Hunter cackled all the way back to the table after seeing a man glamoured to use a sink as a urinal…
Not only was the boy relieved to know why his father’s mind felt ‘burned’ that morning, he was happy to have washed his hands before the man entered the bathroom.
It seemed I’d learned my lesson about giving incomplete answers to a telepath.
We took our seat just in time for the server to be delivering appetizers and taking orders for main courses. Everyone had to suffer for answers that much longer.
I only offered, “My apologies. Hunter and I had business to discuss.”
There seemed to be a race to ask their questions and once the waitress left us, Pam won that race by asking, “What happened?”
Hunter cast a glance back to me giggled.
I explained, “We think things went marvelously…” Since Threadgill and I made our arrangements in German to prevent telepathic spies from prying, our trip to the restroom was pleasantly eventful. And it was the first time I could ever make that claim. “Sophie-Anne had Hunter’s father glamoured to release him in the interest of his safety. I assume my phone call last night triggered the glamour…”
Brandon shook his head slightly showing his confusion. “How? I didn’t think glamour worked like that… and how would something you said trigger it? I heard most of that call.”
“You weren’t misinformed. Most glamours don’t work that way. Mine doesn’t. One of the Queen’s children has the ability to perform a more inclusive glamour… something akin to brainwashing…” Nevermind that I only became aware of that while reading the journal. “Since I’ve never witnessed it, I can’t be sure there’s a trigger… but given that I named most of the Stackhouse family tree and mentioned safety and protection several times, I’m not excluding the possibility.”
“So he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about things?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that. From what Hunter told me, Remy doesn’t have concerns about his son’s ability as much as paranoia.”
The boy twisted on my lap to give me an excited nod. “That’s the word! Paranoia. Like somethin’s behind ya, right?” When I nodded Hunter turned to Brandon and explained, “Mister King Eric said he’d bring Daddy with us. I wanna wait though. I can’t hide from it so I’ll get help… Daddy won’t have ta be ‘fraid this way.” Rosalie sighed and shook her head sympathetically.
Brandon asked, “Are you sure, Hunter? I mean, you’ve only got one father.”
Before Hunter had the chance to answer Sookie offered, “You can’t fault him, Brandon… I can tell you what it’s like to have a parent be afraid of you, think you’re evil or broken. Daddy didn’t really believe me because he thought it was like an imaginary friend… that I was doing it for attention, but he played along. My mother was hell-bent on fixing me to the point I spent the better part of a year on medication that made it hard to walk.”
Hunter turned back to me and laughed, “You’re REALLY smart!”
I explained his outburst. “I took Hunter to the restroom to ask him how he wanted to proceed in light of the information regarding Remy’s glamouring. I wanted his opinion before Brandon or Sookie’s personal perspectives could affect his…”
Hunter added, “He said Brandon’s a dad and Sookie mom wasn’t nice. He knew. Y’all two can fight about it. I know what I wanna do.”
Brandon cleared his throat in an attempt to stay calm. “He’s four… what would you say if he wanted a pony?”
“I’d promise him a tour of my stables… Brandon, the fact of the matter is that since Remy has been glamoured, he would have to be abducted from New Orleans. I’d have a questionable pool of kidnappers to choose from because any one of them could have developed recent loyalties to Sophie-Anne. His abduction and transportation offer a lot of variables that could cause something to go wrong and all of it hinges on the slim chance Remy Savoy’s glamouring can be reversed. Right now, Hunter has the guarantee of help from you and your sister. Extended as you are, you are still family. Staying in the States isn’t an option now that the Queen wants him and she’s stupid and greedy enough to go to great lengths to attain him because she feels entitled since his mother is her child. If you’d like to discuss further details, we’ll do it later.”
He stared at me for a moment before there was an odd shift. If I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn Sookie had moved… as though our bond allowed me to feel where she was sending her thoughts. It was obvious she was explaining something to her brother… being able to feel as though a piece of her had moved to the other side of the large table was interesting.
I focused, keeping a bead on the drift… it only lasted a moment before it returned and Sookie leaned closer to whisper, “Sorry.” I wasn’t concerned about her secrecy, in fact, I was almost certain she was simply telepathically communicating when I couldn’t. If anything I was impressed.
“I was only curious because I felt your thoughts go to him… I’ll describe it later.”
She gave me a quizzical little grin as she went back to picking at the appetizer assortment.
I wasn’t the only one intrigued by the phenomenon.
Once the waitress left entrees at the table, Ema took a portfolio from her large purse and offered it me. “Since you aren’t eating.”
I didn’t wait for Sookie’s reaction. Knowing the mood some of her other drawings had caused for me, I wasn’t interested. I shook my head. “I think your room is a better venue for that. Identifying them might be easier as a group, yes?”
She nodded as she returned the binder to her bag. “I was just offering so you aren’t bored.”
“I’ll be fine… I’ve made a sport of asking people questions while they chew… Case in point, Charlie, have you never asked yourself ‘where’ your mother could find a successful treatment for her dementia?”
He nearly choked… I could only imagine how his ability reacted to my question. Charlie could have been picturing any one of thousands of European hospitals.
Rosalie hadn’t been suffering from a full mouth. “Why would he? He works for a pharmaceutical company. He’s been watching the R&D memos. There hasn’t been anything. Cancer and AIDs research are pretty much all that he’s been seeing since I was diagnosed.”
“I assumed as much. We were preoccupied when we met last night…”
Julie put her hand to her head, covering the right side of her forehead and temple. “Here… It’s like… like a… Daddy?”
Brandon stared for a moment before he offered, “She means blinder… but to me it feels more like a hand or foot that’s losing feeling… like falling asleep.”
Rosalie gaped as Sookie and Hunter agreed with them. “Do you know how much a PET scan costs?”
I joked, “Given how much easier it is to find a hospital, the PET scan would be less costly.”
“Then where? Are we talking about some kind of Fountain of Youth?”
“Of sorts… Vampire blood. Blood therapy.”
She breathed, “Nooooo.”
“It’s how we continue even though we’re for all intents and purposes dead. It will exacerbate cancers, viruses and some infections because it strengthens cells. Which is why you aren’t hearing about successful research in those areas coming from the European medical community.”
Charlie shook his head, clearly confused. “It’s a drug though… drainers… they sell it to get high.”
Pam offered, “Drainers are too strung out to think about quality control, which is why you hear about people taking Vampire blood and then getting themselves into trouble. The Red Cross wouldn’t transplant Human blood that had been left to spoil. You wouldn’t even drink milk that had been left out…”
I finished, “On any given night there is at least one Vampire in each hospital pharmacy. Their blood is dispensed as needed and administered while it’s still fresh. A small amount is taken for use the following day and destroyed by the Vampire who arrives for his shift the next night. They’re given banked Human blood to replenish themselves. More are called in when there is a dire need. It’s all very organized and civilized… It reverses the effects of aging, heals burns and surgical incisions, mends broken bones, and it corrects most biological malfunctions such as diabetes and asthma. There are very few drawbacks. There have been 8 cases in my Kingdom when someone’s pre-treatment screening didn’t show signs of cancer.”
If I had to compare Charlie’s expression to anything, it would be to the last man on a sinking ship to find a lifeboat. “It would cure her?”
I nodded. “In theory. She’d have to have testing done. If she has the more common degeneration of brain tissue, yes. Vampire blood would cure her. She’d be given a larger first dose and small monthly doses.”
“Why doesn’t America do that?”
“Because the American government is too busy worrying about who should be allowed to marry to do anything about their health care system. They squabble and ratify and amend… And it doesn’t seem like anyone has realized yet that four years is exactly long enough for an administration to accomplish fuck-all when the country was founded on a rambling agreement to disagree. The Vampires in power are just as foolish… it’s a fucking clown car. One overdressed idiot after another, putting on a show to impress the audience. Take Sophie-Anne…”
Pam deadpanned, “Please.”
Ema added the rim-shot that included her knife and fork to get a laugh.
Even I chuckled, “Her position is delicate... She’s made enough enemies that she has no real dominion over her subjects. If, and I’m only offering this hypothetically, if American medicine were to cooperate, she couldn’t mandate donation without an upheaval. The only cooperation she’d get would be through blackmail. Louisiana would be a state where blood therapy isn’t available.”
Rosalie asked, “But you didn’t have that problem?”
“I’d been meeting with Human leaders for months ironing out the details of the Revelation. New laws and regulations. Fines and taxes. It was prearranged. I spent weeks going from region to region, explaining to assemblies of my subjects what was going to change once Vampires revealed themselves. American Vampires pouted about it as though they could wish ‘it’ away rather than be proactive in the matter.”
Brandon huffed and sat back to run his hands through his hair. “I know I’ve gotta consider my sources, but I thought you were having trouble over there too.” His sources had been gossiping Weres.
“We have a few cells of malcontented Humans, but nothing like here. They aren’t organized.”
“No. I mean politically. I heard a lot of places ran Vampires out, like evicted them.”
“Ahhh. That would be because most of Europe issued edicts that boiled down to ‘comply to the new rules now or pack your things’. In turn, the organization of it all was a draw to return for some. My Kingdom had less than a hundred estrange themselves… within the first three months of the Revelation, I’d welcomed more than 400 ‘American’ refugees.”
“Damn… what were the new rules?”
“Infractions that would normally earn punishments such as probation and community service once meant making pre-approved financial contributions or volunteering. Medical donation was added to sentences. A formula was applied to convert blood into cash value for paying fines and taxes to Human authorities. That option is elective, yet popular… We don’t have the woes because our announcement wasn’t designed by Hollywood as though our goal was shock value.”
Rosalie offered, “More like, ‘by the way, your superstitious grandparents weren’t crazy’, right? Europe has the advantage of incorporating ‘lore’ into their religious beliefs and America was settled by puritanical Witch hunters.”
I nodded. “Not only that, but we’ve existed long enough to learn about things like PR. The normal response to anything new is fear. Nevermind that Vampires have coexisted for as long as anyone knows and we’ve yet to deplete the Human population… Except for Roanoke, but that was one prideful fool… American audiences watched interviews where fangs were bared. European audiences watched a news bulletin about a ‘new therapy’. Specifically, Amsterdam watched the incision from a liver transplant disappear. Paris watched a little boy who’d recently been attacked by a dog heal, negating his need for several reconstructive surgeries.”
Rosalie shook her head in awe and breathed, “And because European Vampires showed the public both sides of the coin, you’ve got an easier time of it. You have fangs and are immeasurably strong. They could be scared of you, but they knew one day you could save their life.”
“One can’t loathe medical advancements. Even if some consider the use of blood therapy to be making a deal with the devil, individuals who haven’t ever lost someone they cared for are few and far between. In most communities, speaking out against blood therapy is severely frowned upon.”
“Who? Whose idea was it? I mean if American Vampires are stingy with what they can do… Was it you?”
“I had to think about it when my Lord High Steward brought the proposal to me. When Klaasje was alive, she was a midwife and has always been in the habit of taking in pregnant woman in need or giving them jobs. A couple of years before the Revelation, her maid collapsed during the day and when Klaasje rose, she was near death due to a pregnancy related ailment. She tended to the woman and delivered the baby… the next night, she brought her idea to me. She had been concerned for the public reaction to Vampires. She’d done her research while she was at the hospital with her maid. She brought a list of hundreds of common illnesses and injuries, practical applications to substantiate blood therapy. She could have not only saved 3 lives in the hospital that night, but she could have reduced a substantial amount of Human suffering… all with less than a pint of her blood. I called the King of France with the suggestion first and he sent scouts to Paris hospitals to report back… the next night he called me to offer helping Klaasje’s campaign. Within a week we had a plan to meet with the other European Kings. At the moment Klaasje is traveling to various regions to research the benefits of glamouring therapy to help with afflictions such as phobias and trauma related disorders.”
Brandon’s eyes darted to his sister, but Sookie didn’t look up from the plate of nachos to shake her head and mumble, “Not for me.”
He argued gently, “Why not?”
“I can’t be glamoured. Doesn’t work and probably won’t work on y’all either.”
“So you’re stuck with it? You’re just going to remember everything?”
Sookie nodded, but Julie wasn’t hiding that she wanted answers as she studied her father and aunt. “Remember what?”
Sookie straightened her back and lifted her chin to put on the appearance of being confident even though there was a darkness haunting our bond. “You guys are moving with us to make sure you’re safe. Eric’s going to see to it that what happened to me doesn’t happen to you too. Eric and Pam are the awesomest Vampires you’ll ever meet, but unfortunately I met the crummiest of them first. Your Daddy was hoping being glamoured could make me forget how mean they were to me.”
“Mean, like how?”
“Mean, like I should have died a few times… Eat your dinner, Sweetie. You don’t want to miss the Bananas Foster here. It’s so good you’ll dream about it.”
While Julie begrudgingly went back to her meal, I rested my hand on the small of Sookie’s back, pushing my pride to her again. She’d handled her niece’s prying better than either of us thought she would.
Charlie was the one to get the conversation back on track. He hadn’t allowed Julie’s sulking to cause an awkward break in discussion before he went back to the topic of importance to him.
He had vacation time to use. He had the money to travel. He wanted to know the best way to go about arranging for Rosalie’s blood therapy. He was more than happy to accept my invitation to travel and stay with the rest of us because Rosalie could get her treatment in Eijsden. He finished his meal with his cell phone in one hand making a list of what he needed to do before meeting us at the airport. “If my boss doesn’t like the short notice, he can suck it.”
Willis’s search for my phone lasted until we were waiting for dessert to be delivered in take-out containers. Sookie suggested we take dessert back to the suite Brandon and Ema shared with the children so Ema and Charlie could do their own showing off.
Pam took her pet aside and apologetically gave him the list of chores for him to do while Brandon put on the show of trying to kill him with a look.
Once we were in the family suite, Sookie borrowed my phone, offering to call Pilar and explain Remy’s glamouring and warn her about what a glamoured mind felt like… and then she led the children to Hunter’s room to eat their dessert and watch television.
Ema and Rosalie forged a path to the small table to share their desserts as Brandon huffed, “Alright, what’s y’alls thing? You’re not telepaths and we weren’t talking about it downstairs, so I’m gonna bet it’s a doozy.”
I explained, “Ema is an automatic writer. She unconsciously draws scenes or writes words precognitively…”
Brandon gasped, “A psychic? No way!” while Charlie offered the drawing Ema had done of Rosalie. “HOLY SHIT!”
I nodded. “Ema is how we discovered Charlie. Sookie and I met with him last night and learned he’s a clairespy.”
Charlie scoffed, “Really? I mean… What’s wrong with… Satellite Clairvoyance?”
Brandon asked, “What’s a satellite clairvoyant?”
I offered, “Charlie can find anything just by focusing on it… Where is Remy Savoy?”
Charlie frowned and shook his head. “Hunter’s dad? Sitting on a toddler bed, staring at a dinosaur toy. He’s been crying.” At least he seemed to miss his son.
Brandon huffed, “Was there more to the Remy thing or were you just trying to get me to shut up about it before?”
“If I were trying to get you to shut up, I’d have told you to shut up… Given that Charlie saw Remy alive, and knowing what we know about Andre’s ability for brainwashing, Remy is a risk factor now. If I know Sophie-Anne, she had Remy programmed as a sleeper… he’ll wait until he’s invited to see the boy then steal Hunter and deliver him to her. The only way to get him back would be going to war.”
“But you offered to bring him to the Netherlands.”
“Extra measures would have needed to be taken.” Guards would have needed standing orders and my Witch would have needed to bind Remy from leaving the property. He’d have been in a large cage, but a cage nonetheless.
“So Hunter’s never going to see his dad again?”
“I didn’t say that. We’ll talk about that later…” I unzipped Ema’s folio and the first thing to see was the list I hadn’t spent but a moment looking at the night before.
More than 200 words, some more obvious than others… The names of everyone I’d had contact with since I rose in Amsterdam with Sookie, including the names of Sookie’s captors. Some first names were paired with corresponding last names. Most of my staff in Eijsden was listed. Seeing one of my Lords listed made sense given that I went to rest in Amsterdam because I’d met with her the night before. The names of the other telepaths I’d contacted. Alcide Herveaux’s name being on the list was more likely to be because he’d been Sookie’s point of contact during our skip, but Brandon was impressed Ema had gotten the name of his boss.
When I lifted the corner of the list, Ema quickly grabbed my hand with both of hers. She bit her lip. “Um… There’s some stuff… Maybe Sookie wouldn’t want everyone to see.”
I asked, “More? How many? How much worse?”
But Brandon growled, “Like what?”
She ignored Brandon. “A couple a day for weeks. The ones I sent were the most G-rated of all of them… I told you I’ve been having nightmares.”
I closed the binder and handed it back to her. “Take it to your room and sort them out of the pile. I’ll look at them later.”
Brandon barked, “What. The. Fuck!?” as Ema turned to go to her room.
“Ema has been drawing scenes of Sookie’s torture.”
“But you saw them.”
“And you won’t.”
“She’s my sister. How the hell do you figure you’ve got the right to see them and not me?” He made it sound like a privilege instead of something to suffer.
“Because she can’t read my mind. Can you keep a constant lock on your shields? Can you be sure that if you see those drawings that you won’t constantly picture what’s been done to her? She was tortured beyond anything a normal Human can take. She’s lucky to be walking after what they did to her. She’s lucky to have the use of her arms after the way she was tied up and yanked… After seeing what I have, I would have nightmares about it if I dreamt. Do you want to wake her from feeling safe in her bed to remind her of the nightmare she barely survived? I understand your concern, but it’s not in Sookie’s best interest for you to know every detail. I’ve told you… the only information you’ll get about what happened to her will be what she shares. Now, shut the fuck up about it.”
Brandon was still glaring at me when Sookie emerged from the bedroom. She came over to stand between her brother and me, returning my phone to my pocket and breathing, “Please don’t argue. Not over me. It’s not worth it.” Whether she intended it or not, she made it clear she was choosing my side of the argument when she wrapped herself around my arm.
Before I could remind her that her well being was definitely worth an argument, Brandon offered, “It’s nothing, Sookie.”
She shook her head. “I heard y’all… don’t lie…”
“I’m not lying. I was being an asshole because something didn’t occur to me… Eric was setting me straight. It’s nothing.”
“Good…” She gave my arm a squeeze and said, “Thanks.”
Sookie happily sat on my knee when we circled the table to see Ema’s drawings and before I could open the portfolio again, Sookie giggled, “The kids want to know why they can’t see.”
“Ema would know better than I would… Is there anything left they shouldn’t see?” Judging by the weight difference after she removed the undesirable drawings, there didn’t seem to be much of anything left at all.
Ema had barely shaken her head when the door to Hunter’s room opened. Julie sat on her father’s lap when Hunter ‘called dibs’ for Ema’s.
The first of the drawings were four sketches in a row of Sookie and me in bed together… How I rose in Amsterdam, how she rose in Shreveport, how we laid down to reset and how we found ourselves in her cell.
Even if it seemed like Sookie was trying to ignore seeing herself in the cell again, she made a joke about how the collection made us look lazy as she passed them to Brandon.
Ema waited until she was done chewing a bite of cake to ask, “So… what’s with that? I got all of this in the same sitting.”
I offered, “That’s a long story and we’ll tell it later.”
Everyone nodded except for Brandon, who scowled instead… his skepticism was nearing the realm of exasperating.
Sookie nodded solemnly at the next drawing… Her grandmother was standing over a sink in the kitchen of an older house. It was the last time she saw her alive.
Jason pumping gas for the last time…
Brandon sprawled on a sofa with what looked like a remote control to his ear. As it turned out, my call the night before had startled him out of his sleep and in his confusion he’d tried to answer the remote instead of the phone.
Rosalie lounging on a bed with Charlie at her feet… it was an accurate depiction of how he found her when he returned from the hospital to explain meeting us, down to her cheerful smile and the book she’d bought that day.
Julie standing in front of a soccer net dressed as a goalie… she was more than pleased to hear my guards frequently tear up the lawn of my house to play. As it turns out, being a telepathic goalie makes her a force to be reckoned with.
The drawing after Julie’s soccer scene was of her sitting on the back of a Lion… Sookie giggled and slid it over to Brandon… “Oh hell no!”
Julie sassed, “And why not!?”
“Because that’s a LION!”
I shook my head. “Actually, that would be Dillon Rutger…”
“I don’t care if it’s Aslan…!”
I chuckled at him. “He’s a Shifter who works for me as a guard… His father, Garret, is the local Morph Baas.” I tried to ignore that Charlie and Rosalie were gaping.
“A Were LION!?”
“One of the strongest Shifters I’ve ever met. I met him when he was Hunter’s age. That was when Garret came to work for me. Of my guards, Miles is the one I would be leery of. He’s a bit unstable. He’s the type of man who seems like a ‘fun’ drunk until you realize he doesn’t drink… His preferred Shift is a Water Buffalo.” Funny until you see him charge and flip a Range Rover.
Sookie giggled and asked, “So… Morph Baas… Packmaster?”
I nodded. “Packmaster is an American term… Shifters are far more common in the Old World, they make up nearly half of the Were population. I’ve heard different rumors as to why, but that’s been the case since the Americas were colonized, so I’d say the theory with the most veracity would be the one involving Native Americans having genes specific to Wolves.”
“What about the island hopping the Scandinavians did? They found Newfoundland way before Columbus and those other tards took the southern route.” She didn’t sleep through everything on the History Channel apparently.
“The Scandinavian Were population is heavy in Horses and Bears. Those are hard to come by in the States though.”
Rosalie cleared her throat, but her voice still sounded froggy. “You mean Werewolves are real? Weres and Shifters…”
I nodded, but Brandon answered, “You’re picturing movie Werewolves though. That weird man-wolf thing only happens when a Werewolf bites a Human. Born Werewolves are so normal you couldn’t pick them out of a crowd. I just left a job where more than half my co-workers were Weres… and considering how we smell, Charlie’s probably dated a couple and not realized it. I did.”
Sookie added. “My old boss was a Shifter… I didn’t know for a long time, even then someone had to tell me. I just liked that his mind was harder for me to get anything from.”
Charlie looked pained. “What does our smell have to do with anything?”
Sookie and Brandon laughed at whatever was going through his mind at the time and told him in chorus, “Yes, she was…” Sookie continued, “And that one was a Vampire.”
“NO WAY! She said she had a thyroid disorder… that’s why she had a low body temperature!”
I chuckled, “That’s what we all used to say, Charlie. We’ve been pretending to be Human for a very long time. Let me guess, said thyroid disorder is also why you didn’t need birth control, yes?”
“OH. MY. GOD! I had no idea!”
Rosalie asked, “Constance?”
Charlie nodded while he rubbed his eyes. He whined, “How did you know? How did you pick her out of all the girls I’ve dated?”
His mother shrugged. “I told you she was too graceful and smart to be 19, Charlie. I’m not stupid.”
Pam offered, “Ballet? It was a going trend for a while… If we did something too quickly, we’d blame our agility on training for ballet until…”
Charlie shook his head as he finished, “Until you got too tall…” When everyone chuckled at the poor bastard, he huffed, “It’s not funny. I broke up with her because of something she couldn’t help… I thought she was blowing me off when I’d ask her to go to the beach and cookouts… I made dinner for her one night and she was an hour late and turned her nose up at it… Come to find out she couldn’t leave her house before sunset and she can’t eat… I feel like an asshole!”
Pam patted his shoulder. “Don’t. She’d have seen it coming… Moving on?”
I nodded and passed the next drawing directly to Hunter since it was of him horseback riding. He grinned and asked, “Another guard?”
“No. That is Cornelius. He’s an actual horse. He lives in the stables I mentioned earlier.”
“You really have horses?”
“I do… and cows and chickens… There’s a working farm and orchard.”
“Really!? That’s cool… we can pick our own fruit?”
“And fish in the river that runs between the property and Belgium… And ice skate… And wander as far as you like because the house is on several acres, but less than a mile from a town for shopping and restaurants…”
“Just your family and the staff. In fact, Dinh and Saskia have already prepared rooms for everyone. They bought walkie-talkies so you can communicate back and forth because your bedrooms are so far apart. Hopefully they’re far enough away, you won’t have to hear one another…” And hopefully, Sookie being three levels away from them would give her some peace as well.
“What about Mr. Charlie and Miss Rosalie?”
“There are apartments in a separate building. I think they’ll enjoy the privacy.”
The boy breathed, “Awwwwwwesoooommmme.” While Julie agreed with Hunter, Sookie shifted to reach into my pocket to dig out the IOU for the gratuitous kiss she’d written earlier. She used the pencil in Ema’s binder to cross out ‘one’ and write ‘two’.
The time spent reading the journal hadn’t been a waste… Taking into account that Sookie’s ability had an effect on every aspect of her life, including her dreams, had earned yet another kiss.
By the time we sorted through the stack of Ema’s drawings, everyone had practically met the Eijsden staff and heard stories about each scene that had already taken place.
There had been further proof of Remy’s glamouring since Ema had drawn Andre with Hunter’s father… and Hunter actually recognized him. Andre introduced himself as a ‘distant relative’ of Hadley’s and visited bearing gifts often enough that Remy wasn’t surprised to see him.
The hardest of all the drawings to explain was the one where Hunter, Sookie, Adele and Alcide were all sitting together… Brandon became more impatient for answers about how his boss could be included at all, let alone how Adele and Hunter could be in the same picture. Sookie answered him with a loaded stare and promised to explain ‘later’.
As Charlie and Rosalie took their leave to begin packing for their impromptu journey, the brother/sister glaring between Sookie and Brandon worsened and she was irritated as a minimum.
She only made me wait long enough for her say a brief goodnight and kiss the children…
As soon as the elevator door closed behind Pam, Sookie and me, she huffed, “Brandon can’t decide if you’re a saint or if you have a hidden agenda.” I didn’t care unless it was affecting how Sookie felt.
“Was it the drawings of us in bed?”
“Sort of… things aren’t adding up for him.”
“Perhaps he’ll calm down once he hears about our skip… that should settle a few of his questions.” Or make him think we were all insane.
As the elevator doors slid open, she huffed, “Yeah, but until then I get to feel like I should apologize for trusting you.”
“We’ll explain on the plane tomorrow night… Unless you want me to go back and do it now.”
She sighed as I opened the door to our room. “Thanks, but I want to eat a brownie, take a bath and climb into bed… I don’t want to worry about how far he’s going to push you. Let’s just relax as much as possible.” ‘I want.’ Granted, I asked her what she wanted, but she still told me what she wanted instead of going along with my suggestion…
“I’m not going to argue with that.”
“Thank you… do you want me to take my bath now so you can tell Pam about your secret German phone call in private?” Another little glimmer of sassiness…
I chuckled, “There’s no point to excluding yourself. I just didn’t want to share with the whole restaurant that I was serving Sophie-Anne to Arkansas on a platter.”
Sookie gaped while Pam snorted, “You still hate repeating yourself, it seems.”
“How did you do it?”
“Thanks to the journal, I told him about the Queen’s telepathic connection to her children… so he should take her out of the equation first, then the others.”
“A sudden hostile takeover could be bad.”
“And what do I care? As long as she’s left to let her self-importance run amok like a weed, she’ll be a problem. Eventually, she’ll get it into her head she has half a chance of overthrowing me in order to take Sookie and/or Hunter. She needs to be stopped. He’s been planning to steal the state for long enough. I simply gave him the keys so he doesn’t make a mess… There were conditions. Peter was told to leave Hadley standing because she’s too weak to pose a threat to him. He agreed to give her a parting gift and send her to Paris…”
“Where you’ll be able to have eyes on her.”
“More importantly, she’ll have to make new allies and that takes time when one is surrounded by friends of your adversary. Compton, Roth and Ball’s estates are to be reverted to me as per the debt Sophie-Anne owes my pet.”
“We had friends in Louisiana though, Eric…”
“What friends? Bubba’s been in Amsterdam for months…”
Pam huffed, “…And Sophie-Anne’s still pissed that you stole her lawyer and Salome when you took the throne. The rumors of her conniption fit might have made it to Land’s End before she was done screeching and cursing your name.”
“I needed people I could trust…”
“Hadley has to die…” Sookie’s sudden outburst surprised all of us. “I’m… I’m sorry… It’s just…”
When she shook her head and hid her face in her hands, I pushed, “Sookie, I arranged for her to be spared because…”
She whimpered into her hands… her anxiety was spiraling in spite of how hard she was trying to remain calm. “She… She skips, Eric… You skipped and saved me… What happens if the Queen skips to Hadley… She’ll want to help her… If Hadley wants revenge…”
I put my arms around her and rubbed her back to sooth her, but it only seemed to be cathartic for me. “I thought of that, but if another Sophie-Anne skips to our version of Hadley, they won’t be able to organize quickly enough… and if Hadley skips to them, it would be futile. And none of that takes into account that Hadley is being kept out of the loop. I contacted Arkansas because he’s been a threat to Sophie-Anne since he staked his claim to his state. I’m not getting any obvious advantages from his takeover.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, but Clovis will be keeping an eye on her for me. As spoiled and ill tempered as she is in the journals…”
“She’s no different now than she was when she was a kid.”
“Fair enough… without a Maker to control her, the chances are good that she’ll be ended by Clovis within months. She would bring it on herself and our hands will be clean.”
As Sookie’s nerves settled slowly, Pam added, “And we’re all getting the fuck out of Dodge.”
“Do you want to warn Crowe?”
She shook her head. “And face the blowback if he decides to tattle? Hell no. He wouldn’t stick his neck out to protect her in an emergency… I’m sure as hell not risking what would happen if he got wind of your involvement.”
“Does he know you’re leaving him for me or are you going to send him a farewell fruit basket like Willis’s?” Sookie snickered against my chest while Pam’s face puckered.
“I’m going to tell him!”
“Which one are you referring to?”
“Both… I’m telling Willis tonight and I’ll call Crowe once I’m settled in Eijsden. I can’t claim that my Maker is going to command me to join him… It has to already be in motion.”
I nodded, resisting the temptation to tease her.
“You don’t know what it’s like… this is the first time you’ve ever been attached to a Human. He’s not usually like this… he’s scared shitless of you and what it means that you’re here. He knows you could command me to kill him if he blinks wrong… He’s just nervous.”
“Sookie explained as much.”
“Then why are you… You… You aren’t doing anything. I’m rattling my own cage…” Somehow, her face puckered more.
I chuckled at her and caught her as she said goodnight and walked towards the door. I pulled her close enough to kiss her forehead. “I missed you.”
She snickered as she left, “I missed you too, you big bully.”
While Sookie nibbled her brownie and found her pajamas, I quickly flipped through the drawings Ema had set aside…
Quickly… ‘quickly’ meaning the first two had been more than enough to decide I didn’t want to see the other 50 of them…
They didn’t seem to be anything other than scenes from the videos I’d already watched… thankfully I’d seen them when I could still detach myself. As it was, I couldn’t stand to look at drawings.
There was no way to detach myself from what happened to her anymore…
For a moment I considered putting them in the garbage, but I had the idea to put them to good use.
As I walked towards Sookie, she backed away focused on the single sheet of paper in my hand as though it was poison.
Before she could say anything, I shushed her, taking her hips to steer her to the bathroom…
She was more puzzled than ever when I set her handful of clothing next to the sink…
But as soon as I took the gift box from the counter, she realized what I was doing…
I stepped into the tub and had her follow me to sit between my legs…
I helped her spread the salt around the lip of the tub and watched as she carefully lit the candle and set it on a rose petal…
She was surprised when I recited the incantation with her while she guided my hand to ignite the drawing and as she watched the candle flicker, she settled back against me and pulled my arms around her.
The only reason we didn’t stay until the candle burned itself out was because she dozed off.
I roused her enough for her to change into her pajamas sleepily and by the time she was done, I was waiting on the bed for her.
It wasn’t as though I could go to sleep early, but I could certainly enjoy having her to myself while she was asleep…
Like the way it was to rise with her.
She was almost childlike as she clumsily crawled up the bed and crashed onto her pillow, squirming under the covers and wiggling back to rest against me.
I chuckled and offered, “You should take my phone with you to the zoo tomorrow. It takes decent pictures.”
She mumbled, “K. Thanks.”
“Don’t worry about packing. It won’t take me but a moment to do that.”
She reached back and fumbled before finding my wrist to pull my arm over her. “K. Thanks for doing that with me. It felt a little crazy before.”
“It helped both of us… whenever you need it, let me know.”
She pulled my hand up to her mouth and kissed the backs of my fingers. “You’re so sweet… G’nite.”
She burrowed back and breathed, “Love you.”