Hunter woke up to the smell of coffee wafting under his nose.
“Hey, you,” his mom said as he felt a bit of weight on the bed next to him. “It’s almost 2:00 p.m., and your uncle Claude and Grandpa Niall just got to the realm. You told me you wanted me to wake you up when they got here.”
“Emma awake yet?” Hunter asked in a gravelly voice as he sat up and took the coffee from his mom.
“You are the sleepy head, mister man! Emma has been up for hours,” his mom reported with a chuckle. “She’s helpin’ Lala and Kyle in the kitchen.”
Hunter smiled. Kyle was the oldest of Lafayette and Jesus’s adopted children, having turned seven the previous September. He was also a half-demon—and a powerful one at that. He could already light the grill with just his fingers. However, he was also a “daddy’s boy”—in this case a “Lafayette boy.” Thus, one thing was for certain. If Lafayette was cooking, then Kyle was helping—likely “smoking” vegetables with his inherent ability.
Lafayette was nothing is not innovative with his helpers.
Sookie reached over and combed her son’s unruly bangs to the side with her fingers. Since he’d been about fourteen, he’d liked to keep his naturally wavy hair a little long, so she knew that her battle would be a losing one, but she also knew that he would let her get away with little acts of affection right after he woke up, so she took advantage when she was able.
After he’d taken a few sips of his coffee, she saw his eyes cloud over with worry.
“What is it, Hunt?” she asked.
“A dream I had,” Hunter answered.
Sookie could tell that he was troubled. “Wanna talk about it?”
Hunter nodded. “Yeah, but I want dad to hear, too.”
Sookie’s motherly instinct went into instant overdrive as she saw a deep frown etching its way onto her child’s handsome face. It didn’t matter in that moment that he was taller than her—or almost an adult. He was her little baby and he was clearly troubled.
And she was a mother lioness—even more than Miranda at times.
“I’ll wake your dad up then,” Sookie said firmly.
“You don’t have to do that,” Hunter said quickly. “He said he was gonna be up before sunset anyway since we’re gonna have company. I’ll talk to you both then—or when everyone leaves for the night. I don’t know if I wanna tell Emma about it though. I don’t wanna worry her. Plus, I promised Uncle Claude that I’d help him in the greenhouse today,” Hunter hedged.
Sookie narrowed her eyes as she took in her son. “Hunter. Eric. Northman!”
“Uh-oh,” came his response. He tried to smile a little, but he knew that three names equaled trouble.
“Don’t you ‘uh-oh’ me, mister,” Sookie said sternly. “I have two things to say to you right now, and I want you to open up that thick skull of yours so that you can hear them.”
Hunter sat up straighter. Whenever his mom started numbering things, he knew that he needed to listen carefully. Not only was she one of the wisest people he knew, but he also knew that it wasn’t pleasant—for anyone—when she was riled.
“First,” she started, “it is obvious to me that something happened that has really troubled you, and that means we are not gonna wait to deal with it.”
Hunter sighed, but relented. “I know you’re right.”
“I know I am too,” Sookie said with a sigh of her own. “I used to be the queen of putting things off, but that brought your father and me only heartache. I don’t want that for you.”
She reached out to pat his hand.
“What is the second thing?” Hunter asked after a moment.
“I have an important question to ask you,” Sookie asked.
Hunter tilted his head—as he often did when he was waiting to receive information.
“Do you intend to make Emma your equal partner in life? Do you intend to build your relationship upon mutual respect and trust?”
“Of course!” Hunter answered quickly.
Sookie smiled. “Good. In that case, you need to learn a lesson right now—a lesson that your father had to learn the hard way.”
“What lesson?” Hunter asked.
“Did I ever tell you about the first time your dad kissed me?”
Hunter shook his head, wondering why every conversation he’d had lately seemed laced with non sequiturs.
“Uh—no,” he said.
His mom looked toward the door and smiled the smile she reserved for his dad, so Hunter couldn’t help but to smile with her.
“It happened in his office at Fangtasia. It was before I went to the Fae realm for the first time—before I lost that year I told you about.” She sighed. “It was actually only a couple of days after I met you at the aquarium—remember?”
Hunter nodded. “Hadley brought me to meet you after she’d taken me from Remy.”
Though Hunter still tried to refer to Hadley as “mother” or “mom” when he was in Dùraig, he’d stopped making such attempts when he was home. For a long time, Sookie had been his only mother, and—certainly—she’d been the only true one he’d ever known. He could acknowledge that Hadley had made an attempt, but that didn’t change the reality of the situation. Sookie didn’t need to “try” to love him like a son. And—to Hunter—that made her the mother of his heart.
“Yeah,” Sookie confirmed as she tenderly touched Hunter’s cheek. “I should have made sure you were safe then, baby boy,” she added, as her eyes filled with tears.
Hunter shook his head. “How could you have? You didn’t even know me, and Hadley took me away from Louisiana after that.” Hunter took his mom’s hand into his, hoping that she would feel the comfort he was offering. “It was just good to know that I wasn’t alone—that I wasn’t the only one who was a telepath. It was good to hear in my head that you loved me even though you’d never met me before, Mamma.”
Sookie smiled and brushed away her tears with her free hand. “I love you, Hunt.”
“I love you too, Mamma.” He gave her his lop-sided grin. “So dad kissed you—huh?”
She smiled back. “Yeah. I was kind of with Bill Compton at the time.”
Hunter’s brow furrowed. He hated thinking of his mom with another man; plus, he still remembered the night that Bill Compton had wanted to kill his dad and kidnap him.
“I’ve traded up,” Sookie smiled, ruffling Hunter’s bangs. “Way up!”
Hunter nodded in agreement.
“Anyway, your dad was revving up to fight Russell Edgington for the first time, and he knew that he would likely die.” She got a sad look on her face. “I’ll never forget what he said right before he kissed me. He told me that if he met the true death without kissing me first, that would be his biggest regret.”
“Wow,” Hunter said with a lopsided smile, “he was smooth.”
“Something like that,” Sookie smirked. “Anyway, he stole his kiss.” She chuckled. “At first, I wasn’t having any of it, but it didn’t take long for me to be kissing him back like it was my last day on earth, too.”
Hunter smiled. “Is that when y’all got together?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. Your sissy, Pamela, came in and interrupted us, and then when Eric came back, he tossed me over his shoulder and chained me up in the basement of Fangtasia like the high-handed vampire he is sometimes.”
Hunter’s eyes got big. “What? He did what?”
Sookie popped Hunter on the arm. “And you are just like him!”
“Mamma?” Hunter asked, confused.
“You are just as high-handed as your father sometimes, Hunter Eric Northman. Your dad did what he did because he loved me—even back then. And he wanted to protect me. However, instead of telling me what his plan was with Russell and letting me know what part he needed for me to play in it, he locked me in that basement and confused the hell out of me! I mean,” she grumbled to herself, “who gives a woman a kiss like that and then locks her in the fuckin’ dungeon?”
“Dad?” Hunter offered.
Sookie glared at her son, who looked so much like Eric at times that it was hard to remember that they weren’t biologically related. “Yes! Your high-handed father had a plan to entrap Russell—to make him think that my blood would protect him from the sun. Your dad and Russell drank my blood against my will, and then Eric tricked Russell into going into the sun, where he handcuffed himself to Russell with silver.” She shook her head. “If I hadn’t pulled your father inside and given him more blood to heal, I would have lost him before we even got started.”
“I didn’t know all that,” Hunter said quietly.
His mother sighed. “I know. Eric was willin’ to die for me—and to keep things from me in order to protect me. But I never wanted either of those things. I wanted him next to me—not away from me. But he had his plans, and he didn’t tell me about them. If he had, we could have worked together that time and maybe even avoided having to deal with Russell again,” she added pointedly.
Hunter was silent for a moment. “You’re trying to tell me that I shouldn’t keep things from Emma.”
She chuckled. “Yeah, and I don’t think I was being subtle about it either, Mister Man,” she said, pinching his ticklish side, just to get him to squirm a little.
Hunter rolled his eyes.
Sookie was thoughtful for a moment. “It’s okay to keep some things to yourself, Hunter—feelings you need to work through or surprises you have in mind for Emma. But—take it from me—don’t avoid telling Emma the things that pertain to her safety or to yours. Don’t avoid letting her feel your fears with you, Hunt. She wouldn’t want to be excluded.” Sookie took a deep breath. “Don’t try to keep her behind you so that she won’t see the danger that you are confronting. If you truly honor her, let her stand next to you as you face the world.”
Hunter looked down at his hands and then took one of his mom’s.
“You couldn’t have picked a better partner for yourself, Hunt. But Emma will never be your true mate unless you let her be.”
“Dad learned from his mistake,” Hunter observed, raising his eyes and smiling at his mother.
“Yes, he did,” Sookie confirmed. “But I want you to learn before you make the same mistake.”
Hunter sighed and then spoke with resolution. “Okay then. Let’s wake up dad and get Emma. Then I’ll tell you what’s going on.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Sookie said as she rose. Just as the two left the room, however, Hunter dropped his now-empty coffee cup and gasped.
She turned to see the cup shattering on the floor next to Hunter’s bare feet, causing small gashes to open up in them. Being a mother, she immediately bent down to tend to him, but her gaze was brought up to his face as he gasped again.
He looked as white as a sheet.
Immediately knowing something was wrong, Sookie dropped her mental shields and stretched out her telepathy. Breeta moved in front of them, and Batanya materialized from thin air to flank her daughter’s side.
Just as the doorbell rang, Sookie’s color drained from her face as well.
Eric Northman enjoyed what no other vampires he knew did. Oh—the daylight continued to draw him to his rest, but the day no longer “killed” him.
Neither in literal nor figurative terms.
Because of his wife’s fairy blood, which was an ever-present fixture in his own cells, as well as her Fae magic and the bonds that would forever connect him to his mate, he always felt at least somewhat “alive”—even when he slept—though he always awoke well-refreshed. And he could even dream when his wife pulled him into one of her dreams.
Indeed, he often spent his “sleep” making love to Sookie in dreams, only to wake up and crave her again.
Sookie had also given him back the sun in a very real sense. Though he couldn’t stay in its rays indefinitely, he could “stay up” to greet the dawn or “awaken early” to enjoy the waning light of the late afternoon and dusk. Being an older vampire, he already had more control than most of his kind, and had been awakening before the sun had fully set for years—though he’d never been able to brave the orb’s light.
Being awake when the sun was at full reign in the day’s sky was still difficult for him—though not impossible. It just took away more of his energy, and it required more of his wife’s magic, continuously “healing” him as his own magic weakened. Thus, he and Sookie had—long ago—decided that it would be best if he kept to their bedroom (with the light-tight shutters fully engaged) when the sun was at its strongest.
However, despite this practice, Sookie’s anxiety shook Eric from his day-rest. He rocketed out of bed when two distinct scents hit his nose. One was a stranger right outside his home. And the other was his son’s blood.
The vampire assessed that it was only 2:34 p.m.; however, his body and mind were fully alert as he quickly used the controls on his bedside table to ensure that all of the light-tight shades on the second floor were engaged.
Ignoring the fact that he was naked, Eric was in Hunter’s room with his wife and child moments later. “You are hurt,” he said to Hunter, as he bent down next to Sookie in order to examine the small cuts on his child’s foot. They had been caused by a broken coffee cup.
“It’s not bad,” Hunter stammered, his face a study in astonishment.
“Who is at the door?” Eric asked both Hunter and Sookie.
It was Sookie who answered. “Remy Savoy.”
Eric stood up and pulled Sookie to her feet, even as Hunter sat back onto the bed. The vampire was surprised to find out the identity of the visitor, but he was also bolstered by the fact that Remy must not intend them physical harm; otherwise, the wards would have kept him off of the property.
But that didn’t mean that Remy Savoy couldn’t cause other kinds of harm.
After all, he’d already caused Hunter and Sookie to feel anxiety, and the Viking wouldn’t fucking tolerate that!
The vampire looked at Breeta as his soldier mentality snapped into place. “Call Miranda and have her sniff Remy’s vehicle. If it was let through by the guards on the perimeter, then it is likely clean, but have her check it for passive tracking or surveillance devices—and for magic.” Breeta nodded and snapped her phone open.
He looked at Batanya next. “Call Clovache. Emma is to be in the cubby and safe before the next minute is up.”
The Britlingen nodded and was quickly on her phone.
Eric pulled Sookie’s phone out of her back jeans pocket and was dialing it the next second. “Jesus,” he said into the receiver, “the person outside is Remy Savoy.” Eric knew that Jesus would know who that was. “I don’t know why he’s here yet, but I want him searched and kept outside of this house until you hear from me.” Eric inhaled. “I smell that Henry, Tara, Kyle, Emma, and Lafayette are with you in the kitchen. Make sure the others are safe and then take Henry with you to confront Savoy. I can smell that Jarod is already with Mr. Savoy, but I need you to make sure that no magic has been used to help him to counteract your wards. Keep him distracted and keep him outside!”
Eric hung up without another word to his closest human friend and then picked up his son as if he were a small child—instead of a 6’2″ young man. He gave Sookie a look, and the three of them went quickly into the master bedroom.
The vampire placed his child gently onto the couch and then quickly dressed.
Hunter had clearly been stunned into silence by the appearance of his birth father. And that shock had been followed by a kind of fear and insecurity that he’d not felt since he was a little child.
Recovering a bit from her own shock, Sookie ran into the bathroom and got a towel so that she could clean and wrap Hunter’s feet. If the cuts were deep, she thought that she would heal them with her magic.
“No,” came Hunter’s voice, stopping his mother in her tracks before she reached the bathroom.
“Dad,” he looked up at Eric, “I want you to heal me with your blood.”
Eric seemed a little surprised by his son’s request. Hunter had never had his blood before, and he’d been hurt far worse than a few scrapes in the past. In fact, letting Hunter take vampire blood had been something that he and Sookie had adamantly avoided.
“Hunter?” Eric asked, knowing his son didn’t make quick decisions without good cause—and also trusting in his boy’s instincts.
Hunter took a deep breath. “I need to know that you would be able to find me—if I was ever lost.”
Hunter closed his eyes. “Like Grandma Brit and Godric,” he thought—but didn’t say.
“But, Hunter,” Sookie said, “you always have guards. We should talk about this first—the repercussions.”
“You are sure that you can control your blood in me,” Hunter looked up at Eric. “Sure that I won’t have dreams or anything?”
“Absolutely sure,” the vampire confirmed.
Sookie looked back and forth between father and son. She felt her husband’s confidence and certainty through their bonds. And she heard Hunter’s certainty with her telepathy. In truth, Eric had often talked about giving Hunter his blood so that he could track him in case of emergency, but they’d wanted for Hunter to reach adulthood before they gave him that choice.
Looking at the young man, Sookie recognized a simple truth: he was an adult.
Feeling his wife’s encouragement through the bond, Eric’s fangs popped down.
Immediately a growl was heard in the room.
A growl coming from Sookie.
And a pair of hands were aglow.
Aiming at Hunter.
Many thanks to Kleannhouse for the beta work and to Sephrenia for the banners! They are the best!