I rose for the night, feeling – as I had for the previous seven nights – Sookie’s emotions. Only instead of the usual dogged determination she felt, normally coupled with an air of wariness I had come to expect from her, on this night she was feeling excited.
An unbidden smile graced my lips, thankfully unseen by anyone in my private chambers, and it only grew in size when I looked around the empty room and recalled a certain fiery part-fairy’s wrath when I had first refused her entry into my inner sanctum.
Livid would best describe her emotions then.
While she had the ability to teleport, she claimed her polluted pedigree meant she wasn’t as powerful as her kin in all aspects. She could teleport anywhere she had physically been in the past – an internal GPS all Fae possessed, I’d been told – which was why she’d popped us back into my office on her first night here. But even knowing I was just on the other side of the door, she couldn’t gain entry unless I allowed her into the room first.
She found no humor in our reversal of roles, needing an invitation from me in order to come inside.
But the fact remained, while I was intrigued by her and all of the possibilities to be had with her in my service, I didn’t trust her. I hadn’t survived for a millennia by blindly believing any and everything I had been told. Fairies by nature were devious creatures. Just as alluring as they were treacherous and underhanded. My blood in her veins gave me some small measure of comfort, but I would be a fool to rely on that alone.
Considering who her kin was – and how I suspected she had been raised – made me suspicious of Brigant’s motives. While he had kept his word and provided me with his heir, he hadn’t kept his crown for hundreds of years without being a cunning bastard.
I could certainly relate.
But while her motives might be pure, she could be a pawn in a game neither one of us were aware we were participating in. I had been nothing more than a foot soldier when the debt had been formed. It wouldn’t be unbelievable for Brigant to have waited, biding his time for if and when I became more powerful. Vampire politics had been unavoidable for most of my kind, long before nuclear warheads changed our landscape, so it would be very Machiavellian of him to have put off fulfilling his debt until he could use it to his advantage.
And until I figured out what that was I would remain cautious.
I quickly dressed for the evening and knowing we would be leaving as soon as the sun set, I chose to dine on the donor blood I kept on-hand in my chambers. Truth be told, I hadn’t found any pleasure in dining out in a while.
Seven nights to be exact.
A certain part-fairy’s scent had managed to spoil my appetite for any other’s blood, even though I had yet to sample hers. A problem that was compounded when I last attempted to partake in my royal donor pool.
Choosing what had been my favorite flavor of the week up until then, and hoping it would quench the desire I had for a certain blond, I pretended to pay no mind to my part-fairy shadow. At first I had only felt her apprehension, eying my dinner as she would her own prey, and briefly wondered if She Who Was Born For Me was jealous. But my arrogance was quickly drowned out by feeling her utter amusement as soon as I took my meal into a private room. The absolute hilarity running through her veins was enough of a distraction that I barely had the wherewithal to bite and drink without giving into the laughter that threatened to bubble over.
It was the first time I had come to view her gift as a curse.
She had told me of her suspicions on her first night and explained it was how she’d known Newlin had been wired. Her telepathy had been a surprise. To me and – I knew thanks to my blood in her veins – to her as well. She heard nothing from my kind, bits and pieces from Weres, but humans were, and I quote, “Loud, boorish, foolish hypocrites.”
Or – in other words – easy for her to read. It was why she’d found such delight in hearing my no longer favorite flavor of the week’s thoughts that if she played her cards right, she would one day be my queen.
Not for love, but for power and fame.
And despite being cockblocked, it was something I encouraged her to work on, honing her skills during the daylight hours when we both felt my left flank was sufficiently guarded by my mattress. Large gatherings of humans were still difficult for her, but it was coming along well enough that we would be testing her range and capabilities starting tonight.
I assumed it was the cause for her current giddiness. While always respectful and deadly serious about the job she’d been born to do, we had developed a routine. At the end of each evening I attempted to learn a little more about her and gave her leave to ask any questions she might have, which was how I knew she was looking forward to seeing more of my territory.
Unfortunately, only the actual land mass, not my ass.
And over the previous nights I did learn more, both about Susannah and Sookie. Identical in looks only, their personalities were vastly different.
Susannah was a head to toe leather wearing cocky badass.
Sookie was a self-loathing whipped puppy.
Enigma didn’t even come close to defining the puzzling paradox either one represented, but with our upcoming trip to tour the lands farther south, I hoped to learn more.
Her capability as a defender certainly wasn’t in question. She’d taken to sparring some of the other guards daily, besting them all quite easily to both their amusement and dismay. Being older, I often rose before the sun set and could feel her exhilaration and determination, making me pull up the security feed from my private chambers, so I could watch her hand them their asses in my dojo. She had amassed quite the fan club. It was entertaining.
Which made my jealousy irrational.
I told myself it was only because vampires were naturally jealous of their blood.
Pam told me I was full of shit.
Which was why I put her on the shit detail of running the palace in my stead while I was away. Normally she traveled with me because the palace was virtually dead when I was gone – quite a feat considering two-thirds of those remaining still had a heartbeat. This time, however, she would remain behind.
And it had nothing to do with wanting the undivided attention of the part-fairy in my entourage, no matter what Pam said.
Truth be told, both Susannah and Sookie only had eyes for me. Just not in the way I had come to expect.
Despite my inherent narcissism, objectively I was considered handsome. Sexy. Something I had used to my and taken advantage of for a millennia, but feeling what she felt, I knew neither Sookie nor Susannah lusted after me. I’d learned on our first evening together, just after she’d taken my blood and needed only a minute to become absolutely certain, she had no idea we were having two very different conversations at the moment.
While I could feel the waves of relief and gratitude flowing through her at my words, hers only served to drive my lust.
Because I would have loved to show her just how much territory I had and how quickly it could be buried inside of her.
So while I would like nothing more than to bite, rub, and fuck the night away with her, it wouldn’t be prudent of me to even attempt to do so, therefore I hadn’t even tried. Knowing she had been raised by supernaturals, I doubted she had the same views towards sex as most humans did. But at the same time I got the feeling her self-confidence ended at the hilt of her sword.
Part lion, part skittish kitten – my new tainted fairy guard was a mystery.
The terror in both her eyes and voice at the thought I would have released her from Brigant’s debt had been surprising. Enough that it planted the seed for me to wonder if perhaps her true role here would be that of a spy for the Fae, although I had no clue what they would possibly want to know. Politically speaking, our two kinds had no dealings with one another.
Flavorfully speaking, they were quite tasty and would do well to stay away from us.
Her sweet scent was enough to convince me I wouldn’t be disappointed if given a taste of her blood, but it was my wariness over where her true loyalties lied that had been the tipping point for me to want her to have mine. However what struck me the most was the joy I had felt coming from her at the first drop of my blood on her tongue. She had been truly happy about it.
Beaming on the inside, as though she had passed some test she hadn’t been sure she would.
Her proficiency with a sword made her one of – if not – the most competent warriors in my kingdom. Her inherent ability to use the kind of magic available to her was an advantage that no other in my retinue possessed. Her mastery of foreign languages marked her as highly intelligent.
Her personal lack of self-esteem made me want to wear her beloved great-grandfather’s heart like a feedbag.
Her spectacular show in my dojo on her first night and the gift of gab amongst those present notwithstanding, we’d managed to contain her abilities thus far. Only Pam and I knew of her true heritage. With the fairy portals having been sealed for centuries, the Fae had become a myth in our world. Very few were old enough to remember the war, much less the scent or taste of fairy blood, so I felt her secret was reasonably safe for now.
Besides, no one in my retinue would dare question me, but if asked I would tell them she dropped down from the sky.
Delivered by a stork from my very own cabbage patch.
Far more believable, the working theory among the palace staff was she was a witch. An idea they wouldn’t entertain if they knew about my true aversion to most witches. The magic that animated our dead bodies was one thing. And the magic inherent to fairies was another. But there was something decidedly off-putting about humans fucking around with something as powerful as true magic.
As if our blood tie worked both ways and she could feel my misgivings, Susannah – it was always Susannah who greeted me each evening, while it was Sookie who bid me goodnight – chose that moment to knock on my door, saying only, “Master?”
Focusing back on the present, I could feel her concern and noticing the sun had been down for several minutes, I figured that was the cause, so I met her in the adjacent room seconds later with a question of my own.
“But of course,” she replied in my native tongue. “The palace is always so empty during the day when your ego isn’t around to fill up the space.”
This was a side of Susannah I had come to like quite a lot. Her quick-witted repartee was a breath of fresh air in an environment that had been polluted by decades of ass-kissing – something I hadn’t even realized until the night she had shown up.
I shrugged and acted interested in straightening my shirt cuffs, offering, “I would have thought your fan club would be keeping you busy.”
I thought I’d succeeded in making my tone broadcast a casual indifference.
So it was a good thing our blood tie only worked one-way.
I don’t know why I felt the need to inquire. It was no business of mine if she chose to fuck every Were on staff.
If only I had tasted her blood, I could blame my irrational need to lay claim to her on her addictive fairy fluids.
“If you mean your Weres, any fan club I may have had prior to today has surely been disbanded,” she chuckled. She felt no remorse when she admitted, “They are far too lax with your security. Complacent to the point of negligent. The tiger did not appreciate my opinion of his dedication to dereliction.”
I didn’t even try to hide my amusement. Quinn was intimidating both in size and in power. As far as I knew, he had refused to go up against her in the dojo thus far. But the thought of all five foot five and a hundred twenty pounds of her, going up against the likes of him would have been sheer folly.
Had she been anyone but her.
Although I had no doubt even a part-lion could best a full tiger.
“Is this your way of telling me he’s off licking his wounds and won’t be able to join us?”
Were jokes never got old.
When I had informed my security staff Susannah was my personal guard, there had been whispered speculation she was nothing more than a pet with a sword. They surmised I had allowed her to win our sparring session – a fallacy I would have gladly allowed had they not been so cocky and learned the hard way just how capable she was.
“His ego is quite possibly bigger than yours, so once bruised, conceivably he should become debilitated.” She shrugged and poorly hid her smile when she added, “But his location and intention to join us is not my concern. My charge is safe and sound. That is my only concern.”
Dismissing the famed were-tiger in one breath and claiming me in a roundabout way in the next.
It was no wonder my slacks were tight.
Thankfully, they loosened up in time for the long car ride. Normally I spent that time tending to emails and returning messages, but I was distracted with every mile we got further away from the palace, feeling her sense of wonderment as she watched the scenery go by.
Since it was only the two of us in the back of the limousine, I broke our routine by asking her a personal question that I’d been saving for when we had no other distractions.
“Where is your human family?”
I had already learned she’d been raised in Faery since birth, but I didn’t know if that meant her parents had been raised there as well. She had only spoken of Niall and a few cousins she counted as kin, so I doubted it.
“Dead,” she shrugged, feeling as emotionless as the inflection in her voice. “My fae blood comes from my paternal side. I was told he died before I’d been born and the woman who carried me died giving birth.”
I was curious to know more, but I could feel her unease, so I let the issue drop. But since she brought up her birth, it reminded me of something else I had been saving for an opportune time.
Pulling the small wrapped package from my jacket pocket, I slid it across the seat, saying, “For you.”
Her own curiosity spiked and her eyes lifted from the box to meet my own as she asked, “What is it?”
“A new car,” I deadpanned.
Her eyes lit up, making me wonder if my smartass reply flew over her head, but instead she slid closer and spoke as though she was admitting to a deep dark secret.
“I would love to learn how to drive. Would you mind if I asked one of the staff to teach me?”
One of the staff?
“Pull over,” I barked into the intercom and seconds later, our fleet of twelve was parked on the side of the highway.
I surmised I wasn’t the only one breaking with routine this evening because Susannah had undoubtedly been temporarily replaced by Sookie. Her excitement was palpable, both inside and out, so much that I wasn’t surprised when she squealed, “Now? You’re teaching me now?”
However I was surprised she had yet to open her gift. Pam would have had the box shredded and the contents out the second she saw the wrapping paper.
And I allowed myself to believe that was the only reason I hadn’t shown it to her.
Since Sookie was still waiting on my reply, I nodded and gestured to the present still in her hand, saying, “Just as soon as you open that.”
I was surprised my own legs didn’t pull my body out of the car, so strong was her desire to get into the driver’s seat. But she remained seated and studiously opened up the gift, pulling the platinum charm bracelet from the box and held it up in awe.
“A Mjolnir,” she whispered before looking to me and asking, “But…why?”
She was fluent in Old Norse, so it wasn’t surprising she’d known what it was, but I thought it a fitting representation of us. We both tended to speak exactly what was on our minds when conversing in that language and I felt like it was a good way to acknowledge our connection to one another.
But I did still manage to surprise us both.
I surprised myself by taking the bracelet from her and carefully attaching it to her left wrist, like a lover might.
I surprised her when I eventually answered, “I wasn’t prepared when you first appeared a week ago,” understatement of the year, “and for that I apologize.”
Meeting her still questioning eyes with my own, my lips formed into a small smile as I said, “Happy Birthday Sookie.”