Chapter 26: Achy Breaky Heart

NW26 SceneArt by EricIzMine

Nuclear Winter

Chapter 26

Achy Breaky Heart

**

After Alcide made his apologies and left, Sookie carried an armful of bottles and formula to the back of the house to help Selma pack for Hope.

Meanwhile, Francesca laughed in her throat.

Richard chuckled, “This isn’t good.”

She was too amused. “I think it’s going to be phenomenal… A truly historic moment.”

Gawain rolled his eyes and grunted as he shifted his cock. “What the fuck is going to be so historic about it? It’s just a bar.”

Francesca snickered, “Five Vampires are going to walk into this Waller’s Inn and we aren’t going to stand out by being Vampires…”

Uh oh.

Sookie giggled from the bedroom, “They have a mechanical bull for Gawain to ride…” He winced and let out a little whimper. “Oh, get over it, ya big baby. You’d be healed from a silvering by now… Anyway, I’ve only been once and it was a couple of years ago. It’s like Deliverance meets Rhinestone Cowboy. If nothing else, we can pretend to be German tourists and make fun of them.”

Gawain shrugged, “Who cares? We can feed.”

Francesca snorted, “I wouldn’t hold my breath…”

Sookie chirped, “I got your backs.”

I asked, “Why do we need you to have our backs?”

“I’ve been to Oktoberfest. I’ll be able to find sober enough donors for them no problem.”

Donors for them.

Corbett stomped into the house and chuckled at Gawain, “Afraid it’ll fall off?”

Francesca turned around and laughed silently while the boys leaned on each other and laughed hard enough to crack their ribs.

I offered, “Sookie gave him a nut-tap.”

Corbett nodded. “That’ll do it… What was up with Alcide and Hadley being here?”

“She works for Herveaux. She told him Sookie stole Hope from her.”

His eyes rolled. “At least her tubes are tied. It’s a start… I’ll have to see about taking her to the vet to get her vocal cords snipped too…”

Richard chuckled and bumped fists with Corbett. “If she learns sign language, you can glue mittens on her while she’s sleeping.”

Corbett’s eyes lit up. “Damn good idea…” He called towards the back of the house, “Jesus girl! What’s takin’ you so long?”

Selma, not Sookie, called back, “Cort, you’re going to have to excuse me, but I’m rusty. I need a formula lesson.”

Awwww shit… I got that covered, darlin’. Whatcha got Sook, liquid or powdered?”

“Liquid.”

“One part formula, one part water… At Hope’s age, she’s taking an ounce or two every couple of hours, right?”

Sookie sighed, “I forgot he was practically Lindy’s mom for the first month… Sorry Sel.”

Corbett growled as he walked towards the back of the house. “Ain’t like Lindy was the first either. Jason ate so much your mom couldn’t keep up.” There was the sound of a kiss followed by the sound of a seemingly playful slap. “Misty and Jen too… C’mon Sel. I know you can move faster than this.”

Richard yelled back, “Corbett, what the fuck did you mean by dress down? We aren’t wearing shoes.”

And I thought I was going to have to ask.

Corbett followed Selma from the bedroom, carrying Hope and explaining along the way, “Not dressed down from what you’re wearin’ now… dressed down, like not dressed up… Like Merlotte’s. Tees and jeans. Shoes without a lotta shine. Place is Country-Western… Francesca’s right. Y’all got ‘city folk’ written all over your faces…” He tilted his head to the side and watched Selma climb the stairs before pulling out his phone. “Y’all need a dance lesson before you get there.”

Edward asked, “You’re going to dance while holding the baby?”

Corbett smirked at him. “If you don’t know where to put your hands by now, you’re a lost cause… It’s all footwork anyway… and y’all can cheat your asses off.”

“What’s the cheat then?”

“Line dancin’ is a group thing… everyone is lined up doing the same moves, like a school a’fish… as fast as y’all can move, you can let everyone else coach you through the first wall and you’ll be fine…”

He pressed play to start the music and tossed his phone to Edward… and quickly warned us that he only had one full song stored on his phone, but there were dozens of dances…

It didn’t seem to make a difference to him that he was standing in a small foyer with five other bodies, or that he was being watched like a science experiment…

He talked through the first ‘wall’… toe, heel, toe, heel, right over left, left over right, wiggle, turn…

When he made a 90° turn to begin the second wall, he took Francesca’s hand to have her join him…

All while he was cradling Hope in one arm.

For the third and fourth walls, the rest of us joined in … The steps were just as simple as the Cajun jitterbug, but the instructor wasn’t nearly as attractive.

**

I left everyone in the foyer to learn the steps of a ‘Boot-Scoot-Boogie’ and found Sookie in our room, digging through Hope’s bag, counting diapers and sleepers.

She was upset, but I couldn’t put a finger on something more specific.

I wrapped my arms around her waist and whispered, “I’m not catching on. I think I need a different teacher.”

She stopped rifling through the bag stocked with more clothing and diapers than Hope would have needed for a couple of days. She snorted, “Liar…” She turned around and shoved the bag against my chest. “Take this from me. I’m having an OCD-moment. Selma was a governess for centuries. Daddy’s great with babies. And I was fine leaving Hope with Ema… this isn’t rational, dammit.”

I chuckled, “At least you realize it’s not rational.”

She slapped my shoulder and scoffed, “Wrong answer. You were supposed to say, ‘but this is the first time you’ve let her leave the house’ or something.”

“I was thinking perhaps you’re more nervous now that Hadley is gone and Hope is more ‘yours’ than she was last night… but would that have helped?”

She cringed. “Yeah… your excuse. Not mine. Mine was really lame.”

I chuckled. “And the Wolf’s accusations were unsettling even though you know he was lied to.”

She sighed, “Yeah, that too.”

“And you were hoping to stay in for the night and relax.”

She pouted, “Maybe a little.”

“But you aren’t taking into account that you’ll enjoy watching Vampires line-dance with the ‘rednecks’ at Waller’s Inn.”

She snorted, “That’ll be hilarious. I’m taking pictures.”

“And we won’t be out late enough that we can’t relax later.”

She stretched up to kiss me, but she still wasn’t completely convinced. “It’s not you. Going out dancing with you isn’t the problem. Waller’s Inn offers a lot of variables. It’s a house of cards. One drunk is all it’ll take to cause a Darwinian domino-effect.”

“An alternative plan then. We’ll drive back to Shreveport and go to the Excelsior…”

She snorted, “How the hell will that avoid a slaughter?”

“It won’t, but if we’re going to tip over the first domino, I can’t think of a reason it shouldn’t be Bill Compton who suffers the breakdown instead of a ‘redneck’ who had the misfortune of being obtuse.”

“Good point… but… I think that could go bad too. I’ll just warn the guys on the way to the bar. They aren’t used to dealing with livestock anymore.”

Oh really?

I laughed, “Did you just refer to Humans as livestock?”

“Metaphorically, not conceitedly. One cow gets spooked and a whole herd will stampede without knowing why. With rednecks, it’s even more complicated. They circle wagons and defend each other from outsiders. We were really lucky the folks at Merlotte’s know Daddy. One of their own was a target. I’m not a regular at Waller’s Inn. Those customers don’t know me.”

“Why does your father continue to go back to Merlotte’s?”

“It’s the only watering hole in town so all of his friends gather there.”

When she reached for Hope’s bag again, I pulled it away. “I didn’t see those milk condoms in the bag.”

She giggled, “They’re bottle liners,” and opened a storage bin to retrieve a pack.

“They look like condoms… Disposable rags, the ones you used to clean her between diapers?”

She nodded. “Wipes. They’re in there.”

“Diapers, wipes, liners, formula and bottles. What else does she need?”

She whimpered, “Me?”

I took her hand and began leading her to the door. “That goes without saying, but tonight she’ll be in the very capable care of two individuals who would kill to protect her.”

**

After Corbett and Selma left with Hope, I had to lead Sookie away from the front window so we could dress, calling Francesca to join us so she could borrow something suitable to wear.

Once we were all ‘dressed down’, which included short skirts and tight blouses for Sookie and Francesca, we filed out of the house to climb into the Navigator.

Sookie wasn’t as anxious about allowing her father to kidnap Hope any longer… the new reason for the serious set of her face was the pending warnings about Human-pack mentality.

Rather than force her to lead into the conversation, I was prepared to reiterate what she’d told me, but her phone began ringing.

Allecks.

Even if it weren’t for the ringtone, I would have known from her mood.

After Edward jokingly asked for a ‘large popcorn and a coke’, Sookie sighed her greeting, “I talk to you now more than I did when we were married.”

He answered, “Because you used to control me with your pussy.”

‘Hello’ would have sufficed.

Edward, Richard and Gawain were already biting their tongues.

Sookie growled, “What can I do for you, Allecks?”

“That depends. Do you think your new husband would mind if you blow me?”

Her eyes rolled. “Probably.”

“So you have remarried.”

“No. You gonna get your head out of your ass now?”

“If you didn’t marry the Vampire then why was I being asked about how I felt that my children’s stepfather is a Vampire King? Why is it all over the internet?”

“As far as I’ve seen, they’ve very carefully been alluding to my possible change in marital status because they can’t find proof of a ceremony that hasn’t happened.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t care if you believe me. It doesn’t matter. Your fragile little world has no effect on my marital status. Your obnoxiously analytical mind full of science you don’t have the balls to use, and lies you don’t have the common sense to reject, cannot bend reality. Believing I’m lying does not make me a liar… No more than believing you would man the fuck up and stop being such a fucking stooge for your parents didn’t change anything either, Oedipus.”

“Are you quite done?”

“No. You blew up my phone all day long. You want to know what the fuck is going on, I’ll tell you. I’ve moved in with Eric Northman. I’ve bonded with him…”

“Bonded?”

“Shut your fucking mouth and let me finish or I’ll have a friend glamour you to believe you’re Amish just so I don’t have to deal with your bizarrely territorial phone calls. If you don’t know what bonding is, look it the fuck up or find another wife to act as your buffer between your planet and earth… Am I allowed to continue or do you want to ask more questions children could answer?”

He barked, “Please do. You can start with the fact that you lied and said you were just going on holiday.”

“I didn’t lie. Plans changed. It happens. I’m completely justified in relocating when I’m…”

“I think you’re having a mental breakdown. I think this last miscarriage caused it… I want you to see a professional immediately. You’re putting the children in danger. I want them to stay with me until you’ve come to your senses.”

Sookie’s jaw was slack. She was offended and furious… and she might have been imagining different ways to kill him as quickly as I was…

Edward’s hand appeared between us, taking the phone from Sookie, and she turned to try to take it back… She managed to slap him and argue, “Oh no! I’ve got something to say to that asshole!” before Richard grabbed her wrists.

He whispered, “Amusing as this is, Love, you’ve got nothing rational to say. If he’s half the father the girls say he is, he’ll calm down when he sees happy and fit children on Friday.”

She hissed, “Fuck. Your. Point. He’s being a shithead.”

He released her wrists and gave the boyish grin he was notorious for. “Brother can take it. Calm down.”

She grunted when she spun around, “This is what I get for thinking we split amicably.”

Edward cleared his throat before he started, “Allecks Auers?”

Allecks snorted, “Majesty?”

“No sir. Lord Edward Page of Lower Luxembourg. We met a few nights ago in Eijsden. I’ve been one of many witnesses to your conversation with your ex-wife, sir. I’d like to bear witness to the fact that His Majesty, King Eric Northman of the North Sea Empire hasn’t wed anyone. I can also attest to the fact that your children are perfectly safe in your ex-wife’s care and in the King’s protection. You, yourself, stepped over the remains of someone who considered harming them. As to the origin of the wedding rumors, I’m sure recent gifts given by the children are to blame. The girls visited a jewelry shop with their uncle. The Human public at large doesn’t know better, so when reporters noticed Sookie and His Majesty were wearing similar pendants, they let their imagination get the best of them.”

“That’s it? Matching necklaces?”

“In addition to the fact Sookie refused to answer questions about her private life, yes. I feel the need to point out that Sookie may very well have told you as much if you hadn’t opened with suggestions of a violent and sexual nature. Between Sookie and his Majesty, the temperature in the car rose several degrees.”

“The King heard that.”

“Yes sir, but he wasn’t the only one bothered by your contempt towards Sookie… Perhaps you need to seek professional help of your own. I question the sanity of anyone who crosses King Northman or disrespects anything that belongs to him, and that includes your ex-wife… Now, you won’t be in contact with Sookie again tonight. I’m confiscating her phone. Do you have any lingering curiosities I can help you settle before I hang up and we spend a while laughing at your embarrassing display of ignorance?”

“Laughing at my cost?”

“Yes, but it might soften the blow to hear I’ll enjoy reminding Sookie that after the last conversation we witnessed, she defended you… You seem to be running out of allies, Auers. Be careful you don’t alienate the girls too.”

He smirked in Sookie’s direction as he slid her phone into his pocket, but she didn’t give him the chance for an I-told-you-so.

She offered, “I also told you to give me a minute to calm down last time. I’m furious, but you aren’t allowed to hold a grudge because you don’t know him yet.” Her calmness was almost convincing.

Before Edward could continue a semantic argument that really didn’t concern him, I asked, “Am I allowed to hold a grudge?”

She nodded. “Yeah, but I‘d rather you didn’t. Not quite yet… He’s not always like this, but he can have his asshole moments like anyone else.”

“Is that what you meant when you said you’ve only ever heard him raise his voice at football? Does his MO usually include blatant contempt at a low volume?”

She closed her eyes and leaned back, “Nope. That’s new, very new. My guess is that our moving caused his verbal filter to go on the blink. We’ll know more on Friday. Until then… just try not to let this jade you, please. Behaving hatefully doesn’t make a person hateful to their core.”

The way she raised her eyebrow at me suggested she was reminding me that I’d been disrespectful to her like Allecks had.

“If you’re trying to passively imply I’m a hypocrite, there’s a flaw in your theory.”

“I wasn’t. I was actually trying to rationalize how nasty I was to him. I could’ve been the grown up… but I see how you’d make that connection. Where’s the flaw?”

“That you were a fucking stranger rather than the mother of my children.”

He’d already put her through too much. It was going to stop.

She took my hand from my leg and pulled it to her lap. “As flattered as I am by how protective you’re feeling right now, you need to remember that I have a finite threshold for being treated like shit. I perforated a badass Vampire when he found my breaking point. Allecks will start getting his lessons on boundaries when we’re back in Eijsden, I swear…”

Good. It didn’t matter that she was only half-right about my motivations, that she assumed I was being possessive of her… instead of realizing I was concerned about young telepaths seeing or hearing what was going through his head when he was willing to say as much as he had… as long as Sookie was willing to establish rules for the prick.

She added, “And fuck you for being so pissed I needed to defend him again. I wanted to be angry too.”

“He caused a problem before we left Eijsden, news of Hope inspired pleas to reunite, and wedding rumors brought on insults and threats to your custody… You said that while you still lived in Bern, he frequently visited… He’s submissively stalking you, passing judgment on everything you do.”

She was quiet for a moment, tilting her head back again to close her eyes…

I was tempted to write the Pope about witnessing a miracle because everyone else in the car kept their two bits to themselves.

She finally offered, “If that’s what this is, if he’s coming unraveled because his end game fell apart…”

“His end game being to reunite after teaching you a lesson by divorcing you for being reluctant to be his breed mare.”

She shuddered and answered, “Yeah, but I’d like to think I would have caught him thinking along those lines at some point since we divorced. If that’s the case, we’ll sit the girls down and hope they understand why he needs to be glamoured.”

“To what extent?”

“To the extent of leaving me the fuck alone unless it genuinely has to do with the girls.”

“You still believe he’s simply overreacting to the sudden changes in living arrangements, yes?”

“Maybe hoping is a better word than believing at this point, but yeah. We’ll give him a little time to get his head out of his ass. If he hasn’t chilled out by Easter, he’s your puppet.”

“He’ll stay in a hotel when he visits and a guard will be stationed inside when he’s at the castle.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary, but if it’ll make you feel better, okay.”

“It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have a history of aggressive behavior towards you. You said his insults were new as well. If nothing else, the idea of being overheard might help discourage certain behaviors.”

“Good point.”

I couldn’t believe she’d been so… agreeable.

After a few moments, Edward opened his mouth, but he was cut off.

Gawain was the one to do it though.

Gawain.

“Edward, call Misty and ask if he’d been in contact with them today.”

“Why?”

“Because the answer will help me decide how much I’m going to hate him… That asshole was upset to hear Eric heard him. The girls just as easily could have heard him accuse Sookie of controlling him with her pussy.”

Uh oh.

The ‘Maiden’s Knight’ suddenly had an axe to grind.

The last message Allecks received from any of the girls was from Misty. They were at a movie theater, waiting for Are We There Yet? to begin, when she told Allecks they were enjoying their visit and planning to be returned to Sookie before dinnertime.

The fact that Allecks had every reason to believe the girls would be with Sookie when he berated her, did nothing for his popularity…

Sookie scoffed, “Fuck all y’all!” because she had to remind us the girls wouldn’t have been able to hear him. We were assholes for making her rationalize against her will… and then called us all sweet for caring enough to be upset.

**

Waller’s Inn

A large meeting lodge style structure set back from the road not far from the highway in Natchitoches Parish… It was whitewashed with a matching two-story motel situated behind it.

There were two entrances… One was the glorified closet of a check-in area to the ‘inn’, and the other entrance was for the restaurant and bar.

The parking lot was full of pickup trucks and muscle cars… someone was actively vomiting around the corner… there were two cars being used as mating pens… and there was a broken beer bottle splattered with blood near the entrance.

Gawain chuckled that it was ‘our kind of place’.

The vestibule was lined with old, but pristinely kept, vending machines full of an assortment of cigarettes and dipping tobacco…

A large bar separated the small dining room from the much more active part of the establishment. As soon as we approached the doorway leading towards the din, we were headed off by a bouncer.

The Were snorted and demanded Sookie’s ID.

She pulled it from her pocket and offered, “We’re not here for trouble. I’m a local. They’re just on vacation and they’ve checked in with Sheriff Beaumont.”

“Local how?” His deep voice was laced with a thick pseudo-French accent.

“Bon Temps born, Hotshot raised.”

He looked at her ID again and his eyes bulged. “You’re her?”

She nodded. “That’s me.”

“You friends find supper, they use motel, them. This ain’t no feedin’ lounge, no.”

“Understood, oui.”

“You don’t have too much fun, no.”

She patted his shoulder as she walked past him and offered, “Sure thing, Simon.” She’d barely spoken to him, but her cadence and grammar was already melding to match his.

His jaw dropped as I passed him… he wasn’t wearing a nametag.

Sookie held my hand as she led the way to a large table and politely borrowed an unused chair from a neighboring table.

In the short amount of time we spent crossing the bar, three people behind the bar began staring at us because Simon whispered to them in bastardized French to suggest they give ‘the blonde’ a once over.

Celebrity.

Again, Sookie’s notoriety overshadowed that of her companions.

As she settled onto my lap, I chuckled, “The Princess of Hotshot strikes again.”

“I don’t remember there being so many Weres here last time or I would’ve said something,” as a young, freckle-faced waitress approached our party.

She was gobsmacked in Sookie’s presence like so many fans had been during the signing.

Sookie giggled and kissed my cheek as she left my lap to walk over to the girl… she reached into the pocket of the waitress’s apron to remove her cell phone and used it to snap a photo of them together… and then removed the pad and pen from the girl’s hand to scribble a note.

As many times as I’d seen Sookie accept a fan’s attention, this time was different. She was feeling more venerated, more proud.

She asked for a Fuzzy Navel and walked to the bar with the girl, so Gawain offered in Russian, “The girl is a Were. Barely 17… Her parents gave her a copy of Sookie’s first book before she shifted. That’s how she learned she wasn’t Human.”

That explained it, the pride… Sookie wasn’t just collecting names in a ledger- she was actually making a difference with her books, and not just with the fans who flocked to signings to validate their own abilities.

A few of her adult fans had jokingly suggested she write for adults, but Sookie’s response had been a scripted, “Kids are the ones who need something decent to read.” The answer was designed for Humans, but the subtext was suddenly much clearer. Older hybrids, like Ian and Sookie and so many others, had already come to terms with their abilities to some degree. It was children who needed hope that they weren’t alone.

After a moment, Edward developed a smirk and nodded. “That first book, that first fucking one of the series… It really could be a manual… Now that I’m thinking about it, the Were described how confused he was when he shifted for the first time, how surreal it was. The two characters, the Were and the telepath, they had a long talk about their Supernatural-ness. The whole fucking thing, the whole Notorious Series… every fucking Supe mentioned, every ability, it’s all a textbook disguised as great fiction.”

I needed to read those fucking books… and the journal.

**

While Sookie humored the star-struck waitresses, the rest of the bar was given an impressive view of the amazing tone in her legs… all the way from her delicate ankles to the delicious gap between her thighs.

If it was just me, I could have watched her lean against the bar and bounce her hip to the rhythm of the music indefinitely, but no less than a dozen men, Weres, and my friends were all but hypnotized by her stance.

Francesca actually excused herself to join Sookie at the bar, but before she could correct the behavior that was close to causing a riot, Francesca became engrossed in the same cell phone Sookie was fixated on.

When I tried calling her, she held her finger up at her shoulder to acknowledge me, but have me wait.

Oh really?

“Gawain, go take a few liberties.”

“Fuck you. My balls finally stopped throbbing a few minutes ago.”

“Coward.”

“That might bother me if you had the balls to do something yourself.”

“I wanted to teach her a lesson for ignoring me.”

While Gawain and I bickered like children, someone else took the opportunity… A Were, in a T-shirt so tight one could count his chest hairs, approached Sookie from behind. He reached for her as though he was going to grab her ass, but she caught his wrist without looking back…

She twisted his arm as she spun on her heel, hissing, “Not yours, no. Try touch me again and I’ll put a hurtin’ on you ya momma feel. Got it?”

He growled and flashed his irises, making the mistake of reaching for her with his other hand, but she caught that wrist too.

She smiled and offered, “You were warned,” and her leg was already moving… she drove her knee up between his legs and released his wrists when he collapsed to the floor.

Gawain cupped his hands over his lap and winced reflexively. “Part of me wants to help the poor bastard up.”

Richard cooed, “Maybe you can kiss it to make it better too.”

One of the bartenders called for Simon because ‘Bubba forgot his manners again’ and Sookie turned her fucking back on the Were she’d just injured.

Faerie.

While Simon helped Bubba from the floor, he chided, “I say behave, you. Why you get after him?”

Sookie grinned at him over her shoulder and cooed, “What you do, he try grab your woman? Dat a peeshnick compare what my Eric do. Better me, yeah.”

Where the fuck did that accent come from?

Simon glanced in my direction and grumbled, “Fair… fair,” as he all but carried Bubba.

Edward whispered, “Cajun actually sounds sexy on her… but her normal drawl does too.”

Gawain chuckled, “Accents are easy, almost accidental because we’re completely immersed. Learning a language is easier when the teacher is a native or fluent speaker because they’re thinking in the language at the proper cadence. Trying to learn from anyone else is almost a futile effort…”

I rolled my eyes. “Which explains why you spent most of your time in a new region playing games in pubs.”

He scoffed, “Fuck you. Do you want to know how long I suspected you were telepathic? The way you pick up languages like Easter eggs, the way you play chess like you know your opponent’s plan of attack…”

“It’s not my fault you have to cheat.”

“I don’t cheat. That’s like saying you cheat because you can reach the top shelf.”

“It’s not my fault you’re short either.”

“I’m not short. You’re a freak of genetics. If you lived until you were 35, you would have had a hunchback and a limp, working fields while grotesquely gargantuan. You were a structural catastrophe waiting to happen.”

“Do you feel taller now?”

“I-” Instead of finishing the debate, he left the table to join Sookie and Francesca at the bar, wrapping his arm around Sookie’s waist in a juvenile effort to annoy me.

Richard chuckled, “We aren’t supposed to notice that he left your company to be with the petite women, are we?”

“A fool’s errand. Give them a minute. They’ll make him feel inferior too.”

**

When Sookie finally finished her conversation with the bartender, she was carrying her second drink because she’d been at the bar for long enough to finish the first one.

She walked to the jukebox and dropped several coins into the slot, programming our dance cards… and by the time she returned to the table, Edward’s pocket had chimed more than twenty times… Francesca’s purse was just as lively.

Even though Sookie had been in an altercation, her mood was so incredibly light, I was reminded of rising with her earlier.

She sat on my lap and leaned back dramatically. “Remind me to ask Daddy what on God’s green earth made him suggest we come here tonight.”

Francesca took her seat next to me and offered, “Don’t worry about that. I might ask him myself. What a very fortuitous excursion this has been.”

“Did the bartender have better pot than Ricky?”

Sookie pouted, “I could show you if someone wasn’t Lording over my cell phone.”

Edward rolled his eyes and relinquished her cellphone. “You know why I took it. Shut up.”

Sookie giggled and began toying with her phone. “Becky, the girl who froze just a minute ago, isn’t old enough to actually serve alcohol so the bartender chatted me up…”

“Because Becky was memorizing your profile while all the males in the bar appreciated your La Perla.”

“Right… So the bartenders over there, Danielle and Stephanie, they’re fumbling around trying to remember what’s in a Fuzzy Navel. It’s a pretty standard drink. It turns out, because I’m a nosy somebody, they’re just picking up extra shifts because they’re trying to save for a startup…”

Sookie held her phone up to show a woman in a black dress and jacket with bright pink accents.

“An escort service?”

She giggled again and changed the photo to show me the same woman in an elaborate black lace evening gown.

“They’re designers. Their suits are gorgeous, feminine without being frilly, and their gowns are just classic… I usually make Selma dress me for business and formals, but I think I just found my new favorite designer.”

Francesca added, “And with a celebrity model like Sookie, it won’t take them long to get attention.”

Sookie grinned. “And with as much as you ordered, I’m sure their website will start getting hit by a few Park Avenue ISPs…” Sookie squeaked and held up her photo to show a baby in a little pink outfit. “They do all sizes!”

I chuckled, “Did I miss a few drinks while I was watching for threats to your ass?”

“Don’t think so. I barely started on my second one. I’m just in a really good mood… In spite of the mechanical bull being broken, but…”

She pointed to a woman at a distant table. I wasn’t sure what was more frightening… her girth or her sideburns.

“Gawain can still ride her. She’s been fanaticizing… She’s feeling confident too. She wore her ‘good bloomers’ and deodorant.”

While Gawain looked like he might cry, I asked Sookie, “Meeting Becky?”

She shrugged. “Meeting Becky… and since Simon’s Cajun family owns Waller’s Inn, that jukebox is full of Zydeco.”

“Has his family always owned it?”

“Yeah, but there was some funkiness in Shreveport at Hair Of The Dog, the other Were bar, so Waller’s Inn got the extra traffic. Some Were tried to storm into town and take over. There’s been a bit of an exodus since Furnan took over for Flood. Simon’s top dog of the Cane River Pack.”

Her phone chimed again and I assumed it was a lingering photo of more fashion, but Sookie squealed and threw her arms in the air as she leapt from my lap.

Every. Fucking. Thing. In the bar stopped except for the jukebox.

She spun around and bent over to kiss me, and I had no fucking clue what we were celebrating, but she was already crying and neither of us could stop smiling if we wanted to.

“We got it. I won.”

“Won what?”

“Complete…” She stood up and fanned her eyes, thrusting her phone into my hand.

Selma sent, “Due to the record breaking sales from your recent release and the mention of three more books on the immediate horizon, the studio has caved. You have complete artistic control over the direction, soundtrack, foley and casting for no less than three feature-length motion pictures, with an option on an additional three.”

While Sookie was still trying to keep from weeping, another text was delivered.

“They want to begin passive casting and location scouting immediately so they can start filming in the summer. They want to go ahead with consolidating the first six books into three movies too. I’m sorry for texting, but I’m not sure you’d hear me over the party we’re having.”

I announced, “You’ll have to excuse her, everyone. She’s just heard the movie studio has agreed to her conditions. There will be no less than three Notorious films.”

There was actually a boisterous round of applause and Edward shot out of his seat to give Sookie a double high-five.

**

She bought a round of celebratory drinks for everyone in the bar…

She recruited dancing partners (fang-curious flirts) for our friends…

And she finished her second drink as she pulled me to the dance floor.

Even though we hadn’t waited for a song we could line dance to, I couldn’t complain about the opportunity for a slow dance.

As soon as her arms were over my shoulders, she whispered, “How do I feel?”

“If you’re asking about your mood, elated. If you’re asking about your body, overdressed.”

She giggled, “Drunk?”

Not the slightest bit… all of the bliss, none of the stupor.

“No. Why?”

“Because I want to go on record just in case there’s any chivalry left after the past couple of nights… I’m going to have a few drinks, possibly get a bit tipsy, dance until I’m a sweaty mess, and then we’re checking into and ruining a sleazy motel room to celebrate the special occasion… Pending Your Majesty’s approval, of course.”

I growled, pulling her closer and she made her point by twisting her hips to rub against me.

I shook my head. “I might need a translator. I’m not sure I know what this ‘chivalry’ is.”

“Good, because chivalry is meant for ladies and I’m not sure I remember how those act.”

“Are you going to change your mind when you start making all of those adorable little noises?”

She pulled away just enough to shake her head with a desperately feral look on her face.

One dance, then another…

Rubbing her body against me, managing to do it discretely enough to not elicit more gawking…

And still provoking me.

A break to drink another Fuzzy Navel and use the restroom…

And draw me in all over again.

The only time her body wasn’t brushing against mine was when she ran back to the bar to take a sip of her drink between songs…

And when her third Fuzzy Navel was gone, she switched to Brooklynites… Rum, lime and honey.

So far, that one took the prize

The way her lips tasted…

I started checking off the list she’d rattled off…

A few drinks…

Six.

Check.

A little bit tipsy…

If by tipsy, she meant flushed and much more relaxed than usual…

Check.

Dance until she was a sweaty mess…

The hair at the nape of her neck was damp and the scent of her sweat was pushing me that much more.

Check.

The collateral goals even seemed to have been met. Our friends were so distracted by their ‘dates’ (a mix of Were and Human) they wouldn’t have noticed if we left. Edward and Richard had found extra dates, scoring threesomes for the night and it seemed like Francesca and Gawain had gathered a small orgy…

Apparently, American Weres didn’t cavort with Vampires or vice versa… While Sookie had been in the restroom, I heard one of Edward’s companions ask why ‘Euro-Vamps’ weren’t ‘shitty’ to Weres. He asked why we would be. Shifters guarded our resting places, could enjoy rougher encounters, and didn’t expect to be kept as a pet after one night.

We’d taken part in enough line-dances for me to know I preferred the Cajun Jitterbug…

I was just waiting for Sookie to realize the same thing.

After the way she leaned against me during a slow song, our tenth dance, I grabbed her when she turned to dash to the bar.

I whispered into her ear, “We’re leaving.”

Without reluctance, she crossed her arm over mine and laced our fingers together, continuing her stride towards the bar.

She finished her last Brooklynite while she waited for the bartender to tally the tab, and blew a kiss to the Were as we walked out.

The clerk checking us into the motel coyly suggested ‘the Honeymoon Suite’, using Sookie’s pen name… Perhaps it was just a private insult to Allecks, but she accepted.

She warned me as we walked towards our room that the word ‘suite’ was used loosely at motels.

The room looked like a bridal nightmare… white satin and lace and artificial rose petals scattered about…

I might have laughed if it weren’t for the way Sookie reversed, taking a sudden step back, slamming herself against me, reaching between us to grab my cock through my jeans…

“An aggressive drunk?”

She grunted, tightening her grip…

“Do I feel drunk?”

I chuckled, “You feel aggressive.”

She kicked her boots to the other side of the room and asked, “Is that a problem?”

“Not if you’re trying to push me.”

She giggled and turned around, walking backwards to the bed, tugging the front of my jeans to take me with her…

Unthreading my belt…

“I’m not trying to push you…”

Popping one button loose at a time…

“If I were trying…”

Bending over, untying the laces on my boots…

“I’d dare you, challenge you…”

Clawing my sides, pulling my shirt off…

I growled, “Challenge me to do what?”

She rolled her eyes up playfully as though she didn’t already have something in mind.

She leaned closer, breathing against my chest, “No kids…

Reaching into my jeans…

No comedians…

Taking hold…

The rarest opportunity I can imagine, Eric…

I didn’t realize my fangs were down until I urged, “The challenge.”

She tilted her head back to give me an impish grin as she cooed, “I dare you to make me scream.”

No restrictions.

Absolutely. Fucking. Perfect.

Better still… while I planned, she lifted her chin, stretching up to her toes to bite my neck.

By the time she gasped for air, her top, panties and bra were gone. Her skirt was the only thing left and that was pushed up around her waist.

She chewed across my collar bone… down my chest, drawing blood when she bit one nipple, and scratching the other side of my chest…

Aggressive.

My eyes rolled back, losing focus as she worked her way down my ribs, to rest on her knees…

Yanking my jeans out of her way…

The contrast… from biting and clawing to slowly cradling her smooth tongue under my cock until it disappeared…

Holding her breath and tilting her chin with the head trapped in her throat…

Dragging her teeth back patiently in spite of her need for air.

Any time I closed my eyes, hers were still on them when they opened again.

One of her hands tickled across the back of my thigh, the other applied the most excruciatingly perfect amount of pressure to my balls.

The hold I had on her hair was doing more to keep me from swaying than it was guiding her.

And every stroke reminded me she was telepathic, and we were bonded…

Slight changes, keeping me from settling… completely controlling me.

Pushing me closer and closer, teasing by pulling away to leave me cold and wanting before forcing herself down again… finally setting a rhythm…

Or so I thought.

It was a hum that finally undid me… a long flat hum, starting at my head and creeping along until my cock dammed the sound, but the vibrations

I nearly lost my legs.

She’d moved her hands to open her skirt, smiling around the head of my cock, rubbing her tongue over the tip, having too much fun making my legs twitch…

I growled, “Evil.”

She laughed, finally releasing me and lurching back, knowing I’d come after her…

She crawled back until she was pinned against the bed, giggling that I owed her an apology after the way I shouted when I came.

I hovered over her, taking her ankles and pulling them over my shoulders.

Heart racing, panting, showing her teeth, waiting for me to make a move…

And as soon as I did, she threw a leg over my head and began scurrying to get away.

I caught her ankle, jerking her leg back, earning a loud grunt when she flattened…

My hand on her back, leaning just enough, reaching between her legs…

I chuckled, “Remind me to call Dinh about arranging to install carpet in our room.”

She squirmed and giggled, “Definitely.”

Just her clit… to start… as tempting as she was, splayed out, lifting her ass… just her clit.

She clawed the carpet, whining and groaning, trying to distract herself by suggesting our room could use some soundproofing.

She growled, “Tapestries or a sofa, some-fucking-thing,” with her face pressed to the floor, arching her back and lifting her ass until her knees were under her when she came…

“You’re not still trying to get away from me are you?”

She laughed between gasps, “You bet your beautiful ass, I am.”

Her spine curled when I slid my fingers between her lips, grazing her clit…

“Why would you do that?”

Her hips pitched when I grazed her clit again. “Because I like it when you catch me.”

I pushed a finger into her slowly and when I pulled it out, I tapped her clit again.

“You’re caught now.”

“I can get away from this.”

No doubt.

I pushed two fingers in, taking hold of her pelvis from below, taking her hair to bring her up to meet me.

She yelped, but not because I’d hurt her.

She reached back for my hair, twisting enough to kiss me, but I leaned away. “Stalling? Planning an escape?

She smirked and cooed, “Kiss me anyway.”

She was too fucking much.

“No.”

I worked her while she let her hair suspend her body, pushing her while she bucked against my hand until she came again…

And then I released her…

Another loud grunt, followed by a sinister laugh that made her whole body shake.

Once she’d caught her breath she rolled over, lifting her foot to slide it along my thigh.

“You let me go.”

I like catching you.”

She pushed herself up and crawled toward me…

Sliding her cheek along my thigh, the tip of her nose teased over my cock, rubbing along my body, inch by inch until we were nose to nose.

“I still want a kiss.”

I shook my head. “Run.”

Over. Played. My. Hand.

She pushed herself from the floor… licking my ear… dragging her nipple across my lips… pausing once her feet were under her, making a cat-like stretching motion just to arch her back, her pussy just centimeters away from my face.

She chuckled as she sauntered away, stepping onto the bed, turning to face me… she widened her stance and leaned from side to side as though she was stretching.

She finally wiggled her eyebrows, inviting me to try to catch her.

I watched her, our little game of cat and mouse… trying to decide who was who while she tried to anticipate how I’d approach.

I leaned back against the wall, enjoying the view and the anticipation…

I finally left my station, taking a lap around the room, pinching her nipples as she tried to escape… and then I returned to where I started.

I was prepared to tease her, at least a couple more times, before catching her… but she wasn’t interested in that.

She stepped from the bed, stomping in my direction, dropping to her knees to straddle me and taking hold of my hair.

She didn’t bother asking. She advanced until the wall kept me from avoiding her…

The cat and mouse routine came unraveled as soon as she pulled my lip between her teeth.

She reached between us, taking my cock and pushing herself down, moaning into my mouth, leaving the echo in my chest.

For hours… we wrestled, struggled for an edge over one another… rolling around the floor like animals in heat.

Enjoying every fucking second of it.

The more I pushed her, the more I needed to cum…

The more she teased me, the more she wanted me to break…

By the time we collapsed, and I was actually breathless somehow, we’d jokingly decided our ‘second honeymoon’ would be to a mattress warehouse.

**

Sookie tossed her shredded clothing at me and snatched my shirt from me, half-heartedly growling that we were lucky we didn’t need to stop anywhere on our way home… When we emerged from our room (half-dressed) just after five o’clock, our well-fed friends were leaning against the grill of the Navigator in an otherwise deserted parking lot…

Sookie snorted at them, “Krazy Glue and a bamboo knitting needle. Ever hear of sounding? Still have something to say?

The boys clamped their mouths closed and shuddered, but Gawain opened his gob…

Sookie stopped in front of him and raised an eyebrow… A telepathic threat to his ‘tenders’, I assumed based on the way he chuckled and opened her door for her.

As everyone settled into the car Sookie asked, “Did everyone enjoy themselves?”

Edward teased, “Some of us more than others. Are we kissing and telling?”

Ummmm… That invites a can of TMI to be opened… How about a ‘customer satisfaction survey’? One to five stars.”

Everyone agreed with a range of four to four and a half stars… Merlotte’s scored a one, but only because zero (and scoring in the negative) hadn’t been an option.

But that was the last thing to be said until we returned to the flophouse.

Gawain wandered away from the house. The boys restored their claim on the living room and the television was on before either of them sat down, and Francesca retrieved her laptop to join them.

Sookie only stopped in the kitchen to take a bottle of water from the refrigerator before plodding towards our room… She pushed her skirt over her hips before crawling to the middle of the bed without removing my shirt.

She tossed her purse to the night-stand and fumbled with the bedding, pushing it out from under herself before crashing onto her back…

She gave me an exhausted grin. “What are you staring at?”

Some shows one leaves before the curtain falls… but the best shows were worth a moment of reverence afterward.

I shrugged and followed her lead, pushing my jeans down, but she pointed to my suitcase and reminded me to wear something to bed because I was likely to have company when I ‘wake up’.

At some point, several pairs of grey linen lounge pants had made their way into my bag… When I held them up, she put her finger on her chin, deciding which of the identical pairs of pants I should wear instead of actually saying something about my lack of modesty.

She changed her mind… twice.

As I slid between the sheets, I asked, “Are you being silly or is this one of the benefits of making you cum repeatedly?”

She giggled, “I think so…” and rolled towards me, resuming the position she was in when I rose.

A silly noncommittal answer followed by a long yawn.

“I’m sorry, but you wore me out. Feel free to have your way with me while I’m sleeping though. That’s when I’m most docile.”

It was bad enough Allecks took her for granted.

“Tell me you’re joking.”

She lifted her head to give me a serious look, but shook her head. “Sorry… I was making a joke about my sleep-talking… So what are you going to do while I’m using you as my pillow?”

I reached for her purse and fished out her cellphone. “I think I’ll read.”

“The journal?”

Notorious, I think.”

I might be able to remember Sookie’s books because I’m not as haunted as I used to be…

Sookie nuzzled my side and offered a sleepy goodnight… and she was purring against my side while I was still appreciating the cover of the book… a watercolor that could have been a representation of Romeo And Juliet. A male and a female, surrounded by disapproving foreboding figures.

I read, surprisingly engrossed, for nearly an hour…

After more than a hundred pages, it was easy to understand why the target audience was ambiguous. The principal characters were in high school, but they could have just as easily been college students, or even coworkers, with just a few minor adjustments.

I chuckled at myself when I realized the time and sped my pace, hoping to reach a better stopping point before dawn took me…

But then Sookie’s phone began ringing.

That all too familiar ringtone that usually soured Sookie’s mood.

Allecks.

Answer it.

Don’t answer it.

Answer it.

Don’t answer it.

Oops. My finger slipped.

Before I could say hello, Allecks snarled, “Congratulations are in order. One of my employees just showed me a very interesting video, you lying bitch.”

I growled, “Sookie’s sleeping. This is Eric. What can I do for you?”

“You can wake up my wife so I can talk to her.”

“You divorced her, Auers. I’m sure you remember that.”

“And then you married her. I’m sick of being lied to.”

“Alas, no matter how diligent we’ve been, new sensationalist reporters spring up faster than Vampires can glamour them into their new careers as cosmonauts…”

“There’s footage of a private reception. Photos of your honeymoon suite…”

“I haven’t married Sookie…”

Gawain quietly entered the room with his head tilted slightly to mouth, “Again?”

I rolled my eyes and nodded.

Allecks blurted, “Send her home.”

“Sookie is MINE. Her home is with me.”

“She was mine first.”

“And in your infinite wisdom you discarded her.”

“Don’t act like you know anything about our marriage…”

“I don’t need to know anything about your marriage. My concern is your divorce. You’re walking a razor’s edge, Auers. Your behavior is unacceptable… Sookie is Mine. If you can’t come to terms with that and treat her in a civil manner, you won’t be allowed to contact her.”

“My children…”

“They’ll always be your children. No one is preventing you from contacting them, yet. No one glamoured you to forget the location of their new home, yet. Sookie suggested you would calm down once we return to Eijsden and our routine resumes, but since I have you on the phone, I’d like to establish a few ground rules.”

“Oh really? You aren’t my King. I live in Clovis’s Kingdom.”

Cute.

“You’ll be welcome to visit your children, providing you make arrangements to do so in advance. We’ll offer reciprocal disclosure whenever we leave my kingdom with the children, but there will be times when we won’t be at Kasteel Eijsden. You’ll be welcome to contact the children conditionally. Don’t confuse your failures as a husband to Sookie with your role as their father. You’ll be welcome to contact Sookie about the care of the children conditionally. You’ve demonstrated an ample amount of animosity towards her of late. The sooner you realize she always has, and always will, do everything in her power to see to their needs, the better off you’ll be.”

“You could hardly say marrying the most feared Vampire in Europe is in their best interest.”

“I’m hardly the most feared, but he lives quite close to you. We’re old friends. I wouldn’t mind introducing you… Basic rules established, we need to discuss the finer points…”

“You threaten to ‘introduce’ me to your scary friend, and now we’re talking about etiquette?”

“Yes… You’ve been insulting towards Sookie. The only reasons you still have a tongue, are the children. You’ve made graphic suggestions. The only reasons you haven’t been castrated are the children. You’ve threatened to take custody from Sookie as a scare tactic. The only reasons you’re still breathing are the children.”

“Did you just threaten me?”

“Yes. Tread lightly, Allecks. I’m not just your ex-wife’s new lover. I’m a King. I can torture you. I can exile you. I can imprison you. I can execute you. Sookie is Mine and any act against her is considered an act against my Kingdom.”

“That’s just lovely. Why wouldn’t I want you to be part of my children’s lives?”

“That would be why we’re having this talk. Hurting you would hurt them. If I didn’t care about their feelings, I would have sent someone to kill you already. Continue on the path you’re on and you’ll suffer. Personally, I’d be more concerned about losing my children’s esteem than physical pain… Perhaps that’s just me.”

“It’s not just you. What the fuck am I supposed to do? You’ve bumped me out of their lives. You’ve replaced me.”

“I’ve done no such thing. I’m their friend. They only need one father…”

“Step-father then.”

“Not yet. We’re bonded and living together. I’m a King, Allecks. Kings don’t elope. There will be an official announcement. Sookie will be given an official title. You won’t see dark, grainy cell phone photos as proof. I doubt the official news would reach you before the girls told you in any case.”

He was quiet for a moment before sighing, “That… that… I don’t know why, but that’s settling… being blindsided…”

I offered, “I’m not fond of it myself. I imagine, we’re both very lucky Sookie is patient enough to wait for overreactions to give way to lucidity.”

“Can… Now that I’m calmer… can I speak to Sookie, please?”

“She’s really quite asleep. She’ll be told you called though.”

“Since… since she’s really asleep and she didn’t just have you screen my call… I’d rather she didn’t know… I’ll wait to hear from her.”

When I ended the call, I bookmarked the last page I’d read… and waited for Gawain to explain why he suddenly looked so amused.

“Let her know I spoke to him… perhaps he just wanted to hear that I wasn’t trying to fill his obtuse little shoes. Let her know about the threats now so he can’t inflame the facts later if he’s riled again.”

“Yeah. I’ll take care of it… Can I tell her you’re making wedding plans or do you want to surprise her by dropping to one knee?”

“That’s cute. Perhaps Allecks has a contagious condition that causes ridiculous assumptions.”

He chuckled and turned to leave, waiting until he closed the door to quote me…

“You said ‘not yet’… There will be an official announcement. Sookie will be given an official title.”

Figuratively speaking, you ancient child.”

He chuckled, “Riiiiiiight… You should wait until Hope’s walking. She’ll make an adorable flower girl.”

Asshole.

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29 thoughts on “Chapter 26: Achy Breaky Heart

  1. I was lucky enough to see Billy Ray in Lake Tahoe. He puts on a great show and seems to be a nice man on top of it. I did get tired of the song after a bit as I was cocktailing it in a country western bar at the time. I am so looking forward to the next chapters in the saga……..I mean verse.

  2. Wooohoo!!! New chapters for my fav story in the verse!! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your update of this story. Off to reread it again in antisipation of new chapters. Thank you, thank you!!

  3. ❤ I'm shocked that they didn't break one another with the wait they've endured, lol. I love how Gawain caught him at the end…too cute! And I can't wait to see how Alleck's fairs. He went a little "Merlotte" for a bit. I so can't wait for the next chapter!

  4. Oh my gosh. I loved it. It was awesome. Loved the dancing, the discussions with Allecks, I loved Sookie’s “cajun” accent. I loved the fact that Eric and Sookie finally get to go the “distance”. Will there be a wedding? Great way to leave us hanging, can’t wait for the next chapter. You are so awesome.

  5. so happy about update on this story. Alecks is being a total fool, but I enjoyed the dancing and the honeymoon suite. They are having fun which is the best.

  6. Great chapter. I loved how the Wares realized the difference between the european and american vampires. I loved the time spent at the bar dancing. Is it crazy that I know of men who would break up with you in order to teach you a lesson. That shit is craziness but it is real too. Glad that Sookie and Eric finally did the deed. I think that by the time he skips to see Pam he will be happy again with Sookie and the girls. I don’t think the skip would go well untill he has kinda gotten thru his pain.

  7. I loved this chapter. I’m amazed with how Eric’s behavior and reactions have changed from the beginning of the story.
    And Gawain was absolutely right. Eric did use future tense when speaking about marriage.

  8. i love it when you add stuff after we Beta the chapters… it makes reading them a hell of a lot of fun…. anyway , noticed that Allecks is acting alot like Sam Merlotte did in “In The Dark”, i figure he is going to do something totally and utterly stupid that Eric is going to protect the girls and help him out but Alleck is going to F it up too like Sam did…. just saying since some of the stories coincide a bit ….. love it Kristie

  9. Hahaha! Gawain’s hilarious. But he makes an excellent point with the wedding stuff. 😀

    Hope Allecks really does calm down and doesn’t continue to be a stupid douchebag. Time will tell.

  10. Oh goodness, I just adore Gawain. He makes me laugh hard and calls Eric on his shit. Awesome. This was a great treat to find after a day of house-hunting.

  11. Thank FUCK! Lol
    I think I had blue balls waiting for them to get busy. Lol! I’ll bet the motel honeymoon suite has never seen so much honey or moon. I’m just picturing the disaster they left behind. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of their epic game of cat n mouse.
    Allecks needs good swift kick in the arse. I’m truly waiting to find out exactly what crawled up his butt and died. Compton maybe? Whatever it is has definitely festered. Awesome as usual!

  12. Finallyyyyyyyy. They got-it-on, oh yeah. LOL. Loved it. I soooo like the way Gawain always calls Eric on his shit. Eric DID make it sound like he and Sookie would marry eventually. Hehe! Looking forward to more 🙂

  13. i loved this chapter…

    i just finished reading deadlocked, and i was feeling slightly off. this chapter helped a lot.

  14. Love it! Line dancing vampires… awesome! I’m glad that Eric and Sookie finally got some time to themselves. Their relationship is finally shaping up into something that will make them both happy. Finally, someone handles Allecks. Threatening to take the girls was beyond the pale. I’m glad Eric laid down the law. Gotta love that Gawain called him on his slip.

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