While “the girls” had showered to rid themselves of the sweet scents of the “Claudes,” I had taken Thalia another bag of blood—though for someone her age—drinking three bags’ worth in a single night was considered gorging. However, Thalia hadn’t complained at all as she’d taken blood-bag three gratefully and “made room” for its contents.
From the porch, I could sense Danika approaching the front door with Sookie, and I yelled out for them to wait for a moment. I inhaled deeply, making sure that there were no outside threats in the area. The wards had added to my peace of mind; however, I would hold off on making my final assessment of them until I’d actually seen them working. The additional Were guards were a comfort too, but in all honesty, I knew that a fairy-vampire hybrid—especially one who was old enough to have been made by Lilith—could make very quick work of the Weres if he wanted to.
“Are you ready?” I asked Thalia. “In control?”
The vampiress allowed herself to inhale. “I can smell her from here; she smells sweet, but I am in control.”
Thalia motioned for Tray and Brady to have their guns at the ready just in case.
When everyone was in position, I opened the front door and led Danika onto the porch.
The half-fairy smiled at the vampiress. “My sisters and I want you to know that we trust you. We know you’d never hurt us,” she opened.
Thalia frowned. “Then you are all naïve.”
Danika took a step toward the vampiress. “No. I’m listening to my sister, Addy, right now. She’s an empath, and she has the same feeling about you as we all do about Eric; he isn’t tempted to harm us. Are you?” the sassy young fairy asked with challenge in her tone.
“I am a vampire. You and your sisters are fairies. Vampires and fairies are natural enemies,” Thalia asserted firmly. “Eric is the exception; he’s immune because of Sookie.”
“And you are immune because you want to be,” Danika said. “You just need to be convinced that you won’t hurt us,” she added just as firmly.
“You don’t know me,” Thalia said. “You can’t trust me.”
With a scoff, Danika cut her palm with a knife she’d concealed in her pocket. I crouched, ready to attack if Thalia moved, even as the scent of half-fairy blood cascaded into the air.
“Now you’re trying not to breathe,” Danika smirked. I could see her eyes lighting up. “You won’t know if you can behave if you don’t breathe. And, remember, I’ll pop back into the house if you come for me. I swear it!”
In that moment, I truly recognized the fact that Danika had just as much bravery and moxie—along with a potentially foolhardy lack of self-preservation and stubbornness—as Sookie had.
My son—whichever one she’d “chosen”—was in for one hell of a ride! And he was as lucky as his “old man”—as far as I was concerned.
Thalia clearly didn’t agree with my positive assessment of Danika’s tactics.
“Foolish girl!” the vampiress yelled out, still clearly refusing to breathe.
“Inhale,” Sookie growled, “so that the foolish girl can prove her point and then get healed!” I could feel that my wife was frustrated by both the Bellefleur girls’ plan and Thalia’s stubbornness. However, Sookie’s hands were not lit up. Clearly, like Danika, she trusted Thalia not to act against the young fairy.
Her expression pained, Thalia looked at me for permission to take Danika’s test.
I nodded. “I won’t let you hurt her. I swear it.”
Looking as afraid as I’d ever seen her, Thalia breathed in. Knowing that Warlow had killed her part-fairy children, I could understand well Thalia’s reluctance and fear.
But I was confident that she wouldn’t try to attack Danika. Thalia had been a vampire for more than a millennium, but she had never been a monster.
The proof was in the fact that she’d insisted that two guns containing bullets lethal to vampires were being pointed at her—because she’d asked for them to be.
I could tell the moment Thalia had taken in the half-fairy’s bloody scent because of the surprise in my cousin’s expression.
Danika grinned widely. “See? Now, heal me,” she said, holding out her hand.
“Danny, that’s too much; don’t push it!” Sookie snarled, and I suddenly became aware that Sookie had known about the young woman’s plan to cut herself.
“Stubborn, obstinate fairies,” I muttered in my wife’s direction. She knew that I would have tried to talk Danika out of the experiment.
Sookie winked at me, and then spoke to Danny again. “It’s enough that she’s not tempted to attack you despite your wound. You and your sisters have proven your point.”
And—with that—Sookie proved that she could heal more than just a vampire possessed by a witch as she held her palm over Danika’s. I could see a faint greenish glow emitting from Sookie’s hand, and—while it was certainly not like the darker emerald color which Adilyn naturally produced—I could tell from Danika’s expression that the light was healing her.
“You and your complicated light,” Danika muttered.
“Thank you,” Thalia said to Sookie with a little bow once the cut was fully healed.
Danika smiled at Thalia as she wiped the blood off of her hand with a handkerchief that Sookie handed her.
“My sisters and I wanna hire you!” the young fairy said to Thalia decisively.
“Hire? Me?” Thalia asked, her eyes betraying confusion, amusement, and a good deal of relief.
“Daddy’s thinkin’ about quitting being the sheriff in order to stay with us all the time—even though he’d never be able to protect us from Warlow or any vampires really,” Danika conveyed quietly.
“He is your father,” Thalia said. “His concern is understandable.”
“But he loves his job, and my sisters and I aren’t gonna be able to pretend like we’re still little girls for too much longer. We figure that—once we’re living in the place across the cemetery—we’ll be pretty safe because of the wards. And—with you as our guard—Daddy will go back to work full time.”
“Your father would trust a vampire—after what was done to your sister?” Thalia asked darkly.
“If Eric says we’re safe with you, Daddy will believe him. Plus, Daddy’s not really worried about vampires. He’s worried about Warlow. He’s cool that way.”
“He should be worried about most vampires,” Thalia warned.
“But he doesn’t have to worry about you!” she triumphed. “My sisters and I just proved that. And—once we kill Warlow,” she said with an edge to her voice, which demonstrated that she would kill the faepire herself if she could, “then you’ll definitely be able to deal with any vampires who try to hurt us. And Daddy won’t have to worry at all!” she added with a satisfied smile.
“And how do you propose to hire me? To pay me?” Thalia asked, no longer able to withhold her smirk at the young one’s audacity. I couldn’t hold in mine either.
Danika—it struck me—would make an amazing envoy, and I planned to try to employ her to be one of my aides. Being a small-town policeman like her father wouldn’t allow her to adequately show off her negotiation skills. Oh—she wouldn’t be able to work with vampires; however, I knew she’d be amazing at bending Weres or humans or fairies to her will. I could already imagine all the ways that she could save me time and effort when it came to Area 5 or kingdom business.
“The Claudes told us that our otherwise useless mother had done right by us in one way,” Danika smirked. “She left us some jewels! So—whatever Eric’s paying you to help guard us—my sisters and I will double it!”
“Done,” Thalia said with a smirk.
“What?” Danika asked.
“I’m not paying her anything. Thalia volunteered to help,” I informed.
Danika’s mouth gaped in surprise. “Adilyn said that you were a good person, but I . . . ,” she stammered.
“I am not good,” Thalia corrected. “And I have more money than I would ever need. But I will require two things of you and your sisters.”
“What are they?” Danika asked, clearly in negotiator mode again.
“A resting place and obedience,” Thalia stated.
“Obedience?” Danika asked with a deep frown.
“When it comes to your safety? Yes! If I tell you or Adilyn to teleport, you will grab Braelyn and “pop” with her to a predetermined area—preferably into a human-owned home and/or behind silver.”
“But we are learning to fight,” the little half-fairy said insistently.
“And I will teach you all that I know about combat as well. By the time I am done, you will all be able to wield swords almost as well as the Viking,” she said, motioning toward me. “And I will also teach you how to use other weapons better suited to your size: shuriken and the like.”
“Shuriken?” Danika asked.
“A ninja throwing star,” I responded.
“Ninja?” Danika asked, demonstrating a lack of knowledge—finally.
It was about time.
“Don’t worry. You will learn,” Thalia said. “And I will allow you and your sisters to join into fights whenever the odds are in our favor, but I won’t risk losing you,” she averred, her voice suddenly thick with emotion that I was quite sure originated for maternal instincts which were older than I was.
Adilyn suddenly “popped” in next to Danika—with Braelyn in tow.
“We agree!” Adilyn said, poking Danika in the side. Clearly the two more skilled telepaths had been monitoring the “business meeting.”
I noticed that Thalia took a long breath, allowing herself to smell all of the girls together. Again she looked surprised that she wasn’t tempted to harm them.
Sookie chuckled. “Thalia, you are welcome to come into the house.”
Before my vampire cousin could react to her invitation, a vehicle turned onto Hummingbird Lane. I inhaled deeply.
“Ian,” I informed. “Brady, Tray,” I said significantly.
To their credit, both Weres discerned what I wanted without another word and turned their silver/wooden-bullet-shooting firearms toward the driveway, though they likely couldn’t hear the vehicle yet.
Thalia was in front of the girls not a moment later. “Danika and Adilyn, you will teleport inside with Braelyn immediately if I tell you to do so. Do you understand?”
Braelyn, usually so timid—unless it was with Jason—leaned forward to kiss Thalia’s cheek.
I’d never seen my vampire cousin look more shocked than in that moment.
“We knew you’d take care of us. Thank you,” Braelyn smiled.
Thalia shook her head a little and then turned around, ready to forcefully stop Ian if he couldn’t control himself. Though he was old, and I had faith in him, I, too, was ready to stop him from getting to the girls. So was Sookie—if her lit-up palms were any indication.
As he exited the SUV Maria-Star had been driving, Ian was “welcomed” by the sounds of two guns being cocked and two sets of fangs engaging.
“You all really know how to greet a guy,” Ian chuckled as he approached the porch slowly. He wasn’t upset—merely curious.
From behind him,” Maria-Star un-holstered and cocked her own weapon.
“And I thought we were getting along, Maria,” he grinned looking over his shoulder, “even if you refused to have sex with me.”
“Oh—we are getting along,” she smirked.
“I thought you were with Jessica,” Sookie said angrily. “You’d better not be stringing her along!”
Ian raised his hands as if in surrender, though he’d yet to react to all of the people who were overtly threatening him. “Oh—I’m not. I swear. I am committed to Jessica for the time being. I was just having some fun teasing Maria,” he added with a conspiratorial wink at my bonded.
“Maria-Star,” the Were corrected.
Ian chuckled and took another step toward the porch. “I’m being tested with the half-Fae girls—correct?” he asked.
“Yes,” I returned.
“Very well then,” he said. He’d stopped his forward progress right in front of the steps to the porch. “I’m going to inhale now,” he alerted, winking at the girls. “Don’t be too scared; I don’t intend to eat you.”
“Scared?” Danika asked with a scoff, her hands lighting up. Braelyn followed her sister’s lead.
Ian chuckled and looked at me. “Never a dull moment around you, Viking.”
I smirked. “Not in a while.”
Ian seemed to steel himself and then closed his eyes and inhaled. Immediately, his body tensed, and his fangs snapped downward.
I was pretty certain that he wouldn’t have passed Danika’s “blood test,” but he stayed exactly where he was.
“Wonderful. Sweet. Tempting,” he sighed. “But,” he added as he put away his fangs, “I won’t harm you, though I won’t be doing much breathing around you either.”
Two gun hammers were disengaged. Ian turned back around to Maria-Star. “Really!?” he asked indignantly. “Thirty minutes of amazing conversation, and you are the last to trust me?”
Maria-Star chuckled as she un-cocked her gun too.
A moment later, Claude popped onto the porch, not hiding his scent at all. Thalia tensed, but—interestingly enough—Braelyn’s hand on her back seemed to still and calm her.
I shook my head. Likely, Braelyn had an “undiscovered” fairy gift. Hell—the girl was so sweet and patient that she likely could inspire the same things in others.
If only she could inspire intelligence in Jason.
As opposed to Thalia, Ian was literally trembling as he inhaled the candy-like scent of Claude. Of course, the two had met when Sookie and I had wed, but Claude’s scent had been completely covered up at the time.
“Now—you won’t be safe in my presence for long at all if you keep smelling like that,” Ian slurred drunkenly.
“For the moment, I’m out of the potion which covers my scent,” Claude returned nonchalantly. “Luckily, you don’t need to breathe.
Ian shook his head as if to clear it and put away his fangs again. Clearly, he’d stopped inhaling. “You are just no fun, Claude. None at all.”
“Any news about Niall?” I asked, knowing that Claude had intended to search for him that day.
“A lead, but I thought I would check in before I followed it up. I might be gone for a day or so. The Claudes will be spending the day with the girls tomorrow for added protection and for training. Will they be here?”
“Yes,” I replied, even as Danika said, “no.”
“I thought we were going to move into Daddy’s new mansion once it’s warded,” Danika commented.
“You will return here after the wards are set—at least until the effectiveness of the wards are confirmed. I don’t like dividing the defenses,” I explained.
Danika sighed. “But we can’t live here indefinitely. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Warlow will come back for a while. What if we agree to stay inside the new house and teleport straight to the cubby if anything bad happens?” she negotiated.
“Truth is—it’s a little crowded here,” Adilyn said a little sheepishly. “I mean—we like it here and all, but—um . . . .”
“Daddy snores,” Danika pronounced.
“Plus, we don’t like the idea of Uncle Terry and Aunt Arlene being alone,” Braelyn said. “And there’s no room for Holly and her boys here.”
I growled, but relented. “Fine—as long as the transfer of ownership gets completed tonight,”I said, pulling out my phone to text Cataliades for an update. Immediately, he texted back that the paperwork was almost ready; he was just waiting for a dollar amount for the property.
I texted him back that the sale amount would be a dollar. Hell—if Andy didn’t have any cash on hand, I’d lend it to him myself! And if the Authority accountants didn’t like it, they could kiss my ass. Of course, even if Nora was currently unreliable, I had enough friends on the Authority Council not to have to worry about any punishment for “mishandling kingdom monies.”
I smirked as I texted Cataliades to begin drawing up rental agreements for the apartments that Compton had had built for his guards and staff along the perimeter of his property. He had “needed” the dwellings so that the “regular workers” wouldn’t “sully” his humongous mansion by dwelling inside of it.
Fucking idiot! In this case, his idiocy was going to serve me well.
Of course, the Authority accountants would likely have conniption fits when I began using “kingdom money” to pay the Bellefleurs “rent” for the use of property I was selling for “nothing.”
I chuckled softly, already anticipating telling them to take up their complaints with Ian.
In addition to the amusement I would gain from riling the pencil pushers (and my old friend), paying the Bellefleur family rent to house the guards I intended to keep as “live-in” staff would have several benefits. One—I wouldn’t have to worry about building similar structures on my and Sookie’s land. Two—I could financially help the Bellefleur family without it seeming like charity.
The girls might have inherited a small fortune from their fairy mother, but I doubted Andy would allow them to use it to take care of the family’s basic needs. The man had too much pride.
From what I could tell, neither Terry nor Andy had a lot of money. According to Sookie, the Bellefleur family had once been very rich, but the matriarch, Caroline, who was currently “wintering” in the south of France, didn’t “share the wealth” and seemed determined to go through what was left of it before she died. Any remaining money, as well as the Bellefleur mansion, would—according to Sookie—likely be passed on to the only one of her grandchildren who met with Caroline Bellefleur’s approval: Portia.
Indeed, giving Andy and Terry the Compton mansion and renting the outer buildings from them would help the likeable members of the Bellefleur clan get out from under the thumb of the old matriarch. And I didn’t doubt that Andy would soon celebrate his independence by asking for Holly’s hand.
Another bonus would be creating a little “community” around my bonded—but one that was far enough away that she wouldn’t be required to use her mental shields all the time. Though my blood and her increasing power had helped her telepathy not to be such a negative for Sookie anymore, I wanted her to be able to completely relax when she and I were in our home. However, at heart, Sookie was a social person. Like her grandmother, she enjoyed having “company” and “visiting.” With her friends Holly and Arlene living nearby, she would have people she could gossip with whenever she wished. Plus, I could see her becoming friends with the girls as they grew more into their “adulthood.”
Of course, selfishly speaking, “housing” the Were guards away from my family ensured that I’d have my wife and children all to myself sometimes! With the Warlow threat looming indefinitely, we might never be completely without guards on our property, but I was confident that there would be a time when Sookie and I could resume a more “normal” life. Our guards would be minutes away. Plus, I’d studied the property lines when I’d bought Sookie’s home. The Stackhouse and Compton properties were mostly separated by the cemetery; however, there was an area of about thirty feet where they touched. At the moment, that area was thick with trees. But it would be easy enough to create a pathway through the grove so that the Bellefleur and Northman families could pass from property to property without ever being out of Amelia’s wards.
In fact, I would instruct Brady to have his people work on creating a path as soon as the wards were set at the “new” Bellefleur place. And—once Flood’s people arrived and were settled—I’d see if any of them had landscaping experience so that the pathway could be made more “welcome.” Otherwise, I’d hire the same company I’d used to do the landscaping around Sookie and my home.
Yes—I was liking the situation more and more. Not only would I not have to use Bill’s palatial estate for business, but also the Bellefleurs would surely redecorate it in a way that reflected the eclectic styles of a dozen people. And—by doing so—they would remove all evidence of Bill’s ostentatious “performance” of Southern gentility from the world.
And that was a happy thought indeed.
As I’d mused, the others had made plans for the next day. And then Brady had flirted with Ian. And then Claude had flirted with Ian. And then Claude and Brady had teamed up to flirt with Ian, going so far as to suggest an inter-species threesome.
I chuckled. Though it was rare for a vampire of Ian’s age not to have experimented with all kinds of sexual encounters, I knew that my friend had not yet gone through a homosexual phase. Hell—even I’d experimented in that arena, first with Godric and then with a few others. However, once the novelty had worn off, I realized that I missed the parts of a woman too much to forego them during a sexual encounter.
Ian had always been a strict lover of women—often several at once. Of course, he wasn’t above “flirting” with his close friends, but his innuendo never went very far. Clearly, Claude and Brady had pushed my friend’s limits.
I heard Sookie laugh next to me as she obviously noticed the same thing. Unsurprisingly, Thalia was still vigilantly watching Ian for any signs of trouble as the girls giggled at the antics of “Uncle Claude” and Brady.
“Well, it’s your loss,” Claude said with a wink at Ian, who’d just turned down participating in a “private party with fairy blood and everything” for a third time. Indeed, the promise of fairy blood had almost changed Ian’s mind, but—of course—he knew that Claude was joking. There was no way the wily fairy would put himself into a situation where a vampire could bite at him—unless, ironically enough, it was me.
Having been “rejected,” Claude “popped” next to Sookie and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek—before doing the same to me.
“I’ll tell the Claudes to ‘pop’ here first tomorrow—just to make sure that all is well.” He looked at Sookie seriously. “Since I will not be here, two of the Claudes will stay with you during the day as extra protection, and the other three will go over to the girls’ new home to work with them.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said with a sincere smile at her fairy cousin.
“Where’s my kiss?” Brady grumbled at Claude.
The fairy blew a kiss towards Brady and then another towards Ian before he looked back at his cousin.
“I’ll be back in time to help to greet the little ones—hopefully with Niall in tow,” he promised before teleporting away.
A/N: Sorry a little late with this one. I was working on grading.
I hope that you enjoyed!
Thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse!
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