Eric woke up at precisely 5:16 p.m.—sunset. He was greeted by a very excited Hunter, who was sitting cross-legged on Sookie’s side of the bed. Odin was sitting next to Hunter and looking just as animated. The cat, however, was lounging on its back against Eric’s still body.
Eric chuckled, “Good evening, Son. What has you so excited tonight?” he asked dumbly.
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Daddy,” the boy said chidingly, “it’s Christmas, and we have been waiting all day for the vampires to get up so we can open presents.”
Eric chuckled again. “Did Santa Claus come at least?”
Hunter put his little hands on his hips.
Eric made a mental note to order Pam to quit rolling her eyes and putting her hands that way. He was tired of getting déjà vu in dealing with his vampire and human children.
“Daddy,” Hunter said, “you know that Santa isn’t actually real.”
“Ah,” Eric said with an exaggerated nod. “You have once again read the thoughts of your Uncle Jason then?”
Hunter nodded. “I didn’t tell him this year though. He was sad when I told him last year.”
Eric laughed as he sat up. The cat was displeased―to say the least―but the feline quickly took up a station by the door to await going downstairs so that he could get his nightly feeding. “That was kind of you, Son. I’m sure your Uncle Jason didn’t intend to spill the beans about Santa again.”
Hunter shrugged, “Mommy told me in her head before that. And Daddy too―I mean my old daddy,” Hunter corrected himself.
Eric ruffled the boy’s bangs. “Well, you must tell me how you liked the bicycle that Santa brought for you,” he winked at the word Santa.
Hunter giggled, “I love my new bike, Daddy. It’s my favorite color too—green!”
“Excellent. Did your Uncle Jason and Jarod teach you to ride it as I instructed them to?”
Hunter shook his head. “No―I wouldn’t let them.”
Eric looked at Hunter a little confused. “Did you not want a bicycle, smár rekkr?”
Hunter nodded sincerely. “Yeah—I did. But I wanted to wait for you to teach me, and then Uncle Lala said it would be funnier if you taught me too ‘cause he,” Hunter paused to remember what Lafayette had said. “Oh yeah. He said, it’d be funny to see you ride one to show me how. They found you a bigger bike to show me with, Daddy!”
“Did they indeed?” Eric asked with a little smirk on his face.
“Uh-huh, but ‘Melia says you might not know how to ride bikes ‘cause you’re a vampire and all.” He paused again and then scratched his head. “Miranda bet Uncle Lala five dollars that you didn’t know how to ride.”
“Do you know how to ride a bike, Daddy?” Hunter’s brown eyes were begging.
“Absolutely, Hunter.” Eric rose out of bed and soon had Hunter over his shoulder, much to the delight of the giggling boy.
Eric dumped his son back onto the bed with a large bounce and then quickly gathered up some clothes and zipped into the bathroom to change. When he rejoined Hunter, the boy was giggling to himself.
Eric grinned at his child. “And what has you bouncing up and down and laughing, min son?”
Hunter’s dimples deepened. “Santa put coal in Sissy’s stocking, and Miranda says that Sissy’s gonna be mad at him. Uncle Lala thought in his head about how Sissy’d probably bite Santa if he was real.” Hunter shrugged his shoulders and giggled some more. “Everyone’s head was so happy and funny today, Daddy! It just makes me happy too!”
Eric chuckled. “Me too.” He swung Hunter back up over his shoulders. “Let us go investigate the smells from the kitchen, shall we?”
Hunter squealed with excitement.
Odin trailed father and son down the stairs even as the cat preceded them, and Eric swung Hunter around to ride piggyback for a moment as he reached down to feed and to pet the cat as the little creature required.
As Eric walked with Hunter into the kitchen, he glanced at the refrigerator where the Calvin and Hobbes comic—which he’d sent to Sookie the day of her pseudo-date with Compton—was still hung up. He smiled. He’d intended the little comic to accomplish two things that day. First, he had wanted to make sure that he—and not Compton—was at the forefront of Sookie’s mind. Second, the comic had talked about dreams. At the time, Sookie had been having dreams with Eric in them despite the fact that she’d just severed their tie and vampire bond. Neither of them had known then that the Eric in her dreams was actually a manifestation of the fairy bond.
Now the comic resonated with him in a very direct way. In it Calvin had asked his feline friend why they dreamed when they slept. Hobbes had posited that they dreamed so that they would not be apart for so long—so that they could play together all night. Eric sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Yes—Sookie’s dream had put them back together again after so long apart. He smirked a little. And they had certainly played together throughout the dream.
“What’s you all bright and shiny ‘bout?” Lafayette asked Eric.
Eric opened his eyes and looked at Lafayette, who was stirring something delicious-smelling. Eric inhaled appreciatively. “That smells quite good.”
“Gumbo,” Lafayette said.
“Put in lots of that,” Eric requested, gesturing toward the okra on the cutting board. “I like the smell of it.”
“Always do,” Lafayette said. And then under his breath, he grumbled, “And I is the cook here, you know.” He continued his mutterings, “The day a vampire can out-cook me is the day that I’s be ready to take up wrestling crocodiles for my profession. Please―thinks he knows better than I’s know in the kitchen—and about gumbo no less.” Lafayette took another piece of okra and began chopping it.
Eric chuckled and then looked at Lafayette significantly, “I believe I also smell some cookies. Perhaps you could fix up Hunter with a little snack before presents.”
“Cool―presents!” Hunter exclaimed.
“Soon,” Eric laughed, putting his boy down.
Lafayette nodded and then asked Hunter whether he wanted a Santa cookie or a reindeer cookie as Eric went into the living room, where his nose told him Miranda and Pam were both waiting for him.
“Report,” he said quietly as soon as he entered.
Miranda spoke, “The tiger was here at about 10:30 with a female witch. They stayed for fifteen minutes or so. The camera picked them up as they came and left and also captured an image of the witch.”
“Excellent,” Eric said. “We should figure out who she is as soon as possible.”
Miranda smirked. “Already done. I emailed the image to Octavia, who immediately recognized her as a witch named Hallow, who had tried to join her coven last year. Hallow, apparently, is very ambitious. Unfortunately, according to Octavia, she is also a little insane. After the Marnie incident, Hallow wanted to extort money from the vampires of Area 1 using threats that the coven could repeat the spells of the necromancer. Octavia, of course, wanted no part of this and sent the witch away.”
“Did she comment about the strength of the witch?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” Miranda said, looking concerned. “Hallow is no necromancer, thankfully, but she is powerful, according to Octavia. And she has a brother who is also powerful. And there is something else.”
Eric raised an eyebrow in question.
“She is Werewolf as well, which makes her even more formidable,” Miranda said.
Eric nodded. “So―we can no longer count on the protection spell.”
Miranda shook her head but then added, “Jesus and Amelia have been upstairs all afternoon working on ways to make it more resistant and robust, and Octavia will be coming up tomorrow during the day to add her power when they strengthen the spell. So—the spell may come down if Hallow is powerful enough, but it will take a while to bring it down.”
Eric nodded. “That is good.”
Miranda continued, “Tray has promised more Were support. There are five Weres positioned around the perimeter as look-outs, and there is a team of twenty stationed in the old army barracks that you bought on the other side of town. They will rotate shifts with the look-outs and are on-call twenty-four/seven.”
Eric nodded. “Excellent.”
Miranda smirked. “Tray is going to bill you.”
“He’s not overextending himself, is he?” Eric asked, concerned.
Miranda shook her head. “No—he is happy to have employment for so many of the region’s Weres. He, Alcide, and Scott are going to be rotating as shift leaders for the look-outs until the threat has passed.”
Eric nodded. “Good.”
Miranda continued her report, “We have left the area of the graveyard that Quinn used unguarded, but I put the camera back so that we will know if they come through there. We can add the other surveillance equipment later.”
Eric spoke, “The additional equipment will be here tomorrow during the day; I will install it myself tomorrow night.”
Miranda nodded. “I thought it best to limit our Weres patrolling the cemetery area so that Quinn is not aware that we have increased our defenses. And Jesus and Amelia are also cooking up a spell of cover up the scents of our patrols as well. Let’s hope that Quinn remains overconfident. But if he stays true to form, I believe that he will expect little daytime resistance―except for Jarod and me―after the spell is breached. And from what I heard on the surveillance tape,” she gritted her teeth and let out a little growl, “he seems to view me as little threat given the fact that I now have a child. As if that would make me less of a threat,” Miranda added under her breath.
“A lioness protecting her cub,” Pam drawled.
“You bet your dead ass,” Miranda returned, after checking to make sure that Hunter was not in earshot.
“What of de Castro?” Pam asked. “And Madden?”
“They will be Thalia’s decision.” Eric smiled, “But if I know Thalia, there will be retribution, and it will be swift, covert, and most likely conducted by her personally.”
Pam smiled. “She is probably happy for this conflict. She has not killed anyone―at least that we know of―for months.”
Eric turned to Miranda. “Excellent work, today. You did everything I would have wished for you to do―everything.”
Miranda rolled her eyes, “Really, Northman―this is not my first dance, you know.”
Eric smiled. “I’ll make you a deal, Miranda. If the kitty comes during the daytime, you can have him. If at night, he’s mine.”
The Werelioness just stared at Eric, who eventually smirked. “Fine―he’s yours either way.”
A/N: Hello. So, fans of the books will recognize Hallow, the witch from the fourth book that Marnie was adapted from. However, Marnie was so different than Hallow that I decided to bring in the ‘real Hallow.’ Don’t worry. Eric won’t be losing his memories again, but Hallow is a ‘fun’ character from the book. I hope you don’t mind the artistic license I’m taking as I make Hallow a new and distinct character that is separate from the whole Marnie/Antonia thing.