Many hours later, Hunter and Emma still had all of their clothing on, but it was certainly ruffled. After a heavy make-out session, they had lain down to cuddle and—since Sam wasn’t in the house—they didn’t feel the need to move from their entwined position as they heard Sookie giggling her way downstairs. Eric was obviously following quickly on her heels—or chasing her—given the sounds from the stairs.
Emma smiled up at Hunter. “Have I mentioned lately how much I love how much your parents are in love?” she whispered.
Hunter kissed her nose and nodded. In truth, they both wanted to live the kind of romance that his mom and dad shared. No matter how much time passed or what kind of changes came, Eric and Sookie couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, and they never apologized for it either.
“Hunter Eric Northman!” came his mom’s voice from mid-stair.
“Uh-oh,” came his dad’s voice.
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Not a school night, Mamma,” Hunter said, reverting to what he’d called his mom when he was younger, knowing that she’d be more likely to go easier on him if he did.
His mom entered the living room with his dad still on her heels. As soon as she stopped, his dad’s arms wrapped around her from behind and landed on her abdomen, even as his chin came to rest on her shoulder. Immediately, his mom’s hands moved on top of his dad’s, holding them in place.
Hunter had seen them in that pose millions of times, but he never got tired of it.
His mom was trying—but failing—to look stern. His dad just looked amused. As if she could see his face, his mom popped his dad on the arm before re-finding his hand. His dad schooled his features and kissed his mom’s neck before giving Emma and him a wink.
“It’s 3:00 a.m. in the morning, Hunter,” his mom said.
“But it’s Christmas Eve,” Hunter tried.
Sookie shook her head. “Son, you are still seventeen, and you know what that means.”
“Not an adult yet,” Hunter said with a sigh.
Sookie narrowed her eyes. “And Emma’s gonna have to transition to more day hours when she stays with her family next week too. You can’t be keepin’ her up all night.”
Hunter sighed again. “I know, Mamma.”
Sookie shook her head and chuckled. “Thirty more minutes and then bedtime—okay?”
Hunter nodded and gave both his parents a huge grin as they sat down on the love seat. The furniture in the room had long since been changed to create more seating. A huge couch and loveseat were now the major pieces, but a lot of easily moved chairs were placed against the walls, just waiting for family members to take. And Hunter and his dad’s old rocking chair was still in the corner of the room. Hunter would catch his dad sitting in it sometimes with a faraway look in his eyes. The teen knew that his dad was recalling when he was a kid and used to sit in his dad’s lap when they watched movies and television together. Truth be told, Hunter sat in that chair too every time he had a tough decision to make or when he was brooding about something.
He’d sat there for about ten hours one time when he had his one and only major fight with Emma. It had occurred after Emma’s prom last spring and had started over the fact that he’d danced with someone else. Before prom, they’d discussed the fact that she wanted to dance with a few of her male friends. Of course, being Eric and Sookie Northman’s son, Hunter had checked their brains to make sure that they truly thought of themselves as just her friends. Thankfully, all of them had.
But then Hunter had made an error in judgment. He’d danced with a friend he’d met in his physics class the year before. He’d first known that something was wrong when he felt Emma’s head asking him what he thought he was doing. Actually—more like yelling at him. But she’d not stopped her dance, and—not wanting to be impolite to his friend—Hunter hadn’t stopped his either.
Apparently, that had been a big mistake, but Hunter hadn’t backed down. Generally, he let his fiery Emma have her way in things that he didn’t care about one way or another. About important things, they had developed a way of communicating that suited them both. He knew that he could get her attention or cool her temper with a tone, and she had learned to listen for it.
Meanwhile, it took only a projected thought for her to communicate if he was being an asshole, and he’d learned to listen for that too.
They’d perfected the dance of their personalities so much so that his Uncle Lala called them Fire and Ice when they were together.
But the night of the prom had been different. Emma had become jealous—very jealous—and no matter what Hunter had said about listening to the girl’s mind and not hearing anything of concern, Emma hadn’t listened to him. Instead, she’d called her dad and had gone home with Clovache dutifully in tow, while Hunter had cluelessly driven home with an equally clueless Duncan and Batanya. Neither of them had spoken to him as he parked his car and went inside. Still in his tuxedo, Hunter had sat in his and Dad’s chair and had rocked. At a certain point, his dad had joined him in the living room, but had said nothing.
Hunter had appreciated that. Near dawn, his dad had gotten up, come over to him, kissed him on the forehead, and then gone to bed.
At 7:30 a.m., there had been a knock at the door, but Hunter had already been out of the chair and answering the door before there could be a second knock. Sam had waved as he drove away. Emma stood before him—still in her prom gown, but with her hair and make-up obviously refreshed. She’d grabbed his hand and led him toward their tree house. She’d stopped just short of the privacy spell and given Clovache a pointed look. The Britlingen had produced a portable iPod station and had started up a recording of Bubba’s song, “Love Me Tender.” It had been the very first song that they’d ever danced to at his mom and dad’s human wedding.
Emma had taken his hand and had let him lead her in a dance in the clearing right below their treehouse. She hadn’t spoken a single word, but—then again—she hadn’t needed to. Her eyes had told him that she was sorry. Her eyes had told him that she trusted him. Her eyes had told him that she’d let her jealousy govern her to the point of irrationality.
And Hunter had thanked the gods for the fact that he’d not been the one to fuck up!
In turn, he had hoped that his eyes told her whom he belonged to. It was and would always be to her.
As the song had ended and gone to another song by Bubba, this time “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which was his parents’ song, Hunter had finally spoken.
“You can love with me. And you can fight with me, Em. But, please, never walk away from me again.” He had paused as a tear fell from his eye. “I can take anything but that.”
She’d wiped away his tear and had pulled him closer to her. “Next time, I’ll yell at you or claw the other girl’s eyes out, but I won’t leave. I swear.”
Hunter had smiled at her and had taken her back to his bed where they’d slept fully clothed in their prom outfits and holding hands.
Hunter was brought out of his thoughts by Emma’s soft snores against his chest.
He heard a chuckle from his dad, who was holding his mom in a similar way to how he was holding Emma. She too was snoring a little.
“Women,” his dad said lightly but contentedly as he petted his wife’s hair. “It looks like Northman men are cursed with the snorers of the bunch.”
Hunter smiled and then noticed that he was stroking his woman’s hair, too.
His dad leveled him with a serious look that only he could give. “When will you bond with her?” he asked. He didn’t need to ask “if” Hunter and Emma intended to bond.
Hunter had been made well aware that fairies—like vampires—could bond. And—unlike Sookie—he had been trained on how to offer his bond and his light deliberately, rather than by accident.
Not that Eric had ever regretted being the recipient of Sookie’s Fae bond.
“Before the wedding. We’ll do it when we—uh . . . ,” Hunter’s voice trailed off.
“When you enjoy each other fully for the first time,” his dad finished with a knowing smirk.
Hunter nodded again.
Eric sighed. “Sookie and I would give you the daggers that belonged to Britomart and Artegal, but . . . .” It was his turn to stop midsentence.
“But you don’t think that’s a good idea,” Hunter commented.
Eric chuckled and nodded. “You are sometimes too perceptive, min son. But yes. It’s difficult to explain, but every time your mother and I speak of it, we both get a bad feeling.”
Hunter nodded yet again. “I know. Me too. From what you’ve told me, I’m not sure that Emma and I would survive their power.”
Eric sighed. “When your mother and I first used them, it was,” he paused, “profound.”
Hunter chuckled. “They belong to you two anyway.”
Eric nodded. “Your great-great grandfather would like to have a ceremonial dagger forged especially for you and Emma. He wanted for it to be his wedding gift to you, but he could have it ready by March.”
“Good,” Hunter said with a nod.
Eric grinned. “I’d ask you if you were sure about bonding, but I’ve known that you have loved Emma since you were five years old.”
“She made me love her,” Hunter defended himself with a grin of his own as he looked down at Emma.
Eric looked down at his own mate. “Special women—the snorers,” he chuckled. “They do have a way of doing that.” Eric sighed as he continued to caress his wife’s soft hair. “When she begins to age, your mother will join me as a vampire. Maybe even before then.” The vampire looked pointedly at his son—a question he’d been afraid to ask for years brimming in his eyes.
“Are you asking if I will become a vampire, too?” Hunter asked.
Eric shook his head. “Not yet. I am merely telling you that if you do ever want that, you and your mate would need to make the decision together, and you must keep in mind that she will age more quickly than you will.”
Hunter nodded. “I know. And we have already talked about it.”
As much as he wanted to know, Eric didn’t ask what they had decided. Instead he looked at Hunter squarely in the eye. “I would be honored to make you my vampire child one day—if that is your decision.”
“You would do that?” Hunter asked. “Mom would let you?”
Eric chuckled and nodded. “Yes. She would allow me to take your blood and to give you mine”
With a smirk, Hunter shook his head, acknowledging just how territorial his mom was about his dad’s blood. Of course, his father was equally as territorial.
“I wouldn’t—uh—feel anything—uh . . . ,” Hunter stopped midsentence.
Hunter blushed and nodded.
“No,” Eric clarified. “I would control my blood in you so that you never felt sexual desire for me. I know that most vampires and their children have physical relationships, but it is not always done. And older vampires can,” he paused, “skip the physical step.”
“Thank God!” Hunter muttered.
“Indeed,” Eric agreed with his son.
“And Emma?” Hunter asked.
“More complicated,” Eric answered. “Your sister had wanted to be the one to turn her.”
“But Pam is not old enough to control the maker-child bond?” Hunter asked perceptively.
Eric nodded and looked at Hunter pointedly. “She would try. But—no—she’s not.” He shook his head. “Pam would—I fear—unintentionally draw Emma into a physical relationship with her. And I know that you and Emma will want to remain faithful to each other—even if you are both turned—so I have rethought what would be best for Emma over the years. If you both decided to be turned.”
Hunter nodded in understanding. “So? What have you come up with?”
“Thalia,” Eric answered. “She knows how to control her blood—and she’s refrained from having sexual relationships with most of her children. Or Duncan is old enough, too. And I’m sure that Batanya would help him to keep in line as well.”
“Thalia has made children?” Hunter asked with a rise of the brow.
Eric smirked. “Three.”
“Okay,” Hunter said as he shook his head. “Emma and I will discuss things, and we’ll let you know our decision when we know it. But it might be a while.”
“I know,” Eric said. “But it is good to have plans in place—just in case—if they are needed. If there were to be an emergency.”
Sobered by that thought, Hunter nodded, his worried eyes traveling down to Emma’s slumbering figure.
Eric sighed. “Do not dwell within the worst case scenario. Yes—acknowledge it. Then—prepare in order to avoid it. But, in the end, concentrate on the good. If there is anything that I have learned from the troubles I have faced with Sookie, it is that.”
Hunter nodded as he accepted the lesson from his father.
The vampire changed the subject. “Tonight, however, let us focus on the good. You will soon create a bond with the woman you love. And—not long after—you will wed her.” He grinned. “And, then, I shall begin enjoying grandchildren.”
Hunter chuckled softly. “Maybe not right away.”
Eric shook his head. “Humans these days,” he winked.
Hunter grinned, even as he rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “I know. I know. In your day, Emma and I would have been married in our early teens, and we would have already given you several grandkids.”
“I am very glad to be living in this time—that these days are mine too.” The vampire smiled sincerely, as he stood, carefully lifting Sookie up with him. Hunter saw his sleeping mother nestle against his dad’s chest as if he were the most comfortable pillow in the world.
“I’m glad you’re here too,” Hunter said just as sincerely.
The teen didn’t like to think about what his life would have been like if Eric Northman hadn’t come into it—if the vampire hadn’t taken him in, watched over him, loved him, and eventually become his father in every way that mattered.
“I will tell Niall to go ahead with the forging of the dagger,” Eric said as he moved to leave the room. “Oh—and son?”
“It’s been more than thirty minutes,” Eric said with a lop-sided grin. “However, I will,” he paused, “distract your mother if she awakens before dawn, but you will have to deal with her wrath after that. If she doesn’t find both you and Emma asleep—and in different rooms.”
Hunter smirked. He had a pretty good idea of what his father meant by the word “distract.”
“You aren’t staying up to watch the sunrise today?” the teen asked.
Eric shook his head. “No—I want to be able to awaken early tonight since we will be having a party here.”
Hunter nodded and then watched his dad carry his mom up the stairs.
Ten minutes later, Hunter gathered his own mate into his arms. Emma was about 5’6″ to his 6’2″, and she was light to him, given the fact that he’d exercised with a heavy sword from the time he was thirteen. He felt her nestle into him as he carried her to the guestroom, but he resisted the urge to climb into bed with her. Instead, he kissed her forehead as she snuggled into her pillow.
Odin, who had just turned eleven years old, trailed them into the room. “Protect,” Hunter whispered to his loyal dog. In understanding, Odin jumped up and lay at Emma’s side, his head toward the door. Hunter patted his dog affectionately and closed the door on his way out. He nodded to Clovache as she quickly took her station outside Emma’s door.
The Britlingen guard gave him a wry smile. “I know. Protect,” she said.
Hunter returned her smile and nodded before going upstairs to his own room. He still used the headboard that his dad had carved for him for his sixth birthday—the first birthday he’d spent with his dad.
He was currently working with his dad on many new pieces of furniture that would go into his and Emma’s new home, but he’d never wanted a more “grown up” bed other than that. The dinosaurs on the headboard may not have enthralled him anymore, but they still told stories about his father’s love for him, and Hunter intended for the bed to be used for his own firstborn son—or daughter—if she liked dinosaurs.
Hunter sank into his bed as his cats, Brit and Ham, jumped up onto the bed. It turned out that—adding to the “cat soap opera” (as his sissy, Pam had called it)—Brit had litters of kittens with both Ham and Art, who’d spent most of their years competing for the female cat’s attentions. And many of those kittens were now scattered in homes around the ætt land. Art had died three years before—due to a snake bite—but Brit and Ham were still going strong. His dad wouldn’t confirm it, but Hunter was pretty sure that Ham had had some vampire blood at one point because he still acted like a kitten sometimes, even though he was over twelve years old. Both cats curled into him as Hunter contemplated his decision to bond with Emma.
They’d talked about making their bond for several years now. Hunter had manifested quite a few fairy powers in addition to his telepathy over the years, including the abilities to both hurt and heal with his light.
He practiced with his light power with both Grandpa Niall and Uncle Claude, and he’d gotten pretty good at using it. However, he didn’t have the ability to generate shields like his mom did.
Still, Hunter knew that he had quite a bit of Fae magic within him, so he’d been told from an early age that he would likely create a Fae bond with Emma if they ever shared blood. And that bond meant they would share some of their magic with each other.
No one had any idea how that bond would manifest—since a fairy-human hybrid and a shifter had never been known to have bonded before. However, Hunter hoped a bond would—at the very least—help him and Emma to create children who could shift. Being mostly human, Hunter knew that his genes might prevent Emma and him from having children who were two-natured. In fact, Dr. L. had told him—in confidence—once that he had only a 25% chance each time of making a two-natured child with Emma. Hunter prayed that the magic within him—helped by the bond he and Emma formed—would raise their odds.
However, if there was one thing that Hunter had learned from his parents, it was that any child would be a miracle and blessing. Shifter or human, adopted or natural—Hunter knew that he would love all of Emma and his children.
Hunter tried to get comfortable, but—more and more often—sleep didn’t come to him easily. He thought once again about his Grandma Brit’s words. And for the millionth time, he wondered if he’d done enough to earn the woman who was sleeping peacefully downstairs.
Finally, he fell into a fitful sleep wishing that his mate was next to him.
Many thanks to Kleannhouse and Sephrenia–as always!