She wore a dress I had made her buy but she had since refused to wear. It was conservative in shape with its weighty woollen and silk fabric but the deep red colour and slight shine called to an attention Sookie had always avoided. By the way Eric’s eyes blazed in appreciation, I knew it was at his insistence she wore this particular dress. It was the first time I ever saw her wear something like that with a quiet confidence. That suited her better than the dress.
They both basked in an afterglow of contentment as if still both in post coital bliss. I didn’t need to scent her to know they had slept as innocently as Godric and I. Like proud parents we beamed at the couple in approach. They looked like the golden couple they deserved to be, but I couldn’t help but fear that soon a layer of dust will taint their sheen. I committed this moment to memory for times ahead would seek to test their resolve.
Eric gave Sookie a knowing smile when Godric complimented her on the dress. She had already received my approval from a mere look we had shared while we continued to wait for the airline crew to unleash the staircase to the private jet.
The squadron of guards exited first as it came to reveal Aelia’s distinguished form. She had a stature and face made for the ages with the darkest brown hair that shone black. She was the image of symmetrical beauty with a body of sin. It was an instrument she had honed finely to divert attentions of her true talents of manipulation. For centuries many had assumed she had been turned for her looks, it had been the least impressive quality as far as her maker was concerned. As striking as her presence always is, it wasn’t Aelia that held my eyes locked to the entrance of the plane.
If I had a functioning heart it would have stopped as my blood inside me roared to a heated boil. Within seconds Kristian Holstein-Sonderburg, Duke of Ærø, stood in front of me once more. Every sensation in my body buzzed to life as he whispered his customary greeting in my ears, “Glad to have found you once more, min lille humlebi.”
My maker. He had arrived.
Pam and I had spent many nights talking of the man that haunted my past and determined my present. Yet she never spoken to me of the man who did the same to her. I only knew his name to be Kristian and there was no doubt in my mind that this was him. They looked upon each other like old lovers and there would only be one male that fit that description in relation to Pam. Whether he was here for support or reprimand, I knew it to make no difference to Pam. The slight elation in her face spoke volumes, she felt safer than she had in days.
Their foreheads rested on each other’s as they drew in the scent and feel of one another. Pam was unusually mute as his thumbs caressed her cheeks. A chaste kiss was placed upon her lips which carried both their smiles. “My own heart’s root,” she whispered back in greeting as we watched the frost in her character thaw. Our witness to their quiet reunion was only interrupted by the arrival of Aelia who seemed to have moved at a pace that stood in defiance of her preternatural speed.
The woman was stunning, there could be no other word for it and her dark penetrating eyes seemed to only stand in attention to me. I bowed in accompaniment with the others in the manner that I had seen many others do for Pam these past few nights. Eric held me impossibly close to his side as Aelia’s inquisitive stare refused to relinquish from my form. It wasn’t as if I was being graded like a piece of meat. She was appraising me as if counting my worth. It was a look I had encountered many times since becoming custodian of a vast fortune but I knew for certain this wasn’t an assessment of the state of my finances.
“Northman,” she greeted with warmth I had yet to see expressed so easily amongst the Sanguine. As Alfa of the bloodline she was probably afforded more liberties than most. There was a maternal edge to her lilt that was almost hypnotic in her soothing. “This must be your Sookie.”
“A pleasure to meet you, your Grace,” I greeted formally. Her dark eyes had yet to leave mine alone, if there were any distance left between Eric and myself I would have taken it in that moment. Her smile was wide as she only momentarily glanced Eric’s way, it appeared I wasn’t the only thing that was standing under her continual scrutiny. I was just the one who received the most overt form of it.
“Call me Aelia,” she returned kindly as she tucked a stray piece of hair behind my ear. The privilege of allowing me to address her by her first name was not lost on me. I almost forgot to breathe as her finger continued to trace from my temple down to my cheek. “We are all but family.”
It would have been impossible not to notice the stiffening of Eric at her words despite the genteel tone in which they had been spoken. I had been through this routine often enough with those who had only ever known a life of riches and liked to appear informal and down to earth with the ‘common folk’. Those of the silver spoon persuasion never failed to acknowledge you were a silver plated version at best intentionally or not. No matter how much one tried to empathise they would never understand, in contrast I knew both sides of the coin of poverty and riches where they probably never would. That was a wealth they would never get to experience. Even if all their fortunes were lost, unfounded stature can linger longer than one would expect. In the end money buys very little but that is a lesson those in abundance of it hardly ever come to understand.
“I insist you call me Sookie then,” I said in a mirror tone to her voice. Her satisfied smile told me I had placated her enough and her gaze finally fell towards Godric. They spoke in ancient tongue as he led her to the procession of vehicles awaiting us. Eric and I followed at a distance as we made our way back to the Koenigsegg we arrived in. His hand covered mine as I reached for the door handle, pleading eyes met my questioning look. As the engines of the other cars roared to life we stood waiting till they departed out of sight.
His lips sought out mine and I happily invited him in. His hands roamed down the expanse of my backside as if to assure him I was still here. “She wants you,” Eric whispered against my lips as I sought out the crisp air to replenish my lungs as his lips continued to trace new patches of skin. Worry was written all over his face and I couldn’t help but caress the drawn lines of his face softly in attempt to smooth out the signs of distress that had emerged.
“I know,” I returned as I placed a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth reaching up on the tips of my toes. He steadied me as my heels found the ground again as our eyes were yet to leave each other alone after the invasion of Aelia on both sets. “She can pay like everyone else. Sookie Stackhouse, telepath for hire.”
The frowns on his face only dug deeper with concern. He untucked the hair Aelia had displaced, allowing the soft strand to frame my face once more. I gave him an appreciative smile but he couldn’t return it. “She considers you hers by extension of me,” he sighed.
“Will she harm me?” I asked even though I was pretty certain she wouldn’t. He shook his head confirming my suspicion. “Then let’s concern ourselves with the repercussions later.” Eric murmured some sort of acquiescence in reply but he refused to let me go for some time. There were worse positions to find oneself in so I didn’t resist the embrace.
Perhaps I was being foolish and naïve in my convictions of others but my instinct had never led me astray. I waited for a man everyone thought was dead but here he stood holding me in his arms. I could afford myself a little bit of faith in what was to come.
We settled into the car that was now no longer destined to be a museum piece with the amount of use it was receiving. Eric reluctantly let me go knowing we couldn’t remain absent for much longer. I straightened out the creases that were intending to stay on my dress before fastening in for what I assumed was another high octane fuelled ride. Instead he drove like a senior citizen and rather than addressing it, knowing he was simply procrastinating, I let my mind wander to Pam.
“Do you know Kristian well?” I asked Eric as they had exchanged greetings of familiarity. His attention was preoccupied with other thoughts so I had to ask him again before he finally replied. Thankfully he was not distracted enough for it to impact his driving.
“Ærø trained me for combat,” Eric replied pronouncing the last name in his Swedish tongue. When I asked if he was a fellow Swede he informed me Kristian had been the duke of an island in Denmark in his human days. There was a slight resemblance in looks that designated their shared Nordic heritage but Eric’s spoke much more of this era than Kristian’s did. The scruff of his beard and his aquiline nose held a masculine character that was softened by the glint in his eyes and the smile he had held for Pam.
“Did he ever speak of Pam?” I pondered aloud as I was still digesting the unusual sight of my friend earlier that night. I had always suspected Pam sought relationships with women because no man would measure up to the one she shared with her maker. Witnessing the electricity that warred between them seemed to prove just that. It had also revealed a side of Pam that I had never encountered before, she had let her guard down with me in private often enough but I had never seen this softness reside in her.
“In passing,” Eric replied as we were nearing the gates to Pam’s vast estate. “I didn’t know their relationship was so intimate.”
When the engine came to a standstill Eric made no move to leave the confines of the car. Again he didn’t respond to me when I called out his name. He only reacted when I grabbed his hand in mine. “Where did you go?”
He didn’t answer me with words but rather a swell that touched upon my lips. It wasn’t unwelcome but this kiss reeked of desperation and insecurity. Not in himself but rather the situation.
“Hey,” I whispered soothingly as he leaned his head into the palm of my hand seeking the comfort I was offering there. We were walking into the unknown but I had chartered that ground often enough in the past decade by myself. There was little left that would scare me on my own anymore, Eric was merely an unparalleled strength beside me that added to that. “Things are never going to be simple between us and that’s ok. Don’t let others complicate it further.”
He nodded accepting the validity of my words though it did little to ease his mind. I was appreciative of his concern but I refused to feel any until I found cause for it. Life was too short for that. I swung my legs out of the low riding car and found him waiting by my side. I reached for his arm to bring myself up to my full height and found an appreciative smile on his face.
“I think the only sight of you more beautiful in that dress is you out of it,” he leered causing my cheeks to flush in an accompanying shade to the garment he insisted I wear tonight. I was glad to see the playful twinkle return to his blue gaze, and though overt advances like this one usually made me shy away, I simply shook my head in disapproval. The poorly contained smile on my face rendered that gesture completely useless.
“Do you have x-ray vision now?” I teased back hoping he sincerely didn’t. His laugh confirmed as much and I was glad to see it return. It reminded me of the time we were both just humans and I would wait on him in the diner. A strange realisation occurred to me how time that had altered our lives in reversal. Things were uncertain but we had remained a constant presence in each other’s lives despite the other’s absence in it. Now we were constants in an uncertain time. I could only assume we would be better for it if we stuck by each other’s side.
I am his as he is mine. It had remained unspoken but it was implied. Without thought I had not denied Aelia’s statement that I was his. We just needed to have the conversation, but I knew now was not the time as he ushered me through Pam’s home. I had to stifle a laugh as he was unconsciously giving me a tour of the home that I probably knew better than he did. Eric only seemed to realise when one of Pam’s staff greeted me familiarly. I was glad to hear no one had gotten hurt in the explosion and by the sound of the hammers I knew it wouldn’t be long till Pam’s palace was in a pristine state once more.
“I forget sometimes you know this world better than me,” he said in apology. I no longer let my amusement hide as I consciously let my features speak for me. Pam had informed me Eric couldn’t read my minute facial expressions as well as she or Godric could as his isolation from other Sanguines kept him uneducated on certain fronts. His assessment was probably more accurate than he thought, I indeed knew the way of the Sanguine better than he. Eric had the supernatural skills where I possessed the knowledge of court life in unknowingly assisting Pam all these years and vicariously picking up the traits along the way.
“Between the two of us we’ll figure it all out eventually,” I returned encouragingly as we continued to stare at a grotesque portrait of Pam. She had told me once it was a gift she was unable to refuse. Now that it was revealed how high her standing truly was among the Sanguine I could better understand that in the present. It made me see the portrait and by extension Pam in a different light.
Her stoic appearance was related to her regal stature, she couldn’t be anyone but the person in the portrait to the outside world. Her characteristic snark and disdain that she let run free in my presence was a reaction to the sycophancy she was undoubtedly surrounded by at all other hours.
We were joined by an impure blooded vampire who held the appearance of a teenage boy with the palest of hairs. I had never seen him roam the halls of Pam’s estate before and with all the past evenings’ events I couldn’t help but be suspicious of his presence.
“Our Queen is a real beauty is she not?” he asked breaking into our private conversation. The tone he used made it hard to discern if he was truly flattering Pam or implying the exact opposite. The glee that shone through his eager eyes seemed unrelated to what he was trying to say. It was the look I had seen other Impurus carry whenever they smelled blood in the air. The look of his innocent boyish features combined with what Pam had described as bloodlust was a disconcerting cocktail I wanted nothing to do with.
“Yes,” Eric agreed before pulling me closer as if sensing my discomfort with this vampire’s presence. “Excuse us.”
As we made to move he called after us when our backs had already turned towards him. The words he spoke sent disgust through both our systems. “When you are through with that donor, send her down to me,” he had requested of Eric. It was the first time I witnessed a Sanguine in his full force of strength. Eric had left my side in an instant and when I turned round he already had the Impurus pinned against the stone wall snarling with his fangs out. The only other time I had seen them was when he had playfully displayed them or they had accidentally slipped out at my tongue’s insistence. Now I finally saw the danger those incisors truly possessed.
“She is no donor,” Eric seethed out to the Impurus beneath him that struggled in his strain. “Apologise. NOW!” The bark in his voice was so menacing it almost had me offering the demanded words. A strangled sorry came out before Eric released him at which he fell into a puddle of limbs upon the floor. I pulled my eyes away from the scene as the fair haired vampire writhed in pain on the shiny marble slabs staining them red. This was a side of Pam’s world I never had to face before but it came with Eric’s. There was no denying that as civilised as the Sanguine may be, their relations to the Impurus left something to be desired when it came to conflict management.
On instinct I ran. I left the grand hallway as quickly as my heels would allow in search of Pam. I left Eric behind with a look to his face that I had yet to place. It could have been remorse or confusion, regardless I didn’t stand there long enough to dissect it. He could have caught up to me with his impressive speed but he didn’t, perhaps bloodlust had taken charge of him as well. I knew what I felt and it was fear. Whether of him or for him was something I had yet to determine.
Instead of finding Pam my trajectory was interjected by Aelia. Her impressive silhouette was now covered in a floor length gown in a minimal style. When you were as impressive of beauty as she there was little need for embellishment. The colour was strikingly similar to the dress I wore which paled in comparison to hers now.
She didn’t seem the type to compete for the best dressed of the night. Aelia would win that without challenge every time and she was clearly not the type of woman who survived the ages by continually seeking out conflict. The matching colour signified more than that, she was announcing we resided in the same team, her comment that we were all but family repeated in my head. I knew my telepathy to be unique but somehow I suspected this was more than that.
“Sookie,” she smiled widely as my heightened breath held me flustered. When I caught it again she had me seated on one of Pam’s dainty sofas in the adjoining pastel salon. The bold colour of our dresses were like inflicting wounds to the genteel décor.
“Aelia,” I finally managed to breathe out in a return greeting.
“Oxygen is such an interesting substance once you have no need for it,” she commented as I sucked it in greedily. Her gaze was less penetrating than before and perhaps I was foolish but I took the warmth in her voice as kindness. Eric, Pam and Godric may be fearful of her intentions but I saw through her just as easily as I had when first meeting Pam. She was a mother protecting her cubs and by extension of Eric I had become one. “What has you exerting yourself so?”
I eyed her warily, she seemed gentle and maternal. Something I had never experienced with my own mother, so I had a hard time placing it as genuine concern. Like my interactions with Eric it pushed me to a place of the unknown, it was scary and exciting at the same time. Pam had been the one I wanted to unload my concerns onto but I allowed Aelia in on the events that had me foolishly running in painful shoes.
“Ferocity is not uncommon in one as young as Eric,” she said sagely. Though I knew this consciously, to hear it from someone as ancient as her gave me some peace with the events that occurred. “Especially with the ones he loves. You must allow him to express it or it simply erupts out like that.”
I nodded in accordance with her assessment. Eric was a bottler when it came to his emotions. A common characteristic of the cold climate to which he was born to but it ran stronger in him than most. His sister Lovisa had speculated more than once that had Eric expressed his objections to his marriage to Freyda as vocally as he felt them, his parents would not have continued to insist on it. That characterised Eric to me most in his absence, he was the type to suffer in silence so others wouldn’t have to share the pain or the burden. If he could he’d carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“You love him, do you not?” Aelia requested with a discerning brow line that I had come to recognise as a trait shared by all the Aurelies. I was quieted by her question, to say I loved him was too strong but it was a path I didn’t see myself avoiding. Whatever it was that lay between us it warranted to be explored and I was sure there would be sides to me that Eric would not appreciate. At my continued absence of an answer she continued, “Love is the acceptance of another despite their flaws. You will discover this soon enough.”
“I never thought it would happen for me,” I replied unsure why Aelia invited me to open up so easily. “For most of my adult life I was convinced no one would be accepting of the flaw I carried. I knew my ability was a gift that had merit but when it came to personal relationships it was more akin to a crippling hurdle.”
“What flaw do you speak of my dear?” Aelia asked with confusion. Her scrutiny of my own returned as she raked her intensely dark eyes over me as if looking for a physical sign of it.
“My telepathy,” I spoke evenly not bothering to skirt around the cause of her interest in me for any longer.
“How is that a flaw my dear?” she said with misunderstanding. “You are all telepathic.”
“Who are all telepathic?” Eric’s familiar voice suddenly asked from behind me before I could. I had been so engrossed in my conversation with Aelia I hadn’t even sensed the arrival of his signature void. Aelia’s face travelled curiously between ours before she answered.
“The Fae of course.”
A/N: The WiFi has been testy again… I was thankful to get Pam’s instalment of It’s Already Gone up Sunday. Thankfully I managed to get this uploaded today but I am in need of some new sacrifices for the WiFi gods. Suggestions welcome…
The next chapter is an exciting one so I hope to get that to you soon but as I am still on holiday mode it will be a mystery when. I’ll update Galatea’s Descent next…