At midnight, Eric tucked Hunter into Sookie’s old bed, which was where Hunter had decided to start for the night, instead of in the room downstairs. Eric hoped that the boy would sleep serenely through the night.
He looked down at the boy and brushed his bangs to the side of his forehead. “We must get you a haircut soon,” Eric remarked.
“I used to have yellow hair like you,” Hunter said, looking up at Eric.
“Yes,” Eric said. “I believe your mother dyed your hair to make it brown. So it will eventually become yellow—blond—again when the dye wears off.”
“Good,” Hunter said, yawning.
“Alright, smár rekkr,” Eric began, “you have your water, your light on, your blanket, and Dino, so you are prepared for your sleep. I will be downstairs and will be able to hear you should you require anything.”
“Okay, Uncle Eric,” Hunter said.
As Eric turned to leave, Hunter asked in a small voice, “Uncle Eric, Mommy always gives me a goodnight kiss. Can you give me them until she gets back?”
Eric stopped and moved back over to Hunter’s side. Not exactly sure of what to do, but following his instincts, he bent down and kissed Hunter lightly on the forehead before rising and then brushing the boy’s bangs once again to the side. “Good night, Hunter.”
Hunter smiled sleepily and then closed his eyes. Eric left the room and immediately felt the emotional tide he’d been able to put to the side as he’d focused on Hunter roll over him. He was able to ride it out, however, and by the time he’d returned downstairs with his laptop, he was completely composed—with all of his feelings stored safely away where they needed to be.
He thought about the productivity of the night. Thankfully, he’d been able to secure Batanya’s services for a six-month contract, which could be renewed if the Britlingen was amenable at the end of that term. She would start the next night, which meant that she would be installed as Hunter’s bodyguard before he had to go to Fangtasia on Sunday night. With the Britlingen, Bubba and Thalia there, he felt safe leaving Hunter, despite the fact that Bill would be aware—because of Lillith’s reports—that Eric was not at the farmhouse and might see that as his opportunity to spy.
Batanya and Cataliades had left about an hour before. The half-demon had spoken to Jesus for most of the evening, giving him a run-through of the volumes he’d brought. He’d also talked to the young brujo a bit about his lineage and promised to help him learn how to channel his demon power without having to use human magic to call for it.
Eric joined the others in the living room, and Jarod quickly shut off the television. He, Miranda, Jesus, Pam, Jessica, Jason, and Lafayette―who had arrived several minutes before―all looked at Eric expectantly as he sat down in the rocking chair, which seemed to have become his and Hunter’s chair. The vampire opened his laptop.
Only Pam was able to feel that Eric’s visage was covering a swirl of barely contained emotions. Even as she dampened their bond again, Pam felt almost overcome by that swirl, and she could only imagine the way it felt to her maker. She couldn’t fathom the kind of resolve he was exerting in order to keep that swirl from consuming him. For the first time, she felt grateful that she’d inherited her grandsire’s ability to easily dampen her bonds; it seemed that she would require the ability, at least when Hunter was not with Eric.
As if he were conducting a business meeting, Eric began, “As I am sure you are all now understanding, it is likely that Sookie will not be back for a long time, perhaps even longer than she was gone before. The same is true for Hadley.” He looked at Jason, “We are, of course, doing all we can to make sure that time is as short as possible, but meanwhile, there are things that need to be seen to.” He looked down at the list he’d composed and then at Miranda and Jarod. “First, in order to better accommodate Miranda and Jarod until the guest house is completed, I have arranged for a mobile home to be installed as a temporary dwelling. There will be people here tomorrow to get things set up and arrange for the water, plumbing, and electrical hook-ups. It is, of course, a short-term arrangement, but I have been assured that the mobile home is comfortable and will serve your needs.”
Miranda nodded gratefully, “Thanks. That will be a lot better than the hotel, Eric.”
The vampire continued, “It will be good to have you on hand for those times when I must leave at night. I trust Batanya to look over Hunter, but she is not the most,” he paused, “friendly of beings. She will prefer to watch from a distance―I believe―which is fine since Hunter did not seem to warm to her as he’s done with everyone else. He told me he doesn’t like the way her mind feels to him.”
“Are you sure she can be trusted?” Jason asked.
Eric nodded, “Yes. She will be under contract, and Britlingens never break a contract. They are just a bit,” he paused again, “rough around the edges―you might say. Hunter is not picking up malicious thoughts from her; I believe his reticence lies in the fact that her mind signature is similar to a fairy’s, but he will get used to her. However, for his comfort, I would like for someone else to always be with him when he’s awake.”
“Where’s she gonna sleep?” Jason asked.
“She won’t,” Pam supplied. “Britlingens don’t require sleep in a traditional way. They will be up for years and years and then will go into a dormant state to restore their strength.”
Eric continued, “As I said before, Sookie has tasked me with the boy’s care. My initial thought was to return him to his father, Remy Savoy. Hadley kidnapped the boy from him last year.”
“Really?” Jason asked.
“Really,” Eric said evenly. “She did not have custody but ran away with him during a sanctioned visit. I had considered taking Hunter to Savoy and then having the boy watched and protected from a distance; however, when I asked Hunter about his father, he was,” Eric paused and reigned in his rising anger, “frightened of him.”
Lafayette, Jason, and Jessica all gasped at that, even as Pam growled a bit.
Eric continued, “This is one of the items I wished to speak to everyone about. Hunter, of course, can hear thoughts like Sookie can. Like her, he is unable to hear vampire thoughts, and Were and shifter thoughts are somewhat fuzzier to him.”
Eric’s voice turned icy, “Savoy had thoughts that made Hunter upset. The boy told me that his father didn’t like him and that he sometimes got frustrated when Hunter repeated or answered one of his thoughts out loud. He said that Savoy had thought before that he wished Hunter had never been born.” Eric paused for a moment, again having to work hard to control his own anger. “Savoy had—according to Hunter—felt the urge to hit him on occasion. Hunter is―as is to be expected―upset by these memories, and he did not want to return to his father.” Once again Eric paused to regain control; however, he couldn’t quite prevent the low growl that came from deep inside his chest as he thought of Hunter being mentally scarred by his own father. “The fact that Hunter was forced to hear these things when he was four years old or younger is a testament to the father’s inferiority.”
Eric saw red tears slipping down Jessica’s cheeks. He also saw Jason take her hand in comfort. He continued, “In addition, the private detective that tracked down Hunter and Hadley for me indicated that although Savoy did file kidnapping charges against Hadley, he seemed relieved that the boy was gone―at least from the perspectives of the policemen on the case. In fact, they investigated Savoy for a while, thinking that he may have killed the child, but they found no evidence. For all these reasons, we need to keep Hunter’s true identity closely guarded information until further notice.
Eric looked at Pam, “Pamela, I want you and Jessica to find out all you can about Remy Savoy. I want to make sure that my perception of him is correct. Perhaps, losing his son has changed him for the better. If that is the case, then Hunter may eventually wish to see his father. However, this is the boy’s home now—for as long as Hunter wishes to remain here. If Savoy is as was indicated, however, I want him glamoured into thinking that Hadley called him from California and convinced him to let her keep Hunter. I want the police glamoured to go along with this, and I want the kidnapping case to go away.”
“You can do all that?” Jason asked, looking disconcerted.
“Yes,” Eric said evenly. “I will do it if it is necessary to keep Hunter here and safe and away from a father that thinks such things about him.”
Jason seemed to be coming to an internal decision and then nodded.
Eric looked again at his list of agenda items. “Hunter will likely be unable to control reading your thoughts at times. It is fine if you wish to explain to the child that you would prefer if he tried not to, but he will stumble and make mistakes as he learns to develop his shields as Sookie did. You must all show him patience and accept him as he is. Otherwise, I must ask you to keep away from the house.”
Eric looked around the room as all those whom Hunter would be able to hear quickly agreed. Eric had known that they would, but he needed it to be clear that he would accept no one being around Hunter who would upset the boy through a lack of acceptance. The child had dealt with too much of that in his life as it was.
Satisfied, Eric looked back down at his laptop for the next agenda item. “All that said, I want Hunter to have child playmates, though a bit of glamour will be needed to ensure his safety. Arlene and Terry Bellefleur have three children, and Coby and Lisa, though somewhat older than Hunter, seem to be good candidates. Also, I believe that Hunter would enjoy things such as the fishing excursion that is planned for next week, though it will now need to occur on this property. I will be stocking the rivulet and pond with additional fish so that the outing will be enjoyable for all.”
Eric turned back to his vampire child, “Pam―you will find a time to glamour Arlene and the children so that they cannot mention Hunter to others. I will ask Terry not to speak about the boy, but I do not wish to glamour him. His mind—I feel—has already been too traumatized by war. And I perceive him to be trustworthy. Also, Sam Merlotte’s girlfriend has a daughter who is about Hunter’s age.”
He turned to the Werelioness, “Miranda, I would like for you to call Luna tomorrow to see if she will advise us about Hunter’s schooling, as we spoke of before. Perhaps, she will bring her child over when she comes, and we can see if Hunter likes the girl. If Luna agrees to allow her child to be glamoured―just so that she cannot speak of Hunter to others―then she can also be a playmate to the boy.”
“I’ll call first thing tomorrow,” Miranda said.
“Good,” Eric responded, once again looking at his agenda. “This coming Thursday is the human holiday of Thanksgiving, and it requires a feast―does it not?”
Lafayette chuckled. “Yeah. I forgot about it coming up—what with,” he paused, “everythin’ that’s been happenin’.”
Eric nodded, “From what I understand, this holiday is known as a family holiday, so I would like to have a large dinner here with the people in this room included, as well as Bubba if he wishes. Hunter would enjoy the gathering.”
Eric looked at Jason. “Sookie told me last week that she was excited about this holiday and that there were games she liked to play. Do you know of these?”
Jason nodded, “Sure.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Hunter would like playing these games too, I think. Would you arrange for some that will be good to play both outside and inside if the weather is too cold? He was very happy to play horseshoes, for example. The men who are coming to install the electricity for the trailer will also be installing a bright yard light. I believe that will make night play outside easier for Hunter, and I wish for him to be able to go outside with me as long as the weather is mild enough or there is a good fire built.”
Jason spoke up, “Sure―I can pull together some games for Hunter to play.”
“Excellent,” Eric said, looking again at his laptop. “Then there is Christmas. I am aware of the Santa Claus tradition, and Hunter has mentioned Santa Claus. Jarod, I will send you an email with a few gifts that I have in mind already; you may add to the items as you deem appropriate. Also, according to my research, children make lists for Santa Claus, detailing the gifts that they would prefer.”
Jarod chuckled, “I always did.”
“Good. I will construct a list with Hunter in a few weeks in order to complete his Santa Claus needs. If you wish to get Hunter gifts as well,” he said, looking around at the people in the room, “you may. He needs additional books and clothing, but I believe that one gift each is appropriate,” he looked directly at Pam. “I do not want him to become spoiled.”
Pam rolled her eyes, but stayed silent.
Eric continued, “I have already decided that my personal gift to the boy will be a puppy; however, I will make the arrangements for it myself. We will also need to have a Christmas tree―I believe. Can you take care of this?” he looked at Lafayette, who nodded.
Eric looked satisfied. “Good. And Sookie would want all the extras for the child.” He looked at his list. “I do not think a snowman will be feasible, but Christmas cookies, Christmas music, and stockings are easily enough arranged for.” He looked at the others in the room. “And I will be counting on you all to help me make sure I do not forget something necessary for Hunter’s human holidays.”
Everyone around the room—except for Pam—nodded.
Eric scrolled through his list one last time. “Okay, that is all. I appreciate your staying late so that I could speak to you about all of this outside of Hunter’s hearing.” Eric closed his laptop. Just as he was getting ready to get up, he heard the boy begin to cry in his sleep. Quickly, Eric zipped upstairs to Hunter as everyone left behind in the living room looked around at each other. There was concern on almost every face for both of the people upstairs.
“He’s gonna need a lot of time before he’s really able to handle losing her,” Jesus said quietly.
Everyone knew that the brujo’s words applied to both the vampire and the boy.