Several hours later, after some satisfying food and even better conversation, mother and daughter returned to the vampire’s penthouse. Sookie had explained to her daughter the truth about the dysfunctional relationship between the Viking vampire and herself. While she never lied or exaggerated in her notebooks, she may have – unintentionally – made some events seem more romantic or sincere than they were.
Addie forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat to ask about her father and Sookie answered every question wholly and honestly. Yes, she had truly loved Caelum. No, she didn’t regret any part of her relationship with him. No, the feelings she’d had for the Halfling were completely different than what she’d felt for Bill, Alcide, or even Eric. Not more or less, just… different. She couldn’t hear his thoughts: the reason she’d initially been attracted to vampires and one of the biggest problems in her relationship with the Were.
Sookie had never considered motherhood, and thought it an impossibility with her telepathy. With Alcide, she’d had to keep her shields partly up so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by his thoughts as they made love. With the vampires, including Warlow, she’d been able to let go and lose herself, but they were incapable of breeding “the old-fashioned way”. Caelum had given her the best of both worlds and the only regret she had was his death.
Was she interested in reconnecting with Northman? Sookie rolled her eyes. Of course she was. In human years she may have been middle-aged, but since inheriting Caelum’s light, she knew she had centuries more to live. Eric had been drawn to her when she was just a sweet-smelling human; who better than someone with a millennia of experience to guide her through her extended lifespan?
As they walked the blocks back to Addie’s apartment and Sookie’s car, the tables were turned. Since they no longer had to worry about sensitive, supernatural ears eavesdropping, conversation continued using traditional means.
The student explained to her mom how she had come to trust the ancient vampire she was rooming with. Without going into graphic detail, she told the older woman how she had spent the previous several weeks. In addition, Addie couldn’t help but boast about the success of her thesis presentation and the envy she earned from fellow students and faculty alike for her connections.
Sookie was asked for her opinion regarding the ultimatum given to Lex. The shorter woman shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve had two conversations with the man, sweetie. My personal opinion is that it isn’t unreasonable to want or expect your lover to be monogamous. I also know that vampires are the very personification of double standards. When they claim you, when they pull all that ‘Mine’ crap, they mean it. As far as they are concerned, you belong to them: blood, body, and mind. We are oddities since we can’t be glamoured, so we keep control of our mind which, in effect, negates their control of our blood and bodies. Let me tell you, vampires are class-A control freaks and do not like having to ask for that they want.
“From what you’ve told me, I think if he could, Lex would glamour you to stay the summer, not just in D.C., but in his apartment and in his bed. That he, for the first time, has to rely on charm and, ironically, persuasion to get you to ‘heel’ has to be frustrating. And since along with my blonde hair and bone structure, you also got my notorious stubborn streak, the two of you are going to butt heads often and explosively. Yes, I speak from personal experience.
“So, short story long, no. I don’t think your ultimatum is unreasonable. I think you’re a strong woman for sticking to your guns on what you expect from your lover. I hope that you’d walk away if those expectations weren’t met.”
Addie felt reassured by her mom standing behind her but had to ask, “Why did you keep going back to Bill?”
Sookie’s tan cheeks flushed a light pink. “I guess I sound like a hypocrite, telling you to stick up for yourself and how you want to be treated when I pretty much let him treat me like a doormat. I don’t know if I can explain it. You grew up with the supernatural; I was twenty-four when I met the first person who was completely silent to me.
“I was totally ignorant about the effects of vampire blood on humans. After Bill saved me from the Ratrays, I didn’t know that his blood was making me dream of him. My education to the weird and wonderful world of supes was along the lines of whoever thinking ‘Crap, you should probably know this so you don’t get killed’. No one ever thought to give me information up front so I could prepare. Bill was just one of many to underestimate me. Don’t get me wrong – I loved him and he loved me. He really didn’t want to, but he did. He was the first person to love me the way a man loves a woman. I was innocent and naïve despite my telepathy. That first love never totally leaves you and part of my heart will always belong to Bill. Just like a part of his heart, unbeating as it was, still belonged to his wife.
“When he got sick, it was entirely my fault. By that time I was grieving Alcide and worried about Eric… I’d moved on from Bill. The last time we were together was a goodbye. I tried to get him to take the cure. When he refused, I was furious and I mourned him when he died. I guess I kept going back because I didn’t want to give up on the first man to show me what love could be.”
Addie’s eyebrow cocked up skeptically. “I don’t love Lex.”
Sookie shot a similarly cynical look back at her daughter. “I never said you did. From what you’ve told me and the little I’ve seen, Lex is, for lack of a better comparison, an Eric. He’s impressively old, which means he’s very smart, cunning, and ruthless. More importantly, he know when to use those skills and when to rely on more human characteristics. He’s had centuries of glamourable humans conditioning him to getting what he wants when he wants it. He’s used to being in a position of power, either in the public sector or private, because of that hard-earned age, intelligence, and implacability. Everything and everyone he ever wanted is presented to him on a golden platter and he’s so bored he can barely see straight. Then. Well, just as he’s thinking of inciting a killing spree just to have something to do, in walks this blonde fairy hybrid. She smells like honey-drenched heaven and is attractive enough for even his jaded eyes to take notice. ‘This is different,’ he thinks and first tries to charm her to his side.
“That never works on a hybrid. She’s used to getting noticed for her looks and compliments on that end get him nowhere. Frustrated at his inability to captivate the fairy, he resorts to glamour. Lo and behold, that doesn’t work either and now the fairy is pissed. He has to either admit failure or attempt something he likely hasn’t had to do since his human days: work to gain the affections of the one he wants.
“I know, better than almost anyone, how it feels to be pursued by a consummate predator. How intimidating… and overwhelming…and exhilarating it can be to be desired by something so powerful. He’ll inundate you with himself. Praising your mind, your courage your heart… blah blah blah. He’ll offer to spoil you and keep you all for himself, letting you eat bon-bons all day and he’ll eat you all night. He’ll tell you small things about his past and those stories will seem so intimate and personal. But everything he says and does is designed to manipulate you… to make you forget that first and foremost, he is a killer, especially with one as old as Er… I mean, Lex.” Sookie stumbled over the name, lost as she was in remembering the months between meeting Bill and being abducted to the Fairy realm. She pointedly ignored her daughter’s knowing gaze.
She continued, “In the stories of his past, does he tell you about his maker, siblings or the children he’s made since he was turned? Because those relationships will trump any arrangement made with a human, even a part-fairy one. Who brought him over? Were they a kind master or a cruel one? How did he choose his progeny? Why are they no longer by his side?
“Lex’s human family was notorious even in his own time. Many of those details are available to anyone willing to invest the time and research. But if he’s willing to tell you about how his immortal life started… what it was like when he first rose from the ground… when his royal pedigree no longer mattered. If he trusts you to tell you honestly how he drank and killed and fucked his way through Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as a newborn… how he adapted to the different civilizations and emerging technology to keep the existence of his kind hidden for more than two thousand years… those are the stories to cherish. It’s almost certain to no one currently with a pulse has ever heard those tales.”
Addie had no doubt of that truth. Lex wasn’t known to have long-term human companions (until a tall, blonde student made his acquaintance) and it wasn’t his conversational skill that made him popular among the donors and fangbangers. Did she really know anything about him that wasn’t public knowledge?
Wait! Why was she getting flustered over this? If he wasn’t going to stick to her single request that he keep his fangs and dick out of the donor pool while she was gone – a mere three weeks – then maybe he wasn’t worth her concern and maybe she should cut her losses while she was ahead. God knows she didn’t want to get more attached to the smart, sexy, and insanely charismatic vampire.
Sookie watched as the thoughts and emotions played across her daughter’s face. She wanted to reassure her that she would make the right decision; no matter what it was, Sookie would support her child. But even though she claimed not to love the ancient prince, the older woman could tell that Addie felt more than friendly affection and lust for the area sheriff. She grabbed her bags from the trunk of her rental car and followed her daughter up the stairs to her third floor, one-bedroom apartment.
While Addie checked on the state of the flat she hadn’t visited in weeks, Sookie gratefully changed into clothes that fit – black, mid-calf capris and a black, white, and gray plaid sleeveless blouse.
Satisfied that she didn’t suffer from any kind of vermin or insect infestation and that nothing in her kitchen was growing colorful specimens, Addie joined her mother in her bedroom. Smiling at the change in her momma’s style – one cannot gracefully pull of sundresses after age forty, no matter how youthful one might appear – she decided to change into something more appropriate for the vampire court they were to witness that night. She perused her closet and settled on a knee-length silk skirt printed to look like green and black snake skin and a black sleeveless button-down. Addie slipped on her crocheted ballet flats, locked her door, and walked with her mom down to the rented convertible.
The pair entered the suite as the horizon was purple, pink, and orange with the descending sun. Once the fiery ball fell from sight, they could hear several security measures being deactivated at the end of the hall. When he appeared, Addie thought Lex looked particularly mouth-watering in pewter-gray slacks and a sage-green dress shirt left unbuttoned.
“Mrs. Brennan, it’s good to see you up and about, although unexpected. Is advanced healing a fairy trait?” he asked. He could smell the vampire blood in her system and wondered if she was aware.
Sookie smirked at her host. “I’m fairly certain that it’s not. Addie told me that you never left her sight, even if you were the type to give your blood to a complete stranger. No, I’m sure that Mr. Northman took it upon himself to make a donation to my IV. I can’t say that I object; I look and feel wonderful.”
Lex nodded, agreeing with her theory and turned his attention to the taller of the two. “You look delicious, mia fata. I hope that you are amenable to continuing our discussion from this morning.”
Addie’s cheeks flushed pink remembering why they hadn’t finished talking before sunrise and was grateful for his decorum in front of her mom. As she nodded, the security desk buzzed through the intercom.