Twenty minutes later, the freshly-showered couple walked hand-in-hand down the stairs, preceded by the kitten, who kept looking back expectantly at Eric. “You are spoiling him,” Sookie chuckled. “He expects to be fed every time you rise, and he takes food only from you.”
Eric also chuckled, “Yes―he was extremely displeased yesterday when I went to you at Merlotte’s as soon as the sun went down and didn’t feed him until after we’d returned.”
“Tsk, tsk,” Sookie sounded. “Bad daddy.”
As Sookie grabbed a glass of water for herself, Eric fed and pet the kitten. Sookie smiled at her boys and then spoke. “Shall we go see Scott now? His head is tellin’ me that he wants to take off not long after his men do so that he can get home to his family. His wife’s makin’ roasted chicken.”
Glad that Sookie was feeling more and more comfortable about using her telepathy as a monitoring tool, Eric smiled. “Sure.” He retook Sookie’s hand and led her outside where the workmen were packing up. Only a few scattered lights were still on at the worksite, but Eric didn’t need them to see the quality of the construction, despite the structure being only a relatively small workshop. The vampire was impressed by the level of the work.
Scott nodded respectfully, “Northman. Good evening.”
Eric returned the nod and a thrill of excitement went through him as he heard his own name―soon to be Sookie’s name as well―pass from the Were’s lips. Sookie looked up at him in question, and he kissed her lightly on the forehead and then whispered, “Northman,” into her ear.
She smiled in understanding and gripped his hand tighter.
Scott spoke, “I have the plans laid out inside the new structure if you want to take a look.” The Were gestured toward the building. Sookie noticed Bubba standing inconspicuously by the tree line and gave him a bright smile. Thalia was next to him, and Sookie nodded at the petite but deadly vampire. She noticed her husband doing the same.
As promised, the plans for both the house refurbishment and the new guesthouse were laid out neatly. Eric’s sharp eyes quickly took them in as Sookie looked over them; she hadn’t seen many blueprints, but she liked to think she had excellent spatial intelligence, so she examined the plans carefully.
Eric spoke up. “Will the house structure be able to support the heavier walls on the second floor?” He pointed to a spot on the blueprint.
Scott pointed to several places on the first floor. “We are going to reinforce here, here, here, and here, to make sure, but I think that the house would bear the weight regardless. It was well designed, and as you know, we already reinforced a bit when we repaired the previous damage. The basic structure is quite sound, however.”
Eric nodded as he turned his attention to the guest house.
Sookie said, “I think that I want these two rooms to be light tight too―just in case.” She pointed out the two rooms on the south side of the guest house. “Would that be a problem?”
“Not at all,” Scott said as he made a few notes.
Sookie nodded. “Everything else looks fine. What do you think, Eric?”
Her vampire nodded, “Excellent work, Scott.”
The Were beamed. He agreed; normally, he was a perfectionist in his work anyway, but he wanted to make sure that Eric was pleased since he knew the vampire was loyal to the businesses that he liked.
Sookie smiled at Scott. “When can you start all this?”
The Were spoke up. “As I said before, the workshop will be done in a couple of days; we’ll be putting on the roof and finishing off the exterior walls tomorrow. And I am currently screening more crew members from the pack so that we can work on the refurbishment and the guesthouse simultaneously. I think that we will have the materials ready to begin the renovation on Monday of next week―if that works for you. And we can begin the foundation for the guesthouse as soon as the workshop is completed.
“That’d be great,” Sookie said.
Eric looked at Scott. “We have a guest arriving at 7 tonight; can your men be gone by then?”
Scott nodded as he rolled up the blueprints. “The men are just taking off now, Mr. Northman. I’ll be just a few minutes more packing up, and then I’ll take off.”
She smiled at her new Were friend as she followed the minds of the workmen, getting into their vehicles and taking off for the day.
Eric heard a car along with a motorcycle turning onto Hummingbird Lane. He said in a low voice. “Pam, Jessica and Tray are here.” A couple minutes later, the three came around the side of the house, followed by Miranda.
Scott nodded to his pack master and then smiled at him warmly. “Hello Dawson.”
Tray returned the nod and smile. The two Weres shook hands cordially. “I have heard that you are employing some young pack members that had been out of work for a while because of the bad economy, Cusmano. That’s very good for the pack.”
Scott smiled, “It’s all thanks to Sookie and Northman here, really. And I have a line on a few more jobs after the holidays as well. And, hopefully, the economy is picking up a bit.”
Eric nodded toward Tray and then looked at Scott. “As new vampires settle into the area, they often require renovations in order to create comfortable resting places for themselves. If you think, Scott, that your company could handle the extra business, I will give all vampires settling into this area a referral to your company. You have already proven,” he winked down at Sookie, “both your efficiency as a workman and your fairness in dealing with my kind. If Tray will ensure that your workers are screened carefully, I will be able to find you many other vampire contracts as well.”
Scott was doing mental somersaults, which caused Sookie to grin. The older Were smiled, very thankful not only that he could now most likely send all of his children to college but also that he could buy his wife the anniversary ring he knew she wanted; perhaps, according to Scott’s mental math, she could even quit her part-time job.
Sookie grinned even more widely as she saw Scott’s wife through his mind’s eye. In Scott’s mind, his wife was the most beautiful woman in creation. Sookie grasped her own husband’s hand tighter, knowing that was how he saw her as well.
Sookie continued to listen in to Scott’s thoughts for another moment. The Were was also very happy that his new packmaster did not try to stand in the way of his taking work from vampires as Marcus had done.
Tray spoke up. “This will be good for the pack, Northman―that is, if Cusmano’s company can handle so many potential jobs.”
The older Were nodded. “Definitely. I have several workers that are ready to become foremen themselves; I’m even putting one of them in charge of the guesthouse here while I’m in charge of the renovations to the main house. And more jobs and new workers would allow for me to train a few others in blueprinting and other management duties.”
Sookie heard the swirl of plans in Scott’s head and also his excitement to tell his wife. She spoke to him warmly, “Well Scott, we will see you tomorrow. But right now―you need to get home and share this news with your family.”
He smiled just as warmly at her and reached out to shake Tray’s hand again before nodding once more at Eric and taking off.
Tray cocked his head a bit, “That was mighty magnanimous of you, Northman. To what do we owe your generosity?” he winked at Sookie.
Eric shrugged, “It is good for Area 5 to have vampires and Weres getting along. Cooperation has been missing too long because of the old packmaster’s prejudice, and if Godric’s example has taught me anything, it is that one can never have too many allies.”
Tray nodded as Sookie looked up at her husband proudly. She heard Jessica shuffling her feet off to the side, and she turned her attention to her red-headed friend. “Hey, Jess,” Sookie said quietly. Sookie hadn’t not seen Jessica since she’d chosen Eric over Bill and feared her young friend’s reaction a bit. Sensing this, Eric sent comfort and strength through their vampire bond.
“Hey, Sook,” Jessica answered meekly. She looked down at her feet, “Guess I really fucked up this time.”
Sookie’s heart went out to Jessica, and Eric moved with his wife as she went to the fledgling vampire. Sookie reached out and put her hand comfortingly on her friend’s arm.
“We all fuck up sometimes, Jess,” Sookie said. “Did all your silver burns heal up?”
Jessica nodded. She looked so lost in that moment that Sookie couldn’t help her compassion. She looked up at Eric and broke her grasp on his hand just long enough to give Jessica a big hug. Then she returned her hand to her husband’s―again, as if it were drawn by a complementary magnet in his hand.
Sookie looked at Tray with concern in her eyes, “How is your nephew, Tray?”
Tray had taken in the scene and looked at Eric with a twinkle in his eyes and a shake of his head. Somehow Sookie managed to make her compassion big enough to fit around every life that she touched. Hell―in that moment, even he felt a bit bad for the vampire that had attacked his own nephew. “He’ll be fine, Sookie. Ludwig fixed him up, and he’ll be home soon. He should be completely healed from the bites in a week or two since Weres, by rule, heal much faster than humans.”
Sookie reached out her hand and held Jessica’s. “See, he’s gonna be fine, Jess. You just can’t be doin’ stuff like that. You gotta be smarter.”
Pam piped up, “She will be getting smarter very, very soon. After all, I’m going to be rubbing off on her.”
Eric laughed and whispered to Sookie, “Gods save us all.”
Oh course, everyone with supernatural ears, which included everyone there besides Sookie, could hear Eric easily. Pam rolled her eyes. “Just get ready for the credit card bills, grandpappy,” she said.
Even Jessica smiled a bit at that name, and Miranda snorted out a laugh.
Eric leveled a terrifying stare at Pam, but Sookie wondered if the vampiress could feel his underlying mirth as she did. From the unconcerned look on her face, Sookie guessed that Pam did feel her maker’s playfulness. But when he turned that same look onto Jessica, the younger vampiress shrunk in fear.
“Jessica,” Eric said, his voice stern. “I am allowing you to stay in Area 5 for three reasons. The first is that if you are banished, I am almost certain that your days would be numbered due to your lack of discipline. Second, Sookie would be saddened by your demise. Third, Pam has expressed an interest in your well-being. I trust that you will endeavor to deserve the charity I am extending to you.”
Jessica nodded, “I will.” She looked gratefully at Sookie and then Pam.
Eric’s gaze did not soften. “You will do as Pam says and obey her in all things. You will, after this night, no longer be beholden to your own maker, and you will learn how to be a successful vampire. If you do not heed your lessons, I will not hesitate in sending you to your true death—myself.” Eric’s tone softened a bit. “However, I have confidence that you can serve a productive role in the vampire community of Area 5. I have confidence that you will be an excellent child to my own child. Thus, I will proudly serve as your grandsire, young one. Do you know what that entails?”
Jessica shook her head.
Eric’s expression softened with his tone. “It means that my knowledge will be at your service. It means that my blood will soon flow with yours, through Pam’s. It means that we are choosing you to be among our line, Jessica Hamby.”
Eric continued, “Pam may not be your original maker, young one, but after tonight, that fact will be as nothing. You will join Pam’s line. You will join my line. You will join Godric’s line. You will be a part of a proud and strong line of vampires after tonight, Jessica, and you will live up to that line.
As Jessica looked up at Eric, the young vampiress had awe in her eyes—but there was also hope there. It was obvious to Sookie that Jessica wanted to live up to all of Eric’s expectations. It was also obvious to her that Jessica had been waiting for someone to want her to succeed—to really want her. According to Jason, Hoyt had certainly loved Jessica, but Sookie intuited that Jessica had likely held back her vampire nature with Hoyt—at least to a certain extent. Now, Jessica would have two vampire role models, both of whom would treat her as valuable and valued. And from the way that Jessica was looking at Eric, Sookie could tell that she respected him already. Sookie smiled proudly at the esteem that her husband inspired.
Eric was not quite done. His voice took on a menacing edge once more, and Sookie grasped Jessica’s hand as she felt her husband’s seriousness. “Jessica, you have exactly one more chance―one. I’m sure Pam told you that your fate will be a year in a silver coffin if you step one inch out of line. And that is if the AVL does not step in and order your true death. And, Jessica―just so you understand perfectly clearly―I will be the one driving the nails into your coffin if you ever feed on the unwilling again―be your victim human, shifter, Were, or vampire. This is no longer the era when such things can be hidden away. Do you understand, child?”
Jessica looked up at Eric with fearful eyes. She answered in a meek voice, “Yes, I understand.”
Eric narrowed his eyes, “Very well. Your maker is coming soon. You may speak to him freely before he releases you—if that is your wish.”
Jessica nodded. “Thanks. Will I be able to see him after this?” she asked timidly, but hopefully.
“That is up to Pam,” Eric said.
Jessica turned her hopeful gaze to Pam. “Fine,” Pam huffed. “You can see him at Fangtasia when he comes there, but under no circumstances are you to invite him here or to the house that we will live in.”
“I’m gonna live with you?” Jessica asked with a bit of shock. She’d lived with Bill only a few days after her relationship with Hoyt had ended before her maker had arranged for her to go to a small vampire-safe apartment in Shreveport, where she’d been living alone ever since.
“Of course,” Pam said. “You will most likely live with me until I release you, and that will not happen until I have complete confidence that you are ready to be on your own. That is how it was with my maker.” Pam looked at Eric and nodded with certainty. “That is best for young ones.”
Just then, a car was heard. Miranda lifted her nose and confirmed what Eric had already smelled. “The witches are here,” the Werelioness reported.
Jessica looked up at Eric with a questioning gaze.
The Viking took in the group and said, “Tonight Bill is essentially giving up his role as Jessica’s maker since he has been found deficient. To make sure that he does not try to reestablish that bond or attempt to order her to comply with his will in the future,” he paused and looked at Sookie meaningfully, “Jesus and Lafayette will be conducting a spell to seal the freedom that Bill will be bestowing upon Jessica. They will also use a spell to create and then seal a bond between Jessica and Pam. After that bond it forged, Jessica will have to obey Pam as she would a maker. In essence this spell will change the identity of Jessica’s maker.
Jessica looked up in surprise and with tears in her eyes. “Bill won’t be my maker at all anymore?”
“No,” Eric said quietly and evenly. “It is this or banishment from the Area forever, Jessica.” Eric’s tone softened again. “However, I wish for you to have a choice, young one. If you do not want to undergo the spell to change your maker, I will reopen negotiations with Dawson and the Were pack.”
Jessica shook her head. “No―I just,” she paused as a red tear streaked her cheek.
“It is difficult to be isolated from one’s maker,” Eric said empathetically. “I have felt this feeling as well. But you will not be alone. Pam is ready to stand by you and guide you; she was given a choice too and has agreed to be your new maker in all of the ways that truly matter.” Eric continued as Jessica looked at Pam, “And—as I have indicated—you will become one of my line, and that means a great deal to me as well.”
Sookie leaned into Eric even as she continued to hold Jessica’s hand in comfort. Her pride and her gratefulness for the vampire Eric was ricocheted through the vampire bond.
From the tree line, Bubba approached. “The king is on his way,” he said.
Eric, of course, had scented Bill before Bubba, but he’d done nothing to give away the fact that his senses were more acute than those of the others. Sookie squeezed Jessica’s hand one last time in comfort and then let her go, nodding gratefully to Pam, who gave her a barely perceptible wink.
Pam positioned herself next to her soon-to-be charge and said simply, “I am here, Jessica. I am beside you.”
The redhead looked at Pam with some surprise but mostly gratefulness. “Thanks,” she said quietly, but nervously.
Eric gave his own child a proud look as Bill broke the tree line. By then, Jarod was leading Lafayette and Jesus around the side of the house.