After another half an hour in the shower, Sookie and I finally found out that the “bottomless” hot water heater actually did have a lukewarm bottom, so we made our way out of the bathroom and into some fresh clothing. Oh—I wanted to continue our pleasures; however, I knew that it was time to turn our focus onto the duties that we had and the dangers that we faced.
Despite the fact that our room had been soundproofed during Sookie and my love-making, my sense of smell hadn’t been dimmed. As I pulled on a T-shirt with my back turned to my bonded, I hoped that she would never realize that—even though we’d been “quiet”—every supernatural nose in the area would have been able to smell what we’d been up to. Hell—even as Sookie and I had exchanged orgasms like baseball cards—I’d monitored the scents on the property.
One of the smells which had become more and more apparent was the thickening of a magical spell around the property.
Sookie looked at me knowingly as I inhaled deeply. “Amelia’s spell?” she asked as if reading my mind.
I nodded in confirmation. “I’ve never smelled a ward so thick or so strong.”
“It’s you—and your love for us,” Sookie smiled, touching her belly. “You are—quite literally—the spell’s cornerstone; because of that, Amelia said that the spell would only take full affect once you’d ‘proven’ yourself to her magic.”
My bonded was smirking as she finished her statement.
“Why are you so amused?” I asked, striding toward her predatorily—like the vampire I was. My mate’s heartbeat increased, and I could sense that she’d be ready, willing, and able to work up the need for yet another shower if I pushed her.
Sookie took a deep breath and held it for a moment, as if trying to keep herself from jumping me.
“Amelia warned that it might take up to a day for the wards to strengthen,” she answered as her smirk returned to her lovely face. “But I just heard her thinking about how strong they’ve already have gotten and how the wards seem ancient already.” She took a step toward me, looking me up and down hungrily. “It seems that you are more,” she paused, “virile than even a witch could have hoped for.”
“And what does my fairy think? Hers is the only opinion I care about,” I growled as I took another step to close the distance between us.
“Your fairy thinks she’s found her third wind,” Sookie growled back, pulling me down to kiss her.
Just when things were about to get interesting and clothing was about to disappear again, there was a harsh knocking at the door to our room. “I was invited for dinner—not dinner and a porn!” Dr. Ludwig yelled.
Sookie immediately flamed red as her “human” side took over.
“I turned off the sound-proofing system while you were selecting an outfit,” I explained with a frown, which I hoped would seem apologetic.
Apparently, it didn’t.
She popped my arm and adjusted her bra and dress before hurrying toward the door to our bedroom. I zipped quickly to block her access to the exit.
“To be continued,” I growled before giving her a kiss that left her breathless.
“You bet your sweet ass,” she panted, slapping that ass before somehow finding the grace to slither past me and out the door—despite my sons’ efforts to make themselves prominently known.
Of course, I followed right behind her, like a fucking puppy.
“Hey—do you think the boys would like a puppy?” I asked her.
She chuckled. “What if they are cat people? Like their mother?”
“One of each?” I asked.
She chuckled again and then indulged me. “Purrrrrfect,” she exaggerated.
I pulled out my phone to arrange for a puppy and a kitten to be delivered the next day, leaving it up to Pam to research the ideal breeds for children and the accessories needed for such creatures. I figured it would be best to get the beasts settled before our sons came so that they could enjoy them in their youth. While I was at it, I arranged for tricycles, bicycles, and wooden swords. Recognizing my ignorance about children in modern society, I also instructed Pam, Tara, and Willa to supply “Ulf” and “Earl” with anything else they might want.
I had only a finite number of days to spoil my sons, after all. And Sookie would forgive me for any excess when we donated the remnants of their short childhood to charity.
As my wife and I entered the kitchen, I could practically feel Sookie’s mouth watering at the wafting of homemade bread and a hearty vegetable beef stew. My bonded immediately went up to Holly to kiss her cheek. Holly handed Sookie a glass of water, already smoky with salt. She explained that it was a “gift” from Adilyn.
“Thank you for doing all of this,” my wife gushed at her witchy friend, as she gestured around the kitchen at all the food, which included several side dishes and desserts.
“The Claudes helped until they had to leave right before sunset,” Holly informed. “The girls helped too,” she smiled, referring to Andy Bellefleur’s daughters. I’d noticed that “the girls” was becoming the usual nickname for Adilyn, Danika, and Braelyn, even though they were now young women. “Oh—and Amelia was a godsend after the Claudes took off,” Holly added.
Sookie frowned. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to them,” she said somewhat guiltily.
Holly waved her hand dismissively. “They understand that you were busy,” the witch said with a knowing smile.
My wife—expectedly—flamed red.
And—expectedly—my smirk swam in the wake of her blush.
Thankfully, my wife didn’t notice, or I might have gotten the business end of her light.
“The Claudes said they’d be back tomorrow sometime to train with the girls again. Claude’s supposed to make the arrangements later,” Holly informed.
“How did today’s training go?” I asked Danika, who was slicing a loaf of bread. The other two Bellefleur girls were currently in the living room setting up a card table in order to make dining places for more people. I could hear Braelyn giggling in response to a story being told by Jason. Meanwhile, Andy was asking Adilyn if she was certain about her decision to go to work for the “little” doctor. Even as Adilyn assured him that she was, Dr. Ludwig scoffed loudly and asked who he was “calling little.”
Danika smiled up at me. “The Claudes helped us begin thinking about ways to combine our various strengths and cover up our weaknesses.”
I smiled back at her. “That’s good. So—other than Adilyn’s enhanced empathy, have you or your sisters gained anything of note—any new abilities?”
“Not really. But we’ve got a lot more control now,” Danika said, spinning a little spiral of white light on her palm. “And a lot more power than before.” She frowned. “Since we couldn’t go outside today, we really didn’t get a chance to test things out, but the Claudes promised to let me blow up some trees and stuff tomorrow,” she added with a glint in her eyes.
I smirked. In addition to being the “leader” in her group of sisters, the young woman seemed destined to be a fighter of some kind.
The white light reabsorbed into Danika’s hand as she closed her palm. “I wish I had the red kind of light, like Charl did,” she said quietly, as if not wanting to risk letting her father hear her deceased sister’s name. “But at least I have something that can be a weapon. Addy got stuck with the useless green kind,” she practically sneered.
Holly clucked at the girl. “It’s not useless,” she admonished gently. “Our Addy is gonna be a first-rate healer. Dr. Ludwig’s already hired her to be an assistant.”
“That is something Adilyn wanted?” I asked. After all, Dr. Ludwig could be an opportunistic and pushy bitch. And she would have sensed Adilyn’s innate abilities. However, I quickly found myself amused by the idea that Adilyn, a powerful empath, would almost counterbalance the total lack of empathy displayed by Dr. Ludwig.
Danika nodded. “Yeah. The doc’s been here for a while now, and she and Addy also talked a little last night. Addy actually likes her,” she added with a roll of her eyes.
“How unusual,” I deadpanned. “So—have the rest of you decided upon professions?” I smirked.
Danika rolled her eyes again. “Because it’s the second night of our adulthood, and we need to get on that?”
I chuckled. “Indeed. If you wait a full week, you might be labeled as incorrigibly lazy.”
Danika giggled. “Actually, my sisters and I do have a plan. Claude’s gonna get us social security cards and drivers licenses that identity us as being twenty-one—for the benefit of the humans around. Then we’re gonna pretend we were homeschooled; Claude said he could arrange for school records and whatnot.”
“I could too—if he cannot,” I offered.
“Cool. My sisters and I seem to learn stuff really fast. I mean—no one taught us—but we can read. And we also looked at an old math book that belonged to Sookie’s Gran.” The young woman shrugged. “It was easy to figure out. The Claudes told us that fairies always learn fast. After all, it’d be idiotic—genetically speaking—for us to grow quickly physically, but to be lack compensating intelligence. Like Jason,” she added with a whisper.
I chuckled. “Quite right.”
“Brae and I will get our G.E.D.s, and then we’ll decide what to do after that,” Danika informed. “Addy’s the only one with a really clear plan, though I’m thinkin’ I might wanna be a cop like Daddy,” she smirked.
Adilyn entered the kitchen with a smile. “We’ve got everything set up in the living room.”
“Thanks, hon,” Holly and Sookie said at the same time.
“So what can you tell me about your training today?” I asked Adilyn.
Immediately, she frowned and looked mournful. Sookie quickly walked over to the young woman and enveloped her in a hug before Adilyn could explain why my seemingly innocuous question would make her upset.
However—thankfully—my confusion lasted for only a moment before the empath put me out of my misery.
“We miss Charl. She would have been amazing!” Adilyn said in a quiet voice. Clearly she didn’t want to remind Andy of the daughter he’d lost either. “Claudaline makes the red light from her hands—the stronger kind.” She sighed. “Charl tried to use her red light to fry Warlow, but she wasn’t fast enough to hit him.”
“And you are sad because she might have been able to destroy him if she’d received training earlier?” I asked quietly.
The girls nodded.
“We stayed young on purpose,” Danika admitted guiltily. “If we’d have slept, we’d have probably been grown up by the time that Warlow came.”
I shook my head. I’d experienced my own guilt regarding Charlaine’s death. If only I’d arranged for the girls to have training sooner. If only I’d made sure that they had guards.
Still—I tried to reassure the young women. “You cannot let guilt pull you into despair. And no one can know what would have occurred if Warlow had found you as grown young women. We know that he once decimated an entire village of fairies. As children, your inclination was to run from him—to get yourselves away from him. You used teleportation to save yourselves. As adults, you might have tried to fight him, and—perhaps—all of you would have been lost. And that idea is unacceptable,” I added, my jaw almost locking as I spoke.
Sookie hugged Adilyn tighter and looked at Danika. “I know y’all wanna find Warlow and fight him, but Eric’s right. Teleporting away likely saved your lives.”
“Then how are we gonna kill him? Who’s gonna be able to kill him?” Danika scowled.
“We will succeed by planning and working together,” I said firmly. “And by being careful in the meantime.”
Danika nodded in agreement—though begrudgingly.
I was startled when Adilyn disengaged herself from Sookie’s embrace and placed herself into mine. She looked up into my eyes. “You know—you are our second father, Eric Northman,” she whispered. “Not just because you fathered my and Danny’s mates, but because we know that you will always try to keep us safe—just like our first father will.” She closed her eyes. “I feel that from you.”
“And you will also let us help you fight—because you understand,” Danika said emphatically.
“Understand what,” I asked, taken aback by the girls’ words and actions.
“You understand the need to exact revenge when someone kills your family,” Danika said fiercely, grasping the bread knife as if it were a weapon. Her eyes were glowing a little.
“Yes. I do,” I owned. “But my priority will be to keep you safe—and to keep you out of situations where you’d be vulnerable to defeat.”
Addy looked up at me, her eyes wide and compelling. “Thalia feels that way too. My sisters and I have talked about her.”
“And I want to meet her,” Danika added. “We trust that you will protect me if she can’t control herself—and I promise to teleport inside if she makes a move to drain me.”
“But we don’t think she will,” Adilyn added quickly. She looked up at me, her doe eyes glowing. “I can sense that Thalia’s your family,” she whispered in such a low tone that I was certain that no one else could have heard it—not even the others in the small kitchen. “So Thalia’s our family, too,” she said just as softly.
“How do you know that?” I asked Adilyn.
I’d not even had the chance to tell Sookie everything I’d learned about Thalia, though I’d found time between our lovemaking rounds in the shower to tell my bonded that Thalia’s maker and Godric had been “brothers.” In turn, she’d told me the odd news that the Bellefleurs were descendants of Compton. And she’d shared her idea for giving Andy and Terry the Compton house. I was happy to unload it. Plus, I figured that the Bellefleurs would still allow me to “rent” their “dungeon” if a specific need arose. Meanwhile, that same dungeon would be the perfect haven for the girls if a vampire threatened them.
Adilyn answered my question quietly. “I sense your connection to Thalia; it feels like you are family. I’ve used telepathy to tell Danny and Brae because we promised never to keep anything from each other. But no one else will know from us. We promise,” the empath added.
Danika spoke up. “We want to meet Thalia.”
“I don’t know why,” Adilyn said, “but I have a really strong feeling that she will protect us even more than you could.” She frowned. “No offense.”
I chuckled. “None taken. She is stronger than I.”
“Well—it’s still fifteen minutes before supper and I’ve got everything handled if you wanna meet Thalia now,” Holly said offhandedly, as if two young fairies hadn’t just asked to meet an ancient vampire—a mere two days after their sister had been killed by one.
Seeing my surprise, Holly met it with a smile. “I have a good feeling about Thalia,” she said by way of explanation.
“So do I,” an unfamiliar woman said as she walked into the room. She stopped to give me a little bow. “King Northman,” she said.
“In my home, I am Eric,” I corrected.
“And I’m Amelia Broadway, but I bet you knew that already,” she smiled, as Adilyn left my embrace to go help her sister get back to the task of cutting bread rather than imagining killing Warlow with the knife in her hand.
“Would your wards force Thalia off the property if she suddenly tried to attack one of the girls?” I asked the witch.
“They should,” she responded immediately. “They work to keep out those with ill intensions. If anyone’s intentions suddenly changed, the wards would recognize that and kick them out.”
I nodded. “Are you ready to set the wards on the house across the cemetery?”
“I’ve got everything prepared that I can,” Amelia explained. “Holly’s kids won’t be back from their dad’s house until later, and I like for all of the house’s occupants to be present when I set wards so that I can make them as strong as possible.”
“Your family will be staying with Andy?” I asked the older witch.
Holly nodded. “Uh—yeah. Andy still wants my help with teaching the girls how to cook and stuff like that.”
“Daddy’s just using that as an excuse to ask you to move in with him,” Danika said. “He’s hoping that you’ll either want to share a bedroom with him or that you won’t mind if he sneaks into yours.”
Holly gasped and blushed dark red.
“Danika Bellefleur!” Sookie said loudly, looking at the young fairy as if she’d just shared state secrets.
“What?” Danika asked.
“You shouldn’t share Andy’s private thoughts like that,” Sookie admonished.
“Well—he’s been projecting them all day,” Danika defended. “He loves Holly! I don’t know why he’s pretending that we’re the reason why he asked her to move in.” She frowned and looked at me. “Are all men so dumb about their feelings?”
“Absolutely,” I said, chuckling at the girl’s brazenness and her lack of discretion.
Sookie gave me a “look” which made clear that my encouragement wasn’t welcome before getting us back on topic. “Anyway, in addition to Holly’s boys not being here yet, Arlene and Terry are working until closing at Merlotte’s,” she informed. “Plus, we didn’t want to take the girls over there until you were awake.”
I nodded in agreement. “I’ve already set into motion the transfer of the estate to Andy,” I shared. “Hopefully, it will be prepared by the time Ian gets here. Then, Thalia, Ian, and I will take Andy to the Compton mansion. Once he’s the official owner, vampires won’t be able to get in without an invitation. And—once all other residents are present—the girls will teleport to their father and the wards will be set.”
“Daddy’s gonna argue about your giving him a mansion,” Danika chuckled.
I shrugged. “He will relent, especially when I point out that the house is already equipped to protect you.”
“What about meeting Thalia?” Danika urged.
The young woman was studying me with a combination of trust and determination.
“You’ll meet her after dinner,” I said decisively. “You and your sisters are to be examined by Dr. Ludwig tonight—correct?”
She frowned, but nodded.
“After Ludwig makes sure you are all well—you will ALL shower carefully to get the scent of the Claudes off of you.”
Braelyn entered the kitchen in that moment. “Okay,” she said, speaking out her and her sisters’ agreement to the plan. Apparently, she’d been following the conversation telepathically.
“And—after Sookie’s examination—Danika and I will meet Thalia on the porch.”
“And I will monitor her emotions the whole time,” Adilyn said.
“And—since I have the farthest range with my telepathy, I’ll keep an ear out for any other threats,” Braelyn contributed.
“And I’ll teleport back inside if Addy senses Thalia getting twitchy or if something gets through the wards,” Danika said.
I chuckled. Indeed, the three did seem to be learning how to best pool their abilities. With Charlaine, they would have been unstoppable, I thought sadly.
“And I’ll be there too—with my light at the ready,” Sookie added protectively.
All three girls smiled at her. “Thanks, Sookie! Thanks, Eric!”
The girls quickly bustled out of the room when Holly instructed them to tell everyone that dinner was ready.
Each of the girls stopped to give me a kiss on the cheek before they left the kitchen.
“Will I need another Polaroid of him?” Amelia asked with a smirk as she looked in my direction.
I looked closely at the witch for the first time. I knew enough about her biographical information to recognize that she looked young for her age; in fact, she appeared to be only slightly older than the girls, and they looked to be in their late teens or early twenties. However, Amelia also seemed knowing; my mother would have said that she seemed possess the spirits of her ancestors. Humans today might label her as an “old soul.”
“Polaroid?” I asked.
“You’re likely to be the cornerstone of any place you go,” Amelia chuckled before leaving the room, kissing Sookie’s cheek on the way out and telling her that she was going to go find Maria-Star, who was currently patrolling the property, in order to “make her eat.” In turn, Sookie made sure that Amelia knew that she was “required” to spend the night in Bon Temps because she didn’t want to worry about her falling asleep at the wheel.
As Amelia left the room, I looked at Sookie with a frown. “Polaroid?” I asked again.
A/N: Eek. Too much grading to write a proper author’s note today. Sorry. But I hope you enjoyed this chapter.
I do have news on the story front. I have a new work in the cauldron, and the good news is that it’s completely drafted (though in the process of being revised). That means that-once I unleash it-it will be more “regular” than my other stories, which are languishing in writer’s block. The new story is called Time After Time (you can see the summary HERE), and I’m planning to get it to you at a rate of TWO chapters a week after it begins! I hope you will be on the look-out for it.