Klaasje’s jaw was sagging by the time I explained what Sookie had been through and the circumstances that put Bill Compton into her life. She hadn’t even heard about skipping yet. I glossed over that bit of information by saying Sookie ‘managed to get a message to me’.
It was only a matter of time before Klaasje sorted through the wealth of information to realize the Titanic could fit into the hole in my explanation, but her logical processes weren’t going to kick in until she was finished fighting back empathetic tears… Most of the tactics used to degrade and torture Sookie had been used to train Klaasje.
If Pam hadn’t been in the room, Klaasje would have let herself cry.
She was at a loss for words long enough I was tempted to resume reading in the interim. Rather than being so blatant, I listened to Sookie quietly explain to Hunter and Julie how to peel apples until Charlie and Rosalie joined them.
Sookie greeted everyone cheerfully and without mincing words, asked, “Hey Charlie, you remember when Eric said Klaasje was doing research to introduce glamouring into medicine?”
There was a pause before he replied, “Yeah… How the hell does that work? Like hypnosis?”
“Well… sort of. I don’t think hypnosis has much credibility and you kind of have to believe in it to be hypnotized… Glamouring is kind of a guarantee for anyone that isn’t like me though. Anyway, Klaasje found a doctor who has these kids as patients. Their house burned down around their mother and they got out in time to see it. It really messed them up, so Klaasje glamoured them to forget seeing it…”
Rosalie cooed, “God bless her heart.”
Brandon huffed, “No shit. Kids don’t need to remember that kind of thing… It’s enough that their mom’s dead. It’s better they remember the kiss she gave them when she tucked them in than watching the house go up.” I was shocked he wasn’t vehemently against the idea of altering memories.
Charlie asked, “Isn’t that a slippery slope? Playing with people’s memories, even with the best of intentions… that could get sticky.”
Sookie offered, “I’ll give you that, but I’m sure Klaasje is covering the bases. And I’m sure there are things that are just too deep-seated to be glamoured away without messing a person up…”
“Like if a person was abused as a child, but they’re an adult now. It would be too much a part of who they are and how they react to things to… shut up, Brandon… I think glamouring the kids was good because it was still fresh. They can mourn their Momma without reliving the fire every time they close their eyes or see a pilot light… I suggested Klaasje look into going to Ramstein to see if the doctors on staff there would be willing to go along. If nothing else, they’ll probably be willing to hear Klaasje out once they find out about blood therapy.”
Charlie replied, “Alright, so… what does this have to do with me?”
When Pam tried to get my attention because I’d missed something while focusing on the kitchen, I told her to wait. Boredom might have been my inspiration to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t have been more curious about how they would discuss the matter when they thought Vampires couldn’t hear them.
Sookie offered, “I was wondering if you’d be willing to locate a therapist who specializes in Pediatric Trauma…shut up, Brandon… Tragic house fires are few and far between. Thank God. If Klaasje is going to be able to put together a test group for her research, a doctor with several possible patients…”
“You’re asking where to find a doctor with a pool of traumatized children who could benefit from having their memory altered.” Charlie’s tone was too dry for me to gage his mood, but judging by Sookie’s sudden apprehension, I wasn’t sure he was willing.
Sookie answered, “Only if you’re will-”
“If you could be glamoured, do you think it would help you?”
After a nagging pain took root in her stomach, Sookie offered, “Some… I could stand to forget a few things that have happened to me. Yeah.”
Without pause, Charlie huffed, “Dr. Celeste Sewell. Maastricht University.”
“Charlie, you don’t have to. If you have any qualms…”
“It’s fine. One doctor already saw the advantage of using glamouring. Someone had to be willing to try blood therapy too. I’ll find doctors all day long if you want me to, but Klaasje has to go through them to get to the patients, alright? There needs to be legitimate documentation and research needs to be supervised closely. Blood therapy for internal medicine is one thing. There’s instant, tangible substantiation. I’m not suggesting glamour therapy is a bad thing, but it opens a whole new can of worms.”
“You think it could be abused?”
“I’ll discuss it with Klaasje later.”
“If you think this is going to be a situation where the ‘road to hell is paved with good intentions’, just say so.”
“Alright. I think the road to hell is paved with good intentions…” As bothered as I was by Sookie’s disappointment, I had to appreciate his honesty. “Her intentions are nothing if not admirable, but I think it’ll be a nightmare for Vampires to go public with glamouring. I know you’re excited about it, and trust me, I can see the practical applications, but I think I might be able to bring something to the table.”
“With the corporate background… you’re a little more familiar with PR and whatnot, right?”
“Hopefully… What’s with the eyes? Don’t look like I killed your puppy… I’m on board with the research. I just think that the medical utopia they’ve accomplished here will be undone as soon as the public at large finds out they can be manipulated too.”
Sookie was torn, but she was feeling slightly relieved by Charlie’s reassurances.
And I was grateful to hear Charlie was willing to lend his expertise to the endeavor.
Once Sookie graciously thanked Charlie for his cooperation and turned her attention back to helping the children stuff apples, I joined the conversation in my room again.
Pam snorted when I made eye contact with her. “Something interesting going on up there? I couldn’t quite make it out.” Klaasje’s expectant look might as well have said ‘me neither’.
“As a matter of fact, the kitchen is quite lively at the moment… What did I miss while I was eavesdropping?”
Klaasje asked, “At the risk of offending you, I asked why you haven’t glamoured Sookie to forget what she went through.”
“Sookie can’t be glamoured. It’s believed to be a side effect of her ability. She can feel the attempt, sense when it’s been done to others and has described the process as a Vampire’s mind penetrating the mind of the subject as water would seep into a sponge.”
Klaasje grimaced, “So she doesn’t have any hopes that it could work for her. She isn’t hoping to be part of the case study…”
Pam sighed, “It’s doubtful that she’s helping herself by helping others either. From what I gather, she’s just genuinely kindhearted… Besides, all she’ll be doing by putting herself in contact with tragic cases is rubbing her own nose in the fact that Humans don’t survive what she went through. She’ll probably never find another Human who endured worse.” Pam was right about that. Sookie’s only chances to commiserate with anyone would be with Vampires with cruel Makers.
“Klaasje, you might want to take a seat.” I hadn’t explained Charlie’s talent yet.
She only moved because I suggested it, twisting to perch on the very corner of the bed. “Is he telepathic as well?”
“No. Brandon, Hunter and Julie are telepathic. Charlie has coined the term ‘satellite clairvoyant’ for his ability. He only needs to think of an item or individual and he has a sense of its location. Not only can he locate it on a map, but he visualizes it. When tested, he described what Pam was doing at that precise moment and located the grave of Sookie’s father.”
“Was it a mystery?”
“No. It was a trick question in that he was asked to locate the man without other hints. Charlie very clearly visualized the Stackhouse family plot.”
“He can witness anything?”
“As long as he’s focusing on the item in question at the time, yes.”
“Have you offered him a position?”
“No. Rosalie is quite Human and suffering from dementia. She’s here for blood therapy. Once she’s treated and has been prescribed a regimen, they’ll most likely be returning to the States… As for Ema…”
“The theoretical Oracle, yes?”
“Her ability manifests on paper as sketches rather than the legendary ‘speaking in tongues’. By the time she met us in Evansville, she had drawn everyone here at the estate.”
“She’s drawn me?”
I nodded. “She drew our first meeting, in fact. It was as though she was in the room with us.”
Klaasje gasped, “She couldn’t have been born at the time.” Actually, she was barely walking.
“She certainly wasn’t born yet when I was brought over. She drew my introduction to my Maker.”
She blinked. Klaasje hadn’t even blinked when I showed her my orders to end her.
“To summarize, your sudden trip to the States was to help Sookie escape. During your trip, you visited your child long enough to collect her as well as a satellite clairvoyant, an oracle, and Sookie’s three known telepathic relations.”
As I nodded, Pam added, “Don’t forget Rosalie. That woman is a gem.”
Klaasje shook her head slightly from disbelief. “And you’ve bonded with Sookie.”
“Yes… Sookie and Hunter are permanent fixtures here. Sookie will be raising him. Brandon and Julie are undecided, but they’ll probably choose to stay close to Sookie. Ema will need help learning to speak Dutch because there isn’t a reason for her to be tethered to me. I’ll send her to university and she’ll make her own life in this Kingdom under my protection.”
“Do you think Ema would be safe without a guard?”
“I didn’t say that. It’s possible that Gerrit might have a guard for her…”
Klaasje’s eyes lit up as she offered, “Swaantje was disappointed that Dillon didn’t want to further his education. I heard Gerrit and Anja discussing it.”
“Did Gerrit mention a reason why the boy didn’t want to go to university?”
“He didn’t want to stop earning to ‘waste time’ with schooling when he had every intention of living up to his legacy. It was also mentioned that he didn’t want to leave the area when he was going to be a father so soon.”
“Then he could be swayed to attend classes in Maastricht alongside Ema as her guard.”
Klaasje nodded. “He’d have more than enough free time to concentrate on his family.”
“And he’d have the added experience of socializing in another environment.”
She nodded. “The pond is a little small for a shark like him. He should have the experience of being a minnow. Swaantje mentioned that he could benefit from being humbled…” Klaasje turned to Pam to explain, “Gerrit is the eighth Rutgers to hold the title of Morphbaas. Dillon has been prepared to take over since before he could shift, so he’s treated as though he’s already taken the post. He’s a born leader and an excellent strategist, but all of his predecessors have gone to university or given service in the military.”
Pam nodded. “And the practice of adding to the pack is still in place, yeah?”
“Oh yes… Swaantje came to me for my opinion in the selection process. There were more than twenty girls who volunteered to carry Dillon’s child. And of course, now that he’s added to the pack, he’s free to marry as he chooses. We’re all still waiting for the other two mothers to deliver. Both are full shifter. Swaantje will be quite busy with essentially raising triplets.”
“The mothers won’t be raising them?”
“Not in this case. Because of Dillon’s position, the children will be raised by Dillon’s mother until Dillon marries and his new wife assumes the duty.”
I snorted, “You say that as though Swaantje will be willing to be relieved of the task.”
Pam sighed, “I never paid any attention to Weres when we lived in Europe before. We didn’t keep a staff other than the occasional servant.”
Klaasje shrugged slightly and offered, “It’s a relatively new practice. For the past century arranged marriages have become less popular. The new, doctor assisted method is better suited for the selfishness of ‘marrying for love’ and the annoying excitement caused by the concept of infidelity.”
Pam snorted, “Humans… Alright, Klaasje has been brought up to speed on Eric’s new Fae menagerie. I have been brought up to speed on the hot Were gossip. A blueprint for Ema’s safey has been drafted. And Sookie has enlisted herself to help Klaasje’s glamour therapy initiative… Is there anything else on the agenda?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. The conversation I was listening to earlier was Sookie’s explanation of Klaasje’s hurdles in regards to a case study. Charlie has already agreed to offer his talents to Klaasje’s research. I’m going to bathe and join the company upstairs.”
Pam bounced from the bed and moved for the door. “You don’t have to tell me twice. I can still smell anxiety and dejection.” Her farewell with Willis.
“Thank you for rubbing your break-up all over my bedding, Pam.” I didn’t smell anything but Sookie, but not saying something would have given Pam an excuse to mock me.
She snorted, “Happy to help,” and blew a raspberry as she closed the door behind herself.
Klaasje stood when I did, but she seemed puzzled.
“Is there something else?”
“I’m…” That was all she could muster.
“Is this a game? Shall I fill in the blank?”
She frowned and shook her head. “I’m… I’m curious about what all of this means… I’m… Where do I stand now that you… now that you have…” Waiting for her to put together sentences on her own was going to be like pulling fangs.
“You’re anxious that your role will change now that Pam has returned to my side and I’ve begun grooming Sookie to be my next child, yes?”
She nodded, sheepishly looking at the floor.
“Klaasje, you’re too humble. In spite of what your Maker wanted you to believe, you’re irreplaceable.”
“My Maker didn’t try to replace me though…”
“No. He tried to end you for disagreeing with him. You should know by now that I value independent thinking. If you ever question that, feel free to ask Pam and Sookie to corroborate my feelings on the matter. Your position as my Lord High Steward is not at risk.”
She nodded resolutely. “Then befriending them would be in my best interest.”
I chuckled as I walked to my closet, “Or not. Having slumber parties with my child and pet are not part of your job description or our relationship…”
“Then I should keep my distance.”
“Klaasje, take a deep breath.”
I watched over my shoulder as she obediently inhaled and waited for further instructions.
I was tempted to laugh. “Figuratively, Klaasje. I meant for you to relax… calm down. I’m going to shower and join Sookie upstairs.”
I could feel her watching me as I walked into the bathroom. “Is there anything you need?”
“Nothing I’m going to discuss at the moment… Later.”
Klaasje was still in the shower and Pam was drying her hair when I left my room.
Thankfully, I’d have a few minutes before I would feel the need to be on alert again… the only thing to ease the anxiety of waiting for Klaasje and Pam to bicker was wondering if it would be over a matter of State or if they’d try to wear the same dress to the same function.
I followed the scents of cinnamon and molasses to the kitchen. As soon I walked in, Hunter left the step he was sharing with Julie to reach the countertop and ran over to bounce into my arms.
The women were busy working on various chores, enjoying the task of preparing their meal… Dinh, Charlie and Brandon were casually sitting around the table… Until the boy lunged towards me. Suddenly, Hunter and I were the main attraction.
He chirped, “We’re makin’ apples now, then pork chops, then we’re helpin’ Miss Rosalie make a topping for her cheesecake… then Miss Klaasje’s taking us out to give treats to your puppies!”
Sookie rolled her eyes and mumbled, “I must’ve slipped while I was putting the water on for the eggs.”
I offered, “How exciting… but you should know they’re Klaasje’s dogs. She’s been keeping them for centuries and she’s very proud of them.”
He nodded astutely. “They’re huge! Like… they need saddles instead of leashes… Can I ask a question?” Sookie had said ‘the little man is full of questions’…
I nodded. “Go ahead.”
“How come your Kingdom’s weird?”
“Because there are too many Belgians in it.”
When the peanut gallery began laughing, Hunter turned long enough to give them a warning look… and then he gave it to me. “I meant your borders. You only have part of Germany.”
“Do you think I need more Germans?”
His look became a full scowl. “Are you embarrassed to say you don’t know?” Oh really? Not a bad challenge for a four-year old.
“Europe was heavily influenced by the Roman Empire. The Northern Empire has had the same borders for much longer than the Human political borders have been drawn. Human Kings and Queens aren’t alive long enough to remember, but Vampires do. For instance, I remember a time before there was an America. To answer your question, only part of Germany is within my Kingdom because nearly 300 years ago, there was a coup. Two of the Lords in the Northern Kingdom started a rebellion and demanded independence. The southern part of Germany is now two Kingdoms. King Nicolas rules Rhineland and King Wouter rules Saxony.”
Hunter’s eyes widened and he gasped, “Were they mad at you?”
“They were furious, but not at me… The last King, King Halfdan, married a Vampire named Ana because she was Queen of what used to be called Belgicia…”
“Very good… Halfdan only married Ana for political reasons, much like Human monarchs tend to do, and after a few years he had her murdered so he could add Belgium to his empire… Nicolas and Wouter had been Knights for Ana, but they’d kept it a secret that she was their Maker. To get revenge for their Maker’s murder, they took back part of Halfdan’s Kingdom and the part they won was much bigger than Halfdan got from his marriage and Halfdan lost an abundance of his subjects in the process. That loss of territory and subjects was his reason to want the Kingdom of France so badly. He died trying to take it from Clovis.” Because Halfdan was an obtuse prick. I still wondered how the fuck he managed to become a King.
He breathed, “Woooooooow…” and studied my face for a moment before shaking off how rapt he was by his Vampire geography lesson. “But… why didn’t they kill him? And wasn’t Halfdan mad when they took part of his empire?”
“Wouter and Nicolas thought ending him would be too fast. Humiliation lasts forever… And Halfdan was furious, but he tried to save face by announcing that he was giving Rhineland and Saxony to Ana’s children as their inheritance. Of course, by then everyone knew he was lying to make himself look like less of a fool, but we all humored him.”
“Does Clovis have any kids that will try to take your Kingdom from you?”
“Sadly, no. I offered Belgium to Nicolas and Wouter as reparations, but they rejected it… I’ve tried to hand it over to his only child, but Klaasje doesn’t want it. It seems like I’m stuck with it.”
“Klaasje is Halfdan’s!”
“She is. As it turned out, Halfdan wasn’t any nicer to his child than he was his wife. He was planning to kill her too… Klaasje is very happy to help me though.”
“So now she’s on your side?”
In the simplest of terms, “Yes.”
“K… That’s good. Were y’all Nazis?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Why would you ask that?”
“Because Mr. Charlie was thinking that you have a painting Nazis took…” No doubt Charlie had recognized one of the Van Gogh’s in the drawing room… “They were bad guys. I saw it in Indiana Jones.”
Rosalie cooed, “Too cute for words… I love this age.”
“I have a lot of art the Nazis pilfered actually. The Nazis stole it, but they weren’t clever about hiding it. Vampires had a lot of fun stealing most of it before it could be destroyed. There was actually an effort a few years ago to find heirs to the recovered art. Several pieces were returned, but there were plenty left. It was decided the artwork would be returned to the Kingdom of the artist’s origin until someone made a legitimate claim on the-”
Charlie interrupted by blurting, “You have the Amber Room!”
I chuckled, “It’s more of an Amber Puzzle at the moment. It’s currently being reassembled in Hamburg because the designer was born there.”
While Charlie gaped, Hunter continued, “The guy that painted the red-headed guy… was he Netherish?”
“Dutch. Yes, he was… Do you have any other questions?”
His eyes rolled up to study the ceiling while he thought about his answer. “Nope. I was saving ‘em from today. I’ll think of more later.”
I set him on the floor so he could return to the counter. “I’m sure… Does anyone else have any questions?”
After everyone seemed to pass up the opportunity to interview me, Brandon offered, “Ema’s got something to show you.”
“Have you drawn a sketch of yourself attending university?”
She blinked several times as she shook her head. My suggestion had clearly thrown her off. “Ummmm… no. Why would I?”
“I was just discussing it with Pam and Klaasje. You should be able to continue your education. You can spend the next few months learning the language and studying for placement exams. You can start classes in the fall at Maastricht University because it’s close enough for you to commute.”
Her eyes lit up, but she managed to cringe as she asked, “Would it be safe?”
“I’ll see to a guard for you. I’m sure Gerrit will be able to find someone qualified who is young enough to blend in. He’ll drive you and take you to classes. By the time you’ve graduated, it will be pubic knowledge you’re in my retinue and there won’t be any reason why you can’t do whatever you choose.”
Ema stammered, “I’m… I get… I never thought I’d go to school… there wasn’t money for it. Even if there was… the way I zone out and all…”
“Your guard will be made aware of the nature of your ability and help with covering it. To further the point, I don’t see any reason for you to be completely estranged from your family either. Tell them you took a job abroad as an au pair since they aren’t fond of Vampires and with the children here, it’s an easy stage to set… What did you want to show me?”
She smiled and jogged past me, turning back just long enough to wrap her arms around me for a grateful hug, only to run away giggling…
While she was gone, Sookie looked around the room and asked, “Nothing?”
Brandon nodded in agreement. “Not a bit. That girl is a steel trap.” I had to assume the group had explained their abilities to Dinh and Saskia since they only showed curiosity.
I asked, “You can’t hear her thoughts or get a sense of her mood?”
Sookie shook her head. “No sir. As happy as you just made her, she’s just a presence…”
Julie licked cinnamon from her finger and offered, “She’s here. We can feel her moving around, but we can’t tell nothin’ from her brain.”
Brandon corrected, “Anything, Jules… So Ema’s got telepaths and Vampires stumped.” Charlie nonchalantly reached over to Brandon’s laptop to begin typing.
Rosalie asked, “What are mediums?”
I shrugged. “Charlatans. I’ve never met a medium or a psychic that wasn’t just a cold-reading con-artist.”
“There has to be real ones though, right? For there to be mediums in lore…”
“It’s possible telepaths are the root of the myths though… when you consider dinosaur bones are the source of dragon lore…”
She nodded, realizing that centuries could have made nothing into anything thanks to imagination.
Charlie blurted, “Drakonaris. It’s a tiny island near Ithica…” He nudged the laptop towards Brandon and apologized for being a ‘Mac pirate’.
“What question did you ask?”
“Where is there someone else like Ema?” Fuck. It was always assumed Pythoness stayed in the Mediterranean…
“Did you have any other ideas or is Drakonaris the only place?”
Sookie blurted, “Charlie, where’s Pythia!?”
He raised an eyebrow at her and nodded. “Blackness… She must be in the dark… but I’m getting the same location.”
Sookie bounced and clapped her hands, shrieking, “BINGO!”
I held my hand up to stop her. “Hold on. Don’t get ahead of yourself… I’ve heard she has a handful of servants. It wouldn’t be out of the question for her to have a ‘collection’ like mine.”
“But we know where to find her. That’s more than we had before.” She was so much more hopeful than before… I hated trying to keep her grounded.
Brandon offered, “The island is listed as uninhabited… and the map has nothing on it… it looks like nothing but a rock.”
“There are countless possible reasons for that… anything from cliché subterranean quarters to a magical cloak. Her whereabouts don’t leave this room. It would put Charlie in danger. The King of Greece, Markos, isn’t anyone’s ally, so contacting him would be a bad idea. Whether he knows Pythoness is in his Kingdom or not, exposing her location would be suicide… I’ll have to ask one King at a time for a while before I contact him… If the rumors that I’m seeking her out reach him before I actually call him, it won’t be obvious that I know of her whereabouts.”
Sookie huffed, “That sucks… I understand why and all. I just feel bad for Ema… I guess… a vacation to Greece is out of the question, huh?”
“It would be a little suspicious if we just so happen to accidentally stumble over one of the biggest secrets in Vampire history… We do have the benefit of knowing Ema is in fact an Oracle though… Wait.” Even though we knew Pythia’s location and the location of ‘someone like Ema’, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. “Charlie, where’s the closest Oracle?” It needed to be said instead of assumed.
Charlie shook his head. “Still Drakonaris.”
Brandon looked up from his laptop and interrupted, “Sibyl. Charlie, where’s the closest Sibyl?” Fuck. Brilliant.
Charlie nodded with a strange grin on his face. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of wording… She’s on the move, on her way back from the office.”
Only a moment later Ema tapped my shoulder and when I turned around, she was biting her bottom lip and offering a few drawings to me.
“Do you want our news first or are you more anxious about your drawings?”
Her eyebrows knit together. “What coulda happened while I was in your office?”
“It’s been suggested that you’re an Oracle.”
She shook her head, showing her confusion. “I don’t really know what that is.”
“According to antiquity, the Oracles received messages from divine sources… They were Humans and had families. The only Supernatural aspect of their state of being was the gift of prophecy. Ancient Oracles spoke in tongues and offered insight…”
Ema cringed and whimpered, “And y’all think I’m an Oracle? How’d you get to that?” Upbeat would have been the best way to describe Ema’s usual manner as I’d seen it… Her sudden seriousness was as noticeable to me as Sookie’s first laugh had been.
“Charlie searched for someone else like you. He found an island in Greece… We know of one Oracle because she was brought over. Asking specifically about Pythoness pulled Charlie to the same island… Asking where the closest Oracle is didn’t change location, but when Charlie asked where the closest Sibyl is…”
Charlie finished, “You were leafing through your drawings on your way back and stumbled over the edge of the rug in the hall.”
“I’m a Sibyl!?”
I nodded. “Feel free to research them, but be warned… All mythology is the bastard child of Fact and Imagination. Anything you find could offer more questions than answers. They exist in most of the world’s religions to one degree or another.”
“So what’s the difference between an Oracle and a Sibyl?”
“It seems like terminology. The Greek referred to their Sibyls as Oracles.”
“Can I meet the other one? If there’s only one… If she’s really old she might tell me how I can get better. Right?”
“It’s possible… I’ll do everything I can to arrange for contact of some kind, but it’ll take time.”
She nodded thoughtfully for a moment before asking, “Did you say ‘divine’?”
“The Oracles were priests and priestesses at Greek temples. They spoke unintelligibly and their messages had to be deciphered. They supposedly had no knowledge of what they’d said because they entered a trancelike state.”
“Well, the trancelike state is right…”
Julie blurted, “THAT we can see… before she’s done drawing. We can see what’s in her head.”
“Really? Can you see anything that isn’t part of the final drawing?”
As I scanned the room, the four telepaths shook their head. Julie offered, “Just color…”
Brandon agreed, “Yeah… I was wondering, you know, if her drawings were missing something in the background… like if it was taking longer for her to draw and she wasn’t getting the whole picture down on paper… What’s in her head when she zones out is the exact thing she draws.”
Dinh offered, “She gave me a list of drawing supplies, but I’d like to suggest Photoshop and a Bamboo…”
Brandon added, “Eric, I think she could use a desktop PC too. Her laptop screen is toast because she’s drawn on it and had to scrub it a few times.”
I nodded. “See to it, Dinh. She’ll need it for school too…” Ema’s eyes began to water.
She shook her head and waved her hand. “God… It’s soooo great of y’all to wanna help… but I don’t speak in tongues. My accent might be pretty thick, but I speak English…”
“The Oracle is approximately 3000 years old. The root of the word oracle means spoken. As a Sibyl, a seer, a prophetess, you wouldn’t necessarily adhere to that ‘rule’. But if any part of the legends is true, you do need someone to help decipher what you’ve drawn. Not all Sibyls are Oracles…”
Pam arrived in the doorway to join everyone just in time to offer, “Like not all sweaters are cashmere. I’m not even bitter that you started the party without me. Congrats kid… Now focus on Fashion Week so we can work on our plan of attack.” Nevermind that we’d solved a mystery that had several versions of Us baffled, and only thanks to Charlie… let’s focus on Fashion Week.
The fact that the children giggled, but Ema didn’t as much as grin was more than enough evidence she was reeling.
“Ema, you’ve been drawing for as long as you can remember. You know what you’re drawing is real… the past, present and future that you can’t possibly have any firsthand knowledge of. Being able to label what you are doesn’t change it.”
She cleared her throat and nodded nervously.
“Now what did you want to show me?”
She looked down at the papers in her hand as though she’d forgotten she was holding them.
The first was of three infants… all of them swaddled and lined up… the one in the middle was slightly larger than the other two…
The second was of an unfamiliar bathroom without any hints to the location…
The third was of a ‘new’ face… one of my Lords… I hadn’t thought about it, but since Gawain was the Constable he usually found a transparent excuse to visit regularly… and usually with a donor or two.
“I can decipher two of them. The bathroom is a mystery.”
“Damn. I was hoping it was one of the ones downstairs. We checked the rest of them. Guess that one goes in the ‘unsolved’ pile… Who are the babies then?”
“My guess would be that Gerrit or Dillon will be able to identify the largest of them. Dillon’s expecting two more… Klaasje will be able to tell you the due-dates. She and Swaantje are friends.”
“Oh… Ummmm, wow… okay… Dillon’s here.”
“The day after… Is he dedicated or does he think I expect him to-”
I wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular, but Sookie interrupted, “The house was crawling with company. He was claustrophobic and used work as his excuse to get some quiet. Gerrit was here this afternoon too.”
“My guards are hiding from well-wishers?”
Pam snorted, “You would too. Newborns bring out the best in women. Assloads of free advice and if that baby’s part of a legacy…”
“I don’t hide.”
“No… You think of excuses to be somewhere else… you know… like working instead of…”
“Shut up… The third drawing…” Fuck that everyone began laughing (including Sookie), I continued, “The third drawing is my Lord Constable. I’d expect to see him soon since it’s been a week. He’s locked in a perpetual state of boredom.”
Pam snorted, “Who did you steal from Sophie-Anne to fill that position?”
Smart ass. I’d only ‘stolen’ Felix and Salome from her.
I held the drawing up and watched for Pam’s reaction…
As expected, she darted out of the kitchen towards the back of the house… most likely because her practical, yet bulky, sweater, and jeans wouldn’t be what she wanted Gawain to see her in after so long. Willis who?
Brandon snorted, “Should I ask what that was about?”
“Not with the children around, you shouldn’t.” I couldn’t think of a way to ‘church up’ the fact that the last time Pam and Gawain saw each other, they had to put Stonehenge back to rights. Wiltshire probably still reeked of sex.
“So she knows him too, huh?”
I nodded. “I’ve known Gawain since I was barely a century old. He’s probably been a Knight for every King on the continent… He was something of a mentor to me since I wasn’t ever fond of my Maker.”
“But now he works under you?”
“As old as he is, and with his background as a Knight, it was difficult for him to travel without being suspected of having ulterior motives whether he had them or not… I had the same problem because of my reputation. It’s why Sophie-Anne offered the Sheriff position to me in the first place. As Lord Constable for the Northern Kingdom, he can travel freely without being suspected because I’ve made it clear I don’t want the Kingdom I have…”
“Why’d you take over then?”
“It was a kill or be killed situation…” Changing the subject was paramount since Sookie knew the details and her telepathic brother was too curious. “Dinh, call Gerrit and offer an excuse for him to ‘hide’. I have something to discuss with him and Dillon, but let him know it will wait if they’re otherwise engaged.”
While everyone else went back to work preparing their meal, Ema asked me to help her call her parents…
She wasn’t any good at lying and was afraid to tell them too much.
She either gnawed on her fingernails or her lip for the first half of the conversation while her mother prayed to ‘sweet baby Jesus’…
And it was impossible to keep a straight face when Ema pulled her knees up and hid inside of her sweater like a frightened turtle as her father demanded to speak to her new boss.
Part of me was tempted to end the parents’ hysterical praying and confused accusations by explaining their daughter was a prophetess… but instead of causing aneurisms, I stayed with the story of contacting an agency for an au pair…
It was more fun to make them feel guilty for not being proud of her for being ‘industrious enough to have taken such steps towards making a life for herself, broaden her horizons, earn an education… all of it without being foolishly baited away from her family by a boy who’d only take advantage of her innocence’…
Ema finally poked her head out of her sweater to smile when they began backpedaling and affirming how proud they were.
Gerrit and Dillon arrived at the door to my office just as Ema was promising to call and email her family regularly.
She bashfully tried to excuse herself while Gerrit groaned, “Swaantje laughed at me because I ran for my keys. I was considering laxatives as an excuse to avoid the horde.”
“Stay Ema. This is about you… Does the Domina enjoy the attention or have you left her to her own devices?”
“Both… She’s been growling at us all day for complaining.”
Gerrit stepped into the office. “Not that I care as long as I’m out of the house, but what did you need?”
“I need a personal guard for Ema. She’ll be attending school at Maastricht University when the next term begins. I want someone who can attend classes with her. Their tuition will be paid.”
Dillon stayed in the doorway, narrowing his eyes as he clarified, “A scholarship for whoever is assigned to her?”
I nodded and offered the drawing of the infants to Gerrit. “Her ability could hinder her attention at times. She’ll need someone at her side who can continue taking notes, someone who can explain what she missed while she was unaware of her surroundings.”
As soon as Gerrit took the page from me, his eyes doubled in size. “THIS!”
I winked at Ema when she squirmed nervously.
“Recognize one of them, do you?”
“She’s a telepath too? I didn’t believe it earlier… but…”
“She isn’t a telepath. Sookie’s family is, but Ema is…”
He shoved the page towards Dillon and blurted, “That’s Falk! She drew Falk!”
Ema offered sheepishly, “The one on the right was in a yellow blanket. The other two were in blue, if that makes a difference. Julie told me.”
“She’s a Sibyl… She can’t avoid the trancelike state. Attending university would be difficult for her unless she has someone who can assist her.”
Dillon blurted, “Two boys and a girl? Falk… Arne… Merel…”
Ema looked over her shoulder to grin at him. “Those are pretty names.”
“My mother chose them. When did you draw this?”
“This morning at breakfast… I didn’t know who they were until Eric saw them.”
He studied the page again for a moment, gaping.
Ema fidgeted again and explained, “I drew you guys too. A while ago. Before I met Eric… I can’t help it. I just zone out and… what I get is what I get.”
The poor thing was suffering a certain amount of culture shock. Just a few days earlier, she couldn’t trust her own family with the truth of what she was…
She was finally finding herself among individuals who could feel shocked or impressed without being horrified by the unknown.
Dillon breathed, “Can I keep this?”
She nodded. “I scanned it already… yeah.”
Gerrit offered, “Arne looks like Swaantje…”
I nodded. “I was thinking the same thing… So, Morphbaas, can you think of anyone who can be trusted with the safety of the only known living Sibyl and would benefit from the experience and education? Klaasje already has someone in mind if you can’t think of anyone.”
“Who does she have in mind?”
I tilted my head towards Dillon while his attention was on the drawing of his children.
“She thinks it would make everyone happy… I know how strong and capable he is. The new venue would take him out of his comfort zone, forcing him to use new tactics. His mother would consider herself victorious in the debate. And he’d have a schedule light enough to allow him time with his children.”
Gerrit gave a firm nod. “Done.”
Dillon finally regained his focus enough to realize we were referring to him. “What? ME?” He was more surprised than anything.
I chuckled, “You can’t think you’re too old to attend university at 20… I was 600, give or take…”
Gerrit grumbled, “This isn’t about schooling. This is pack business. You’ll be the personal guard to the Only. Living. Sibyl. You’d be on the job if it just meant taking her shopping…”
Ema breathed, “I won’t be any trouble… well, anymore than I can help… No one knows about me yet. Just the folks here.”
Dillon rolled his eyes. “I figured that much… It’s not… Why would I enroll?”
I countered, “Why not? You’ll be forced to pay attention to the lectures so you can supplement the gaps in her concentration. You might as well enroll and earn your own degree.”
He looked down at the sketch again and began pacing slowly… mumbling about other candidates, and immediately excluding them for one reason or another…
He finally sighed, “It’ll definitely get Mama to leave me alone about it… Ema, right?”
She nodded, dipping her chin into the neck of her sweater like she was considering hiding again.
“What are you thinking about studying?”
She shrugged, “I never thought about it… Daddy delivers bread and Mommy works at a call center… My older brother joined the Army for his college money…”
Since she seemed to be close to crying, I explained, “She was taken out of public school years ago and homeschooled. She probably doesn’t remember much of what a class setting is like…”
Ema shook her head. “I just remember the way my teachers would be fussin’ when I was done zoning out…”
“The two of you should plan a visit to the university. Take a tour. Speak to someone in admissions to learn about prerequisites and programs.”
Dillon snorted, “Jaya’s family is visiting from Amsterdam in the morning… I’ll be here.”
Ema giggled, “I don’t wanna be the reason you miss your company…”
Gerrit interrupted, “I’ll go with you… You know, because you might not think of everything that needs to be asked.”
Ema laughed, “Right on… Y’all are funny.”
Dillon shook his head. “Have you ever been in a room full of people who are speaking another language, and you’re sure they’re talking about you?”
“Yeah… I’m from Texas so there’s plenty of Mexican immigrants. Even in stores I feel a little paranoid.”
“Yeah, well, Jaya’s family speaks Dutch and English, but they still use Punjabi…”
Ema sucked air past her teeth. “Yeah… that’s a little suspicious.”
Gerrit blurted, “HA! I dare Swaantje to argue with a Sibyl!”
The one perk to being King was that while everyone else ate their dinner, I could have Pam and Klaasje working…
I’d been serious about being lazy and I wanted to make short work of business so Sookie and I could retire as early as possible.
Even though Nicolas had initially been doubtful of Klaasje’s blood therapy proposal, he was willing to play along with her new project enough to agree to meet us at Ramstein after a short phone call.
While Pam checked in with Willis, and Klaasje finalized details of the Eijsden Carnival with Children’s Village, I was left to read Klaasje’s 200-page preliminary report…
It was somewhat easier to focus on the text, but my mind still wandered to my plans for later…
Once the laughter from the kitchen subsided…
Once Sookie had the chance to look through her boxes of photos…
Once the children visited the barn…
Once the rest of the company had retired…
When I could finally be alone with Sookie and a good book… Instead of reading medical jargon and waiting for files to transfer from Gwen’s computer to mine.
Nevermind that I missed watching Sookie enjoy her meals. Feeling how much fun she was having made me imagine burning Klaasje’s research.
It was nearly ten o’clock when dinner, dessert and photo albums were put away so the children could be taken to the barn…
I might have complained that I was excluded from looking through the albums, but I was too preoccupied by how happy she was to have the small piece of her old life…
And how well she managed her feelings herself.
I only really began to concentrate on my reading once everyone left the house…
My attention span only held out for as long as they were gone too, but it wasn’t my fault that time…
Whispering would have distracted me before I met Sookie. Everyone was speaking in hushed tones as they filed back into the house…
Sookie was grinning when she came to the door of my office again.
Rosy cheeked and teary eyed from the cold.
She whispered, “I’m not interrupting, am I?” Yes.
I shook my head and motioned for her to join me.
As she settled on my legs, she removed something from her back pocket and held a photo next to her face. My initial thoughts about the resemblance between Sookie and Julie were understated.
She giggled, “Wasn’t I cute?”
“Adorable… If it weren’t for the age of the photo, I’d swear it’s of Julie.”
She nodded. “That’s what Brandon said… My baby pictures are just as bad…” She giggled as she offered the next two photos. “Those are Daddy and Jason’s graduation pictures…”
Another remarkable resemblance. Brandon resembled his father more than Jason did.
“The Stackhouses don’t suffer from weak genetics.”
“Telepathy, blonde hair, blue eyes… Hunter favors Hadley. She looks like her father.”
“Did you bring any others or just those two?”
“I knew you were busy, so I didn’t want to bother you… I don’t mind looking through the albums again. Just let me know… I brought one more though…”
She was lounging on a chair in a white string bikini and sunglasses… she had her hand up to deter the photographer, but she was smiling, biting her tongue… Her hair was a much brighter blonde… her skin was golden… her curves were soft…
“When was this taken?”
“A couple of weeks before Gran was killed… That’s what I used to look like. I’m still trying to figure out how I didn’t lose my boobs… Arlene always said that was the first thing to go for her.”
Pam covered the receiver while Willis continued to prattle. He’d been romanticizing their separation for nearly an hour… She whispered, “My mother lost her ass first, not that anyone would notice. Her bodices doubled as party tents.”
Sookie covered her mouth to snort out a laugh. “What about you?”
Pam shook her head. “I was unfashionably thin for the time…”
I quietly offered, “It could have been that she was getting too much exercise… climbing in and out of windows, frolicking with lovers in the dead of night…” Being thin wasn’t the only Jacobean taboo Pam enjoyed.
Pam wiggled her eyebrows. “That too… Eric, could you save me? He won’t shut up.”
I shook my head. Willis was a bed she made. She had to suffer his bleating… And it was amusing she was tolerating it.
Sookie gasped and swatted my thigh. “That’s mean. It’s not Willis’s fault there’s no competition between you two.”
I chuckled, “Are you trying to use flattery to encourage me to help her?”
She tilted her head and her eyebrow pitched… she shook her head slowly and I was half expecting for her to give me that pathetic, pouty face from earlier.
She gently cleared her throat as she turned towards Pam, and surprised us both by slamming her hands onto the desk. “Oh God! Pam, we need your help! Hunter’s wandered off… We can’t find him anywhere! The river…!”
An excellent performance… her voice broke as though she was overwrought… If she sounded as though she was panicking to me, Willis would have fallen for it.
Pam quickly said, “Willis, I have to go,” and ended the call, immediately dropping the phone on the desk to begin clapping.
Sookie jokingly put her arm to her waist to bow, laughing, “You’re very welcome.”
Sookie barely had the time to sit up before Klaasje sped into the room… “What’s happened!?”
Sookie gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh God, Klaasje! I’m sooooo sorry! Pam needed an excuse to end a call! I didn’t even think about how good your hearing is!”
Klaasje rolled her eyes and relaxed her posture. “I should have known better… I just saw him.”
Sookie shook her head. “It’s a good thing Vampires can’t have heart attacks, but I’m still sorry. That was horrible. I won’t do that again without warning people.”
Klaasje sighed, “Completely forgiven… I might have you do the same for me eventually… Eric, if there’s nothing else, Charlie and I were going to discuss his thoughts on glamour therapy.”
“No. Nothing else.”
She was nodding and turning away when Pam asked, “Mind if I join you?”
Klaasje seemed just as surprised as I was. “You’re interested in the endeavor?”
“Curious… Eric will tell you that I’m a kibitzer…”
I nodded, vehemently agreeing with that understatement.
“And the house is winding down. I don’t want to step on any toes, but I might be able to offer something on Human feelings towards Vampires. American Vampires have the polar reputation. Everything we do is suspect.”
Klassje snorted, “I think you mean ‘they’ since you’ve come home…”
Klaasje nodded her head towards the door as Pam’s invitation…
I heard the front door close behind the two of them before I realized my mouth was open.
Sookie giggled and put her hand on my cheek. “What? They’re getting along… It’s what you wanted.”
“Wanting doesn’t produce results. I’m surprised they’re getting along so quickly… The reason I’m watchful is they both have very similar personalities.”
“They’ll probably clash at some point, but they both love you. I don’t think they’d let it get too bad.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“As much as you love Pam, you two still bickered.”
“And stopped talking for…”
“I wasn’t talking about that… I was talking about any of the other disagreements you had with her in the other 300-some odd years you were together. If nothing else, both of them know they can depend on you to be honest with them… Speaking of which, I want to ask you something and I want your honest opinion… How do you feel about shaving?”
“Are you changing the subject by suggesting I’m hairy?”
She giggled and shook her head, “I’m changing the subject to keep you from worrying about the slim chance of a cat-fight breaking out in Charlie’s room. Pam and Klaasje are still feeling each other out. They won’t bicker yet… Now, how do you feel about women shaving?”
It wasn’t until then that I realized My Sookie wasn’t shaved, but the other one had been… Fuck.
“You weren’t allowed to shave, were you?”
Her nose wrinkled. “I was being vague because I didn’t want you to…”
When she trailed off, I finished, “You didn’t want your preference to affect my answer.”
She nodded and didn’t look away from her knees.
“Do I want to know why you were denied your grooming preferences?” Compton certainly would have been able to make time for it while he was lording over her bathing.
She shook her head.
She would have just told me if she wasn’t allowed to have razors because of threatening to kill herself.
My imagination took me everywhere from Bill’s preferences to knowing how a pair of tweezers and a bottle of vinegar can make someone regret having just a few hairs.
I didn’t realize I was growling until Sookie cleared her throat.
“I want you to shave because you want to shave… Shave your head if you want to make a statement.”
“K… I was going to go take a long hot shower to help thaw out… then settle in…”
“Sookie… we’ve talked about this.”
“I know… I just… This was a little different. That’s why I tried to sound ambiguous…”
“But you aren’t ambiguous. It wasn’t until you mentioned it that it crossed my mind at all… You’re your own person. Go shower. Shave. Settle in…” Because she fucking wanted to. Not because ANYONE demanded it.
We were interrupted by company before Sookie could rebound and stand up…
Gawain had always come and gone as he pleased. He’d used the castle from time to time in the past… And there hadn’t ever been a time when there were Humans to consider.
He was sitting across from us before Sookie realized he was in the room.
Sookie gasped and leaned back.
“Klaasje has to stop feeding eggs to the dogs. I can smell them driving through Maastricht… What is this you have here?”
“Gawain, this is Sookie.”
He tilted his head. “What is she hiding under that sweater?”
“Ooooooh. Eric has a pet? Is that what we were doing in the States? Shopping for fresh meat?”
“How did you know I was in the States?”
He chuckled, “Isn’t it my job to notice things… things like the times on emails? Yes, that’s right… Well after sunrise. I brought some Bourgers for dinner, but I see you already have plans.” Every fucking country… he had a food nickname for the natives. Luxembourgians were lucky to be called Bourgers… considering Meatballs (Swedish and Italian), Krauts… A jus… Empanadas…
I rolled my eyes. “Sookie is being groomed.”
He actually blinked.
“Groomed? You’re going to bring her over… You really just need to kiss and make up with Pamela.” And his personal opinion of Pam had nothing to do with his advice.
“I’ve already done that. At the moment, she’s with Klaasje and an associate. They’re discussing glamour therapy.”
“You went to the States for Pamela… and found your new future child in the process. Did you get a package deal?”
I nodded. “You could say that.” A Sibyl, a satellite clairvoyant who proved his worth in one night, and four telepaths… that was a package.
Sookie was giggling when Gawain’s look suddenly became more serious.
He was practically glaring at Sookie.
Saying that it wasn’t like him was an understatement… Gawain was infamously friendly. He’d been thanked for being courteous before he killed or ended his targets. I’d witnessed it.
Sookie’s sudden unease was just as noticeable, but it could have been the attention Gawain was giving her or my unease.
I hadn’t thought for a moment he’d be a concern.
“Gawain, is there business or is this a usual visit?”
He continued to stare at Sookie, but he replied, “There actually is business to discuss. A body was found in Tandel… Edward said the boy was dumped on a busy street with his throat torn to shreds. I called en route. It’s the same as in Zermatt, Geneva, Yonne, Meuse…”
“Whoever it is, they’re getting closer.”
He shrugged, still focused on Sookie. “It could be coincidental, but the trail of bread crumbs is leading directly to your candy shack.”
Sookie cleared her throat and began to stand. “If you’ll excuse me…”
He ordered, “Sit.”
Her ass slammed onto my legs with enough force it hurt her.
“Do you mind explaining what the fuck is going on, Gawain?”
“I’m not done with her.”
She was holding her breath and as rigid as stone.
“Done? You’re frightening her… Sookie, go on… I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
She was frozen. Her eyes were locked on his. My bond with her was dissipating, fading like she was moving away… towards him…
“GAWAIN! What are you doing!?”
“Do you have anything you want to tell me about your pet?”
“No… Are you glamouring her?”
“No. Where did you find her?”
Without a better idea, I covered her eyes… and felt her sag instantly. She buried her face against my neck and clung to me like a life raft. Trembling violently… sobbing… gasping…
“You’re going to tell me what the fuck that was.”
“You’re aware she’s part Fae.”
“Yes, of course I am. What the fuck did you do to her?”
“She’ll be fine.”
“That isn’t what I asked.”
“Sookie…” I didn’t care that Gawain was centuries older than me… I considered ending him just for acting as though I wasn’t in the room. “Remember that.”
“Remember what? Sookie, what is he talking about?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but he ordered, “Don’t.”
“Gawain, I have had as much as I’m willing to take. What the fuck is going on?”
“I don’t know. I have this effect on women.”
He chuckled, “You can’t rescind my invitation and you know your guards are no match for me… I contacted the Lords to have them on alert for drifters. Is there anything else you’d like me to do before the rogue crosses into your Kingdom?”
“You’re going to pretend that… whatever the fuck that was… didn’t happen!?”
Gawain shrugged defiantly… I’d always respected his seniority, but he was dangerously close to an altercation.
The last thing I needed was for Hunter to walk into the office.
He padded directly to me, mumbling ‘stop that’ when Gawain stared at him. He pulled a drawer out and used it as a step to climb onto the desk and sit facing me.
“You know what he did?”
“He heard me ask Sookie if y’all would tuck me in. Sookie’s thinking about the bad man.”
“He heard you? Telepathically?”
Hunter nodded and grumbled, “Stop that,” to Gawain before continuing. “He was like us before he got fangs… I saw it… I think Sookie’s scared cuz’a what the bad man did, not cuz’a what Mr. Gawain said.”
Gawain hissed, “If you’re going to keep talking, why don’t you explain who ‘the bad man’ is.”
Hunter lifted his hand to show Gawain his middle finger without looking back. So help me I almost laughed.
“What did Gawain say?”
“That he would hide her where you can’t find her.”
“He threatened her?”
Hunter shook his head. “I think he was offering to help us… If Sookie wanted to get away.”
Offering to take Sookie away was probably the worst thing he could do since he didn’t know how I came to have her.
Hunter continued, “He doesn’t know you saved us already.”
I shook my head as much as I could with Sookie clinging so tightly. “Gawain, you could have just said you’re telepathic.” For that matter, he could have asked before he assumed she was a prisoner.
“Why would I tell you when I never told my Maker… It didn’t really matter in the scheme of things. She was the only Vampire I could scan. Humans mostly… And I wasn’t telepathic before I ‘got fangs’, but I could glamour.”
“You could glamour before you were brought over? How much of your ancestry was Fae?”
“Just my mother… And yes, I could make anyone do or believe anything. How did you find her?”
“She was taken by the Sheriff Sophie-Anne hired to replace me. She was held for months. The news reached Pam.”
Hunter added, “They were real bad to her and she’s scared you wanna take her like they did.”
“My Maker wasn’t necessarily kind considering what being brought over did to me. I was offering-”
“What did being brought over do?”
“Not only did I rise stronger than her, but I tasted more like Fae than I did before…”
“I already expected as much… She’s only an eighth though… you were half.” But he smelled completely Vampire. Knowing Sookie’s scent wouldn’t be a temptation once she was brought over would make her feel that much safer.
“It was enough to catch someone’s attention.”
“Bottom feeders… She was used for financial gain and tortured because she didn’t accept being trained… You would have betrayed me.”
He shrugged as though it was nothing, but I was conflicted enough to pull something apart. On one hand, I’d known him for close to 900 years and had more respect for him than I ever had for my Maker. On the other hand, he was willing to go against me and our history to help Sookie… If nothing else, I could appreciate I could trust him to think of her safety.
“Only while she’s still alive. The only way to protect her from you once she’s brought over is to end you. I’m not willing to go that far.”
Oh, well at least there’s that.
“I suppose I’ve worn out my welcome for the night…”
I growled at him. “Look for a young boy. He was turned in his early teens… Alexei Romanov…”
“The Tsarivech of Russia? Someone turned that boy? Who the fuck would do that?”
I rolled my eyes. “My Maker.”
“Tell me this is a joke because you’re pissed that I’d offer to help your pet get away from you.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, but I’m serious… He was out of control before Appius was ended. It’s only gotten worse… Appius was ended in Marmaris. You should be able to follow the bread crumbs back… When he comes to my Kingdom, we’ll do our best to capture and end him.”
“How did you come by this information?”
Hunter snorted, “Faeries told him.”
Gawain did his best to hide his amusement. “Telepaths can’t see the future.”
Hunter giggled and leaned forward to pat Sookie’s hand. “Mr. Gawain, were you glamouring her?”
Gawain sighed. “Yes, but it’s not the same as a normal Vampire’s glamour.” Hunter was given a truthful answer… because… my ‘friend’ knew the telepath would feel it if he tried to lie. Fuck me.
“Could you make Sookie forget?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Why me? Eric can do it.”
I’d have to forgive him if he could help Sookie forget what she’d been through… I’d owe him.
I shook my head. “They can’t be glamoured normally.”
He shrugged again. “I suppose. Put some thought into what she should forget.” Being raped and tortured. The captivity, the loss… all of that would have to remain.
Hunter asked, “Why’d you think Eric did it?”
“In the simplest of terms, Faeries make Vampires go crazy, kid.”
“Thanks… If Sookie wasn’t hiding in Eric’s head, she’d say thanks for looking out for us… but we’re real safe with Eric.”
Hunter ran off as I tried to lead him upstairs with Sookie in my arms.
He darted into the kitchen before I could think about stopping him… He yanked open the refrigerator and stepped onto one of the shelves, removing a small green container…
Smiling proudly at his mysterious feat, he told me to ‘c’mon’ and led the way to his room.
Hunter used his suitcase, then the settee as steps to climb onto the large bed that only made him seem that much smaller.
He turned off his own light and stood on his bed until I was next to him so he could kiss Sookie’s cheek. So grown, yet so innocent.
“Tell her I did it. I don’t want her to think I forgot.”
“I can’t hear him… Mr. Gawain… It’s neat… he can make us hear what he wants, but when he wasn’t doin’ it, he was like you.”
“That’s interesting… It’s no wonder how he became so accomplished as a Knight.”
“He hated it… When he thought you were the bad man in Sookie’s head. It made him sad ‘cuz he trusts you… Sookie freaked out as soon as he said he’d hide her. She was trying to hide in your head by the time he started explaining.”
“That’s very good to know. Thank you.”
He nodded as though he’d said everything on his mind and placed the container on Sookie’s legs. “That’s her special brownies. The ones that calm her down. Just in case. G’nite.”
I placed Sookie on our bed gently, sitting next to her to begin removing her layers of clothing…
Boots… Jeans… Sweater… Underthings…
I didn’t take any liberties with her nightgown… I was careful to choose the white one she’d shown a preference for…
When I laid next to her, I was careful to not touch her…
I couldn’t help but feel frustrated after saying her name several times without results…
This was not what I’d been looking forward to.
The other shoe had dropped… A setback after an evening of high spirits.
I’d expected them, setbacks, but that didn’t keep me from feeling disappointed… for both of us.
When she finally opened her eyes, she grinned…
For a brief moment it was as though she was waking from a restful nap, until she gasped and covered her face.
I pulled her hands away and before she could put her apologetic feeling into words, I offered, “Gawain, my friend for centuries, was offering to betray me to help you escape me. He wasn’t threatening to steal you… And he’s very lucky Hunter was party to what he did… because one of us was very close to being hurt.” Most likely me since he was so much stronger and Sookie was somewhat weighing me down. It wasn’t as though I would throw her so I could attack him.
“What!? Why would he do that?”
“Because Gawain was half Fae… Apparently his Maker wasn’t kind… He wanted to spare you from a similar fate. All things considered, I think I’ll just act as though I carry a grudge for a while, but Hunter seemed to make it clear that you’re pleased to be in my care. For the record, you should know how good it is to have Gawain in your corner.”
She covered her mouth again and her eyes began to water… “Eric… I need to tell him I’m sorry… If he was… Oh God…”
“He understands what happened to you now… We should discuss that he was glamouring you, Sookie.”
She sniffled as she nodded. “Do you think it’s because he’s so much older than you?”
“It’s because he was Fae. He was able to glamour before he was brought over… He agreed to glamour you.”
She stared, long and hard, giving me few hints to how she felt about the news before she shook her head.
“You said earlier there are things you’d like to forget… Are you frightened? I wouldn’t let him hurt you.”
She shook her head again, scooting closer and tucking her head under my chin. “Do you want me to forget?”
“I want for you to be happy. Like you were earlier… I don’t like that you’re still suffering.”
“Then I’ll do it.” She was giving up what she wanted without a fight. One setback was becoming a landslide.
“Why don’t you want to? What made you shake your head?”
“Well… It hasn’t been long… I kind of feel like it would be cheating and… I’m afraid that… Eric, if I don’t remember all of the horrible stuff that happened, it’ll be too easy to forget how good I have it now.”