Pam approached the figures silhouetted by the gray light of the approaching dawn. She stopped twenty feet from them. She felt and smelled her maker. She also picked up the scent of the fairy, Niall, though he had obviously muted his fairy essence, most likely for her benefit.
However, those were the only two scents she picked up on.
Hunter wasn’t there.
Tears began to drip from her eyes, and her fear that she’d truly lost her brother kept her frozen in place.
Pam was pretty certain that there was no god—at least not one she’d ever seen. No “higher power” had ever saved her ass except for Eric Northman, and she wasn’t about to compare him to a god for fear that his fucking head would explode. But in that moment, she prayed that her brother would come back to them before she met the true death.
What could it hurt?
Five minutes earlier
Eric dropped Niall’s hand as soon as they were back in the human realm. It was near dawn, and the frost that often covered the northern Louisiana ground during winter mornings had settled. Eric’s arms felt empty without his child or Sookie in them.
His painful goodbye to his wife would likely lead to many months without her.
His goodbye to Hunter would—hopefully—last only minutes.
Niall smiled, “I will keep her there for as little time as I can, but the strength of your bond has grown. It will help.”
Eric nodded somberly. “I know. I can feel it. She’s stronger too—though tired.”
Niall chuckled. “If she can feel the magic of Faerie within her properly and if she lets that magic truly merge with the bond that you two have nourished, I cannot imagine an enemy who could defeat you two.”
“I don’t suppose you would be willing to give out any hints about that enemy.”
“Afraid not,” Niall said, a placid smile on his face. “Even if I knew more—and I don’t—I would not.”
Eric looked at him closely, “Tell your sister that she needs to stop being so damned enigmatic.”
Niall looked surprised, but only momentarily. He chuckled, “Was it the daggers that gave us away?”
“That—and the story that you told Sookie. If I did not know better, I would think you were,” he paused, “stacking the deck.”
Niall chuckled louder. “My Viola loved to play at cards. When I learned how, I often accused her of cheating because she won so often, but I never discovered her tricks.”
His tone became serious. “I should have used the dagger when I bonded with my Viola, but I was afraid of its power. When I saw it light up in Sookie’s hands, I almost took it back.”
Eric nodded, “It was powerful.”
“She gave it to you?” Niall asked.
Eric chuckled slightly, “Which it? Which she?”
Niall joined him in his laugh. “I honestly didn’t know that my sister had let the other one come to you. I was not even certain that she had it—though when it could not be found, I,” he paused, “suspected. My parents were always sure that the demon’s parents had stolen it in order to cast the spell against my sister using her blood. Given the potency of the spell, that would have made sense.”
Eric’s smile faded. “Your sister must have given it to Godric. He had it for years, though he never told me where it came from. She probably ordered him not to. And when my maker met the sun, the dagger became mine. As for the other one,” Eric tapped his jacket, “she did give it to me.”
Niall nodded. “They should be together, though—selfishly—I would prefer them to be in Faerie since they were forged by my own great-grandfather. The magic in them was always powerful, made even more so by my sister and her mate’s bond—and now yours and Sookie’s. When they are brought together again, I would like to see them again.”
Eric nodded. “Sookie asked that I wait until she is with me to bring them together—just in case. We are both wary of their combined strength, though we do intend to test them once she’s back.”
Niall chuckled, “That should be a real fireworks show. Just be careful.” He sighed, “It is hard to doubt the pair of you and the strength of your magic, but Sookie was somewhat,” he paused, “worn down due to the magic of the dagger. I could tell; it is, perhaps, better that I never used it with my Viola. That kind of surge is difficult on the human body.”
“I know,” Eric sighed. “I too was worried for a moment―even by its impact on me. But I felt my own blood and my strength moving through her to heal the sear of the fairy magic. And her power also healed its impact on me. It is difficult to explain, but it was like the forging of iron and steel. Heat and energy are needed to make the metals supple enough to become one, but then water is used to stop the heat once the forging is completed so that the blade will not bend. It felt like that tonight.”
Niall looked at Pam, who had just arrived and was standing about twenty feet away from them with her fingernails in her mouth. “Your child seems nervous.”
Eric looked around, “I am nervous.”
Niall smiled comfortingly. “The dawn is still ten minutes away.”
Eric shook his head, “That is not why I am nervous.”
“Saying goodbye is not easy for the young. But they will be here soon. Claude is well aware of the time.”
Eric looked less certain, “He was very sad.”
“Yes—but he was also very certain of his choice, Eric. And that choice was to be with you. He loves you more than anything or anyone.” Niall paused. “He was saddened by the fact that he had to choose, but his did not doubt what he chose. You must trust him. He simply needed a moment without you there to say goodbye, child.”
Eric smirked a little, “You calling me child is something that I won’t be getting used to.”
Niall chuckled. “You are a child to me. And you are husband to my great-granddaughter. I suppose that makes you my . . . .”
Eric interrupted Niall good-naturedly, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Niall laughed louder. “You are also the vampire grandson to my sister. I am surprised that Sookie is not worried about the fact that you are related to her in a way. At first, she had a difficult time with the concept of Hadley and Claude being related―though Hadley is starting to soften to my son.”
“Clearly,” Eric intoned as he raised an eyebrow. He sighed, “Sookie will be fine. She knows that things do not work that way with vampires. She is also aware that vampires tend to have sex with their makers. But luckily, the A.P. never showed that kind of interest in Godric—or me, for that matter. That, I think, would have ‘weirded Sookie out.’”
Niall chuckled, “I can believe it.” His voice took on a faraway quality. “Fairies also think about sex and marriage differently than humans. In many ways, ours is a culture of what the humans might call ‘free love.’ Fidelity is rare and is often practiced only because marriage contracts sometimes require it for a time. For years, my sister’s choices seemed odd to me.” Niall sighed. “Did you know that she has remained faithful to her mate even though he has been dead for millennia, according to human time at least?” His voice took on a hard, venomous tone. “I—of course—do not count what her bastard maker did to her as infidelity.”
Eric looked at the fairy more closely. “It was you who killed him?”
“I did so with relish,” Niall confirmed with an unapologetic smile.
They were quiet for a moment before Eric spoke. “You are my,” he paused, “family because of my wife and my son and my maker’s maker.” He sighed. “Pam will likely wish to stake me, but I am,” he paused again, “proud of this fact.”
Niall smiled. “As am I, child.”
Eric rolled his eyes dramatically as Niall went back to their previous topic. “You know, I never understood monogamy until I met my Viola, but I haven’t taken another lover since her—though I have had offers. I am not so old, after all.”
Eric couldn’t help his chuckle, “The A.P. did tell me that she’d had only one lover; until I met Sookie, I did not understand how she could have abstained from physical pleasure, but now I do. I cannot even fathom the idea of taking one other than my wife. Sookie has me completely at her disposal—only hers.”
Pam approached; her voice was shaky, “Eric?”
Eric looked at her. “I think he is coming, Pam. He wanted time to say goodbye to his mother without my being there. Sookie says that it is because he does not want me to think he is sad about the choice he has made.”
Totally ignoring Niall, Pam’s fangs clicked down. “You could have told me that as soon as I got here! I’ve been waitin’ over there for five minutes while you powwowed with a fairy over God knows what! And I was thinkin’ that he wasn’t comin’ because he wasn’t with you!” A fresh tear slipped from her eye.
“I thought he would be right behind us,” Eric said in a conciliatory voice. He looked at Niall with a little worry.
The fairy reassured both Pam and Eric. “He has made his choice. And I heard in his mind that he was certain of it.”
Pam leveled Eric with a deadly stare. “You will owe me Gucci for this! I’m cryin’ in front of a fucking fairy!” Pam wiped her tears away angrily and huffed.
Eric tried to smile at Pam reassuringly, but it did not reach his eyes. His arms ached for both his mate and his son. He turned to Niall. “It is only five minutes before dawn.” His voice betrayed his continued worry. He looked back at Pam, “You should go. I have had Sookie’s blood, and I do not feel the sun pulling me, but you must. I will wait for Hunter and bring him.”
Pam saw Eric’s worry, and another tear escaped her. “You think he might not come?”
Eric said as forcefully as he could. “I think he will come; until he is here, however,” his voice trailed off. “Now—go Pamela.”
She turned and went toward the house at vampire speed to face the crowd waiting there.
Niall looked at Eric carefully. “He will come.”
Eric responded, “He may have changed his mind.” He looked at Niall a bit desperately. “If he did, you must tell him that I am not angry. Tell him that I love him.”
Niall nodded. They waited another three minutes. Despite the cloud cover, Eric could see the fingers of light beginning to extend through the trees and into the sky signaling that the sun would soon be arriving. Sookie’s blood was protecting him, however, so he was certain that he could withstand the murky day for at least a while.
“Would you like to go back?” Niall offered. “There is still enough of her blood in you to take you there and keep you there for a while.”
Eric considered for a moment. “Could something have happened? Could something have gone wrong? Could there have been an attack?”
Niall shook his head. “Claude is there, and the pool is surrounded by magic to keep out enemies.”
Eric sighed. “Then I should not go back. I do not want to risk taking any more of Sookie’s blood to keep myself there. And if Hunter has changed his mind, then my being there would make things too difficult for him. But you should go. I will wait here until I cannot wait any longer. When I must seek shelter inside, I will send Jesus out to wait.”
Niall nodded and was about to return to the fairy realm when Eric yelled out, “Stop! Something is wrong!”