It was well after 1:00 p.m. when Sookie next stirred. The kitten was sleeping on its back, its little body stretched out against her husband’s unmoving side. As she moved, so did it; he looked lazily up at Eric and rubbed against his hand.
Sookie sat up and then picked up the kitten to cuddle him. “Don’t wake daddy,” she scolded quietly, taking in Eric’s sleeping form. She sighed longingly and added, “No matter how tempted we might all be to do it.”
Sookie grabbed her robe off the end of the bed and put the kitten back down. It followed her as she got up to take a quick shower. She quickly dressed in sweat pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt, her normal attire for her last few comfortable days with Eric as they’d tried to recover from the Debbie Pelt episode. She quickly dried her hair and put it into a lose bun. She returned to the bedroom and gave her dead-to-the-world husband a quick kiss on the cheek before heading downstairs.
The kitten followed at her heals, but—as it had done for the last several days—it refused to eat the food she poured into his bowl. She rolled her eyes at the little tabby. “You know―this habit you have of eating only when Daddy feeds you is gettin’ old real fast. It’s the same food, you know,” she chided. The kitten looked up at her disapprovingly before trotting back up the stairs with a defiant air.
With a shake of her head and a smile at the kitten’s antics, Sookie grabbed a cup of coffee and then used her telepathy to scope out what was going on outside. She ‘heard’ Miranda close by on the front porch; the Werelioness had become Sookie’s shadow every time that she had left the house in the daytime since the Debbie Pelt incident―whether it was to run to the library or to just sit outside. Sookie didn’t mind though. Miranda came off as a bit rough around the edges at first, but Sookie knew that the Werelioness would protect her to the death, and she also knew that Miranda had loved Godric and that she respected Eric. Those things alone made her a friend in Sookie’s book.
Sookie also ‘heard’ Jarod around back; she figured that he was keeping an eye on the workers. She turned her own ‘eye’ onto them and used her telepathy to listen in on their thoughts; thankfully, none of them had anything malicious in their heads. Sookie picked up on Scott Cusmano immediately. He was the Werewolf who headed the construction company that would be taking care of all the renovations. He had also been the one to do most of the work on the house right after Eric had bought it.
From his mind the previous night, Sookie knew that the fifty-two-year-old was very pleased to get more work from Eric. He had two daughters that he wanted to put through college, and this job would help him save money for that. Sookie also knew that he’d offered them a fair price for the work and that he’d given them an accurate estimate for the date of its completion. He was excited that Eric had been willing to pay his crew time and a half for carrying on their work through the weekends. He was even more thankful that Eric had given them a bonus for starting immediately; his share of that money was going straight into his girls’ college fund.
She’d liked Scott immediately, both for his fairness and for his open policy of working for vampires—despite the wishes of the previous pack master Marcus. From Scott’s brain, she’d picked up on the fact that Marcus had disapproved greatly of his construction company working for Eric the year before. She’d had to hide her smile when Scott remembered how he’d told his previous packmaster to “go fuck himself” and that he wouldn’t discriminate based on who someone was. Scott had lost some contracts with other pack members after that—due to Marcus’s interference—but he’d held his ground, and his wife had supported him for staying true to their ethics, even picking up a part-time job herself to help out financially.
Sookie had told all of this to Eric earlier—after their initial round of love-making following the meeting—and her husband had promised to make sure Scott had all the work he could handle from then on.
Sookie walked out onto the front porch. “Hey, Miranda,” she greeted. “Thanks for making the coffee.”
The Werelioness gave Sookie a smirk. “How did you know it was me and not Jarod?”
Sookie used her gift to make sure her shifter friend was still out back. She whispered, “Because yours is better.”
Miranda chuckled and nodded. “His is shit, isn’t it? I’ve told him that for years. How one can make coffee lumpy is beyond me.”
The two shared a laugh.
The Werelioness gave her report to the woman that she had come to think of as a good match for the Viking. “The workers, as I’m sure you know, are out back. They got here at 9:00 a.m. sharp and have already marked off the area for the foundation of the workshop. They are leveling the ground now and should be ready to lay the foundation by this afternoon or tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said as she took a seat on the porch swing and brought her legs up to her chest. It was a bit too chilly to sit outside for long without a coat on, but with her coffee, she decided to enjoy the sunshine for a while. Perhaps she’d even soak enough rays into her skin for Eric to enjoy the scent later. She smiled and then blushed at that thought.
Sookie and Miranda were silent for several minutes as Sookie sipped her coffee. Miranda was studying a large book. Finally, Sookie asked, “What are you reading?”
Miranda looked up and gestured toward the book. “Constitutional Law―I’m studying for the Louisiana bar exam. I’ll be taking it this February.”
Sookie sat forward a bit, “You’re gonna be a lawyer?”
Miranda laughed. “I’m one already, actually―at least in Texas. I’m studying for the Louisiana bar since we’ll be here a while.”
“But why aren’t you practicing law then? Why are you doin’ this?” Sookie gestured to herself with her freehand.
Miranda deadpanned, “This pays more.” She gave Sookie one of her patented, wry half-smiles. “Plus, I prefer doing this, and I’m very good at it.”
Sookie didn’t doubt the last part for a second.
Miranda continued, “The best thing about working for vampires is that I can pretty much be assured that they will stay out of my damned way for at least half the day; it is also,” she paused, “gratifying to be trusted with so much. Godric was a worthy employer as well—Eric too, maybe even more so in his own way—and that is difficult to find.” Her half-smile turned into a full smirk. “Moreover, Eric is smart enough not to micromanage me—as if I could be fucking micromanaged.”
Sookie smiled and then nodded in agreement. It had been difficult to find someone ‘worthy’ to work for. She’d applied for many jobs before Sam hired her, and most of the people she’d interviewed with either couldn’t stop themselves from imagining groping her or were overly influenced by the town gossip about “Crazy Sookie.” Sam had been the only one willing to give her a chance back then—at least without strings attached to that chance. If he hadn’t, she could have never helped Gran pay some back taxes which had accumulated on the farmhouse. Yes—the chance to work for a ‘worthy’ boss could be hard to come by.
Miranda continued, “And, to be honest, I don’t like the idea of being trapped in an office all day. However, I did take on a couple of cases regarding vampire property rights for Godric several years ago.” She looked at Sookie with a dry smile, “Of course, I won them. And when Weres and shifters finally come out publicly, I want to be ready to take on cases regarding their rights too.”
Sookie sat back into the swing and let her free hand trace the pattern Eric had carved into it—the Celtic love knot. “I think that’s real great.” She sighed, “Lately, I’ve been thinkin’ about whether or not I wanna go to school.”
Miranda looked at Sookie unswervingly. “It is the study I enjoy most. And I like the thought that I will be able to help my kind if need be in the future.” The Werelioness sat forward in her chair. “I think that you have an easy decision, Sookie. You either want to go to school, or you don’t. Surely, you are no longer worried about money, and I hope that you are not too proud to accept the fact that Eric can provide for all your financial needs if you decide to go to school. That is a small matter to him, I imagine. All you have to think about is whether getting an education would make you happier. I can assure you that your happiness is all he is thinking about in regards to what you do with your life.”
Sookie nodded as she took another drink. “I know.” Sookie took a deep breath. “Miranda, how dangerous is it for me to go back to work at Merlotte’s tomorrow?”
Miranda regarded Sookie seriously. “Do you want the truth, or do you want what Eric would wish for me to tell you?”
Sookie didn’t blink as she returned Miranda’s serious look. “Tell me the second one first.”
The Werelioness nodded, “He would want for me to tell you that I will do my best to protect you. He would want me to say that the decision is yours and that he will always do his best to keep you safe. He would want me to tell you that he will support you no matter what you do. And, of course, all of these things are true.”
Sookie took a deep breath, “Okay, now tell me what you think.”
Miranda gestured toward the house and said simply, “Inside.”
Sookie got up and followed Miranda into the house, knowing that the Werelioness wanted them to be safely inside the privacy spell’s scope before she continued speaking.
Sookie refilled her coffee cup, got a fresh cup for Miranda, and sat down at the dining room table in her usual seat.
Miranda accepted the coffee gratefully and sat down at the end of the table. “Sookie,” she began, “what Eric would want me to say to you is true. I would protect you as you work―protect you with my life. I would not allow you from my sight as Jarod did. You would be as safe as Eric could make you without keeping you next to his side at all times. And he will heed to your wishes. He will support you no matter what you do.”
“But?” Sookie asked perceptively.
“But―you will be more vulnerable at Merlotte’s than you would be here. I cannot assure your safety there; I can only try to do so. There will be times when someone might get to you first―before even I could, whether it be a Fellowship of the Sun member with a gun or a group of Weres that I might not be able to handle even if Merlotte stepped in to help. And you would be interacting with strangers every day, Sookie. That is part of your job. It would be impossible for me to run a background check on everyone you will be serving.”
Miranda took a deep breath. “Here is the truth, Sookie. I would not allow you to work in such an ultimately un-securable place; however, I am not Eric Northman, and I am not in love with you. He would walk through hell itself to see you smile.” She paused and looked closely at Sookie. “I would do the same for Jarod, so I cannot judge either of you.”
Sookie nodded again and took another deep breath. “Will you tell me what happened that day?”
Perceptively, Miranda understood when Sookie was referring to. “He woke up, feeling that something was wrong with your bonds, and immediately called Jarod. It was only moments after you’d been given the chloroform―I imagine―when he sent Jarod to check on you, but Debbie Pelt had already driven off with you. It all happened very fast, and though Jarod is excellent at his work—though not as good as I am,” she added with a slight smirk, “it was too late for him to stop Pelt.”
“Then what?” Sookie probed after Miranda stopped talking for a few moments.
“Then―the Viking risked the sun. He wrapped a blanket around his body; it was obvious that whatever magic you protect him with was working to some extent, but he did not feel safe from the sun’s threat until we had almost arrived at Merlotte’s and he felt its pull on him wane.”
Sookie took another deep breath, needing to know everything that Eric had been trying to hold back from her―even hold back from their bonds. She’d picked up on some of his anxiety and fear that morning; however, he’d quickly distracted her as he’d been doing all week long. “What else?”
Miranda continued, “He knew immediately that Pelt was the culprit. He called Alcide and Tray. He assessed the situation and marshaled his forces. He acted as the tactician that he has always been.”
“But?” Sookie asked again. “I know there’s more.”
Miranda nodded. “He acted as a general, but he felt as a husband, Sookie. I have known him a long time, and he saved my life before he sent me to meet Godric, both of which I owe him for. It was I who informed him when Godric went missing.” She paused, and her voice grew quieter, “Godric had shut off their bond completely by then, so much so that Eric could no longer feel his maker’s location or even be assured that he was living.”
Sookie lowered her eyes, imagining the pain that had caused Eric. “I figured as much—since he needed me to find him,” Sookie said in a sad tone.
Miranda continued in a low voice, despite the fact that they were alone in the house except for a very dead-to-the-world vampire. “I am about to tell you things that Eric does not know that I know. There are also some things that I do not wish for him to know because I would not want to see him hurt without reason. If you cannot withhold them from him, I will not tell them.”
Sookie steeled herself. “Tell me.”
Miranda nodded, “Godric talked to me once about his bond with Eric. That day, he also shared that his ability to control their bond completely―to shut it off fully if he wished—was one of his vampire gifts. He told me he closed the bond with Eric because Eric felt things so strongly that Godric found himself jealous of his child―almost to the point of bitterness—and he did not like that thought. Godric, you see, did not really allow himself to feel near the end of his life—or at least, he tried not to. His feelings came with too much guilt about the life he’d led before he turned from his violent nature. That guilt was why he grew so despondent, I think.
By contrast, Eric was never apologetic for his nature, nor was he ashamed of what he was. Godric was envious of his child because of this. He did not want Eric to feel that envy, and—I believe—Godric was tired of feeling it too. So—he simply cut off the source. He knew it wasn’t fair to Eric, but I think Godric was trying to hold on in any way that he could by that point. Of course, in letting go of Eric, one of Godric’s chief reasons for holding on was eliminated as well.”
The Werelioness sighed and then continued, “Godric also told me that he had almost always at least muffled the bond between Eric and himself―not because he didn’t love his child, but because he wanted Eric to be strong and independent on his own. But I know for sure that when Godric shut it down completely, it hurt Eric deeply.”
Sookie nodded for her to continue even as she wiped a tear from her eye.
“Eric called me about two months before Godric disappeared; he was desperate. He asked me to make sure that Godric was still alive. I knew then that Godric had closed their bond completely.” She paused. “Sookie, I want you to know that I disapproved of Godric’s actions, but I could say nothing to change his mind.” She paused again, this time for several moments longer. “Eric acted detached when he called me weekly like clockwork from then on―called me just to make sure Godric was still living.” She shook her head sadly. “I did not tell Godric about Eric’s calls since that is what the Viking wanted.”
A tear fell from Sookie’s eyes as she thought about Eric having to check on Godric’s existence that way after so many years of feeling his maker―even in the limited way Godric had allowed. “But Eric was not detached,” Sookie whispered with certainty.
Miranda shook her head again and then went on, “The day Debbie took you, Eric was actively trying to detach himself emotionally so that he could be in control of the situation. As we drove to Merlotte’s, he told me that I would be taking over your primary security. He also told me that your bond had been muted and deadened.” The Werelioness took a deep breath. “He told me all these things in the same tone of voice he had used when he asked if Godric were still alive in all those weekly calls to me.”
Two more large tears slipped from Sookie’s eyes. “My husband is an incredible man, Miranda.”
The Werelioness rose and moved to return outside. She turned around as she got to the door, “Even more than when I first knew him.” She looked at Sookie with a glint in her eye, “I think that you have done well with him, little fairy.” She winked, and, with that, she left.