“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Emma’s graduation party had lasted well-past midnight, and the yard around the main house on the ætt land was still full of decorations and the debris that seemed to be created even at the most organized of gatherings.
Eric looked at the stack of graduation presents, which Emma had received. Many of them were things that she would need for college—including a new laptop from her parents.
The vampire smiled to himself. He and Sookie had given Emma her present the night before; it was summer travel arrangements for her and Hunter to tour France, somewhere that Emma had wanted to go ever since she’d “been forced” to learn French in school—as she put it. Unlike Hunter, who now spoke five languages (including French), Emma had absolutely no ear for learning other languages; however, she’d worked relentlessly to earn good grades in her French classes. It was a testament to her stubbornness and resiliency, both excellent qualities in a mate—if the vampire said so himself.
And he did.
All of the party guests, save four, had already gone, while Hunter and Emma had retreated to their own private retreat—the treehouse.
“What do you think they’re doing up there?” Sam asked somewhat pensively as he gestured toward the treehouse, which was just beyond the tree line to the north of the farmhouse—about a hundred feet from where the four remaining guests were located around the fire pit.
Breeta and Clovache were standing as sentries right outside of what Sam knew to be the boundaries of a privacy spell around the treehouse.
“Hunter is likely giving your daughter one hell of an orgasm—if I have taught him my lessons correctly,” Eric said to the shifter with a straight face as he handed him a fresh beer.
“Eric!” Sookie yelled, glaring at her husband.
Sam immediately went ashen as the beer bottle broke from his tight grip.
The vampire chuckled.
“Honey,” Luna said, trying to comfort her husband, “Eric is just teasing. You and I both know that Emma and Hunter are sticking to their rules.”
Sam growled a little and leveled a glare at Eric. “If your son takes my daughter’s virginity, I’m gonna . . . .” Sam paused in his rage.
“Tsk, tsk,” Eric sounded, brushing Sam off with a gesture meant to both comfort and to antagonize the shifter. Eric had become an expert at those where his friend was concerned. “You know that he will not—not yet at least,” he said with a smirk. “Hunter will honor his word to us all, as will Emma. And—most importantly—he honors her.”
The vampire reached into the nearby cooler and handed Sam another fresh beer—as a peace offering of sorts.
Personally, Eric thought it was asinine that his son should wait so long to claim his bride. If living during the vampire’s human days, Hunter and Emma would have been married years before, and he would have already had a couple of grandkids, but times had changed, and Sookie and Sam had both been insistent about trying to ensure that Hunter and Emma didn’t have sex “too early.”
Sookie had made a convincing point by referencing her own case, for—though she’d waited to have sex out of necessity because she could “hear” the deviant thoughts of the young men around her—she was now glad that she’d been a little older when she’d lost her virginity.
The Viking didn’t like to think of whom she’d eventually lost it to, so he didn’t let his thoughts go there, beyond momentarily recalling the satisfying feeling of staking Bill Compton.
Of course, Eric couldn’t imagine that Sam had waited until his was eighteen to start fucking, but he could empathize with the shifter’s protective impulses, nonetheless.
The vampire could only imagine the kind of havoc he would create if he had a daughter who was being sniffed at by a marauding teen!
The chastity belt she would wear would be a mixture of silver, iron, and steel—in order to make sure that no species could get through it!
A double standard?
Yes. Most certainly.
But Eric figured that fathers were allowed such things.
However, that acknowledgment had not stopped Eric from telling Hunter about many pleasures—just short of intercourse—that could be done to a woman in order to provoke physical nirvana.
Of all the four parents present around the fire, only he and Luna knew the kids’ specific “rules” for their intimacies. He’d offered to tell his mate after Hunter had discussed them with him, but Sookie didn’t want to know. Eric figured Emma had never offered to tell the “rules” to Sam—given his prudishness where she was concerned.
In Eric’s mind, the “kids” were being extremely careful and respectful of both each other and their parents’ wishes. And he was grateful for the honor and integrity both were displaying. On the other hand, he wanted them to have fun as they explored each other, so he had not been shy about sharing a few “techniques” with Hunter—techniques he’d tested out for centuries and was still working to perfect with every encounter he had with his own mate.
Eric had also given Hunter a few of the more “instructive” books written about the topic of sex throughout the years. But Sam didn’t need to know about those—or did he?
It might be amusing to see just how many beer bottles he could get the shifter to crush that night. His previous record for an evening was four.
Sookie, feeling Eric’s mischief through their bond, gave him a warning look, which—of course—enflamed him to want to take her inside and enact something from one of those books.
Or maybe more than one something!
Even after many years together, Eric felt complete in only one place—buried inside of his wife.
With both cock and fang.
Sookie felt his lust through their now completely fused fairy and vampire bonds, and she gave him another warning look, even as she playfully sent him a spike of lust of her own through their shared connection. “Later,” she whispered into their bond.
“Soon,” he clarified with a projected thought of his own, though he did manage to put his lust to the side—at least for the moment.
Meanwhile, Sam was taking deep breaths in and out with deliberate speed as Luna rubbed comforting circles upon his back. Eric chuckled at his shifter friend; he’d often been amazed throughout the years with just how much he’d grown to like Sam Merlotte, especially since the man had once had romantic inclinations toward Sookie. However, Sam had proven to be a good husband to Luna and an admirable father to his three children. And he’d never treated Emma any differently from the children who shared his blood.
“Sam,” Eric said, knowing that it was time that he let him off the hook, “you and I both know what it was like to be seventeen or eighteen years old, and I’m sure that neither one of us can say that we were virgins at that age,” he added significantly. “But Hunter and Emma have made the choice—and the promise—to remain so. And they will hold to their word. Both of them are honorable. Both of them are steadfast. And neither of them is like we were when we were their ages,” he jibed good-naturedly.
Sam calmed, as Sookie sent gratefulness through the bond.
But Eric wasn’t quite done with his teasing. It was just too fun. The vampire continued. “Yes—they will most certainly have their fun up there.”
Sam tensed, and another half-drunk bottle of beer was lost.
“But,” Eric paused as he reached into the cooler, “neither of them will push things too far. You know this. You know what value and love they have for each other and for their families. You have helped to raise a beautiful and wise girl, but integrity is Emma’s greatest asset.”
Sam nodded, even as he swelled with parental pride and accepted another beer. “And Hunter is a good boy.” He chuckled. “If anything, he’s probably the one talking Emma out of breaking their promise.”
Luna and Eric shared a look. Sam had no idea how right he was. Emma had wanted to call off her and Hunter’s promise the year before, but Hunter had held firm; now both teens were determined to wait until Hunter was eighteen.
Of course, learning to pleasure each other in “creative” ways hadn’t hurt when it came to their “patience.”
“So,” Luna said, clearly wanting to change the topic, “Emma’s decided to keep it small.”
The other three parents immediately knew what the “it” referred to.
Luna continued, “They want it to be here—on the ætt land.”
Unsurprised, Sookie nodded enthusiastically. “Of course!” She smiled brightly. The news made her ecstatic! After all, she was pretty certain that her child would be getting married only once, and her own wedding reception on the ætt land was one of her best memories.
“They’ve set a date,” Luna informed, looking at Sam to make sure that he was still taking the information in stride.
“The last weekend in June,” Eric said, having heard the news earlier—from an ecstatic Hunter.
“Yes,” Luna confirmed, increasing the pressure of circles onto Sam’s back.
Sam took a deep breath and then a long drink. “Well then,” he said with a shake of his head and a little smile, “it looks like we need to get going on the plans for their house.”
Eric returned the shifter’s smile and reached over to pat him on the back. “That sounds like a plan.”
“Do you think we can keep the house a secret from them until the wedding?” Luna asked.
Sookie shook her head. “Not from Hunter—even if the construction occurs only while Emma and he are away at school. Hunt is really good about keeping out of the heads of people he knows—at least, most of the time—but it’s still almost impossible for a human to surprise him with a present. It’s like—the more excited the human is about something—the more likely it is that Hunter will pick up on it. And we all know that Lala and Jesus are already excited about what we’re planning.” She scoffed. “And Jason’s mind might as well be yelling the news. In fact, I’m pretty sure Hunt knows about the house already.”
“Then I think we should tell them both,” Eric said firmly.
Sam went to speak, but Eric kept talking. “That way, they will have some choice in the layout and the design of things. It will be their house, after all. Plus, you know that they plan to come home most weekends, and the implements of building are difficult to hide.”
Sam pouted. It had been his idea to keep the residence a surprise. “Fine,” he relented, though the beer bottle in his hand didn’t quite survive the concession.
Hunter twined his fingers with Emma’s as she lay against his side.
They’d already enjoyed twin orgasms, created by an intense session of making out and grinding against one another.
Keeping their “lower” clothing on might have been one of their rules, but the thickness of that clothing wasn’t specified, and they’d found a very thin silk nightgown for Emma and very thin silk pajama pants for Hunter folded neatly in one of the corners of the treehouse when they’d arrived.
The note on the garments had said only one word: “Enjoy.”
The handwriting had been unsurprising; it was Eric’s.
“I love your dad,” Emma said dreamily.
Hunter chuckled. “Should I be jealous?” he asked, even as he placed a kiss onto her forehead near her hair line.
“Hmm. Well—your dad is gorgeous. And my tastes do seem to run to tall blonds,” she teased.
Hunter moved his fingers to tickle her.
Immediately, she began trying to wiggle away from him. Given the fact that she was a shifter, Emma was stronger than Hunter in some ways, though his fairy blood and his training with his father had certainly helped to even the scales.
Still—it wasn’t long before Emma had Hunter at her mercy, and she straddled him and dug into his sides, where he was most ticklish.
He twisted underneath her in a way that soon led to touches that were quite different from tickles. And that led to more grinding.
“God I love silk,” Emma moaned as Hunter pulled her to him and took her lips with his own.
“And I love you,” Hunter groaned against her lips.
Having learned and practiced together many times throughout the years, the two teens kissed like seasoned lovers, even as their hands began to move in exploration and conquest.
Despite the thin barriers that still separated their bodies, Hunter was able to grind his engorged member against her clit, even as he stimulated her breasts with his hands. Emma had always been “easy”—in that her body reacted quickly and intensely to his touch.
And, of course, being 17, Hunter didn’t need a lot of stimulation for his own body to go off like a rocket. Thus, it wasn’t long before the young couple was gasping for air and once again temporarily spent in their passion for one another.
“What did your parents say?” Emma asked after they’d calmed down a little.
“About school,” she clarified. “About us living together.”
“Dad was all for it,” Hunter relayed. “And he made compelling arguments to Mom when he brought up security.”
Emma smiled against his chest. “So we have them?”
“Well—it took some more convincing from Dad, but he found the perfect house for us in Baton Rouge—plenty big for our guards, too. And Mom liked it.”
“So she agreed?”
“Yes,” Hunter replied. “But with some conditions.”
“Of course,” Emma chuckled.
“Mom insists that we have separate bedrooms until I’m 18. And also curfews—even from each other,” he chuckled a little. “And if our studies suffer, she says that even more rules will be imposed.”
“We can live with that,” Emma smiled, “until the end of March.”
Hunter nodded in agreement. “They’re gonna work on your dad over the summer—a little at a time,” he relayed. “And my mom is gonna tell your mom about the plan next week—so that she can help them convince him,” he added with a chuckle.
When Hunter and Emma had decided on which college they wanted to attend, both teens had initially wanted to stay in the dorms—to experience “normal” college life. However, they were practical enough to dismiss that idea pretty quickly. With Britlingen guards, living in the dorm would be complicated at best. And then Hunter’s dad had dropped the bombshell that they’d be getting a few additional guards too—a couple of Weres and at least one vampire. And the Weres would actually be attending their classes with them, too!
Again—so much for having a “normal” college life.
Of course, neither of them had had a “normal” life thus far, and both were pretty damned happy.
Happier than they had a word for, in fact—despite Hunter’s five languages.
Upon that realization, Hunter and Emma began to come up with a plan to live together—even before they got married, which they planned to do right after their freshman year. After all, living in the same place was practical, and—though they’d wanted to share a bedroom from the start—neither was surprised that they wouldn’t be able to.
Emma leaned up and smiled at Hunter. “So what is the house like?”
“It was originally a larger house, but now it’s been broken up into apartments. Dad thinks that your dad will be more inclined to that idea.”
Emma frowned. “So we won’t actually be living together? We’ll be in separate apartments?”
Hunter chuckled. “Only technically. There are three stories to the building and two apartments on each level. The vampire and our personal guards will be on the first floor, we’ll get the two apartments on the second floor, and the Weres will get the third, and the whole place will be warded, of course.”
Of course, Emma didn’t need to be told whom Hunter was referring to when he said “personal guards,” though Breeta and Clovache were a lot more than guards to them.
Hunter continued, “Either Breeta or Clovache will always be on duty on our floor—of course—but you know they’ll give us our privacy. And it’s not like we’ll have to lock our doors or anything, Em,” he added. “I’m pretty sure it’s the best we can do for now—especially with your dad having to approve.”
Emma sighed. “I can’t wait till we get married.”
“Me either,” he agreed with a grin. “Only a year away.”
She smiled softly. “Still too long, but at least we have a date picked out now.”
“That we do, min raring,” he said.
“I love it when you call me that,” she sighed, even as she drew a heart pattern on his chest.
Hunter smiled in return. His father had taught him both Old Norse and Swedish, and he’d used the endearment “raring” for Emma for many years. The word was a little old-fashioned, but the phrase meant “my dear,” and Hunter liked how the endearment sounded like the English word “rare,” too, for Emma was the rarest of beauties in his eyes.
“How was the party?” Hadley asked, looking up from the quilt she was working on. Her quilts were in great demand in Faerie proper, though she was still living in the “in-between” place—now called Dùraig—so that the time differences between the human and fairy worlds wouldn’t affect her ability to see Hunter.
Not that he seemed too excited by his visits with her anymore.
“Fun!” Adele beamed. “Emma looked so pretty! And Hunter gave me a shoulder-back ride!” the eleven-year-old girl enthused.
“That’s nice,” Hadley said as she smiled at her precious daughter, even as she tried to keep a close reign on her thoughts. Over the years, she’d managed to use the empathy that was her fairy gift to create what she called “blocks,” which were similar to Sookie’s shields.
Hadley was now a strong enough empath to deliberately influence as well as to gauge the feelings of those around her. Hers “blocks” couldn’t shield her thoughts from a telepath bent on accessing them; however, they did work to make those around her not desire to read her thoughts at all.
They were like a wall of deterrence to the telepaths in her life.
In addition to her “blocks,” Hadley had gotten good at compartmentalizing her emotions; thus, when Adele and Claude were around, she concentrated on only her positive feelings. Of course, there were many things for her to be truly positive about.
For one, she had a good husband. Though a small part Hadley sometimes wondered if Sophie-Anne was the love of her life, she’d been happy with Claude, and the two had married five years earlier. Claude had been patient with her, waiting until she was ready for both the physical and emotional attachments that marriage would entail.
And Hadley had been—mostly—quite content with him. Claude had a calm demeanor and a way of making her feel very special, indeed, when the two were alone. He was also a wonderful father to Adele, but there was a part of her that knew that Claude would never truly understand her.
That’s why Hadley felt as if she needed to hide a part of herself from him—in order to ensure that he didn’t stop loving her.
“I’ll get Adele to bed,” Claude smiled as he leaned down to kiss Hadley’s cheek. “She’s a little wound up, and you look to be in the middle of a complicated section of your work.”
Hadley nodded as she looked down at the quilt in her lap. “Yes. Are you going into the realm tonight?” she asked.
“For a bit,” he said.
Hadley nodded in understanding. She envied the fact that Claude could go into Faerie proper for short periods of time without experiencing the time discrepancies between the human and fairy worlds. Niall could do the same.
Meanwhile, Hadley was stuck inside of a relatively confined zone—though Dùraig was about half the size of the town of Bon Temps.
However, Bon Temps had always felt tiny to her—suffocating.
Hadley’s consolation was that several human-fairy hybrids and even a few full-blooded fairies had moved to Dùraig when the small community had been established. Included in this group of community members had been Hadley’s closest friend, Katherine, who worked with Sookie to organize a school attended by fairy-human children from the human realm.
Hadley made sure that her “blocks” were up as strong as possible as she let thoughts of Sookie enter her mind. Her feelings about her cousin had always been ambivalent, and that hadn’t changed over the years.
In fact, in some ways their relationship had grown more “complicated.”
Sookie had never ingested the light-fruit, so she was not tied to the Fae world, and—though Hadley had reconciled herself to never returning to the human realm—a part of her missed it. She was also jealous that Claude went there several times a week—to visit with “family” and to continue his work cultivating human crops so that they could grow in Faerie. Moreover, Adele often visited with him, too.
Hadley closed her eyes tightly. Claude and Sookie still used the Fae words for “brother” and “sister”—”tanu” and “tanah”—to refer to each other. She sighed, recognizing for the millionth time that she was jealous of their relationship. The two were confidants, and Hadley often wondered if her cousin knew her husband better than she did.
Hadley scoffed. Sookie certainly knew Hunter better. And that was another reason why Hadley had mixed feelings towards Sookie. For some reason, giving Hunter up to Eric Northman had not been difficult for Hadley, but knowing that Sookie now enjoyed more love from Hunter than she did—despite the fact that Sookie wasn’t his goddamned mother—made Hadley’s skin crawl.
Who had carried him for nine months?
Who had spent years keeping his existence from someone she loved?
Who had tried to give Hunter a life where the Supernatural wouldn’t touch him?
Of course, Claude—always logical—had reminded her many times that Sookie was Hunter’s day-to-day mother—and that they had a lot in common, including their telepathy. However, Hunter’s preference for Sookie still stung.
Hadley shook her head, even as she acknowledged that she—too—had a preference: one for Adele over Hunter. But she couldn’t help but to wonder if that was because Hunter had been appropriated by Sookie.
“Get your own damned kids! Oh—wait—you can’t!” Hadley wanted to yell aloud whenever she witnessed an affectionate moment between her son and Sookie. But Hadley didn’t let this feeling “out” when they were around.
And part of her hated herself for having the feeling at all.
After all, a part of Hadley truly did appreciate Sookie for being a good mother to Hunter. Hadley had never been particularly comfortable around her son, for he reminded her of the mistakes she’d made during her younger days. And he also reminded her of the things that she’d lost.
Hadley sighed. She couldn’t even remember “making” Hunter, nor could she recall most of her time being pregnant with him because her drug habit had been uncontrolled back then.
Later, she’d wanted to be a good mother—had wanted to protect him—but as soon as Claudette had kidnapped her and brought her to the fairy realm, she’d failed him again.
Yes—in many ways, she did see her own failures whenever she saw Hunter.
Oh—that wasn’t to say he’d not turned out well. He was handsome and strong. And he was smart, too—at least that’s what Niall and Claude always said. Apparently, her son had inherited Claude’s aptitude in science and Eric’s and Niall’s prowess in business.
And Hadley was proud of him, though she couldn’t help but to wonder just what he’d inherited from her.
“You are troubled,” Claude said as he walked into the room.
“Is Adele asleep?” Hadley asked, even as she made sure her “blocks” were as strong as she could make them.
Claude nodded. “Yes.” He came to sit next to her. “Why are you pushing me out?”
Hadley sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s just—I don’t want you to think badly of me.”
“I love you,” he assured.
“I know,” she smiled. “But do you really want to hear about how I’m jealous that you and Adele got to share in the family celebration tonight—while I was stuck here?”
Claude frowned and put his hand over his wife’s affectionately. “I do not ever want for you to feel stuck, my love.”
“I know,” Hadley said honestly.
“Are you happy?” Claude asked.
“Yes,” Hadley quickly assured. “And I’m trying not to think of the things I lost when I ate the light fruit,” she sighed. “I try to concentrate on what I’ve found, but sometimes—well—it’s difficult.”
Claude leaned forward and kissed her. “I don’t have to work tonight. It can wait.”
Hadley shook her head. “No—go ahead. I’m fine. Just feeling a little sorry for myself tonight,” she shrugged. “Maybe because I’ll likely never meet Emma, and she’s bound to be my daughter-in-law one day.”
Claude gave Hadley another soft kiss before he stood up.
He wished that he could “cure” her whenever her moods darkened, but he knew that there were some things that even love couldn’t fix. And he also knew that giving her a little time and space was the best thing he could do for her in that moment.
However, a part of him always felt torn at times like this, for he had long since intuited that Hadley’s jealousy extended to Sookie.
On one hand, his tanah was very happy. Sookie had the innate ability to accept her life as it was even as she strove to make it better. On the other hand, Hadley was often too entwined in her past feelings of inferiority to feel completely at peace.
In her mind, Hadley was still in an odd competition with Sookie, a competition that Sookie had never wanted to be a part of.
Claude sighed as he went into the Fae realm to work. He hated that his beloved felt trapped between two realms, even as she was trapped by her past—at least, to a certain extent.
But he was also a realist. He knew that Sookie hadn’t ever “taken” anything from Hadley. Their grandmother hadn’t loved Sookie more—even though Sookie had stood by Adele to her last day, while Hadley had stolen from her and disappeared.
Sookie hadn’t been at fault that Claudette had come after Hadley, though Claude knew that a part of his wife thought that it was “too convenient” that Claudette had arrived to take her to Faerie on the very night that Sookie and Eric had shown up.
It wasn’t Sookie’s fault that her body had rejected the light-fruit.
And it wasn’t Sookie’s fault that she treated Hunter with a kind of unconditional love that Hadley had never been able to give the boy.
And it certainly wasn’t Sookie’s fault that Hadley still sometimes resented Hunter for not being “normal”; she lumped him in with Sookie, whom she had disliked even when they were children because Sookie “thought she was so special.”
Of course, Sookie hadn’t thought that at all! On the contrary! But it was difficult to reason with the Hadley when it came to his tanah.
But, then again, Hadley had been “damaged” in ways that Sookie had not been. Their Uncle Bartlett had not been stopped before taking every part of Hadley’s innocence. And—then—while she’d been Mab’s captive, Hadley had been raped again. And she’d conceived a child from that violent assault.
But she’d endured.
Every day, Claude loved his wife more because she could still love him and Adele. Yes—he wanted Hadley to love Hunter just as much and to stop resenting Sookie for the things that had gone wrong in her life. But—even more than that—Claude just wanted to hold his wife to him and to thank his ancestors that she had survived.
So Claude simply tried to love Hadley with all that he was. And he prayed every day that his love would eventually be enough to help her to overcome the memories that still plagued her.
“Hello, Mr. Savoy,” Robin Brunswick said as he sat next to the hunched-over man at the scratched up and sticky bar.
The man made no movement to answer; in fact, he didn’t seem to have heard the warlock.
Robin was careful not to touch anything as he signaled for the bartender.
“What can a git ya?” the barkeep asked, his teeth likely stained brown from years of tobacco use.
As if to prove Robin’s supposition, the man spit into a bucket behind the bar and reached into his pocket for a can of Skoal.
“Want some?” the man asked, offering Robin the can and showing off his stained fingers.
“No thank you,” the warlock answered politely. “I’ll just take a bottle of that,” he said, pointing toward the Heineken in the cooler. “And I’ll buy my friend here another of what he’s having,” he added, gesturing toward Remy.
The barkeep nodded and quickly took a bottle of beer out and opened it before pouring Remy another double of bourbon.
“Do I know you?” Remy asked, finally taking notice of the man who’d sat next to him—once the new drink appeared, as if by magic, in front of him. His eyes were glassy, not surprising considering the fact that he’d been at the bar for six hours.
“Not yet,” Robin smirked as he took his beer, wiped off the top with his sleeve, and brought the beverage to his lips for a sip.
Meanwhile, Remy gulped down the remainder of his previous drink and started on his new one.
“Get him another,” Robin said to the bartender. “And leave the bottle,” he added.
As always, many, many thanks to Kleannhouse and Sephrenia!