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 sitting in his dorm room when Pam arrived. He’d stood on the sidewalk outside Brigid’s dorm, watching her step into the black car yesterday. She hadn’t introduced him to the man sent to collect her, and Rick hadn’t expected it. Now, it was his turn.
“Ready?” Pam asked.
“Sure,” Rick answered. He gestured toward the backpack he was using as a suitcase.
“Really?” and Pam’s eyebrows rose. “So, you arrive with everything you own looking like you slept in it? Nice!”
“I have a full wardrobe down there. You saw to that!” and Rick stood, grabbed the bag, and headed out the door, trusting Pam to follow. “So,” he asked as they headed down the stairs, “What movie we watching in flight?”
“You are watching Infinity Wars,” Pam answered. “I am heading for Chester to see Karin.”
“You’re not coming with me?” and Rick stopped to look at her.
“No,” Pam sniffed, “I’m not, Baby Fang, but don’t get any ideas. I was sent here to fetch you, so you will be fetched. I’m dropping you with Anubis and Thalia’s on the other end, waiting to pick you up and deliver you to your Mama.”
“Like I’d run,” Rick growled.
“Like you wouldn’t!” Pam scowled. “You could have made your own plans to come home. You could have made this all easy, but you dawdled and delayed and now, here I am.”
“Well, this does give you an excuse to see Karin, right?” and Rick continued down the stairs.
“It does,” Pam conceded, “but it’s not like I get to spend any time. There’s big doings at the Palace and I have to be back in time for the Christmas Ball.” She slid into the seat next to Rick, waiting while the driver closed her door. “There’s a new suit with your name on it in your closet at the Palace. They re-opened the monastery and everyone who’s anyone is fighting for an invitation. Sookie and Eric pulled out all the stops. It’ll be the best and most exclusive party New Orleans has ever seen.”
“I take it you planned it,” Rick smirked.
“Of course!” Pam purred.
“So, they’re doing better?” Rick asked. He thought of how his parents looked in September, his Mom looking slightly lost and his Father standing behind her, staring as though he worried that looking away might see her gone.
“You’d be proud of your Mother,” Pam answered. “She’s changed…she’s stopped fighting what she is.”
Rick stared at his step-sister. He could hear Pam’s relief. “It was scary there for a while,” he acknowledged.
Pam nodded, “But now, those nights are behind us, Rick. Sookie Stackhouse is back and all is right with the world.”
“So, how are you liking Harvard?” Rick was standing in his place in the reception line, greeting people at his parents’ Ball. All the Sheriffs and their families, (‘retinues’ Rick corrected himself) were in attendance. There were an unusual number of humans invited as well. Rick recognized some from their pictures in the local papers. Others were introduced as either business associates or politically connected. He had to admit, looking around, his Mom and Pam had pulled out all the stops. There was a huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and sparkly New Orleans glitter spilled over pretty much every surface. A glossy black piano was set at one end of the room and a formally-dressed woman was playing Christmas carols. Waiters were circulating, red armbands signifying trays of blood, black armbands signifying wine. There were even canapes.
“Better than I thought,” Rick answered Lily Hermosa. George’s Mom had her arm linked through her son’s. Rick found himself looking at her critically. Lily Hermosa had aged a little since the time he’d stayed with her after his Mom’s turning. George had confided she was preparing to be turned in two years once Frank, George’s youngest brother, graduated from high school.
“It’s not Harvard that Rick really likes in Boston,” George grinned. When Mrs. Hermosa looked curious, George leaned toward her, whispering, “It’s the female scenery.”
Rick glanced across the room toward his parents. He knew what George was needling about, and it was a conversation he wasn’t prepared to have yet. “It’s true. Boston has a lot more to offer than I thought. The Charles River, the parks, the greenways, but it’s the school, too.” He fixed George with a direct stare before adding, “I’m not like some folks who spend all their time on social activities.” George had the grace to flush. Their first semester away, George had discovered women and women had certainly discovered George.
Now it was George’s turn to stammer as he answered his Mother’s inquiring stare, “I do enjoy the social aspects of college, but I’m still putting my grades first. You saw how well I did this year.”
“Second Honors,” Lily Hermosa smiled up at her son. “I am so proud of you,” and she kissed his cheek. The knowing look she gave her son told Rick she had a pretty good idea what else her son was up to, but wisely decided not to pursue it. “Well, I’ll leave you two to catch up. I see Maxwell Lee over there.” As she started walking away, she added, “Not too much wine, George! You’re driving tonight.”
As soon as she was out of earshot, George leaned toward Rick. “Prick!” he hissed.
“Whore hound!” Rick hissed back, and then they both grinned.
“Really, Rick, what the hell? I called you a dozen times. I have to wait until we’re both home to see you? It’s like you disappeared after Columbus Day. Talk about dogging it…”
“You’ve met her,” Rick shrugged. “You know Brigid’s more than that to me. You know where we’re playing music. You’re always welcome…”
“Brigid can’t keep her mouth shut,” George smirked. “She outed me the last time…”
“You have a revolving door of girlfriends…” Rick sighed. “Brigid is a real woman. You can’t expect her to cover for you. Besides, if you let your stable know what they are to you…”
“Friends, with benefits,” George smirked, rocking back on his heels as he cased the room.
Rick eye-rolled, “You can’t expect a woman like Brigid not to call you on that. I mean, how do you manage it? You give them number tags at the door? Assign them days and times?”
“I do schedule with precision,” George laughed. “I think of it as accounting practice.” Rick was about to reply when George’s eyes lifted. “Incoming,” he whispered.
“Ricky!” and Maddie, George’s kid sister was beside them. She’d grown up, her dark hair contrasting with her blue eyes. She’d just been accepted at the University of Mississippi, and Rick found himself staring at the changes only six months had made.
“I understand congratulations are in order,” Rick stammered. “Class valedictorian. Chester doesn’t hand out that award easily.”
“I had to do something with my free time once you all abandoned me,” Maddie flirted, but her heart wasn’t in it. Instead, her eyes were flicking around, and then they became fixed. She pressed Rick’s arm, directing his attention across the room. “Will you introduce me?” she asked.
Rick knew immediately who Maddie was talking about. “Hunter’s too old for you,” he huffed.
“He’s interesting,” Maddie countered. “It would be nice if you did the polite thing, but if you won’t, I’m sure your Mom will,” and she gave him a simpering, speculative stare. Rick didn’t need an interpreter. If Maddie went to his Mother, she’d make some mention of Rick’s failure to be courteous. If there was one thing that got his Mom in a lather, it was manners. If Maddie complained, Rick knew he’d be getting the lecture, so, giving into her blackmail, he squired her toward his cousin, Hunter Savoy.
Hunter had been a surprise. His Mom mentioned his long-lost cousin had moved into the Palace during one of their stilted phone calls, but it hadn’t clicked that this person would be older and handsome. Karin told him Pam found Hunter living on some sort of farm, but the polished young man sparkling in his custom-made suit didn’t look like a farmer. He looked like trouble. “Your mouth is hanging open,” Rick scolded Maddie as they made their way across the room.
“That’s cause I’m positively panting,” Maddie sassed back.
Rick knew Hunter could read minds. He hoped that meant Hunter would read how silly Maddie was behaving and he’d shut her down, but he was disappointed. Instead, Hunter turned toward them. “Madeline Hermosa?” he asked, extending his hand. “I was told you were the prettiest girl at the party. I can see folks didn’t give you enough credit, not by half. I’m Hunter Savoy.” Maddie’s eyes glazed over and her face beamed as she placed her hand in his.
Rick felt a wrench he knew wasn’t jealousy, but still, he couldn’t help grumbling “Show off,” as he made his excuses and retreated back to where George stood.
“Here,” and George handed him a flute of champagne. “Use this to rinse the sour out of your mouth. Jeez, you look like you bit into a lemon!”
Rick glanced back across the room. Hunter was saying something that made Maddie laugh. Mr. Cataliades was also looking happy and, after a minute, he offered Maddie his arm. “I don’t know who he thinks he is,” Rick groused. “Not like he really knows anyone and look at him! Even Mr. Cataliades is sucking up to him.”
“He’s family,” George said quietly. “Family that fits in. That’s something, Rick.”
George’s remark made Rick feel guilty. He knew George had cousins he never saw. Lily Hermosa’s Mom had died last year and since that time, his Uncle and Aunt had pulled away completely, making it clear their disapproval of Mr. Hermosa. “Yeah, I guess,” Rick shrugged. There was another burst of laughter, “But look at that guy! I mean, he walks in here and it’s like he owns the place! He’s spent more time talking with my Mom than I have!”
“Have you talked with your Mom about Brigid?” George asked.
“You know I haven’t,” Rick answered quickly, and then felt a twist of something that didn’t sit quite right. He growled, “I know what you’re doing, George. I get it! I’m being an asshole.”
“You said it, Bro,” George grinned. “From what you’ve been telling me, you’ve spent every minute since you got back hiding away so you can Skype your lady love. Doesn’t leave much time for catching up with family, does it?”
Rick sighed, “It’s the time zone. Brigid’s six hours ahead of me. If I want to talk with her…”
“You have to do it at night, yeah, I get it,” and George glanced toward where Sookie Northman stood. She was staring at them. “Well, you’re not Skyping now. Why don’t you go talk with your Mom? Ask her to dance?” The music had changed to something bouncier, and there were couples turning around on the small dance floor.
“I guess you’re right,” Rick grinned. “Thanks, George,” and he handed his glass to him. He couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. When his Mom saw him heading her direction, her face became so hopeful. He couldn’t miss Eric’s glance, taking it in. It stabbed him a little, the closeness their bond gave them. ‘Not jealous,’ he assured himself, but he knew he was lying. “You look pretty,” he told his Mom as he reached her.
“You are so handsome!” she answered. She glanced around, suddenly nervous. “Are you having a good time?”
“This is really nice,” he answered. “Way better than last year. You did a good job.”
His Mom laid her hand on his sleeve, her touch almost tentative. “I wanted this to be a good Christmas for you…for all of us. I am so proud of you…”
“Would you like to dance?” Rick asked, figuring that would be easier than talking.
Her face broke out in a smile. Rick knew how his Mom loved to dance. She was good at it. He wished they were back in Chester, bouncing and turning up and down the long lines of contra dancers instead of pairing off for a waltz. Working through the figures, smiling at their fellow dancers, handing off partners seemed more light-hearted. Rick’s fingers itched for the simplicity of making music, but he made sure he looked happy as he placed his hand on his Mother’s back.
They danced one waltz, and then the next. Rick saw Hunter dancing with Maddie, and then with Mrs. Hermosa. “That guy does pretty much everything,” he commented as his cousin swept past.
“You might want to spend a little time with him,” Sookie answered. “Hunter is your cousin, the only blood family you’re ever going to have.”
“Family can be who you choose,” Rick said brightly.
“He’d like to know you better,” Sookie replied.
Rick couldn’t help it. He heard his Mom’s worry and her hurt over the distance she felt between them. “I’ll make time,” he assured her. “For both of you.” Her sense of relief was so palpable, Rick couldn’t help saying, “I’m sorry. I know I’ve been distant. I can’t explain it, it’s just everything. School, this,” and he looked around at the room. “It was better when I was in Chester, but now, going to college? I guess I’m wondering where I’ll fit in, what the future holds for me.”
“Oh Rick!” and his Mom’s face shone, “The future holds whatever you want! You are so talented! You have all the advantages I never did. You’re handsome, and rich, and smart as they come. You’re the absolute best of me, and there isn’t one door that won’t open for you!”
Rick could tell his Mom believed it. She didn’t understand that even though he was a day walker, he was still vampire enough to never be accepted by most humans. He thought of what Brigid told him about her family, and he knew he would never be good enough in their eyes. Brigid assured him she didn’t care, that she’d rather leave what was left of her family anyway. He looked around him. Would she really fit in here?
There were humans with some of the vampires and human couples, local dignitaries. There was a tap on Rick’s shoulder, and Maxwell Lee bowed, extending his hand toward his Mom. As they rhumbaed away, Rick found himself trying to place his Brigid in this crowd. ‘Fish out of water,’ he thought.
“You made her very happy,” his Father said from behind him.
“She looks good,” Rick answered before turning to greet Eric. He gave his version of the King bow. He couldn’t really do it with a straight face, but Eric never gave him a hard time.
“She is always better when you are here,” Eric answered, “and, so am I.”
Rick doubted his presence made any difference to his Father. It was odd. He’d been home a couple nights but hadn’t really taken the time to look closely at Eric. People told him he was his Father’s mirror, but this was the first time he saw his own jaw and forehead. He knew he had his Mother’s eyes, but with a start, Rick realized pretty much everything else was Eric Northman. “You got a really good turnout this year,” Rick said to cover his revelation. “This place looks amazing.”
“It’s good to be King,” Eric joked, looking around. “I order, or your Mother extends an invitation, and no one can resist.” They stood side by side for a moment, and then his Father looked at him. “Is that how your young lady feels about you?”
Rick had a moment where he felt caught out before schooling his face. “I’m guessing Karin’s been telling tales.”
“I can smell the change in you,” Eric answered. “I’m assuming this means you’re exchanging blood with her.”
Rick could feel the heat starting to creep across his face. “Does Mom know?” he asked.
“Your Mother’s sense of smell isn’t as acute as mine,” Eric answered. He was watching Sookie gliding through another waltz, this time with Rubio Hermosa. “Do you know what this means, Rick? Are you serious about binding yourself to this woman?”
“We’re not bonded,” Rick snapped back, using the word he knew. What he wanted to add was ‘yet,’ but realized he wasn’t sure what ‘bonding’ or ‘ties’ really meant and he didn’t want to explore the subject now.
“Why didn’t your woman come with you?” Eric asked. “It would be better if she met your Mother before this goes further.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to bond with Brigid,” Rick snapped and then he did blush, feeling his betrayal. Eric said nothing, and the silence let Rick’s feelings of cowardice take root. “You’re right. I…I guess I’m just not ready to talk to Mom about her.”
“Your Mother would welcome the woman who means so much to you,” Eric observed. “Sookie is a romantic. She wants you to be happy.”
“She’ll say I’m too young,” Rick countered. “She’ll tell me it’s too soon, that I should wait until I finish college, like I’m ever going to use my degree for anything!”
Eric’s eyes narrowed, but then he leaned back on his heels and sighed. “Your Mother used to tell me all she wished was for a normal life. I’m afraid she’s transferred her wish on to you.”
“My life will never be normal,” Rick sniffed.
“Of course not,” Eric said reasonably. “You are extraordinary. Those who are meant for great things may never hope for something as simple as normal.” Rick found himself staring at his Sire. He could tell Eric was sincere. “You hiding things from your Mother doesn’t help her. It’s a lesson I’ve come to learn. Sookie needs to accept your destiny. Be honest with her. She will be stubborn at first, but in the end, she loves you enough to accept your decisions.” He sighed. “She would never run from you, not as she once did from me.”
“Well, she’s sure not running from you now,” Rick stated.
“I am no competition for you, Rick,” Eric guessed. “The places we hold in her heart are separate and apart. You should know that.”
“I do,” Rick huffed, embarrassed to have been read so easily. At that moment, Hunter Savoy floated past, Maddie Hermosa in his arms again.
“Hunter Savoy can’t replace you either,” Eric guessed again. “Still, if you’re smart, you will enlist him as an ally. He has history with your Mother. She listens to him with new ears.”
“Guess he’s doing pretty well,” Rick sniffed. “Heard he’s making plenty of money, using his telepathy.”
“Your gifts are beyond his,” Eric answered. “If it’s the money you wish, it could be yours for the asking.”
“I don’t…” Rick stammered. “I mean, Mom doesn’t want me to be a telepath for hire.”
“Is it truly her decision?” Eric asked, looking across the dancers, “Rick, you would be rich beyond your wildest dreams. You could command any price, set any conditions.” He waited for that to sink in before adding, “It would also expose you to more danger. Your gift is unique. You read us,” and he waited until Rick looked at him. “All of us, vampires, too, and you can tell where we are.” He nodded, staring at Rick’s forehead. “You can track us and avoid us. If your abilities were more widely known, there would be some who would be tempted to try to take you by force.”
“Yeah, so I guess Mom is right. All this power,” and Rick laughed mirthlessly, “and I can’t even think about using it, not without opening hunting season on myself. Guess I’d better settle into becoming an accountant or a lawyer.”
Eric laughed, his stance relaxing, “I don’t see you in either of those professions, my Son!”
“I think you should be a casino owner,” Pam offered, joining them. “You’d know who was cheating and how to keep the games rigged to your benefit.”
“Sure, and I could start wearing a cape and speaking in a Spanish accent.” They knew Rick was talking about Felipe de Castro. Eric had killed de Castro, taking over his kingdom, but then again, Felipe had killed Sophie-Ann LeClerq, setting into motions the wheels that would send Eric to a forced marriage, separating his parents for years. Now that time was over, but any mention of De Castro served as a reminder.
“What are we talking about?” Sookie asked as she joined them.
Eric took his mate’s hand and drew it through his arm, “We’re speculating on what Rick will do for a living when he decides his schooling is over.”
“Oh, he has all kinds of time to worry about that!” Sookie answered. “He’s just started college, and then there will be graduate school…”
“Yeah, I’m not sure I’m cut out for that…” Rick answered.
“Nonsense!” Sookie laughed. “Why, George Hermosa was just telling me how he’s already planning on his MBA! I know Harvard undergrad is good, but a Masters is better, Rick. The competition out there is tough and…”
“Dance with me,” Eric interrupted. Rick felt grateful. Once his Mom got on this roll it was hard to get a word in edgewise, and the conversation always made him uneasy.
“I don’t envy you.” Pam leaned in as they watched Rick’s parents dance.
“I don’t see anyone strong-arming you into becoming what they want,” Rick mused, but then wondered why he’d made that assumption. “Did he? Did Eric push you into…” and he scowled, “this?”
“Of course not,” Pam laughed. “He knew I was different. He knew I was independent. He taught me to defend myself and other than that, he stepped back and let me find my own way.”
“And, you’re happy?” Rick asked.
Pam rolled her eyes, “You don’t think I know about your many gifts? I do and, by the way, just another brick on the load of injustice! You get gifts, Karin gets gifts…”
“What kind of gifts does Karin have?” Rick asked.
“Hello? Assassin? Super-fast, super canny. Karin’s like a super predator!” Pam laughed.
“What about Mom?” Rick challenged. “She doesn’t have any gifts.”
“Not now,” Pam said sourly, “but just you wait! It’ll happen. She’ll rise some night and be totally loaded. Yup, the only one in our family that’s short-changed in the gifts department is me!”
“What about your fashion sense?” Rick teased. “Or your event organizing? Those could be super-powers.”
Pam grinned, “Good save, Baby Fang.” Hunter started toward them, and Pam growled, “Speaking of gifts. Here’s the latest add to the Northman talent pool.”
“Yeah, lucky us,” Rick growled, but before Pam could react, Rick was saying, “Hi, Cuz. Having a good time?”
“I was hoping you’d be here,” Hunter replied.
“Yeah, like where else would I be?” Rick answered. The two men eyed each other. They could read each other, which didn’t leave much room for secrets. After a minute, Rick sighed, “Okay, truce.”
“Truce,” Hunter nodded.
“You two are so sweet, I think I’m going to tear up!” Pam snarked. “I’ll just leave you two to it. I don’t think I can stand being near your bromance any longer!”
“Just shut up!” Rick muttered, but it didn’t stop Pam from flouncing away, leaving him standing next to Hunter Savoy.
“I’m not trying to take your place with your Mom,” Hunter started.
“Did Eric ask you to talk with me?” Rick asked.
“No,” and Rick could hear Hunter was honestly surprised by the question. “Truth be told, I don’t talk with your Father much at all. Sure, your Mom and I talk, but she was pretty much the closest I got to a Mother… Well, at least a Mother I would have chosen, but Rick? That was a long time ago. I don’t know if anyone told you about me, but I was one paycheck away from eviction. Things weren’t going well and if your Mom hadn’t shown up, I don’t know what would have happened. I could live off the crawdads, and I was, but if the farm had been taken, I would have starved, too.”
“What are you talking about?” Rick asked. “You’re a telepath! You read people! You can always tell the next…”
“A telepath who couldn’t shield for shit!” Hunter interrupted. “Do you even know what that feels like, because I don’t think you do. I think you’ve been shielding pretty well your whole life. You’ve never felt like your head was full of voices, voices so loud you didn’t know which voice yours was. I didn’t even know I could filter them out! I just stayed away from people as much as I could.” Hunter looked around them, “I never dreamed I could be in a place like this and I don’t mean the fancy clothes. I mean standing here, talking and dancing with people. This is…” and Hunter’s eyes followed the dancers. “This is a miracle.”
“You’re right,” Rick conceded. “I’ve been able to pick and choose since I started hearing.” He knew Hunter would understand he meant hearing through his telepathy. Rick tried to imagine what his cousin was describing. It sounded painful. “I guess I just hadn’t thought it could be like that.”
Hunter grinned. “Yeah,” he said, making it all right, “I could see it. If you’ve never experienced it, how could you?”
Rick eyed his cousin’s suit. “So, now you’re making up for lost time, huh?”
“It’s a whole new world,” Hunter agreed. “Like waking up to my own personal fairy tale.”
Rick laughed and jerked his chin toward where Mr. Cataliades was eating a canape. “Telling me that’s your Prince Charming?”
Hunter gave Rick a sly glance, “Well, aren’t you the dirty mind? But, hell, yes, I’d kiss him full on the lips if it meant I could keep living here!” Rick’s tall cousin put his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, “Doesn’t matter the price. This is good, and I owe it all to your Mom. She really is my fairy godmother.”
Rick glanced at his Mom. She was standing between Pam and Indira, laughing like she was still human. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Sure.”
After a minute, Hunter leaned toward Rick, “So, why aren’t you doing what I’m doing?”
“Well,” and Rick sniffed, “Let’s just say there’s a double standard when it comes to my Mom. You get the Fairy Godmother, I just get the Mother.”
Hunter really looked like he was trying to sort it out. “So, you’re saying she doesn’t want you using it?” and touched his forehead.
“She wants me to live normal,” Rick answered.
“Normal, how?” Hunter asked.
“Normal, human,” Rick shrugged.
Hunter gave a slow whistle, “Well, don’t that beat all?” and he shook his head. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,” he said to Rick, “but your Mom has some strange ideas,” and for the first time since they’d been introduced, Rick found himself liking this tall stranger who resembled some parts of him.
“It’s rained pretty much every day since I arrived,” Brigid told him.
“Here, too,” Rick told her. Brigid hadn’t complained, not once. She’d described how she tramped through the doomed city of Pompeii, wearing travel wool under her rain slicker and boots. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
“I’m learning more,” Brigid answered. “It’s been awhile since I was here last. They’ve uncovered some new areas. Some of the murals are really beautiful. How about you? Has it been okay?”
“Well, I missed the Krampus Parade by a week. I guess everyone was hanging their freak flag out for that one. There’s still photos around town, celebrating the diversity.” Rick shrugged, “Leave it to New Orleans to decide diversity means fangs and shifting.”
“I saw a photo here, too,” Brigid told him. “It looked like everyone was having a really good time. Your parents look…happy, you know?”
“Yeah,” Rick conceded, “They are. They’re more together, I guess. Before, Mom was still dealing with things. I didn’t see it then, but seeing how she is now, I do. And he’s…Eric…my Dad. He’s happier, too.”
“Well, that’s great!” Brigid grinned, and then she looked away and her thumb came to her mouth.
“What is it?” Rick asked.
“I have to ask you about something,” and Brigid looked away again. “Look, I don’t know how to say this and my guide is going to be knocking on the door any minute. Last night, when we were at the café, a guy walked up to me. He looked normal, but he leaned forward, and I could swear he was sniffing me.” Rick felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “He said, ‘Whose are you?’”
“What did you say?” Rick asked.
“I told him to mind his own business, and then my minders got up and crowded him away, but, Rick? For a minute, I was scared.” She looked right at the screen, “Was that something about vampires?”
“I…I don’t know,” Rick stammered. He felt helpless and stupid. He immediately thought of his blood in Brigid, and how she was half a world away.
“Is there something I should say?” Brigid asked. “Something I should tell them?”
In spite of himself, Rick smiled. Leave it to this woman! He was worried about what had happened, but Brigid was already two steps ahead, trying to figure out what to do. “I’ll find out,” he vowed. “As soon as I know something, I’ll text you. You’re not walking around by yourself at night, are you?”
“Are you kidding?” and Brigid didn’t bother to hide her bitterness. “I’m on a virtual leash 24/7. Mamere is convinced my Mom was lured away by evil foreigners, so she figures with my ‘bad blood,’ I’ll be dancing away with the first soft smile. You better believe she keeps me under lock and key on these excursions. No way she’s losing her bad seed granddaughter to another penniless nobody!”
“She’d hate me, wouldn’t she?” Rick asked.
“She hates everyone,” Brigid shrugged, “especially herself.”
“I’m sorry, Brigid. I’ll text you the minute I know something,” Rick sighed. “In the meantime, don’t take any chances. Embrace the leash!”
“Kinky, Northman!” and Brigid waggled her eyebrows, and then, leaning toward the screen, she whispered, “I love you!” She blew him a kiss and then lowered her laptop, breaking the connection.
‘Someone’s found her!’ Rick’s mind screamed. He stood up, running down the lists of who he could ask. His Dad came immediately to mind. Eric knew about Brigid and he hadn’t make a big deal out of it. It was hours before dawn and Rick left his room, bent on finding his Father.
Rick scanned first one way, and then another. Because of the recent party, there were still a lot of vampires in the Palace. Rick sorted, touching minds, eliminating those who weren’t Eric Northman. While he scanned, he walked, moving toward the staircase, figuring if he needed, he’d eliminate possibilities one floor at a time. As he rounded the corner, he almost ran into Thalia. “Oh!” he stammered, “Hi!” She didn’t reply, but she didn’t move either. She planted herself, crossing her arms, and waited.
“Have you seen my Father…the King?” he asked.
“The King has left for a meeting with the local Packmaster,” Thalia replied.
Rick couldn’t keep his face from falling. “I can’t ask Pam…” he murmured to himself.
“If this thing that has you muttering is a personal matter, you should ask your Mother,” Thalia sniffed. “Sookie is downstairs.”
“It’s not a personal matter,” Rick snapped, and then shaking his head, he added, “Well, it is, but it isn’t.” Making up his mind, he squared his shoulders and said, “It’s a vampire matter.” Thalia didn’t reply, but she didn’t move either, so Rick took it her willingness to listen. “You see, there’s a woman, Brigid, and she and I…”
“The one whose scent you carry,” Thalia nodded.
“Jeez!” Rick groaned, “Can everyone smell me?” When Thalia didn’t show any response, Rick continued, “Yes, I guess. Anyway, she’s in Italy, and she says someone…a vampire, approached her last night. He asked whose she was. What does that mean? Is she in some danger?”
“Italy?” and Thalia’s phone was in her hand, “and she is where?”
“Pompeii,” Rick answered. “She’s there on a private tutor thing. Her Grandmother arranged it.”
“Her name,” Thalia barked. Rick gave the small vampire Brigid’s information, including her Skype address and cell number. “Do you have a photo?” Thalia asked, and Rick reached into his pocket, picking out a couple snaps of Brigid’s face from his phone and sending them to the text address Thalia provided.
“What happens now?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Thalia said. Her fingers stopped moving and she pocketed her phone.
“What do you mean, nothing?” Rick asked when it appeared Thalia wouldn’t volunteer any more.
Thalia’s eyes narrowed, so Rick figured she was going to hiss at him. It wouldn’t be the first time, but instead, her mouth softened. “I have used a favor,” she told him. “I have ties in that part of the world. My friend will make sure your…” and Thalia seemed to think about her choice of words. “Your friend will not be molested any further.”
“Thank you,” Rick breathed. “I appreciate it,” and then something occurred to him. “I guess now I owe you a favor.”
“Your Sire will repay me,” Thalia observed.
“I’d rather it was me,” Rick stated. When Thalia stared, he explained, “I’m thinking Eric is already paying something for me to stay in Boston. I’d rather not pile on his bill any more. I have skills. I could be useful to you.”
“Perhaps,” Thalia answered. “However, if I take you up on your offer, it is likely more than your immediate family will discover your ability.”
Rick thought about it. “How many already know about me?” he asked. He supposed it was a question he should have asked Eric, but he trusted Thalia. He figured Eric might try to gloss things over. Thalia wouldn’t.
“Those who were with us the night of Sookie’s turning,” Thalia replied. “Your sisters. Others may suspect, but they don’t know. It would be better for it to remain so.”
“Still, there’s ways I could help you without anyone knowing it was me,” Rick pressed. “Really, I’d prefer this remain between us.”
“As you say,” and Thalia bared her fangs. Rick figured that was as good as a handshake.
“I guess you’re pretty busy,” Rick stammered. Thalia started to lean forward. Rick thought she’d interpreted his words as signaling the conversation was over, but Rick wasn’t finished. It was rare to find Thalia in an amenable mood, and Rick had other questions. “I mean, you don’t happen to know what Eric’s paying to the Boston Queen, do you? For me, I mean.”
Thalia’s eyes narrowed, “Why don’t you ask him?”
Rick had figured Thalia would try to deflect, but he had his trump card ready. “Do you think he’s told my Mom? If I ask him, she’s probably going to find out. Better everyone thinks I’m in the dark, don’t you think?”
“But, you wouldn’t be in the dark, if I told you,” Thalia pointed out.
“I know, but it wouldn’t be something Eric wasn’t telling my Mom. You know how they are, if he tells me but doesn’t tell her, she’ll be pissed. If you tell me because I asked, she can’t get mad. You see, I’d like to think I’ll repay him someday, but to do that, I need to know.” Thalia was looking unconvinced, so Rick pressed harder. “Look, I’m vampire, too. How am I supposed to learn the way these things work if no one explains them?”
“This is your Mother’s job,” Thalia groused.
“My Mom has lots of jobs lately,” Rick countered.
“You haggle like your Father,” Thalia sniffed, and Rick knew he’d won.