I’d made the mistake of riding back to Shreveport with Gawain… The Geo Metro he’d rented (only because it was the only vehicle available at the time) was bad enough, but listening to him incessantly complain about it made me consider flying the rest of the way to Shreveport. Our first stop was my house in Bossier so he could trade the rental for Pam’s ‘last season’ Beamer…
Then he proceeded to taunt me about wanting to fuck Sookie until we arrived at Fangtasia… The asshole actually pushed until I considered it. If I didn’t think she was attractive, she wouldn’t have had the chance to knee me in the balls to begin with. She was definitely fuckable… but in addition to the fact that Adele considered me part of the family, I enjoyed having her as a friend. As aloof as Erica was, Sookie was quite expressive. She wasn’t just something fun to do… Fucking her just because she was attractive would result in a monumental clusterfuck.
And fuck Gawain for making me think about it.
Given that I’d finished my paperwork in an effort to distract myself from the family-related insanity of the night before, and Long Shadow was as apathetic as ever in regards to business, there wasn’t anything else to do but change and feed…
And then I spent the next two hours thinking of ways to fuck with Sophie-Anne. Her open-ended spare-no-expense demands that I ‘woo the telepath’ brought several things to mind… and made me wonder what the fuck the Queen would have suggested if she’d heard the telepath was male.
It was ten after midnight when Sookie walked in. She had changed again, this time into red leather pants and a biker jacket, with her hair pulled back into a tight French braid. She waited at the bar for a Long Island ice tea, and then joined me on the platform…
The Vampires in the bar had watched her approach me, and noticed her lack of invitation… She set her drink on the chair next to mine while she removed her jacket, revealing a black silk top that plunged so deeply (back and front) it was only held on by luck… and when she sat down, she lifted her legs to rest her stiletto boots on my knee. Even the slag began to whisper and gawk.
In spite of the dark clothing and chilled façade, she was still the most attractive thing to walk through the front door since Fangtasia opened.
She took a long sip of her drink before starting, “Nice to meet you, Sheriff Northman. I’m Erica Weiss.” She was using her Welsh accent, a ploy I’d witnessed in London. As nomadic as Vampires were, we tended to pick up dialects and accents. If she didn’t disguise her accent, someone could have easily detected her Louisiana drawl. She’d assumed Wallace’s accent and had been using it publically ever since she’d first worked for him.
“What can I do for you, Miss Weiss?”
She reached into her jacket and offered a piece of folded parchment with Milne’s green wax seal.
“I’m sure you’ll take excellent care of Erica Weiss while she works in your Area. Your Queen will be informed of Miss Weiss’s presence and warned about directly contacting her. Merry Christmas, Sheriff. –WM”
Perfectly vague and dismissive of my position.
Playing the game, I asked, “Is there anything you need, Miss Weiss?”
She took another sip of her drink and offered, “You’re expected to be a middleman, Sheriff. My employer doesn’t trust yours.”
“I was informed you’d check in with me. I was told to afford you every convenience…”
She found a young Vampire, Darius, in the crowd and curled her finger to summon him. I almost laughed when he actually obeyed her.
She whispered, “Your date boosted your wallet, asshole,” without looking at him again and continued, “Thank you, Sheriff. I’m sure my employer will be pleased to hear the Queen is feeling so hospitable.”
In one fell swoop, she’d confirmed the rumors about her ability in a bar packed with Vampires.
Darius’s eyes had bulged, but Erica acted as though she’d forgotten he was standing there.
I ordered, “Retrieve your wallet and put your date in a cab.”
His jaw sagged for a moment before he left to fix his problem…
When ‘The Gawain’ emerged from the back of the bar, he joined us on the platform, taking Sookie’s hand to sit on her chair and pull her onto his lap… The Vampires and mauks looked like they were watching Jesus pet a unicorn.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Weiss. What brings you to Shreveport?”
She offered dryly, “Errands for King Milne. What have you been up to?”
“I was entertaining friends just now. What about you, freshly bathed and tightly braided? Did you have fun tucking in your date?”
She sighed, “Always a pervert. No. I came to Fangtasia for my nightcap…”
She was quiet for a moment, and I assumed she was scanning the customers… It still amused me, the difference between Sookie and Erica. The comparisons between Pam and Sookie from earlier didn’t escape me either… Erica was professionally chilly, if not stoic; beautiful in a way that implied a brutal rejection was imminent. Sookie was fun and friendly with a smile that could light up even Fangtasia; attractive and completely approachable. Erica would say ‘fuck off’. Sookie would say ‘sorry, I’m just waiting for my boyfriend’.
And fuck Gawain. I’d been friends with Sookie for nearly three years. Suddenly, she was single and he decided to begin fixing something that wasn’t broken? Asshole.
After a few minutes, Erica curled her finger again, summoning a man from the bar. She actually looked at this victim though.
When he stopped at the edge of the platform, she asked, “Is there a particular reason you’re here?”
He cleared his throat. “Ummmm, a couple of drinks and dancing…”
“You’re watching like you’re taking notes. Nice ear-piece, officer… Are you babysitting to make sure the Vampires of Shreveport are good little boys and girls, or has Fangtasia been reported for alcohol-related violations?”
The color drained from his face at a hilarious rate. “I… Uh… We…”
She offered, “Without legitimate cause, the Shreveport Police Department has a surveillance detail on Fangtasia. Is there a specific concern, or are you waiting for a Vampire to feed in public?”
When he didn’t answer her, she left Gawain’s lap to roll the man’s collar and speak directly into the bug he was wearing. “Maybe Detective Jones should get off of her repulsive ass and waddle to a phone so she can call Sheriff Northman for a proper interview. If there’s a Vampire who doesn’t know how to behave in Sheriff Northman’s Area, he doesn’t want them here anymore than Humans do.”
The cop gulped as Sookie returned to Gawain’s lap. “I’ll… I’ll… I’ll pass that along. Who are you?”
“Just a Human… Tell Detective Jones to kiss her shield goodbye.”
“Oh, you know why.”
His eyes were bulging when he turned around.
She waited until he was through the front door before she explained, “Sheriff, it seems Detective Allana Jones has had a hard-on for you since her superior told her not to question you about a case. The ever-changing surveillance inside has been charged to other cases. Someone’s been misappropriating department resources.”
“Did you overhear any details of the case she was told to leave me out of?”
She pulled her phone from her pocket and began typing a text. “A strangled fangbanger in October. The chief told her there wasn’t any reason to call you in for questioning just because she used the ATM here.”
She seemed to send several texts before her phone chimed in response.
While she worked on her phone, she offered, “You should fire the barback before he’s a problem. Underage by a couple of years… You have a waitress that needs to be recycled. She’s been glamoured so many times she’s close to needing a bib. Ginger… You have a pair of girls here with borrowed IDs. Fingerless fishnet gloves at two o’clock… Long Shadow, since you’re so interested in what I’m doing, why don’t you take the keys from the man with the goatee. He’s only on that barstool by the grace of God. Call him a cab… Oh Sheriff, you have yourself a Single White Female. Dark purple corset at twelve o’clock.”
“How do you know she’s a Single White Female?”
“Because you’re wearing her favorite outfit. Because she knows you already fed tonight. Because she has a very solid image of ‘your’ bedroom in her mind. You don’t seem like the black lace and velvet type to me though. Because watch her…” Sookie lifted her feet to my knee again and the woman’s lip curled. “Because I need to stop touching her Vampire. If I sat on your lap, she’d probably cry and fantasize about my death in the bathroom.”
“Ridiculous. I haven’t even fucked that one.”
She snorted, “He says as though he doesn’t know how he looks in leather and silk.”
Gawain chuckled, “She says as though they aren’t a matched pair.”
She stopped texting long enough to look at her outfit and smirked, “Purely accidental. Simza sent me this outfit for Christmas. Stop playing yenta, old man.”
He was doing it to her too?
“I’m not playing yenta. You look like you arranged to wear matching outfits.”
“Yet you said ‘matched pair’ instead of using the myriad of other ways to say similar or coordinating.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it… I’m staying at Eric’s tonight. Do you want to join us?”
Was the obvious segue accidental too?
“I might just do that… The fangbanger’s details… Her name was Daisy Cameron. Thirty-year old manager at Waffle House, found dead by a friend in her Madison Park apartment two days after being raped and strangled. There were signs of a struggle. Her friends last saw her in the parking lot of Fangtasia when they parted ways. She withdrew $80 from Fangtasia’s ATM, but later used her card at Taco Bell. The food from Taco Bell was found at the scene, suggesting she was followed home from points unknown by the assailant. She had fresh bite marks on her neck and thigh. Blood tests came back negative for narcotics.”
Before I could suggest moving our discussion to my office, Sookie was standing up.
She finished her Long Island while walking towards the bar and ordered another one…
As I closed the door to my office, I found yet another reason to be grateful for Zee’s soundproofing charm… Not only was my office completely private, but the noise of the bar was substantially dampened.
Sookie made herself comfortable on my sofa and offered, “I’ll learn more tomorrow. Trey can only get so much from people in the middle of the night.”
“I haven’t gotten any cooperation from local police since the Revelation. Dearborn and his men would call, but Bon Temps is so quiet.”
“That’ll change… Santa Gus thought you seemed to be completely approachable tonight.”
I sat next to her and asked, “Santa Gus?”
“Chief of Detectives, Gus Easton. Trey’s pre-retirement partner, Nate, recently made detective. Gus heard Nate mention Trey was looking for a Santa for the pageant… He thought about a couple of cases he’d like your input on, and hopes you won’t take offense to being approached about them.”
I growled, “I contacted all of the police departments in my Area the week of the Revelation…”
“That’s your problem. Some asshole who hadn’t laid eyes on a crime scene in a decade took your letter as an empty promise… The actual cops don’t know. Considering the onslaught of Vampire-related calls they got those first couple of months, I’d be surprised if they’d remember even if they had been told you’d be willing to cooperate.”
“What calls? No one mentioned any calls.”
“There were the ones who wanted you all on a map like sex offenders. There were the ‘my-neighbor’s-a-Vampire’ calls. And then there were the ones who wanted to know if their missing loved ones had been turned.”
Gawain asked, “If you didn’t fuck your Wolf, why did you shower?”
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Because the dead girl who spurred a witch hunt that’s targeting Fangtasia isn’t a higher priority than what I may or may not have done while I was at Alcide’s house… What the fuck was I thinking? So sorry…”
“It’s like you’re hiding something… Washing away evidence, perhaps?”
She nodded. “You got me. I only ever shower after sex. It’s a tick I have. I took my fiancé for a test drive… It was about time too. I’d been rubbing myself with pine tree air fresheners to knock down my BO…”
Gawain gave me a dirty look for laughing.
She snorted, “You’re such a nosy ass… Alcide and I talked. There isn’t any point to getting married if we act like strangers. Not only did we need to establish our history, but he needs to be familiar enough with me to relax. I showered before I came to Fangtasia because I was covered with powdered sugar.”
Before he could change the subject again, I asked, “What is your history?”
She snorted, “Just to freak his father out, we’re saying we met online and he talked me into moving here from some Podunk town in Texas… Officially, we’re going with the truth. One of my brothers has been dating a friend of his family, and my other brother works for him. ‘We ran into each other and hit it off.’ Spinning the truth is easier than keeping track of lies. Wool into sweaters, as opposed to lead into gold.”
Good girl. That was definitely my preferred method of deception.
“It isn’t common to see a Were defending Vampires. Did he give you any hints to worry about?”
She sipped her drink and shook her head. “When he was leery about inviting you into his house, he was just being better-safe-than-sorry. He had fun at the pageant, and later when I answered his Shawn and Klaasje related questions, he was genuinely sympathetic for them. He decided, very affirmatively, that whichever Vampires are monsters don’t justify what the church could eventually do to the Vampires he met tonight.”
Gawain pushed, “What else is there to know about Klaasje?”
She sighed, “She’s pitiful. At her age, she’s still as timid as she would have been when she was alive. She won’t really talk about it. And reading the info about her from my hosts made me cry for days. I think I’m going to clip it out of the version I share with the family just for the sake of her privacy. Seeing her with the twins tonight was just miserable.”
Given what I’ve known of Sookie’s life and career, it was hard to believe there was a topic Sookie wouldn’t discuss.
I asked, “What can you tell us without becoming upset?”
She snorted, “Not much. I’d rather you read it… Halfdan found her strung up to be flogged. She was AB-negative, and he decided to keep her as a pet… He bred her to slaves to keep her pregnant. She lost two sets of twins and three single births while he was hoping to breed more AB-negative pets. She was raped and drained for years before she killed herself, and that son of bitch brought her over to punish her for stealing his snack from him.”
While Gawain cursed Halfdan in Old Welsh, I asked, “If she isn’t willing to discuss it, then how did your hosts discover so much?”
She took several gulps from her drink before answering, “A- Wouter helped fill in a few blanks. B- We need to have a sit-down with Aunt Linda. Long story short, the other Aunt Linda started keeping journals for her dreams. For the last couple of years before she died, she had dreams about Vampires she didn’t have any reason to know anything about, and she was dreaming about their lives before they became Vampires in some cases. They started calling her retro-cognitive. In spite of the promise I made to stay out of heads until we could have a sit-down, I was listening when she met Klaasje. As soon as they hugged, Aunt Linda imagined Klaasje strapped to a whipping post, covered in lashes and bugs, being raped, being pelted with rotten food… And that was immediately followed by the imagery of how Wouter bathed and healed her. At the time, Wouter and Nicholas were with Halfdan’s court under Anna’s orders. Wouter fell for her, but he couldn’t risk poaching Halfdan’s pet.”
While I breathed, “Linda’s imagination,” Gawain confirmed, “A seer.”
Sookie nodded. “So it seems… So… Sheriff Northman, Long Shadow is paranoid as hell about what we’re talking about. You need to keep an eye on him.”
“I’ll do that, but I’m very seriously considering selling him my percentage of the bar. I already hate this place… Are we changing the subject?”
She shook her head and reached into her jacket for a flask. “We aren’t, but…”
“Is that the oil?”
“You told Santa you wanted some. I saw it myself. I have pictures.”
I took her jacket from the arm of the sofa and stood up, holding it for her so she could slide her arms into it.
She snickered as she stood up and made me wait so she could finish her drink. When she set her glass on my desk, she swatted Gawain’s cheek. “Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not like Mee killed a pair of Faeries just for massage oil. They attacked… then Zhang teased me for sweeping up the dust like I was performing surgery.”
I was practically giddy.
“You don’t give early Christmas gifts, but you’ve already given one to me.”
Gawain snorted, “Congratulations on staying focused.”
Sookie giggled, “This isn’t an early Christmas gift. This is sharing. I want a rubdown too. I flew commercial, so I couldn’t bring any weed home with me and my hometown hookup is out.”
“I go first.”
I nodded. “Done.”
She finally pushed her arms into her sleeves and asked Gawain, “You coming, old man?”
He shook his head. “No. I’m one of the rare few who still enjoys a proper ride to a spa treatment.”
His loss. More oil for me.
I was so anxious for my massage I lifted Sookie into the passenger seat of her Jeep. Her driving was erratic enough; I wasn’t interested in seeing the effects of a couple of large drinks.
As I turned onto the street, I offered, “I was having Zee come to Fangtasia on Monday nights when it isn’t open.”
“When did you run out? February?”
“I made it last until after Thanksgiving. Why did the Faeries attack?”
“We don’t know. There wasn’t time to ask, and it’s no surprise Zhang’s contacts couldn’t find anything. So what were you so curious about earlier?”
“I wanted to know what made Roper cry, but I don’t care anymore.”
She snorted out a laugh and offered, “I bought the property next to Sandwich Island. In a couple of weeks, the land will be cleared for a drive-in movie. All proceeds will go to Helping Hands of Bon Temps. The land will be free to use for flea markets and collecting donations. And anyone who volunteers can work off community service.”
“It’s no wonder he wept.”
“We broke him… Shawn built a playground for the church too.”
Speaking of Shawn…
“Shawn’s eventually going to prove that Vampires can have aneurisms.”
“I don’t think so… I caught Brandon thinking he’d probably chill out tomorrow night. Apparently, he learned something from his skip that will knock the edges off of how scared Shawn is to lose Hadley.”
Good. If Hadley was empathic, then being bored would be miserable enough, but borrowing her husband’s tension wouldn’t have a positive effect on the pregnancy.
“Did Brandon meet your husband?”
“One of them.”
“How many are there?”
She snickered, “I have no idea.”
“We know of ‘Oh God’ and Brandon has encountered another one. Was there a Mr. Stackhouse in the version Jason met?”
“Nope. I was married to some Swiss guy in the version Aunt Linda went to. She tried to look him up, but only found a hotel. She thinks she remembered the name wrong because it’s been a while.”
“Oh God, Howard Johnson, and… what should we call the one Brandon met?”
She snickered, “His Majesty.”
I almost wrecked her Jeep.
“WHO!? If another version of you married Tyson…”
“Milne? Was it a protective measure?”
“Have you already met His Majesty?”
That wouldn’t really narrow down the options unless the answer was no.
“Human or Vampire?”
“If I find a Santa, and ask him for the answer, will you tell me?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because I want to send a place setting or something. You said I know Oh God.”
She laughed, “This is why I didn’t tell you who Oh God is… Why aren’t you more interested in the Sookie who was bonded to you?”
“Because no one can answer those questions. She’s gone. Unless she visits again, I’m left to assume you were simply injured like in Paris and Hokkaido.”
“Sound theory. I am accident prone… I know I didn’t take much from Simza because I just had a mild concussion… Atum had to actually push my leg bone back under my skin, but I didn’t take as much of his blood and I can still hear a mouse fart in the next parish.”
“Are you complaining about heightened hearing or earthquakes?”
“Earthquakes! Those fucking things are nuts. Give me a good old fashioned hurricane. You can see them coming ahead of time. Talk about a surprise-fuck-you. Geology is a bitch.”
“Agreed. Can we go back to discussing Oh God and His Majesty now?”
“Can I pour the oil out the window now?”
“Why would you threaten to do something so horrible?”
She snorted, “It’ll probably turn your stomach anyway. You’re old enough to know better than to ask questions you don’t want the answer to.”
Was that supposed to make the subject less intriguing?
Before I could ask, she took the flask from her pocket again and unscrewed the lid.
“Wait. I’ll drop it for now. I’ll hope someone slips tomorrow night, but I’ll drop it for now.”
She snickered as she turned the flask to dampen her fingertip, and then rubbed her finger and thumb together.
Fuck the road. All I could watch was her hand, rolling the oil over her fingers. Even the scent was somewhat relaxing.
She breathed, “I win.”
“You’re a very tactical negotiator.”
As we walked into my house, Sookie offered, “If we convene in the den, I can screen a movie for the kids. I got a ton of bootlegs. This one’s still in theaters. Elf.”
Why the fuck would I care where the massage happened?
“I don’t mind. If you’re thinking the movie will distract the children from the Twilight Zone-esque discussion, I’ll have to take notes for Pam.”
“I’ll help… Ummmm… Sheet, towel, a couple of T-shirts so we don’t ruin your carpet and couch?”
She rolled her eyes and shoved my shoulder. “Don’t be a turd. You need to change out of your leather pants anyway…” When I growled at her, she snorted, “Not scared. Don’t forget to bring your phone upstairs with you. The Queen will probably call to see if you heard from me.”
She raised her eyebrow and snorted, “You’re distracted by something shiny… As fast as you move, you could have been-”
Fuck her for being right.
She called after me, laughing, “That’s what I thought!”
She was still giggling when I joined her in the den. In the amount of time I spent peeling out of my costume and grabbing her list items, she’d moved the sofa and tables to clear the floor, and loaded the movie.
She lifted her knee to unzip and remove one boot, then the other. “East to west… so, parallel with the TV, right? Or am I turned around?”
“You’re right… It occurred to me while I was downstairs that Gawain didn’t mention anything about skipping tonight.”
She smiled as she pushed her pants down. “Nope. He sure didn’t.”
As I spread the sheet on the floor, I asked, “Did he answer all of his questions by reading Adele’s mind before we arrived?”
Sookie tossed her top onto the rest of her clothing, and grabbed the ‘postcard’ she’d sent from Cuba before she dove onto the sheet, giggling, “Get to work.”
I was completely prepared to blame Gawain for the fact that I noticed how Sookie’s ass looked in her little red boy-shorts.
“Is there a reason you’re going first?”
“Yeah. You’re a useless retarded lump of happy after you’ve been rubbed down. I’m just mellow.”
It had been a while since she’d given me a massage, but I couldn’t say I was building any form of tolerance to the oil… I couldn’t really argue. ‘Useless retarded lump of happy’ was fairly accurate.
I settled onto my knees behind her and suggested, “Back to Gawain then?”
As I drizzled oil onto her back, she gasped at the cold and demanded the flask, taking it from me to lay on it so her own body heat could warm the oil for me.
Once she was settled with the flask under her stomach, she offered, “Yeah, he was getting better by the time we were done with Rodrigo and his annexes, but he lapses… He’s not used to interacting with Humans, and he doesn’t get as keen of a sense of Vampire moods as I do. Shifters need to be thinking about him for him to hear it… He’s really bad about covering how he comes by information.”
As I started rubbing the oil into her shoulders instead of watching it pool in the small of her back, I asked, “And we’re still the only ones who know his little secret, yes?”
She hummed before she answered, “You know nothing.”
“And I know everything…”
“You say everything as though there’s more than just telepathy.”
“There is, but it’s all good… Just a justifiably kept secret that doesn’t affect anyone but him.”
“So he garnered his knowledge of skipping telepathically and didn’t think to be a nosy twat until someone told him to shut the fuck up.”
She snickered, “That’s his shtick, Eric. He pries as long as he can to get as many answers as possible. Once someone tells him to shut the fuck up and calls him a nosy twat, the game’s over. Everyone thinks he’s nosy instead of telepathic.”
“How does he feel about you knowing what he is?”
“He actually has fun with it. He’s called me a few times to compare notes. He’s a little humbled that I’ve got such a handle on my ability, but I have a theory about that… He wasn’t telepathic before he died. As much as you’ve flown, you hit a speed and control ceiling, right?”
“Have you spent a lot of time considering my gift?”
She snickered, “Such a turd… How about this, you can feed and feed, but you don’t get fat. You could run and work out, but you won’t get stronger because of it… I think his ability just has finite limits. To be fair about it, mine seems to have limits too. I haven’t noticed a marked difference since I was in high school. I’ve learned new tactics and I’ve learned new tells and details, but I haven’t gotten stronger.”
“You might be on to something… Is it my turn yet?”
“He doesn’t know anything we haven’t already learned about skipping other than the fact that he called it ‘the braid’. He’d heard about it, but thought it was bullshit.”
“You’re ignoring my question.”
“I thought by ignoring it, that would be answer enough.”
I growled, “So he’s left waiting for details of everyone’s experiences.”
“Not really. He learned most of them earlier… Aunt Linda was trying to remember everything she could about hers while they set up at Sandwich Island. Brandon and Jason kept making comparisons between our circumstances and their skips’…”
“Does he know the details of yours?”
She snickered, “I can’t believe you kept all the postcards I sent you.”
I sniffled, “That’s completely unfair.”
“And Mahalia will be giddy to hear that you actually wear the pajama pants she gave you.”
Only because I didn’t think the ‘Santa’s bag’ boxers from Pam would be appropriate for the activity.
“You’re holding out on me.”
“You might be able to wring it out of me. Jesus. It’s like you’re afraid to break me.”
She released a loud groan when I added pressure to her massage. “Ohhhhh… God… That’s… muuuuuuch… betterrrrrr…”
“And it might bruise… About that information…”
“Sookie’s not available. Leave your message at the beep… Beeeeeeeeep.”
I chuckled, “What could be so strange that you’d want to keep it to yourself?”
“The whole thing is strange, but mostly… it’s just really fun to mess with you.”
“Really? Is that what you think the other you was doing when she made me worry you were having a nervous breakdown?”
She sighed, “You suck. You just took all the fun out of it.”
“That only means something to me if it worked… You didn’t keep your promise to stay out of anyone’s thoughts, did you?”
She grunted with her massage before sighing, “Hell no… I didn’t know about Klaasje until I laid eyes on her though. It was like Gran purposefully didn’t remember her face…”
“I warned her, because Christine was a gypsy, she might not be welcome… If you hadn’t vouched for her, she’d be moving on…”
“Wouter sent her with papers though. I’m sure that would mean something.”
“Why not? I thought y’all are old friends… He actually recommended you while I was in Saxony. He said even if Louisiana can’t be trusted as a whole, I could trust you.”
“Because he’s jaded. It isn’t unheard of for children to develop Stockholm Syndrome to an extent… He can only guess as to her emotions and motivations. It would be reasonable to assume she could have finally been put to use.”
“And with a Maker like Halfdan, God only knows how he’d use her… Off the top of my head, Louisiana is one of the top five states in Vampire population and revenue… Sophie-Anne might be dumb enough to think a marriage to him would benefit her… She’d already been exiled to the New World when he killed Anna, and Sophie-Anne has no friends. Scaring her by killing her most powerful Sheriff might trigger a knee-jerk wedding.”
I’d financed movies with more farfetched plots.
I snorted, “Off the top of your head?”
She hummed and nodded. “Spit-balling… Then there’s the fact that someone could have leaked where I’m from. I mean, I send my care packages to Sandwich Island. Putting a mole in Area 5 to find me wouldn’t be a stupid move.”
“And Halfdan is so desperate for cash right now that he’s killing his own Lords under the guise of bullshit charges and replacing them just so he can inherit the dearly departed Lords’ estates to keep his head above water. There’s no telling what they’re willing to say before his sick ass is done with him. Fuck- Klaasje could have been sent just to follow you to your library so she can boost your DaVinci codexes. Chaaaaah-chingggg.”
I chuckled, “That too.”
“But she’s not a mole… She might just love Brandon because he’s gentle and kind to her, and she might just love the boys because she’s getting a taste of what Halfdan took from her, but she’s not scared of being found out. She’s terrified of losing them.”
“What’s the distinction for you?”
“If she was scared of what might happen to her, her consciousness would sit on her like a rock… Tonight, whenever she started mind-fucking herself, her thoughts were centered on her family… Occasionally, she included me, but I have the feeling that’s because if you were anything like her Maker, I’d end up in a shallow grave with everyone else, just for vouching for her.”
“You’re right about that… So… about your husband. What’s his name?”
She sighed, “Eric…”
“We can start small. How about the Human in Switzerland? I probably won’t contact him for any reason.”
“Allecks Auers. A U E R S. There’s a place named Auershaus in Bern, but that’s about it.”
As I pushed a long stroke along her spine, I crooned, “That wasn’t so difficult… What about His Majesty?”
She moaned, “The King of Louisiana.”
“Were things so different that Sophie-Anne lost her head in a takeover?”
“Something we need to be prepared for?”
“It doesn’t seem like it.”
She sighed, “I wasn’t saying your name to get your attention… You. You took over Louisiana. She forced your hand. You were keeping the telepath to yourself. She took Pam and demanded Sookie in exchange.”
“It’s completely absurd for you to consider working for her then. If she’s willing to go to such extremes…”
“Ah, but that Sookie was just a housewife. No Terracotta army. No allies. No backup. That Sophie-Anne was just bullying her Sheriff.”
“Have you talked to Wallace?”
“He couldn’t be more amused by the fact that you’ve been ordered to kiss a Human’s ass, but he offered to make the necessary promises regarding cause and effect. He agreed with my analysis that she’s afraid to fuck with my reputation… Isn’t that how she ended up with you?”
I chuckled, “It is… Wait.”
She peaked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow and cooed, “There it is.”
“His Majesty is Me.”
“Your husband is…”
She nodded. “Welcome to the party… It’s even funnier when you consider that Brandon kept remembering their wedding portrait… and the house… and Sookie’s ring. Gran said you noticed the ring pretty quickly, so if you draw it for Brandon, he can probably say whether it’s the same as the ring on Mrs. Northman…”
“Tell me you’re joking.”
“Wouldn’t that be awesome? Your mouth is open.”
“I’m a King. You’re a housewife… If ever there was a reason to be gobsmacked, this would be it… What details do you know?”
“Not much. Brandon wasn’t as bad about dwelling and leaking info to me. He has his own shields. Eric and Sookie started dating right after she graduated…”
“No college. She considered herself lucky to get through high school like Brandon… They opted for telepathic atrophy, not realizing that was more trouble than it was worth. Eric proposed as a joke, pranking a gossip reporter who jumped from a date to an engagement. But they ended up doing it for real… The problem came when someone glamoured information about Sookie from Jason.”
“Another case for your alias.”
“Amen… So, Hadley was enormously pregnant when Brandon met her… That’s about it.”
“The details of the wedding he noticed? Teague?”
“Oh, they did it on a beach somewhere; just them and a justice of the peace… and Teague was in Florida when he heard Eric ascended. That’s when Klaasje came into play for them.”
“Tell me you saved Oh God for last because it’ll distract me from what a complete clusterfuck His Majesty is.”
She snickered, “You should be so lucky.”
I moved to lie next to her and snorted, “Then it’s my turn… Is that why Gawain’s been matchmaking?”
She sat up and scoffed, “He’s been doing that shit for a couple of months… He came to China shortly after my skip. I think he caught me dreaming about it or something… He even got Miles onboard.”
Her method of warming the massage oil had worked perfectly… she drizzled it over my shoulders, and straddled my thighs.
“So he was working under the assumption you were just dreaming about me, yes?”
She started at my shoulders, and offered, “I guess. He might have even gotten some answers out of me in my sleep. Who knows with him? I mean, living with Gran with a couple of kids… whatever he saw, he probably thinks I’m pining away for a status quo lifestyle.”
I growled, “Asshole.”
“Your fault. I’m still trying to figure out what was wrong with Tilda. If she’d been my guard, we wouldn’t have the match-making Welshman to deal with.”
“Shut the fuck up. Everyone knows you love him.”
“I’m not admitting to that.”
“Of course not… Consider me braced to hear about Oh God.”
“Remember what a pussy you were being about your Vette-”
“I was not being a pussy. I could have gotten better handling from riding a wagon downhill…”
She used a coddling tone, “But den Twey fissed it.”
“Yes. What does that have to do with Oh God?”
“That’s how Oh God met his wife. She was selling Chevys and Oh God stormed into the dealership having a hissy fit about wanting to buy the new model… She punched him.”
“You? Selling cars?”
“The funny part is that you aren’t denying what a whiney bitch you were being about your car until Trey did those modifications… Yeah. Sookie was using her ability to work car-buyers. Push-up bras probably helped. They got their flirt on, and got married while they were on vacation. It was a spur of the moment thing… They weren’t prepared for my visit. They’d just come down from a colossal braid-induced clusterfuck. They’d only been home from vacation for a week and had six.”
“So close together?”
“Yeah…” She leaned, adding as much pressure as she could and continued, “If you think two versions of us being married is weird, how about a version of you who turned me?”
“Why? What happened?”
“King Eric of the Northern Empire hired a telepath. A couple of his Lords went after her. It was either send her home in a casket or keep her around… The hosting version of Gran made notes because of the semi-auto-skipping… it was more than a little confusing. While I was there, Eric typed it all up for me…”
“How did Chevy-Sookie feel about you fucking her husband?”
She giggled, “She was bitter… She got hung up at the school and when she got to his place, she found him with an understudy… She was only really annoyed that she missed out. I mean, she could tell I was telling the truth about thinking I was dreaming. It’s not like he does a lot of talking when he’s stoned.”
“On sunlight… I’d dozed off on a deck chair with a book. It was early November, so I took advantage of the humidity at the hot springs and laid out. He nuzzled and nipped, at some point we swapped a little blood because his fangs were down… It all fell apart…”
I had to grab her arm to keep her from falling when I rolled over… She rolled her eyes and breathed, “Busted,” as I sampled her neck.
“You sneaky little bitch… You broke into my house, relaxed in my desk chair, to mask that you already smell like me… and you wore Simza’s gift to smell like her…”
She snickered, “Technically, I borrowed your key from Mahalia when I saw her this morning at the house… But… I wasn’t found out until I told you I had his blood… I’m evil and smart.”
I corrected, “Diabolical and brilliant.”