I couldn’t be any more succinct in getting my point across that she wouldn’t be using herself as bait in an attempt to trap a fairy she’d already admitted was a better swordsman than she.
“But…” she began to argue.
So I put myself nose to nose with her and hissed, “But nothing. You will not be using yourself to lure the fairy out of hiding. If he is your kin and if he uses blood magic to come after me, then I will deal with him myself. He’s admitted his fascination is with you, not me. That is bait enough.”
And for his admission, I would pull him apart joint by joint and suck the blood out of each and every piece of him, like he was a goddamn Alaskan king crab leg.
She was mine.
“You’re being ridiculous!” she hissed, making me wonder if she’d caught a glimpse of my thoughts or if she’d just guessed based on my crabby mood. “The whole point of my being is to protect you from harm. What if he comes for you during the day whe…”
Her tirade was cutoff when I snatched her from where she stood and crushed her to my body, snarling in her face, “You are my bonded. That is the whole point of this argument. I don’t give a fuck about any debt or the lies you were told about what your purpose in life was. Unlike your fairy kin, I’m not willing to sacrifice you.”
All but throwing her beloved great-grandfather under the Faehound bus, I’d known my words were inflammatory, even if the intent behind them had been pure.
But instead of focusing on the metaphorical bloodbath on the asphalt underneath the wheels, she blindsided me by proving she was more strategic than I gave her credit for.
Ignoring my inciting words, she stirred the pot herself by angrily asking, “And what about your child? Do you give a fuck about her? Because if he is my kin and if he uses blood magic to come after those I can track, then he can locate her through me. Anywhere. Anytime. No locked doors – no ward – could protect her. He could pop himself into her chambers at high noon and take her out into the garden for afternoon tea.”
If anyone had told me a month ago – a week ago – I would be struggling over the thought of who I would want to protect more than my own child, I would have laughed in their face.
And then shredded their face for wasting my time with ridiculous notions.
And yet there I was, struggling with that very notion.
Each of my girls were formidable warriors in their own right.
One, I’d taught everything I knew.
The other had taught me I didn’t know everything.
And as I combed through a thousand years of memories – strategies, battles, conversations – to deal with the unknown fairy in a way that wouldn’t involve dangling my bonded like a carrot in front of the fairy horse’s ass, perhaps it was our bond that had her doing the same because she offered more calmly, “As you said, his fascination is with me. If I can draw him out – get him to talk to me – maybe I can learn more about him. He could have killed me earlier this afternoon, but he didn’t. Even if I can only learn his name, it would be more than we know now. And if I can get him to tell me how he blocks the blood magic, I might be able to figure out how to reverse it so we can find him.”
My teeth ground together as images of her flirting with a faceless fucker, to get the information she desired, flitted through my head. But she pulled me from my dark thoughts by shedding another kind of light on them, reminding me of our conversation from only moments earlier, as she added, “I can attempt to kill him with sunlight as a last resort, but it will deplete my strength and magic. If I miss, it will leave me vulnerable, so I would only attempt it if I had no other options.”
Our bond filled with an overwhelming amount of her need as she softly ended with, “If your child is killed, a part of you will die with her. I cannot allow that to happen. To do so would go against everything I’ve been taught. Everything I’ve vowed to you.”
Fuck her and her rationale.
Fuck me and my inability to find a good argument against it.
So my tone sounded as angry as I felt, when I only argued, “You are my bonded.”
While it was true that losing Pam would devastate me, losing Sookie would destroy me just as easily.
“I am,” she agreed with a small smile. “Luckily for you, you chose a warrior who isn’t afraid to stand up to you, instead of a simpering fool who worships the ground you walk on.”
And when I only grimaced, suspecting I was the simpering fool in our pairing, her smile turned into a rueful one as she followed up with, “If you are truly against it we can return to the palace at first dark tomorrow. I could teleport us there now, but your guards are suspicious enough about me and my powers. The wolf likens me to someone named Glenda in his thoughts, while Kitty pictures an ugly green hag with warts on her face.”
Both of them.
Albeit for different reasons.
But instead of going off on a rant, I only asked, “Return to the palace? What difference would it make where we are if he can track you through your blood?”
Never mind the fact I detested the idea of going back. Returning to what equated to my lifetime prison sentence.
I was enjoying my parole.
I could do without the constant fucking interruptions.
Interrupting our fucking.
“Oh,” she chuckled, feeling my inner tantrum, and smirked, “I hit a nerve.”
There was no point in denying it, so when I offered nothing to contradict her, she got back on point by adding, “We don’t know for a fact he is my blood. It’s nothing but speculation right now and the palace affords us more security. More vampires. My great-grandfather is the only fairy I know with enough pluck to pop into a vampire king’s castle – at night, no less – so I doubt this one will follow us. He claimed to have been waiting for me for a long time, but he didn’t show himself to me until after he’d followed Madden here to end him. Perhaps it was just a lucky happenstance for him that I happened to be here as well.”
Both of them could fuck off.
The unknown fairy and her fucking great-grandfather.
I was the lucky bastard here and I would pluck both of them apart.
She wisely ignored my rapidly growing hostility and only offered, “If you’re against me luring him out of the shadows, then our best course of action would be to remove his temptation altogether by leaving.”
“And what about your…the Stackhouses?” I asked, looking for any excuse to keep us from returning, but stopping just short of calling them her family. “Do you not want to stay for a while – get to know them better – now that you know they are your kin?”
I knew she cared for Hadley’s wellbeing and she’d even warmed towards Jason, so I was certain it was only a matter of time before she warmed to Adele.
At least enough to stop calling her my ‘old woman’.
Surprising me for the countless time since she’d first walked into my life, her calculating mood changed into a compassionate one, as she reached out and took my hands in her own. Lacing her fingers through mine, she used my own words against me, as she sincerely replied, “You are my bonded.”
No mention of her purpose.
No mention of her pledge.
No mention of Brigants or Stackhouses.
She was willing to sacrifice getting to know the family she had only just learned the existence of because she was more concerned about my wellbeing.
If only I could make sacrifices just as easily.
But speculation or not, I couldn’t potentially sacrifice my child on the off-chance the fairy couldn’t – or wouldn’t – go after her.
I could, however, compromise.
So I used her grip on my hands to pull her against my body and wrapped my arms around her waist, saying, “Teleport us back to my chambers in the palace. I’ll call Pam to us there and we’ll bring her back here with us.”
She’d been right in that any connection she had to the fairy was purely speculation at this point. So if a connection existed he would be able to reach Pam no matter where she rested, but I would feel better having her close.
And it would be that much easier to gift her with the fairy’s plucked carcass if he dared to show himself to me.
That didn’t mean I would willingly consent to having Sookie go trolling for the fairy, but I also knew she was just as stubborn as me.
Our goddamn pea pod was constructed of pure determination.
But I also knew she was levelheaded in matters of strategy, so I would have to come up with a tactical course of action to achieve the same results that didn’t involve her dangling from the hook on her Fae fishing pole.
Her assent came through our bond, rather than through her lips, and in the next moment we were reappearing in my palace chambers. My mood soured just being there, but seeing my bed, I thought for a moment to Sookie-scent my sheets.
It would certainly help in improving my mood.
But because she couldn’t read my mind, she only read those around us and whatever it was she’d heard, soured her mood.
She was pissed.
And our bond acted more like a leash because when she marched from the room, all thoughts of calling Pam to us disappeared, as I followed like the dutiful puppy she’d turned me into.
Only the innermost rooms of my chambers were kept secure from the palace staff. I’d never been a slob, so the stasis spell on my bedroom and bathroom kept them dust free. I could enter my closet through a one-way door from my bedroom, but it had a separate entrance to allow the staff to gather my dirty laundry and return my clean clothes, during the day.
It was due to Pam’s shopping addiction that had it looking like a mid-sized men’s boutique, rather than a mere closet, and held ten times as many clothes than I actually needed. The outer entrance for it was secure as well and required a security code and thumbprint scan to open the door.
But instead of asking Sookie if she had objected to my outfit, I heard the heartbeat before we’d even entered the room and I came to a stop just behind her. I was sure she’d felt my surprise, seeing that the heartbeat belonged to one of the palace’s human staff, Bobby Burnham.
Surprised because he had no business being in my closet.
His job was that of a runner, to fetch whatever it was someone higher than him on the totem pole wanted. And because he’d had the misfortune of rubbing Pam the wrong way during his first week on the job, she took great zeal in taking a more literal interpretation of what his job duties entailed.
It wasn’t unusual for her to whistle for him, like a dog, or to smack him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if he failed to adequately perform the task she’d given him.
There were only five humans who had access to the room and he wasn’t one of them, but regardless of his unauthorized entry into my closet, I had a feeling Sookie’s anger had more to do with his closet motives.
A full minute passed by, with him unaware we were watching him rifle through my things, when Sookie finally spoke up and casually offered, “I would go for the Rolling Stones t-shirt. You’ll get more money for it, since his Majesty was pictured wearing it in the paper only last month.”
The scent of urine immediately invaded my senses, only pissing me off more that he was pissing himself on my floor, and my fangs snapped down just as his head snapped around to see us standing there.
He quickly dropped to his knees – in his own puddle – and stuttered out, “I uh…Your Majesty…I didn’t…I was just…”
Sookie picked up where he trailed off, moving closer to him as she said, “You didn’t think you would get caught. You were just pilfering a few items from your king’s closet to sell.”
The words she’d chosen to use led me to believe this wasn’t the first time he’d stolen from me, but I didn’t have to ask when she added, “You’ve been picking your prizes from the laundry room, but because King Northman has been away, there hasn’t been any of his laundry for you to pick from. You’re grateful the king’s spoiled brat loves shopping more than AB negative and you were only too happy to stick it to her because she was dumb enough to order you to bring some of the new things she’d purchased for him up here. You can’t stand her and wish you could find new material for your spank bank because you don’t understand why you find someone so appalling, so appealing.”
Thanks to Pam’s teasing when she’d been with us at the estate, the first round of, ‘Bobby and Pam, sitting in a tree…’ had already started playing its first loop through my mind, when Sookie turned to me and asked, “What is a spank bank?”
Sensing her sincere curiosity, I knew she wasn’t trying to bait me, so I tried to hide my smirk and only answered, “Later.”
Giving her full disclosure now would have only ended up with me fucking her on my dresser.
Something I wasn’t opposed to, but first we had to deal with Burnham.
All vampire kings were celebrities in the eyes of the humans, so it wasn’t unusual for many of us to have fans.
Some of us more than others.
And while I obviously had enough clothes that I hadn’t noticed his prior thievery, that didn’t mean I would condone it. Something he likely suspected since his eyes remained on the floor, with his head hung down and his body tensed for more than a swat with a rolled up newspaper.
Remarkably, the scent of his fear surpassed even that of his piss.
But Sookie’s initial anger gave way to amusement when she asked, “What about Pam’s clothes?”
If Pam’s clothing had been the target of his sticky hands, then his jail sentence just turned into a death sentence.
Especially if his hands had been sticky with a withdrawal from his spank bank.
He hadn’t moved a muscle – other than the ass pucker I couldn’t visually verify had just taken place – but the terror in his eyes gave him away.
Sookie couldn’t seem to settle on being disgusted or delighted, so her tone was a combination of the two, when she grinned and said, “Oh…you didn’t sell her panties. You just kept them to feel closer to her.”
“How close?” I asked her in Old Norse.
Sounding like any five year old asking if Santa was on his way.
“He’s wearing lavender lace right now,” she gleefully replied.
Burnham managed to shrink even further, without moving a muscle, and Pam appeared at our side seconds later, thanks to my blood all but catapulting her there with my silent call.
But she didn’t appear to notice Burnham right away and only pouted, gesturing towards Sookie as she asked, “Did you only come here so I would smell that you came there?”
“Of course not,” I laughed, and Sookie’s attempt at hiding her snicker made it come out like a snort. “That was just a collateral bonus, like him.”
Pointing at Burnham and what I now knew were her piss covered panties, I added, “Have you noticed anything of yours missing lately?”
When she only stared at him in confusion, I helped her along by saying, “Something lavender and lacy, perhaps?”
Her eyes widened and her fangs snapped down as she caught on to what we’d caught him doing in my closet and she took a menacing step towards him, while she hissed, “My La Perla?”
“Oh,” Sookie said, turning to focus solely on Burnham and her tone was decidedly disgusted when she grimaced, “That’s a spank bank?”
But before I could fall to the ground in laughter – and Pam could give new meaning to the phrase ‘panties in a bunch’ – a stronger wave of caution and aggression drowned it out.
Not from my bond with Pam, but from my bonded.
Before I could question the cause, playful Sookie morphed into kickass Susannah as she swept across the room and put herself in between me and the doorway, taking a defensive stance. In the same moment, her swords appeared out of thin air and into her hands, when a welcome – but unexpected – guest came into view.
While I knew she’d only ever gotten a single thought from a vampire’s mind – that fuck stain Compton’s – I doubted she would have heard anything to be concerned about from him and likely only reacted due to his foreign presence. Our friendship, forged over the last eight centuries, meant he had a standing invitation to come and go from the palace whenever he pleased, so I wasn’t surprised he hadn’t been announced.
But I didn’t know if I should be happy or concerned to see him after so many years, so my tone took on a mixture of the two as I greeted him simply, with a deep nod of respect and his name.
“Brother,” he replied warmly in return.
He wasn’t my brother in blood, but Godric had filled the void when Ocella had met his untimely end during the war. Having never made a child of his own, he chose to foster me and taught me all that he’d learned in his more than millennium long existence at the time. He was the one who made me the vampire I was today and for that, I would be eternally grateful.
His eyes had yet to leave Susannah and while the corners of his lips turned up in amusement at my fiery little fairy, there was also a hint of worry in his expression and an invisible weight on his shoulders.
After spending three centuries together, I didn’t need to share a blood tie with him to know his mood.
Feeling more caution than aggression upon hearing our cordial greeting, Susannah’s posture relaxed only infinitesimally, so I put my hand on her shoulder and assured, “He isn’t a threat.”
“He is twice your age,” she replied in Old Norse, still feeling uncomfortable at letting her guard down, which meant her swords were still being held at the ready.
“I am,” he smiled back at her, having understood the ancient language and replying in the same. And then looking at me, he added, “It is true then. The debt with the Fae has been settled.”
Completely taken aback by his words, every muscle I had froze in place as I asked, “How did you know?”
While all of the events occurred within less than twenty-four hours of each other – from my Maker meeting his end, to the debt being formed, to Godric assuming the role of my mentor – I’d never told him anything about my encounter with Brigant. As far as I’d known, other than Pam, the only other being still alive in this realm who’d known the true story was the Ancient Pythoness.
I wouldn’t have figured her to have a big mouth.
She had been the one who told me to tell no one of what had happened. To keep my Fae marker and future fairy windfall to myself. I probably shouldn’t have even told Pam, but by the time I’d made her my child centuries later, all of it had become more of a fairy tale even to me.
I trusted Godric more than I’d trusted my own Maker, but Susannah was more than a fulfilled IOU.
She was my bonded.
I would sacrifice my allegiance to him in a nanosecond if she was what he had come for.
And feeling my own caution flare in our bond, she reacted.
But seeing his eyes widen, I assumed I wasn’t the only one who could feel the tangible ripple of power now emanating from her.
However, it no longer made any difference what he could sense coming from her when my lover’s body began to glow.