Mother and daughter took their time waking up that afternoon. More coffee was brewed, showers were taken, and lightweight clothing was chosen as the hotel’s local news feed informed them of an unseasonable heatwave.
Deciding to avoid the suffocating humidity, the pair opted to have a late lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. Large glasses of sweet iced tea sat on the table as they waited for their meal. Sookie stared at the glass, garnished with a simple slice of lemon. “I wonder…” she murmured.
Before Addie could ask, Sookie swept her fingertip over the meat of the freshly cut fruit. When the juice made contact with her skin, she hissed in pain and watched the skin on the tip of her index finger peel away in glittery flakes. “Well, I guess lemon juice highlights are a thing of the past,” the older woman joked and tried to smile, but it came out more of a grimace.
“Momma, if you share their weaknesses, how are you going to defend yourself if they come for you again? This is not something to joke about! What has Niall said about this?”
Sookie scowled. “Our grandfather has been incommunicado since he gave Parker permission to remain in this realm despite his services no longer being needed. I’ve tried contacting him several times about my new status, but that fucking interdimensional answering service of his keeps blowing me off. Maybe to him it’s only been a day and a half, but you think he’d at least want to say ‘Hi’ sometime in the last four years.”
“He wants you and Parker to give me lots of uber-talented, candy-scented little hybrid siblings,” Addie drawled with an eye roll. “Why else wouldn’t he call him back once I moved away?”
The telepath’s frown deepened. “If I haven’t fallen for him in the past eleven years, they both need to give up hope. I certainly haven’t been flirting or leading him on. I’m actually really sick of dealing with him and want him gone!” Sookie sighed and plucked the lemon from her glass with a napkin then wiped the rim. “At least it’s a mild reaction. If I were a full fairy, my whole hand would have disintegrated.”
Addie remained silent in thought as the pair ate their salads. Only once the plates were cleared and the check delivered did she speak. “Momma… could he be dangerous? Could he take you and force you? Fairies have long memories and if that Mab bitch orders…”
“Mab has been… deposed,” Sookie interrupted. “Niall told me after your dad and I were married. I don’t think I really have anything to worry about from the fae. Parker might want to knock me up, but I don’t believe he has it in him to force me. Niall would never stand for it, despite what you believe about his reasons for letting Parker remain.
“Hmph,” Addie grumped, agreeing to disagree with her mother on that point for now. After taking a sip of her tea, she moved on. “How did things go with Northman?”
Sookie felt herself smile. “I know you don’t like him, but I wouldn’t be here without him. He’s a very large part of my past and last night we cleared the air about any lingering misconceptions. We answered questions that have been left unanswered for too long. I apologized to him for everything I wrongfully vilified him for when I was younger. He forced me to see the truth of my uninformed cowardice and tendency to run at the most inopportune times. I enlightened him to the reasons for my lack of aging and stronger scent. He told me a bit about his human past that bled into his first few years as a vampire. I also might have borrowed your little trick to prove he was underestimating himself.”
“Which little trick,” the younger blond asked with a skeptically raised eyebrow.
“I sliced my fingertip and smeared the blood on his lip,” her mother replied with a nonchalant shrug. Seeing Addie’s jaw drop, Sookie raised her hand to hold off the overprotective rant she was sure was coming. “Don’t forget who’s dealt with this longer between the two of us. I know how to take care of myself, thank you very much. My other hand was fired up, ready to blast him if he took a single malicious step toward me. I’ll also remind you that I had ample history on my side – something you did not have when you did the exact same thing.”
Addie looked down, shamefaced, knowing her mother was right. In a small voice, she admitted, “I let Lex bite me last night.”
Green eyes flicked up to meet brown. “I liked it. Last night was all kinds of effed up. He ended two long-term employees for draining and came back to the penthouse in bloodlust. Your notebooks could have used a few more details about that, by the way. Got past that without injury then… well…” Uncomfortable with verbal descriptions, she showed Sookie an edited highlight reel of the previous night and morning.
While the telepath was grateful for her daughter’s discretion, she couldn’t help but be concerned with the vampire’s behavior during their negotiation. “Help me out here, sweetheart. You’re the one holding the cards here. He wants your body, your blood, your gift. Why does he think that he can place qualifications on your trip home? You made no requirements other than his monogamy and offered the same in return. The fact the he demands more, rather than simply asking for it, worries me.”
Addie sighed and gestured to the waitress for a refill. “It’s hard to explain. They weren’t really demands. He wouldn’t hesitate to glamour me to stay if he could, but I also think that part of the reason I still have his interest is because he can’t. He knows that I hold the cards and I flat-out told him that I don’t need him. The way he explained why he wants what he does… for a guy that spent the first eighteen years of his life as a pampered prince followed by more than two thousand years glamouring humans and Weres into giving him whatever he wanted… the reasoning behind everything was kind of… sweet.”
“What you showed me looked frighteningly possessive and controlling, not sweet. I know I didn’t raise you to be a woman who accepts that kind of treatment,” Sookie admonished her daughter. “Your father, uncle, and friends have showed you how a man is supposed to treat a lady. I don’t care if the man in question is twenty-one years old or two thousand; if you are ever treated like less than the lady that I know you are, you walk away.” Sookie dealt with her own childhood abuse by her uncle, but it was something different to see or hear the memories from Dawn… Arlene… Tara… even poor Jane Bodehouse. All of them had felt the stinging “love” of a man who had no qualms about controlling them with a slap or punch when they didn’t act appropriately, follow their man’s rules, or just happened to be in the wrong room at the wrong time.
Addie tried to avoid rolling her eyes at her mom, knowing the older woman had seen and heard things that the younger hybrid couldn’t begin to imagine. But she was grown and hadn’t gotten to where she was by being stupid or easily manipulated. “Momma, the choice is on me. He’s not threatening to chain me up next to Pam if I don’t agree. Yes, he’s possessive of me. You even said that vampires inherently define the term. But it’s not in a controlling way. He cares for me, wants to protect me, and make sure I’m safe when he’s not around. He all but admitted that he’ll miss me while I’m gone. And if I’m wholly honest, I’d probably offer what he asked for anyway”
Sookie narrowed her eyes at the admission; Addie returned the glare. “Go ahead and dig around in there. Tell me if you find that I’m hiding anything or that makes you think I’m lying to you or myself. I may not be the most experienced girl in the world, but I know a hell of a lot more than you did when Bill Compton walked into your section of Merlotte’s. You freely admitted that he played you like a freaking toy piano and you had no clue for months! Lex is totally upfront about what he wants from me: blood, sex, and companionship from someone who has no problem telling him to go to hell when he deserves it. He doesn’t want anything I’m unwilling to give and doesn’t try to manipulate me into acting like someone or something I’m not. I know what you wrote about how The Soldier made you feel and how The Sheriff overwhelmed you. I don’t know what messed-up arrangement you and Northman came to last night, but I’m sure it works for you guys… or it will when y’all get around to having some down time. What Lex and I have works for us. There’s nothing about our arrangement I’d want to change.”
The telepath was surprised by her daughter’s vehemence. It was occurring to her just how much her passionate child had changed in the four years she’d spent away from Bon Temps with the accompanying closed minds and old-fashioned ideals. Not that Sookie ever thought of herself as especially traditional. With a sigh, she left enough cash to cover the check and tip on the table and rose to leave.
Addie followed suit and changed topics as they headed to the elevator. “The university graduation is at 9 AM. It’s almost guaranteed to be hot, sticky, and boring as hell. A large part of me doesn’t want to go; I cross the stage and receive my diploma at the smaller college ceremony at 2. That is a far more reasonable hour and it’s held in an air-conditioned auditorium. So unless you’re chomping at the bit to hear some congressman pontificate about beginnings and the wide world of opportunities that lay ahead when both the temperature and relative humidity are in the mid-nineties, I’d rather sleep in and attend the more intimate celebration.”
After considering the options, Sookie agreed with her daughter. If her hopes for the evening were to be fulfilled, she would need the extra hours of rest after the sun came up.
Once the pair returned to the penthouse, they changed into scrubby clothes and ventured back out. At Addie’s apartment, she packed for her weeks back in the Deep South and chose an outfit to wear under her graduation gown. Unable to remain idle, Sookie busied herself by doing some light housekeeping: dusting, vacuuming, and laundry folding that had been ignored during the weeks her daughter resided with the sheriff. After she was packed, Addie joined in until the rented space was spotless. Hours later, after a shower and a call to ensure that the rent would continue to be automatically drafted from her trust account, the two women returned to the hotel.
Outside the wall of windows, the sky was a psychedelic blend of oranges, pink, purples, and blues. The fiery ball was slowly sinking, only half hidden by the horizon, when they could hear the mechanical clicks and clunks of the sheriff’s chamber locks disengaging. When the glowing sphere of tangerine disappeared entirely, the door at the end of the hall opened. Before either hybrid could blink, the younger of the two found herself wrapped in the arms of a very amorous vampire. “Good evening, mia fata.”
Addie giggled as Sookie looked on with a skeptical expression. Despite her daughter’s verbal arguments and the unspoken thoughts she had no misgivings about listening in on, the older hybrid couldn’t help but feel anxious over her daughter’s treatment by the ancient vampire. She was especially grateful that her baby wasn’t susceptible to glamour; she was sure if the sheriff had his way, Addie would never leave the suite, much less the city.
The trio chatted and made small talk about the events of the day. During a break in the conversation, Sookie excused herself. Earlier her daughter had confirmed that she intended to give Lex “something worth missing” and would appreciate having the penthouse to themselves. She called reception and had them connect her to suite 1307.