The woman went from smiling at our king to staring at me in shock and her face paled considerably, while she whispered, “Oh my…”
“Adele, are you feeling okay?” Master asked with concern, moving forward and managing to catch her fainting body before she could hit the floor.
He carried her into the front room and gently placed her on a couch, but sensing another’s approach, I paid them no mind and kept her thoughts to myself while I turned to face the unknown vampire now joining us.
Staring at me, his eyes widened just a tick in surprise, but I had come to expect that reaction from those in his fealty who had yet to hear of me. Master wasn’t known for keeping pets and even though I was far from his pet it was a common false impression.
Something he would learn quickly to be false if he turned out to be Master’s foe versus friend.
Finally tearing his eyes away from me, the dark haired vampire glanced at whatever was going on behind me and acknowledged his king by asking, “Your Majesty? Is everything alright?”
“No,” Master barked and ordered, “Go get her a glass of water.”
I watched his expression change into one of disbelief – I assumed over being ordered to tend to a human – but he wisely left the room to do as he was told and sensing her awareness returning to her, I reverted to what was becoming our default language and whispered, “Her mind is waking.”
Hearing my words, he softly whispered, “Adele?” while I wondered over his genuine concern for her.
I speculated perhaps she had been one of his more favored Royal Donors when she had been at her prime, but regardless of their shared history, his sole focus was on her. So I shifted my position so I would be able to see both Master and the doorway in case anyone had any thoughts of attacking him from behind.
While I was becoming more familiar with the palace staff and was coming to believe they were only a threat to stab one another in the back, I knew nothing of these humans and would not let my guard down. Master may have found their presence agreeable, but they would have to prove to me they were loyal to our king in both their actions and their thoughts before I would feel more relaxed in their presence.
Right now, her thoughts were running riot. Too quickly and too muddled for me to understand much, but hearing another’s panicked mind and heavy footsteps quickly approaching, my eyes moved back to the doorway, while my hand moved to grip the Sig Sauer at the small of my back.
A younger human – male and likely nearer to my own age – appeared and his feet carried him much too quickly towards Master’s turned back for my liking. So I moved faster and reached him before he could cross the room, ignoring his yells of protest when I pinned him to the floor.
“What in the hell?” he huffed, struggling in vain to free himself from my grip. “Get off me! That’s my Gran!”
His thoughts were seized in panic, so I had no way of ascertaining if he had felt the king was a threat to his Gran and didn’t release him until I heard Master say, “It’s alright Susannah. He is not a threat.”
In the meantime the dark haired vampire had returned with a glass of water and Master helped the old woman sit up, while he held the glass to her lips and ordered her to drink. Her mind was becoming more coherent and just as her grandson reached her side, both he and Master helped her sit up fully on the couch. I could tell from her thoughts she wanted to apologize to Master for fainting; chastise her grandson for cursing in front of the king, but she refrained and instead chose to silently stare at me.
Flashes of a young girl flitted through her mind and therefore flitted through my own. From the tenor of her thoughts – both hopeful and mournful – I got the feeling she believed me to be a girl named Hadley. She didn’t think of what became of the girl, so I didn’t know if she lived or died. And while I could see some resemblance in our features despite the girl’s darker hair – she in fact favored my cousins even more than me – the woman’s memories of the life the girl had led were nothing like my own.
But Hadley in any language would be Hadley, so I didn’t dare ask Master any questions in our present company.
My telepathy was on a need to know basis and none of them needed to know.
“Are you feeling alright Adele?” Master asked once more. “I can summon a doctor for you if you’d like.”
Hearing his voice seemed to jar her back into the present because her thoughts shifted to the vampire in front of her as she finally acknowledged him with, “I’m fine, Your Majesty. Truly.” Her eyes darted to me before returning back to him as she lied with a small smile, “I guess I must have forgotten to eat dinner with all of the excitement of your visit. I’m afraid I’m not as young as I once was, but I’ll be fine.”
She didn’t wait for a response and turned to her grandson, saying, “Jason. See to his Majesty’s luggage, while I show his guest to her room.”
The grandson’s thoughts were still scattered. He was worried for his grandmother’s health, but now that she seemed well enough his thoughts were more focused on me. He didn’t know what to think of me and he too had flashes of the same young girl called Hadley.
But mostly he wanted a rematch because he was certain he could best a girl in any fight.
Bring it on.
Master must have felt my emotions shift because he turned in my direction and arched his brow seeing my predatory smile, but he ignored it and turned back to the humans saying, “That won’t be necessary for now. Susannah and I arrived alone, but the others will be here shortly.”
Looking more concerned he spoke solely to the woman and ordered, “You’ve done enough for one day, Adele. Go home and get some rest.”
“But…” she stood up and argued. “Your guest! Someone should see to your guest!”
I need to talk to her alone! I need to know!
But unable to read her thoughts, Master shook his head ruefully and said, “I’m afraid I must insist Adele. And don’t worry about Susannah.” Turning to me he smirked and added, “She comes equipped with her own GPS.”
I was tempted to remind him how my GPS had saved his own smartass earlier and I probably would.
However for now I could tell she wanted to argue with him some more, but thought better of it and decided to corner me the next day while the sun was still up. But it was something else she should think better of.
Master obviously held some regard for the woman, so I wouldn’t irreparably harm her. But she would find out very quickly she wouldn’t like me very much when I was cornered.
“Very well,” she agreed and turned to her grandson, ordering him to wait outside for the others. Once he was gone, she turned back to Master, but her eyes continued to stray towards me before she eventually became resigned and said, “It’s good to see again, Your Majesty, and you too Mr. Compton. And it was nice meeting you Susannah. I hope all of you have a good night and I will see you all tomorrow.”
I followed Master and the one called Compton into an office and listened with both my ears and my mind. The Stackhouse woman’s thoughts were slowly fading with the growing distance, but I caught enough to know I didn’t care for where they had been heading.
I would deal with her tomorrow.
But for now I tuned back into the room and silently sized up Compton from behind, while I listened to him tell the king, “Adele is a sweet woman, but she is getting up there in age. Perhaps it is time for her to retire.”
Master chuckled and admitted, “I’ve been telling her that for years, but she insists she’ll die of boredom if she retires. There’s enough staff on site she can delegate tasks that are too much for her to handle, but I think she just secretly likes being the boss.”
It seemed Compton was curious to know Master’s secrets because he finally allowed himself to look directly at me. While I kept my composure and showed nothing on the surface, I’m sure Master felt my jolt of hostility when I sensed the fool’s attempt to glamour me.
It was something I had asked Master to try on my first night in his service. Fairies were impervious to a vampire’s glamour, but Great-grandfather hadn’t been sure my human blood would allow me to encompass the same qualities. If I could be glamoured then I would have to take whatever steps necessary to ensure I never locked gazes with them. It wouldn’t have been ideal, although it was doable. But thankfully I seemed to have carried the fairy trait and it was Master who suspected it was my telepathy that enabled me to actually feel the attempt.
And if Compton didn’t watch himself, I would ensure he would feel something himself.
“She is mine.”
Another kind of jolt went through me hearing Master’s words, with confusion settling atop my mountain of emotions. During our earlier travels – pre explosion – he had told me a little bit about the Sheriff in the habitable portion of his southern territory. He was young – by vampire standards – but he had also lived in the area as a human. Master had felt his ties to the region and his military background could work in his favor. It would be a good stepping stone, as well as gauge his ability as a leader in an area where there were few humans and even fewer vampires.
So I was confused over why Master hadn’t told him of my true station and thought perhaps he was testing Compton’s loyalty by claiming the one who he assumed Compton wanted.
Another sharp stab of his glamour pushed at my mind, but my face remained impassive and he finally gave up, turning to face the king and said, “Of course, Your Majesty. I was just admiring your human. I don’t recall you ever keeping pets.”
“Because I haven’t, nor am I now.”
There was a challenge in his tone, with his reply that answered nothing. But it was a challenge Compton wisely chose not to accept and instead went on to fill him in on Area business, while I tried to figure out why Master felt I would find this place more enjoyable than the palace.
The genre of the entertainment had changed, but I found it just as entertaining nonetheless. It seemed to me all humans were bizarre.
But at least the driving had been fun.
So I divvied up my focus between the conversation in front of me, the movements of the wolf and the human awaiting the rest of Master’s entourage (who I could sense coming up to the driveway at that moment), with the rest of my focus devoted to the black car my autonomous smartass would be taking out for a spin the following day.
It was a nice fantasy.
But in reality I never left the palace when Master was at rest and that would not be changing with our change in domiciles. Whether or not he chose to allow me into his private chambers, I remained on guard at all times. I kept watch over him either with sight or sound.
At night I had to maintain visual contact with him. My telepathy only worked on humans and sporadically on Weres. I would need to see an imminent threat by another vampire to know to react, but at least when the sun was up, I could use my new gift to keep watch over him. I usually read a book in a room close to his chambers and kept tabs on the humans and Weres nearby to make sure none of them meant any harm to our king. But I never went beyond the boundaries of where I could reach his resting area with my mental nets.
I required very little rest and had been taught at a young age how to reenergize through meditation. It was the fairy equivalent of downtime, but I could stay awake indefinitely I supposed. When I’d still been at home, I only ever slept out of sheer boredom and it had always left me feeling lethargic afterward.
I had no time for lethargy now and found I liked coffee very much.
At least the humans got one thing right.
“You were able to escape a rocket propelled grenade?”
The sound of Compton’s shocked voice pulled all of my attention back into the room and my eyes caught Master’s appreciative gaze flicker towards me before he looked back at his Sheriff and smirked, “Don’t sound so shocked. I’m full of surprises.”
And humility. Don’t forget that!
He must have caught the tenor of my silent crack at His Royal Hubris because his lips twitched before he quashed the grin I knew was lurking underneath and stood, saying, “Dawson is looking into the recent movements of The Brotherhood in this area, but I want you to research as well. Have your underlings gather intel from the local population and report back to me in two night’s time.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” he agreed, standing with his effective dismissal. His eyes fell back to me before turning to face his king as he said, “I hope you enjoy your visit.”
Glamour attempts aside, there was something I didn’t like about Compton. And it was something Master picked up on because as soon as the Sheriff was out of the office, he reverted to Old Norse and asked, “Something on your mind?”
Where to begin?
“I am yours.”
I hadn’t realized I would be beginning there until the words had left my lips. My question was missing the inflection needed to denote it was a question, but Master answered anyways with, “Born for me. You said it yourself.”
Confusion – my new constant companion – settled in for the long haul, while I tried to read between the lines. Turning them over and over in my mind, I settled for what made the most sense and said, “You do not trust your Sheriff. You are testing him.”
“You of all people should know I trust few,” he replied. “Two in total out of everyone in my kingdom.”
I flushed with pride to be included, with his words warming me from the inside out. But not knowing if he had been able to feel all that I felt, I asked, “Were you aware he attempted to glamour me?”
“I suspected,” he growled. “Did he do it after I claimed you?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “But he stopped after acknowledging your claim.” And replaying the other events with Compton, I added, “You do not wish for him to know of my status as your defender, but he witnessed me restrain the human called Jason.”
“Yes,” he too admitted, but added, “Maybe he’ll just assume it was our form of foreplay.”
“Fore what?” I coughed, choking on the words.
Master merely laughed at me and said, “I told you it was more fun here.”
At least his teasing words reminded me of the question that I’d had to wait until now to ask, so I did.
“Do you know who Hadley is?”
His jovial smile disappeared and his eyes narrowed as he asked, “Why?”
“The old woman believes me to be Hadley,” I replied, with me trying to keep Sookie and her stomping feet at bay.
We were both very curious to know who this girl was.
Master stared at me, seeming to study my features, while saying nothing at all. So I filled in the silence by admitting, “From her memories of the girl, she actually favors my cousins.”
But if you stared hard enough, you could find similarities between anyone. Everyone in the Fae realm resembled everyone else, in one way or another. Even mostly humans like me.
After a long moment, Master blinked and said, “Hadley was Adele’s granddaughter. She went missing nearly ten years ago at the age of fourteen. All evidence indicated she’d run away, although no one seemed to know why. I sent trackers to try and locate the girl, but her scent disappeared a few miles into the contamination zone. She wouldn’t have survived for very long, dying either from the radiation or drinking the contaminated water.” His eyes softened just a trace when he added, “I see a faint resemblance of her in you, but perhaps it truly is time for Adele to retire.”
“She intends to corner me tomorrow,” I warned and added, “And suspects I may have been glamoured to forget who I am. She is hesitant to believe you are the one who took her granddaughter away from her, but she’s not ruling it out.”
“Are you going to throw her to the ground too?” he asked, with a small grin.
“If it is unavoidable,” I admitted with a matching small grin and then made a claim of my own. “But the grandson is fair game. He thinks he can best me and wants a rematch.”
“Just do me a favor and don’t kill him,” he chuckled. “He’s a little slow, but he means well and Adele adores him.”
I was still curious over his affection for the woman, but rather than ask I pondered aloud, “Since she intends on confronting me when the sun is up, perhaps I will just remain hidden until you rise for the evening. From the workings of her mind I wouldn’t be surprised if she has fully convinced herself by now I am indeed her missing granddaughter. If you don’t want me to restrain her until you rise, then it would be best to remove the temptation from us both.”
If only I could glamour as well.
“Let me guess,” he laughed. “Will you be hiding in the Maserati or are you still attached to your first love, the Corvette?”
I recognized the Italian name from the rear of my earlier fantasy spin around the kingdom black car, but in case he wasn’t aware, I informed him, “I vowed to protect your life until the day I died. Just because you are dead for the day it doesn’t negate my oath. In spite of your refusal to allow me into your chambers, you haven’t truly been left alone since I arrived in this world.”
But it seemed my words were for naught when he responded simply, “I know.”
There were more words behind his eyes, but without the use of telepathy I had no way of knowing what they were. So I remained silent while he called Rasul into the room to learn what they found out from the attacker. He’d gotten the names and locations of the other two men who had been in the woods with him, but when they’d arrived at their addresses it appeared they had grabbed what they could of their belongings and taken off. They seemed to be operating as a lone cell, with only the leader of their small group being in contact with other members of The Brotherhood.
Unfortunately, the shooter hadn’t been the leader of the group.
Once Rasul had been certain all of the pertinent information to be had from the human had been found, he’d been disposed of.
I didn’t have to wonder how considering the healthy glow Rasul was now wearing.
I hoped his death had been a painful one. I was only sorry Master hadn’t been the one to exact revenge on the pitiful excuse for a being.
The sun would be rising soon, so the vampires of the group all went to their respective quarters while the Weres met up with the one called Dawson. Master directed me upstairs and brought me to what I assumed would be my room, seeing my luggage resting at the foot of the bed.
“Do you like it?” he asked, gesturing to the four poster bed.
It wasn’t much different from my bed at home – or in my new home within his palace – so I shrugged and admitted, “It isn’t necessary. I don’t require sleep.”
He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like, “Beds aren’t only used for sleeping,” but rather than embarrass myself by asking him to repeat himself, I only inquired, “Where are your chambers?”
He didn’t have to tell me. I could just follow his void in my mind, but I was trying to work out where the best place to hide from his old woman would be, while still keeping him within my mental range.
So when he jerked his head for me to follow him, I did. Only when we stopped I assumed we were in an outer chamber.
That is until I saw the bedcovers embossed with his royal crest.
“You let me in your room,” I whispered, either to share my disbelief he could already feel or clue him into the fact he was only a pop away from me whenever I wanted.
“You needed a good hideout,” he shrugged and a small smile played on his lips when he added, “And you’ve already admitted you won’t hog the covers.”
But then his face took on a more serious expression and I knew his words had nothing to do with hogging blankets, when he said, “Don’t prove me wrong.”