SUNDAY, JANUARY 2, 2011
APPROXIMATELY THREE YEARS LATER
The next vampire summit, which was planned for early March, was to take place in Rhodes again—for the fifth time in six years. However, it would be my first time attending. Queen Sophie-Anne generally enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the events too much to miss them. But she knew I didn’t care for them, so—thankfully—she’d never asked me to go before.
In fact—except for the 2005 gathering, which had taken place less than a month after Hurricane Katrina—Sophie-Anne had attended all of the Rhodes summits, even functioning as a member of the Vampire Council for the last two. The events had become more lavish and grand each year. In fact, most vampires now considered Rhodes to be “the event of the year.” And, even some European monarchs had begun to attend.
This year, the queen had asked for me to attend since she wanted to broker several trade agreements with other kingdoms. Apparently, she’d be too busy with Vampire Council duties—and with “networking”—to deal with them.
And Andre wasn’t exactly known for his “statesmanship,” so the task had fallen to me.
Though the preparations for the trade negotiations were tedious, I was fine with doing the work. The allies Sophie-Anne wanted to court were reasonable, and doing business with them would be beneficial for Louisiana, which continued to thrive, even as the monarchs in the states that had negatively affected Louisiana during Sookie’s first life had fallen—one by one.
Spurred on by unrest created by my very creative child, Karin, Victor Madden had “somehow” gotten the idea in his head that if he killed King Felipe, he would have the support of not only the vampires of Nevada, but also the Vampire Council.
Wisely, my child had played on Victor’s ambitions and vanity.
According to his behavior in Sookie’s first life, Victor was certainly the sort to commit treason and regicide, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, Victor killed Felipe two years before—at the Rhodes summit! Sophie-Anne had told me that it had been gruesome—and scandalous! In other words, it had been the most talked about event of the summit and had increased the event’s popularity exponentially.
I had greatly enjoyed the gossip! With a “triumphant yawp,”—as Andre described it—Victor had staked Felipe at the opening reception of the summit. He clearly expected the Vampire Council to celebrate his act and appoint him as the new King of Nevada. The delusional fool had anticipated that he’d be welcomed to complete Nevada’s business at the summit as if he’d not just committed regicide!
Needless to say, the Vampire Council in place at the time, including Sophie-Anne, did not “welcome” Victor to the monarch club. He was wrapped in silver chains, put in a silver-lined coffin, and “FedEx’ed” to Nevada, where Felipe’s loyal followers were waiting for him. Sadly, I have since heard that he was killed quickly—though he did keep blaming a vampiress named Catherine for everything—not that an accomplice was ever found.
In fact, most people thought that Victor had made her up.
Funny—I happened to know that one of Karin’s aliases over the years had been Catherine.
I chuckled at the memory of Karin calling me to thank me for the task of dealing with the Caped Crusader and the Penguin—which were her nicknames for de Castro and Madden. In turn, I complimented her “style” in carrying out the task.
And—most importantly—I was pleased that she’d not implicated herself. When I’d suggested that she retire “Catherine” for a while, she asked me who Catherine was before hanging up.
Like I said—style.
With the blessing of the Vampire Council, Sandy Sechrest had become Nevada’s monarch.
A king had also been replaced by a queen in Arkansas. Peter Threadgill had finally pissed off Jade Flower enough for her to end him. I thought that Arkansas was the better for it. Sophie-Anne and Jade actually seemed to work very well together, and they’d quickly settled the border dispute between Louisiana and Arkansas in a way that pleased both states and proved just how much of a douche Peter Threadgill had been.
Sophie-Anne continued to thrive on her post-Katrina fame. She liked being loved. She and Stan Davis of Texas had actually married two years before, and the alliance had been good for both Louisiana and Texas.
Pam had made the child that Sookie had reported that she would want to make: Miriam. I liked my new “grandchild” very much; she’d been turned before her cancer had progressed too far, and she was quite strong for a newborn.
Sadly, the Appius issue had not been resolved yet. However, he’d stayed pretty “quiet,” and I’d kept track of him. Unfortunately, I figured that things would soon come to a head since it was rumored that Alexei was up to his old ways again—meaning that he’d killed in a way that had been deemed “inconvenient” to our kind.
Of course, at this point, I wondered if Appius’s actions would even matter anymore. Sophie-Anne could be a bitch to her enemies, but I doubted that she’d allow my maker to sell me off. I’d been loyal to her, and Sophie-Anne was smart enough to value me. And—even if she did let Appius broker me to another monarch in restitution for something Alexei did—what would it matter if I were a consort in Kingdom X versus the Sheriff of Area 5?
“It isn’t as if I have a bonded wife to take into account,” I muttered to myself, with more regret than I should have had, given the brevity of my interactions with Sookie Stackhouse.
And—as for her? I no longer felt Sookie in my blood at all, and—since her “premonitions” had run their course—she really shouldn’t have had any influence upon my life.
However, I still thought about her nightly.
Adele had passed away the year before—in her sleep. According to her obituary, she’d “enjoyed visiting with her great-grandchildren and her ‘honorary’ great-grandchildren on the day of her death.” She’d also “baked up a storm,” and the house had “bustled with the usual Sunday dinner gathering” just hours before she “read a bit, wrote a letter to a friend, and turned in for the night.” Seemingly, Adele had behaved “just like always.” And her “granddaughter Sookie had found her the next morning—looking as if she were dreaming of something pleasant.”
The funeral had been held during the daytime, but I had sent Adele flowers—pink lilies.
I missed her.
And I missed knowing Sookie through her.
A knock sounded at my door, and Pam entered even before I could instruct her to. Her hand was on her hip.
I could tell that she was worried about me.
As always, she showed it with snark and insolence.
Of course, Fangtasia was closed on Sunday night, but I conducted sheriff’s business in the club, so I looked up at my second expectantly. “Tonight’s docket?”
“Practically empty,” she returned with a bored tone. “There are two check-ins. Miriam’s already used her computer wizardry to run background checks on them. They’re clean as far as the human authorities go. And they’re in Alastair 3.0.”
“Their makers?” I asked. One could tell a lot about a vampire from his or her maker.
Unless one’s maker was like Appius.
Pam handed me a file. “The pair have the same maker.”
“Vampire siblings,” I commented. It wasn’t unusual for them to move around together. “How old?”
“One is around three hundred; the other is half that age. They are also long-term lovers.”
I nodded. That wasn’t unusual either among vampire siblings, though humans generally balked at the concept.
I took the file and scanned it. The pair were moving to Louisiana from Atlantic City where they’d worked—successfully—for their maker in the casino business. They were wanting to make their own way independent from him and were hoping to find work in one of my casinos.
“I know their maker,” I commented, looking at the name listed. “I’ll give him a call before I meet with his children. Anything else?”
“No,” Pam said drolly. “Nothing except that Thalia has once again petitioned to get out of Fangtasia duty.”
I chuckled. The ancient had enjoyed her five years away from Fangtasia so much that she petitioned for a replacement task each week. “This is her lucky week,” I chuckled.
“Oh?” Pam asked with interest. “You found something for Thalia to do?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“Do tell,” she requested.
“No,” I said curtly.
Pam pouted, but—when I gave her a look cautioning her not to question me—she didn’t.
As a matter of fact, I’d decided that Thalia would be joining Bubba as Hunter’s “watcher.” Bubba had let slip that he’d made contact with the boy and was his friend, something that I didn’t mind as long as he didn’t let that same information “slip” in front of other ears. The good news was that Bubba seemed clueless that the kid was telepathic. Still, I wanted Thalia to watch over the boy as Bubba’s back-up—just in case.
“Should I get you something to snack on for after your meetings?” Pam asked me. “A new Whole Foods has opened a couple of miles from here, and the fare from there is always fresh,” she added significantly.
“No—I have already had bagged tonight,” I said.
Pam frowned. “You don’t feed enough.”
“Of course I do,” I responded. “I am rosy-cheeked and strong,” I added with a smirk.
She rolled her eyes. “Correction—you don’t fuck enough!”
“I fuck when I want,” I told her evenly.
“Something has happened to you in the last six or seven years,” she frowned. “I don’t like it. You’ve become,” she paused, “too womanly.”
I chuckled at her word choice. “But, Pamela,” I joked, “women are the strongest creatures I know. Thus, becoming more like one could only be a good thing—correct?”
She rolled her eyes again. “Correct! But you know what I mean! If I didn’t know better, I would think that you were pining over someone.”
I brushed off her concern with a wave of my hand. “We’ve been over this before. I am simply tired of fangbangers.”
“But you don’t even have any standing appointments with non-fangbangers anymore,” she frowned.
“Except for my standing Sunday night date,” I corrected.
“Visiting the grave of a dead woman isn’t what I’m talking about,” she said, hands on hips again.
“Come now, Pamela. You are dead, and I would have no qualms about visiting your grave,” I leered suggestively, though I knew she’d be able to tell that I was kidding her.
“Gross,” she shivered in an exaggerated way. “Plus, Miriam would stake you. She’s still not over her monogamy phase.”
“What if she’s never over it?” I teased.
“Don’t say such things!” Pam ordered, though I knew that she was secretly fine with the monogamous relationship she had with her child. They both fed from others—obviously—but only from men. They had a physical relationship only with one another.
They were happy together, and I was happy for them.
“Anyway,” Pam said. “You are trying to distract me from my point that you need to fuck more often. I fuck plenty,” she added.
“I fuck plenty, too,” I said. And I did. Certainly, I didn’t feel the urge to fuck every night anymore. But—when I had the need—I didn’t stop myself. Yes, part of my “cutting back” had to do with a Stackhouse woman—though certainly not the one Pam teased me about. However, it wasn’t as if I’d become celibate.
“Choosier” was the word I liked to use. Indeed, drinking bagged blood was much more pleasant than choking down the blood of a drug-addled fangbanger after getting a substandard blow job or fucking a pussy so loose that I could hardly feel any pleasure.
So what if I still fantasized about the body and blood of a certain blond telepath that I tried not to think about every night?
“You can send in Thalia in twenty minutes,” I told my child, dismissing her with my tone.
Pam made sure to roll her eyes one more time on her way out.
MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 2011
Gran had always been an early riser. In fact, the last time she’d needed to be awoken was the last year that Jason had believed in Santa Claus, for no presents got to be opened without the whole family present. Not even Santa’s presents.
And—at eleven years old—Jason had figured that 4:00 a.m. was morning enough when Santa was involved. First, he’d woken me up. And then he’d woken her up.
Yes—that was the last time I could remember Gran sleeping later than me.
So I’d known on the day that Gran had passed away that she was gone; I’d known as soon as I’d not heard the bustle of her thoughts when I’d woken up.
Sunday, January 10, 2010, had been Gran’s last day alive.
“Almost a year,” I whispered to myself as I tidied up the kitchen.
A kitchen where she hadn’t died.
A kitchen which had seen no violence. No blood except for little cuts from chopping onions and the like.
A kitchen that hadn’t heard the sound of gunfire.
A kitchen that hadn’t been burned down.
A kitchen that René had never stepped foot into. Debbie Pelt had never stepped foot into. Charles Twining had never stepped foot into.
I closed my eyes as I dried Gran’s favorite casserole dish, which hadn’t been lost in the fire.
Even before the coroner had come to take Gran’s body away the year before, I had reconciled myself with the fact that nothing had been amiss on the night she’d gone to bed for the last time.
In fact, her thoughts had been buzzing with joy.
She had spent her last morning spoiling Stephanie Lynn Lancaster. Stephanie was truly the most beautiful child I’d ever seen, and everyone doted on her, especially Gran.
And then there had been Sunday supper with Jason, Michele and their five children, including a second set of twins who were only two months old. The running joke was that the Bon Temp’s water supply had to encourage twins since Sam and Maudette were expecting another pair as well. Maudette’s bedrest was the reason why Sam, she, and their kids hadn’t come to Sunday supper.
But Dawn and Sid-Matt had come, of course.
I chuckled. How else could they have seen their little girl on a Sunday—given the fact that Stephanie had been so attached to Gran and liked to “help” her bake? Gran had thrived on the little girl’s affection, and Stephanie had been inconsolable for a while after Gran was gone.
But—like all children—she’d rebounded.
Gran’s last night on earth had been a truly beautiful night. She’d slowed down a bit by then, so I’d cooked the meal for Sunday Supper, but she had made quite a few desserts, including pecan pie.
After our company had left, Gran had capped off her evening with a glass of sherry and a chapter of her romance novel. Then she’d re-read Eric’s latest letter and had even begun writing her response to him. I’d made sure he’d gotten it, along with a note about her passing and a copy of her obituary.
Eric had sent an amazing array of pink lilies—Gran’s favorites—for the funeral. And he’d written her one last letter. I’d left it unopened and placed it in her coffin with all of the others he’d written, tied together into a bunch with an old ribbon I’d found in Gran’s jewelry box. Gran had adored Eric by the end, and it had seemed right to let her have a little part of him that was all her own—even if I did envy her that.
Plus, I didn’t want to be tempted to read the letters, and I knew that I would be. But they hadn’t been addressed to me, so reading them would have been wrong. I was glad that I’d made sure that they were with her in the end.
In the year since Gran had passed, I’d made a point to become an early riser—I suppose as some sort of tribute or remembrance to her. Rain or shine, I would take a cup of coffee to her graveside. And I would tell her about my upcoming day as the sun snaked its rays through the trees or was snuffed out by the clouds in the sky.
It didn’t matter as long as I got to share the beginnings of my days with Gran.
Every Monday morning, I would find a dozen fresh lilies on Gran’s grave, as well as a small bunch of white daisies—my favorites. The flowers could have been from only one person: Eric.
I always looked forward to “talking” to Gran, but I especially enjoyed Mondays—when I felt closer to Eric too. I boldly interpreted the daisies as a sign that he’d not forgotten about me, and I always took them with me when I left Gran’s grave on Mondays.
I spoke to Gran about everything, including the accounting firm I’d started, which was now flourishing. I told her about her great-grandchildren. I told her about her godchildren. I told her about Maxine’s antics and about other town gossip. And—finally—I told her about my previous life. I told her that her “secret” wish for me had actually come true in Life 1: I had ended up as Eric’s wife. I also told her about how I’d squandered that chance.
I laughed and blushed “with” Gran about the irony that I was the oldest virgin I knew—even though I had vivid memories of Eric’s gracious plenty. Very vivid ones!
I apologized for not telling her about Hunter and Hadley. I apologized for not sharing Life 1 with her before her death. My only excuse had been the fact that I refused to “jinx” us as long as Gran was safe and alive.
In addition, I let myself be angry at Gran for never telling me about Fintan. I had caught her thinking about him a time or two during her last years. So I knew that she was “scared” to talk about him with me. It wasn’t even that she was ashamed of her adultery—though she was. She’d kept quiet because Fintan had told her many times that no one could know that their children had fairy blood—not even Daddy and Aunt Linda—or they’d be in terrible danger. Gran didn’t want to frighten me, and she was afraid that if anyone found out—even me—that there would be horrible consequences.
Of course, her worries had turned out to be completely justified. But I still wished that she would have confided in me. In the end, however, I understood. We’d both had our secrets that we’d kept for the “greater good.”
Sometimes—when I didn’t have anything new to report—I just read to Gran at her grave. Always seedy romance novels about pirates or knights or kings or poor stable boys.
But never about Vikings. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.
In Life 1, I might have deserved the punishment of reading about Eric-like Vikings pillaging a variety of women, but—in Life 2—I’d been as meticulous as Eric could have ever been when it came to protecting those who were “mine.”
Yes—saving others from their possible fates had been my main job for years. And, despite having no more knowledge of future happenings, I still kept close tabs on the Supernatural elements in the area. Of course, I figured that the Fates would eventually step in and have their way with me, but I could take that.
I would take that.
I’d let the Fates have their revenge upon me for stealing their thunder—just as long as the people I loved lived long, happy lives.
Just like Gran.
As always—since it was a Monday—there were fresh flowers on Gran’s grave; I took the bunch of daisies with me when I left and replaced last week’s bunch with them in the pretty vase I’d gotten just to hold my weekly contact with Eric.
It was just a little thing.
But it was everything too.
A/N: This was a hard chapter for me to write. So many of you are anxious for Eric and Sookie to JUST TALK again. Trust me when I tell you that I was anxious for them to do so too. But I wrote what they insisted. Both of them are stubborn.
But I find them brave too. I think they are both looking out for each other.
Even after all these years.
Okay: so here’s a confession. I’d just reread the last book of the Harry Potter series when I was working on this chapter. And I was thinking about Snape. After so many years—he still loved Lily (nope—the flower I picked for Gran to prefer wasn’t coincidence). I think that Snape was a bit of my inspiration for this Eric.
RIP Alan Rickman.
Until next time,