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Hunter excused himself to go out back, though not before asking if Sookie or Eric needed to use his privy. Eric laughed, and Sookie explained that as vampires, they no longer had those kinds of human needs. “Glad to hear it,” Hunter sighed. “It’s okay for me, but…” and he mumbled another apology before heading through the screen door.
“Look there,” and Eric pointed at the stack of envelopes near Hunter’s back counter. They were all bordered in red. Sookie instantly recognized them as overdue notices.
Throwing a glance toward the back, Sookie picked up their glasses and ran outside. She emptied them into the bushes, and then returned at vampire speed to rinse them in the sink. When she returned them to the exact spots where they’d been resting, Eric raised his eyebrow, but Sookie hissed quietly, “Don’t criticize. You know that tasted disgusting!”
“Still, that TruBlood cost Hunter more than he could afford,” Eric scolded. “The honorable thing would be to drink it.”
Sookie stuck her tongue out. “Fine, then next time I’ll leave you to finish yours.”
“Don’t stick it out unless you intend to use it, Lover,” Eric growled, before looking around again. “Do you think he’s truly unable to function around people?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie sighed. “I can’t hear him. Who knows? It sounds as if he became more sensitive when he hit puberty. I remember I had some troubles then myself. I’d have headaches that lasted for days, but I grew out of it.”
“You could have told me about him,” Eric didn’t say more, but Sookie knew. “You are quick to demand my trust, Sookie, but it appears it may only flow one way with you.”
“That’s not exactly fair,” Sookie said softly. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Hunter. Besides, I couldn’t risk looking for him when I was in Chester. I was hiding, and I had Rick to think of, and now, since I’ve turned, I’ve had a hard enough time just holding myself together.”
“That doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me about Hunter’s gift on the drive here,” Eric pointed out. “I felt the moment you remembered, but even then, you chose not to share it with me.”
“I didn’t know if he was still telepathic,” Sookie explained. “It’s been a long time, Eric. He was a little boy the last time I saw him.”
“But his gift is still in place, and it appears he needs money,” and Eric gaze sharpened.
“No!” It was out of Sookie’s mouth so quickly, it surprised even her. She looked around, giving herself time to think before saying again, “No, Eric. That wouldn’t be right.”
“Why?” and Eric’s eyes narrowed. “Because living Supernatural is such a bad thing?”
“You know that’s not what I mean. I mean, it’s fine for us, but Hunter?” and Sookie found herself on uncertain ground. There was something in the way she was reacting that left her feeling unbalanced, and she didn’t like it.
“When we first met, you had more money than your cousin has now, but you were still struggling,” Eric pointed out. “You could shield some thoughts, yet you still held yourself away from people you didn’t know.”
“I remember,” and Sookie did. It seemed so long ago.
“It was only once you embraced your gift that you started to learn better control,” Eric continued. “You started to make real money, you gained independence…”
“I landed in a whole bucket of trouble!” Sookie protested.
“But, why was that?” Eric challenged. “I offered you protection, but you had to have it your way.”
“Stubborn,” Sookie said aloud what Eric was thinking.
“Proud,” Eric added. “And then, there was Bill.”
Sookie nodded. Bill Compton had been at the center of so many of her troubles. At the time, she’d thought her near-death experiences were simply bad luck, but as the years passed, she realized most of them had their roots with Bill. Or fairies. “It’s just, he looks happy here,” Sookie whispered.
“Does he?” and Eric looked pointedly at the envelopes. “Does that look happy? And, if he loses this place, then what? Where will he go if you don’t wish him to be with us?”
Eric was staring in that way he had, and Sookie could feel the faint tendril of satisfaction he got when he thought he was being particularly clever. “You planned this!” she hissed. “You knew all along you were going to offer him a job. It was Pam! She figured it out, and you’re going to preach to me about trust?”
“Stop, Sookie!” and Eric crossed his arms and leaned back. After all this time, he still failed to understand how angry this made her, his looking so superior.
“He’s my family, Eric! My kin! I’m not going to stand by and let you put him in harm’s way. Of all the high-handed…” and Sookie could feel her temper taking hold. She really had no idea how she looked. If she did, she would have worked harder to hold back. Her fangs dropped and she crouched forward. It was purely vampire instinct. Her voice was reduced to hissing and she looked as if she would launch herself any minute.
“Aunt Sookie!” Hunter called, “Please!” Sookie was brought up short and she turned toward the door. Hunter was staring, wide-eyed, and Sookie could smell his fear.
“It’s nothing!” she said quickly, straightening. “A disagreement.” She took a step forward and Hunter took a step back.
“Fangs,” Eric said from behind her, and if Sookie could have blushed, she would have. As it was, she made an effort to calm herself, took a deep breath, and held out her hand.
“It’s okay, really,” she soothed. “Your Uncle and I were just having a disagreement.” When Hunter still didn’t look convinced, Sookie explained, “Your Uncle thinks we should invite you to come to work for us back in New Orleans.”
“There’s people in our world who would pay you a great deal of money to sit in on meetings and use your telepathy for them,” Eric added.
“Spy on folks?” Hunter asked.
He looked slightly less panicked, so Sookie suggested they sit down. “Perhaps, some more blood?” Eric added, ignoring Sookie’s soft hiss.
Hunter waited until Sookie was seated before retrieving their glasses. “Sure,” and he managed a faint smile. “I bought a whole six pack. Glad you like it.”
Eric sat down as well, leaning back, making sure his hands were in view. “It was thoughtful of you, wasn’t it, Sookie?”
“Yes,” Sookie agreed, although she could already taste it, cold and unappealing. Hunter returned with their glasses refilled and Eric made a point of lifting his, and then waited for Sookie to do the same before sipping. Sookie managed to choke it down, pulling her smile on afterward. When she felt Eric laughing at her through the bond, she mentally slapped him.
Hunter had perched on the chair closest to the door. “You can uninvite us any time,” Sookie said kindly.
“I know,” her cousin nodded. “Miss Pam showed me. It’s not really that you make me nervous, it’s just…” and he shrugged. Sookie urged Hunter to explain and when he did, she marveled that she hadn’t realized the problem. “I guess I’m so used to hearing what folks are saying and what they’re really saying…” and he tapped the side of his head so they knew what he meant. “When I only get one side… well, it’s really something.”
“It threw me for a while, too,” Sookie assured him. “When I first found myself around Supernaturals, it was wonderful, the quiet, but it made me skittish, too. For the first time, I was flying blind. I was so used to knowing things that it made me a little too trusting.” Eric snorted and Sookie didn’t have to hear his words to know he was remembering her poor choices. “It’s like anything else. It just takes practice…”
“And having the right guides,” Eric added quickly. “Do you think you could trust us?”
“Eric!” Sookie hissed.
“It’s a simple question, Lover,” Eric countered, before turning back to Hunter. “You know us, and you know your Aunt Sookie is still willing to fight for you. Do you trust her to look out for you and give you good advice?”
“I do,” Hunter said rashly. “You’re kin.”
“Blood isn’t always the best gauge of honesty,” Eric said dryly, “but I will promise you my protection if you choose to explore this path.”
“It’s dangerous,” Sookie said quickly. “You’re human and fragile. Vampires, Weres…we’re a lot tougher physically. You may find yourself getting hurt just being around us.”
Hunter seemed to think about that, but then he sighed. “How much money we talking about?” he asked Eric.
“A simple job, just listening to humans in a meeting, will earn you anywhere from two to five thousand dollars. You’ll be paid in cash in advance. Once you demonstrate your abilities, what you will be able to demand for your help will rise. With an established reputation, like the one your Aunt enjoyed, it won’t matter what you hear. It could be useful or not. You’ll be paid all the same. There will be some who will pay just to be able to say they had a telepath at the table.”
“That… There’s got to be more to it,” Hunter huffed. “I mean, you’re talking about more money than I’ve ever earned in all the years I’ve been pulling critters. It’s just…”
“These are people with lots of money,” Sookie explained. “They live forever, and the money just kind of grows each year. It means little to them, Hunter, and they pay it freely.”
“Then, what’s the problem?” and Hunter looked at Sookie. “Why wouldn’t you want me to do this?”
“Because not everyone is honorable,” Sookie explained. “Vampires, particularly old ones, can be jealous and cruel. They may decide they want you for their own and try to kidnap you…”
“Or turn you,” Eric added. “Although your Aunt Sookie’s experience will serve to discourage that line of thought. No point in turning you if your gift is lost in the process.”
She knew he didn’t mean it to hurt, but Eric’s words did. All her life Sookie had hated being telepathic, but now that it was gone, she felt its loss. “I’m sorry,” Eric told her, picking up her reaction.
“Funny, isn’t it? It’s like our bond, I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone,” and Sookie leaned forward so she could lay her hand in her husband’s.
“Do you hear each other?” Hunter asked.
Sookie smiled before shaking her head. She was so in tune with Eric, she could see how Hunter might mistake what he was seeing. “No, your Uncle Eric and I are a bonded couple. Vampires don’t bond often. There’s some risks but being bonded means we can sense each other, from where the other is to what the other is feeling. It’s kind of like living in each other’s pocket. Wonderful most of the time, but,” and she scrunched her nose for Hunter’s benefit, “not so comfortable when you’re fighting.”
“Your Aunt Sookie is right to point out risks,” and Eric shifted as he returned to the subject. “Once you become known as a telepath, you won’t be able to return to your old life.”
Hunter looked around, and he flashed a lop-sided smile that reminded Sookie of Remy, Hunter’s father. “Don’t think I’d be missing this too much,” he chuckled, before sobering. “But, will everyone I meet be quiet, like you?”
“Supes?” Sookie asked and when Hunter nodded, she qualified, “Mostly. You’ll be able to read Weres, but their heads feel snarly…”
“Snarly?” and Eric’s eyes lit up.
“I can’t explain it any other way,” Sookie laughed. “Witches…”
“They’re real?” Hunter gasped.
“Sure are and if you’re living with us, you’ll be meeting at least one,” Sookie assured him, thinking of Fran. “They’re mostly silent, but if you really try to get into their heads you get a kind of nasty buzz.” Hunter was starting to look excited, so Sookie reminded him. “Most folks will want you to listen to humans and it doesn’t sound as if you’ve learned to shield.”
“Shield?” Hunter asked.
“Cut off the thoughts around you,” Sookie explained. When Hunter looked shocked, she nodded. “I didn’t believe it either, but I learned.”
“Taking vampire blood improved your Aunt’s ability,” Eric added.
“Let’s walk before we run!” Sookie snapped. “I think it makes sense for Hunter to take a few days and get used to the idea. Do you think Desmond would come out here?” As the literal Father of their family’s telepathic abilities, Sookie hoped Desmond Cataliades, the demon attorney, would be able to both help and assess Hunter.
“He will do whatever you ask of him,” Eric reminded her. It was a bit of a sore spot, that the demon considered himself beholden to Sookie, yet was not in the least inclined to help Eric Northman. Eric turned to Hunter, “The night wears on and your Aunt and I must return to New Orleans before dawn.”
“It was wonderful seeing you,” Sookie added, standing to go.
“What happens next?” Hunter asked.
“Well, you think about it,” Sookie told him. “If you give me your phone, I’ll program in…”
“Don’t have one of those,” Hunter said a little too brightly. “Don’t have no one who’d be thinking to call me anyway.” Sookie thought of the red-edged envelopes and bit her lip.
“It might be easier to consider your choices if you come with us,” Eric offered. “If you come tonight, you will have a place to stay. I have some work that could use your skills, and you can see if it suits you. I’ll pay you, of course.”
“Tonight?” Hunter asked. Sookie thought he’d decline, but instead, he headed into the back room. He threw a few things into a backpack and returned. “How long do you think we’ll be gone?”
“Do you need to make arrangements for things here?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Hunter said, and then he laughed, “No, the rice feeds the crawdads. Don’t take no work from me for that!”
“You may stay with us as long as you wish,” Eric told the young man.
“Well, then I guess I’ll bring my guitar, too,” Hunter announced, and he went back into the bedroom, returning with a guitar in a feed sack. He looked like a boy running away from home, and Sookie couldn’t help it. She felt her heart melt toward Hunter as it once had when he was just a child.
“I can’t wait until you meet Rick,” she said.
“Who’s he?” Hunter asked.
“I’ll tell you on the way to New Orleans,” Sookie grinned. Eric led the way, opening the back of the truck. Sookie scrambled in, explaining her legs were shorter, and she spent the whole ride back telling Hunter Savoy about the family he didn’t know he had.
Hunter’s presence transformed the Palace. Sookie had worried, wondering what the quiet young man would do while they rested but, after his first day, Hunter switched his schedule to vampire time. “It’s how I usually live,” he explained. “Me and the crawdads. They’re up all night, so I was, too. Less people anyway, so it was pretty comfortable.”
Sookie asked Desmond Cataliades, their demon attorney, if he’d help Hunter. Since it had been a thimble of his blood that gave her family telepathy in the first place, she thought he wouldn’t mind too much. On rising, she found Hunter and the attorney downstairs, laughing. “Your cousin is the image of my dear friend, your Great-Grandfather, Fintan,” the demon attorney declared. Sookie suspected she’d just been replaced in the attorney’s pecking order of favorites, but since she also knew Eric didn’t make the top fifty, it was attention she was willing to forego. Within a few nights, the two of them, Hunter and Desmond, were taking short trips into the City to help Hunter strengthen his shields.
Pam’s reaction to Hunter was just as positive. They immediately connected, recognizing in each other a kindred spirit. Eric, Sookie, and even Thalia soon found themselves the target of pranks and jokes. Unlike some of Pam’s solo efforts, there was nothing mean-spirited in their play, but soon enough every person in the Palace was looking behind them and checking before they opened doors. It also had the whole Palace laughing and until she heard it, Sookie hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the sound.
“Happy people don’t plot,” Eric told her, helping her pick paper dots from her hair one evening. It was still two weeks until the Summit and where at this point last month they’d been tentative, now there was actual enthusiasm in thinking about the event.
“No one’s happy when they vacuum,” Sookie replied, looking at the punch-outs that covered her, her desk, and the floor. Sookie had opened her desk drawer tonight and was covered in a whirl of paper confetti, a prank that had Hunter Savoy written all over it.
“Everyone is happy,” Eric shrugged. “Admit it, my Lover, inviting your cousin to join us was the best idea.”
“You’re asking me to reward you for being tricky, and you know I won’t,” Sookie growled, but they both knew it was true. Along with the lifting of spirits, the arrangements for the Summit had almost magically smoothed out. In a heartbeat, the Northmans and Louisiana went from being the sorry relation you grudgingly accommodated to the sought-after celebrities you felt lucky to snag.
It wasn’t just their announcing they were bringing a telepath. There seemed to be a more general change in attitude as sometimes happens. Eric told Sookie not to question, but instead to embrace it. “I have seen this kind of thing happen before,” he told her. “The great wheel turns and you find yourself out of the tumbler, redeemed.”
Everything seemed to work. Appointments Sookie had been trying to make with people in the city suddenly fell in place. The right dress she’d been searching for suddenly appeared on the evening rack. “Talk about finding our luck,” Sookie observed.
Even the news from Boston improved. Rick initiated regular phone calls, reporting progress in his school studies. He apologized about Thanksgiving, talking unprompted for an hour about things he’d seen and his recent visit with his friend, George. Sookie sensed he was holding something back, but she didn’t question, worried that pushing might shut down Rick’s easy conversation.
At last, it was Thanksgiving, their last night in New Orleans. Tonight, Sookie would lie with Eric in the special-order travel coffin and when next she rose, it would be in Minnesota. It was her first time traveling this way, and the thought of lying down in the box made her nervous, but Eric promised he’d leave the lid open until she’d fallen into her day death.
Dinner in the Quarter was pleasant. Eric stayed behind, but Sookie joined Hunter and Desmond. Between the two of them, they finished off the larger part of the small turkey. Sookie had to laugh, watching them power through bird, collards, and cornbread. She knew her presence was prompting some whispering among the other diners, but she didn’t care. The smell of the holiday reminded her of so many happy times. As the men finally sat back, Sookie raised her goblet, encouraging them to raise glasses as well. “To family,” she toasted.
“Those here and those who we hope to see soon,” Mr. Cataliades added.
It was the best night Sookie could remember in years.
“I’ve already been approached for meetings,” Eric told Rubio. “You may anticipate their calls.” The Sheriff delivered his report earlier that evening, outlining the opportunities in natural gas development in southern Arkansas. With the right partners, Rubio was certain it was a business venture that would deliver new revenue to the kingdom. “Congratulations.”
Rubio bowed, first to the King, and then to Sookie before showing his relief. “I’m glad some got it. I was sure Tennessee followed what I was talking about, but some of the older ones… They stick to what they know.”
The Louisiana contingent were gathered together in Eric and Sookie’s suite. It was a small contingent, but not as small as some. There was a trick to it, traveling poor but not looking shabby. For two nights they split up, working rooms and small groups, making an effort to be charming when there was something to sell, and supportive when there wasn’t. This was the first night they had a chance to all sit together. Sookie glanced around at the familiar faces, Hunter and Mr. Cataliades, Pam, Rubio and, of course, Eric.
Sookie knew Eric had been worried that once they arrived, they’d find themselves wandering aimlessly through the Exhibitor’s Hall, locked out of meetings and private parties, but that hadn’t happened. Maude, the Queen of Minnesota, set the tone when she insisted Sookie stand beside her during opening ceremonies, laughing and sharing gossip. From that point on, the Louisiana group found themselves welcome everywhere.
If there’s one thing vampires enjoyed besides gossip, it was stories, and Sookie found herself the center of a renewed interest in her history. She was asked to recount tales of Felipe de Castro and her adventures with the Fae. She found herself telling stories of Sophie-Ann LeClerq, Weres, and Niall Brigant. She recounted her experiences following the bombing of Rhodes, confirming for some the fate of those dear to them. The story of how she saved Felipe de Castro by running Sigebert over with a car quickly became a favorite and she found herself repeating it often.
Hunter spent his first night at the Summit looking starstruck, but he quickly overcame it, and once his power was confirmed, he found himself a celebrity. Contracts were already in talks and Mr. Cataliades was acting as both business manager and coach. Sookie knew the two of them were spending their days together as well. It was hard to reconcile the polished young man with his expensive haircut and more expensive suit with the lanky farmer they’d found only a few weeks ago. “What are you going to do with all your money?” she asked, expecting he’d tell her he was going to buy a new truck or install a bathroom at his house.
“I don’t know yet,” he shrugged. “Haven’t really decided. On-line college maybe.”
“You could expand your farm,” Eric pointed out, quoting almost word for word Sookie’s own thoughts.
“Not sure I’m going back there,” Hunter shrugged again before giving Sookie a direct stare. “If it’s all the same to you, Auntie, I’d like to stick around New Orleans for a while.”
“Of course, you’re welcome,” Sookie answered. She felt caution from Eric, but she refused to be suspicious. This was Hunter Savoy and if his being with them while they rested was cause for worry, she was sure Mr. Cataliades would have told her. Sookie wasn’t sure whether it was common knowledge and it wasn’t her secret to tell, but she knew the demon could read the minds of everyone, even vampires. Since he’d been in Hunter’s mind so often, helping him, if there were plots to be found, Mr. Cataliades would know, and Sookie was sure would have told her, at least.
“It’s just, being with y’all is so restful,” Hunter explained. “I don’t mean to be a burden, but just sitting like folks, like we are now, talking and not worrying about sorting through what’s real and what’s in your head… Well, it’s like waking up every day to a gift.”
“Cataliades tells me your shields are improving,” Eric said aloud.
“They are,” Hunter confirmed. “Desmond and I took a tour downtown with some of the vampire companions. Walked all over the city. It was easy as pie, no headache or nothing.”
“Make sure you don’t touch those companions,” Sookie cautioned. “Vampires can be very sensitive about people they consider their own.”
“I know better than messing with someone claimed by a vampire!” Hunter laughed, and Sookie hoped he was telling the truth. As it was, he’d failed to sleep in his room twice since they’d arrived, and Sookie caught his quick sideways glance. It startled her, and she laughed. It was a mirror image of Rick’s tell when he was lying.
“What is it?” Eric asked, sensing her reaction.
“Nothing,” Sookie told him. “It’s just Hunter did something that reminded me of Rick. Funny how some things must be in the blood.” When Eric continued to look puzzled, she continued, “Like how when Rick and you stand near each other, you’ll both cross your arms and rock back on your heels a little? It’s like watching a mirror.”
“And the black pack?” Pam laughed. “Talk about taking a signature color to extremes!”
“Many people wear black,” Eric sniffed.
“Jeans, tight t-shirt, socks, shoes…” Sookie grinned.
“Male Northman uniform!” Pam chortled.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting my cousin,” Hunter said.
“Won’t be long,” Sookie replied, as much for herself as for Hunter. “School break starts the last week in December, so he’ll be with us for a whole month.”
“You’re sure he hasn’t mentioned other plans?” Eric asked.
It was how he said it and Sookie felt her throat tighten. “No, what have you heard?”
“Nothing!” Eric said quickly. He glanced at Mr. Cataliades and Sookie was sure she recognized something pass between them.
When she continued to stare, Eric sighed before repeating what he’d said many times before, “Sookie, Rick’s a grown man and living on his own. He’s used to making his own decisions and it’s likely he has made friends.”
“Like George,” Sookie said quickly. “I’m sure he’ll be anxious to come home to see George.”
“Well, George did mention a young lady,” Rubio grinned.
“What?” Sookie asked and was rewarded by a rare thread of guilt through her bond with her husband. “What ‘lady,’ Eric? Rick didn’t mention a girl to me!”
“I’m sure he will if it continues,” Eric answered reasonably. “If he hasn’t mentioned her yet, it could be he’s not ready to introduce her to his mother.” It was the right thing to say, but Sookie let Eric know they’d be talking about this more when there were fewer witnesses and she could tell from the set of his lip he’d received the message.
Unwilling to interrogate her husband in front of witnesses, Sookie landed on Rubio, “So, what did George say about this girl?”
If her sharp tone wasn’t enough, the set of Sookie’s eye told Rubio he’d stumbled into something. “Only that she’s someone who attends school up there. I got the impression she doesn’t go to Rick’s school, though. George said she’s tall, blond,” and he bowed a bit to Sookie, “and plays music. He’s heard her. Apparently, there’s a band she plays in and George said she’s very good.”
Sookie threw up her hands, “Plays music? Rick’s a goner!”
“I didn’t know my cousin played music,” Hunter interrupted, sitting down next to Sookie, “What instruments?”
“Several,” Eric answered, clearly pleased by the distraction. They had all heard Hunter play guitar. He preferred fast picking and country, demonstrating a ready and flexible talent. “Like you, Hunter, the Fae gift for music runs strong with Rick.”
“And what about you?” Hunter asked Pam. “Play anything?”
“Strip poker,” the petite vampire teased. “Oh, and I do sing.”
“And you, Aunt Sookie?” Hunter asked. “Do you play or sing?”
“Not a bit of either,” Sookie answered, Hunter’s change in subject having done the trick. “Not a gift in sight for me.”
“You don’t know that,” Eric soothed. “I was almost fifty before I manifested my first gift. As a vampire matures, it sometimes happens…”
“Or not,” and Pam shrugged. Sookie knew her friend wished for some special talent, but it had been hundreds of years and no gift had appeared.
“I just don’t understand…” and Sookie turned back to Eric, her eyes narrowed.
“Tell me about the Fae,” Hunter interrupted again. This time he took Sookie’s hand in his. “I always wondered about how this happened to me, but my Dad never said anything about Fae. Is that like… what? Fairies?”
“I know what you’re up to!” Sookie scolded, but she couldn’t help smiling. It was something family did, tease you out of bad tempers and cover for cousins and, for the first time in ages, Sookie felt connected. “Your Great-Great-Grandfather would have been tickled to find you!” she grinned, going along, and when Hunter leaned forward, encouraging her to continue, Sookie said, “Niall Brigant was the Prince of the Sky Fae. He was both beautiful and terrible… He was the most powerful creature I’ve ever met, and just touching him made you feel like Spring inside.”
“That is the way of the Fae,” Eric nodded. “They are, of all creatures, the most magical.” Eric took up the story then. He told stories Sookie hadn’t heard, stories that stretched back to times seemingly more fairy tale than history. Over the next hours, Sookie found herself enchanted by stories of wild hunts and dancing under starlight. For the first time, she heard about the great war that had almost destroyed both Fae and vampires, and the part her husband played in bringing about the peace.
“That’s why Niall liked you,” Sookie said aloud.
“Niall liked me for many reasons,” Eric grinned. He glanced around, “It is time we retire, Sookie. The ball is tomorrow night and I congratulate you all. You have brought honor to our kingdom. We have already received an invitation to the next Summit and may be asked to host one ourselves, a great honor. When we came here, I wondered whether we’d leave stronger and we have. Each of you has played your part, and you have my gratitude.”
When the door closed behind them, Eric turned Sookie toward him, his eyes hooded. “Love me, Wife,” he growled and pushed his need. There were things she wanted to ask, things she wanted to know, but in this moment, there was only one answer.
“Yes,” she whispered, and pushed him backward until he fell on the bed.
It was nearing dawn when Eric stepped out of his bed chamber. Pam was waiting for him. “You texted?” she drawled, holding up her phone.
“I hope I didn’t interrupt anything,” he teased, but they both knew he didn’t mean it.
“Nothing serious,” and Pam wiped the side of her mouth, giving a good idea of what ‘nothing’ might be. “I assume you want to keep this between us.” Pam glanced at the closed bedroom door, “Sookie already in her day death?” but since they both knew, Eric didn’t bother answering.
Instead, Eric lifted an eyebrow before saying, “I want you to go to Boston.”
“Why?” and Pam eye-rolled. “I’m not going to be able to tell you any more about your son than Karin has already.”
“You’re not going as a spy,” Eric growled, “I want you to bring him home, Pam! I don’t want Sookie to know, but if he resists, you have my permission to use any means necessary. Charter a private flight with Anubis if you must but bring Rick home.”
“You really think he’s planning on skipping the holidays?” Pam asked.
“Maybe,” Eric replied. “I don’t intend to take any chances.”
“You sure this is a good idea?” Pam asked. “You know Rick. He won’t like being told what to do any more than you.”
“You saw her tonight,” Eric snapped. “She yearns for family. She’s much better having her blood around her. Tell Rick his Mother needs him.”
Pam glanced at the door again, “I can see it, Eric. Sookie is happier now. You’re right, having Hunter around makes a big difference.”
“On the surface, but I can feel her,” Eric pressed. “There is joy again, but it’s fragile. Her son’s absence gnaws at her. She doesn’t speak of it with everyone, but surely, she’s shared her hopes for this Christmas. She mentions it often when we’re alone.” When Pam indicated she’d also heard Sookie say things, Eric continued. “I’ve encouraged her to buy her tree. I will give orders to decorate the Palace and I will do whatever customs are required to make her happy, but it will be hollow unless both Hunter and Rick are there by her side.”
“And you think a family Christmas will make her all better,” Pam sighed. Eric didn’t answer, but Pam knew she was right. “All right, “she huffed, “but if I’m going to disappear for a few days, you need to find a Sheriff to fill in for Area Two. You’ll need Thalia at the Palace while I’m gone, so that leaves your flank exposed. Don’t think I bought that ‘all is right with the world’ speech you made earlier.” When Eric pulled himself up, Pam held up her hand, “I agree, we are safer now. This Summit helped, but I don’t believe we’re out of the woods yet. We may have the muscle, but only money makes the security of a kingdom a sure thing, Eric, and we’re still thin in that department. Until the money’s in the bank and the spies are paid and in place, nothing is for sure, and you know that. Hell, you taught me that!”
Eric laughed, his face alight, “You make me very proud, daughter,” he praised. “Perhaps wisdom is your gift. In this instance, what you say is more than wise, and I am grateful.” He pulled her close, kissing her forehead, “It was a good night when I found you shimmying down that pipe.”
“I was made for this,” Pam agreed, “but if I have to be the wise one, it will be with new pumps. Nothing says wisdom like Jimmy Choo!”