A/N: This chapter should be read after “INNER-Lude 9—Warlow.”
Vampires didn’t get physically tired during a hunt, but they could get mentally frustrated.
As I landed on the porch to the house, I was definitely that.
“Sookie waited up,” Brady said softly, though I could feel my wife’s tension lessening in the bond even then. She’d managed to stay relatively calm during my “outing,” but I’d felt her probing the bond to check on me every few minutes.
“Amelia kept her company; she was worried about Maria-Star too. They watched old, sad movies so they had an excuse to cry when they needed to,” Brady added without judgment.
I nodded in acknowledgment. Sookie’s hormones already kept her on edge—without the dangers we faced.
“Lafayette visited for a couple of hours too,” Brady said with a twinkle in his eyes and a smirk. “He refused to cry, saying he didn’t want to risk his mascara. You know, I like him—very much.”
I chuckled, feeling my tension draining a little. “You and Lafayette?”
Of course, my wife’s low, pleasant conversation with Amelia as she waited for me to come inside was another reason for the lessening of my frustration.
“Hmmm,” Brady responded with a shrug. “I flirt with the Jasons and Ians of the world, and I’m friends with the Claudes and the Erics, but—if I have a type—Lafayette is it.”
“Glitter, head scarves, nail polish, and enough eye shadow and mascara to keep the shelves at the nearest Wal-Mart empty?” I chuckled again. “To each his own.”
Brady rolled his eyes. “That’s just his fabulous surface level,” he grinned. “Lafayette is also handsome, and his eyes are soulful enough to fill up any empty spots I have—and you know I have a few. He was willing to admit that he was being an ass to a friend and willing to beg for her forgiveness. Plus, your bonded clearly thinks the world of him—an unquestionable point in his favor.”
I chuckled. “I cannot argue with you on that point. Lafayette has made some dubious choices in the past, but he was one of the few to accept Sookie without judgment—even when they were children.”
“Another point for him,” Brady smiled. “Plus, he’s got a big enough cock for me to clearly see the outline of it through his jeans!”
I chuckled heartily.
“I just hope he’s both a ‘shower’ and a ‘grower,'” the Were added.
“Just don’t break each other,” I smirked. “Sookie wouldn’t forgive me if I allowed such a thing to happen.”
Brady laughed. “No promises.”
“Anything new to report?” I asked, though I already knew that Warlow had left no new scents in the area.
“It’s been quiet here, except for one thing,” Brady answered.
“What?” I asked, immediately on alert.
“One of our people picked up an unknown Were scent—about an hour ago,” Brady indicated.
“A scout—for Warlow or someone else?” I asked.
“Maybe. I had Mustapha track the Were. The trail led to a road at the edge of the cemetery.” His eyebrow rose. “It seems she came right up to the edge of the wards and then was stopped.” He smirked. “There was an indentation in the ground about fifty feet from the property line—an ass print.”
“So the wards worked,” I observed.
“Yes. Clearly, whomever the Were was had bad intentions,” he added.
“A female?” I asked. “You are certain?”
“Yeah. Do you know any female Weres who might have a problem with Sookie? Or with you?”
“Maybe,” I contemplated. “Debbie Pelt, a Were-bitch who was jealous of Sookie because of her friendship with Alcide, was killed in this house when she tried to shoot Sookie. In fact, Tara was turned into a vampire because of Debbie’s actions.”
One of Brady’s eyebrows rose in question.
“Debbie had a sister,” I explained, “but I haven’t had the chance to follow up on her whereabouts. It’s possible that she’s searching for revenge, and I wouldn’t put it past Herveaux to have told her all the details of her sister’s death—if she asked Herveaux before Thalia glamoured him last night.”
“Would you be able to recognize her scent?” Brady asked.
I shook my head. “No. I was familiar with Debbie’s scent, but the sister was adopted by the Pelts, according to my information.”
“What’s her name?” Brady asked. “I’ll run a search on her.”
“Sandra Pelt,” I relayed. “I will check out the scene regardless.”
Brady nodded. “Mustapha is still in the vicinity,” he said as he went to one of his computers.
Within moments I had zipped to Mustapha’s side. The Were was watching the woods with sharp eyes.
“Anything new?” I asked, even as I picked up the Were scent. Unfortunately, it was completely unfamiliar to me.
“No,” Mustapha reported. “The property’s square footage is too large for us to have eyes everywhere,” he conveyed. “But Brady has ordered some motion-sensor cameras, which should be installed by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Good,” I said, before zipping back to Brady. “I didn’t recognize the scent,” I communicated to him.
“And, with my initial search, I found very little information on Sandra Pelt, beyond her DMV photo,” Brady said.
“I’ve seen it,” I stated. “Make sure the others get copies, however.”
My Were friend nodded.
“I’ll dig deeper and have a more complete report waiting when you rise tomorrow. At least we know that she cannot enter the wards.”
I nodded. “But the presence of an unknown Were is yet another reason for Sookie to stay within the wards tomorrow.”
“Agreed,” Brady concurred. “I’ve also continued my search for information on ‘Ben Flynn.’ I now have footage from the hospital cameras. Their system took me a while to hack.”
“You were stymied by a computer system in the sticks?” I teased.
He rolled his eyes. “Yes. It was surprisingly complicated since the security company has changed owners several times.”
As Brady opened his other computer, I moved quickly to take my first look at Warlow. The security footage was somewhat grainy, but the picture was clear enough.
My enemy looked to be 5’10” or 5’11”. He had short, dark brown hair and an angular face, which was tempered somewhat by a goatee. His eyes were blue, and—as soon as Warlow noticed the video camera—he pierced it with them as if angry.
As if he knew that I’d eventually be seeing him through the recorded image.
“Make sure all of our people see this image,” I said.
“I had just captured the clearest image of him when I smelled that you were returning. I will sharpen it and then email it to our team,” Brady promised.
“Include the shifter and Lafayette,” I instructed, “as well as Andy, Holly, Terry Bellefleur, Arlene Bellefleur, and Jason. And Pam, Tara, and Willa. And the Claudes if they have phones. Anyone this bastard might try to hurt, manipulate, or coerce,” I added with a growl, even as I moved away from Brady’s computer so that I wouldn’t “kill it” as my foe’s proxy.
“I’ll make sure they all get the Sandra Pelt packet too,” he said evenly.
I took a moment to calm down and consider the other enemies my wife and I might have. As soon as we neutralized one, another seemed to pop up.
“Any information on Nora?” I asked.
“The plane she has been using for travel took off from New Orleans about two hours ago. Its flight plan will take it to Sacramento. I’ve called Isabel, asking her to confirm when Nora arrives at Authority Headquarters—though that might not be until tomorrow night.”
“Can we confirm that Nora got on the plane?” I asked skeptically.
“No,” Brady said with a shake of his head. “I hacked into the surveillance at the private airport she used, but the feed went only as far as the hangar, and the limo’s windows were tinted. Given what I know of her, I won’t let up on the surveillance until we know exactly where she is.”
I nodded in agreement.
“I do know that she met with General Michaels for a few hours after the press conference,” Brady informed. “Nora had already sent information about the meeting to all the Chancellors by the time I called Isabel.”
“Yes. Ian received the report during our search,” I confirmed.
“Maybe Nora’s visit to Louisiana was what it seemed to be then,” Brady said cautiously.
“It had better have been—for her sake,” I said with a slight snarl. I was done with giving Nora chances to adjust her own attitude. “I’ve instructed Ian to patrol between here and the Bellefleur house until near-dawn,” I told my lead guard. “I’ll make sure that Sookie issues his invitation since the girls are no longer living here.”
“I already did,” Sookie said as she rushed out onto the porch and flung herself into my arms. “Just in case I fell asleep before you got back.”
“You needn’t have gotten up. I feel your weariness,” I said to her quietly.
“I was tired of waiting for you to get done with your report thingy,” she returned.
I kissed my wife’s forehead and felt the rest of my frustration melt away as she managed to curve her growing body perfectly against mine.
“Any luck with your hunt?” she asked.
“No traces of Warlow,” I responded.
Her feelings were a mix of disappointment and relief. She was disappointed that we’d found nothing, but relieved that we were safe.
“Get some sleep after dawn,” I ordered Brady.
He nodded without argument. “I’ll text Tray and Maria-Star to get some sleep. Once they do and relieve me, I’ll sleep for a while.”
After nodding to acknowledge the Were, I lifted Sookie into my arms and carried her into the house. Amelia was sitting on the couch and smiled at me upon our entry.
“Maria-Star is waiting at the Bellefleur property line for you,” I told her.
“Thanks. I’ll be heading over there then,” she said with a smile toward Sookie. “See you tomorrow when I get back from packing things up.”
Sookie returned the smile, but hers was laced with a yawn. I could feel my wife’s weariness now that her adrenaline and worry had subsided.
“Packing things up?” I asked Sookie as I set her onto our bed.
“Since you put her on retainer, Amelia’s gonna go home and pack up some stuff for herself and Maria-Star. Andy already told Amelia that they could stay in one of the apartments over there.”
I closed the door and activated the security for our room. Immediately, Sookie stood up.
“Before I get comfy, I wanna pee and brush my teeth.” She giggled. “Not that it will matter much. Your sons seem to be enjoying taking turns making me practically wet myself.”
I chuckled as I preset the light-tight shutters to close ten minutes before dawn.
Sookie leaned out of the bathroom with her toothbrush in her hand. She shook it at me. “When they are bad, they are yours.”
I laughed. “I can live with that.”
She rolled her eyes at me and then disappeared back into the bathroom. “I’m glad you hired Amelia,” she said. “I really like her! But I’m glad my shields have become stronger since we bonded. She’s as honest as they come, but she’s a really loud broadcaster. Her thoughts match her words so directly that it’s as if she speaks with an echo!”
“As soon as I saw her preparing the wards for the Bellefleur house, I knew she’d be good to have around,” I said as Sookie brushed her teeth. “And—since she’s loud—I’m glad that you didn’t invite her to stay here.”
Sookie spit and leaned out again. “That’s why I didn’t invite her. That and because there’s no room for her to have privacy with Maria-Star here—not with Mustapha, Tray, and Brady using my old room as their resting places.”
“Actually, Tray and Mustapha have been assigned one of the apartments. But I want Brady to stay here for a bit longer.”
“Okay,” she said, her word muffled by her toothbrush and paste.
“You are really okay with that?” I asked.
“Yeah. For now, at least. I’d be fine with Tray and Mustapha stayin’ here too, but it’s good they’ll have their own space. And I really like Brady. I’m glad that the other Weres—the new ones—will be using the apartments between their shifts though. They’ll have a lot more space, and—honestly—I haven’t really talked to them much. Other than to read their thoughts, of course, when they first got here—just to check out their intentions.”
Of course she’d evaluated them. I smiled. My warrior wife.
“And our house is for family,” she added before sticking her toothbrush back into her mouth.”
I chuckled. It hadn’t take long at all for Sookie to decide that Tray, Brady, and Mustapha were “family,” and I was certain that Maria-Star and Amelia were included in that group too. On the contrary, by design, the “new” Weres were staying on the perimeter of our property—and our lives—though I was confident in Brady’s assessment that they were competent and trustworthy.
What Sookie didn’t know was that I was paying a handsome rate to rent all of Andy’s apartment space, except for the space above the garage. As Amelia had set the wards, I’d learned that each of the five apartments was even larger than I’d thought—more prefabricated homes than apartments. Each had three modestly-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, an open kitchen/dining room, and a utility room. Thus, there was more than enough space—even for our current large force—thanks to Bill’s inability to share any of his large home.
“Fucking antebellum twat,” I muttered to myself.
After spitting and rinsing off her toothbrush, Sookie peeked around the corner again. “What was that?”
“In addition to the apartments for Maria-Star and Amelia, as well as for Mustapha and Tray, I’ve also already rented three other apartments from Andy.”
“Rented?” Sookie asked.
I smirked. “Indeed. And at a fair market price too.”
“Sneaky vampire,” she muttered with a smirk.
I ignored her comment, sensing that she was happy that I was helping out the Bellefleurs by providing them with extra income. “Hopefully, Maria-Star and Amelia can be convinced to stay on permanently. And Mustapha and Brady as well. I’m sure that Tray will return to his home once he can; however, I know he intends to keep working for us.”
Sensing that I’d not answered her initial question with complete honesty, Sookie looked at me somewhat suspiciously, but then smiled. “Staying on is what Amelia wants,” she shared. “Maria-Star’s house in Shreveport is just a rental, and Maria-Star likes the idea of being a permanent guard since it’ll allow her to stay outside most of the time.”
“And once Warlow is no longer a factor and we can let loose the temporary guards, I’m sure that Brady and Mustapha will require their own apartments,” I mused. “In fact, I might as well just keep renting all the prefabs—just to have them handy. Unless the girls decide to use them.”
Sookie looked at me through narrowed lids. “I know you are renting the apartments to help Andy out,” she said sincerely. “Thanks.”
I smiled at my wife. “It helps us too. And I might have glamoured him to convince him to take the first rent check earlier tonight. He wasn’t expecting first and last month’s rents to be included, too.”
Sookie winked at me. “Don’t worry. I won’t let it out that you’re such a generous softie.”
I scoffed. “Shhhh. I’ve not even engaged the sound-proofing feature yet,” I smirked, making an exaggerated show of doing just that.
She chuckled and shook her head as she leaned against the frame of the bathroom door. “You know—once things settle down, I figure we’ll need only one Were on duty most of the time—as long as the boys and I are together or inside the wards. And—at night—we probably won’t need anyone when your home, though it’ll be nice to have people close by. Like on call?”
Sookie saw that I’d nodded in agreement before she went back into the bathroom to begin washing her face. In the few days of our living as a couple, I had already learned that she hated to go to sleep without doing that—even if she’d not been wearing makeup.
I smiled, enjoying the domestic situation and the practical discussion Sookie and I were having.
I’d been a husband for so short of a time that I’d not yet fully felt the role—especially given all the drama that had unfolded within the last several days. But—as I undressed for bed and my wife completed her “beauty regimen,” I felt every bit the husband.
And it felt fucking good!
“So—if we employ Brady, Mustapha, Maria-Star and Tray full-time,” she said, her voice vibrating slightly as she scrubbed, “they’d each have only one shift a day—with days off—and some leeway since we wouldn’t need them for nights.”
“Good plan,” I agreed, enjoying the fact that Sookie was preparing as if the resolution of the Warlow situation was a foregone conclusion. I liked feeling her confidence in me.
“Are the girls settling in?” she asked. I heard her opening the mouthwash bottle.
“Yeah. Even as the wards were being set, they were already planning on how to redecorate their bedrooms,” I responded.
“Is Thalia going to force them to live in the basement?” she asked.
“No—but they will be outfitting a proper safe-room down there. And Andy’s planning on making changes to some other rooms in the house too. Thank the gods,” I added, muttering the last bit.
“What was that?” she asked me.
“Just that Bill’s taste was for shit,” I continued muttering.
Sookie poked her head around the doorframe, the capful of mouthwash she had poured in hand.
“I just had a thought that I might arrange for a truck to haul away the furnishings the Bellefleurs don’t want—for charity,” I replied innocently.
“Then why do you feel so evil right now?” she smirked.
Because I was imagining making a new bed for my gator farm out of the mattress and linens from Bill’s bedroom—as well as all those horrible matchy, matchy robes he kept.
Of course, I didn’t say that part aloud.
“Actually, I am feeling amorous,” I said, changing the subject altogether. And, indeed, my lust did spike every time I saw her ripening body.
“I’m sexy when I gurgle?” she chuckled, lifting her mouthwash in a mock toast.
“Especially then, lover.”
A/N: I’m so sorry that I didn’t get this to you sooner! A lot has been going on in my life, including the fact that my old computer fizzled. I thought I’d backed up everything on my external hard drive, but when I opened this piece, it was only at Chapter 25! Ouch. For a moment, I thought that so much work was lost. Of course, I could always copy and paste from the chapters I’d already posted, but I had this one and another done and two more drafted. The good news is that Kleannhouse had already beta’d this one and the next, so I was able to get them. But it took a while to get things organized. And-of course-there’s no way to get back the items that were still in rough draft form! Growl!
Luckily, all my other WIP seem to have been saved correctly. I’ll post Chapter 37 next week, but then this one will have to take a break. That said, I’m doing my best to work on and finish Not Without Action, so I plan to recommence posting that one next week as well. Sorry for all the delays. The muse hasn’t dried up, but she’s being fickle about certain stories; plus, there always seems to be a pile of grading or laundry to do. Darn it, real life!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I have to say that my favorite part of writing this piece has been constructing the “domestic” moments between Eric and Sookie since they got together.
Until the next,
Many thanks to kleannhouse and Sephrenia!!
NOTE: The back button will take you to INNER-Lude 9–Warlow since that comes chronologically before this chapter. To go to chapter 35, click HERE.