"Dr. Thorn," Cassandra uttered, at a loss. "It is good to see you again."
Dr. Thorn lifted a brow and returned to her paperwork. "It is good you have come. We are terribly understaffed at the moment. Are you willing to work overtime?"
"Of course," Cassandra said quickly. She had been hoping to have some evenings in the laboratory when no one else was there, to communicate with the captive wolves and reveal her identity to them. As it was, the wolves were in constant danger of revealing their true nature to the scientists that studied them. If their great intelligence was discovered, the ambitions of the institute could change-instead of seeking to eradicate the species, the scientists might instead wish to exploit them for human gain.
Dr. Thorn's cell phone vibrated on the desk between them, and she lifted it to one pallid cheekbone. "Scarlet-" the tinny voice reached Cassandra's ears. "Have you drunk-"
"I'm very busy at the moment, Jude," she said smoothly. "Perhaps we can meet for lunch."
"Very well," the voice replied, and Dr. Thorn slipped the phone into her purse.
"Come, let us look over the laboratory." Dr. Thorn's voice was dry and bitter. Cassandra stared after her impossibly tall and slender form as she moved from the office.
"This is Mahelia. She's the leading scientist on the wolf study. Mahelia, meet Cassandra. She will be assisting your team."
"It's good to meet you, Mahelia." Cassandra's voice cracked as a pall of awkwardness came over the room. While Scarlet didn't smile, and her voice was cold, there was an aura of awareness in her demeanor. She was aware of her own deep unhappiness-and the inevitability that it would spill from her voice and eyes-but she was not malicious.
Mahelia, on the other hand, smiled, and Cassandra felt a little chill. She was angry with herself for being intimidated. She tried to remind herself that she was a princess-but she couldn't deceive herself that something like that even mattered-anywhere. She was here for her people, she reminded herself. This was a humble task.