Note: Romjul is a Norwegian word for the period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.
Summary: (Interlude—Part 6 of the Gift Horse Series—Set in Sweden) Eric and Sookie—along with Thalia, Karin, Pam, and Sookie’s children—travel to Sweden, seeking refuge from the lingering threat of Felipe de Castro. There, they will encounter new allies, including Olaf (Thalia’s vampire sibling who is mentioned in “Scrooged”) and Ricca (a beautiful witch who will capture the attention of one of Eric’s vampire children).
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lines of dialogue, titles, etc., are the property of their respective owners. Only the original plot is the creation of the author; however, even that is derived from characters belonging to others. No profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of the source material. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in this story are based on The Southern Vampire Mystery series and True Blood. Thus, Charlaine Harris and HBO are responsible for the people and places that I play with in my story.
Author’s Note: It has been a very long time since I got you an installment of this series.
Must reads: The other stories of the GH Series.
If you have already read these pieces (and don’t want to go back), here are some reminders that might help with what is to come:
- “Gift Horse” was the 1st in the series. It is set on Christmas Eve 7 years after Dead Ever After. Eric arrives at Sookie’s home; she is heavily pregnant with Sam’s child—her second with him. We learned, however, that Sam is dead. Eric was still Freyda’s consort; he’d been being compliant with his role, but had learned that she and de Castro had broken the deal. There was a plot to steal Sookie’s unborn child—to fake his death. Bill had learned the baby was a telepath and had passed along that knowledge to Freyda and Felipe. Eric gave Sookie several choices to escape the plotting around her. She chose to leave Bon Temps and be with him.
- “Scrooged” followed “Gift Horse” and was set the same night. Thalia has captured Bill—even as Pam and Karin take Sookie to Mississippi—where Russell has agreed to help. He will provide a safe house until the baby comes and Sookie can travel. The main action is Eric finally being able to kill Bill—with Sookie’s blessing.
- “Black Christmas” followed “Scrooged” and was set the next night. Freyda is having a big Christmas party. Little does she know that Eric plans to kill her in a way that will free himself of any retribution from the Vampire Council. The party goes great, but Desmond Cataliades is lost in the battle. ☹
- “Boxing Day” followed “Black Christmas” and was set immediately after. Sookie has gone into labor, and Pam and Karin must “help” while Eric does his best to be there for the birth. At the end, Eric and Sookie exchange blood and reaffirm their love for one another.
- “Ice Queens” followed “Boxing Day” and focuses on Pam, who is still the official Sheriff of Area 5, and Thalia. They had been planning to stay in Area 5 to watch over Jason Stackhouse, but learn that Luther (Freyda’s second-in-command and lover) is there to hunt down the telepath and her family. Thalia and Pam get to have “fun” with Luther. However, they also discover that Amelia had been Bill’s lover and had actually known about the plot to take Sookie’s unborn son! We learn that Amelia has been in love—obsessed—with Sookie for many years. Sadly, Thalia and Pam do not have the opportunity to kill her. But they arrange for Jason and his family to get to safety (in Indiana where Bartlett Crowe will look out for them) before joining Eric and Sookie in Mississippi. All plan to leave the country together in order to be safer from de Castro—and whatever machinations he may be planning.
That’s it for reminding you of the main stories; next up, I want to remind you of some applicable nuances.
- Olaf, the vampire King of Sweden, is Thalia’s vampire brother, and it was learned in “Scrooged” that Eric had somehow been responsible for their maker’s demise. Adelphius is the name of their maker.
- Eric’s property in Sweden is already in Sookie’s name. This is so that vampires must be “invited,” which she has already done for the vampires in this story (off “camera”). Also, it needs to be in her name so that the Fae magic within the soil taken from her home in Bon Temps can transfer.
- Olaf has a coven of witches employed. Their leader is named Ricca.
- In “Black Christmas,” we learn that Sweden allows vamp/human marriage, and Sookie wants to marry Eric and take his surname—since she is not, indeed, a Stackhouse. Of course, she has other reasons for that too! 😉
- After Desmond died, Diantha opened his briefcase and gave Eric an amulet to give to Sookie. It was described as Desmond’s legacy—since he had no children. All she needed to do was to put it on, and its meaning would be made clear to her. (“Black Christmas”)
- Pam was going to stay in Area 5 for a few years after Sookie left in order to watch over Jason and his family; however, Luther (Freyda’s second) sent Malcolm (one of de Castro’s spies in Area 5) to potentially harm Jason (after Freyda was killed). The result was that Pam and Karin killed Malcolm and Luther and left the area. (“Ice Queens”)
- Jason and his family moved to Indiana, where Bartlett extended protection. (“Ice Queens”)
- Sookie and Eric share blood at the end of “Boxing Day.” The blood exchange—initiated by Sookie—helps heal Sookie after birthing Matty and restarts their bond.
- In “Ice Queens,” it is learned that Amelia both loves and hates Sookie. In fact, she’s in love with her. While living with Sookie, Amelia had used a spell to cover up her stronger emotions.
And, now, on with the new installment!
Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’
Alfred Lord Tennyson
NEAR STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Vampires did not dream, but they could most certainly fantasize. And—with their supple minds—they could spin very elaborate tales indeed!
The vampire King of Sweden, Olaf Erickson, had spun many fantasies during his existence, and most of them had starred Thalia, his vampire sibling.
Olaf and Thalia’s maker had been an unimaginable monster named Adelphius, who had been turned in Rome around the year 10 A.D. Even in his human life, Adelphius had enjoyed inflicting various kinds of pain—both physical and psychological. During his vampire life, his favorite targets had been his own children, many of whom did not survive very long.
There had been two other children still walking the earth when Olaf was turned: Seamus and Thalia.
Upon Olaf’s turning, Adelphius had been approximately eleven hundred years old.
Seamus had been around three hundred years old.
Thalia had been about half that.
The very night that Olaf rose as a vampire, Adelphius had taught his new child a valuable lesson: that a maker had ultimate power over his progeny. After torturing Seamus through the power of his maker’s command, Adelphius brutalized his body, forcing Thalia and Olaf to watch—and then to participate—before finally (just before dawn) throwing what was left of Seamus outside the cave they were staying in so that the sun would finish the work Adelphius had started.
And just why had his oldest child needed to die, according to Adelphius?
Seamus had committed the unforgiveable “sin” of boring Adelphius, and Olaf had been his “replacement.”
Of course, Seamus was not the only one to suffer that horrible night of Olaf’s rising.
Indeed, though Thalia had hacked into her elder vampire sibling’s body with apparent stoicism as she obeyed her maker’s commands, each act that she was forced to perpetrate had hacked into her psyche.
By contrast to Thalia, Olaf’s suffering that night had been more physical than psychological. Busy “dealing with” Seamus, Adelphius did not bother to ensure that his new child fed. Indeed, quite the opposite, Adelphius commanded that Olaf not drink any blood (not even that which was flowing freely from Seamus), thereby causing Olaf immense pain. And, of course, Adelphius had not held back as he’d instructed Olaf about how to “tend to” his maker’s cock.
When morning had finally come, only one of Adelphius’s children was content, and that was Seamus—especially as the sun burned away all traces of his maker and transformed the brutalized vampire into ash.
Thalia and Olaf had been left behind to suffer.
Olaf, mindlessly hungry and confused about his new state, had fallen into his day-death praying that he would die.
Thalia had fallen into hers fantasizing about her own death.
Olaf sighed as he closed his eyes tightly, wishing that he could forget the first fifty years of his existence as a vampire. But, even though 853 years had passed since then, he still remembered his suffering vividly.
The only bright point to those early years had been Thalia, whose beauty had captivated him almost from the start of his vampire existence. Indeed, he had first registered that beauty as she’d looked on as he’d finally been allowed his first feeding. Her eyes had spoken of her empathy—but not pity—as she moved her gaze down to Olaf’s feet, where the corpses of his meal lay.
Where the corpses of his own family lay.
Where he’d drained them.
It had taken him a moment—even with his new, enhanced vision—to recognize his victims, for he’d terrorized the bodies because of both his own starvation and his maker’s command that he make his meal suffer. With Thalia watching over him—offering as much support as a mere look could—Olaf had sunk to his knees, weeping out the blood he’d just drunk from his wife, two sons, and sister.
His maker had simply laughed.
And—thus—began Adelphius’s “mental conditioning” of his newest child.
Many years later, Olaf learned that Thalia had been forced to kill her own family in a similar way. Indeed, Adelphius never chose a child that didn’t have a family that could help him to “teach” his newest progeny that he or she was a monster.
Just. Like. Adelphius.
After her first looks of empathy in his direction, Thalia had always behaved indifferently toward Olaf.
Unfortunately, Olaf soon learned that he could not hide his own attraction for Thalia from his maker, and Adelphius commanded Olaf not to touch her in any way. Indeed, even an accidental brush of the hand would cause the youngling tremendous pain, and Adelphius would punish him for it.
His favorite punishment for Olaf—whether the youngling’s “sin” was real or imagined by his maker—was beating and raping Thalia, even as Olaf was forced to watch.
Unintentionally making things worse, Olaf would weep whenever his vampire sister was abused, thus, encouraging his maker to be even more brutal.
Unfortunately for both of Adelphius’s living children, Olaf never developed the ability to behave indifferently towards Thalia. Indeed, he’d envied Thalia for stoically enduring Adelphius’s treatment of her, and he’d admired her all the more.
However, the admiration and pull that Olaf had felt for his beautiful vampire sibling had not been one-sided. Indeed, Adelphius liked to “tease” Thalia that it was she who had caused Olaf to be selected as her maker’s latest child.
He liked to tell—and retell—the story of Thalia’s blame.
Adelphius, Seamus, and Thalia had been monitoring a raid upon Olaf’s village when Thalia had suddenly experienced a “pull” toward Olaf that she could not stifle. That “pull” signaled that the man she saw should have been fated to be her child. Of course, Thalia immediately resisted the sensation; however, it was too late.
Adelphius had already sensed both her feelings and the target of them.
To say that Adelphius enjoyed strumming Thalia’s guilt like an ill-tuned instrument would have been an understatement. To say that he tormented Olaf with ideas of what “could have been” if he’d had the maker that “should have been” would have been another one.
Yes—for his first 50 years, Olaf’s existence was a “living” hell. Undying and unliving. So Olaf had done the only thing he was capable of doing to hold onto a shred of himself.
Indeed, he’d fantasized nightly that Adelphius would meet the sharp end of a stake thrust by him, but—of course—Adelphius had always made it a practice to command his children never to harm him in any way. On the other end of the spectrum, Olaf would also fantasize about Thalia. Though he feared that he would never truly have her—never even touch her without pain—his fantasies kept him from losing his mind.
Olaf took an unneeded breath and recalled the first time that he saw the vampire who would eventually become a savior, a mentor, and a “father” to him: Eric Northman. He could recall the moment with clarity.
About five years after Olaf was turned, Adelphius and his children traveled to France, where they met up with Appius Livius Ocella. Adelphius and Appius had a standing appointment of sorts and would meet together every decade or so and travel in each other’s company for a time.
Though not as psychopathic as Adelphius, Appius also enjoyed “enacting lessons” upon his children’s bodies. Indeed, Eric had been in silver chains when Olaf was “introduced” to him. Thalia had met Eric before, but—as with everyone—she outwardly showed him indifference.
After Olaf had experienced the first two rendezvous between the makers, the younger vampire found himself longing for the visits. The two Romans spent much time sharing stories of their debauchery and cruelty—which meant less time focusing on their children. Olaf eventually learned that the two makers had been turned after the same battle. Like them, their own makers had enjoyed traveling together; in fact, they had decided to make new children on the same night and “raise” them together.
Adelphius and Appius were chosen because of their own brutality.
Appius’s maker had seen the young Roman beheading enemies before ordering that their heads be placed on pikes. Adelphius had been spotted drinking the blood from a foe’s heart.
Olaf scoffed. The two had practically been vampires before they’d been turned!
Yes—during their visits, Adelphius and Appius did distract each other at times; however, the meetings were not altogether enjoyable. Appius and Adelphius always made time to share their children, and Olaf, Eric, and Thalia all suffered from the fact that their makers were particularly fond of various types of double penetration.
Still, Olaf had “enjoyed” his time with Eric and Thalia when Appius and Adelphius were away—at least as much as he was, by then, capable of enjoying anything.
Eric’s age was about midway between Thalia’s and his—at least in vampire years. However, Eric had been turned when he was approximately 30 winters old, while Thalia and Olaf had both been turned when they were in their early twenties.
Olaf had both envied and admired Eric. Because Appius was not as cruel as Adelphius, Eric had actually learned some valuable lessons from his maker, and he was beginning to develop a reputation for his own battle skills. In fact, Appius would hire out his child’s services at times, thereby giving him an occupation beyond suffering and pain. Eric also had “hope,” for Appius did not perpetually keep his children until he tired of and then killed them. Indeed, Olaf learned that Eric had an older vampire sibling, Cyril, who had been sent away by Appius approximately seventy years before. There had been other siblings too, though they had met their true deaths by then. Oh—Appius did not fully “free” his children, but when he tired of them, he didn’t feel compelled to murder them either.
He simply sent them away with the “warning” that he could call them any time he wished.
Of course, Eric’s older siblings had been expected to send tribute to their maker in the form of gold or the transfer of any favors they’d garnered from powerful vampires. Perhaps, that was why Appius allowed his progenies to have the illusion of freedom.
Still—Olaf had envied Eric because his future seemed likely to change—for the better.
But Olaf’s admiration for the older vampire had been just as strong as his envy. Both Eric and Olaf had been what the world now termed Vikings; indeed, the two had hailed from neighboring villages, so Olaf felt an instinctive kinship with him. As it turned out, Olaf had even heard tales of Eiríkr, a mighty warrior who had disappeared into the night decades before! It had been thought that the Valkyries—or even Freyja herself—had not been able to wait to have the handsome, virile warrior among them.
Olaf had come to believe—several centuries before—that it had been no coincidence that Adelphius had traveled to the same region where Appius had found Eric. After all, Eric was an almost perfect specimen for a vampire, and both Romans loved “perfection.” Likely, Adelphius had been “shopping” for his own Viking.
The Swedish king sighed. He’d not blamed Eric when he’d come to this realization. How could he? After all, it was just another sign of Adelphius’s sociopathic tendencies, and those certainly had nothing to do with Eric.
Olaf returned once more to his memories.
Strangely, not long after he’d first met Eric, Olaf found himself feeling a little sorry for the older vampire—even as he envied and admired him. At least, with Adelphius, one always knew where one stood. Appius had moments when he was almost decent, but then his whole demeanor would turn on a dime. Thus, Eric always seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then there was the fact that Olaf had Thalia; indeed, they had each other. They could not touch, and she did not allow herself to acknowledge him directly; however, her mere presence had been enough of a consolation to the younger sibling.
Much of the time, Eric was all alone with his maker—a possibility that had elicited intense fear from Olaf.
When Olaf was enduring the forty-third year of his vampire existence, Adelphius had taken him and Thalia to London, where they were to meet up with Appius again. However, Eric was not with his maker.
Apparently, Appius had grown “bored” of his child and had sent him away. Olaf would never forget how Appius had cackled at the idea that he would one day swoop into Eric’s life—just when his child relaxed or became too content—and remind him who was the dominant in the relationship. Adelphius had laughed just as loud and had wondered whether he should allow a child to live past its “prime” so that he could enjoy feeling the same kind of dread from him or her that Appius got to enjoy from Eric and others.
It was during that visit that Appius “called” Cyril to his side. Cyril had been a Spartan warrior and—in his way—he was just as twisted as his maker. Thus, though he’d endured harsh treatment from Appius, Cyril had enjoyed being able to take out his own aggressions on others when his maker allowed him to do so.
Having been “free” for almost a century and being made out of the same mold as his maker, Cyril enjoyed a “friendship” of sorts with Appius and quickly came to enjoy Adelphius’s company as well.
Indeed, Cyril traveled with Adelphius, Thalia, and Olaf for about five years altogether—even after Appius became restless and journeyed to Rome in search of a new child. However, before Appius left, he told Cyril and Adelphius where to find Eric, for he felt that they could have some “sport” with him.
It was then that Olaf truly recognized that there would never be freedom from makers of the ilk of Appius or Adelphius—not as long as any child of theirs lived.
Indeed, Olaf realized that he would be forced to suffer an eternity of pain, for he doubted not that Adelphius would live forever and find a way to damn him even if he was lucky enough to meet the truth death!
That realization marked the beginning of Olaf’s worst years as a vampire.
He would have met the sun, but Adelphius had, of course, commanded that he could never do anything to harm himself. Adelphius had made clear that harming Olaf would be his job.
Olaf could only fantasize that he could harm his maker back.
He could only fantasize that he would be free one day.
He could only fantasize that he could take Thalia into his arms without feeling pain.
He could only fantasize that Adelphius would tire of him enough to gift him with the true death.
With no hope that they would become realities.
And, thus, his fantasies became a part of his torture—probably just as Adelphius had wanted.
The only “good” news was that Cyril and Adelphius did not “find” Eric during their time together, though they enjoyed hunting for him for a few years. But the Viking had proved elusive.
Eventually, Cyril decided to venture north, while Adelphius was not in the “mood” for cold. So they separated.
Adelphius took his children to Portugal after that, for he’d not been there in a while, and he wished to see Lisbon since it had grown into a trading mecca.
“Lisbon.” Olaf smiled to himself. It was still one of his favorite cities, for it was there that he felt free for the first time in his vampire existence.
He smiled wider as he thought about one of the most important nights of his life. Thalia and he had been commanded to stand guard over a Were who had unintentionally insulted Adelphius; meanwhile, their maker was out kidnapping the Were’s family so that they could be tortured in front of him. That was simply the way that Adelphius operated.
However, after several hours, Adelphius had not returned.
And—then—Thalia and Olaf had simultaneously doubled over in pain as their maker disappeared from their bodies!
Being older and stronger, Thalia recovered first. Olaf would never forget how she was looking at him when he was finally able to rise from the floor.
And—for the first time—the two vampire siblings embraced.
And there was no pain.
Of course, they both knew instinctively that Adelphius had met his final death. They just didn’t know how.
Nor did they know what to do next.
Adelphius had refused to allow them any independence, so their relief had been followed by uncertainty.
It was then that Eric Northman had arrived at the dwelling where they’d been staying. He glamoured the captured Were and sent him back to his family.
The two siblings had not needed to ask if Eric had been the one to free them. They could smell their maker on him: Adelphius’s semen, his blood, and ash.
Eric led Thalia and Olaf from the dwelling they’d been occupying with Adelphius. And—afterwards—he led them for another decade so that they could learn independence. He explained one night how he’d felt adrift for several years after Appius had sent him away. Indeed, he admitted that he’d almost died quite a few times during that initial time on his own.
He also admitted that there had been a couple of times when he’d contemplated asking friends to kill him—just so that he would never again have to face Appius, whom he always felt present in their maker-child bond. Those had been Eric’s darkest days.
But he’d lived on.
Eric had intuited that Thalia and Olaf would be even more vulnerable than he had been—at first—because they had not been allowed to follow any of their own inclinations as long as they’d been vampires. Moreover, Adelphius had not been one for exhibiting restraint; thus, his children had not learned any. When they fed, they killed. So subtlety was not a skill they’d practiced.
Nor was glamour.
Therefore, like their maker ought to have done, Eric taught Thalia and Olaf how to function as successful vampires. He taught them all that he’d learned about battle. He taught them how to feed without killing and how to glamour. He helped them to hone their individual vampire skills—flight and stealth in Thalia’s case and diplomatic acumen in Olaf’s.
Eric also introduced his “adopted” children to monarchs and other important vampires whom the older Viking had judged as honorable. In other words, he taught them the value of cultivating relationships with the kinds of vampires that their makers had avoided.
When Eric felt that Thalia and Olaf were ready to leave his side, he traveled with them to Sweden, where he’d cultivated a good working relationship with Queen Innogen, whose life Eric had once saved. He asked only two things of the queen: that Thalia and Olaf be allowed to live in Innogen’s realm for as long as they wished and that Appius and any of his other children not be allowed to settle there.
Innogen had welcomed and employed the siblings. Indeed, Olaf had eventually risen to Innogen’s second. And—when his queen had fallen in battle two centuries before—Olaf had avenged her and had taken over her rule when Innogen’s child, Madeline, had asked him to.
However, long before that time—when Eric had first left the siblings in Innogen’s realm—he’d required a vow from them both: that they would never try to do for him what he’d done for them.
In other words—he asked the siblings to swear that they would never go after Appius Livius Ocella.
When Olaf and Thalia had tried to resist making such a vow, Eric had played the “maker card.”
He could not compel them, for—of course—he was not their actual maker.
But—in all the ways that mattered—he had become their true maker.
And that was—in so many ways—much more powerful than a command caused by a maker’s blood.
Therefore, the vampire siblings had relented to Eric’s orders. Thalia, especially, had had a difficult time making that vow, for she’d already been planning to hunt Appius. But she respected Eric enough to promise, nonetheless.
Olaf, like Thalia, would have died to try to kill Appius for Eric—if his mentor hadn’t forced their promise. Hell! He’d held so much respect for Eric that he’d asked permission to make his own surname Erickson—once last names were necessary for operating in the world!
Olaf sighed and ran his hand through his medium-length blond hair, a habit still held over from his human days.
Eric had never explained how he’d managed to kill Adelphius, but the siblings knew that it involved Eric allowing Adelphius to use him. Likely, Eric had pretended to be just as pliable as he’d been when Appius was present to command him.
Still—Adelphius was so much older than Eric. And—even mid-sex-act—Adelphius was ever wary of a possible attack.
Because he’d made many enemies.
Perhaps, the gods had been aiding the Viking. Perhaps, it was destiny that Adelphius die that night.
Perhaps, it was dumb luck.
One thing was for certain; Eric refused to allow Thalia or Olaf to seek out similar danger with his own maker, though the siblings knew that Eric would have rested infinitely easier knowing that Appius was finally dead.
Though he’d never told them the how, Eric had told Olaf and Thalia the why of his actions against Adelphius.
“I cannot kill Appius,” he’d explained. “But Adelphius—I was not commanded not to kill.”
Olaf smiled as he recalled his sister’s resolution after Eric had left them in Sweden’s court. She’d, unsurprisingly, recognized the loophole that she and Olaf could arrange for Appius to be killed—even if they couldn’t do it themselves.
She spent many years looking for a way to accomplish that goal. However, the worm had always been crafty enough to implant himself into one “unfriendly” court or another. And—inside those courts—he had protection.
Olaf shook his head. After coming to know many honorable monarchs over the centuries—and after having been one himself—he would never know how or why Appius had been accepted by any king or queen, but eventually Eric’s maker settled into the Russian court, where Adelphius’s own maker, Brutus, had become king.
Olaf cringed. Thankfully, Appius’s maker, Calinius, had been slain well before Olaf had been turned. And—even more welcome—had been the fact that Brutus could not control his child’s children.
Still, that had not stopped both Olaf and Thalia from fearing ever meeting their grandsire, who had—by a stroke of good luck—been in Africa during their entire “lives” with Adelphius; that luck had prevented both of the siblings from ever encountering Brutus. According to Thalia, Seamus had had the “pleasure” of meeting their grandsire once, and he’d practically convulsed anytime that Adelphius had mentioned Brutus’s name.
Appius stayed in Brutus’s court/nest for many centuries and eventually served the Russian human monarchy, which was how he’d been able to turn the brat Alexei Romanov before he died.
Olaf scoffed as he thought about all the reasons why a hemophiliac ought never to have been turned!
Despite this, for many years after the “final” deaths of the other Romanovs, Appius and Brutus had worked together to teach Alexei to function as a successful vampire; of course, they’d needed to work together to hide the young one’s “mishaps” as well.
Thank the gods—Brutus had been slain the decade before!
Rumor had it that Alexei had gone on a rampage that included his “daddy’s” benefactor.
Not surprisingly, Brutus’s replacement as king had been no fan of Appius and his youngest progeny, so they’d been expelled from the Russian court.
After that, Thalia had come to Sweden for a visit with Olaf, and they’d—once again—tried to come up with a plan that would result in Appius’s death, one that would not require their direct involvement.
Unfortunately, by then, Appius had already traveled with Alexei to South America—where Thalia and Olaf had limited contacts. Still, the Swedish king promised his vampire sister that he would keep his ear to the ground concerning Appius’s dealings in Europe. On the other hand, Thalia traveled to settle into Area 5—Eric’s territory—so that she could keep an eye on their friend just in case Appius decided to travel north to the United States.
Olaf frowned. Eventually, of course, Appius and Alexei had moved on to the North American continent, and they had wreaked their own particular kind of havoc onto Eric’s life. Thalia, not surprisingly, had continually studied Appius for weaknesses when he was in Area 5. And she’d almost managed to track him to his resting place before his spawn had done any harm.
Luckily, the situation had “resolved” itself because of Eric’s bonded and pledged (at least Sookie Stackhouse and Eric had been bonded and pledged at the time of Appius’s very welcome demise).
Olaf had rejoiced for his friend when he learned that Appius was no more, and then had cried for him when Thalia told him about the ensnarement Appius had crafted with Freyda before he died. Olaf had offered to stake the Oklahoma queen or to give Eric asylum. Thalia, too had volunteered to slay Freyda.
But Eric had been insistent that the siblings do nothing. At first, he’d tried to find a way out of the contract. But eventually he’d resigned himself to becoming Freyda’s consort.
Later, Olaf had learned from Thalia that Sookie, the object of their “true” maker’s love, had broken their blood bond.
With it, she’d also broken a part of Eric.
To add insult to injury, she’d also used a magic fairy love token, a cluviel dor, for the benefit of another man.
Olaf had been tempted to kill Sookie Stackhouse for that. However, Thalia had assured him that Eric would never want that—despite the pain the part-fairy telepath had inflicted upon him.
Indeed, according to Thalia, Eric had agreed to become Freyda’s consort without a continued legal battle only after doing everything he possibly could to ensure that his former bonded was protected.
To ensure that she could keep her freedom.
“Freedom,” Olaf whispered. It seemed that Eric had not lost his inclination for fighting for the freedom of others—even when he could not enjoy his own.
Still—if Eric had been another vampire, Olaf would have questioned him for doing anything for the “mostly” human woman who had rejected his blood and then failed to save him from 100 years of semi-slavery.
But the younger Viking did not question his savior, his mentor, his father. Instead, Olaf simply made clear that Eric would always have his unrelenting support.
One month earlier, Olaf had heard from Eric for the first time since his elder had become the consort of the Oklahoma queen.
Eric had asked the Swedish king to arrange that his properties in Sweden be transferred to Sookie Stackhouse’s name—without leaving a trail (or requiring an actual signature), of course. He’d also asked Olaf to give Sookie and her children asylum in Sweden indefinitely.
“Seven years after his relationship with the telepath had ended,” Olaf muttered to himself and to the empty room that he’d been inspecting. “They are not even his children,” he added.
But none of that had mattered. The tone of Eric’s voice had told Olaf all that he needed to know. No matter what had occurred—or what would—Eric would always love Sookie Stackhouse.
That he would always fight for her freedom.
Even with that tone, however, Olaf had been working himself up to question his chosen “maker” for the first time—to ask Eric a simple question: Was he sure that Sookie was worth the effort? But—even from thousands of miles away—Eric had intuited just what Olaf intended to ask. And he’d needed only a four-word sentence to make his one-time ward understand and hold his tongue.
“Sookie is my Thalia,” Eric had said.
Olaf closed his eyes and thought about the woman he’d loved for so long.
“Thalia,” he whispered.
The woman he would always love—no matter what occurred.
She had once been his unobtainable fantasy.
She was still his dream.
Eric had certainly freed Olaf, but the Swedish king was well aware that Thalia had saved him from perishing long before that. Having killed his own family, Olaf had felt like surrendering to the dark, but he could not surrender his soul to Adelphius—not as long as Thalia lived.
Olaf had cared for his human wife, as any Viking did for a strong woman who functioned as his helpmeet. However, his heart had not been stirred by love until he’d died and known the vampiress who should have “made” him.
Yes—there had been a “pull” between them.
And, learning that Eric compared what he felt for Sookie to what Olaf felt for Thalia had spurred the younger vampire into doing all that he could for the telepath and her children.
After all, Eric had always done whatever he could to encourage the obvious connection between Olaf and Thalia.
After Eric had freed them, it had not taken long for Thalia and Olaf to come together physically—to join their bodies as Olaf had always fantasized they would. And that connection had been all that he’d desired.
Yet Thalia had held back.
Even though Thalia stayed in Innogen’s court with Olaf for almost twenty years—sharing his bed—she’d held back.
Every time he’d broached the topic of them as a couple, she’d asked him to give her time.
So he’d held back.
Every time Olaf had longed to exchange blood with Thalia—to form a bond (or at least a blood tie) with her—she’d held him off.
So he’d held back.
One night, Olaf had woken up to find her packed.
She told him that they needed to part ways and to seek their own lives. She promised that the goodbye she was telling him would not be forever.
He’d held back his tears until she’d been gone.
True to her word, Thalia’s goodbye had not been forever. Every decade or so, she would show up in Olaf’s life and stay there for a while—sometimes an hour, sometimes a night, sometimes a week, sometimes a month.
Every time she came, they would join their bodies.
They would join their lives.
But—always—she would hold back.
And then she would leave, promising to return to him when she was able.
As much as it hurt being without her, Olaf knew that Thalia did spend all of the time that she was capable of spending with him. Indeed, he didn’t blame her for either her absences or her holding back.
Thalia had been with Adelphius for much longer than Olaf had been, after all. And she’d reacted to their maker by shutting down her emotions—at least as completely as she could. Indeed, after Adelphius had died, she’d had an extremely difficult time acknowledging that she could even still feel.
In truth, Olaf knew that she was afraid to feel.
But he was not about to throw that fact in her face. All he could do was to be available and to make it clear that he loved her and wanted her.
And, of course, he could wait for her to heal.
He had no doubt that she was worth being patient for.
Oh—Olaf Erickson was neither a saint nor a monk! He fucked plenty. And he fed with zest and gusto.
He’d been living his life as loudly as his vampire sister enjoyed living hers quietly.
Indeed, the siblings were opposites in many ways.
But Olaf knew that he and Thalia were complements in the ways that mattered.
Just as he knew that—one night—he and Thalia would come together and stay that way.
S o—when Eric indicated that his heart was as “lost” as Olaf’s, the Swedish king had immediately begun overseeing renovations on Eric’s—now Sookie’s—estate on a small island about 30 kilometers from Stockholm.
Eric had bought the land upon which the estate stood centuries before—from Innogen herself. The house and outbuildings had been commissioned much later—about two decades before the time of the Great Revelation (right after it became quite clear that it was inevitable that vampires would be “coming out”).
Eric had always been quite practical. He’d wanted a secluded place where he could hunker down and hide out if the shit hit the fan. Accessible by no roads, the island could only be reached by boat or the little helipad in a clearing at the end of the landmass. The house itself was quite modern-looking, boasting huge windows with views of the water and woods. Indeed, there were so many windows that it would have been the last place that anyone would have looked for a vampire!
However, under the surface level was an even larger space. Indeed, Eric’s “lair” boasted five large bedrooms with connected bathrooms as well as an office and a large common area. The upper area of the house included four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large living room space, a huge kitchen, and a more intimate family room.
As for renovations, Eric had asked Olaf to make sure that the master bedroom on the main floor was made light-tight and that the master bathroom underground be outfitted with a working toilet. He also asked that the common room in the lair be sectioned off to include a small kitchen fit for human needs and that the office in the lair be made state-of-the art.
The other renovations to the home had been more superficial.
The kitchen had been inspected by a trustworthy human—one who was glamoured to forget the location of the home. Items needed in a “human” kitchen, such as dishware, cooking utensils, and small appliances were purchased. Olaf also decided to replace the larger appliances with newer items.
The Swede had overseen the selection of the large appliances himself, for he enjoyed studying the contraptions humans came up with! Hell—when he was born (and then later “made”) things like refrigerators (or electricity, for that matter) were as far away from the human imagination as traveling to the moon! However, now refrigerators did all kinds of amazing things! Olaf had selected one that included a feature whereby Eric’s mate could speak and record a list of needed items as she thought of them. Then, she could email that list to his second-in-command, Madeline (Innogen’s child), who would secure the items and arrange for delivery—since Sookie would not be leaving the island (at least not for such mundane things as grocery shopping) for the foreseeable future.
Not as long as King Felipe de Castro or other enemies might be an issue.
In addition to the kitchen, the bedrooms on either side of the master suite on the main floor were redecorated to be a nursery for an infant boychild and a bedroom fit for a preteen girlchild who enjoyed the color pink. Via phone and email, Pam had worked with Madeline to ensure that the décor was “correct” and that the needs of the children—clothing, toys, etc.—were adequately satisfied.
“Adequately—hell!” Olaf laughed as he thought about how the two vampiresses had gone above and beyond.
And then above and beyond that!
Olaf had stayed out of that part of the renovations, but had been pleased by the results.
If possible, the king’s heart would have quickened as he received a text from Eric announcing that his party’s helicopter would be landing on the island in approximately ten minutes. Taking one more look around the large living room area to make sure everything was perfect, Olaf nodded with approval and then sped toward the helipad.
“Is all well?” Olaf asked Ricca, who was waiting at the helipad when he arrived. The beautiful witch was the strongest of her kind that the king had ever known and one of the most trusted members of his retinue.
A s Olaf was well over six feet tall, while Ricca was barely five feet tall, he had to look down to meet her gaze.
It always struck Olaf just how stunning Ricca was, and the witch and the monarch had even enjoyed each other’s bodies occasionally in the past—though that aspect of their relationship had ceased as their friendship had strengthened. Still, Olaf continued to appreciate her unique beauty. Ricca’s hair was jet black and her eyes hazel, though when she was practicing her craft, they turned almost yellow. She had a heart-shaped face and a high hair line; both features made her eyes even more prominent. Moreover, her strong innate magic made her look much more youthful than her 36 years.
Olaf had met the witch when she was 18 years old—through her mentor, Jasper, who had served him for many years. In fact, Olaf had enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with the Mångata Coven for centuries—and, before him, the coven had worked for Innogen.
The Mångata Coven had existed in Sweden for almost as long as Olaf had been a vampire, and—over the centuries—they had honed their craft, which was tied to the power of the moon. Indeed, the word “mångata” was the name for the trail of light created by the moon over a body of water.
For almost a millennium, an individual who was “special” had been born amongst the coven’s ranks once in a generation. It was said that this “special” witch could literally draw power from a mångata—thus the coven’s name. This individual was mentored by the leader of the coven, whom he or she was destined to replace. Ricca was this “special” coven member for the current generation and had taken over as Mångata’s coven-leader six years before—when Jasper had proclaimed that she had surpassed him and was ready for the role.
For as long as the group had existed, the Mångata Coven had been pacifists at their core, practicing “white magic” only. They excelled in protection and cloaking spells. They could also shield themselves or those around them from offensive magic—such as Fae or Dae “light.” Indeed, even at that moment, the Swedish king was wearing a pendant that had been charmed to repeal spells of ill-intent.
Of course, such a powerful coven risked being targeted by those who wanted to harness their power for less than honorable reasons. Thus, the leaders of the coven had always tried to stay under the radar. For this reason, they chose, early in their history, to link themselves with Innogen, who was known for her own fair-minded, ethical behavior. In exchange for the coven’s service in matters of “white magic” only, the vampire monarch protected them so that no one could exploit their power. Olaf maintained that commitment to the witches when he succeeded Innogen.
The Mångata Coven had already been helping Sookie Stackhouse’s family—due to a request that Eric had made of Olaf years before. Fae scent concealment potions had been made for a cousin of Sookie’s, a young child named Hunter, as well as for Sookie’s daughter, Samantha. Those potions had been given to the children in question without them knowing it in order to ensure two things: that they not be scented as “different” to vampires and that they could not be found by fairies who might torture them. It was only after Thalia had told him about Neave and Lochlan’s treatment of Sookie Stackhouse that Olaf understood the second of Eric’s motivations for those potions.
Ricca smiled up at Olaf, her eyes shining yellow, indicating that she was currently using her magic. “You really need to ask me if all is well?” she commented somewhat sarcastically.
The king chuckled. “No. I do not. But—please,” he added with uncharacteristic nervousness, “indulge me, my friend.”
Ricca rolled her moon-lit eyes. “Fine, Giant,” she smirked, using the nickname she had given him almost two decades before.
Given the fact that Eric was two inches taller than Olaf, the king wondered what she might call him—since she had a habit of nicknaming people she liked, and he had no doubt that Eric’s humor would appeal to the witch.
“The rest of the coven is at the Stockholm Airport—as you well know—because you arranged for them to be there,” Ricca reported wryly, her eyebrow having risen playfully. “Neither they—nor the vampires you have there—detected anyone or anything following the airplane Eric Northman and his group arrived on.”
“The jet itself was checked for surveillance devices?” Olaf asked.
She rolled her eyes again, but nodded. “Yes, and Russell Edgington has already departed for Paris with the rest of his party. The flight reports have been altered to indicate that his plane was never even near Sweden.”
Olaf sighed with relief—a human behavior he’d kept for almost a millennium. “This is your doing?” he asked as he gestured toward the thick fog that shrouded the sky.
Ricca shrugged. “Yes. Several others at the airport and I are controlling the fog right now. I figured a fog layer would obscure the path of the helicopter once it took off. And I will be able to detect anyone or anything following them here,” she added confidently. “And, as you know, Caleb could fly that contraption of his through pure steel, given the acuteness of his senses, so a little fog will not bother him.”
“Thank you,” Olaf sighed as he bent down to kiss Ricca on the forehead.
“Stop worrying,” the witch chastised gently.
“I know. It’s just . . . .” His voice trailed off as he looked toward the foggy sky. He knew that his people were quite capable of ensuring the secrecy and security of Eric’s party; still, the Swedish king knew that he would not fully relax until his new residents were in his presence.
“I know,” she said indulgently—but kindly. She was one of the few with whom Olaf had shared bits of his past, and those bits had included his telling her about how Eric saved him by killing Adelphius. She also knew of the king’s love for Thalia, which was—ultimately—why Ricca had decided that continuing to be Olaf’s lover might cause complications.
Simply put, Ricca was the kind of person who was compelled to seek a mate, but who would never settle for one with divided affections. Olaf had respected that about her. Indeed, he hoped that she would find the beloved she desired. Ricca was open to that mate belonging to any category—vampire, witch, werebear (the most common of the two-natured in Sweden), shifter, demon, fairy, etc. She was also not picky about gender. She simply trusted that the fates would send her a mate when it was “time.”
Olaf once again glanced toward the sky.
“I understand why you are anxious,” Ricca said softly, squeezing his hand. “It’s your family coming—at long last. Do not worry. As soon as they arrive, I’ll set a protection spell around this place that will keep out anyone with ill-intent. And—at the next full moon, I will return to strengthen the spell with the help of the mångata.”
“Thank you,” Olaf said sincerely. “You know—I consider you family too, my dear friend,” he added.
She chuckled. “I’ve told you—I’m not letting you turn me.”
The king laughed out loud, the tension in him melting away almost completely. Her “turning” was a long-standing joke between them. In fact, Ricca was not averse to the idea of becoming a vampire, but she liked to tease Olaf that his “fragile” ego wouldn’t be able to take it when she was the one giving commands to him.
Given the strength of Ricca’s magic, she might very well give any potential maker a run for his or her money when it came to who was in charge!
And she was also right that Olaf’s ego might not be able to take it. Still—the Swedish king figured that it could be fun to find out. “Well—if you ever change your mind . . . ,” he began.
“You’ll be at least the fifth vampire I call,” she deadpanned.
Olaf chuckled, even as his sharp ears picked up the sound of an approaching helicopter. Reconnecting with Eric had been a wonderful prospect in and of itself. But seeing Thalia again thrilled him down to his bones.
He looked to the sky and smiled widely.
If Olaf’s heart could have beaten, it would have been racing faster than the helicopter’s propellers.
Sookie gripped Eric’s hand tightly.
So tightly that—had he been human—he would have needed a doctor to provide healing.
“We really should have completed the bond before this,” she cringed as she shut her eyes tightly. “You could have given me that comfort thing.”
Eric didn’t want to belittle his beloved’s fear, but he couldn’t help but to chuckle at her. “You did fine on the airplane,” he reminded.
“No—she did not,” Pam said flatly. “She just wasn’t gripping you hard enough to crack your hand bones on the airplane. Now, she is.”
“What?” Sookie exclaimed, horrified, even as she released Eric’s hand. Her eyes flew open. “I broke your hand?”
Eric gave his trouble-making child a sideways glare and then looked back at Sookie. “A sprain is a more accurate description, and it will heal within moments. So—do not worry,” he soothed before taking her hand back into his own. “You can squeeze all you want.”
Sammy giggled from her seat on Karin’s lap in the co-pilot’s chair. “Mommy, don’t be scared! Flyin’s so fun!”
“Yes—flyin’ is fun,” Pam smirked.
“Hey—can I fly the—uh—hell-copter? Since I’m in the copilot’s chair and everything?” Sammy asked excitedly.
“No!” Sookie yelled out.
“Next time,” the vampire pilot employed by Olaf said, chuckling at the little girl’s enthusiasm. “When it’s less foggy.”
Sammy’s mouth turned downward into a frown. “But I wanna fly like Eric,” she commented.
“Only a few—privileged—children can do that,” Karin smirked, even as she looked over her shoulder at Pam.
“You bi—,” Pam started.
“Children present!” Sookie interrupted.
“She started it,” Pam pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What’s a bi—?” Sammy asked.
Sookie sighed but then cringed as the helicopter began to descend.
“All is well,” Eric assured, bending over to kiss his beloved’s forehead.
“I’ll go slow,” the pilot assured.
“No! Go fast!” Sammy implored.
“No!” Sookie exclaimed. “Slow is good. Very good!”
The Viking chuckled, as he agreed that slow would be better—even offering that Matthew might be upset by a quicker speed.
Of course, he was lying. Matty was not currently conscious, but the Viking decided that supporting his woman was better for him than encouraging Sammy’s fancies—at least, for the moment.
Sookie looked at Matty, who was cradled against Eric’s chest, which was where the infant had decided was his preferred sleeping place.
“I wish I could be as peaceful as he is,” Sookie chuckled nervously, pulling down Matty’s blanket slightly with her free hand in order to better see his cherubic face.
As if governed by magnets, Eric’s eyes traveled downward to look at his son as well.
For—yes—Eric Northman did view Matthew Desmond Northman Merlotte as his child. He couldn’t help himself. And—more and more—Samantha was coming to feel like his daughter too. Of course, Sammy had some memories of her real father, Sam Merlotte. But Eric had already realized that it would just be a matter of time before she saw him as her “daddy.”
It was a future that he greatly anticipated.
Sookie caressed Matty’s head gently, a big contrast to what she was still doing to Eric’s hand as the helicopter continued to approach the ground.
“Aunt Karin, will you take me flyin’?” Sammy asked, completely oblivious to her mother’s plight.
“If the witch says it is safe and your mother agrees,” Eric’s first child said evenly. “And if it is not too cold,” she added, her voice showing no emotions at all. But Eric could clearly feel her affection for Sammy through their maker/child bond.
“Cool!” Sammy exclaimed with a giggle, even as she continued to look with fascination at the control panel of the helicopter. “I really hope I can fly one day! All by myself!”
Sookie chuckled and looked at Eric. “You’ll have to get her helicopter lessons for her 18th birthday.”
“Not before?” the Viking asked with a smirk.
“No!” Sookie said quickly. “But I don’t mind her flying with Karin as long as I get to fly with you every once in a while,” she added quietly.
“I thought you were scared of flying,” Eric whispered into her ear.
She shivered at his closeness.
” With you, I’d fly anywhere,” she smiled as she rested her head against his shoulder, clearly attempting to keep herself calm as the copter hovered above the ground.
The vampire pilot, a handsome brunette named Caleb, smiled at Sammy.
“Whenever I can, I’ll be happy to take you up in the copter, little one,” he said. “Even if you aren’t ready to fly the thing for a while yourself, you can enjoy the ride!”
Eric laughed as Karin growled at the pilot, clearly indicating that the child in her lap was “hers.” Eric couldn’t help but to wonder if Sookie understood just how protective over Sammy that Karin was.
Of course, with someone nicknamed “the Slaughterer” as a bodyguard, Sammy would likely stay quite safe.
“Cool!” Sammy exclaimed, ignoring Karin’s growl. “I can fly lots of ways then!”
“Of course, you will always be welcome with her, Slaughterer,” Caleb nodded deferentially.
“What’s a slatterner?” Sammy asked, accidentally messing up the word.
“It’s what I’ll become with anyone who has ill-intentions towards you,” my eldest said with warning in the pilot’s direction.
Eric laughed even louder, earning him a glare from no fewer than three pairs of female eyes.
“What?” Eric asked innocently. “There’s already a huge moat here,” he winked, gesturing toward the water circling the island. “Beyond that, I’m happy for all the help that I can get keeping Sammy’s suitors at bay.”
“What’s a suitor?” Sammy asked.
“I didn’t mean,” stammered Caleb. “Of course—Samantha’s a beautiful girl, but . . . ,” he paused awkwardly, clearly uncomfortable with how the conversation had turned. “I’m not offering—uh—to be her suitor! It was a . . . . That is to say my interest here is in someone else; I mean—uh—that kind of interest.” He glanced nervously toward Karin, who raised an eyebrow at him.
Eric rumbled with laughter as Karin realized where Caleb’s romantic interests were actually targeted upon her!
Whether Karin was intrigued by his “interest” or simply amused by his backpedaling remained to be seen. But her growling had stopped.
“Quit while you’re ahead,” Eric cautioned the innocent pilot. “The estrogen is strong with this bunch,” he added, doing his best Star Wars impression.
“Eric!” Sookie chastised. “What do you mean by that?!”
“I mean that I’m extremely grateful for Matthew,” he responded with a smirk.
Sookie smacked his shoulder affectionately.
“What?” he questioned with false innocence. “I’m already horribly outnumbered,” he observed, looking around the helicopter even as it touched gently to the earth.
Between Sookie, Karin, Pam, Thalia, and Sammy, the Viking’s life was very full of women!
“Well—there’s another man!” Sookie gasped somewhat breathlessly as she looked out the window.
Eric followed her eyes and growled as he saw—and felt—Sookie’s reaction to Olaf. Oh—the rational side of him knew that he had no reason for concern. Sookie loved him. Of that, he was certain. Indeed, she was moving toward sharing her whole life with him, and they were already planning to be married, bonded, and pledged! She was not the kind of person to stray either, but she was a normal female, and Olaf was—even Eric had to admit—an attractive male.
Still—he didn’t have to like Sookie’s “panting.”
When he looked back at Sookie, however, she was no longer checking out the male vampire that he had “adopted” long ago. She was looking at the female sibling of that vampire.
Indeed, Sookie was regarding Thalia with clear concern in her eyes. The elder vampiress was growling—slightly—and her fangs were down.
Before Eric could step in, however, Sookie resolved the problem on her own.
“Message received!” the telepath said quickly. “That Viking’s yours. This one is mine,” she added with a nervous laugh as she poked Eric’s arm. “I wouldn’t have it any other way! I was just appreciatin’ the view.”
Thalia frowned. “I am sorry. I have no claim on the King of Sweden.” She paused. “But—you are right—Olaf is,” she paused again, “noteworthy in appearance.”
Eric snorted out another laugh. Thalia was lying to herself if she really believed she had no claim on Olaf.
“Noteworthy? Whatever, Thalia,” Pam intoned, voicing Eric’s own disbelief of Thalia’s words—and making fun of her understatement. “I might prefer women now, but even I can recognize that you are both lucky bitches,” she snarked, even as the helicopter’s propellers began to slow down.
“A bitch is a female dog! Or werewolf!” Sammy announced proudly from Karin’s lap. “But it’s not a word to say in plite sitey, Auntie Pammy,” she added seriously.
“Polite Society,” Sookie corrected. “And that’s right, sweetie,” she chuckled lightly before looking reprovingly at Pam.
The subject of “Appropriate Language to Be Used around Children” might as well have been a class that Sookie had been teaching “Auntie Pammy” since she had joined Eric, Sookie, and the children in Mississippi.
Pam rolled her eyes, even as she refrained from opening the helicopter door until after the propellers had stopped. Normally—Eric knew from experience—his younger vampire child would have burst out immediately upon landing, but she was clearly thinking of the children’s comfort and safety. Thus, Eric figured that she would soon develop the “safety measures” regarding language that Sookie required as well. Indeed, already, Pam had limited her usage of “fuck” and other raunchier words around Sammy, though she had made her opinion known that Matty was “too fucking young” to understand anything anyway.
Of course, Sookie hadn’t been around when she’d sung those words to the infant—set to the tune of “Old MacDonald” no less.
Eric smiled to himself as he recalled his child’s special lyrics. “Matty’s too fuckin’ young to understand ‘fuck’—E-I-E-I-fuck, and on his farm, he had a duck—E-I-E-I-fuck. With a fuck-fuck here and a fuck-fuck there. Here a fuck. There a fuck. Everywhere a fuck-fuck . . . .”
Clearly, at least two of his children were still in the “baby steps” stage.
It would have been difficult not to appreciate the handsome vampire that was waiting for them to exit the helicopter.
Though a bit shorter than Eric, the man she knew must be King Olaf was just as broad and muscular as Eric, clearly having earned his impressive physique when he was a human—likely through hard work and swordplay.
She sighed, thinking of Eric’s body—and wondering when she’d get to see all of it again.
Thalia growled. “I’m picturing Eric naked!” she yelped out when the vampiress looked at her as if she might attack because she could smell Sookie’s sudden arousal.
“Why?” Sammy asked, her little face twisted into a confused, sour look.
“He needs a bath!” Sookie quickly answered, barely avoiding giving herself a face-palm for voicing her thoughts out loud in front of her daughter.
Eric, of course, chuckled loudly.
And preened a little.
“Very, very dirty,” he whispered in Sookie’s ear, causing her to shudder.
The telepath slapped his arm playfully and then looked at Thalia cautiously.
Clearly, even though the vampiress denied it, Thalia was quite possessive of Olaf, and Sookie couldn’t help but to smile at the flash of love in Thalia’s eyes as she turned her gaze back to the Swedish king.
Eric had told Sookie that Olaf was originally from a village nearby his own—though Olaf was about a century younger than her Viking.
She’d been a little surprised to learn that Olaf was Thalia’s vampire “brother.” Thalia was older than both Olaf and Eric—but Sookie wasn’t sure by how much. Eric had told her in confidence that Thalia and Olaf’s maker, Adelphius, had been even worse than Appius—an idea difficult for Sookie to fully believe, given how horrible Appius had been! Eric had also told his soon-to-be re-bonded that he’d killed Adelphius and had taken Olaf and Thalia under his wing for a while—which was why he trusted both of the siblings completely.
Sookie didn’t understand everything about the relationship between the three vampires, but it was clear that Eric’s relationship with Thalia was like a brother and sister—a human brother and sister (without all the potential romantic “issues” that vampire siblings often experienced). As odd as it might have sounded, Eric seemed to view Olaf as both a brother and a son. And, clearly, Thalia loved Olaf—as way more than a sibling!
Given the look that the Swedish king was returning to Thalia—a gaze that seemed to burn through the windows of the helicopter—Sookie was pretty sure that the feeling was mutual.
Sookie found herself sharing a secret smile with Eric. He had told her that he strongly desired for both Olaf and Thalia to take firm hold of their happiness—preferably together. He’d let on that Thalia, still, suffered from the emotional scars etched upon her by her maker hundreds of years before.
Sookie knew that Eric, too, had scars from what Appius had done to him—even after the Roman was finally dead. She just prayed with every fiber of her being that—with time—all of the dominos that Appius had set into motion (including de Castro) would be destroyed. But, even if they never were, she vowed that Eric would never be without her or the children—their children.
At that thought, a spike of guilt surged through her. Sam—not Eric—was Sammy and Matty’s father. And Sam had disliked Eric—at least on the surface.
“Are you okay?” Eric asked with concern, clearly sensing her feelings through their blood tie. In contrast to how she’d reacted when they’d had their first bond, Sookie looked forward to being able to sense his feelings as well.
She nodded. “I’m fine,” she answered truthfully, even as she shoved away her guilt. The telepath had already committed to ensuring that her children learned about their biological father. She had stories that she would freely share. And Eric supported her need to do that. She’d decided, too, to be upfront with her children—at least once they were old enough to understand—about her true feelings for Sam.
She had loved Sam Merlotte, and he had loved her. Their love, however, had never been balanced—though she’d cared too much for the shifter to lie to him about her true feelings.
At least once she’d realized what those feelings were.
Sam had been a trusted friend and companion. Being with him had been comfortable and—frankly—preferable to being alone when she thought that Eric was truly out of her reach. For Sam’s part, he’d accepted that she could never feel for him the way that she’d felt for Eric. He’d loved her despite that disparity. And he’d made the choice to accept what she could give, though Sookie knew that her refusal to marry Sam “officially” had hurt him.
However, by then, she had known without doubt that there was only one man she wanted to marry officially—in both his world (again) and in hers.
She’d just thought it would be impossible to do either, and—truthfully—Sam had been the next best thing: a friend she could count on for companionship, family, and common purpose.
But Sookie did not want a “half-love” to be what her own children experienced.
She didn’t want them to settle.
Of course, sooner or later, Matty would pick up those feelings from Sookie’s mind—as he would discover that she loved Eric much more than she’d ever loved Sam. She wondered if her son would have questions or concerns about that. However, as she looked at the infant cradled comfortably against Eric’s chest, she somehow doubted it.
Matty, too, seemed destined to love the vampire more than the shifter.
Sookie just hoped that he never felt guilt about that fact. Looking at Sammy in Karin’s arms, she did not worry about her girl so much. Sammy processed the world in compartments. Sam, her “daddy,” was safely stowed in a set of memories that Sammy would forever treasure. Sookie knew that well, for she’d seen them all—seen just how Sammy’s mind worked. However, Sammy had also begun “constructing” new compartments for Karin, Eric, Matty, Pam, and even Thalia.
Considering her daughter’s mind, Sookie entered it for a moment and then chuckled softly as she “overheard” Sammy wondering if she could do anything to get Karin to “date” Caleb, the helicopter pilot, because she liked him and intuited that Karin did too. Indeed, the young shifter was already using her instincts to pick up on the slightest of body language (even vampire body language). Her mind was currently processing all that she knew about Karin and comparing it to what she’d learned during the short amount of time she’d known Caleb.
Proving that she was still a child despite her complex thought processes (much to Sookie’s relief), Sammy finally made her decision based upon how good Karin and Caleb’s names sounded together. In that moment, “Karin and Caleb were sittin’ in a tree,” in Sammy’s mind.
Thank God Pam couldn’t hear it!
Sookie chuckled again; the telepath had to appreciate Sammy’s structured mind and the fact she could process so many varying thoughts at once. Maybe her daughter had managed to inherit some aspects of telepathy after all—even if she couldn’t directly read minds.
“What is it?” Eric pushed.
“Sammy would have made one hell of a telepath,” she whispered.
“You’ll have to tell me why you’re thinking that later,” Eric requested.
Sookie smiled and nodded, as she undid her seatbelt and watched as Karin undid the one she’d stretched across herself and Sammy. Sookie smiled at the pair. Indeed, the two had bonded in a way that went well beyond blood.
Sookie found herself wondering if Karin had ever had or wanted children. She shrugged to herself, deciding that it didn’t matter now; given the fact that Sammy had inherited her mother’s stubbornness, Karin no longer had much choice in the matter, for Sookie had heard from Sammy’s thoughts that the infamous assassin was well on her way to becoming a “second mother” figure to her daughter.
Sookie could have been jealous of her daughter “claiming” another mother, but she had the luxury of her telepathy with her daughter. Thus, Sookie knew that Sammy’s love for Karin had not lessened her love for her mother. And Sammy was also beginning to love Eric, too.
Sookie smiled at that thought. Her little girl was what Sookie would term a “sensitive pragmatist,” astute enough to recognize what was occurring around her and understand innately how to adapt; perhaps that was the shifter in her. However, Sammy also longed for attention and affection. Sookie knew from Sammy’s thoughts that she realized that her mother’s affections would now—by necessity—be split between herself, Matty, and Eric (not to mention the others in the forming “family”). However, instead of allowing herself to become hurt that Sookie’s time would be divided, Sammy had simply decided to claim “extra” people too.
First on her list had been the vampiress who was currently holding her.
As a bonus (at least in Sammy’s head), Karin did “better” voices than Sookie when she read bedtime stories—as long as no one else was around.
Indeed, to Sammy, Karin was a boon! And she more than made up for Sookie’s now-divided attentions.
On the other hand, Sammy had already decided that Matty could have Pam—mostly, at least.
She wasn’t sure about Thalia, but figured she might share her with Matty.
“May I have your telephone number?” Caleb asked Karin, even as he turned slightly in his seat and offered the vampiress an amazingly charming smile. The pilot had dark brown hair and beautiful blue eyes with a twinkle in them. He was also extremely attractive, though somewhat boyishly so.
Sookie might have been interested—if not for the Adonis, whom she happened to love with her whole heart, who was shifting carefully in his seat so that Matty wouldn’t be awoken when they left the helicopter.
Yep—Sookie was 99.9999% sure that no man would ever compare favorably against her Viking.
Oh—who was she kidding? She was 100% sure!
Karin looked at Caleb sideways. “Why would you need that?”
“To—uh—set up flight lessons—for Miss Samantha,” he smiled. “And you—of course,” he added, his tone slightly lower and his meaning clear.
Karin looked Caleb up and down for a moment, clearly assessing him—judging his worth.
“I already know how to fly,” she responded flatly.
“Teach me your way and I’ll teach you mine,” Caleb suggested, undeterred.
“Please!” Sammy piped in. “I really wanna learn to fly—lots of ways!”
Sookie stifled a laugh as her daughter mentally determined that Caleb was certainly worth “collecting” too—but mainly because of his helicopter.
Karin’s mouth turned up into a little smile for Sammy. “Give me your number,” she told the charming vampire pilot. “I have yet to secure a phone here.”
Caleb seemed to be doing a mental fist-pump, even as he smoothly pulled a business card from his leather jacket.
Sookie’s attention was shifted from her daughter’s little sphere to her son’s as Matty sighed loudly and then made a sucking noise. Though the infant was still asleep, Sookie knew that wouldn’t last long.
“He will need to feed soon,” Eric whispered as he opened the door next to him to get out—since the propellers had finally stopped.
Sookie nodded in agreement. Given the fact that Matty had slept throughout most of his first airplane flight and then throughout all of his first helicopter journey, Sookie figured he deserved a good meal. Of course, she attributed that sleep to the vampire who was holding him. As soon as he’d risen, Eric had kept Matty safely in his arms throughout their trip—except for the few times during the long, international flight when Sookie had taken him for a feeding or a diaper change.
Regardless—one truth was unmistakable to Sookie. Both of her children had fallen in love with vampires. And she couldn’t have been happier about that. She’d been lucky in that Jason and she had grown closer than ever during the years—at least, since he’d settled down with Michele. However, there was a part of her that would always wait for the other shoe to drop with her brother—as much as she hated to think that.
But—once bitten, twice shy was right. Jason had let her down before. Hell—she’d had to break a man’s hand because of him! And—even lately—she knew that her brother hadn’t necessarily wanted to be around her much. Once Sam died and Jason viewed Sookie as a “widow” (even though she’d not been officially), her brother had felt tremendous “obligation” toward her and the children, but every time he looked at Sookie, he was reminded of what he might lose if Michele died before him. Sookie knew that his thoughts were natural, but she didn’t want to be thought of as a chore either!
For this reason, she loved the idea that most of her immediate family members would now have thoughts that she could not hear. And Matty would have the luxury of growing up around vampires, who would offer him peace as well.
Moreover, she knew that both of her children would find protection and unconditional loyalty from their vampires.
She smiled as Eric offered her his hand to help her from the helicopter.
Immediately, a jet of air brought with it King Olaf, who bent to his knees in front of Eric.
She hadn’t expected that and jerked a bit in surprise.
“Rise—you dumbass,” Eric chuckled good-naturedly.
Olaf did as instructed, a smirk on his extremely handsome face. “Just demonstrating respect for my elder.”
Shaking his head, but with clear affection in his eyes, Eric disengaged his hand from Sookie’s so that he could link arms with Olaf—as she had seen in movies about the warriors of old. The telepath couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that the warriors in front of her were anything but fiction.
Speaking of warriors, Thalia had been the last to disembark from the helicopter; she now spoke from behind Olaf. “This sausage fest will begin to fester if you two don’t reign it in,” the elder vampiress intoned.
The Swedish king closed his eyes, and a beautiful smile formed on his lips. “Sister!” the large vampire enthused, dropping Eric’s arm like a bad habit and rushing over to pick up Thalia into an embrace.
Sookie heard the petite warrior vampiress hissing as if angered by the contact, yet—at the same time—Thalia gripped her vampire brother closer.
“It is good you are here,” Olaf said—just loudly enough for Sookie to make out—even as he put Thalia back onto her feet.
“It is pleasant to see you as well,” Thalia returned a little awkwardly. It was clear to the telepath that Thalia was about as comfortable with “some feelings” as Eric had been when she’d first met him.
“Gee! He’s almost as tall as Eric!” Sammy said of Olaf as Karin carried her toward Sookie; by then, Eric had already reclaimed the telepath’s hand.
“Olaf, let me introduce you to Sookie and the children—my family,” Eric practically gushed, causing Sookie to feel warm all over at the pride—and the love—in her vampire’s tone.
Because of her magic, Ricca was able to sense the magic in others. She also had the ability to sense strong emotions—even in vampires.
Her dearest friend, Olaf, the King of Sweden, was currently filled with joy as he embraced his vampire sister.
Ricca couldn’t have been any happier for Olaf. The witch knew that, whenever Thalia was not with him, he longed profoundly for her presence—longed to be complete. Ricca just hoped that Thalia would finally—this time—stay permanently with Olaf.
Stay in Sweden and embrace her future.
Judging by the way their auras seemed to meld together, it was clear to the witch why Olaf missed Thalia so much when she was away from him. They were soulmates. Ricca would be very surprised if the suffering was not even more profound for Thalia, given the fact that staying away from her soulmate must have been a struggle in and of itself.
Even at that moment, the witch could sense the elder vampiress’s hesitation—her guilt—which battled with her desire to fully open her heart to love.
Ricca sighed. To love was a risk. And—from what she knew of Thalia and Olaf’s early vampire existences—to love had also meant to suffer. Thalia had endured more time with their maker, Adelphius. And, as an empath, Ricca knew that one moment of “bad” could overshadow a thousand moments of “good.”
Olaf had also confided that he would never have been selected by his maker if Thalia had not felt a pull towards him; that certainly explained the guilt Thalia was experiencing.
Ricca frowned at the tragedy of the situation. At some level Thalia clearly blamed herself for all of Olaf’s past suffering, and to see him had to be painful for her. On the other hand, the pull that had once drawn her to turn Olaf and become his maker was still very much present. Indeed, Ricca had rarely seen a stronger connection; she could only imagine what it would be like if the two bonded!
She considered for a moment. Perhaps—a tiny bit of help was all that would be needed to ensure that Thalia could finally overcome the bad memories that were clearly holding her back.
Just a teeny tiny nudge.
Ricca smiled to herself as she began inventorying what would be required for a love potion. Oh—the witch was not in the practice of brewing potions that would alter personality or character; she felt that such spells were unethical. But she had used—and would continue to use—her magic to help others.
Or—in this case—to bump away the darkness that clouded the eyes of the warrior vampiress.
Thalia had suffered for too long. So had Olaf.
That decided, Ricca turned her attention to the rest of Olaf’s “family”—an apt word considering his feelings about them. Eric Northman was an impressive vampire! Ricca was immediately attracted to him, but his aura was undoubtedly tied to Sookie Stackhouse. Indeed, the witch could sense a blood tie (a twice-tie, if she was not mistaken), but there was much more connecting the handsome vampire and the part-Fae telepath than blood. There was deep love. Deep commitment. Deep trust. It was lovely to witness.
Their connection was slightly different from what Olaf and Thalia shared, but certainly no less profound.
Ricca closed her eyes and took in the power—the pure magic—emanating from those around her. To come into contact with one set of soulmates was rare enough. To be near two sets of soulmates at the same time was practically unheard of!
The witch exhaled even as she made plans to incorporate the energy generated by the lovers into her protection spells. She’d not been counting on that element—though she was happy to have it. Of course, she had been counting on using the innate magics of the island’s occupants in her spells.
So that Ricca could better prepare, Olaf had told her “what” Sookie and her children were on the Supernatural spectrum, though Ricca could now sense their natures for herself. Indeed, her senses picked up more than she’d been told—much more than the people involved likely knew.
“Ricca, come meet everyone!” Olaf smiled in invitation after his own introductions to Sookie and her children had been completed.
“Karin,” Ricca nodded respectfully at the vampiress as she approached the group. She had known Karin the Slaughterer for almost a decade—ever since Olaf employed her to “take care of” an elusive rogue vampire who had plagued the Scandinavian nations for decades.
Ricca had enjoyed the vampiress’s company and dry humor.
“Ricca,” Karin returned with a slight bow, even as she shifted a little shifter in her arms.
“You’re pretty,” the little girl said to the witch.
“Thank you. You are too. You must be Samantha,” Ricca smiled.
“Sammy,” the girl corrected. “Only Aunt Karin calls me Samantha, but I like that ’cause she’s special.”
“Yes. I can tell she is special to you. I am Ricca,” the witch grinned.
“You’re a witch—right?” the little girl asked.
“Mommy’s friend Amelia’s a witch,” Sammy said thoughtfully. “She’s not always nice though,” she added as Ricca noticed both Eric and Sookie tense up a little. Clearly, there was a story there. And—since it involved another witch—Ricca would need to hear it.
“Do not worry. I am very nice,” Ricca said matter-of-factly, “especially to those with strong and good souls—like yourself.”
“Do you know Caleb? That’s his hell-copter!” the girl remarked.
“Yes,” Ricca returned with a little laugh.
“Hey, Caleb?” Sammy asked the pilot, her face twisting a bit as if she were trying to solve a complex math problem. “Why haven’t you flown away yet?”
The pilot chuckled. “Well—you all are too close to the helicopter to start her up. Plus, Ricca needs me to be here when the protection spells are set so that I can continue to land the helicopter here.”
“Really?” Sammy asked Ricca.
“Yes,” the witch nodded. Indeed, there would be multiple layers to the protection spell. Primarily, only those who were included in a “blood-spell” would be able to step foot upon the island. Other people could be added as needed, but each living member of the core group would need to be in “agreement” about the invitation to join the spell. The more magical beings in the initial core group, the stronger the protection spell. She smiled to herself. Indeed, the protection spell she would be creating would be the most powerful one she’d ever constructed, given the presence of vampire, Fae, shifter, werebear, Dae, and witch blood.
Of course, because some Supernaturals would not need to “step” upon the land in order to wreak havoc, Ricca was also constructing another spell that would prohibit anyone of ill-intent from coming within a half kilometer of the island—whether by water or air. Given the fact that Caleb would be both transporting the family—when they left the island—and delivering provisions such as food, he would need to be a part of the blood-spell. Also included in the spell would be Olaf’s second-in-command, Madeline, who was currently waiting on the mainland. She would be transporting, via boat, two werebears, who would be living in the guesthouse on the island and guarding the family during the day.
However, Olaf had asked that an ill-intent spell be constructed first—before the werebears were brought to the island. He trusted them. Hell, they’d been vital members of his own daytime security team for years! But he figured that their ability to pass the ill-intent spell “test” would be yet another assurance for Eric and his family.
Also, Ricca knew that the telepath intended to “read” the werebears—as yet another layer of security.
Given what the family had gone through during the previous years, Ricca could not blame them for their caution. Indeed, for this reason, she’d left her own mind fully open to the telepath—in case Sookie felt the need to look into her thoughts.
Ricca did not mind.
“Did you know that Caleb’s gonna teach me to fly his hell-copter?” Sammy asked Ricca, breaking the witch out of her reverie.
“Helicopter,” Sookie correctly. “And not until you’re older,” the mother clarified.
Sammy shrugged. “Yeah—but till then, he’s gonna take me flyin’! And Karin can fly too!” she added excitedly. “And she’s gonna take me flyin’ too!”
Ricca smiled. “Little one, you will be able to fly without either of them sooner than you think.”
“How?” the child questioned with awe.
“Your familiar—it will be a golden eagle, an impressive bird of prey,” Ricca shared with a wink. “And an excellent choice!”
“Really? Um—what’s a fami-lar?” the child asked.
“It’s the animal that you will be drawn to shift into,” Ricca smiled.
“Like your daddy was a dog,” Sookie helped the child to understand.
“Really? Cool!” enthused Sammy.
“How do you know?” Karin asked the witch with curiosity.
“I can sense it,” Ricca responded. “It is part of my magic.”
“A premonition?” Eric Northman asked, even as Ricca turned her attention toward the impressive vampire.
The witch shook her head. “Not quite, but similar. I can look at a two-natured being, even from birth, and know whether they will shift and what their familiar will be. It is a glance—I suppose—at what is to come.”
“Wow! That’s cool!” Sammy enthused.
“It is,” the witch agreed before Olaf officially introduced her to Thalia, Eric, Sookie, and Matthew.
“Do you know if Matty will shift? I mean—I can’t sense that he will—but his thoughts are a little—um—redder than usual,” Sookie asked somewhat shyly, as if not wanting to take advantage of Ricca’s gift.
Given what the telepath must have experienced with her own gift, it made sense that Sookie would be sensitive about the gifts of others. Indeed, her aura practically yelled out that Sookie was both tolerant and conscientious of others’ needs. Thus, the witch felt inclined to like the telepath already.
“Redder?” Ricca asked Sookie.
“Yeah. Weres and shifters—any of the two-natured really—their thoughts are tinged with color, and I hear them differently than humans,” the telepath clarified.
“Interesting,” Ricca smiled. “You can hear me—yes?”
Sookie nodded. “You’re not as loud as some witches I’ve known, especially Amelia,” she said, again tensing up a bit. “But I can hear you.” She smiled and subtly glanced in Olaf and Thalia’s direction, signaling unspoken support for the “love potion” idea Ricca planned. “Witches are a little different from humans though.”
“Really?” Ricca asked with interest.
Sookie nodded. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s like witches are different versions of the mirrors you might find in a funhouse. Sometimes the thoughts are bigger—louder. Sometimes they’re curvy. Yours seem really focused in the middle and then fuzzier at the edges—as if you are thinking lots of things at once, but concentrating mostly on the middle thought.” She shrugged.
“I would love to speak with you again about this,” Ricca smiled. “I have not had the pleasure of meeting a telepath before—at least not one who was willing to discuss it,” she added with a smirk.
Sookie nodded. Since she’d learned that her telepathy came from the bit of Desmond Cataliades’s blood within her, she’d found out that many demons guarded the secret of their telepathy.
“To answer your earlier question,” Ricca began, “your son will not shift. The Fae magic within him is not quite enough to provoke his shifting, though I can sense that he is part shifter and will have heightened senses because of it. He is, however, like you—a telepath,” she added. “Moreover, I can sense the Fae strongly in you both.”
“So he’s got the spark thing,” Sookie said with a nod—as if she already knew he did, but appreciated the confirmation.
“Oh—yes!” Ricca confirmed. “For as little Fae blood that is inside of either you or your son, it is surprising the amount of Fae magic that has manifested! However, your telepathy is Dae, and I sense that magic within your son as well, though it is not in your daughter.”
“But I can fly,” Sammy piped in, “so I don’t need it!”
“No—you do not,” Karin agreed.
Sookie chuckled at her daughter and then looked back at the witch. “Do you know why there’s more Fae magic than expected in me and Matty?”
Ricca considered for a moment. “My gifts cannot tell me for certain.”
“Is it because I’ve had Eric’s blood?” she asked. “And because Matty’s breastfeeding?”
“No,” Ricca said with certainty. “The magic in you both is innate. More likely, it is because you are from a strong line of fairies.” She smiled. “Fairies of the air—if I am not mistaken.”
“You aren’t,” Sookie confirmed.
“No wonder your daughter craves flight—despite not having a Fae spark,” Ricca winked at Sammy before looking back at Sookie. “Tell me—what other skills have you manifested?”
Sookie shook her head. “Huh? Other than my telepathy? None.”
“Would you like to develop some?” the witch asked matter-of-factly.
Sookie’s eyes widened. “Wait! What? How?” she asked.
“I could help,” Ricca responded as if the answers to all of Sookie’s questions were self-evident.
“How?” Sookie asked again. “Really!”
Ricca chuckled at the telepath’s reaction. “I can help to draw out the dormant magic in others—to strengthen what is already present.”
“Ricca is quite accomplished,” Olaf said with affection.
Glancing at Thalia, Ricca was pretty sure that the vampiress didn’t enjoy her beloved praising another woman.
Ricca smiled. That settled things! Thalia would definitely be getting a love potion the very next night!
“We should speak of this another time,” Eric said cautiously. “When there is more time.”
“And when I’m not so jet-lagged,” Sookie added with a giggle. “And when I have a better understanding of what might change about me!”
“You’d consider it?” Eric asked her quietly, clearly surprised.
“Anything that makes us stronger,” Sookie said, leaning against his frame.
“I can give you a tea for the jet lag,” Ricca informed.
“Now—that—I will accept immediately!” Sookie grinned.
“Shall we go to the house so that the children can be settled in and Ricca can set the first protection spell?” Olaf asked.
There were nods all around.
“But the little witchy hasn’t met me yet,” a wry feminine voice said.
Ricca turned around and gasped as she noted a beautiful vampiress leaning casually against the helicopter. The witch wasn’t often at a loss for words, but she was in that moment.
Something inside of her was instantaneously pulled toward the vampiress, whom she knew must have been Eric’s second child, Pamela.
“I am Pam,” the vampiress said, even as she pushed away from the helicopter and approached Ricca. “And you are the tastiest-looking thing I’ve seen in a long time,” she purred.
Ricca blushed. “Care to find out how tasty?” she asked.
Pam laughed loudly.
Eric cleared his throat—clearly a signal that any “tasting” needed to be done when kids weren’t present.
However Ricca—her eyes still locked on Pam, who was licking her lips—was hopeful that “alone” time would happen between her and the lovely vampiress sooner rather than later.
Samantha was in her bath with Pamela overseeing. Normally, Karin would have supervised the event herself—as she’d done for the past several nights and anticipated doing for many upcoming nights—for Samantha enjoyed hearing a story during her bath-time. The vampiress also wanted to ensure that any slipping would not result in the child being damaged. A story seemed a small price to pay for safety.
Pamela had promised to make sure the child stayed safe, and Samantha had begrudgingly agreed upon the different bath-time storyteller—but only for one evening and only if Karin promised a bedtime story.
Karin had agreed, anxious to speak with her maker and his mate. Indeed, she had been contemplating her topic for more than one night, but she’d not known how to broach the subject. However, she now felt that the time was right.
“Samantha fears the blood-drawing,” Karin opened the conversation as she entered the family room to find Sookie nursing Matthew and Eric looking on with awe. They were currently alone in that room. Ricca was setting the first layer of the protection spell, which involved ill-intent. Thalia and Olaf were likely fucking in one of the sound-proof rooms on the basement level, given the looks that had been passing between them earlier. And Caleb, the pilot who had proven somewhat interesting to the seasoned assassin, had been sent by Ricca to distribute the Fae-magic-infused soil brought from Sookie’s home in Bon Temps to various locations around the island.
Indeed, given the strength of the Fae magic on the Bon Temps property, Karin would not be surprised if lush vegetation began to grow on the island, though there was already quite a bit of foliage there—despite the fact that Pamela had referred to the island as a “windy shithole” on more than one occasion.
Of course, Karin had already gauged the small island for cover and had determined what would be the safest outside areas for Samantha’s playtime. Having worked in Sweden before, the vampiress had no doubts of Olaf’s witch or her spells. And werebear guards would always be on patrol on the island during the daylight hours. However, human rifles could now propel bullets very long distances, and Karin would not risk Samantha through carelessness.
“Sammy’s always hated needles,” Sookie sighed. “Though her last shot was more than two years ago, she still remembers it.”
“The medical personnel harmed her?” Karin growled.
Sookie chuckled. “They didn’t mean to. She just doesn’t like needles,” she shrugged, “so you’ll need to prepare yourself for her cryin’ when her blood is drawn.” The mother sighed, obviously mentally preparing herself as well.
“I will do it,” Karin said. “I can be gentler than the witch.”
“Ricca suggested we bring Ludwig here,” Eric informed. “She can take the children’s blood and will stay to be a part of the blood spell,” Eric added. “Usually, even a witch’s magic cannot keep her out of a place, but I want to be sure she can come to the island in case of emergency. Plus, Ricca is confident that Ludwig’s presence will add much strength to the spell.”
Karin nodded. “That is good. Ludwig will be able to draw the blood better than even I could. Yes—that is best. I will, however, stay with the child to offer support.”
“Thanks,” Sookie smiled.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to exchange blood with Samantha,” Karin added somewhat pensively. “I am aware that you two have discussed Eric exchanging with her and Matthew so that he can track them. I would like to exchange with Samantha as well so that I can better track and protect her.”
“You understand that you will be able to feel her emotions,” Eric commented.
“And a kid’s emotions are all over the place?” Sookie added.
“I have considered this decision carefully,” Karin stated. “It would be an honor to guard Samantha. Of course, I vow to not take her blood again. Thus, if I ever have to give Samantha my blood to heal her, no permanent bond will be formed.”
“You honor us with this offer,” Eric said with a nod of his head.
Sookie looked at Eric and then at Karin. “Thank you, Karin. I couldn’t think of anyone who would do a better job looking out for Sammy. And—you’re right—while she’s a child, I wouldn’t want her to have a bond with a vampire. But—after she’s eighteen—it’ll be her choice whether she does and/or whom she chooses.”
Karin nodded. “Thank you. It pleases me that I will be able to feel Samantha’s mental state and find her.”
“But—uh—won’t the tie lose its power over time?” Sookie asked both vampires.
“A little of my blood from time to time will prevent that,” Karin said. “I will not need hers again.”
“Okay,” Sookie smiled, shifting Matthew to her other breast.
Karin continued to stand before the trio on the couch, looking more uncertain than before.
“There is more?” Eric asked.
“Is this about the fact that I haven’t formally asked you to stay with us?” Eric asked. “You should be able to sense that I want you to stay with us very much, though I will understand if you become restless—or if you are already restless.”
“No! I am not restless. On the contrary, I wish to dwell here for the foreseeable future,” Karin responded quickly.
“Then what troubles you?” Eric asked his eldest child.
“If Samantha is injured beyond what blood can heal . . . ,” she began.
“You want to know if she is to be turned?” Eric asked.
Karin nodded as Sookie visibly tensed.
“I will do all that I can to make sure she remains safe,” Karin swore to Sookie.
“I know,” the telepath whispered, forcing a little smile.
There were several silent minutes between the three of them.
“Sookie,” Eric finally said, his voice barely audible to the telepath, “I need to know the answer to Karin’s question too. And in regards to Matthew as well.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “I don’t want either of the children to be turned while they’re still children,” she said, brushing away a tear. “It wouldn’t be right.”
“And once Samantha is not a child?” Karin asked.
Sookie frowned as she held Matthew closer. “When she’s a woman, Sammy will make that decision for herself—just as Matty will when he’s older.”
“The definition of adulthood is not the same for you and me,” Karin said cautiously. “I must know how old Samantha needs to be before she can make that decision—if she is mortally injured.”
“You want to be her maker?” Eric asked.
Karin inhaled the first breath she’d consciously taken for decades. “I want Samantha in the world. If that necessitates my becoming her maker, I will consider it an honor, but I will respect the need to let her grow into womanhood first.”
Sookie brushed away a few more tears. “How about we play this by ear. I’m guessing that—no matter what time or culture they were born into—kids have always developed at their own paces, at least to a certain extent. I have a feeling we’ll all know when Sammy’s reached the stage when she could be a successful vampire if she chooses that path. And I feel that we’ll know with Matty too,” she finished quietly, clearly hoping that an emergency “turning situation” never arose.
Karin nodded in understanding. “With your permission, I will ask Ludwig to take slightly more blood than the witch requires so that I do not have to take it directly from Samantha. Then, I will mix some of my blood into a cup of juice. As long as there is not much delay between the drawing and drinking, the tie will form.”
“You have my permission,” Sookie said.
Karin looked to her maker.
“You do not need mine,” Eric said.
“Yes she does; Sammy and Matty are yours,” Sookie said gently, but significantly, even as she reached to take his hand.
Eric appeared to have something stuck in his throat for a moment.
“You have my permission as well, dottir,” he said somewhat gruffly.
Karin turned to leave.
“Can you glamour her?” Sookie asked.
“To not feel pain or fear the needle?” Karin asked.
Sookie nodded. “Yes.”
“I am capable of glamouring the two-natured, but—if you allow—I would like to offer her the choice,” Karin responded.
“So that she can learn to face and conquer her fears,” Eric smiled at his child, his pride in her evident.
Karin nodded. “A pinprick is a small thing, and I would not have Samantha fearing such a thing in the future—or counting on glamour to stifle her other fears. But—if she is not ready to face that lesson—then I will ensure that she feels no pain or fear.”
Sookie handed Matthew to Eric to burp and then righted her clothing before standing up and approaching Karin. Without a word of warning, the telepath enveloped the vampiress into a hug.
Karin accepted the embrace awkwardly, her arms still at her sides and her eyes upon her maker, who was lightly patting Matthew’s back and smiling at the scene before him.
“Sammy already loves you so much,” Sookie said, her voice thick with emotion, as she finally disentangled herself from the uncomfortable vampiress. “And I couldn’t be more grateful that you’re here for her—that you’re stayin’ with us.”
Karin bowed her head to the telepath since she didn’t know what else to do. “I will see to my charge then,” she said before leaving the couple and infant alone.
Eric’s eldest child took stock of her current status. If she hurried, she could still salvage Pamela’s story, which she’d been monitoring. Unfortunately, the story had included no particularly noteworthy parts; Karin just hoped that Pamela honed her skill before Matthew required stories.
But Karin the Slaughterer didn’t intend to allow Pamela to practice much on Samantha, lest the child become bored, fall asleep, and drown in the tub!
Eric gazed out the large windows of the family room. He couldn’t help but to smile as he noticed the swing set/jungle gym that he’d asked Olaf to have installed in an area of the yard that couldn’t be seen from the sea. Just as he’d asked, it even had a special swing that could hold an infant. He knew that Sookie would be pleased as well.
Speaking of the telepath, after taking Ricca’s “miracle cure” for jetlag, Sookie had felt rejuvenated and decided to take a shower. Though Eric would have liked to have joined her, he’d been happy with the task of putting Matty into his co-sleeper and lightly patting his back until he went to sleep—which took only a few minutes.
Then, to avoid the temptation of the naked, wet, and alluring siren in the bathroom, the vampire had decided to see if Olaf had “come up for air” yet. (Or—more accurately—see if Thalia had let him up.) So far, neither had appeared, so Eric had spent his time taking in the small and large changes Olaf had made to the house and grounds in order to ensure that the estate was suitable for Sookie and the children. The swing set was just the last noticed in a long list of changes—some requested by him and some initiated by Olaf—that the vampire was certain would work well for his family. It was safe to say that Eric was well-pleased.
So far, Sookie and Samantha had loved the house as well—at least what they’d seen of it!
Sammy had skipped around with joy as she’d explored her pink-heavy room. Pam and Olaf’s second-in-command, Madeline, had been responsible for the little pink paradise. Sookie had been pleased that a desk and schooling materials were included in the room. Indeed, she intended to begin homeschooling Sammy on January 10, which was when the Bon Temps school system was due to reopen. Of course, Sammy would also be benefitting from several vampire tutors, including Caleb, who—as it turned out—was a mathematics whiz.
In fact, Eric was already anticipating that Caleb might become a resident of the island—at least if the pilot had his way. The Viking could tell that Caleb very much appreciated any view involving Karin. And—given the fact that Olaf would likely move in (at least, unofficially) thanks to Thalia’s presence, the helicopter would be needed almost nightly to take Olaf to his “official” residence or offices since the Swedish king did not have the ability to fly.
Of course, Olaf would probably prefer to get his nightly rides from Thalia.
Speaking of “riding,” Olaf and Thalia finally entered the family room, looking as if they’d both been well-ridden (and put away wet).
In other words, it was clear that they’d both enjoyed a hard fuck!
Luckily, for Sookie and the children (and even most of the vampires), Eric had made sure that all of the rooms in the underground section of the home were as soundproof as was possible. Still—the Viking (because of his advanced age and heightened senses) had heard quite a bit of the vampire siblings’ “re-introduction” to each other.
Apparently, Thalia was a goddess.
And Olaf was a stallion.
Eric tilted his head and regarded both of them.
“What?” Olaf asked.
“You do sort of look like a horse,” Eric grinned.
“And you look like an ass,” Thalia declared, even as she moved to the opposite end of the room from Olaf. It was clear to Eric that the Swedish king didn’t like the physical separation.
Eric regretted teasing them, for the last thing he wanted to do was to provide any “reason” for Thalia to want to leave. Of course—it wasn’t as though Thalia was a prude about sex. However, she was reticent about acknowledging (even to herself) just how much she enjoyed it with Olaf.
“The house is perfect,” Eric complimented, changing the subject.
“Sookie is pleased as well?” the king asked with a genuine smile.
“She salivated over the kitchen,” Eric chuckled, “despite it’s being quite modern in style.”
“She does not enjoy the modern?” the Swedish king asked.
Eric shrugged. “It is not that—just that she is accustomed to a more traditional style.”
“Things can be changed,” Olaf said quickly.
“That will not be needed. As I said, Sookie loved everything. I believe that she is anxious to try out the new style, though I know that she will soon add many personal touches.”
Olaf nodded. “As she should as mistress of the house.”
Eric smiled at him. “Sookie asked me to reiterate that you are welcome to stay here anytime you want—for as long as you want—but I know you already know that, bror.”
Olaf glanced at Thalia before replying. “Thank you, my brother. I hope to do just that—at least until you are all well settled in.”
Eric smirked and nodded, not believing—for a moment—that Olaf actually felt the need to “settle” him into his own home. No, the Swedish king would be staying mostly for Thalia. Eric couldn’t help but to hope that Olaf and Thalia would finally settle things between themselves.
Eric heard Dr. Ludwig knock on Sookie’s bedroom upstairs. He listened as the diminutive doctor informed Sookie that she was there to take Matthew’s blood for the spell. Eric prepared himself to go to his son immediately if he began to cry.
“Did you notice the glass?” Olaf asked, breaking Eric from his thoughts, though the elder Viking kept listening.
“I did,” Eric responded. “Vampire safe? Throughout the entire house?”
“Yes,” Olaf responded with a smile. “The rays that are damaging to vampires are the only ones kept out. I thought it would be a nice surprise for you. Your Sookie and her children can keep the sun, and vampires old enough can enjoy the light of it too. I have the glass installed in some of the chambers of the palace and have thoroughly enjoyed the sunrise and sunset again—even though they cannot be enjoyed in their totality.”
“I look forward to it,” Eric said sincerely. “But what of the expense?” he asked, his voice somewhat chiding. “This home has many, large windows.”
“The cost was not as much as it would have been if I didn’t know someone heavily invested in the technology,” Olaf chuckled.
The elder Viking laughed as well. “That someone being you?”
Olaf nodded. “Of course. You taught me—well—how to seek out my investments.”
Eric regarded the glass that would allow him to safety see the sun again. He’d first seen the technology in Rhodes. “I wish I’d thought to invest in this,” he mused, even as he thumped the glass lightly.
“Says the vampire who owns 25% of TrueBlood and 15% of Royalty Blended,” Olaf returned.
“That’s not public knowledge,” Eric smirked.
“And—knowing you—it never will be,” Olaf laughed.
“The windows won’t affect Sookie and the children’s ability to,” Eric paused, “enjoy the sun?”
“Not in any way they will notice much,” Olaf replied. “I have been told that it will be like looking out the tinted windows of a car to them. Their eyes will see the outside world as if through almost clear glass, but—looking at the glass from the outside—it will look dark.”
Eric nodded. “Still bullet-proof?” he asked cautiously. Given the number of large windows the house had, he felt the need to ask.
“Of course,” Olaf returned.
“Thank you,” Eric said sincerely. “This gift is unexpected—and perfect.”
Olaf smiled a little wider, clearly happy to have pleased his mentor.
“The children’s rooms?” the Swedish king asked. “Did Sookie find them satisfactory as well? Did Samantha approve of her space?”
“Sammy is very well pleased with her room,” Eric smiled. “And Sookie cried and expressed milk when she saw the nursery for the first time.”
“Human reactions are so odd,” Olaf commented with a frown.
“Indeed,” Eric agreed. “But she said it was normal for nursing mothers when they felt great emotion. I was quite pleased with the nautical theme of the nursery.”
“But you didn’t express milk—I bet,” Thalia intoned.
Ignoring his vampire sister, Olaf grinned. “Perhaps we can teach the boy to sail properly.”
“With only the stars to guide him,” Thalia smirked with a roll of her eyes.
“Of course!” Olaf winked at her. “The stars are all that is needed for someone who knows what they’re doing.”
“And his sister will be soaring above him,” Eric said with a proud smile. “They will command the skies and the seas.”
“No pressure,” Thalia said drolly.
It was Olaf and Eric’s turn to roll their eyes.
“They will be asked to do nothing that they do not wish to do,” Eric said fervently, feeling extremely protective in that moment. Indeed, he never wanted his children to be forced into any action or behavior.
“Except for their studies,” Sookie chuckled as she walked into the room, drying her hair with a towel. “That bathroom is amazing!” she gushed as she sat on the couch. “Thank you so much for all that you’ve done to get the house ready, Olaf!”
“That was the one room that did not need to be changed at all!” Olaf laughed. “That one,” he said, pointing toward Eric, who was making his way to sit next to Sookie, “has always insisted upon the best when it comes to a bathroom.”
“Well—I have no complaints,” Sookie smiled, nestling against Eric once he was settled.
“Matty?” the elder Viking asked her.
“Still sound asleep in the co-sleeper—thanks to you,” she smiled. “Thanks for thinking of the co-sleeper, by the way. I think that’ll work out really well.”
Eric bent down to gently kiss her forehead. “I figured it might be your preference since you kept him in the bed with you in Jackson, but the traditional crib will be available in his room as needed, and there is a cradle in the living room, as well as other infant seating and sleeping options throughout the house.”
“One of the humans in my employ swore by something called a bouncy chair,” Olaf informed. “One of those and several other unopened items you might desire for your children have been placed in the large closet in the utility room; feel free to look through them and determine what you will need. The werebears can assemble items as needed, and—of course—Caleb can bring anything that might have been missed. The boxes and larger luggage that arrived with you on Russell’s airplane will be transported by boat to the island tomorrow night. Caleb has already brought in the smaller bags that fit on the helicopter. In addition, the items shipped from your residence in Bon Temps will arrive within two weeks.”
“Hmm?” Sookie asked, turning to Eric. She knew, of course, about the items she’d quickly packed before she’d left her home, but she’d not known that Eric had arranged for her other possessions to be shipped as well.
“The werepanthers from Hotshot cleared out your brother’s home and shipped everything to him in Indiana. I also asked them to discreetly pack up the rest of your and the children’s clothing and personal items—as well as clear out your refrigerator and such. Moreover, they will be looking after your home—though I am relatively certain that the protection spells placed by your Fae kin will hold. Your furnishings and appliances have stayed in Bon Temps, but anything you want can be shipped. And—of course—anything you don’t need that was shipped can be stored here; there is a large outbuilding for storage,” Eric informed.
“Thank you,” Sookie whispered, leaning up to kiss him.
“I am sorry that I did not tell you before, min kära. I received the email confirmation of the shipping status of your possessions only while you were in the shower,” Eric said softly.
“They will be arriving by freighter so that their origin can be completely untraceable; that’s why they will take two weeks,” Olaf explained.
Sookie smiled softly at her vampire and then looked at Olaf. “Really—thank you—both. It’ll be nice to have our things. But everything here is amazing already!”
“And you haven’t even seen Eric’s lair yet,” Olaf winked.
“Is that the light-tight part of the house?” Sookie asked.
“Thanks to Olaf, the whole house is light-tight!” Eric smiled.
“But—uh,” Sookie stammered, looking at the large windows in the very room they were in, “there are windows everywhere! Big ones!”
Olaf chuckled. “Technology!”
“It is quite wonderful,” Eric agreed. “The windows here are similar to those in the hotel at Rhodes, though I believe the technology is even better nowadays.”
Olaf nodded. “Yes. After Rhodes, the glass was improved so that even most vampires could not shatter it. Lower grade explosives could not damage the windows either.”
Recalling Rhodes vividly, Sookie questioned, “But what if a vampire needed to break the glass? You know—to toboggan down a building or something?” she mumbled.
Eric chuckled. “I believe I could still break through.”
Olaf nodded in confirmation. “The windows’ strength is measured in a number that corresponds roughly to vampire years. And various strengths are now available. The ones in this home are Strength-9. That means that a vampire 900 or older could likely break them. And it would take something akin to a direct hit from a rocket launcher to breach them from the outside, but—even then—they would shatter similarly to a car window. Of course—I would not advise breaking them,” he smirked. “If there is danger—the lair would be a much better place to go.”
“It is reinforced to keep out unwanted vampires and fairies. It is also fire-proof,” Eric responded to Sookie’s unspoken question. “Just about indestructible.”
“And Ricca has added spells to enhance its impermeability as well,” Olaf reported. “Oh—and there is now a back-up ventilation system—since I knew that humans might need to use the space for an extended period.”
Eric nodded. “Thank you, bror.”
Olaf nodded in return, clearly pleased by his mentor’s approval.
Sookie nodded and smiled. “That’s great! But I’m glad the kids and I won’t have to live down their normally. It’ll be nice to have windows and you!” she sighed happily as she wrapped her arms around Eric and leaned against him.
“How’d Matty do with the blood drawing?” Eric asked; he’d not heard a peep from his son when Ludwig had been with him, but he wanted to make sure that all had gone well.
“He slept right through it,” Sookie chuckled. “In fact, I was more upset than he was.”
Karin entered the room. “How’d Sammy do?” Sookie asked nervously. Indeed, Eric knew that Sookie had had a difficult time staying away from her daughter when Ludwig had gone to her room. However, the mother knew that her own nervousness would do her daughter no favors; she also knew that Sammy would not be reticent about asking for her if she needed her.
“It went well. Samantha chose not to be glamoured,” Karin responded evenly. “The blood-drawing was unpleasant for her, but she endured. I also explained about the blood exchange between the two of us. She was pleased to drink her juice which contained my blood,” Karin said, clearly pleased as well.
“The tie has been formed?” Eric asked.
Karin nodded in confirmation. “Right now, Samantha is peacefully asleep; I left her cuddled next to the plush toy she favors,” she added.
Eric smiled. That toy—a yellow rabbit—had been a gift that he’d basically smuggled to Sookie when he’d learned about her first pregnancy. Ostensibly from Pam, the toy had been given while Eric was still trapped as Freyda’s consort.
When he was forbidden from having any interaction with Sookie.
Caleb entered the room next, his eyes lingering on Karin as he did so.
She did not fail to notice, nor did she seem to mind his gaze.
Moments later, Pam and Ricca arrived with one more of Olaf’s vampires—a petite woman with strawberry blonde hair: Madeline. Eric knew that Olaf’s second-in-command was the only vampire in Olaf’s retinue—other than Caleb—who knew of the island and its occupants.
At over 600 years old, Madeline was the older of Queen Innogen’s two children. Olaf had offered to serve Madeline if she chose to become queen after her maker’s death, but Madeline had not felt ready to be a queen. According to Olaf, the vampiress still preferred working behind the scenes as much as possible; indeed, Madeline’s vampire gift related to her stealth. Eric knew that Olaf had vowed to turn over the Kingdom of Sweden to Madeline if ever she wanted it, but there was no indication that the vampiress would be taking him up on that offer any time soon.
When he’d visited Olaf, Eric had met Madeline several times and had even bedded her once, but the Viking did not fear that the vampiress would stir up any problems. Madeline was completely loyal to Olaf and the sexual encounter that Eric had had with her had been five decades before and quite casual. Eric knew that Olaf viewed Madeline as a sister and had—at her request—been training her to be a warrior since the time of Innogen’s death.
Unfortunately, Madeline blamed herself for her maker’s demise; however, instead of succumbing to sorrow, she’d taken steps to better protect her current king. Of course, no one else blamed Madeline. Innogen’s killer had been older than Madeline, and the child had almost died from her own blood loss on the night her maker had been murdered. Also, Innogen had purposely not trained her dottir to be a warrior. On the contrary, she’d striven to give her an “easy” life—since her own existence had been very difficult.
But life was never easy—as Madeline had learned in the hardest way possible when Innogen had been killed.
Caleb was Innogen’s younger child and had been turned only weeks before his maker had been slain. Eric knew that Olaf had fostered Caleb for several years, just as Eric had once mentored Olaf.
“How goes the kingdom?” Olaf asked Madeline with a smirk.
Madeline smoothed down her hair, which had become slightly disheveled during her boat trip from the mainland to the island. “It’s quiet tonight,” she said with a respectful nod. “However, earlier this evening, I did deny one check in,” she added.
“From whom?” Olaf asked.
“A vampire named Stephen—from Crete,” she emphasized.
Eric and Olaf exchanged a long look.
“Cyril’s child?” Eric asked.
Having learned of Eric’s older “brother” during the past several days, Sookie tensed.
Madeline nodded. “Yes, I believe—based on his age—that Stephen belongs to Cyril.”
“Why did he say he wanted to settle here and what cause did you give for denying him?” Olaf enquired.
“Stephen claimed that he wished to relocate temporarily to Stockholm for business, but he supplied no proof that he had any current business in Sweden,” Madeline replied. “Then, he demanded to meet with you—tonight,” she added with a smirk.
“Did he indeed?” Olaf asked, suddenly in “king mode.” Eric had to admit that he was intimidating in that moment.
Madeline nodded. “Stephen wasn’t pleased when I told him that—only if the correct papers were filed—a meeting would be arranged. At your convenience, of course.”
“And in the meantime?” Olaf asked his second-in-command.
“He’s being followed. I informed him that he either needed to file the proper paperwork or leave within the week,” she informed.
“Who do you have on him?” Olaf asked.
“Gretchen. And Sy.”
Olaf chuckled loudly, looking at Eric as he did so.
“What’s so funny?” Sookie asked with confusion.
“Gretchen is only a mediocre tracker,” Olaf responded.
“Why assign her then?” Sookie frowned.
“If I am correct, Olaf is employing a strategy I taught him,” Eric smirked.
“A strategy you and I used many a time,” the Swedish king chuckled.
“Huh?” Sookie asked.
“Stephen is old enough to know that he will be tracked. He will certainly identify Gretchen,” Olaf explained. “Meanwhile, Sy will be the one truly keeping an eye on him.”
“Won’t this Stephen be suspicious if the tracker isn’t good?” Sookie asked, still confused.
Eric leaned over to kiss her forehead.
“Your mate has excellent strategic instincts,” Olaf smiled at the telepath, clearly impressed by her question.
“I told you,” Eric agreed before turning his body to face Sookie. “If I am correct, Gretchen is often used to track vampires of whom Olaf is not actually suspicious.”
The king nodded in confirmation. “She is.”
“And Stephen will know that?” Sookie asked.
“Not initially. But he will make it a point to learn about the one tracking him,” Eric informed.
Olaf smirked to match Eric’s. “In my younger years—right after Eric took me under his wing—I wasn’t exactly stealthy.”
“You had good instincts though,” Thalia defended. “And you improved.”
“Yes,” Olaf smiled at her.
“So, Thalia, did you and Olaf ever track people as a team?” Sookie asked. “With Olaf being the one caught and you being the one who wasn’t?”
“On occasion—for Queen Innogen,” Thalia said, even as she nodded her respect to first Madeline and then Caleb, both of whom still mourned the loss of their maker.
“And, as I indicated, Eric and I used the strategy quite often during our years together,” Olaf smiled. “I have become better at stealth throughout the years, but I could never hold a candle to either Thalia or Eric. Or Madeline—though she is younger than I.”
Sookie giggled. “Well—I trip over my own feet going upstairs half the time! So I’m not exactly an expert at stealth either!”
After smiling (and discreetly nodding in agreement) with his beloved, Eric asked Madeline, “Is there any indication that Stephen knows we’re here?”
“None,” the vampiress answered with confidence. “However, there is an indication that de Castro is looking for you and that Cyril is helping him. Sweden is merely one of the places they’re looking. King de Castro appears to be sending many of his agents and allies to seek you out, and your relationship with Olaf is well-known, so it would make sense that someone checked here.
After Stephen appeared, I inquired elsewhere—subtly, of course. Cyril and his younger child Tamryn were spotted in Tokyo.”
“Tokyo?” Sookie asked nervously.
“I spent a good deal of time in the court of the Japanese king, Haruto, before coming to America,” Eric shared. “Kenshin?” he asked. “Have you contacted him?”
” The new king of Oklahoma?” Madeline enquired.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “Though our friendship may not be well-known, Cyril or de Castro might know of it—especially given the fact that I was responsible for bringing him to Oklahoma in the first place. Kenshin ought to be warned to be on the look-out.”
“I will see to it,” Olaf indicated. “But I do not like that Cyril is involved. Stephen is an annoyance—to be sure. But he is comparatively benign. Cyril and Tamryn are both cut from the same mold as,” he paused and glanced at Thalia, “our makers.”
Eric, too, glanced at Thalia with almost parental concern in his eyes. For her part, Thalia was looking anywhere but at the two vampires who had witnessed—and shared in—her suffering.
“Do you have word about any other potential spies?” Eric asked Madeline.
Madeline nodded. “Mirabel, de Castro’s new second-in-command, was spotted in Mississippi, though there is no reason to suspect that she learned anything about your time there. I have already contacted Russell Edgington and Bartlett Crowe in Paris. The Indiana king wishes to r elay to Miss Stackhouse that her brother and his family are secure and currently operating under aliases. They have Were guards during the day and a vampire guard at night. There is no indication of trouble for them.”
Sookie breathed a sigh of relief next to Eric.
“Anywhere else?” Eric asked.
“Texas, California, England, and Spain—that I have learned of so far, but I have been checking mostly in regions where I know you have extensive contacts,” Madeline reported. “In fact, your contacts will likely know more, but I figured you might not want to involve them at the present. I haven’t yet been able to contact the monarchs of Texas or California because of the time difference, but the werebears in Sweden have their own networks and were able to contact their allies in those states.”
“You are thorough,” Eric complimented.
“I learned from the best,” Madeline said, glancing toward Olaf.
“As did I,” the Swedish king grinned, looking at Eric.
Eric nodded at his one-time “student.”
“So—we-re bein’ hunted,” Sookie commented with a sigh.
“We knew that would happen,” Eric reminded, even as he gave her a comforting kiss on the forehead. “We just didn’t know Cyril would be involved.”
“All the more reason for the protection spells,” Ricca said with a reassuring smile toward Sookie. “The first one has been set already, and—as I’m sure you realized—the werebears got through with Madeline. They are currently waiting to be introduced to you.”
“Do you hear them?” Eric asked Sookie.
The telepath closed her eyes and nodded moments later. “Yes. Their minds aren’t too difficult to read. Daan and Salma?” she asked.
“Yes,” Olaf confirmed.
Sookie nodded. “They just introduced themselves to Dr. Ludwig. The doctor’s asking for their blood for the spell. They’re both glad that there’s gonna be a strong protection spell here, but they think that—if Olaf is gonna be here often—another guard or two is needed—for daytime.”
The king chuckled. “Your skill is truly wonderful.”
Sookie shrugged. “Sometimes. One thing’s for certain, Salma and Daan are extremely loyal to you, King Olaf—and protective of each other too.”
Olaf smiled. “Just Olaf is fine. And they are siblings. Their family has served me for many years—since their grandparents were their age.” He looked at Eric. “I would have already assigned more guards to your family, but I didn’t want to draw too much attention to this place.”
Eric nodded. “That is wise. But we must all be very careful to ensure that no one finds this place.”
” Yes. Even after Stephen leaves,” Olaf agreed. He looked at Ricca. “Your comment about Samantha changing into a bird of prey gave me an idea. I think we should employ Megan—if you feel she is ready.”
“Megan?” Sookie asked.
Ricca nodded and smiled proudly. “A werehawk. She was found abandoned when she was only two or so, and my coven took her in; in fact, she was raised by my parents.”
“So she’s your sister,” Sookie smiled.
“Yes,” Ricca agreed. “Sisters are what we are to each other. In addition to her ability to shift, Megan’s learned a little magic here and there, but has yet to have an assignment because she turned eighteen only a month ago.” The witch considered for a moment. “That being said, I think this assignment would be ideal for her. She could learn from Salma and Daan. However, I would want to stay here with her,” she said, glancing at Pam. “And I would ask that she be given the night hours off so that she could fly to see our parents as she wished, for she’s never lived away from home.”
“You would stay here?” Olaf smiled at the witch with surprise.
“For a while. If I am welcome,” Ricca nodded.
“Of course!” Sookie said with a wide grin. “I’d love company in the daytime—adult company, that is. And I can already tell that you’re family, so your sister will be too,” she added emphatically.
Ricca smiled. “Thank you, Sookie.”
“Speaking of company, would you like a nanny?” Olaf asked. “Eric was uncertain about whether you would require one.”
Sookie’s head immediately began to shake. “No—but thank you. Since it looks like Eric and I will be sort of stuck here most of the time for the foreseeable future, I’m lookin’ forward to bein’ a stay-at-home mom for a while. I mean—I’m sure I’ll get stir crazy eventually, but looking after two kids and enjoying my first real winter will be nice.” She chuckled. “Or at least an adventure.”
Ricca laughed as well. “I could continue to alter the weather a bit—if you like?”
Sookie shook her head again. “No. I don’t think so. I do appreciate that you—uh—made it warmer tonight, though. Gettin’ from the airplane to the helicopter wasn’t fun! When Eric told me you’d be doin’ a weather spell here, I couldn’t have been happier! Heck! It felt like a cool Bon Temps night once we got here.”
Ricca grinned. “It’s not a difficult spell—at least not if it is temporary in nature. Let me know if you get homesick for warmer weather.”
Sookie smiled widely. “I will! But, actually, I’m lookin’ forward to enjoyin’ the snow with the kids. And Sammy runs warm—probably because she’s half shifter. I think that—once she’s here for a while—she won’t ever wanna leave!”
“Nor should you ever go,” Olaf piped in, his voice booming with happiness—and hope. “Even after the whole de Castro thing is done, I truly wish for you all to stay. You could be a lord or just a private citizen,” he added, looking at Eric.
“A lord?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “It’s like a sheriff. And—honestly—I would have become that for Olaf as soon as he became king—if I could have. Hell—I considered it every time my contract with Sophie-Anne was up, but with Appius still here on the Continent . . . .” The elder Viking stopped midsentence, but no one in the room asked him to complete it, for all knew that he’d left Europe so that he could be further away from his maker.
“Well,” Sookie sighed, leaning against Eric in a comforting manner, “now you can go anywhere and do anything, but I honestly can’t think of a more beautiful place to put down roots. And,” she waggled her eyebrows at him, “there are long nights in the winter.”
“But short ones in the summer,” Olaf reminded. “Of course, that’s why I have my deal with King Frankin.”
“Frankin?” Sookie asked.
Olaf smirked. “The King of South Africa. He often spends Swedish winters here, and I often spend South African Winters there, for we are both spoiled by long nights. With the technology available today and the loyal allies I enjoy,” he added, glancing at Ricca, “a monarch doesn’t even have to be in his or her country to govern it. And—trust me—Frankin would welcome you as well,” he nodded toward Eric and then Sookie. “His enemies have always been mine, and mine have been his, so he would ensure that you enjoyed safety in his nation.”
“Speaking of enemies,” Ricca sighed, “I need to know all that I am up against before I construct the main protection spell—the blood-spell. The more specific information I get, the better it will work. Plus, I intend to strengthen it at the next full moon. To do that, I’ll need to be informed of all your enemies—not just the vampire ones.”
“A vampire king and one of Appius’s kids out to get us isn’t enough?” Sookie asked with a frown.
“A witch was mentioned earlier,” Ricca said pointedly.
“Amelia,” Sookie sighed.
Ricca nodded. “Yes. And I need to know why you cringe at every mention of her name,” she prodded gently.
“Pam and Thalia were the ones who learned of Amelia’s betrayal,” Eric informed as Sookie turned away to wipe some tears from her face.
“She was important to you,” Ricca commented.
Sookie nodded. “It was difficult for me to make friends because of my disability. I managed only two growing up: Tara and Lafayette. Lafayette was killed—murdered,” she shook her head, “almost a decade ago. Tara—well—she had a wild streak. She hooked up with a vampire,” she paused, “for the danger of it. The first vampire she was involved with, Franklin, seemed okay at first, but he passed her on to Mickey, and he was bad news.”
Eric nodded in agreement.
“Salome’s child?” Olaf asked.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed.
“I have heard—even from this far—that he was wild and cruel. That he ought not to have been turned,” Olaf said.
“Was?” Sookie asked.
“The takeover,” Eric informed. “Mickey was with Salome when de Castro’s forces invaded. She wasn’t keen on handing over her casino.”
“She was killed?” Sookie frowned.
“Yes—and her child,” Eric relayed.
Sookie frowned. “I never thought to ask. I just never thought,” she sighed ruefully, before turning her attention back to Ricca. “But my days of staying willfully ignorant are done. As I was saying before, Tara was my one remaining childhood friend, but—after Mickey—she opted for ‘normal’ and settled down with a Bon Temps guy. They had kids, but the more ‘normal’ they became, the less Tara initiated contact with me. I tried to keep our friendship strong, and there were times during the last few years when I think we were okay, but—no matter how ‘normal’ I got—it wasn’t quite enough for Tara to be really comfortable.” The telepath sighed. “I guess I’m telling you all this so that you will know why I was so happy to have Amelia as a friend—or, at least, I thought she was my friend,” she ended as more tears fell down her cheeks.
As Eric comforted Sookie, Ricca looked at first Pam and then Thalia. “Tell me everything you discovered about the witch, Amelia.”
It was Thalia who spoke up first. “Pam and I captured and questioned Luther, Queen Freyda’s Second-in-Command, who had also been Felipe’s informant. He had been hiding in Bill Compton’s home.”
“Bill Compton?” Ricca asked as she noticed Sookie flinch.
“Another mistake I made,” the telepath squeaked out.
“An even bigger one than Sookie thought,” Thalia said, though her tone was more compassionate than Eric had ever heard it. Thalia and Pam had told him and Sookie the whole story of what had been found in Compton’s little “safe room” two nights before, but Sookie still felt Bill’s and—especially—Amelia’s betrayals acutely.
“Let’s make a long story short,” Pam announced, sensing her mistress’s discomfort. “Bill was a bastard. Initially, he was sent to procure Sookie for the Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne Leclerq. His chosen mode of procurement was seducing a virgin.”
“Pam!” Sookie yelled, even as she continued to wipe away stray tears. “The short version of the story doesn’t need to include my sexual status!”
Pam rolled her eyes. “Of course, it does! You were—for all intents and purposes—a unicorn in Louisiana! Who ever heard of a 26-year-old virgin with tits like . . . .”
“As Pamela was saying—in her short story,” Thalia interrupted Pam, “Bill insinuated himself into Sookie’s life at the queen’s behest. However, he began to believe Sookie and himself to be fated. Epically clueless and self-important, Billy boy’s own ideals of honor included honesty toward only those who most wanted to use or harm Sookie. He eventually worked for both Felipe and Freyda to undermine Eric.”
“And he was a fucking douche,” Pam added.
“That too,” Thalia agreed. “But now he’s a dead douche,” she grinned.
“Was the witch involved with this Compton?” Ricca asked.
“Yes,” Sookie sighed, before taking a deep breath. “I met Amelia in New Orleans when I went to settle my cousin’s estate.”
“Her vampire cousin—Hadley,” Pam informed. “Turned by Sophie-Anne after she told the queen all about her telepathic cousin.”
“She was the catalyst for Compton seeking you out?” Ricca asked Sookie.
“Yes,” the telepath nodded. “It was during my trip to New Orleans that I found out he’d been sent by the queen—that, at least, his initial feelings were entirely fake. Amelia helped me get through that. But—even before—she and I had been becoming fast friends—at least, I thought so. She had turned her boyfriend into a cat and needed a place to stay. I invited her and Bob to live with me,” Sookie relayed.
“Bob was the boyfriend?” Ricca asked.
Sookie nodded. “And he was still a cat at the time. Things seemed good between Amelia and me. I mean—it really did seem like we were best friends. Eventually, Hurricane Katrina happened and displaced Amelia’s mentor. Octavia lived with us in Bon Temps for a while after that. In the end, I don’t think Octavia was too fond of me, but I don’t think she’d condone Amelia doing anything negative with her witchcraft either.” The telepath shrugged. “But what do I know? Hell! I knew that Amelia was bisexual, but I never imagined she—uh—liked me like that. And—um—at first—she seemed real tolerant of all people—vampires included.”
“I even fucked her for a while,” Pam contributed.
Ricca frowned at that.
“Don’t worry, doll. That witch couldn’t find a G-spot with a map and a can of alphabet soup, but I’m betting you’d do just fine,” Pam flirted.
“What is important to note,” Thalia said, thankfully changing the topic from the inevitable sex between the witch and Pam, “is that Amelia became enamored with Sookie and constructed spells to hide that fact. She had relationships with others, including a male Were with whom she seemed serious, as a cover for her true obsession.”
“Which was me,” Sookie said, seemingly still dumbfounded by that idea.
“More recently, Amelia connected with Compton,” Thalia continued. “They had a sexual relationship—though Amelia is married to Bob and has children with him.”
“The cat?” Ricca asked.
“He was eventually changed back,” Sookie informed.
“Anyway,” Pam sighed with a roll of her eyes, “cats aside, Amelia created a safe room for Bill in his home, placing a spell over it that even Thalia couldn’t detect.”
“In the safe room, Compton had equipment that monitored Sookie,” Thalia picked up.
“He was a fucking stalker—a perverted one!” Pam added. “He got as close as he could to her home and place of work. He even had footage of Sookie fucking . . . .”
“I inferred that,” Ricca said, cutting Pam off—thankfully. “And the witch?”
“She was on Bill’s side,” Sookie sighed. “She wanted me to be with him again. I think she figured that—if she couldn’t have me—she wanted someone to possess me that would make me miserable.”
“From the emails Amelia and Bill exchanged, it was clear that Amelia knew that Bill intended to help Freyda and de Castro fake Matthew’s death,” Eric informed. “Moreover, it was apparent that the witch encouraged Bill to steal the infant so that Sookie would be more—” he paused, a growl emanating from his lips, “more pliable in her grief.”
“And, from what I could infer, it seems likely Amelia has had at least some direct contact with de Castro,” Thalia informed.
“So this witch is a threat,” Ricca stated.
“She could be,” Sookie said, her sorrow clearly showing in her eyes and in the tone of her voice.
“Is she the one who broke your blood bond with Eric?” Ricca asked Sookie gently.
“You know of that?” Sookie asked with a deep frown.
“Yes. I told her—when I was giving her background information on your family,” Olaf said almost apologetically.
Sookie nodded. “It’s okay. And—yes—Amelia was the one.”
“And she could transform humans into animals,” the witch mused. “And she could hide her true thoughts from your telepathy. And she could form a concealment spell that would fool an ancient vampiress. These spells indicate great strength of magic.”
Sookie nodded. “She always seemed pretty powerful.”
“But not necessarily in control,” Eric stated.
“And not always cognizant of the consequences of her magic,” Thalia added.
“Or perhaps too cognizant at times,” Eric mused.
“Was the strongest magic you witnessed her performing the breaking of the blood bond?” Ricca asked.
“Yes,” Eric responded quickly. “By far. I had not known such a thing could be done.”
A tear dropped from Sookie’s eye. “It’s all my fault. Back then, I wasn’t sure if my feelings for Eric were mine or from the bond. I was stupid and asked Amelia to find a way to break the bond. She did.”
“She enjoyed the pain the bond-breaking caused,” Thalia said with a deep frown. “That much was clear from her emails to Compton. By then, the witch blamed Sookie for the death of Tray Dawson, the Were she’d been pretending to love. And she also hated Sookie for not being able to love her.”
“Not that I haven’t wished Sookie was bi-sexual a time or two,” Pam intoned.
“Not helpful,” Karin chastised her sister.
Pam ignored her. “Anyway, the witch clearly has a gigantic grudge against Sookie.”
“But her obsession is much more disturbing,” Eric said.
“I couldn’t imagine she had anything to do with it at the time, but Amelia’s father tried to kill me several years ago. I just don’t . . . ,” Sookie began.
“Now, we cannot be sure what lengths she might have gone to then—might still go to now—in order to punish Sookie for not returning her love,” Eric said, completing Sookie’s thought when the telepath could not.
“You do not think she would be above casting dark magic?” Ricca asked.
“No!” came the resounding answer from four people in the room—Eric, Sookie, Thalia, and Pam.
“Okay, then,” Ricca said with resolution. She looked at Olaf. “I’ll begin constructing talismans for them all tomorrow.”
“Talismans?” Sookie asked.
“To dispel malicious spells,” Olaf said, holding up the one that he was wearing.
“They take about three months to mature,” Ricca said. “It would be better if you all stayed on the island—or at least very close to it—for that time period.”
Eric nodded. “Then we will. I already have my one remaining spy in Louisiana, Indira, keeping an eye on Amelia. And—there is something else. I believe Amelia knows of a spell that once affected me and ultimately caused much harm between Sookie and myself. Worse, I believe she might have a copy of the spell-book of the witch who caused that spell.”
“What kind of spell?” Ricca asked.
“It erased my memory and was designed to weaken me in one way when it was set and then in another way when it was lifted,” Eric reported, even as he glanced down at Sookie, who was still huddled in his arms.
“Amelia has Hallow’s book?!” Sookie exclaimed as understanding dawned upon her.
Eric sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I allowed Octavia and Amelia access to the spell book right before Rhodes—hoping they could restore my memory.”
“I didn’t know,” Sookie said, sounding almost haunted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know,” Eric said honestly. “Maybe because neither of us was good at telling each other much of anything back then.”
There was quiet in the room for a few moments as the couple spoke promises with their eyes—promises to never allow themselves to get in their own way again.
“After Eric went to Oklahoma, I was going to have the damned spell book destroyed,” Pam relayed, breaking the silence, “but I decided to study it instead. I don’t know; maybe I was hoping to find a miracle to free him. What I did find was a spell regarding bond-breaking.”
“You think that Amelia used Hallow’s spell? When she broke Eric and my bond?” Sookie asked.
Pam shrugged. “Yes, but I cannot be sure.”
“Do you have the spell book?” Ricca asked. “If Amelia does have a copy of the book, then I might be able to use the original to engineer spells of defense against her.”
Pam glanced at Eric, who nodded.
“Yes. I had some items shipped here. The spell book was among those things,” the vampiress relayed. “I believe it is already here.”
“Yes,” Olaf confirmed.
“Wait!” Did you say Hallow earlier?” Ricca asked Sookie. “The Were-witch?”
“Yes,” Sookie responded.
“I heard of her even over here. It was a good day when she was expunged from the earth,” Ricca commented.
“What?” Eric asked.
“It’s just that you Swedes speak English better than I do! Even I don’t know what ‘expunged’ means!” Sookie admitted.
“To eliminate, min kära,” Eric said gently. “And you will soon know Swedish as well as they know English.”
“I lived in the U.S. for six years,” Ricca explained with a smile, “between the ages of eight and fourteen. That’s how I know it well. My mentor wanted me to study with other witches, and my mother longed to travel. We had fun, but we never made it to Louisiana. Most of our time was spent in L.A.!” she added brightly.
Sookie nodded. “Well—that explains why you speak so well.”
“And being vampires explains the rest of us,” Madeline said kindly. “We are good mimickers. And blending in was quite necessary until a few years ago. Daan and Salma can speak English, but you’ll notice that their vocabulary is limited—and their accents quite noticeable.”
“I do hope y’all will speak Swedish to me—once I start learning it,” Sookie smiled. “And I’m sure the kids will pick it up even faster than I will.”
Everyone in the room quickly agreed to help Sookie and the children learn the language of their new country.
“Okay—well—let’s get this party moving along,” Ricca said, putting a bowl onto the coffee table. She opened a vial of blood that Eric knew was Matthew’s and then took the vial of Samantha’s blood from Karin.
“Ludwig?” Ricca said in a normal tone, even though the doctor wasn’t in the room.
A pop was heard as the unpleasant physician appeared in the room. Still—Sookie welcomed her with a wide smile.
“Thank you so much for coming here—and for helping out with the spell,” the telepath said graciously.
“Yes—thank you,” Eric agreed after a nudge to the ribs from Sookie.
“My bill’s already on your kitchen counter,” Ludwig smirked at the vampire, even as she handed two vials of blood to Ricca. “The werebears,” she commented, before holding her own wrist over the bowl.
After Ricca poured in the werebear’s blood, she made a small slit into Ludwig’s wrist.
Then, one by one, she made small incisions into the rest of the people in the room to collect their blood into the bowl.
Needless to say, no fang was left up by the time Sookie’s blood was drawn.
However, no one in the room even thought about drinking from her—except for Eric, of course.
He was thinking of little else.
“Down boy,” Ludwig intoned when she saw that Eric was panting.
“No—do not stop what you are doing,” Ricca quickly advised. “Eric’s love for Sookie—his desire to use his blood to protect hers—is swirling powerfully around him. It will make the spell even stronger.” The witch smiled, appreciating the sight that no one else in the room could see.
After adding her own blood to the mixture, Ricca closed her eyes and chanted. At that point, everyone in the room could feel the power of the magic in the air, and—within moments—a sleepy-looking Samantha entered the room as if drawn into it.
Almost immediately, Karin had the child in her arms.
“Do you need your mother?” the vampiress asked.
“What’s happening?” Sammy asked. “The magic spell?”
“Yes,” Ricca smiled after she’d finished her chant. “Did you feel the spell being raised?”
Samantha, wide-eyed, simply nodded.
“Were you scared, baby?” Sookie asked, coming over to her daughter.
Sammy reached for her mother, and Karin handed the little girl to Sookie.
“No,” Sammy said. “I felt safe. I felt,” she paused, “love.”
Ricca winked at the little girl. “Then the spell worked like a charm.”
The Gift Horse Series will return (eventually) with “Love(r) Actually.”
A/N: Apologies for not working on this series for so long. Time has gotten away from me. I’m motivated to try to finish the series, and there are several planned pieces. Remember that I’m changing genre with each piece in order to have a bit of fun. This one is what I’m calling an Interlude because it really does work as a bridge from Eric and Sookie’s American lives to their new existence. Three more stories are planned. I hope it doesn’t take too terribly long to get them to you. We’ll see what the ol’ muse thinks though. Also, I won’t be stopping work on The Trunk Series (I’m posting one chapter a week on that one), so work I do on this series is on the side for the time being. I do plan on at least three more stories. Next up will be “Love(r) Actually,” which will be a straight up romance-very much in the spirit of the movie Love Actually-as quite a few love stories (and/or romps) get played out on the island. Following that, will be a story focused on the villains of the Gift Horse Universe-scheming against out heroes. Finally, we’ll have a battle story.
I hope you will leave a comment on this installment if you have the time and the inclination. I’d love to know what you think about the Swedish branch of “the family,” especially Ricca and Olaf (yummy).
Sephrenia did the amazing story banner! Seph has plenty on her plate, so I didn’t ask for character banners for this piece. However, I have included character “plates” above–along with some other images.
As always, Kleannhouse acted as Beta for this piece; however, I did change a few things after she saw it, and–regardless–any remaining errors are mine.