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
“You sleeping?” Her fingers trailed over his chest, playing with the dusting of hair.
“I wish I was,” he answered. “I just keep thinking about it.”
Brigid rolled over, coming up on her elbow. He hadn’t needed light to see her even before, but now she had a slight glow. “We could get up,” she offered. “There’s herbal tea in the kitchen and I think your Father left something a little stronger.”
Rick took a deep breath. “I love you,” he told her, reaching up to caress her cheek. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you and…well, you know.”
She grinned, turning her head in his hand. “It’s okay. You can say ‘baby.’ I’m not calling it parasite anymore, especially since he’s not making me puke every day.”
“I was really worried at first,” Rick confessed.
“You were?” and Brigid leaned down to kiss the tip of his nose before flopping on her back. “I’d never been seasick a day in my life! I thought I had cancer or something!”
“You never smelled sick!” Rick assured her. “If you had some dreaded disease, I think I’d know.”
“Is that how I smell to you?” Brigid was staring at the pressed tin ceiling above them. “You know they were holding their breath around me today. Your parents?”
“Are you talking about how sweet you are?” He couldn’t help it. He rolled over and buried his nose in her neck, running his hand from her hip over baby and then up to her more generous breast. “You always smell sweet to me! Makes me want to lick and kiss,” and he followed kisses with his body.
Brigid opened her legs and soon was moving restlessly under his tongue. He draped his arm across her, holding her in place as he licked and suckled. “Oh, God!” It had taken no time at all to make her come undone. Her cum was sweeter and Rick drank deeply, using fingers to prolong her orgasm before turning to sink his fangs into her inner thigh. Her blood was different, too. He would never hurt her, but the richness of it did call to some small, dark part of him. He licked the wounds, a shudder rolling through him as he thought of what could happen if Brigid fell victim to another vampire.
“You okay down there?” she asked, when he lingered.
“I’m fine,” and he shifted to join her. Once he’d settled her against him, he lay his hand over her belly. She’d started scolding him for paying so much attention to that part of her, but tonight, she just stretched and purred. “How about you?”
“Pretty blissed out,” she answered, confirming what he’d thought.
“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. “The doctor didn’t rough you up any, did she?”
Brigid took a sharp breath. “No, no she didn’t hurt me.” Her thumb traveled to her mouth and Rick waited. “What do you think she means, about the baby being magic?”
“Not sure,” Rick answered, “but she says I’m magic. Do I feel off to you?”
“No!” Brigid snort-laughed. “You think that’s it? I mean, you don’t think this is going to be one of those Alien movie things, do you?”
“What?” Rick rolled on his side, pulling back the sheets, and placing his hand over Brigid’s bare baby bump. He stroked carefully, and then yelled, “Oh, shit!” pulling his hand back.
She jumped, as he’d meant her to do, before her eyes narrowed and she smacked him. “That’s not funny! Little P is sitting on my bladder and unless you want to be sleeping in a pee puddle, you better school your humor!”
“Little Parasite isn’t going to come hurtling out any time soon,” Rick teased. “I think we’re both safe,” and to prove it he leaned over, loudly kissing the hard slope of her abdomen.
“What did your Father have to say?” Brigid asked him.
Rick lay his head against their child, wrapping his arms around Brigid’s hips. She stroked his head and he sighed. “He was actually pretty helpful.”
“I like him,” Brigid said.
Rick chuckled, “Of course you do! All women love the Viking! Sex on two legs. Did you know that’s what most people think?”
“He’s not like that anymore!” When Rick didn’t say anything, Brigid added, “I don’t see him that way!”
Growling, Rick retreated back to the top of the bed and his pillow. “Look, Brig, I don’t blame you. He’s all that. A thousand years old, all those muscles, the confidence…”
“Shut up!” and when Rick didn’t look convinced, she grabbed his chin. “You need to trespass into my head to fix this?” She hadn’t called him on his shit in a while, but he recognized it when he saw it. “Go ahead! I want you to!”
“I trust you…” Rick started, but Brigid was having none of it.
“He’s your Father! I get it! He came back into your life and stole your Mother away from you.”
“It wasn’t like that,” rational Rick said out loud.
“It’s not how you feel deep down,” Brigid pressed. “All those years it was just the two of you and in the blink of an eye…”
“Of a turning…” Rick admitted.
Brigid’s expression softened, “Okay, of a turning, you’re out and he’s in. You know that’s not really how it went together, don’t you?”
Rick huffed and then leaned over to kiss this woman who saw him so clearly. “I know. At least, my brain knows. Still, Eric Northman is a pretty hard act to follow…”
“You’re not in competition,” Brigid chided. “They’re your parents. If you give them an inch, they’ll love you. I mean, if I got lost and it took years to find me, would you want Little P to be jealous of me when I came back?”
“I’m not jealous!” Rick exclaimed, but then took a deep breath. “Maybe ‘jealous’ is a pretty good word for it. Look, I’m not proud of it. I just…”
“Need to get over it,” Brigid finished.
“Yeah,” Rick admitted. “I do.” His eyes traveled back to their growing child. “If something did happen to you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“Well,” and she leaned over to kiss him, “I’m not intending to go anywhere!” Then she burped. “Shit!” she swore.
“Want some tea?” Rick asked, already rolling out of bed.
“No, water,” she growled, rolling the other way and heading to the bathroom. When he returned, she was already back in bed. “False alarm. I just had to pee, so all good.”
He handed her the water and then reached for his fiddle case. “Maybe Little P would like some music,” he suggested.
“Hobo’s Lullaby,” Brigid requested and when he reached the chorus, she sang the words, her voice weaving descant to his melody.
It calmed him, making music. He continued with an air he’d been working on during the crossing. It was slow, reminding him of flying under sail, his woman’s hair acting like telltales, streaming behind them in the wind. “Suppose I can make a living doing this?” he asked.
“We’ll need to make a living doing something,” Brigid answered.
Rick loosened his bow and set his fiddle on the table near the bed. “I know. I’ve been thinking about that.”
“The money from the trip won’t last long,” Brigid said, her hand sheltering her belly. “I’m betting it will take a court case to shake any of my trust money loose…”
“We can call Mr. Cataliades,” Rick said quickly. “Uncle Desmond would do it.”
“For free?” Brigid asked. “Even if he doesn’t ask for money, Rick, it will be one of those terrible favors, and who knows what he’ll ask of you? Didn’t he ask your Mother to go back into vampire world?”
“It wasn’t exactly like that, but, yes, he’s the one who got her back in with them,” Rick conceded. He opened his arm in invitation and she rolled against him, the contact bringing comfort to both. “I think my Father wants me to work for him.”
“You think?” Brigid asked, “Or you know?”
“I know,” Rick confessed.
“What do you think?” Brigid went still beside him, waiting.
“I think it would make us a lot of money,” Rick replied.
She remained still. “That’s not what I asked,” she said after a bit.
He sighed. Rick hadn’t really thought it through, he’d been resisting. She was waiting, and so he began. “It would be a lot of money. These people have crazy money, Brig. They throw it around like nothing I ever imagined. I mean, Aunt Fran had money, we knew, but no one just meeting her would have known. Still, it’s not like the money vampires have.”
“If you really don’t want to do it, there’s the trust you were left by your Aunt, right?” Brigid asked.
“I don’t want to sound selfish here,” Rick sniffed, “but I don’t want to touch that. It feels like blood money. I know Auntie Fran wanted me to have it, but she had to die first.” A quick tear fell over his cheek and Rick let it fall. With anyone else he would have hidden his grief, but with Brigid he could be himself.
“There’s the B&B in Chester,” she suggested. “Karin and Peter have left and it’s sitting empty. We could go there…”
“Too dangerous,” Rick cut her off. “There’d be favors to cut, too. Karin had to do all kinds of jobs so Peter could stay there.” He shifted, “Being vampire doesn’t mean things are easy. They’re so territorial and it’s another kingdom.”
“Then, hire someone to open it up again. Peter’s mom could help. It would be a stream of income for us,” Brigid suggested.
“Still, not enough,” Rick pointed out. He placed his hand over hers. “We’re going to be parents, Brig. Our own family, yet where are we? Staying in an apartment my parents own, probably moving to a house my parents own, eating food they buy, and driving cars they provide. What are we returning?” He sighed again, “Feeling like Little P isn’t the only parasite in this room.”
“You are being way too hard on yourself!” Brigid exclaimed.
“Am I?” Rick asked. “I’m not going back to college, Brig. It wasn’t for me, but I can’t see not earning my own way. I have skills…gifts. I can take care of us,” and he kissed her head. “All of us.”
“Yes, but, at what cost?” she asked.
“Surprisingly little,” he confessed. If Rick was perfectly honest with himself, the thing that bothered him most about killing the Fae in England was just how little it bothered him. He thought he should be more upset, but when he thought about it, he only felt numb.
“I don’t want you doing this if it’s not really what you want,” Brigid whispered, “and I really don’t think it is.”
“How would I know?” Rick asked. “It’s not like I’ve tried. I mean, up to now, I’ve done everything I could to stay out of their world. Maybe it’s not so bad.”
“Maybe it could get you killed,” Brigid said softly.
“I didn’t kill my Mom…” and then Rick sighed, “Okay, technically she is dead, but now she’s vampire like me.” Rick took another deep breath before continuing. “I think about all the vampires I know: Pam, Karin, Rubio, my Mom…Dad. They have troubles like anyone else and they’re happy, like anyone else. And, bottom line, they’re more like me than…”
“Me?” Brigid asked, rising away from him.
“I’m just saying, vampires have lives that are pretty good. They have jobs. They have money. They have people who watch their backs. It’s not a bad way to get by.” Rick stared at her and Brigid stared right back. When she didn’t relent, he added, “It’s who I am, Brig. You know that. I think it’s time I explored that part of me.”
She stared a minute more, but then she settled back against him. “I guess I’m part of your world now, too,” she sighed. “Fae? I don’t even know what it means! I knew they were weird, my Mom’s family, but magic?”
“You don’t remember anything about your Mom that was… I don’t know, special?” Rick asked.
“Do you?” Brigid challenged right back. “I mean, before you found out, was there anything you noticed that would have tipped you off about your Mom?”
“No,” Rick admitted. “She was…well, my Mom. She was fierce in her own way, but no more than any of the other ladies around Chester.”
“Yeah, that’s how I remember mine,” Brigid nodded against him, “and my Dad. I remember them playing music in my Grannie’s cottage. I’d dance for them and they’d call me their…” and Brigid’s breath caught. “Their fairy princess,” she finished. “I haven’t thought about that in a long time!”
“Lots of parents call their daughters that,” Rick assured her.
“Yeah, I guess they do, but they aren’t me and unlike those other parents, it looks like it meant something to mine.” She shifted again. “How do you do it, Rick? Growing up one way and then finding out everything you knew was a lie?”
“Don’t say that!” Rick said softly. “Not knowing and being lied to are two different things. My Mom didn’t lie to me. She just didn’t tell me everything. I’ll bet your Mom was the same way. She wanted to protect you, like my Mom wanted to protect me.”
“So, now the time for stories is over and here we are.” Brigid’s voice was bleak as she trailed her fingers over her stomach. “I guess if something good does come out of all this, at least our baby will know from the get what it is and where it fits in the world.”
“Did you ask?” and Rick picked up Brigid’s hand so he could nibble her fingertips.
“About what?” but Rick could see by her look Brigid knew what he was asking. “No,” she said after a beat. “We agreed we wouldn’t and it’s not like that doctor had a machine to find out.”
“I’m betting Amy Ludwig could tell by tasting you,” Rick teased, nipping and then sucking Brigid’s finger.
Brigid pulled at him until his lips were close enough to kiss. “We agreed,” she said again.
Rick chuckled. He wanted to know the baby’s sex, but not enough to push the point. ‘Christmas Eve Boy!’ she’d called him, and she was right. Rick had always struggled with not knowing things. “So, you really okay with going to Bon Temps?” he asked her to distract himself.
“I think it would be easier than being here,” Brigid answered, “but if you’re going to work for your Dad, wouldn’t you have to stay in New Orleans?”
Rick thought about it, “Somehow, I don’t think so. I’ll text him tomorrow, let him know. That way he can talk to my Mom after she rises.”
“You don’t think she’ll like the idea,” and Brigid gave him a look.
“I think if she doesn’t like it, Dad will find a way to get her in a better place before she talks with us,” Rick confessed.
“You’re sure?” He didn’t need to dip into her mind. The tie between them let him feel her concern.
“I think it will be fine,” he assured her, “and if I don’t like the rides in Vampire Land, I’ll just leave the park.” Brigid settled against him and within a few minutes, he heard her breathing change. He thought of what he’d said, that he could walk away from vampires if he wanted, but somehow, he knew he was lying.
“What do you mean he wants to work for you?” Sookie growled. “Rick’s never been interested before! What did you say to him?”
“I suggested he embrace his vampire nature,” Eric said shortly. He’d risen to a message from his son asking to meet and discuss how he could use his skills for the good of the kingdom. Eric had felt a rare burst of pride, thinking of Rick Northman standing beside his sisters, adding to their family’s luster. His good will toward his son continued until Sookie’s rising, when Eric found out that rather than allow him to broach the subject, Rick had left an almost identical message on his Mother’s phone.
Sookie wasn’t shy about expressing herself, disturbing their rising rituals, and putting his nerves on edge. “You promised me you wouldn’t pressure him!” she snapped. The elevator doors closed and the car started its descent to the donor’s area.
“I didn’t pressure him,” Eric said again. “This was his choice, Lover.”
“Sure, it was, just like all the times you high-handed me into suggesting things that would help you!” She sounded angry, but what Eric could feel just under the static electricity of her anger was Sookie’s fear. It allowed him to maintain his temper.
Sookie flew out of the car the minute the doors opened, rushing toward the first couch, her eyes blazing. “You’re frightening them,” Eric pointed out.
“I’m not…” and then Sookie caught herself. She turned to look at the woman who was staring at her. The woman’s heart was pounding so hard they could both hear it. “I’m sorry!” she apologized. “I didn’t mean to take my bad temper out on you.”
Eric couldn’t help smiling. ‘So human!’ but Sookie chose the moment to look at him. She clearly misunderstood, because her contrition immediately soured. “You’ll see for yourself,” he told his mate. “We will meet them tonight. There are several petitioners we must see first, but I’m assured it won’t take long.”
“Maybe it would be best if I just went over to the apartment myself,” Sookie said after feeding, pausing to lick the woman’s neck before heading to the elevator. Eric noticed Sookie wasn’t waiting for him.
“Maybe,” Eric replied, not wanting to give the donors any more gossip than they’d already acquired tonight. “Hold the elevator for me,” he added.
He took his time, deliberately keeping his mate waiting. Sookie’s temper cut both ways. She could cut cold, freezing him out, or she could explode, her words just tumbling out. When her temper cut hot, it usually ended in frenzied love-making and Eric found the possibility most appealing. Unfortunately, her temper seemed to be leaning toward frostier this evening, so by the time they’d made it back to their floor, Sookie had covered her annoyance with a thin veneer of civility. It was Eric’s least favorite version of his wife.
The meetings did go quickly. There was a new vampire couple coming to give their personal thanks for being granted permission to open a new cleaning service in New Orleans. Maxwell Lee introduced the people who would be running the Boo Krewe for the coming year. Eric made formal his recognition of Thalia as a member of his family. Through all of it, Sookie sat, her chin high, smiling, and quiet.
It took the emissary from Area 5 to finally shake loose her too-calm expression. “I have news,” the emissary announced. “Too important to be trusted over the Internet. Perhaps we might speak somewhere private?”
The news wasn’t good. They had missed Heidi. The tracker had disappeared, but a spy reported seeing her in Jackson. “Good riddance,” Sookie growled, but then added, “Poor Hunter!”
“How was she alerted?” Eric asked, but the envoy didn’t know.
“Rubio and Pam led the hunt,” he told them. “They circled her safe house. Her car and coffins were there, but she was gone.”
“How do you know she wasn’t abducted?” Eric asked.
“Her clothes were gone,” the envoy shrugged. “She knew enough to leave things we could trace, but it didn’t look rushed.” He handed over a message in Pam’s hand confirming what they’d been told.
“If Pam’s convinced, that’s good enough for me,” Sookie said, reading the note in turn.
“Perhaps.” There was something about this that didn’t sit right, but Eric read the note again. Pam was no one’s fool. Eric waited for the emissary to leave before sitting down. “I never thought Heidi would betray me,” he confessed.
“Why? Because you’re so all-knowing?” Sookie sniped, but then she relented. “I know. You did everything you could, gave her a place, tried to save her son. It doesn’t seem right.”
“I thought Rasul would be the one. Until now, I believed for all we knew each other, he would betray me before Heidi,” Eric told his mate.
He could see his admitting he’d been mistaken gave him points. Sookie gladly slid into the lap he offered, cuddling against him. “Even the great Eric Northman can be wrong sometimes,” she whispered.
“I didn’t manipulate Rick,” he told her. “Our son made this decision alone.”
She stared in his eyes before touching her lips against his. “I believe you,” she told him. “I’m just frightened. He doesn’t know what he’s getting into.”
“He will learn,” Eric purred, gathering her against him. “We will watch over him, make sure he’s safe.”
“If he wants to stop?” Sookie asked.
“Do you want me to lie to you?” Eric asked.
“No,” and Sookie turned her face into his chest. “Still, there’s all kinds of ways Rick could come out. If he does it here in New Orleans, everyone will know about him. Stan Davis is slated to visit and there’s the Summit in two months. Then, there’s Brigid. Even you said they shouldn’t stay in the City, and he won’t want to be separated from her.”
“You want them in Area 5,” Eric stated.
“I do,” Sookie acknowledged. “I’ve wanted it from the beginning. You can trust Rubio. He’ll treat Rick like his own son. He’ll bring him along slowly, protect their privacy. He’ll be straight about living vampire and Lily can fill Brigid in. We can visit them as often as we like. No one would think that strange. There are no vampires in Bon Temps, not now. Ever since Bill’s house was ripped down, you know vampires avoid the place.”
“The Weres will smell her difference,” Eric reminded her.
“Yes, but the Fae don’t make Weres want to destroy,” Sookie pointed out. “If anything, it should help them keep an eye on her, protect her. Maybe we should purchase a ward…”
“No!” Eric told her. “The risk is not worth it. We can’t afford looking as if we are what Russell Edgington says.”
“Buying spells from witches isn’t against any law!” Sookie protested.
“No, it’s worse,” Eric countered. “You know the rumors about us. There are some who say you are a witch!” Sookie snort-laughed, but Eric pressed on. “We can’t give anyone reason to doubt your legitimate place as my Queen. Russell’s lies have been damaging enough. It would be a mistake to make them reality.” When Sookie didn’t say anything, Eric added, “The best way to protect Rick, to protect all of us, is to honor the rules, Sookie. You know this!”
“I do,” she sighed. “Doesn’t mean I like it, but I know what you’re saying.”
“Which is why we should sell the house, your house, to Brigid.” Eric leaned back, crossing his arms, waiting for his words to sink in.
“I don’t think that’s necessary!” Sookie said rather quickly, but then she leaned back, too, and he could see her working it through. “Selling it to her still wouldn’t protect them from fairies,” Sookie pointed out.
“No, but it would provide them safe haven from vampires,” Eric answered. “We’ll have to get them to agree but paying Weres as guards may keep them safer while satisfying those who feel we bend the rules too far.”
He could have told her he didn’t like the idea either, but he knew she appreciated that about him. “Pam is there in Area 5. She can be trusted around them. Rasul, though? He should head back to his own Area. I think he’s had enough training.”
“You still have your doubts?” He should have known his mate would feel his suspicions
“I know it’s nothing,” Eric told her. “It’s just we still don’t have concrete proof of Heidi’s guilt. Until that happens, I will continue to feel a little paranoid.”
“Pam told me as much about you,” Sookie laughed. “Sometimes a shoe is just a shoe!” It was the thing Pam told him when he overthought these situations.
“Sometimes,” Eric agreed.
“So, it’s agreed?” Sookie pulled back so she could stare into his eyes.
“If Rick is serious in his offer to work for the kingdom, then, yes, Lover, he will train in Area 5.” He could tell Sookie wasn’t pleased, but, for now, she wasn’t angry with him anymore. “It gives you more time here with Hunter. It would be good to explore the boundaries of this gift you’ve discovered,” he added, hoping to distract her further.
Sookie climbed from his lap, offering him a hand. “We should visit Hunter,” she said, “See how he’s doing.” Eric knew she’d checked in with her cousin last night, letting him know Rick and Brigid were in the City.
Hunter was still being watched. His phone was monitored and he wasn’t allowed to leave the Palace. Under the circumstances, he was more hospitable when they entered his room than Eric anticipated. “Evening,” he greeted them. Hunter was in the sitting area reading when they arrived. The lingering smell of chicken let Eric know his adopted nephew had already eaten.
“How are you?” Sookie asked. Eric was pleased to see that after his mate hugged the young man, Hunter returned her embrace.
“Fair to middlin’,” Hunter replied. “I guess…” and he shrugged. “I guess I really was feeling that vampire blood. I can’t explain it, but I can tell something’s changed and it’s not me.”
“We received a report of Heidi having crossed the state line,” Eric told Hunter. “She is in Mississippi now. The physical distance should help mute the tie between you.”
“You really think she was using me?” His mouth was down-turned. “Spying?” he added.
“We think so, Sweetie,” Sookie told him.
He didn’t protest. Instead, Hunter leaned back a little, crossed his arms and stared away. “Guess you just can never tell,” he said after a bit. The young man’s emotions were written on his face. It had been less than forty-eight hours. Heidi’s distance was likely mitigating the influence, but Hunter was still likely feeling the effects of being in her thrall.
“Do you feel up to working with me some more glamour stuff?” Sookie asked. “It might help, having something to do.”
“I guess I should thank y’all for not killing me,” Hunter stated.
“Don’t talk like that!” His mate’s exclamation was well meant, but Eric didn’t think it was a good idea to sugarcoat how close Hunter had come.
“If you were a vampire, you would likely have been sentenced to your final death for this,” Eric told him.
Sookie protested, but Eric could see his honesty made an impression. “Guess I’m glad I’m not a vampire, then,” Hunter sighed.
“Becoming vampire is something best done when one fully understands what is expected,” Eric replied, his eyes wandered back to Sookie. He thought of her struggles these past years. Only now was she evolving into the vampire he’d known she could be. It would have been easier for her, for all of them, had she chosen this life and been better prepared.
“I wish things had been different,” Sookie soothed. “I’d give the world to have you happy. You’ll find the right one, you’ll see.”
“Yeah,” and Hunter gave a ghost of a smile, “sure. Working sounds like a good idea.”
“We’ll get started tomorrow,” Sookie promised. “We’re heading over tonight to see Rick and Brigid.” She glanced at Eric. “You could come over later tonight, if you’d like. Your Uncle and I need some time with them first.”
“Why aren’t they in the Palace?” Hunter asked.
“Well,” and Sookie hesitated.
“Brigid is with child,” Eric supplied. “Her family is Fae. It turns out she’s more Fae than we realized.”
“Aunt Sookie told me about the Cranes,” Hunter confirmed. Eric couldn’t help glancing at Sookie. If Hunter knew that before Heidi left, then it was likely Russell Edgington knew about Brigid, too. “So, what’s the problem? She’s Fae, which means she was Fae before…”
“She’s emitting a scent,” Sookie said primly. “It’s a very particular scent, one that’s attractive to vampires.”
Hunter glanced from one to the other. “Huh. Well, guess that’s not too convenient.”
“Fortunately, we don’t have to breathe,” Sookie explained. “I just hold my breath.”
“Well, if that don’t beat all!” and Hunter gave a sharp laugh. “You know, we sure are a family with problems! I’m a recovering V addict, my cousin is vampire bait, and we all have head issues.” He nodded at Eric, “I’m thinking you chose the wrong family to get yourself tied into.”
“I consider myself lucky,” Eric replied before turning to Sookie. “We should go. Already the hour is late. I’m sure they are keeping human hours. Brigid will be tired.”
“Give us an hour before you head over?” Sookie asked Hunter. “We’ll let their guard know you are free to visit.”
“We restricted their guards to Weres and humans,” Eric told Hunter. “It’s safer. They are staying at your Mother’s old apartment.”
“I know where it is,” Hunter confirmed.
Hunter followed them in to the hallway. As the guard stepped forward, Eric held up his hand, and then nodded. It was enough. Word would spread quickly Hunter Savoy was once again a free man.
“Do you think he’s okay?” Sookie asked as they walked away.
“You might consider entering his mind to find out,” Eric answered.
“He’s family!” Sookie protested.
“Exactly,” Eric pointed out.
Their sedan was waiting in front of the Palace. Their driver was someone they’d used before. He took them on a circuit of the City, checking the rearview mirror, and backtracking to make sure they weren’t followed.
“Not like this place is any secret,” Sookie growled as they crossed the courtyard. The ten-minute drive took nearly thirty and Sookie kept glancing at the time on her phone. She needn’t have worried. All the lights were on in the upstairs apartment once they arrived and sounds of music could be heard downstairs. The scent of Fae was also strong as they walked past the fountain, leaving Eric to suspect the couple had spent hours during the day sitting on the patio furniture, enjoying the sunshine.
Sookie knocked before she entered, and Eric trailed behind her. ‘Sell this place to a human, too,’ he ticked off in his head. It could be done before tomorrow night, creating another line of defense. His son looked less worn tonight, however, Brigid was radiant. Her face shone, and her hair was unusually glossy. Whatever magic she manifested, it was potent.
“You look so much better!” Sookie was telling their son.
“I guess you’d like to talk about my message,” and Rick gestured toward the dining table.
Rick moved past them to the refrigerator, but Brigid beat him to it. “Blood?” she offered. Eric declined, (“We’ve fed”) and they all sat down.
Rick launched right in. “I think it makes sense for us, Brigid and me, to join the vampire community,” Rick announced. He opened his hand and Brigid placed hers in his, a show of solidarity. “Brigid probably won’t be able to work until after the baby comes and we don’t want to be sponging off you.”
“If it’s a matter of money…” Sookie started.
“That’s not really it,” Rick stopped her. He glanced at Eric. “I’m vampire. I don’t live that way. I don’t act that way. I barely know the rules, but I think…” and he returned his gaze to Brigid. “We think it’s time we did. I need to know who I am. I’m a Supe. We, Brigid and me, we’re both Supes.” Rick sighed, “Ever since I found out, it’s been like looking in from the outside. I won’t say everything I’ve seen made me comfortable, but thinking about it, unless you walk the walk, how do you know? So now, it turns out Brigid is Supernatural, too. In most ways, it makes our decision easier. It’s not like Mr. and Mrs. Hermosa where she had to change what she was.”
“You don’t know that, Rick! You don’t know if Brigid will become immortal. I didn’t! I had to be turned!” Sookie protested.
“Well, we do know Brigid isn’t human,” Rick pushed right back. “Right? I mean, you’re sitting there holding your breath because she’s not human!”
Sookie opened her mouth to protest, so Eric stepped in, “She’s Fae, so, yes, Brigid is not human.” Eric could see Sookie wasn’t ready to let it go, so he decided to cut to the chase. “We agree to your proposition, Rick. We discussed it earlier as you meant us to. We have agreed it makes sense to give you a position in this kingdom.”
“First, you get a chance to try it out,” Sookie interrupted, “and not here in New Orleans.” She turned to Brigid, “You said you liked the house in Bon Temps. We’d like you to move there and soon.”
“We will sell the house to you,” Eric told the couple. “We will place it in Brigid’s name. It will present a barrier to any vampire trying to enter without your permission.”
“You’ll train with Mr. Hermosa, Rick.” Sookie nodded at Eric, “We talked all this through. I won’t tell you I’m totally on board, but I understand why you,” and she made an effort to smile at Brigid, “why you both want to do this.”
“Pam will stay in Bon Temps until you’re settled,” Eric added. “I can’t leave her there long. I need her here.”
“I’m surprised you aren’t sending Thalia,” Rick groused.
“I’m sure you would benefit from her tutelage,” Eric smirked. “Thalia’s status has changed. In recognition of her service, she is now recognized as my sister. Consider her your new Aunt.”
“Great!” Rick huffed.
“You’ll probably think so,” Sookie told him. “It frees her from having to babysit you. Frankly, it frees her entirely.”
“She is no longer my vassal,” Eric clarified. “She is entitled to all the rights and assets of my kingdom.” He glanced at his mate. “I trust her. She deserves a permanent place among us.”
“Which means you’ll need guards up there,” and Sookie was back to business.
“I’m sure we’ll have all sorts of well-meaning guard types hanging around,” Rick countered. “I mean, Mustapha and Warren are pretty friendly.”
“They have duties,” Eric answered. It occurred to Eric his son might think his encounters with the Packmaster and his companion were entirely social. He considered setting him straight, but then considered his son’s likely reaction to the truth. “Still, I’m sure you will see them often. Yet, your Mother’s right. It would be best to have someone keeping an eye on the place. You will be working. Brigid will be at the house alone,” and Eric paused, letting that sink in.
“Yeah,” Rick said, looking at his mate. When she started to protest, he pressed, “You know how isolated the place is. That long driveway? Your only neighbor is the graveyard. Maybe it would be a good idea to have someone walking the grounds.” He glanced at his Mom, “Just not too close, okay?”
“I think we can arrange that,” Sookie agreed. “Weres would be best. They can run the grounds and if anyone’s been around, they’ll know.”
“It would be nice for you to see your Uncle Jason,” Brigid said softly, “and I’ll bet George would come to visit on school vacations.”
“You liked Merlotte’s and Karin and Peter aren’t far.” Rick started looking more enthusiastic. Turning to his Mom, he vowed, “We’re going to pay you for the house. I’ll set aside a part of each check. If you’d like, I could pay you out of my trust now.”
“You’re not going to pay me anything,” Sookie told him. She glanced at the small bulge under Brigid’s t-shirt. “It’s a gift for my grandchild.” Eric could feel her embarrassment as red tears spilled over her cheeks and her voice cracked, “Your great-gran would be so proud!”
“I wish I’d known her,” and Rick placed his hand over his Mom’s.
“I know she’ll be watching over you,” and Sookie nodded, taking Rick’s hand in hers, but it was to Brigid she spoke. “I figure you can go up there the beginning of next week. It’ll give Amy a chance to take another look at you before you travel. We’ll get the house provisioned. Change anything you’d like. It’ll be your home.”
There was a sound in the courtyard. “Hunter Savoy has arrived,” Eric announced. “He was anxious to see you both.”
Sookie wiped her eyes and Rick started clearing the table, making room for his cousin. He leaned down to kiss his mate’s head and as he stopped at the sink, he started humming a bright tune. “I’ve sired a happy vampire,” Eric thought. It seemed strange. Vampires weren’t supposed to be happy, talking about babies and house-warmings, yet here they were. Surely, this couldn’t be bad. Perhaps this was what lay ahead for all of them, a new day for their kind.