Chapter 42

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Sookie’s POV

Thursday, January 21st

When I opened my eyes, I was wrapped up in Alcide, the same way we laid down. I don’t know why I keep mentioning it, since for months now, it was the norm. When we fell asleep, both of us tended to toss and turn, but we were so comfortable together, we didn’t budge in our sleep. I reached down for his wrist and he chuckled.

“4:30”

“Mmmm, thanks.” I snuggled back and put my arm over his and laced our fingers together.

“You’re not gonna fly out of bed with a list a mile long?”

“Not today. I’ll get up and make breakfast in a lil bit.”

“I don’t have to beg you to stick around for a little while?” He was surprised to say the least.

“Hmmm, as much as I like it when you beg, you get the morning off.”

“I don’t know what to say. I think I might cry.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I think you’ll keep it together.”

He snuggled me closer. “Mmmm. I can’t get enough of this. What are we doing today?”

I rolled onto my back. “On the books, I have mail, internet and phone stuff to do after breakfast.”

“That’s it? Sounds like a cake walk.”

“That’s all I have planned. That doesn’t mean that it’s all that will happen. Especially now that you’ve jinxed me.”

He chuckled and apologized as he pulled me closer and looked down at me.

“You should practice giving powers to people without fucking them. Some of them might come in handy to certain folks.”

I giggled. “What were you thinking?”

“Well, like Tobin. He’s going to be the Nanny for 3 days. You could make him a mimic or eidetic and then he could watch Food network and have no problem cooking for everyone while we’re gone and it’ll help him in school too. Eric already has total recall but the cooking thing escapes him since he can’t taste things. He just likes doing it because it gives him something to do with you.”

I grinned at the thought since other than politics and sex, we hadn’t found a while lot of things to do together, but I stayed on subject. “Can I practice on you?”

He thought about that for a moment. “Umm… I guess.” He was hesitant. He wanted me to practice on Tobin, not him.

I rolled over to face him. I was excited to have a willing guinea pig. “Ok, what do you want? Anything but precognition. You can’t keep a secret to save your life. Do you want to try something that you wouldn’t use a lot, or something that you could have a lot of fun with?”

“Something… I wouldn’t use. Since I can’t be trusted.”

“Oh. My. God. Don’t be such a princess. You know I’m right.”

He chuckled. “So.” He thought for a minute. “How about fire? You don’t find a use for that often, do you?”

“Lighting fire places and candles, but I have found practical applications.”

“Like?”

“Well one night I fell asleep on Eric in the tub. He told me that I heated the water in my sleep. It can be used as a weapon and you can’t burn. You could heal yourself anyway, but you can put your hand in a flame and it wouldn’t  hurt. And freezing comes with it. Ever notice how when we switch ice cream, mine is never melted around the sides?”

“Oh! Then that’s the one for me! Ice cream powers it is!”

I laughed and put my hands on the side of his neck. “Be patient, I’ve never tried this.”

He chuckled again. “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”

Both of us laughed, not at all helping me to concentrate, but it did help me to relax. I thought about it and decided to search for the normal source. I had never given powers except when I was having sex. More specifically, when I was building up to a colossal orgasm. But there was something different about those as opposed to the norm so I searched myself to isolate that ‘memory’. When I found it, buried deep and by itself, it was unassuming like a truffle, I harnessed it. I reached into Alcide and ‘planted’ the power. It probably took 15 minutes to do, but when I was done, I pulled back and he was looking at me.

“Well?”

He chuckled. “Something happened. You were glowing again.”

I held up my hand at my side and produced a small fire ball at the palm of my hand. “Picture it, and imagine its heat. Feel it. It’ll be there.”

He copied what I did and we had success. He sat up and looked at it in disbelief. He moved his hand and as he did the small super nova followed with it. He had a smirk on his pretty lips when he finally broke his gaze. “Ok, now… can I get rid of it without throwing it?”

I sat up and produced another one, now holding one in each hand. “You can either implode it…” I pulled the fire ball in on itself and it was gone. “…Or you can extinguish it.” I pushed down on the other one mentally and I got a small puff of smoke.

He opted to implode it, being the easier of the options. He laid back and stared at me with a goofy grin.

“There are other cool things about it too.”

“I thought you said that you didn’t use it much.”

“I don’t really, but I’ve played.” I leaned over him and cooled my tongue as I flicked it over his nipple. He moaned and wrapped his arm around my back. Then I heated my breath and blew down his ribs getting another moan and a tighter squeeze.

“Oh, that’s going to be a lot of fun to play with.”

“I thought you’d like it. Your coffee and beer will always be the right temperature and ice will never leave a cold spot on the bed again.”

“And the next time some silly bitch dumps ice water down my pants in December, I can dry them instead of letting my nuts freeze.”

I laughed. “There’s that too!”

I laid back down and snuggled to his side. We laid there for a long while and just enjoyed the quiet before I got up for my shower. Alcide, of course, followed me in and leaned against the wall.

**

“Do you think I should make Angela a daywalker?”

“Can you do it?” I looked at him from under the stream of water. “I meant on purpose. Can you do it on purpose?”

I snickered. “More than likely. I gave you a specific power. If Tobin is down, I’ll have a little more practice. Then I can go wake her up and see if she wants to.”

He smiled at me. “It might help her feel more normal. When she’s out during the day, no one would think she’s a vampire.”

That was all I needed to hear. I finished up my shower and left Alcide to his.

When I got out, I collected our clothes and popped to my room to get dressed. I picked a cute little retro 50s style soft pink dress that hit just below my knees with black mermaid pleats and a pair of pink and black heels with an ankle strap.

I could tell that Jason was stirring so I went downstairs and got a hustle on starting breakfast and coffee.

“Morning Tobin, don’t you sleep?”

He smiled at me. “More than you do.”

“Good point. But I’m a freak… So when are you moving in?”

He looked confused. “Moving in?”

“Yeah, you’re here all the time anyway. You might as well. You can have the room next to Angela’s, bunk with Jeremy for a little more privacy or shack up with Febes. Whatever tickles your pickle. You can bring the girls whenever you want or need. Your job gives you the flexibility to tend them when it’s called for.”

“What about ‘you know who’?”

“What about me?” Alcide had used the front stairs and snuck up on Tobin. “I think it’s a good idea.” He knew he’d been a jerk for no reason. He wasn’t scrambling to make nice, but he was trying to make the poor boy feel more comfortable.

Tobin was speechless. He stood there like a statue, his only moving parts were his eyes- which were looking back and forth between Alcide and me. He finally managed to break his trance with a shake of his head. “It wouldn’t be an imposition? To have us around the house all the time?”

I snickered. “Tobin, you’ve been here enough to know that extras are always welcome…”

Alcide butted in. “Except Quinn.”

I cleared my throat with a smile. “… The kids get along great with each other. Plus, if you’re staying here Gamma can have her own room and won’t be sleeping on the couch.”

Alcide pushed the invitation. “You know, it’s not much of a birthday party without other kids. You should check with your mom and see if you can take the girls to Disney with you.”

Tobin was feeling like he was in the Twilight Zone so I left him alone for a minute.

While Tobin thought things over, Alcide turned to me. “Do we know anything about our clerk?”

I smiled at him. “WE don’t, but I do. It’s a lottery. The matches won’t be announced until the banquet.”

“We’ll have to take her with us, won’t we? To Disney.”

“Our clerk will be going with us, yes.”

He eyed me suspiciously through narrowed eyes. “You’re evading.”

“Why, yes I am. Now that we’ve established that, drop it. It’s not right to know everything that’s going to happen. I almost hate it.”

“Why would you hate it? You’ve already used it to save lives and you get some peace of mind from it.”

“Yeah, but I’m also sitting on some stuff that my 3/8 of Were is dying to blurt out.”

I poured juice or coffee for everyone and set Tobin, Alcide and Jason’s breakfast out, standing to eat mine.

Alcide thought about it for a minute before he smiled and decided to push. “What could you possibly be so anxious to tell people?”

I went over to him and put my hands on either side of his face and projected to him the part of my vision that I shared with Eric, the one with all of us in the yard enjoying our life together. I had my eyes shut to concentrate, so I didn’t see the look on his face as the memory played. When I had shown him enough I pulled my hands away and opened my eyes. He looked like I had just hit him.

“Happy now butthead?”

He cleared his throat. “Sookie?”

I grinned at him. “Yeah Beb?” I shifted my eyes to remind him that Tobin was still in the room.

He had a lot he wanted to say but none of it could be said in front of Tobin yet. He lowered his eyes to his plate and muttered ‘they’re beautiful’ before he forced himself to start eating.

**

Jason was downstairs just a few moments later and I greeted him. Alcide stayed quiet and stuck to his food.

Once Jason was out the door, I decided to talk to Tobin about gifting him a power.

“Hey kid.”

He looked up from his term paper. “I’m thinking about it. I can’t think of a reason not to except for Febes.”

I was amused that he thought I was going to nag him. “What about her?”

“Well, we’ve only been together for a week. Moving in together, even like this, might fuck things up.”

Alcide stayed engaged by offering an idea. “Well then, bunk with Jeremy and Goose. That way you two will have separate corners to go to when you get on each other’s nerves. You can give the girls a moto when they sleep over if it makes them feel better or just stay in the house on those nights.”

He smiled at us and nodded. “Okay then. I can do that.”

I smiled at him. “Sweet deal. That’s not what I was going to talk to you about though. How do you feel about being a guinea pig?”

He looked uneasy. “What kind of experiment are you talking about?”

“Alcide was thinking that it might be helpful if you were eidetic. It’d help you in school, but to suit our needs, you’d be able to watch the food network and cook anything. Or I could make you a mimic, but that wouldn’t help with school. You’d be able to pole dance like me though.”

He laughed and shook the mental image of himself working a pole away. “Wouldn’t it be like cheating though?”

“In school? No. Having total recall isn’t cheating at all. Angela had it before she was a vampire. All it does is help you remember everything. It won’t help with labs or knowing what’ll be on tests.”

“Have you ever done it before? Given someone a power?”

Before I could answer him, Alcide produced a fireball and a shit eating grin and Tobin’s eyes grew and his jaw opened.

I smiled at him. “That’s the first power I’ve given on purpose though. The other times, were accidental.”

Tobin chuckled nervously. “Do I want to know what else you’ve given?”

Alcide grabbed his knife and I took it from him before he could cut himself. “Don’t you dare. You’re sister just cleaned this floor.”

He laughed at me. “It’s not like I was going to open a vein. I was just going to scratch my arm.”

“Oh… alright.”

I handed the knife back to him and he cut his arm. I called him a liar as I went to get a paper towel for the droplets of blood that spilled to the floor. By the time I got back to him the cut was gone so I had no qualms about swatting the back of his head and making him clean his own mess.

Tobin was still speechless so I went ahead and grabbed the hair kit and climbed up to do Alcide’s hair, smoothing it into a pony tail. After spilling blood on my floor, he’s lucky I didn’t give him handlebars.

I had put the hair kit away before Tobin opened his mouth to speak again. “How do you do it?”

“All you have to do is sit still and I put my hands on your neck. It takes a few minutes, but it’s painless.”

He shrugged. “Ok. I’m game.”

I tried to hide how excited I was to have another guinea pig. I walked over to him and stood behind his chair and put my hands on his neck at his shoulders and, because I knew what steps to take this time, I delivered his photographic memory much more quickly than the ‘gifting’ I had done earlier. When I was done I turned and looked at Alcide and he was grinning at me.

“Ok kiddo, test it.” I patted his shoulders and walked back over to start on more breakfasts. “Read something online. You should be able to recite it when you’re done.”

He turned his attention back to his computer and started reading for a bit. I watched him close his eyes for a few minutes and when he opened them, all he could say is “HOLY SHIT!”

Alcide and I laughed. “That’s not all. After a few days, you’ll start to realize that you remember everything from before. It’ll slowly all come back to you, like you never forgot it.”

He smiled at me. “Thanks a bunch. I already had a 3.8, but I had to work my ass off for it. This will definitely make life easier.”

“Glad I could help.”

**

I plated up the last round of breakfasts and towed Alcide with me to Angela’s room, both of us had an excited smile on our face. When we entered her room we saw her curled up like a little girl, wrapped in her comforter. Alcide sat in her desk chair and I sat on the bed next to her and started stroking her hair, hoping that today would be one of the lucky times that I’d be able to raise the dead.

She slowly started to stir after a few minutes and when her eyes opened I was smiling at her. She was still very groggy.

“Sookie? Is something wrong? What time is it?”

“Everything is fine Poppet. It’s about 7:30.”

She was understandably confused. “How am I awake?”

“It’s one of my things. I’m like a backup generator for you guys. I wanted to ask you something.”

She started to sit up and noticed that Alcide was in the room too. She offered him a smile and a little wave. “Ok what’s up?”

“You know that Pam and Eric are daywalkers right?”

She nodded.

“I’m responsible for that. It was an accident because it was a new power, but this morning Alcide and Tobin helped me figure out how to give specific powers. Sweetie, if you want, I can make you a daywalker.”

She stared at me for a moment like she was waiting for a very cruel ‘gotcha’ or ‘just kidding’. “You’re serious?”

“Pardon the pun, but, I’m dead serious. If you want it, you can have it.”

She smiled and I watched her eyes rim with blood. “Oh… I want it. Sookie, I’ll take it.”

I smiled back at her and took a tissue from her nightstand to wipe her face. “There is a catch though. Eric and Pam being day walkers can be chalked up to his being her maker and it being their vampire gift, but if you are known to be one too eventually someone will figure out that I have that power. So, you’ll need a Diana Prince to go with your Wonder Woman when you’re out and about. You won’t have to use it often at home. Have you been practicing?”

She nodded and closed her eyes and quickly changed into Janice then Febes then me and opened her eyes. It was really weird to be looking at myself like that. I smiled at her for showing off as she changed into herself again. “Are you ready?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

I scooted closer to her and wrapped my arms around her to start the process of delivering a special gift to my favorite pet. It didn’t matter that she was my only pet, she’d always be my favorite… It didn’t matter that she was only a year younger than me, I loved her like one of the kids.

When I was all done, I sat back and she was looking at Alcide over my shoulder who was smiling like Christmas came early.

“Come on girls, let’s go test the water.”

We got up and Alcide held one of her hands and I had the other. She held onto us both with a vice grip as we inched our way down the hall and Alcide had the honors (again) of slowly opening the door. She tensed as he turned the knob and was trembling by the time he started pulling it open. As the hall filled with ambient light and she was unharmed she slightly relaxed and we slowly made our way from the hall, around the stairs and into the sunlight flooded kitchen, holding our breath (well 2/3 of us were).

By the time we got to the kitchen, her face was covered with crimson tears. Tobin and Febes were frozen as they saw us walking her into the light. We were in the middle of the kitchen when she let go of Alcide’s hand and bounced up and hugged me with her arms and legs. She was laughing and crying at the same time, singing a seemingly endless string of thank yous. When she pealed herself from me, smearing blood on my face when she kissed my cheek, she launched herself at Alcide and then made the rounds. Everyone’s shock was shoved out of the way to make room for the contagious bliss dripping from our little ginger girl.

I was so happy for her I cried a little too.

“When the kids wake up, I’m going to take them for a walk to the pond! Is that ok? Oh, I wonder if Eric will let me ride with them. Oh! This is so exciting!… OH MY GOD! I can take the kids to Serendipity for frozen hot chocolates when we go to New York! I can take them to the zoo! I can…” She started her string of thank yous all over. It did worry me a little that she wasn’t mentioning anything more personal. But I loved to see her get this excited. She was bouncing all over the kitchen in her little green night shirt and all Alcide and I could do was smile. She must have gone on like that for several minutes and I knew she was being loud, but I didn’t have the heart to quiet her. Manen was the first one to rise. She was rubbing her eyes when she came to the top of the stairs she saw Angela flitting around like a crazed ballerina.

“Angela?” She ran down the stairs so fast I was worried she’d fall and she launched herself into Angela’s arms. “Momma fixed you?”

“Yes she did Punkin. She fixed me right up.” Alcide gave my hand a little squeeze as the girls stood there celebrating with a hug and more joyful tears.

Hunter was the next one to come out of the room. He saw his sister and teacher locked in their embrace and joined the party. The three of them stood in the kitchen and held on to each other, looking like a contented little tree.

It hadn’t taken them long at all to grow attached to her, but that could be said of all of us.

I went back to the kitchen and cleaned my face before I got to work cleaning up the breakfast aftermath.

I caught myself smiling. Uncontrollably grinning from the bliss standing in the room with me, excitedly planning a day outdoors with the children; a picnic at the pond and a nature scavenger hunt. She sent them upstairs to bathe and ready for their ‘fun in the sun’ and ran to her room to shower and get ready herself.

I looked up at Alcide who had the same delirious smile on his face as I did. “Thank you.”

He looked surprised. “What did I do?”

“It could have been ages before I thought to try giving a power on purpose if you hadn’t suggested it. You even took one for the team to help me practice. So, thank you.”

He smiled at me. “Take one for the team, my ass. You don’t know how much melted ice cream pisses me off.”

**

“Shug, I know you don’t want to leave the house today, do you want to make a list and I can go to the store for the stuff for their picnic?”

I smiled up at him. “No need, we have plenty…” My phone rang and my heart sunk. It was the ‘Lassie’ ringtone. It was only 8am and good news never calls this early. Fuck.

“Sam, what’s up?” Alcide was still laughing at the ringtone. He had always gotten a kick out of it.

“Arlene is at my place, she’s frantic and I can’t get anything out of her. Can I put her on the phone with you?”

I took a deep breath and rolled my eyes and looked at Alcide. “I’ll be right back.”

I popped to Sam’s porch and knocked on his door. At that time of day, no one would see me, so I wasn’t worried.

He was startled when he opened the door and it was me. I laughed at him when he didn’t even take the phone from his ear when he invited me in.

I walked over to Arlene and stood over her as she hyperventilated. “Arlene, what’s happened? Where are the kids?”

“they’re..gasp gasp…at…gasp…school…”

Ok. Now I see why my hysterics were so annoying to Pam when we first met. This was excruciatingly drawn out. Time for ‘help’. I sat down next to her and put my hand on her knee and she calmed instantly and within seconds her breathing was normal again. “Let’s try that again, in English. What’s going on?”

“I checked out of the hotel early so that the kids wouldn’t miss another day of school. I dropped ‘em off and went home. Sookie, my furniture is gone some guy is sitting out front and says he won’t leave and someone will be there to watch me when he leaves. That Vampire is stalking me.”

“What do you mean, ‘gone’?”

“New beds and a TV and couches and dining room… my stuff is gone.”

I rolled my eyes. I figured that it was Truman related and he’s probably just going a little overboard with making amends. Stupid Vampire. I told her to stand up and I grabbed her hand and Sam’s and popped to her front yard. I was going to need another breakfast by the time I was done with her melodrama. We had landed facing the house and hadn’t been there longer than a second before I heard a truck door opening and footfalls coming up behind me and I could hear the muscles in Arlene and Sam tense up.

I hadn’t even turned around yet, I could smell him and hear his brain. “Don’t you dare!” The footfalls didn’t stop. “DougRay Aesop Burrows, if you tackle me in this dress, you will end up in the ER again!”

He stopped and I let go of Arlene and Sam to turn around and he was right behind me and laughing. He lifted me into a big hug as my feet dangled.

“Hey Sunshine, I didn’t know y’all are friends. Is that why Truman hired me?”

“Sort of. What are you doing working for him?”

“He called the… PM in Jackson and 3 of us came to shift out watching over her. Said something about Fellowship. You know how vamps are to get details from. He pays me to watch out, I watch out.”

“What are you armed with? God knows you can get your ass kicked by a girl.”

He chuckled. “The usual… And you’re not just any girl, Sunshine.”

I just smiled at him. “So, do you know the other two?”

“Yeah, good guys.” He turned to Arlene. “I’m sorry I scared you. We were sent to watch out for the house and you and the kids. When you took off, I figured I’d wait until you came back to explain instead of spooking you more.”

I don’t know how, but Arlene managed to stutter a nod.

“Doug, do you have a day guy number?”

“No, I report to Truman directly… Why are you so dressed up? It woulda been nice to see you in your PTs.”

I heard Sam let out an exasperated sigh and just knew he rolled his eyes. “Eric’s been out of town this week. He’ll be home in just a few minutes so I wore something pretty for him, but I had to pop out here to make sure you didn’t give her a heart attack. And stop flirting with me, there’s already a line.”

He smiled at me, flashing all of his teeth. “Sorry. I can’t help myself around a D-cup that can throw for 50 yards after a dislocated shoulder.” I slugged his shoulder and we both laughed. “What do we do? I answer to Truman, but he answers to you.”

“How long have you been on her?”

“Since last night.”

“He might have you here because something is rotten in Denmark. Stay put. I’ll get to the bottom of things by tonight. You looking for full time?”

He smiled. “With y’all?”

“Fangtasia needs bouncers and I’m about to pull rank on Eric about our Fangs. One of them brought these two into my house unannounced and they’d never been over before. Alcide and I were, uh… unarmed.”

He laughed at the thought. “Fuck that. Just ‘cause they can drain them, doesn’t mean they’re smart enough to know a threat.”

I laughed. “That’s what I’m saying!”

“Shit yeah, I’ll drop anchor in Shreveport. When can I start?”

“You got somewhere to stay?”

“Yeah, I got kin out here.”

“I’ll call you later once I talk to Truman about things… Alcide had to toss a jerk for groping me the other night. Our bouncers are getting replaced for being lazy, we need bartenders, bouncers and waitresses. I’ll interview next Thursday, if you know anybody.”

“I’ll spread the word.”

“Good, good. Now go get your ass back in your truck so I can tend to Arlene and Sam.”

Just then, my phone rang again. It was the piano intro for Werewolves of London making Doug laugh and Sam’s eyes roll again.

“Everything’s fine, here big guy.”

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing as it turns out. I’ll explain when I get back.”

“Eric felt you move. He’s freaking out because when he called, I didn’t have any answers. What do I tell him? He’s like 15 minutes out.”

“Let him know it’s just another day in the Truman saga and that I’ll get home the same time he does. Thanks. I love you.”

“Love you too, Shug.”

I reached up and gave Doug a squeeze before the three of us went into Arlene’s house to check things out.

**

Truman had been very busy. He had replaced Arlene’s mismatched living room ‘set’ with a very pretty brown and pink floral tapestry set including matching end tables and lamps. The details hadn’t escaped him, he had hung new drapes and added a new area rug. He had filled a large wood entertainment center with new electronics including but not limited to a PS3. He had bought loft beds for the kids’ room and underneath were desks with notebook computers and he had hung a flat screen on the wall. Arlene’s room had a brass canopy bed straight out of a Harlequin romance novel with a country floral bedding set. He had bought new appliances for the kitchen and bought her a very pretty tile top table for it too. Every room had a fresh arrangement of roses with a card signed: “My many apologies.”

He had even over seen this himself, I could smell that he’d been here. He wears Armani Code.

“Arlene, from what I can get out of this, Truman hired Doug and the others because he knows he didn’t get them all. I’ll call him at sunset and find out the particulars and let you know what’s going on.”

Sam seemed aggravated. “Sookie, when are his apologies going to stop?”

I huffed at him. “When Eric stops them, to be honest. Truman feels bad about taking the kids. There ARE worse things than having an overzealous apology, you know.”

Arlene was still wandering around her little trailer in shock at how nice it looked. She hadn’t ever had new furniture and never would have been able to afford it any of it.

“Like what?”

I stared him down. “He could have drained her and the kids because he was angry that he got caught.” I said it as matter of fact as I would have said ‘the sky is blue’ and he stepped off of his soapbox. “Look guys, I know this seems weird, that he bought you a car, and scholarships and furniture, but vampires get a little numb after a while and forget how to show emotion. They tend to buy things. This is a really good apology by vampire standards.”

Arlene was actually paying attention, like she were taking a class. “What do you mean?”

“Well, Truman seems to be pretty practical. He saw that your car was crap and got you a new one. He saw that your stuff was aged and replaced it. He got you sensible things as opposed to tickets to Paris or ridiculous jewelry. What’s more, everything is related to the kids because that is what he’s truly sorry about. His apology improved their home and future.”

Arlene snorted as she looked around. “What kind of stuff have you gotten from your vampires.” She flopped herself down on the couch and burrowed in a little, looking much calmer now that she wasn’t worried about having a stalker and quite comfy.

“Bill only ever bought me underwear when we were together. He bought me earrings when he screwed up once.”

She smiled up at me. “What about Eric?”

I couldn’t help but grin. “My favorite thing he’s bought me was a driveway. We were just friends, but he noticed that I needed it and knew I was too proud to ask anyone for help.”

“You ever get apologies?”

“Not really. I get weird thank you gifts though. I have an historic monastery in New Orleans and I just got 8 horses, all as thank yous…” I felt a sudden quickening so I centered my attention on Eric and he was home again.

“Shit. Eric’s home. Come on let’s git.”

I took them by the hands and popped them back to Sam’s living room.

I gave them both a friendly hug and told Arlene that I’d call her later with news.

**

I popped back to our front porch just in time to see them pulling up the driveway and I could feel how happy he was to be back, but there was something else going on underneath his homecoming joys.

I ran out to the car and launched myself at him, crashing my mouth against his. He smiled as we kissed and he scooped me up and started carrying me towards the house. As soon as our bodies touched I knew what his underlying issue was… He was hungry.

“Lover, I missed you.”

“I missed you too. Silly, huh.”

“That we’d miss each other?”

I smiled into his confused face. “In perspective, yeah. We’ve gone months without contact and now 72 hours apart was miserable.”

He grinned at me. “I’ve always been miserable without you. I just didn’t know it.” He stopped walking to concentrate on giving me a very slow, steamy, romantic kiss. I didn’t want it to end but when it did he was smiling at me. We could both feel the kids heading our way at breakneck speed so he set me down. “I missed this too.” He squatted down with his arms open and they slammed into his chest like cackling cannon fire.

Pam came up behind me sleepy eyed, having finally gotten out of the car. She put her hand on my shoulder. “Miss me?”

I turned around to hug her. “Oh, more than you know. Pammy, the house wasn’t the same without you. I heard you’ve been shopping for our girls.”

She smiled at me. “I’m sure Eric exaggerated.”

I smiled back at her. “I doubt it and I can’t wait to see what you got.”

She looked relieved that I wasn’t upset with her. We didn’t get another word in before the kids noticed her and shrieked after her and ran over to deliver her welcome home.

Eric came back over to me, still holding onto a very contented grin. He bent over to give me another very sweet kiss and hugged me to him. “So, lover, what have you been up to while I was gone?”

We watched Alcide walk by us and go over to Pam, hugging her tight and planting a long kiss on her without a word.

I smiled up at Eric. “I’ve been keeping myself busy.”

He eyed me steadily. “And this morning?”

“The short version: Arlene went home, freaked out, went to Sam, Sam called me, I popped out there to find out that Truman had bought new furniture for her trailer and put a detail on her.”

“The job isn’t done?” He was still smiling but I could tell that he was disappointed.

“Not for lack of trying. Arlene didn’t know who one of them was. I just didn’t tell her that she might still be in danger. Doug is one of her guards though and I hired him as a bouncer and told him to spread the word for next Thursday interviews.”

“Quite the multi-tasker, aren’t you.”

“I try. I’ve been working on a couple of surprises too.”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Surprises?”

I nodded and pointed behind him. He turned around and Angela was sheepishly walking out of the garage. He quickly let go of me to go sweep her off her feet into a big hug. “I didn’t think it was possible, kid, but you’re even prettier in the sunlight.”

He set her down so that Pam could congratulate Angela with a long hug.

Eric was eyeing me with astonishment. “Sookie, how did you do it?”

I giggled. “It was Alcide’s idea to try doing it on purpose. I did a couple of dry runs and it worked, so I woke her up and asked her if she wanted to be a freak like y’all. Badda bing, badda boom.”

His look finally got serious. “Sookie, people will know that it’s because of you. You’ll be in danger now.”

Angela ‘cleared her throat’ and everyone looked over to her. She changed before our eyes. Cute, petite, redheaded Angela transformed into taller, thicker brown haired woman with brown eyes. “Just call me Diana when we’re out during the day and no one will be the wiser.” She was even speaking without her Amarillo drawl.

**

Everyone was smiling again as we headed back into the house and settled into the kitchen. Alcide and I caught Pam and Eric up on the past few days while I started packing a picnic lunch for the explorers.

I went out to the garage to grab the picnic basket I had seen on top of the work benches. I amused myself by wondering who he’d taken for a picnic. There was an uncorked bottle of wine and a wine glass in it.

Eric had followed me out. “It was for you. It was in my car the night you had your date with Quinn. There was fruit and cheese in there too.”

“Aww. And I spoiled it by being a bitch. I’m sorry.”

He chuckled and wrapped his arms around behind me and we shared another long kiss. “It made me want you even more. I did enjoy the hunt.”

I smiled up at him. “As it turns out, so did I. Would you like to break up so we can do it again?”

He chuckled. “No. The trophy is more fun than the hunt ever was. And far more beautiful up close.”

I giggled. “Eric Northman, when did you get so sweet?”

He leaned down and put his lips so close to mine that I could feel their coolness. “Shhh, the wrong people might find out.” He kissed me again, pressing our bodies together.  We were both throbbing against one another and couldn’t wait to be alone. I was perfectly happy to stand right in that spot forever and be together and actually grimaced when he ended our kiss and led me back to the kitchen to finish my task.

Pam was happily perched on Alcide’s lap in a dining room chair and all 5 kids were standing by the back door in their jackets or sweaters waiting for the basket of lunch so that they could set out on their adventure.

As I packed up the basket, Eric smiled at me from the bar stool across from me. “Lover you said there were more surprises.”

I gave him a smirk and handed the basket to Angela. I went over to him as the kids filed out the door with the Febes, Tobin and Janice. I laced our fingers together and looked into his sparkling blue eyes. “Now or later?”

He looked like he might actually be trying to think about it for a second or two. “Now.”

I popped us out to the barn.

He looked down at me, confused, maybe even slightly disappointed. I started walking him to one of the stalls and then moved out of the way. “Eric, meet Northern Lights.” I pointed to the stall across from us. “That’s Laid to Runes.”

He smiled at me and opened the gate to enter slowly. He gently put his hands up to the face of ‘Northy’ (as Jeremy had been calling him) and started stroking him and admiring the beautiful steed. “Sookie, he’s beautiful. How did you find him?”

“I cheated. I told Jeremy Monday morning what I had in mind and he did everything. He had the delivery set up before you ever got to New Orleans.”

I was relieved when Jeremy came around the corner since I knew very little about horses. They talked about the details on the horses for several minutes while Eric took one of the saddles and Jeremy nervously watched him strap it to the horse and then fit the bridle and bit to him and lead him out. All the while, the horse made no motion to show that he wasn’t going to cooperate.  Eric led him to the pasture and away from the other horses. He took the bridle and pulled Northy’s face down to his and stared him in the eye for a moment before he walked over and put his foot in the stirrup. Jeremy visibly tensed and put my hand on the back of his shoulder and whispered. “He can’t die, Bubba. Don’t worry.”

“That horse wouldn’t let me saddle him. If he bolts…”

We watched Eric slowly rise and softly put himself in the saddle. “Shhh. It’s fine. Can you saddle one for me so I can ride with him?”

He looked at me for a minute before he nodded. So I popped to my bedroom. As I changed into a pair of jeans and a light pink henly and boots, I giggled to myself at the sounds coming from Alcide and Pam’s room. I popped back out to the barn and walked out to the pasture. Eric was in Northy’s saddle and Jeremy was just finishing saddling “Almond Joy.”

She was a very pretty little leopard mare and actually had mottled dark brown and white markings; like dark chocolate and coconut. I still hadn’t had the chance to ride, so I had to have Jeremy show me some basics.

Eric hadn’t even seemed to notice that I had left and come back. He was happily walking the horse around and getting him used to the feel of things apparently. I started to ‘aim’ Joy in his direction and that’s when he noticed me and rode over to meet me. He leaned over in his saddle to kiss me and lingered when he was done. “Thank you, Lover. This is a surprise I won’t ever forget.”

He called over to Jeremy to open the gate for us and we rode out into the woods.

**

He had kept Northy to Joy’s pace while we meandered through the woods lazily for a while in the quiet.

“So Eric, horses and women, huh.”

He smirked at me. “Horses and most women.”

I smiled back at him. “How did things go in New Orleans?”

“Business was boring. I missed being here before we left the property.”

I chuckled. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

Eric snorted. “Everyone already knows. I was an asshole the full time we were gone unless I was in contact with you. Pam shopped because she missed Alcide.”

“He missed her too. We all missed you guys.”

“This was the first time I have ever hated traveling. It has been a nuisance at times but I have always found a way to deal with it. I tried to pop home and had no success. I imagine it was too far for me.”

I snorted. “The bond was working just fine though. I got so angry this morning when I felt you so close and then got that damn call. I wanted to scream.”

“About that… What am I to do about Truman?”

I stared at him for a minute. I couldn’t believe that he was asking me how to deal with one of his subjects. “Why are you asking me?”

He smirked at me. “Because you’re the boss.”

“Honey, if you don’t like this, then I will resign. I don’t want you to think I’m going to pull rank on you.”

He halted his horse. “Sookie, that’s not what I meant. Technically, this is your arena. This is vampire versus human. I will punish him but you are far more acquainted with the circumstances and I was asking you because I trust your opinion.”

I couldn’t have been more surprised. King Eric the Northman was asking my opinion. “Well, had Truman been able to get to you, how would his king have handled him?”

He thought about that for a bit. “I’d have given him permission to handle things quietly.”

“And the children?”

“Were they frightened?”

“Not in the least. They were happy to see me, not relieved. Truman glamoured the altercation away so they don’t know what happened before their field trip. When he went to apologize to her at the hotel, they greeted him with a hug. Sam said that they acted like he was the ice cream man.”

“And they are completely unharmed?”

“Not a hair on their sweet little heads.”

He shrugged. “Lover, I wouldn’t punish him with anything other than making him give an apology and recompense.”

I smiled. I liked Truman and thought that being terrified since Monday was punishment enough, all things considered. “Then we need to know why he hired the guard and then he should have a pool put in for them.”

He smiled at me. “You are going to have me punish him with a pool?”

“You have to deliver some kind of fine officially, otherwise you will look like a pushover.”

His smile broadened with his approval. “So lover, how will we do our interviews? Fangtasia is usually quite busy on Thursday nights.”

“Not the new one. I’ll call Clancy and have him stock the new one with one or two of everything to audition the prospective bartenders. Then they can start training right away.”

“That is a good idea. Tell me how you are handling things.”

I smiled at his interest. “Well, I ordered some merchandising, the glassware and have the sound guy coming out on tomorrow to install the house PA and stereo. We need 20 servers,10 bouncers and at least 5 more bartenders. I’ve already told Clancy and Felicia about the new uniforms and ordered the uniforms for the rest of the staff. And Jared and Dawn’s crew is almost done.”

“Uniforms?”

“Bartenders will wear red dress shirts (and black ties for the men) and black bottoms. The bouncers will all have black t-shirts with the Fangtasia fangs on the breast and ‘Fangtasia Security’ on the back. They’ll wear black jeans and a belt. I ordered dresses for the servers. They are a black lace baby doll style and look a bit like a nightie. They’ll wear a red satin ribbon as a choker and be responsible for their own black or red heels. I found a laundry service that can pick up on Mondays. On the off chance we find sexy male servers, they’ll be responsible for their own black dress pants and I’ll order their shirts. The last of the furniture and the booze will be delivered on Tuesday. Sound good?”

He had been smiling the entire time I had been rattling on. “It sounds perfect lover. Where were you when I opened the first Fangtasia?”

I chuckled wryly and deadpanned. “Slinging Nattie Ice to the throwbacks in Pissdorf.”

He laughed and tried to look disappointed in me. “You’re getting airs about you, Majesty.”

I snickered. “Bite me.”

He licked his lips and cut his eyes at me, but kept talking. “And everything is on schedule, on track, within budget?”

I smiled and waited for him to get from curious to eager. “Everything is ahead of schedule and under budget. The bathroom tile is the last thing to go in and that happens tomorrow. And you are back in the black.”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “How did you do that? The doors haven’t even opened yet!”

I giggled. I was very proud of myself. “My inbox was full of emails requesting info on the opening. I sold tickets. A portion of the proceeds go to charity and at $5,000 per head, the 400 tickets were gone in one day. That is 100 grand for you and 100 grand for the American Red Cross. I gave 10 tickets to each of the area radio stations to promote them away and 4 of them will be broadcasting from the parking lot as well as all 3 networks and 14 different show crews. Including… one of the tattoo shows is setting up and giving Fangtasia logo tattoos to anyone willing to line up, and one of the car shows is ‘pimping out’ a hearse to give it away. It will be a mob scene… for a long time. I’ve already notified the SPD about crowd control, your other tenants about the traffic and ordered the red carpet. How’d I do?”

He looked at me for so long, I was worried that he might stare holes into my face. “Lover, are you serious?”

I laughed out loud.  “I’m not a big enough bitch to tell you all of that and then tell you ‘just kidding’! The public opening will be $100 per head until things die down. The website has already gotten over a million hits since it went up yesterday… The vermin want naked pictures of you.”

In all seriousness he shrugged and said: “Doesn’t everyone.”

I couldn’t help myself. I laughed so hard I spooked Joy a little and nearly fell off of her. Eric decided that we should head back before I hurt myself.

**

When we finally got our horses back and got them settled in, he came over to hold us close together, leaning in for a long kiss. Eventually, I started to giggle. “We stink.” I hopped up and wrapped my legs around him and popped us to our bathroom.

When we landed, he had a smile on his face. “I like the way you think.” I could hear the water start to run in the tub and he smiled into another kiss. He was way too proud of himself for using his telekinesis. He slid his hands under my shirt and started pealing it off slowly. He set me down and started unbuttoning my jeans and sliding them down, just as slowly. Once he had relieved me from my clothes, I got to take my turn. I hadn’t been alone while he was gone for more than a minute or two at a stretch, so I hadn’t been lonely. But having him gone was like part of me was missing. So taking his clothes off of him gave me the sense of opening a present that had been on a wish list for too long. He may have been the one that had to go away, but this was my homecoming. He reached down to lift me and wrap my legs around him to walk us to the tub and sit in the warm water. I lifted just enough to lower myself onto him and before I had the chance to move a muscle he stopped me. When I tried to kiss him he held me off. He stared into my eyes without a word for to longest time with his hands resting on the back of my hips.

“Lover, I miss just being together.”

We sat there, staring into each other’s eyes. Together. We were coupled against one another as a yin and yang, unmoving yet erotic. The more time we stared into each other, the stronger I could feel our connection. It was as though we were a conduit for electrical energy and we were both starting to feel a spring of arousal swelling to the surface.

Still and together, as my breathing quickened I noticed his jaw clench and unclench. I wanted to throw my head back and close my eyes, but I knew that it would sever the intimacy of our moment. Eric’s chest started to vibrate as he fought to stay settled and my breathing had increased to a pant. We held each other’s gazes as I started glowing. The new light in the room reflected onto his face giving him a shine of his own. We lingered on the edge of our release for so long that I was starting to think that it our bliss might not happen without a push.

When our patience was at last rewarded, I can only think to describe it as nuclear. We stayed in our once suspenseful position and held each other tighter and closer than we ever had before. I had never felt so close to Eric and right at that moment in time, I couldn’t bear the thought of being far enough away from him that I couldn’t feel him. We stayed in the moment for as long as we could, but finally I was distracted by the bath water’s now cool temperature and he chuckled when I warmed it.

Since the moment was over, I leaned back slightly and looked at him sternly. “You need to feed.”

“No, Sookie…”

“I can tell. You need to feed. What are you waiting for?”

Eric smiled at me before he kissed my lips lightly and trailed down to my chin and finally I heard his fangs run out and he teased my neck for a moment. When he pierced my skin I started to vibrate all over again. He pulled and pulled until the punctures started to heal themselves. I had to tell him to keep going for him to go after seconds, but when he did start drinking again I started to come the moment that I felt that familiar pinch. Of course my reaction encouraged a round of… inspiration and athletics.

We had spent a couple of hours in the tub by the time we were done cleaning. The two of us went into our respective closets after I grabbed my bra and panties from my dresser and we both came out wearing black jeans, gray tank tops and black boots. I smiled at him and went over to my dresser and reached into my top drawer and slid on my new necklace, tucking it into my shirt.

“Lover, may I see that?”

I snickered. “You already have.” I walked over to him and waited for him to pull it out of my cleavage.

When he did, he inspected it closely with a smirk on his yummy lips. “Why would you keep a bullet?”

I stood on my toes and kissed his cheek. “That is from the night of the raid.”

“You saved a bullet from Dallas? Why would you have saved a bullet from Dallas?” There was an edge to his voice. Dallas would probably always be a sore subject for him.

“It’s not just any bullet.” I leaned closer and kissed his shoulder where his scar would be if… well, if.

His eyes widened. “You saved the bullet from my shoulder? The one you sucked out? The one I tricked you into sucking out?”

I smiled at him and waited for him to laugh at how foolishly sentimental I am for keeping it. He did no such thing. He gently placed my chain back inside my shirt and turned to open his nightstand drawer. When he turned back around he had a half smile on his face and his hand out to give something to me. He handed me a small vial, like an old pill bottle with a small cork in it, only an inch or so tall. The contents almost looked like diamonds; it contained about a dozen shards of glass.

“Safety glass! You saved the glass from my arm.” We shared a smile and I leapt into his arms for a smooch. “You’re almost as weird as I am.”

He chuckled as he kissed me back. “Why did you keep it?”

“It was the fourth time that you had taken care of me in less than a month. That meant something to me.”

“The 4th time?”

“You saved me from Long Shadow. When the Maenad attacked me, you stayed by me and drank her poison to help save me. You could have left ‘Bill’s human’ in the hotel room to wait for him, but you stayed with me and tended to me. And you shielded me and stayed with me at Stan’s. That, my dear, is definitely worthy of keeping a reminder. You’re turn. Why’d you keep the glass?”

“Because you were the first thing since I died that I found myself wanting to take care of. Little did I know that it was just the beginning. You’ve surrounded me with things worth caring about.”

I grinned at him. “Speaking of which, they’re heading back home.” I bounced out of his arms.

**

When we emerged from our room holding hands, rather than heading downstairs, he led me down the catwalk to Pam and Alcide’s room. Eric actually knocked and Pam called for us to ‘enter’. They were both laying in bed semi-covered in a sheet, Alcide’s arm was draped over Pam’s ribs.

I bounced onto the bed and laid down next to Pam, giving her a smiley smooch. “Welcome home, Pammy.”

She grinned at me. “Thank you Sookie. I’m quite happy to be back.”

Eric sat on the edge of the bed and jumped into conversation, as per the norm. The sky is up and Eric Northman wastes no time getting right to business. “So mutt, did Sookie keep you in the loop concerning Fangtasia?”

Alcide’s confused look answered the question.

Pam looked at me wonderingly. “What concerns do we have?”

I giggled. “Eric, you explain it. You don’t pay me enough for me to repeat myself.”

They all thought it was worth a laugh and Eric started giving Pam the news. Alcide and Pam listened to the details as Eric proudly rehashed them. After they congratulated me on a job well done, Alcide asked me why I hadn’t told him.

“Because sweetie, Eric ended up with telepathy and you haven’t gotten shields yet. Surprises are fun.”

Our conversation was over in less than 10 minutes and they both climbed out and started getting dressed. It was nearly 1 o’clock and the family was almost home, and company was on the way…

**

The four of us reached the kitchen at the same time as the rest of the pack started coming in through the portico. The kids were excitedly telling everyone about the unhatched nest of duck eggs they found and that they found a bee hive and saw a couple of nutria down by the stream.  Angela was discussing some possible field trips with the other grownups when all hell broke loose… well sort of.

Angela and Tobin’s phones started ringing at the same time. The clamor from the kids prompted Tobin to go outside to the porch for his call and the only thing I heard of it was, “Mom, calm down. What’s going on?” before he closed the door behind him.

I decided to listen in on Angela’s call.

“Hey Bev, how ya doin’?”

“Angela? How are you awake? I thought I was going to have to leave a message.” Angela gave me a look. She hadn’t thought about that detail when she answered and was worried that I’d be mad. I smiled at her. It was just her sister.

“I’ll explain another time. What’s up?”

“I need you to come get me.” Eric and I were both paying very close attention now.

“Bev, I’d love to, but Mom and Dad didn’t even pick up the phone when I called on Christmas. They won’t let me come to see you.”

“You don’t have far to go. I’m at the bus station in Shreveport.”

“BEV!”

“Angie, I needed to get out of there! They were bad before but when you got turned, they lost it. They put a fucking GPS on my car and Dad even GROUNDED me when I came home from study group late. I swear, Blake had the right idea when he eloped.”

“Bev, you know they’ll come looking for you.” She had turned her back to us and slumped against the counter in concern.

“I don’t care. They can’t do anything. I’m 20. I don’t even care that Mom said she’d sue me to get my tuition back.”

“Bev, I don’t live alone. I live in a nest. Where will you stay?”

Eric interrupted her. “Hey kid, she’ll stay with us. She can have the room next to yours.”

Angela turned around in a blur with surprise written all over her face.

Eric smiled at her. “Go get your purse, I’ll drive you.”

Angela covered her phone. “Eric, are you sure? I love her but she can be a pill.”

He chuckled dryly. “I think we can handle her.”

Angela winced as she put the phone back to her ear. “We’ll be there in a few minutes to get you.”

Eric rubbed his hands across my shoulders. “Lover, may I take your car?”

I smiled at him. “You break it, you buy it.”

He laughed. “Yes ma’am.”

As Eric and Angela made their way to the garage, I turned my attention to Tobin. He was pacing the porch angrily and he was flailing his free hand around in a way I hadn’t ever seen him before. The older kids had gone to the den to play so that Tommy could be laid down for a nap and all of the other adults in the house were watching him. I went outside and quietly shut the door behind me. When he turned to see who came through the door, he looked more defeated than anyone I had ever seen.

I whispered to him. “Hey Kiddo, what’s wrong?”

“Hey mom, hold on…” He took the phone away from his ear and hit the mute button. “What isn’t going on? When the doctors did rounds they got told that Gamma needs surgery on her foot. She’s been hiding an ulcer from us and not taking it easy. They can’t operate until her sugars level out and she needs to be bed rested AND Gamma’s Medicare won’t keep her in the hospital until it happens. My mom called work to let them know she’d be using her sick and vacation time and they fired her over the phone. We’re trying to figure out how to handle this.”

I have him a hug first and foremost. He needed it. “What did your mom do?”

“She was a night clerk at one of the dentists in town. Filing and coding, overseeing the cleaning crew and signing for packages. Why?”

I grinned at him. “Would it be beneath her to be a day manager for a Vampire bar? She’d manage the cleaning crew and receive and restock the booze and the merchandise and schedule the entertainment and staff. Pam will need the help especially with all of the traveling we’ll be doing. Pam can train her this week while the girls are in school and she’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the bar opens.”

He got back on the phone with his mom who was more than happy to take the job. I could feel his panic start to deflate.

“Now, go home and clear up your room for Gamma. Leave the girls with me. Once she’s settled you can take them back.”

His face was taken over by a very appreciative smile. “Yes, boss.” He gave me a big hug before I went in.

I slid the door closed behind me and eyed Pam who was perched on Alcide’s lap. “I just hired Fangtasia’s new day manager. You’ll need to train her while we’re gone.” Pam had heard the conversation and didn’t even pretend to be resistant, she only smiled.

**

I figured that while I had a few minutes, I’d get dinner in the oven. I guess it was better that I start it early anyway since so much was going into the oven. I pulled both roasting pans out of the cabinet and started cutting the veggies.  One pan got chicken stock, zucchini, squash, green beans and 3 whole pepper rubbed chickens. The other pan got beef stock, potatoes, carrots, onions and 3 london broils. While I was prepping things though, it occurred to me that I had been left to my own devices and spent my Christmas dinner with 7 ‘orphans’. And now, only a month later, I was cooking no less than twice each day for my family of… well, tonight we’re 14 not counting the Vampires.

“My Sookie, why do you look so deliriously happy as you toil over dinner?”

“Because I love having people to cook for Pammy. That’s all.”

“Puddin’ we’re happy to have you cook for us. I don’t know how I’m not fat after the last few months of your cooking.”

Pam and I smiled at him and spoke in unison. “We do.”

I had just put everything in the oven so I went over and sat on Alcide’s lap facing Pam. I leaned over and gave her a sweet kiss to see if she was up for a tease. Of course she was. She leaned into me and put her hand into my hair and ran her fingers through it. She kissed me like lovers kiss each other, slow and passionately, patiently and without the gimmicks of our usual tease. I playfully bit her lip and she was shocked out of the kiss, eying me. I watched her eyes light up and a smile take over her usually cool lips before coming back for more. Alcide was still leaning back, enjoying the show with his hands resting on our backs. My lips moved from hers and fell to her neck where I started nibbling, then biting. When we felt Eric close by we pulled apart and shared a look that said we’d finish our fun later.

Alcide looked confused so both looked down at him and told him in unison: “Eric is back.”

He decided to look playfully disgruntled. “So he’s the party pooper today, huh?”

I giggled. “Now don’t blame him. Besides, I have work to do.”

Pam was a little more forth coming. “Eric is extremely annoyed right now. It would be in everyone’s best interest to behave. Sookie, do you need any help?”

“No ma’am. Thank you though. It’s just computer stuff.”

She smiled at me as I fired up my laptop and grabbed a beer and tube of chips.

“Shug, aren’t you hungry?”

“No, why?”

“Because since you’ve eaten, you’ve given away 2 powers and popped all over northern Louisiana plus whatever you and Eric did. You didn’t eat lunch. You should be starved.”

I actually took a minute to check to be sure. “Nope, I just have the munchies.”

He smiled at me. He looked slightly relieved that I might be growing out of my hunger issues. Finally he leaned forward and whispered to me. “Wake Tommy up.”

“Say what?”

“I want to take the kids out for ice cream but if I wait for him to wake up, it’ll be too close to dinner.”

I smiled at him. “What are you willing to pay for such a service?”

His eyes went up as he searched his brain. “3 scoops of Charlie Brown in a waffle cone and I won’t even spit in it.”

“Done.” I winked at him and we both heard Tommy’s feet hit the floor as he called for his mommy. Alcide laughed as he called out to Janice that he’d get Tommy and ran up the stairs.

**

Only a few moments later, I heard the echo of my hemi enter the garage.

“Mr. Northman, you are highly agitated. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Just brace yourself, Lover.  She’s crass and loud and the complete antithesis of our sweet little Angela.”

I was starting to realize that the more tense Eric was, the more his vocabulary was riddled with ‘point words’ (words with common meanings but dressed up and great when you’re playing Scrabble). ‘Antithesis’ is worth 63 points without any doubles or triples. We may all just want to go hide under a bed now.

As they opened the door from the garage, Angela came through the door first followed by Beverly carrying her worldly possessions; a sea bag and a guitar case. Beverly was built just like her sister, tiny. Maybe a size 4 at best. Their sizes and shapes were where the similarities ended.

Beverly dressed as though she were on her way to a Rainbow Brite fan club meeting. Starting from the foundation, she was wearing a pair of all-star high tops that had been ‘bedazzled’, orange and lime green tights (probably purchased at a Halloween shop), bleached jeans (cut off just above the knees and drawn all over), a yellow tutu (that’s right- a tutu), a purple mesh shirt with holes poked through the sleeves for her thumbs and a bright orange 7-11 t-shirt over it. Her arms were covered in bright colored tattoos and I’m sure that there would be more. She was wearing several dozen jelly bracelets and no less a dozen necklaces, none of it matched her neon acrlic ‘00’ ear plugs.

Her hair and makeup were issues all of their own. Her hair was red alright, but not the carrot top red her sister was gifted by nature, in spite of her roots. Bev was a poster child for Manic Panic dye. ‘Infra Red’ if memory serves, with a large chunk of lavender and another of yellow. Her makeup was goth dark with the exception of her long blue foil fake eye lashes and light blue lipstick (black lip liner, of course). Angela was embarrassed to be standing next to her sister. Hell, for that matter, Diantha would call the fashion police.

I stood up to introduce myself with my hand out.

“Hi, I’m Sookie. Nice to meet you Bev.”

“Liar.” I tried not to laugh. Eric wasn’t very fond of our new guest.

“Hi. What are you?” She sounded snotty. I could look past the ‘wardrobe by Crayola’ somewhat if she were friendly.

“Everything.”

She snorted at me. “A little full of yourself, huh Barbie?” Ever defensive of me, Eric’s head jerked up to stare a hole into her.

I got snotty right back. “Not really, they call me the ‘Infinite’. My family tree is made up of all different kinds of Supes and, as often as I can, I have a lot of Vampire in me too.” So there, cranky pants. I sat back down and went back to work as Eric chuckled his way over to me and kissed my cheek. He sat in the seat next to me and lifted my feet to rest in his lap. Angela came over to sit with us.

“That was priceless.”

“Thanks. I try.” I smelled an odor coming from her bag and barely looked up at her. “You need to get rid of the drugs. Not in my house. Not around my kids.”

“You think just because I dress like this, I’m the type to be on drugs?”

“No. I think that the buttons, boomers, trippy, molly and kush you have shoved into the back of a stuffed panda, EXPLAIN why you dress like that.” I produced a fireball. “Now hand it over or I burn the whole bag.”
Her eyes got huge and she shot her sister a dirty look before she dug into her bag and grabbed the bear, shoving it towards me. I equaled the dirty look she was giving me as I called the moto from the counter.

“AZO”

“Yeah, Sookie?”

“Best way to dispose of drugs.”

“What kind?”

“Shrooms, Peyote, X, Pot and blotter.”

“Burn it in the open, why?”

“Found it.”

“Right… I’ll be right there.”

**

Alcide and Pam had gotten everyone ready to go and the kids came running through the kitchen from the den. Manen’s trajectory came to a screeching halt when she spotted Bev. Hunter hadn’t been moving as fast.

Thankfully, because they could have been hurt when he crashed into his sister.

Manen was speechless, but Hunter had something to say. “Momma, Far… why is there a clown in the kitchen?”

Eric couldn’t hold it together anymore. He started laughing as hard as he ever had before. “Kapten, this is Beverly. She is our Angela’s sister.”

“Hi Beverly. I’m Hunter. I’m sorry you had to wear that. Maybe Angela will let you wear some of her normal clothes.” He had a look on his face like he was fighting the urge to throw up.

She snarled at him. “Nice to meet you too kid.”

Alcide and Pam started walking through the kitchen and stopped dead just as our kids had. The major difference being that they went from 0 to hysterical in under a second.

All Pam could muster was: “That is dreadful.” And it took her a while to get it out between laughs. That said a lot for Bev’s outfit since Pam worked the door at a Mecca for the Emo and Goth sects of college life.

Alcide finally caught up to himself enough to speak. “No one told me the EMO circus was in town!”

Even Angela laughed while they were introduced.

“We’ll be back in just a bit.” He came over, still holding Pam’s hand, and kissed my cheek. “Do you want us to buy her something that won’t cause seizures?”

I giggled. “Naw Beb, she’ll be fine.”

Pam leaned over and kissed me, slightly chewing on my bottom lip. “Can I get a lesson before dinner?”

I felt myself brighten. “Ooh! That sounds like fun!”

Alcide and Eric both got happy looks about them.

Pam and Alcide were just through the door when Azo walked in. He leaned over and kissed Angela’s cheek and whispered congratulations to her before he got to business.

“Where?”

I tossed him the bear. He ripped it open and pulled the little baggies out, sniffing each one without opening them. He shot a dirty look at Bev.

“Sookie, did she own up to it? How did you know what there’d be?”

I grinned and crinkled my nose.

I started to stand to join Azo out in the yard. “Angela why don’t you help Bev get settled and wash the trip off of her. Once she’s cleaned up, we’ll need to talk.” I hugged her, as did Eric, as we passed her on the way out.

**

Azo put the bear and the baggies in the fire pit and started looking for his lighter. Eric and I both produced a fire ball and tossed it in. Having the extra power he was missing, I fired a few more into the pit for good measure.

Azo stood across from us and watched me with interest. “Sook, I get that you smelled something funny, but how did you know what each one was?”

I smiled at him. It was lovable that he was a afraid I’d ruin his ‘Sweet Sookie’image. “I was a telepathic barmaid in the only diner open after 8 way out in the sticks. College kids would come in high all the time. The smell would be on them or their breath and they would wonder if anyone could tell if they had done ‘fill in the blank’. All except for the ecstasy. I got that from her head.”

He offered a relieved smile. “Well, you were on point. It was all there and she’s lucky the bus wasn’t spot checked. In Louisiana, that was enough to get ‘intent to distribute’. They’re tight here.”

I could feel through the bond that Eric was proud of me. I was a little proud of me too, but mostly I was thankful for my recently sharpened sense of smell. Eric and I headed in after a few minutes and he sat back down at the table with me while I answered emails and tracked packages. We talked more about the last few days, details that wouldn’t have normally been missed since we spend most of his waking hours together.

By 4 o’clock, Alcide and Pam were coming back with the kids. They all went back to the den to play with legos and have some hair fun and Pam followed them back to start a movie for them. She came around the corner at the same time as Angela was emerging with Bev. She looked much better this time around. She was wearing a snug black t-shirt, camouflage fatigues and black work boots. Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail and her makeup had been washed away and she hadn’t bothered to smear any more on. She actually looked like she fit in here.

I closed my laptop in spite of not being done working so that the round table could convene and set ground rules for our new guest. Which felt odd to us. We had added so many people to our family over the last few weeks and not a single one of them needed anything spelled out for them.

“Feel better after your shower, Bev?” Angela had sat down next to Eric and she laid her head on his shoulder and he held her hand.

“Sure, I guess.”

“What’s eating at you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you basically ran away from home. You surprised your sister with a visit and you’re being pretty rude to her nestmates without cause. We do very well here, getting along with each other and we’d like to get along with you. But I’m getting the feeling that you’re going to make that difficult.” I had used my calmest voice and she was still rearing up for a tear.

“How happy am I supposed to be that my sister is dead?”

Eric piped up. “I don’t see why you feel the need to take that out on us.” He was being far calmer than I could have hoped and using his authority voice.

I got up and grabbed 3 true bloods, 2 beers and a coke and handed them out.

“I don’t guess you would, master.”  Alcide and Pam both snarled at her.

I had reached my fill line with her nastiness. “Hey! You watch your mouth. He is the vampire King of fucking Louisiana and you will show him some respect under his roof. If you want to be an ill-tempered fucking child, you can definitely do it from Amarillo! This is your sister’s home and you owe it to her to not make her life difficult.” She was glaring at Eric while I fussed at her and Angela was starting to get quite upset.

“Oh, Okay then…” This was not going to be good she was already sounding sardonic. “So if you’re engaged to him and she’s his, does that make you sister wives? Why didn’t he kill you too?”

I laughed. “All those who’ve been turned by Eric, raise their hand.” Pam’s hand went up, so did the corners of her mouth.

I looked back at Bev. “So, that’s what lit the fuse on your tampon? You thought Eric turned your sister?”

She slowly nodded and Eric tried to explain. “She was turned accidentally and her maker is dead. We took her in to help her transition as a vampire.”

Angela was ashamed of her sister’s behavior and the look on her face showed it. “Eric, Alcide, Pam and Sookie are my parents now, Bevy. They’ve been taking really good care of me. You need to shut up and be nice to my family.”

Bev leaned back in her chair and instantly looked rueful. “How did you get turned by accident?”

Pam patiently explained that Angela’s car had been flipped and she had been seriously wounded. A vampire had noticed her car and tried to heal her by giving her blood but she must have gotten too much. That once in a while, the change happens without a good reason. When Bev asked, Pam went on to explain how a making happens normally and that without a master, Angela would be very vulnerable.

“So when is she allowed to leave?”

Eric looked down at Angela, gently urging her to be the one to answer. “Whenever I want.”

“Then why aren’t you back home?” The room was starting to fill. Tobin, Dozer, Febes and Jeremy had just walked in and stopped as though they were watching a train wreck.

“Bevy, there isn’t anything for me there! Mom and Dad barely talked to me after I took the job in Orange as it was. They left me naked and crying on a morgue slab! I’ve even been dumb enough to call them to let them know I’m ok and the one time, ONCE, that Mom picked up the phone she told me that there was nothing ‘ok’ about me and that I should do the world a favor and kill myself, for good. Why? Why should I ever step foot in Amarillo again when I have a family that loves me and takes care of me here? I don’t want to leave. I want to be their great-great grandchildren’s nanny if they’ll have me that long.”

She had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when she heard Jason drop his keys on the counter and she bolted for him. He wrapped his arms around her and she buried her pretty face in his neck. He shushed her and smoothed her hair and he got no answer when he asked what was wrong. We all watched as he picked her up and set her on the counter. Without looking he pulled a clean rag out of a drawer and ran it under the water. It touched me to no end to see him tending to her tears and being truly concerned for her.

“Hey Eric, do you need her for anything? I can take her to her room and try to calm her down, if you want.”

Eric looked back at him. “Thank you Jason. I’m sure she’d like that.”

He scooped her up and started to carry her away to her safe haven. “Could one of you let Janice know what’s up? She’ll want to know.”

I smiled at him and Febes went to the den to let Janice know what was going on. She was back in under a minute and we heard Janice running before the door to the hall slammed shut.

Bevy was still not getting the bigger picture. “Was that her boyfriend or something?”

I huffed. “No that wasn’t her boyfriend.”

She smiled and I knew what was coming and I wanted to smack her. “Is he single?”

Eric’s fangs ran out in pure abhorrence. “Bravo on being concerned for your sister.” He stood up and pulled his wallet out. He dropped several hundred dollar bills on the table in front of her. “Carry your despotic ass back to Amarillo where you fucking belong with the rest of your twisted repugnant kin. You’re not welcome here if you are going to upset her. Under this roof lives 3 vampire, 2 humans, 3 shifters, 3 Werewolves, a Werebear, a WereCat and THE infinite. We are working class and royalty and we all consider each other family. Since you have no inkling of what that means, or the wealth you can get from it, you don’t make the cut. Get your things and get the fuck out.”

I wasn’t the only one fighting the urge to applaud him knocking her down a few pegs. Eric walked out of the room and went to the den. I could feel him calming down. He was medicinally playing with the kids.

I was staring holes into Bev as I spoke. “Dozer, would you mind driving Bev into town and dropping her at the bus station?”

“As long as I don’t have to be friendly.”

I stood up and got into her face and she was so scared of me that she trembled and I’m pretty sure I was enjoying the feeling. “It’s a shame that you came all this way and couldn’t track down your sister. I’m sure she’ll call you soon.”

She nodded absently.

“This guy is going to take you back to the bus station so that you can go back to your parents. Have a nice trip.”

She was blank as she walked out of the house

**

Everyone was dying to get details so I went to check on Eric while Alcide and Pam filled them in.

When I got there, Eric was folded into the floor with his legs under the table playing dinosaurs with Tommy and Hunter. The girls were on the other side of the room playing with each other’s hair.

I could feel him smile when Hunter was talking to him. “Far, do you remember dinosaurs?”

Eric chuckled. “I have a secret. Can you keep it?”

Hunter nodded enthusiastically.

“I am a dinosaur!” He leaned over and attacked Hunter with a barrage of tickling and playful growling. Hunter was cackling and writhing in the clutches of the Vamposaur. I watched as Manen’s head snapped up and surveyed the fun happening without her before telling Nadine and Annabelle to ‘get him’. Suddenly the coffee table was kicked out f the way as 5 children excitedly dog piled on top Eric trying to tickle him. He quickly (I mean vampire fast) tickled each one in turn. Every time he released one to attack another they leapt back onto him. At one point he fell still and they all stood up looking confused except for Manen.

“He’s playing opossum. He’s gonna…”

Eric grabbed her around the waist and took her to the floor, blowing raspberries into her neck and tickling her knees as she playfully called for help. I laughed to myself as I thought of Gulliver’s Travels when Tommy climbed onto his chest and the other kids ‘subdued’ him by sitting on a limb. He squirmed for a bit, putting on a good show, but finally ‘gave up’. The other kids started to roll off of him to go back to their playing and Manen stood over him.

“Faker.” She kicked him in the ribs, delivering a solid thud. Eric smiled up at her and put his hand up. When she reached out to grab it, he let her pull on his arm as hard as she could to ‘help’ him up before he gave a little tug and she tumbled down onto his chest.

“Min kara, I may be a faker, but you are too smart for your own good.” He smoothed her now tousled hair from her angelic face. “Are you excited to join the pack tomorrow night?”

She nodded happily. “Can we take Angela for a ride after breakfast?”

“That sounds like fun. Kapten?”

Hunter came over and knelt in the crook of Eric’s arm and he hugged the child closer to him.

“Manen thinks we should take Angela riding tomorrow.”

Hunter smiled at him. “I know.”

Eric chuckled. “Of course you know. Do you like the idea?”

“Will you race me? I can ride Runes so it will be fair.”

Manen gave him a dirty look. “That would hurt Torch’s feelings.”

Eric chuckled. “It’s not something to worry about dear ones, even I wouldn’t let you ride such a green horse, Daddy either.”

Manen laughed. “If we fall, you can heal us.”

“Yes but if the horse falls on you, I can’t bring you back from the dead.”

Hunter snickered. “Momma can.”

Eric’s mood got slightly more serious when he realized that the kids understood my powers. “Yes, but I’ve never liked it when Momma went looking for danger either. You will have to be much older before you can be daredevils.”

Hunter asked, “As old as you?”

He smiled at them. “Maybe not quite as old as me, but old enough to do it under our radar.”

Manen gave Eric’s cheek a kiss. “Feel better now, Far?” She had felt his temper when he came into the room and knew that ‘play therapy’ had fixed his mood.

He smiled at her. “Much. Mummy and I missed you. We were very mean to the vampires in New Orleans. Daddy and Momma will be just as mean to the people in Boston.”

Hunter told on us. “They missed you too. Daddy almost battled with Merlotte.”

Eric laughed. “Well, Merlotte is grumpy because he’s never liked being special like Manen…”

“I’m way more special than him.”

“Yes you are, but he is a shifter. Some people don’t grow up in a family that makes them feel good about their extra nature. So Sam has always wanted to be human. So did Momma, for a long time.”

“Momma didn’t like having extras?”

“Momma was out of place. She didn’t know that other people had extras.”

Hunter looked a little bummed. “Like me?”

“Yes, just like you Kapten. It was very sad for you to feel like you were the only one, right?”

Hunter nodded.

“She was 25 before she met anyone else with extras. It was up to me and Daddy and Mummy to convince her how special she is.”

Manen, a firebrand just like her father… “Far, what will the babies gifts be?”

If Eric breathed, he’d have stopped. I know I did. He recovered from the question much faster than I would have. “Shhh… They are a secret for now. Only Mummy, Daddy and I know about them. So we aren’t talking about it until Momma’s stomach gets bigger. Yes?”

They both nodded with understanding.

“They will be wolves and they will have special extras like the both of you that we don’t know about yet.”

Manen smiled and whispered something into Eric’s ear, making him smile from ear to ear. “Yes, I know. But Momma and I are the only ones who do. Not even Daddy or Aunt Janice and Uncle Jason. We will get to celebrate them all very soon, I’m sure.”

God love my Viking, he also answered them better than I would have. I smiled into the room watching them enjoy being together. They talked about the cribs and decorating the nursery and Eric told them that he and Daddy would need help getting it ready. They talked about a handful of things, rolling in and out of topics. They segued as children do and Eric just went along with their flow of conversation fully engaged. Who’d have guessed that a vampire with an inestimable body count could be so good with children. Then again, Vito Corleon was a devoted father too. Both of them: powerful, respected, feared and privately in love with their families. I stood there as one of the many enthralled vermin, watching my future husband enjoy the admiration of his children until Pam called us to the kitchen because we had a delivery.

When he rose, I broke the glamour I had been using to keep from being noticed and Eric’s eyes widened but he smirked.

“Lover, how long have you been eavesdropping?”

I smiled and stretched up to kiss his lips lightly. “Long enough.”

He raised an eyebrow as I took his hand and started walking towards the kitchen.

**

Our delivery was from Donna. Well, it was Donna and 2 gondolas full of clothes. Eric and I both shared a surprised look.

When she spotted me she came over to give me a bug hug. “I still don’t have the couture done, that’s still a week away, but the formal is done”

Eric beamed at her. “How did you get it done so quickly?”

She laughed. “Well, when the king tells you to hire a proper staff, you hire a proper staff!”

Everyone oohed and ahhed over the finery. Alcide has a few tailored suits but he was just as impressed with the fit as Eric had been. Pam loved her dress. It was black strapless, knee length and a-line. Donna had sewn in icy blue pin stripes and the crinoline underneath was the same pale shade and peaked out from underneath. My dress for the VIP opening was white, sleeveless, empire waisted and came down to my knees. The skirt was tiered with only an inch or so peeking out from under the other. All three of them were finished with a red satin ribbon hem. The top of the dress had red roses embroidered all over it.

“Lover, it reminds me of the dress you were wearing when we met.”

I scoffed. “Like you were paying any attention to my dress, other how to get me out of it.”

“Not true. I obviously know how to get you out of any garment.” He was smirking. I couldn’t help but blush and that did nothing but encourage him.

**

Once Donna was gone, we still had about an hour until dinner time so I offered Pam her lesson and she eagerly went upstairs to change with me. When we got back down to the office, Alcide and Eric had moved the chairs to face the pole and Alcide was docking my iPod for me.

Pam and I couldn’t help but laugh at their anticipation as Deeper Shade of Soul started to play. Since Pam was super strong, and already an amazing dancer, she had no problem with the moves and poses. It turned out that all she needed was practice transitioning between moves. After about half an hour, she had it all down pat so I went over to the iPod and cued up a slow song by Fiest and took 3 minutes to give the three of them my best. After that Pam played Disco Lies and took her turn. We let the music play on shuffle while we tried a few moves on the pole together. Most of them only worked when we were working one over the other, but there were a few that we had success with facing each other, like the aerial V. After Pam and I had played for nearly the whole hour, we realized that our guys had sat there as silent statues. She looked over at me and smirked before we both started laughing again.

“Lover, what is so funny?”

I couldn’t help myself. “Who knew poles could multiply?” I nodded towards the pronounced bulges in their pants.

When she was done laughing at their pain, Pam looked over at me. “Are you sure about Hooligan’s?”

“Wanna give it a try?”

She slowly started to nod so I released a wave of Fae scent, full strength because that is what Claude is, and waited.

“Well? I’m ready.”

I smiled at her and gave her a kiss. “I already did it. Pammy, you’re good to go.”

I hopped back onto the pole and started spinning and moving just because it was thrilling. She stared at me as I moved.

“You’re serious? You released the scent and glamoured me without me knowing?”

Alcide confirmed it. “She’s that good. She barely has to think about shit before she does it anymore and she multitasks like a mother fucker.”

Eric drove it home. “The other night she was so… strong it smelled like there were several Fae in our room and her blood tasted concentrated. She really is getting stronger the more she practices.”

I smiled at them and did a back flip to dismount, grabbed my iPod and went to the kitchen to pull dinner out of the oven. Alcide and Pam followed me, but Eric made a pit stop to check on Angela. Only a moment or two later, Jason and Janice joined us.

**

“Hey Jas, how is she?”

“She’s hurtin’. She was going to take a trip back west to see her parents now that she’s daywalking. She was hoping that it would be less weird for them and they might come around. Now that her sister pulled her little stunt, she’s sure that her folks will blame her for it.”

Pam offered, “You can never go home again. Even in the old world where the folktales tend to me embraced, I have never known a Vampire that could keep their ties to their humanity for long. A few months at best. The differences always cause a divide. Missing them is hard but staying is harder. Severing the ties that bind is usually the only way.” She sounded so sad and isolated, as though she were in an oubliette. “Eric stayed in Bromley for a few years with me after I was turned because I didn’t want to leave, but it drove me mad. I couldn’t stand being so close to my brother and his family, watching him age was just too hard. I was stubborn. I thought being close would make me feel better but when I finally let go and we sailed for Virginia, I felt better. Like I could start over. That tug of war is what hardens most of us.”

Eric and Angela had emerged to hear her monologue and he walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders and bent to kiss her cheek. “You’ve never been hard Pamela. Tough, not hard and only as much as you needed to be.”

She smiled up at him. “Like master, like child, I suppose.”

He smirked and put his finger to his lips to jokingly shush her.

Jason had been listening to Pam’s story intently and it took a few minutes to shake it off and finally got back to the topic of Angela. “Sook, how’d you do it? Make Angela a daywalker and the others, you figure it out yet?”

“Well, most of it was accidents. But this morning Alcide suggested I try it on purpose and it worked twice so I woke her up and asked her if she wanted her Christmas present early.” Angela was smiling, still positively giddy at her more normal circumstances.

“Accidents?”

¾ of my nests snickered while I explained. “At first, I started glowing during sex once in a while.” Jason and Janice shared a look. “Then we figured out that when it happened they’d get a power… How often?”

Janice was embarrassed to say it in front of Alcide. “Twice.”

I grimaced and stretched my arms out across the bar. Janice leaned forward so that I could put my hands on her. I slowly started to smile. “Empathy and remote viewing.”

She was shocked and confused. “What is that?”

“Empathy is the ability to sense feelings and control your own maybe even influence other’s depending on how strong you are without Fae blood. Remote viewing is the ability to concentrate on a person or place and see it. I have it too.”

Jason was still a little surprised. “So I can give away powers?”

“No, you can share them. It doesn’t make you weaker, but your powers are strong because of your Fae blood. It amplifies everything. So whatever you gift to someone isn’t going to be as strong for them. I popped to New Orleans to see Eric, but he couldn’t pop home.”

Alcide was curious. “How about the thermokinesis? That seems to be either or.”

I grinned at him evilly and gave him a wink. “Fireballs are fireballs. Yes sir.”

He scowled at me and I told him and Eric to make theirs. Each of them made one in each hand about the size of softballs.

I held out one hand and produced one and helped it grow to be the size of a yoga ball and floated it up into the air to hover over us like our own personal household sun. Manen came in to hang out with the grownups and saw the fiery orb and laughed.

I giggled back at her. “What’s so funny little girl?”

“You’re a show off too.” She mentally took ahold of one of Alcide’s smaller fire balls and threw it into the larger one. She did it one at a time until all four of her fathers’ creations were absorbed my mine.

“Well? I guess it runs in the family?”

She giggled and then she extinguished my blaze by pushing down on it.

Janice’s mouth was hanging open as the rest of us laughed. “How? I thought she is a shifter.”

“Her mother was given vampire blood during her pregnancy for a healing.”

Manen laughed. “And my first daddy was part Faerie.”

The round table went pale. Eric went over and picked her up. “Min kara, Danny McClarity was part Fae? Do you know what kind?”

“Earth.”

“Did you know you grandparents?”

“Daddy was adopted by his aunt. Ma Flora used to send me presents but I don’t remember her.”

Eric cut his eyes at me and then back to her. “Manen, how did you get a sky name?”

“Daddy knew I’d like flying so they named me after the moon.”

“What else could your first Daddy do?”

Her eyes looked at the ceiling while she tested her memory. “He could change…and he saw the future and he could move stuff… just like me.”

Alcide joked. “I’ll fire up the Family Tree Maker later.”

Eric continued. “And Hunter’s powers?” He could tell that she was tuned in to things. I guess he figured it was worth asking.

“His first mommy was part faerie but his father was a semi-daemon and Fae. And he was born of blood.”

I was shaking my head. “If Remy was a supe, I’d have known.”

Manen had grown bored with being the smartest person in the room and started to slide down to the floor. “Remy wasn’t his dad. Bartlett was.”

And that’s when the room started to spin…

**

I ran to the bathroom and barely got there in time to not make a mess. I hadn’t eaten much since breakfast so I mostly just dry heaved. I couldn’t help it. It disgusted me that Bartett was doing those horrible things to Hadley even as an adult. I was doing the mental calculations and if I was right, Hunter was conceived while Hadley was trying to leave Remy. She must have gone to that vile bastard for help only to be taken advantage of. Or by then he had ruined her the point that what he wanted in return was an acceptable venue for her. Both concepts were perverse. I could feel Eric’s concern for me as much as I could feel him listening in on my thoughts. As much as it pained him to not tend to me, he kept his distance and let me finish because he knew I’d prefer it. Jason, on the other hand, didn’t even knock before he came in.

He didn’t balk at all. I was hugging my knees and crying with my back against the cool bathtub when he without a single word knelt in front of me and rested his forehead on my knees and held my hands. It was the kindest thing Jason had ever done for me and it was almost lost me while I was having a long overdue pity party for Hadley. I had felt sorry for her for most of my life, even under my aggravation with her, but knowing that Bartlett had abused her, damaged her, slowly breaking her spirit over all of those years made me, even fleetingly, happy that my parents died when they did. Horrible as it sounds, my mother didn’t believe me when I told her what Uncle Bartlett was doing and thinking. It would have happened to me too if I hadn’t ended up living with Gran. Gran believed me. The more I thought about it though, the more I thought about how much I had been through.

Maybe if I hadn’t told, if he had kept on with me, Uncle Bartlett would have left Hadley alone. I’ve gotten myself through a lot of stuff, maybe I would have been better off than Hadley if things were switched.

I sat there, being comforted by my mute brother, letting the ‘what ifs’ swirl around in my head. Crying at all the different scenarios that had led us all up to this point and all the mistakes that had been made against Hadley in spite at all of the calm and love Eric was sending me. I was starting to think that letting the past torment me was a waste of time and, like a switch, I decided that I wouldn’t let this consume my thoughts and ruin the evening. I caught on to the irony of thanking God for that daemon ability, but I did it anyway.

I started to stand up and Jason came with me to wrap his arms around me. “I’m sorry.” That was all he could think to say.

“It can’t be undone. Sometimes we have to make do with other people’s choices.” He stood thoughtfully and waited as I brushed my teeth and washed my face.

**

When we emerged, I knew I was on auto pilot. I served dinner and quietly ate 3 helpings to refuel. No one asked me why I was so quiet or what had upset me. Eric had tactfully explained that to them while I was still in the bathroom. After dinner, Tobin and Febes took the girls home and Pam and Janice went upstairs to start the bath and story routine while Eric and Alcide helped me with the clean up and Jason tidied the den. I collected laundry and started a load and had the chance to overhear that Jason had, indeed, convinced Janice to stay with us for the extra week. Eric spoke to Truman on the phone and found out that the guard detail was just in case and I listlessly called Arlene to update her and let her know the guard had been called off and then called Doug to tell him that he could start as a bouncer Saturday night and that he was invited to the picnic tomorrow. The 3 couples, plus Angela, retired to the den to watch a movie and I slowly caught myself coming back.

Alcide had a stroke of luck (and genius) and found History of the World, Part II on cable and recorded it. As I watched with my head in Eric’s lap and my legs across Alcide and Pam’s I let that one horrible piece of information dissolve into the mixture of feelings I have about Hadley and I put a lid on it a shoved it away. My mood was lifting and by the time we were at the Last Supper scene I was laughing and enjoying the movie, so everyone else gave themselves permission to enjoy it too. Soon we were all laughing again. After the movie, I went and grabbed a beer to sit down with my laptop and finish what Beverly’s arrival had interrupted. It only took a few minutes and Eric sat by my side to whole time.

I had just returned an email from Lucy about the invitations that were done and ready for us to seal and send when I closed the computer and took Eric by the hand to lead him to our room.

I went straight to the bathroom and started the shower and he climbed in after me. “Lover, I don’t like it when you do that. It worries me.”

“I’m sorry.” He turned me around gently and started washing my back.

“Do you do it purposefully?”

“No. I know when I’m numb, but I don’t do it on purpose. I’m better now though.”

“When you do it, I can’t feel you.”

I looked up at him with my lip pouted. “Being overwhelmed isn’t practical. At least this way is short term.”

“Today was a very emotional day.” That might have been the understatement of the month. I’d felt victory, elation, frustration, relief, passion, love, appreciation, pride, concern, hostility, peace, vigor, disgust… and then nothing until now. All of them were felt in volume. None of them overpowered my instincts, talents or awareness that this is exactly where I want to be. Eric smiled at me, having listened to my mental ramblings so I reinforced my shields.

He frowned. “Lover, I like hearing your thoughts.”

“Why?” Sometimes I wish I couldn’t hear MY thoughts.

“It helps me understand you.”

“Isn’t that cheating since I can’t read your mind?”

“I don’t see why that matters.” He flashed me his shit eating grin.

I stretched up to kiss him and that was all it took for one of my favorite feelings to bubble back to the surface. Lust. It hit us both like a ton of bricks. It was a wonderful relief to know that at the end of the day… this was unchanged. In spite of the day’s highs and lows, we still have this together. It was moments like this that I knew we were made for each other.

We fit together like puzzle pieces in every position including when we crumpled together in the bottom of the tub. By then, the only thing keeping either of us awake was the water cascading over us. We both finally stood up and washed and headed for bed.

**

We were both standing at our dressers pulling on our night clothes unenthusiastically when someone knocked on the door.

I crawled into the bed and let Eric call ‘enter’. It was Angela.

Eric smiled at her as he climbed into bed. “What can we do for you?”

She fidgeted nervously and told us ‘never mind’ and turned to leave.

I knew what she wanted. “Angela?”

She turned back around. “Yeah?”

I patted the bed next to me. Her eyes filled with hope when she looked over at Eric and he nodded.

She came over and slid into bed next to me like a child who’d had a nightmare. I rolled to her and put my hand to hers and Eric snuggled behind me and reached his arm across the pillow to smooth our oldest child’s hair.

Eric and I fell asleep soothing our fragile pet after her long day. As I drifted off I laughed to myself that it had been a while since I’d had a day as light as hers. I was almost jealous.

3 thoughts on “Chapter 42

  1. Kristie Yamber says:

    loved the ending with Angela, poor sweet girl my best Kristie

  2. ashmo2000 says:

    poor angela, at least she now knows she is loved and truly belongs somewhere:)

  3. loveallsvmtb says:

    What a day! whew! Eric is so good with the kids. i loved it.

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