“The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.”—Rumi
“Does your bride-to-be know that she screams like a banshee?” Ian asked, his eyes glinting mischievously.
“She screams like the fairy she is,” I growled. “And you are not welcome to listen.”
Ian chuckled. He and I had been the first out of our light-tight rooms after sundown, and we were now doing a perimeter check of the area.
“I was just trying to offer you a compliment,” Ian smirked. “Though—if I’m not mistaken—it was your body I heard thrown against the shower walls at one point.”
I couldn’t help but to smile at the recollection.
“My bonded is an incredible woman,” I responded with a grin.
“And you are a lucky vampire to have her, but—then again—I am the first to recognize that you deserve her,” he added sincerely.
“I’m not sure that I do,” I replied honestly.
“Then I will take her off your hands,” he chuckled.
I growled again—this time at full-fang.
“Or maybe not,” he laughed before looking at me seriously. “I’ve known you for many years, Eric, and—though I’ve known her for only a few days—I can see that you are happy. And I have thought for a very long time that you deserved to be so.”
I glanced over at my old friend. “Thank you.”
“Just be willing to come to my service—at the drop of a hat—if I ever find someone worth pledging to,” he grinned.
“Jessica?” I asked, speaking of his traveling companion.
He smirked. “Maybe. She is certainly eager to learn. I’m her first vampire—you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t break her. My bonded considers her a friend.”
He scoffed. “Her idiot of a maker has already broken her to a certain extent. There are many things that she does not know—even some of the basics. But she is inquisitive, spirited, and quite beautiful.”
I looked at him seriously. “Teach her. And bed her all you want, but do not hurt her if you tire of her. Like I said, my bonded feels responsibility toward her.”
Ian’s expression softened. “I like Jessica. And I will not hurt her intentionally. Nor will I be callous where her feelings are concerned. But—as long as she enjoys me—I intend to enjoy her,” he added rakishly.
I chuckled. “I think that’ll be just fine.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I must admit, Viking, that I never figured that you would be asking about my intentions toward a woman.”
I laughed even louder. “Nor would I!”
Our perimeter sweep made, we went back into the house to find everyone else in the living room.
Sookie beamed at me as we entered. It was—most certainly—true that pregnant women glowed, and it appeared as if she were having a nice conversation with Tara as Ian and I entered.
“Are you ready?” I asked my bonded.
She nodded. “So—are we taking the boat to the mainland?”
“No,” I said. “We’ll fly there.”
“I’ll go with,” Ian said with a smirk, “since I can fly, too.”
“Show off,” Pam scoffed, striking Ian’s shoulder.
“I’ll pop over once you are there in order to add some extra security,” Claude offered. “Not that you will need it,” he added with a comforting look toward Sookie.
Sookie took a deep breath. “Okay. So Eric and I will get our marriage license and then pick up the Justice of the Peace.”
“His arrival has already been arranged for,” Tray spoke up. “He’ll be here at 8:00 p.m. sharp.”
Sookie looked at the Were gratefully. “Okay. Thanks.” She looked up at me. “So—I guess we’ll just get the license and hurry on back,” she said nibbling on her tempting bottom lip.
I nodded in agreement and then suggested that she go and get a heavier coat since we’d be flying.
Once Sookie was out of the room, I looked at my child. “Did you get the instructions that I sent to your email account?”
Pam nodded. “Everything will be ready when you get back,” she smiled.
I stepped toward her and kissed her forehead. “There have been many changes in the last few weeks,” I whispered, referring to not just Sookie and my bonding, but also to our children, as well as to my “freeing” Pam.
“Good ones—overall,” she said, as stalwart as ever.
I smiled at my only child, marveling over the fact that she would likely soon have twice as many children as I did.
She smirked up at me. “Get your ass in gear so that my brothers can be born legitimate.”
“I thought you no longer believed in societal conventions,” I chuckled.
“Oh—I don’t. But Abby says that you need to respect your mate’s traditions.”
I rolled my eyes. “Abby? Again?”
“Always,” she intoned.
It turned out that getting a marriage license was a very easy thing to do—even for a vampire and a fairy-hybrid.
Not that anyone knew about Sookie’s lineage. The county clerk checked her phone as if bored as Sookie and I filled out the paperwork we would need to get married. Sookie gave me a sideways grin as she wrote down that she’d be changing her surname to Northman.
I felt a swelling of pride that she and our sons would all have my chosen surname.
Yes—I will admit that I wanted to claim them in all ways possible.
Call me selfish.
But I was vampire.
And they were mine!
After Sookie and I had received our license—Claude “popped” Sookie back to the house while Ian and I made a stop before we flew back to the house. Yes—Sookie now had her engagement ring, but I was keen to get us matching wedding rings as well.
And—yes—I was willing to admit that I’d become a serial “marker.”
Meanwhile, Sookie could start getting ready for the ceremony.
When Ian and I arrived back on the island, the Justice of the Peace was already there—and was being entertained by Jason.
I smiled in approval as I took in the area where the ceremony would be held. Despite any comedy they’d wrought, Jason, Tray, and Claude had created a beautifully lit area, using both fairy lights and lanterns to complement the flat rock plateau which would make the perfect setting for the small ceremony.
And Pam had obviously been hard at work too, for white flowers of all kinds framed the area. Many humans associated white with innocence—or purity. However, the color was also symbolic of new beginnings as well as equality and balance. And that is why I’d chosen the color for the flowers. I wanted Sookie to know that I saw her as an equal.
And to know that I saw our marriage as a new beginning—the best of beginnings—for the both of us.
I was also glad to see that the small heaters were set up and working effectively to warm the area. I wanted Sookie and our boys to remain warm.
“You like?” Pam asked from behind me.
I turned to see that she was dressed in a one shoulder Kelly-green gown. I couldn’t help but to chuckle.
“I’m wearing green—for you,” Pam intoned. “I never wear green.”
I smirked. “You should. It’s lovely on you.” And it was. With her blond hair and pale skin, the color suited her.
She scowled. “Sookie insisted. She thinks green is a lucky color, and she claimed that it complemented everyone.”
“Everyone?” I asked.
She didn’t immediately answer my question. She was too focused on her own tirade.
“I’m a fucking bridesmaid—or grooms-maid,” Pam said, rolling her eyes. “Or a leprechaun! Or fucking Kermit the Frog!”
I chuckled. “At least the dress fits well.”
“Whatever! Sookie and Willa guessed at the size,” she scoffed dramatically.
“As I said, they did a good job,” I smirked.
“Unfortunately. Why I’m forced to doll myself up—just because I have a vagina—is beyond me! Meanwhile, Jason and Tray get to wear perfectly normal black suits.”
I chuckled. “I doubt that you regret having a vagina, Pam,” I commented.
“Indeed,” she returned. “But why must I accept being put into a bridesmaid gown? Hmm? Tara, Jessica, and Willa are similarly dressed—and distressed—though at least Willa got to help Sookie choose the dresses.”
“I’m sure they hate them as much as you do,” I said sarcastically. “But—then again—Sookie could have left you out of the fancy dressing,” I commented.
“Indeed, she could have,” Pam said with a little frown.
“You did fire a rocket at her about a month ago,” I reminded.
“Yes. I suppose I did,” she admitted.
I smiled at her. “Sookie’s telling you that she views you as family. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone to the bother of getting you the dress.”
“I know,” Pam practically pouted. “I’ll have to be nice to her now.”
I chuckled. “Nice? You?”
She smirked. “Okay—not nice. But I’ll make it up to her with my ninja buying skills. By the way—the first incarnation of the nursery will be ready by the time we get back.”
I nodded. “Excellent.”
“Trains,” she said.
“The motif I chose,” she said with a grin. “Actually, Sookie and Jason were talking fondly about a toy train they had when they were kids earlier this evening. I overheard them.” She waved her hand. “It was sentimental bullshit—I assure you.”
“Of course it was,” I intoned.
“Anyway, trains will be a good motif for boys and will last through several stages of development,” she commented.
I nodded in agreement. “Thank you, Pam. Sookie is, understandably, overwhelmed by the fact that the boys will be growing at such an accelerated rate.”
“Then, it is a good thing that I am available to keep up with their spoiling,” she said seriously. “Oh—and the essentials of practical care will be waiting when we get back to Louisiana, too. Diapers and such things,” she added, the word “practical” spoken as if it were “trash.”
I smiled and leaned forward to kiss Pam on the forehead. “Thank you, dottir. And you do look very beautiful—by the way.”
“I know,” she scoffed, turning her head so that I wouldn’t see that she’d been affected by my gestures of affection.
That was my Pam.
“Sookie is almost ready. You should go inside and dress—in Ian’s room!” she added.
“Because you cannot see Sookie before the wedding,” she informed as she rolled her eyes.
I chuckled at both my child and the ridiculous human tradition that would keep me from my bonded before zipping inside the house so that I could prepare myself for our wedding and pledging. Sookie had given the king’s day-person a list of sizes for Jason and Tray—so that suits could be acquired for them. Apparently, neither man owned such a “fancy” garment. Given the fact that my own size didn’t exactly come “standard,” Pam had picked up a suit for me from one of my safe houses before joining us at the airfield the night before.
It didn’t take long for me to dress. Knowing that Sookie planned to get herself a “traditional” wedding dress, I’d had Pam bring my tuxedo.
I’d also arranged for a photographer to take photos during and after the ceremony. And there would be music to which we could dance, for I knew that Sookie loved dancing. Food and Royalty Blended were already waiting in the kitchen of the home for later.
I sighed as I put on my bow tie.
“You need help with that?” Ian asked sarcastically as he came out of the bathroom connected to his bedroom. He was already dressed in a dress shirt and slacks. He would put on his ceremonial cloak after the human officiant had performed his part of the night’s activities and left.
“I think I’ve got it,” I said, rolling my eyes at him.
Still, he grabbed the boutonniere from the dresser and fastened it perfectly upon my lapel at vampire speed. Then he patted my back affectionately.
“I’m glad I am here,” he said. “But I am sorry that Godric is not.”
Ian had known my maker well. And Godric had practically adopted Ian at one point—teaching him when his own maker had died unexpectedly.
“Me too,” I sighed. “But I think he would be pleased. He knew Sookie for very little time, but it was clear that he liked her very much.”
Ian nodded in understanding and support before looking at me seriously. “Ten minutes ago, I got a phone call from Nora.”
“Is all well?” I asked.
“Yes. The other Authority members have arrived safely in the new headquarters in . . . .”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “I don’t want to know where.”
He chuckled. “Fine. Anyway. They are getting things set up, and everything is going as planned. Nora did, however, wonder why I was in Rhode Island,” he informed.
“She’d already checked out your flight’s destination.”
“Well—I am using an Authority jet.”
“And what did you tell Nora?”
“That I was on a personal errand,” he said. “But she is no fool. She asked me if it had anything to do with you.”
I closed my eyes.
“I told her that personal meant just that—personal,” he added.
“Thank you,” I sighed. “Though she will soon find out about the pledging, and the human wedding will be public record anyway, so I intend to include notification of that in the paperwork I file with the Authority as well.”
He nodded. “That is likely wise. But do you think that knowing about your further commitment to Sookie will make things better or worse where Nora is concerned?”
“I hope better,” I answered sincerely. “And I hope that distance and work will also cause Nora to focus her attention on things other than Sookie and myself. However . . . .” I stopped midsentence.
“A decade ago, I wouldn’t have worried about Nora. Yes—she and I had been lovers in the past. And she’d even become a little too intense in her desire to keep my company once or twice over the years, but Godric was always good about helping her understand that our being together long-term would be a bad things for both of us—given our personalities.”
“But Godric is no more,” Ian said softly.
“No he’s not,” I responded just as quietly. “And now Nora has demonstrated that she can become fixated on an idea to the point of obsession.”
“With Lilith,” Ian remarked.
I nodded. “Don’t get me wrong. If I didn’t think she was over that, I wouldn’t have supported her becoming the new Guardian, but there is still a nagging voice inside of me that doesn’t fully trust her. And I didn’t help matters either.”
“Explain,” he requested.
“When I thought that all hope was lost with Sookie, I fucked Nora. And then I had sex with her again after she finally denounced Lilith and turned back to Godric’s teachings.”
Ian sighed. “But you later made it clear to her that you and Sookie are now together.”
“Of course. And a rational Nora would accept that fact and move on.”
“But Nora has shown that she can be irrational.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Just remember that I’ll be keeping an eye on her,” Ian assured.
I smiled at my friend. “I know. And I’m grateful.”
There was a knock on the door. It was Jessica; she was dressed in the same vibrant green as Pam had been, though her garment was of a slightly different style. With her red hair and light complexion, the outfit suited her very well.
Ian’s fangs clapping down indicated that he agreed with that assessment.
If Jessica could have blushed, she would have.
“So—uh—Sookie’s ready,” she said, even as she was taking in—and returning—Ian’s lust-filled look.
“Thank you, Jessica,” I said with a chuckle as I grabbed the wedding license. I could tell that Ian and Jessica would have liked some “private time,” but they reluctantly followed me outside, where I gave the Justice of the Peace the document which would be signed by him, Sookie, me, and a witness following the ceremony. Sookie had already asked if Jason could be the witness, and I was happy to oblige her request.
In fact, I was ready to do anything to make my bride happy.
And though getting married in the human way hadn’t been something I had particularly craved—at any point during my thousand years—I found myself thrumming with excitement.
I was suddenly glad that I’d not seen Sookie in her gown yet.
The feeling of such anticipation—except when it came to impending battle—was unusual for a vampire.
And I let myself savor the feeling.
A/N: Why green you might ask? I think that Sookie was likely thinking of life, and green often symbolizes fertility. Plus, I like green. LOL.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I don’t have time to write a long author’s note, but I hope you will tell me what you thought.
Next week: The wedding.
FYI: New posting schedule
Mondays on WordPress—a new INNER-Verse offering
Fridays on WordPress—a chapter of Earned
Saturdays on WordPress—a chapter of Given Unsought
Posts will occur on other sites 1-2 days after the WordPress offering, depending on how busy I am at work
As always, thanks to Kleannhouse and Sephrenia! Y’all are the best!