I hardly looked at her as we dressed.
I hardly looked at her as we left Fangtasia and drove home.
I made myself not look at her as I quickly checked my home’s perimeter for signs of possible spies, then checked my email for word from the Authority, plus any updates in regards to my area or my businesses.
I didn’t want to look. Looking at Sookie (especially when I knew she was walking around with no panties on) eroded my concentration and did pleasant, horrifyingly distracting things to my dick. The way she’d crawled onto my desk, pretending to reach for her clothes, splaying her knees wide and provoking me with the sight of her perfect, inviting pussy. I’d had no choice. I was fucking her before I’d even realized I’d crossed the room.
She seemed maddeningly unaware. Right now, she skipped upstairs like fucking Shirley Temple, her hair bouncing behind her as she called out that she was going to shower and change. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her little white shoes disappear up my stairs, all but daring me with their innocent heels to come and do something about how cute I found them. Was I chickenshit? they asked me. Was I above rushing her on the staircase, knocking her down and fucking her from behind again while she laughed in triumph at my total lack of control?
If I hadn’t had her half a dozen times in the last twenty-four hours, they might have been right. That girl had my balls on a leash, complete with a little bell. Everywhere she went, they followed behind like eager labradors, nipping at her legs, begging for attention. To think of all the women I’d fucked in this wide world, who meant nothing to me accept an amusing waste of time. The way those women had followed me with the same pathetic devotion that I now gave Sookie. I disgusted myself, and took only a small comfort that the owner of my balls was an angel and would never use them against me. The fact that I owned her heart was also a consolation, though not as big of one as I would have liked. Every time I looked at her, I saw a human-sized diamond, flawless and bright and attracting attention from every angle. She might have been too modest and sweet to know her own worth, but I knew every vampire in the world saw that same diamond. Under the bedrock of my confidence, that fact shook me to the bone.
I was stronger than most of them, but I wasn’t as strong as all of them.
They could try to take her. They could try to woo her. I wasn’t sure which prospect blinded me more. My hands trembled. I knew now that she couldn’t be bitten, but what about knives? Bullets? Love spells? The thought of other hands on her, whether hurting her or caressing her, her beautiful eyes wide with fear… or interest.
But no. She was mine. Her skin and her mind and her Light and her fucking beautiful eyes, they were mine. She only cared for me. Fuck, her Light had Chosen me before either of us were even aware of how perfect we were together. We were that fucking fated. And while I might be only one vampire among millions, my fairy was only one of dozens, if not fewer, and she belonged to me. We were one.
I growled in annoyance. The ache in my chest that was Sookie’s remove informed me that that was total bullshit. We were not one. Not physically. She might have only traipsed upstairs for a shower, but that only served to illustrate that she couldn’t live wrapped around my hips, like I’d threatened her in my office. She was capable of wandering away. She was capable of being kidnapped. The ache in my chest was a two-pronged pain: one was my blood inside her, calling out to me and wanting my closeness. The other was her Light, throbbing hotly, demanding I find its owner and protect and love her with every fiber of my being.
Our exchanged powers were hungry little bastards. Both the blood I’d given her and the Light she’d given me were never satisfied unless we were skin to skin, rutting and screaming and oblivious of everything except each other.
As much as I wanted to, we couldn’t fuck in perpetuity.
From my study, I cocked my head to one side and listened to the patter of the shower water above my head. Sookie was humming very softly to herself. It had no melody, it was just the soft noise of a happy girl.
My growl deepened. I wanted this Claudine creature. Now.
I wanted her to stand in front of me and guarantee that Sookie now shared my immortality. I wanted her to assure me that the Fae tome was actually an instruction manual that outlined how Sookie and I would live forever, free of enemies and jealous rivals, complete with a list of desert islands we could choose from, on which we would live out the rest of our limitless days.
The book may have been six inches thick, but that excerpt was the only possibility I cared about. Sookie must not die. At least not a human’s death. If her expiration were to occur in five thousand years, I supposed I might begrudge the compromise. It was a big might, though. Five thousand years felt like a swan song, if that was all the time I was given to be with my mate. But I would take it. Anything was better than fifty-odd years, during which Sookie would age and sicken. If that proved to be the alternative, I would track down Time itself and kill the bastard.
Shaking off my gloomy thoughts, I grabbed my phone and hit the speed dial.
She answered in one ring. “Fuck Off Chauffeur Service. Picking up or fucking off?”
“Fuck off,” I chose from her list. “Is it done?”
“Your latest blonde acquisition has been taken to her cousin’s.” I heard Pam’s irritated smirk, her tongue sliding over the line of her teeth.
“Hadley,” I corrected. “Do not refer to her as mine. Only Sookie.”
“Happy,” she incorrectly repeated. “As in ‘Happy ending’. If you’re so above your own bite, can I have her?”
“Pam,” I drew her name out warningly.
She sighed, pained. “Fine.”
“Good girl. Now I need you to find two guards: a vampire and a day walker, preferably a shifter. People we can trust.”
“Is your ass too busy and naked to guard Sookie properly?”
“Fuck off,” I repeated. “The guards are for the child. Hadley is immaterial, but her son is a serious liability.”
Pam paused. “Won’t a child surrounded by supe guards tip our hand?”
“Not if they operate on the periphery. The child and the parents will be ignorant of their presence.”
“Very well. I’ll make enquires.”
I hung up. Sliding my hand through my hair, I stood facing my fireplace, lost in thought.
Suddenly, the Light in my chest flared and danced merrily as two sleek arms slid around my ribcage and I was hugged from behind. My gifted blood was pressed against my back, buzzing with equal joy now that it was nestled against its master.
“Is it weird that I missed you? Just now when I was upstairs?” she mused as she rubbed her cheek between my shoulder blades. The smell of synthetic peaches and soap informed me that she’d found the gel I’d bought for her. She seemed to favor that fruit in her toiletries, so I’d bought them, hoping they pleased her.
I smiled lightly, snaking my arms over hers at my waist. “No.”
I allowed her to hold me, enjoying how she started to sway softly, as if she were comforting a child. I released the pressure on my feet and let her take me with her, back and forth. Back and forth.
“I don’t want to summon Claudine. I want to spend the day with you. Alone.”
My smile deepened. “And I you.”
“But you’re gonna argue that we need to see her, right?”
“Because you have questions.”
“So there’s no point in me arguing back?”
“No point at all.”
She smirked against me. “What if I argued naked?”
“You’d get fucked, then told no again.”
Her heart smacked her breast. I felt it against my ribs. I smirked in kind.
“I’m not sure that’s a deterrent,” she murmured, rubbing her forehead against my shirt.
God damn her soft voice. I found myself already planning how to make her playful threat a reality. Her breathy exhalations and her firm, high breasts sliding against my back as we moved almost pissed me off, they were so distracting. I turned in her arms, lifting them away from me.
“No time for play,” I admonished, looking down at her. She was wearing a soft gray cotton baby tee and a pair of very improper tiny green short shorts. Her feet were bare. Without even asking, she was asking for it.
Her lips puckered in annoyance. “Meanie.”
Chuckling, I walked to my desk and took out her book from my lock box. I held it out to her. “It will be dawn in half an hour. Where would you like to try?”
She shrugged, coming forward to take it from me. “I don’t think it matters. Claudine won’t give a damn if she appears in your library, or sitting room or even your walk-in humidor. The only thing she’ll dislike is you. Vampire and all.”
“Walk-in humidor? Why would I have such a thing?”
She shrugged again, holding the book to her chest. “Why do you have a kitchen?”
“It came with the house.”
“Yeah, but houses this big always have weird rooms. Bat caves, panic rooms, silver closets, secret pervert alcoves over the beds, underground hydroponic pot farms, and of course, some giant room filled with dollar bills that you roll around naked in,” she touched her fingers as she counted off her list.
Her mind was simply wonderful. I drew a finger down her cheek. “Why would I roll naked in money?”
“I dunno.” She looked up at me with teasing disinterest. “Make money angels?”
Money angels. I grabbed her face and kissed her savagely. She giggled in my mouth, kissing me back, but with a smug, victorious laziness that made me kiss her even harder. Christ, she made me crazy.
“I’ll call my contractor tomorrow. He’ll build any weird room you want.”
She snorted against my lips. “Right. Cuz two people need waaaay more than this pathetic twenty-thousand square foot shack.”
I paused. “Two people?”
Her face instantly straightened and her eyes dove for the floor. “One. One person.”
I drew her more fully into my arms, tsking her. “We’re bound together for life, lover. You needn’t blush. You will live with me permanently.”
She didn’t look up, her embarrassment at her slip showing on her cheeks. “We haven’t talked about it.”
“We haven’t talked about many things. I don’t care where we are, or whose house we’re occupying, we’re living together from now on.”
I felt a soft, wavering uncertainty in her. It had an odd, unfamiliar feel to it. She feared something about me. I cocked my head and zeroed in on it. She feared… my inflexibility. And my wealth. She whispered. “I want to keep my house. Please…” She looked up, her eyes wise with the knowledge of what I was capable of. “Please don’t do anything to it. Like tear it down or something? Just to make sure I stay here with you?”
I slid my hands down her back. “You honestly think I would?”
She bit her lip sheepishly. “I think you can. Those two things usually go hand in hand.”
My fingers met the twin curves of her hips. I let them play there for a moment. “You love your home. And you’re impossibly proud. If I destroyed that house, I would break your heart and you’d never forgive me.” Sookie’s sadness could only be rivaled by her silence. She would never speak to me again if I indulged in such a frivolity. Bulldozing her house had never occurred to me, though it might have, had I merely wanted to outmaneuver her and leave her with no other option than to stay with me. Her pride would have been another obstacle, however. This woman would have likely preferred homelessness to letting some man force her into check. I was a master at chess, but Sookie would simply set the board on fire and tell me to shove my king up my ass.
As far as I knew, chess strategy had no answer to such a play. Another reason I adored her.
I burrowed my face into the side of her head. Her hair was dry. She hadn’t washed it. The scent of peaches was outshone by the scent of fairy. I filled my lungs with it.
“Your house will stand for the next five hundred years, if you wish it. I’ll have it declared a Louisiana heritage site. I’ll set up a trust to ensure its upkeep. I’ll dig a fucking moat around it with my bare hands.” I felt her ear through her tresses and nuzzled into it. “Will that mollify your fears of my fickle nature?”
She cuddled into me, her mind warming with mirth. “Wouldn’t the fact that you’re fickle mean you could renege any time you wanted?”
I smiled. “Our location is irrelevant, Sookie. As long as you’re by my side. I would never destroy your belongings.” I paused and reconsidered. “Except for your car. I will destroy your car.”
A stinging slap hit my arm. “I’ll starve you for a month if you so much as touch it.”
My mouth slid forward until I found her cheek. “You don’t love it. You drive it out of necessity.” I tapped her head. “You feel nothing but annoyance when you think about it. You’ll secretly love me even more when I buy you a new one, even if you act angry.”
“Shut up,” she miffed against my face.
“Stop arguing,” I countered. “Or I’ll spend an extra ten-thousand dollars on its replacement for every minute we waste discussing it.”
She scoffed. “Well, then you’re buying me the damn Mir space station, cuz we’re going to fight about this ’til the cows come home.”
Oh, if only she knew. When the Russian government ran into financial troubles earlier this year and began courting private interests to help maintain their space program, my corporation invested heavily in the Mir 2. I imagined that without too much difficulty, I could indeed buy the remaining equity and present her with the deed, just to see the look on her face.
“Shall we shelve it for now?” I suggested, pulling away, wanting to swim in her eyes instead.
I felt her melt as she looked at my face. I smirked. She might be a hellcat, bent on denying me on principle, but that didn’t mean she didn’t find me hard to resist. She huffed. “Fine. Shelved.”
“Excellent.” I fingered the book that she held between us. “Time to meet your family.”
It started slowly.
I stood outside with Sookie, watching the dawn’s light as it dove into her hair and reflected wheat and honey. We’d decided that while Claudine would appear or not appear no matter where we tried, the sunrise was special to us. A small part of me was still disbelieving as I watched the light stronger while feeling no pain as the sun discovered my unauthorized presence. I was suddenly a small child on the beach again, too near the ocean’s torrent, away from where the other children played in safety on the dunes. My mother would smack my hands, admonishing me, telling me I was too small to test such angry water.
I still expected such punishment from above, but the sun was no longer angry at me.
I looked at my hands, dazed as sunlight blanched my pale skin. I looked back to Sookie. She held her book earnestly, her eyes closed in concentration. My true sunshine.
I waited quietly. She didn’t believe the book was pivotal to her summons, but didn’t think it could hurt, either. I felt her rummaging around her own mind, collecting and discarding thoughts that might help her pull her fairy relation from her hiding place.
“Claudine?” she asked the air around us. “I need to see you. Can you hear me?”
She pursed her lips, squinting harder behind her lids. “Please,” she entreated. “I know you sense Eric. He’s not a threat, I promise. You’ve come to me in this place before and I’m asking you to again. We need your help.”
The birds sang happily from the trees above us. The trees whispered softly to each other in the breeze. The smell of Sookie took most of my attention, filling me with its usual notes of smug propriety. Several minutes went by.
“Shall I wait inside?” I offered.
She shook her head. “She’s not stupid. She knows you’re here and that you can day walk. If you wanted to hurt her, all you’d have to do is zip outside again and grab her.”
I sniffed again. Yes. My woman was maddeningly fragrant. I watched as she readjusted her stance, tossing her head back and clearing her throat. “Please,” she called louder. “I know you can hear me.” She held the book out, offering it. “What the hell is this thing?”
I took one breath after another. Something was happening. Still watching her, I slid one step towards her, raising my head and scenting the air. Sookie didn’t notice. She was sending her vibes out into the universe and wasn’t looking as my mood turned unexpectedly predatory.
“She’s here,” I spoke low, taking another step.
“I don’t feel anything.”
Another step. Sookie suddenly smelled like heavily-chummed water. I swallowed. “You’re sweeter.”
She turned towards me slightly and smiled, not understanding. “Stop,” she said modestly.
“You don’t understand.” I reached out and snatched her close. She gasped softly, but didn’t struggle. I buried my nose in her throat and breathed deep. “Fairy,” I said against her. “Delicious little fairy.” The urge to bite her was suddenly almost overwhelming. “Call out again. Tell her to step forward.”
She drew a very cautious breath. “Are you hungry?” she asked quietly.
“I’m this close to tearing you apart,” I warned lovingly. “Say. Her. Name.”
“Claudine,” she whispered.
The air thickened with pure light. A loud pop. And suddenly we weren’t alone. I tore my eyes away from my lover’s pulse and looked up to find an honest-to-god fairy in front of us. Dressed in ragged pink gauze, the pretty woman looked at us with wide, nervous eyes. Her scent was pleasant. Much like Sookie’s, except stronger. I leaned forward and scented her. She flinched at my movement, taking a small step back.
Odd. She smelled luscious, yet I had no interest in her. Instead, I simply put my face back in Sookie’s hair and breathed again, luxuriating in her increased potency.
Claudine addressed her kin, never taking her eyes off me. “Sookie,” she acknowledged.
Sookie smiled, trying to step forward to greet her and away from me. No fucking way. I clutched her, growling low, licking the side of her neck, skewering Claudine with the wrath I suddenly felt at her presence. Sookie made a noise of exasperation, trying to push me away in front company, embarrassed by what she thought was an affectionate display. I held on tighter.
She gave up, standing in my arms, but holding her hand out to her. “Thank you for coming.”
Claudine didn’t step forward to take it. “Of course,” she said. “You asked for me.”
Sookie gestured up towards me. “Eric Northman, this is my fairy godmother, Claudine. Claudine,” she motioned awkwardly between us. “This is Eric. My Chosen.”
I wanted her gone. I wanted the whole world to empty. I wanted Sookie. Now. I never wanted to see another person ever again except her. I never wanted to touch anything else, or look at anything else. My mind was filled with her, her scent erasing my knowledge, my memories, my cares. I shook my head hard.
Claudine inclined her head slightly. “Vampire,” she greeted cooly.
“Fairy,” I gritted against Sookie.
Sookie pushed at me again. “Rude!” she hissed at me under her breath.
I didn’t care. Neither did Claudine. Her icy blue gaze held no interest in meeting me, falling instead to the tome nestled against my mate’s exquisite tits.
“Stop,” Sookie whispered harshly. I’d filled our bond with my slithering, impatient demand for her. She had no idea. No fucking clue.
“What have you done?”
Claudine’s question drew Sookie’s attention back. Claudine was staring at the book in her hands. “What have you done?”
Following her line of sight, Sookie held out the book in apology. “I’m sorry,” she said automatically. “The vampire queen Sophie Anne had it. I stole it from her home, and now I need you to help us figure a few things out-,”
Awestruck, Claudine strode forward, knocking the book from my lover’s hands. I hissed in fury as Claudine put her hands on Sookie’s belly, looking at us with a wonderment that stayed me from killing her for her trespass.
“This,” she breathed quietly, fingering the gray fabric of her tee. “Sookie, how is this possible? The Light of our kind…”
Sookie looked down at herself, frowning at her cousin’s strange tone. “What are you talking about?”
“The pure Light,” Claudine whispered, not answering her. She looked up at me. “The Scion,” she said reverently. “Vampire, what have you done?”