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.
Rick was pretty sure Brigid could hear his heart pounding. He could. His mouth was dry and his fangs itched. Brigid was walking around the bedroom, her back to him. “I forgot something,” he stammered. “I’ll be right back.” He didn’t exactly run down the stairs, but it was a pretty near thing.
There was a light on in the dining room and another in the kitchen. He didn’t need either. He saw perfectly well in darkness or light but having them on reminded him of normal times when he lived here with his Mom, and it made him feel better. Rick opened the refrigerator door and reached for a bottle of O negative. There were a couple on the shelf that flavor, so he hoped Karin wouldn’t miss it. Uncapping the bottle, he set the microwave, and tried not to think about Brigid, or upstairs, or what was coming next.
From the other side of the wall, he heard Karin chuckle and then, he heard Peter moan. It was an intimate sound and subconsciously, Rick reached down to push against his erection. Part of him knew he was ready to join the club, yet another part worried about a million other things. Would she accept him? Would he perform adequately enough? He knew the basics, what young man didn’t? Hours spent in the shower had given him some idea of how things worked, but he knew this would be different. From the back bedroom, Peter moaned again, deeper. Rick pulled the TruBlood out of the microwave, capped it, and shook. “It’s Brigid,” he said aloud, and the crazy courage that allowed him to climb the highest trees and scale vertical rock walls kicked in. He chugged, rinsed, and headed back upstairs.
“You okay?” she asked. Brigid was sitting in bed under the blankets. She was wearing a ribbed man’s undershirt. It did nothing to hide the shadow of her aureoles, making Rick’s erection throb.
“Fine,” he told her. “I guess…” and he decided for honesty. “I’ve never done this before.”
Brigid cocked her head, and then she got out of bed. For one crazy minute, Rick thought she’d leave, but instead, she walked toward him. She wasn’t wearing panties and Rick couldn’t stop staring. “Is it crazy to tell you I’m in love with you?” Her eyes shone, and she leaned in, wrapping her arms around him. “I know I shouldn’t say it. It’s way too soon, but as long as we’re making confessions, I figured I’d give you mine.”
It was the right thing to say. Rick’s heart warmed and he pulled her close. When she turned her face toward him, he leaned down to kiss her, but her eyes narrowed and she reached up to touch his shirt. “Did you go downstairs to drink blood?” she asked, and Rick’s breath caught. Her fingers were pressed against two telltale spots on his shirt.
“Yes,” he confessed. “I did. I…well, I eat human food, as you know, but I need blood, too.”
“Until I saw you do it, I didn’t think vampires ate food,” Brigid said. Rick recognized it for the question it was.
“I’m different from others,” he told her. “I’m not sure there are any others like me.”
Her lips curved and her face lit from inside, “Well, I could have told you that!” she teased, but after a moment, she sobered again. “How often do you need blood?”
“Every day,” Rick told her. “I don’t need much, but if I skip a day, it stresses me out.”
He’d expected her to look repulsed, but she didn’t. Instead, she looked curious. “Come on,” she said after a minute, and started pulling at his t-shirt. “Let’s get in bed. I’m cold.”
As he tossed his shirt to the side, Brigid tugged at his belt. He watched her, hoping she’d run her fingers over the ridge he was making in his pants, but instead, she turned away to slip back under the covers. Seeing her smooth bottom had him hurrying to pull off his pants on his own. He left his boxers and socks on, then stopped, seeing Brigid’s disapproving stare. “Really?” she sighed, and Rick couldn’t think what he’d done to change her from willing to scolding. Fortunately, Brigid looked rather pointedly at his feet, and Rick figured out the problem.
“You’ll be sorry,” he laughed. “My feet get really cold.”
“I think we can find other ways to warm them up,” Brigid eye-rolled, and Rick felt himself flush as he filed, ‘No socks,’ in his brand new mental Book of Woo.
The bed sheets felt cool against his over-sensitive skin. Brigid was propped against the headboard, so Rick took up the same position, scooting close, though not quite touching her. “Can I see them?” she asked.
“What?” Rick half-laughed, his voice higher than normal, before realizing what she meant. “Oh, my fangs?”
“Well, I’ve pretty much seen the rest,” and Brigid looked at him with those eyes that could look so much older than her face. She leaned over, cupping his cheek with her hand, and raised her lips to his. Rick had read about this. He felt every moment, every sensation, from the cool slide of her arm to the soft weight of her breast pressing against him through her undershirt. “I want to know everything about you,” she said when they stopped. “It’s how I love.”
“I…” and Rick held her hand as he extended his fangs. He waited, panting a bit, searching her eyes for her reaction, and he saw only acceptance.
“May I?” she asked, and before waiting for his answer, she stroked one with her finger and it made him shudder. Rick couldn’t help it. Her touch went through him, making his heart clench and his cock throb. “They are very beautiful,” she whispered.
Brigid was beautiful, but in that moment, Rick realized she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. “I love you, too,” he confessed.
Brigid smiled, and sat back to pull off her undershirt. Her long braid slipped over her shoulder, falling between her breasts, and when she leaned forward, pressing her long, warm length against him he thought he’d catch on fire.
Rick’s hands traveled. He explored breast and rib, hip and thigh. When his fingers traveled between her lower lips, she sighed, and he decided this was not the time to keep promises. He dipped into her head, thinking to use her thoughts to guide him, but he soon found it too distracting. “What’s wrong?” she asked as he backed away, shutting out her thoughts, closing his eyes in an effort to clear his head.
“Nothing,” he assured her. For a moment, he considered telling her what he’d done, but then decided against it. There’d been enough confessions tonight, and talk wasn’t what he needed.
“Let me,” she smiled, and she helped him slip his boxers over his hips. Her lips grazed over his chest, stopping to nip and kiss. He soon started to mimic her movements, delighting in the subtle shift in scent as their arousal grew. When her head dipped to take him into her mouth, he thought he’d found heaven. Her tongue swirled and he thought he could do this forever, but he had a flash of Brigid feeling just as needy, and it awakened some part of him he barely recognized.
“Tell me what you want,” he demanded, pulling her from him. He kissed her mouth, and then kissed her neck, running his teeth along the column of muscle. He knew this was a sensitive area from the thoughts of donors he’d used over the years, and when he nuzzled that place where her ear joined her jaw, he was rewarded by her arching into him. Emboldened, he brought his head lower, first cupping, and then kissing and suckling her breasts. He ran his thumbs across her pink nipples, blowing a stream of breath to watch how they pebbled under his thumbs. “You like this,” he breathed.
“Yes,” she panted, and he smelled the faint musk rising from where she rubbed her thighs together.
Laughing, he pulled her toward him, and then pushed her back, spreading her legs. She was laid out as he’d seen in the minds of others and he started at the top, touching and exploring. “Rub there,” she panted, pulling his fingers where she wanted them.
“I’d rather kiss,” he teased, and leaning down, made good his offer, using tongue and teeth. She hissed in a good way, and so he settled in. She tasted of salt and sweet and when he plunged his tongue into her, she arched, calling out his name.
“Please, please,” she was begging, and he rose over her. “I should get something,” he whispered.
“I’m on the pill,” Brigid panted. She reached between them, placing him where she wanted, and he pressed home.
It didn’t take long. Rick was overwhelmed by the sensation, and felt he was done almost before he began. As he rolled from her, pulling her with him, he apologized. “I think I can do better next time.”
Brigid giggled, but when she spoke, she sounded out of breath. “If this is you beginning, I’m in real trouble.” When he looked away, she nipped him, whispering in his ear, “I’m going to want to be your practice partner all the time.”
She wrapped her hand around him, and to his surprise, Rick went from limp to half-staff. His breath caught, and Brigid chuckled again. “Well then,” and he found his nervousness gone. He ran his knuckle over her breast, watching it rise to him. “Round Two?”
The light was starting to steal through the window when they finally settled. “Happy?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered. Her head was on his shoulder and she ran her fingers through the sparse blond hair sprinkled across his chest. Rick felt tremendous contentment and he wondered how lovers ever got out of bed.
“I have to ask you something,” Brigid breathed against him. He shifted so he could more easily look at her, but she kept her eyes downcast. “Do you feed from people?”
“Yes,” Rick answered after a moment.
“What’s it like?” Brigid asked.
“It’s how I exist,” Rick answered, not sure where she was going.
“Does it have to be someone in particular? Who you eat… I mean feed from? Does it have to be a certain kind of person, or blood type, or something?” and she brought her thumb to her mouth, nibbling the way she did when she was puzzling over something.
“What are you asking me, Brigid? Just say it.” Rick challenged, so she sat up and met his eyes.
“Can I be your donor?” Her lips tilted and he could see her uncertainty “I don’t know what’s involved, but I’ve heard stories.”
“What kind of stories?” Rick asked, sitting up as well. It was hard to focus. Brigid’s breasts were right there, begging for his hands.
As if she knew what he was thinking, Brigid crossed her arms over her chest, blocking his view, and he looked into her eyes instead. “I heard that donating usually involves sex,” Brigid declared. She said it with certainty, but he pointed at his crotch and she laughed. “Okay, there’s some people at school who earn money by being donors. Anyway, they talk, and from the way they tell it…” and Brigid blushed.
Rick grinned, “Well, I think now you know donating and sex don’t always go together,” Brigid’s thumb returned to her mouth, so he decided to explain further, “The sensations are tied for vampires, feeding and sex. It’s… Well, I guess it’s like any other temptation. Just because you want it doesn’t mean you do it. It’s about impulse control. There’s lots of vampires who feed without having sex with their donors.”
“So, what about the other thing?” she asked.
“What other thing?” Rick asked.
“They say it feels great,” Brigid told him. “Donating. Does it?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Rick huffed. “I mean, I’m kind of on the receiving end.”
Moving to her knees, she asked, “Do you want to try?”
Rick felt his fangs extend. He did want to try, more than anything, but the idea of feeding from Brigid felt even more intimate than what they’d just spent hours doing. “There’s things you should know,” and Rick stammered.
Over the years Rick had avoided using the same donor more than once, not wanting to feel the intrusion of their feelings, even briefly. Now, he felt differently. That thing he’d felt awaken within him earlier tonight sat up and took notice. He wanted Brigid’s blood. His mouth was watering and he felt his cock twitch. What’s more, he wanted his blood in her, claiming her in a way that would declare to every supernatural she was his. Brigid was watching him with trusting eyes, and he wondered at her foolishness.
“I’m not sure it would be a good idea,” he said, although the toothy creature within him thought it would be a wonderful idea.
“Oh,” and he could see he’d disappointed her.
“It’s me,” he hurried to explain. “I want to, more than anything, but that impulse control? When it comes to you, I don’t think I have any,” and he said the one thing he wished he’d never have to say. “I’m afraid I might hurt you.”
He worried she’d press him, but instead, she slipped back into bed and opened her arms. “It’s okay. I think we’ve explored enough for one night,” she whispered. “Come on,” and she gathered him to her. She closed her eyes, and he watched her slip into sleep. He kissed her forehead and closed his own eyes. Eventually, his fangs retracted, but Rick felt the beast within him coiling and he wondered at the Pandora’s box he’d opened.
Rick woke to an empty bed and for a moment he panicked, but then he heard the noises downstairs. Along with the clink of dishes, there was a quick fiddle passage followed by an equally quick mandolin answer. He immediately recognized Brigid’s fingering technique, so he rolled out of bed, anxious to see her.
As he stood in the bathroom, staring in the mirror, he wondered why he didn’t look as different as he felt. He moved and caught their combined scent on him. “God, don’t have to be Karin to smell that!” he told his reflection. One of the towels was damp, telling him Brigid had showered earlier. He hadn’t heard a thing and that made him grin, too. It didn’t take long and soon he was padding down the stairs of his childhood home, heading toward a woman who was beginning to feel like home in a new way.
The remains of breakfast were on the table. “Meg and Todd headed back to Northampton about an hour ago,” Brigid half-scolded. Without hesitation, Rick strode over and kissed her. His heart sang and she laughed under his lips.
“You could have woken me,” he teased.
“Doubt it,” she teased back.
Peter walked out from the kitchen, “Eggs are out there if you’d like to make yourself something to eat.”
“Not treating me like company?” Rick asked.
“Not unless you’re paying,” Peter shrugged, “and you ain’t, so go make your own breakfast, Chub.” Peter handed Brigid a steaming mug. “So, that’s how you should treat him, Brigid. We spoiled him bad, and if you offer to do things for him, he’ll take you up on it every time.” He gave Rick a pointed look, “But he’s got all kinds of mad skills. Just tell him to fend for himself and he’ll thank you for it later.”
“Been giving her pointers?” Rick asked. He automatically picked up dirty dishes from the table, carrying them with him into the kitchen.
Peter followed, “I like her, Chub.”
“Me too,” Rick grinned, but then his voice turned angry, “So, don’t get any ideas. She’s mine.” It kind of slipped out, and Rick caught himself. “I mean… I don’t know where that came from.”
“Vampire,” Peter answered. “Karin says that shit all the time.” When Rick still looked troubled, Peter put his hand on Rick’s shoulder, “Don’t worry about it. Just know that’s where it comes from and be aware of it.”
“It’s the kind of shit Eric would say,” Rick growled.
“You’re still not over that, are you?” Peter asked.
Rick busied himself setting up his pan. It gave him an excuse not to look at Peter as he asked, “What do you mean?”
“You had your Mom all to yourself. Now, she’s got herself a new husband and she’s living a thousand miles away. You came back here all by yourself and she’s not around. Kind of makes a guy feel abandoned.” It was how Peter said it. Rick wanted to be angry, but he couldn’t.
“What do you think Mom would say?” Rick sighed, “About her?”
Peter wrapped his arms around Rick, pulling him close. “She’d say you done good,” he assured his friend.
“Say, am I looking at the competition?” Brigid asked as she pushed through the door.
“I did have him first,” Peter laughed.
“Nope, she did!” Rick answered, and then grinned at Brigid’s quick flush.
Peter offered them his car, but Rick and Brigid opted to stick around Chester. Hand in hand, Rick took her to see all the places that were every memory of his childhood. He introduced her to the First Selectman and the postmistress. As they were heading toward the schools, his phone pinged, “We’re invited to lunch with Aunt Sarah, Peter’s mom,” he told her.
After lunch, they headed to the lake. Peter’s sailboat was still at the dock and in no time, they had her rigged and racing over the stubby waves. Brigid was the better sailor, and Rick couldn’t remember feeling happier. As they walked back toward the B&B afterwards, they crossed paths with one of Rick’s former teachers.
“Been out on the lake?” Mr. West asked.
“It’s great that the weather’s held up this long,” Rick answered.
“And are you a sailor?” Mr. West asked Brigid.
“Talcott Mountain girl,” Rick volunteered. “Brigid was on the school team that sailed the last Marion to Bermuda,” and when Brigid shrugged, Rick added, “She’s amazing.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. West,” and Brigid politely shook hands.
Mr. West rocked back on his heels before saying, “I think you can both call me Dave.” Cocking an eye at Rick, he added, “You’re in college now. I think we can drop the formalities.”
“Mr. West… Dave,” and Rick flushed with his pride in being recognized as an adult, “You were one of my favorite teachers,” he admitted.
“And, look at you now,” Mr. West praised. Before it could become uncomfortable, Mr. West swung to Brigid, “Do you still sail?”
“When I can,” Brigid answered.
“Well, I don’t know if the two of you would be interested,” and the teacher dug a card from his pocket. “I’m having a boat built. I’m taking sabbatical next year and I’ll be sailing with my family from England to Pitcairn Island. It’s been a dream of mine for some time. Anyway,” and he looked at the both of them. “The boat’s being built in Florida, and I’m looking for a crew to deliver it over the summer.” He held out the card, “Let me know if you’re interested. I have a professional captain, but I do remember a certain young man who was always looking for adventures.”
“How long would something like that take?” Rick asked.
“Thirty days,” Brigid answered, and her eyes were shining. “Well, more or less, depending on the weather.”
“Well, let me know,” Mr. West winked, and then, “It was nice seeing you again, Rick,” and then shaking Brigid’s hand, added, “and nice to meet Rick’s young lady.”
“What do you think?” Brigid asked as they continued on their way.
“You’d want to do that?” Rick asked. She was practically skipping at his side. “You don’t know anything about the boat.”
“If it’s big enough to go around Africa, it’s got to be at least forty feet,” Brigid answered. “That would take a crew of four at least, but six would be better.” Rick could see Brigid had been caught up in the idea, but he could think of a dozen things that could go wrong, first and foremost being his need for blood. “What are you planning for this summer?” she pressed.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he snapped. He knew his plan. It was the same every year, head south to New Orleans for three, long hot months suffocating in Vampire Central. He growled, his good mood gone. “We should head back now,” he announced. “It’s not like this is going to happen!”
“What’s wrong with you?” Brigid challenged. “Are you feeling all right? I mean, your eyes look kind of sunken and you just turned on a dime.”
It brought Rick up short. It had been years since he’d missed the signs. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “We were pretty busy last night and we’ve been moving all day. I need to feed.”
Rick felt embarrassed, even angry, to have to say it out loud, but Brigid didn’t look upset at all. In fact, if anything, she looked happy. “Let’s go,” she grinned, pulling his hand to go faster.
“Brigid, I told you…” Rick stammered, but she stopped on the sidewalk in front of the B&B and wrapped her arms around him.
“I trust you,” she said clearly. “I want this. I want to be this for you.”
When they walked inside, Brigid asked, “Where to?”
“I’ll show you,” Rick replied, and taking her hand, led her up the stairs all the way to the attic space that had been his. Peter didn’t rent out this room and Rick’s fourteen-year-old life was still there. His posters were tacked to the wall and old climbing gear and Legos were in bins on the floor. “This was my room,” he told her. “Where I grew up.”
Brigid’s eyes were shining as she pulled her shirt over her head. “I like your room,” she answered, then removing her bra, climbed onto his bed.
Rick’s cock jumped to attention and his fangs descended. “You’re really sure about this?” he asked.
She just smiled and cocked her head to the side while Rick quickly pulled off his own shirt before joining her. He lowered his nose to sniff and her blood called to him, running warm and sweet just under her skin. He slid his hands up her torso, cupping her small breasts, teasing and tweaking as he rubbed his fangs against her skin. He licked, knowing his saliva would numb her just a bit. She tensed, and he just pulled her against him, pulling her nipples a little harder. It distracted her, and he used her sharp intake of breath to slide his fangs into her. She gasped, and he roped one arm around her to pull her tight against him.
One swallow. Two swallows and he detached. ‘Claim her!’ his inner beast called, but Rick ignored it. Instead, he released her, nicking his finger and using his blood to seal the wounds. He lapped the area, chasing any blood he’d missed. His cock hurt, confined to his jeans, and he growled, “I want more. I want to fuck you.”
“Yes!” she answered, and that was all it took.
They pulled at each other’s clothing in a frenzy. Rick stood to pull off his pants and, in his hurry, tripped, knocking over a chair. Brigid’s pants knocked the books off the nightstand, but nothing mattered until they were naked and he was within her. Only then did they still. They stared at each other and then, Brigid laughed. It was a laugh of pure joy and Rick knew exactly how she felt.
“Why did you say yes?” Rick asked.
Her smile lit up her whole face. “I guess you should know when I make up my mind, I’m all in,” she told him. “If I wasn’t ready to commit to you, I would never have told you I love you.” She chuckled, “So, now you’re stuck with me until the day you decide to send me away.”
“And you really think I’m worth it?” He knew it sounded needy, but he marveled at her quiet confidence.
“You bet I do!” she exclaimed. In that moment, she was so dear to him, and he ran his finger along the apple of her cheek. Under his touch, her smile turned to a smirk. “So, enough complimenting, get moving!” she ordered and swatted him on his behind.
“As you wish,” he snarled, and as he surged forward, his fangs descended and he hissed. It was a purely vampire sound, but with Brigid, Rick didn’t feel self-conscious at all.
They weren’t quiet. The headboard banged against the wall and Brigid moved from moaning to demanding. Two days ago, Rick would have been embarrassed, but now it seemed right. He lasted a lot longer than he had last night. Some part of him wondered if it was because it was day, or if it was because he’d had fresh blood, but when he felt Brigid fall apart, he was still hard. He fell over, bringing her with him, letting her catch her breath, but then, he began to move again. She looked surprised, but when her eyes rolled back, he felt like a god. It was fangs and cock and the flush of immortality, and he went from asking to taking to claiming. Brigid, his strong, independent woman, claimed right back.
“You’re mine,” he gasped afterward, every instinct screaming for him to open his neck and feed her.
“And you’re mine,” Brigid purred.
The sun was setting and Rick pulled his blanket over them as their limbs chilled. They must have dozed, because when Rick next opened his eyes, Brigid was nestled beside him. Her face in sleep was as peaceful as any child’s. He could hear noise below, and he carefully rolled away, anxious not to wake her.
He found Karin sitting at the kitchen table. She was wearing earbuds and working on her laptop. She had on some kind of exercise bra and Rick could see angry, red scarring along one shoulder. When she pulled the buds from her ears, Rick jerked his chin toward the wounds. “Peter said you took some damage on this last trip. You okay?” He and Karin got along better these days, but Rick was still wary around her.
“I’m healing,” she shrugged, and then her face stretched into an impish smile. “So, was it worth waiting for?”
Rick blushed. Pam had tormented him about still being a virgin, but Karin had got her licks in, too. “With Brigid?” and Rick blushed more. “Yeah, yeah, it was…is.”
“Have you completed a blood tie with her?” Karin asked. Rick was no expert in vampire protocol, but this seemed a pretty personal question, even for family.
You mean, asked her to drink my blood? No,” and Rick walked past Karin to grab a banana. “I mean, we just… Well, I think I’d rather take this one step at a time, if it’s all the same to you.”
Karin shook her head, “Don’t be foolish! Didn’t you feel the draw to her? You need to form a tie before you go back to Boston.”
Rick’s mouth opened and his response tumbled out, “You’re not the boss of me! She’s my girlfriend and we’ll make those kinds of decisions, not you!”
Karin made a chopping motion with her hand and she hissed in displeasure, “I can’t believe you are fighting with me about this! You have no idea, do you?”
“About what?” Rick asked.
“About the conditions that allow you to remain in New England?” Karin asked. Rick didn’t know, and it must have shown because Karin shook her head and sat back down. “I blame Eric. He should have trained you better. I know he’s not your Maker in the vampire way but explaining protocol shouldn’t have to fall to me!”
“What are you talking about?” Rick was starting to believe this wasn’t just Karin being Karin. She’d mentioned his Father and Rick didn’t put much past Eric Northman, including manipulating things without informing him first. His Mother called it ‘high-handed,’ but Rick just called it being an asshole.
“What do you know about vampires and kingdoms, I mean, beyond the Kings and Queens?” When Rick looked blank, Karin continued, “For example, do you know the reason I do this?” and she pointed at her wounds. “I owe tithes for the privilege of living here.” When Rick didn’t say anything, Karin waved at the chair opposite her. Once Rick sat down, she started, “You know what kingdom we’re in?”
“New England,” Rick answered. “The Queen who rules here lives in Boston.”
“But, you’ve never met her,” Karin added, and when Rick confirmed it, Karin asked, “Didn’t you ever wonder why that is? I mean, you’re a vampire, your parents are vampires. Do you even see vampires when you wander around your college campus at night? You know they’re there,” and she put her finger against Rick’s forehead. “With your little radar ability, you can spot us a mile away.”
“I figured…” and Rick realized he hadn’t questioned it. He accepted that he was Supernatural, but beyond occasionally using his ability to locate other vampires, he hadn’t felt the need to connect with them.
“It’s because our Sire is paying tithes and favors for your being here. The minute Eric acknowledged you, you became his responsibility. You get to run around like every other human boy because your Father is paying through the nose for that privilege.”
“He never said anything. Neither did Mom,” and in that moment, Rick felt ashamed for resenting his Father. “I have my own money,” he stammered. “I’ll pay him back.”
“Believe me, what the Queen’s getting is more than money, Little Fang,” Karin eye-rolled. “Besides, you really think Eric would take money from you? You’re his son, Sookie’s son! He’d rather roll in silver! But this isn’t about the duty you owe him.” Karin glanced toward the ceiling. “I can tell you like her, care about her.”
“I love her,” Rick confessed, and then flushed that he’d said the words in front of Karin.
“You really are hopeless!” Karin scoffed, but then her face softened in a most un-Karin-like way. “But I do understand, and I’m pleased for you. So, all the more reason you need to tie her to you before you return to your school.” When Rick looked as if he’d protest again, Karin held up her hand. “Every vampire with a grudge against Eric Northman or you are going to be tempted to grab her.”
“Why? I don’t understand! Brigid doesn’t have anything to do with Supes,” but Rick had a sinking feeling he did understand.
Karin pulled chicken from the refrigerator, transferred it to a pan and slid it into the oven. Rick’s mouth fell open. He knew how Karin felt about handling human food. “Don’t ask,” she growled. “I lost a bet.”
She spent a few minutes meticulously washing her hands before continuing, “The protection Eric arranged only extends to you, Rick. Now, unless you claim her through blood, vampires will see her as your pet, and that’s a different set of rules. You need to claim her by blood. The protection that Eric arranged will have been worded in the old way. It prohibits anyone from stealing your blood, so if your blood is within her…” Rick didn’t say anything. True, Brigid had been willing, even anxious, to try donating, but consenting to a tie? He remembered stories of how his Mother hated it and he dreaded the idea of asking Brigid to allow this kind of intrusion. When he looked away, Karin shrugged, “It’s your choice, but if you care about her the way you say, you’re probably feeling the pull already.”
Rick slumped back in his chair. “I am, and I hate being a vampire right now,” he huffed.
“You’ll get over it in a hundred years or so,” Karin shrugged.
“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Rick said. “What it meant, my being in another vampire’s territory or what it would mean if I got involved with someone. I mean, I grew up here.”
“Secretly,” Karin reminded him. “And don’t think that all those years of tithes were forgiven. They weren’t.”
Rick sighed, “I guess most days I don’t really think of myself as vampire. I feed, of course, but beyond that, I live pretty much the way I always have, except when I’m in New Orleans. That’s why I hate going there.”
“You grew up different,” Karin shrugged. “You’re post-Revelation, you can live openly, as long as you mind your manners, but that’s not always going to be the case. There’s the little matter of your special gift. Just having you in the same room makes most vampires uncomfortable. They can sense your ability to find them and it triggers all kinds of defense mechanisms. That’s why you don’t see vampires in Boston. The Queen thought it best that her vassals avoid you altogether, and Eric had to promise you wouldn’t use your skills to seek them out.”
“Like I would!” Rick protested.
“Oh?” and Karin glanced at the ceiling again, “And what if someone grabbed your Brigid? What if they threatened to kill her unless you helped them find a particular nest? What would you do then?”
“Someone would do that?” but Rick knew enough of vampires to know it was more than possible.
“I wish I’d known this before…” but then Rick stopped. Did he really wish he hadn’t met Brigid Meaney? Did he really think he would have wanted this to go any other way?
“You could give her up,” Karin shrugged, echoing his thoughts.
“Brigid is mine!” Rick exclaimed, the words springing from somewhere deep.
“Well then,” and Karin smiled, “Spoken like a true vampire, so act like one. You care about her? Do the right thing.” Their heads turned at the sound of feet on the stairs. “Do you want me to step out so you can get it done?” Karin winked.
“I think it can wait until after dinner,” Rick sighed.
“What?” Brigid asked. She’d smoothed her hair and washed her face, but she looked paler and Rick felt his heart twinge. “Where’s Meg and Todd?” she asked.
It was almost unconscious, the motion that brought her within his arms. Rick could smell his scent on her, and that voice he now thought of as his dark side whispered that smelling his blood in her would be better. Rick met Karin’s eyes, knowing she thought the same thing.
“They decided to stay in Northampton for dinner,” Karin answered, “but, they’ll both be at the Town Hall tonight for the dance.” Rick had almost forgotten. Every Saturday night in the Fall there was music and dancing. Most of the town turned out and Peter led the band. “Peter’s hoping you’ll join them for a set or two,” and Karin nodded toward Brigid, “Your friends, too, if they’d like.”
“That sounds like fun,” Brigid grinned.
Rick found himself grinning in return. It made him happy to please her, and so he said, “I’ll tell you what, Karin, Brigid and I will fill in on the off sets, that way you and Peter can dance.”
Karin smiled. It wasn’t her usual look and Rick was reminded how young she’d been when she was turned. “Make it waltzes?” she asked. “I love waltzing with that man.” Karin closed down her laptop, and said, “Your dinner’s in the oven. I promised I’d head over to the brew pub to help Peter before things start. You two can manage the rest of your feeding, right?” and she shot Rick a look.
After Karin left, Brigid sighed. “I don’t think your sister likes me.”
“You’re wrong,” Rick told her. “She likes you fine. It’s just, she…” and Rick stopped. He wasn’t really sure how to start, so instead he delayed. He showed Brigid around the kitchen, and soon discovered that cooking was yet another area where they were compatible. They ate and talked of a million things. Brigid was nagging him about the boat when Rick had a vision of Brigid being held captive by some old-style vampire, and it gave him courage. “Come on, let’s sit outside. There’s something I need to ask you.”
He led her to the bench in the backyard. From here, he’d watched the stars on countless nights and tonight’s sky was no different. “You know I’m vampire,” he started. He took her hand in his, figuring when what he said became too much, he’d lose that hand along with her heart. “And you know Karin is my stepsister and my parents live in Louisiana.” Brigid nodded, and so he took a deep breath. “You may have heard of my parents. They’re in the magazines pretty often. The Northmans, Eric and Sookie Northman.”
“The Vampire King…” and Brigid’s look told him she thought he might be teasing. “But, that business about being King isn’t real, is it? It’s like some Southern thing, like King Cotton or some courtesy title, right?”
“It’s real,” Rick assured her. “They’re real, the vampire King and Queen of… well, really Louisiana and Arkansas. You see, for vampires the whole United States is divided up into kingdoms.”
“Really?” and Brigid half-laughed. “Like we’re in a vampire territory?”
“New England Kingdom,” Rick nodded. “The Queen, Tania, lives in Boston. She’s not exactly hidden, but she’s less… Flamboyant, I guess you’d say, in how she lives.” Rick looked down. Brigid’s hand had twitched, but it still remained in his. “I didn’t realize it, but my…Father, Eric…he’s been paying the Queen for my being here, in her territory. Karin just told me.”
“Why would he…” and for the first time, Brigid looked as if she might be believing him. “I know there’s vampires, but I guess I didn’t think about them being everywhere.”
“There’s not a lot of us,” Rick explained. “Not really. If there’s fifty in all of Boston, that’s probably a lot, but vampires are expected to earn their keep. My Father explained that a busy vampire doesn’t get into trouble, so rulers insist they pay tithes to remain in a kingdom. If you’re someone they like, you pay less, but if they think you could present a threat, then you pay more. The bottom line is everyone pays, so that means you must work. It also means vampires look for ways to make money, and sometimes those ways aren’t nice.”
“But, it can’t be like before,” Brigid protested. “I mean, everyone knows about you,” and she blushed. Her blood rushing to the surface of her skin caused her to call to Rick in a new way and he had to work to keep his fangs retracted. “Why would a vampire give you trouble? I mean, if your parents are famous, it’s not like anyone can go after you.”
“Vampires are old,” Rick explained. “There’s a lot of them who don’t like this new way of living. They miss the good old days of hunting and glamouring. They call donor centers ‘milk farms.’ They think the rules are making us weak, easy targets.”
“But you don’t think that,” Brigid shrugged.
Rick squeezed Brigid’s thin hand, “I don’t, but I have to accept that I’m young. All I’ve ever known is post-Revelation, but that doesn’t mean the old rules went away.” He knew he’d come to it. “I have to ask you to do something, but you need to know what it means before you say yes. I want you to drink some of my blood.” Brigid’s fingers loosened, and Rick waited for her to pull away from him, but she didn’t.
“I think you better explain that,” she said instead.
“It’s for your protection,” Rick said, giving the clearest reason. “Vampires, well, we’re hunting creatures, so our ability to scent is really strong. If you take my blood, any vampire, well, any Supe, will consider you mine and under my protection.”
“That’s amazingly sexist!” Brigid huffed.
“Not really,” Rick protested. “You can’t smell it, but Peter reeks of Karin. They’re not exactly bonded, but they’re as close as you can get.”
“What’s bonded?” Brigid asked.
“It’s when two vampires, or a vampire and their mate, have exchanged blood in a particular way that forms a permanent tie between them. They can sense each other’s emotions, maybe even influence them. They can tell where the other person is. It’s not like telepathy, but kind of like that.” Rick stared into Brigid’s eyes, “It’s that communion of souls the books talk about, and only vampires can do it.”
“I guess that doesn’t happen often.” Brigid’s voice was quiet and she pulled one hand away, placing her thumb to her mouth. After a minute, Brigid said, “But that’s not what you’re asking.”
“Well,” Rick sighed, “It is, kind of. We would feel the connection. You’d feel my emotions, and I’d feel yours. I’d be able to track you, know where you were. You’d be able to sense when I was close, but it wouldn’t be permanent. It’d wear off in a month or so, but while it was in place, you’ll smell like me, the way I smell like you now.”
“You smell like me?” and Brigid’s expression let him know how she felt about that.
“Sure,” Rick shrugged. “I fed from you. Your blood is in you, and now, it’s in me, so yeah, I smell like you, and that’s the problem. Any vampire who gets downwind from me will smell you, and if I keep feeding from you, someone will notice. Vampires don’t forget, they can’t. They’ll use your scent signature to find you, but if you smell like me, they’ll keep their distance because I’m under the Queen’s protection.”
“So, as long as we want to be together…” and Brigid looked away.
It felt selfish, but Rick squeezed the hand that remained in his. “I want this, Brigid,” he confessed. “Yes, it’s protection, but there’s a part of me that wants to smell my claim to you. Smelling me on your skin, it just feels right. I want you to know me, too. I want…” and Rick stopped. He could hear how demanding he’d become.
“I love you,” Brigid said, and she squeezed his hand as she assured him, “Like I said before, I’ve decided.” Rick felt such relief he smiled, and then laughed.
“Then, you will?” he stammered.
“Yes,” she nodded, “How do we do it?”
“I’m going to use a knife,” he told her. “I know, it sounds terrible, but it’s less messy than biting,” and he stood up, pulling her back toward the house.
“What?” she asked. “You don’t want to do it out here?”
“We could,” he answered, “but I can guarantee you, there’ll be sex involved!”
There was sex involved, wild, joyful sex. When Brigid winced, Rick scraped his finger against his fang, using his blood to heal her abrasions. “We’re leaving,” Peter called from downstairs. Brigid was astride him, rising and falling, their mutual pleasure washing through them.
“Cumming!” Rick called, and they were.
Karin’s head swiveled the minute they walked into the town hall. Meg and Todd were there already, and they hurried over to hand Brigid a handwoven purse they’d picked up in their travels.
“You’ve done well,” Karin told Rick, but it was as if he heard the noise around him through some kind of filter, and he realized it was Brigid’s emotions. He smiled and as if on cue, she turned and smiled back.
“Dance with me,” he mouthed, and Brigid excused herself to join him. They danced up and down the lines, swirling, touching, their movements resembling the two sides of the same coin their tie made them. When it was their turn to take the stage, their connection seemed revealed for everyone to hear through their music. By the time they finished their third waltz, most of the dancers had stopped just to listen, and then to applaud. Rick’s heart felt two sizes too big, and as the last note faded, Brigid set her mandolin to the side and they kissed in front of the whole town. ‘My mate,’ he thought, and he knew it was true.