“You really think he’ll show up here tonight?”
The soft sound of her voice floated through the air, breaking the near silent atmosphere surrounding us. I’d been enjoying the feel of her fingers tracing invisible patterns on the top of my hand, but even so, I still felt the need to turn that same hand over to take hers in mine.
But it took a slight squeeze from hers and a nudge from her elbow to remind me she was waiting on an answer, so I gave her one by saying, “I do. At least that’s what Thalia’s sources have told her.”
The Enforcer for South America wasn’t the most verbose vampire I’d ever known, so I’d been lucky to get that much information from her. She preferred to be left alone.
And we – as a race – were more than happy to oblige her.
“It’s a beautiful place,” she admitted, looking all around us. “But what could he possibly have been sent all the way here to get?”
“I’m sure the only mission his queen had in mind was to fuck with my own.”
And what was mine.
“Or maybe she just got confused and thought this was the Amazon everyone’s been ordering from,” she giggled.
Unable to resist, I allowed myself to nuzzle against her neck, which elicited another round of giggles from her now accompanied by goose bumps, while I replied, “Another solid theory.”
Sophie-Anne was unstable, but she wasn’t stupid. She’d danced around her veiled threat to Sookie enough that she could have given Salome a run for her money.
Alasdair and I had been left with no choice but to leave her alive and intact.
My only recourse for now was to hold out hope for that semi.
But the first thing I’d done, after leaving her peep-toe turned palace, was gone back to Sookie, while Alasdair returned to The Council to inform them of Leclerq’s fuckery.
She hadn’t appeared surprised to see me again so soon, but her smile when she laid eyes on me walking through her cousins’ office door had been contagious.
I didn’t need any outside confirmation to know I’d been infected with the Sookie-virus.
She was both the cause and the cure.
But I’d waited until she popped us back to her apartment in the early morning hours to tell her all that we’d learned.
“Hadley is a vampire?”
Her surprise had been evident in her tone. But it was I who was surprised yet again, when she responded to my nod with, “Well, good for her. I’m glad she’s doing better.”
After all that she’d been through – after witnessing her family being slaughtered around her – she was glad the last human kin she had left wasn’t even a human any longer?
“Why does this not bother you?” I heard myself ask, unable to make any sense of the genuine sincerity flowing through her veins.
Little did I know, my simple query had been the key to getting all of the answers I’d been waiting to find out.
But first she asked, “What do you know about that night?”
The night I’d tracked her down and killed her assailants, but not before they had almost succeeded in killing her.
Just thinking about that night, pissed me off to no end.
She had no outward reaction to seeing my fangs snap down. Her gaze held mine without any fear. I only knew from my blood in her body – on the inside – she was feeling a mixture of sadness and curiosity, but none of it showed in her features.
“That night,” I forced out. “I was in Shreveport on another mission when she called and sent me to Bon Temps in search of you. I was told to track you until the prince arrived.”
Chuckling at my recollection, at my quizzical expression she explained the source of her amusement by interjecting, “I would call it a lucky coincidence, but I’ve come to learn nothing is coincidence when she is involved.”
“So you’ve met?” I smirked, obviously not needing to elaborate.
Her only response was a slight nod, but her smile slowly disappeared as the past came back to haunt her behind her eyes when she explained, “I grew up in the dark. To me, fairies were nothing more than fairytales. Sure, I could hear thoughts, but I’d never imagined it was due to anything supernatural. I figured I must have been dropped on my head as a baby and that was the end result.”
A small rueful smile appeared on her lips, but it went away when she went on to say, “What I didn’t know – what I’d never heard a whisper of from anyone, thoughts or otherwise – was that my Gran’s husband wasn’t my biological grandfather. A childhood illness had apparently left him sterile, so one handsome stranger walking up on their property and a convenient morality memory loss later, my father was born. To be rinsed and repeated, with the birth of my Aunt Linda two years later.”
The struggle she felt was apparent on her face and in her voice as she said, “I get that they were probably desperate. I get that it wasn’t the type of news they would have wanted the world to know about. I get that I should just be happy because without it happening, I wouldn’t even be here to judge them for their decisions. But sometimes I can’t help it. My Gran knew about my little quirk. She knew how difficult it was for me growing up. She could have told me about her baby daddy versus her babies’ daddy, so I would have at least had that to hold onto to explain why I was so different.”
Sighing, she took a moment before shaking off her melancholy and saying, “Fintan Brigant was my biological grandfather, the half human son of Niall Brigant. I’ve come to learn the hard way fairy hybrids aren’t looked too kindly on by some of their race, so he hid our existence from the Fae – to include his own family – with his magic. That night was the night he died – killed by those same assholes you ended up killing – but his magic died with him, which is how they were able to find us. They killed Gran and my brother, but they took their time with me because I’ve since learned I was born with something called the essential spark. It’s the cornerstone of a fairy’s magic. They were pretty pissed I had it and let me know it.”
I remembered all too well how they had let her know it.
If there was a way to pull them back from the purgatory they should be stewing in, I would.
So I could kill them all over again.
She sat quietly at my side, allowing me the time to run through her words over and over again. So when I didn’t ask any questions, she said, “Niall, my great-grandfather, didn’t know of me or what was going on until Fintan’s spirit appeared to him before going on to their version of Heaven, the Summerland. Traveling back and forth between realms isn’t as easy as traveling back and forth between New York and Monroe, so he contacted her, who in turn contacted you.”
Giving me a look that said it all, she said it anyway with, “You know what happened then. But when we left you there, I was quite literally on death’s door. He knew even his magic wouldn’t have been able to save me, so he did the only thing he could think of.”
Then holding my gaze with her own, she said, “He took me to her.”
He took Sookie to her.
It almost sounded like the beginnings of a bad joke.
A fairy prince and an ancient vampire walk into a bar…
So my incredulousness came out unbidden in the form of a questioning, “The Prince of the Sky Fae, whose own magical powers are legendary, took you – his great-granddaughter – to the oldest known vampire to be healed?”
I would have thought it an impossibility.
But then I’d thought many things were an impossibility until I’d met her.
“Only a drop will do ya,” she smiled softly.
At the age of her blood, a literal drop was likely the recommended dosage.
Any more would have cooked her.
Either not understanding the reason for my gobsmacked expression, or choosing to ignore it altogether, she said, “So to make a long story even longer, that is why I’m happy for Hadley. She’d run off a few months before that night. Her mother had been weeks away from dying of cancer and she’d turned to drugs as an escape. As far as I know, coke and heroin do nothing for you all, so she’s clean. She’s healthy. She’s healed. So I’m happy for her.”
Giving zero shits about her cousin, her twat of a maker, or anything else in that moment, I went back to the part of her story I was still stuck on, repeating, “You were given the blood of the Ancient Pythoness.”
“I’m allowed to call her Pythia now,” she smiled and teased, “We’re close like that.”
And yet looking back at her now, all I could see was possibility.
But still, I asked, “Is that what Alasdair’s had his dick bent out of shape about?”
It didn’t make any sense to me, but then a lot of things about him had never made any sense to me.
“Probably not,” she chuckled, with her eyes darting away for a moment. Then meeting mine again, she added, “But he’s a kinky fuck, so a bent dick could be from any number of things, people, and places he shouldn’t have stuck it in.”
As true as that may be, I had a sense she knew exactly what had Alasdair’s panties in a bunch. So I told myself it was none of my business.
Glass houses. Throwing stones. Et al.
Which is why my query came out through gritted teeth, trying to stop it from being voiced, when I heard myself ask, “Were you lovers?”
If she’d been brought directly to the Ancient Pythoness on that night, odds were he’d been there.
If she’d visited enough times since then, for them to be close like that, odds were Alasdair had been there as well.
So how close were they?
The odds of them not being lovers at some point in time just weren’t in my favor. But even so, my denial was so great that I’d posed my question in the past tense, in the hopes it would somehow soften the blow she may have been blowing him once upon a time.
I didn’t know what I would do if I learned I was using the wrong tense.
But she saved me from my metaphorical death by glass shards – and his literal death by my sword – when she laughed – guffawed, really – before she emphatically answered, “No!”
Her one word answer didn’t provide me with any more answers as to what his motives were, but it was the only answer I needed to hear.
It was a good thing because after that I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the blood rushing through my ears.
All of it headed south.
Pulling her still laughing lips to mine, I swallowed her giggles until they gave way to the other kinds of noises she made that had a way of setting my every nerve ending on fire. But knowing we were seconds away from losing all train of thought by getting lost in one another, I pulled away, while simultaneously pulling her body closer to mine, and said, “I want us to exchange blood again.”
“A second exchange?” she asked, after taking a moment to focus on my words.
Because my dick was doing its damnedest, trying to keep her focused on it instead.
Nodding my reply, I added, “You know the significance?”
While she’d had my blood twice, we’d only mutually exchanged blood once. I hadn’t yet asked her about her ability to control our blood tie, but she hadn’t closed it off since the night I’d found her asleep in her childhood home.
I was almost afraid to bring it up and remind her how easily she could bring me to my knees.
If I was going to be on my knees, I only wanted it to be because I was fucking her from behind.
Answering my question with a small nod of her own, I hadn’t been sure which question she’d been responding to – the significance of another exchange or agreeing to the exchange itself.
But I didn’t have to wonder for long.
Wearing what she’d called ‘suitable’ attire for visiting her cousins’ club earlier that night, there wasn’t much of a barrier between us to begin with. So all she had to do was slide my zipper down and slide her stamp-sized G-string over before she sunk down on top of me.
Needing to touch more of her, my fingers dug into the flesh covering her hips, but I let her move at her own pace and just enjoyed the way she moved on top of me. Already lost in her – to her – I gave no real thought to the way her tongue blazed a path across my collarbone.
Feeling her teeth scrape across my skin was – in my mind – nothing more than a perfect accompaniment to what the rest of her was doing.
Her biting into the flesh at the base of my neck, however, was my undoing.
I don’t know why I hadn’t been expecting it.
It had been my idea to begin with.
I blamed her and her magical abilities.
Not from any essential spark or Fae heritage, the woman in my arms merely possessed the ability to fuck me stupid.
Bucking my hips up, my grip on hers automatically tightened in turn as I brought her back down and held her there, giving and taking everything we had from one another. My teeth bit into her neck without warning, but the pulsing around my cock told me she was okay with it. My bite had been instinctual.
I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself if I’d tried.
Not that I would have.
One of us came soon after, followed quickly by the other. I had no way of telling who’d been first.
In that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to follow Abbott and Costello’s ‘Who’s on first?’ routine.
With our blood tie newly strengthened – with our bodies still plastered together and me still inside of her – there was no way for me to distinguish where I left off and she began.
I wasn’t just waxing quixotic.
I really couldn’t fucking tell.
So it was a good thing I didn’t care. All I cared about was in my arms.
Or maybe it was I who was in her arms.
I didn’t care about semantics either.
Pulling me from my thoughts, Sookie leaned over, peering off into the distance and said, “Someone’s coming.”
Not hearing anyone’s approach, I didn’t question her claim, now knowing it was her gift that had made her aware of Compton’s entrance into the club a week earlier. She hadn’t known who he was, other than a vampire entering her fairy cousins’ club, so it had been a coincidence of sorts she’d sought out the one who’d been sent to find her.
Explained to me as what she called a void vampire minds registered as to hers, she could tell the difference between any number of supernaturals with her gift, based on their brain signatures.
But I got up from where I’d been sitting, when I heard her whisper, “There’re two of them.”
“What if I asked you to wait somewhere else, while I deal with them, and I’ll call you when I’m done?”
Bumping my side with her own, she teased, “I would give you shit for thinking Sideburns was any kind of threat other than to the fashion police.”
Shaking my head because I’d expected no less, I set aside the other question I planned on asking her that evening and waited for Compton and whoever he had with him to make their approach. The fact he was out sightseeing, forcing me to wait for his indebted ass at the top of Machu Picchu, only drove home the fact I was getting tired of this life.
Not the undead life I’d sustained for over a thousand years, but the life of an Enforcer.
Having Sookie in my life only made it even less appealing.
In reality, her lifestyle was as mobile as mine. She could come with me on my assignments. I could go with her on hers.
With her mode of travel, we didn’t even need to carry passports.
But being forced to focus on anything that had nothing to do with either of our own wants or needs was aggravating.
While I had the option of not signing a new contract when my current one came to an end in a few months, the downside would be I could no longer claim my fealty was to The Council alone. My allegiance wouldn’t expire with my contract, but I would still have to swear my fealty to the regime where I ultimately decided to hang my proverbial hat.
I didn’t want that either.
My age made me viewed as a threat because there weren’t many monarchs in the New World who were older than me. Even if I found one I could stand for any length of time, I would then be forced to answer to an Area Sheriff.
All it would take was one summons from them for an appearance by me – a reasonable request by our standards – and I would show up and shove a wooden stake into their heart for thinking they could tell me what to do.
An unreasonable reaction by our standards.
So I was stuck in limbo for now.
Focusing once more, I could finally hear the footsteps getting closer. But more than that, I heard something else.
Something undeniable seeing them coming into view.
Compton had brought his progeny along with him. I’d heard him boring to death his before then unseen companion, with facts about Machu Picchu and had assumed the responding silence meant they had tuned him out.
But the girl – turned for whatever reason due to Lorena’s visit – was clearly hanging on his every word.
Like he was her hero.
And he actually acted like one, putting himself in front of her to block her from view, when he saw me waiting for him.
“It’s not her fault,” he stared back at me. “I will accept my punishment, but Jessica doesn’t deserve to be ended for my failures.”
“Maaannn…Don’t make me feel bad for you…” Sookie sighed out in a whisper from somewhere behind me.
Either not hearing Sookie or wisely choosing to ignore anything she said, Compton added, “She didn’t ask for this life.”
“None of us did,” I challenged.
vHarmony was a relatively new concept, after all.
“And you can’t choose your Maker,” he challenged in return.
Having met his Maker on a few occasions, I knew that fact was something we were both well aware of.
But since he opened the door – and I was becoming more curious by the second – I asked, “Tell me, how did you come to be her Maker?”
If he made any kind of crack about draining her, filling her with his blood, and burying her in a patch of dirt, then Sookie would need to break out her magic cleaning wand.
Instead he explained what his queen had been alluding to by saying, “My Maker had shown up at the palace for a visit. Whenever she’s around the queen…well, nothing good comes from it. They play these games, trying to one up each other, and during her last visit, I was told to return with a pretty, young girl.”
Looking down at his feet, I could see the shame on his face, when he added in a low voice, “A virgin.”
His progeny hid her face behind her hands, showing her youth in all ways, but he pressed on with his tale by explaining, “I didn’t know until I returned with Jessica what their plan was. They both know how much I regretted being taken from my family. How much I wished I had died a human death. So they thought it would be fun if the queen ordered me to turn her. And never one to be left out, Lorena waited until she rose to command me to never end her.”
I didn’t often find myself feeling any amount of sympathy for anyone, but there was a twinge of something lurking around inside of me.
Maybe it was just coming from Sookie.
To be ordered to make a child not of your choosing was barbaric, even by our standards. A child/Maker bond wasn’t something that could be ignored.
Suppressed, yes. But it would always be there.
At least until one of them met the true death.
“That is why there was no paperwork filed before or after her turning. Lorena seized the contents of my bank accounts, so I couldn’t pay the turning fee.” Sounding as bitter as he had every right to sound, he added, “She said it was for my own good. That she was teaching me to stand on my own two feet.”
“By ensuring your two feet would be standing in the path directly in front of my sword?”
I was definitely tiring of this life.
The waves of emotions coming from Sookie were similar to the ones she felt every time those fucking ASPCA commercials came on the TV, so I didn’t have to ask for her opinion.
I had it whether I wanted it or not.
Sounding apologetic, Compton said, “When I returned from Monroe without…your human, Sophie-Anne became enraged. It was then she let slip the possible connection she has to her newest child, Hadley. I still don’t know why that would matter to her, but much of what Sophie-Anne says and does doesn’t make sense to me. Knowing I’d already provoked you by attempting to secure your human, she ordered me to come here, either to ensure you would end me on sight for fleeing to another jurisdiction or in the hopes that by you coming here after me, your human would be left vulnerable.”
Leclerq hadn’t given me enough credit.
And perhaps, I hadn’t given Compton enough either.
I’d known of him for years. Had seen him in passing at one time or another. He’d always been a miserable fuck, full of self-loathing over what he was, which I hadn’t seen the point of and judged him for it.
The majority of us hadn’t known vampire existed until we rose as one.
Get over it.
Immortality wasn’t akin to getting herpes, even if both supposedly lasted forever.
But curious over his own motives, I asked, “If you thought I would end you on sight, why did you bring your progeny with you?”
“She had never been out of the state, much less the country,” he answered, sounding remorseful. “I’ve already taken so much away from her, I thought if my end was inevitable, the least I could do was show her some of the world, before I was forced to leave her to fend for herself in it.”
If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought Sookie had just come across a sack of wet kittens washed up on a shoreline.
That’s what it felt like.
So if anyone asked – and anyone’s name, in reality, was Alasdair – I would blame her tender heart for what came out of my mouth next.
“I will suspend your sentence and clear your debt with The Council. If you’re smart, you’ll steer clear of Leclerq and remain outside of her territory. If you keep your head down and a good amount of miles in between you, for the foreseeable future she’ll likely just assume that I’ve ended you, unless your Maker tells her otherwise.”
When I said nothing more, he looked just as gobsmacked as when his glamour failed to work on Sookie, while he simply asked, “Why?”
Because my lover’s heart apparently breaks for any stray?
“You can’t choose your Maker,” I repeated, but then added, “But you can choose what kind of Maker you want to be and she seems amenable to your teachings.”
I’d been forced to do many things by my own Maker that I had no wish to relive or recall, but he’d appeared willing to do what he could for Ginger.
Or whatever her name was.
But I wasn’t going to get all wishy-washy-let’s-hug-it-out with him.
It would feel like I was cheating on Alasdair.
His only reply was a simple nod and an added, “If I am…forced to return into her service, I will do what I can to keep you apprised of any plans she may have to secure your human.”
So I nodded in return, but in all actuality – despite our brief bromance – I would be suspect of any information he provided me where Sookie was concerned. I only really trusted myself to keep her safe.
Even Alasdair could become distracted by a passing dick.
Once they were gone and we were once again alone, Sookie smiled as she hugged me and said, “I never would’ve guessed you to be such a softy.”
Choosing to ignore the meaning behind her words, I went with the literal and said, “You have firsthand knowledge of just how not soft I can be.”
“I don’t think I was breaking any new ground there,” she laughed and while her blood told me she felt nothing but amused, her words needled at me.
Like tiny little silver pinpricks lodging in my skin.
I certainly couldn’t claim I’d led a chaste life – nor had I wanted to – but hearing her admit my own truth – and recalling Alasdair’s slut label – I decided now was the time to lay it all out on the line.
“I want you to be mine. Really mine. Not just to fuck with the cuntfederates or queens who need to just fuck off, but because I want to be the only one you want to be with.”
I said it.
Staring back at me, I couldn’t define what it was she was feeling or searching for in my eyes, but all she said was, “You are the only one I want to be with and you’re the only one I’ve been with since that first time.”
I seriously hated the fact I couldn’t claim the same.
But I wouldn’t lie to her, even if her telepathy didn’t work on me.
So I hoped to soften the potential blow by admitting, “I had a difficult time reconciling my feelings about you after our first meeting. I couldn’t seem to shake you from my thoughts and I was angry, at both of us really…”
Cutting me off by putting her hand over my lips, she smiled with her divulgence of, “I know. I may or may not have kept tabs on you in the weeks that followed. Not NSA quality surveillance, but just checking in here and there. You don’t have to explain anything to me. You didn’t owe me anything. You didn’t even know my real name.”
However, her smile lessened and an unexpected spike of anxiety flashed through our blood tie when she confessed, “But I can’t agree to be yours.”
I can’t imagine what expression I wore.
Something akin to being impaled by a giant glass shard, I supposed.
So I didn’t know if I wanted to kiss her or kill her when she let the moment draw out for an unnecessarily long amount of time, before tacking on, “Unless you agree to be mine too.”
“You bitch,” I accused, sweeping her up into my arms at the same time.
Giggling, she laughed, “Aww…we’re doing pet names already?”
We were doing more than that, if I had my way.
But…one thing at a time.