My first thought when Sookie said Francesca was in Bon Temps was that Edward really shouldn’t have hung up on her the night before.
She looked as lovely as ever when I stepped around the corner. Even though I was sure she’d traveled in a box during the day to surprise Edward and Richard, there wasn’t a hair or a fiber of her cashmere dress out of place.
She smiled from just past the threshold and offered, “I should have known they’d misbehave… They always do when they go anywhere with you or Gawain.”
“I completely deny the allegation of being a bad influence. I’ve been very well behaved…”
Brandon argued, “Bullshit! Are you the sheriff? That asshole and the other one, the older one… they molested me!”
Francesca’s face puckered enough to dimple her chin. “Well behaved, Eric?”
I shrugged. “He’s exaggerating. We were just flirting with him… I’m assuming Sookie didn’t introduce you to her brother before she began frantically trying to reach her father for your invitation… The bi-curious lad is Brandon Rousseau. The foxy little Were trying to make him shut the fuck up is his fiancé, and a remarkable kisser, Ashley Matthews…”
Sookie blustered into the room and tossed Brandon’s phone to him. “Done. Please come in, Francesca. Sorry to make you wait.”
Francesca gave a genial nod as she stepped into the house. “Dear Diary, Tonight I was happily invited into the home of a Faerie, and then she apologized for a slight delay… Don’t worry, Sookie. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, but I have to ask… What are my boys so distracted by that they don’t realize I’m so close? They should at least hear me for God’s sake.”
Hearing her would have required Miles to stop cooing about the ‘tiny little toothies’ of the lizards.
I chuckled, “Alligators.”
She tipped her head to the side. “Are you joking about a cliché or are alligators an actual problem in this area?”
“They aren’t a problem now, but they might be in Diekirch. Sookie’s children gave each of the boys their own as souvenirs.”
“Little girls playing with alligators?”
Sookie giggled, “All of the girls in the family are tomboys, but we clean up nicely…”
I nodded. “That remains to be seen. I can’t imagine Misty in formal attire other than a tuxedo. She’s certainly more masculine than her uncle…”
After all, she cursed Alexei for ruining her favorite Rolling Stones T-shirt… Meanwhile, said uncle was using his girlfriend as a shield.
I called over my shoulder, “Boys, you have company.”
As Richard stepped into the kitchen from the porch, he had a curious look on his face. “Donor service?” He still had his alligator in his hand.
Sookie sighed, “I tried, but they wouldn’t hear of sending anyone into the sticks.”
“Hunting at Avalon will be fun in any case. Thanks for trying…”
He stopped in his tracks when he cleared the archway enough to see who the company was.
Edward answered, “Busy!”
Francesca’s eyebrow pulled up as she lifted her finger to her lips… She kissed Richard’s cheek as she walked past us and through the kitchen, stopping in the doorway leading to the porch Edward was playing on.
“Too busy to greet me?”
The activity on the porch froze for a moment, giving Gawain the opportunity to greet her. He gave her a kiss and offered, “Forever a walking aphrodisiac, Francesca. Wonderful to see you again.”
She chided, “Don’t kiss my ass. I can only imagine what you’ve all been up to… The boys don’t ignore my calls unless they’re doing something they don’t want me to know about until after the fact.”
At least she was aware of that.
Jenny sheepishly offered, “They’ve been good. Promise.”
Francesca folded her arms and leaned over as she sighed, “How can you be sure they haven’t been misbehaving behind your back, or glamouring you to forget?”
Judging by her pandering tone, there were several things the boys hadn’t explained to Francesca. She sounded as though she was talking to a simple child.
Sookie snaked her arm around mine and held her breath as Jenny explained. “I’m… Well, they’ve run a few errands, but Grampa has the sports package on the satellite so Edward and Richard… they’ve been watching spring training.”
I couldn’t tell if Sookie was generally anxious or if she understood the significance of how Francesca felt about the girls’ potential.
Francesca sucked her teeth and snarled, “Baseball? You ignored me for baseball? Again? What did I tell you would happen last time?”
She threatened to command them to avoid anything baseball related until she thought they learned their lesson. Francesca has had their full attention whenever possible since the 1950s.
Richard breathed, “God no.”
Misty cleared her throat and began their defense. “If you’re talking about last night, they weren’t ignoring you. Their batteries died between sending pictures to us and texting, and looking for a signal out here in no-man’s-land. They plugged their phones in right over there…”
“Pictures of what exactly?”
“Our new sister. We hadn’t met her yet, so Edward and Richard were giving us updates. The last text I got was around three o’clock. Edward said Sookie took the baby to bed and Hadley was awake and whining about how our grandmother made her play baseball when she was little. I told him she didn’t mind baseball too much to date a washed up minor leaguer long enough to drag us to Florida so he could beat the crap out of her for a year. He didn’t respond to my last message.”
There was a moment of silence while Francesca seemed to be deciding whether to believe Misty’s version of events.
Misty pressed, “Here. If you don’t believe me, check my phone… check theirs. There’s a house full of witnesses who can tell you they haven’t touched them yet tonight.”
“You’re very cheeky.”
“Do they have you on retainer?”
“No. I’m banking favors.”
Richard quietly chuckled, “She’s doing it… Who thought telling the girls about that little extra was a good idea?”
Sookie giggled and kissed the side of my arm. “This guy.”
“There will be no arguing with her from now on.”
That wouldn’t keep Edward from trying.
Sookie whispered, “Have you met her? There was no arguing with her before.”
“Misty should have let Jenny continue. Jenny needs the confidence.”
“Jenny wasn’t thinking about winning the debate. She was thinking that she’d be mortified if she was part of why you two were in trouble. Granted, she needs confidence, but their mentalities are different. Misty is a fighter. Jenny is a peace-keeper.”
He nodded and ventured forth, “Pray for me.”
Sookie laughed through her nose and we watched him cross the kitchen to greet his Maker.
Gawain passed him coming towards us, announcing his claim on the bathroom so he could shower… he took Brandon’s hand to tow him along. Brandon was surprised enough to take a few steps towards the bathroom before he caught on.
I probably would have joined Gawain’s fun if I wasn’t listening to how uncharacteristically indifferent Francesca was in regards to being properly introduced to Misty and Jenny. Whether she was pleased or opposed, knowing the boys intended to bring them over should have elicited more than a stock greeting.
The boys had told her nothing… and as curious as I was about why, I couldn’t ask them yet.
Rather than stay for dinner (be groped) Brandon and Ashley left. As it turned out, he was manager of the bookstore where the signing would be held.
Sookie served bowls of gumbo and slabs of cornbread to the children (including Miles), and leaned against the counter with hers only to be interrupted by Hadley.
She staggered into the kitchen in the same gown she’d been wearing the night before, reeking of putrefied blood and rubbing her eyes.
She plopped down at the table and huffed, “If y’all are gonna be so loud, you could at least invite me to the party, Sook.”
She didn’t sound bothered as much as groggy.
Sookie rolled her eyes and ladled gumbo into a bowl for her irksome cousin. “Sorry… You crashed so hard I checked your pulse. I thought it would take dynamite to wake you up.”
Hadley grumbled, “Or yelling and laughing. What’s been goin’ on out here?”
She was staring blankly at the tablecloth… If I was piecing things together correctly, she hadn’t been awake to greet Misty and Jenny. And she hadn’t so much as looked at them.
Sookie hummed while she made her mental list. “Well, Hope and I slept really late. By the time she woke up, she was practically starving. I gave her a sink-bath and she went right back out. I took my laptop to the porch and did some research and writing until the girls came home. Crystal and Heather hung out until Brandon and Ashley got here. You just missed meeting them…”
That solidified it… and when I looked at the boys, they watched the puzzle come together at the same time. Richard’s fangs snapped down behind his lips.
Sookie placed Hadley’s dinner in front of her and continued, “When the guys finally got up, we goofed around for a while, but in the last few minutes, you missed Gawain seriously testing Brandon’s boundaries, the girls gave baby gators to Richard and Edward, and their mother surprised them for a visit since they’re in the neighborhood on business with Eric.”
“They sound British. Where is she from?”
“They’re English, but they live in Luxembourg. She lives in New York.”
Hadley still looked stoned when she scanned the room to look for Francesca. At least she had somewhat of an excuse to be so oblivious.
“Yeah? I always wanted to go to New York. Is it nice there?”
Before Sookie or Francesca could answer her, Misty offered, “It’s awesome. We’ve been a few times.”
Her tone left nothing to the imagination. She was sick of being ignored… and it seemed as though she was planning to take Gawain up on his offer to take care of Hadley’s memory.
“That’s cool…” Hadley turned to Miles and asked, “Who are you?”
Miles narrowed his eyes. “Miles.”
“So Miles, what are you doing here?”
“Enjoying a bowl of gumbo and cornbread, love. Sookie’s trying to kill me with flavorful Cajun morsels… You’re the girls’ mum, yeah?”
Misty shook her head and snapped, “No. She’s a Pez dispenser. Sookie’s the one that takes care of us.”
Good for her… sadly Hadley didn’t seem to notice.
Miles frowned and offered, “Sad, that is. At least you have a Sookie though. I was just going to say you don’t look like her. The lot of you. Lindy, she’s a tiny Sookie statuette, but you and Jenny must look like your fathers.”
Misty nodded. “What about you?”
“Oh, I look like me mum, beard and all. She’d make a better man. Bet your dad would look fab in drag.”
Misty kicked his leg under the table while she giggled.
Hadley finally blurted, “Why is everyone speaking British all a’sudden? Are we being invaded?”
I’m almost sure she was trying to make a joke, but her tone was argumentative.
Jenny finally showed some annoyance and huffed while she pointed to everyone as she explained, “Their accent is English, Mom… Richard and Edward are English, born in London. They oversee Eric’s Luxembourg interests… Francesca is Monegasque, as she’s from Monaco, and teaches at Columbia. Not the country, the Ivy League University. Eric is actually Swedish, but he learned to speak English in England, hence his muddled accent… Miles was also born in England, making him English… Gawain is Welsh, from Wales, which is a separate country from England, yet part of the British Empire… Gawain, Edward, Richard and Miles are all British in the sense that they’re all from a country in the British Empire. Like we’re Americans, but specifically Lwizyané.”
Miles nodded proudly and put his spoon down long enough to applaud Jenny.
I was impressed with how well put the explanation was, but I knew as soon as Jenny mentioned Monaco, there was too much information for Hadley to absorb it all… the blankness of her stare confirmed it.
As Corbett arrived with Ema in tow, he announced himself in the foyer instead of knocking… Ema bashfully waved, but instead of joining everyone in the kitchen, she detoured, making a bee line for Hope.
He chuckled, “Damn it. Back that up for me baby-doll. I missed most of it.”
Jenny met him in the doorway and once he lifted her, she happily explained the difference between English and British to someone who actually wanted to know.
When she was finished, he grinned at her. “Lin would whack my head for not knowin’ all this. London was on your Grandma’s bucket list, but by the time she found out she didn’t have forever, she was too sick to go. Did you know she talked in her sleep? She used to dream in Shakespeare. She read his stuff so many times that when she’d fall asleep reading, she’d recite it once she dozed off.”
Jenny giggled, “Sookie and Misty do that too.”
Edward blurted, “I’m ‘sleeping’ with Sookie tonight. I want spoilers for the next book.”
Corbett snorted as he put Jenny on the floor, “Good luck with that, champ. She doesn’t spoil for anyone…” He raised an eyebrow at Francesca and offered a respectful nod. “Welcome to Louisiana, Francesca.”
Yet another indifferent greeting for a Vampire, from the Faerie…
In spite of the way she was eye-fucking him while he walked to the stove to ladle gumbo for Ema and himself.
Edward and Richard looked like they were close to laughing at her… There was no way she was attracted to his scent. He’d remembered to wear orange oil.
Edward chuckled, “Good thing you didn’t confuse our Maker with the beast devouring gumbo and cornbread as though he’s never eaten.”
Yes, he slipped.
Edward said Maker instead of mother…
He pushed himself up to sit on the counter and offered, “Well, I’m Corbett. Nice to meet y’all… Ash called me to warn me about how popular y’all are with Brand right now.”
Sookie giggled, “Daddy, it was the funniest damn thing I’ve ever seen. I wish I wasn’t laughing so hard. I’da taken a picture for you…”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Ash said as much…” Corbett glanced at Francesca, but turned his attention to Miles instead. “So Miles, what do you have planned while you’re here?”
Miles mumbled past a mouthful of cornbread, “Camping in the garden tonight. I want to catch an eeeeeeeagle.”
Corbett shook his head. “Not while it’s awake, you don’t. Even a juvi will light you up. Whatcha gotta do is find a nest… wait til the middle of the night… shift into something with hands like a small monkey… then slip a hood over its head while it’s resting. Pillowcase will work in a pinch.”
Nevermind that Edward’s slip led Corbett to believe Hadley was party to what we all were.
Miles’s eyes lit up and his mouth opened like there was in invisible cock in it. “Brilliant!”
Edward asked, “Do you hunt them?”
He shook his head. “Naw… National bird and all… Hit one once. Near as I can figure it was mating with another one and the poor thing didn’t pull out of that free-fall they do in time. It was hell gettin’ it into my truck to take it to a vet. Nearly lost a couple fingers. Sturdy as hell bird though. My windshield was smashed and the vet didn’t even hold the bird.”
Sookie added, “There’s a couple that nest near Daddy’s place. He started stocking it for them. When he fishes the river and catches something too small to fillet he takes them back.”
Corbett chuckled, “Started something too. Hoyt and his friends bring more nearly every weekend… Miles, you strong enough to shift into something big enough to carry one down? Fuckers are heavy and they nest too high for you to come down Human.”
Corbett shrugged, “Ten, fifteen pounds there-abouts.”
“I need kilos, man! I’m metric.”
Corbett laughed and waited for Sookie to make the conversion.
She balked because of the conversational time bomb waiting to detonate, watching Hadley carefully as she answered, “Uh… four to six kilos… Something like a chimpanzee would be good for both jobs. No shifting in between.”
Miles nodded and bellowed, “DONE!”
Hadley snickered as she nibbled a piece of bread.
Corbett offered, “So while you’re waiting around… what are you going to do for entertainment?”
Miles shrugged. “Sookie invited me to go toy with a local Shifter.”
“American wildlife… American fuckery… No American women? Sookie should be ashamed of herself. Even these guys got taken out for that.”
Miles tilted his head to the side and probed, “What are you implying, sir?”
“I got a call to invite you for a run.”
“With the twat who called me a girl!?”
It was actually good to see he could be offended. I made a mental note to let Gerrit know. We’d both been wondering.
Corbett laughed, “He was just talkin’ shit. Chalk it up to American ribbin’… But I ain’t talkin’ bout Calvin… Some of the girls in the pack want to show you a good time. They smelled you on Sookie while they were over earlier.”
Without missing a beat, Miles asked, “Are they sluts?”
Sookie gasped, but without a way to get to Miles at the opposite side of the table, the conversation continued…
All three of the girls laughed as they nodded… I could only assume they’d gotten the identities of the Weres from their grandfather’s mind.
Corbett chuckled, “I’ve heard stories. Crystal said they’d meet you next door at ten if you’re interested. Calvin don’t know. It’s easier to play stupid after the fact than get in the middle of pack shit. I’m just a messenger.”
Miles’s wiggled his eyebrows and crooned, “If I found them whilst roving, I might have considered them a threat… and approached them immmmproperly. Thank you.”
Sookie shook her head and growled, “They aren’t call-girls, Miles. The pack is desperate for new blood. I’m sure they’re keeping their fingers crossed that at least one of them will get knocked up.”
Sookie had been warning him, explaining he was being used as a stud…
Miles only smiled wider, mumbling about loving America while shoveling gumbo into his gob.
When Gawain finished his shower, he came into the kitchen in nothing but a towel… In spite of the fact that Francesca was still staring at Corbett as though he was on the menu, Gawain focused on Hadley, looking into her bowl to see it was practically empty.
He asked, “Have you had your fill?”
She nodded submissively without looking up.
He snapped his fingers and pointed towards the back of the house. “Good. Go bathe.”
She nodded again and abandoned what was left of her meal, absently shuffling from the kitchen.
Miles and Francesca were the only ones not staring, if not gaping, at Gawain.
After a moment, Sookie and the girls smiled and went back to eating their dinner…
Another explanation I was forced to wait for… He wasn’t going to offer any details in Francesca or Miles’s company.
Corbett cleared his throat and pushed, “How the hell did you do that? She woulda bit anyone else’s head off.”
Gawain shrugged as he left the room, “Glamour.”
A glamour or a push? I suspected whatever he was doing to Hadley probably began while he was still in the shower… If I had to guess, I’d say he heard her outburst about the British invasion.
Corbett jokingly threatened, “Well halle-fuckin-lujah. She’s all yours, pal. I’ll send the title to ya!”
My theory only made it that much more difficult to wait…
In the interest of time (and trying to distract myself from figuring out how Gawain so easily controlled Hadley from the bathroom), I collected my clothing so I could bathe…
As soon as I turned the water on, Hadley shrieked from the bathroom on the other side of the wall, cursing me for causing the temperature change…
She was still complaining, so I was still chuckling, when my bathroom door opened.
Sookie offered, “It’s just me… There’s a big ole hole in my plans for the evening.”
“We won’t have an opportunity to fuck?”
She giggled, “Right… and I’m going to have to sit through a book signing with the stench of Merlotte’s on me.”
“I didn’t make you marry him.”
She giggled, “Stupid other Sookie… I’m surprised she could stand it…”
“You managed to stomach your cousin…”
“I hid my face in a bowl of gumbo, my dear. I wouldn’t say I was stomaching it. How does someone walk around smelling like a panty-liner bin at a highway rest-stop and not realize it?”
I chuckled, “Is your sense of smell much stronger than the others?”
“Well, I had to buy a pair of sunglasses the other day while I was running errands, but the glare that was bothering me could’ve been because it’s been pretty overcast back home… My hearing isn’t really an issue, maybe because I’m used to being able to filter out background noise… but once in a while, I catch a whiff of something that makes me want to buy nose-plugs.”
“Is it mentioned in the journal? Were you at least prepared?”
“Oh yeah… There’s a few versions where a Sookie who’s been bonded to You for months visits an Eric who was only in the flirting stages with His Sookie… She surprised the crap out of Him, zipping around quickly enough Humans thought She was a Vampire… I definitely feel for y’all though. There’s a passage in the journal from a Sookie who hadn’t ever had Vampire blood before She was turned. She’s really specific about how miserable She was for the first few weeks.”
“The ones who are bonded beforehand, they’re less burdened, yes?”
“Apparently… Are you almost done in there or are you taking a girl-shower?”
She squealed when I quickly reached past the curtain to grab her and pull her into the tub with me. She was already stripped down to her panties and bra.
She giggled, “How did I know you were going to think of a reason to do this?”
“Do what? I was planning to ask if this is what you meant by ‘girl-shower’. You seem prepared… Did you want to shower with me?”
She opened her mouth to deny it, but paused long enough to reconsider. “Yes.”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “But unfortunately…”
I growled at her before she could finish reminding me the house was full and we had obligations.
She pouted her lip and kissed my cheek. “I might be able to soften the blow.”
“Are you planning to explain how Gawain controlled Hadley?”
She nodded, “That wasn’t what I had in mind, but I can do that…” She lifted her chin to put her mouth to my ear and breathed, “He can combine his telepathy with his pushing ability… As far as his range will allow him… He can control a mind by putting his thoughts into it or making the person distract themselves. Hadley was remembering an old episode of The Cosby Show instead of paying attention to what we were talking about.”
“That prick… Now I’m going to wonder about all the times a guard conveniently dozed off… or all the perfectly timed interruptions… Can he do the same to you?”
She hummed, “No. He mentioned yesterday that he’d have to fire with both barrels… I think the jerk might’ve been trying before he got some answers. There were a couple of times when he thought orders to me. Like, ‘you’re going to explain’.”
“This is what I get for teasing him about not having your range or talent with Weres.”
She nodded. “Yes sir, it is… Now that I told you that, do you still want your shirt?”
“You scented a shirt for me?”
She nodded. “While I worked on the porch.”
She looked like I’d slapped her when I shook my head. “Thank you, but… How many Vampires usually come to your signings?”
“A few… Just because they’re curious. Most of them… Oh.”
She sighed, “Most of them come to sniff me out, see if I’m Were or Witch… because I knew about y’all before… You don’t want to incite a riot, huh?”
“Riots are underrated, but since the girls will be there, I’d rather not add a variable… The shirt won’t be wasted, but my friends hardly behave as it is and Francesca is already very interested in your father. It’s probably best to leave the shirt in its hiding place.”
“Francesca was probably sucked in by his boyish grin and bright blue eyes like every other woman… but I didn’t even think of being around Vampires we don’t know. Thank you…”
Sookie kissed me, nibbling my lip, and I was trying to decide if I was going to end it, or allow things to spiral when we were walked in on…
Lindy burst through the door, beginning with, “Are you…?” but gasped when she saw us…
Sookie was between me and the door, but it wasn’t as though Sookie’s wet lace left anything to the imagination.
By the time Sookie thought to pull the shower curtain closed, Lindy was glowing bright red… Sookie hid her face against my chest, embarrassed… no, completely mortified.
I asked, “What did you need, Lindy?”
The girl managed to stammer and giggle at the same time. “I was… I… Mommy was being a brat about her present… I was going to tell her to hurry up… I’m sorry… Mommy doesn’t…”
“Does your mother usually shower in her underthings? I tried telling her she was doing it incorrectly.”
Sookie slapped my ribs while Lindy laughed. “I’m just gonna… yeah…”
When the door slammed behind Lindy, I asked, “Is she using her shields? Is she upset?”
Sookie was still for a moment before she growled, “Get dressed. I’m going to hide in here… forever.”
“It wasn’t as though she walked in on anything interesting… Is Lindy upset she saw us together?”
Just because Misty had preconceived notions about who Sookie belonged to didn’t mean Lindy shared the opinion… At her age, it wouldn’t surprise me if she idealized a reunion between her parents.
Sookie scoffed, “That little turd is telling Misty and Jen-”
She was interrupted by loud squealing coming from the living room, followed by a gang of eager footsteps running towards the bathroom.
Sookie let go of me in favor of covering her face and leaning against the wall to mumble to herself about little telepaths and privacy…
I managed to wrap a towel around my waist and step out of the tub just in time for the door to open so quickly the Trinity nearly toppled over when they stopped.
Sookie muttered, “Of course they’d come back? Why wouldn’t they come back?”
The girls stared up at me and giggled.
I grumbled, “What’s so funny?”
Lindy snorted, “You and Mommy… Y’all were kissing.”
I nodded. “And thanks to you, it will probably be a while before she risks kissing me again.” I shook my arms to splash the nosy little brats.
Misty snorted, “She might not shower with you again anytime soon, but…”
Sookie shouted, “Shut. Up. You!”
I offered, “We weren’t showering together. We kissed while she was stepping in and I was stepping out.”
Lindy giggled again and had to push Jenny and Misty to back out of the bathroom. “K… ummmmm… Hurry up, Mommy… You’re wasting water and Edward and Richard are waiting for their presents too.”
They giggled all the way back to the living room, where their grandfather asked the ‘angels’ why they were laughing…
When I pulled the shower curtain back, Sookie was still standing with her forehead against the wall.
“Shortly after you arrived in Eijsden, I began thinking of the girls as the ‘Unholy Trinity’.”
She snorted, “You need to think of a new nickname. There’s four of them now.”
She managed to giggle.
“Uncover your face. You’re being ridiculous. It’s not as though they interrupted a blow job.”
Her breathing hitched and she moved like she was trying to become part of the wall. She whimpered, “Kinda.”
Oh, that was priceless.
“You were thinking about giving me a blow job.”
She hissed, “Don’t laugh… yeah, I was thinking about it… I’m glad you think it’s funny, asshole.”
I was already an ‘asshole’ so I didn’t bother holding anything back…
I laughed, “Of course I think it’s funny. You’re a fucking telepath. How old were you when you witnessed sex for the first time?”
“Better question, how old were you?”
I’m sure she was trying to prove a point because I was ‘normal’.
“Fine. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what sex was.”
She pouted, “Yeah well, fuck you and your farm.”
My laughter flared up again. “I didn’t mean the livestock, Sookie. I was raised in a Longhouse… one large room for the entire family.”
Her argument consisted of, “Perverts.”
I was still amused as I dressed, waiting for more debate that didn’t happen.
Before I left the bathroom, I peeked into the tub again and she was still pouting.
“Is this how you act when you don’t have a rational argument?”
She blew a raspberry, so I translated that to ‘yes’.
“Are you upset by anything I’ve done other than not sharing your awkwardness?”
I had to ask since I’d pulled her into the tub… Given her mood, she could have forgotten she hadn’t minded at the time.
When I was answered with another, longer raspberry, I left her to sulk.
I joined Jenny and Ema on the sofa while they cooed over Hope… The boys and Francesca were sharing the loveseat, and Hadley was sitting on the armchair alone… both boys were scowling at Hadley.
“What have I missed?”
Francesca nodded towards the array of gift boxes on the coffee table and explained, “Hadley isn’t pleased by being snubbed.”
In the interest of keeping the peace, I offered, “Hadley, the girls were swimming this morning. They would have bought the gifts before they knew they’d be seeing you. We were all still under the impression you were in Chicago, remember?”
Somehow I managed to sound genuine… I was going to nominate myself for an Oscar.
She shrugged and mumbled, “I guess.”
Misty waltzed into the living room and tossed herself onto my lap sideways to rest her feet on Jenny’s lap. She snorted, “That’s BS. She’s still being a turd… Don’t mind Hadley, y’all. She doesn’t know how to act around this many people she hasn’t slept with… So what did y’all do while there weren’t kids running all over the place?”
She was smirking… She wanted a reaction.
“We traipsed around without any clothing on…”
She giggled, “We figured that part out… How was your meeting with Isabel?”
“I think it went well… Sookie couldn’t find any discrepancies while researching either. I don’t foresee any obstacles. Who is your second choice?”
Misty shook her head and corrected, “Their second choice… My first choice is Teague.”
“Have you met him or are there Vampire trading cards, complete with statistics, I should be made aware of.”
Lindy gasped, “Ohmygod… I’m so gonna Photoshop some next time I’m bored!”
Jenny giggled, “We can do them on the plane… I bet Hunter and Cort will start it up too.”
Misty growled at her sisters’ segue, but she would have been lying if she denied being amused by the idea. “Teague is a thug. That’s what you need right now. Tilda’s alright, but she’s gonna get tested right off the bat because she’s like the mayor of Disney Land.”
“Spitsbergan is a vacation because she’s unyielding. When I used to holiday there, I enjoyed the fact that nothing would happen because Tilda doesn’t allow anyone who causes trouble to return.”
Gawain wandered into the room and sat on the arm of Hadley’s chair, taking just as much entertainment from my discussion with Misty as everyone else seemed to.
“I look older than her.”
Edward and Richard chuckled at Misty’s assumption that the appearance of age meant anything when considering Vampires.
“She appears harmless, not unlike the boys… but she isn’t a pushover. Anyone who treats her as such will learn quickly.”
“Why don’t you like Teague for the job?”
“It’s not that I don’t think he’d do well… The last time our paths crossed, he expressed an interest in retiring. Call it a professional courtesy, but if I offer the position to him, he’ll assume refusing would make him unwelcome in my Kingdom…”
“If you don’t roll out the carpet for him, then eventually he could be unwelcome.”
“You’re suggesting he could be sent to my Kingdom on an errand, yes?”
She nodded as though she was helping me through the alphabet. “Uh, yeah… He’s got centuries more experience as a Knight than you and Gawain… And he’s on Clovis’s payroll now.”
I nodded. “What if I told you I intend to make a peace offering to Clovis and extend an invitation for Teague to homestead in the Northern Empire?”
She cringed until one eye was completely closed. “Yeah?”
“If Simza and Jaro haven’t reported any complications in my absence, I was considering a detour to Paris before we return to Eijsden.”
Lindy and Jenny squeaked and Misty shrugged. “Okay then. Nevermind.”
She nodded, “Well yeah… If you’re going to kiss and make up with Clovis, then I lost my position on Teague…”
At least she didn’t pout when she was on the losing side of a debate.
Misty turned her head and shouted, “Jesus Sookie, girl-shower much!?”
Speaking of pouting.
While Sookie grumbled in the bathroom, I asked, “What is a girl-shower?”
Corbett snorted, “When you take your sweet ass time and make everyone wait for you… ‘specially when everyone knows you can take a quick one.”
Lindy giggled, “Mommy’s embarrassed because I walked in on her and Eric… She’s hiding.”
Sookie heard Lindy’s announcement and only seemed more determined to stay where she was.
When the boys rolled their eyes, I pointed towards the bathroom…
The boys left the loveseat quickly enough to make Ema jump, darting to the back of the house and extracting Sookie from the bathroom while she did her best to fight them off.
Just as they returned with her, Edward holding her upper body and Richard securing her legs, Edward rolled his eyes. “So she walked in on you. So what. I doubt it’ll scar her. I wasn’t much older than her when I… I was still having nightmares about what my cousin did to his dogs when I died.”
Richard punctuated his brother’s statement by shuddering.
Ema cringed and bashfully offered, “I don’t know if I’m lucky or worse off… but my room was next to my parents’… I could just hear ‘em… a lot…”
Sookie’s face was reddening again as she whined, “It was just a kiss…”
Edward and Richard stopped in their tracks. “Just a kiss?”
I nodded. “Just a kiss… Lindy walked in on a kiss while I was stepping out of the shower and…” I waved my hand towards the outcome rather than finishing the story.
The boys all but dropped Sookie and left her on the floor.
Richard snorted, “Grow up…” and eyed the coffee table. “Which one is mine?”
In a seemingly choreographed arrangement, the girls all took a box from the table, and presented them…
Misty’s box was given to Edward…
Jenny’s box was given to Richard…
Lindy’s box was given to Gawain…
Jenny happily told them to open the boxes and explained, “They’re called druzy… Faeries give tokens to special friends… So if another Faerie sees you wearing it, they’ll know they’re safe with you.”
If I was reading her subtext correctly, whatever was in the box signified the owner knew about the braid…
Brilliant, but I couldn’t see into anyone’s gift box.
The first thing I could see was a gold chain as Gawain removed his slowly.
Lindy took the chain from him and while she pinched the clasp, a green stone swung back and forth. A cross-sectioned geode with an iridescent center.
She reached up to fasten the chain for him and giggled, “You don’t have to wear it, but we got longer chains so you can tuck them inside your shirts.”
While the boys complimented and thanked Jenny and Misty, Lindy left Gawain to take another box to Ema…
Ema finally removed a large salmon colored stone that resembled a coral reef with sparkles, but it was mounted on a ring.
Francesca was admiring Richard’s charm when she offered, “They’re stunning… so much personality… are these druzy a local oddity?”
Lindy took the last two boxes from the table and climbed onto my lap. “Nope. Really common… It’s just quartz deposits on other stones, but it’s really pretty.”
Our gifts finally drew Sookie towards us… As soon as she sat on the coffee table, Lindy offered our boxes to us and waved her hands…
She was just as eager for us to open them as we were…
My box contained a larger stone of the same color… longer, more prism shaped…
Misty climbed up to sit on the spine of the sofa next to me and offered to clasp the chain for me.
I was sure she meant as opposed to the plethora of other stones mentioned in the journal.
Lindy explained, “It was Jenny’s idea. Pliny the Elder…”
Sookie looked at Jenny and giggled, “You and your Greek thinkers.”
Hearing that did not escape the notice of the Classical Studies Professor. Francesca looked surprised the children knew who Pliny the Elder was… I was sure it wouldn’t be long before she had the time to realize the children in the room were more well-read than most of her students.
Jenny bashfully shrugged as Lindy continued, “He thought quartz was fossilized ice. You know, frozen for so long it was stuck like that…”
Misty slid over the back of the sofa and looked up at me… She was wide-eyed as she asked, “Pliny couldn’t have been further off the mark about what he as dealing with. It just looks like ice, but it holds onto heat really well. Who knew?”