Addie groped at her nightstand, trying to find the little box obnoxiously whistling at her. When she looked, her mother’s face was flashing on the screen. “Momma, the only reason I’m answering at this ungodly hour is because it’s you.”
Sookie laughed tiredly, telling her daughter without words that she hadn’t been sleeping well. “Parker told me he spoke to you a few nights ago. Gave me a stern talking-to about encouraging your ‘vampire obsession’.”
The younger girl rolled her eyes at the empty room. “It’s not an obsession, it’s a pursuit of equal rights. Hoyt and Jess, Keith and Arlene, and even James and Laffy deserve to be as happy as you were with Daddy.”
“Even if Jessica looks like Hoyt’s daughter and Keith looks like he should be Lisa’s boyfriend?”
“Momma, I’m surprised at you. Age and appearance are two different things. Jessica may still look seventeen, but she and Hoyt have essentially grown up together, going through all their adult milestones with each other. Keith and Arlene told me about how they met. If the human vaccine hadn’t been created, he’d have made-do with a platonic, non-physical relationship. Think of how well they got to know each other during those alone times… just talking. Keith and Arlene’s love has nothing to do with how they look. And, well… Laffy’s never going to age. He’s going to look and be fabulous no matter what.”
Addie finally heard her mother laugh whole-heartedly. “That’s very true. So… are you going to tell me what trouble you’ve gotten into? Don’t bother tryin’ to lie to me.”
The girl flipped to her stomach and sighed. “So… I gave Lex the rough draft of my thesis last night. His reading was interrupted by a meeting with these other vampires. I didn’t mask my scent enough since Lex has gotten used to it and the other vamps took notice. They questioned me and I pretended to be glamoured. Somehow they figured out that I’m part fairy and immune to glamour.”
Her mother gasped. “Shit. I was afraid of that. How’d you play it, since you’re obviously alive and well?”
“They gave me a pulse lie-detector test and I passed. Lex is still disappointed that I’d been faking being glamoured for months, so the other vamp – he’s really old too – suggested he – Lex – give me his blood.”
Sookie was momentarily awash in memories of Dallas and the romantic, erotic dreams she’d had of Eric. “And how’d that go?”
“You’re not gonna yell at me and tell me I’m stupid for getting mixed-up in ‘bloodsucker bullshit’?”
The mother unknowingly imitated her daughter’s earlier eye roll. “I’m not your guard who, by the way, needs to be recalled by Niall before I decide to douse his ass with a lemonade and a side of iron shavings. I know it was the best option you had at the time. He’s already given you his protection and claimed you as His. It’s the side-effects that can be hell. Do you want to tell me about it?”
This was one of the many reasons Addie adored her mother. “It was weird. I expected it to taste coppery and salty like mine. It tasted like…”
Her mother interrupted with a whisper. “Cold ocean air and wood smoke…”
Addie’s brow furrowed, confused by her mother’s interjection. “No… like raw cinnamon and pomegranate and… dark cherry wine. It’s strange, but I think those five drops got me a little drunk.”
“The V high can feel that way,” Sookie muttered under her breath. Louder, she asked, “Why do you say that?”
“I started telling him some of the things Grandpa Niall told me about fairies and our talents after the other vampires left. While we talked, I started getting sleepy and…” Addie trailed off, nervous about her mother’s reaction.
“And what? You’re starting to scare me, sweetie.”
“I dropped my mask,” she whispered, ashamed.
Sookie took a deep breath, grateful her daughter was still alive. “Okay, am I heading to D.C. with a stake or was one of his vampire gifts amazing self-control?”
“His fangs dropped, his body was tense, his pupils dilated and he was… excited. He was practically growling when he ordered me to leave.”
Sookie huffed a little laugh, surprising her daughter. “Amazing self-control it is. Since I know you’re safe, I don’t feel guilty saying you should know better and you’re damn lucky you aren’t dead! Now that my pseudo-motherly admonishment is out of the way, was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about?”
Addie was remarkably close to her mom, but she still blushed at the idea of talking to the older woman about her graphically erotic dreams starring her friend who just happened to be a two thousand year-old vampire. “Umm…”
Deciding to give her daughter a little nudge, Sookie said, “There’s really no way to prepare yourself for the dreams. I was warned after I helped the sheriff get rid of silver bullets in his shoulder and chest. I thought I spit most of it out since I pretty much hated him at the time, but it only takes a little. Even with the warning, I wasn’t prepared.”
“How did you handle having porn in your head? Graphic, imaginative porn starring yourself and who might as well be your best friend who suddenly knows most of your darkest secrets? The friend who is an incredibly powerful and unbelievably old vampire and is suddenly in your head doing things you’ve never imagined, making you feel things you didn’t know were possible? How did you handle waking up in a cold sweat, alone and shaking? How does anyone ever prepare for something like that?”
Sookie could hear the panic in her daughter’s voice. “My dreams weren’t like that, although it doesn’t sound totally awful. My first dream was just… talking with the sheriff. Granted, we were both naked and in a bed, and besides a couple of somewhat steamy kisses, it was just conversation. He’d tried to convince me earlier that night that he didn’t know what love was… he was a big faker. He had a lot of love for his human family, his maker, his sister, his child and, eventually, me. In the second dream he let me see him mourn. I can’t imagine that many others ever saw the sheriff vulnerable. The last one caused by that blood was him appearing at your uncle’s house while I was napping. He told me that I knew I shouldn’t trust the soldier, who was my boyfriend at the time. When I woke up, I went to confront him – the sheriff. That was when he kissed me in his office. It was our first real kiss and it was when I realized that I didn’t hate him as much as I thought I did. Because that kiss held the mourning, vulnerability, desperation, and love that his dream-self had shown me weeks before, I actually started to feel something other than negativity about him. Then he chained me up in his dungeon and let a three thousand year-old psychopathic king almost drain me. But that’s a whole different story for a totally different time.”
“Momma, you know I love your stories. I always have. But can we focus on me right now? My first kiss was Mikey’s roommate under the mistletoe when I was seventeen. Normal human guys get freaked out by my fairy aura, Weres sniff me like I’m candy, and vampires get all growly and hazy-eyed. Now I have Lex’s blood in me, making me have erotic, explicit sex dreams starring him. And on top of that, he can tell how I feel! He can sense my arousal as I sleep and know that his blood is responsible. The thing is… in my dream, he told me that he wanted me. That he knows I’m better than his feed-and-fuck donors. If he could be faithful and monogamous, I would be with him if he truly wanted me and not a fairy hot-pocket. I mean, he’s smart, funny, and sexy as hell. What’s not to like… except for the fact that he treats donors like Kleenex. I don’t know how he’d react to my blood and I’m scared to even stick my toe in to test the water. How did you get the courage to be bitten?” Addie was well aware that, even as close as she and her mother were, this was the strangest and most intimate conversation they’d ever had.
The mother sighed and thought back. “The soldier was my first,” she said, sticking to the titles that had become second nature. “I was four years older than you are now. I thought I was in love with him and offered my neck in the heat of the moment. Naturally, he accepted. I won’t say it didn’t hurt, but a bee sting is worse. The endorphin rush and adrenaline buzz that goes along with it helps. But you’re more fae than I am. I only have a dash of fairy in me, so I was just sweeter than the average human. You’re more than a quarter and you already saw what your natural scent did to two thousand year-old willpower. Fairies and vampires shouldn’t mess with blood-play if both want to survive.”
Addie thought over an idea that had been bouncing around in her head since Niall told them about Sookie gaining Caelum’s light. “Um… Momma, when’s the last time you saw Jess? Or Willa, James, or Keith? I have a theory.”
Sookie had to think. “It’s been several months, maybe closer to a year if not longer. We fell out of touch a little when they couldn’t be around your dad and I don’t really go out at night. It was probably at Bettie’s wedding. She’s still mad that you couldn’t come, by the way. James bartended and Lafayette catered.”
“How did James act around you?”
“He said hi, then suddenly looked spooked and vamped to the far side of the bar. He made the other bartender wait on me for the rest of the night.”
The woman’s brow furrowed as she remembered the strange night. “Keith gave me a hug since it had been so long since I’d seen him and Arlene. He got this weird look on his face and has avoided me since then.”
The student grinned to her empty room. Her theory was sound. “And Jess?”
“When Jess walked past, her fangs dropped. Hoyt hustled her outside as fast as he could. He told me later the same thing happens around Adilyn; it just takes a few minutes and fresh air for her to regain control.”
“Momma, I think when you got Daddy’s light, it didn’t just extend your lifespan. I think, since he was a Halfling and you got all his light, over the years your ‘fairy-ness’ has matured with what he left you. If I were a Were or vamp, by your scent, I’d bet you were more fairy than human. My guess would be five-eighths. You got Daddy’s essence along with his light.”
The older woman gasped, the wailed, “You’re right! Every time he visits, Sam fucking sniffs me and walks away looking high. Jackson… that perv ran into me visiting his son’s grave and he was all over me saying something about keeping it in the family. I thought there was something out here making the supes go mad, but it’s me. I’m the reason I can’t handle being in public. I never know when some random shifter is gonna rub up against me in the supermarket or a rogue vampire is gonna do me like they did your dad! So now I’m more fairy than human?”
“You’ll need Niall to tell you for sure, but I’d bet next month’s rent on it. Why are you still in Bon Temps, Momma? What on Earth is left for you there?”
Sookie started to mention Jason or her friends, but realized that she’d fallen so out of touch that leaving wouldn’t really affect those relationships… if they even realized she was gone. She shifted against the padded, upholstered headboard she’d added to the bed in the cubby and realized that the house was why she stayed.
The original foundation had been laid by her grandfather’s grandparents – the first Stackhouses to settle in Louisiana. Every generation had improved the original in some way. When Maryanne left both the interior and exterior of her family home in little better than ruins, she was heartbroken. She was so poor that keeping up regular maintenance was the best she could do; making improvements on her budget were impossible.
Sookie realized that she never once thanked Eric for what he did. During the year she lost, he not only bought her house (never mind the selfish, primitive reason he did so), but he restored or refinished everything so authentically that it would have brought a tear to Gran’s eye.
When he signed the house back to her, she listened to her head rather than her heart and rescinded the Viking’s invitation. His mouth expressed understanding, his posture proud and stoic, but his eyes were disappointed and hurt as he glided backward through her front door. The both knew she would never be the girl in the white sundress ever again, but she hoped that one day, she could be.
The old farmhouse was her legacy, her history and birthright… but was it really? Niall told her, during her courtship with Caelum, about seeing Loretta Stackhouse nee Hodges hanging laundry in the late spring breeze and humming to herself. With dark auburn hair blowing around her shoulders and hazel-gray eyes shining, her great-grandfather thought she was infinitely more appealing than the fairy girls in the royal court. A greeting was made, a beverage offered, a friendship started. After several months, the mutual attraction was too much to deny. Loretta’s willpower faltered once and Niall was too smitten to turn her away. The result was Granddaddy Earl – half-fairy and fellow telepath – born to the Stackhouse name, but not blood.
Despite her faulty lineage, she still felt an attachment to her house. It held her memories of Gran and the best parts of her childhood. It was where she learned to take care of herself and stand up for herself and sacrifice for others. It was where she hid Eric from the necromancing witches that stole his memories. Where she fell for the man behind the vampire.
The old house was also where she’d lived with Caelum and started her family. Her daughter took her first steps in the kitchen and said her first word on the porch. Sookie had hosted friend-and-family dinners in the large yard for Thanksgiving and Easter as well as barbeques for the Fourth of July.
But sometimes, when she was writing or just thinking, the bad memories had a way of returning. Gran’s murder, Maryanne’s destruction, Bill’s deception, werewolves attacking, her abduction to Faerie, Tara’s murder and subsequent turning, having to kill Debbie Pelt, having to deal with Warlow and Billith, curling up in grief when Alcide was killed, agreeing to assist in Bill’s suicide, learning of her husband’s death. And those were just the things that had happened in her adult life.
Sookie remembered opening the door to Sheriff Bud and getting the news that her parents had died. She recalled her gran, fierce, proud, and strong, aiming her shotgun at Uncle Bartlett when she discovered the abuse of her granddaughters, Hadley’s disappearance, and Aunt Linda’s slow death to cancer.
But it was her home. This was where she belonged.
However, no one ever said that travelling was out of the question. Despite the cliché, she could go home again when she was done. She hadn’t seen her daughter since Christmas and four months was far too long. “You’re right,” Sookie said, rejoining the conversation. “I’ve never gotten to sight-see in Washington. Maybe you can take me on a tour.”
Addie winced on her end. “Momma, I’m going to be slammed until the middle of May. I need to fine tune my thesis and present it, study when there’s time and take my finals. And thanks to Lex, I have a job audition next week.”
Her mother looked at the phone in confusion. “Do you mean interview?”
“No, audition. I need to use my persuasion for ‘super-secret vampire shit’. It’s not really a big deal; more show-and-tell than anything. It might lead to a day-person job in the future.”
“Oh baby,” Sookie moaned. “I know this is what you want, but are you sure? Bar-backing for James or running errands for Keith is one thing – you’ve known them your whole life. Using your fairy talent for strange vamps is a whole different cookie jar. I trust you, sugar, but I’d die if you were hurt. You better believe I’d be taking whoever did it with me.” She wasn’t exaggerating.
“Lex has my back,” Addie said confidently. “He’s so old that not a single vampire I dealt with while working on my thesis even attempted to defy his order of protection. Besides… I’m His.”
“God, baby… I hate this! But you’ve got my damn stubborn streak,” Sookie capitulated after arguing with herself. But if you end up with so much as a scratch, I’m storming that penthouse with a spray bottle of colloidal silver and a stake, got it?”
Addie agreed and changed topics. “Why don’t you get out of town, travel a little until graduation? How about…” she thought about the time of year and her mother’s interests, “… Miami for some sun and dancing, Savannah for sun and history, Charleston for sun, history and some of the best low-country cookin’ on the East Coast. Make stops in Wilmington, Williamsburg, Richmond… spend a few weeks working your way north. Just make sure you’re in D.C. by May seventeenth. You’ll feel like a new woman, I promise.”
Sookie agreed to think about it and both women ended the call. Addie needed to get some restful sleep (minus the porn dreams); her mother continued to think about travelling. The more she thought, the more she liked the idea. Her daughter truly knew her well.
Making a solid decision, she booked plane tickets online, rented a convertible, and reserved a hotel room in South Beach. Never once since Caelum died did Sookie consider exploring the world beyond Bon Temps. She certainly wasn’t encouraged to leave her comfort zone after the disasters in Dallas and Jackson. But now… Sookie was able to indulge her wanderlust. Her inheritance provided her with the means to do so. She decided to splurge on a small shopping spree that day, spend the evening packing, and have Jason or Bridget drive her to the airport the following morning.
As she drove to the Mall in Shreveport, the telepath realized that, for the first time in years, she was doing something solely for herself and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t feel bad about it.