Eric led Niall into the house, where the cubby had already been locked down. Miranda, Jarod, Jason, and Tara were in the living room, along with Jesus.
Eric inhaled sharply and smelled that Amelia and Lafayette were already in Hunter’s room above them.
Jesus looked at Eric with concern in his eyes. “A brujo can feel it when a spell he has set is weakening. The protection spell is almost gone, but the privacy spell around this home has not been touched so far. We will try to raise another protection spell when the current one falls, but the witch will likely be able to block us from doing it. I feel that Hallow is very powerful. I will try to use my newly discovered gift to get into her head to stop her, but that will take some time.”
Eric grasped Jesus’s forearm in a gesture that he’d not used since his Viking days. “If you use your power, Jesus, make sure the others are guarding you.”
Jesus smiled a little at Eric’s overt concern, “I will. And we will protect this household.”
Eric nodded as Jesus hurried up the stairs to join Amelia and Lafayette. He walked over to the closet where Sookie kept her Gran’s old shotgun; it now had a lock on it since there were children in the house. He quickly punched in a code to open it. He handed the shot gun to Tara and then moved some old jackets out of the closet. He pushed in a second code, and a hidden panel opened in the back of the closet. Concealed inside were at least twenty guns, several stakes, and enough bullet proof vests for all of them.
“Jeez,” Jason said, his eyes growing wide. “Does Sookie know about this?”
“Her idea,” Eric said with a smirk. “But Miranda picked the weapons.”
“Everything is loaded with silver,” Miranda said.
Tara looked at the shotgun in her hands. “This too?”
“Good,” Tara said. “I’ll stick to a classic. She turned the safety off and cocked the gun.”
Miranda chuckled and handed her a box of shells from the closet.
“Do you have anything more,” Niall paused, “elegant than these firearms?”
Eric smirked. “All my swords have iron in them, I’m afraid.”
Niall nodded, “In that case, I will return shortly.”
Eric said, “Everybody get armed and put on a vest.” He looked at Jarod. “Take some things to Jesus, Lafayette, and Amelia upstairs too. Though they will be locked down in Hunter’s room, I want to make sure they can defend themselves.”
The shifter nodded and grabbed three vests and a few pistols to take upstairs.
Eric zipped to his room and stripped off his jacket and T-shirt. He spared a second to take in his wife’s scent from the garment he’d taken from her before putting it into the dresser. Then he put on his own Kevlar vest before redressing in his T-shirt and jacket. He zipped to the third floor. When he returned to the living room moments later, he had his father’s sword strapped to his back. He would have grabbed a gun too, but frankly, he knew that in close combat he could move faster than a bullet and do more damage with his sword.
By the time Eric was back in the living room, so was Niall. The fairy was holding an elegant-looking walking stick. Niall closed his eyes and said, “The protection spell is weakening, but still holding on. The demon is quite gifted.”
Eric nodded, “Yes, he is.” He looked around the room, “I smell twenty-three in total. There is the Weretiger, and five other Weres, including three wolves, one of whom is the witch, Hallow. I recognize her scent from before. I’m not sure what the other two Weres are.”
“One of them is a Werebear who used to fight in the Vegas pits. He is very capable,” Miranda reported. “I don’t recognize the scent of the other—maybe a honey badger?”
“Honey badger?” Niall asked.
“Them is those nasty little fuckers that eat lots of snakes,” Jason supplied. Everyone looked at him. Jason shrugged his shoulders. “What? I seen a funny video on YouTube about ‘em.”
Eric chuckled. “Yes—they can be quite nasty and difficult to kill. Inform Tray.”
Miranda nodded and sent off another text.
Eric looked around the group. “The rest are humans. I’m guessing that—since they think all the vampires are dead for the day—they will be armed with silver and not wooden bullets since they expect Were and shifter presence here. Your vests will protect you from those, but keep your heads down.”
“Obviously,” Tara said, rolling her eyes.
Miranda spoke up, “Tray is moving into position to flank them from the east. He has a group of five Weres with him. Alcide is leading the group we had on stand-by. They will come from the direction of the road, but it will take them between ten and fifteen minutes to get into position. Merlotte and Luna will be with him.”
“Hotshot?” Eric asked.
Jason spoke, “I gotta call from Becky right after we got Hunter into the cubby. They’re all supposed to go to Queen Talia’s mansion and attack it.”
“The diversion,” Eric said.
Miranda nodded, “I already called the small force of human guards Thalia keeps there for show. They are to take a defensive position in the basement, and pick them off if they move in. Otherwise, they will do nothing.”
Eric once again turned his head sharply to the side and inhaled, “The spell is down. The force is moving toward us slowly.”
“How long will we have you?” Miranda asked.
“I am not sure,” Eric said. He looked at Niall, who also shrugged. “I will hold on as long as I can, but once Sookie’s magic wears off, I will need to get inside or into the ground quickly.”
Jason cocked a gun loudly, and all eyes turned to him. He had a large gun in his hands and several others strapped to various parts of his body. “Well, let’s lock and load! I gotta woman and a nephew to protect here. And lots of other people too.” He looked at Niall. “Guess you’re my great-grandpa?”
“Well, Gramps,” Jason said, slapping the fairy on the back, “you could have visited me before, but I guess I don’t have much of the fairy thing happenin’, but I got the fuckin’ Stackhouse thing goin’ on. And Stackhouses know how to protect what’s theirs!”
Niall chuckled and took in Jason proudly. In that moment, Niall realized all that he had missed out on by staying away from Earl’s children and grandchildren. He had discounted Jason because of his overt “humanness.” Niall acknowledged that he had been a fool to do that and promised to remedy that fact. The fairy nodded, “I am happy to fight alongside my great-grandson.”
Miranda sniffed the air. “Forty yards and closing.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed.
Niall closed his eyes. He sensed magic in the air. “Your people upstairs could not re-raise the protection spell, but they are working to strengthen the spell for privacy. Plus, there is a little magic in this house already from me—as I said before—and I am helping them.”
“Sounds good,” Jason said, slapping Niall on the back again. “So them folks outside can’t see me or hear me, right?”
“No,” Eric moved to the window and watched the force approach from the front; the others also moved to watch.
Miranda smiled, “Quinn seems confused.”
Eric nodded, “He cannot smell anyone inside. He is uncertain of what to do.”
Miranda looked down at her phone. “Tray texted. His group is in position behind the guesthouse in back—just out of range so that they can’t be detected. If Quinn sends some of his people back there, they will be trapped in a cross-fire between the house and Tray’s people.”
Eric nodded again. “And if Quinn continues to be cautious, that will give Alcide’s group time to get here. Let’s just hope the privacy spell continues to baffle the tiger so that he will break up his forces.”
Quinn had stopped his group about twenty feet from the house. For about a minute, the whole force just held up where they were.
From the window, Eric saw Quinn motioning for some members of his group to move around the building to the back. The vampire smiled as he saw three of the Weres and half of the humans head toward the back, keeping a perimeter of about twenty feet from the house as they moved.
“Excellent,” Eric said. “Don’t shoot until they are closer or try to get in. We have the advantage and more people coming.” He looked at Jason, “Take Tara and go to the back of the house. Tray’s people will be coming at them too, so try to stay inside and behind cover.”
“Fuckin’ A,” Jason said. “Come on, Gramps. Let’s go around to the kitchen, and I’ll show you where I used to hide so that I could scare Sookie.”
Niall bowed to Eric and followed Jason and Tara. Eric chuckled as he heard Tara mumbling something about Supernatural bullshit and anger management classes and finally being able to take out some aggression in a “positive manner” like her “fucking shrink” always told her that she needed to do.
Miranda looked down at her phone again. “Alcide’s group will be in place in a few minutes.”
Eric nodded and watched as Quinn moved toward the porch, the tiger’s nose clearly working overtime to figure out why he couldn’t smell anything. He called a woman over to him, and Eric recognized her as the witch Hallow. She was tall, slender, and extremely muscular. She was almost beautiful, but there was something “off” about her features.
Hallow was trailed by another Were, probably her brother, who had similar sharp facial features. Eric smelled a lot of power radiating from them.
Eric could hear every word they spoke, as could Miranda and Jarod.
“Why can’t I detect what’s inside?” Quinn whispered. “It’s like a blank in there.”
Hallow closed her eyes. “There is another spell, this one ensuring privacy. I thought there might be this kind of thing, but I could not be sure.”
Quinn got on his walkie-talkie and ordered his team to continue surrounding the house but to hold for now. He signaled to three of the humans who had stayed with him to go around to the other side of the house as well from the opposite side.
“Bring the spell down,” Quinn ordered quietly. “I want to know how many we are facing before we breach.”
Hallow shook her head. “I can’t just bring a spell down without making preparations. And I was paid only to bring down the other one.”
Quinn spoke with disgust, “I’m sure the vampire will compensate you.”
Hallow shook her head again. “I need no more money, and de Castro has already failed to agree to give me what I really want, so I am disinclined to help you further.”
“What do you want?” Quinn scoffed. “No—let me guess. You still want the vampire? Northman? I do not see your fascination with him.”
Hallow narrowed her eyes, “Perhaps I could lower the spell if you were willing to be more reasonable concerning Northman.”
Quinn shook his head, “I have my orders too. I am to make sure all the sheriffs die today.”
Hallow looked at him with malice. “Then you will do it without the help of my brother and me.” She began to move away.
“Wait,” Quinn said. “There are other vamps inside. I can give you them.”
Hallow turned around briefly. “If I wanted another vampire, I would simply take one. I desire only Northman, and if you will not be reasonable, then you will go in there blind.”
“Stop,” Quinn hissed. “Fine. We’ll wrap the sheriff in silver and call de Castro tonight. If he’s debilitated, then he may agree to give him to you.”
Hallow spoke, “I will agree to that if I can have some of his blood in the meantime.”
Quinn grimaced, “Fine.”
Hallow smiled sickly, “Excellent. Now—who says kitties cannot be reasonable.”
Quinn turned up his lips in disgust, “Why do you want him?”
Hallow’s smile looked even more maniacal. “Well―for one―he’s hot, and I have heard he is excellent in bed. And if I can drain him a bit at a time and sell thousand-year-old vampire blood as well, then that is only a bonus. Plus, he once hurt someone I care for, my Yvetta. I will use him for my own pleasure and then end him for my lover’s.”
From inside, Miranda smirked, “You always did have lovely fans, Northman.”
Eric cringed involuntarily, his bond with Sookie screaming out against Hallow’s words. He shuddered even at the memory of being with Yvetta. He looked at Miranda, “Fucking bad pennies.”
She nodded in agreement.
“Niall!” Eric yelled.
Niall returned into the room.
“If they bring down the privacy spell before they move in, you should attack them while they are still outside. Once you start, Tray will move in quickly to join you.” Niall nodded and turned back to rejoin Jason and Tara.
Miranda got a message. “Alcide says three minutes.”
Eric nodded, “Tell Tray to start in two.”
Eric watched as the witch took some contents out of a bag that her brother was holding. Quinn backed up as she quickly poured out a small circle onto the ground and backed up even further as she stepped inside of it with her brother and joined hands with him.
The vampire closed his eyes and steadied himself as the witches began chanting outside. This was his home—his home with his wife and his son. Bill and Lillith had entered his home as part of a plan, but the last time anyone had actually breached a home of his had been the night Russell’s Weres had killed his human family, but this time he vowed that his family would be safe. Hunter was secure with Batanya, and Sookie was not there. The rest of his friends and allies were capable and defending his home and themselves too. If he were in his day rest like he should be, they would be protecting even him in that moment.
Eric felt ready. He felt grateful for the life he’d been given. The fairy bond was positively sizzling with power―the power that Sookie had been feeding it all night with her magic and her blood. Yes—he was ready to defend all that had become his because of his mate.
His eyes snapped open as he sensed Hallow’s magic. “It’s coming down.” He stood straight and gauged his strength level. The gray February day was not putting fear into his vampire body.
But he would put fear into his enemies!
Miranda shimmered and shifted into her lioness form, and as always, Jarod marveled at the beauty of his mate—the mother of his equally magnificent child. He spoke to Eric, “We are lucky men, Northman.”
Eric nodded to Jarod, who was armed with two large handguns. Just as the spell went down, Eric kicked open the door from the inside to face his enemies.
The vampire was uncertain about a great many things, but there was one thing he knew for sure. No foes would set foot into his family’s home that day! His heimili would not fall—not this time.
A/N: Hello! You might be wondering what “heimili” means. It means “home” or more accurately “homestead” in Old Norse. “Heim” is the word for “home,” but thinking of this as a “homestead” appealed to me more when I named this chapter. I wanted to evoke the Old Norse word (the “Viking” word) and not the Swedish word here because Eric is about to get his “Viking on.”