don’t have to be afraid of what you might absorb from our human friends,” Meg said quietly. “They’re good people.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve known the bad kind of people.” A grim reminder of the place where she’d been raised and trained and cut for profit.

He nodded to let her know he’d heard her. “We should consider what we’d like to keep, what we would be willing to make for ourselves if humans weren’t around.”

She gave him a sharp look, and her voice trembled when she said, “Are humans going to go away?”

“Maybe.” He didn’t say extinct. Meg was smart enough to hear the word anyway. And he didn’t tell her that the Lakeside Courtyard was the reason the Elders hadn’t already made that decision about the humans living on the continent of Thaisia.

“Can I talk to Ruth and Merri Lee and Theral about this?”

“They’re human, Meg. They’re going to want to keep everything.”

“There are a lot of things humans need that I don’t know about. I spent twenty-four years living in a compound as property, living in a cell once I was old enough to be by myself, and I don’t remember how the girls lived before being old enough to begin training. And you know what the Courtyard needs, but surely that isn’t everything either.”

“By the agreements with humans, a Courtyard is supposed to have whatever the humans in that city have, so if it’s not in the Courtyard, humans don’t really need it.” That was a thin-ice kind of truth that wouldn’t hold any weight if put to the test, and they both knew it. “Besides, if you tell the female pack, Ruthie and Merri Lee will tell their mates, who are police.”

“Who are around a lot and are helpful,” Meg countered.

   
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