Gently pressing her lips against mine in a chaste kiss, I think I was too shocked to try and take it any further.
No matter how much I wanted to.
And perhaps, had she still been the Sookie I remembered – the one who’d resisted my glamour and proclaimed herself ‘not especially’ sweet on the night I’d met her – I would have.
That girl was an amalgamation of fire and naiveté, who would’ve sooner choked to death on her denial than to admit she’d been attracted to me.
While in some ways I could see she was still the girl, who walked into a vampire bar in a white dress, this girl was different as well.
Still full of fire.
Not especially naïve.
Be it from the events in Dallas or merely a byproduct of being a child of Godric’s, Sookie had changed.
Brought over in her prime, she would retain her youthful appearance forever. And although she was still very new to this life, she seemed to have aged since I’d last seen her.
Now a bit wiser.
Significantly stronger in ways that had nothing to do with our Maker’s blood in her veins.
Only two months in and Sookie was already showing signs she would be one of the few who would walk the ages.
Any fool could be given eternal life, but it was those same fools who didn’t survive their infancy.
Sookie was no fool.
So I let her take what she wanted from me, knowing any wrong move by me had the potential to put me in the proverbial dog house for the ages. Her fangs, which had ascended back into her gums the moment she’d retaken her seat beside me, hadn’t come down again, so I knew the kiss wasn’t fueled by lust.
I couldn’t be sure.
Like her name, the situation I found myself in was just as unique.
Eventually she pulled away, lingering for only a moment while she stared into my eyes, before she sat back and looked at me with a question behind her own. I guessed she might have more questions about Compton or perhaps her idiot brother.
The shifter she used to sling beer for or even the welfare of her mailman.
Her comparison of him to Compton had been especially sweet.
So I was fully prepared for any and all of those topics to be brought up when she finally opened her mouth and said, “Can I ask you something?”
“Anything,” I agreed.
Even though I wanted to wait for Godric’s arrival before telling her in detail everything she likely wanted to know, I could sense both he and Pam were on their way to us, so it wouldn’t be long before they arrived.
I could draw out the answers she wanted until they did.
But Sookie proved she was both the same girl I could recall and worlds apart from how I remembered her to be, when she let her eyes trail over my face before settling them on my own again and asked, “Why did you cut your hair?”
Her smile mimicked the one I could feel forming on my lips and I ran my fingers through my shorter tresses, smirking with, “Do you not like it? It’s the new me.”
It had been cut shorter prior to our trip to Dallas, but this wasn’t a conversation I could’ve had with that Sookie.
That Sookie likely would’ve suggested I keep going and lop off my head while I was at it.
And I found myself wanting her approval more than I would ever admit – even to myself – so I tried to keep my minor anxiety to myself when she eventually shrugged with her reply of, “It suits you.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” I challenged with an arched brow.
A challenge she returned without missing a beat.
“You didn’t answer mine.”
“Pam,” I replied just as quickly, omitting the part why Pam had felt it necessary.
What with all of the blood that had been caked in it.
Sookie’s eyes narrowed, making me wonder if she’d gotten the omission straight from my thoughts, but if she did, she didn’t mention it and only said, “Like I said, it suits you. But I doubt there’s anything you could do to make yourself look bad. The shorter hair gives you a GQ vibe, sort of like a powerful business man. The longer hair made you look more like the bad boy mothers warn their daughters to steer clear of.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question.”
Why I wanted her to say it – to say that she found me attractive – was infantile.
Ironic, considering I had a thousand years on her in age.
“No wonder your couch is so big,” she laughed. “You need a lot of room to hold that ego of yours.”
“My ego isn’t the only thing about me that is big,” I playfully leered back at her.
“There it is,” she snickered again. “I almost didn’t recognize you without your big head.”
Sliding closer to her, I put my face in hers and purred, “Oh lover, if I had a nickel for every time someone mentioned how big my head is…”
“You’d drive a red corvette?” she breathed out with wide eyes.
Which turned into a giggle fit, when she added, “Oh wait…I guess that’s how you paid for yours.”
A hair’s breadth.
That was all that kept my lips from touching hers, but it might as well have been miles.
And those miles turned into light years when the front door opened only a moment later, with Pam asking, “Are we interrupting sibling bonding time?”
“No,” Sookie answered, clearly caught off guard and slid over to put some distance between us, while smoothing out her dress.
And I found myself once again envying our Maker when she looked up at him, visibly relieved and full of adoration, when she lovingly addressed him with, “Master.”
“You are well?” he asked, sounding both calm and concerned as he crossed the distance to take a seat on her other side.
I knew it was based on all that he’d felt coming from her after she’d left him at the bar. But I couldn’t help but feel equally heartened and resentful laying eyes on him again, now that she’d confirmed my worst fear at why he’d been at the Fellowship compound to begin with.
My anger was only tempered by the fact they had saved each other from a fate I wouldn’t have wanted for either one of them.
Even without our bond, after a thousand years Godric could easily decipher my moods. Whether or not he knew the cause for my anger, I didn’t know.
Just as I knew there was no sense in holding onto it.
For whatever reason he’d found himself in that church basement, he had emerged from it with both a new sense of purpose and a new child.
Remaining outraged over what might have been was futile and a waste of energy, so I let it go just as quickly as it had formed and asked, “Did the Magister have anything more to say after I left you?”
I knew once I informed Sookie about everything that had happened after her disappearance the remainder of the night would likely be filled with the inevitable fallout.
Regardless of how she used to react or how much she’d changed with her change, it was to be expected.
“He is staying in Shreveport for another night,” Godric replied. “I believe he hopes to convince me to take the monarchy from Sophie-Anne.”
The shock was visible on Sookie’s face, having missed out on their conversation with her departure. But recalling why she’d been forced to leave, I pulled the bag containing the vials of the queen’s blood from my pocket and tossed it on the table, saying, “He could execute her for that alone.”
The sale and distribution of our blood was an offense that came with swift and brutal repercussions.
Something Sookie knew from finding her V dealing friend in the basement at Fangtasia.
Had it not been for their friendship he would already be food for the worms, whether she knew it or not.
But for a monarch to commit such an egregious act there would be no leniency. Sophie-Anne had hung her hat on the fact that as a member of her kingdom – a sheriff no less, who had sworn fealty to her – the mere act of turning her in was considered treasonous.
I would be ended with the evidence of her crimes still clutched in my dead hands.
“I would have to assume the financial state of Louisiana is in shambles if she has sunk so low as to try and profit from her own blood,” Godric offered with narrowed eyes trained on the bag.
Then sighing, he turned to face Sookie and said, “But we did not come here so I could become king. We came here so Sookie would be better protected.”
“If you stay here and do not become king, Sophie-Anne will try and take her from you.”
As much as I hadn’t wanted to admit it – as much as I enjoyed presiding over my little piece of the state and the time and freedom to do as I normally wished on a regular basis – the fact remained if they took up full-time residence in Louisiana, they would be forced to swear fealty to Sophie-Anne.
And because he wasn’t yet aware, I informed Godric, “Leclerq was already aware of Sookie prior to Dallas and had set the wheels in motion to acquire her for herself.”
Sookie’s eyes narrowed with the reminder, but it was the anger I felt coursing through my tie to Godric that captured my full attention, giving me a brief glimpse of the fierce warrior who had turned me a thousand years earlier and only reminding me it had been much too long since I had seen that vampire.
So it was a bittersweet moment when it was I who now held his full attention, when his eyes snapped to mine.
As the sheriff of the area Sookie had resided in, it would’ve been logical for me to be the one the queen had put in charge of obtaining anyone or anything she had sought after within my territory.
But for the Queen of Louisiana, logic had no place in her monarchy.
Proof of that could be found in the fact she’d sent a fool on an even bigger fool’s errand.
And regardless of our own ties or millennium long history, as Sookie’s Maker Godric was naturally protective of his progeny.
So I attempted to keep all of that in mind when addressing him with a simple reply of, “Compton was her procurer. I did not learn of his mission until…after.”
Had I known about it all along, I would have subverted his plans.
More than likely.
More so once I’d gotten a glimpse of the girl behind the perpetual glare she’d normally worn when in my presence.
He didn’t question the veracity of my claim. He didn’t have to being able to feel the truth of my words in our bond.
But perhaps it had been the slight sting he felt coming from me at his automatic assumption I would willingly hand over Sookie – the very girl who had breathed new life into his deadened soul – that had him sending me his silent apology through our tie before agreeing, “Perhaps taking reign of the state is the best course of action.”
Godric wanted his own kingdom as much as I did – not at all – but he was pragmatic enough to know even if they moved on, the gossiping nature of our kind all but guaranteed word would eventually reach Sophie-Anne he’d made a new child.
Sookie’s unique name would be enough to pique her interest to do further research and once she’d confirmed they were one and the same, Sophie-Anne would do whatever was necessary to take her from him.
And if we hadn’t left the state with them by then, Pam and I would be forced to suffer her wrath in the meantime.
Either way it seemed my circumstances were set to change course, no matter what I wanted or didn’t want. But having come so close to losing him to himself, I would gladly suffer what amounted to a minor inconvenience.
Moving on or becoming a king’s child and most likely second in command were preferable to not having him at all.
Sookie’s soft spoken apology caused all eyes to turn towards her and her human mannerisms showed themselves once more, as she fidgeted under the proverbial spotlight, while she explained, “I know none of you want this. It’s my fault your lives are being upended.”
Then showing she still had much to learn about how the supernatural world worked, she looked to Godric and said, “I can run away. Release me and I’ll just disappear. Outside of this room no one knows I’m still alive. Or undead.”
If she could have flushed, she would have when she eventually stammered out, “You know what I mean.”
Even knowing Godric would never agree to her idea, the knot that had quickly formed in my chest didn’t ease until he cupped her face in his hand and refused her, with a just as softly spoken reply of, “No.”
“But…” she began to argue before he cut her off with a more resounding, “No.”
Then regaining a softer expression, one he seemed to have gained with her creation, he explained, “We came here because you need protection, until you are strong enough and wise enough to protect yourself. You still have much to learn and while there are those in your previous life who have undoubtedly failed you, I will not be one of them.”
Breaking into the silence that had descended on us all, Pam offered, “As a breed we are whores for gossip, Sookie. It’s now well known you were the reason why Shitty-Shitty Bang-Bangs returned to Bon Temps, as well as why the queen wanted you. Just by being in the bar tonight you set tongues to wagging. The queen will know you’ve returned by the time she rises tomorrow.”
Pam was right. Shrewd in every sense of the word, my child had the uncanny ability to cut through the bullshit and see what lied at the center of it.
I should have seen it myself, but with everything else that had happened in the few short hours since Godric walked into the bar, with my new sister in tow, it simply hadn’t occurred to me.
A fact I could tell by the smirk on Pam’s face she was relishing in.
It wasn’t often she could outdo me in matters of seeing three steps ahead.
I was sure she would reward herself with a new pair of shoes charged to my credit card.
So after quickly recapping Compton’s mission to Godric and the fact he was handed off to Lorena for punishment, he took a moment to take it all in before his entire countenance seemed to change, with nothing more than a slight straightening of his spine.
“Then it is settled,” he said with a tone of finality in his voice. “I will take the throne.”
It looked as though it physically pained Sookie to keep her objections to herself, but she managed to keep quiet.
Something I was sure Godric knew even better than I did, so he only reached out and offered her comfort – and perhaps a bit of a warning to not argue with him – by placing his hand on her knee, while saying, “I will meet with Jorge tomorrow at first dark and he and I together, with Pam, we will travel to New Orleans and take the throne.”
Then turning to speak only to Sookie, he added, “You will remain here with Eric, until it is done.”
If I’d thought she had wanted to argue with him before, now she looked as though she would burst at the seams if she didn’t get to say her piece.
I didn’t know if I felt more amused or sorry for her.
But trusting in Godric’s judgment was something she needed to learn early on, if she had any hopes of surviving.
He remained calm and stoic under her disbelieving gaze and while neither one of them spoke a single word, I suspected much was being said.
Even though their telepathic connection only worked one way, his words were the only ones that needed to be heard because ultimately his word was law.
It was yet another lesson every child needed to learn from their Maker.
But watching the two of them together gave me a bit of insight into my earlier musings how he was the only other vampire besides myself who I felt would be worthy of making her their child.
Now I had cause to believe my belief simply wasn’t true.
Sookie and I were very alike in that we were both stubborn to a fault. Had I been her Maker under similar circumstances it was very likely we would have butted heads.
She clearly needed a calm head to overrule her hotheadedness.
And perhaps it was due to my own reverence for Godric, but I now believed him to be the better choice for her Maker.
My child however was positively vibrating in our bond – and in her seat – at the thought of accompanying Godric to New Orleans and taking the throne from the petulant bitch whose thumb we had been living under.
And when she couldn’t take it anymore, she turned to me and gleefully asked, “Do you think the Magister will mind if, after he takes the kingdom from Leclerq, I yell out ‘Yahtzee!’?”
“Yes,” I deadpanned, even though I suspected he would be amused.
But it was best not to test his patience because Jorge Alonso de San Diego wasn’t known for his jovial personality.
One of the most feared inquisitors during the Spanish Inquisition, he continued to satisfy his malevolent nature after he’d been turned by posing as a human where he served as an advisor to Joseph Stalin and as Adolf Eichmann’s right hand man.
The fact he was so feared at the relatively young age of a little over five hundred years old spoke of the violence he was capable of.
He’d been tapped by The Authority to become Vampire Magister of North America not long after World War II.
It was a role he took very seriously.
But it was while I was sending Pam a sharp – if not silent – reminder to mind her P’s and Q’s while in the Magister’s presence that Sookie broke the silence by asking, “Since you all are leaving tomorrow night, is it alright for me to ask now what happened while I was away? To my house? To Sam? I can guess why Jason ran off with the Fellowship, but everything else is just…I can’t even begin to guess what happened.”
Hearing her questions, I could tell Godric’s curiosity had been piqued as well. And as much as I wished I could protect her from the truth, I spent the remainder of the night telling her everything that I knew.
She deserved to know.
And as the sun rose in the sky that morning, it served as a bittersweet reminder that – like her telepathy – being a daywalker was both a gift and a curse.
Because as I eventually gave up fighting the pull of the sun, I could still hear Sookie’s soft cries in the room next to mine.