Author’s Note: Thank you for joining in this second story. I appreciate hearing from you. Everyone likes to talk about stories and your comments allow me to talk with you about this one. My thanks to Breathesgirl. She is a wonderful collaborator and I thank her for suggesting Jane as a name for one of the new sheriffs.
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: It is not unusual to be becalmed in the hours before dawn. If you are sailing along a coast that can mean that you stop progress and can slip in holding to your bearing. But just as the sun rises there is almost always a breeze that comes from land and it can push you ahead and help you course correct. It is steady and predictable. That is the shore breeze. Enjoy.
“How long do you think the renovations will take?” Eric was pacing as he talked on the phone. Pam watched him and Sookie found herself watching Pam. It was as if overnight her friend had become even more polished and self-possessed. Sookie found herself feeling like the country cousin; a gray goose swimming beside a glorious swan.
“Have you thought about your dress for the coronation yet?” Pam asked her. Sookie looked up and just shook her head. “Well,” Pam continued, “We really should think about heading to New York. It’s not that long a flight and there are several good houses there that might do.”
Sookie spoke almost before thinking, “I think I can find a fine gown right here in Jackson. Or New Orleans is just a short drive away. I don’t need to be gallivanting all over; not for a dress for me anyway.”
Pam’s eyes narrowed and she was about to reply when Eric cut her off. “You can get your dress wherever you wish, lover. Or we could have someone come here and work at your convenience.”
Pam felt a warning flowing from Eric through the bond. She met her maker’s eyes and confirmed that he wished her to end the conversation. Pam sighed and then she looked back at Sookie. It was clear Eric was running some kind of interference where Sookie Stackhouse was involved. The past few days had been frustrating. There was so much to do to organize the kingdoms and get things moving but Pam couldn’t get more than a few hours of Eric’s time on any one night. He spent most of his evenings draped around the telepath. They didn’t seem to be doing much; watching television or walking the grounds. When she had asked for some additional time to help her sift through the financial reports from Arkansas Eric had just shrugged her off and told her that tomorrow was another day.
“You may find that your kingdom no longer exists by the time you decide to take possession,” Pam had hissed. Eric had hissed back and Pam had understood that the subject was closed.
Pam’s overtures to spend any one on one time with Sookie had been likewise blocked. Eric seemed to have built a wall around her and no one, not even his child, got to get within arm’s reach without his presence. Pam could feel his concern pouring through the bond at times. Other times there was just a sense of wariness and waiting.
Pam knew that Sookie and Thalia were sparring every night. It seemed to be scheduled specifically when Eric spent time with Pam on kingdom matters. Last night Eric had abruptly left and then returned almost an hour later. When Pam had asked him about it he had not been forthcoming with details.
Pam rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Eric. “So, what are they saying about the New Orleans palace?”
Eric sat down on the sofa next to Sookie and took her hand. He waited for the telepath to look at him and then he smiled and kissed her hand before turning back to Pam. “They say that the survey should be done later tonight. They will email the results. The building is sound but the private areas and meeting rooms need refreshing. Fortunately Victor had the damage from Katrina repaired. The building is simply unused and some of the facilities are out of service or require modernizing.” He turned back to Sookie. “Our quarters will be renovated before we arrive. The sketches are coming. I want to make sure you approve.”
Sookie smiled up at him. She felt a surge of excitement at the idea of them being together in their first real home. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been there; the palace in New Orleans I mean. I mean I don’t remember much from that time I visited Sophie-Anne. Of course I was cleaning out Hadley’s apartment and I was pretty sad about that.”
Eric nodded. Sookie also remembered with a quick stab of shame that she was with John Quinn. Then Sookie found herself remembering another night during their time in New Orleans; the night Peter Threadgill died. She found herself smiling and when Eric’s eyebrow raised in question she said, “I do remember that monastery Sophie-Anne used for parties. I remember how you looked that night. I’d heard folks call you a Viking but that night when I saw you fighting I knew it wasn’t just some tall tale. It was horrible and scary but you sure were a sight to see!”
Eric grinned broadly and pulled her closer to him. He leaned down and kissed her head. “I remember looking all over the room when the fighting started. I knew I needed to find you and protect you. Even then I was captured by you, min krigare kvinna.” He leaned back then. ”Unfortunately the monastery was substantially damaged by the hurricane. Victor never saw the need to make repairs and the building is now unsound. It will need to be either torn back to the stone walls and rebuilt or demolished.” He sighed. ”Another decision to be made.”
Sookie smiled up at him, ”You won’t be going anywhere, Eric. You have a long time to get it all figured out.” Then Sookie snuggled into his chest, the feel of him against her skin creating a sense of comfort within her.
Pam couldn’t help but warm to the sight of the two of them together. As annoying as it could be, Pam acknowledged the happiness flowing from her maker.
Sookie squeezed Eric a little and then sat back and stood up. She gestured towards the empty bottles of blood, asking without words if they wanted more. Eric signalled that he did not want another. Sookie glanced over. ”Pam?” she asked. ”I’m going to head down to the kitchen to get myself an iced tea. If you’d like a TruBlood I can bring one back.”
”I would appreciate one, Sookie. If it’s not any trouble.” Sookie smiled and left. Pam turned back to Eric. ”So E(E)E will be here tonight to talk about the coronation. They need to make a decision about where to stage it. The palace simply doesn’t have the right space to hold the number of people who will attend. With the monastery option gone, they have been scouting out other sites and should have a couple of suggestions. And your new best friend Twy called. She wants to arrange a big media splash that follows up on the Amun Summit coverage. She feels it will bring the right kind of publicity to gaining acceptance for vampires. Russell and Bartlett have been in touch with her…”
”More likely she has been in touch with them,” Eric groused.
”She is good at all this so you’re probably right. Anyway the idea of good vampire makes great is something she wants to follow and promote.” Pam shook her head and tisked. ”Eric, you started this spotlight business in Oklahoma. You didn’t think you’d be able to just drop out of sight and pretend it never happened, did you?”
Eric glanced at the door and then spoke to Pam in a low steady whisper. ”It would be better if we were able to do this quietly. Mr. Cataliades will be here within a week and the news is not good.”
Pam leaned toward Eric. ”What news?”
”There will be no divorce. Without proof of the shifter’s death the human court is not willing to end the marriage. She is still bound to him.”
”So what?” Pam said. ”When did we ever care about human rites? You are vampire. She is fairy. Pledge and be done with it.”
Eric shook his head and growled. ”You think she would agree to pledge by the knife again without completing her own ceremony? And how would your friend Twy explain it to her television friends? There is a name for what Sookie would be in the eyes of human law. She would be a bigamist; a criminal.”
Pam shook her head. ”I can’t believe we have to worry about their rules, Eric. So what? You need a body? Let me contact Karin and ask her where she put the shifter. She’d tell me.”
Eric hissed ”And who would we find? That is if Karin the Slaughterer didn’t destroy him altogether? It wouldn’t be Sam Merlotte, shifter. It would be Sonny McMillan, fighting star who disappeared under suspicious circumstances. There is rumor that there may be a formal investigation and that police may be involved. What would their media say if they found out that Sam and Sonny were the same man? And what would they say about the grieving widow who is now living openly with a vampire? A vampire whose own wife died in an accident?” Eric shook his head. ”The best outcome is that the lawyer can bribe his way to a quick divorce and we can sweep this behind us before the coronation.”
Pam looked at Eric, her eyes hard. ”Eric, if she is not named queen or consort things will not be easy for either of you. No vampire will respect her. They will assume she is your pet.”
”I will not allow it,” Eric growled. ”We will say that the shifter abandoned her. We will say that she is my fiance. It will give her standing until this is resolved.”
”At the least you could complete your bond. Frankly I’m surprised you haven’t yet. She is clearly happy to be with you. I can feel your happiness every day and may have to start some kind of specialized blood treatment. I’m surprised my fangs haven’t rotted and dropped out from all the sweetness already.” When Eric shot her a look she grinned and then continued. ”What are you waiting for? You smell like each other. I almost can’t tell you apart and I’ve had training as a tracker. At least a bond would signal to everyone in our world that she belongs to you.”
Eric glanced toward the door. ”It’s not for lack of trying.” Pam’s eyebrows lifted. ”I can’t explain it. And there is something more. She has had a lot of my blood but she is not even close to turning. There is something that has changed within her. There are times, especially when she is angry, that I can see see it in her features. It’s like watching Niall; you see his face but you have the impression that there is another face just below the surface.”
”Fucking fairies!” Pam hissed.
”I do think it has something to do with her fae heritage.”
”Who can you ask? Do you think Ludwig would have any information?” Pam could see her maker roll that idea through his head.
”She might know something. She has some knowledge of fae biology. I had thought to wait for the arrival of her fae trainer. Cataliades told me he had secured one and would have him here next week.” When Pam opened her mouth to speak Eric answered the question he knew she would ask. ”He assured me there would be no problem with how the fae smells.”
Pam nodded. ”That’s good. I’d hate to have some kind of unfortunate but delicious accident.” She grinned a little, then allowed her face to become more business-like. ”Ludwig would have no reason to hide information, Eric. The fae would, even if the motivation is just to continue their reputation for being sneaky and all-around pains in the ass.”
Eric shrugged. ”Contact the troll. Tell her to come here. I will tell Sookie it is a follow-up visit.”
Pam nodded, then she thought about Sookie . She had heard Sookie describe herself as a Christian. She knew that Sookie went to church and that she cared about what others thought. ”How long could you find yourselves waiting before being able to pledge?”
”Worst case; seven years for Merlotte to be formally declared dead and the marriage dissolved.” Eric nodded solemnly. ”But know that I will not wait that long. We hope that Cataliades finds a way. If he doesn’t there is always glamour. All it will take is a piece of paper. Surely that can be gained.” He glanced up as the door opened and Sookie came back into the room.
Sookie looked at the two faces that looked at her. She couldn’t read vampires but she didn’t have to be telepathic to be able to tell Pam had been talking about her. ”What?” she asked. When neither responded she felt her lip start to curl and the heat start from her chest.
”I was telling Pam I was worried about asking you to live in the city, lover. I worry about you not having a country retreat. Especially now.” Sookie looked from Eric to Pam who nodded. Her bullshit meter was pinging but she just sighed. She felt tired. So many trials and tribulations. Every night planning and more planning. Eric had not kept this separate from her but she found that she was overwhelmed with the amount of work and detail that was involved. There was a constant parade of visitors in and out of the big house. Eric was making an effort to restrict his meeting times to between two to four hours a night but Sookie could see the strain on Pam’s face and knew that he was needed longer.
For his part Eric was making an effort to just be Eric with her. They would wake together. He was continuing his cooking lessons and had made a passable beef stew. Sookie had groused about his super speed in chopping vegetables and he had made a crude joke about how he acquired his knife skills. He had learned to load the dishwasher but anything left on the stove or involving a sponge seemed to elude him. Sookie thought that he might be secretly squeamish about being too close to old cooking smells or the scent of old dishwater. Every night they cuddled together. When she had broken her lower leg attempting to sweep Thalia off her feet he had rushed from the big house to heal her. She knew that Thalia had told him about how Sookie would sometimes lose herself in fighting, striking blindly in her fury. Those episodes always left the telepath feeling winded but somehow a little better. While she was still having nightmares, they were no longer every night. Sookie knew she had Eric to thank for that. Still she couldn’t help but feel that she was taking time away from something more important than herself; that her needs were interfering with what Eric needed to do and that she was being selfish.
Sookie was about to make an excuse and demand that Eric stay longer tonight when there was a knock on the door. ”Enter,” Eric said. The door opened and a representative in a E(E)E shirt came into the room, a large flat portfolio in his hand.
”Your majesty,” he said and bowed. Then he turned to Pam and bowed a little less deeply, ”Regent.” Then he turned to Sookie and bobbed his head, ”Ma’am.”
Sookie stood, ”Can I get you something?” she asked automatically. The man almost looked like he was going to agree but then he caught Eric’s expression.
”No ma’am. I’m just fine. But thank you for offering,” and he smiled broadly. ”I’m Dechlan and I will be coordinating the details for your event. I have some photographs and information about potential venues for the coronation and ball for your consideration.” The young were walked over to the side table and quickly assembled a display showing two different places. When he was ready he turned back to them and began.
”We anticipate between 300 and 400 guests. I have been contacted by your publicist.” Eric shot Pam an angry look to which she shrugged. “She informs me that we can anticipate media attention so any venue must be able to accommodate the concerns that would arise. I looked for places both within and outside the city. This is the perfect time of year, fortunately, so we should have both inside and outside options that won’t be a hardship for any of your guests. Availability was a challenge. Any venue able to accommodate this number of guests is booked years in advance. The coronation will take place within a month’s time. ” Dechlan took a deep breath and continued. ”Your person also informed me that the ambience of the place will be a consideration. While a large hotel or convention center might be available it should be considered as a last resort. She insisted that the landscape facilitate the ’magic of the moment’.” Dechlan said the last words using his fingers to make air quotes.
Sookie found herself brightening. This was all beginning to sound like a fairy tale. She forgot to mute her feelings and Eric turned to her having caught her mood. He now smiled in return and said to Dechlan, ”So what did you have in mind for us?”
”Our first choice is within the city. It is in the Garden District so close to the palace. This would prove convenient for guests staying at the palace and those staying at nearby hotels. It is on the streetcar route and if you wanted to incorporate special transport on the rail that could be arranged. It is the House of Broel. It accommodates approximately 300 and it has lovely enclosed gardens and fully restored period rooms. The coronation itself can be staged in one of the indoor rooms or outside under a lanai. There was a last minute cancellation and the management expressed an especial interest in taking on the event. It appears they were fond of the late Queen and are anxious to welcome royalty back into the city.” Sookie stood up and walked over to the table to look at the photographs and the floor plan. It looked a little fussy but at the same time beautiful and elegant.
”Our next option is the River Oaks Plantation. This is outside of the city so transport would need to be arranged for your guests. The building is restored and the interiors have been modernized. There are some dressing and preparation rooms upstairs. The downstairs has been converted to a lovely ballroom and receiving area. The grounds are manicured and the front lawn is spectacular. We could hold the coronation itself on the steps of the old house between the columns, weather permitting.” Sookie looked closely at the photographs of the plantation as well. It looked more open but less old fashioned. Still, Sookie could see herself drifting across the grounds, her hand in Eric’s.
She looked back at Eric and shrugged. ”They are both just beautiful. I’m not sure how I’d decide.”
Eric stood then and walked to stand beside her. He draped his arm around her and turned her back to the display. ”It is your choice, lover. This is as much your event as it is mine. Both are adequate.”
”Well then,” Sookie said, ”We’ll use the one in the city. It’s close to the palace and we don’t have to worry about people traveling too far or getting stuck anywhere. And when the party starts to wind down they can just spill over into the Quarter and keep on going.”
”Laissez le bon temps roulez!” Pam said. Eric and Sookie turned to her and they all found themselves laughing.
Dechlan smiled and gathered back his materials. ”Very good. I’ll start making phone calls. I will be back tomorrow night with Miss Twy to work through the details for the ceremony itself.”
Eric turned to Dechlan and the were had the impression of being caught in the gaze of a large predator. ”I was not aware that Twy would be coming here,” he said in a low voice.
Pam spoke up, ”She did text me and I told her I would love a visit.” Eric spun and looked at his child’s impish expression.
”You are trying my patience, Pamela,” he hissed.
Sookie poked him, ”What’s the problem, Eric? You were all over each other in Los Angeles. She looked pretty chummy in Nashville…” Sookie’s eyebrows came together and her mouth became an ’O’.
”It is not what you are thinking, älskare,” Eric stammered.
“What am I thinking, Eric?” and Eric saw that expression on his lover’s face; the one that said that he needed to tread carefully. Eric shot a look at Dechlan who had the good grace to scramble out the door, shutting it behind him.
Eric pulled a now stiff Sookie into his arms. He looked at her with full sincerity and said, “She scares me.”
Sookie looked at the Viking and then shook her head and looked again. She could see that he was telling her the absolute truth; or he had become an even better liar and Sookie couldn’t think about that. “So,” she said slowly, “you never fed from her?”
“No lover. My fangs have never touched her.”
“Well, shit, Eric. I’m not really talking about your fangs and you know it.”
Eric threw back his head then and laughed. He gathered Sookie into his arms and hugged her closely to him. “No my Sookie, no part of me has ever touched that woman willingly.”
Sookie nodded and then poked him hard. “You better see that it stays that way!” she said.
“Actually,” Pam said, “Twy is more my type. I’m hoping her time here won’t be all work. She was good company in Nashville.”
Sookie turned and smiled at Pam. “Well, I’m real happy for you Pam.”
Pam shrugged. “Don’t get too excited. We are sexually compatible but I don’t believe either of us would suit beyond play.”
Eric leaned to kiss Sookie’s head again and then he looked at Pam. “Are we done here for tonight?” he asked.
Pam answered, “Thomas will be here in about an hour. He hasn’t said yes to my offer of sheriff but his willingness to travel here to meet me makes me think that he just wants to be formal. If something else comes up that needs your attention I’ll text you.”
“Anything that comes up can wait for tomorrow,” Eric told her. He looked down and waited for Sookie to look at him. “Are you ready, lover?” Sookie nodded and the couple walked from the room.
Pam sighed. She opened her laptop and scrolled through messages. There was one from Maude that included several attachments. Maude had her assistant respond to Pam’s request for a recommendation with a candidate. The materials attached included a biography and Maude’s personal recommendation for a woman named Jane. Pam scanned the documents and found that the portrait that emerged would appear to make the vampire a viable candidate for her second Sheriff position. The woman had functioned as Sheriff on an interim basis for Phoebe Golden but Phoebe had consolidated territories. As the last to be placed in position Jane had been the first to be displaced. It was purely a logistics issue and Phoebe’s glowing recommendation for the woman was also attached. Pam responded, asking for contact to be initiated.
Pam reached to pick up the folder that had Thomas’ information. She knew something about him; what she had picked up from observation, reputation and Karin. She knew he had been second to Isaiah for close to twenty years. There was a respect between the men but there was also a clear leader/subordinate boundary that Isaiah enforced. There were three sheriffs in Kentucky . All had been in position for some time and all were part of Isaiah’s retinue since his becoming king almost one hundred years ago. If a vampire had an itch to grow it would not be scratched in Kentucky.
Pam flipped to the print out from Bill Compton’s database. Thomas had been made vampire during the Regency period in England. He had come from a prominent family but had also been a rakehell. There was some mention of his being involved with the infamous Hellfire Club. His maker had been one of Thomas’ peers and had met his final death in a brothel in London. There were reported incidents that involved brushes with human authorities and complaints from fathers of upper class daughters. It appeared Thomas may have been forcibly shipped to the New World to remove temptation or limit the damage control needed. He had spent time with Misha in New York. It appeared that the younger vampire and the New York king got on well until some undisclosed incident and then Thomas had shifted to Kentucky. From all reports Thomas had led a quieter, although hardly monastic life. Karin had told Pam that Thomas was still a risk-taker and had prodigious sexual appetites. Isaiah had insisted on a blood tie to enforce a compulsion to defend the palace nest and Thomas had agreed.
Pam found herself more intrigued. Obviously they had background in common. Pam certainly understood the inclination to break away from a more conservative, upper class upbringing. It was her own recklessness that had placed her in Eric’s path and led to her becoming vampire. It was the degree of recklessness that was written in large letters over much of Thomas’ history that gave her pause. While a sheriff needed to be willing to use force, discretion was also required. A dead offender was a powerful message but it could also be a deterrent to talent moving in. One of the lessons she had learned with Eric was that it was important to be seen as both a badass and a fair leader. It could be challenging but once established it was a balance that spelled success.
Pam puzzled through the remaining information she had, waiting for the arrival.
Eric finished placing the pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the small gas fire. Sookie emerged from the bathroom wearing a long t shirt. Her hair was brushed out and shone as it lay across her shoulders. Eric smiled and held out his hand to her.
“I’m going to miss this,” Sookie said as she settled beside him.
Eric nuzzled her neck and then reached across her to retrieve her ice tea. “I will as well, lover. But perhaps if we are crafty we will be able to find this time every day.”
Sookie smiled a little sadly, “If all the work you have heaped up is any indication I don’t think every day is too realistic.”
Eric shook his head, “You forget, älskare. We have friends in high places. I may be able to put in a word for us with the king.”
“Show off,” Sookie giggled and shoved against his chest. Eric settled on his elbow and leaned over her. He took in the glow of her eyes reflecting the flame of the fire. He kissed her forehead and then leaned over her to retrieve the book they were reading. He flipped open the first part of the Lord of the Rings and started where they had left off.
“Frodo looked and saw, still at some distance, a hill of many mighty trees, or a city of green towers: which it was he could not tell. Out of it, it seemed to him that the power and the light came that held all the land in sway. He longed suddenly to fly like a bird to rest in the green city. Then he looked eastward and saw all the land of Lorien running down to the pale gleam of the Anduin, the Great River.”
Sookie put her hand on Eric’s cheek. “Do you think that the fairy realm is really like that? A city built in the trees?”
Eric smiled. “I am sure that whatever it looks like it is beautiful, because your folk came from there. And you, my love, are most beautiful to me.”