Pam had been feeling her maker’s turmoil since Sookie had been taken―his slingshot of emotions between rage and sorrow, love and despair. She’d felt him at his lowest point thus far just five minutes before. The combination of his agony and her proximity to him had affected her to the point that she’d needed for Jessica to take over driving. And for the first time in her vampire life, she’d been forced to try to shut down her bond with her maker. She was startled—surprised and extremely disconcerted—when she learned that she could shut it down relatively easily. And before all was said and done, she’d needed to shut it down almost fully.
All vampires could close off their connections to those with whom they shared bonds to some extent, but Eric had once told her that Godric had the ability to completely shut down the bond between them. It was the ‘completely’ part that was unusual—to shut down a bond to the point that the life force of the other was not felt at all. Given the ease she’d had in closing off the bond—despite its being only her first attempt to do so—it seemed that she may have inherited Godric’s ability, and frankly, Pam had mixed feelings about the ‘gift.’
Through her own bond with her maker, Pam had felt how much Godric’s closing their bond had hurt Eric, so she’d been loath to close their conduit to each other, but the pain he’d felt earlier had been too great for her to endure, so she’d shut it down so that there was just a tiny sliver of connection left. It was only in the last two or three minutes that she’d felt Eric retake control of his emotions and that she’d been able to reopen it. She’d used her ‘gift’ as a kind of defense mechanism, but that fact made her very concerned for Eric. If she’d felt agony second-hand through their bond, what had he suffered?
Pam glanced over at Jessica and gave her a small smile. Jessica had been frightened when Pam had swerved the vehicle due to the pain coming at her through her and Eric’s bond, but the young vampiress had calmed down when Pam had explained what was happening.
During the long road trip Pam and Jessica had bonded―as Abby would say. Her young charge―her child―had been heartbroken over Sookie’s being gone again. In truth, Pam was also upset both because of the effects on Eric and because she would miss the little telepath too. Jessica had tried to figure out ways that they could help Eric get through his grief, but Pam had told the young vampiress not to show Eric any pity over Sookie’s being gone whatsoever. Pam knew her maker well; the best thing that everyone could do would be to follow Eric’s instructions carefully. She knew that he would already be working on plans to get Sookie back.
Also during the trip, Jessica had learned much of Pam’s history, and Pam had learned of her new child’s own troubled past. Jessica was especially concerned that her violent father had turned his belt onto her younger sister, Eden, by now. Pam had promised Jessica that one of the first things they would do upon returning to Louisiana would be to get Eden and her mother from the household of her abusive father. Why Bill hadn’t done that already was beyond Pam and made her want to visit Bill in the night with a few of her favorite silver torture devices. When Jessica told her that Bill had ordered that she not go to her human family’s home again or approach them in any way—that that part of her life was over forever—Pam wanted to tear Bill apart.
Pam intended to allow Jessica to glamour her human mother if the woman refused to leave her father. And then Pam would set up the mother and sister with new identities and make sure that they were safe and well taken care of. Pam would not have her child worry about her human family another day―if she could help it.
Also during the trip, Pam had instructed Jessica in how she expected the girl to behave, and Jessica had somehow managed to negotiate dates with young men, including Jason Stackhouse―if he asked her. But Pam had been firm on the “no feed or fuck rule” regarding men for the next year. Thus, if Jessica was to date Jason, that dating would have to be PG-13. Somewhat to Pam’s disappointment, Jessica seemed completely uninterested in women sexually; however, Pam quickly got over it. Her own sexual experiences with her maker had been pleasurable, but she liked her current relationship with Eric best. He was her maker―but also her friend―and she grew to respect and love him—at least in her own way—more and more with each year they spent together. She hoped that Jessica would one day feel the same way about her.
Feeling numb, Eric stepped out onto the front porch as Jessica parked the vehicle. He was surprised to see that Pam had let her drive at all.
Pam gave Jessica a look of caution, and her child bowed in understanding as the two exited the smelly vehicle. Pam didn’t want Eric to know how much his own emotions had affected her. She wondered if he was even aware that she’d had to shut down her side of the bond temporarily.
Eric spoke from the porch, “I assume that all lose ends in Santa Fe have been tied.”
Pam nodded. “Yes, everything has been completed as you asked.”
“Good,” Eric said. “I want for you two to stay in the cubby today so that you will be here to meet Hunter tomorrow evening. The boy must become used to those whom he will be seeing frequently.”
“Of course,” Pam said. She did not like little humans at all, but given the look in Eric’s eyes―a look that indicated that he was committed to watching over Hadley’s spawn—she decided that she would try to like this Hunter child for her maker’s sake.
Jessica smiled, “It’ll be nice havin’ a kid around. I used to babysit my little sister a lot, so if you ever need any help, just ask—okay?”
Eric nodded. “Thank you, Jessica. Of course, Pam has ordered you not to speak of Hunter to your former maker?”
“Yes,” Pam and Jessica confirmed at the same time.
“Very well,” Eric said. He looked at Jessica. “Jessica, I feel you have the right to know something. Earlier tonight, Bill came to this home and spoke in a way I didn’t appreciate regarding Sookie. He also showed interest in the boy’s scent—though I think he believed my story about its origin. I told him that Sookie is no longer here and, therefore, he need not come to this residence to request her services.” Eric looked at Pam, “He is to contact you in order to conduct business with me from now on.” He looked back at Jessica. “If Bill steps a foot onto this property again, he will be killed.”
Jessica looked a bit saddened, but then lowered her head. Pam had told her about some of Bill’s actions regarding Sookie. Bill had always talked about how much he loved Sookie, but that didn’t mesh with the portrait Pam had painted of her former maker setting up an attack on Sookie to feed her his blood, trying to control her through a vampire tie, working for the queen, using his vampire sister as a spy and seductress for Eric, and hoping to force a new tie with Sookie so that he could again manipulate her.
Jessica sighed. There were clearly two distinct sides to her former maker—one of which she’d known nothing about. In fact, Bill seemed to be a lot like her human father. In public, her human father acted like the perfect Christian man, but in private he was quick to take up his belt for even the most minor of infractions. Once he’d beaten her for looking at a boy in church, but the truth was that she hadn’t been looking at anyone. She’d been thinking about the studying she needed to do later that day for the midterm in her A.P. Algebra class. When Jessica had tried to tell her father this, he’d beaten her even harder because, either way, she’d not been concentrating on the service.
Despite his seeming devoutness, Jessica knew that her human father enjoyed beating her into submission. Every time that he whipped her, he’d tell her that it was for her own good, but Jessica now knew better. Looking back, she knew that she’d been a good daughter to her human parents; her small rebellions were brought on only by her father’s overly-harsh restrictions. She now recognized and hated the hypocrisy of her human father, and it seemed that Bill was just as much of a hypocrite.
Eric spoke calmly to Jessica, “Bill has been warned. I have promised to serve him well, and if he doesn’t threaten me and mine—and that now includes you too, young one—I will do just that. However, he will never again be allowed on this land. He will never again be allowed to speak of Sookie to me. I will no longer tolerate his machinations to separate my affections from my wife. I have more important matters to deal with. If he respects these things, he may keep his life. If not, he is forfeiting it by his own choice as far as I am concerned.”
Jessica nodded and then looked up at Eric with bright eyes, “Sookie is my friend, and you have never been anything but fair to me. If Bill threatens you, or Pam, or Sookie, or little Hunter, or anyone else in,” she paused, “our family, I swear that I will do whatever it takes to stop him.”
Eric looked at her with narrowed eyes. Through the bond that carried from Jessica to Pam and then into himself, he felt her sincerity; he also saw it in her eyes. Pam was looking at Jessica with pride in her own eyes. “You will do well here, young one,” Eric said to Jessica.
The young vampiress beamed.
Pam, sensing that her master needed no more sentimentality, spoke up in a droll voice, “Well―all I have to say it that the so-called ‘great American road trip’ is absolute and utter bullshit, and these U-Haul vehicles should be outlawed. They smell bad―for one thing―and they will not go over 90 miles per hour. It is a fucking travesty!”
Eric chuckled, thankful for the moment of levity. “It was you who wished to transport Hunter’s possessions yourself, Pamela,” Eric said.
“Well,” Pam said, “it seemed like it would be fun, but humans apparently have no concept of how to make an effective moving truck. The shocks on this contraption are deplorable.”
“That’s ‘cause you aren’t supposed to drive over 60 in it,” Jessica muttered under her breath. Pam glared at her.
“You are insolent,” Pam said. “You should have heard her complaining about my driving. It was a broken fucking record.”
Jessica rolled her eyes in what Eric felt was a grand impression of Pam. “I wouldn’t have needed to complain if you didn’t swerve all the time. And―really―you didn’t use turn signals when you should have, and when you did use them, you’d leave them on forever.”
Pam glared at her new child, “The U-Haul is in one piece. We are here thirty minutes under my estimated time. I did not kill that gas station attendant after he caused me to break a nail. I do not understand how you can complain!”
Eric laughed, though Pam knew through their bond that the laugh wasn’t really being felt by her maker. If anything, he felt cold to her―like a volcano, long dormant, but due for an eruption at any moment.
Eric spoke, “Well, Pam, what did you find in the Santa Fe home for Hunter?”
Pam walked around to the back of the truck and opened it. Though the interior was dark, she knew that her maker would be able to see even better than she could. “Most of the furnishings in the duplex came with the residence, but Hadley owned the furniture in the child’s bedroom.”
Pam pointed out the cheap furniture, but Eric shook his head. “I will make Hunter a new bed and furnishings. Until then, he can utilize Sookie’s old set. These items will not do. They are made of low-grade plywood and are not sturdy enough for a growing child.”
Pam looked at Eric in surprise, “You―make furniture?”
“Yes, Pamela,” Eric answered simply.
He looked at the boxes in the truck. “What else was there?”
Still a bit surprised to learn something new of her maker after spending so many years with him, Pam answered, “Not much. There were some clothes for Hunter as well as a few toys and toiletries. We found the school books Hadley was using and a few photos, but that is all we discovered that Hunter may need. Hadley had some clothing―less than the boy, however. We disposed of the food in the house; there was not much. Hadley, it seems, had no disposable income. There was no evidence of a bank account and only about a hundred dollars in Hadley’s purse.
Eric nodded. “Please bring in Hunter’s items. I wish to go through them before morning.” He turned to walk away.
“What about Sookie’s purse and the bag?” Pam asked quietly, almost timidly.
Eric turned back around. “Give them to me. I will meet you in Sookie’s old room in five minutes. That should be ample time for you and Jessica to transport Hunter’s items there.”
Pam quickly handed Eric the bag and Sookie’s purse.
Jessica asked, “Can I go inside?”
Eric nodded, “Sookie had the presence of mind to invite you in the night we left for Santa Fe.” Eric felt pride for his Sookie in that moment, but pushed it to the side. Pam looked up at him with a concerned look in her eyes, and he felt her worry through their bond, but he ignored it.
Eric quickly went inside, zooming up to his and Sookie’s bedroom. He checked on Hunter and then quickly put the overnight bag―the bag Sookie had packed for both of them―into the closet. He opened the top drawer of Sookie’s side of their dresser and put her purse into it. He could not deal with either bag at that moment. He would come back to them later.
He heard Pam and Jessica bringing up Hunter’s belongings, and he went into the boy’s room.
“Should we unpack them?” Pam asked.
Eric shook his head. “No. Hunter’s items will be moved to the downstairs bedroom tomorrow in preparation for the renovations. He has adequate clothing unpacked until then. You two may retire to the cubby,” he paused for a moment as he thought about his wife’s attention to hospitality. “There are TruBloods in the refrigerator should you require them.”
Pam bowed and then left the room, understanding that Eric wanted to be alone.
The Viking opened the first of Hunter’s four small boxes, and found more well-worn clothing there. He put that box to the side. The second box contained a few books. Eric quickly found Hunter’s school books and placed them on the bed. Miranda would find them easily the next morning. The third box contained some photographs, which had been carefully wrapped in newspaper so that the frames would not break. Eric pulled out one that had Hunter pictured with his mother and put it on the boy’s nightstand. He set the other pictures to the side for the time being.
The fourth and largest box contained toys, including the trash bag of toys his mother had filled before the fairy attack. Eric opened the bag and pulled out the plush dinosaur he’d seen Hunter lovingly place into it. This particular toy smelled strongest of Hunter. Eric left the rest of the items for Jarod to take care of the next day and went into his room.
The comfort of Hunter’s slight snore met him. Eric carefully placed the stuffed toy under Hunter’s little arm, and the boy immediately snuggled into it. Eric retrieved the items that he had worn to his rest the day before as well as a fresh pair of underwear and went into the bathroom. He took a quick shower and dressed before putting his used clothing into the laundry basket. He would need to do the laundry, and he knew that the basket contained clothing worn by his wife. He closed his eyes and inhaled her scent on the used clothes. He would wait a few more days before doing it. However, he would make sure that Hunter’s clothing was washed. He quickly emailed Miranda to see to it that a child-friendly laundry detergent was in the house.
He lay down in bed on his side and took in the sleeping boy, who had pulled his toy tightly into his chest. It was still fifteen minutes until the sun would begin to drag Eric into the sweetness of oblivion―until he would no longer have to actively keep thoughts of Sookie from overwhelming him.
He decided to use the time to look up items he would need to complete his woodwork. He planned to make every item of furniture on the list given to him by his wife, and now he had other things to make as well—for Hunter’s room. He zipped downstairs and nodded to Pam and Jessica, who were on the couch watching an early-morning news show. He grabbed his laptop and zipped back up to bed, making sure not to shift the boy as he climbed back in.
Seeing Hunter―now sucking his thumb―he looked up that practice first, but found that the action was not necessarily a problem. It would become a concern only if Hunter made it a daytime habit as well or continued it after he had his permanent teeth in place. Eric realized that he’d not seen Hunter doing it before and that the action was probably associated with the comfort he found in sleeping with the toy.
However, Eric decided to keep an eye on it since the practice could lead to tooth problems later. Thinking of this, he sent a quick email to Ludwig. He asked if she could examine Miranda and Hunter at the house on the same night. It would be more convenient for Miranda, and Eric didn’t want for Hunter to go outside of the property barrier for the time being. Hunter seemed healthy―a good weight and a good height for his age, adequate energy level, etc.―but Eric wanted to make sure.
Eric then began to look around online for items for his woodwork. He had already ordered the mahogany that he intended to use to make Sookie and his new bed. Thinking of his father’s sword and the way the iron and steel were woven together to give it an unparalleled strength and beauty, Eric decided to add cherry wood and rosewood to the bed and the other furniture in his and Sookie’s bedroom. Those woods, along with the mahogany, would be a wonderful combination.
The rosewood was symbolic of love, and cherry wood was thought by some cultures to represent the will and the power to achieve. He thought about the will of his wife to return to him. That thought helped to steel him and gave him a moment of comfort. Her will was stronger than the metals in his father’s sword; thinking of it made him remember that she had made a promise to him as well—to come back to him. His Sookie was not one to break a promise.
The three—mahogany, cherry, and rosewood—were all rich with browns. They were, in truth, opulent with the browns of Sookie’s eyes. And together, they would carry the symbolism of his and his wife’s strong bond, their will to find their way back to each other, and their eternal love. Yes—the combination would be perfect. Thinking of his wife, Eric once again felt his emotions begin to rise. For a moment, they were pleasant, but soon they began to surge, and he remembered what had happened earlier when he’d lost control. He remembered his resolution, and he filed his emotions away. Perhaps after time had passed, he could allow himself to feel them once more, but not now—not yet.
His resolve firmly back in place, Eric turned back to his computer. He ordered a supply of oak, which he had already decided would be the primary wood for Hunter’s furnishings. He thought it was appropriate since the wood represented bravery and strength, which Hunter had already demonstrated.
Then he ordered some tools that he would need as well as a large work table. Also, he intended to bring many of the tools that he had made over the years from his small workshop at the cabin. Next, he looked for tools that a child could safely use and ordered those for Hunter in case the boy wanted to learn from him. Hunter was too small to do much heavy work, but he could learn a lot from watching if he desired. Eric still remembered watching the shipbuilders shape the wood for the longships when he was around Hunter’s age.
Finally, he ordered some redwood, which would make excellent outdoor furnishings. He intended to make many chairs for all the people that frequented their home. These chairs would replace the rickety fare that currently surrounded the fire pit. Eric also knew that the repetitive construction of the chairs and the easy size of some of the pieces who give Hunter a chance to make some obvious contributions that the boy could point to and be proud of.
It was ten minutes after dawn when Eric finally felt that he could sleep―though he wasn’t being pulled to enter his day sleep in the same way he had before he’d bonded with Sookie. Old vampires could fight the day—even young ones could―but all vampires still felt the pull. The pull on him now was still less than before, despite the fact that Sookie’s blood had been almost depleted from his system because of his ordeal in Santa Fe. He felt the threat of the sun, but not the strong pull to sleep.
He wondered briefly if the fairy bond had forever changed him in this way and decided to speak to Jesus about it. Still, he felt able to at least enter downtime until he could delve into the deep sleep he longed for.
Eric reached over and stroked the hair from Hunter’s forehead that was dropping into his eyes. The boy would need a haircut soon. Then Eric buried his nose into his wife’s pillow and covered himself with the afghan. Although forcing himself not to think of his wife, he comforted himself with Sookie’s lingering scent for a moment before he fell into downtime.