A/N BEEFY CHAPTER GUYS! JUST OVER 22,000 WORDS! :O
Darling, give me your absence tonight
Take all of your sympathy and leave it outside
‘Cause there’s no kind of loving that can make this all right
I’m trying to find a place I belong
And I suddenly feel like a different person
From the roots of my soul come a gentle coercion
And I ran my hand o’er a strange inversion
As the darkness turns into the dawn
The child is gone
The child is gone
~ The Child is Gone, Fiona Apple
By the time Eric and I crawled into bed I was exhausted. It had been a long, mentally taxing night. As my head hit the pillow I was out, feeling only a second’s remorse for not saying goodnight to Eric before sleep pulled me under.
It was the sound of the bedside draw closing hours later that woke me. My mind told me it was vampire, and the bond told me it was Eric. Sighing quietly in relief I cracked open an eye, able to make out his 6’4 frame in the darkness. “I’m sorry I woke you, min kära.” The bed dipped as Eric sat beside me, raising a hand to sweep away some of my hair, which had fallen over my face as I slept. “I went to see if father wasn’t feeling the pull still also.” He explained. His explanation was unnecessary, I trusted him and that where he’d been wouldn’t have upset me, but at the same time I was glad that he felt the urge to tell me. At least we were communicating with one another openly now, not bantering and trading leers like we had when we had first met.
“I take it he’s not feeling the pull still either?” I whispered, scooting over to make room for my vampire. Effortlessly he slipped under the sheets and it wasn’t until he pulled me flush against his body that I realised he was naked. “Eric! You wandered around the penthouse naked!” I hissed out, not quite sure how I felt about it. Eric’s nakedness was always a good thing, a very good thing, but I didn’t like to share.
His deep rumble of laughter wiped away my worries though. “Yes min kära. I checked that no one was around first.” He reassured me, dropping a tender kiss to my forehead as I nuzzled against his chest.
“What about Godric?” I swept my fingers over Eric’s ribs, feeling him flinch a little under my touch. Aha! Another tickle spot!
“It’s nothing he doesn’t have, or hasn’t seen before. You and your human modesty.” One of his large hands swept down my spine, his cool skin contrasting my warmth. I shuddered at the contrast, and the love and lust seeping through from Eric’s side of the bond.
“You find my human modesty endearing.” I pointed out, feeling a smile forming on my lips. Our bodies were as close as they could get and I was forced to look up to Eric, having been tucked safely against his chest.
“That I do, min älskling.” Eric’s hands came to cup my face and he pulled me up gently until we were level with one another. Bringing my face to his he pressed a soft kiss to my lips. I had no idea what time it was, and I couldn’t really bring myself to care. I was feeling no tiredness from Eric through our bond. All I could feel was his happiness and his love, his lust and his excitement. Our lips still fused together Eric rolled us over, his large frame over mine. Parting my legs he settled between them, releasing me so I could breathe. His lips attacked my cheeks, my chin, down my throat to my collarbones, where I giggled at the feel of his blunt teeth against my flesh.
Lifting his head he captured my eyes with his brilliant blue ones. They were hooded with his desire and his voice took on a deep, husky timbre. “Oh now, min älskling. Your giggles are not the correct noise…” His head dropped down again but this time his lips descended on my exposed breasts. I was used to sleeping naked with Eric now and he seemed to find that a major bonus. The giggles died in my throat, morphing in a breathy moan. It took a few seconds for me to comprehend that such a wanton sound had come from me. Eric had to have been Adonis in a previous life. I was certain of it.
One of Eric’s large hands splayed over my side, his fingers rubbing the skin he came into contact with, dancing across the surface. His other hand dipped below us. The moment his cool fingers met my heated core I threw my head back, moaning at the contact. “More, Eric. Please.” I was not above begging him for what I wanted, knowing he wanted it just as much.
Eric’s fingers dipped between my folds as he tore his mouth away from my breasts, tipping his head back to inhale deeply. “Always so ready for me so quickly, min älskling.” His voice was low and I felt the telltale warmth of my blush as it swept up my face. I was a little embarrassed by how easily I became ready for him. Eric’s hand on my side left my body, his fingers between my legs stopping along their path. Groaning in frustration I screwed my eyes shut. I could tell I was still flushed a little with my embarrassment.
“Open your eyes, my flower.” I was powerless to deny him. Finding his eyes in the darkness of the room with ease thanks to the low glow vampires emitted, he took one of my hands in his own. Slowly he brought it down to the juncture of his own legs, wrapping my hand around his hardness. Unsure as to what he was trying to prove, I looked up from where my hand was now caressing him, finding his eyes once again. “Do not be embarrassed about being so ready for me so quickly. The feeling is very mutual. The moment you are around, or I hear your name, or smell your scent, even when I feel you through our bond, I am ready for you. It is natural for us to react this way with one another, we are bonded.” He explained softly to me, his free hand moving to my face, his thumb stroking across my cheek. I didn’t need the reassurance, I would have gotten over my embarrassment soon enough, but it was oddly comforting to know his body reacted just like mine did.
He was cool and satiny in my hand. I wanted to taste him, but Eric had other ideas. His hand that was between my thighs moved, covering my own, and without breaking eye contact he helped me guide him to my entrance. With a roll of his hips he was buried to the hilt inside of me. We sighed in unison. I always felt connected to Eric, especially now with our third bond, but there was nothing quite like being joined in body. My Viking let his head fall forward, resting it against my shoulder. “Jag har dig. Du är min. Fram till slutet. Du och jag. Eternity. Forever. Jag älskar dig.” (I got you. You are mine. Until the end. You and me. Eternity. Forever. I love you.) He breathed, rocking his hips once, then twice. Between the feel of him inside of me and his love swarming our bond I managed a smile, able to pluck the translation from inside his mind. Yes he most certainly had me for the rest of our lives, and I loved him too.
Turning my head I pressed a kiss to the side of his face, rolling my hips to match his. Eric lifted his head, crushing his lips to mine, stifling my moan as he brushed against the sensitive spot inside of me. One of his hands returned to the apex of my legs, giving him access to my little nub, which he rubbed roughly with the pad of his thumb, the delicious tightening sensation in my lower stomach starting to demand attention. His other hand swept across my body, his fingers feather-light across my skin.
Delving my hands into his soft, golden hair I kept him close, refusing to give up his lips for even a second. Rolling my tongue into his mouth in time with the roll of my hips, I pressed my tongue against the area just behind Eric’s front teeth. With a snick his fangs fell into place, catching my tongue enough to draw a small amount of blood. I was nearing my release as Eric sucked on my tongue, growling as my blood hit his pallet.
“Mine. All mine. Forever. So beautiful. So strong. So brave. All mine. So forgiving, and loving, and caring, and beautiful, and she chose me! Me!” Eric’s thoughts broke through loud and clear with our added contact. I felt the panic attack me so suddenly that it shocked Eric, who pulled back from my face just in time. The flashes of Bill’s abuse, the pain he had caused me, crossed my mind and were refusing to leave.
“Get off me! Get off! Please!” I was fighting back the tears, my hands thumping against Eric’s broad, solid chest. Confusion crossed his features and our bond for a second before he quickly removed himself from above me. Flying from the bed I fled to the bathroom, slamming the door behind me.
I will be your man, your protector, and your best friend ’til my humble life is ended
Then time begins again
Couldn’t we please be happily ever after?
We can be strong together for so long, our love goes strong so long.
Couldn’t we please be happily ever after?
~ Happily Ever After, Case
One moment I was lost in Sookie, the warmth and beauty of her body, her sweet scent, and her delicious blood. The next second I could feel her panic through our bond and I pulled back from her just as she started to thump against my chest. The desperation coming through our bond was gut wrenching, the sorrow and the self-loathing even worse. Before I even had time to grab her she was gone, dashing to the bathroom, throwing the door shut behind her. I didn’t hear her turn the lock, but I wasn’t foolish enough to go to her right away. Rolling onto my back I stared up at the ceiling, hearing her gentle sobs from the bathroom, the smell of her salty tears clinging to the air. I would give her a moment to calm down before I went to her. I didn’t want her to start throwing things at me or Gods forbid attack me with her fae light.
Dropping my eyes to my lap I stared down my erection. “You might as well give up buddy, you’re not going to be going home until Sookie is feeling better.” Willing my erection away using both my words and the horrible feelings coming through my bond with Sookie I threw on a robe, unsure how she would react to seeing me naked. It was another reason I’d willed my hard-on, and subsequently the release I’d been so close to, away. I would suffer blue balls for the rest of eternity if I had to. Sookie’s mental and emotional health was more important. If she was having some form of breakdown after the events with William then maybe seeing another male vampire naked would do her no good, regardless of the fact that William and I were physically, emotionally, and mentally very different.
Raising my right hand to the bathroom door I knocked softly, hearing Sookie’s sobs slow down. “Min älskling, please can I come in?” I figured being polite and asking would get me further in this situation.
“It’s not locked.” Sookie’s gentle voice, sounding a little broken, floated through the wood that separated us. Turning the handle I entered the room swiftly, shutting the door behind me again.
“I know my flower, but I would not have come in had you not wanted me to.” I took in her small figure huddled against the side of the bath, her head resting against the marble-clad side, her knees pulled up to her chest. She was shivering slightly from the coldness of the marble flooring. Grabbing a towel I crossed to her, dropping down to sit opposite her. Throwing the towel around her shoulders I secured it in place before I dared to look up at her. Tear tracks were staining her face, her eyes red and puffy from her tears. Taking my hands from her I sat for a moment, letting her go first. I didn’t want to push her for any information she didn’t want to give.
Finally her eyes met mine, her small hands grasping at the towel to keep it around her. “Why do you think such good things about me when no one else does?” she asked in a low, timid tone. Her question stumped me for a moment, and I had to stop myself from frowning. Positive emotions only, Sookie needed them.
“You are my companion, my beloved, and my bonded. I think such things because you are a good person, a beautiful person.” I went with honesty. It was not something I was used to. For the past 1000 years I had been forced to lie and manipulate in order to survive. I hardly ever let my walls down. Sookie tore them down though the moment she stepped into my bar. I didn’t even have a chance to salvage a single piece of the wall. Oddly enough that thought no longer bothered me. It was refreshing to be so open with someone, to have someone I could confide in and trust entirely.
Sookie seemed to mull my words over for a moment. “Bill and Uncle Bartlett only ever had bad thoughts. I don’t understand why you have such good thoughts when all they had were bad ones.” Her comment sounded almost child-like, and so unlike the Sookie I was used to. I should have seen it coming. Years of hearing only bad things about her, years of her tormentors abusing her with their thoughts, they had made her question her self-worth. Even from beyond the grave Compton was fucking with my Sookie’s head.
Gently and slowly, so as not to frighten her, I tucked a stray strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. Sookie leant into my touch and before I could stop myself I opened up my arms, offering her comfort. Cautiously she moved into my embrace, placing herself on my lap. I hated how she was seemingly worried about being around me now. Fucking Compton!
“You’re angry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you angry.” The remorse coming from her was just as painful. Gently grabbing her chin I tipped her head back gently so she would look at me.
“I am not angry with you, min älskling. I am angry with the people who have made you feel this way. They are undeserving of your affections and have hurt you. You want to know why I have such good thoughts about you?” She nodded timidly. “It’s because I love you. I love all of you. Those monsters only saw in you what they wanted to. They tried to change you to be what they wanted, they tried to take away parts of your personality and they very nearly succeeded. I love you, through the good and the bad. I love how kind you are to others, how you put the needs of those around you before your own, I love you when you’re laughing and sassing me. I also love you when you kill someone though, be it for self defence or because they have wronged you, and even now when you’re on the floor crying over those who have manipulated you and hurt you I still love you. They all tried to hold you back and abuse their power over you. I would never do that to you. Your free spirit is something I love the most about you. I would never wish to snuff that out.” I told her honestly, letting her feel my emotions through our bond. Her head came to rest upon my chest as she turned in my lap, curling up against me. Wrapping my arms around her I held her close.
“Where were you three years ago?” She sighed softly, her shoulders slumping. Kissing the crown of her head I nuzzled her golden hair.
“I was sat in Fangtasia, bored of my existence, waiting for a feisty little faery to come along and turn my life upside down.” I teased lightly, giving Sookie’s side a playful tickle to show my comment was light-hearted. Her responding giggle made me grin. Feeling that she felt a little better through our bond, I rose up to my full height while I continued to hold her to me. I was aware we still had a long way to go for Sookie to be finally over this. I would happily be her soundboard for now but when we returned to Louisiana I would contact a few therapists and ask Sookie if she wished to see them, to talk about her problems with a professional.
Leaving the bathroom we returned to our bedroom and I gently placed Sookie down in the middle of the huge bed. I turned on the bedside lamps to give her some light. She was gloriously naked under that towel and even though I was tempted to return to our previous event I knew it was not the time. We were to meet with The Ancient One soon anyway. There was one thing I wanted to do beforehand though…
With Sookie distracted removing her towel I dipped into the bedside tables top drawer, placing the item I had concealed in the pocket of my robe. Sookie’s attention returned to me now she was without the towel, and she scooted under the sheets, crossing her legs and letting the sheets pool on her lap. Her newfound confidence in her nudity was a welcome change.
Taking a seat on the edge of the bed I captured Sookie’s hands in my own, bringing each in turn up to my lips so I could press a kiss to the backs of them. I was sure that if my heart had of been beating it would have sounded like a frightened rabbits. “Sookie.” I started softly, capturing her full attention. “You are my shoulder to lean on, the one person I know I can count on, and you’re the love of my life, my one and only, my everything. I could conquer the world with just one hand as long as you were holding the other. When I’m near you I’m a better version of me and when you’re away I’m only half the man I want to be. I fall in love with you again every time I look into your beautiful blue eyes.” I could feel the effect my words were having on my Sookie, could see the unshed tears starting to gather in her eyes as her lips started to curve upwards into the smile I adored. This was good. She was feeling better, loved, and wanted. That was all I wanted. I wanted her to feel wanted, because she was. I was never one to express feelings, or use fancy words, but Sookie deserved this. She deserved an honest boost to her confidence, she deserved to know just how much I treasured her, and she didn’t deserve to only feel it. She needed to hear it too. “You are so amazingly wonderful, and beautiful, and you are most definitely the most precious of all precious things. Before you, I wandered this world aimlessly for 1000 years, never really understanding what my purpose was. I know what it is now, though. It’s to make you happy, to see that beautiful smile light up your features.” I dropped one of her hands to sweep my own across her cheek, pausing to stroke the soft skin I found there.
“It’s to hear your joyful laughter, to see the sparkle in your eyes, to smell you in our bed, on my clothes, in our home. It’s to be sassed for all eternity whenever I do something wrong and to be put in my place when I’m being an idiot.” A small laugh slipped through her lips, a single tear falling down her cheek. I captured it, bringing it to my mouth where I licked it from my finger. “It’s to taste you, all of you,” she flushed a light pink, “to give you everything you want and protect you from those who dare to try and harm you. I know what it means to love because of you. I love you for everything you are. I loved you the moment you walked into my bar, dressed like you were going to church on a sunny Sunday morning. Every day since then my feelings have only grown deeper.” By now the tears were streaming down her cheeks. I poured my heart and soul into my words, letting them wash through our bond. I wanted, needed, her to know just how precious she was to me. “My Sookie, will you love me the rest of my life? I know I’ll love you the rest of mine. I can’t imagine a life without you in it, having you by my side is what completes me. We can have eternity together, walk the world with each other, explore every continent, every city, and every village.” Letting go of her hands I slipped from the bed, down onto one knee beside her. From my pocket I pulled out the little black box I had spent all day procuring. Sookie’s hands flew to her mouth, hiding her shock. I could feel it though. I would always feel everything. Finding her eyes “My Sookie, will you make me the happiest man alive?” I asked, finding myself holding a breath I had no need for. She made me feel alive, made me want to be a better man. Lifting the lid of the little black box in my hands I presented it to her.
Sookie’s eyes dropped to the open box for only a brief second before she launched herself at me, her arms wrapping around my neck, her legs locked around my lower back. My reflexes meant I was able to not only catch her but keep ahold of the little black box too as we landed on the ground together. Her soft, warm lips found mine as she kissed me with such passion. In need of a breath she pulled back, tracing my jawline with the forefinger on her left hand. “Of course I’ll marry you, my fierce Viking.” She was shaking in my arms, but the strength of her happiness through our bond told me I’d done well. Capturing her left hand with one of my own I plucked the ring I had purchased especially for her from its box. Slowly I slid it down her ring finger on her left hand, watching her face as she finally took in the jewellery I had bought for her. I was aware my Sookie was no show off, but I wanted to splurge, I wanted to buy something as beautiful as she was, which was damn near impossible. She was far more beautiful than any diamond I had ever come across in my 1000 years. I wanted to give her this ring to show her just how much she meant to me, and that I fully intended to keep hold of her for the rest of our lives.
“Du är min sol och mina stjärnor, min måne och min jord. Jag lovar att göra dig lycklig så länge vi båda lever, och även då jag kommer att hitta dig i livet efter detta och upprätthålla att din lycka där. Jag är din.” (You are my sun and my stars, my moon and my land. I promise to make you happy as long as we both shall live, and even then I will find you in the afterlife and maintain your happiness there. I’m yours.) I told her sincerely. Leaning forward I kissed away her tears, her own eyes closing as I brushed feather-lite kisses across her face. The love and joy coming from her were incredible, and I silently vowed to do everything in my power to keep her happy, to keep her safe and to ensure she always knew how much I loved her.
My ring now adorned her finger and I would have been lying if I had said I didn’t feel any pride in having marked her in such a way. It was in vampire nature to claim what was ours. I had spent the day contacting jewellers, calling them into the penthouse to show me the one-of-a-kind rings they had for sale. Money had been no object. I’d glamoured them afterwards, made them believe I had been the human errand-boy of myself. I didn’t need it getting out that I could day-walk now. I’d sought out Godric’s guidance and he had pretended to be his own day-man. I had gone through several rings, not finding anything I had liked. I wanted only the best for my Sookie. My one stipulation had been that the centre diamond be a yellow one. She was my sunshine after all.
Godric had helped me get Sookie’s ring size. He’d told me all about using a piece of string to get Ata’s while she slept and I did just that with Sookie, passing on the size to the jewellers so they would only bring the correct fitting rings. When the last jeweller of the day had arrived I hadn’t been feeling too great, but the moment he held up his most prized creation I knew I had to have it. It was 18-carat white gold, with a 5-carat cushion cut yellow diamond on top. Around the yellow diamond and around most of the band sat a line of 1.7-carat beautiful clear diamonds. It was clean and pure, beautiful and bright. It was my Sookie.
I’d even gone a little overboard and bought the matching princess cut, 4-carat yellow diamond earrings that went with it. Those I would keep until our wedding day though. It was custom for the bride to receive something new on that day after all, no?
The jeweller had even brought along a few Harry Winston pieces and knowing my mothers affinity for the designer I had bought her the 2.2-carat pendant necklace that would match her engagement ring. It would be her gift from Sookie and I on her wedding day. She deserved it and so much more. My father then bought the matching 1.15-carat earrings for her, stating that he would give them to her on their honeymoon. It was only when I handed over my Amex that I realised just how much of a tantrum Sookie would throw if she knew how much money I had just dropped on her. To me it was irrelevant. I had plenty stashed away all over the world, enough to keep us living the life of luxury for the next 2000 years or so at least, so long as the world didn’t end or the banks crash beyond belief and leave the world economy in absolute ruins. I’d given the jeweller a little extra for his own pocket for bringing me everything I wanted and much more. It didn’t hurt to reward those who gave such good service. I would most definitely be calling on him again should I ever find myself needing to purchase more jewellery for either Sookie or Pam.
“Only you would propose to me while I’m naked.” Sookie giggled, sniffing a little still from her unexpected joy. Chuckling lightly I had to nod at her observation. I watched as her eyes fell to the band of diamonds encircling her ring finger, the pull at the corners of her lips made me happy. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.” She whispered, still gazing at the yellow diamond on her finger.
“It doesn’t hold a candle to you, my beloved.” I assured her, dropping a kiss to her forehead. “Now, please go and get some clothes on. We have visitors and as much as I love seeing you naked,” I leered at her, earning myself a light smack on the chest. “I don’t want anyone else to see what’s mine.” I concluded, righting us so we were once more stood up. With a happy nod of her head Sookie was off to the wardrobe, perusing the rails of clothing for something suitable.
“What does one wear to meet The Ancient One?” She questioned as I joined her in the wardrobe. Glancing to the row of clothes before me I plucked out a red dress. It was formal, so respectable for a meeting with The Ancient One, but it could get away with being casual also. Besides, red was my favourite colour, and the sight of Sookie wearing my favourite colour was one of my favourite things. Taking it from me she scampered to the drawers, pulling out a pair of red panties to match. The thought of her in them had my fangs ready to drop.
While Sookie went to the bathroom to take care of her human needs I dressed, picking out a pair of smart formal black pants and a white open-collar shirt, forgoing the tie and the jacket. It was too warm in Nevada and would have made the outfit far too formal. Slipping on a pair of shiny black shoes, Sookie re-entered, now fully dressed. The red dress was sinful. A low plunging neckline gave me a wonderful view of her ample cleavage, the material folding inwards from across her shoulders and around her waist to meet in the centre of her breast bone, just below the dip in the neckline. From there the material flowed downwards, hugging her body like a second skin before flaring over her natural child-bearing hips to hang gracefully down her slender legs to her knees. As she turned to give me a full 360 view I had to stifle my groan. The material was taut over her perky behind and I was aching to reach out and grope her.
“Later.” My little faery promised, pulling on a pair of red kitten heeled shoes.
Together we left the confines of the bedroom, the sun having set a short while ago. The living room was packed with people. The Ancient One was sat upon one of the sofas, a handmaiden on either side of her. Ata was opposite her, sat beside Godric. They were the only two on the sofa, as custom dictated, and my brothers stood tall and silent behind them. Ari had the support of a crutch to help him stand. Isabel, Pam, Hunter, Jason, and Amelia were scattered about the room. The rules that applied to them were for them to merely be present. There was nowhere in particular that custom dictated they had to sit. Bringing Sookie’s left hand to my lips I kissed her knuckles before I kissed her new diamond. Dropping her hand I took my rightful place behind Ata and Godric. Sookie was unsure of the custom and looked at a loss for where to sit. “Come join me, cousin.” Ata moved over a little, patting the space beside her. Custom meant that Sookie should not actually sit beside her; only the oldest in the nest were to sit. The Ancient One didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead she offered my Sookie an almost gentile smile. Nervously Sookie took her place beside my mother, respectfully crossing her ankles and sitting neatly, her back tall and straight. She was every inch the fae royal.
“I do apologise for giving you such short notice of my arrival, little princess.” The Ancient One was looking right at Ata, though of course through her hazy, blind eyes no one would have guessed it.
“It’s of no problem, Pallas. You know you are always welcome in my home.” A smile crossed my mother’s lips but it died almost instantly. This visit was all business, not pleasure.
An indulgent smile crossed The Ancient One’s features before she surveyed all of us in the penthouse. “I told you your nest would grow, and it very much has. You have allies all over Nevada now, and in California. Lets not forget Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas either.” She pointed out. I hadn’t realised just how many states Ata could now rely on. “Of course there is now a monarch problem. The kings of Mississippi, Nevada and Louisiana are now dead. They need replacing.”
Her eyes found mine. “Northman.” She all but barked. I dropped my head in a show of respect. I hardly ever bowed for anyone, but any vampire who refused to submit to The Ancient One was a fool. The Ancient One and I had only crossed paths a few times, mostly before my transition to America. We weren’t as friendly as Ata and my brothers so obviously were with her. “You love your bonded yes?” Her question confused me for a moment but I gave a simple nod of agreement as I raised my head to once more look at her. Where the hell was this going? “Then you will take Louisiana, and she will be your queen.” I heard, and felt, Sookie’s little gasp. “I know being king isn’t something you wish for, but the power it will grant you will keep your family safe. Besides, the alliances your blood can create will strengthen all of you.”
“I thank you, Your Grace.” I figured being formal was correct for this moment in time. It was true I never wanted to be king; it was a lot of work and painted a nice, big target on my back. If it would keep Sookie and our family safe though I would do it, and I would damn well do it to the best of my ability. Reaching over the back of the sofa I dropped a hand to Sookie’s shoulder, giving it a gentle rub while I pushed all of my reassurance through our bond. I couldn’t understand why Sookie found the idea of being a queen so surprising. She was a princess by blood so she was royalty anyway. I could sense that we would be discussing this change later, if only so that I could ease the little ball of worry I could feel building up inside my beloved.
“Khai.” The Ancient One moved on to my brother, and he too dropped his head in a show of respect before he lifted it moments later. “You care for Miss Beaumont do you not?” The question was pointless. We all knew he did. Nodding his head his eyes darted to the Hispanic vampiress, and she offered him an encouraging smile. “If your mother and father permit it you will take Mississippi, and if Miss Beaumont and you both permit it, she will rule by your side.” I could feel how floored my brother was. He had just been given a kingdom, and with Isabel as a well-respected sheriff in Texas, even though her role as sheriff was short-lived, would ensure strong alliances between Texas and Mississippi. Throw in Sookie and I taking Louisiana and we had quite a stronghold in the south!
Ata and Godric exchanged one glance before they spoke to Khai. “Whatever you want, son. We only want for you to be happy.” Ata spoke, raising a hand to capture Khai’s from the back of the sofa. He held her hand tightly before his gaze moved to Isabel.
Seeming to contemplate for a moment, a mischievous smile crossed her lips. “I could be a queen.” She commented in and offhand manner, like it was such a hard decision to make. The grin that crossed Khai’s face and the happiness coming off of him was incredible.
“As for Nevada. Ari, you love Miss Swynford de Beaufort?” My brother nodded, his eyes drifting to my progeny for a moment, who was trying her hardest to hide her smile. “If your mother and father permit it then you shall take Nevada.” Ari’s eyes snapped to The Ancient One, as did the eyes of everyone else in the room. We’d all assumed Godric would take Nevada, with Ata as his queen. He’d been the one to kill Felipe after all. “Oh I have other plans for you two.” The Ancient One wafted a hand between Ata and Godric. My mother and father once again turned to each other, silently communicating, before they turned to Ari.
“It’s fine with us, Nevada is yours.” Godric offered with a smile. I heard Pam hiss out a yes and fist pump the air. She was a diva and now she was a queen. Wonderful. My brat was now royalty. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.
“Of course you are all aware that your family ties make strong alliances.” The Ancient One pointed out though there was no need .We all understood now. It would be harder for enemies to take any of us out. If they did so they would have several states wanting their hearts on silver platters and their fangs as new earrings. “That leaves me with you two.” The Ancient One turned back to Ata and Godric, a sad expression flitting across her features for a moment.
“Niall gave up his spark, his very essence, so that the pair of you would remain together. With his demise though comes something else – his crown.” We all sat in stunned silence, unsure exactly what to say. Thankfully The Ancient One filled the silence. “It was Niall’s wish, and it was prophesied. Do you remember when he told you of your heritage? When he told you that one pair would rule in this realm and the other pair in Faery?” She asked the questions and all we could do was nod numbly. I could feel Sookie starting to panic a little, and I had to admit that I was tempted to do the same. Time worked differently in Faery. I didn’t want to lose my mother and father forever.
“You two are to govern in Faery, as king and queen.” The Ancient One dropped the proverbial bomb onto my parents. Of course Godric took it in his stride, capping the bonds he had with us all so we wouldn’t feel his irritation and anger.
“The time difference.” Ata managed to whisper, looking to The Ancient One with tears in her eyes. The huge windows overlooking the city allowed me to see her reflection perfectly.
“Will be none existent. The time difference is connected to the ruler and their ties to this realm. If they have plenty of ties here then the two times run beside each other, matching up. If the ruler has no ties, or limited ones, then time passes quicker here than it does in Faery. With all of your bonds and ties the time in Faery will match the time in this realm perfectly.” The Ancient One eased our worries and I felt my mother’s relief as she sagged back into the sofa, taking deep, steady breaths.
“Time will be the same here as it is in Faery?” Sookie spoke up for the first time. I winced. I hadn’t told her that addressing The Ancient One was a taboo unless she addressed you first, or if you were close to her as my mother was.
The Ancient One turned to look at my bonded, a small smile gracing her features. “Yes faery princess. You will not be without family ever again.” My Sookie broke out into a huge smile.
The Ancient One surveyed all of us for a moment before she moved onto the next topic. “Of course with the new kingdoms comes your coronations, and lets not forget a few weddings while we’re at it.” The Ancient One glanced first to Ata and then to Sookie. I felt shock and surprise from all of the bonds inside of me bar Godric. Jason and Hunter were simply smiling. I’d asked Jason’s permission during the day to marry Sookie and Hunter had been present at the time. He’d been so excited that I was finally going to ask Sookie to marry me that he kept glaring at Jason until he said yes. Jason would have said yes anyway, I could sense it. He loved his sister and he knew I loved her, he knew she was safe with me. He made me ask twice, and grumble, and promise some absurd things. It was all worth it though. He was just looking out for her. All eyes swung to Sookie and, in a nervous yet adorable manner that only she could pull off, she lifted her left hand.
Ata’s squeal was sufficiently girly as she grasped Sookie’s hand, yanking it closer so she could inspect the rock on her finger. Pam moved forward to and Isabel followed her closely. Women would be women, be they mortal or immortal, with or without a heartbeat. “When!?” Ata demanded, her eyes wide as she looked between Sookie and I.
“Earlier this evening, before we came out here.” Sookie responded shyly, looking up at me from under her naturally long lashes.
Glancing to Pam, whose happiness was coming through our bond, I saw the gears turning in her head. “No….” I warned, but of course she ignored me.
“I’m thinking Vera Wang, Jimmy Choo’s, La Perla…” She started listing off designers that she would try and truss my fiancée up in. I couldn’t stop my smile at the thought of Sookie as my fiancée, but the look of horror on Sookie’s features as she caught sight of whatever monstrosities Pam was thinking of snapped me back into reality.
“You can help Sookie choose, Pamela. The final choice will be my brides.” I laid down the law, taking my Sheriff tone with my progeny. She pouted but Sookie sent me a grateful smile, her glee spiking as I referred to her as my bride.
The Ancient One simply watched us interact before she stepped back in. “Of course each coronation will have to take place in the states that each pair will rule for them to be valid. Your weddings, on the other hand, may be whenever you want and however you want. I do have one stipulation though, if I may?” The Ancient One met my gaze and I was powerless. I nodded, unsure as to what exactly I was getting myself into. “I ask that when you wed Miss Stackhouse, you do so in front of the eyes of the world. News of what has happened to the four of you has just broken, and right now the humans need something to brighten their spirits. The vampires in the America’s and beyond will all know that Sookie is yours so any attempt against her is immediately punishable by death, no questions asked.” The Ancient One laid down her terms. I felt Sookie stiffen through the bond, I felt her anger at being told what to do and in truth I hated the idea.
“No.” I spat out before I had time to stop myself. All eyes swung to me, some wider than others. No one had ever said no to The Ancient One. Even She looked a little stunned. “The day Sookie and I wed will be for our family and close friends only. I will not have my beloved being forced to perform some ridiculous song and dance to appease others on our wedding day. My Sookie has spent long enough doing everything to please others. Our wedding will be her day and as such she will be selfish and only share it with those who actually matter to her.” I was firm with my response, and Sookie’s gratitude and love through our bond told me this was what she wanted. Sookie was mine now, and as such I would not allow her to be a puppet any longer. “Sookie and I will pose for a few photographs on our wedding day and release a statement that may be published in order to inform others of our union, but that is all.” I lay down my own terms. My bond with Godric was filled with caution and a tinge of worry. It was a little impulsive of me but I was tired of Sookie being used and hurt.
All eyes turned back to The Ancient One and a chuckle escaped her dry lips. It was not the response I was expecting. I was momentarily stunned when her chuckle turned into full on laughter. “Ah only you would have the confidence to challenge me, Viking.” I held in my breath of relief. The Ancient One stopped laughing and offered me a small, private smile. “Well then. I look forward to seeing your photos and reading over your statement, Northman.”
Relief came through all of my bonds, and Sookie’s pride caused me to smile down at her. Our wedding day would be for our close circle of family, friends, and us. “Now then, little princess. Your coronation beside your bonded will occur in this realm. I would have liked for it to be in Faery but you will have a number of vampire and human guests present who will not be able to enter the realm. I will speak with Claude about inviting all of the fae who need to be present to this realm for the ceremony.” She didn’t even mention their wedding. I had a feeling it would occur in Faery, or here in Caesar’s Palace. Besides, publishing Ata’s wedding was a bad idea. She was over 2000 years old and someone might catch on. “I will leave all coronation and wedding details to you all, but I do hope I get an invite.” The old oracle winked at our little group, causing small ripples of laughter to tumble from Ata, Sookie, Pam, and Godric.
“My final port of call this evening is the role of the spokesperson for the AVL and The Authority. It turns out that Mr. Compton sent Nan Flannigan to an early grave. We now have an opening for her job.” The Ancient One turned her eyes to Egor. I was surprised that Bill had killed Nan; I didn’t think he had it in him. Then again he’d proven more often than not that he would do anything he could for more power, the pompous little ass. “The Old Council was wondering if you would be open to accept the role, Egor?” The mention of The Old Council surprised me. The Old Council was a group of 2000-year-old plus vampires from Europe, including The Ancient One. They were the ultimate power in the vampire world. The Authority was a branch of them, monitoring America. They had to defer to The Old Council whenever they wished to do anything though. The Old Council had considerable clout not only because of the age of its members but because vampires had been widely accepted in Europe with very little backlash. The Authority was taking its cues from them.
My fellow Viking blinked in surprise, a surprise that was mirrored through our connection. “You will get to travel the world, take part in debates, ensure that equal rights for vampires is maintained and you will work closely with the new Majester.” The offer was a very good one and my brother seemed to mull it over for a moment. “There is no rush on your answer, Egor. Take your time and discuss it with your family.” The Ancient One offered my brother a smile before she rose to her feet. The moment she did so her handmaidens were there to help her, and my parents rose along with Sookie. “I understand you all have places to be and things to do this evening. I won’t keep you any longer. I do hope my news has given you all some wonderful things to start planning for.”
The Ancient One reached a hand out, capturing Ata’s face. Her wrinkled hand rested on my mothers’ cheek and I could see, for the briefest of seconds, a hint of love within the old vampiress’ eyes. “You have a beautiful family, little princess. I have followed the strands of your life from the moment you were born. I have watched you grow and transform into the strong woman you are today. You’re in for some surprises over the next few weeks. Treasure them.” She informed Ata before she moved to the elevator, about to make her exit. “Oh, one more thing.” She turned back to us all, her eyes shifting back to Ata. “I will send Claude to you within the week with Niall’s will. He has left a few things to both you and Miss Stackhouse.” With a grin she was inside the elevator with her handmaidens, disappearing from sight.
Mother and father sat back on the sofa, Sookie sitting beside them. Silence fell on the penthouse for all of a minute before Pam let out a girly squeal I had never heard from her before. “I’M GOING TO BE A QUEEN!”
Odin, have mercy….
Everybody’s hustling, trying to find where I fit in
But I know, yeah I know the end is where it begins
Cause flashlights and good life keep calling out my name
And I pray somehow something’s gonna change
Bright lights in the skylight won’t let me lose my way
Cause I know somehow something’s gotta change
So close but it’s still so far, I figured out what’s in my heart
I took a step out of the dark now I’m on my way
Moving on to better things, cutting off my puppet strings
~ Bright Lights (Good Life) Part II, Pixie Lott
To say I was left a little surprised was an understatement. I would not lose any time here if I was to rule in Faery, and I would get to rule with my husband by my side. My sons would be well cared for, each of them gaining a new position of power. I had no doubt that Riei and Oeri would end up Sheriffs. I had a feeling that one of my sons would take over as replacement for me, and the other would take over from Eric. Pam would have been the likely choice as the new Sheriff for Eric’s area, but with her now taking a crown beside my Ari the space was vacant. I’d spent my 2000 years building up an empire, gathering power and resources so that my Children would have the life they dreamed of. Now it was all paying off. Our business empire we would continue to run from afar, still earning us money that would create a very strong nest egg for us all, but they would have kingdoms now, more power than they had originally thought they would ever have. My Egor would have something to fill his time with too, he would have something rewarding and challenging that I prayed would help heal him from the loss of his brother. I was yet to grieve properly for my youngest Viking son, I was yet to grieve for Oscar too. So much was happening so quickly that I hadn’t had a single moment to sit down and process my emotions.
With Pallas gone my Children all broke off into their pairs with their intendeds, already planning their coronations and pledging’s. The pledging’s would last 100 years and most of the time they were done for political purposes. I knew better though. My Children were all marrying for love.
Godric’s hand on my thigh broke me out of my thoughts. “Come my darling, we have somewhere to go.” My husband reminded me of the plans he had for the evening. Nodding in his direction I rose to my feet, moving around the sofa. Pulling Eric into my arms I gave him a hug. I moved to my cousin next and cuddled her to me, the fact we were both fae only increasing the joy we got from embracing one another.
“I’m so happy for you Sook.” I pulled back to look at my cousin, bringing my hand to her cheek. I was happy that she was happy, and proud that Eric was bringing Sookie to his side, sharing all he had with her.
“Thank you Ata.” Sookie responded softly as my hand fell from her face.
Godric was lingering by the elevator, glancing to his watch. Realising we might be on a time constraint I pulled myself away from my cousin, crossing to my husband. “I have no idea what time we will be back, but it will before sunrise.” Godric announced to Eric, Sookie, Jason, and Hunter before we stepped into the elevator, letting the doors close and take us down to my private carport. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. This would be my first trip out after the events in Felipe’s basement. I was with my husband though and felt safe, but I had no idea where we were going.
He took my hand in the elevator, locking our fingers together. We emerged in my private carport. Godric had the keys to my electric blue 1968 Cadillac De Ville convertible. It had been a present from Edgar for my birthday ten years ago. It suited Vegas. It had a badass gangster feel to it which was typical for Vegas, and yet the soft-top allowed me to stay cool in the desert heat. Sliding myself into the passenger seat I allowed Godric to take the wheel. Moving us expertly out of the carport he took my left hand in his own, rubbing his thumb over the back of my hand. The streets were relatively quiet and I sank back into my seat, enjoying being the passenger in one of my favourite cars. Closing my eyes I took in the silence around me. Being in a car, and driving at the speeds that vampires were used to, meant I didn’t have to listen to the noise of people on the streets. Godric’s mind was active to me but he was mentally singing away in Gaulish. I had no idea if he was doing it so I would have no idea where we were going, or if he was doing it because he knew it would soothe me.
I knew the city so well that with every turn Godric took I could tell the direction in which we were heading. We were going north on the Las Vegas Freeway. Godric took the slip road down onto the Las Vegas Expy, where we headed east. I was lost after that though. I’d never strayed off of the Las Vegas Expy on this side of the city. The car slowed to a stop and my eyes popped open. We were parked in a very busy car park. Frowning I lifted my head, looking to the building we were parked in front of. The name of the building was lit up in neon strip lights – typical of Vegas. ‘UMC’ was written in blue, the word ‘HOSPITAL’ underneath in yellow, followed by the typical red ‘+’ sign that denoted a hospital. “Trust me.” Godric asked quietly, kissing our clutched hands before he let me go. Vamping from the car he was beside me in seconds, opening the door and offering me his hand. Taking it I continued to scowl in confusion. I wasn’t sick! Oh heck, what if someone was injured at Felipe’s! Were we there to visit them?
Locking up my car, Godric led me through to the reception. Hospitals weren’t top of my visit list; the thoughts of the people there weren’t pleasant. “Please wait here my darling.” Godric led me to a spare seat, dropping a kiss to my forehead. I sat as neatly as I could, receiving multiple looks from the people in the hospital. Their minds were screaming out at me, and it probably didn’t help that the TV in reception currently had my face plastered on it. Pallas was right, news of my kidnap, along with Sookie’s, and our rescue at the hands of Godric and Eric and all of the other Nevada vampires was playing for the whole state to see. Ah well, at least the states vampires might be given a few more smiles when they’re buying their Tru Blood. I tried not to snort at my mental rambling. Like any of the vampires in Nevada bought Tru Blood to consume at home anyway. It was all a ploy to make them look friendlier to humans when they were out and about in restaurants and clubs.
Godric returned to me moments later, thankfully taking my hand and leading me out of reception. One woman had been thinking about coming over and asking me if I was okay, if I needed anything. She ran a yoga class at the local church hall and had been wondering if I would need help calming myself and getting back in tune with myself. It was a sweet idea but I knew the moment she came and spoke to me everyone else in the waiting room would.
Godric and I walked side by side, our hands joined between us, swinging freely. For a brief moment I felt like a carefree little girl again, roaming the mighty sandstone corridors of my mothers’ palace 2000 years ago with my best friend, the man I loved. Of course I couldn’t hide everything from my husband and he gave my hand a squeeze, pouring his love through our bond so much that it felt like I was being locked in a lovers embrace.
We stopped before a wooden door, a frosted glass panel making up the top half. Godric knocked politely and I took a moment to glance at the name on the door. Georgie Bray. Isn’t that…?
Sure enough Aurel’s human girlfriend opened the door, looking every inch the doctor. I’d known she worked at the hospital as the few times all of the Nevada Sheriffs had met up she’d always been there and we had ended up speaking for hours on end. I just didn’t see why we were here. Georgie had never mentioned what exactly it was she did…
“Ata, Godric, it’s so lovely to see you! Please come in, take a seat.” She stepped aside to let us through, gesturing to the two seats opposite her seat at the desk. Her computer, a printer and plenty of other medical paraphernalia were dotted throughout the room.
“Thank you for seeing us at such short notice, Georgie.” Godric thanked her as he pulled my chair out for me, waiting for me to sit before he pushed me forward slightly so I was seated closer to the desk. Godric took the other seat, grabbing for one of my hands, which I happily gave to him.
Georgie looked between us, a bright smile on her lips. Finally her gaze rested on me. “I understand you were recently hurt, Ata?” Georgie’s eyes held no sympathy, she knew I hated it, and there was no pity there either. Instead there was concern for her friend and the hard glint of a professional who was used to asking these sorts of questions day in and day out.
I frowned somewhat; Godric’s blood had healed most of my injuries apart from…”The brand.” I whispered, realising what she was talking about. I was ashamed to admit that I had it but Georgie didn’t seem fazed in the slightest.
“I run the burns unit here, Ata. We can help you get rid of it, forever.” Her words caused the damn inside of me to break and before I could stop myself I was all out weeping in her office. Godric’s strong arms encircled me as he pulled me onto his lap. Instinctively I curled against his chest, burying my face in the crook of his neck. A tissue appeared in my hands and I could only guess Georgie had given it to me considering that one of Godric’s hands was supporting me and the other was rubbing my back.
“I hate that we don’t fall asleep together curled up, I hate seeing you so upset, I hate seeing how that mark has knocked your confidence. I want to cuddle up to you again, my darling. I want to see you wear clothes with no backs that show off all your sun-kissed skin. I want to see you happy and confident and ordering people around like you usually do.” His words drew a shaky laugh from me and I couldn’t help but reach up, locking my arms around his neck. Pulling myself up I wrapped myself up in him.
“Tibi gratias ago. Tibi gratias ago. Gratias tibi! Tantopere me paenitet. Ego fuit adeo stultus. Ignosces. Placere.” (Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I am so sorry. I was so stupid. Please forgive me. Please.) I whispered in his ear, holding onto him with all of my might. I had been so stupid, and I just told him so. I needed him to forgive me.
“There is nothing for me to forgive, my darling. I’m just glad I can help you.” He answered softly. Pulling back I looked into those pale blue eyes, the ones that had haunted me for 2000 years before I was finally able to find them again. He’d known I’d needed this, he’d known and he’d gone out and done it and surprised me with it. Leaning forward I offered him my tears and he happily took them, cleaning me off.
Remembering we had an audience I blushed furiously, springing from Godric’s lap to take my seat once again. Georgie only sat there with a knowing smile on her lips. With a shrug of her slender shoulders and a comforting smile she moved on as if nothing had just happened. Aurel had always been very affectionate with her so I could only assume this was normal for her. My hand founds Godric’s and I clung to him, pushing all of my love and devotion, my gratefulness and my happiness to him. The smile I caught from my peripheral vision made me feel warm inside.
“We can give you a skin graft to remove your mark.” I was thankful she didn’t call it a brand. Then again my mother had always said that a spade was a spade, and to call it anything else was stupid. Georgie was in her element here and I simply listened to her, digesting the information. I would probably forget half of it by the time we got home but Godric’s incredible memory would save me from that embarrassment. “May I see your mark?” Georgie stood from her place behind the desk as I nodded. Rising I removed my shirt, feeling okay with my front to her. She moved behind me and I stiffed. I didn’t like that it was on show. Godric placed a cool hand on my hip though and I began to relax. His reassurance through our bond, and his love, was all the strength I needed.
Georgie made a few noises, gently touching the area around my brand before she returned to her spot at the other side of the desk. Pulling my top back on I sat down again, reclaiming Godric’s hand.
“Okay, the area isn’t too big which will be a huge help. Your surgery will be done while you are under general anaesthesia This means that you will be unconscious and will not feel any pain. We’ll have to remove the area of skin that has been affected by your mark and then healthy skin will be taken from a place on your body called the donor site. Most people who are having a skin graft have a split-thickness skin graft. We’re going to use this type for you because the mark doesn’t appear to go too deep. This type of graft takes the two top layers of skin from the donor site, the epidermis, and the layer under the epidermis, the dermis. The donor site can be any area of the body. Most times, it is an area that is hidden by clothes, such as the buttock or inner thigh. What sort of area are you thinking?” Georgie was scribbling down notes in her little jotter as she spoke to us.
Glancing to Godric I silently asked for his opinion. “I like your butt.” His comment was said with such innocence that I had to hold back a scoff. Yeah, I knew exactly why he liked my butt!
“Inner thigh, please.” I responded, glancing back to Georgie as she continued to write notes.
“You know that means no feeding for a while from whichever side we take the healthy skin from, Godric?” Georgie’s eyes lifted momentarily to meet my husbands. Her eyes were playful, as was her smile.
My immortal husband simply rolled his eyes, suppressing his own smile. “Oh I’m sure I can come up with other places to feed from in the meantime.” He swivelled to me, leering in a manner similar to Eric. Like father like son…
Georgie simply shook her head and laughed silently for a moment before she carried on. “The graft is carefully spread on the bare area where it is being transplanted. It is held in place either by gentle pressure from a well-padded dressing that covers it, or by staples or a few small stitches. We then cover the donor-site area with a sterile dressing for 3 to 5 days. I can see that a few small stitches will probably be needed considering the area will move a lot whenever you move your arms.” Georgie explained. Sitting up a little straighter I could see she was compiling notes and placing them in a small folder for us to take with us. I smiled at her thoughtfulness.
“Of course there are risks associated with a skin graft, as there are with many things in life. The risks are very low, especially with the area we’ll be operating on being your shoulder blade. It’s an uncommon but easy-access place. There is the small risk of you reacting badly to the anaesthesia and problems with breathing during the surgery. Then for the surgery itself there is the small risk of bleeding, infection, scarring, skin discolouration uneven skin surface, reduced or lost skin sensation or even the body rejecting the grafted skin. Of course I would ask any other patient to go away and weigh up the risks with the positives, but I have a feeling these risks won’t really affect you Ata.” Her eyes danced to Godric for a moment before they returned to me. She knew I was taking his blood. Godric’s blood would heal me of any side effects given his age.
“Okay, you’re not on any other drugs or herbs?” She started with the questions. I knew this was standard procedure and that I would be asked them again right before I was knocked out for surgery. “Or do you drink a lot of alcohol?” I shook my head to both questions. I’d never been sick, the fae were just naturally well people. As for drinking alcohol, I only ever did so on occasion and even then it wasn’t great. Over 2000 years my tolerance to alcohol had increased considerably and it took more than several neat shots of even the strongest spirits to get me tipsy.
“Now, try not to eat or drink anything for 8-12 hours before surgery. Don’t take Godric’s blood for between 24-36 hours before surgery either. His blood will increase your strength and it will be harder for the anaesthetists to knock you out and they could mess up measurements and you might end up sleeping for longer, or waking up during surgery. Will you have anyone with you in the day?” Georgie asked the final question as she started to put the finishing touches on our little folder.
I wasn’t ready to admit that Godric could be up and about in the day, or that Eric could be either. I trusted Georgie and Aurel, but it was something that every vampire would slaughter millions for to be able to achieve. “My cousins will be with me, and my cook.” I offered. Georgie nodded, making a final note of that before she slipped the piece of paper into the folder.
“You should recover quickly after the split-thickness skin grafting. The skin graft must be protected from trauma at all times, such as being hit, or heavy stretching for at least 2 to 3 weeks. You may need to wear a dressing for 1 to 2 weeks but given the location of the surgery I’m not sure that’s feasible. Avoid exercise that might stretch or injure the graft for 3 to 4 weeks though.” She rattled off the do’s and don’t and I silently nodded, buzzing inside at the prospect of getting rid of the brand. “New blood vessels begin growing within 36 hours of surgery, but I’m sure with a blood boost it might be a little quicker.” She winked at me before chuckling under her breath. “Well then, I guess it’s just a matter of booking you in.”
Godric and I left Georgie’s office with our little folder on my surgery and a date penciled in. I would be getting rid of my brand in five days. Being the Sheriff of the area and a close friend of Georgie’s had worked in my favour. She’d been able to shuffle things around a little and get me in as soon as possible.
As we approached our car I took the opportunity to push my husband up against it, not even giving him a moment before I captured his lips with my own, my hands coming up to rest on either side of his face. My little folder was securely tucked under my arm. My lips sought out his tenderly, a contradiction to the way I had pounced on him. Swiping my tongue against the seal of his lips my husband parted them for me, his arms coming around my waist to hold me securely to him. A low rumble of appreciation left his chest as his grip on me tightened. His lips parted beneath mine and his tongue met mine halfway. We let our tongues dance together for a while, Godric’s hands slowly kneading my hips until I was forced to pull back for air.
His eyes captured mine, hooded with lust, the evidence of which was pressed against my inner thigh. “Hmm, not that I don’t mind being pounced on, but what was that for?” His hands continued to knead my hips, his fingers flirting under the soft fabric of my shirt every so often.
Stroking his cheekbones I stood on tiptoe, pressing a sweet kiss to the end of his nose. “It was because I wanted to, and because I have the most incredible and thoughtful man in the whole world.” I answered, watching as a smile crossed his beautiful, if not a little red, lips.
Godric pulled me further into his embrace and I rested my head in the little hollow just under his chin. “Well feel free to do that again whenever you wish, my little kitten.” The new endearment made me smile. Flashes of my subconscious form were drifting through his mind. A completely accurate and yet adorable pet name, it seemed.
We stayed in our embrace for a few minutes before reality came back to us. Parting I made my way around to the passenger side where I slid into the seat, placing the folder of information down in the foot well. Godric took the drivers seat, starting the engine up. Once we were back out on the Las Vegas Expy I took my husbands spare hand, locking our fingers together. Godric’s fingers played with my Harry Winston. “I can’t wait until you walk down the aisle towards me.” He commented softly, averting his eyes to me for a moment before he looked back to the road.
I felt my lower lip wobble. 2000 years I had been alone, romantically speaking, pining over the man sat beside me. I’d pretty much given up on any hope of having my happy ever after, and yet here I was. “I can’t wait until I meet you at the alter. I’ll finally have my happy ever after.” I responded just as softly, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, Carole King playing. I left it a moment, savouring the song I had set for my eldest boy. ‘You don’t need direction, you know which way to go, and I don’t want to hold you back, I just want to watch you grow. You’re the one who taught me you don’t have to look behind. Oh yes, sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine.’ Figuring I had let the phone ring for long enough I pulled it from my pocket, hitting the answer button. Godric’s amusement at my ringtone choice was pulsing through our bond as we cruised onto the Las Vegas Freeway.
“Mother, I trust your little adventure has gone well?” My son was certainly in touch with our bond. He’d more than likely felt my overwhelming happiness and relief.
“It has, my boy. What’s the matter?” I asked gently, able to feel that he was still at Caesar’s Palace, as were my other boys. There was still a horrible empty space where my bond with Agmund had been. I found myself exploring the gap though, and it seemed to quiver under my scrutiny. Retreating from it I focused on my bond with Ari.
There was brief moments pause and a hint of concern and worry seeped into our connection. “Egor would like to bury Agmund this evening, preferably with Grandmother.” He put the idea to me. My sons had taken to calling my mother their Grandmother after they had been turned and our blood exchanges had been completed.
“I can pop us all inside mothers resting place, the sun will already be up in Egypt.” I answered. The hearing of all the vampires present, both Godric in the car and the rest of our nest with Ari, would be able to hear both sides of the conversation. “We’ll place Oscar to rest there too. He was family.” Ari made a noise of agreement before he told me he loved me before he hung up. It was something he had done ever since telephones had been invented.
“I’m here. Lean on me if you need it, my darling. It’s what I’m here for.” Godric told me gently as we turned into the carport. I had no idea why Ari had decided to call me and not simply wait for my return. When we entered the living room though I found out why. Everyone was dressed ready to go in traditional dress. Sookie had donned black, as had Jason, Hunter, and Bubba. Isabel wore black, but had tied white ribbons to her wrists. The white had been a symbol of mourning in Spain during the period Isabel would have been human in. I appreciated the gesture and nodded my thanks. Egor was dressed in blue, cradling Agmund’s remains in his hands. My little Viking was in a new, beautiful crystal decanter. I felt my tears at the sight. Averting my gaze I captured that of my Egyptian sons, all dressed in yellow – our colour of mourning. My eyes moved to Eric finally and I saw that he too was dressed in blue, and in his hands he held a matching crystal decanter containing Oscar. “I need to change.” I murmured, moving through the crowd of people and into my bedroom, dropping the folder of information on the coffee table as I passed it. I needed a moment.
The sound of Godric entering spurred me into moving to the closet, but as I moved through my rails of clothing I couldn’t stop shaking. “Shhh.” Godric cooed, gently wrapping an arm around my waist. His other hand plucked a soft yellow dress from the rails. Not commenting on the fat tears rolling down my cheeks he undressed me slowly, making sure none of his movements were quick and disorientating. He slipped the yellow dress over my head, zipping it up at the back to hide my brand. I was still feeling shaky as he crossed to my dresser. Removing a length of blue silk, which I often used when plaiting my hair to add some colour, he tied it around my waist. My vanity table was next and he sat me down on the little stool. Opening my jewellery box he removed my blue diamond necklace, in the shape of the sun. Securing it at the nape of my neck he kissed the back of my head before he brushed out all the tangles. With my hair in place he grabbed a pair of blue court shoes, the shade nearly matching that of the ribbon around my waist. Slipping my shoes on he dressed quickly, though not at vampire speed. He dressed in a well-tailored pair of black pants and a loose fitting burgundy shirt. I knew of funerals in Gaul – father had told me of the few he had witnessed. They were magnificent and costly, and those attending dressed in their finery, the brighter the better. For them it was the celebration of life, not of death. I only noted then that I was dressed in blue and yellow, the colour of Agmund’s country.
“Come, my kitten.” Godric offered me his hand. Taking it I stood, allowing him to support me as I walked back into the living room. Silently I held my spare hand out. Everyone in the living room took each other’s hands, letting Sookie and I pop them to my mothers resting place. The trip took only seconds and soon we were all standing within the darkened tomb. Ari grabbed a match, slowly setting fire to the torches that hung to the walls and the little oil lamps, making the room look like it should have 2000 years ago. Even though it was a solemn occasion the newest members of our nest still gawked at the room. I couldn’t blame them. I’d been so specific when creating my mothers resting place and I had preserved it over the years.
The floor was a ‘+’ shape, covered in sand and dirt. It was a connection to the earth, which gave life and took it. In the centre of the ‘+’ shape sat a fire pit, piled up with branches and grass that could burn easily. I’d had a small vent system placed in the top of the tomb to take away the smoke. The points of the plus were made up of steps, which led to raised platforms. The walls were ornately painted with my Gods and depictions of everyday life. There were barges and tradesmen, wives and children, women smelling flowers, hieroglyphs spelling out the names of Gods, prayers and other religious texts. Two of the platforms were bare, save for a few ceramic pots, long tables and other artefacts from my human life, things I had managed to salvage from archaeologists over the years. The other two platforms, opposite one another, housed a sarcophagus each. My mother and father were preserved in one, my brother in the other. I’d left space in my brothers, thinking that one day I would no doubt end up joining him. Of course that had all changed when I’d found Godric again. I worried Caesarion was lonely. Whenever the thought crossed my mind I ended up frowning. Though his Ha was there – his body – his soul was in Aaru. Riei took the matches from Ari, setting fire to the branches and grass in the small fire pit, fanning and blowing on the flames until they took hold. I’d already decided that I would place Agmund and Oscar together on one of the long tables that were vacant.
We were all silent for a moment until Khai and Oeri started to pull some rocks from their pockets. I was well versed in Viking funerals. I’d lived in Scandinavia and Scotland long enough during their time period to witness plenty of funerals. It was a common misconception that Viking funerals involved ships set ablaze and then launched into the sea. Those sorts of funerals did occur, but for those far away from the sea then funerals usually involved ship shaped burial plots marked by stones. These plots were known as tumuli, or burial mounds, and I had seen my fair share scattered across Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Khai looked to me for guidance but I deferred to Egor. Agmund was my son, but he was Egor’s brother, in this life and their previous one.
“On the table, together.” Egor rasped out, moving forward with Agmund’s remains. Eric followed in his footsteps, holding onto Oscar’s remains. Sookie took the opportunity to come and hold my hand, sending me her love and comfort. Everyone was paying attention, silently paying his or her respects. I could hear them. With Agmund and Oscar placed on the table, their remains in their beautiful new decanters, Khai and Oeri marked out the shape of a Viking longboat around them. For Agmund, Egor, and Eric, along with their people, the burning of the body was important spiritually. I wanted to honour my sons’ heritage but I couldn’t bring myself to burn any of him. It was selfish of me, but the thought of burning any of him, even if he were now physically gone and would not feel the pain, was something I couldn’t even comprehend.
The Viking’s had believed that the hotter the flames then the higher the smoke, then the closer the deceased one came to Valhalla. It was important for Vikings to send their dead into the afterlife correctly. Vikings also believed that if the dead were buried in a manner that reflected their social status on Earth, they would enter Asgard with the same social status. My boy would enter Asgard as a king. Contained in only the most beautiful crystal, surrounded by our family and the wealth we had accumulated over the years, the reflections of our status within the ancient world, I knew my boy would be okay. Vikings were buried with the belongings they may need in the afterlife, such as their weapons. I watched as Egor produced his brothers’ sword from a strap on his back, hidden under his clothes. Slowly he placed it down on the table before Agmund and Oscar’s jars. Murmuring a prayer in Old Norse he finally took a step back. We would wait until the flames of the fire in the pit had died out. It was tradition.
I was unsure as to how to broach Oscar’s funeral rights. We had ensured he was grouped within the longboat of stones so that neither he nor Agmund would be alone, but I was still unsure as to what was to be said. I had of course spent 2000 years surrounded by Christian’s, and I respected their belief, but the religion of my people was it for me so I had paid little to no attention to the practices of other religions.
Glancing to Sookie with uncertainly she nodded once, gently. Reaching out her free hand she took hold of Eric’s and that set off a chain reaction. Everyone in our nest held hands. We all dipped our heads when Sookie did so, letting her lead. “Our eyes, Lord, are wasted with grief; you know we are weary with groaning. As we remember our death in the dark emptiness of the night, have mercy on us and heal us; forgive us and take away our fear through the dying and rising of Jesus your Son. Amen.” She spoke softly, but with such strength. Together we all murmured Amen after Sookie fell silent. I could hear Sookie mentally contemplating uttering the committal prayer, but she decided against it. The line ‘in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life…” was a moot point. Oscar had had his eternal life, in this realm at least.
“We stay until the last of the fire dies.” Egor murmured to no one in particular. We all agreed, turning back to the fire pit. Sitting in a circle around it I had visions of someone cracking out a ukulele and starting to sing kumbaya. My shields were shot to shit because low laughter started in the room, and soon all of us were doubled over in laughter, wiping both salty and blood tears from our eyes.
Tension broken, we spent the next four hours reminiscing, laughing loudly and chatting away happily. We were celebrating Agmund and Oscar’s lives, not just mourning our loss of them. When the flames of the fire vanished completely we all rose, blowing out the torches and the oil lamps before rejoining hands. Saying one more goodbye to Agmund and Oscar, though we would come back to visit them often and fill them in on our lives, we popped back to our penthouse.
Well look at me, I’m coming back again, I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away
Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
~ I’m Still Standing, Elton John
I woke up to the feel of Ata pushing alertness through our mental connection. I didn’t think it were possible to be woken this way, especially after last night. After we had chatted and laughed in the tomb Ata had built for her family, which had creeped me out a little considering I was sat less than 100 yards away from mummified corpses of people I had ‘met’, we had returned back to the penthouse. By then I was so tired that Eric and I simply crawled back into bed, tangling ourselves together until I had no idea where I ended and Eric started. I’d positioned myself so that I could look at my left hand though, so I could look at the beautiful yellow diamond sat there. Of course the fact I had a ring on my finger reminded me of Bill and his deception, the ring he had procured and proposed to me with before Russell’s Weres had taken him. I pushed that thought aside though. The ring he had given me was based on lies and drugs – because that’s what I saw Bill’s blood as. It had been a drug, a drug he had forced on me when he allowed me to be beaten up by the Rats. It was a drug that took me away from my own mind and made me more complacent. Eric’s ring had been given to me based on love and trust, adoration and companionship. That was why Eric’s ring would always be better. That and it was awful pretty.
And probably awfully expensive…
I’d had a panic attack when that thought had crossed my mind and after pouting to Eric about him spending money on me, again, he simply shrugged and told me I was worth every penny. He told me he wanted the world to look at me and envy me because I had the best of everything; he wanted them to envy him for being my fiancé. I had to admit, my heart did flutter when he called himself that. For a fae/human hybrid who had all but given up on love, especially after Bill had done such a wonderful job of trampling all over my already dented heart, I was doing exceptionally well for myself. I told Eric that, and I told him how much I loved him and how much I appreciated him. I told him how grateful I was to him for everything he ever did for me and I thanked him for choosing me over everyone else. Eric’s face had grown serious at that point and he’d cupped my face, telling me in no uncertain terms that it was I that had chosen him. He’d just been powerless to resist. After some sweet kisses, and some purring on Eric’s side, I finally fell asleep.
Now my sleep was being disrupted. Groaning I prodded my mental connection with Ata, hoping she would get the message and leave me alone. “It’s 2:30pm cousin, time to get up! Besides, we still need to speak with Amelia and you and I need to start planning weddings and coronations!” Ata was awfully chirpy this morning. I put it down to her finally having some closure. She’d put her children to rest and was now focusing on the future. I was still mighty curious as to where she and Godric had disappeared off to last night, and what was in the folder that Ata had placed on the coffee table.
Rolling out of bed I grumbled through our connection, feeling Ata’s laughter before she shut the tie down. Yanking a clean pair of panties and a bra from the drawers I didn’t even bother to check if they matched. It’s not like Eric cared. Damn rippy-hands. That man owed me at least two trips to Victoria’s Secrets and maybe even a trip La Perla.
Grabbing one of Eric’s generic black wife-beaters I pulled it on. It was long enough to cover my butt and stopped mid-thigh. Although I would have simply walked around in just that if I were back in Bon Temp I pulled on a pair of short shorts too. I could do without flashing my panties to anyone. Eric stirred in his sleep, his arms reaching out to the spot I had just vacated. Knowing that he wasn’t fully in his day-rest, because for some reason our third bond didn’t allow that, I lent over the bed. Pressing a kiss to his cheek I moved my lips to his ear. “It’s still daytime, so don’t wake up baby because the sun is out. I’m just gonna go out into the living room and see Ata and Amelia. I’ll be back later.” He grumbled something unintelligible, spreading out to take up most of the bed. If only I had a cell phone, I would have taken a photo and made it my wallpaper. The sheet had slipped down a little, exposing Eric’s gloriously muscular chest. Biting my lower lip I had to stop my groan. I was a lucky little faery.
Pulling myself away from Eric took a considerable amount of effort, but eventually I slipped out of our bedroom and into the windowless corridor. Reaching the living room in several steps I pushed the door open and was greeted with the sight of Ata, Jason, Hunter, and Amelia all lounging on the sofas, chatting away. “Sook!” Ata’s head popped up, a wide grin on her lips as she stood up, dashing over to give me a hug. I could see the difference in her immediately. She was a little surer of herself, a little more like her previous self. I could tell she had a way to go, considering her top half was completely covered so there was no way to see her brand, but she was getting there.
“Afternoon guys.” I greeted everyone cheerily after Ata finally let me go. Jason and Hunter were pleased as punch that I was awake, but Amelia was starting to feel a little embarrassed. Taking the last seat available we all fell silent for a moment.
Amelia was the one to break the silence. “I’m so sorry I ended up being glamoured. I ran out of vinegar on the morning I was taken and I tried to go to the store to get some more but that was when the Were’s took me.” She explained with a frown, glancing down to her sock-clad feet. Jason, Hunter, and I all looked confused. Vinegar? Glancing to Ata she filled me in.
“The protection spell Amelia uses, which stops vampires from being able to glamour her completely, but still renders her every so slightly under their control, uses four white candles, a jug, and some vinegar.” Ata explained. Diving into Amelia’s mind I found her usual protection spell. She performed it every morning without failure and it always served her well. Of course the day Russell needed a witch she happened to run out of one of her key ingredients.
“It wasn’t until the Nevada vampires came to free you both that I was able to break away from Russell and co. They kept me watched at all times. I’m so sorry I gave away your protection charms and that they were able to do all that horrible stuff to you.” Amelia was contrite in her apology, and I got brief flashes of her thinking the worst had happened to us based on the injuries she had heard Russell, Felipe, Marc, and Bill discussing one night, just before sunrise. Of course the image of Bill raping me crossed her mind for a second and I cringed, dropping my head so my hair would cover my face for a moment while I recovered. It was one thing to be part of the attack, another to witness it from someone else’s mind. It was still raw in my mind.
“It’s aright, Amelia. Sookie and I are getting help.” Ata explained softly, taking the witches hand in her own and giving it a light squeeze. Hunter was frowning at me softly and soon slipped off of the sofa, padding over to me where he clambered into my lap. His little arms went around my neck and he held me tightly.
“Don’t be sad, mommy.” He whispered as best as a child could, considering that most of them didn’t have a clue what whispering actually meant. I watched as realisation crossed Amelia’s features that Hunter had seen inside her head and she started apologising all over again, fighting back tears that she had unknowingly subjected Hunter to her mental images. Ata and Jason calmed her quickly as I held on to Hunter, rocking him softly as I cooed my thanks to him. How Hadley could have mistreated such a beautiful little boy was beyond me.
“I guess I better tell you all now.” Ata took a deep breath, glancing between us four mostly human creatures. “In four days I’m going in for surgery. I’m having a skin graft, to remove my brand.” I was floored. So that was where Ata and Godric had disappeared off to last night! Although I was still cradling Hunter with one hand I grabbed Ata’s free one with my own.
“That’s so great! Are you nervous?” I asked, knowing how terrible hospital trips were. Funny how many I’d been admitted into one since I walked into the supernatural world…
“A little, but medicine has come on so much since I was a little girl. Besides, I’ve been penciled in for an evening operation so Godric can be on hand should anything go wrong and I’m in need of his blood.” Ata’s eyes sparkled as she spoke of getting rid of her brand. I could see it would be a major thing for her.
“I’m happy for ya cuz!” Jason grinned from the other sofa, leaning over to pat Ata’s knee in a reassuring, if not a little odd, gesture.
It was at this point Ata nibbled on her bottom lip. “I kind of want to celebrate the whole falling in love, getting married, not being killed by my crazy ex-king and ex-step-father, and getting rid of my brand thing.” She explained, moving on to chew the inside of her lip. I’d been around folk long enough to know it was a sign of nerves.
“Okayy, and how do you propose to do that?” I questioned, quirking an eyebrow.
Ata let go of Amelia’s hand to fidget with the hem of her shirt for a moment before she looked up at me, obviously having decided to just blurt it out and rip it off like a Band Aid. “I want to get a tattoo.” She declared. The whole room fell silent. Even Jason and Amelia were mentally silent. It only lasted seconds though before their minds went berserk. This was Ata we were talking about. She was prim and proper. “Just something small! My bloodlines symbol is the sun and stars and I want that on the inside of my wrist. Like this!” She produced a folded up piece of paper and showed it to us all. Keeping hold of Hunter, I leaned over to take a look at the design. Jason and Amelia followed.
I had to admit that what she had come up with was beautiful, and right away I saw that she had incorporated Godric into it. The sun was made using the tattoo around his neck, but she had connected the ends together to make it into a circle. It most certainly looked like a sun and I had to admit that it was well thought out. There were eight stars scattered around the sun, and in each sat a small letter. A, K, R, O, E, A, E, O, one for each of her sons. Ari, Khai, Riei, Oeri, Egor, Agmund, Eric, and Oscar. I liked it. The mental vibes I got from Amelia, Hunter, and Jason said that they liked it too.
“Where would you get it Auntie Ata?” Hunter looked up, catching Ata’s eyes.
“I was thinking in-between my shoulder blades, but I don’t know that’ll affect my surgery. I originally wanted it on my wrist though, but it’s much too big.” Ata pouted.
Jason’s head tipped sideways. “Well why don’t ya get the sun on one wrist and the stars on the other? ‘Cause then it’s like two halves to ya. The sun and the stars, on each side of ya body.” Jason recommended. I looked to my brother with surprise. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the garden shed but damn him if he didn’t come up with some pretty good ideas every now and then!
Ata’s eyes lit up at his suggestion and she bobbed her head happily. “I love it! I want to do that!” She exclaimed, clapping her hands together like a small child in a candy store. I was curious as to why she wanted to be permanently marked this way when she was so distraught over her brand, but then I figured that she was willingly choosing for these marks to be on her, and they held meaning and value to her. The brand on her shoulder was nothing. It was a show of ownership, not like the show of family, which her tattoos would be.
It was then a thought hit me. Slipping Hunter off of me I grabbed the piece of paper and a pen, flipping the paper over. “I want one too.” I declared, starting a rough sketch on the paper.
“Sook!” Jason exclaimed while Ata simply squealed beside me. “What would Gran think?” He hissed as I continued to draw. Sparing a glance to my brother I shrugged.
“I don’t know what she’d think Jason, but I like to think that she’d approve of Eric and in everything I’m doing because its damn well kept me alive this long.” I declared. Jason was stumped that I had responded to him and fell back into silence. I wasn’t going to let anything to do with William Compton ruin what I had with Eric, and this tattoo would be my final ‘fuck you.’ Finishing my sketch I held it up for the others to see. It was simple really. It was a compass, with the coned prongs facing north, south, east and west being longer than the ones facing northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest. Two circles, the first of which went mid-way through the smaller coned prongs, surrounded the compass and the second circle just touched the ends of the smaller coned prongs. There was no other direction on the compass apart from north, highlighted by a big, bold ‘N.’ “Because my Northman is home, and a compass should always lead you home.” I explained. The idea had hit me right away and I loved it. Eric was from the north, and carried that within his surname, something I would soon carry too. It was only right.
Of course I’d heard all about those women, and men, who’d had things tattooed on them relating to their boyfriends/girlfriends/wives/husbands etc. only for them to then break up. That would never happen with Eric and I though. It was not physically possible thanks to our bonds, but I loved him too much, and he loved me, even after everything we had been though. We went through it all together, after all. I had to admit to myself that the circle in the centre of the compass, which all the prongs came off of, even made the compass look a little like the sun. Perfect.
“Well lets get going then!” Ata exclaimed, zipping up from the sofa to her bedroom to grab a pair of shoes and a jacket. I had to admit that this whole idea was impulsive and I’d never been so reckless before. I was the conservative, goody-two-shoes Southern lady, or I had been, until a 1000-year-old Viking vampire Sheriff, with an ego the size of the moon, a smile that could outshine even the brightest of bulbs, and the body of a God, demanded a place in my life. Besides, if I hated it they had that fancy laser removal technology I’d heard Mrs. Fortenberry talking about one night with Jane Bodehouse at Merlotte’s.
Disappearing off to my bedroom I grabbed my shoes and purse, noting that Eric had shifted again in his sleep. This time he was trying to find me in bed again. I wanted to go to him, I wanted to cover him in kisses and tell him where I was going, but I knew better than that. I wanted this to be a surprise. Instead I grabbed a notepad and pen that Ata had placed next to the telephone in the room that connected all the bedrooms together and I scribbled a quick note down incase he woke. Deciding to be cheeky I rubbed the paper against my arms, hoping some of my fae scent would rub off on it. Placing it on my vacant pillow I scampered out the room once my sandals were on and I had a light jacket over my shoulders.
Amelia was gone when I returned, but Ata was back in the living room. “She had to go back home and sort a few things out. She said she was sorry she didn’t get to say goodbye to you but she hopes to see you at my coronation.” Ata explained while Jason and Hunter sat watching the Discovery channel. “I also figured this was a girls only trip.” Ata beamed, scooping up the piece of paper we had both sketched on. Deciding that was a good idea we both said goodbye to Hunter and Jason before we took the elevator down.
We decided to get a taxi, because we were unsure if we were going to be able to drive after wrist tattoos or if our wrists would be too sore. I had no qualms with a taxi. Unfortunately no one in our nest had left the penthouse via the front door of Caesar’s Palace since we had returned, so the moment we stepped out of the elevators we were swamped with news teams all asking about what happened in Felipe’s mansion. The Ancient One hadn’t been lying when she’d told us news had broken of our ordeal. I had no idea that the press had been allowed in the building, and neither had Ata given her tense and agitated features, but I could see her staff trying to hold people back at the doors. “Follow me.” Ata ordered softly, taking my hand. With gentle shoves and evasive answers she navigated us through the crowds. None of the reports were too nosy or hands on, obviously figuring we had a hell of a lot of vampires on our side after all, but they still got in the way every now and then.
The pavement out front was no better but thankfully a few taxis were waiting outside. Without even stopping to answer a single question that was fired at us we scrambled in the taxi, slamming the door shut and locking it for good measure. “All your admirer’s eh ladies?” The driver looked through his rear-view mirror at us, smiling. He was easily in his 50’s, a little grey around the edges, but a quick read of his mind told me was a jolly guy, a kind one at that.
“You could say that, Sir.” I responded politely, remembering my manners. The grin that crossed his face, along with the little hint of a blush, was adorable for someone who could have been my father.
“Could you take us to Showroom Tattoo Parlour please? It’s 5595 West Spring Mountain Road.” Ata recited the address of the tattoo place she had picked. I didn’t have the first clue about tattoos so I stayed quiet. With a nod the driver pulled away from the curb. Ata turned to me. “I called some of the staff this morning who had tattoos and they say this place is the best. It’s in Chinatown.” Ata explained, clearly pleased as punch.
We were silent for the 15-minute taxi trip but we stopped outside of the studio. Ata and I bickered for a moment about who was getting the fare but we compromised. Ata would pay the way here, and I would get the way back. Thanking the driver once again we stepped out onto the pavement. The store looked cute and really fit the Chinatown feel. It had columns out front supporting the first floor balcony, which also had columns on it, supporting the small, sloped overhanging roof. The building was green while the columns and the balcony, along with the overhanging roof, were all done in red. Ata took my hand and together we ventured into the store.
I’d never been in a tattoo shop before, we didn’t have one in Bon Temp and it wasn’t like I would have gone to one at any point in the past, unless it was because Jason didn’t have enough cash on him to pay for a tattoo he’d gotten while drunk as a skunk. When we walked in we were greeted with the cool air-conditioning, a godsend in the Nevada heat. One wall was covered in framed images, sketches and paintings. The images were things that weren’t really to my taste, but they were beautiful none-the-less. At the far end of the entrance hall sat and ‘L’ shaped leather couch for clients to wait on. There were more framed images down there and several Chinese related objects. They even had a water cooler and a magazine rack. Opposite the wall of framed images was a desk. The desk was red with a black top to it and behind it sat a women with blonde hair, which was done up in an elaborate up-do, and she was covered in tattoos. She had them along her arms and over her chest, even up her neck! They were beautiful though, and oddly enough they really suited her. She could pull it off. Behind the desk, and the pretty woman, was a rolling trolly, another desk with a printer and sketching materials on, a bookshelf, a bin and a sink, complete with a first aid kit. The walls were once again covered in framed images, hiding some of the dark yellow, almost mustard coloured, walls. I liked the place already.
“Can I help you ladies?” The woman asked us with a smile. Ata tugged my hand gently and we came to a stop before the counter.
“Hi, my name’s Ata and this is my cousin Sookie. We’re looking to get our first tattoos.” Ata introduced us, producing the piece of paper from her pocket before handing it over to the tattooed lady. She took it with a smile and turned it over examining both images.
“I’m Serene, one of the artists here. It’s nice to meet you girls! So, which tattoo is for which of you and where do you want them?” She asked, looking up to us again with the same smile on her lips. I dipped into her head quickly and was pleased to find that she genuinely liked us and thought we were adorable. She was also wondering what our tattoos meant. The letters in the stars for Ata’s tattoo had really thrown her.
“The sun and stars is for me, but I’d like the sun on one wrist and the stars on the other.” Ata answered immediately, allowing me to answer for myself.
“The compass is mine, and I’d love to have it on one of my wrists too.” I offered up, feeling a littler nervous now.
Serene nodded her head. “Okay, you girls don’t want these changed in any way?” She put the question to us and immediately Ata and I were yelping our no’s. Serene laughed, shaking her head gently. “Just checking.” She teased. “Okay then ladies, I was wondering if I could check your ID’s please and get a telephone number and address from you, so I can check up on your tattoos at a later date.” She grabbed a pen and paper ready for our addresses. Ata produced her driver’s license from her purse, and I was curious as to what age she’d given herself. My curiosity was fulfilled when Serene wrote down 27. Serene checked my ID and wrote down my age too before she took our address. I prattled off my address and phone number in Bon Temps, earning me a comment about how far away from home I was. Of course when Ata reeled off the penthouse suite at Caesar’s Palace Serene looked a little impressed. She was already thinking about how great it would be for custom to have someone who ran a hotel carrying her studio’s work. Then she had to do a double take of our ID’s.
“Aren’t you two the ladies that were taken by that nasty vampire?!” She suddenly questioned. Grimly we both nodded. What a wonderful thing to be remembered as. “Jeez! When I heard I was so glad you ladies were found, and by your men!” She seemed genuinely curious as to how we were still alive. She held nothing against vampires, they often came here with their human counterparts for tattoos, it was why the store was open late most nights, but she knew that for every good vampire there had to be a few bad ones. In the time she’d been talking Ata and I had produced our credit cards, ready to pay. The little sign on the counter said payment was taken before the work was started. Seeing our cards though Serene batted her hand in their direction. “No no, this is on us! The boys and I were so concerned when we heard the initial reports. At least now I can tell them you’re both alive and well.” She gave a genuine sigh of relief. It kind of felt nice to know that complete strangers had been worried about me. I never got that kind of treatment back home.
I felt a little guilty not paying and getting my tattoo for free, but the store was quiet and one look from Ata had me putting my card back in my purse. Clearly getting things for free was something she was used to. Then again, Serene and her store would be getting publicity from this once news broke we’d been tattooed there and the damn press got hold of the details. She’d see a surge in customers that would no doubt cover the cost of our artwork. “Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.” Ata gushed, sounding seriously thankful. She even felt grateful too through our bond.
Serene once again batted her hand through the air. “It’s no problem ladies. If you want to take a seat on the couch I’ll just draw these up for you and call Gianni over to work on one of you ladies.” She grabbed for the phone and Ata grabbed me, pulling me to the sofa. We sat together in silence for around 5 minutes before a man emerged from one of the rooms. He was beefy, with muscles trying to escape from his black shirt. His arms were covered in tattoos and he wore a hat on his head. He had facial fuzz that reminded me a little of Alcide and he wore army cutoff pants that hit his knees, along with a pair of Converse trainers. He looked like he worked in a tattoo shop.
It only took 15 minutes before Serene was leading me off to a room, with Gianni taking Ata. I was somewhat glad that Serene was tattooing me. I had no problem with a guy doing the work, but I wasn’t the best at speaking to men, especially on such fragile topic as why I was getting a tattoo of a compass with only ‘North’ highlighted. Besides, even if they guy tried to flirt with Ata, one mention of her 2000 year old vampire husband and her eight sons would no doubt make him backpedal. I had to hide my snigger behind my hand at the thought of what his face would look like upon hearing that news.
The room I entered was beautiful, in a vintage sort of way. There were posters of pin-up girls and sketches of them on the walls. There were floral arrangements here and there and knick-knacks that Serene had obviously purchased to decorate her area with. A dentist style chair sat in the middle of the room and Serene gestured for me to take it. Hopping up I made myself comfortable. “Okay then Miss Stackhouse.” She’d obviously remembered my name from my ID.
“Sookie, please.” I corrected gently with a smile. I was letting this woman permanently mark me for goodness sake; first name terms were more than called for.
“Sookie it is.” She smiled, showing off her pearly whites. “Okay first of all I’m going to clean the area with some rubbing alcohol, then take a new, disposable razor and shave any and all hair from the area, before I use rubbing alcohol once more to clean away any stray hair. Is that okay?” She asked, taking the empty seat beside me. Nodding my head I offered her my right wrist, turning it upwards. Putting gloves on, Serene cleaned the area gently before she shaved away any hairs. Throwing the razor in the bin, and the used cotton ball the alcohol had been on, she cleansed the area once more before throwing the final cotton ball away.
“Okay, now I’ve sketched your design onto thermal paper. I’m going to use soap and water to dampen your skin and then stick the paper there. When I peel it off the outline of your tattoo will be transferred on your skin, it’ll be a purple/blue colour, and then you can check it over to see if you like it before I start working on it.” She spoke to me as she soaped up my arm, taking me through the procedure one step at a time. I was grateful for it. Bobbing my head she took her time sticking the paper down, ensuring the compass was pointing north and everything was aligned. Giving the paper a quick rub she then slowly removed it, revealing the outline of my future tattoo. Looking down at it I smiled. It was perfect. It was a constant reminder of my future husband, a reminder of the bond and the love we shared, and of all the trials and tribulation we had been through to finally get to where we were today. I felt myself choking up a little.
“It’s perfect.” I told Serene softly as she watched my reaction. She didn’t question me, only smiled gently and nodded, murmuring a soft ‘good’ a few times.
“Right, now then, I’m going to place the ink in these tiny cups, which are called ‘ink caps.’” She held up the tiny cups and I nodded. The whole design was only black ink so she’d only really need one cup. Taking her tattoo machine she removed some needles and tubes from a sterile pouch and placed them in the machine, the whole time telling me exactly what she was doing. She poured a cup of clean, distilled water into a cup to clean the needles off with during the tattoo process. She also placed some A&D ointment down. Serene explained that it kept the skin moist, which made it easier to take the ink and kept any blood that may be forming from getting hard and scabbing while she was working. The thought of blood no longer made me cringe. I’d seen enough, and been coated in enough of it, these last few years. She also said it kept bacteria and dirt from the tattoo doing the tattooing process, and that while tattooing ink sometimes spills from the machine and gets in places it’s not supposed to be, the ointment would allow her to wipe it away easier without it staining my skin. I figured if all else failed I could become a tattoo artist. I was getting a crash-course after all!
It was then Serene grabbed her tattoo machine. “Okay Sookie, take a nice, slow, deep breath and try to relax. The first minute or so will be the roughest. After that your skin will kind of get used to it and the pain will begin to subside.” Her voice was soft as her machine started up. The pain didn’t bother me. I’d been beaten within an inch of my life more times than I liked to count over the past few years. A tattoo wasn’t going to be too bad. Of course the moment I thought that Serene started the first line and I hissed out at the pain, not daring to move an inch. She was lost in her craft so there was no way I was going to get any comfort from her. I couldn’t blame her. Instead I nestled into my bond with Eric, which told me he was still sleeping, and I wrapped myself up in it for 10 minutes while she did the line work. She was right, after the first few minutes it wasn’t so bad.
Withdrawing from our bond as Serene finished the lines; she smiled down at my ink. Glancing to it I grinned. It wasn’t shaded yet but I could tell it was going to be great. “So Sookie, what inspired this?” Serene asked as she moved on to the shading of the mid-length prongs.
“My fiancé, the vampire that saved me from the horrible vampire, he’s from Europe, Scandinavia to be exact. He was a Viking 1000 years ago and his surname is Northman, and seeing as how I’m going to be taking it soon I figured this would be a beautiful reminder of our bond. Home is wherever he is.” I purposefully left out that we were bonded, unsure if all humans were aware of what it was, but I managed to get the word into my explanation.
Serene’s face went from surprised at Eric’s age to a warm smile when I mentioned that it was taken from his name, his homeland. I could tell she was a romantic at heart. “That’s beautiful, Sookie.” She all but cooed. “Lemme see your ring?” She grinned.
Lifting my other hand I showed her the rock on my finger and her eyes bugged out. Mentally she was going bonkers, wondering how on earth I was walking around with that weight on my finger, and wondering what the hell my fiancé did to earn enough money for the rock. “He wanted to give me a yellow diamond because he said I’m his sunshine.” I stated proudly, happy that someone was even a little bit jealous of what I had. It was a nice change.
“You are a very lucky woman, Sookie. Your fiancé is a lucky man to.” She was sincere with her compliment, and it was a breath of fresh air. “I wish you all the happiness.” She offered with a grin before she returned to her work. I sighed in contentment, letting myself relax into the leather chair. It was only another 15 minutes or so before Serene was inking the ‘N’ in place, and when she finished I couldn’t help but squeal at the beautiful artwork on my wrist. Serene cleaned up my tattoo, applying a hot towel to it for a moment.
“Do you mind if I take a photo for my portfolio?” She asked, reaching for the camera beside her workspace. Shaking my head I offered her my wrist and she snapped a photo before I raised my wrist across my mouth, smiling behind it, which pushed my cheeks up. With a chuckle she took another photo, admiring her work.
“I’m just going to put a protective layer of ointment on it to prevent any risk of infection.” She explained, grabbing a tube of ointment. I was tempted to tell her not to bother, that the vampire blood in my system and the mouthfuls of it I would no doubt end up taking this evening would sort out any chance of infection and heal it up nicely, but I let Serene do her job anyway. I wasn’t about to change her technique. She then applied a bandage to the area and finally taped it up, securing it in place.
“Aftercare is really important Sookie.” Serene stressed, throwing her gloves in the bin, and putting the needles in a needle bin. Grabbing a piece of paper from the side she gave it to me. It had aftercare instructions on it. “You need to leave the bandage on for a minimum of two hours. After you remove the bandage, you’ll want to wash your tattoo. Use lukewarm water and mild, liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap to gently wash away any ointment, blood and/or plasma and to completely clean the area. Don’t use a washcloth or anything abrasive. Your hand is your best tool in this case. If your tattoo feels slimy and slippery, you have probably been oozing plasma. Try to gently remove as much of this as possible – when the plasma dries on the skin surface, it creates scabs. Then pat, don’t rub, the area firmly with a clean towel or paper towel to get it completely dry. Follow with a very light application of your choice of ointment. A&D vitamin enriched ointment would be my first choice, but if you don’t have any, Bacitracin or a similar antibacterial ointment is acceptable. After that, continue to keep it clean, but you can use lotion when needed instead of ointment, to keep the skin soft. Whatever lotion you use, it should be dye and fragrance free.” Serene helped me sit up in the chair.
“Yes, you can, and should, shower with a new tattoo. It’s ok to get your tattoo wet – just don’t soak it. Submerging your tattoo in a bath or hot tub can cause serious damage, so you’ll want to avoid those for 2-3 weeks, but showering is perfectly fine as long as you don’t saturate your tattoo. If you get soap or shampoo on your tattoo, just remove it quickly with water. Swimming – whether it be a pool, fresh water or salt water – should be avoided for at least 2 weeks.” She rattled off a list of does and don’t. All the information was on the piece of paper in my hands anyway, and I was sure one mouthful of Eric’s ancient blood would heal up everything nicely anyway and I wouldn’t have to be so strict with myself.
“After a few days you may notice some peeling and possibly a little scabbing. Apply warm moist compresses to the scabs for about 5 minutes 2-3 times a day to soften them and they will eventually come off on their own. Don’t apply ointment or lotion to a softened scab – wait for it to dry. You may also start to itch, just like sunburn when it begins to heal. Don’t pick it and don’t scratch! If the skin itches, slap it. If it is peeling, put lotion on it. And if it is scabbing, just leave it alone. Your tattoo is almost healed, and now is not the time to ruin it! After your tattoo is healed, from then on, you will always want to protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The sun can fade and damage a tattoo very fast. Before spending a lot of time in excessive heat, protect your tattoo with a minimum 30SPF sunblock. This will keep your tattoo vibrant for many years, and it will continue to be a source of great pride.” Serene had the whole sheet memorised and grinned at me after she’d finished explaining.
Ecstatic with my artwork I was up in a flash, hugging her to me. It was obviously something she wasn’t used to because she was shocked for a moment before she relaxed back into my embrace. “Thank you.” I offered softly, so happy with my new body art. I didn’t care if no one else liked it. I loved it. Pulling back from Serene she simply smiled.
“It’s no problem Sookie. It was my pleasure.” We left the room together and I spotted Ata sat on the couch. Her butt had literally just hit the leather when I emerged so she was up again quickly. Showing her my bandaged wrist she flashed me hers too and together we laughed.
“Thank you so much.” Ata grinned at the man who had tattooed her. He tipped his hat, offering her a smile in response.
“I only hope Serene and I will be present for your weddings, ladies.” He spoke softly, glancing between Ata and I. Both of us nodded happily and after saying thank you several more times we left the store, standing on the sidewalk. Cars were whizzing past and it only took a few minutes before Ata put her arm out, a taxi screeching to a halt beside us. Clambering in Ata told the driver we wished to go to Caesar’s Palace.
The whole trip back we were silent, and I was trying to stop my smile. I’d been so reckless, and it had felt so great! I loved my new ink and hoped Eric did to.
When we returned to Caesar’s Palace we showed the bandages to Jason and Hunter before settling in to watch a few episodes of Buffy. Ata had been given the boxset by Riei for her last birthday as a joke. The one thing her sons hadn’t factored into the equation was that she would end up loving the series and forcing them all to watch it.
After two hours Ata and I went to uncover our tattoos. We washed them with soap and water and they looked so beautiful. The black was deep, nice and even across the whole tattoo. Though it was a minimum of two hours before we could remove the bandages we knew that with vampire blood in our systems our tattoos would heal up quicker.
Just as we finished cleaning up our tattoos the sun dipped below the horizon. I felt Eric wake up through our bond. It wasn’t as sudden as it had been when he had been forced into dayrest. Instead it was much gentler, almost as if he were human and waking up naturally. Of course feeling Eric wake up made me excited and I left the kitchen, dancing towards our bedroom. Just as I was reaching for the door Eric yanked it open, looking down at me in nothing but his clean boxers. A grin broke out on his features as he took me in, but he soon frowned as he caught sight of the ink on my wrist. With his lightening fast speed he pulled me into the room, which was lit by the main light, and closed the door before he grabbed my wrist, flipping it over to take a closer look. Bringing my wrist to his face he sniffed it, before he pulled back sharply as shock crossed our bond.
“It’s permanent!” I’d never heard Eric exclaim anything before, and I giggled at how adorable he sounded.
“Mhm.” I nodded, swaying side to side slightly with a grin.
Eric pulled my wrist closer again. “It’s not a very good compass, it won’t work, and it only points north.” He scowled.
I had to laugh. There was no other reaction. “It only points north because north is home, ya silly Viking.” I explained between my laughter.
Eric was still scowling for a moment before comprehension crossed his features. “I was born in the north…my surname is Northman.” He stated as if he had only just realised that himself.
“Dur!” I grinned, leaning up to put a tiny kiss on Eric’s nose.
“You got a tattoo that relates to me?” He asked with his eyes shining as he found mine. Nodding my head I was soon pulled into his embrace, his cool lips seeking out mine for a searing kiss that lasted for 10 minutes or so. Pulling back I pulled in a quick breath, a grin breaking out on my features as I took in Eric’s expression.
“You have honoured me with this, min älskare.” His thumb swept across my new tattoo. With a snick Eric dropped fang, biting into his free wrist. Offering it to me I sealed my lips around the wound, taking two light pulls before it healed over. We watched together as the skin around my tattoo healed and stopped being so red. “What made you do this, min älskare?”
Looking up to Eric I smiled softly, raising my free hand to caress his cheek. “Ata was getting one, and I decided I wanted one to. What better thing to permanently have on my body than something relating to home, to you, to us.” I removed my hand, running my thumb over the ‘N’. I would soon carry Eric’s name. I would be a Northman. “William may have hurt me, he may have battered me and broken me down, but you built me back up again, and I’m still standing,”
Eric’s large hands captured my face and he gave me another tender kiss. “Though I love your unmarred skin I adore the symbolism of your tattoo. You make me very happy, my Sookie. I love you.” His eyes softened. Placing my hands over Eric’s I rubbed the marble-like skin there.
“I love you too, my mighty Viking.” Eric swooped in for one more kiss.
Pulling back a mischievous smile crossed his features, a twinkle in his eyes. “Now, I do believe we have a coronation and a wedding to plan.”
I have never been to Showroom Tattoo Studio, heck I’ve never been to Nevada or Las Vegas! My mam keeps wondering why I’m so knowledgably about the city when it comes on TV…oops! I simply did some research online for a tattoo store and this place had LOADS of 5* reviews! I found the store on facebook and went through their photos and based the décor of the place on the images as accurately as possible. There work is all so beautiful that I HAD to send my two favorite fictional girls to them for their first ink!