It was just past 3:00 p.m. when Sookie woke up the next day. One of her arms was tucked under her pillow, and the other was draped over Eric’s waist. She stayed still for a few minutes, content to simply enjoy the man she intended to marry in every way she possibly could.
She smiled. A week before, she wouldn’t have thought that this moment would have been possible. But so much felt as if it were possible now—so much more than ever before. Smiling wider, she disentangled her legs from Eric’s and lifted his heavy hand from where it rested on her hip. She quickly got up and pulled on a robe before running to the bathroom.
After taking care of her human needs, she ran straight to the kitchen to get Eric’s “surprise.” However, even as she opened the drawer, she “heard” a mind suddenly come into her range. She recognized its signature and looked toward the front door with surprise.
“Hello!” Leonie said pleasantly as Sookie opened the door somewhat warily.
It wasn’t that Sookie didn’t trust the fairy; after all, Leonie had helped to save her and Eric the day before. At the same time, however, Sookie was feeling inexplicably protective—and possessive—of her mate, almost as if instincts she’d been stifling had been finally let free.
“How did you know where to find us?” Sookie asked.
“Your vampire told me—of course,” the fairy practically chirped, giving Sookie a knowing look. “I mean him no harm.”
“Are you alone?” Sookie asked.
The fairy nodded in confirmation.
“He went back to his home,” Leonie replied.
“He went to the fairy world?”
“Oh—no, dear. He went to his home on this plane. I doubt if he will ever return to Faerie. Claude and Niall have quite different ideas about what Claude’s life should be like.”
“I can empathize,” Sookie mumbled.
Leonie smiled. “Niall is not completely unreasonable, however. He is torn when it comes to Claude. As a member of the royal family, Claude should marry and try to have a child in order to further our line. He does not want children. And he is averse to wedding a female—even if it is for duty.”
“Oh,” Sookie said with realization.
“As long as I have dealings in this realm, however, it gives Claude an excuse to stay here—as my guard.”
“He’s your guard?” Sookie asked.
“Oh—not really, dear,” Leonie chuckled. “But Niall needed an excuse to unofficially let Claude off the hook—an excuse that was acceptable in the eyes of other fairies. It was his idea to send Claude here with me—you see.”
“Because he knew Claude would be unhappy in the fairy world—having to fulfill his duty?” Sookie asked.
Leonie nodded. “Not that Niall’s ever admitted that out loud, but yes.” She scoffed. “The stubborn man won’t even tell Claude that he supports his choices.”
“And what about Claudine? And your other granddaughter?”
“Claudette,” Leonie supplied. “They are both content to marry and settle down in Faerie, though Claudine enjoyed her time on this realm. By contrast, Claudette does not like to be away from Faerie, and Niall is grooming her to be his successor.” Leonie smiled proudly. “She is quite wonderful in her role as his second, and that gives me the freedom to stay in this realm most of the time.”
Sookie smiled back at the fairy and then realized she’d yet to invite her into the house. Remembering her manners, she was about to do just that when a question occurred to her.
“Uh—how did you get here?” Sookie asked. “I thought you couldn’t just pop to places you’d never been before.”
“I drove,” Leonie responded, motioning toward the car parked at the edge of the tree line—so that it would be concealed from above. She smiled beatifically. “And I have been here before—well, not here specifically, but to the city of Mammoth Lakes. Claude and I went sightseeing in this area about fifty years ago—though the city was much smaller then. I was able to pop to where I’d been before; then I rented a car and drove to this cabin.” She held up her phone. “Mapquest.”
Sookie couldn’t help but to chuckle. The sight of the fairy holding up a tool of technology was odd to her—despite the fact that she was used to seeing a thousand-year-old vampire using all kinds of modern gadgets.
She motioned toward Leonie. “Come in—please.”
Leonine stepped over the threshold and looked around with approval. “This is a lovely place.”
Sookie nodded in agreement as she led Leonie toward the kitchen.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Sookie asked. “And I was just about to make myself some breakfast—if you are hungry.”
Leonie smiled at her. “Oh—yummy!” she said excitedly.
Sookie smiled back. If she’d learned anything about fairies by being around them, it was that they loved to eat.
“So—um—why are you here?” Sookie asked as she began taking out items so that she could make scrambled eggs and bacon.
“Well,” Leonie began, as she eyed the ingredients with anticipation, “I figured that you could use a friend, given your ordeal; it was partially your mate’s idea.” She transferred her gaze to Sookie. “However, now I see that you look relaxed and well-rested—happy.”
Unable to stop herself, Sookie grinned widely. “I am happy. Eric and I have decided to finish the vampire bond. And he wants to pledge to me too—though he never got around to telling me just how that happens,” she added with a hint of a blush.
Leonie seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “This is good,” she smiled. “I am glad that he has finally come to his senses.”
Sookie frowned. “What do you mean?”
Leonie chuckled. “Your vampire is a good man—and a strong warrior. But he is the king of denial,” she winked.
Sookie giggled. “Well—actually we’re both pretty good at wanting to hide from our true feelings.”
Sookie poured Leonie a glass of orange juice.
“You can have this—right? It’s just lemon that hurts you—not all citrus?”
Leonie smiled. “Yes. And thank you.” She took a long drink.
“So—um—do you know anything about vampire pledgings?” Sookie asked.
Leonie nodded as she gazed longingly at the vegetables that Sookie was chopping for omelets. “I have seen a pledging before. In fact, I was,” she paused as if looking for a word, “something like the matron of honor for the ceremony.”
“Oh?” Sookie asked.
“Yes—Klymene, Godric’s maker, is my friend. She is pledged to a vampire named Duncan.”
“Really?” Sookie asked. “Wait—do you mean Duncan as in Eric’s brother? As in Godric’s other child?”
Leonie smiled widely. “Have you met Duncan? He’s quite the rake—actually. But he’s completely faithful to Klymene—when she requires it,” Leonie winked.
“Wait,” Sookie said again, scrunching her eyebrows together. “Duncan and Klymene? But—uh—isn’t Duncan in the Authority? And—uh—I’m sure that Eric doesn’t know that they are pledged.”
“No—he wouldn’t,” Leonie said thoughtfully after she’d swallowed another gulp of orange juice. “Duncan needed to keep the relationship hidden from his colleagues, for Enforcers for the Authority are forbidden from entering into such binding relationships.” She winked. “Now that Duncan is Magister, that can change, for the Magister can do whatever he wants!” she added flippantly. “Plus, Klymene prefers her privacy. Other than myself, I believe that only Godric knew. His maker and his child sought out his blessing for their union. He attended the pledging as well, and—from what I could tell—he was pleased by it.”
“Wow!” Sookie exclaimed as she whisked eggs. “Can I tell Eric? Wait! Eric’s brother is the new Magister?”
“I assumed you would tell your mate,” Leonie said with another wink. “I don’t think either Klymene or Duncan would fret about Eric knowing—especially given Duncan’s change in roll. And, yes, he was made Magister just last night. Klymene said that he was madder than a hatter—whatever that might mean!” her eyes glistened mischievously. “Anyway, your mate has taken Godric’s place in their blood line, so it is his right to know of things that occur within the line.”
“Yes. Klymene is the oldest remaining member, the matriarch. But—as the oldest male of the line—Eric is the patriarch. Both progenitors are tasked with watching over the line.” She smiled a little. “I know that Klymene is quite proud of Eric.”
“Are you good friends with Klymene? You must be if you were her Matron of Honor,” Sookie commented as she started cooking the omelets.
“Klymene is my dearest friend,” Leonie smiled sincerely, “so dear that I don’t even flirt with Duncan—though that is very difficult. He is quite attractive.”
Leonie sighed. “There are some beings in the wide worlds that just seem to,” she paused, “click. The moment I met Klymene, I recognized her as a sister—despite the fact that she is vampire and I am Fae. And once we were over the whole ‘I want to eat you business,’ we became close.”
“What?” Sookie exclaimed. “She wanted to eat you?”
“I’m just kidding about that part,” Leonie giggled.
“Oh—well that’s good,” Sookie commented.
Leonie smiled kindly. “I think that is why your affection for Eric does not seem odd to me. Who we are is so much more important than what we are.”
Sookie nodded in agreement and smiled. “So—a pledging?” she asked.
“Oh—it’s quite simple really,” Klymene informed. “One member of the couple—traditionally the younger of the pair—will present the older with a dagger. Or—in your case—the non-vampire presents the vampire with a dagger.”
“A dagger?” Sookie asked.
“Yes—usually one that is infused with magic.”
“Well—if the older accepts the dagger and kisses the object, then the pledge is accepted.” Leonie shrugged. “It is as simple as that. There can also be a blood exchange—though that is optional and usually done only between those who love one another. From what Klymene has told me, most vampire pledgings have very little to do with love, however.”
Sookie plated one of the omelets and pushed it toward Klymene before starting to cook her own. “Dig in while it’s hot,” she said.
The fairy smiled and did just that, shoving a large bite of the meal into her mouth—but still somehow managing to look dainty while doing it.
“So—uh—what do fairies do when they get married?” Sookie asked. “I want to marry Eric by those traditions too—if it’s possible.”
Leonie smiled softly—almost proudly. “I am glad. A Fae wedding is also quite simple. A blessing is spoken over the couple by an elder.
“Hmm,” Leonie sounded as she swallowed another bite. “A blessing asking for long life and children.”
Sookie frowned. “I guess the kids part would be wasted on me.”
Leonie shrugged. “In this realm, adoption is common—is it not? And—if you are ever made vampire—you might turn a child. And you would be Eric’s child should he turn you. Those are all ways to carry on a family line.”
Sookie contemplated for a moment. “I’d never thought about things like that, but you’re right.”
Leonie grinned. “This is very good,” she said, before taking another large bite.
“I’m glad you like it,” Sookie smiled as she plated her own breakfast before sitting at the counter next to Leonie.
“So it’s—uh—just a blessing?” Sookie asked. “And then fairies are married?”
Leonie shook her head. “No. There is a ring exchange—not unlike what humans do—though the ring sits on the strongest finger of the strongest hand,” she added as she lifted up her right hand where there was a beautiful ring on Leonie’s index finger.”
“Wow! That’s lovely!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Thank you. Niall had it designed when we were betrothed.”
Sookie shook her head. “It’s difficult for me to imagine him doing something so—nice.”
Leonie chuckled and then took another bite.
“Is that it?” Sookie asked. “A ring and a blessing?”
Leonie nodded. “Yes—usually. However, there is a dance if the marriage is a love match.” Her eyes brightened. “It is usually the female who initiates the dance; it is a signal of her true affection and devotion to her mate. Would you like to learn it?” she asked excitedly.
Sookie nodded her head enthusiastically. “Yes. Please!”
A/N: Hello! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. It is a transition chapter in some ways, but I also wanted for everyone—including Sookie—to get to know Leonie a little better. I must say that she’s now among my favorite characters that I’ve created for this world; I hope you are enjoying her too. And, of course, I hope that you are enjoying this more confident Sookie—who’s not afraid to ask questions and who is willing to face the answers to them head-on.
As always, thanks to the artistry of Seph and the eyes of Kleannhouse for making everything prettier. 🙂
Some inspiration pics for the Mammoth Lakes house.