I looked at Eric and he took my hand and squeezed it, feeling my sudden fear too.
“Who’s Hunter?” asked Jason. I’d never filled him in about Hadley’s son, so I did right then and there. Jason understood perfectly why I was fearful, and the more I told him, the more serious he got. “We have to help them, somehow,” Jason said with a sure voice.
I turned to Fintan. “So how are you helping him?” I asked, wanting to know everything. Mostly I wanted to make sure somebody was watching over Hunter.
Fintan made a face. “I haven’t introduced myself to his father yet,” he said.
I knew very well that the fairies would be able to hear everything that went through my mind at that moment, but it wasn’t enough for them to hear my mind. It had to come out of my mouth. “What the hell, Fintan? ! How do you know someone hasn’t kidnapped him by now? How is that boy’s father supposed to understand that he’s a special boy? How do you know that he’s not going to just give Hunter up when he decides he can’t take care of him, or won’t put up with his child reading his mind? You’ve really fucked up Fintan!” I cursed, and I rarely curse out loud. “The moment you found out that Hunter was special…”
“That’s enough!” boomed Niall from his side of the living room. I stopped my rant feeling tears starting to roll down my cheeks. Eric quickly handed me his hanky. I could feel how mad he was too, which was probably why he was keeping his mouth shut. He was capable of ripping somebody a new one way better than me, but he knew it would upset me or Claudine, who already looked as upset as me.
“Hey! Things would have been better for Sookie if Fintan had been there from the beginning. She has a point!” Jason said, getting animated. “And who’s making sure that no supes are after Hunter?” He was as mad as me but showing better restraint with his words. My darn hormones!
I excused myself and Claudine followed me to the kitchen, rubbing my back in a soothing motion as I gulped a glass of water. Glad and Diantha were trying to comfort me too, but none of the three were saying much. They all agreed with me and knew of my fear that Idony would turn out like me. I could hear the men talking in the living room, but didn’t want to be part of it anymore. If Fintan wasn’t going to help with Hunter, then I would do it myself. Besides, I needed to talk to Remy Savoy, Hunter’s dad, about Hadley’s estate. She had left me everything she had owned, and Queen Sophie-Anne had not accepted the jewelry back. I had put everything aside carefully, paid the taxes on the inheritance using my own money, and hoped that one day I could pass Hadley’s estate to Hunter. No time like the present.
Claudine was nodding her head at my internal rambling. “I’ll go with you. We’ll help,” she said in a quiet voice.
“Thank you,” I said, feeling slightly better. I knew if Claudine said she would help, then she would keep her word. “Can’t you be Hunter’s guardian instead of mine?”
Claudine smiled indulgently. “I’m sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Besides, Hunter has his own.”
“Does he really? So nobody is going to come after him to steal him for his telepathy?” I asked just to make sure I’d heard correctly.
“Nobody came after you while you were a child either, right?” Claudine answered a question with a question, but I took it as the answer. I was curious to know who had watched over me when I was a little girl, but I would ask another day. Right now Hunter was my priority until Idony was born.
“How about his dad? Won’t he feel that Hunter is too much of a burden?” I asked, trying to think of every problem that could arise from having a special child.
“I don’t know, Sookie. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to go pay them a visit and make sure everything is okay over there, and see if they need any help.” Even though Claudine didn’t have all the answers, knowing that she was thinking the same things as me calmed me down.
Glad and Diantha took the day off while Claudine and I drove to see Remy Savoy at the address that Claudine had plucked from Fintan’s head. It was a Saturday before noon, so we both hoped the man didn’t work weekends. We arrived at a small house in a low middle class neighborhood in the outskirts of Monroe. All the houses had neat small lawns, and many sported the accoutrements that pegged them as family homes: bikes in the driveways, balls, kids running on the sidewalks, toys left out in the yards overnight, that sort of thing. The house that belonged to Remy Savoy looked exactly like the others, with the exception of a small dog running around the backyard. It announced that we were walking to the house by barking its little head off.
The man that answered the doorbell was good-looking, thirty-something, and looked every bit the “dad.” Immediately I felt better. Even his thoughts circled around his son. Apparently they’d been getting ready to go to the market and he’d been making mental grocery lists of things Hunter would need for lunch. I smiled, and so did he. When Claudine read the same things, she smiled too. Then Remy started thinking about the two beautiful women at his door, and hoping we weren’t there to “spread the word,” or some such nonsense.
“Mr. Savoy, I’m Claudine Crane, and this is my cousin Sookie Northman. We are Hadley’s relatives,” Claudine said, sticking out her hand. Immediately I was happy she’d come along. She was using her usual fairy charm to put him at ease, because this would be a very difficult discussion.
Remy shook Claudine’s hand, then mine with a confused look in his face. “I haven’t seen Hadley in many years. I may not be of any help if you’re looking for her.”
“Um… no, actually. We know where she is, and that’s why we stopped by. Do you have a few minutes?” I asked. I’d brought all the information I would need to transfer Hadley’s funds, if Remy would accept them.
Who are the pretty ladies? Are they Daddy’s friends? They don’t look like they know him. Why is that lady’s belly so big?
I had to shut my mind from listening to Hunter’s, if only so he wouldn’t be able to listen to mine. He was spying on us from the hall that led to the bedrooms.
“We have some bad news to tell you. Maybe Hunter shouldn’t be listening,” Claudine said in a very hushed voice.
Remy seemed taken aback by the fact we knew about Hunter, but understood that this was not the best time for Hunter to be around. He motioned for us to sit down in his small living room and then walked away after saying a quick “excuse me.” He told Hunter to go out and play with his doggie, and we were left alone. Remy sat down, looking at us a little scared and a little curious.
“What happened to Hadley?” he asked when we weren’t exactly forthcoming with information.
“She… was…” I started, but I didn’t even know where to begin.
“She asked to be turned into a vampire, but shortly after she met her final death,” Claudine said, ripping off the Band-Aid on Remy’s heart.
He looked down at his hands on his knees for a moment then looked up at us. “I can’t say that I’m surprised she’s… gone. I think I was able to get the best months out of her, but she started using again when she was still pregnant with Hunter. He was very sick for a very long time,” he said in almost a whisper, as if remembering how sick Hunter had been was a stab to the heart. I’m sure it was.
Meanwhile I was trying to think what it was that my cousin had used or abused when Hunter was still in her womb. How could she do that to her baby? And then I had a new fear, because I was – technically – using Eric’s blood while pregnant. What did that make me? I tried to refocus on the matter at hand.
“I was scared you were going to tell me that Hadley wanted to either see Hunter or get custody or something,” Remy continued. “I have to be honest that the news takes a huge worry away. She owed me thousands of dollars in child support, but I never filed for it because I didn’t want to see her again. Do you understand?” The question was directed at both of us.
“I understand,” I said, almost choking. My emotions were getting the better of me. “Remy… Hadley left her whole estate to me, and I’ve set it aside thinking that it actually belongs to you, not me.”
“I don’t want it,” he said, sounding kind of childish if you ask me.
Claudine winced. Remy’s words hurt her more than me, maybe because she was listening to his mind and I was not. “Remy, we understand that you may not want it, but it’s fair to at least set it aside for Hunter. It doesn’t belong to Sookie. How’s Hunter doing nowadays?”
Remy was hesitant to answer. I let my shields drop and could hear perfectly well all the things that made Remy apprehensive to answer Claudine’s question. Instead of waiting for his answer, Claudine took the bull by the horns.
“We can help you with that, if you want. We’re the same as he,” she said, and Remy understood immediately. His relief was almost palpable. I could tell he’d been searching for answers for a long time, and he had also been very worried for his son. He was willing to accept any and all offers to help. My heart broke for the struggle he’d been made to bear, but he had handled it. Of all the things Hadley had done, choosing Remy as the father of her child had been the smartest.
“I’m afraid of what he will be like in school. Right now my aunt is taking care of him while I work, and she doesn’t mind him at all. She loves him and turns a blind eye to what he can do. But in school it will be…”
“It could be horrible,” I interrupted, knowing well from experience exactly how horrible it could be. “But we won’t let that happen. That’s why we’re here.”
Hunter ran in then, letting the muddy doggie follow him. He was still wondering who we were and why my belly was so big. Evidently he’d never seen a pregnant woman before. He caught it right off my brain before I had a chance to shield.
“You have a baby in there!” Hunter shouted, and he looked excited about it. He came running to me and stood right in front of me, trying to figure it out. I let down my shields slowly, like Claudine had taught me, to listen to him without letting him hear me. He was wondering if I’d swallowed the baby, or if someone had put him in there. I figured it was time to give him a little crash course without getting into specifics. I’d done something similar with Arlene’s kids.
“This baby is a girl and her name is Idony,” I said patting my belly gently. “She’s still too little to come out of my belly, so I’m just waiting until she’s ready, and then when she comes out I will be her mommy.” There. I figured that would explain it nicely.
Hunter turned to Claudine. “Is that what’s happening to your baby too?”
I turned to Claudine and she looked at me apologetically. Apparently Hunter had been able to read her mind to find out that my fairy godmother was pregnant too. Claudine lowered her own mental shields to let me listen in. I’m sorry, Sookie, that I didn’t tell you earlier, but I’ve already lost too many pregnancies and I didn’t want to get too excited about this one. You have too many things on your plate to add my worries to yours. For the umpteenth time that day I felt tears prickle my eyes and I gave her a half hug.
Hunter had heard the whole exchange. Don’t cry, don’t cry, I heard him say mentally. I hadn’t shed a tear yet, but he’d read that off my mind too. And here I thought I’d been shielding from him.
“He can hear us no matter what. He’s very strong,” Claudine said, smiling at Hunter and touching his cheek.
I looked up at Remy who was watching the exchange with a sort of wonder. He had been holding on to the dirty dog letting it get his shirt dirty too, but unable to tear his eyes away from us. Eventually he took the dog outside and rejoined us in the living room. We came up with a plan to help Hunter. It would take someone who had more time on his hands to teach Hunter to use his gift correctly. We told Remy about Fintan, and I said he was our uncle, because Fintan looked too young to be my grandfather. Niall had finally solved everything by telling Claudine and I to go ahead and visit and introduce ourselves, and then Fintan would take care of Hunter from then on. Hunter was Fintan’s family, after all. The poor child had been born special because of Fintan, not because of anything Claudine or I had done. So it was Fintan’s responsibility to help Hunter, as well as Remy, harnessing the telepathy and keeping them safe. Remy also accepted Hadley’s money, which I’d put into a trust for Hunter, together with the information about the safe deposit box containing the jewels. It wasn’t gobs of money, just a small nest egg that could be saved for college or used as needed.
I was feeling infinitely better when Claudine dropped me off at the house in Bon Temps. I met with Glad and Diantha, and we drove the rest of the way to Shreveport. We made it home a few minutes after dusk, and I was actually excited to see Eric and tell him everything we had accomplished that day. I was half expecting him to be in the shower when I got to our bedroom, but he wasn’t there. I felt around with my extra sense, and found two vampire brains in the basement. That was odd.
“Honey?” I called as I made my way to the basement. I found the inner door closed and locked. We almost never locked it. It was meant for a vampire to spend the day there if needed, but we had guest rooms upstairs that would serve the same purpose. Besides, Eric was in there. I knocked and felt fear cascading through the bond. I know I’ve said this before: Eric never felt fear, unless it was something that threatened my safety.
My heart picked up its rhythm as I made a split second decision to get my bodyguards. I ran up the stairs, hoping I wouldn’t trip, and somehow Glad and Diantha had already guessed my distress because they were waiting right there at the top of the stairs.
“Someone is in there with Eric, and it’s not good,” I said in a hushed voice.
Immediately Glad and Diantha took up their positions in front of me. “Show yourself!” Glad yelled down the stairs.
Another holey brain came into my consciousness, as if another vampire had just woken up. What the hell? ! “Now there are three,” I told the sisters, though I was kind of sure they could see auras through doors, and vampires had blue auras.
The door opened and I could see it was Eric. He put his hands up to Glad and Diantha. “We are safe, but please wait for me in the den,” he said. He tried to send me something through the bond, some calming vibes maybe, but all I got was a piercing pain right above my eye, like someone had stabbed me in my skull.
I cried out in pain, which made Diantha come get me, and made Glad unsheathe her sword from thin air. I felt another pain, like someone had stabbed me on the top of my head, and I felt as if I would faint. I spared a sliver of thought to hoping that Diantha was holding me so I wouldn’t fall with the baby. Suddenly it was gone. I still felt like my head was throbbing painfully, but the piercing pain had gone away. I also noticed that I could barely feel Eric through our bond.
“Eric?” I managed to squeak out. Diantha was indeed holding me up. I couldn’t see Eric from where I was standing, but I desperately wanted to make sure he was okay.
“I’m here, Sookie. Please wait for me in the den,” Eric said, still at the bottom of the stairs. I’d like to say that his voice gave me comfort, but it didn’t. It sounded strained, and without the bond I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
Diantha walked with me to the den and helped me to one of the couches, the one facing the main entrance to the room. “Do yaneedwater orsomething?” she asked me.
“No, stay with me,” I said in a very soft voice, straining my ears to try to pick up on whatever was going on in the basement. The pounding of my heart inside my ears was making it difficult to even hear myself speak. “Can either of you hear what’s going on?”
“Theres’away,” Glad answered and put her ear to the rug on the floor. She kept moving about the floor until she found a good enough spot. She listened for about five minutes and then moved quickly to my side. “It’s Eric’smakerand anotherchild.”
I felt my heart plummet to the floor. I knew one day Eric’s maker would come. I just hadn’t been expecting the day to come so soon. Moreover, why was Eric feeling fear? Obviously what he had told me about his maker hadn’t been entirely true. I followed the blank spots that were their minds as they made their way up the stairs and into the den. Glad and Diantha were sitting at either side of me, but at the edge of their seats. They were ready for anything.
“Introduce us, Eric,” a man said. He was what I would call easily forgettable. I’d expected to see him wearing some sort of Roman costume, but he was nicely dressed in a pair of dark dress pants and white button down shirt. His hair was cropped short, and I couldn’t deny that he was handsome, but not spectacular like Eric.
I moved my eyes back to my husband, who looked pale even for him. “Appius this is my wife Sookie Northman, and her bodyguards Gladiola and Diantha Cataliades. Sookie, Glad, Diantha, this is my maker Appius Livius Ocella. You may call him Ocella.” Did Eric swallow? It looked like he had. I still couldn’t read him for the life of me. I was so confused that I forgot to say how pleased I was to meet Ocella. Or maybe I forgot on purpose.
“You forgot one other,” Ocella pointed out, bringing a little boy forward from behind him. If he was a day past eleven I was Marie Antoinette.
“Sookie this is Alexei, Ocella’s child,” Eric said. He could see I found it disgusting. One thing was to turn Eric, who was a grown man. Another was to turn a child. I’d always felt bad for Godric, but now I knew it could be so much worse.
“Your wife is with child, Eric? That is wonderful news! My little Eric, sending little Vikings out into the world! How did it happen? You must tell me all the details,” Ocella said and sat down, bidding Alexei to sit on his lap. I looked away at my hands to hide my revulsion.
“It was artificial insemination, Master,” Eric said, not moving from his spot.
“Sit! Sit with her! Let us give your wife the good news,” Ocella gushed. Eric walked to me but did so extremely slowly, as if mired in mud. He looked like a man who had been immobilized by fear, but I had no freakin’ way of figuring out if that was it, or if he was in pain of some sort.
Diantha made room for Eric to sit next to me. The moment he did he held me tight. Whatever was coming would be bad. I hunkered down to wait for it.
“Ocella has been in negotiations with Queen Sophie Anne for me to become King of Nevada once she takes over the state,” Eric said, and seemed to swallow again.
Okay. I wasn’t born yesterday, and even though I was fairly new to vampire politics, I knew the new king or queen took on the title only by killing the former monarch. That was a given. “So you will have to kill the King of Nevada?” I asked just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. When he nodded it was my turn to swallow the bile that had risen into my throat.
“Ocella and Sophie-Anne have already signed the agreement. We are leaving tomorrow for Las Vegas,” Eric said, and I felt the world tilt on its side. “I need you to take care of Raven’s Den,” he tried to level me with a gaze. He was saying more with that look than with words. He was saying goodbye.