We landed at our stilt home just after three o’clock in the morning. Prime vampire hours. The many, many vampires I needed to call were awake and going about their business. The humans and shifters were no doubt all sleeping in their warm, comfy beds, tired from a long day’s work and happily sawing logs in dreamland.
So I called Sam Merlotte first.
It rang several times before he picked up, cursing as something fell over. “Yeah?”
“Merlotte. It’s Eric Northman.”
“Wha? Jesus, man. Couldn’ta called me at nine? Four days ago?” He picked something up from the floor, only to stumble several steps and hit something heavy. He swore again.
“You’re right. Let me find my royal crested stationary and jot down when it’s best to contact a shifter booze slinger in the ass end of my territory. Merlotte is spelled with two Ts, correct?” Shithead.
“Y’all get royal stationary?”
“What the fuck do you want? I assume you didn’t call to flirt this deftly.”
I heard his muscles stretch as he arched his neck and shoulders, shooing away his tiredness. “Boy, I can see why Sookie fell for that silver tongue of yours.”
I looked over at Sookie. She’d changed into some sweats that she’d found in the only bedroom and was currently scrubbing the coffee pot, which had been left on in our absence. It had powered down eventually, but not before burning its contents into a stubborn film of cinder. As badly as she wanted a cup, she wasn’t about to drink black carbon. She’d also found the bread, butter and cereal that Pam had bought. She looked over at me and blew me a kiss as she made her breakfast.
“Sookie has no complaints about my tongue.” No reason not to rub it in. “Is she the reason you called? Honestly, Sammy. Envy green is a color that just doesn’t suit you.”
“Fuck you and your dead, crown-wearing ass. I’m callin’ you about Jessica.”
“Yeah. Get your tongue offa Sookie long enough to take care of your own, why dontcha?”
The fire I had started nine days ago/two hours ago was just as cold and cindery as Sookie’s coffee pot. Balancing my phone between my ear and shoulder, I quickly began to rebuild it. Despite wearing warm clothes and trying to make a hot drink, I could still feel Sookie’s chill. Now that my adorable little mate was pregnant, it was my job to keep her warm. I piled it twice as high as before and struck a match.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Com’on, Eric. Her maker’s dead. She doesn’t know how or why, but she felt her connection with him detonate over two weeks ago. She hasn’t had any luck with the AVL or the Authority. No one will tell her anything, not even to verify if he’s gone, which she already knows damn well.”
“As her sheriff and now her king, I am her first point of contact if she had concerns about her maker’s disappearance. Why did she not come to me?”
The dog made a noise of irritation. “Maybe cuz she knows you hate Bill, genius. Or maybe she was building up the courage to bring her problem to the only other vampires she knows, but then you took a powder. Pam told her to fuck off. Told her if she wanted to find Bill, to try the Yellow Pages under Traitors and Lying Fuckwits. Now Jess barely talks, she’s so fuckin’ depressed. And I don’t know what she’s eating or who, but she looks awful. If Pam is the face of your retinue when you’re MIA, you might wanna consider making some more children. Ones with better customer service ethics.”
I snorted. If only he knew. Perhaps when Mo was older he could be my Chief of Staff.
“Tell Jessica to come to me at Fangtasia tomorrow night. Tell her she needn’t be afraid. I’ll give her the answers she needs, and I’ll help her through her pain.” Shithead or no, he was right. I hadn’t spared a single thought for Miss Hamby after Bill’s liquidation. My tie to Godric still felt like a phantom limb, torturing me with fleeting moments where I believed he was still with me. But, no. It lay severed and dead at the bottom of my skull, the beautiful magic that connected us strangled out of it. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that Godric had chosen his fate.
Bill was no Godric, but a maker was a maker. Jessica, still a fledgling, would be in agony.
Merlotte was silent for a moment. “Christ. He really is dead, ain’t he? She’s not just assuming the worst?”
“No,” I decided to be direct. “Bill Compton is dead. A vampire always knows when her maker is lost. I will tell her what I know and give her the support she needs to bear up under it.”
More silence. “Thank you,” he replied, with much less hostility. “I can’t help her. I want to, but I ain’t equipped. She needs her own kind, like we all do now and then.”
“Understood. Tomorrow. Midnight.”
“She’ll be there.”
We hung up.
Sookie had stopped moving in the kitchen. I looked up to find her hand pressed over her mouth. “Jessica,” she whispered. “I’m a horrible person. I never even thought about her after…” she didn’t finish.
“Nor did I,” I admitted. “And that was remiss of me. She is in my territory, alone and without a nest. She is vulnerable.”
She nodded, staring off into space. “I can be such a bitch sometimes, always imagining my problems are the biggest and baddest. Meanwhile a friend is heartbroken. And scared. And it’s partly because of me.”
Anger arced from me and smacked into her sadness. “You did nothing. Bill made his choice. His death was waiting for him after he joined Sophie Anne and turned his back on the Authority. Believe me, lover. A quick death by my Radia was a gift compared to how they would have punished him.” I emphasized that his death was mine. And that I’d inadvertantly been very fair.
She was still struggling with it. She’d never fully come to terms with it since we’d been so busy. Every day since we’d come together had been filled with some drama or other. It had shielded her from the full weight of her grief that was simply waiting for a quiet moment to press harder. I would not allow that moment to be now. Not when I had plans to celebrate.
I pointed towards her food. “Eat, please. You need your strength.”
She didn’t look at the plate she’d arranged. “What will you tell Jessica?”
“What I’ve told everyone else. Hadley killed that nest and good riddance. That she saved our kind from a serious headache and Bill was colatoral damage. I’ll offer her relocation to a nest, if she’d like to move out of the old Compton place. I’ll offer her work at Fangtasia, if she’d prefer to be among vampires. I’ll offer her the protection of a maker, en lieu of Bill. I did kill him. The least I can do is provide for his child.”
Sookie hugged herself. I sensed that she was hugging me across the room. “You are a good man, Eric Northman.”
“I’m nowhere near. But I pay my debts, at the very least.”
“Honorable, then. You’re an honorable man.”
I bowed slightly. “Your opinion is precious to me.”
She turned back to her food and her own phone, scrolling through her text messages and deleting as she went. I assumed the bulk were from Jason and Herveaux. She had a short leash, as it was charging from an outlet above the counter. She pulled up a bar stool, balancing her plate on her lap as she read.
I went back to my own phone. To avoid the call I loathed making, I called the various kings and queens that had tried to reach me. The queen of Arkansas had merely wanted to confirm her presence at an AVL event in February and request I make a residence available for her. I gave her the standard permission to enter my land and gave her a vampire-friendly mansion in New Orleans for her and her retinue. She was wholly ignorant of my absence and I simply apologized for taking a few nights to get back to her. She said she understood and congratulated me on my acquisition of two states. Annis Varya, her name was. I knew I’d liked her for a reason. For a queen, she gave even less a shit about politics than I did.
The king of Missouri, however, was a cock. It was clear from our brief conversation that he was interested only in fucking me. He’d berated me for not contacting him sooner, and again for “making him” deal with Pam like he was a lowly delivery man. Finally, after he’d pissed in my ear for seven minutes, he finally announced that he and Sophie Anne had a prior agreement that entitled him to 5% of the generated income of Louisiana vampire businesses. Owning several of those businesses myself, I knew his claim was absolute bullshit. But I smiled into the phone and told him I’d look into her books to find out what was owed to whom. I had zero plans to pay him, but the last thing I needed right now was another fucking frenemy.
We hung up.
Sookie had set her phone aside and was eating her toast, watching me thoughtfully. “Nice guy?”
“Hmm,” she offered, chewing quietly. “Hadley’s staying at Alcide’s place. She left me a ton of messages, each one slightly racier than the last, not that she’d think so. Sounds like he swept her up and ran off with her after finding out we were missing. She’s working for him, too. He wouldn’t let her go back to Fangtasia.” She took another bite, trying not to smile. “I bet this house that they’re having comfort sex like two bereaved rabbits.”
I nodded. I never bet against a sure thing.
She shrugged, totally convinced. “So, what’s the story? I know you’re avoiding Domingo and the Authority. What do you plan to tell them?”
I grunted. “I’m questioning the wisdom of simply telling Massawa the truth. He already knows your origins. Admitting that I got sucked into their world for a few minutes wouldn’t expose us in any way that I can figure.”
She took a sip of cinder-free coffee. “That feels like a big, damn deal, even though you’re right. I can’t see the harm. What about Domingo?”
“What he tells his lackey isn’t my concern.”
“What if Massawa blabs our secret?”
“Men who predate the Copper Age didn’t get here by blabbing.”
She blew air through her lips like a nickering horse. “Fine. You get him more than I do. If you think it’s okay, then go ahead and tell him the truth. Minus the stuff about Mo, of course.”
“I’ll consider it. Unless I can come up with a lie that explains our absence, why we didn’t communicate with anyone, why I abandoned my post, and doesn’t insult their intelligence.”
She smirked. “So an alien abduction is out then?”
“Shotgun Vegas wedding?”
“A witch’s curse that left us total amnesiacs?”
“Now it’s just getting stupid.”
She finished off the last bite. “Fine. A visit to the in-laws in Neverland it is.”
I turned my back on the growing fire and joined her in the kitchen. Turning her closed thighs to me, I grabbed her plate off her lap and threw it in the sink. It broke neatly in half.
“Hey!” she sputtered.
I skidded her phone to the far side of the bar before lifting her off her stool and onto the slightly higher countertop. She was all wide eyes and reprimand, which grew in volume when I stripped her of her track pants. Once again, she wasn’t wearing panties.
I dropped to my knees before her, holding her knees apart. Over her breathy objections, I buried my face in her pussy and took a long, soothing drag. Yes. This was what I needed.
I parted her folds and took an equally long lick. I groaned as taste joined scent. The honey wheat of my lover combined with the icy floral scent of my child. Sookie gasped. Her hands shot backwards, bracing herself as she arched instinctively.
“You… you’re just avoiding that phonecall,” she whispered.
Yes. “I’m fulfilling a promise.”
Her tanned thighs trembled on either side of my face. I could hear her blood pulsing through them. And just a few inches from my nose, nestled deep in her flesh, was Mo.
“I haven’t had you like this in ages,” I muttered, continuing to lap.
“It..it’s…been two days,” she argued weakly, widening herself to my explorations.
“Correction. Eleven days.” I began to stroke her outer thighs to ease her excited nerves as I worked her. I looked up and found her straining, her shaply body hidden under a baggy black sweatshirt, her eyes shut tight, her mouth open slightly. “Where’s the dress I bought you? This is the second time I’ve been denied the right to tear it off you.”
She opened her eyes, only to look away shyly. “It was too tight,” she said softly.
I growled, remembering why. I reached up and tore the sweatshirt off her without moving her a single inch. She gasped again, all pert breasts, lush hips and a noticeably rounded belly.
My sanity deserted me. My fangs took its place. I dove into her thigh and bit.
Sookie shrieked. She grabbed me by the back of my head, her fingers digging into my scalp as she forced me harder into her skin. “Yesssss!” she hissed with pleasure.
I drank deeply. I threw myself into her flavor, combing through each delicious strand that wove into it. I found all of Sookie’s ingredients, made impossibly sweeter by our visit to Faerie. I pushed my tongue to the roof of my mouth, trying to pin down the newest essence to join the fray.
Taken from the most frigid landscape and scooped into my mouth, melting for the first time in decades. I remembered for the first time since my turning the sensation of the prickly little crystals as they softened and puddled around my human tongue, the flavor of the purest element of the north. I’d often stared at its spidery formations, memorizing its swirls and serrated beauty.
Was this the bond’s doing? The proof to assure me this child was mine? Not that I needed it. Sookie’s word was enough. But the fact that his presence in Sookie had turned her into a dizzying combination of sun and ice completely enslaved me. As if I weren’t already.
I made a half-hearted attempt to reassert my better judgment and disengage from her. I needed to be gentle with her. I wasn’t allowed to lose my shit and risk draining her. But Sookie heard my thoughts and held me tighter, shaking her head emphatically. “No,” she said. “Don’t stop.”
I’ll damage you, I thought to her, taking another pull despite my fears.
She shook her head again. “Claudine says you can’t because of the bond. Not even if you wanted to, remember? You can drink me for hours, she said.”
That’s true. She had said that. I took another mouthful. And another. Moaning against her, I brought my fingers to her entrance and pet her gently. She fell back on her elbows, completely lost to pleasure.
“Can you…taste him?” she keened, jerking forward, riding my fingers.
“Oh, God. …What’s it like?”
Home. Wonder. The miracle of finding another soul that I love as much as I do you.
My finger sank into her tight heat. I slowed my draws so that they echoed each deep pump inside her.
She unspooled in minutes, crying out and trembling under my mouth. Her pulse quickened and caused a flood down my throat. I took it gratefully, letting myself drink much more than I normally would before unsheathing my fangs and licking the wound.
I stood up between her legs. Her eyes were heavy and unfocused, yet she stared at my clothes in distaste. “No fair.”
I moved to unzip myself and finish my promise right there in the kitchen, but she closed her fingers around my wrists.
“No,” she said. “I’m sicka hard surfaces. Take me to bed.”
I laughed and zipped us into the bedroom. Her dress was laying out on the duvet, which I tossed aside before I upended her (gently) onto it. She joined me in laughing, looking positively edible as she crossed her legs and arms in front of her nudity. “I showed you mine,” she pouted up at me.
I took her hand and placed it on my shirt. “Do something about it.”
An evil expression crossed her face as her hand lit up and shucked me naked like a cob of corn. My clothes were not just tossed aside, but shot out of the closed window across the room, shattering the glass on impact. There was a soft splash as they landed in the swamp below. We both stared at the jagged hole in disbelief.
Sookie’s eyes widened, then she burst into hysterical laughter. “I can’t believe I did that!” She locked her arms around her bent legs and buried her face in her thighs, convulsing with mirth.
Devoid of clothes, I knuckled onto the bed and jerked her underneath me. She squealed, laughing even harder. “I’m sorry! I’m so…so sorry!”
“I know, but I’m really trying to be!” She was so damn pleased with herself. Glowing with pride, she was so wickedly pretty. She broke the window and ruined my things, and all I could do was worship her.
I kissed her and immediately shut her up. She squeaked with surprise, then settled into happy purrs as she returned it. Her fingers traced down my chest and stomach until she gripped me in both hands. I hissed, baring my fangs at her.
She leaned back onto the mattress and smiled up at me. “Tell me you love me in every language you know.”
I obeyed. With each slow stroke she delivered, I repeated the sentence over and over. The words I spoke should have meant nothing to her, and yet her pleasure grew with each one. After the tenth when I said it Vietnamese, she shocked me when she whispered ‘Thank you’ in the same tongue. Her accent was flawless. Better than mine. We paused a moment, taking in the significance, then I continued.
“I love you.” Portugeuse.
“I love you.” Nepali.
“I love you.” Iranian.
“I love you.” Algonquin.
On and on and on.
At last, I ran out of languages. I had a feeling that she was just getting started. I kissed her again. “You are magfinicent.”
She pushed up into me, wrapping her legs around me. “I’m not,” she disagreed. “I only hear English. I’m just copying your accent. It’s the only thing that changes, the words are always the same.”
“Remarkable.” And invaluable. Like Pam, I would now be able to communicate with her in a crowded room, if necessary, if our emotional telepathy wasn’t adequate.
She rained kisses on my throat impatiently. “Maybe we can move onto the physical portion of the test?”
I should have rolled and perched her on top of me. Perhaps sat up with her wrapped around my hips. She was so small, and her womb was busy creating a fragile little life. I needed to be careful, I didn’t care if I had Claudine’s word that I couldn’t hurt Sookie and the Scion was unkillable. Right now, there was simply a pregnant human girl beneath me.
And yet, I couldn’t stop myself from nudging her thighs further apart and settling most of my weight on top of her. Her bump pressed firmly into my lower belly. It clicked into place between us like a key.
Sookie was about to plead again when I positioned myself and slowly slid into her wonderful, wet heat. Her words faltered and her eyes rolled back. She arched up to meet me, her hips moving in time to the lazy rhythm I’d set. She bit her lips, eyes shut tight.
Moaning. Gasping. Little whimpers of encouragement. I watched her grow amusingly impatient as she realized I wasn’t going to push harder.
“You’re not fucking a crystal vase,” she chided, her hands sliding down my back and gripping my butt.
I tapped her nose. She flinched and automatically opened her eyes. I kissed her forehead. Her cheeks. Her chin. Her ears. I never quickened my pace. “How often do we make love slowly?” I asked her.
She turned her face into each kiss. “Almost never. Who has the will power for it? Or the time?”
“As of tonight, me. Slow, soft, sweet. That’s the only side you’ll see of me until further notice.” I reached between us, under the bump, and played with her clit. The small bundle of nerves practically leapt between my fingers. Her fingers dug into my ass. Her pussy clenched me tight as a snare.
“So mean,” she whimpered, reaching up with one hand to trace my face. “Soft and sweet is not the guy I fell for.”
“Liar,” I accused again. “Soft and sweet fixed your house. They sent you flowers. They crushed my harder, angrier inclinations. They own me when I touch you. When I think about you. Compared to how I can be, for you, I’m a fucking saint.”
She beamed wide as her fingertips found the points of my fangs. “Saint Eric,” she giggled, hiking her legs higher around my lower back.
I nodded sagely. “Patron saint of Stockholm,” I informed her honestly. Not that that sanctimonious fuck was any relation.
She laughed heartily at that and pulled me down for a long, searing kiss that had me bucking harder than I’d wanted and giving her the orgasm she craved. Shivering and sobbing against my fangs, Sookie’s vibrations and my wrung-out dick sent me over the edge as well. So much for slow.
She heard my annoyance.
“Any slower and you’ll never get to that phonecall. Go on. Ring, ring.”
I cursed and withdrew from her, hating how cold I felt without her around me. My phone was in the living room, which was way the hell out there, but I guess it could be worse. It could have been in my pocket, which was now underwater.
I zipped out and back in half a second, holding the offending object. Before I could talk myself out of it, I woke it up and jabbed his number.
He answered. Fuck. I was hoping for voicemail.
“King Northman. Goodness, I was beginning to fear the worst. Where have you been?” Domingo sounded pleasant enough, though I detected a pissy undertone.
“Paulo. My apologies for not returning your messages until now.”
“Messages? You’ve been missing, sir. Not even your progeny could enlighten us on your whereabouts. You deserted your throne a week after accepting it. I know you had reservations about becoming king, but is this the level of professionalism we can expect from you?”
Christ. “Of course not. I assure you, I have a very legitimate reason for my absence.”
I could almost hear his indulgent smile. Smug pencil pusher. “I’m all ears.”
“I’m afraid I have to disappoint them. I’ll explain myself only to the Magister. Directly.”
“Unfortunately that’s not possible. I am his new Attaché and all of his corresondence must go directly through me. You may be assured of my discretion in regards to sensitive information,” he spoke in a low, pacifying tone, as if trying to calm a nervous poodle to stop it from pissing on the rug. Asshole.
“Appreciated. I’ll be sure to remember the next time I have a super-big, important secret to give him. This time, however, I must insist. The Magister will have a special understanding of my situation.”
There was silence on the line. Then, “I must tell him something.”
I sighed dramatically. “Fine. Tell him I was visiting my in-laws. I shall be at Fangtasia tomorrow night, if he’d care to speak to me about it.”
Domingo scoffed. “Surely you don’t expect me to give him such a flippant, disrespectful message.”
“I do. Word for word. Have a fabulous evening and congratulations on your appointment.” I terminated the call before he could respond.
Sookie had been on the bed the entire time, wrapped up in the comforter and watching me with an amused expression. “Think he’ll show up tomorrow night?”
“I have no idea. If Domingo can manage not to be a sniveling cunt for three minutes, my message should reach Massawa intact. Hopefully he’ll know enough about the Fae to be satisfied with our disappearance at their whim. He might not care. He might be curious on an academic level. He might view our truancy as a threat from an ancient enemy. He might be annoyed that I’m prone to abduction. We’ll see. The point is, he’s already in the know.”
She unwrapped herself from the chocolate-colored blankets and started to lay them flat on the bed again. “Grab my purse, would you?”
It was dangling from my hand before she finished her question. She smirked as she took it from me. “Lie down.”
“Ready for more, lover?”
“Later. Right now, just get on your stomach.”
I cocked my head, but did as she asked. Crawling onto the silky spread, I lay down next to her sitting form, watching as she fished in her bag and pulled out a travel-sized tube of hand lotion. “What are you going to do?”
She squeezed a generous dollop into her palm and rubbed her hands together. “You’re getting cranky and tired. You’ve been running full speed and haven’t had a break. I can’t exactly take you to a spa out here in the middle of nowhere, so I’ll just have to relax you myself.” She held up her shiny hands. “Ready?”
“You’re going to massage me?”
She nibbled her lip nervously. “Yes?”
The Radia clenched me slightly, my heart touched by her concern. “There is no need, Sookie. My muscles don’t get sore like humans. Take my place and I’ll rub you instead.”
She shook her head emphatically. “Nope. I feel great, though I’ll hang onto that offer when I’m a huge, waddling penguin with swollen ankles. Right now, I just was to take care of you.” She batted her huge eyes at me. “Please?”
I dropped my head to the mattress and closed my eyes. “I’m yours to command.”
She giggled with happiness and straddled my ass. With her bare body pressed tightly into mine, I already felt fantastic. But the moment her warm little hands made contact with my shoulders, I knew I’d been wrong. My muscles weren’t sore, but they loved being tended. I grunted in appreciation as she dug the pads of her fingers between my shoulder blades.
“Yes.” Fuck, yes.
“Good,” she murmured, working her way down slowly. “Did you see the message from Ludwig? She has my test results.”
“I did,” I replied. Jesus, was this was all massages felt like? Why the hell had I never gotten one after I turned? I assumed they would have been wasted on me, but feeling Sookie stroke my ancient body reminded me just how old it really was. I should have treated it to this more often. “I’ve replied and requested that she come to Fangtasia tomorrow night with her diagnosis. I’d like to hear a medical opinion and not just a queen’s.”
“Me too,” she said. She braced her knuckles against my lower ribs and pressed her thumbs into the dense tissue surrounding my spine. “Fuck,” I hissed, splaying wider under her hands. “Where did you learn to do this?”
She chuckled. “Jason. Being the QB1 may have looked glamorous to all the cheerleaders, but to his sister, it meant a whiny baby begging for a back rub. That game tied him in so many knots, he felt like a Chinese puzzle.”
I groaned again when she swept up to work on my neck, pressing her breasts lightly against me. Her dagger pendant lifted and dropped softly between them. “You’re not acting like my sister,” I warned darkly.
She kissed the rim of my ear as she worked. “You get the special, naked rubdown. It’s so exclusive that no one’s ever had it.”
“I’d kill anyone you named otherwise.”
She squeezed my upper arms. “Oh, you and your death threats.”
We settled into a comfortable silence as she continued to work me. I was hard from her ministrations, but that wasn’t new. It was a common occurrence in her presence. I felt no urgency to relieve it, I simply basked in her attention. She shifted to sit on my thighs as she started in on my ass. Normally I would have teased her, but I knew from the bond that she meant nothing sexual by it. She drilled into the enormous muscle group, hell-bent on massaging it soft and pliable.
Her voice startled me. “You might have three guests tomorrow night. Did you mean to set it up that way?”
She’d rubbed me into a state where talking seemed a chore. “Not really. There’s no reason to stagger their visits. They’re all coming on very different business and are wholly ignorant of each other.”
She thought a moment, laughing through her nose as she moved lower again to my thighs. It was getting dangerous now. Her intentions were pure and sweet, but she was beginning to play with an area that did not share her purity.
Between my spread legs, I felt her fingers caress balls. They tightened. I growled.
“It sounds like the opening of a joke.” She cupped me. I lifted slightly from the bed to give her better access. “A fledgling, an ancient and a monster doctor walk into a bar…”
She nudged me to flip over. My cock was suddenly in her mouth. She sucked away all interest I had in the punchline.