Battle Of Wills
As I came back to myself I listened to Sookie thank Saskia for finding Stroopwafels and ask if there was anything Saskia wanted from the States…
While they discussed American food items, I took in my surroundings. Instead of the lavender scent from the night before, my room was filled with the heavy scent of jaggery. The ‘Goa Spice’ candle was much better than lavender and I couldn’t help but wonder if Sookie’s second attempt to add a ‘fingerprint’ to my room was inspired by how much I enjoyed her sweetness. I could still smell her over the candle though. She’d been with me long enough that I smelled like her.
There was a suitcase on the settee at the end of my bed as though Sookie had been diligent again, and my laptop and cell phone had been plugged in and delivered to my bedside table. I was sure my laptop bag would be nearby waiting to be packed as well.
I might have been bothered by her helpfulness if I wasn’t just impressed by how efficient she was.
I was trying to decide if her determination was rooted in worry or just because of our pending trip when I realized she was getting closer to me.
She actually knocked before entering, smiling as she stepped in and looking towards the candle. “Uh oh. That one smells much better when it’s burning. I like it.”
I chuckled, “But would you have bought it if you weren’t trying to find one you didn’t like?”
“I guess not. Do you like it?” Yes.
“I don’t hate it. That’s a start.”
She shrugged and walked over to sit next to my feet. “The videos from last night are transferring to a flash-drive as we speak. I doubt you’ll do anything but delete most of them, but Bethany and Francois are there… As is the funniest nine minutes of video ever.”
“Bero swallowing his tongue after I told you to stab him?”
“No. The video from Ian’s room.”
She laughed, “All that talk… and… the video is nine minutes long, but five of it is foreplay and apologies.”
“Four minutes? FOUR?”
“One, two, three, Ian… He can’t blame me because I didn’t do a damn thing to spin him up. He can’t blame the orgy because only one of the girls had touched him…”
I nodded and repeated, “One, two, three, Ian. It’s settled… Aren’t there medications for that?”
She nodded, “And he almost cried when one of them suggested he should see a doctor. He did the classy thing. He called them whores and threw them out.”
I chuckled, “And you missed an opportunity to be led, kitty.”
She snickered, “If you had any idea how hard it was to keep a straight face today… Every time I thought about another remark he made… spontaneous giggling fits…”
“Better than Ian’s brand of spontaneity… Probably less humiliating too.”
She bit her lip and nodded. “I’ll go along with that… but to be fair, I didn’t giggle into anyone’s hair…” She started giggling, shaking while her eyes watered. “God… I gotta stop thinking about it…”
I wasn’t sure I agreed. I was enjoying her lighter mood tonight much more than last.
She cleared her throat and erased the amusement from her face. “Okay… the plane will be waiting in about two hours. Hopefully that’s enough time for Edward and Richard to get ready. Their bags were already here when I woke up. It was probably the worst thing you could do, you know, bringing me down here. I’ve never slept better. Thank you.”
“Did it cause a problem with your husband?”
“Not really…” Lie. “Anja and Miles are sticking around to bring our cars back from the airfield. Simza and Jaro’s day-men called to touch base with me since they’re taking over for Bethany and Francois until you appoint someone new. They both reported that they contacted as many people as possible to let them know they’re overseeing the Districts in the interim. Simza and Jaro are planning to notify the Vampires when they rise.”
“We’re avoiding the topic of Allecks?”
“Yes… He left a little while ago. He stayed long enough to take the girls for a ride and meet Daan because he played hooky from school to come over. Daddy called and said the bedrooms are light-proofed. I’m sorry y’all have to bunk together, but…”
I was just surprised we wouldn’t be looking for somewhere to go to ground in the swamp.
“It’s not as though we snore. We’ll manage.”
She giggled. “You’re better off than me. All three of the girls do and the walls between our rooms are thin.”
“You’re really not going to tell me about Allecks?”
She rolled her eyes and huffed, “I’d rather not because I can’t do anything to unfuck it. He’s making a lot of assumptions, but he’s refusing to talk about it. He’s planning to come for another visit as soon as we get back.”
“A visit you already suggested though.”
“Ahhhh, but I mentioned another visit with an ambiguous timeframe. I was thinking a couple of weeks. He made reservations at the hotel for next weekend… while we were eating breakfast.”
“He’s jealous because you slept downstairs?” That hardly seemed rational. He had to know I was dead and he couldn’t know how many rooms were downstairs.
“No… I think you’re pretty much up to date. I’m going to ask Gawain if he needs anything before he can roam freely and help Saskia finish the kitchen…”
“Because of the nature of his position, Gawain keeps a bag in his car… and Saskia’s a maid, Sookie. She cleans.”
She stood and huffed, “I’m avoiding the conversation by going somewhere you can’t follow me to keep asking questions.”
I chuckled as she turned to leave and waited until she was nearly at the door again before I blocked her path.
“Are you a hypocrite, Sookie?” She’d forced enough topics, crossed enough lines, rubbed enough salt…
She pinched her face together and groaned, “Where’s my fork when I need it?”
“The more you avoid the topic, the more curious I am… Can you not feel how intrigued I am?”
She gave me a surprised look and shook her head. “No…” She narrowed her eyes and shook her head again. “No. I thought you were keeping things private.”
“You haven’t felt any of my emotions?”
She breathed, “Shiiiiiiiit… Why wouldn’t it work? I had your blood three times. It should have worked, right?”
I shrugged, as confused as I possibly could be, but then something occurred to me…
“What about her?”
“I gave you my blood when you first arrived, then when Alexei injured you, and then last night…”
She nodded, “One, two, three…”
I shook my head. “One, one, two… This is my fault. I’ve never been one to share my blood at all, let alone keep multiple pets…”
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re saying healing Misty… like… it reset us bonding?”
I nodded. “It isn’t uncommon for Vampires to give their blood to servants and pets so they can sense subterfuge…”
She teased, “Not you… you’d rather catch them lying the hard way.”
I nodded. “It’s more fun… In any case, yes, when I healed Misty, I interrupted our bond.”
“Is that like a failsafe so y’all don’t get stuck bonded to decades’ worth of servants?”
“I suppose. It’s not as though we’re given a manual.”
Her eyes rolled up and she sighed, “Thank God… Eric, I thought we were going to have to exchange blood at the same time.”
I shook my head. “I doubt that will be necessary. Not considering the rapid succession. It might if we were taking our time and it was months between exchanges… Why would you fret over that though?”
“Did you not watch the videos?”
I chuckled, “The porn? No. I saw that it was just Us fucking and skipped to the end to see if there was anything else in the file… Did you spend eleven hours watching Us fuck?”
“Maybe an hour skipping through. I felt like the American judge at the Fuck-Olympics. I needed a slow-mo replay here and there.”
“So why mention them?”
“Because those videos are evidence of what happens when Erics and Sookies exchange blood at the same time. It doesn’t happen to any other couple they’ve met. They go crazy and fuck half the day away. That doesn’t exactly fit into our schedule.”
“You’d be interested in fucking me otherwise?”
She rolled her eyes and scoffed, “You know what I mean, jackass… I guess we have a date just before dawn then…”
She reached for the doorknob again…
When I held the door closed, she pinched my arm… Really?
She squealed and cackled when I grabbed her, lifting her feet from the floor to throw herself around while I tickled her.
It only seemed fair.
“You thought I forgot while we were off topic?”
She grabbed my hand to try to stop me and laughed, “I hoped!”
“I can make you talk without hurting you.”
She panted, “Can you do it without making me pee all over us both!?”
“I need to shower regardless… So… You were just about to tell me about your ex-husband.”
She shook her head and released my arm… she shoved her hands into the pockets of the jeans I hadn’t had time to remove before dawn and tickled the crease between my thighs and torso…
I might not have lost control like she did, but my knees tried to buckle…
She yelled, “PLAY FAIR! No Vampire tricks!”
“Tickling isn’t a Vampire trick.”
She laughed, “Maybe not, but the steel strap across my chest is. Loosen up!”
“No. You aren’t having any difficulty breathing.”
She stopped tickling me, pulling her hands out of my pockets and stretching her arms up to reach around my neck…
I’d only just seen her use that position to flip Ian over her head the night before and thought to shift my balance…
But I hadn’t seen the crafty little bitch reverse the move.
She led me to think she was leaning forward to flip me, but as soon as I prepared for the move, she pushed against the floor and yanked her legs up to throw me over backwards…
Flat. On. My. Back.
Staring at the ceiling and counting stars.
She cackled as she squirmed away from me, scurrying along the floor towards the bathroom, calling, “Time out!” before she slammed the door. She shouted from behind the door, “I won and now I’m taking a victory pee…” and blew a raspberry.
I pushed myself from the floor and went to stand barricade… drumming my fingers on the door impatiently and teasing, “You didn’t win, Sookie. You called for a time out and then cornered yourself.”
I felt her realize her situation, but she tried, “With a stake?”
“Would you end me to keep a secret?”
She giggled, “Maybe.”
I laughed, “I’m waiting.”
“No. You’re done. Now you’re stalling.”
She grumbled, “Fuck your hearing,” and blew another raspberry.
After a long pause… then the sounds of her zipper and belt… then the toilet flushing…
The door was unlocked.
I stood there, ready for the door to be opened for a moment, but she didn’t open it and I couldn’t feel her to know where she was.
I pushed the door open, but not hard enough to hurt her if she was hiding behind it, and as I scanned the room, she crawled between my feet.
She’d left her thick sweater, her cell phone and her watch on the counter and waited on her knees…
Slippery bitch… it was no wonder how the other Sookie had evaded Miles and Gerrit.
Before she knew I was aware of her tactic, I was on her… on my knees over her, hugging her waist, keeping her from getting away.
“Sneaky, yes, but you aren’t fast enough.”
She laughed, “I had to try. Lemme go.”
“Tell me about Allecks.”
“He’s a Capricorn. His favorite color is green. The only time I’ve ever heard him scream is at football matches…”
As tiny as she was, my arms crossed her stomach to reach the other side… and when I began tickling her again, she began jerking and writhing as though she was having convulsions.
The only controlled movement she made was putting her shoulder on the floor so her face wouldn’t crash into the stone tiles.
She arched her back, pushed against my arms, kicked her legs and squealed as she tried to get away from me…
I let up, giving her a chance to comply…
“I brought him over to the American way of thinking. He used to argue for European cuisine, but now he loves American ice cream, macaroni and cheese, and Cajun food…”
She invented new obscenities when I started tickling again…
During her next chance to explain, she panted, “The sound of velcro kills him… like you and cellophane.”
I laughed at how stubborn she was and moved one of my arms, sliding my hand between her thighs…
She went completely still for a moment, but when I cupped my hand around her inner thigh, her whole body tensed under me.
“Do you have anything you want to tell me?”
“You look pretty in red?”
I hadn’t even moved my hand before she started trying to get away again, putting up more of a fight than she had before, and screaming loud enough that I almost stopped for my own sanity.
She lay flat, struggling to pull my arm away from herself, twisting around and forgetting I was fast enough to just grab her again…
I lost track of how long we wrestled… she fought to keep her secret while I struggled to wring it out of her…
Her face was red, she was starting to sweat, and every time I gave her a moment to catch her breath, she offered more trivial facts about her ex-husband.
The only thing to keep us from completely circling my room was my bed, and she tried to slide under it to get away from me.
It wasn’t until she realized she was completely trapped, laying on her back again and looking up at me that I realized I’d been laughing along with her.
She rolled her eyes up playfully and offered, “Allecks is such a city-boy, he’s freaked out by all wildlife. Even squirrels.”
“Funny, but still not what…”
Before I finished, Sookie reached up to put her hands into my armpits.
In my defense, I was almost positive I’d never been tickled.
I reflexively pulled back and pressed my arms against my sides, but… not only did I keep her hands exactly where they needed to be to continue tickling me, but I pulled her with me.
She was just as fucking surprised as I was… and I couldn’t get away without hurting her…
That stubborn little bitch oozed pride as she straddled my legs, taking her chance for revenge…
Pitched eyebrows… victorious smirk… too happy with herself to realize I could still move my arms.
She hissed, “Fuck,” as soon as I put my hands on her thighs…
Crashing into my chest as soon as I dug my fingers in…
Writhing and whining, begging, screaming for mercy, but she was still tickling me.
I doubted she could even define surrender.
I took my hands from her sides and held them up. “I’m stopping. I’ll let go of your hands if you promise to stop.”
Yes, I was still fighting (and failing miserably) to keep still from what she was doing.
She shook her head. “Nice, but you didn’t say you wouldn’t go back to tickling me as soon as I…”
She stopped moving her hands, pausing for a moment before asking, “Are you going to let me leave the room?”
“Are you going to corner me on the plane?”
When I chuckled at how thorough she was being, she narrowed her eyes.
“No. I’m offering an actual ceasefire.”
“The ceasefire includes killing the topic of Allecks and includes a gag order, keeping me from telling everyone I know how ticklish you are.”
“That sounds reasonable.”
“That didn’t sound like a promise.”
When I released her hands, she pulled them back quickly to grab mine… I don’t know how the fuck she thought it would help. Her hands disappeared into mine. Even if I were Human, she couldn’t have held me off.
“Fine. I’m promising too.”
“Are you going to get off of me?”
She rolled her eyes up to look at the ceiling for a moment as though she was considering it before giggling, “What if I want a picture? I’m sure it isn’t every night someone gets you to give up.”
“I didn’t give up. We reached a stalemate.”
She shook her head and argued, “You gave up. You stopped tickling and offered a ceasefire. With or without the little white flag, THAT was a surrender…”
“And you lost to a Human girl…”
“It probably set a record too… I mean, you threw in the towel as soon as I got my hands into your pits.”
“Are you trying to irritate me?”
“At least I hung in there. I mean, it’s not like you could have peed in your pants.”
She lifted her chin proudly. “Thank you. Say you lost to a girl.”
“No… I could have won, but not without hurting you. I’m sure it’ll be easier to get the information out of the children.”
She sighed and put her hands on my stomach to push herself to her feet. “Fair enough… Not Jenny though.”
She offered her hand to help me up… I’m not sure why I took it.
“She’d break the fastest?”
She shook her head. “Roughhousing isn’t an option with her… fragile, that one.”
Sookie didn’t have to explain that it was Jenny’s history of abuse that made her fragile… it was written all over her face.
“Will we be meeting Hadley while we’re in Louisiana?”
She wandered towards the bathroom and snorted, “Look at you, connecting dots…” She stood at the counter and slid her cell phone back into her pocket and put her watch and sweater back on. “I doubt it. God only knows what she’s up to. Last month she was in Chicago. I hate it when she goes to big cities… Cost of living is higher so it costs so much more to shut her up.”
“You pay her an allowance?”
“Child support, as I was raised to understand it, is meant to help maintain the quality of life for the beneficiary. Sending Hadley a few hundred dollars every week does exactly that for Misty and Jenny… Is it wrong that I make the twat dance for it?”
I chuckled, “Dance?”
“Come up with a lie and sell the reason she needs the money… She’s dumb enough to think she’s manipulating me to pay for her groceries and rent. She thinks I’m psychic because I know how to track the debit card I fill for her.”
“You have a pet.”
She wiggled her eyebrows and smirked as she pushed away from the counter. “Yeah, but instead of keeping her on a short leash, I keep her on a lead in the dark corner of the yard… Alright, I’m actually heading out. The Stackhouses are casual people, so jeans and T-shirts will be good…”
“Never underestimate the power of the Gulf. Louisiana’s already tiptoeing into springtime. High 60s all week. Wait. Sorry, Daddy gives me the weather in American… 20 Celsius, give or take. A sweater and a light jacket will be all you’ll need.”
“How much snow does Louisiana get?”
She giggled, “We’re lucky to get enough to leave footprints… Louisiana snow wouldn’t make it on to a Dutch frost report.”
“I guess that helps me decide which suit I’ll take.”
“No kidding… by the time you get up tomorrow night, I’m going to have a fresh tan… I had Calvin go to the garden center for a few things so I’d have yard work as an excuse to soak up some sun… Need me to do anything upstairs?”
I shook my head. “You already thought of my computer and phone. I just need to shower and pack.” She’d thought of everything else.
She nodded and told me to yell if I thought of anything as she left.
While I packed, I heard Sookie knock on the doors to Edward and Richard’s rooms to let them know their luggage was waiting for them in the hall…
But nothing was said after Gawain opened his door. The silent conversation between telepaths was amusing Sookie for a while, but eventually her mood soured and she went upstairs.
I couldn’t help but wonder if she was avoiding him by going upstairs… like she tried to do to me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem as though I was going to have to wait to find out…
I was showering, reaching for my shampoo, when Gawain walked into my bathroom.
“It isn’t unheard of to knock.”
He rolled his eyes and knocked on the counter. “Can I come in?”
I huffed, “What do you want that can’t wait until I’m finished?”
“And I was thinking you’d have an emergency to discuss since you’re barging in on my shower. What a relief.”
“You brought her to bed with you this morning…”
I shook my head and stepped under the water… At least Allecks had an excuse to read into the situation. Allecks had been married to her…Gawain had barely flirted with her.
“Why didn’t you take her to her husband?”
“Allecks is her ex-husband.”
He groaned, “You’re acting like a child. Why didn’t you take her to her ex-husband then?”
I was the one acting like a child? Tickle-wars notwithstanding, his curiosity was juvenile at best.
“Because she wasn’t upset yet when I found her outside and she was already trying to get away from his thoughts so she could rest. Why does it matter?”
“I’ll tell you about the problem with the husband if you give me a straight answer about having her sleep with you.”
“There isn’t a ‘straight answer’ to the question you asked. I suspect you want to know what upset her, but it isn’t any of your concern unless she tells you.”
“It’s my concern when the brother who upset her will be hosting our visit. What if-”
“Brandon lives in Louisiana. Jason and Calvin Junior live in California. Jason is the one who upset her and he didn’t do anything intentionally. It’s a private matter…”
“If it’s a private matter, why do you know about it?”
“Other than the fact that she’s Mine? Are you done? If you’re interested in fucking Sookie, I doubt prying into her personal affairs will help your case.”
“Do you realize this is the first time you’ve kept something from me?”
“Is that what’s bothering you? That I’m not offering full disclosure or is it that you think I’m choosing a stranger’s side?”
“I don’t know… Maybe I’m thrown off by the fact that you’re willing to respect anyone’s privacy.”
“Given how helpful she’s been, it’s a small step towards repaying her.”
“Bonding so you might see Liz again or exposing Bethany and Francois?”
“Both… Is this why she was annoyed when she went upstairs? Because you were prying?”
“No… And that isn’t any of your business, is it?”
The look on Gawain’s face was priceless… He thought he’d made a point.
I started drying and chuckled as I walked past him. “I guess you’re right. I imagine I’ll shut the fuck up about it then.”
I shrugged. “Is that news?”
“No. You’ve been an asshole for as long as I’ve known you… What have you told her about me?”
“Did you really just ask me that? How old are you?”
“Fuck! What have you said?”
“That you got your last girlfriend pregnant and never called her again. How fucking old are you?”
He growled, “You’re having too much fun with this.”
“And? You interrupted my last chance for peace for several nights…”
“If you were so worried about peace, you probably could have skipped making Sookie scream hysterically for nearly an hour.”
“That was a necessary evil…”
“That was a fruitless effort. You didn’t get the information you wanted. The only thing you accomplished was covering her in your scent.”
But it was fun.
“She’s had my blood. She already carries my scent. You’re making this more fun… Fuck her and move on before you make a complete ass of yourself.”
He scowled at me while I pulled my jeans on…
I wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, but since it didn’t seem like he realized Sookie was on her way downstairs, I kept that information to myself.
She knocked on Edward’s door first, then Richard’s to return their freshly laundered clothing to them. Richard actually complained that she’d come into the room while he was dead for the day… He’d learn.
Sookie didn’t bother knocking on Gawain’s door and only tapped on mine before entering.
She delivered his laundry politely and only offered a flash drive to me. My clothing hadn’t survived the night before and she’d already emptied the bin.
“The videos finally moved over…” She wandered into my bathroom and collected my laundry and stopped in the doorway to ask, “Are you two asses arguing again?”
I shook my head. “Gawain interrupted my shower to interrogate me, but we aren’t arguing.”
“Interrogate you? About what?”
“Last night. He returned to the castle while we were still outside. He went as far as offering to tell me about Allecks.”
“And you didn’t cave?”
“No. I still have the children.”
She smiled and stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Thank you…”
It was accidental, but when I caught the hint of a peculiar scent, I couldn’t help but ask… “Absinthe?”
She’d mentioned Absinthe in reference to losing Lindy, but she’d been drinking wine the night before.
She winced and felt slightly embarrassed. “I still can’t get used to flying…”
“You’ll battle with Vampires, but planes frighten you?”
She shrugged. “It’s irrational. It drives me nuts… Allecks jokes that I must’ve been on the Hindenburg in another life or something…”
“Another trivial fact about Allecks?”
She tilted her head to the side for a moment before volunteering, “Allecks couldn’t figure out which one of you I’m with, because of course I have to be with one of you, but he thinks it’s sad that I’d be with a Vampire just to avoid having more children. The bigger problem is that he loathes the idea of being replaced and planned to call Selma to ask about you guys. Assuming again… all Vampires know each other, so I’m sure I’ll have that phone call to deal with when we land. She’s not going to be happy that she doesn’t know what I’ve been up to.”
My reward for keeping her privacy… The answers I wanted.
“He divorced you, yet he doesn’t want you to become involved with anyone else, yes?”
She grinned and shook her head. “No. Y’all could be sharing me and he wouldn’t really care… All he heard about yesterday was you. He couldn’t be more threatened because the girls love you to pieces.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Are you surprised you’re getting to them? You won over their leader.”
Part of me was just surprised she didn’t take the chance to mention that the children were getting to me in front of Gawain.
“Let me know if Allecks becomes a problem.”
“Will do…” She turned to leave, taking Gawain’s wrist, towing and chiding, “Now leave him alone so he can get ready to go.”
I was ready when the sun set with time to spare and the boys were emerging from their rooms with their things as I was.
They followed me through the house, leaving their luggage by the door as I did and followed the sound of Sookie’s ringing cell phone to the kitchen… the sounds coming from outside suggested the children were playing while they could.
Gawain was already sitting at the table next to Sookie while she typed on her laptop.
“Did Selma arrange for your book signing?”
“Yes sir… All taken care of. She went with a midnight signing for the release date though. Tomorrow night, we meet Isabel. The next night I read the first chapter of Special Guest and sign books until 3AM. The book store Selma picked is a Mom & Pop type of place so I’m answering an email from them now.”
“And your horses… Is Dinh seeing to a temporary stableman?”
“No. Anja and Miles are taking care of them for me.”
“How much will that cost you?”
“Nothing… They volunteered. They offered out of the kindness of their hearts… They need a raise, asshole. You don’t deserve to have such good people working for you.” When I growled at her, she snorted, “You know I’m right. They’ve been working a thankless job for a guy who couldn’t possibly comprehend the cost of groceries. Give them a 15% bump and a bonus. It’s in your best interest to make sure your guards are happy. Dinh and Saskia too, while you’re at it… And for the record, what you’re paying them now was completely fair when you hired them, but cost of living has skyrocketed in the last few years.”
I growled, “You’ve already done the required math involved, haven’t you?”
She was nodding when her phone began ringing again… she looked at the screen and rolled her eyes rather than answer it.
“No. Daddy. The first time I brought Selma home for a visit, I just told him I was bringing ‘a friend’. He didn’t know she was a Vampire ahead of time. Brandon Googled y’all, so Daddy knows you’re of the royal variety. I’m letting it ring through because the last time I answered the phone, he wanted to know if he should go buy nicer sheets… the time before that, he wanted to know if there was a service for donors he should call because he was second guessing the True Bloods he stocked the fridge with… He’s obsessing.”
Edward chuckled, “Ooooh, I’ve always wanted to try a True Blood.”
Sookie snorted, “It’s nasty… Imagine sand mixed with Blut Nahezu. Besides, Isabel will offer a couple of donors tomorrow night.”
Richard raised his eyebrows. “You’ve been blood tasting?”
“Sort of… Allecks and I went to Japan a couple of years ago on holiday, just after y’all came out. Selma wasn’t exactly happy with Blut Nahezu so she asked me to get a few samples of their artificial for her. She prefers Shin. It has the least grit… wait, scratch that. She prefers Botol, but that’s because it’s Human blood, bottled to look like manufactured.”
Richard cooed, “And where can I get that? There are some nights where the last thing I want to do is deal with a donor.”
“Singapore. It’s been banned nearly everywhere because the Humans are kept like cattle. The funny thing is that they’re taken care of better than other kinds of trafficked Humans… Anyway, Shin is much smoother. True Blood’s taste is alright once you get past the grit…”
Richard chuckled, “So the answer is yes then. You’ve been tasting blood.”
Sookie shrugged. “For all the good it’s done me. I can’t tell the difference between types or anything. I only know because Selma’s told me what’s good or bad. I’m basically one of those yuppy wine tasters who doesn’t know ‘finish’ from fuckall… Anyway, Daddy bought an assortment. After you spoiled turds get over your curiosity, we’ll pour the rest down the drain and pretend you enjoyed it.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Yeah you… Did you know AB-negative donors don’t fall from trees?”
Edward snorted, “They do here in Eijsden apparently.”
“What happened last night was what we call back home ‘kicking the hive’.”
“Getting your honey the hard way?”
She nodded. “Speaking of home…” She stood and closed her laptop to pack it. “I’ve been to the States three times since I was home. It’s a horrible tease… Let’s go.”
Gawain followed, like a puppy, and asked, “Did you not go ‘home for Christmas’?”
“No. Thanksgiving, so we were in Louisiana in November…”
“You’ve been to the States three times since November?”
“Yeah. Business. With the book coming out this week, I would be in New York and Los Angeles for most of the month… but Selma cleared my schedule for me.”
Gawain pointed at me as we collected our bags. “For him?”
Yes, for me. She’d cleared her schedule so she could help me instead of promote her new book. She’d cleared her schedule and was still willing to help me after a miscarriage and being insulted.
She wasn’t stupid… she’d proven that, but why the fuck would she tolerate how she’d been treated?
She grabbed his face and squeezed his cheeks together to pull his face closer. She used a saccharine tone to explain, “Lesson one- My kids are the only thing more important to me than Eric. Get back to me when you can wrap your head around that.”
Sookie didn’t just release Gawain… She shoved his face away hard enough that he staggered back a step… He stared at me gobsmacked as though I had something to do with it, as though I wasn’t as surprised by what she said as he was.
She laughed as soon as she cleared the steps, “Girls, get off of poor Miles… How did football become full-contact?”
Gerrit and Anja were leaning against Sookie’s car laughing at the sight… Misty and Lindy were beating Miles like a dirty rug while he lay defensively in the fetal position begging for mercy. Sweet fragile Jenny was watching from the sidelines with an anxious look on her face. Seeing how pitifully broken the child was actually made me want to kill her mother… A child her age should be able to enjoy playing.
Lindy was the first to jump free of the guard that deserved a raise… I might have made fun of him if I wouldn’t have killed him for harming one of them.
Jenny explained, “Grandaddy called while we were playing. He said real men weren’t afraid to use their hands… Miles said ‘fuck ‘em’… Grandaddy told us to get him…”
She lifted the phone to her ear again to tell her grandfather that we were leaving and her sisters had done as much to Miles as Sookie would let them.
Sookie snorted and pulled Misty away from Miles’s leg because it seemed like the only way to make her stop grinding her knuckles into his thigh muscle. “Score one for diplomacy, Calvin. Could you stop trying to start an international Were incident? You’ve got the girls attacking a freakishly strong Shifter.”
Calvin scoffed with a slow drawl, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I heard a lot of crying. I thought it was a little girl. I was worried… Hurry home. We miss y’all.”
Miles scowled at Gerrit and Anja for laughing at him and before Sookie could argue with her step-father, the call was disconnected…
Sookie and the girls rode in her car with Anja, and Miles drove Gawain’s car which Jenny dubbed ‘the Vampmobile’…
Sookie made arrangements for our transportation. She thought to release Dinh and Saskia and have Gerrit stay behind to close the castle… and once we arrived at the airfield, she managed the pilot…
As everyone settled into the plane, Sookie unpacked a shoulder bag full of bottled drinks and snack items at the kitchenette and opted for the seat next to me.
The door wasn’t closed yet before Misty, Jenny and Lindy were opening their laptops and pushing earbuds into their ears.
While Edward opted to read his new Ana Louis novel, Richard rifled through his bag, complaining that his steward didn’t bother packing his power cord.
Jenny looked like she was close to tears, trying each of her sisters’ cords, then anxiously searching Sookie’s bag… I couldn’t have guessed how she would have reacted if no one else’s cord had fit.
Jenny was suggesting Sookie could buy another one for him when Gawain’s eyes locked onto Sookie’s…
As soon as Jenny returned to her seat, Gawain offered (in Russian), “Sookie says it’s a trigger of some kind. The girl used to be abused. Specifically, misplaced cigarettes led to a broken arm for her. If Sookie’s cord hadn’t worked in Richard’s computer, Jenny would have insisted he use hers. Now that she’s understanding Vampire thought patterns, she can discern you’re unhappy and needs to fix it… Make a joke about hiring her to replace your steward in English. Call me an asshole for suggesting you take her as a pet.”
And I didn’t doubt for a moment that it was Sookie’s idea. Gawain was still getting used to being with others with his ability.
Richard shook his head slightly before offering, “Don’t be an asshole. She’s too young to replace Yates… But he’ll retire eventually.” When Jenny blushed he winked at her and continued in Russian, “Will we get to enjoy a hunt while we’re in Louisiana?”
After a moment, Gawain answered, “Sookie’s stepfather took care of it before the girl was released from the hospital.”
“What about the bitch who allowed it?”
I offered, “Sookie gives her an allowance to keep her away from the girls. They’re all happy with the arrangement… for now.”
Richard argued, “Except the oldest wants to kill her mother. She said so herself…”
Misty interrupted, “Jesus. Sookie, can I buy the Russian Rosetta Stone… Now I know how they feel when we communicate telepathically.”
I chuckled, “Will it keep you from doing it?”
She peeked over her shoulder to answer, “Fair enough.”
Edward glanced over the top of his book, grinning and continuing in Russian. “Mine. That one. If she’s at all inclined, I’m going to be that one’s Maker.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “Lazy. You’d only need to teach her to feed. She might as well already be a Vampire. The other one needs more courage. I thought she was just sweet.”
I offered, “So did I… but a few nights ago she tried to excuse her abuser because he’d been abused as a child.”
Edward finished, “Meanwhile Misty wants revenge… Polar opposites. What about the little one?”
“Directly between them as far as I’ve seen. Resourceful and rational, yet still childlike. I imagine she’ll be very much like her mother when she’s older. She’s had a much easier life than the others, but it hasn’t been perfect…”
“Auers was not happy with me last night… I asked him what sort of prick would divorce a smart, beautiful woman worth millions…”
Richard blurted, “You didn’t! That’s it! I’m going to block everything but your email! I should have known you’d say something with the way you are about the tabloids!”
Edward shrugged. “They were at the opening of a museum exhibit and a week later, he filed for divorce. I wondered if she was one of those private bitches, but you met her… You’ve seen them together… She’s patient and friendly. If she can tolerate Eric, I can’t imagine a reason why they’d… Wait. Eric, do you know why they divorced?”
“Because they ran their course. She was just out of high school when she met him. They married quickly and Lindy was born soon after… People change.”
Her initial explanation, followed by facts, ended with a common knowledge. A masterpiece of evasion.
Gawain narrowed his eyes, not at all pleased with my version. “We could get lost in the crags in that story.”
“Would it make you feel better to know she was bored with threesomes?”
“Now you’re lying!”
“I am not… She said so herself. Ask her.” It was refreshing to know I could still fuck with him in spite of his ability.
Only a moment went by before Sookie began cackling…
Meanwhile Gawain looked like he was going to be ill.
Sookie took her time calming down, patting my knee and thanking me for the laugh before going back to work.
Gawain growled a translation of Sookie’s answer. “He wants more children. She doesn’t.”
Edward rolled his eyes. “Boring, that is. I preferred the idea of him having exotic taste… And fuck him. She has a career and three other children. I’ll bet there’s a certain amount of professional jealousy at the root of the problem. Can’t walk past a bookstore without a copy of at least one of her books in the display. Good luck finding his on Amazon. It’s a paper manifestation of a nap, it is.”
Hearing him agree with himself in Russian as he would in English was absolutely ridiculous, but while I was amused, Gawain pouted. The last thing he wanted was another evasion, but it wasn’t as though Sookie’s divorce (or the reason behind it) was any of his concern… And his curiosity was testing Sookie’s patience.
We were nearly an hour into the flight before Edward seemed to finally be done ridiculing Allecks for being a fool, and fawning over the idea that he knew Ana Louis (more specifically that his suspicion that she was Supernatural was correct). All the while, Gawain translated between Russian and ‘Telepathese’.
After a few hours the children went to the kitchenette for sandwiches and drinks… One by one, the children retired their computers to recline their chairs and rest…
Sookie sat next to me swiftly typing, adding to her next installment in spite of Gawain’s constant interruptions. She’d managed to add more than sixty pages to her story, while snacking on wasabi flavored almonds until my lips tingled, before following the girls’ lead and putting her computer in her bag with plans to rest for the last two hours of the flight.
She hadn’t been asleep for long before Edward closed his book in a huff… He stared at the ceiling for few minutes before walking towards us.
He squatted next to her seat, putting his face inches from hers to coo, “Sooookie.”
She grunted sleepily.
“Tell me you have the next book on your computer.”
Not quite awake, she mumbled, “I’m almost halfway.”
“Can I read it?”
She grunted. “And see all of my typos? No.”
“I promise not to judge you.”
She stirred, rolling to her side and making me realize she was still sleeping. “I’ll let you read it when I get my first draft back from Selma. You’ll get to read it before the cover art is done. K?”
“Who does Tina save in the next one?”
“She doesn’t. Tina needs saving.”
“Have I met her hero yet?”
“Not on paper… Eric’s the inspiration though.”
He had his mouth open to probe for more answers, but I reached across her to push him back. “She’s sleeping. She’ll be furious if she wakes and finds out she told you too much. Leave her alone.”
He hissed and showed his fangs as a joke.
I let mine down and asked, “Really?”
He dashed back to his seat and shrugged, “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
When I caught a curious look in Gawain’s eyes, it occurred to me that he wouldn’t have needed to ask me about why Sookie was upset the night before if she’d hadn’t been in contact with me… I was sure she was using her shields before she went to sleep, but I didn’t know if she could maintain her privacy while she slept.
I reached over to put my hand over hers, monitoring her closely and hoping I’d be able to sense if Gawain was prying… Instead I felt her peacefulness fade into a void.
He reacted instantly.
“What did you just do?”
“Because it feels like you’re glamouring her. Like your brain consumed hers… What are you doing?”
“Protecting her, it seems. There are some things you don’t have to know, Gawain. Her secrets aren’t going to harm you. I know enough about her to trust her in my resting place. You only want to fuck her. You know enough about her for that. Anything she doesn’t volunteer is an invasion of her privacy.”
He stared at me for several minutes, long enough for Edward and Richard to make a few jokes and whistle the Jeopardy theme…
Gawain finally folded his arms and huffed, “Fine. I’m done.”
“Only because you know you aren’t going to get anything from her mind while she has complete control of her shields… You’re trying to get to the bottom of a mystery that causes pain, not shame or paranoia. Leave her thoughts to her. Everyone has secrets.”
“Everyone except married couples.”
“They aren’t married any longer. She’s kept a few things from him as well.”
“I meant since there are strands where you’re ‘man’ and wife, but since you know more about her than her husband it makes things interesting.”
“Allecks is her EX-husband and as far as I know most of the secrets she kept from him were related to her ability.”
“How many secrets did she keep from him?”
“Gawain, she’s a telepathic Faerie, raised by a Were. She knew about Vampires well before the Revelation. She’s created a fictional world that allowed her to amass a large directory of individuals with abilities like her, while being married to a completely Human man who thought she was suffering from a breakdown when she tried to tell him about just her ability… I think she was justified to keep those facts to herself…”
I’d been so preoccupied with trying to make Gawain stop trying to dredge up more pain for Sookie I didn’t realize our conversation had roused her until she flipped her hand to hold mine.
She cleared her throat and groaned, “Jesus fucking Christ… Eric, just tell the asshole so he’ll shut the fuck up.” She was still mostly asleep.
While I was tempted… “No. There isn’t a reason for him to know.”
She hugged my arm and breathed, “I know that and you know that, but he’ll just dig until he gets it from Daddy and probably upset the girls in the process.”
“If we aren’t staying in the same house, we can simply keep him away from your father. He’s the only other one who knows.”
“Not when that nosey fucker doesn’t die… Guess what happens when a half-Fae gets turned. I wouldn’t die either, but even ambient sunlight would burn me. He only has to avoid direct sunlight…”
The cabin of the plane couldn’t have been more still if it was full of cement. Gawain’s jaw dropped before he caught himself.
After a moment Sookie chuckled in her throat and offered, “Yeah, fuck you Gawain. Glass houses and all that. Enjoy my ‘big’ secret.”