Author's Note: This story is the third in a trilogy, starting with Better Off Dead and continuing in Fairest of the Fae. This one will make more sense if you read the first two—or at least scan for the important revelations. As ever, thank you so much for reading my fan fiction and writing about it!
I watched the pounding waves toss spray, slate-colored and glassy under the stars, as the two most gorgeous males on the planet body-surfed in the frigid water. The one who was my beloved husband was dark haired and darker eyed, not a lot taller than me and lean, with broad shoulders, like the farmer he once was. The other, who had once been my lover, was blond and impossibly tall, with the muscles of someone who had honed them doing real hard work, like sailing ships on the ocean and, um… swinging a huge sword in battle.
Both of them were as pale as the late evening clouds, and it didn't take knowing them to see that their competitive spirits were getting the best of them: what had started out as boys romping on the beach was rapidly turning into a daring game of "who is willing to swim out the farthest"? Before the game progressed to dangerous levels, I played the girl card, yelling above the clapping surf, "I'm hungry! Let's go inside!"
I suppose I should start at the beginning and introduce myself: I'm Sookie Compton, and that extra handsome guy galloping out of the waves to sweep me into his arms and plant a big, heated kiss on my mouth is my husband Bill. He's a serious, geeky sort, and he owns and runs an internationally successful software company that keeps him on the go. We've been mates for thirty-plus years and show no sign of tiring of each other, although every once in a while we have a fight that's a real doozey.
The guy swimming away from shore with gigantic, water-wheeling strokes is Eric Northman. We met close to forty years ago now, and he hasn't changed one bit. Still a ferocious businessman, a reckless dare devil, and a pain in the ass, he's visiting us in Cornwall for the first time since we moved here thirty years ago.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that we're all vampires?
I licked salt water from my Bill's face and ran down my fangs for him a little so he knew how wonderful I thought he looked, dripping wet and mostly naked in his baggy swim shorts almost falling off his narrow hips—I was tempted to give them a downward tug and throw him on the sand, but he'd given up his sport and come when I called, so I wanted to do the mature thing and stick with my request.
I wrapped my arms around him tight and looking up into his deep, liquid eyes, I repeated, "I'm hungry. Let's go up to the house."
Bill nodded out to sea, where Eric was just a white splotch riding the waves. I took his meaning without his having to speak—we'd been together so long and had so much of each other's blood that we could practically read each other's minds.
And oh yeah. Did I say I was a telepath?
"Let him play," I said. "He knows where to come when he's ready." Bill laid a long, cool arm across my shoulders, and steered me across the broad beach to the wooden stairs that would take us up the rock cliffs to our house. "You're cold," I tried not to whine—just walking barefoot along the water's edge was enough to make me plan on lighting a fire when we got home. Bill smiled his sweet, almost shy smile that never failed to make me go all gooey inside, and whispered in my ear, "I know a good way to warm up."
I gave Bill a little shove, not enough to make him let me go, and observed, "If we start messing around in the shower, we're gonna have a big Viking weaseling in on us."
Bill scowled and said, "He'd better learn to behave himself or I'll…"
"Thrash him?" I interrupted tartly. "Eric is way too old and too strong to be thrashed by you," I reminded my beloved.
This made Bill scowl harder and duck his head, but he knew what I'd said was true. "And besides," I added to lighten the mood, "if he tries anything, I'll box his ears."
Bill laughed at that one; ever since we'd been together, Bill had discovered laughing, and we did a lot of it. Seems when I was human, my crazy foibles frustrated and worried him, but now, I made him laugh. I consider that a step in the right direction.
I loved our house, I thought as we walked toward it. Made of local stone, it sat on a more secluded part of the road. Bill's office and mine were on the top story, with views of the ocean, and the ground floor housed a large living area. The back portion of the house held our room, my vamp assistant's own private space, and rooms for occasional visitors or clients who'd made arrangements to stay with us when they first arrived. True to our vamp natures, all the bathrooms had big showers and bigger tubs. We were close to the airport—which was especially convenient for Bill—and my human assistant could ride her bike to get to us (she didn't own a car, but I let her use mine for pretty much anything she needed).
Inside, I popped two bottles of syn in the microwave while Bill went to change out of his wet shorts. I lit the fire in the big main room—we always kept one laid at this time of year— and was sitting in front of it with my glass when Bill returned. He looked edible in his usual close-fitting, ultra soft tee shirt and old jeans, his drying hair falling over his sculpted brow. I handed him his warmed bottle—Bill had always preferred his synthetic blood that way—and he plopped down next to me. He'd brought a brush from the bathroom, because my hair was a windblown mess, and I moved in front of him so he could work on the tangles.
"You're taking this well," I said to Bill, then yipped as he tore at a bad snarl. "Or did I speak too soon?"
The "this" which Bill was taking well was Eric's visiting us in England; Bill had never completely made peace with the fact that Eric and I had been blood bonded when I was human. His normally smooth, cool voice was almost icy, "I reserve judgment on that until we learn why he is here."
"I am here to wait for Rio." We both spun around in surprise. Eric had come in so quietly that our vampire hearing didn't detect him. So that was pretty darned quiet.
"Eric!" I snapped, then inhaled hard to still my nerves. He'd snuck up on us on purpose. "Eric," I said more softly, "Can I get you some syn?"
"Yes, please, my lover; I'll have the lust," Eric waggled his eyebrows at me. Some things never change. Bill growled low in his throat, but I ignored him. I said to Eric, "In England, we call synthetic blood 'syn.' There are so many brands now, it's just easier to use the generic… Eric." I started giggling, despite myself (ever since I was turned by Bill—yup, my husband was my daddy—I had become addicted to bad word play; it rose up particularly when I was stressed. Having my ex-lover, who used to be my husband's boss, staying with us to wait for my daughter, who I'd never even seen, was a weensy bit stressful…). "And neither Bill nor I care for you calling me that."
"Which?" Eric taunted.
Bill stood up, his fangs out. Eric popped fang right back. "Oh this is just jolly," I retorted. "I knew I'd regret telling you to come. You've been here all of a day and you're acting all big, bad vampire. I was willing to wait until you wanted to talk"—years of treating psychologically confused vamps had stood me in good stead—"but I think you need to tell us what's going on." I grabbed Bill's hand and yanked him hard enough that he dropped back down beside me.
Eric moved forward into the circle of heat cast by the fire. His gorgeous muscled thighs were right at eye level, damp and salty and dusted with golden hair. (Firelight always does wonderful things to vamp skin, making us look more… oh… erm… tanned, I guess. I didn't miss being tan any longer, but for the first few years I was a vampire, it chapped my ass that I couldn't bake in the sun like I used to do.) I actually gave a moment's thought to leaning over and nipping him, but I stomped hard on that idea.
I stood up and pressed my palm on Eric's marble chest—he rumbled a little at my touch, which made Bill growl again, and I just lost it. "Oh for fuck's sake, you two!" I turned to Bill, "You are over two hundred years old!" Then I whirled on Eric, "And you are, what? Four times that old? You two need to grow up!" I pressed again on Eric's chest, this time with steepled fingertips, pushing him in the direction of his room. "Go cover up all that gorgeousness you've been waiting for me to notice and then we'll talk." Eric actually gave me a tiny smile, glared at Bill, and left the room.
I dropped back down next to Bill and took his face between my hands. I put all my years of loving him in my look and in my voice when I said, "Honey, I love you. I always have. I always will. I am yours"—Bill loved it when I said that to him—"and that isn't going to change just because Eric's here."
Bill sighed and relaxed. I continued, "I would have expected him to act up, but I wouldn't have thought it of you." I actually pouted a bit so he'd lean in and suck my bottom lip between his. I moaned into his mouth to reinforce what I'd been saying. Bill barely moved away from me and muttered, "You wanted to bite him." I looked into Bill's eyes, deep, deeper, and I nodded. "Yes, I did think about it. But I didn't do it. And I won't. Are you going to trust me?"
Bill pulled me to him in a hard embrace that would have hurt me when I was human, and nodded against my hair. I nuzzled into his neck, licking him in the hollow of his collarbone so he'd rumble for me, then I pushed on his shoulders and stood up. I smiled down at him, gazing up at me with adoration and a fair amount of desire. "Syn now or me later?" I asked coyly. He ran out his fangs for me, and I gave him a grin before going to the kitchen to fix Eric's blood.
When Eric returned, he was wearing a black tee shirt and black jeans. His feet were bare and his still-damp hair hung down his back in clumps. I handed him his warmed blood and then gave him my brush; Bill raised his eyebrows, but didn't say anything. Eric took a long drink, then studied the bottle. "This is better than that Japanese crap," he said.
"It's German crap," Bill explained, making us all smile.
I waved Eric toward the couch and sat on the opposite end, with my knees pulled up on it so I could face him.
Repeating the question I'd asked him in the car when we'd gotten him from Newquay airport, I said, "Why are you here?"
I had been nervous on the short drive to pick up Eric at his plane. He had flown overnight from Dublin, so he'd be getting off the plane awake, rather than in a coffin. I hadn't seen him in decades, although he called occasionally to talk about nothing much. Bill had actually seen Eric more recently, stopping in New Orleans every so often on business. Apparently, they got along when I wasn't around for them to fight over.
When Eric came off the plane, his blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, his long legs in jeans and boots, wearing a fabulously expensive black leather jacket, I actually salivated. Happy as I am in my marriage, Eric is ridiculously handsome and there had been a time, when we were lovers, that I could have easily fallen for him. But I was forced to blood bond with him against my will—and willful should have been my middle name—and things never got sorted out between us. Some really awful things happened to me and without giving it any thought, I asked Bill to turn me. No regrets there, and it had the added advantage of severing my blood bond with Eric without it causing either of us a lot of pain. I knew it hurt him emotionally though; as happy as he was that I'd become vampire—Eric had told me once I'd be a good one—he withdrew from me and didn't even attend my wedding.
I released Bill's hand, which I'd been gripping way too tight in my anxiety over Eric's arrival, and stepped up to greet him. Going up on my tippy toes to brush my lips against his cheek, I said, "Dynargh," which is the Cornish welcome. Showing off, Eric had responded, "Omlowen dha bos." I should have known he'd speak Cornish. But he looked at me with his incredible blue eyes and a tinge of sadness marked his beautiful mouth. I said with all the honesty I could muster, "I'm glad you came," and was rewarded with that loin-melting smile.
I opened out my arm to take in Bill; the two of them studied each other for a moment, then they both nodded. Eric likely would never forgive Bill for turning me, a privilege I am fairly certain Eric sought. He'd just have to get over that.
Once we were settled in the car, I asked Eric why he'd come. He made some small talk, avoiding the subject of my daughter, and I knew he wasn't ready yet. I knew it had been a very long time since Eric had been on British soil—he had turned Pam here hundreds of years ago—so I figured he'd have some memories crowding in on him. And I'd had several days to calm down and adjust to the news he had delivered in a jumbled phone call: he had found my daughter, who might be attempting to find me, and he wanted to come to England to wait for her with me.
At first, I'd been hysterical. I'd cancelled all my appointments (this is something radical for me—supes do not take kindly to being put off, especially when they have made the momentous decision to seek counseling—and I simply never missed a session), because there was no concentrating on the problems of others once I knew my daughter was alive and perhaps coming to me.
Eric had uploaded an image of her, along with a few bare facts, to Bill's server, and for the first time ever, I had seen her face. That first hour, I had stared and stared, burning her into my memory until I could close my eyes and see her on the inside of my lids. The image was from a bar flyer, announcing a singing engagement, and it showed an exquisite young woman with red-gold hair, green eyes, and freckles. Her coloring was a mystery to me until Bill had pointed out her resemblance to my Gran; I had dug out the album with a few pictures of Gran as a young woman, and sure enough, those two looked a lot alike. I remembered Niall telling me that Gran was so beautiful as a young woman that his son Fintan found her irresistible. Seemed the Stackhouse women attracted supes like magnets.
I'd felt a bit miffed that she had Niall's name, but then, if Niall was going to go to all that trouble to rip her out of my womb, almost killing me in the process, I guess I couldn't expect he'd call her Loriola Stackhouse.
Eric had added some "last known location" bullshit and a rather horny description of her, but I didn't have much else to go on. Eric had told me that Niall might have stolen her again, and I took that to mean that she was in some danger, but I had been too shocked to ask for clarification.
So by the time Eric got off the plane, I was both ready for some answers, and reluctant to push. The idea of having a daughter had been one I'd long ago abandoned; it was a part of my human existence that seemed like a tale someone had told me, not like something I'd lived through. So the idea that I might meet this lovely young woman and come to know her as a part of me was just too alien a concept, even for world-famous psychologist me.
Eric looked at the bottle in his hand like it was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen. When he finally lifted his face to mine, his eyes were glistening in the firelight, welling with tears.
"Sookie," he said brokenly, "I love her."
The silence that filled the room was boundless; my ears actually rang from it. I was overwhelmed with emotions: confusion, joy, irritation, worry, shock, disbelief. My head was spinning and my poor overloaded brain could not form words.
Lord love Bill. He was on his feet and scooping me up in a vampire second. He sat on the couch, holding me in his lap like I was seven years old and someone had just told me my parents were dead from a flash flood. He rocked me softly and rubbed my back in that way he knew always soothed me. He spoke for me, "You are in love with Sookie's daughter?"
Eric nodded, a tear trickling down the side of his perfect nose. My own eyes were dry, and somehow that contrast helped me speak. If Bill hadn't been holding me, I'd have flown at Eric and raked his face. "Exactly how long did you know about my daughter before you decided to tell me? Or did you think to keep her from me too?"
Eric sighed, a soul-wrenching sound. All my training, all my years of repairing the broken psyches of vampires, grabbed me and shook me hard. Here was a being in deep pain, seemingly deeper and fresher than my own. He didn't deserve my ire. I reached along the couch and took his large hand in mine, holding it tight.
"I'm sorry, Eric," I said quietly. "This is obviously as hard for you as it is for me."
The look Eric turned on me was one of pure heartbreak, plain and simple. I recognized it from the way Bill had made me feel when he'd betrayed me; as hard as it had been to forgive him, it had been the best thing I'd ever done. Bill felt my love for him flow out, and he tightened his arms around me, letting me know that he was always there for me.
I squeezed Eric's hand, hoping my gesture would urge him on. Staring at the fire, his eyes the darkest blue, he told me about my daughter.