Hidden away from prying eyes, in the depths underneath my southern estate, her snarled out, “No!” echoed off the walls of our makeshift training facility. But not even I could have heard her angry rebuke had I not been in the room, watching while she reprimanded the wolf beneath her – whose body was more than twice her size – as she held onto the scruff at the back of his neck to thwart his attempts to buck her from his own.
Because I didn’t rely on mere distance to keep our activities undetected.
There were so many new wards on all of my properties, Pam had taken to wearing a strand of pearls and answering calls with, “Cleaver residence.”
With the flat side of her dagger still firmly pressed against the Were’s jugular from behind, Sookie – or rather, Susannah, at the moment – admonished, “You rely too much on your sense of sight and smell. Use your other senses to locate my presence.”
Easy for her to say, when her senses were unlike any the Weres could possibly have. She could – and had – pop out of thin air to ensnare her victim.
Admittedly, it was easier for me to do, thanks to our bond making me aware of her location, whether she wanted to be seen or not.
I could only hope it would be just as easily done if, and when, I finally faced the one called Ailill.
Lowering her dagger away from his neck, my lover hopped off his body with all of the grace of a large cat – an analogy she wouldn’t appreciate – who had tired of playing with their food. Taking three steps back, she shook her head and spoke to the gathered Weres as a whole, adding, “Your survival depends on you no longer believing you are the predator. If you want to live, you must live and act as though you are always the prey.”
The wolf’s lip curled up into a snarl, just as the air around him began to shimmer and his body shifted back into his human form. Herveaux was then left looking both amused and frustrated when he scowled, “Well it would help if you guys played by the home field rules and left a trail of pixie dust behind, Tink.”
In the two weeks since Godric’s arrival, little more had been learned about the seemingly coincidental – and yet not – threats against the various kingdoms. In the days and nights that followed, no new attacks had occurred against me or within the boundaries of my territory. But rather than feeling any sense of relief that it was over before it had even really begun, more so it felt like the calm before the storm.
Godric kept in daily contact with his source within the council and it was from them we’d learned about the covert, rather than overt, attacks on the other kingdoms.
The attempt on my life by The – albeit glamoured – Brotherhood was not unique in that Isaiah of Moshup had dodged his own rocket propelled grenade on the same night as I. And while I wouldn’t have fared so well had it not been for a Brigant, I was just as sure he had his own ‘B’ to thank for sparing his life.
There had also been a significant rise of attacks publically attributed to The Brotherhood in Narayana.
Privately, that cape wearing cocksucker thought I was behind them.
His paranoia was just as unoriginal as his spying attempts, it would seem.
Several of de Castro’s better producing casinos had been the targets of small but powerful pipe bombs. There hadn’t been any casualties thus far, but the threat was enough to keep the tourists away and his ledger in the red.
Zeus’s kidnapping wasn’t a one-off either, however with Brigants and Britlingens in such short supply, his subsequent rescue was.
Cyrus, King of the Achaemenid Empire, hadn’t been seen nor heard from in eighteen nights.
Known then as the King of Kings of Persia, he was turned, roughly around 530 BC along the Syr Darya and to this day, still ruled the very same lands as when he’d been a human. His achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy were unparalleled even then. And now, more than twenty-five hundred years later, his reputation as a fair and just leader were just as well deserved.
Cyrus the Great was one of the oldest known of our kind. That someone could take him at all, never mind so easily and leaving no trace of him behind, was a great cause for concern.
All across the globe kingdoms stood on silent alert, standing guard against a nameless faceless foe. The humans, like those of The Brotherhood, once deemed a nuisance were now classified as terrorists and they and their sympathizers were quietly being rounded up and interrogated by their overlords.
They likely would have considered having a telepath on staff to be a handy asset, but I had better uses for mine.
For the time being, I was only concerned about one threat that was unique to Amun. And for the last two weeks, Sookie had been working tirelessly, training the guards she’d handpicked from my Royal Guard detail, in preparation for a fight against a foe none of them had ever faced before.
Or rather – a fairy/vampire hybrid.
A foe I had yet to face myself, but one I was looking forward to.
The decision to finally inform them of her hybrid origins had been a difficult one to make. One I was still unsure of even now, but I followed my gut and Godric’s advice in revealing my bonded’s true heritage.
Her lineage, however, was still a closely guarded secret.
Because, as Godric had reminded me on the night of his arrival, there were still others in this world who had been around during the war against the Fae. Ones who would recognize the name Brigant.
Ones who might consider it a synonym for the term bull’s eye.
Even though we had yet to ascertain if it was an organized attack we all faced – and, if so, who was behind it all – we had enough targets painted on our backs. I refused to make my bonded yet another one.
Ever since the fairy revelation had been made to the contingent of guards Sookie had deemed acceptable – Quinn, unsurprisingly, didn’t make the cut and had been dispatched back to the palace – the new head of the Royal Guard detail, the wolf Herveaux, had taken to teasing my lover by calling her Tinker Bell.
Or Tink, for short.
And it always amused me, in spite of the scowl I wore on my face every time I heard him say it.
I had to keep up appearances, after all.
Part of my amusement stemmed from her own aggravation over the nickname. Something the wolf knew of and yet he still continued to poke the angry fairy with. But it would seem my lover had had enough.
And it would seem she had yet another lesson to teach the wolf.
When to keep his mouth shut.
But I was the only one not surprised when her eyes narrowed and her lips curled into an evil smile, just as his body stiffened and then rose up in the air.
I’d been witness to her pulling Hale’s body parts from the swampy grave she’d initially left him in, so her telekinetic powers were nothing new to me.
But her ability to shoot the equivalent of sunlight from her hands was still a closely guarded secret from all but me.
Only the muscles above his neck seemed to be left unaffected because his mouth still worked enough for him to say, “Holy shit! Why fight when you can do this?”
“For the same reason your king drives even though he can fly,” she smiled back at him. “I enjoy it.”
Dropping him back to the ground, he landed much less gracefully than she had moments before and further explained, “And because it takes all of my concentration. Being singularly focused on one foe leaves me vulnerable to attack from another.”
My own lips curled up into a snarl at the thought of her being attacked by anyone who wasn’t me. Granted, my attacks had nothing to do with doing her harm.
Quite the opposite, actually.
Two weeks had gone by and still my need to be near her was just as insatiable as it had been on the night we’d completed our bond. It never left me, even during the day. And I didn’t know if it was that insatiable need or if I didn’t need as much rest now, but I would often find myself awake while the sun was still high in the sky, seeking her out through our bond if she wasn’t in the room with me.
And if she was, we would make use of the extra time we had together.
That need for her was still just as insatiable as well.
The only difference was I could now identify it. Control it as much as it would allow me to, in order to do what had to be done to secure my kingdom. And even then I was sure it was only because my mind told me it was the only way to keep her safe.
But my lover was no wallflower.
I knew better than to think she would be sitting at home, wringing her hands, and awaiting my return from any battle.
In fact, I was sure she would kick my ass if I even suggested it.
But I wasn’t daft enough to not see her value, not only as a skilled warrior, but as an invaluable source of information when it came to the Fae. And while she might still suffer some internal contempt at being mostly human, I thanked every God I could think of for her human DNA.
Because it was her human ancestry that made her immune to the newest additions in our low-tech arsenal.
Fully grown lemon trees were shipped in, arriving by the truckload, and planted along the perimeter of the estate, with even more sprinkled throughout the yard and surrounding the house in its entirety. Unable to thrive in the colder climate, lemon grass was substituted at the palace grounds and planted near every point of entry. Every piece of metal hardware in and around every structure I owned had been replaced with iron, to include the arsenal of weapons I kept on hand.
Swords. Daggers. Bullets.
All of it was iron now. We even had iron-tipped stakes for that special occasion when silver just wouldn’t do.
Regardless of the metal compound used, those same weapons would fell every other type of foe we might encounter.
I just wouldn’t take for granted silver would work on a day walking faepire.
Or was it vampiry?
Like Suskie/Sookanah, I couldn’t be sure what the proper terminology was.
So I just called him Asshole, for short.
Even the guards now wore special vests. Outfitted with more than just Kevlar, they emitted a lemon mist at the push of a button, similar to the motion activated atomizers I’d had installed in the interrogation room underneath the house.
With the Asshole being a daywalker, the Were guards needed to be ready to defend themselves against him, in order to defend me and mine when the sun was up. It was why Sookie – Susannah – had been working with them each night for hours on end, showing them what they could expect when fighting against one of her kind, when the vampires were no longer hindered by the sun and could keep watch in their stead.
And knowing he was a capable swordsman was why she worked just as tirelessly on her own skills with a sword.
Godric had returned with us to Bon Temps on the same night of his arrival at the palace and when he wasn’t out hunting the Asshole Ailill, he used his two thousand years of experience to help me train Sookie with her sword.
She’d gotten immeasurably better.
And yet it wasn’t enough to make me feel better.
Which was why I made one more move, putting an additional layer of security in place, that I had no way of knowing would work until it did.
The night after we’d learned of the threat to the kingdoms, I’d had my lawyers draw up the necessary paperwork and called a meeting of all of my guards.
On the front lawn of the Bon Temps estate.
There was where I signed over the deed to the house to my bonded.
To keep her fairy lineage secret, the name Brigant couldn’t be used.
To keep her human lineage secret, neither could Stackhouse.
So that left me with only one other option.
But that option had more to do with keeping me sane and from going on a killing spree, the likes of which this world had never seen, than anything else, when I made things official in the eyes of every-fucking-body by taking her as my wife.
I’d covered both bases to be sure, with the pledge by the knife followed immediately by a human marriage ceremony, taking place in my office that same night. Witnessed only by Pam, Godric, and our wedding officiate/lawyer, Desmond Cataliades, when all was said and done, we were bound together by more than just blood.
Now we were bound together by tradition and a piece of fucking paper too.
One I made sure to send a copy of to Zeus, delivered to him the following night in a gilded frame. His wedding gift to us – more so, to me – was a giant foam finger, similar to the ones humans waved at sporting events.
But the finger raised wasn’t the index finger.
So daywalking faepires weren’t the only assholes to be found.
Officially she was now the Queen of Amun.
Unofficially she was more excited over the thought of an impending battle we all could taste looming in the air.
But she’d barely glanced at the diamond ring I’d slipped onto her finger, caring nothing for the fact its cost could feed a small country, and was more moved by the matching wedding bands I’d had especially made for us. Crafted to look like interwoven feathers, hers were composed of rubies to match the small red birthmark on her hip, while mine was simply carved to look the same.
And mine was made of iron, so I could brand that Asshole with it once I got my hands on him.
But as moved as she was to become my Queen – a title we weren’t advertising at the moment, lest it make her even more of a target – according to her, in the eyes of her kind, our union wouldn’t be official until it had the blessing of her eldest kin.
In my eyes, the entire Fae Realm could officially fuck off. But I would make sure it would be the last thing Niall would ever give her before I snatched the heart from his chest and sucked it dry, like a fairy flavored Slurpee.
In any case, the Bon Temps Estate legally belonged to Susannah Northman before the ink was dry on the deed to the property. But I couldn’t be sure that she was human enough for the magic to take hold and bar every vampire entry, without invitation from her. However, like her immunity to lemons and iron, it appeared she was human enough for it to work.
And funny enough toy with Rasul by granting and then rescinding his invitation just to laugh at him as his body was forced outside by magic.
But, funnily enough, I didn’t need an invitation to enter the house and once again, I suspected it was perhaps due to our bond.
Or perhaps it was just my blood’s insistence in her body that refused to keep it away from me.
All of my homes would be signed over to her eventually, but it would have to wait until we were in residence, so she could invite in the vampires assigned to those quarters. For now, I just hoped it would work on a day walking faepire fuck Asshole.
But we couldn’t know if it would, until it did or didn’t.
While a name change on a property deed wouldn’t work on keeping the human threat at bay, I’d been dealing with the likes of them for the entirety of my existence and didn’t see them as much of an adversary.
Rocket propelled grenades notwithstanding.
De Castro was yet another threat to be dealt with, but one I didn’t consider to be as imminent now that Compton had been discovered and met his end.
So it was the faepire fuck, Ailill who’d had the majority of my attention on these last nights, whenever I wasn’t distracted by more pleasant things.
Namely, my wife.
And because our pod built for two now proudly hung the sole name of ‘Northman’ above the door, my lover’s thoughts were usually in sync with mine.
Which was why it wasn’t so surprising when she finished with the wolves and sauntered up to me, attempting to sway me with the sway of her hips – my lovely wife always used every advantage available to her – as she said, “We’re wasting time. If I help Godric, we can lure Ailill out into the open and do away with the threat now, while the sun is still down and we have the advantage.”
My lover’s lips may have been moving, but it was her hips that made the better argument. However my mind was set, so regardless of the levels of debauchery it descended to in her presence, my answer was always the same.
“It’s a good idea,” she argued back, without any malice in her voice. If anything, her tone was all but coaxing my cock to come out and play.
The Fae were a conniving bunch.
A quality my mostly human wife had inherited.
Snaking my arms around her waist, another snake of mine begged entry a few inches below it, while I answered truthfully, “I can think of many better ideas if you’re in the mood to be the bait.”
Her idea was to lure the Asshole out of hiding by chumming the waters, so to speak. Much like she had on the night I hunted her on the grounds outside of the estate, she thought to use his vampirism to our advantage by leaving a trail of her blood throughout the grounds, in the hopes of leading him into a trap.
I was vehemently against the idea.
My little Gretel’s bloodcrumbs were mine.
Just as her gingerbread house was mine alone to gorge on.
Just thinking about it made my mouth water.
As it turned out, I’d unwittingly played the Hansel in her fairy tails when she gripped my ass and pushed her lithe body against my own, purring out, “Just think of how much better it would be to fuck covered in his blood after you kill him.”
Her bloodlust rose up and met my own, reminding me yet again just how inhuman she could be. That her repertoire included a cast of characters that ran from a Brothers Grimm Gretel to the Grim Reaper showed her unearthly upbringing. I often wondered just how differently she would have turned out had she been left in this world and raised by her human kin.
But I didn’t dwell on it, knowing I loved her just the way she was.
And because the day ended in ‘Y’, I was already painfully hard now that she was working more than just her charms to convince me to agree with her. So I dropped my fangs – and shifted just a little, feeling the effect it’d had on her through our bond somewhere lower on my body – before pricking my fingertip and painting her lips red with my blood, saying, “We fuck well, regardless of whose blood we’re covered in.”
An understatement, if there ever was one.
Frustrated, likely for more than one reason, she took a step back and licked her lips clean, glaring at me and saying, “Fine. Then as your personal defender, I’m going to check the grounds and see if Godric has found anything new.”
And then shooting a challenging brow up into her hairline, she added, “And as your wife, I’m telling you that being told ‘no’ can work both ways.”
She smirked, likely feeling my internal protest, before turning on her heel and going upstairs. So I let her get as far as the front door before following after her.
I had to keep up appearances, after all.
As I made my way outside, I pretended to ignore her – just like I was pretending to ignore her threat to end our honeymoon phase – and instead let my eyes roam, taking in all of the recent changes to the landscape. Adele had been thrilled with the appearance of the new lemon grove at her disposal – even if she’d been kept in the dark as to their true function – and the staff had been the grateful recipients of her latest endeavors.
Lemon pies, cakes, and lemonade were now permanent fixtures in the kitchen.
Sookie had even gotten into the mix, so to speak.
During the day, she’d been giving Hadley lessons on how to defend herself against an attack. And in return, Adele had been giving Sookie lessons in the kitchen. But I knew she’d only played along to get to know her grandmother better, rather than learn how to bake.
And I knew enough to not ask, feeling her conflicting emotions about her kin, both human and Fae.
Walking through the yard, I was circling closer to where Sookie stood, speaking to Godric. And I suspected from their matching glares and looks of exasperation, they were united in their stance against my refusal to allow her to bait the Asshole.
But they were entitled to their opinion.
Like assholes, everybody had one.
I just refused to use her in order to gain a faepire one.
My eyes were still on them, so I saw when her head snapped towards my direction, with her eyes settling on the open air in between us, just as I sensed the now familiar nearly silent resonance in the air.
The one that signaled the arrival of a teleporting fairy, a split second before they made an appearance.
Being with Sookie made me attuned to the sound. Like the echo of a vibration in the air, I recognized it just as easily as I could her heartbeat.
Even without the visual verification that it wasn’t my mostly human fairy who was the cause, our bond would have told me so. So I took off, closing the distance still separating us, with the intention of catching the unwelcome visitor as they rematerialized.
Niall or Ailill.
They were both assholes in my book.
But I should have known better because rather than making an appearance, I only had a second to realize they were keeping themselves cloaked.
And only a second more to realize the gnawing emptiness inside of me was our bond, telling me that Sookie had popped herself onto the invisible intruder, right before they both popped away.