Hilariously enough, Cornelius was still holding Hope when we returned to the dining room while she squirmed and complained. Everyone had forgotten that Allecks was the designated dupe for the evening because, as soon as Hope was in Cornelius’s hands, she responded to how anxious he’d been to hold her…
As soon as Cornelius spotted me, he held her out, silently pleading for me to take her back. It might have been the first time he’d ever looked scared.
“It’s no wonder she’s unhappy. You look like you’re handling plutonium.”
As soon as I spared her from his company, Hope let out a pleased coo.
Instead of giving Allecks the time to notice on his own, Gawain nodded towards Sookie’s hand and crooned, “The wedding ring, I presume.”
Sookie sighed, “Yes sir… the wedding ring… and the yellow is perfect because it fits in with the girls’ birthstones…”
I added, “I should have ordered them as well. You don’t have an amethyst band for Hope yet.”
I shifted to pull my phone from my pocket while Sookie and the girls showed off their new jewelry… As preoccupied as I was by arranging for another delivery from Antwerp, I couldn’t help but notice how closely Allecks was watching Misty and Jenny interact with Edward and Richard.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what was going through his mind, but after a few minutes, Gawain made me sure I was going to find out.
He asked me for a moment in my office, and as he left his chair, Brandon stood as well… At least it seemed like I was going to hear Brandon’s opinion of Allecks.
Ashley eagerly relieved me of Hope, and I’d have bet I wouldn’t hold her again for a while.
I closed my office door and asked, “Is there a problem?”
Brandon nodded, “Hell yeah, there’s a problem… I didn’t know that fuck-stain was going to be here when I packed my bag.”
I snorted, “I’m terribly sorry. The next time I invite someone to stay here, I’ll consult you.”
His shoulders sagged when he rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant… I just… I fucking hate that tool. I don’t know how well I can behave.”
“Why? You didn’t meet Sookie until after they were divorced. How much could he have possibly done to irritate you?”
“Hate. I fucking hate him. I don’t care if I’m on a moral fucking high horse…”
“Sookie calls it a moral high horse?”
“Yeah… alright… we’re ignoring the fact that he had the perfect fucking trophy wife who can put up with pretty much anyone, right?”
Gawain nodded. “If she can put up with Eric, I’m sure Allecks is a walk in the park.”
Thank you, Gawain.
Brandon nodded. “I’ve heard… so you’ve got the wet mop, right? Wrong… He’s an uppity fuck and he needs to choke on a dick…”
I chuckled, “Could you try to calm down?”
He growled, “Have you at least read a chapter or two of any of her books?”
“I finished Notorious before dawn and started Hearing Aid shortly before we landed.”
He snorted, “And you haven’t known her but a couple of weeks… Funny story. Allecks hasn’t.”
He had to be kidding.
“They were married for five years, during which time she attended university full time, worked full time, gave him a child, learned to walk again after a devastating collision, and authored several books, and he didn’t bother to read any of his wife’s work?”
“What do you want first? The bullshit reason he tries to sell, or the actual reason that’s practically an invitation for a foot in his balls?”
I slipped. The ‘right’ answer was for me to walk out and leave Gawain and Brandon to rant privately.
“The bullshit answer is that he thinks the ‘fantasy genre is the literary equivalent of a puppet show’.”
“Tell me the actual reason he refused to support his wife’s career has to do with his fear of animals and, by extension, Werewolves.”
“No, that would just be funny… the books are responsible for the miscarriages Sookie’s had because of stress. Nevermind that she was run through by a street sign that pierced Lindy’s placenta. Right, it’s the stress of chilling out with her laptop… So, since Sookie refuses to stop writing, she must love fame more than she loves her family…”
Gawain groaned, “Of course that would make sense to someone without any emotions.”
Brandon’s eyes widened as he nodded. “I know, right… Look, I had it a lot easier than Sookie. My mom and dad knew about my ability and other than taking it into consideration, they just looked at it as an extra sense. Her mother was so shitty to her, Sookie was scared of herself… Don’t get me wrong, Allecks loves those kids…”
Gawain interrupted, “When you mentioned Emre would be seeing to the adoptions, Allecks began praying to himself that you meant you were pulling strings to close the standing adoption proceedings quickly, because if you intend to adopt the girls yourself, he knows there isn’t anything he could do to stop it. And he’s suspicious of why a couple of Vampires who only just met Misty and Jenny would be so friendly with them. He’s chided himself for suspecting anything perverse, but because they have been abused, the inkling is there.”
Brandon snorted, “His panties are all kinds of torqued by seeing you with Hope… and he’s sure Sookie picked you because she won’t have any pressure to have more children. And he’s being a dick about it… So… the guy whose parents shit on him for switching majors and marrying the help has conditional love issues. Gee. Go figure… Lindy deserves to be herself. I know I’m being an asshole about it, but in her world, Allecks’s perfect family ideals are the fantasy. He’s the minority. It’s not fair to make the kids stifle who they are. That asshole is eating his dinner in a room full of ‘monsters’. Telepathy is relatively benign…”
“You want to expose telepathy to Allecks.”
“No. Sookie told me Gawain’s glamour has some extra juice. I don’t want my opinion of Allecks to fuck with Lindy more than the existing clusterfuck already does.”
What was Gawain expected to do? Glamour away Brandon’s opinions?
Gawain was already shaking his head doubtfully when I turned for the door.
I shook my head. “I have a better idea.”
When I walked into the dining room, I started, “Nigel, go outside and spread the word to the Vampires that they’re being mustered in the courtyard so they can be relieved before they’re frozen solid. Inform the Shifters so they’re aware that they’ll be receiving new orders from their chain of command soon.”
It was really hard to not laugh at the collection of gaping mouths staring back at me… Nigel’s beak included.
Sookie shook her head and mumbled, “Brandon… Emery… Rousseau… I’m gonna beat your ass.”
I shook my head. “I’m responsible for this… Nigel, you’ve been given an order, and it’s an excuse to run your mouth. What are you waiting for?”
He actually shook his head before flying from his perch on the back of Brandon’s chair.
As I took my seat, Allecks snorted, “I’ll actually be impressed if he can relay such a complicated message.”
“Nigel’s a much better guard than he is a messenger. Shiny things tend to distract him, but he’ll do.”
“A Raven as a guard? How effective can he be defensively?”
Sookie leaned over and breathed, “What the fuck are you doing?” into my ear.
“You tried to tell him about your ability without substantiation even before Vampires were ‘real’… He’s a captive audience in the presence of enough evidence to sway any jury. If he reacts badly, he’ll be glamoured to forget the information.”
She whimpered, “Apparently, it didn’t occur to you that we can’t be glamoured to forget his reaction. I left it to Lindy, Eric. She doesn’t want that in her head.”
“Is it easier for her to hear him blaming you for everything?”
“Yes. She knows it’s because he-”
From the other end of the table, Lindy stated, “Stop.” Clearly, decisively, as though she was in control of a board meeting.
After a moment, Sookie whispered, “She thinks this is the best way to try because there’s so much evidence available. If this doesn’t work, she wants you to promise not to do this again.”
“I promise, but remind her I’m usually right when I’m not being a narcissistic asshole.”
After the girls giggled from the other end of the table, Sookie offered, “They told me to congratulate you for using it in a sentence.”
I blew a raspberry at my Legion. “Brats. All of you…” I turned my attention to Dinh and asked, “How have you faired with the sudden change of pace around here?”
He shrugged and tilted his head. “It’s been exciting… Saskia and I enjoyed shopping for Ema and Hope. Those errands were taken care of before the wedding news. Brandon and Ashley helped us prepare the extra guest rooms. Ema’s computer equipment is still boxed though. I’ll set it up for her, if she wants, but I always have fun playing when I buy new tech items.”
“Her car isn’t in the courtyard. Was there a problem?”
He shook his head. “No sir. It’s in the garage. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to drive it right away and had it moved.”
“She shouldn’t have a problem once she’s out of the immediate area… Ema, if you want to take your car for a drive, feel free. Just take a guard with you. It’ll make me feel better since you were more than likely photographed when we landed… Since we can’t read your mind, you’ll have to tell us if you want or need anything. Sookie and I only gave Dinh a list of basics.”
She sniffled as she nodded. “Okay. Corbett just took me shopping, so I think I’m good for now.”
Corbett chuckled, “She’s gonna need some encouragement, Eric. She grew up on a budget, so she don’t know how to be spoiled.”
Edward was offering to help her take my credit card for a test drive when Nigel peeked around the corner… he was standing in the hallway, making sure to stay out of Allecks’s line of sight, buttoning the fly of his jeans. He hadn’t bothered tying his boots and his shirt was still open.
When Sookie spotted him, she held her breath.
“Has everyone been notified, Nigel?”
His eyes bulged and he opened his mouth only to close it again and nod.
“Is something wrong?”
Nigel pinched his face together and closed his eyes… he actually looked pained.
Gerrit chuckled, “I don’t know whether to view it as a miracle that he’s finally shut up or call for help.”
Lindy took a deep breath and offered, “The Vampires are gathering in the courtyard. Commander Baroja’s men have returned from the airfield with our luggage too, so Nigel told them to bring everything into the hall and then wait with the Vampires so they can be debriefed.” All in one anxious breath.
Allecks gave her an amused look, but when it seemed like he was dismissing Lindy’s ‘guess’, Sookie offered, “Thanks Nigel… Since you’re dressed, why don’t you get some nosh-”
Miles peeked around the corner behind his brother, cartoonishly grinning at Sookie. “Ello! When I came home, my mum tried to feed me. I don’t know how she hasn’t killed us. Sookie, I need you to adopt me.”
Sookie giggled, “After the way you infected my brain with Caramelldansen? Pssssh, you’re lucky I’m still talking to you… Go make a plate. Help your brother. I think he’s having a stroke.”
Miles snorted as he passed through the dining room, “Survival of the fittest, that is. Thank God he’s got no concept of biological functions or we’d be neck-deep in Nigel’s little love Tribbles… Sexy eyes and retard strength.”
He paused long enough to kiss the girls’ cheeks before disappearing into the kitchen and calling for his brother to join him… Nigel chose to take the route to the kitchen through the hallway instead of the dining room.
It hadn’t worked.
Nigel hadn’t cooperated, Miles didn’t say anything specific, and everyone else at the table seemed to be making a game of dropping hints… Cornelius went as far as inviting a ‘Morphbaas’ to accompany him to address the ‘Shifter’ guards when he dismissed the Vampires.
It seemed to me that he was intentionally oblivious. He spoke English fluently. He’d been to the States with Sookie several times. He wasn’t dismissing the terminology as regional colloquialisms. He was ignoring it… all of it. Miles might have to shift while sitting on Allecks’s lap to get it through to him.
And Allecks’s blissfully ignorant state was more obviously voluntary when Misty offered, “There’s a Daemon at the door.”
“That would be Emre, our lawyer.”
Allecks tensed at the mention of my lawyer, but hadn’t reacted to the announcement or her mention of Daemons.
Lindy hopped from Selma’s lap to answer the door and I asked Sookie, “Do you want to meet with Emre first or do you want to feed the beast by making your appearance?”
“I’d be looking for a way to stall anyway, but I’m actually looking forward to legalities for once.”
At least I wasn’t the only one…
Lindy led Emre through the kitchen to where we were all gathered in the dining room… She was holding his hand when all of the females in the room, including my wife, stopped breathing.
Granted, even I noticed how attractive he was when I met him, but…
She blushed and giggled, “I’m sorry… I just… He’s the prettiest Daemon I’ve ever seen…”
Sookie left her seat to introduce herself to Emre and shook his hand, telling him it was nice to meet him.
Meanwhile, Brandon elbowed Ashley, Gerrit growled at Swaantje, I was almost sure Ema, Saskia, Mee, and Selma were drooling… Even Misty, Jenny and Lindy were staring at him.
Gawain chuckled, “You need to fire him before they think of a reason to move to Amsterdam.”
Sookie shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Oh, shut up. I’m not going anywhere.”
It was only mildly amusing that Emre was blushing… I was still waiting for Allecks to react.
Emre cleared his throat and offered, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Queen Sookie.”
“Can I get you anything? We’re all finishing up a late dinner…”
“No thank you, ma’am.”
I suggested, “Legion, why don’t you show Mr. Asker to my office. He can begin reviewing the Auer’s Will while Sookie and Allecks finish their meals.”
As the girls led Emre out of the room, I asked Selma in Greek, “Did you glamour him to ignore evidence of Supernaturals?”
As Selma shook her head, Gawain offered, “He’s annoyed. He thinks it’s a childish game or joke. He thinks he’s being punished for not reading Sookie’s books.”
That was actually funny.
Edward snorted, “Daft cunt,” and didn’t bother with disguising the insult with another language.
Sookie returned to our end of the table to sit on my lap and slid her plate over, leaving her seat empty for one of the Jeffries…
Miles was the only one of them who joined us. Nigel opted to eat his meal in the kitchen.
Miles’s gob was full of cornbread when he said, “Oy. I nearly forgot. Whitey and Yogi are in the foyer. My mum looked after them whilst I slept…”
Before he could finish, Edward and Richard left their seats to fetch their little lizards…
And as soon as the boys returned, Mee gasped, “I want one,” in Mandarin.
No surprise there.
Allecks had actually frozen, forgetting to chew his mouthful. “I don’t want to turn around, do I?”
Brandon shrugged. “It’s just a couple of alligators.”
When the color drained from Allecks’s face, I chuckled, “Vampires aren’t really threatened by undomesticated animals like Humans are… In fact, I had a Lion on the property until recently.”
Dillon turned his head and laughed quietly.
Allecks asked, “Do I want to know what happened?”
“He followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Koninklijke Landmacht… He still visits.”
Another round of snorting and snickering…
Allecks rolled his eyes. “Why would a King settle for something as plain as Wolves, right?”
Simon was not amused. He growled as he excused himself to wash dishes… If I’m not mistaken, he threatened to maul Allecks.
Sookie warned, “There’s nothing wrong with Wolves, Allecks. They just aren’t common here.”
“But they’re common in America, yes?”
She nodded. “They’re the majority, yes…”
“And why is that?”
Gawain offered, “That would be Tyson’s fault… The bigger animals, Wolves and Bears, were hunted. Once the American colonies were born, Weres were lured by the promise of open spaces. Tyson began offering incentives to keep the strongest of his guards. Cash, titles, land… Typically Shifters are stronger than Weres because of breeding, and there’s the added bonus of their versatility. The best were spoiled to keep them from leaving… The second tier was allowed to leave, but was given authority or posts in the colonies… Anna, Clovis, Rodrigo, and Maximo followed suit.”
Mee offered, “It wasn’t long before John Thomas and Zhang began using the same methods,” in Mandarin, so I translated for her.
Allecks couldn’t have been more obviously humoring us when he nodded. “No Africans?”
Sookie snorted, “The first Africans who went to America weren’t willing passengers. They’d been captured. Shackles don’t hold Weres… Why would Africans Weres risk exposing themselves by going to a continent full of Europeans who would enslave them, then shoot them during their first full moon? ”
“Excellent excuse… Sookie, it’s nice that you have friends to brainstorm plot points with, but you shouldn’t make such an effort to make it seem like fact. It could confuse the children.”
Sookie snorted, “Don’t use the children as an excuse to avoid topics that make you uncomfortable… This isn’t one of those ecumenical debates where you can play your atheist card. You’re eating dinner in a Vampire King’s castle. Since Vampire’s are a newly discovered species of humanoid, it’s wholly retarded of you to assume they’re the only cryptids on the planet.”
He stared at her for a moment before it seemed as though he realized he was catching on to a joke. He chuckled, “So, has the Loch Ness Monster sent a wedding gift yet?”
“Shifter. He turned into an Elephant and swam to avoid being followed. The famous photos are of his trunk… Tyson is still laughing about it.”
He laughed, “You always did think on your feet well… Bigfoot then?”
Sookie shrugged, but I offered, “They were actual animals, but they lived in a remote area. Mee and I saw one once… It was like a Japanese Macaque, but it was my height. When we startled it, it ran away on two legs, explaining the manlike descriptions in myths.”
Mee offered, “If I could shit, I would have,” so I translated for her.
Allecks grinned, “This is actually fun… Is Der Butzemann Supernatural too?”
Sookie shook her head. “No… It’s a carefully crafted lie to cover Supernatural fuckery. It was unhinged Vampires feeding from children… The legends are much more popular here in Eric’s Empire because of the bastard who used to be King. He had constant cravings for pregnant women and small children.”
How was it possible for him to be so ignorant?
“But the legends say he hid under beds or in cupboards.”
Sookie took a deep breath and answered, “And the legends exist because there was a sibling in the room who could be glamoured to invite him in through the window and then believe the story. Unfortunately, the PR to keep people from going Vampire hunting gave the pedo-Vamps an MO.”
“So what about…”
Before he could finish, a black Cat leapt onto Allecks’s lap… It might have been the first animal he hadn’t been petrified of.
Alice or Kelly, I couldn’t be sure because their eye color was the only way to distinguish them when they were shifted… But if I had to guess, it was Kelly; Alice wasn’t nearly as bold.
Allecks pet her head and then set her on the floor gently… and a moment later, she appeared on Gawain’s lap.
Gawain stroked her back as he slid his chair out and chuckled, “I’m beginning to think we could be here all night… if someone doesn’t shift.”
At least she was well-behaved enough to look to her Morphbaas… then Gerrit pointed at me.
Before I had the chance to nod, Sookie unbuttoned her cardigan and tossed it to Gawain.
Proof she was sick of trying to convince her ex-husband her ability was real.
As the other Shifters left the room, politely excusing themselves to avoid the energy of Kelly’s shift, Ashley told Brandon he would sleep on the floor if he didn’t record ‘it’… Since Miles seemed unwilling to leave (even though the others had taken their plates with them to the kitchen) he volunteered to be the cameraman.
Meanwhile, Allecks chuckled. Sookie leaned back against me, pulling my arms around her as she whispered, “He thinks nothing will happen and then we’ll say ‘gotcha’… I think maybe the Stackhouses might enjoy pranks too much. Honestly, he’s not completely unjustified. He was velcroed to a bed once.”
I chuckled, “You said he hated the sound of Velcro.”
“He does… and Jason found out when Junior’s little Velcro shoes made Allecks cringe.”
I chuckled, “But it doesn’t sound much different from ripping paper…”
“Should I play with the cellophane from one of the champagne bottles to prove a point?”
“No. We’re picking on Allecks. It’s not my turn.”
She kissed my cheek and giggled, “I can multitask.”
“Excuse me…” Sookie and I looked at Gawain. “Do you two think you can stop flirting for just a few minutes?”
Sookie sighed, “We can try… Kelly, feel free to do your thing.”
Kelly only waited long enough to smile at Sookie, but Allecks had the time to rest his elbows on the table, mocking the performance he thought he was going to witness…
But as soon as Kelly began to shift, Allecks looked like he’d been slapped… his reaction was strong enough that I wasn’t sure his meal wouldn’t make an encore…
And I was sure it didn’t have anything to do with the sounds made during a shift.
I completely expected an overreaction… and for some reason, I decided to talk him through the show…
I used the calmest tone possible to explain, “As shocked as you are to witness this, the only abnormal thing about it is your presence. Just like Vampires did for ages, Shifters, Weres, Faeries, Daemons, Elves, and Witches exist secretly. They aren’t freaks. They aren’t a figment of Sookie’s imagination. The reason you’re being enlightened is because my wife, the mother of your daughter, tried to explain her nature to you, and you assumed she was insane. Sookie’s primarily Human genealogy is enhanced by that of a Faerie ancestor. She’s telepathic, and so is your daughter… Again, they aren’t freaks and they aren’t fictional. You’re being given the unique opportunity to wrap your ‘scientific mind’ around the Supernatural abstract. You’re free to be glamoured, renew your oblivion, but Lindy doesn’t want to hide her nature from you any longer. She doesn’t enjoy keeping secrets from her father.”
“Why… is there more to it? Why have her… shift?”
“Shifting is more obvious. It didn’t seem as though you wanted to catch on. Would you care to test Sookie and Brandon? Think of something more complicated than your reaction because the look on your face makes your shock obvious… something obscure.”
He cleared his throat and once Kelly pushed her arms through Sookie’s cardigan, she waved at him.
Sookie and Brandon offered in unison, “Neurogenic locus notch homolog protein four.”
Richard growled, “Asshole.”
I asked, “What?”
“NOTCH4 is a protein in the gene linked to schizophrenia.”
Allecks shook his head and gasped, “Not them… no… me! This can’t be- Wait!”
There it was. He finally realized they’d actually heard his thoughts.
Sookie offered, “I understood why you assumed I was going nuts when I tried to tell you the first time. Everything that went through your head added up to a great recipe for a standing prescription… It was much easier to just keep it to myself than risk being hospitalized again. My mother was convinced I was nuts.”
“And Lindy can read minds.”
Sookie nodded. “Lindy, Misty and Jenny, all of the girls. Apparently, the trait is dominant.”
He stared blankly in the direction of the centerpiece for what seemed like an eon… I might have been more anxious if Sookie wasn’t so calm about his thought process.
When Kelly began picking from Miles’s plate, Sookie introduced herself and led her to the kitchen so she could prepare her own meal… and when they returned, Kelly was sucking something from her fingers and joking that she was surprised Miles was willing to leave Cajun food to come home.
The collection of bodies filling the archway, the peanut gallery full of nosy Shifters, was hilarious… especially since Alcide or Simon nearly filled it by themselves.
As Sookie returned to my lap, she offered, “Misty and Jenny aren’t as concerned with your reaction because they’re mind-readers, Allecks. They know you love them, but not like you do Lindy. They don’t begrudge you for it. The poor things were surprised that you care at all after what they’d been through…”
“Sookie, you really shouldn’t be listening to my thoughts right now.”
Sookie nodded, but Brandon offered, “Why the fuck not? Your guilt’s actually redeeming.”
Allecks scowled. “Because when one has parents like mine, it’s not exactly pleasant for one to realize he’s become just like them.”
Sookie asked, “Do you have any questions?”
He nodded. “Possibly hundreds, but, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll ask the girls.”