“Love is anterior to life, posterior to death, initial of creation, and the exponents of breath.”-Emily Dickinson
NINETY MINUTES LATER
The gown that Leonie had brought for Sookie was long, and the only word to describe it was “ethereal.”
“Do these colors mean anything?” Sookie asked as Leonie finished putting loose curls into her newly re-blond hair.
“Yes. Lavender and gold are the colors of my family,” Leonie informed. “This was my dress when I wed Niall, and—though I know you are not my blood—your grandfather, Fintan, was as a son to me. It gives me great pleasure to see you in this gown,” the fairy smiled.
“Let’s hope it has better luck for Eric and me than for you and Niall,” Sookie muttered.
Leonie’s tinkling laughter filled the air. “You and your vampire already have the ‘love’ part well-covered. And though he can be insufferable—as you well know—Niall is also a good leader and an excellent life-partner. We have been married for quite a long time, and I would wish you and your vampire even a small measure of the cooperative mutuality my husband and I have shared. We respect each other.” The fairy smiled. “Niall and I never had the sweeping love or romance that you and Eric have, but what we do have is enduring—in its own way. I hope you find the same endurance with your vampire. No—I know you will find it. And—with the love you share—you will find even more!” she added happily.
Sookie smiled and nodded. “Thank you. I’m really glad you’re here. I mean—I don’t know you well—but you feel like family to me.”
“I’m very glad of that,” Leonie smiled. She turned Sookie toward the mirror. “You are ready.”
Sookie gasped. “Wow! I look . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“Beautiful,” Leonie completed. “I would say you looked like a fairy princess, but I’ve never seen one of those who was your equal,” she smiled brightly.
Sookie took a deep breath as she took herself in. It had been a while since she’d seen herself as a blonde. She’d spent most of the ninety minutes she’d been getting ready removing the dye from her hair. In fact, the kit for doing so had been the item she’d been keen to hide from her husband the night before.
She wanted to pledge with Eric as “herself,” and she wanted to look like that “self” too. Being a brunette had grown on her, and being a redhead had been fun in a way—but when she thought of herself, it was as a blonde.
“I have brought these for you and your mate,” Leonie said, pulling out a small box.
Sookie opened the box to find two beautiful rings. “Wow! Are these rubies?”
“They are called ‘naetralia‘—firestones. I believe they are of similar composition to the rubies found in the human realm, but these minerals are from Faerie.”
Sookie took a deep breath as she examined the rings. The one obviously meant for her had a central firestone that was triangular in shape. On either side of the stone were two rows of diamond-like stones leading into the silver-colored band.
As if intuiting Sookie’s concern, Leonie spoke. “The bands is made of noximan. It is a mineral found on Faerie and perfectly harmless to vampires.”
Sookie smiled and nodded in understanding as she looked at the ring meant for Eric. The ring looked as if it should belong to a king. Square-shaped firestones surrounded the band, and each of those was framed by the same type of diamond-like stones found on her ring.
“This ring belonged to my grandmother,” Leonie said of the ring meant for Sookie.
“I cannot take something so,” she paused, “valuable.”
Leonie smiled. “Nonsense. It has already been given!” The fairy touched the ring meant for Eric. “My mistress, the Ancient Pythoness, gave me this ring to give to your mate. I do not know its history, but I can sense that it was made by Fae hands. And my mistress has blessed this ring with a gift.”
“A gift?” Sookie asked.
Leonie nodded. “A moment of her own power when it is most needed.”
“So if Eric has this on, he’ll be able to see the future?” Sookie asked.
“Yes—but only for a second. And only when it will benefit him the most,” Leonie replied. “I do not know when that moment will occur, but I would not turn down such a gift.”
“I won’t. We won’t,” Sookie responded, taking the ring out of the box. She could almost feel the magic in her hand. She looked at Leonie. “Why is the Ancient Pythoness helping us? I mean—Eric has told me about her. And I can tell that he reveres her, but this seems like out-of-the-ordinary help.”
Leonie contemplated for a moment. “I know that my mistress dislikes Russell Edgington and the future he would cause, but Pythia would survive his insurgency regardless. I recently asked her the same question you are asking me, and she told me that the answer would come—in time.”
Sookie sighed. This wasn’t the first time a vampire’s motives had been unclear to her, and she was sure that it wouldn’t be the last. But she was, at least, glad that there was one vampire whom she could completely trust—the one she was ready to pledge to and to marry in the Fae tradition.
There was a knock at the door.
The fairy tilted her head. “It is Brady.”
“I know,” Sookie smiled, tapping her own head.
“Come in,” Leonie called.
Brady had changed from jeans and a T-shirt into black slacks and a light blue button-down shirt. Sookie held in her giggle as Leonie swept her gaze over the Were appreciatively.
“They’re ready,” Brady informed, doing some leering of his own in the fairy’s direction. He turned his gaze toward Sookie with seeming difficulty. “But, Sookie, there is still time for you to run away with me,” he winked.
Sookie giggled. “I think I’m all set, but thanks again for the offer.”
Brady shrugged. “Well—you look lovely,” he grinned. “And I have this for you.” He held out a box. “It’s not from me,” he chuckled.
She opened the box and gasped. Inside was a beautiful white gold necklace with a cluster of black stones inside of it. The white gold pendant surrounding the diamond looked like a knot. There was a note tucked into the top of the box. She put the box onto the dresser and opened the note.
In my time, a husband would offer his bride a gift, a token of affection. I know that black might not seem to be an appropriate color for a stone that signifies our love, but—to me—it was the only color I could choose. I am the dark, yet you surround me with brightness. The pendant is in the shape of a lover’s knot. We are forever bound, my lover—both by fate and by choice. And I am happy for both.
Sookie held in a sob as she refolded the note and looked more carefully at the necklace.
Leonie chuckled. “It does not go with your dress at all,” the fairy said as she moved to put the necklace onto Sookie.
As soon as it was on, Leonie tilted her head a little. “Maybe I was wrong,” her tinkling voice said. “It looks beautiful on you.”
Brady agreed as he held out a pouch to Sookie.
“More?” she asked.
Brady chuckled. “Just one thing more.”
“This is the ceremonial knife?” Sookie asked as she took the bundle.
Brady nodded. “Yes.”
“And I just give this to Eric?” Sookie clarified.
“Yes,” Leonie smiled. “And—once he accepts it, you will be pledged. And then I will say the Fae blessing, and you will place the rings on each other’s fingers. After that you will be wed in the Fae way too.”
Sookie nodded and smiled. “Well. Let’s get to it! I have a vampire to marry!”
“I’ll go tell him you’re coming,” Brady grinned.
“Wait!” Sookie said, right as he moved to the door. She reached into her nightstand and pulled out a box, opened it, and removed the watch that had belonged to her grandfather, Fintan. “Will you give this to him?”
As she quickly scribbled out a note for Eric, Sookie didn’t notice Leonie’s quick intake of breath.
However, Brady did. He could sense the magic in the object and see the relief on the fairy’s lovely face, but he said nothing.
Eric took the watch—the cluviel dor—from Brady’s hands. And then the Were handed him a note. Duncan looked at the Were knowingly, and then both left the room.
Eric opened the note.
You don’t need this watch to know the time. But Gran gave it to Grandpa Earl—Fintan—because she wanted him to know the depth of her love. I hope you will never doubt the depth of my love for you, Eric. Gran was mortal and knew she’d be separated from Fintan. But you and I will go on together. You are my night—my knight—but you are also my light.
The Viking smiled, wound the watch, and set the time—midnight on his wedding night. He’d known that neither the pledging nor the Fae wedding came with the traditional vows of humans. That was what he’d intended his note to Sookie to be—his vow. As he attached the chain of the pocket watch to his trousers, he realized just how well Sookie understood him. Her note—too—was a vow. He carefully folded it and put it into the pocket of his suit.
Duncan reentered the room wearing a dark ceremonial cloak.
Eric couldn’t help but to snicker. “You look like the Grim Reaper, brother.”
Duncan rolled his eyes.
“I told him he looked like that guy in Star Wars—the evil Emperor,” Brady intoned, walking past Duncan and slapping him on the shoulder.
“You could be easily killed, Were,” Duncan threatened, though there was humor in his tone too.
Eric snickered but then his expression became serious as he heard the door to the bedroom where Sookie was getting ready opening.
He took a breath, just so that he could feel himself holding it.