A/N: This chapter should be read after INNER-Lude 6—Thalia
A large SUV was just driving onto the tarmac as Sookie, her brother, Tray, and I disembarked from the plane.
On our way out, I’d noticed that the flight attendant tried to give Jason her number, though the young man—for once—didn’t seem interested. His expression was somber, probably because Andy Bellefleur was his fellow police officer—and, more significantly, his closest friend.
An African American man disembarked from the vehicle. I knew from a picture that Brady had sent me that it was Mustapha Khan, one of our new permanent guards.
“Mr. Khan,” I said as we approached the SUV.
“Mr. and Mrs. Northman,” he greeted with a little bow. “Call me Mustapha.”
“Then, I’m Sookie and this is Eric,” my new wife responded, extending her hand to him.
The guard looked at me, clearly uncertain about two things: first, whether he could, indeed, address me by my first name; and second, whether he could touch my mate without my killing him. I smiled a little. Clearly, Mustapha was as cautious—and as smart—as Brady had said he was.
I nodded to confirm permission for both things that Mustapha was wordlessly asking about.
Tentatively, the Were reached out. Feeling Sookie’s determination, I watched curiously as she took his hand and held it for a long moment. The air almost seemed to cackle with energy, and I could tell that Sookie was using her telepathy to gauge the loyalty of our new guard.
More proud of her than I could have expressed with words, I just stood by as she did her thing.
After about twenty seconds, during which Mustapha seemed almost unable to move—or to take a breath—Sookie let go of him. “Nice to me you, Mustapha. Welcome to the family,” she smiled brightly.
I chuckled and reached out to pull my wife to me.
Jason grinned and reached out a hand; Mustapha cringed a little as he looked down at it.
“Oh don’t worry, man,” Jason chuckled. “I’ll just shake.”
“Mustapha, this is my brother-in-law, Jason Stackhouse,” I introduced. “And this is Tray Dawson,” I said indicating the other Were. “He is a permanent member of our security team. And Jason’s right. Sookie was just conducting her own version of a loyalty test. I’m sure that Brady told you of her telepathy,” I said in a low voice so that the staff from the airplane wouldn’t be able to hear.
“Oh—okay,” Mustapha said before shaking Jason’s hand and nodding toward the other Were.
As efficient as ever, the Anubis crew soon began wheeling our luggage toward the SUV; meanwhile, I asked Mustapha for an update, even as I used my senses to make sure there were no threats in the area.
“The Bellefleurs and Holly Cleary are secure in the farmhouse; they were sleeping when I left. Claude is inside the house as well and is guarding their room. Brady has positioned himself right outside of the front door. Once the Herveaux group arrives, they will be assigned perimeter positions around the property. Per Mrs. Northman’s—I mean Sookie’s request—housing arrangements for the family of Terry and Arlene Bellefleur have been made.”
I felt Sookie’s nervousness.
“What is it, min kära?” I asked her.
“I forgot to tell you about that part. Sam didn’t have any available apartments, so I—uh—invited Terry, Arlene, and their kids to stay at Bill’s old place—uh—since you’re—uh—the temporary king and all,” she stammered.
I bent down to kiss her forehead. “That’s a good use of the place. And I’ll get someone working to repair the Bellefleur home right away. I did not know that two families were displaced when Warlow damaged the dwelling.”
“Yeah,” Sookie sighed. “Terry and Arlene lost their home to a fire—pretty recently. I just thank god that Lisa and Coby were at school when the attack happened. And Arlene and Terry had Mikey with them at Merlotte’s.”
Right as the last bit of luggage was loaded into the SUV, I smelled a scent that I recognized almost as well as my own: Thalia.
“What is it?” my intuitive wife asked.
I looked at Sookie. “We are about to be joined by Thalia. But do not be scared.”
I looked at the others. “Thalia is an ally,” I emphasized. “So no growling.”
I could tell that my vampire cousin was located about a hundred yards from us—straight up.
I let out a sharp whistle to let Thalia know that she should join us. Not a second later, she landed on the ground next to me. She was carrying a large metal briefcase.
Jason grinned at her. “You can fly! You’re even more of a badass than I thought!” he enthused.
Thalia looked at him with a mixture of indifference and pity.
I couldn’t help but to chuckle.
The poor guy didn’t stand a chance with her.
“Thalia,” I said, “I don’t think you’ve formally met my wife, Sookie—though I believe you’ve seen her at Fangtasia before.”
Sookie smiled at the petite and deadly vampiress as if she were smiling back. Needless to say, Thalia was scowling.
“Nice to meet you, Thalia,” Sookie said with a nod.
“This is Mustapha,” I said, continuing the introductions. “And I believe you met Jason and Tray the other night when you picked up Sarah Newlin.”
Thalia nodded slightly, confirming that fact.
“So where is your new child?” I asked Thalia.
Her lips turned upwards into a truly evil grin. “Currently, she is in a silver-plated coffin being delivered to Dr. Ludwig’s office. The doctor said that she’d be ready to perform some preliminary tests on Sarah within the next few days. And who am I to deny her a bit of fun?”
“Fun for Sarah or for Ludwig?” Sookie muttered under her breath.
“Oh—there will be no more fun for Sarah,” Thalia responded, even as her fangs jetted downward. “She is under a maker’s command to do whatever Ludwig says and to not bite anyone, which means that she is no longer my problem—unless she makes a problem for the doctor—which would be a very bad idea. For her.”
Sookie shivered at Thalia’s tone.
“You are one fearsome vamp!” Jason gushed, looking at Thalia with both fear and awe. According to Tray, Thalia had made quite an impression on him two nights before.
But, then again, Thalia often left people with a distinct impression—or she left them for dead if they crossed her.
“What are you doing here? And how did you get here so quickly after sunset?” I asked Thalia.
In truth, I was surprised that my cousin was there. Certainly, I counted her among the creatures I trusted the most. Hell! I even loved her in my way—at least as much as she would allow.
After all, I’d known her for most of my vampire life.
But Thalia preferred staying out of anything that could be construed as “social.” And I’d respected her preference—except when it came to her “community service” at Fangtasia. Seeing her garnering “fan” attention there had been too much fun to resist.
In fact, I’d enlisted Thalia to turn Sarah Newlin only because Pam was out of town, and I refused to do the deed myself—not that my pregnant part-fairy wife would have let me. And, of course, I figured Thalia would agree quickly—if only to be let out of her Fangtasia “sentence” once and for all.
My vampire cousin raised an eyebrow as she responded to my questions. “I live close-by. And, as you know, I am old enough to awaken before dark. I spoke to Dr. Ludwig, and I am here to guard,” she said, glancing at Sookie.
Her answers made me even more curious.
Thalia looked around her. “Is all your baggage loaded?” she asked even as she put her briefcase into the back of the SUV.
“Yes,” I responded.
“Then let us get into the vehicle,” Thalia suggested.
I nodded in agreement; it was best that we were on the move. Sookie and I quickly took the middle bench, while Tray took the passenger seat.
Jason smiled at Thalia. “You can sit next to me in the back!”
Thalia scoffed and then looked at Mustapha. “You will let me drive,” she said.
“Sure thing!” the Were responded before handing Thalia the keys. Mustapha quickly took the spot in the back next to Jason.
However, as soon as he was seated, the Were growled. “You will not glamour me again!”
“You just glamoured him?” Jason asked, dumbfounded.
“Yes,” Thalia said matter-of-factly as she started the engine.
I chuckled. “Please do not glamour the guards, Thalia.”
“You could have just asked me,” Mustapha said, having quickly calmed down.
“Noted,” Thalia responded as she tore out of the parking area. Sookie quickly put on her safety belt.
“She drives like you,” Sookie muttered.
“Hey! Did you glamour Mustaper just to avoid sittin’ next to me?” Jason asked, finally catching up.
“Yes,” Thalia said. “And his name is Mustapha,” she emphasized.
As Jason sulked, the rest of the people in the SUV chuckled—except for Thalia, that is. I wasn’t sure she knew how to laugh.
It was a nice moment of levity—given the horror of the situation which had brought us back to Louisiana early.
However, that moment couldn’t last long—not when there was a fucking faepire loose in the world who wanted my wife! Feeling my anger, Sookie took my hand.
“We’ll get him,” she whispered as she worked to calm me down by filling our bond with her love for me. She pulled my hand to rest on top of our boys, who immediately kicked my palm.
I looked at her with awe.
“They know it’s you,” she whispered.
I bent down to give her a quick, tender kiss and then looked at Thalia, who was looking back at Sookie and me in the rearview mirror.
“You are not known for volunteering for guard duty,” I said to her.
“The doctor told me about the children who were attacked—by Warlow,” Thalia responded in her deadliest tone.
“You know of Warlow,” I observed, wondering when she’d come across him before. “How?”
Certainly, I didn’t know about a fraction of Thalia’s life experiences; she wasn’t one to “share” after all, so I knew only about the parts of her history when our travels had overlapped.
She growled deeply. “Δολοφόνος των παιδιών,” she said, barely perceptively and in Greek.
“Killer of children,” I repeated in English—though so softly that not even the Weres in the vehicle could have heard me.
Thalia nodded at me in the rearview mirror, her eyes brightened by hatred. I could certainly tell that there was a story behind her knowledge of Warlow—one that was very personal to her. And it didn’t escape my attention that she’d used the plural word—”children”—and not just “child,” though Warlow had slain only one of the Bellefleur girls.
I wanted to question Thalia further about Warlow; however, there was one issue I had to speak with her about first—before we arrived at Sookie and my home.
“The girls are half-fairy,” I said cautiously.
“I am aware. The doctor knew I would be able to help them and you,” she returned enigmatically.
“Their scent,” Sookie said, even more cautiously, “is strong. And my full-blooded fairy cousin might be there as well.”
“I have no invitation into your home,” Thalia returned evenly. “And you may shoot me with this if I try to get in by tearing down the dwelling.”
The vampiress reached into her jacket pocket and handed Tray a weapon.
The Were examined it quickly and inhaled. “Silver bullets—with wooden cores,” he commented.
“Government made,” I commented, recalling one of the types of weapons which Sookie had told me that General Michaels had thought about during the meeting at the Authority—a meeting which now seemed like a long time ago, considering all that had changed.
“There are four other such weapons in the briefcase in the back,” Thalia said, not volunteering where they’d come from. “Someone will end me if I become unruly.”
“Thalia?” I said her name like a question. “Why did Dr. Ludwig call you about this?”
I could see no connection—no reason why the doctor would do such a thing. Undoubtedly, Thalia was known to be loyal to me. And Dr. Ludwig would have had reason to talk to her because of Sarah Newlin. But it seemed quite odd that the doctor would speak with Thalia about the Bellefleur children.
Unless Ludwig somehow knew of my connection with Thalia.
But—even then—why would she think that Thalia would get involved? I’d not even planned to call my vampire cousin, given the fact that I didn’t know if vampires—even old ones—could safely be around the half-fairy girls.
I guess I was about to find out if it was safe of not! I just hoped that Thalia didn’t have to die in the experiment.
“The doctor knows something about me,” Thalia said, even as she pulled onto Hummingbird Lane.
“What does she know?” I asked.
She didn’t answer until she had parked the car.
“Κάποτε είχα τέσσερα παιδιά που ήταν σχεδόν όσο Fae με τα κορίτσια στο εσωτερικό του σπιτιού σας. Θα πεθάνω πριν επιφέρει βλάβη σε αυτούς,” she whispered, looking at me significantly. [“I once had four children who were almost as much Fae as the girls inside of your home. I will die before I bring harm to them.”]
“Μήπως Warlow τους σκοτώσει?” I asked her as the others looked at us with confusion. [“Did Warlow kill them?“]
Thalia nodded. “Και αν maker μου δεν μου είχε γίνει ένα βαμπίρ, θα είχα πεθάνει πάρα πολύ,” she shared, a sure sign that her desire for revenge was greater than her need for privacy—at least with me. I was honored. [“And if my maker hadn’t made me a vampire, I would have died too.“]
“You are not inhaling right now—are you?” I asked.
She shook her head.
I nodded to her and then looked at my mate, who was still clearly concerned. “Thalia will start by checking the perimeter of the property and then will carefully work her way toward the house only if she feels that she able to do so safely. I have full trust that she will not harm the girls.”
Sookie nodded with acceptance, even as Thalia stepped from the vehicle. I helped Sookie from the SUV and was not surprised when she walked toward Thalia, her eyes and hands lighting up.
“Thalia, meet fairy Sookie,” I muttered under my breath.
If anything, my vampire cousin looked pleased.
“If you do anything to harm those girls or any fairies in this house, I will fucking kill you!” my new wife told Thalia in no uncertain terms.
Was it naughty that I got immediately hard and wanted to take my bride against the nearest tree?
Thalia smiled at Sookie. Actually smiled!
Then my cousin looked at me. “Well done, Viking,” she said before zipping into the woods.
Sookie looked up at me, her eyes still glowing a bit. Gods she was amazing! “Can we really trust her not to hurt the girls? Or Claude? Or the female Claudes?”
I nodded. “What Thalia told me just now was private, but it convinced me that she will have control. And—if she does not—she truly is prepared to die.”
Sookie smiled, satisfied. And the unnatural light in her eyes diminished. “I think I like Thalia. Hopefully, we won’t have to kill her.”
I chuckled. “Me too.”
Tray took Thalia’s briefcase from the back of the SUV. He quickly opened it and handed Mustapha one of the weapons that were inside. Jason was the last to exit the vehicle; he looked slightly clueless about what had been going on.
Color me surprised.
“Hey, do I get one of those?” Jason asked, his eyes brightening as he looked at Mustapha’s new weapon with clear jealousy.
Tray looked at me and I nodded. After all, Jason did know how to shoot. I’d seen him in action before at Authority headquarters.
Looking amused by the whole series of exchanges, Brady was sitting on the front porch with a double barrel shotgun. Knowing him, it was full of silver buckshot.
“Brady, you’ve met my wife, Sookie,” I greeted.
“Yes. But I didn’t get to meet the sparkly version of her before,” he grinned as he got up and approached us.
The Were took a look at Sookie’s baby bump and then inhaled deeply.
He had an uncanny sense of smell.
“You’ve been keeping things from me, my friend,” the Were said good-naturedly.
Sookie stuck out her hand to shake Brady’s. The Were looked at her hand tentatively; I suppose he was wondering if there were after-effects to the light he’d seen coming from her palms.
He had no idea.
As she’d done with Mustapha, Sookie took Brady’s hand and held it firmly; again, I felt a crackle in the air—as if she were using all of the available magic in the area to read his every thought.
After a few seconds, she dropped his hand and looked at me. “I like him even more than I did before!”
I chuckled. “A good thing—for him.”
Figuring out that Sookie had read his thoughts, Brady grinned and then looked at Jason. Actually, he leered. “So nice to see you again, Jason Stackhouse.”
“He does have some rather explicit thoughts about my brother though,” Sookie giggled.
“Explicit?” Jason asked. “What’s that? Is that a good thing?” He preened a bit. “I work out—you know,” he added.
Brady licked his lips. “I’m sure you do, darlin’, but would you be willing to give me a work out later?”
Clearly confused, Jason looked to Tray as if for help.
“Just say ‘no thanks,'” the rugged Were advised.
“No thanks?” Jason said, half-statement and half-question.
“How about you then?” Brady asked Tray.
“No thanks,” Tray said with a roll of his eyes.
“How are those inside?” I asked, ready to move the topic from Brady’s flirting to important matters: namely the Bellefleurs.
Immediately Brady sobered. “Those little girls were shaken up badly when Mustapha and I got to the police station to escort them and their father here. But I can tell they are made of strong metal. They were taking care of their father as much as he was taking care of them.”
I smiled and nodded.
Brady continued, his voice becoming awestruck. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Those girls fell asleep. And they’re still sleeping, but . . . .” His voice trailed off.
“But they have grown into young women,” I finished for him.
“It is the fairy way,” Thalia said, approaching from behind us.
“Are you in control?” I asked her.
“I am,” she said simply. “I care for the lives of those inside more than I care for their scent,” she added—likely for Sookie’s benefit.
My wife nodded at her.
“Report,” I said to her.
“We need better guards than the ones we currently have on the perimeter,” she began.
Brady sighed in agreement. “Better help is on the way.”
Thalia nodded toward him and continued, “I believe that I have picked up the monster’s scent just beyond the outskirts of the property—to the northwest,” the vampiress said with a deadly look. “Something tore up some trees about a half mile from here, and that something smelled of fairy, magic, and something else.”
“Something else?” I asked.
“Whoever left that scent, is clearly trying to cover up a part of it,” she responded.
“Like spraying a trashcan with half a can of Lysol instead of washin’ it out,” Jason contributed.
“No,” Thalia said flatly, clearly not appreciating Jason’s analogy-making skills as much as I often did.
“Well—then what’s it like?” Stackhouse challenged, though he was looking Thalia up and down as appreciatively as Brady was studying his ass in that moment.
Jason was oblivious to the latter action.
Thalia rolled her eyes. “It was like someone used powerful magic to cover his vampire scent,” she clarified, opting for a “literal” comparison.
I was amused by Thalia’s literalness versus Jason’s confusion—at least until the front door of the house opened to an obviously grief-stricken human.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It’s fun imagining Thalia’s and Brady’s interactions with poor Jason. Poor, clueless Jason. At least he has Tray to help him out. 😉
I found myself having to add a little levity to the story at this point. Between Charlaine’s death and the story about Thalia’s background and the loss of her children, I needed some. However, there is a grieving family inside the house, and we’ll learn a bit about how they’ve been doing in the next few chapters. We’ll also see Eric in “general” mode.
So I hope you will stay tuned.
Until next week,
Many thanks to the team: Sephrenia and Kleannhouse!