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
Five months had flown by ‘in the blink of an eye,’ Rick thought. What didn’t fly was the drive home from Shreveport. Traffic, even around midnight, was bad on Fridays. The one bright spot was George Hermosa would be at the house on Hummingbird Lane, visiting from Massachusetts.
“Remind George that his Mother would like to see him,” Mr. Hermosa said before Rick left Fangtasia tonight.
Maddie Hermosa was in town, too, but Rick didn’t think he’d see her at all. It was nearing Christmas and she’d be busy. Mr. Hermosa (‘Rubio!’ Rick reminded himself), told him Maddie was spending most of her holidays with friends in the Caribbean. Even Frank, the baby of the family, had plans that involved traveling. He’d be graduating in the Spring and, as a member of the football team, he always seemed to have something going on. Rick and Brigid attended Frank’s day games at the beginning of the season, but now that most of Frank’s games were at night it was too dangerous to go.
Brigid really did look wonderful. The baby was big, but everyone was healthy. She also smelled amazing.
“Pure Fae,” Karin informed him, “and, I should know.”
“How’s the driving lessons coming along?” Kyle, Rick’s driver asked. He was a Were and someone Rick was getting to know.
“Good,” Rick answered. “Well…okay. Brig said she’s not driving with me anymore.”
Kyle laughed. “Giving her the white knuckles? You don’t want to do that! Let that little guy hang in there as long as he likes. Once there’s a baby in the house, there’s no rest, believe me!”
“Never saw anyone grab the armrest so hard,” Rick grinned. “I think being pregnant is making her paranoid.”
“Could be your driving sucks,” and they both laughed. When Rick told people he didn’t have a driver’s license, they were surprised, but he’d never found the need. Between people he knew and living in Boston, he hadn’t seen the point in learning. When he was in Chester, he got rides or found other ways to transport himself. Now, here in upcountry Louisiana, it was different. Bon Temps was a long way from anywhere and the ride to Shreveport was over highway for twenty minutes on a good day. Fortunately, Brigid had her license, so she drove the Subaru Forrester when they needed groceries or a change of scenery.
The car wasn’t one they chose. It was another gift from his parents and it wasn’t the first car they’d sent.
The first car was big, black, and looked like a tank. It also got about 2 miles to the gallon, so Rick sent it back. His Mom protested (‘Please think of the baby, Rick!). Brigid put her foot down, too, and the Subaru was the compromise. Rick thought of his Father’s cherry red Corvette. He knew what people said about men who drove fast cars, but he’d seen his Father naked and knew that, as always, Eric Northman was the exception to the rule.
“What you thinking about, back there?” Kyle asked.
“Fast cars,” Rick answered.
“Good answer!” and Kyle adjusted the rear-view mirror so they’d have better eye contact. “I’m a muscle car man, myself. Twin turbos, more cylinders than sense. What about you?”
“Sleek, low, and corners on rails,” Rick answered. “Like Brigid would let me! She’d guilt me over our children’s future and the impact on the environment.”
“Good woman,” Kyle grinned, “but boys need to be boys.” He winked, “Don’t you worry, none. Soon, you’ll have a chip off the old block and it’ll be two against one.”
“Could be,” and Rick shrugged, “or it could be a chip-ess.”
“Still don’t know?” Kyle knew he didn’t, but this was their ritual. It helped Rick decompress. It had been rough, tonight. The vampire he’d read was a relic, dark and blood thirsty. Most of the old ones were pretty twisted. They’d led hard lives, hiding and hunting. They’d adopted a veneer, but their sociopathic tendencies were never far below the surface.
“Women have secrets,” Rick gave the expected answer, and then followed with the rest, “and my woman has more than most.”
“That’s saying a mouthful, Brother,” Kyle agreed,” Women!” They passed the first sign for Bon Temps. Only fifteen more minutes as long as they didn’t hit traffic.
“My buddy, George, should be waiting for me back at the house,” Rick volunteered.
“Must be some buddy for you to leave him home all day with your woman.” Kyle clearly thought Rick was crazy.
“I don’t worry about Brigid!” Rick protested. “She’s got George’s number.”
“Pregnant women are hot!” Kyle volunteered, and meeting Rick’s eyes in the mirror, he nodded, “Just sayin’.”
“Shit stirrer!” Kyle just winked, and, in that moment, Rick felt gratitude. As usual, Kyle had succeeded. Reading vampires left a hangover and tonight’s session was so gruesome it seemed guaranteed to spill over into Rick’s dreams. By getting him thinking about other things, even petty things, Kyle had given Rick a chance of not waking up later, sweating and shaking. “My Brigid is fierce about her loyalties,” Rick assured the driver.
“It’s the Mama in her,” and Kyle’s eyes returned to the road. “Three babies, me, and the moment those babies were born, each of their Mamas turned from wolf to bear in the blink of an eye!” Rick knew Kyle was embellishing. Tonight, it was three kids with different moms. Last week it was one ‘true’ son and the best wife ever. The week before that, it was unmarried and wishing to stay that way. Kyle was a born storyteller and if he wanted to keep his personal life a mystery to Rick, it was his business. Mustapha Khan trusted him and that was enough.
They pulled past Merlotte’s. It was hopping, a car pulling in just in front of them. At first, Rick and Brigid went there for takeout, but for one month, Brigid craved fried pickles and Rick had stopped every night to pick up an order. It burned them out on the place. Rick knew they’d be stopping in later this week anyway. Brigid and he had agreed to meet Uncle Jason for lunch in a couple days.
Sam Merlotte had warmed up to them once Rick confirmed his Mother didn’t want any part of the place. He knew Sam had his own kids and worried about the hours and money, like everyone else. “I might be half owner of this place,” he said half to himself.
“What?” Kyle asked.
“Nothing,” Rick answered, turning to stare out the window. They passed a house set back from the road, and then another, each flashing Christmas lights. That was another thing about here. It was warm or, at least, warm to Rick. It was sixty degrees yesterday and likely to be sixty again tomorrow. He’d been assured Bon Temps got snow, but Rick knew even if it did happen, there’d be no snow that lingered. There’d be no sledding or snow shoeing and he felt a deep homesickness for Chester and the bare birches of New England woods.
“Looks like you got lots of company.” It was in how Kyle said it and how the car slowed.
Rick’s mind swept toward his house, scanning. “No worries,” he said after a second. “It’s Karin and Peter. Family.”
“Good to have family around for the holidays,” Kyle said aloud, still, he drove a little more slowly, assessing the situation for himself.
Brigid was on the porch, but she stood once they’d reached the halfway point on the driveway. George was beside her. George was wearing a sweater, but Brigid was in short sleeves. The baby left her sweating most days. Peter set down his guitar. He must have been playing when they pulled in. Karin was sitting at the far end of the porch. Her hair was cut short and she was wearing all black again. Rick knew instinctively his sister was working again, doing what she did best. “You made it!” Brigid laughed as he got out of the car. “Hi, Kyle!” and she turned to their driver, her hand resting atop her pronounced roundness. “We have sweet tea. Have a minute?”
“Can’t tonight, Cher,” Kyle flirted with her. “Too much competition for me. I’m not handsome enough to get your attention all to myself. I’ll wait for some other time when all I have to worry about is being better looking than this one!” and he winked at Rick before getting back behind the wheel.
“They aren’t done,” Rick told Kyle.
“I know,” and his driver was all business. “I’ll be back tomorrow around five.”
“Tomorrow,” Rick acknowledged, the thoughts of spending another night in the dungeon at Fangtasia settling in.
“I missed you.” She smelled wonderful, even more appealing as she stepped closer. She leaned against him and he felt the happiness wash over him. It wasn’t real. It was the Fae in her, but still, Rick closed his eyes and wished he could be carried away by it. In another minute, he would acclimate. He’d still feel it, a low-level general sense of well-being, but this total relief would fade as it always did.
“I missed you, too,” he answered, kissing her lips.
“George has been telling me all kinds of lies,” Brigid teased, but her eyes were worried. He hadn’t fooled her…again. “Come on,” and he allowed himself to be led up to the porch.
The lights of their Christmas tree shone through the window. It was a pine tree with softer needles than he was used to. Still, it looked festive, and having company made it more so. “How long you home?” Rick asked George.
“The month,” George answered. “Jeez, Rick. A baby? Bro!” and they were hugging. They’d been less close since starting college, but for years in boarding school, George had been Rick’s closest friend.
“I told him we were thinking of George for a name.” Brigid had returned from inside with a bottle of warmed blood. “Or Peter,” and she nodded toward their other guests.
“Don’t name any child Peter!” Peter protested. “I got saddled with it because of my Mom’s favorite uncle. You’ll be condemning it to a lifetime of dick jokes.”
“I like your dick,” Karin deadpanned from her perch on the porch rail.
“I like yours, too,” Peter shot back at his mate, “but it’s a shit name for a kid growing up. Go for something simple, like Shoe or Spot.”
“Yeah, those names won’t get a kid teased!” Brigid laughed, settling back into her chair.
“You staying with us?” Rick asked George.
“I was invited,” George shrugged, “but I’ve got a place to stay in Shreveport.”
“He has dancing lessons at Fangtasia,” Brigid arched an eyebrow, “and after-hours privileges at Hair of the Dog.”
“Jeez, guess some things don’t change!” and Rick laughed aloud.
“So many women,” George shrugged, “So little time.”
“You heading out tonight, too?” Rick asked Karin. The couple had moved to Bon Temps from Lafayette recently. Originally, Rick suspected his parents of orchestrating the move, but Karin assured him it wasn’t the case, and he’d heard confirmation of Karin’s version from Peter later.
“Yup,” Peter answered, picking up his guitar. “Right here.”
The reason was Peter’s growing popularity in Lafayette. When they’d lived in Chester, Peter was known as a town celebrity. Sure, there’d been the occasional starstruck girl or boy showing up in the front yard, or following him around town, but they were kids. Lafayette was different. Women threw themselves at the talented musician and storyteller. Men offered themselves as well. While Rick was sure Peter gave Karin no reason to be jealous, he was convinced jealousy was the bottom-line reason they were now living in Bon Temps, far away from college campuses.
“Peter was craving some music,” Karin added.
“Well,” and Rick set down his blood, “Let’s see if I can help out with that.”
Brigid followed him inside. “You okay?” she asked, laying her hand on his back.
“I am now,” he assured her. It was easy, gathering her to him. That brief breeze of relief was there again. It made up for the buzz he felt whenever he got too close to her thoughts. Not that he’d ever eavesdropped on Brigid without her permission, well, at least not much, but since the baby started moving, he couldn’t read her at all. It was just one, long hum and, in some ways, Rick figured that was best. “I’m fine,” and he pushed her back toward their guests before bounding up the stairs to the spare room where his fiddle lay in its case.
By the time he’d returned downstairs, the mood had become a little more somber. “What did I miss?” Rick asked.
“Karin was just telling us she’s leaving for a bit,” Brigid told him.
“A job,” Karin added.
Rick struggled to keep his smile frozen in place. It confirmed his earlier suspicion, but knowing it didn’t feel like victory. “Hadn’t known you were advertising again,” he said tightly.
“She misses the adrenaline.” Peter managed to sound nonchalant, his fingers picking through a brief melody. It was charming.
“What’s that?” Rick asked, his ear caught by the intricate progression of notes.
“Something I wrote for the love of my life,” Peter answered, and the look he shot Karin said it all.
“I’ve told you I don’t have to go,” Karin said shortly.
“Yeah,” and Peter’s quick smile returned, his attention shifting back to his guitar, “but you do. Come on, Rick! I’ll show you the bridge,” and that was it.
They made music. Instruments traded around. Brigid took a turn at guitar but quickly abandoned it, complaining that her fingers were retaining too much water to move quickly. Peter showed a true mastery when he played Rick’s fiddle. George even joined in, beating time against the porch rail and singing along. “We play down Merlotte’s most Tuesdays,” Peter invited George. “You should come down and stand in with us.”
As what?” George laughed.
“Percussion,” Brigid answered. “You’d beat a mean table!” She shot a look at Rick and Peter. “Keep the two of them on beat. They get so carried away with their own grand selves they lose the melody altogether.”
“A tissue of lies!” Peter quipped.
“What about tomorrow night, after you finish at Fangtasia, Rick? Just the two of us?” George offered instead. “I can pick you up and bring you home.”
Rick knew George was longing for some bro time. He glanced toward Brigid, but couldn’t bring himself to ask permission. “Sure,” he nodded, figuring he’d have that conversation later.
“Well!” and George stood. “A pleasant good evening to everyone!” He bowed to Karin, shook Peter’s hand, and then leaned over to kiss Brigid’s cheek. “Great to see you, Brig,” and then leaning a little further, whispered to her belly, “and good night to you, future troublemaker!” Rick walked him down the steps. “Sure you aren’t getting yourself in trouble, hanging out with me?” George teased.
“I’m sure I’ll be doing some kind of penance,” Rick joked. “Looking forward to it!” He stood for a minute longer as George drove down the driveway, thinking of his past adventures with his childhood friend. ‘I’ve changed,’ he thought as he turned back toward the house. Seeing his wife, her hand alongside their child, and hearing Peter’s music, he realized he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I thought I’d be meeting your…well,” and Stan rubbed his finger against the nap of the fabric upholstering the armchair, “I suppose ‘son’ is the right word.”
“You’re hurting my feelings,” Pam purred. “You’d think I didn’t matter! What’s the problem? Is it because I’m a girl?”
“He is my ‘progeny,’” and Eric stretched his hand toward Sookie, “and my Queen’s. Rick is vampire.”
“Yet, a new kind of vampire,” Stan persisted.
“Or a very old kind,” Sookie replied. “Who’s to say?”
“Everyone!” and Stan laughed. “You’ve been the talk of the kingdoms ever since you brought him forward and now? He’s training? Able to read vampires, I hear.”
“There’s no reason to think it’s not something any dhampir could do,” Eric sniffed. “After all, their ability to detect vampires has been recounted through the years in many stories.”
“But, reading minds?” and Stan winked at Sookie. “I think we’ll find that ability it quite unique. Perhaps, we have our former telepath to thank for it.”
“His training goes well,” Sookie answered. “You know we’re not greedy about assets. If he wants to work for others, we’ll support it.”
“Taking your cut.” Stan’s smile hardened.
“He’s our progeny,” Sookie answered, her tone just as hard. “We wouldn’t dream of profiting from our children.”
“Although, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take a hand in negotiating their contracts,” Eric added. “Learning that strategy takes decades.”
“How’s Barry doing?” Sookie asked, shifting the conversation.
“He’s performing well,” Stan answered. “He’ll have served his penance in another…three years or so.” It was a bit of a low blow, Sookie reminding Stan that he had an asset he refused to share with anyone.
“And, how’s Desmond?” Sookie asked.
“Ah!” and now Stan did smile. “The demon is doing exceedingly well. So many contracts! So many wills and provisions! It seems your willingness to procreate has inspired others. I hear just the traffic connected to a Maker expanding their estates to cover new progeny has required he hire another worker.”
“Yes,” Eric replied dryly, “the increased tithes must be pleasant.”
“They are,” Stan agreed readily. “I’ve added another game room. We’ll spend time there when you visit next.”
“It won’t be until after the next Summit,” Sookie sighed. “So much planning to do. I heard you’re thinking of attending?”
Stan was the Clan Chief of Zeus. The kingdom of Louisiana fell into Amun Clan, so Stan’s attending an Amun Summit couldn’t be assumed. “I told Isaiah I’d expect the best accommodations available,” Stan confirmed. “After all, it’s the least he can do for an old friend.”
“Then, I’m sure we’ll see you,” Sookie grinned. “We’re in the suite down the hall from the King’s.”
Stan hesitated just a second, but it was enough. “How charming!” and he inclined his head. “It seems all is forgiven.”
“I wasn’t aware we had problems that required forgiveness.” Sookie kept her tone light.
“Well, with all the rumors,” and Stan shrugged as if that explained it.
“You missed Rhodes,” Eric told Stan. “Fortunate. So many of us suffered after that tragedy.”
” Thank goodness you survived!” Sookie leaned close to Eric, touching him gently before turning back to Stan. “We didn’t have Britlingens, like Isaiah. When I warned Kentucky about the bombs, he was able to escape unharmed. It’s something he’s remembered, all this time.”
“Nothing like loyalty,” Eric nodded, “and honor.”
“Which Isaiah has,” Stan readily agreed. “I still congratulate myself on my luck not to have been there. I might have been.”
“So many were,” and Sookie sighed.
“It may interest you to know Mr. Cataliades will be accompanying me,” and Stan winked.
When Eric didn’t say anything, Sookie jumped in. “I will be happy to see him. It’s been a long time.”
“And you?” Stan asked. “Who will you be taking?”
“Well, Pam, of course,” Sookie volunteered. Pam had sat back during the conversation, her eyes flicking from face to face. “Eric, myself, and we’ll be taking my nephew, Hunter Savoy.”
“What about Thalia?” Stan asked. “I hear you’ve taken her on as one of your family.”
“Thalia’s traveling,” Sookie answered. “She won’t be back in time, I’m afraid.”
“Traveling?” Stan looked wide-eyed. “I thought she just got back! Wasn’t she in England?”
“Now she’s in Europe again,” and Eric drew an imaginary circle on the table next to him. “I think she’s taking this independence thing a bit far, but I still remember those heady days when I was first granted independence from Appius. I may have taken it a little far, too.”
“You’re not her Maker,” Stan pointed out.
“Thalia’s been someone’s vassal as long as I’ve known her,” Pam drawled. She turned to Eric, “Have you ever known her not to be pledged to someone?”
“No,” and Eric chuckled. “I think she scares people. They seem to think it best to have her wings clipped.”
“Well, I hope you won’t regret being the one to set her free,” and Stan sighed. “She’s headstrong. She acts before she thinks.”
“She does have a way of shaking things up,” and Pam laughed again.
“So, what do you hear of Russell?” Sookie was struggling to keep her expression neutral, but her eyes found Eric’s and her eyebrows rose. Stan wasn’t usually so blatant in his prying and it made her nervous.
As usual, Eric picked up on her unasked question. “So many questions tonight! Are you trying to tell us something?”
Why, no!” Stan said too quickly, and then, settling back, said, “Maybe. Are you still being bothered by spies? You know, the ones who aren’t glamoured?”
The humans and Weres with their layers of damage weren’t something any of them had discussed with the Texas King. “Who’s your spy?” Pam hissed.
“Someone reliable,” Stan replied, “and they aren’t in Louisiana.”
“Then, how did you know we were having problems?” Pam’s fangs extended and she stood.
“My spy passed along the information. I was told they are called ‘sleepers.’ To all appearances they are untouched. Even if they are glamoured by another, the original suggestion remains, deep and unseeable, but it’s there. The King responsible has been using it to collect information on all of us, but most particularly on you, North Man. He fears you.”
Eric leaned forward, his hands clasped over his knees. Pam met his eyes and then headed to the door. There was a murmur as she sent the guard away. Eric waited until Pam secured the door and gave him a signal before asking, “How did you buy her?”
“It wasn’t hard,” Stan replied. “I leveraged her loyalty to you. She knew you were in danger and she knew the direction the danger came from. You weren’t willing to take the offensive, but she was.”
“Heidi,” Sookie whispered.
“I understand it.” Pam laid her hand on Eric’s shoulder. “When De Castro was here, she was forced to stay, trusting in the goodwill of her King. It cost her the life of her son. You were the only one who truly tried to help her in those dark days. Now, dark days seem to have returned. She believed you were in danger. I suppose she couldn’t bring herself to sit by, trusting that somehow this wouldn’t go to shit for you.”
“And, so when I approached her, offering her money and resources to get to the bottom of this, she was willing,” Stan concluded.
“She was willing to leave my service forever,” Eric sighed.
“To protect you,” Pam pointed out.
“But she can come back?” Sookie looked first at Pam and then at Eric. “She did this for us!”
“It’s betrayal,” Pam answered. “She swore a blood oath, Sookie. She broke it, even if it was for a good cause.”
“If it’s any consolation, it wasn’t an easy decision for her,” Stan shrugged. “Apparently there were other considerations that tempted her to remain in Louisiana.”
“Hunter,” Sookie supplied.
Stan shrugged again, “In the end, her desire to protect you and your family was too strong.”
“These ‘sleepers’ were being found,” Eric growled. “We were dealing with them.”
“Yet you didn’t stop them,” and Stan reached for his blood. “Oh! It’s gone cold. Do you suppose we could visit your donor’s area? You have the most delightful AB negative! Delectable!” He stood, brushing the hair back from his forehead. “I’ve got them in my kingdom, too, Viking. Isaiah described one to me. I think they’re starting to show up all over the place. Our friend in Mississippi seems to have broadened his ambitions.”
“Is she all right?” Sookie asked. “We heard she was seen in Jackson, but we really haven’t had any news of her since.”
“It’s a dangerous Court these days,” Stan replied. Eric walked ahead as they moved toward the elevator that would take them downstairs. “I don’t hear from her often. He prefers young men, so Heidi stands out like a sore thumb, but there is something to be said for novelty.”
Eric waited until the doors closed before saying, “Hunter is not to be told.” He felt Sookie’s quick sting and knew there’d be a fight over it later. She had tears in her eyes. It was one of the things that both irritated and endeared her to him, how she’d retained her too-human heart.
“He’s human,” Pam said unnecessarily. “One wrong word or worse, some fool attempt to contact her…”
“I get it!” Sookie snapped, and then, “I’m sorry, Stan. You don’t need to see our family drama.”
“No apologies necessary,” and Stan bowed slightly in Sookie’s direction. “You are loyal and kind, rare qualities in a vampire. I will confess, I worried when I heard you were turned that it would change you. I am relieved and frankly, encouraged.” The doors opened and they stepped out. Before they walked further, though, Stan turned around, and taking Sookie’s hand, bowed over it. “Even vampire, Sookie Stackhouse, you are the same feisty woman who saved me from spies. It is seeing you, and those like you, that gives me the greatest hope that as a race we’ll survive this great experiment.”
His gesture took her by surprise. “What experiment?” Sookie asked.
“Living with humans,” Pam answered. “Not only among them.”
“This is the first time we have ever revealed ourselves so fully,” Eric explained. “There have been individuals, certain kingdoms…”
“Like Transylvania,” Pam finished. Sookie know Eric admired Dracula. She hadn’t put together that it might have been the vampire’s willingness to live openly behind her mate’s attraction.
“Those experiments ended badly.” Eric didn’t say anything more. Instead he gestured that the others should make their choices first.
“Do you still worry about that?” Sookie slipped her hand in his. “It’s different times.”
“Some things don’t change,” he answered. “If they want to kill us, humans have even more effective means than before. Trackers. GPS. So simple to slip us a cell phone, then use the transponder to find our resting places.” He brought the same hand Stan had kissed to his own lips, rubbing it against his cheek, and then licking it, destroying the other vampire’s scent on her skin. “I never underestimate them,” he concluded. “Now, Stan wants to head into the City this evening. It’s been a while and there are several new bars he’s asked to see. Pam has offered to take him.”
“Which means we can stay in?” Sookie leaned against him, running her hand up his hip and then around toward the front, gaining her his pirate smile. She broke away, flashed a flirty grin, and said, “Well, what are you waiting for? You better fuel up, Northman. We have some ‘talking’ to do!”
Kyle took another long lope around the grounds surrounding the house on Hummingbird Lane. It was part of the service. He dropped young Northman off and then pulled over to the driveway that used to be Compton’s. He shifted into wolf form and made several circuits, checking for stray scents.
It was a clear night, the kind that made him happy to be Were. He could hear the music from the house across the graveyard. Whoever was on the fiddle was really good, so he slowed, just to listen. Mustapha had another Were from the Pack, someone more local, who patrolled at least once during daylight hours.
He ran down the gully toward the stream. Two deer startled in front of him, crashing through the underbrush in their panic to get away. Another night he might have given chase, feeling the joy of running, chasing, but this was business.
It was here, of course, that Fae smell. When he’d first started, he was told that little Northman’s woman was Fae. He’d dismissed it, after all, it wasn’t like it was really a thing anymore. Kyle had heard stories, but from what he’d been told, fairies, real fairies, had left the world before he was born. It was all a little wings and leprechauns to him, until he’d had his first whiff of Brigid. It was more than sweet, it was like being drugged. His first instinct was to shift, fall at her feet, and never leave again. When he’d described his reaction to Mustapha, his Packmaster laughed. ‘Get used to it,’ he’d told Kyle. ‘From what the little doctor says, it’s likely to get worse!’
It had. When he’d first met Brigid, Kyle was happy to sit on the porch for a bit and chat. Brigid was nice for all she ate mostly vegetarian. Then, one night as he was dropping off Rick it changed for him. It was in the intensity of her scent. It went from beguiling to almost overwhelming. It took a lot to drag himself away. ‘Then make it strictly business,’ Mustapha counseled. ‘Drop the kid off, take the run, and go home.’
Kyle knew Brigid liked to walk. Each of the Weres who did patrols knew. Brigid talked about it and Rick confirmed it. ‘About the only exercise she gets these days,’ Rick told him, ‘but she likes it here. Sometimes she’s out for hours.’ Kyle believed it. Her scent was everywhere. Sometimes it was faint, but sometimes, like tonight along the stream, it was strong. He knew his day partner had run into her a time or two. Kyle was happy he had night shift. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if that was him and her alone in the forest. He had an idea he’d shift and by the time his Pack came looking for him, he’d be lost, enthralled to Brigid Meaney forever.
It wasn’t the kind of thing he’d discuss with Rick Northman. For all he was a good guy and pretty normal, Rick was still a vampire. He had a streak of jealousy a mile wide, and as long as Kyle kept his distance, there was no need to get the Viking kid’s panties in a twist.
The scent was strong all the way up the hill. She must have crisscrossed the area a couple times. Kyle slowed, but then he saw the holly. ‘Christmas,’ he thought. There wasn’t a lot of holly around, but leave it to this woman to find it.
Turning toward the graveyard, he lengthened his stride. The land behind Hummingbird Lane ran all the way to the cut-through for the high-tension wires. It made for a long, pleasant run. In another hour or so, he’d be home. His belly growled and he leaped forward, anticipating the meatloaf awaiting him in his fridge.
“Why didn’t he find us?” the woman asked.
“I think he’s scent blind,” the man replied, and pulling out his phone, reported back.