Six Weeks Later
After a thousand years, my most eventful two months on record had been the two months I’d spent with Sookie by my side.
Even Pam’s newborn nights paled by comparison. She needed most of my attention, but she was miserable. There was nothing enjoyable or exciting about watching her suffer from the adjustments she was so determined to overcome.
The Stackhouses’ were a completely different story.
After Shawn’s reunion with his children, everyone rallied to help one another make the load of pending chores seem lighter… Event after event, everything was completed collectively.
After Sookie’s meeting with Virginia Dawson, we knew the woman was perfect for the position of our publicist. She thought about how horrible it would have been if Rebecca Mills’s personal life hadn’t called her credibility into question. She thought about how easily everyone could benefit from her idea. She wondered if Sookie knew what a ‘fierce son of a bitch’ I was or if I was a remarkable actor, but Virginia was smart enough to keep that to herself. She was privately impressed with the fact that Sookie knew about Vampires and Weres… The first article she wrote accompanied our engagement photo. Virginia described Sookie as ‘sweet and energetic’ and explained that she was taking time off after high school before deciding on a university. We hadn’t set a wedding date yet, but we would work on that once we had an idea of what kind of wedding we wanted to have. The process was painless… and I made sure Rebecca Mills received a copy of the article rife with our input. Sookie said the frame and bow were ‘a bit much’.
Shawn quickly found two houses across the street from each other, but my house was the first to be closed on. Sookie initially refused to offer any of her opinions to the interior decorator, but after we met the woman for three meetings in three nights, Sookie took the reins. The interior designer was beginning to wonder if there was something to the article claiming Sookie was a Vampire because we didn’t meet her during the day. Sookie made herself available for meetings at Sandwich Island, and went as far as faking a couple of phone calls to me for my input for good measure.
Linda’s surgery, in hindsight, was amusing… I was told there was a mask over Linda’s face, pumping anesthesia into her lungs, and she was complaining about a call from the printer, delaying delivery of the menus. Meanwhile Jack was anxious enough for Ludwig to sneak up from behind and sedate him. After three hours of surgery, everyone waited another five hours for the results of the cultures. By the time Ludwig was finished searching for signs of cancer, I’d gotten my voicemails from Sookie, taken care of the problem with the printer, and arrived at the hospital with Linda’s completed menus and a pint of Shawn’s blood. He wasn’t confident about being at a hospital, so he bled himself the night before. Jack cried when Ludwig announced Linda was cancer free, not that there had been any reason to suspect, but given that cancer had taken his wife from him, I decided he was allowed. I’d have been lying if I tried to claim that I wasn’t anxious to hear the test results. Linda’s incision was still healing when Shawn called me, excited to have a sense of her because he knew she wouldn’t be given his blood if she had cancer.
Even though the grand openings of the Drive-In and Sandwich Island were upon the immediate horizon, the Stackhouses didn’t overlook Shawn’s living arrangements. Jack, Alcide and several packmates arrived at Patty’s house to pack and move the Ingram’s belongings to Shawn and Patty’s new houses on Magnolia Creek Road… Shawn was elated to have James’s help with furniture shopping and deliveries. Adele, Hadley, Linda and Julie banded together to decorate his house and made me regret my interior designer, and I gave Shawn his first lesson on light-proofing his bedroom. While Shawn had the help of the Stackhouses, his house was ready for him to move in to immediately, but Patty only had the help of one friend. Shawn was so disappointed the children stayed with him for the first week of the transition because Patty found unpacking was easier to do without help from little people.
All the while, Sookie practically lived with me. Between working with her family at Sandwich Island, and spending her nights with me, Adele finally said something to me about making Sookie’s move official… because Tina was getting confused. Since Sookie brought Tina with her when she spent nights at my house, and then to Sandwich Island with her when she went to work, the restaurant’s office had become known as the doghouse. Most of Sookie’s clothing had already trickled to my house one outfit at a time as it was.
If everything went according to plan, James had run the errands I needed… I’d finally thought of a way to ask her.
I rose with Sookie’s warmth pressed against my side, under the Swedish flag quilt Adele made as my housewarming gift, and the phone was ringing.
Not my cellphone. The ‘family’ phone… Even though the installation of the new cell tower offered a perfect signal, Sookie suggested a land-line because she felt ‘dirty’ using my phone while I was dead for the day.
Sookie didn’t stir when I shifted to reach for the phone on her nightstand.
Hadley… and I couldn’t tell if she was surprised I answered or nervous about something.
As far as I knew, the family had declared the last two days before opening a holiday. Linda was the only one working and she was supposedly only receiving deliveries. The day should have been uneventful, a breather before their important meeting with Price tonight.
“Hello. How are you? If Shawn’s children have locked you in a closet, I can’t rescue you for a while yet.”
She made a strange noise and asked, “Where’s Sookie?”
“She’s lost in a Vampire coma at the moment. Should I wake her?”
She hummed and nothing more.
“Is something wrong?”
“Uh… this is kinda a private thing… but… I’ll just… I’ll just wait for…”
Sookie snorted and lifted her arm from my chest. “I’m up now…” As I handed the receiver to her, she grumbled, “What’s up?”
“Uh… Sook, are you still with Erik?”
Sookie grunted and shoved the blanket off, crawling to the end of the bed, stumbling over Tina on her way to open and close the door without leaving…
Then she smirked at me as she quietly resumed her original position.
“You’re lucky I had to pee anyway. What’s up that Erik can’t know about it?”
Sneaky little bitch.
Hadley whimpered and started, “You gotta promise not to be all kinds of offended, K?”
“Are you freaking out so bad you called me so you can’t affect me?”
Hadley whined, “Yeahhhhhhhh.”
“Jesus, what’s going on?”
“What are… how do you and Erik deal with birth control?”
Sookie growled, “You woke me up for birth control advice? You’re cutting into my lazy time… Rubbers are good. Rubbers plus the pill is better. Who are you thinking about hooking up with?”
Hadley whimpered again, but didn’t answer.
Sookie sighed, “Shiiiiiiit… who did you hook up with?”
“Sook… I think… I’m pregnant.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Um… Mommy asked if I’d use her Always or if she should just throw them out… so…”
Sookie pressed, “So… what?”
Hadley blurted, “So it made me start counting and it’s been a while since Flo visited… and I went to the pharmacy and now I’m looking at three plus signs!”
As soon as she was finished confessing, she broke down and began sobbing.
“Hadley… who’s the daddy?”
Hadley wailed, “That’s why I called you. You can’t tell Erik…”
“Hold up. If you don’t want me to tell Erik, then don’t tell me. I won’t lie to him and he’s going to be curious about the call.”
I really wanted to hear the secret, but knowing how serious Sookie was about being honest with me softened the blow.
Hadley was quiet for a moment before she sighed, “Fine, I won’t tell you, but hypothetically, since you’re sleeping with Erik, could y’all end up with a family?”
Sookie took a deep breath and sat bolt upright. “You slept with Shawn!”
“I didn’t say that. I’m asking because he mentioned in passing that his Maker told him rubbers weren’t necessary because Vampires can’t get sick.”
“When did you sleep with him?”
“Sookie, Shawn isn’t the only single Vampire in the world.”
Sookie rolled her eyes and growled, “No Hadley, the baby isn’t Shawn’s. Vampires can’t have children, they make them. When did you have sex with him?”
Hadley sniveled, “Eighties Night. If you’re going to tattle, make sure you tell Erik Shawn didn’t hurt me or anything. I don’t want to get him in trouble.”
“Are you still sleeping with him? Is he feeding from you? Have you ever felt confused, maybe had a loss of time?”
At least Sookie was calm enough to ask rational questions instead of berating Hadley when she was already upset, but I wasn’t sure that would last long…
I took the phone from Sookie as Hadley explained, “It’s not like what I used to be like. I really care about him… and now I’m pregnant and if he can’t be the father… that means I got pregnant while I was trashed and… it probably happened the night… the night… the night at Glamour when I crashed your date… and that’s just great because now Shawn’s not gonna want anything to do with me and…”
There were certainly better circumstances to be in.
I sighed, “Hadley, take a breath.”
Instead of taking my advice, she stopped breathing. “Erik? You heard? Oh my GOD!”
“Is that what you’re worried about at the moment?”
“I don’t want you to be mad at Shawn. He didn’t do anything.”
“Did he force you?”
“Has he fed from you?”
“No. He said he didn’t want to test himself like that yet.”
“He could be glamouring you, replacing your memories of feedings with affirmations about restraint.”
“Okay… but I don’t think he is. Would he still be hungry? ‘Cus he’s fed right after. Straight out of the fridge and everything.”
That bastard had so much fucking control over his impulses, Pam and I were jealous. At his age, he managed to stop himself from feeding from a glamoured victim… without prompting.
I’d already told Pam it seemed we worried about nothing. He was absorbing every item of etiquette we told him. His public behavior was impeccable and not a huge deviation from his business conduct. I could have given him an outline of Supernatural anthropology and sent him on his way, but even if I gave him his walking papers, he wouldn’t leave his children. His company was more than tolerable, and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
“I’ll talk to him…”
“NO! I don’t… I don’t… that’s not what I want. I mean… He knows I’m a recovering slut and that I just got clued into what I am and all, but… I don’t want him to find out about this from you… Pleeeeeeease.”
“I wasn’t referring to the pregnancy, Hadley. I meant that I’d talk to him about something that’s actually my concern. I don’t want him to attempt fucking and feeding simultaneously yet. Just because he has impressive impulse control doesn’t mean I’m foolish enough to think he can’t be pushed.”
She whimpered, “K.”
“You should start by deciding what you’re going to do about the pregnancy. Your next step should be telling your mother.”
She started crying again and asked, “Can Sookie hear me?”
“No.” I floundered with the idea of having her move in with me for long enough… eventually, I’d figure out a way to broach the subject of bonding. The occasional drop of blood from a nibbled lip wasn’t enough to heighten her hearing, just keep my sense of her from waning.
“K…. I uhhhhhh… I kinda want to keep it… I had an abortion a couple of years ago… and it… I don’t know… I just…”
“You’re a different person now.”
She snorted, “Not so different I can keep my fuckin’ clothes on!”
“Different enough that you regret past decisions. Talk to your mother about it. I’ll be seeing Shawn shortly, but I won’t discuss our matter until he knows what prompted the topic.”
“You want me to tell him tonight? With the Witches being in town and all that going on?”
“Since there isn’t any chance he’s the father, there isn’t a rational reason for hesitation. The pregnancy is simply a factual part of your existence, like your freckles.”
“Erik… we aren’t just… we aren’t just hooking up… we’ve… we’re kinda… we’re kinda serious… He… wants to tell his kids about us, you know, that we aren’t just friends.”
How the fuck did that slip past Sookie’s telepathy?
As much time as she spends with them… her days with Hadley at Sandwich Island and several nights each week with me supervising Shawn’s feedings or visits with his children.
Eighties Night was five weeks ago… Five fucking weeks!
They could have been careful, diligent about bathing, and keeping their relationship from his children wouldn’t be too complicated since they only stayed with Shawn part-time, but FIVE FUCKING WEEKS!
“Hadley… is Shawn glamouring you to not think about him when you’re with Sookie?”
She sighed, “Yeah… But it was my idea… and he only glamoured me once. He said when it wears off, we come clean.”
“You’ve both been lying to me.”
“It wasn’t about you… I swear! I… I didn’t want my family to find out and think I was up to old tricks… You know them.”
“Why didn’t you want me to know he’s fucking you if your family is the concern?”
“Because… you’d tell Sookie, ‘cus y’all are like that. Sookie would worry. Then Jason and Brandon… the whole family would know in ten minutes… Erik, I’ve never dated anyone who isn’t a dirtbag. He’s said that our age was a thing for him at first. He’s worried the family will think less of him.”
“Even though there is a much bigger age difference between Sookie and me?”
“It’s different because it’s been so long since you’ve been Human. He’s still in between being Human and being a Vampire because he still has so much of his Human life. I mean, he’s a 35-year old guy with a 20-year old girl. It looks like a midlife crisis on paper.”
“I don’t think they’ll be as unforgiving as you’re expecting… Is your intention to tell everyone about the pregnancy, and withhold the information about your relationship with Shawn?”
“Are you okay with that? I mean… I don’t want you to feel awkward about it. Shawn and me want to come clean, so that’ll happen soon enough, but…”
“One thing at a time, yes?”
“Yeah. It’s bad enough I have to sit Mommy down and tell her I’m pregnant and I don’t know who the father is… Telling her I’m dating Shawn when she’s practically adopted him is another thing… How mad are you, about the Shawn thing?”
“He’d already be in silver if I had told him to abstain from sex… and you’re only Mine in protection. I can’t dictate who you fuck.”
She paused for a moment and finally sighed, “Okay. That was the rational answer. What’s the rest?”
“If he lost control, you’d be in the family plot, Hadley. I can’t protect you if you lie to me. He’s too fast for you to escape. He’s too strong for you to overpower.”
“You’ll probably think it’s stupid… but… I know… It just… it just feels really good to be with someone who isn’t just waiting for me to shut up. He likes me. I can feel it.”
I growled… Anyone else probably would have thought it was stupid, but after centuries of knowing better than to bother with pets, Sookie had reformed me. She was a risk I’d taken against my better judgment, and I hadn’t found a reason to regret it yet.
“You’re saying it was worth the risks.”
“I might have said yes before I met Sookie.”
She giggled, “You’re so fucking sweet on her… You know Mommy’s gonna flip out and call you, right?”
“K… I’m going over to the shop. More space to move around in case I need to dodge something. It’ll take me ten minutes to get there, ten minutes to tell her, and another ten before she’s done screaming and throwing shit. So… half an hour. Time it.”
Sookie took the phone from me to return it to the charger and sat on the side of the bed with her head in her hands.
The longer I waited for her to say something, the more confused I was by how she felt… it was all too much.
“What are you most concerned about?”
“How much hot water is Shawn in?”
“You think I lied to Hadley, yes?”
“It would serve her right… and there was a lot going on upstairs while you were taking to her.”
“You have me at a disadvantage. It isn’t fair you have hints from my mind.”
“I’ve had your blood.”
“Not enough… I didn’t lie to her, but I wasn’t completely forthcoming. I don’t have the luxury of just discussing feeding while fucking… I have to tell him you’re all Fae.”
“He should know about Fae anyway…”
“That isn’t up for debate… The problem is protecting him from himself. I can’t be sure if he’d take my warnings about Fae seriously. His only exposure to Faeries has been hybrids…”
She snorted and twisted around to snuggle up to me again. “You’re afraid he’ll grab a rattler because of how docile your ribbon snakes are.”
“That’s a very fitting analogy… The other problem is if Hadley’s blood tastes like yours, he won’t be likely to…”
“Wait. You said you aren’t addicted.”
“I’m not, but nothing else compares to your blood.”
“Then, it’s possible, because there isn’t a huge difference… he could just think of it as a fifth flavor.”
“Am I about to hear another analogy?”
She narrowed her eyes at me, but she was obviously trying to think of one. I’d been teasing her for weeks, but she knew I enjoyed how her mind processed facts, the way she managed to simplify even the most complex topics…
“Okay. I think this is one of my best yet. Early settlers whined and moaned into their journals about resorting to lobster… Nowadays lobster is a celebration dinner, something for special occasions. You spent a thousand years with only four options, it could be that Shawn would react to Hadley’s trace of Fae like he would to a bag of something new… He’s only been getting bags of A and O, right? That leaves Bs and ABs.”
I nodded, completely entertained and hoping she was right. “I remember feeding from slaves on a nearby farm at first. They all had the same type… After a few weeks we moved on. The difference between types wasn’t lost on me. Your theory is that since he’s being presented with a fifth flavor now, he’ll take it for granted, yes?”
“I think so. I mean, I know AB-negative is really rare, but if that’s all you had for a while, wouldn’t you crave something else? AND my theory is supported by his reaction to our scent. Even Pam’s nostrils flair from time to time, but Shawn has no reaction to it. He had more of a reaction when I made a cake and took it over for the kids. His eyes rolled back when he smelled pineapple upside down cake, but Aunt Linda isn’t worth an extra sniff to him.”
“I think your theory has some validity to it…”
“If it wasn’t Hadley, one of us, would you think it’s a big deal for him to try feeding while… you know.”
“I can’t say I’d care. I don’t think he’d lose control. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s his gift. I had to hurt Pam to make her stop feeding when she was his age. My Maker had the same problem with me…” I’d probably have the same difficulties with Sookie.
She sighed and tightened her arm over my ribs. “Well, then… if they’re up for it, I can monitor him while you supervise, like we did the first few times at the club. I have a good baseline for what his mind is normally like and what it’s like during feedings.”
“You’re suggesting he feeds from your cousin. Now. While she’s pregnant?”
She raised her eyebrow and snorted, “You don’t hold your fangs back when we’re together. You nick me all the time… He needs to be tested because eventually they’re going to get lax. Hadley will feel how much he wants it and offer…”
“Fuck… This would be much easier if she just decided to fuck Pam. I can trust her not to accidentally drain your cousin… Now that you aren’t worried about Shawn, what else are you concerned about?”
She sighed, “Nothing.”
“No really. It’s crappy. It’s hard to get the old Hadley stuff out of my head. The pregnancy is a better reason to worry about her relapsing, but I don’t think it’s horrible. A few months ago, I’d be flipping out, but now she’s being a lot more responsible and she knows she has her family if she needs anything… It’s not my place to judge anyway. I should be optimistic instead of skeptical. That won’t do Hadley or little No-Daddy any good, right?”
“Do you think you’re going to begin believing that soon?”
She whined, “God, I hope so… It would help if you could glamour me to think about butterflies and rainbows when she’s around.”
There was no question about the feelings in that statement.
“I can take lies. I hate them, but since everyone lies or has ulterior motives, it’s part of my day… Being conned? Hell yeah, I’m bitter. Do you know the last time someone got one over on me?”
“Other than the spoiling treaty?”
“Other than the treaty we might as well not have.”
“That’s not true. You have no idea how much fun I have with the loopholes.”
“What was the loophole for the Jeep again?”
I was surprised she didn’t mention the house first… then again, she knew if my name was on the deed, we wouldn’t be completely safe here. Once the property was warded, only a force of nature could harm either of us on the property.
“That wasn’t a gift. It’s your fault. If you hadn’t been at the movies with ‘the girls’, I wouldn’t have been bored enough to go to the dealership when Shawn bought his new car. The Jeep was an impulse-buy because there have been times when my two-seater has been impractical.”
“Right. Except you keep slipping and saying things like, ‘it’s in your glovebox’… How about the kitchen full of vintage blue hobnail glassware you bought after Aunt Linda joked about registering for a china pattern?”
Linda didn’t just joke about registering for wedding gifts, she mentioned Adele used to have a hobnail pitcher and glasses set. Over time, one piece at a time was broken until there was only one glass left and for a couple of years, it was ‘Sookie’s glass’…. And she cried when it was broken in the sink. The little brat tried to hide that she was crying when she opened the cabinet to discover them, and then used her lipstick to write ‘sweet’ on every mirror in the house.
“I have to keep appearances, so I bought a set you liked…”
“Set my ass. You bought every piece of blue hobnail in three parishes and then surfed Ebay for more… What about the custom-made chaise you ordered for the backyard that doesn’t have a pool?”
Sunshine… We canceled our plans and sealed ourselves into the room for an entire evening after Sookie sunned herself by the hotel pool and slipped into bed with me for a nap. My fangs were down and I was hard before I had full control of my body. That accidental discovery was priceless.
“That was an entirely selfish act, and you know it. That fucking chaise is my prized possession.”
She giggled and kissed my chest. “You love your loopholes.”
“You love your treaty.”
“Not as much as I love you. I’m still going to call for a press conference when you finally stick to it.”
If she only knew.
When she began trying to pull her legs up so she could leave, I held her to me. “No. Where are you going?”
She pushed out her bottom lip and pouted, “Empty stomach and a full bladder… and we’re meeting Price in just a little bit. No time for snuggling.”
“What about fucking? I’m almost sure we can…”
She snickered, “Sorry.”
“Not maybe… I’m sure Christenings do wear off. The kitchen and the den need our attention.” It had been three nights.
She cackled as she wormed out of my arms and left the bed… then pulled on her shorts and my T-shirt from last night, and collected the rest of the laundry on her way out with Tina at her heels.
Knowing that her stomach and bladder were on her list of things to tend to, I listened, waiting for her reaction.
She used the bathroom…
She used the old service hallway leading to the back porch and went outside with Tina…
She stopped in the den to play the message on the answering machine. Adele called a couple of hours earlier. “I was just calling to let you know Price arrived safe and sound. He brought his daughter with him. They’re just as delightful as they can be. He says we’ll be ready to go at 9:30. I’m bringing snacks and I’ll have something solid for Sookie. Love you two.” She sounded just as giddy as I expected her to be. She was girlishly excited about her ‘magic lessons’… and she was even more excited when Price accepted her invitation to stay with her even though I offered to board him at the Chancellor.
Sookie giggled, “I guess you heard that since you’ve got that ‘isn’t Adele adorable’ feeling to your mind.” She already knew me so well.
Then, what I’d been waiting for… When Sookie walked into the kitchen, she gasped and shouted, “WHAT DID YOU DO NOW!?”
I chuckled as I left the bed to take a shower…
I chuckled while I showered…
I chuckled while I dressed…
As halfheartedly annoyed as she was, I’m sure she was fantasizing about kicking my ass until coins fell out.
The wall of gifts prevented her from using the table in the kitchen, so I found Sookie sitting on the island with a bowl of cereal, scowling at the presents.
“As excited as you are, this loophole is epic, isn’t it?”
Not excited. More anxious than I could ever remember.
I shook my head. “No loopholes.”
She raised an eyebrow and shook her head. “Six huge boxes… Six.”
“We’ve discussed that gift-wrap doesn’t count.”
She nodded. “As long as it’s actual gift-wrap and not an uncut sheet of bills from the US Mint or a Rembrandt, right. This is Hallmark, but it’s still wrapping paper.”
She tilted her head to the side. “It’s the 13th and you’ve only got $21 left of your spoiling rations. Are they full of ping-pong balls?”
“The gift in question came to $12 and change. There aren’t any ping-pong balls in the boxes.”
I shook my head. “None… Are you going to open them, or stare at them as though they should be punished?”
The corners of her mouth turned up as she pushed herself from the counter.
As she reached for the first box, she balked and looked over her shoulder. “No loopholes?”
She was going to kill me.
As much as I wanted her to be pleased, I knew there was a possibility she could want to stake me… And I’d shown her where they were all hidden.
I repeated. “No loopholes.”
“It doesn’t matter which one I open first?”
“You’re toying with me.”
She giggled, “Can you blame me?”
I’d laugh later… maybe… but for the time being… “Just open one.”
“I only get one?”
I growled, “Sookie…”
She laughed and turned to her gifts. “I got it, I got it. Sookie open. Yes sir.”
As she pulled the paper away from the first box, I managed to make my legs cooperate enough to join her and watch over her shoulder.
She paused for a moment when the first box was full of small bundles of brown paper…
She took one and unwrapped it to find a pair of her sandals…
She couldn’t have been more confused when she grabbed another bundle and unwrapped a pair of espadrilles.
“This is… This is my stuff.”
I wrapped my arms around her waist and agreed, “That seems to be the case.”
“The $12… that was… for the boxes?”
“Did you factor James’s time?”
“He’s salaried… Are you stalling?”
“I don’t know.”
“Should I explain?”
She was quiet for a moment before she nodded. “Yeah. Please.”
“The boxes can be returned to your room at your grandmother’s house, or they can be taken upstairs to our closet.”
“You’re… you want me to move in?”
“You practically live here already. I want you to stay.”
“You’d never get a break from me.”
“I don’t want one. I have to share you too often as it is.”
She tossed her shoes into the box and turned around to face me. “Let me get this straight… The first time you didn’t exploit a charity…”
“I doubt Pastor Roper considers himself to be a victim.”
She huffed, “Or manipulate the traditions of an absurd holiday…”
“International Friendship Day is a legitimate holiday. Hallmark substantiates it. A friendship bracelet was in keeping…”
“Friendship bracelets are made of string, not platinum.”
“Why do you have to be so literal?”
Her face puckered to keep from laughing when she slapped my arms… just like the first time we had the argument.
“You stuck to the treaty without giving me a bunch of disclaimers and that ‘I’m too sexy to stay mad at’ smirk.”
“I want you to move in. I want to bond… The treaty and all of my loopholes are fun for both of us. This isn’t a game. This is something I’m very serious about.”
She cringed and breathed, “I can’t believe you aren’t sick of me yet.”
“If it hasn’t happened yet, I doubt it ever will… You’ll move in?”
She studied my chest for a moment before nodding. “Yeah… I think… This was sweet.”
“It was calculated. I made sure James packed the boxes too heavy for you to carry.”
She giggled, “Sweet… It’s really sweet, like dream-guy sweet… Feel free to shut me up at any time… maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s the sweetest…”
I was sure she could have continued indefinitely if I hadn’t kissed her.
When she pulled away, she breathed, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Try to keep that in mind. Linda’s here. She brought Hadley with her.”
“Of course… We could move to another house and not leave a forwarding address.”
“They love you too.”
I was still trying to figure out how the fuck that happened.
“Then why do they continually visit? I’m vetoing your clothing requirements on the first story.”
She took my hands to tow me towards the foyer and snickered, “Don’t you dare. That isn’t a seed that needs to be planted in Jason’s head.”
I growled, “Good point.”
I knew what was going to happen… I was sure Linda was going to rant and rave like a lunatic, admitting she was unhinged, and then demand that I give her ‘the math’. ‘The math’ equated to a rational reason for her to calm down… and apparently, I was ‘God’s gift to logic’.
The problem, the snag, the hitch in the simple task of delivering such logic, was that as Sookie reached for the door to greet her upset aunt, I heard Shawn say hello.
He was expected to join us, ride to Sandwich Island with Sookie and me, because of the educational value and exposure to magic, and so he could ward his houses to protect his children.
Since he was early, I could only assume he’d felt Linda’s mood as he rose.
He asked, “Is something wrong?” as Sookie opened the door.
Linda and Hadley were in desperate need of washing their faces. Evidently, a combination of eyeliner and mucus was required to make a Stackhouse woman look dreadful.
When Linda spotted me, she blurted, “You knew!”
“For a matter of minutes before Hadley told you, yes.”
“Why didn’t you call to warn me?”
Shawn looked like he’d just stepped on a landmine. I was sure his mind was racing over my reaction to the news of Hadley’s new boyfriend.
Sookie huffed and reached for Linda’s wrist. “Y’all come inside. You don’t need Mrs. Bellefleur gossiping about this.” When Shawn balked, Sookie motioned and ordered, “You too. C’mon.”
As soon as he sheepishly walked through the door, Sookie took his wrist and Hadley’s and towed them into the kitchen. Sookie was trying to defuse the situation, put some distance between the distraught empath and her worried mother, but Linda followed them.
She folded her arms and huffed, “I’m scared to death, Erik. I don’t even have it in me to go on a tear. Just give me the math.”
At least I was half right.
Sookie rolled her eyes and pinched her mouth together to correct her grin.
I sighed, “Alright. I’ll start with the fact that Hadley hasn’t given a single reason to doubt her since she discovered her ability. She mastered it in a matter of hours. Unless you count the dispute over the ingredients in a TMI sandwich, Hadley hasn’t been part of any conflict, except to help resolve it, in nearly two months.”
Linda took a deep breath and nodded as she gave me a gimme gesture. “That’s a good one. Keep ‘em coming.”
“For those two months, Hadley has not only worked every day you have, but she’s also been assisting Shawn with the care of his children, and she used her free time to use my computer to make a disposable menu for Drive-In customers… When has Hadley ever shown so much initiative or determination?”
Linda’s chin trembled as she fought back tears. “Never.”
“Your family gathers constantly. I’d give a soft estimate of a dozen opportunities Hadley’s had to consume large amounts of alcohol, but she refrained because she knows being intoxicated affects her ability.”
She gulped, making a bizarre clucking sound and whispered, “I think you’re almost done.”
I nodded and stepped closer. “Keep in mind, Hadley was born the night she discovered her gift. She was given tabula rasa, so anything she did before then is immaterial even if her disposition hasn’t performed a 180°… Now, if you had a friend with a 20-year old daughter, who consistently displayed maturity, responsibility, restraint, compassion, and devotion, what would you say to them?”
She slammed her head against my chest to hug me and sobbed, “Congratulations.”
Hadley blubbered into her hands.
“Linda, why are you hugging me? Hadley is already covered in snot.”
She laughed as she let go of me and as soon as her arms were around Hadley, she squealed, “I’m gonna be a grandma!”
Shawn… that poor bastard had to lean against the counter to keep from falling over.