Sunshine, lemon and the garden.
My arms were around her when I opened my eyes. She was snuggled into my chest.
It didn’t take any time at all to realize that she’d done it on purpose… She’d gotten back into bed, but made sure I’d know right away that she hadn’t been there all day…
I buried my nose in her hair, taking her in. “You laid out today.”
She hummed, putting her arm over my side. “For a long time. I fell asleep. Jason saved me from a sunburn.”
“Did you not rest for a while this morning?”
“For a few hours, but Paulette is a broadcaster and Gran and her were chattering away. Once Jason was up too, I couldn’t make myself sleep anymore… Paulette’s wards for keeping folks off the property actually help block your neighbors though.”
“I could have her ward this room specifically if you think it will help, but what is a ‘broadcaster’?”
“Oh… uh, ok. Everyone is different. Gran thinks in words and pictures, like she’s narrating a story. If she’s thinking about a grocery list, she’s imagining putting the items in the cart or lining up ingredients to make something. But the words she thinks have a bit of an echo to them. The echo is really normal.”
“Ok.” Her gift was so… for lack of a better word, mysterious; a curiosity that I couldn’t have explained deeply enough.
“Jason, get ready to laugh… he doesn’t think in words nearly as much as pictures… like a children’s book.”
She gave me a minute, snickering at my reaction to how fucking perfect it was that her dim brother thought in cartoons.
“So Paulette… her ‘voice’ doesn’t echo. She’s one of the few people that if I’m not paying attention, I might answer a question that she doesn’t ask out loud. Really clear and not fragmented like… well people don’t tend to think in complete sentences.”
“So do the ways people think tell you anything about them? Like their personality or…”
“Yeah. Absolutely. Broadcasters are a bit of a pain for me socially because I have to watch myself, but… they think like that because it tends to be the case that they usually say what’s on their mind anyway. Really honest, as a rule.” Paulette had always struck me as trustworthy. Getting the telepathic seal of approval made me want her in Shreveport all the more.
“What about Bobby? You told me what he thought, not how.”
She giggled. “You know how a kid would grumble stuff under his breath for getting grounded or being told to clean his room… Every thought Bobby has is like that. Your day guy is a grumpy teenager in a suit.” Lovely.
“Quinn is similar to Sam?”
“For the most part other than subject matter.”
“Quinn wants to fuck you while Sam wants to settle down and have a litter of puppies with you.”
She laughed and slapped my side. “Stop that. He’s being a pain right now, but he’s a really good guy.” Good enough for the friend zone.
“Fine, but I reserve the right to match his vampire jokes and it’s still open season on other shifters.”
She rolled her eyes. “Thank you… I’m having a lot of fun with all the vampire brains too.” Oh fuck.
“It’s happened again?”
“No. Not really… I want to meet another young vampire like Hadley.”
“Do you hear her?”
“It was a little creepy at first… it’s a whisper. Like it’s too fast or one on top of another… I can’t understand it. I want to know if it’s because we’re blood or if it’s her age.” Intriguing.
“There are 2 vampires in Shreveport younger than a decade. I’ll have them come in to the bar so that you can test your theory.”
“Cool. Thanks. Now, are you ready for the real kicker?”
“I don’t know.”
Sookie’s look became more serious, making me wish I’d just said no. “I think… I think the queen has a telepathic connection to her children.”
“Why? What would make you think that?” I couldn’t decide how to feel about her theory.
“A hum. Like a low drone. It isn’t constant, but… I heard it coming from Hadley while she was hurt. The Berts and Andre… It was coming from Andre last night between the dining room and Sophie-Ann’s apartment… Then she didn’t ask how the search for spies went. And… Sigebert was humming when I tried to get him to call her for me. I think she can communicate with them. I’m really freaking fascinated by it and I want to ask her about it, but I don’t know if it’ll go well.”
“That is fascinating… have you not heard it between Pam and I?”
She shook her head. “Are you thinking it could be something else?”
“The night you met the queen, I ‘called’ Pam from the queen’s apartment to bring Jason to you.”
“Called her? What’s that?”
“A maker can ‘call’ a child and vice versa. It’s a part of their bond.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oooooh, can y’all do it so I can see?”
I nodded. “When she rises. If I do it when she isn’t expecting it, it’ll scare her.”
She smiled, and felt excited at the idea. “If she can communicate with her children mentally, then it might explain why she’s willing to pay me so well. If she’s been sitting on a half power for a thousand years, then she’s probably imagined the possibilities of being able to read other minds a few times.”
“You’re right about that. The night I met you I started imagining all the practical applications for hiring you.”
“But you offered to help me before you knew it could pay off for you… why?”
“Because you didn’t want me to fuck you, bite you, abuse you. You didn’t want a loan or a job. You had the mettle to walk into a vampire bar looking like a virgin sacrifice in that pretty little white dress of yours knowing that you may very well get nothing but unwanted advances. You looked directly into my eyes and told me that you thought it was probably a lost cause, but weren’t going to give up without trying. I see wretched, polluted, vulgar, feeble and naive people parade themselves in front of me nightly as though they are the cream… You stood out.” I hadn’t even needed to think about it.
“Like a sore thumb.”
“Like… an oasis… Refreshing.” To say the least.
“Now… I consider myself lucky as far as bastards go. Bill being a horrible escort for you seems to have been a good thing for both of us.”
“Because Bill would have turned me?”
“Probably not. His plan to turn you was probably motivated by my participation. He most likely would have seduced you or bonded to you and you wouldn’t have known it to be because he wanted your ability at his disposal. On my end… had he gotten his way, in the near future I would have been dealt the enormous cluster fuck of my queen’s murder which would have put my existence…
“Life. You might not breathe, but you live. If I can’t call telepathy a disability, then you have to stop implying it about yourself too.”
I smiled at her pluck. “Understood… Sheriffs don’t usually withstand a coup. They either fall in defense of their monarch or run like cowards.” A pang of fear rocked her before she had the chance to hide it… The very idea of something happening to me hurt her…
“So Bill being a knob put me in a position to be an employee of the queen, not a slave… discover the coup plans before the marriage happened… get you a little more trust from the queen because you didn’t hide me from her and save you from being ‘downsized’.”
I nodded. The most enjoyable aspect being that I get to rise with her more often than not. For now.
She smiled and leaned over to place a sweet kiss on my lips. “We should thank him.”
“Don’t worry. He’ll learn how much he’s appreciated soon enough.”
She giggled. “I’m starting to worry. Considering what you do to Pam, and you actually love her, I’m not sure if I can handle how you’d ‘thank’ Bill.” Fuck. That word again.
“What makes you think I love Pam?”
“I don’t know what you call it… Whatever it is that would keep you two together all this time… I’m sure it’s not something you can define for me, the maker/child thing, but it’s all I can compare to.” At least Sookie wasn’t throwing the word at me just to annoy me…
“Well then, let me assure you that what Bill will endure at my hands will be excruciating.”
“I thought you said you weren’t going to hurt him.”
I smiled at her. “I understand that humans have anxious dreams about being humiliated in public… such as arriving for a speaking engagement ‘in the buff’.”
“No, of course not. Health code won’t allow it, but when he sees what he’s wearing, he’ll offer to bartend nude.”
“Oh my God! You ARE a bastard!”
“How long will you be mean to him?”
“Until his maker arrives to fetch him. I’ll only have him for two nights.”
“And he’ll have a night to recover from Andre’s hospitality?”
I nodded. “Speaking of Andre…”
She growled as she rolled away and ‘thanked me’ for reminding her.
I was still laughing when she untied her bikini top and flung it at me from her bratty trudge to the bathroom.
When I entered the bathroom behind her, she was already under the water.
Her new coloring had gone unnoticed in the darkness of our room, but under the stark lighting in the bathroom her skin was darker and her hair was lighter…
I stood back, watching the water fall over her back in sheets as she pushed the water through her hair…
“Aren’t you getting in?”
“It’s not in our best interest.”
She giggled, bending over further than she needed to for the shampoo. “If you say so.”
Her desire was chiseling away at my resolve more than my own as I watched the suds slide down her body.
I wanted more than anything to get into the shower with her.
…To have her supple body pressed against mine…
…To to hear her sweet voice echo back from the glass and tile…
…To taste the sunlight on her skin before it was lost to her body wash…
…To feel her breathing, her heart as it was my own…
…To lose ourselves in the dazed unconsciousness of feeding from each other…
But instead, I watched her…
And damned myself for having the willpower to stay where I was.
I was in pain by the time she stepped out, leaving the water on for me and smiling innocently. “Later though, right?”
I growled at her, baring my fangs.
She grabbed a towel and giggled her way into the bedroom. “You don’t scare me.”
I shook my head as I stepped under the water. “Why not?”
“Because I plan to stay on your good side.”
Staying on it wouldn’t be much of a problem… only seeing my good side… that might be more of a pipe dream.
After the loneliest shower of my ‘life’, I found Sookie standing at the mirror applying her makeup. She dressed herself tonight without standing at the closet, unsure of what to wear. She’d chosen a pink and white button down dress. It was pale enough to accentuate her deeper tan.
Pam came to the door while I was dressing and Sookie invited her in.
She smiled at Sookie. “That one is perfect. The light colors show off that tan I’d kill for.”
Sookie grinned back. “You should get a spray tan.”
“Yeah. You stand in a booth and these little jets spray you with a dye that lasts a week or so. Lots of spas offer it now.”
Pam’s eyes lit up. “Would it look natural though?”
“Jason had a girlfriend that had the money for it… It looked really good.”
“I might just try that… What do we have planned tonight?”
I smiled to myself and sent a gentle ‘call’ for Pam… Earning a confused look from her. Sookie had continued to apply her makeup. Unfazed.
“Oh, did you do it already?” Shit.
“Yes. Just now.”
Pam started shaking her head. “What are we talking about?” The fact that Sookie’s ability has exposed the queen’s gift.
“Sookie believes that Sophie-Ann might have a telepathic connection to her children.”
Sookie grinned, feeling quite sure of herself. “I get an intermittent humming from them… last night when Hadley was hurt… and Sigebert… Andre sort of helped me put it together. He didn’t ‘say’ anything to the queen about the spies we found and she didn’t ask. Eric wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just picking up a call.”
Pam jerked her head to face me. “More.”
“More? You’re standing right here.”
“Don’t bend me in half or anything, but… Just try.”
I stared at her, waiting for her to reconsider. I should have known better. I was given a stomp and an impatient shake of her head. Brat…
I started gently, letting it build, pulling and watching her reaction. Her posture deteriorated as she lowered to her knees and held her arm up to keep Sookie from helping her.
“Stop! I’m not hearing anything.”
I let go of the ‘embrace’ as it used to be called and finished dressing while Sookie fussed over Pam.
“What does that feel like?”
Pam shrugged. “On the lower ‘settings’ it’s something of a nagging. The more he puts into it though, it’s dizzying and weakening. He could cripple me.”
“Why would you need more than the nagging though?” Punishment.
“He’s only ever used a stronger call to teach me to feed. Young vampires can’t control themselves when they’re hungry…”
I finished, “…And they’re always hungry.”
Sookie gasped. “That’s why you want Hadley to fill up on true bloods before she goes to rest? So she doesn’t…” So she doesn’t drain you or Adele as soon as she rises?
I nodded without turning around. “It’s a circumstance that she is quite aware of. She might have balked at the provision otherwise.”
“But Hadley wouldn’t…”
“She could. She would. She’d also hate herself for it as soon as her senses come to her.”
“Would Gran be safe? When Hadley visits?”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because either Pam or I will stay as well. We rise earlier because of our age and are much stronger than she is. She’ll be given true bloods just before dawn and taken ‘out to dinner’ every evening.”
“Oh my god! That’s such a pain… Gran wouldn’t have invited her if she knew…”
“I’m aware. That’s why I haven’t mentioned it to Adele… Nor do I plan to.”
“But Eric, Gran would…”
“Adele doesn’t need to know that her granddaughter is, and will continue to be an unwilling threat to her.”
Pam agreed with a nod. “Sookie, our being present can be chalked up to the Queen simply wanting Hadley to be protected. It’s too unique that Adele is so accepting of vampirism. It would be a crime to frighten the woman. Let her be happy that she has Hadley back. We’ll take care of the rest.”
Sookie quietly nodded. Confusion was at the forefront of her emotions, but it seemed that she was trying to get ahold of how she felt about the new information.
I excused Pam with a nod.
“Hadley needs to be babysat?”
“For a while, yes.”
“For how long?”
“Most probably another decade. The instinct to feed is too strong.”
“Why are you willing to… It’s going to be such a pain and you won’t get anything out of it… You’ll miss work… and…”
“Hadley’s visits will make her happy. The queen will appreciate that I am supervising her because if Hadley drains her grandmother it would most likely destroy her.”
I sat next to her on the bed. “Excuse me?”
“That’s not the real reason.” Still unable to get a grasp on her feelings, she resorted to being thorny. I was starting to realize that it was a pattern now that I could feel her emotions.
“Things are very different now… but I can’t think of many vampires who wouldn’t envy the ability of returning to their family… The old saying ‘you can’t go home again’ means something very different to vampires.”
“What about you?”
“I’m including myself.”
“You had a family?”
“You didn’t want it?”
“No. I didn’t even see it coming… Going home was all I thought about for years.”
“What about Pam?”
“She went through phases… Did you learn what the hug in the hall this morning was about?” It was a desperate grab for a change of subject.
She smiled, her mood lifting instantly. “Gran went into the garden and made a fresh arrangement for Pam’s dresser and ran a bath for her… she floated some flowers. Fresh bedding and everything… She left her a note. I couldn’t get the whole thing out of her head, but she called Pam a godsend… Did you ask because you really want to know or because you aren’t comfortable talking about before you were a vampire?”
She smiled at the floor. “K… You could have just said so though.”
“I don’t want it… I was starting to think that it wasn’t so bad, but if I couldn’t be around my family… it’d kill me.” Figuratively speaking of course since she’d already be dead.
“I understand that.”
“I’m really kind of scared too… I mean… if the queen wasn’t… I can tell you that my telepathy has gotten stronger since I first had vampire blood… I might just go bat shit if I couldn’t be around anyone.”
“Adele had already mentioned it. I wouldn’t want that for you… But honestly, I was worried last night. Before I knew that you were unharmed, I’d rather you were a vampire than gone completely.”
“Are you saying you thought about turning me?” Uh oh. The only reason that I wasn’t alarmed was that she didn’t seem as angry as she was curious.
“When did you start thinking about turning me?” Within minutes of meeting her.
“Early on, but I found myself wanting something other than a maker/child relationship with you.”
“But you would turn me instead of letting me die.”
I nodded. “I would turn you instead of losing you.”
“Even if I hated you for it?” Most children do hate their makers for a spell… since they aren’t given a choice.
“I’d be willing to risk it.”
“Because I’d rather have you hate me than tend to your grave forever.”
“You met me 10 nights ago.”
“I’m not sure how that matters. It doesn’t have to be rational. Sookie, how would you feel if I were ended? If someone were to manage to take my head off…”
There was no need to finish describing my hypothetical final death, no need to wait for her to say anything. As quickly as her chin began to quiver and tears to fall, I was overwhelmed with grief and pain… More powerful than I’d ever felt anything.
I tried to smile reassuringly as I thumbed away her tears. “The idea of seeing something happen to you isn’t any more painless for me, let alone easy to understand… and we’ve yet to bond.”
“Bonding would do what?”
“You’d sense my feelings. We’d be able to call each other as such… It would intensify what we already feel for each other…”
“If I wanted to, would you turn me now?”
“At the moment, no. You’ve already stated that you don’t want it.”
“So you only thought about it last night because you were scared that I could be too hurt for you to heal me.”
“And that’s where we are at the moment? You wouldn’t turn me unless there wasn’t another option.”
“At the moment, yes.”
“But you’d like to eventually. Honestly. Don’t rebound like you did the last time I was asking by throwing the marriage red herring out there.”
“Yes. Right now, I would be very pleased if you change your mind eventually.”
The crease between her eyebrows appeared as her focus went from me to her shoes. She was awash with worry and fear and love and angst.
She finally stood, taking a deep breath that seemed to calm us both and commenced to fixing her makeup.
“Are you ready to leave?”
“Yes… Sookie, say something.”
“Would you promise to never turn me… no matter what?” The concept disturbed me… now, I could consider myself haunted.
“I could say the words, but I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to follow through.”
She turned around, folding her arms. “Thanks, I guess.” Confused, sarcastic…
“Telling me the truth… You could have just told me what I wanted to hear.”
“I don’t know what you want to hear.”
She walked over slowly to stand between my knees, her hands rested on my shoulders, mine went to her hips. “You know I’m really confused.” I could feel it as easily as I could feel the silk of her dress under my hands.
I nodded as her eyes bore into mine.
“You didn’t want to discuss it.”
“I was concerned that you’d assume I would insist.”
“It’s not what I want right now. I need some time… I might not reconsider though.”
“I can wait… but Sookie…”
She interrupted me with a kiss. Just a kiss. Its sole purpose was to keep me from asking. “I’m not signing a DNR though.”
“So if there is an emergency…?”
She nodded slowly. “For lack of any other options… I wouldn’t want to put Gran through that.”
“Is this partly because you understand that you could be in danger now that you are officially a supernatural telepath in the employ of a vampire queen?”
She smiled sweetly. “Mostly because I trust you.”