Author’s Note: This is a longer chapter and sets the ground for what will come next. I have not been too dodgy about making it known that The Far Reach was a ‘bridge’ piece between two larger stories. I have started the outline for the third part of this story arc, A Distant Horizon. The third will be about conflict. Our characters will get another chance to plot and plan and strut their stuff. New heroes, old villains – and our favorite couple playing out their own romance.
My thanks to Breathesgirl who spot-checks my dodgy spelling (I get too carried away and drop letters, and then could swear they’re there when I re-read!) and MS Buffy, whose clear eye helps me pare the mountain of words to the essence that is more elegant on the page. I am learning – but slow!!
And to you, who read my work, I offer my gratitude for sharing my stories. Without you, this story would be nothing more than the rambling of a woman on the corner. It is with the gift of your notice that it becomes a tale.
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.
Nautical Note: When navigating home in any harbor, even one you know well, it is important to take note of the channel markers. They signal where the water is deep and hazard-free. From time to time they shift, as the unknown sandbars and sunken wrecks shift. If you follow the markers you know you will come home safe.
Sookie found herself smiling as her sedan pulled into the wide, circular driveway. The house that was the official residence of the Area 2 Sheriff was built of red brick with two levels in the center and single-story wings on either side that wrapped forward, forming a kind of courtyard around the front door. It was a stereotypical Southern house and although it didn’t look as if it had been there forever, the style of architecture was the kind featured in every movie about the South. Sookie knew she would be walking into rooms with high ceilings and wide-planked, dark wood floors. When the front door opened and the person she assumed was a Day Man stepped out to greet them, Sookie remembered Cleo, the former Sheriff of this Area, whom she had met in Rhodes. They hadn’t exactly taken a shine to each other, but Sookie hadn’t disliked the woman either. She wondered if this was where De Castro’s agents had trapped the vampire during the takeover, if this was where Cleo had met her final death.
Now this would be Thierry’s residence. Once the Zeus Summit concluded, he would return here to take up the reins for his Area. Eric had told her that as the Area closest to Texas and Oklahoma, he was counting on Thierry to establish strong, collaborative agreements that would attract vampires to it. There would need to be a high level of cooperation in the years to come between the kingdoms if the energy production plans that Eric needed to ensure their financial future were to come to pass. It would be a tricky dance to avoid the kind of familiarity that could invite impossible favors, but still maintain a partnership. Thierry would need to be charming, loyal, and cunning if he was to succeed.
To get things started, Eric had sent Thomas ahead to assess the state of the house and start the groundwork necessary to organize the Area. Sookie anticipated spending the night screening staff and anyone else Thomas had designated. She didn’t think she would be spending much of time. Thomas had arrived less than 48 hours ahead of her and unless he was some kind of super vampire, she figured he would probably have work set up for now and then ask her to come back at a later date to screen anyone that was missed.
Sookie brought the small bouquet of flowers she held in her hand to her nose. When she had arisen this morning, she had found the bouquet tied with a red ribbon on her bedside table. Under it was a folder that contained notes and documents about Area 2. There were a lot of papers and graphs and most had really tiny print. ‘Serves me right for telling him I wanted to learn about his world!’ Sookie had shrugged, squinting at the financial statements and income prospectus pages.
In truth, she was not entirely sure that she would be able to understand what she was seeing, but after she had settled into the back seat of the car and started reading, she realized that Eric had taken the time to write an overview outlining each exhibit and the significance of each of them. As the miles passed, she found her interest growing while she read more regarding the challenges of combining Areas 2 and 3 and the reasons it was logical given all that had been planned. She Googled maps on her cell phone so she would have a better idea of where the proposed gas wells would be placed and where wind turbines were likely to succeed. Sookie read a paper on the history of the Area and the vampires who would be involved in their plans twice. She had met Stan a couple of times, but the vampire who emerged from the description in Eric’s file was different than the one she had met. This Stan was wily and jealous. He had a documented tendency to undercut his partners. The conclusion was that you could trust him, but would be well-advised to verify that trust and often.
There were also short biographies of Sandy Seacrest and Ralph, her prospective royal mate. Sookie read both with interest since she had met them and knew they would be seeing each other again soon.
Then Sookie found one additional biography for Finn, the vampire king of Nebraska. Unlike the others, this write up had a photograph of the King and the information looked as if it had been pulled largely from Bill Compton’s database. Sookie found herself automatically checking the King’s arrival date in Nebraska and his place of origin.
The photo of the King had been taken from a short distance and he wasn’t looking directly at the camera. Nebraska was taller than those standing around him. He appeared to have light hair and Sookie wondered if it was red. He looked muscular and long-legged. His write-up informed that he had arrived in the United States shortly after the U.S. Civil War from Ireland. He had been appointed King not long afterward although there was no information as to how or why that happened. Sookie figured he’d probably killed the former ruler seeing as that seemed the most common way vampires gained their thrones. As far as she knew, Eric was the only King in this country who had been given a throne without much bloodshed. Sookie finished reading the few short paragraphs and wondered why Eric had included this page. It didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the information. There was no obvious tie to future business with their kingdom. Sookie turned the page over to see if anything was written on the back, but it was blank. She looked at the overview Eric had provided and there was no mention made of Finn. ‘Maybe it’s a mistake,’ she thought, ‘but then she found herself thinking about the letter that had been directed her way that seemed to be one thing, but was really something else.
Finally, Sookie had concluded this was a mystery to file away and ask Eric to explain later. One advantage of her study was that the two and a half hour drive had flown by, and no sooner had she shuffled the papers back into some order, Owen announced that they were within five minutes of their destination.
As the Day Man waited for Shari to open Sookie’s door, Sookie had a chance to take a look at him. He was thin and balding although he didn’t look old. As Sookie climbed out, he stepped forward and bowed, just his head. “Miss Stackhouse,” he said formally. “I am Jay Hill, the provisional Day Man here. On behalf of Mr. Thomas, we are most pleased to welcome you. May I show you inside?” and he gestured toward the house.
Sookie had noticed that the neighborhood where the house was located was a little south of the city. It was a typical suburban neighborhood although this particular house had a fence and it sat on a larger piece of land. Sookie could see flood lights positioned in the branches of the trees and on the corners of the house under the eaves. “Sure is a nice neighborhood,” Sookie offered.
“The former Queen was most fortunate she bought the property when she did,” Jay said conversationally, “I doubt she paid more than a quarter million for it. The houses in this neighborhood are all going for anywhere from a million to two million dollars now.”
“Really? Why so big an increase?” Sookie asked. It was a big change for a relatively short period of time.
“Katrina,” Shari answered from behind her. “Folks came flooding into Lafayette after the storm, pardon the pun,” the Were smiled broadly.
“Good one,” Owen sniggered as he brought in the bags.
Sookie turned back to see Jay roll his eyes. He was human, which wasn’t unusual for a Day Man. When he saw her looking at him, he quickly schooled his face. ‘Too late!’ she thought. “How long you been here, Jay?” Sookie asked aloud.
“Since the takeover. The former day person was… well, I don’t believe there was anyone here for a while after the takeover. Mr. Madden had meant to assign Corrina, a vampire in his retinue, to this Area, but, again,” and he had showed Sookie a long face that didn’t look all that sad,” fortunes were against it.” Jay had walked Sookie through a lovely entrance hall. There was a sweeping staircase that crossed up and above them and all the balusters were beautifully carved and painted white. They headed into a less formal room that had couches and chairs, a sort of sitting area. “Can I interest you in some tea?” he asked. Sookie declined with a shake of her head while Shari took her station near the door.
The Day Man waited a minute as if he was not quite sure what to do next. Sookie looked at him, and then just dipped into his thoughts. In spite of what he was showing, Jay was nervous. He was getting along with Thomas, but he did not know what was in store. He hadn’t met Thierry. He had received no indication as to whether he would keep his job. He had heard a rumor that those who were close to vampires who were replaced ended up dead. Jay had been hired by the old regime and had seriously considered running, abandoning the house and all his responsibilities ahead of the arrival of the new Sheriff, but he couldn’t do it. He had college loans and a mother whose life was made easier by the extra cash he was able to give her. Granted, his life hadn’t been made more interesting yet, and that had been part of the draw of the job. He was feeling he hadn’t really had an opportunity to do his job because the promised Sheriff had never arrived.
Sookie realized she was wearing her Crazy Sookie smile and it was making Jay increasingly nervous. “Oh, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed. “I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. What did Thomas tell you about me?” Of course Sookie heard his answer before the words left his mouth, but she figured if she was here to screen the staff, she might as well start with Jay.
“Mr. Thomas told me that you are the King’s Consort,” he said and he bowed again. “He asked me to make sure you were comfortable and that when he rose, you would be meeting with everyone who works here. I made arrangements for the entire staff to be present starting in two hours. He assured me this wasn’t going to be a massacre.” The Day Man gasped, not believing he’d said his thoughts out loud and then turned nervous eyes to Owen who was walking in, “They don’t live here, mostly, the folks who work here. They have families in town and if they don’t come home they’ll be missed.” Sookie could hear his fear and how desperately he wanted to believe that Thomas had told him the truth.
“Thomas didn’t lie to you. What he didn’t tell you is that I’m a telepath. I can hear other people’s thoughts. The reason I’m here is to read the staff and make sure there are no spies among them.”
Jay’s eyes had widened and he actually took a step back, “But you look so…”
“Normal?” Sookie supplied with a big smile. “I am, for someone like me. I’m just not mostly human.” She kept smiling until he smiled in return. It was a thin smile, but it was enough. “I grew up human, if that’s any help, but I am different.” Jay’s eyes darted back to Owen and Sookie answered the question he was just about to ask. “If we do find spies from other kingdoms I don’t think it will go well for them.” Sookie rushed on before Jay could start to panic, “Although I don’t know why there would be any here. As you’ve said, it’s not like any Sheriff has been in residence for a while.” Sookie shrugged at his open-mouthed stare, and then nodded, “Yeah, like I said. Telepath!” She could see that the Day Man was starting to overload so she decided it was time to make everything as normal as possible. “Jay? Do you suppose I could have that tea now? We could all use some supper before everything gets started, but first, why don’t you show me to my room?”
Sookie could see that the expected routine was helping him to find his grounding. The man stammered, shook his head, and bowed. “Of course,” he said.
“Of course, Mistress,” Owen supplied. Jay cut his eyes at the bulky Were, visibly swallowed, and then turned back to Sookie.
“Of course, Mistress, if you will follow me.” His bow was lower this time.
Sookie settled into her lovely bedroom. It was frilly, almost girlish. She decided she didn’t want to think too hard about why a room that looked like this would be in a vampire’s home. Supper was provided for all of them in a formal dining room that looked out to a swimming pool. While they dined, the underwater lights turned on giving the water an ultra-blue glow. Jay had declined Sookie’s invite to join them, telling her that he needed to escort the arrivals to the kitchen. Sookie had detected the thoughts of the cook on the premises in addition to Jay, but over the next hour there were other mental signatures, both Were and human, that joined them. Coffee was being served when Thomas entered the room. “Mistress,” he greeted Sookie, and bowed so gracefully Sookie was reminded of some bygone time. Between Thomas’ manners and the all-too-Southern setting, she found herself giggling and wondering if the vampire intended to invite her to eat barbecue with him at Twelve Oaks tomorrow.
Sookie pulled herself together and said, “Nice to see you, Thomas. You’re looking good tonight. How’s everything going?” She knew she was being friendlier than she had before, but she figured it was high time she started acting more like someone who belonged at Eric’s side and that meant making friends with his subordinates. She could tell that Thomas was surprised by the new her, but the expression he gave was more humor than dismissal and Sookie took that as a good sign.
“I am doing passably well, and thank you for asking,” he said, his smile more sly than teasing, “As for things here, I believe that I will look to your informed opinion when you have finished speaking with the staff.” Thomas bowed another one of his overly elegant bows and remained bent over until Sookie cleared her throat.
“Are you sassing me, Thomas?” she asked. Behind her, Owen growled. Sookie looked over her shoulder, giving Owen a sharp look, “Now hush! We both know that Thomas has a reputation for thinking he’s funnier than a three legged mule. Who am I to make him think any different?”
“Are you patronizing me, Lady?” Thomas rose, his eyebrow drawn almost as archly as Eric’s.
“Why? Do you think you need a patron?” Sookie replied, lowering her chin and looking up at him through her eyelashes, in her best Scarlett O’Hara imitation. Thomas looked once, twice, and then his mouth quirked.
“Touché, Mistress,” His face relaxed and he lowered himself gracefully into the chair across from her. “You are more than meets the eye. I understand the King’s interest in you. ”
Sookie looked at him closely, but it was impossible to tell whether he was just making fun or being serious, “No, you don’t, not really, but I think I’ll grow on you,” and the telepath smiled as openly as she could. “Now, when would you like to start? I think most of the folks are assembled out in the kitchen and from what I can tell they are pretty nervous. We should probably get started so we don’t have some kind of wholescale panic on our hands.”
“You can read them from here?” The sardonic look was replaced with a sharpening interest. “If that is the case, why meet at all? I find that fear is a good motivator for truth. If we sit here long enough, you should be able to gather all you need to know and never move a muscle.”
“I can read them from here, and they are clear, but you’re wrong about fear and truth. Fear makes folks think all kinds of things, but rarely about truth. They think about what they would do differently or what’s making them afraid. When you introduce torture into it? They tell you anything you want to hear. Neither one has much to do with truth.”
That slightly bored, slightly superior look slipped. “You speak from experience, Mistress?” he asked, but the way in which he said the words were not really a question.
“I’ve been on both sides of it, reading folks who were in fear for their lives, and sitting on the receiving end of both fear and torture. Yeah, I know what I’m talking about, and the best way to get what you need is for us to go talk with these folks face-to-face.”
“Then the story of Neave and Lochlan is true,” he said softly. He stood and offered her his hand. There was nothing on his face now except respect.
“Fairies aren’t the only ones who know how to inflict pain,” Sookie said mildly, placing her hand in his, “However, that is in the past and I’d like to keep it there. The best way I know is to weed out trouble before it happens, like we’re doing right now.” Thomas smiled, tucked her hand through his arm, and together they headed for the kitchen where they would interview the staff. Owen followed them, silently amused as he watched the tall, dark-haired man adjust his steps to accommodate the shorter pace of the King’s Intended.
The interviews were accomplished quickly. Aside from Jay, the Day Man, there were only a dozen others including four guards sent from the New Orleans Pack. There were some shifters in the Area, but there was no formal Pack or organization of two-natured in the Lafayette area. The Weres informed Sookie that Emil Touissant, the New Orleans Packmaster, was thinking about creating a new chapter, especially if there might be more Weres living here on a permanent basis. Sookie voiced her support for the plan and the Weres looked satisfied.
When the last of the staff had left and the guards were confirmed in assignments, Sookie found herself too wound up to head off to bed. There was a lovely patio overlooking the softly lit pool. When she mentioned finding a glass of ice tea, she and Shari got into a verbal wrestling match of manners over who would get it. Sookie lost and found herself sitting, looking up at the night sky, and thinking of Eric. She had brought out the folder that Eric had prepared for her, thinking to read over it again. In her hand she held the small nosegay of flowers, starting to fade now, and raised it to her nose, enjoying the sweet scent.
Sookie turned at the sound of approaching footsteps, expecting to see the Were returning with her tea. Instead it was Thomas who set the tea down beside her, a bottle of TruBlood in his own hand. He sat in a wrought iron chair beside her and likewise turned his face up to the stars. “What do you see when you look up there?” he asked.
Sookie smiled, “A million things,” she answered, and then she blushed. She remembered with sharp clarity the night she and Eric had spent under the stars in Minnesota, and the feeling of drifting that had followed their lovemaking. Without thought, her hand rose to press the empty place that ached in her chest.
“You are missing him,” Thomas said, a note of surprise in his voice. Sookie didn’t ask how he knew . She figured the dark didn’t mean much to vampires. Whether Thomas could see her blush or smell the difference that blushing caused, it all amounted to the same thing.
Sookie’s hand continued to massage her chest, “Every minute we’re not together,” she agreed.
After a moment, Thomas glanced at her, and then at the flowers she held loosely in her lap. “Are those from the King?”
“Yup, though they are a little the worse for wear. I’m not really sure what they are, but they smell beautiful,” and Sookie turned them a little, watching how the bright heads were starting to flop.
“They are freesia,” Thomas volunteered. When she nodded her thanks, he looked back into the sky. “Doubtless the King knows there is a language to flowers,” He could feel Sookie looking at him. He glanced back, “Has he given you these flowers before?” Sookie shrugged and shook her head. When she didn’t ask further, Thomas sighed, “Freesias have but one meaning,” he told her, “They mean trust.” The vampire watched as the telepath beside him stroked one of the blossoms with her finger. He didn’t need to hear the words; he could see the emotion in her eyes.
After a minute, Sookie turned to him and asked, “Were you ever bonded?”
“No,” Thomas told her, his eyes turning back to the skies. “There was one once that I considered, but fortunately the lady was too sensible to tie herself to me.”
“I’m sorry,” Sookie said beside him. He could hear her sincerity and it touched him, but Thomas was not one to slip into maudlin thoughts or regrets of things he couldn’t change.
“Why? Doubtless, I would have grown tired of the demands a bond would place upon me,” and he nodded toward the hand that continued to press against her chest.
Sookie looked embarrassed and lowered her hand into her lap, entwining her fingers with her other hand to hold her small bouquet. Her next words were said quietly, but she knew Thomas would hear her perfectly. “It is different. It ties you down. There was a time that I hated being bonded. I didn’t like not knowing what feelings were mine and which ones weren’t. I didn’t like that I could be happy for no other reason than knowing he was close. I fought and fought until I stopped listening to my feelings and just fought because it was what I did.” Sookie turned her face to him, her smile bright and her eyes brighter, “But I came to terms with it. I came to terms with myself. I don’t see myself ever being really happy now without it.”
Thomas turned his head to look at her, “I heard you were able to break your bond with the King. Before…” he said in a careful way as if he expected her to tell him to mind his own business.
Sookie’s mouth quirked, “You have good sources.”
“We gossip,” Thomas provided with a shrug.
Sookie laughed merrily, “I heard that!” she giggled. “Pam told me that vampires are worse than old women when it comes to gossip, and believe me! I’ve known some of the best! Looks to me like she may have been right!” Thomas thought she was not going to answer him, but then she turned her head back to the skies, “I did. I had a witch friend and she arranged it. I regretted it almost right away. I think that if things had been different, I would have asked to have the bond put back,” she chewed her lip, “But I didn’t, and my life went to hell in a handbasket. But now? The bond is back, and it’s stronger somehow, and better. “ As Sookie said the words, she rubbed the fingers of her hand over the ring that sat on her finger. Sookie realized that she now saw the ruby ring Eric had given her as the physical sign of their bonding, almost like a wedding ring. “There is no better thing in the world than knowing you share everything with the one you love most,” she said aloud.
“The King is fortunate in your loyalty, Mistress,” Thomas said, not one hint of sarcasm or insincerity in his voice. Sookie looked at him then, and as their eyes met, he bowed his head in a show of respect.
“So what about you, Thomas? I know you were with Isaiah and Eric told me you spent time in New York before that. I’ve given you food for your gossip mill, time for you to return the favor. Is that where you met Thierry? New York?”
“It is, Lady Sookie,” he said. Thomas spent the next few hours telling her funny stories about his time in New York. He spun a few tales about the thrills of bridge running and told her a slightly risqué version of how the New York King’s Court spent nights entertaining themselves in the city that never sleeps. When Sookie asked him if Misha, the New York King, was Russian, he shook his head. “No, Mistress, he affects the accent, but he is something that is uniquely United States.” When Sookie asked him to explain, he deferred, answering with a shrug.
Sookie and Thomas laughed and teased, while the hours passed by. Sookie found that there was more to this vampire than a sharp tongue. He had wit and intelligence. She knew there was some backstory as to how he acquired his old-fashioned manners, but she also knew that asking vampires about how they were turned was considered the very worst manners and she wouldn’t shame herself or her Gran’s teachings by asking.
For her part, Sookie told stories about growing up a telepath in northern Louisiana. She told stories about the Bellefleurs and Mrs. Fortenberry. She told him about meeting Bill Compton and how vampires became part of her life. Sookie also told him about the first time she met Eric Northman and how she had no idea what a Sheriff of Area 5 was supposed to do.
“Ah, that explains the enmity between the King and Compton,” Thomas mused, and then glanced at Sookie, “And your display of temper too, I think. Did he spurn you? Is that what made you so fierce?”
Sookie thought back to that night in Jackson. She had only just met Thomas, and he had witnessed her unloading on Bill Compton. Sookie thought briefly of the crazy email Bill had sent her only yesterday and she felt ashamed. “Bill wrote a book, a romance novel.”
Thomas’ eyebrows rose and he smiled in a way that reminded her of Eric at his most snarky, “Do tell!” he exclaimed.
She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks, “It is a real bosom heaver full of sex and lies about two characters who were supposed to be Bill and me. It was embarrassing and it still has folks in my home town talking about me in a way that makes me think twice about showing my face at Sunday suppers.”
“The Viking should have killed him,” Thomas observed coolly.
Sookie suddenly felt a chill, although the night was warm. Almost without thinking, she said, “He may yet,” and she shook herself and smiled, “I don’t know how we got on that sad train! So what about Thierry? Is he going to be happy here, in Cajun country?”
“Thierry will be busy here for the first year or so,” Thomas observed, “and then I suspect he will have to make amusements for himself.”
Sookie’s eyebrow rose, “If we were talking about my brother, Jason, I’d think that was code for drinking and whoring.”
Thomas laughed aloud, “Then your brother must be much like Thierry, and, dare I say it, myself?” Thomas shook his head, “This is a lovely town, but country living? There are pursuits here for a gentleman. Hunting. Fishing. Shooting. Although I will tell you, when you have perfect reflexes as vampires do, the fascination with shooting wanes.” Thomas sighed, “Of course, it is a college town. That will provide ample opportunity for the amusements you suggest. There’s nothing like a college girl, or boy for that matter, in terms of their curiosity and willingness to experiment.”
“You never know. Thierry might just meet the gal of his dreams here and decide that country life is the unlife for him. We Southern gals are real sweethearts!” Sookie flirted.
Thomas smiled indulgently as he would at a child, “Thierry would never allow that, Mistress. He has only one love, and she is his Maker, Teresa. He loved her before she turned him and he loved her after. In the end, I think she had to compel him to separate from her, for both their sakes. A vampire’s possessiveness must be moderated. The possessiveness we feel for our Makers, our love for them, is almost limitless. It can make us unbalanced.” Thomas looked at the telepath and shrugged, “Of course the King’s Maker is dead, so you wouldn’t have witnessed it,” he said, but before he could say anything more, Sookie snorted.
“Love? Possessiveness? For that asshole? I don’t think so!” Thomas looked shocked, so Sookie decided to go whole hog, “I would have staked that old bastard myself if I could have. I just count myself fortunate that I was there to see him sent back to Hell.”
“I don’t understand,” Thomas was shaken, “The King had a bad Maker?”
“He had the worst,” Sookie snapped back. “Everyone seemed to think he was so wonderful because he was ancient, but he was a world class sadist and I’m thrilled he’s finally dead. Appius Livius Ocella!” she spit out like it was a bad taste, “Hope he’s burning, wherever he is.”
“Ocella was his Maker?” Thomas was obviously impressed.
“Yeah, that’s what I mean!” Sookie was disgusted, “You don’t care what kind of monster he was. All that matters is that he was old.”
Thomas looked away, “Perhaps I can understand your point of view,” he conceded. “But that was not the case for Thierry or for me. My Maker is dead and I mourn him. He was my friend. Thierry holds onto the hope that Teresa will call him back to her side.” Sookie sighed and Thomas sighed as well.
“So, what about you, Thomas?” Sookie said, “What’s keeping you from going out and finding that lady friend of yours and convincing her that she was mistaken?”
“Besides my contract with the Viking?” Thomas quipped.
“Huh,” Sookie exclaimed, “I didn’t know Sheriffs had contracts too. I thought it was, you know, a kind of personal loyalty thing.”
Thomas smiled indulgently at her, “Oh Mistress! How could you think that? We are vampire! There is always a contract!”
When Sookie crawled into the bed with the canopy draped with white eyelet, she found herself thinking on that remark. What was it about vampires that they only seemed to respect those things they reduced to writing? There always seemed to be the need for an angle or a compromise. Sookie shrugged. She guessed she might understand their reluctance to trust. She found herself glancing at the wilting flowers and remembered the other part of the conversation, when Thomas told her that flowers had meanings.
She thought about the flowers Eric had given her in New Orleans. Sookie grabbed her phone and Googled, ‘Calla lily meaning.’ The first topic gave words like purity and faith. She didn’t think that could be right. She hit the back arrow and looked at the next topic that informed her that the color changed the meaning. She typed ‘Red Calla Lily Meaning.’ There was a picture of the red blossoms she remembered. She read:
‘Red is the color of intensity. It symbolizes admiration, beauty, courage, and heat. Red callas are the essence of desire, strength, and passionate love.’
“Woo boy!” Sookie giggled, “You ain’t whistling Dixie!”
The rental sedan pulled out of the San Antonio airport and Sookie found herself smiling at the sight of palm trees. When she thought of this place she had imagined red sand and dusty river beds. The soil did look that way, but the short walk to the car in the dense humidity showed her there was more to it. They were headed north of town. There was a resort hotel complex that had been taken over for the Summit. One of the draws was a nine-hole golf course that was lit up so brightly that vampires would be able to play a game at night. Sookie couldn’t imagine that there would be many takers. Most of the vampires she had met had been turned before people even knew what the game was about, but then again, who knew? It would be something new to try and that might appeal to many of them.
The drive was short. It was still afternoon when they pulled up under the porte cochère. Shari was out of the car in a flash, motioning for the bell hop to stand back. She swept the area, and then reached down to open the door. Sookie thought she was making an awful fuss, but then she caught the thought. Shari was serious about what she was doing, but she was also consciously making a show to impress the humans that were on duty. They needed to understand that Sookie was more than a companion. The way the bellhop dropped his eyes and spoke only to Shari let Sookie see that the Were’s goal had been accomplished.
Owen was gesturing to the bags in the car trunk. Shari walked Sookie inside, and then escorted her to the chairs that were at the far end of the reception area. There was a wide window that looked out over the back of the property. An enormous patio stretched away from the window before turning into pools and plants. Most of the patio area was shaded with a rustic wood pergola. As Sookie watched, a small hummingbird flew up to one of the hanging plants and started to feed. There were chairs and tables, and Sookie was sure that these would be occupied later. Owen handled the check-in and as they rose to go to their rooms, a manager approached them. “Welcome!” he called, and then he bowed in a way that let Sookie know he must have been practicing.
It was the proper bow for a Queen and Sookie thought about correcting him, but Shari spoke from behind her, “His Majesty’s Intended thanks you for your greeting. She is looking forward to her stay in your hotel.”
The manager bowed again, addressing his remarks to Sookie, “We are honored. I hope that you and the King consider this as a second home. If there is anything we can do to make your stay more enjoyable, you have only to ask,” and then he bowed again.
“Thanks,” Sookie said, feeling a little overwhelmed. Owen walked ahead of her and Shari walked behind. They made sure that they were the only ones in the elevator. As the doors closed, Sookie turned to Shari, “Okay, is this something we’re going to be doing all week?”
Shari’s lips twisted up, “There is a protocol that’s expected, and we were drilled before we left. The King wants to make sure there are no mistakes about you or your status.”
Sookie shook her head, “I guess it is our first formal outing as a couple,” she said, but then she thought about how they weren’t pledged or married, and there was still a divorce to be had and she added, “kind of…”
They traveled to the sixth floor and Owen walked down the hall toward Charles and James who were standing on both sides of a set of suite doors. As they approached, Charles opened the door with a passkey, which he then handed to Sookie. Shari stopped the bellman in the hallway, retrieved the bags and took them into the suite herself while Sookie followed.
The telepath looked around the sitting room. There was a sliding door that opened to a small balcony which held a pair of chairs and a small table. The vista before her seemed to shimmer under the setting sun, the view slightly warped with the effect of the vampire-safe glass. She thought about how nice it would be to have this kind of open look back in New Orleans and wondered how much this glass would cost to install. ‘Too much for now!’ she thought a little glumly.
Sookie looked back at the furniture in the room. There was a definite cowboy feel to the colors that had been used in decorating. There were two sets of double doors that Sookie assumed led to the bedrooms. She knew that the closed set would be the bedroom where Eric was resting. Her eyes landed on the large vase of red calla lilies sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room. There was a card balanced against it and Sookie stepped forward and opened the envelope. The card read:
Join me -E-
Shari was looking at the closed doors, a question on her face, and a suitcase in each hand. “I’ll handle them,” Sookie told her, pointing to the suitcases. “Why don’t you and Owen go get settled. I’ll make sure you get a text when we’re ready.” Shari smiled and bowed, and then Sookie was left alone in the suite.
She took a deep breath, and then walked over to the closed doors. The bedroom was large and Eric had left the light on in the bathroom. Most of the room was taken up with a king sized bed, and Sookie felt her heart racing just to be looking at him again. ‘I am the luckiest woman in the world,’ she thought. She turned around to grab the first suitcase and huffed at the weight of it. ‘The luckiest woman who could probably stand some time at the gym,’ she added. She shuffled the case into the bedroom near the closet and managed to heft it onto the stand. It took more than a few minutes to shake out everything she brought and hang the clothes in the closet next to Eric’s things. The array of colors and fabrics next to his rather boring line of dark suits made her smile. ‘Thought the male of the species was supposed to be the showy one,’ she giggled, remembering watching nature shows in her Gran’s living room on rainy afternoons. When she came to the racy piece of red lingerie she knew Eric liked, she considered making that his present for when he woke up. Then she thought about what lay ahead tonight. She really didn’t know what the schedule held, and if there were meetings right away, it would be lingerie wasted. Better to wait until she knew they would have some time so they could both enjoy the effect. When the first suitcase was emptied, she turned around, huffed again, and hefted the second into the bedroom.
Once everything was unpacked, put away, and the suitcases stacked in the second bedroom beside Eric’s travel coffin, Sookie returned to the bedroom. She stripped out of her clothes and ran a quick shower. Once she was sure her hair was mostly dry, she slipped under the covers and slid over so she could wrap herself around Eric’s still form. As soon as she touched him, it was like some thin, frayed part of her healed up strongly. She felt unreasonably happy. She kissed his shoulder and reached under the covers to find his fingers. As she slipped her fingers through his, she felt him twitch. She looked at his face, but there was no sign that he would wake and she knew by the clock that there were still hours before he would rise. “Guess you’re happy to see me,” she whispered out loud. “Well, that’s good, cause I’m more than happy to see you!” and she cuddled her head close to him and closed her eyes.
Sookie was moaning loudly, her fingers clutching at Eric’s hair as he thrust his tongue into her, using his speed and strength to push her control into extinction. “Yes, yes,yes,yes,yes…” she was chanting. He moaned and then opened his mouth so that he could scrape her clit with his blunt teeth. Sookie’s orgasm caught her like a freight train and she was glad he was vampire or the way she was squeezing her thighs around his ears might have hurt him. She was arching off the bed, “Eric! Yes!” and he grasped her, held her down, and drove her still harder, tumbling her from one orgasm into the next before she could catch her breath. She thought her heart would pound out of her chest, and tears were leaking from her eyes, “Please! Please!” she begged, not sure if she meant that he should stop or that he should never stop. When she had fallen a second time, her voice reduced to squeals and soundless pants, he released her. He chuckled as he sank his fangs into her thigh, and the feel of him penetrating her in this way made her walls pulse again, and her body arch against him. “I love you, I love you,” she whispered dreamily, her fingers relaxing their hold on his head.
Eric finished and licked the wounds closed. He turned his head and drank her other fluids, lapping noisily. When he moved slowly up the bed, his arms to either side of her, his eyes watched her like some large, blond lion. When she met his gaze, he smiled, reached down, and hooked one of her legs pulling it up until he rested her ankle against his shoulder, leaving her open to him. He sat back slightly and lined himself up to her entrance. “I wish we had that mirror, Lover. I want you to see how beautiful you look as I enter you. You are rosy, like your flowers, and I slide within you,” and then he did, pushing into her sensitive core, causing her to pulse again and making them both pant, “I slide within you like a hand into the glove it was meant to wear.” He withdrew a little, his eyes watching their joining, his fangs descended. Sookie couldn’t stop watching him as he was watching them come together, her eyes half closed, unable to think or feel anything but this moment. He looked into her eyes then, his pupils dark. He surged forward, sliding home and grabbing her hands in one of his own as he rose over her and then pinned them together, pressed into the mattress above her head. He brought his other hand to rest beside her face, his nose smelling, his tongue licking, sliding in and withdrawing, speed picking up to a new tempo within her. Sookie’s body was rising to meet his, listening to his sounds and knowing he was just as lost in her as she was lost in him. As he was gasping, his body starting to tense in that way that let her know he was as close as she was, the phone rang.
He stilled for a moment. “Don’t stop, Eric!” she screamed in frustration.
He turned his face back to her and his lips pulled back in a snarl, “As if I could!” he panted and he focused then, hitting new angles until he found his place within her. She was lost and he was too. “Sookie, yes!” he roared, and he was cumming within her, hitting deep places, triggering her own release.
Eric unhooked her leg, kissing her ankle, and allowing her to settle. He leaned forward, his head beside her own, his forehead leaning against the pillow. When he got too heavy, Sookie jiggled him, and he rolled over to the side. He draped his arm over his head, and then turned to look for the phone. “I should kill whoever called, just on principle,” he sighed. As if on signal, the phone rang again. He looked at the screen, and then turned it so that Sookie was looking at the caller ID. It was Twy.
“If you would lift your chin just a little to your left…” The photographer was taking what Sookie hoped would be the last official shot. Sookie and Eric had promised that they would be on public display for the next two hours. The commitment has just begun and Sookie was already wishing it would be over.
This was Sookie’s first time to the Riverfront in downtown San Antonio and she had never seen anything like it. She was sure she looked like some back country rube, her head twisting and turning, her mouth hanging open. Eric told her this place reminded him of certain streets in Europe. As they walked to their meeting place, a barge loaded with mariachi players had glided by playing music. There were restaurants and shops that lined both sides of the canal, their doors open and their sidewalks crowded with tables and diners. There were people everywhere, their faces illuminated by the soft lighting on the sidewalks and the ropes of lights lacing through the trees overhead. It seemed magical, and all the more so because she and Eric were being presented as a couple.
Sookie’s thoughts were interrupted when Eric squeezed her hand. Sookie looked up to see him smiling down at her. She could feel his pride and happiness and Sookie beamed up at him in return, but the moment was interrupted by another flash of light. “Beautiful!” the photographer sighed.
“Go!” Eric hissed.
“I think we got everything we need, don’t you, Philip?” Twy interceded, and Sookie sighed again. They thanked the photographer but before the moment became awkward Twy hustled them forward. She was looking left and right, and then spotted whatever she had been searching. “Over here!” she indicated with a thin arm. Sonder was standing at the entrance to one of the restaurant patios. As they approached, the thin girl nodded and gestured toward a corner table that overlooked all the action of the sidewalk. Eric pulled out Sookie’s chair and then did the same for Twy. When he glanced at Sonder, she dropped her eyes and walked back to the restaurant entrance where she was within line of sight in case Twy needed her. Eric raised his eyebrow and sat beside Sookie. He opened his hand and the telepath automatically laid her hand in his. Eric smiled at her briefly, raising her hand to his lips.
“We’re being photographed by the other diners here,” Sookie whispered.
“Get used to it, sweetie,” Twy said, purposefully looking out into the crowd, her chin lifted to present her best profile. “You are being introduced as the future mate of vampire royalty. America will want to know all about you.”
By agreement, Twy had met them at the popular tourist attraction at the appointed time and place. She had been accompanied by an attractive brunette who was hired to be Eric’s cover date for the evening, maintaining the illusion that he was attractive, but not settled on any one person. Sookie had offered to stay at the hotel to avoid any problems, but Eric had insisted she accompany him. When Twy introduced the escort, Eric had promptly, but firmly, told both Sookie and Twy that there would be no further smokescreens. He would be spending tonight and any other public event with his Intended by his side. Twy had protested, giving all the same, valid arguments she had presented before. Eric was unmoved. Eric made it clear that unless Twy agreed to his terms, he and Sookie would be leaving.
“Your funeral,” Twy shrugged, earning her a hiss from Eric. Sookie found she wasn’t the least bit surprised when Twy hissed right back.
From where they were seated in the restaurant, they could see a television crew was setting up, testing lighting and sound. The publicist rose and stalked over to collect the television crew. She gestured for Eric and Sookie to join them. As they approached the producer for the segment stepped forward and Twy introduced Eric. Eric, in turn, introduced Sookie as his Intended. The meaning of the title Eric gave her became the first topic of their interview. The cameras and microphone people followed them while they strolled with the attractive host of the evening entertainment show, everything artfully staged to make it look as if they had just run into each other, tourists in this wonderful place. They talked about the Summit. The host knew the names of the Clans and knew Eric was in town for the Zeus Summit, which surprised Eric. The vampire worded his answers carefully. He likened Clans to Chapters in a Chamber of Commerce, continuing the theme that had been established earlier that being King was more about being a touchpoint for vampire businessmen than an actual ruler. He confirmed that the purpose of this week’s Summit was to bring vampires of the Area together for business discussions and a chance to see each other. “Like a family reunion?” the host had asked. Sookie hadn’t been able to help herself. She laughed out loud. Twy rushed forward asking that they stop the cameras. It was decided to cut out that part of the interview. Twy and Eric had explained it away by saying that because vampires were undead and incapable of having offspring as humans did, to them using a word such as ‘family’ was offensive. Eric sent Sookie waves of caution through their bond.
When the producer signaled that they had enough footage of the couple walking around, they were all seated at a table in one of the Riverwalk’s more famous restaurants. None of them actually ate anything, the television people just staged the table and continued with the interview.
The questions asked now were of the ‘personal’ ones that were supposed to give the audience the feeling that they were getting to know the celebrity.
“So, Mr. Northman, you introduced Miss Stackhouse as your Intended. I have to ask the question that may disappoint millions of viewers across the world. Does that mean that you are officially off the market?”
Eric smiled easily, taking Sookie’s hand. “First of all, call me Eric,” he said, using the words that had been discussed and then he stepped off the script, “I consider myself the lucky one. I have pursued Sookie for many years. She led me on quite the chase, but now she has agreed to allow me to make her the center of my world,” and Eric raised her hand to his lips, his eyes on hers. Sookie watched the crew zero the camera and lights in on her ring while Eric confirmed that wedding bells were in the future. For her part, Sookie tried to keep her answers short and, when in doubt, smiled and stared at Eric as if he was vanilla ice cream on a summer day.
They took a short break and Twy stepped to the side to whisper with the host. Eric rubbed Sookie’s back, “How are you holding up?” he asked.
“You can feel it, so why ask?” Sookie smiled in return. Sookie was feeling proud. She was tired of hiding their relationship. She knew where she belonged and it was beside this man and she was happy to share that with anyone who wanted to know.
The host returned and said, “Okay, just a couple more questions, and I can cut you two lovebirds loose.” He smiled in a way he probably thought was charming. Sookie could hear him thinking about getting this footage into tomorrow night’s broadcast and the coup he would be scoring by being the first to break this story about King Northman and how it could further his own career. The cameras moved in and the lights returned. “There was a best-selling novel that was released earlier this year. It made all the headlines because it was one of the first books written about vampires by a vampire,” The host held up a paperback copy of Bill’s book featuring some racy cover art. “’Bonded By Desire,’ written by William Compton, was on the New York Times Bestsellers list for weeks” The host turned towards Sookie, “I understand you know the author, Sookie.”
Sookie nodded, she could see the direction this was taking and she wasn’t entirely on board, but she didn’t see any way to gracefully turn around now. “Bill Compton was the first vampire I ever met,” she said smoothly, and then she turned toward Eric. “He introduced me to Eric. I guess you could say that he’s the reason I’m sitting here today.” Eric’s smile broadened and Sookie could hear the cameraman thinking about how she and Eric were looking together as seen through his lens was going to spark a furor of, wedding fever.
“There is a rumor floating around that the heroine in the book, Shanna, was really you, and that the book’s bad boy, Leif, was based on you, Eric.”
Sookie blushed while she thought about the ways in which the book described the relationship between the main characters, and just how terribly embarrassed her family had been after the book was released. “It is pretty much fiction, but Bill has told us that he drew some elements of us into those characters.”
“Well,” the host proclaimed, and he looked directly into the camera, “I have been given an exclusive on the upcoming sequels for Bonded by Desire. Not one, but two books are planned, and there is a movie in the works. Now I have a special treat for everyone watching! I have just been handed the exclusive first look at the preliminary cover art for the upcoming, ‘A Viking’s Bond’, that will be hitting the book shelves next month.” The host tilted up a placard, and Sookie found herself staring at a poster featuring the blonde model that had been used on the cover of the first book. The woman was now wrapped around the very muscular thigh of a tall, blond, vampire dressed entirely in black leather. The vampire was holding an axe in one hand and had his other hand gripping the woman’s shoulder. The model’s blouse was ripped and it looked as if her bosoms were going to flop out any minute though she didn’t seem to notice because she was staring up at the vampire as if her life depended on it. Beside her, Sookie could feel Eric’s amusement rippling through the bond so she kicked him sharply under the table .
The host turned toward the both of them, a toothy grin on his face, “So, any predictions on who will be playing you in the upcoming movie version?” Sookie was sure that her face was a deep shade of red. Eric was sending her comfort and calm, but she could feel his own none-too-settled emotions roiling below the surface. Sookie plastered her Crazy Sookie smile on her face and set her hand on top of Eric’s. She tilted her head a little, smiled a little more broadly, and said, “I’m sure whomever they choose to play these roles, it will be a fun story, and something we can all laugh about in years to come.”
“Cut!” yelled the producer from the sidelines. He strode forward, “Perfect! Thank you!” he exclaimed while he shook hands with Sookie and attempted a bow to Eric. He was glancing at his watch and the team was moving quickly to wrap things up. Sookie looked at Eric and rolled her eyes, thinking they were finally done, but then Twy approached, another photographer walking behind her.
Eric growled, “No more! You have had your two hours! We are finished!”
“You owe me fifteen more minutes,” Twy said stubbornly and they knew she was going to get her time regardless. Sookie laid her hand on Eric’s arm once again, and then shook her head.
While they were exiting the restaurant following Twy, Sookie heard one of the diners in the restaurant tell her companion, “That was like watching Beauty and the Beast.” Sookie felt her temper flare and she started turning to give the speaker a piece of her mind, but Eric grabbed her arm.
“Don’t settle the question of which of us is the Beast, Lover!” Sookie looked up to see his grin, and she felt her anger dissipate. He laughed then and pulled her against him, kissing the top of her head. Sookie’s smile faded when she saw the cell phones snapping their photo. Twy and the photographer walked them through the lobby of a hotel and then up a ramp. As they emerged onto the street, they found themselves directly across from the Alamo. Sookie squeezed Eric’s hand and she sent her happiness through the bond. She couldn’t believe she was actually standing in this place where history had been made!
They followed orders, posing for pictures, and Eric kept his eye on his watch. As soon as the time elapsed, he turned to Twy, “We’re done.” Before the woman could say one more word, he wrapped his arms around Sookie and launched them both into the sky. “Now I have you to myself, Lover,” he said in her ear.
Sookie held on to Eric’s shirt, even though she wasn’t really afraid. They hadn’t flown together often, but she knew he would never drop her. They circled the Alamo Mission several times, and then flew back to the Riverwalk area, landing in the dark as not to attract too much attention. “How are we going to get back?” Sookie asked.
“Same way we got here,” he answered.
Eric pulled out his phone and sent a text. When they walked into the light, Charles met them and bowed. “Were you here all along?” Sookie asked. Charles smiled and shrugged, and then Eric took her hand. Together they window-shopped while they made their way back to the car. Sookie looked at the t-shirts, shot glasses and other memorabilia in the shops. “I should pick up something for Jason, Michele and the kids,” she said.
“We can stop anywhere you like,” Eric replied. Sookie found herself smiling again, thinking about how normal this all felt. They walked into one store after another. Sookie found Texas potholders for Michele and a stuffed armadillo for Bit. She was trying to decide which t-shirt would be cool enough for JC when Eric stepped away from her and swung to face the door. Sookie didn’t realize that he wasn’t right behind her until she saw Charles’ stance. The Were was clearly on guard. There was a lovely woman with olive skin standing just inside the shop door. Sookie thought she recognized her from the Nashville Summit.
“Nabila,” Eric greeted her with a bow.
“King Northman,” the female vampire replied, her voice and stance formal and proper. With the civilities completed she dropped her eyes to acknowledge Sookie, “I see you have brought your… Intended? I believe that is how you are introducing her?” The Queen of the Carolinas glided forward, her clothing impeccable, her hair perfectly coiffed. She looked down her long nose at Sookie, “Miss Stackhouse, how lovely to see you again,” the Queen continued in a tone that said the pleasure was really Sookie’s.
“Ma’am,” Sookie said in return with a short bow of her head. The telepath wasn’t sure what the proper etiquette for the situation might be, so she laid on her manners as best she could, “I believe we last met in Nashville. I must say, you are looking wonderful this evening.”
The Queen smiled as she would at an amusing child or pet, “You are kind to say so,” she returned, showing that she knew party manners too.
“What brings you to the Zeus Summit?” Eric asked, saving Sookie from having to make any more small talk.
“The same as you, Northman, money!” Then the Queen looked at Eric sharply and Sookie knew that she had something she wanted to say to the King without a lot of witnesses.
“Well, I can see you have things to talk about,” Sookie said cheerily, “So why don’t I take Charles and finish my shopping? I can meet you right outside.” Eric was looking at her and she could feel his apprehension, but Sookie let him feel her contentment. She did take his arm and pull him down so she could kiss his cheek and then turned to Nabila and waved, “It was nice to see you! I’m sure we’ll see each other again at the meetings!”
Nabila watched the telepath leave, then turned back to Eric, “Do you suppose we could find a table and chat?”
Eric nodded and followed the Queen to a nearby café. Her guards were stationed around her. They seemed vigilant, more vigilant than the location might suggest. “You expected trouble?” he asked.
“Perhaps,” Nabila answered. “These are unsettled times. It is best not to take chances.” Eric sat back, waiting for the Queen to explain. After a glance over the crowds, she sighed, “Tranh of New England is dead.”
This was news. Eric knew his surprise was written on his face. “Who is responsible?”
“Mikhail is undoubtedly behind it,” she told him. “There is a new ruler, but he is New York’s puppet. I have contacted Jessica in Pennsylvania, but she is trembling in her palace. Charles is too buried in his Savannah to take notice.”
“You are worried that as Clan Chief, he will move against you,” Eric filled in.
“He would be unstoppable. Between the money centers in New York and my sources, he would have tremendous wealth at his disposal. It would destabilize the entire Eastern coast.” Nabila looked away from the Viking and into the night. “I have come here to talk with the Ancient Pythoness and seek advice.”
“And support,” Eric added.
“Yes, support,” and Nabila turned back to him. “I have a proposition for you.”
Sookie walked up the stairs to look at some books on Texas history. The bell on the door chimed and she looked up to see Jane walking toward her. There was a tall vampire behind her who looked familiar. Charles bowed, but Sookie could tell that he was nervous. Jane stepped forward and bowed formally, “Mistress,” she said, “I would like to present Finn, the King of Nebraska. He asked that I arrange a meeting so that he could relay a personal message.” Jane stepped back and addressed Charles, “She is fine. I have given my oath and it is my life if I break it.”
Sookie looked quickly from the female vampire to the red-headed man standing beside her. Like Jane, he bowed formally, “Princess,” he addressed her, his accent plain. “I come to you with a message from your Great Grandfather. He knew you would be here and asked that I seek you out.”
Sookie’s eyes became wide, “Great Grandfather? Niall? You’ve seen him?”
Finn smiled, showing broad teeth and dimples to both sides of his wide mouth, “I should say that I have! It is my pleasure and my privilege to ride with him across my lands in the western part of my state.”
“Is he okay? Is he looking well?” Sookie was excited. She had not thought she would ever have an opportunity to see her Great Grandfather again. Of course, Bellenos and Mr. Cataliades had hinted that he was not so far away, but this was the first time she had heard that he was actually in this world and in the United States.
“He is doing very well and asked that I assess your condition as well.” The King sniffed , “You are bonded,” he said, his smile losing some of its luster. “Permanently bonded,” he continued.
“My Mistress is King Northman’s Intended,” Jane said from behind him.
Finn stared down at her, his eyes boring into hers. “Can you read me?” he asked after a minute.
“No,” Sookie shook her head, “I can’t read vampires.”
The King nodded, “But I am told you have come into many other gifts. The Prince is most pleased. Your Uncle also sends his greetings. He was most sorry to hear Adele’s house had been destroyed. He said he had spent many happy hours there,” and Finn’s head turned a little as if he had a nasty suspicion about what Dermot might have been doing during those ‘happy’ hours.
“Well, you tell my Uncle that I think of him often and I hope that he is happy living in the Fairy Realm,” Sookie said, her Crazy Sookie smile in place.
Finn dropped his eyes as well as his voice, “I do not mean offense by what I will say next, but the Prince was most particular that I should convey this message as I do now.” The tall vampire drew himself straighter, “Please know that you are valued and sorely missed. Please consider traveling to Nebraska to be reunited with your Great Grandfather. Things are different and he would like you to consider joining Dermot and himself in the Fairy Realm. There is a place there for you.”
“Her place is here,” Eric’s voice boomed. Sookie’s eyes shot beyond the red-headed King and Jane to see her Viking. His anger was radiating from him and it took Sookie a minute to find her balance and then step toward him and past Nebraska. Eric’s arm lifted and she stepped into him, her own arm wrapping around his waist.
“Thank you for bringing me the message from Niall. I am very grateful to hear he is well. I care for him a great deal, but Eric is right. This is where I belong and I won’t be wandering away any time soon,” and she sent all her comfort and love to her Viking through the bond.
Finn bowed to them both, “Forgive me if my words were offensive,” he apologized. “I promised to deliver the message as it was given, and I will return your words and news of your happy state when I return home.” He nodded to Eric, “Congratulations!” he said sincerely. “You have within your grasp a treasure. I would expect that when the Prince receives this news he will wish to visit you himself.”
Eric cut his eyes at Jane. His Sheriff stood still, her eyes downcast. “Return to our hotel,” he said coldly. “We will speak of this later.”
As Jane left, Finn also walked toward the door. He turned back once more and addressed Eric, “I have heard much about you, Northman. The Prince says you are a passable chess player. I hope I may impose on you for a game during our time here. If you would be so kind, I could share stories of the Prince with the Princess. Surely if we were all together, that would not be inappropriate.
Eric looked at Sookie. He could feel her yearning for news of Niall, “I am sure we can find time,” he heard himself say.