Sookie brought our garment bag from the trunk while Miles was being left at the dilapidated Compton property for his date…
Once Corbett, Gawain and I were ordered to close or cover our eyes so the females could change their tops, conversation became lighter.
It all started when Gawain jokingly hugged his shirt and insisted the girls cover their eyes while he changed… The ensuing debate included segueing from one male/female double-standard to another and the conversation continued until we were surprised by traffic. The limo had been stopped for several minutes.
As everyone looked through the windows, searching for a reason for the delay, Misty snorted, “Nice job, Sookie… It’s like the signing in LA all over again.”
I couldn’t help but ask, “What happened in LA?” but Gawain asked at the same time I did.
Sookie rolled her eyes and sighed, “I got a damn concussion screwing around with my brothers and had to cancel my San Francisco signing… So the signing in LA a few days later was a madhouse.”
“How many signings were canceled?”
“Six on the east coast, three on the west…”
Lindy snorted, “Not that any of them are chill. It’s always kinda nuts.”
Gawain shook his head. “You consolidated nine public appearances into this one.”
“Nine signings and dozens of associated television and radio appearances…”
Suddenly, the cancellation of our Paris jaunt wasn’t as disappointing… there were still options.
“How many would still be on your itinerary?”
Sookie raised an eyebrow and offered, “If I’d stuck to the original US dates scheduled, I only would’ve missed one of the three in New York… The European dates have come and gone though. The schedule wasn’t as heavy as usual, but Selma didn’t want me to get too tired.”
It still stunned me that she sacrificed part of her livelihood to fulfill a promise to me… let alone when I didn’t give her a reason to think I appreciated her.
“You could call Selma and have her reschedule for you. We’re already in the States. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for you to miss all of your engagements.”
She stared at me, completely shocked, and all I could do was hope she wasn’t speechless because she could feel how insanely optimistic I was…
She finally managed, “If you go back to Eijsden and we skip…”
She couldn’t possibly think I was planning to leave her here alone.
“I’ll stay with you while you travel. I’m sure Ema will enjoy seeing something other than Dallas.”
“The Northern Empire is short its King and five Lords, Eric.”
“It’s not as though it’s in any danger. I’ve tried to give the fucking thing away and no one wants it… We’ll stay so you can make your public appearances.”
She shook her head. “Not with Hope. Not a new city every day. And you shouldn’t travel during the day because you can’t defend yourself… There’s no way to keep the schedule and not have us all be miserable.”
“You can extend the tour to add a couple of days between events, or pick and choose.”
She stared at me for long enough Corbett nudged Lindy and told her to breathe.
She finally shook her head. “No. A book signing tour is a bad idea because the dates are normally published ahead of time. That’d be a security nightmare. You have un-Lorded Districts and Allecks won’t be happy about being put off…”
She continued, “Once Nessensassen and Brussels have Lords, we’ll plan an actual vacation without trying to balance a newborn and business. We’ll walk the Great Wall or we’ll take the kids to Disney World, whatever you want, but for now we need to go back… even if it’s just a week or two, long enough for you to appoint your new Lords and plan your first vacation in decades.”
I wasn’t the only one disappointed… Misty was actually angry and when I looked at Gawain, he scoffed, “Don’t look at me. She’s yours. I would vote for Atlanta and Los Angeles. You know how I feel about warm weather.”
I growled while I thought about it. “We’ll discuss this later.”
For the half hour we spent in the limo as it inched slowly towards the bookstore, I pouted.
I didn’t want my holiday to end so soon.
I didn’t care that the only Louisiana tourism I’d taken part in was a Cajun jitterbug lesson.
For decades, I’d stayed in my prison, only traveling to my own Districts to keep up appearances of giving a fuck.
Keeping company with Vampires who considered my presence an interruption or a threat.
Watching memorized scenery pass me by.
Amusing myself by remembering old jokes Liz had made.
Feeding from things I could barely stomach.
Now… I had the company of people who weren’t intimidated by me.
Enjoying a new setting.
Laughing at new jokes.
Feeding from someone I wanted to wrap my arms around instead of shove away.
I didn’t fucking care that I was far too old to be pouting. I had a good reason.
I was more comfortable ‘bunking’ in a tiny room with a nosy cock-blocking Faepire than I was in my own fucking castle.
When the limo finally stopped in the narrow alley behind the bookstore, Brandon yanked the door open and leaned in. “Hey rock star, get your ass in here or we’re gonna have a riot on our hands.”
He moved to the side to make room for none other than Selma Kansu. She leaned into opening next to Brandon and the girls happily waved at her. “Can you go anywhere without causing trouble, Rula?”
Sookie shook her head. “I guess not. How did I know you wouldn’t miss this?”
“Because we’ve been together long enough for you to know better. Are you ready for this? The press is chomping at the bit to ask about the cancellations. Do we have a plan for that yet?”
Sookie nodded. “Nothing about the miscarriage or my health. I hate the attention that stuff dredges up…”
“They’re going to want a fabulous reason for you to condense your usual tour into two appearances when the schedule was already a quarter of what they’re used to.”
“I have one… I’m adopting a baby and the birth-mother went into labor three weeks early.”
That was inspired… and I doubted anyone would openly begrudge her for canceling her tour with a reason like the birth of a child.
Selma opened her mouth to answer, but she balked for a moment. “That would be brilliant, darling, but you don’t have a baby to show for it.”
Sookie nodded. “Her name is Hope Lynn. It’s a long story, but Hadley didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant.”
Selma’s brow furrowed slightly as she said, “Rula.”
That covered it. Rula. Unstoppable. In spite of any obstacle, Sookie continued to go, do, succeed, impress.
Sookie giggled, “That’s me. I’m as braced for the chaos as possible, but I need a minute alone with Eric…” She waved towards the door for her family and Gawain. “Y’all go ahead. We’ll be right behind you.”
She began feeling frustrated as they all filed out of the car and she actually lifted her foot to give Gawain’s ass a shove.
She waited, watching everyone be led into the back entrance of the bookstore like cattle at auction before starting, “I. Did. Not. Mean. To sound like I was telling you how to run your Kingdom, Eric. I’m sorry if it sounded like that.”
“You didn’t give that impression.”
She gave me a puzzled look. “Then why- What pissed you off?”
“I’m enjoying myself. I don’t want to go back to Eijsden.”
“What the hell are you enjoying? We haven’t left the house without an incident.”
“Every incident has been unique though. I’m not so bored I’m tempted to cut off a digit just to watch it return.”
“That’s just as disgusting as it is sad… You haven’t been there that long. How can you be that bored? Is it wanderlust or… or do you hate it for what it stands for?”
“What does it stand for?”
She shrugged. “Losing Liz? I could understand if you look at it like a scar. The big-ugly you can’t ignore so it constantly reminds you of what you lost…”
That was the perfect way to put it.
I nodded. “There was a time when I enjoyed being there. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Brussels…”
“You can’t just walk away from it.”
“I know that… but I don’t have to be happy about returning so soon.”
“Since you don’t seem to really care about where we are as long as it isn’t Eijsden, why don’t we just stay here until Thursday… I’ll take Hadley to her apartment tomorrow, as planned, so the girls and the mood at the house will relax and we’ll have some quiet time.”
“That sounds like a good start… We can leave Eijsden for another vacation when Allecks leaves and I can use the time during his visits to plan our next…”
She interrupted, “Can we negotiate later?”
She sighed, “Fine… I don’t want to burst your bubble, but the girls need a sense of home, and every time I go on a tour I’m practically agoraphobic for a week or two afterward. I’m a home-body so I get road-weary. If you want to travel constantly, you’ll have to do some of it alone.”
All I could do was growl at her.
She frowned, “Does it make you feel better to think it doesn’t seem like we’re going to be skipping a lot? You could always take off right after skips so the risk of skipping while we’re…”
“You think this is about proximity?”
She shook her head. “It isn’t?”
“No… Sookie, you’re responsible for how much I’ve enjoyed these past few nights… The children were missed while they were with your family.”
“That’s sweet… We’ll have to spend some time brainstorming. I want you to get your vacation. I’m sorry we’re holding you back.”
“You and the children aren’t holding me back. The Kingdom is.”
“Could you do a favor for me then? Could you tell Jenny that? She… she said she didn’t mind staying in Eijsden with Ema if you didn’t mean to include the kids… She pointed out there was a certain amount of ambiguity to the way you mentioned sightseeing in Amsterdam…”
“NO! That’s not what I meant!” I was ambiguous because I was hoping I’d be welcome on the jaunt. Their plans hadn’t originally included me.
“And when I mentioned Disney, you were less than amused…”
“Actually, I was less than amused by the idea of seeing the Great Wall again. After a century of using it as an aerial landmark, I’d rather make fun of plastic castles in Florida.”
She snickered, “I love the idea of you wearing Mickey ears.”
“I’d say ‘over my dead body’ if I wasn’t sure I’d rise with a pair on my head… I imagine we can discuss details later…”
She shook her head. “No need to discuss. As long as you don’t go crazy with the length of the trip, just tell me what kind of weather I need to pack for.”
“Only that we’re Human.”
I was not going to fall for that.
“You have an opinion about everything.”
She grinned and nodded, “My opinion is that you deserve to enjoy yourself… I’m not testing you or baiting a trap, sweetie. This is important to you, your thing. I trust you.”
“I could take you to a deserted wasteland.”
Sookie whispered, “Sounds peaceful.”
“An icy fjord.”
She hummed before rebutting, “Roaring fires and hot chocolate aren’t things I turn my nose up at.”
“An overcrowded city.”
She cooed, “Lots of restaurants and shopping.”
Other than trying to hide how amused she was by how I chose to test her reactions, her responses were completely honest.
“You’re serious. You don’t care where we go? Do you intend to take turns?”
She shook her head and took my hand as she began sliding towards the door. “No turns… but March 27th is Easter, so you can get a bonus holiday out of that if you want.”
“We can bring Miles and he can shift into a large rabbit… We can dye him pink and make him drag a basket.”
She paused without looking back, but she shook her head. “I don’t know what’s worse… that you thought of it, or I considered it. Finn and Lily would love him to death.”
Everyone was waiting for us in the store room of the bookstore… from the moment the door opened, Selma seemed fixated on the way Sookie was wrapped around my arm.
There had been a time when we’d been peers, friends… I could only assume Sookie hadn’t had the opportunity to explain, to settle that the gossip about me hadn’t been true. Selma actually looked frightened for Sookie to touch me.
Sookie didn’t waste any time… She started, “Oh, Great Goddess of Publicity, what talents have you bestowed upon us, in this time of discord, to tame the riotous horde of fledgling bibliophiles at the gate?”
Selma rolled her eyes and let a grin show. “It’s a very good thing I brought more copies… and schwag… and at the moment things are quiet because they’re all registering to win the chance to name a character in your next book.”
Sookie’s eyes lit up. “Ooooooooh, good one… I have a few characters in the next one that were going to end up earning a disclaimer.”
“The Queen I warned you about seeming very much like someone I knew?”
Sookie shook her head. “Assholes based on actual assholes. I don’t care if Sophia is like Sophie-Anne, it’s not like she’s still around to complain that I made her out to be a greedy little bitch.”
“What assholes then?”
Sookie opened her mouth to answer, but Lindy blurted, “Tina’s getting kidnapped for her ability. Instead of helping, she needs help.”
Selma raised an eyebrow. “Are we finally showing some responsibility, Ana?”
Sookie snorted, “Shut up, you… It’s not like I’ve been running an adopt-a-Faerie program. I’ve been honest about warning them… This one’s closer to my heart.”
More like, closer to home.
“How many pages do you have for me?”
“Over a hundred… and this one helps bridge the gap we were worried about for Sentimental… #10 is now #11 and it’s highly likely the editors will have manuscripts for both in a month or two.”
“At least I don’t have to admonish you for your little excursion. You’ve been productive… So the reading has been scratched because there isn’t a way for the horde to hear you. The line has been formed and the press has been cordoned into one area.”
Sookie nodded. “So… I’m going outside to announce supplies are limited and patience is mandatory. I’ll mollify the press, and then I’ll do my best to entertain my readers.”
Selma nodded. “I have finals of the comic book too if you want to leak them to readers to drum up their release. They’ll be available for pre-order on Saturday.”
She nodded and released my arm as she turned towards the front of the store, chanting ‘amen’ like a Benedictine monk.
Selma and the children began following her immediately…
Through the front windows, I could see hundreds of people lined up in a serpentine queue that stretched along the sidewalks on both sides of the street… the façade of the building was nothing but windows. Fans were the view through the door and left side… cameras and reporters were blocking the view to the right.
It was complete madness.
As Sookie introduced herself to the owners and thanked them for hosting her signing, I noticed the insanity inside the bookstore…
There was an aisle completely blocked with boxes of Sookie’s book…
Another aisle blocked by small blue gift bags…
There was a table set up next to a large sitting area. A box of pens, a stack of posters, a fanned spread of comic books, several nondescript boxes were tucked underneath… cardboard displays for the book and the comic book…
That was all I had the time to notice before I was deafened by screams and blinded by the strobing light of incessant camera flashes. The mob had noticed Sookie and began taking her photo as though she were breaking a world record.
The children stayed inside with Brandon and Corbett, but Gawain and I were drawn outside when Selma followed Sookie.
Sookie opened the door for herself and stopped after just a few steps. She waved and smiled for her fans and after a few minutes, the din died down enough for her to turn to the left and point to three teenage boys and wave them over. She offered free books and schwag as payment so they would troll the crowd and explain that the reading wasn’t possible because the audience was too large, but the doors were going to open early to make up for it. The boys weren’t just star-struck, they were drooling.
Once they ran off to complete their task, Sookie turned to the press. Five camera crews and at least a dozen reporters…
“Hey guys. Let’s get this over with so I can get started. There are a lot of little ones standing in the cold.”
There were questions about the book…
There were questions about the rumors of movie negotiations…
There were questions about Amazon records being broken from pre-sales…
There were questions about the comic books…
There were questions about the cancellation of the publicity tour… Sookie proudly announced Hope’s adoption, explaining the publicity tour wouldn’t have been canceled if Hope hadn’t been born early… Sookie showed a grainy cell phone photo to the reporters and dared them to be angry at something so adorable.
And then there were questions about Gawain and me. The exact question was technically in regards to security… “Ana, what’s with the men you have with you? Are they security? You aren’t being stalked, are you?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question. A few members of the crowd mentioned Selma by name, some of them even greeted her. Selma was known, but Gawain and I were new faces.
I braced myself, sure Sookie would enjoy introducing me to her American fans as her ‘boyfriend’…
She grinned at me, letting me think that was exactly what she planned to do…
“This is my very good friend, Eric Northman…” She only thumbed over her shoulder towards Gawain and explained, “And our friend James.”
I had to wonder when Sookie was told about Gawain’s ‘up to something’ pseudonym… but since Gawain kept his name and reputation separate from his appearance, it was brilliant for her to introduce him as James.
One of the reporters challenged, “Ana, come on… I have lots of ‘very good friends’ and we don’t wear matching pendants.”
Sookie smirked and took my hand as she turned towards the door. “I guess I’m busted then.”
The woman laughed, “So busted! Get back here and tell us about him! Where did you meet? How does your ex-husband feel about you dating? Do the kids like him?”
It wasn’t until Sookie was seated at her table, and I had joined the girls on the sofa, that the reporters made connections out of circumstances… The reporters assumed our druzy were less traditional wedding jewelry. The reporters assumed Sookie brought her new husband home to meet her family. The reporters assumed Sookie and I were adopting Hope together… They discussed Sookie’s private life as though any of it was their concern, brainstorming different scenarios and eventually settling down as Selma led the first group of fans into the store… But most of the reporters scattered after they thought to research me. ‘Ana Louis eloped with a Vampire King.’
Misty whispered it was poor form for me to laugh at how stupid Humans can be.
The fans were a mixed demographic, representing every age group and a handful of races, all of them praising Sookie for setting a positive example… one mother considered the telepathic themes to be a metaphor for disabilities children struggle to overcome, and by the time Sookie greeted the first group of fifty fans, several more parents swooned over metaphors that weren’t there.
Sookie posed for photos with her fans, accepted gifts of cards, flowers and drawings, autographed most of their copies to her ‘biggest fan’, handed out signed posters, schwag bags and T-shirts… Groups of parents and children made up the bulk of Sookie’s fans, but there were more than a few adults who were unapologetically dismissive of Sookie’s target audience… the most amusing class of Sookie’s readers were the handful of people who claimed to be buying the book for someone else because they were too embarrassed to enjoy books meant for children.
Of the first group of fans, the most remarkable one had been a local eighth grade teacher who ‘played hookie’ to wait in line. The woman didn’t mind that she’d waited for hours and was only allowed to buy one book… she mentioned that a signed copy of Special Guest would be a sought-after reward for her school’s reading points program. The woman cried when Sookie offered several copies and an armful of merchandise.
Group after group, the only complaint was about the limit of one copy per customer, but the blow was softened by photo opportunities and ‘freebies’.
From time to time, I read along while the girls flipped through various books they had stored on their phones, but for the most part I was enthralled by how gracefully Sookie handled the attention… I might have made fun of myself if Gawain didn’t seem just as entertained.
After more than an hour, fan #219 was the first truly remarkable one.
She had a boy with her who looked to be close to Misty’s age and instead of purchasing a book when her group was led inside, she presented her son to Sookie.
“Miss Louis, all due respect, I really need you to tell my son telepathy isn’t real, that you only made it up for entertainment.”
The boy instantly had our attention. Even though I knew Sookie’s list of kinsmen was compiled exactly this way, seeing someone presented to Sookie was remarkable.
Sookie grinned at the boy and asked, “What’s your name, kiddo?”
“Conner Ulrich. I’m eleven and a half.”
“Your mom thinks you’ve gotten so wrapped up in my stories you think you’re telepathic like Tina.”
“I’m not imagining it. I am telepathic.”
“Really? After my brother saw Alice In Wonderland, he stopped eating cake because he was sure that’s why he wasn’t taller…”
Brandon bent in half behind the counter and laughed loud enough to have everyone’s attention but Sookie and Conner’s for a moment.
Sookie giggled, “He’s still kind of a sucker too… So, Conner, if you’re a telepath, what am I thinking?”
“That you’d love a cup of coffee right now… maybe a donut too.”
The mother’s eyes rolled.
Sookie offered, “Shelby, you might want to take a load off. Coffee and donuts are on me when I’m all done…”
Shelby’s eyes bulged when she realized Sookie had said her name even though it wasn’t offered.
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about chocolate Munchkins since we passed Dunkin Donuts.”
Conner smiled proudly. “Are those your kids?”
Sookie nodded. “Misty, Jenny and Lindy. They’ll keep you company while you’re waiting.”
Conner didn’t hesitate to sit on the armchair next to the sofa I shared with the girls. He stared at each of them, silently communicating with other telepaths while his mother nearly rattled apart…
Just a little while later, fan #471 was just as interesting.
She blended into the group of fans so easily Selma and I didn’t notice her until Conner began staring.
She was so thin she didn’t seem healthy, like a stiff breeze could push her over.
When it was her turn with Sookie, she handed her book to her and Sookie didn’t wait for details before writing, ‘to Michelle’.
Michelle offered, “I was packed to leave for Atlanta when I heard you canceled your tour… Good Morning America mentioned this signing on yesterday’s show, so here I am.”
Sookie smiled at the woman. “I had a family thing come up… When did you start reading my books?”
“I worked at a school for the deaf and saw one of the kids arguing with the librarian about not having any of your books. The idea of telepathy interested me.”
Sookie wiggled her eyebrows and pointed towards us. “Why don’t you have a seat with my friends. I want to get the address of that school.”
Any other time I’d felt excluded when telepaths communicated silently, but it was all too captivating to let myself be annoyed.
Sookie still had half of the horde to filter through, so I was enjoying the anticipation of waiting for what would happen next.
One fan invited Sookie to speak to her high school book club. Sookie apologized for being too busy and the girl was given a ‘digital box set’ that included three previously unpublished short stories. The girl squealed loudly enough to make the Humans cover their ears.
One fan asked to interview her for his school’s newspaper while she worked, so she answered the fifteen questions he asked about her inspiration and her writing method. It was all an excuse to sweat and stutter in her presence, but it was, at the very least, amusing.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see Bill Compton file into the bookstore as fan #722. He was wearing a drab blue suit he seemed quite proud of. He wasn’t the first of Sookie’s Vampire fans, but he was the first one we knew.
He presented his book to Sookie with a stiff nod. “Miss Louis, a pleasure to see you again.”
“I wish I could say the same, Bill. After Eric and I left the other night, your tantrum spoiled the evening for our friends. Normally, they’re treated like royalty. Your diplomacy skills should be an epic embarrassment for your brown-nosing Maker and your King.”
When he looked over at me, Gawain and I both blew kisses at him… given the look on his face, we might as well have drawn and quartered him.
“They were breaking the law…”
“Even if they didn’t have diplomatic immunity, they wouldn’t have been fined because money exchanged hands for the feeding and nothing more… Vampires like them have to reject partners, not pay them… I’m going to take a stab in the dark here… I’d be willing to bet after Eric and I completely dissed you, Misser Bill needed him’s ego stroked and went looking for a donor. Was your favorite one with my friends?”
He rolled his eyes up to the ceiling and huffed, “I hardly see how that’s relevant.”
Sookie giggled, “I’m sure,” and handed his book back to him after dedicating it to ‘Princess Billie of Fuckwitz’.
“I think you spend too much time with Northman. You’re haughty.”
“You’re a walking joke. You called a King a glorified mercenary and interrupted the meals of visiting Lords… If you weren’t a court jester, your existence would be completely futile.”
The look on his face was absolutely priceless.
Misty snorted, “Douche… Seriously? I hoddly see howww that’s relephant. You could have denied it or something… And stop talking like that. You sound like Foghorn Leghorn was your mam.”
He huffed, “I didn’t come here to have my character attacked.”
Sookie shrugged. “No. You stood in line for hours to get a children’s book signed hoping I’d find it endearing enough to accept whatever bland ideas you had in mind as an excuse to ask how I knew about Vampires before the Revelation.”
The girls began snickering, confirming Compton had mentally confirmed Sookie’s scenario.
When Selma moved to stand next to Compton, he rolled his eyes and left in a hurry… even moving as quickly as he could, he still looked like he had something lodged in his ass.
Fans #803 and 804 were just depressing… both had run away from their home in Alexandria to attend Sookie’s engagement. Neil and his brother, Mark (10 and 8 years old, respectively) were both suffering the same delusions Shelby thought Conner suffered. Sookie took the boys to the back room with her and called their mother who was frantic (and planning to sue Greyhound for allowing them to travel alone at their age) and the boys waited with the rest of us until State Police arrived to take them home. Once they were gone, Sookie told Conner he wasn’t allowed to begrudge his mother because it had been reasonable to assume he was just as confused as Neil and Mark.
Fan #1133 was the last of them, technically, and we hadn’t been counting children. Several fans had left the shop to read at the back of the queue in the hopes there would be extra copies and schwag.
Between 10PM and 3AM, 1600 copies of Special Guest had been carried out by enamored readers.
The extra books were sold (by the armfuls in some cases), but the merchandising was to be signed and auctioned to raise money for charity.
When Sookie was finished, Michelle hugged her and left, waving to everyone and saying it had been nice to meet us.
That only left us with Shelby and Conner Ulrich.
Leaving the store was relatively painless. Brandon and his coworkers swept through the store to ‘break down’ the signing area, moving the remaining merchandise to the storeroom for Selma to retrieve later.
Brandon went home to Ashley… Corbett chose to ride back to Bon Temps with Selma so ‘Sookie could help Conner without extra distractions’…
As soon as the rest of us were settled in the limo, while Shelby and Conner were walking back to their car, Jenny offered, “Shelby Ulrich is Brian Webster’s daughter.”
Sookie nodded. “I heard. She might be the only case we know of with a skipped generation.”
Gawain asked, “What is Brain Webster’s ability? How do you know about him?”
“He’s a pusher, learned about and utilized by a handful of Erics. Webster’s scent is as strong as my aunt’s, so he’s a quarter…”
Gawain shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. Conner seems too gifted for Shelby to have nothing to show for her ancestry.”
Prideful Faerie. Oh no! A useless Human in the pedigree! Gasp!
Misty offered, “Unless she’s got a random thing she could dismiss… She’s not empathic. As nervous as she is, we’d all be twitching… No… she’s got something sneaky and really rare like a green thumb or a way with animals… Maybe she can fly like Eric.”
I asked, “What about Michelle? Did I miss something?”
Jenny offered, “Michelle’s mom was labeled as schizophrenic and treatments made her crazy. The poor lady killed herself… This Michelle picked up the first Notorious book as a joke, like cops watch cop shows to make fun of how inaccurate they are, but Sookie’s description was too accurate for Sookie to not have some experience with it…”
Sookie nodded and continued, “That’s why most of the hybrids we know about are telepathic or related to one. Anyway, she’s a cop down in Baton Rouge now because she realized she could do something with her ability instead of in spite of it. Her partner’s a Were. Perfect pairing… She left after swapping phone numbers and emails with us so I could concentrate on Conner. Since we live in Europe, she offered to foster if I found anyone who needed help in her neck of the woods… She even reminded me about certain loopholes she has as a cop, bless her heart.”
“Could she foster Conner?”
Sookie shook her head. “Not personally. They live in Plano, Texas. That’s an eight-hour drive. I know of a much closer telepath in Dallas, but I only know about him from the journal. He hasn’t come forward.”
Misty snorted, “And Barry’s a tool.”
Sookie nodded. “I think the best bet I have is calling Kate Driscoll on this one.”
Lindy sang, “Gooooood caaaaaallll…”
Gawain and I asked, “Who’s Kate Driscoll?” at the same time.
Jenny beamed as she answered, “Miss Kate lives in Boston. She’s completely Human, and she adopted a little boy from foster care who could read minds. She put up a fight at a signing because of the ‘one per’ rule. She whipped out her wallet and sat next to Sookie to show pictures of her 6 kids and 19 grandchildren… She bartered dinner for the books. She made us corned beef and cabbage then she threatened to fly down to Hotshot and ‘go Southie’ all over Michelle. Sookie’s mom, not telepathic-cop Michelle.”
Sookie added, “And introduced us to all of her kids… Kate’ll be more than willing to offer phone support to Shelby about being the mom of a telepath… and her son might be willing to help Conner out with some tips. Brandon’s been building an online group so they can all compare notes.”
Gawain chuckled, “You’re like a hybrid switchboard operator.”
Sookie nodded. “This is my bread and butter. Fame isn’t a cakewalk, but this, being able to help… Sometimes it’s as easy as offering answers, which is all Michelle wants, but this makes me feel good about what I am… even more so when I think about there being Sookies who are still struggling with Their identity and gift.”
Gawain and I opted to wait in the limo while Sookie and the girls went into Dunkin Donuts. It occurred to me Shelby might not want extra strangers looming about while she was told about her own son.
I watched Sookie stand at the counter in the deserted store while several boxes and cups were filled, and the children made themselves comfortable at the opposite end of the small dining area as their mothers.
Gawain started, “Can I just mention how hilarious it is that Selma came all the way from Bern to fuck Corbett Stackhouse?”
I nodded. “Hilarious fits… I’m imagining some sort of catfight between Francesca and Selma tomorrow night.”
“You noticed Francesca eye-fucking Corbett too? Good. It isn’t just me… so… let’s have it. Go ahead and make fun of me.”
“Why am I making fun of you?”
He paused for a moment before asking, “Do you think I’m going to fall for that? You want me to tell you something extra to tease me about.”
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about… other than how paranoid you are at the moment.”
I watched Sookie sip her coffee and nibble her snack while Shelby made a phone call… Something made Sookie rock back in her seat and laugh violently enough she had to cover her mouth to keep food from falling out.
The children were watching Sookie as though they were annoyed by the noise when Gawain groaned, “Alright… make fun of me for passing up the chance to feed.”
As amused as Sookie obviously was, I couldn’t feel it… I assumed she was simply respecting Shelby’s privacy… possibly protecting herself from the thoughts of an upset mother.
“When did you do that?”
“It was close to midnight when Sookie suggested I have the limo take me to a bar because they close at 2AM here.”
“Why didn’t you go?”
“Because… because I was enjoying myself… So help me, I haven’t had so much fun with my clothes on in years.”
“Neither have I… Is it strange for you to be in the company of other telepaths?”
Sookie took the phone from Shelby when it was offered and if I wasn’t mistaken, she said ‘Hi Brian’.
“More curious than strange… I spent a fair amount of time trying to focus on different areas of the crowd for threats, but it was Misty who found the problems. She forced her thoughts through the chaos of the others to tell me.”
“I wasn’t aware there were problems.”
“There was a ‘Reverend’ there to challenge Sookie to write a book about ‘decent Christian’ characters, and a group of church-goers there to cause a scene about Sookie’s books being part of a Vampire manifesto. Did I miss that meeting?”
I shrugged, trying not to laugh at Lindy and Sookie’s playful slap-fight over a box of Munchkins. “If there was a summit to organize a manifesto, our invitations must have been lost in the mail… What did you do to them?”
“The group was sent away after I told them Compton and Ball are trying to take over the planet and where to find them… I gave the Reverend a message from Sookie. ‘Tell him I said he gets a cookie for consistency. He clearly hasn’t read Notorious any more than he’s read the Bible if he didn’t notice Tina prays for strength and thanks God for her blessings like any decent Christian should… Then Sookie ranted about assholes shitting hate on everyone’s lap and by the time she was finished, several people thought I was mad because I was laughing at ‘nothing’.”
“I was more preoccupied by Sookie’s feelings. She was just as flattered by the first fawning sycophant as she was by the last one. She’s proud as a rule, but not about her success.”
“Perhaps it’s because so many people think she has an amazing imagination even though everything she’s written exists. I couldn’t guess… What was it she wanted to say in private?”
“That would be private.”
He chuckled, “I knew you’d say that… The girls are concerned you argued. You were unhappy and Sookie’s mind was a vault.”
I shook my head. “I need to say something to Jenny. Sookie said she’s under the impression I don’t want to travel with the children. I imagine being unwanted for most of her life has something to do with it… I’m enjoying my holiday and don’t want to return to the Kingdom so soon. I was unhappy because Sookie chose to remind me of obligations.”
He laughed, “As opposed to letting you fantasize about impossible holidays? That cunt!”
“They aren’t impossible, but I’m looking forward to as many outings as I can wring out of our limitations…”
“Oh fuck off! Are you so fucking daft you don’t realize your Kingdom has NOTHING to do with it!? Sookie and the girls. They’re why you’re smiling without bodies to clean up. They aren’t even Mine and I’m having fun! You’re resting in cramped quarters and have no privacy at all. You’ve done no sightseeing. The only Lwizyané culture we’ve taken in are a dance lesson and a Rebel Yell… You don’t hate the Kingdom. You hate how it came to be yours.”
The revelation had been more impressive (not to mention, attractive) when Sookie mentioned it earlier.
“Are you quite done?”
“I doubt it. You’re a stubborn fuck.”
“That wasn’t a compliment. You’re enjoying yourself with Sookie and the girls, but you’re so used to being despondent and wretchedly uninterested, you’re looking for something to be unhappy about. Stop. Enjoy them while you can. Don’t ruin it for yourself by thinking you need to be on holiday to smile. Fuck you for forgetting how incredible it is to have a child love you. You’ve always suffered wanderlust. I’ve seen how you act when you get to enjoy something fresh, but no matter where you’ve been, you’ve gotten bored with it. Liz made you smile no matter how bored you were with your surroundings.”
Fuck him and his point.
“Are you done now?”
“No. Be realistic. You don’t have to continue making rounds like you have been. You can visit your Lords for a few nights and be a tour guide for the girls. It won’t be just business… And the same can be said for Sookie’s tours. When the next book is released, Selma can schedule a less taxing tour.”
That was another fine point in his argument… I’d been thinking too small. Amsterdam was but a drop in the bucket… Brussels, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Hamburg… And if Sookie wasn’t making public appearances, she might not be as exhausted after a few nights of just sightseeing.
I waited, watching Lindy and Jenny play some form of football with a Munchkin as their ball and the table as their field.
Gawain finally huffed, “Now I’m done.”
“Wait. I have one more point to make.”
“You’re watching Humans eat!” Before I could consider why the fuck that mattered, Gawain punched me with enough force to knock me over.
Blinded in my right eye and waiting for that side of my skull to retake its shape, I growled, “Why the fuck did you do that?”
“I might not be able to hear your thoughts, but Sookie’s an excellent coach. You’re happy!”
“Thank you for putting an end to that.”
“You’re happy watching them eat, Eric! You just made my fucking point for me. You’re watching them eat and you’re just as happy now as you were while they were presenting us with our gifts… and you’re stupid enough to think Disney World or Ponza or Saba or the Maldives or Galapagos…”
“Do you want a fucking cookie for geography?”
“Yes. You get my fucking point… If you think that hurt, wait until she leaves you. How long do you think she’ll let you take her for granted like Allecks did?”
I missed the good old days… back when he was still trying to fuck Sookie.
“You could have said that without liquefying my fucking eye.”
“Don’t be a baby. You aren’t even bleeding… I am though… Fucking Scandinavian cheekbones.”
I was still sprawled on the bench, waiting for my ears to stop ringing…
“Right. Fuck my Scandinavian cheekbones. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your Welsh punch-lust.”
He chuckled, but it died quickly. “Is any of this taking root?”
“Have I argued ANY point you’ve mentioned?”
I barely saw the ‘oops’ written all over his face through the spots in my field of vision, but at least it was there.
“I just… I prefer you like this.”
“Laid out in the back of a limo? Gawain, you flirt.”
He chuckled, “You know what I mean, you slut.”
I nodded and forced myself to sit up. “I do. I like me like this too.”
Other than hearing about Conner’s strengths as a telepath, the ride back to Bon Temps was quiet. As intrigued as I was to hear more about how Conner could ‘tickle’ a person’s memory to inspire inactive thoughts (like he could make his mother practically do his homework for him), everyone was tired. Sookie even ignored a call from Allecks… he hadn’t ever been ‘one with time zones’ and wouldn’t begrudge her for not answering her phone at 4AM.
Instead of filing into the house with everyone else, Gawain set out to enjoy the Lwizyané weather… And since Sookie had been hugged and kissed by hundreds of people, she went directly to the bathroom to shower…
The kitchen was clean. Ema and Hope were fast asleep on Sookie’s bed. Hadley was still breathing (unfortunately). There were no signs the boys had been at the house since we left.
After changing into a pair of jeans, I went to the living room, planning to find something to watch on television…
Jenny was just coming from the hallway as I sat on the sofa.
Frilly pink and yellow nightgown with her hair pulled into a bun on top of her head. She sat on the other end of the sofa and watched me scroll through the cable menu until I turned the television off again.
I asked, “Would Hope enjoy Disney World?”
My question surprised her enough that her eyes widened. “Ummm… She’s too little to enjoy anything really.”
“Is it warm in Florida this time of year?”
She nodded. “It’s nasty-hot during the summer though.”
Lindy came from the hallway wearing pajamas and asked, “Where?” Baggy flannel shirt and pants covered in light blue sheep and her hair was swept up into a sloppy ponytail.
Jenny answered, “Florida… when we lived there, we spent most of the summer inside because you could keel over walking to the mailbox.”
“I was asking because Sookie mentioned we’d be returning to Louisiana for Easter. I was thinking it would be a good time to go to Disney World. I’ll have time to settle in my new Lords and Allecks will have advance warning and he’ll be expecting it anyway because you usually travel for the holiday.”
Jenny and Lindy stared, unblinking, until Misty emerged from the back of the house.
She was wearing a tank top and a pair of boy’s underwear with Superman logos and her hair was pulled into a pair of braids.
The three of them couldn’t even agree on sleepwear.
She shook her head warningly. “Don’t judge me or my Underoos. I’m a tosser-turner. If I wear baggy clothes or leave my hair down, I’ll wake up in knots.”
I chuckled, “Liz said it was one of her favorite things about being brought over. She rose with perfect hair and makeup and never rose on the floor next to her bed like she did when she was alive.”
She snorted, “Lucky jerks,” and tossed herself onto the sofa, taking the remote from the cushion… As she began scrolling, she asked, “What are y’all talking about?”
I answered simply, “Disney World.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “You don’t want to go to Disney World.”
“Why not? I’ve never been.”
“Because it’s geared towards smaller kids. Unless you’re a telepath there wouldn’t really be any fun in it for you anyway.”
Lindy and Jenny looked like they wanted to throttle her.
“Why would it be more fun for a telepath?”
“Well, it’s a blue-collar destination. Folks save up to go and then the sticker shock kicks their butts anyway. Everyone thinks of it as a ‘dream vacation’. Once they get there, they’re all crying inside. The heat, the prices, the stress, screaming babies, long lines. It’s hilarious…”
Evil little bitch… I couldn’t even complain since I was laughing.
“I certainly don’t want to go back to China. I spent more than a century there while my Maker was kissing Dynastic asses.”
Misty shrugged. “I bet you’d like the satellites though, the other theme parks that sprouted up in the area. You could totally debunk the World Showcase at Epcot. And then there’s Hollywood Studios and Universal…”
Jenny blurted, “That could be fun! Between now and then we can try to watch all the movies from the attractions… And Sea World has the shows.”
Just seeing how excited an idea made her.
I nodded. “Would you three like to make the itinerary?”
Lindy squeaked, “Really?”
I nodded. “Discuss the duration of the trip with your mother…”
Before I could finish, Lindy darted down the hallway and shoved open the bathroom door. “How long can we spend in Florida?”
When Sookie was finished screeching because she’d been startled, she gasped, “You’re a telepath! Why do you just barge in when you can-”
Lindy interrupted, chirping, “Just answer! Eric says he wants to holiday at Disney World and we need to lock him in before he changes his mind. He said we have to ask you about how long we can be there.”
Lock me in… Cute.
“Y’all would get bored if we were there longer than a few days…”
“NUH-UH! We’re talking the studios and Sea World and Epcot. Misty already warned him the Magic Kingdom is a yuppy-bomb.”
Sookie huffed, “When are we talking?”
“Easter holiday. Because it’ll give him time to fix the Lord thing and Pappa won’t mind too much if we just extend the trip.”
Sookie was quiet for a moment, deep in thought… She finally sighed, “Daylight Saving Time starts right after Easter. We should go before… Two weeks.”
“If I can talk you into three, we can be there for my birthday.”
“I’m sure Pappa will want to see you on your birthday, baby. Orlando will still be there a week later.”
Lindy whined, “And I’d have to be a real turd to tell him…” She blew a long raspberry to finish her sentence.
Sookie cooed, “It’s a good thing you’re such a sweetheart… now shut the damn door.”
Before she closed the door, Misty shouted, “Bonus!” and tossed the remote control onto the coffee table. “Jaws is On Demand!”
“Is there a Jaws attraction in Disney World?”
Jenny nodded. “In Universal Studios… it’s a ride… I’m buying Men In Black to watch next.”
Misty shook her head. “That’s On Demand too, but I didn’t want to watch intergalactic bugs before bed.”
I snorted, “You prefer dreaming about killer sharks?”
“I don’t surf. Roaches can live anywhere. Any questions?”
I laid down, jokingly stretching my legs over theirs. Instead of complaining Misty told Lindy to kill the lights… after the lights were turned off, Lindy wedged herself between her sisters and under my legs.
I couldn’t decide if we were playing a waiting game before Sookie joined us in her pajamas.
She giggled, “Y’all don’t need to watch a movie. Ricky’s going to be here in a few hours to get you. He said 9 o’clock…”
Misty mumbled, “Which means 11. That gives us six hours and we can sleep on the plane. Shhhhhh. Spieeeeeeelbeeeeeeerg.”
Sookie blew a raspberry and slid over the back of the sofa, wedging herself between me and the cushions to use my shoulder as a pillow, somehow twisting herself into the limited space.
Once she was settled, she offered, “No plane. Not yet. We’re staying until Thursday night.”
All three of the girls breathed, “Swwwweeeeeeeeet.”
Lindy was the first one to fall asleep. Ten minutes into the movie and she slumped over to snore against Jenny’s arm.
Jenny whimpered, so Sookie explained Jenny was habitually the second one to fall asleep. As soon as someone started snoring, Jenny was ‘pulled under’.
Sure enough, Jenny’s snoring began five minutes later.
Sookie giggled, but she was the next one to slip away. No snoring, more like a steady purring, but she didn’t last half an hour.
Misty complained because Sookie was the best person ever to watch horror movies with because she jumps and yelps.
Just before 6AM Corbett walked into the house and quietly announced himself.
Misty waved him into the living room and he stopped long enough to chuckle at me over the back of the sofa. “Need rescuing?”
“I’m not sure yet. I might need earplugs once Misty’s asleep though.”
He nodded. “Been there… Since you’re running out of rooms, I’m gonna lightproof another one for ya. Gimme 20 minutes.”
He was already walking away when I offered to help, not that I wanted to leave, but he had ‘a Selma’ to help.
Snoring (times two), purring, and the sound of a power drill…
I almost didn’t hear the boys come in with Francesca.
Edward and Richard leaned over the back of the sofa and scowled. Edward snarled, “What’s this? I could have sworn we staked our claim to the television the night we arrived.”
I rolled my eyes. The only thing that came to mind was ‘whatever’, but I wasn’t about to say it.
Misty snorted, “THIS is Jaws. Since I was here first, you’re invading. Assimilate or present me with rancid meat and pox laden blankets. Either way, I’m pretty sure I can last until dawn.”
I laughed hard enough for Sookie to stir, but she didn’t wake.
Francesca was snickering when she draped a quilt over the lot of us and promised, “Guaranteed pox free.”
After a few minutes, Corbett appeared over the back of the sofa again. “I’ll make it pretty for your next visit, but you’re lightproof. I think you’ll be more comfy in the queen bed down here since it’s longer. Not sure what y’all wanna do upstairs though…”
Richard offered, “We’ll figure it out. Thanks.”
Corbett nodded. “No prob… I’m gonna go get Ema… I’m taking her shopping for winter clothes tomorrow since you’re stealin’ her from me.”
I offered, “Not quite yet. I’m not sure about everyone else’s plans, but Sookie and I aren’t leaving until Thursday.”
He grinned from ear to ear and nodded approvingly. “Hot damn. Couple extra days with her’ll be nice… Still takin’ her home though. She’s mine ‘til Thursday.”
We all said goodnight to him as he carried her out to his truck, and Gawain walked in as Corbett’s truck started.
Gawain greeted Selma right away by snorting, “Fuck you for finding something to fuck tonight, Selma.”
Misty snorted, “It’s a really good thing Sookie crashed.”
Gawain leaned over the back of the sofa and chuckled… and made a show of taking his phone from his pocket to take a photo.
Misty repeated, “Shhhhhh. Spieeeeeeelbeeeeeeerg.”
He ignored her to offer, “I imagine I can rest with Eric. Selma can have my bed…”
I interrupted, “Selma can have my bed. Corbett light-proofed Sookie’s room.”
Francesca nodded. “And the boys and I have always shared a resting place, but… Am I the only one who finds it peculiar that we’re bunking with Faeries.”
Selma raised an eyebrow as she sat on the arm of the sofa. “I’m finally used to it and I lived with them for a while. Little Lindy used to toddle down the basement stairs to greet me as soon as she felt me coming back to myself.”
Gawain snorted, “Alligators and Vampires. What else do Faeries play with?”
Misty snickered, “Sharks. Shhhhhh. Spieeeeeeelbeeeeeeerg.”
He chuckled, “I’ll move Eric’s things. We don’t have much time before dawn.”
Edward nodded, “Right, right… I suppose we should settle in ourselves…”
I carried Sookie as I secured the locks and took her to bed, saying goodnight to Misty along the way. As I covered Sookie, Gawain delivered my bag and Hope’s hammock…
He lingered long enough to compliment Corbett’s impromptu light-proofing and watch me move Hope to the hammock as though he expected me to drop her.
I was still settling in when there was a thump on the other side of the door. Lindy and Jenny struggled with the curtain hanging in front of the doorway to block sunlight from the hallway and staggered into the room with their eyes closed to climb onto the bed like little robots.
I almost laughed at them because they were snoring again as they collapsed to the bed to use my leg as their pillow.
With just a few minutes left before dawn, Misty turned off the television and went to the kitchen before joining everyone else with a bottle in one hand, dragging the quilt with the other.
She set the bottle on the nightstand and tossed the quilt over her sisters before hopping up to lay down next to me.
“It’s a good thing Sookie’s short. Leg-room optional.”
I chuckled, “It’s a good thing I’m not a tosser-turner.”
She giggled, “That to… I think you need to just cover the floor of your room with mattresses.”
That would seriously reduce the amount of time I had alone with Sookie.
“I’m willing to go as far as entertaining the idea of buying new furniture for the media room.” It was directly over my chambers and should be close enough as long as Hadley wasn’t there to interfere.
Misty snorted, “Wow. You didn’t start low or anything. Target achieved. Moving on…” I couldn’t help but chuckle at the little brat. “You should get a horse so you can go riding with us.”
“Done. Anything else?”
She turned her head for a long yawn. “Nope. I think we’re good for now. G’night.”
She stretched up to kiss my cheek, but she didn’t close her eyes… she raised her eyebrow.
It still amazed me that a telepath could sense the pull of dawn before I could.
I was still having fun when I died for the day…