MONDAY NIGHT (thirty minutes after sundown)
Thalia had never been one to take any chances with her charges on the rare occasions when she’d worked as a guard.
The very rare occasions.
In actuality, she’d happened upon very little worth guarding during her long life. And—even when she had—her services had rarely been asked for.
Most beings were too afraid to ask.
But Northman was different from most beings. And the prospect of protecting his telepathic beloved had intrigued the vampiress.
After all, she’d never protected a telepath before. Hell—she’d known only a few telepaths—all demons—and they didn’t often need protecting. The woman currently sitting in the passenger seat was certainly not a demon.
“Maria-Star informed me that you are contemplating the purchase of a new vehicle,” the vampiress said, even as she pushed down on the gas pedal of Sookie’s old, prone-to-stuttering car. It lurched in answer to her lead foot.
Given how Thalia was testing the old car’s limits, it was not a shock to the telepath that the vampiress was interested in that topic of discussion.
“Yeah,” Sookie confirmed.
“Maria-Star reported that you are even seeking advice—as to the type of vehicle to purchase?” Thalia asked with an odd kind of amusement in her tone.
“You’re surprised?” Sookie asked.
“I thought I would have to find a way to break this insufficient vehicle. Tell me—is it as old as I am? Or older?” the vampiress asked sarcastically.
Sookie rolled her eyes. “It’s what I could afford when I couldn’t find any better, so don’t diss my rust bucket!” she said in defense of her vehicle. “And—for the record—it’s worked well enough to suit both my needs and my means. Now that both of those have changed, I’m getting’ a new one, but this one will be plenty good for Holly.”
“You would pass this thing on to someone else?” Thalia asked with disgust.
Sookie huffed. “Holly’s car broke down three times in the last month. This one will be better for her, or it can at least be back up when she needs it.” She glared at the vampiress. “You’ve lived long enough to experience times of need—I’ll bet. So don’t be mean-spirited about those still facing tough times.”
A sincere smile momentarily graced the vampiress’s lips—or, at least, Sookie thought it did. It happened so quickly that Sookie might have been mistaken.
“You disapprove of my attitude,” Thalia said evenly. “You think me a,” she paused, “snob?”
“No,” Sookie responded. “I think you’re just looking at this car as a liability right now—because of your job. And I get that. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have value—to someone.”
Thalia was silent for a moment. “I suppose it does have a kind of value—to someone else.”
Sookie shook her head—knowing that Thalia’s slight retraction was all the victory she’d be getting on the topic.
“So,” the telepath said, “given the fact that you brought up the subject—I figure you do have some input?”
Thalia nodded. “Your,” she paused and smirked, “boyfriend has an associate who specializes in vampire-centric vehicles. These have handy accessories, like bulletproof glass and explosive-resistant bodies.”
“Geez! You can’t think I’ll need that!” Sookie cried out.
Thalia shrugged. “In his fleet of vehicles, there is an SUV that includes two light-tight spaces. Such a vehicle could be useful. And—to be frank—the difference in cost from a normal SUV would likely be negligible.”
“How do you figure?” Sookie asked skeptically, even as she pondered the idea that a light-tight cubby (or two) might be a handy thing indeed to have in her vehicle.
“Eric’s friend would sell you the vehicle at cost. A human dealer would aim to squeeze every possible penny out of you. Protecting you would be easier if you had a vehicle that could hold more people. It would also be useful to be able to shove you into a safe place if human bullets began flying,” she added with clear disdain for the objects. She was truly old-school, in that she preferred fighting with sword and fang.
After all, for Thalia, it was so much more satisfying to be close to an enemy, rather than too far away to see his or her eyes during a kill.
Sookie sighed from the passenger seat, drawing Thalia out of her memory of a particularly challenging battle—an up-close-and-personal one, of course.
“Get me a price and a picture of the car, and I’ll think about it. Practicality is important, but I do want something that I like the look of,” the telepath said stubbornly. “I’ve fantasized about bein’ able to buy a car of my own for too long to get something I don’t really like!”
“I will have the information ready for you to review tomorrow,” Thalia returned, her tone indicating that she felt Sookie’s agreement was a foregone conclusion.
“I have a question,” the telepath asked, her own tone demonstrating some nervousness.
“What is your query?” the vampiress asked.
“I don’t want to offend you accidentally, but why is it that you and Eric haven’t suggested I take a drop or two of your blood—so that you can track me?” Sookie asked a little hesitantly.
Thalia was silent for a moment; indeed, she didn’t seem to have a reaction to the question at all.
“You don’t have to answer,” Sookie said nervously. “And I do apologize if the question’s not appropriate.”
“I was considering the idea of it,” Thalia stated flatly. “I had not done so before due to your belonging to another. Being able to track you would be useful. However, feeling your emotions would not be welcome,” she emphasized sternly.
“Oh—I didn’t think about that,” Sookie said.
“Still—the idea is not without some merit,” the vampiress stated. “However, the North Man might react possessively.” Thalia glanced at Sookie. “I will consider this. Bubba might also be a candidate to give you blood. He is good at tracking.”
“Oh—well—I didn’t mean it as a suggestion,” Sookie frowned. “It was more of just a question really—because I was wondering.”
“Do not discount or hold back on such questions,” Thalia stated as she guided the car into the right lane since their exit was approaching. “However, speak to the North Man if you wish to pursue the matter. If you do, you have my leave to inform him that I would consider giving you a drop—just enough to get a sense of your location and the faintest idea of your emotions. You would need more from Bubba because he is young.”
Sookie frowned, uncertain if she actually wanted to bring up the matter to Eric.
Thalia was smirking at her when the telepath looked her way. “For someone who brought it up, you seem to find the idea of taking my blood—or Bubba’s, for that matter—distasteful.”
Sookie let out a small laugh. “Maybe I just don’t like the idea that I might get kidnapped or something in the first place.”
“Or you would rather limit the vampires who can track you,” Thalia suggested.
“I admit I don’t like the idea that Bill’s blood is still in me,” the telepath sighed.
Thalia inhaled deeply. “It will be out of you soon—in less than a month. I, too, will be glad when it is gone from you.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “Amen to that! As for the thought of you and/or Bubba’s blood?” She frowned again, more deeply than before. “I honestly don’t know why I’m having a negative reaction to the idea.”
“Do you not?” Thalia asked knowingly.
“No,” Sookie returned. She hadn’t missed Thalia’s meaningful tone. “Why? Do you know something?”
“Eric has told you that he believes you to be part-Fae—correct?” she asked.
“Would you like to hear of what I know about the Fae?” the vampiress queried.
Sookie nodded again, her curiosity peaked.
“They are devious, pointy-eared pricks for the most part. They have powerful magic. Despite complaining about their population decreasing, they kill each other in seemingly endless civil wars. Oh—and they have been known to sacrifice one of their own kind in order to capture or kill vampires—since we become practically useless when high on their blood.”
“They sound pleasant,” Sookie said sarcastically.
“They are ruthless,” the vampiress answered with some admiration. “They are also quite possessive when they choose a life-mate,” she added. “Such a choosing is rare among their kind, but—when it happens—a bond of blood is made. If you are Fae, which I believe you are, and if you have chosen the North Man in this way, it is natural that you would resist the idea of sharing blood with any other—even for pragmatic purposes.”
“Even if I’m only part-fairy? I’d be able to choose a—uh—life-mate?” Sookie asked.
“I am uncertain of a hybrid’s capabilities,” the vampiress said honestly. “I tell you only what I believe I have already witnessed.”
“And what’s that?” Sookie asked softly.
Thalia glanced over at the telepath. “If you have to ask, you are not yet ready to hear the answer. If you simply want confirmation of what you already know, then I am not the best place to seek your answers.”
Sookie pondered Thalia’s words, as well as the information she’d told her about fairies. Then, she recalled the discussion that she and Eric had about the various kinds of bonds and magical exchanges that could be made. Though Eric wasn’t certain how a bond would work between them—given her ancestry—it stood to reason that whatever was in her blood would try to assert itself in some way—to claim Eric. She smiled.
“You like the thought of your blood connecting to him in more than a human way—in more than a vampire way,” Thalia perceived, having seen the telepath’s smile.
Sookie nodded her admission.
“Well—then—you should take all this information into account before you ultimately decide whether you want to voluntarily take another vampire’s blood. Indeed, your body might reject that blood,” the vampiress cautioned.
The telepath nodded. “Thank you, Thalia. I—uh—have one more question that I want you to think about.”
“What is it?” the vampiress asked, sensing Sookie’s nervousness had risen again.
“Tonight—for my contract—I’m gonna give the lawyer a list of vampires I give permission to turn me if something dire happens and Eric can’t get to me.”
“You wish to be turned?” Thalia asked with surprise.
“No!” the telepath answered quickly. “Not necessarily. I don’t know. I’m thinking about it. But—until I’m sure—I’ve told Eric to do it—but only if the worst happens. But—uh—there’s gonna be a list of acceptable vampires—like I said. You’re gonna be on it, though that doesn’t mean you’d be required to turn me or anything. I just want you to know that you’re on the list, and I hope you’ll give—uh—the idea some thought.”
The vampiress looked at the telepath with surprise. “You would allow me to be your maker.”
“You’re not my first choice,” the telepath answered honestly. “But—to be honest—you’re my second.”
“Why?” Thalia asked, dumbfounded.
“Because I have a feeling you’d teach me what I needed to know and then cut me lose as soon as humanly—I mean vampirely possible—and that you wouldn’t take away my choices. That’s why I’m letting you know that becoming my maker in the first place will always be your choice,” Sookie said as Thalia parked.
“I understand you,” the vampiress said simply—before getting out of the vehicle and testing the air to make sure there were no threats in the region.
“What’s that?” Sookie asked, as she gestured toward a parked vehicle. “I’ve never heard anything like it.”
“There’s a demon in the driver’s seat,” Thalia answered as she opened Sookie’s door. “One of the lawyer’s nieces. Can you hear her thoughts?” she asked the telepath quietly.
Sookie shook her head. “Her mind is like static. There’s another one inside—but—uh—with him, I can sense a mood. He’s—uh—bored.”
Thalia scoffed. “With you around that’s not too likely to last.”
To say that Mr. Desmond Cataliades, Attorney at Law, was rotund was something of an understatement. Indeed, as Sookie noticed that the gentleman seemed to be made up of a collection of circles (one for his head, one for his chest, and one for his belly), she was glad that “rotund” had been on her word-of-the-day calendar at some point. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been able to describe him accurately. Heck—even his arms and legs seemed more like tubes than limbs!
But what was leaving Sookie mystified was not his oddly-shaped body (well—odd by human standards). It was the circle of surprise that his lips had formed from the moment he’d first seen her.
“Cataliades!” Eric said loudly, looking at the attorney with some confusion in his eyes. He’d never known the demon to be anything other than professional, and—certainly—he wouldn’t have expected him to ogle Sookie.
Or any client—for that matter!
Desmond Cataliades tore his gaze from Sookie. “She? She is the telepath? I was expecting a demon hybrid. I wasn’t expecting . . . .” His mouth gaped again.
A growl was heard behind Sookie, a growl that seemed to echo around the club as its maker moved in front of her charge. “Are you a threat to this woman!” the petite vampiress demanded.
The demon began shaking his head quickly. “Of course not, Thalia! It’s just that,” he looked at Eric, “you didn’t include her name with the paperwork.”
“As I told you before, that omission was to keep her identity a secret for as long as possible,” the Viking said, still confused at the demon’s reaction. For his part, he’d moved to stand next to Sookie, who had reached out to take his hand and who was obviously worried about the reactions of all the Supernaturals in the room.
“Now—just what the hell is causing your behavior to my . . . ,” Eric paused and looked at Sookie.
“Just his,” Sookie emphasized, looking up at him. Despite the tension between Thalia and Cataliades, Eric and Sookie shared a moment and a knowing look, which marked the significance of Sookie accepting Eric’s claim of her in a public way.
“Mine,” Eric agreed matter-of-factly before looking back at the demon, whose lips momentarily retook their round shape.
Mr. Cataliades shook his head a little as if waking himself from a daydream. “I am sorry. I just . . . .” Again, he pierced Sookie with his yellowish-green eyes. “You look exactly like your grandfather.”
A/N: Thanks so much for your understanding about my hiatus and your support regarding my health issues. It means so much.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s chapter, and I hope you’ll leave a comment if you have the time and the inclination. Your comments mean a lot to me.
FYI: The second part of The Trunk Series is winding down. There are 41 chapters in total. The problem is that the third and final part of the trilogy is not even drafted yet. Sigh. There is good news though. I have a few chapters (Chapters 2-4) in rough draft form and I sent one (Chapter 1) to Kleannhouse for beta-ing. I’m hoping to keep the one a week thing going even when I transition to Part 3, but-as you know-the great variable in my life is my health. But it is a good thing that I actually “feel” like writing again. That wasn’t the case for a few weeks.
Again, thanks for sticking with me.
Until (hopefully) next week,