Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
For Sookie, life settled into something she thought of as new normal. For the first time in a long time, she knew what to expect every day. She rose within a few hours of noon. She ate, shopped, and cleaned her house. Early afternoons Sookie spent completing class work on her laptop and later Ian arrived, bringing paperwork and trading small gossip over tea. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sookie had late lunch with Maryann before walking to the detached garage behind the B&B to continue her magic training.
When the sun started to set, Sookie made her way home, lying full length on the bed under the eaves so she could be the first thing Eric saw on his rising. It was, mostly, the way Sookie imagined married life would be. They talked about things and made plans for their future. Eric pressed her about taking a vacation to his home in Barbados later this year. “We can celebrate the anniversary of our bonding. It falls at the end of tourist season. October in the Caribbean is something I think you’d enjoy.” He’d purred in contentment, stroking her hand with his long fingers.
“Is that what vampires do on anniversaries?” Sookie asked. “Go on vacation?”
Eric laughed his easy laugh, his eyes crinkling. “Vampires don’t celebrate the same way humans do. Since most pledged couples don’t live together, they choose a place to meet, usually their ruler’s court, and renew their contracts. Once everything’s signed, they exchange blood and have wild, animalistic sex,” and he waggled his eyebrows at her.
“Sounds romantic,” Sookie snickered, but then she rolled over to rest her chin on his chest. “So, should we have a contract?”
It was just a moment. It was in his eyes and within their bond, but then it was gone. Sookie wouldn’t have even remembered it except for what happened later. “We are bonded!” he told her. “Most vampires don’t do that either, but we are.”
When Eric did have to be away for a night or two, it was discussed in advance. Eric told her these trips were Sheriff business and Sookie knew better than to ask for details. She knew on these nights he rested in the house in Ballytyne, and images of the utility room with its shelves of towels with its gray slate shower came to mind. ‘It’s who he is,’ she told herself, and lifting her chin extra high, reminded herself that this was acceptable because Eric Northman was an honorable man.
Discussions about opening a fourth Ghoul’s Kiss became plans, and then trips to scout locations. For the first time, Sookie was part of things. She was the one Pam and Eric relied on to run the numbers. When the paperwork was drawn, Sookie’s name was listed as part owner. “You’re sure?” she asked Eric.
“You’re my wife,” he’d shrugged.
“You’ve earned it,” Pam added. It was another moment of pure happiness in a life that had never seemed so sweet.
To add to Sookie’s happiness, magic training was also showing promise. Fergus, the leprechaun, was replaced with Moira. “I didn’t master his magic,” Sookie protested after her Grandfather told her of the change.
Niall just laughed, telling her, “You are too hard on yourself! Fergus told me you made his head turn, Granddaughter. That is far better than any other Fae could manage. Don’t expect to humble the man! Even among the Fae, Leprechauns are known for their pride. Had you been able to truly replicate his skills, he would have come to resent you.”
Moira was a merrow, which meant she could become a seal. “But not like selkies!” she’d been quick to explain. “Selkies swim and fish, but merrows? We have the gift of illusion.” Within short order, Moira transformed Maryann’s garage into a sea island, surrounded by crashing waves and shrieking seabirds. Sookie was sure she could smell salt in the air. Together, they’d enjoyed the illusion of sunrise and before Sookie could blink, she’d seen herself transformed into a seal, dipping and diving through green-tinted waves.
It was a masterful illustration, leaving Sookie blinking and sputtering. “You should see your face!” Moira laughed, her green hair floating as if underwater.
“All fun and games,” Octavia snorted during their Tuesday training where Sookie described the session. “That is until one of them takes it into his head to hide the rocks in front of your boat or the channel that would bring you home. A merrows’ skills aren’t so entertaining, then!”
Most days, Octavia joined Sookie and Maryann for lunch before heading back to the garage. They’d sit around the table in the B&B’s large kitchen, talking about local politics and the future of the Republic. Octavia supported the idea of Sookie buying a B&B somewhere out of town. “There will come a time you’ll be tired of hiding so hard,” the witch told her.
Maryann agreed, “Your face has changed since you came here. I don’t notice so much, except when I see you after you play with these folks, when the wildness is still on you.” When Sookie protested, Maryann held up her hand, “It’s not the only thing that’s changed with you. When you first came here, you walked like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders. Now, you walk like you’re Queen of all Argyle. Folks notice. They don’t think the worse for you, but it brings you to mind more often than you might like.”
“Better to be someone seen sometimes than seen often enough for gossip,” Octavia agreed.
“It’s just, I’m happy the way things are!” Sookie protested, and she was. Sookie still attended the monthly meetings with Maryann, talking with women who owned B&Bs along the walking trails, but she had to admit her desire to own her own B&B had faded. Sookie didn’t want to open one here in Slievemore. It would only add to what was already a crowded market, making things difficult for Maryann, but the idea of leaving this town she now considered home wasn’t attractive either.
Even Claudine and Claude seemed to have settled down. Niall made it official, announcing he would be the one to take over rule of the Northern kingdom and he named his son, Dillon, the acting King of the South. “I’m happy for Father,” Claudine told Sookie. “It makes sense, even if it does mean I won’t get a chance to rule for a while.”
“Did you really want it?” Sookie asked her cousin.
“Of course,” but then Claudine smirked, “but mostly because Claude wanted it so much!” Sookie didn’t see Claudine often. It seemed her Seelie cousin was still working most closely with Niall and that meant more time spent traveling, but she still returned to Slievemore every few weeks.
Claude, on the other hand, was no stranger to Slievemore. He was a regular visitor, handling operations for the hotel in town as well as the one across the harbor. His handsome, dark looks had more than one girl’s heart fluttering, but Sookie knew his romantic inclinations lay elsewhere. With his management of most of the town’s hotel space and Sookie’s desire to attract tourists to Ghoul’s Kiss, it was inevitable that Sookie and Claude’s paths would cross.
Claude insisted they meet in the pub at The Grand to go over advertising and promotional materials. “It’s easier here. I’d rather not go to your business. I’m not welcome there. Your husband hates me,” Claude explained. Eric didn’t use those words, but Sookie knew it was true.
“You’re no great fan of me, either,” Sookie pointed out. Like Eric’s opinion, it was never said aloud, but at some point in every conversation, Claude would find a way to make it known. It was in the way he said, ‘husband,’ or he’d make some casual reference to Breandan to remind Sookie that Claude had been Breandan’s lover before and after her relationship with the Seelie Prince.
Still, for the most part, Claude behaved, and their businesses flourished with their cooperation.
As Easter approached and the tourist season with its walkers drew closer, Sookie found herself eagerly anticipating each day. While she didn’t celebrate the holiday, everyone around her did. Trees started to come into leaf and the ground gained the loamy smell of promised green grass and new beginnings. She and Eric found themselves home together, the Kiss closed in observance of the holiday. They remained naked from the moment of his rising until the dawn called. “I love you,” he whispered, his blue eyes clear, and Sookie knew it was true.
Spring brought other news as well. Amelia wrote letters filled with photographs of her baby girl and renewed promises to visit. Jason started to write, his letters full of stories of parties in far flung ports, and Maryann and Pam announced their decision to make their relationship permanent. “I think my Mother was pleased I finally told her the truth,” Maryann told Sookie.
“Do you think they’ll marry?” Sookie asked Eric.
“It’s possible,” Eric shrugged. He’d said very little about the announcement and Sookie got the impression Pam wasn’t happy about something, but when she tried to ask, Eric told her it wasn’t his place to discuss. “This is something Pam has to resolve,” he’d said, refusing to say more.
The streets were seeing their first tourists when holidays came around for the Fae. For the first time, Sookie was included in discussions about the celebrations and Sookie realized it was because she’d gained acceptance as a member of the Fae community. “Beltane is one of our highest holidays,” Claudine told her. “We retreat to our forts and we dance and light fires until the sun rises.”
When the official invitation didn’t arrive, Sookie didn’t fret. She and Eric were invited to Queen Sophie-Ann’s annual ball, which was also held on Beltane. In his role as Sheriff, there was no question of Eric attending and Sookie knew, as his mate, it was expected she would appear at his side. “Still, I feel it is important to celebrate with my relatives,” Sookie fussed.
Eric agreed, “If they are bending in their treatment of you, it’s best to have that confirmed.”
Sookie issued an invitation to her Grandfather and Claudine for dinner the night before Beltane. “Eating my food is as good as an admission ticket,” she laughed. What she didn’t anticipate was Claudine’s refusal and Dillon’s acceptance in her place.
“He doesn’t like me,” Sookie worried as she and Eric dressed that evening. “Claudine, even Claude, tell me Dillon wishes me dead.”
“It seems things have changed,” Eric shrugged. When Sookie continued to sigh and flutter her hands, he stopped her, laying hands on her shoulders, and turning her so she could see her reflection in the mirror. “You are beautiful. You are powerful. You have earned your place,” he assured her, and when she still didn’t look convinced, he whispered, “If you like, I could fuck you on the table in front of Dillon’s seat. You’ll be so distracted thinking of your ass print under his plate, you won’t have time to worry.”
“Nice offer!” Sookie laughed, but the idea did distract her enough to stop fussing.
Niall and Dillon arrived promptly at seven. They were both dressed in suits, their long hair pulled back and neatly tied. Where Niall was white blond, Dillon’s hair was black as a raven’s wing. ‘So that’s where Claude and Claudine get it,’ Sookie thought as she stumbled through introductions. After an awkward series of bows and greetings, things finally got underway. Sookie slipped into her Fae face and seated her guests. Toasts were presented and Sookie served. Through the soup course, the conversation was stilted. Niall, Eric, and she spoke, but Dillon added nothing. The ice was finally broken over the main course. “Father tells me you are making progress mimicking the magic of our kind,” Dillon remarked.
The conversation around him stopped and for a minute, no one spoke, but Sookie took a deep breath, slapped her best smile into place, and replied, “I think the King is being kind, but I am trying.” After that, Dillon joined into the party and by the time he and his Father left, Sookie felt she’d established a rapport.
As he stood in the doorway, Dillon met her eyes. “You are more magic than you should be. Hybrids…” and he stopped. Sookie knew it was a word the Seelie considered an insult.
“It’s all right,” Sookie shrugged. “I know what I am.”
“Do you?” Dillon challenged, but then seemed to catch himself. “Perhaps it’s spurred by the vampire’s blood,” he said not unkindly. “Still, it was a pleasant dinner. I thank you for it.”
“You are welcome in my home anytime,” Sookie replied. Dillon didn’t offer to shake her hand, but she hadn’t expected it.
Niall, on the other hand, pulled her into his embrace and kissed her full on the lips. “You are most remarkable, my Sookie. Perhaps, next year, you will join in the celebrations of your people.” His smile became a little less exuberant as he turned to Eric, saying only, “Northman,” and then they were gone.
The Queen’s Ball the next night was a riot of color and noise. For a group that was technically dead, these vampires were lively in their play. The hall was transformed into a forest of silver and green. It was a masquerade ball and Sookie’s was silver tied with grey ribbons, her hair crowned with flowers. Eric’s masque was the likeness of a stag, complete with antlers. As Sookie looked around, she saw a number of stag masques. “Popular, huh?” she asked.
Sookie had read countless legends and romances about Beltane. She knew the significance of most of the symbolism that surrounded her. Still, some part of her wanted to believe that among vampires, there would be no more than lip service paid to a celebration of fertility and new life. Looking at the young, unchanging faces, it occurred to Sookie she might be wrong. For as much as they were frozen in time, vampires embodied the spirit of Beltane. They had literally died and been reborn, never to die again.
The Queen was dressed as Mab, Queen of Spring, and Andre was her hunter stag. Sigebert and Wybert, the Queen’s guards, wore leaves in their hair, and Wybert, in particular, made an effort to be charming.
“You should have chosen me instead of this tall string bean,” Wybert told Sookie. When Sookie had first come to this Court to be pledged, the Queen had suggested she be blood bonded to Wybert.
“I have a thing for tall blonds,” Sookie flirted.
“So do I,” Wybert laughed. “Something we have in common.” Wybert flexed his barrel chest, “And as you can see, little Sookie, there’s enough here to entertain both of you.” He reached over to take one of her trailing curls between his fingers, “I do love blonds.”
Sookie lifted her masque, revealing her Fae face. “Well, as you can see, I am aligned with the sun and you know what happens to little vampires who spend too much time near the light…”
Wybert laughed aloud, causing those around him to look. “Northman, you are not deserving of her!” he said amiably. “She has balls of iron!”
“I am most fortunate in my Mate,” Eric agreed.
As they walked away, her hand resting on Eric’s, it occurred to Sookie how much she’d changed. Last year, she wouldn’t have revealed her face here. Last year, she would have been too afraid to flirt with the hulking guard. She caught sight of her reflection in one of the mirrors that lined the walls, marveling that the delicious, mysterious creature with her floating nimbus of hair and soft glow was Sookie Northman.
“If you’re curious, it could be arranged,” Eric whispered in her ear.
Sookie was shaken from her reverie. “Curious? About what?”
“Being loved by two men,” Eric grinned. “Think of it,” and he trailed fingers down her arm. “Pressed between two bodies. Strong hands gripping your thighs as one tongues you while another enters you…” and the fingers trailed down her bare back along the line of her dress, making her shiver. “Here,” and Eric gripped her bottom.
Sookie could feel the warmth of her blush flooding over her, the power of Eric’s words making her want to shift, rubbing her thighs together. “I wouldn’t…” she protested, but some part of her found itself intrigued. She raised her eyes to catch Eric’s full-on smirk and her chin jutted forward. “And you’d really be okay with something like that!”
“Vampires enjoy sex in all its forms,” Eric shrugged. “You wouldn’t be the only one deriving pleasure, my Mate.” Sookie huffed, but Eric wasn’t done with his teasing, “Haven’t you ever been curious about having sex with another woman?” When Sookie didn’t answer, Eric nudged her, “Or, maybe you already have? Experimenting in college, perhaps?”
“I lived at home,” Sookie eye-rolled. “I didn’t even have regular sex until I was out of high school. We moved all the time. It wasn’t like I had friends, much less boyfriends!”
“Then, all the more reason to make up for lost time,” Eric laughed.
He was so handsome. The stag’s masque did nothing to diminish the shine of Eric’s hair. Like most of the guests here tonight, Eric was bare chested. His shoulders gleamed, his biceps rippled. The pants he’d chosen showcased the firm, round muscles of his ass and Sookie found excuses to stop just so she could admire him as he walked in front of her.
The Queen made a short speech. Music started, and Eric danced with her, hamming it up through a ragtime number. By the time they were done, Sookie worked up a light sweat and she glanced around for water.
“Master Sheriff,” a vampire bowed. Sookie stopped her searching to focus on the small group of vampires who’d approached them. It took a second, but then she recognized them as Eric’s new Sheriffs.
“Mistress,” Kiernan greeted her. Although they were all in masque, Kiernan was the only one from Ireland and his accent betrayed him.
“Having fun?” Eric asked and Sookie watched as her mate slipped into boss mode. She wondered if it was conscious or if Eric had played this part so often, it was habit. He stood a little taller and his shoulders shifted back. The three in front of them did the same, although they managed not to look like a parade line. The talk shifted to work, so Sookie made her excuses.
Pam was standing nearby. Her masque was of a face peeping from silvery foliage, but her white-blond hair was unmistakable. “Can you believe this?” Sookie asked.
They both looked back where Eric stood, his height making him half a head taller than the Sheriffs in front of him. “Have you noticed?” Pam smirked, gesturing at the vampires around them. “It’s the thing about Sheriffs. Everyone else either toadies or runs.” Sookie hadn’t really noticed it before, but it was as Pam said. Eric and his men could have been standing alone on an island. The other vampires nodded, and some lisped greetings, but none approached. “They’re afraid of catching the attention of a Sheriff,” Pam grinned. Pam was clearly happy with that idea, but it made Sookie remember how, when they first met, Eric was surprised Sookie didn’t fear him. Even now, he praised her courage. It occurred to her that he admired her ignorance, because, until recently, she had no idea there was anything to fear. Now, she knew better. ‘But, I still don’t fear him,’ she confirmed as she watched those purposely avoiding eye contact with her mate. “Maryann would love this,” Sookie said, changing the subject.
“No, I don’t think she would,” Pam disagreed. “Remember what it was like to be treated as a human? That’s how it would be for her, only worse, because I’m not a Sheriff. A vampire’s rank helps shield their human. I’m the progeny of a powerful vampire, which is something, but I don’t hold a position on my own. She’d be fair game.”
“That’s terrible!” Sookie protested.
“It’s the way things are,” Pam shrugged. “There’s plenty of places Maryann and I can go together. There’s no requirement for me to attend these things. I come because of Eric…and you. It’s not like I don’t have friends here. I do, but the vampires we spend most of our time with don’t come.” Pam looked at Eric again, “Well, except the Sheriffs. They’ll be expected to come to these,” and she nudged Sookie, “and you will, too.”
“You do look pretty,” Sookie offered.
“I do love to dress up,” Pam agreed. Her gown shimmered as she moved with the music. “Come on, let’s dance.”
The music was lively and they were both good dancers. As the next number started, Pam moved a little closer and ran her hand down Sookie’s arm. “Let’s give him a show,” she teased. Sookie followed her gaze to see Eric staring at them.
“Let’s,” Sookie agreed, and they swayed closer, touching and twirling, not exactly obscene, but more than a little suggestive. Sookie peeked at her mate as a wave of lust hit her. He had moved to the edge of the dance floor and his eyes smoldered. Sookie swore she could see the tips of his fangs and it heated her. “I need some water,” she whispered to Pam, keeping her eyes on his.
Sookie made her way off the dance floor, assuming Eric would follow. She found the water table near the feeding alcoves and turned, but found she was alone. She spotted Eric talking with another vampire. It looked as if he had been following, but was intercepted along the way. The shorter vampire was waving her arms and talking in an animated fashion, so Sookie figured it must be official business.
“She thinks a great deal of herself,” a voice said from inside the alcove.
“Good tits, though,” another voice answered.
“I’d fuck her,” the first voice agreed, “even with the whiff of death on her.”
“I hear she’s refused to become one of us,” a third voice said.
“Who does she think she is?” the second sneered.
“Too good for vampires, apparently.” Sookie stood rooted. It was possible they were discussing anyone, but she just knew the unseen vampires were talking about her.
“How selfish can you be?” one asked. “Every day she ages. It won’t be long before no amount of perfume can overcome that. Can you imagine? It would be like fucking a corpse.”
“Fae blood can make up for a lot,” the first one sniffed. “He’d do best to drain her and put them both out of their misery.”
Sookie grabbed the water bottle and turned away. Eric was still talking with the female vampire who had been joined by another. Walking as quietly as she could, she made her way back to Pam. “Do I smell like death?” she asked her friend.
Pam squinted at her, “What are you talking about?”
“I overheard something,” Sookie confessed. “So, is it true? Do aging humans smell? Bad, I mean…to vampires?”
Pam rolled her eyes, but Sookie got the impression it was more about buying time than dismissing her friend as foolish. “Look,” Pam finally said, “Everything in this universe has a scent and vampires have finely developed senses. Every minute of every day, your scent changes. Maybe you exercised, or you came in contact with something…”
“Eric hates it when I use Windex,” Sookie nodded.
“I bet he does!” Pam laughed. “That stuff stinks!” but then she shrugged. “As you age, yes, your scent will change. I wouldn’t call it death and it’s not that bad…”
“But, it is bad,” Sookie huffed.
“It’s different,” Pam acknowledged. “Older humans smell different. Not as much as they used to, but it’s hormonal changes. You can’t stop that, not entirely.”
“Am I being selfish by refusing to be turned?” Sookie wasn’t sure she should ask. It seemed a personal subject between herself and Eric, but this was her friend, and she felt the need of another opinion.
“I don’t think you’re a selfish person, Sookie,” Pam sighed, “but I’m not going to tell you what to do. Not about this.”
“It was easy for you?” Sookie asked.
“What do you mean?” Pam asked, “Being turned?”
“Knowing you wanted to be turned,” Sookie clarified.
“I didn’t have one minute’s hesitation,” Pam stated. “I don’t think Eric even finished describing it before I was saying yes.”
“But, you knew you’d die,” Sookie protested.
“I knew I’d never die!” Pam countered. “I’d be free. I’d be able to do whatever I wanted and aside from Eric, there’d be no one to hold me back. I figured it was a risk, putting my future in the hands of someone I didn’t know, but the possibilities were wonderful. Eric told me eventually I’d be free of even him. I would live every day on my terms.”
“I guess I don’t understand that,” and Sookie bit her lip. “I’ve had that freedom my whole life. My mom and dad told me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it.”
“My life was different.” Pam leaned closer, “My fate was sealed the day I was born female. I was stuck inside most of the time. I couldn’t go anywhere unescorted. I couldn’t speak with a man, even male relatives, unless there were witnesses around me. Every word, every accomplishment, was examined and critiqued. I had one purpose, to attract a rich mate and prostitute myself so my family could fulfill their destiny. It had nothing to do with me! My entire worth was my face, what was between my legs, and nothing more.”
“That’s terrible,” Sookie sympathized.
“This is a wonderful life,” Pam countered. “Don’t sell this short, Sookie. Being vampire is more than being forever. It’s experiencing everything around you with clarity. You have no idea how many layers there are to be explored, just in the natural world. It’s as if blinders are lifted from your eyes and you see things so clearly!”
“Except day,” Sookie whispered. Pam didn’t reply, but Sookie didn’t expect it.
It was a thought that lingered. Octavia noticed, stopping their training to ask, “What’s going on with you? You aren’t focused and I won’t put you in danger.”
Sookie found herself telling Octavia everything. “I love him, I do, but the thought of never seeing another sunrise? I can’t give it up,” and to Sookie’s embarrassment, she started to cry.
“Stop that!” Octavia scolded. “I’ve never been able to stand being around leaking women and for someone like you, the idea of you crying is painful!”
“It just seems so hopeless,” Sookie sniffled. “If I don’t turn, it might mean Eric dies…really dies, but if I do become a vampire…” and Sookie waved her hands. “I can’t see being unhappy forever!”
“So, why don’t you ask Brigant?” Octavia asked.
“Why?” Sookie couldn’t see what her Grandfather could tell her that would make a difference.
“Vampires aren’t the only ones who can give long life,” Octavia shrugged as if it was common knowledge.
“Seelie can do that?” and Sookie felt a burst of joy, but then she thought of all the conversations she’d had with her Seelie relatives where her status had been discussed. “If it’s something they can do, why didn’t someone say something before?”
“If Niall didn’t like you as well as he does, I wouldn’t have mentioned it,” Octavia started gathering her things. “Old songs are full of stories of the Fae spelling their human lovers, but it’s rarely done now. I think it has to do with their race fading. They’ve become greedy and selfish. Just look at how they’ve forced you to be held at arm’s length.”
“It’s different now,” Sookie assured the witch. “Even Dillon is being nice to me.”
“You may have to press him a little,” Octavia continued. “From what I’ve seen, the Seelie are like leprechauns when it come to this, but I still think you should ask,” and Octavia smirked, “That is, as long as you’re willing to spend eternity with that vampire of yours.”
“I love him,” Sookie repeated and she didn’t squash the feeling of hope that blossomed within her.
As Sookie walked along the sidewalk on her way back to town, she looked out into the harbor. They were there, as they were every night now. Sookie thought the presence of the seals had more to do with Moira’s training than Breandan, at least she wanted to believe that. Still, she felt an unexplained comfort seeing them there. She even waved a little, which was how she explained walking into the streetlight. It was silly, and she felt even sillier picking herself off the ground. Tourists were everywhere and some even laughed. “That’ll leave a bruise,” she murmured, rubbing her forehead, but she knew in reality; the bruise would be gone by the time she reached her home. Such was the magic of vampire blood.
She thought to ask Eric about what Octavia told her, but almost as soon as he rose, he was rushing. Sookie racked her brain, trying to remember if they’d talked about the job he was telling her was so important, but she was pretty sure he hadn’t. “I will be back before dawn,” he assured her. It was so unlike the life they’d been living these past few months, Sookie didn’t know what to say. He was hiding something, she was sure, but he didn’t feel badly about it. He seemed to be happy, so she didn’t question him, kissing him before he left.
She spent her evening at Ghoul’s Kiss. When the crowd grew, she threw on an apron and helped with tables. The music was good and she jigged through the pub, joining in the singing, her heart light. Even dropping a trayful of drinks couldn’t dampen her mood. She helped close at the end of the night and Mick walked her home. As she locked the house door behind her, she was sure she heard something beneath her feet, a scrabbling sound, but once she flicked on the lights and listened hard, it was silent. “Just your imagination,” she assured herself.
Alone in their bed under the eaves, Sookie practiced making her columns of light. She wondered at her Grandfather’s reluctance to practice these with her. He’d told her it was more important to learn the skills he’d assigned through her teachers first. “You already know how to do that,” he’d sniffed. “It’s important for you to stretch your possibilities, not repeat your past.”
Sookie made her column look more solid, and then, using the tricks Moira was teaching her, she made the illusion of a second column on the opposite side of the room. She examined the false one, seeing the imperfections. Squinting, she made adjustments until they looked almost identical. “Silly!” she sighed, but there was something about making them that made her remember her Daddy’s warm smile and rolling over, Sookie found sleep.
“I wouldn’t know,” Moira answered, but she didn’t meet Sookie’s eyes.
“I just figured if it’s something that can be done, you might have heard about it.” Sookie had asked Moira about the Seelie being able to award immortality. Since Octavia’s remark, Sookie found herself poring over stories and listening to the lyrics of old songs. It seemed there was a certain lore suggesting that human lovers taken into the fairy realm never aged. “It’s just that I’m thinking about turning, and…”
“That is a vampire thing,” Moira sniffed, and shivering, she filled the air around her with fine drops of water that seemed to glow. When she saw Sookie’s chin lift, she laughed, “Foolish woman! You really believe you can know all our secrets? You would do best to use your time wisely. You are being shown how to use the magic of my kind. Accept it for the gift it is and show your gratitude by paying attention.”
Sookie apologized and put her mind to walking through her exercises. She changed one wall of the garage into a forest. She changed the chairs into deer. When she created a duplicate image of herself at the other side of the garage, Moira laughed. “You have truly mastered what you need to know!” the merrow trilled.
“You’re not jealous?” Sookie asked, remembering Niall’s caution about the leprechaun.
“Of course not!” Moira crowed. “Everyone will be so pleased!”
‘Everyone?’ Sookie thought. She couldn’t be sure, but she was pretty sure Moira wasn’t talking about Niall. “May I ask you a personal question?” she asked.
Moira seemed in too good spirits to protest, so Sookie pressed on, “Do you know anything about the seals I see in the harbor?” Moira stopped laughing. “The only reason I ask is because I always see them. I don’t think they’re just seals. It’s not that I mind. In fact, I kind of like seeing them,” Sookie rushed on.
“Not everything is about you,” Moira said, somewhat evasively.
“I didn’t think it was,” Sookie agreed, “It’s just I see them, and… Well, I thought I heard something under the house where I live. You see, there’s a tunnel…”
“It’s an old place,” Moira told her. “It existed long before humans thought to use it. Now, that humans have forgotten, my kind could return there for safety. You’ll allow it, won’t you? If I promise you have nothing to fear?” Moira’s smile stretched and her dark eyes shone. “It would mean a great deal to us, a favor.”
Sookie was pretty sure there was something Moira wasn’t telling her, but she was felt the merrow didn’t mean her any harm. “Of course,” she told Moira, “I’m sure I’ll rest easy, knowing I have friends close.” ‘Need to tell Eric,’ Sookie thought, but then, rather waspishly, her little voice carped, ‘whenever he comes home!’
Moira thanked Sookie, and for the first time, Sookie saw her seal face hiding behind her human features. “Then, it’s time for me to take my leave of you. I’ll still see you from time to time, just not in this form.” Sookie wondered if Moira was one of the seals she saw in the harbor, but before she could figure whether it would be polite to ask, the slight woman hugged her, and whispering, “It will be interesting to see which of us Brigant chooses for you to steal from next.”
“Is that how you see it?” Sookie asked. “Stealing?”
“It’s not natural for any being to possess too many skills,” Moira sighed. “Absolute power…”
“Corrupts absolutely,” Sookie finished. “I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of power.”
“Not if you think that way,” Moira laughed, and with a blink, she was gone.
Sookie checked in with Maryann before walking home. The seals were there, bobbing in the late afternoon sun. Their eyes glowed, making it easy for Sookie to see when they dove or winked. “Thank you, Moira,” she said aloud, earning her a quick glance from a passerby.
Sookie continued on her way, smiling at those she recognized and nodding to those she didn’t. The walkers were coming every day and it was good business to be friendly in a town dependent on tourist dollars. Sookie was rounding the corner that led up the hill to Ghoul’s Kiss when she found herself face to face with Brian’s wife. “How are you, Kathleen?” Sookie asked.
“And you, as bold as brass!” Kathleen exclaimed. The small woman was positively bristling.
“What’s happened?” Sookie asked.
“Don’t look so innocent!” Kathleen said loud enough that people around them slowed to listen. “I should have known someone like you couldn’t just be a friend! I should have known you were up to something!”
“What do you think I’ve done?” Sookie asked. This was Brian the Fixer’s wife. They had exchanged Christmas cards and Sookie had been a guest in their home. She couldn’t think what would cause this woman to be so angry.
“You’ve slept with him, haven’t you?” Kathleen snarled. “You’ve whored for him, smiling in my face the whole time!”
“I don’t know where you got that idea!” Sookie protested. “I’m happily married! Eric and I…”
“Everyone knows he steps out on you!” Kathleen grated. “Leaving town on his fancy trips, sporting about in other places with all his fancy friends! What was it, then? You decided to give your husband a bit of his own back by sleeping with my husband?”
They were drawing a crowd and Sookie felt her face flush. “I don’t know what’s given you this idea,” Sookie protested, “but I swear to you. I’m faithful to my husband. You and Brian are my friends! I would never…”
“Protest all you want!” Kathleen almost screeched, “but I know what I know. You keep your distance from my man!” and turning, Kathleen stomped away.
Sookie realized she’d been holding her breath. She thought at one-point Kathleen would strike her, so she’d braced herself. Glancing around, she saw the openly curious faces of those she didn’t know and the narrowed eyes of those she did. In an instant, she felt weak and instead of continuing to the Kiss, she turned for home. She figured she could call Maryann; her friend would soon find out what this was all about. As Sookie stepped inside, she clearly heard the noises under her feet. They seemed nearer and more.
Feeling vulnerable, Sookie turned on the lights, but stayed close to the front door as she reached for her phone.
“Will you come and get me?” Sookie asked her friend. “Eric’s not due back until later and I don’t want to be here alone.”
“I heard about Kathleen,” Maryann told her. Sookie’s mouth dropped. It couldn’t have happened more than fifteen minutes ago, but then Sookie remembered. She lived in a small town.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Sookie told her.
“Neither does anyone else,” Maryann assured her.
Not ten minutes later, Sookie was driving back to Seacoast Shores. She texted Eric, letting him know where she was. She didn’t exactly expect an answer, but, still, she was disappointed when she didn’t receive one. As she got out of the car, she turned around. It seemed there were more seals now, their glowing eyes like fireflies over the ocean’s surface. “Have you ever seen so many?” she asked Maryann.
“So many what?” her friend asked in return. Even after Sookie pointed them out, Maryann couldn’t see them and Sookie realized then her friend couldn’t see the glow. It was the mark only Sookie could see, the glow of the Supernatural.
Maryann had guests and Sookie fell into the routine of fetching tea and answering questions. After a few hours, the women retreated to Maryann’s apartment to watch a movie. As the evening stretched into night, Maryann asked, “What time did he say he’d be returning?”
“Before now,” Sookie answered, checking her phone again. After another hour, Sookie called. It was agreed she’d only call Eric in an emergency when he was on these trips, but something told her this might qualify. The phone rolled over to voicemail. Sookie felt her throat tighten and her breath catch.
“I’m sure he’s okay,” Maryann assured her, rightly guessing where Sookie’s mind was wandering. “I’ll tell you what, I have an extra room. Why don’t you turn in? He knows where you are and when he gets here, he can call you and you can let him in.” Sookie could see her friend was exhausted. It was written on Maryann’s face and Sookie knew the work her friend needed to do come morning.
“If you don’t mind,” Sookie agreed.
Sookie lay on the bed, not changing out of her clothes. She kept her phone beside her, tossing and turning, checking when she’d realized she was dozing. Finally, morning started to peek from beneath the shade. “Something’s happened,” she said to the ceiling. There was nothing, no whisper through the bond. “Where are you?” Sookie asked aloud, but the only thing that answered were her doubts.