It was only just 10PM and it had already been what I considered a long night…
The excitement could subside any time now.
Three Weres and a Human… on my property. There was no way to know why they were here, or how they found me.
The most obvious conclusion was that they’d been sent to gather information. If someone wanted to end me and knew where I was, they would have sent the Weres during the day.
Since the trespassers were Weres, Alcide could have had Sookie’s family followed to find her location. Jackson could have used similar tactics to find Lynn as well.
I could hear her footsteps following behind me as Sookie told Pam to keep everyone else back.
Gawain was already returning to the house, with a Wolf snarling and growling in each arm, when I surprised the other Wolf and the Human and carried them back to the house.
The Human… wasn’t Human… Brandon Rousseau had found his family while taking his Wolves for a walk apparently.
He elbowed my chest several times, growling obscenities and asking how he was discovered.
Sookie was waiting on the porch… with a rifle, but her aim wavered as she realized who my cargo was… seeing her was the only thing that stilled him.
He actually recognized her.
“Where did you find the gun?”
“Jason’s truck… Uhhhh… Gawain’s got the others in the kitchen. Pam’s got the family corralled in the living room.”
I warned, “Don’t be too pleased to see him yet. I might have to kill him.”
Thanks to the braid, we didn’t have any reason to believe Brandon had innocent intentions. He could have been hired to spy on me by anyone and his company only supported that suspicion. Who the fuck else would travel with a small pack of Weres?
She gulped and followed me into the house, shutting the door and continuing to the kitchen.
As I released Brandon and tossed the Were to the floor (bowling over his pack-mates), I ordered, “Shift. I refuse to speak to dogs.”
Sookie slid the bolt to chamber a round and hissed, “Do it. I already know who you are…” She pointed the gun accordingly as she offered, “Bernie… Dave… and Jeff.”
Brandon stepped into Sookie’s sight and argued, “You can’t blame them. This is all me… I asked them to come with me so I could scan the place.”
Gawain asked, “And why are you scanning?”
He snorted, “Are you kidding? My friend gets a phone call out of the blue, ordering him to bring our kids to some strange house. That shit’s fishy. And if anything happens to me, I’ve got a guy standing by. If I don’t call him in ten minutes, he’s going to tell Shawn to get the fuck out of Dodge.”
He was there because of Shawn?
Gawain chuckled and imitated Brandon, “Yeah, everything’s fine. I was just paranoid. I’ll fill you in later.”
Brandon’s eyes were bulging before Sookie offered, “That’ll be good enough for Nate, but throw in a coffee and doughnuts joke. He’s a cop.”
After a moment, Brandon growled at Sookie, “Open the fuck up, damn it…”
Why wasn’t he asking her to lower the gun?
Sookie shook her head. “How do you know Shawn?”
“My mom and his wife, Patty, were besties. We babysat for them once in a while. I helped him coach soccer for his daughter… When he disappeared, we flipped the fuck out… Then when Patty was murdered, he showed up again and asked us to step forward and take custody of the kids. We printed off a living will form and he signed it, glamoured the notary to backdate it… when we took it to court, the judge was skeptical, but since Shawn’s signature was the same as the one on his actual will and life insurance, the judge signed off… Shawn bought a house in Bossier and we live together… Your turn. How the fuck do you know the Sheriff?”
She scoffed, “I’m just lucky, I guess…” She turned to her brother’s menagerie and retrained her sight. “Option A- You’ll shift. You’ll be glamoured. You’ll be sent the fuck home… Option B- You’ll be stupid. You’ll be bagged and dumped like garbage. You’ll be joked about while we clean you out of the grout… Your choice, but you won’t even be the first ones to bleed on this floor tonight.”
Well put… and within seconds of taking a deeper sample of the air (smelling the recent bloodletting and Stackhouse tears), all three of Brandon’s companions were transitioning into their Human forms.
While his friends shifted, Brandon explained, “Seriously, I just needed their ears because Vampires are blanks. I wanted to be sure Shawn wasn’t being set up… and I didn’t tell these guys who called him because I wasn’t sure the call was legit.”
I had to assume if he was lying, Gawain or Sookie would have challenged him at some point.
Gawain snorted, “Of course not, princess. You’re just as protective of your family as someone else I know…” And then he whistled and patted his hip as he led the trio to the back door, jokingly suggesting they avoid walking past the ‘horny blonde newborn’ in the living room while they were nude because she was a ‘dog person’.
As soon as Gawain closed the door behind himself, Sookie lowered the gun and heaved out a sigh of relief. “I need a damn drink. This is NOT how I imagined meeting you.”
Brandon scoffed, “Make that two drinks… What the hell is going on? You’re here with the Sheriff… Shawn’s getting summoned…”
“Erik got a line on a gypsy in his Area. Of course Shawn got summoned. Apparently, Leland didn’t tell Shawn he was supposed to check in… our circles of friends just so happen to intersect.”
“So… back to my question…” Sookie breezed past him and went directly to the refrigerator for bottles of Malibu and Coke. “How do you know the Sheriff? You working as a telepath?”
As she poured, she sighed, “No… Our aunt, our father’s sister, was dying of cancer. After three rounds of chemo and every other trick the doctors could think of, we were going to lose her… Aunt Linda was dating a Were, and he thought to take a shot in the dark and go to Erik. Erik’s Aunt Linda’s Maker…” She handed a glass to Brandon. “Erik, he doesn’t show any signs of being glamoured.”
“How do you know the difference?”
“Bobby’s brain might as well be a charcoal briquette from all the times he’s been glamoured.”
“Brandon’s telepathic; he might have your resilience.”
“Then he would have thought about Shawn trying to glamour him when I mentioned it, but he didn’t.”
“Brandon, when I mentioned the effects of repeated glamouring, Shawn seemed upset by the news. Who has he been glamouring?”
He shrugged. “He glamoured my mom once, but that was just funny… And he glamoured the soccer league president to schedule Tammy and Archie’s games at night as much as possible, but other than that…”
“What was funny about that?”
“She couldn’t look him in the eyes after she accidently walked in on him fucking a date. He was just as mortified as she was…”
That was funny.
“She was supposed to be sleeping and he was supposed to be out, so when she heard banging around in the garage, she went looking. She thought one of the kids might have gone out there to mess around because Julie’s a light sleeper… Mom found Shawn balls deep in a natural redhead… And for the record, I suggested it because I was sick of seeing Shawn’s balls in my mom’s head.”
“How often does he glamour the league president?”
“He’s done it four times that I know of. Two seasons per year since he got turned.”
Sookie nodded knowingly. “You weren’t specific about how often. You just said ‘frequent’… and it was a benign command instead of erasing memories…”
I nodded. “His confusion is only proof newborn Vampires need supervision.”
She held her hands up. “I’m not arguing that, just putting a finger on the communication breakdown. He was getting paranoid because you were picking apart his evasive answers. Shame on you for not being an idiot… Brandon, call Nate and tell him everything’s alright. Erik called Shawn because he needs guidance. As old as Erik is, he’s still getting the occasional Supernatural surprise. Without help, Shawn’s left with his pants down.”
“Yeah? You know these folks pretty well? I mean, Shawn’s young and all, so I’m not used to so much real estate…”
She nodded. “I live here… Erik is understandably concerned about there being a newborn in his Area and the epic clusterfuck Shawn could cause just because he doesn’t know better. I doubt Shawn even knows how to clean up his mess if he goes nuts.”
“He did go nuts once… and I’d have done worse than fucking up a car… That fuckbag Maker of his shot Patty in the face while the kids were in her Volvo… and then stopped to give his mask to Tammy as a present for her father if she ever saw him again… It’s a damn good thing I know a guy at a junkyard.”
I couldn’t find a single reason to fault Shawn for taking out his frustration on a Volvo given that he could only end his Maker once.
Sookie gasped, “His babies were in the car when Leland killed her!?”
He nodded. “She stopped for gas, she ran in to pay, maybe twenty feet from the kids, and then Leland popped her just inside the gas station door… I watched the whole thing play out in the detective’s head because he’d seen the security footage already…”
He reached into his pocket and dialed his phone, giving an identical message to Nate as the one Gawain threatened to give, and included the coffee and doughnuts joke Sookie suggested. Nate had accepted the check-in without question.
While he was redialing the phone, he snorted, “Note to self: next time I pull a dumbass move like this, give my failsafe a code-word and hope like hell there isn’t another telepath on the other end.”
Sookie giggled at him and tapped her glass to his. “No kidding.”
The phone was answered, “Daddy!”
He chuckled, “Hey baby. Y’all leave yet?”
“Yeah…Uncle Shawn was typin’ stuff on tha ‘puter.”
“Let me talk to him for a sec.”
Shawn immediately answered, “Where are you? The Sheriff said to bring my friends. I can’t show up without you.”
Brandon offered, “Chill your tits, dude. Everything’s Kosher. The man just can’t have you twisting in the wind in his Area. Is my account fat with Leland blood-money?”
Shawn barked, “Yes! I need to know they’ll be taken care of… open your own shop in a new town, buy a house…”
“Dude. Settle down. You’re not listening to me… I checked the place out.”
“You WHAT!? You asshole! Why the fuck would you risk your ass like that!?”
Brandon chuckled, “You love me.”
“FUCK YOU! Jokes‽ Really Bran‽”
“Everything is fine, man…”
“How do you know that? For sure? You can’t hear us.”
“Place has just as many Humans as Vampires. No one’s thinking about fucking with you. They’re making mental lists of shit you need help with. Calm down.”
“I’m going to kick your ass… You aren’t allowed to take risks.”
Brandon chuckled, repeating, “You love me.”
Shawn snorted, “You’re damn right I do, crazy prick… Where should I meet you?”
“I’m already waiting at the house.”
“You’re still there?”
“Yep. I’m in the tanning bed now, but there’s a deep tissue massage and a manicure waiting for me when I’m finished baking.”
Shawn snorted, “Smart ass,” and ended the call.
Gawain joined us in the kitchen as Brandon slid his phone back into his pocket and stopped to stand inappropriately close to Brandon.
“Aren’t you cute.”
Brandon snorted, “I’ve heard that before. No offense, dude, but I prefer hearing it from a long-haired brunette with DSLs. You’re a little husky for my taste.”
“There’s always exceptions.”
He took a step away from Gawain and shook his head. “Look, if you’re testing me, don’t… Not in front of Shawn. He’s uhhhh… His Maker took him as a child because Shawn didn’t respond to a pass. He’s already going to be shitting his pants to meet older Vampires, but that kind of attention from men makes his skin crawl. I’m surprised he touches his own dick after what his Maker pulled… I know y’all don’t owe him any favors, but if you want him to take anything you say seriously, pushing those buttons isn’t going to do anything but blow up in your faces.”
That was, undoubtedly, the reason another version of me would have compared Leland to Appius. I might just end Leland’s Maker for fun.
Gawain offered a nod. “I’ll keep that in mind… Sookie dear, what does Brandon know?”
She shrugged. “He knows who I am. His mom heard about Daddy dying and he got enough from her mind to ask questions… Unfortunately, he found out about his other family at about the same time telepathy was interfering with everything else, so he was afraid to meet us and be a square peg with another group of people… He knows we exist and he just realized I’m a telepath too when my shields got in his way.”
Gawain took the stack of photos from the table and passed it to Brandon. “There’s no time like the present… You probably don’t have much time before Pam and Lynn simultaneously discombobulate.”
She sighed, “Right…” and took a deep breath, so I made myself comfortable on a chair… I was expecting to, once again, be a spectator to the protracted explanation of the Stackhouse paradox.
Instead, I watched Sookie and Brandon stare at each other. Occasionally, one of them would glance at Gawain, but I was spared from the drawn out explanation because Brandon was receiving a telepathic tutorial.
What had taken Lynn more than an hour to explain to Jason and Adele, only took a fraction of the time when explained between telepaths…
Within ten minutes, Sookie’s mood relaxed… that left only Pam and Lynn’s anxiety to tolerate.
My theory, based solely on logic (without taking anything Fae into consideration), was Sookie had essentially synopsized the relevant events from the past few nights, condensed hours of brainstorming and guessing, to show Brandon a highlight reel…
And I had to assume, she could offer the benefit of imagery as well… A picture is worth a thousand words.
Sookie finally spoke, snorting, “You ready to jump into the piranha tank? They’re dying to meet you.”
He hadn’t completed a single nod before Gawain left the room…
I had to wonder if Adele and Jason knew Brandon was at the house. Pam and Lynn hadn’t said a word to fill them in…
The least surprising event all evening was the way Lynn, Adele and Jason stopped in the archway to stare at Brandon.
While his aunt and grandmother gaped, Jason was the first to speak.
“Holy shit. You look more like our father in person than you do in pictures.”
Sookie added, “Sounds like him too. I might not have noticed if it wasn’t for that video… Brandon, that’s your brother, Jason… our grandmother, Adele, but we call her Gran… and then our Aunt Linda, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to her name-change. I think I called her Lynn once all day.”
He gave them a tense smile and waved. After a moment, he volunteered, “I found out Corbett was my real father when he died, and by the time I figured y’all were settling down after his funeral, I talked myself into being scared shitless to meet everyone. I mean, I was nine. I grew up in Minden with my mom and stepfather, Julie and Tom. Other than being a telepath, my life was pretty damn normal right up until junior year of high school when my daughter was born. Last year, my stepfather had his third diabetes related stroke. Mom stayed at the hospital with him until they gave her a bed of her own because she’d gotten viral pneumonia from another patient. She died a week later and Tom’s still in a hospice… I live in Bossier with a roommate. Shawn’s a widower with three little kids. I did automotive vo-tech in school, and I’ve been at the Harley dealership for a while now. I don’t really have any hobbies because I spend most of my spare time chillin’ out with the kids… So that’s me in a nutshell. Anything else you want to know needs to be submitted in writing and will be answered within three business days.”
Jason snorted and walked towards Brandon, hugging his brother. “Smart ass… You think you’re funny, but you ain’t seen my handwriting yet… Sook give ya the run-down on all the crazy shit we’ve got going on?”
Brandon nodded. “You don’t have a patent on crazy… I live with a Vampire and work with Weres. Hearing I’m ‘Supernatural candy’ just explains why I have a 300-pound straight and married Were flirting with me every damn day. It won’t keep him from grabbing my ass.”
He gave Lynn and Adele unsolicited hugs, saying it was nice to finally meet them… they began crying again and Adele complained she’d left the tissues in the living room.
As Sookie went to retrieve the tissues, Jason asked, “How can ya tell if they’re Weres? I’m startin’ to wonder.”
Lynn offered, “I know how Sookie and Brandon can tell, but your thing’s different… Hadley said it’s like that feeling you get when someone cranks a Jack-in-the-box really slowly, right before it pops open… Does that make any se-?”
Jason blurted, “SAM FUCKIN’ MERLOTTE‽”
And blood flow finally reached his brain.
Lynn nodded. “Bingo… See, you thought it was going to be hard to get a handle on… The other Erik said Hadley had a grip on her empathy in just a few nights. All she really needed to know was that she had the ability so she could take a second to be sure she owned what she was feeling.”
As Sookie returned to the kitchen, she offered, “Incoming,” and giggled because Brandon made the announcement in unison.
I watched the Dodge Caravan creep along the driveway from the front porch while the Stackhouse family reunion continued in my kitchen…
If someone had asked me last week… This was not my life, but at least I wasn’t bored.
While Shawn Ingram studied me, frozen with white knuckles gripping the steering wheel, the sliding door on the passenger side opened… I was almost sure I’d never seen a Vampire look more terrified.
A little girl leaped from the van and waltzed towards me. Blonde hair, blue eyes, denim dress with lace trim, and a completely unaffected expression on her face… She favored Sookie so much, it was impossible to deny the relationship.
The look on Shawn Ingram’s face as he followed Julie was pained, confused… it seemed like he was weighing his options… trying to figure out what impression he’d make if he snatched the girl up and carried her back to the car in a panic.
When she stopped in front of me, she lifted her chin. “Is ‘ere a secret password?”
A cheeky Stackhouse? Say it isn’t so.
I showed my fangs and nodded, “As a matter of fact, there is.”
She giggled, “You gotta teach Uncle Shawn how ta do that… He sounds funny with fangs.”
“It just takes practice… When have you seen Shawn’s fangs?”
“Juss when he’s on his way out fer dinner… What’s my hint fer tha password?”
After a moment, I managed to think of, “At night they come without being fetched. By day they are lost without being stolen. What are they?”
At my age, I was sentry.
She rolled her eyes back and studied the sky, humming thoughtfully. She finally said, “Stars,” firmly and Shawn made no secret of how impressed he was.
“Do you solve a lot of riddles?”
She shrugged. “I stalk the mailbox for Daddy’s puzzle magazines.”
That was actually cute.
“And how can I be sure you weren’t telepathically cheating?”
Shawn’s eyes bulged, but Julie didn’t miss a beat. “Cuz Daddy said ‘dates’, but I don’t get it.”
They cum without being fetched. Funny.
I tilted my head towards the door. “I imagine you’re free to enter…”
She shrugged. “Can I stay an’ help tha other kids? They’re in trouble if yer doin’ riddles.”
“There’s only one password per night. You already earned access for them.”
“Oh! Cool…” She turned and returned to the van, leaning in and announcing, “C’mon. My daddy says we need ta go hang out inside an let yer daddy talk ta tha boss Vampire.
With two older children behind her, Julie held the hand of little boy slightly taller than her… Julie, the smallest, was the leader of the group.
As they walked past us, the boy holding Julie’s hand pointed at Shawn and babbled, “Daddy’mon. Mon Daddy.”
Shawn explained, “Just give me a minute, Tuck. We need to have some grownup talk.”
Julie spoke in complete sentences and was easily understood… Tucker sounded as though he had marbles in his cheeks. What a difference a little telepathy made… Witnessing a side by side comparison certainly added to mentions of Sookie finding it difficult to fit in.
I closed the door behind the children, and started, “For future reference, there isn’t a Sheriff I’ve ever met who wouldn’t end a gypsy who’d been squatting in their Area for more than two years. You have two weeks normally, and you’d better have an excellent excuse for waiting longer than a night or two. There is at least one Supernatural being working at every bus station, train station, and airport at any given time who can tell you how to contact the Sheriff of an Area if you didn’t think to contact a local Chamber Of Commerce before you traveled…”
“Chamber Of Commerce? Really‽”
“You only have to ask for the contact number for the Sheriff and Master at Arms. In Shreveport, you would have been given the phone numbers for me and the local Packmaster… That was your Maker’s responsibility.”
“I… I was avoiding you… I didn’t know I had to check in though… Leland didn’t really…” He paused to clear his throat. “He told me you’d make him leave the Area and take me with him, and… I thought about that, but I wanted to stay close to my kids.”
“I might have taken pity on you and ordered him to move to Shreveport where you’d blend in easier than the small community you were in… and had your Maker command you to stay within Caddo Parish…”
“I worked in Shreveport.”
“Then Leland was right about something. Your best case scenario would have been Baton Rouge. It’s the only other Area in Louisiana that accepts newborns.”
He gulped. “Is that why I’m here? Do I need to say goodbye to my kids?”
“They know you’re a Vampire, yes? All of them? Are they in school? Where do you work? What is your schedule? I need to know more about your situation… You can start by explaining why you used plural pronouns in regards to your children’s custodians when Brandon is the only individual helping you.”
“Oh… I’m just still used to that… Brandon shared custody of the kids with his parents, but when Tom had a stroke and Julie died, it fell on Brandon… I’m still hoping Tom pulls through… Yeah, I’m an idiot for ignoring the telepath who says there isn’t anything going on in Tom’s mind. I own it.”
Idiot or not, at least the story seemed sincere.
“The rest of your routine?”
“Ummmm… Tammy’s the only one who’s old enough for school and we’ve been homeschooling her. We figure it’s safer than having her slip and it helps with the rest of the schedule… Anyway, I make breakfast and see everybody off just before dawn. Brandon takes the kids to daycare. The ladies who run it are Weres, so less worries about the kids slipping there. When Brandon gets off work, he brings the kids home and they take naps. We feed them dinner, do Tammy’s lessons with her, spend some time just hanging out… I dip out around one o’clock to go feed. On the rare occasion pickings are slim, and I almost never have a problem because we’re right by the base, I follow some poor sap into the bathroom at last call and feed like that. Once a’month maybe… Did I get everything?”
If he’d proposed the same arrangement two years ago, I would have refused… Lucky fucking bastard.
“While everyone’s sleeping, I make playhouses and playgrounds, that kind of thing. I was a drafter before I was brought over and that’s not really a job I can convert to nocturnal hours. I had a ton of idle time and ended up building a playhouse for Tammy… then a neighbor asked for one. I’ve been designing, building, delivering and setting up whatever a family or business asks for… I did one for the daycare the kids go to, and that got a referral for a job for a church, and that got a referral for a bunch of other jobs. Word of mouth is keeping me pretty busy.”
And he wasn’t allowing himself to be bored enough to commit random acts of fuckery.
“And what are your plans for revealing yourself?”
He shrugged. “Brandon and I figured we’d need to move every five years or so. We think we might be able to just skip from neighborhood to neighborhood around the city until the kids go off to college. Right now, our neighbors think they’re very accepting of the ‘gay couple’ on the block. That’s kind of funny because if Brandon was female, they’d think I’m a dirty old man because of our age difference… I’m really trying not to think about what’s going to happen once my kids are old enough to strike out on their own… I mean, how the fuck am I going to play off dancing with my daughter at her wedding when the age difference makes us look like a couple…”
The only reason I didn’t stop him earlier was because I was gobsmacked…
He didn’t know.
“Shawn, you need to think about the Revelation… Vampires are slated to publically reveal their existence soon.”
I nodded. “According to my sources, next spring…”
He staggered back a step while his eyes rimmed with blood. “I thought I was going to… I didn’t know…”
“Relieved you won’t be kept from your grandchildren because you couldn’t explain why you aren’t ‘old’?”
He croaked, “Yeah… more than a little!”
“Word to the wise, invest in a quiet home in a secluded area, just in case Humans don’t react well to the revelation.”
“Yeah yeah yeah… We’ll start shopping now… We were thinking about something like that, like out in DeSoto, on more property… Between my saws, and Brandon commuting across the river…”
“And you should have a stockpile of blood on hand just in case poaching for victims isn’t safe right away…”
He cringed, “How do I do that? You’re not talking about like… keeping someone in a cage or anything, are you?”
“You’d be surprised what you can find online… Have you heard of Craig’s List?”
He cringed and nodded. “Yeah, but Brandon’s the internet guru in the house.”
“At the moment, I’m watching the listings for ‘Vampire Role Play’ for Vampires as stupid as the typical Human. I’ve already found two.”
“Jesus… You mean like people with a… a fetish for being bitten?”
I nodded. “And I have every intention of amusing myself with them after the Revelation… In the meantime, I’ll give you the number to a blood bank who sells surplus. A fair amount of blood is destroyed because it can’t be stored indefinitely… My older child uses shopping as an excuse to glamour Humans to donate blood, just to offset our use of the banks.”
He smirked and snorted, “That’ll make me a spoiled bitch… I wouldn’t have to leave the house to feed.”
“You still need to feed from Humans… How difficult is controlling yourself?”
He shrugged. “The first couple of draws are the hardest, but one donor is usually enough to knock the edge off… I do better with two though.”
He shrugged, “You gotta do what you gotta do… I mean, I deviate from time to time. When we’re looking at a hurricane or something, I stay at a hotel because the staff is available. The bar crowds are thinner when there’s a storm coming.”
“About once a week just to keep myself from getting spun up… I didn’t even do that at first. It took a few months after Patty was killed before I bothered, but once I did… I noticed there was a direct connection to being horny and how hungry I was.”
“Something your Maker failed to mention?”
He shook his head and crossed his arms, hinting to what Brandon already explained. “No. He only really told me what he wanted me to know… I’ve been winging it.”
“That stops. You don’t have an excuse any longer. I’m willing to answer any questions you have. Your ignorance up until tonight was excusable because your Maker failed you. When I call the Queen to claim my new child, I’ll be adding you to my retinue as well. If anyone asks, you’ll tell them I’m your Maker. That will offer a certain amount of protection.”
He nodded and asked, “How new is your newborn?”
“Tonight is her third night.”
“Wow… New-new. How do you keep her fed?”
“An ad was placed to announce a casting call of sorts. Models arrive at sunset and they’re sent on their way… Are you asking for feeding solutions?”
He nodded. “I could get another hour or two with my kids if I didn’t have to deal with bar schedules… and last summer was rough. I had a little extra time with them in the morning, but just a couple of hours at night before they crashed.”
“The easiest answer is strippers. Establish a false residence or use one of Leland’s properties. Once that’s taken care of, call Enchanted Evening to schedule regular dancers. Pint for pint, they’re cheaper than banked bags… Bernice even offers a discount for multiples. Don’t fuck them until after you paid them for dancing though.”
His fangs made a surprise appearance. When I chuckled, he retracted them. “I’m sorry… It’s getting close to when I usually…”
“I understand… your feeding schedule is fortunate. We’re taking a field trip. Follow me…”
I led Shawn through the house to the kitchen and when we joined the ‘party’, the children were seated around the table devouring pie and ice cream… Julie was on Gawain’s lap and Adele was next to them and when the children noticed Shawn and me, they began giggling.
Lynn explained, “Brandon was just telling us he was in a Mexican Standoff with Shawn… Brandon knew about you and was encouraging Shawn to contact you. Shawn knew about Brandon’s siblings and was encouraging him to contact them.”
That was more coincidental than funny… the funny part was the look on Shawn’s face. As he made connections, he looked like he shit in his pants.
“Out of curiosity, when was the last time you revisited your standoff?”
Shawn snorted, “This morning, right before he left for work. I was whining about my hours. He told me if you know your shit enough to be a Sheriff, you might have some advice. I told him I’d call you when he manned up and called his sister.”
And then Lynn entered the braid to meet another version of Shawn, and have an unyielding sense he was the reason she was there rather than her other grandchild…
The discovery of Hadley’s death precipitated a visit from a surviving version of her…
Pam’s experience with the braid, even though she seemed to run a helpful blitzkrieg, informed Corbett of his other son and brought ‘My’ attention to Linda’s potential…
A fucking pattern.
Sookie giggled and raised her hand with Gawain, Brandon and Julie…
Jason chuckled, “So it ain’t just me.”
Pam asked, “What isn’t just you?”
She was curious and correcting his grammar.
“The connections… with all the craziness… Hadley and Hadley, Shawn and Shawn, Brandon and Brandon… And then there’s all the stuff y’all learn… There’s shit goin’ on and y’all are spreadin’ the word. Y’all are like Supernatural Jehovah’s Witnesses and shit.”
I nodded. “Yes Jason, the Watchtower is their version of the braid.”
Shawn couldn’t have been more confused, but Jason kept him from asking questions by blurting, “That’s cool! I wanna go!”
At least I’d been warned he was an idiot.
“Be sure to send a postcard… I’m taking Lynn and Shawn out for dinner…”
Lynn and Shawn’s fangs snapped into place and they covered their mouths and mumbled, “Thorry.”
I chuckled and asked, “Does anyone want to come along?”
Jason was the first to answer, not realizing I wasn’t speaking to him, “I cain’t… I got an early morning.”
Brandon agreed, “Same here. We should head out so Tammy and Julie can get their assignments done.”
Both of them?
Gawain shrugged. “I’ll go along. Your DJ is so horrible it’s funny… Sookie, will you give me another dance lesson?”
She shook her head. “Sorry. I have an errand I need to run.”
“Do you want help?”
She shook her head and began rinsing dishes. “No thanks. I’m good.”
Pam chimed, “I’ll take Eric’s car to visit a neglected pet. You can take my Beamer.”
Brandon grimaced. “Beamer? You’re an Aston Martin girl if I’ve ever met one. Those pumps would look great in a new Zagato.”
When Pam’s eyes lit up, I shook my head. “It was lovely to meet you, Brandon. Get out.”
Brandon left his barstool while he chuckled, “Sorry chief… she doesn’t need to be encouraged, huh?”
That was an understatement. She could safely rest for the day, buried in a mountain of her other accessories.
“She might never leave home again if she has to accessorize her car too.”
“It wouldn’t be too bad… I mean, the Beamer’s okay if she’s wearing a twin-set or a wrap dress, something less ‘look at me’, but a Zagato is sexier…”
Jason added, “The jeans and boots she was wearin’ the other night woulda looked hot steppin’ out of’a convertible Carrera…”
Brandon clicked his tongue and nodded. “Damn good call on that one.”
“Pam, you aren’t allowed to play with Jason and Brandon.”
Or spend time with them unsupervised. Or shop with them in any capacity.
Lynn added, “And those formals… the dresses she showed me… A Rolls Phantom is necessary. She’d struggle to get out of a road-hugger in a sheath dress.”
She giggled, “What? I didn’t say anything.”
Julie slid from Gawain’s lap and laughed, “We gotta go… Daddy forgot I’m the cute one.”
He chuckled, “I’m cute too… Say your goodbyes, bratnick. You can play with the Blue Book in the car and add up how much this conversation might’ve cost Erik.”
He’d definitely overestimated his cuteness.
Lynn, Gawain, Shawn and I were the first to leave the house, but not before Lynn said goodbye to everyone as though she wouldn’t ever see them again.
Lynn was practically vibrating with excitement… between being hungry again, and feeling claustrophobic in the house, I caught myself smiling twice before Gawain turned to look at Shawn.
“What crawled up your ass?”
He was definitely picking up the local sayings… I just couldn’t decide which of our housemates he’d heard that from.
I watched Shawn shrug and shake his head in the rearview. “Nothing. I’m okay.”
I stopped the car without pulling over and stepped out to go to his door.
I squatted down and explained, “It’s good this came up…”
His eyes bulged as a car blared its horn and sped by.
I continued, “I’ve volunteered to take you as my foster. You will not lie to me. It’s counterproductive to the relationship we should have and it’s the second fastest method of being staked. Gawain wouldn’t have asked you what crawled up your ass if he was playing guessing games in regards to your mood. Saying ‘nothing’ is complete bullshit and it wastes an opportunity to resolve the cause of the behavior that inspired the question. Am I making myself clear?”
He jerked his head to watch another car speed past us and then answered my question with a nod.
“Good. Explain the problem.”
He pinched his face together and growled reluctantly. “I’m freaking out about what Pam’s doing.”
“Yeah… Why she isn’t going too… Is she following Brandon?”
“No. There’s no point in following Brandon. Even if there were more than one Harley dealership in Shreveport for him to be employed by, he’s already given his family his contact information… Pam’s recently returned from a trip abroad and genuinely has a craving for her little submissive pet. Rowena enjoys nipple clamps and has a very dexterous tongue… She also boarded Pam’s cats while she was traveling, so I’m sure I’ll have those prowling around the house when I return.”
His eyes rolled back when he sighed as though he’d been holding his breath. “Oh, thank God.”
I shook my head. “Tell me you see why you should have just asked in the first place.”
He nodded. “I do… I’m sorry… I just…”
“You’re not accustomed to trusting anyone but Brandon because your own Maker betrayed you. I understand, but you need to realize that if I wanted to keep you from your children, I would have staked you as soon as the children were in my house. The next time you’re curious, just ask.”
He nodded, “Alright. Thanks… What was the fastest? You said lying was the second fastest way to get staked.”
“Making the mistake of doing anything to risk the well-being of my children.”