When the Viking and his progeny entered, Addie was unable to mask the awe on her face. His blond hair was just a shade or two darker than hers and his blue eyes were deepened with a glacial touch of gray. His child’s blonde locks were secured in a chic chignon and her hazel-brown eyes were decidedly unimpressed at her surroundings. While he was dressed tastefully in black dress pants and a dark blue Oxford shirt with no tie, she appeared to be a well-to-do soccer mom in gray slacks and a pink twin-set. Lex looked at the pair with a familiar smile. “Northman! We finally meet! And this lovely creature must be Pamela. Welcome to Washington.”
Eric smiled the bland grin he reserved for those above him – respectful, but not friendly. He knew who Lex was – he had been a contemporary of Godric – and what his reputation was, but he had no need to make friends. He had the few he cared for – his children, the memories of his maker and sister, and the stubborn telepath that haunted his downtime. He had no desire to add more to those cherished few. As was his usual, he paid no attention to the figure lounging on the floor at the feet of the sheriff. The pale golden waves that hid her face didn’t draw his interest. He didn’t notice the slender legs in painted-on jeans or the generous bosom accentuated by an oversized tank top. He couldn’t see the curious green eyes trying to size him up from behind her hair. She was merely a feature of the room like a rug or chair… until her scent reached him.
Lex chuckled when the other vampire’s head turned sharply to look for the source. The laugh became a smirk when Eric inhaled deeply. “Like that, do you?”
Not much flustered the Viking, but that scent had the ability to do so. “I’ve smelled… but different… more…” he stammered. He caught the familiar aromas of honey, wheat, and sunlight that instantly took him back to Louisiana. Under those supernatural perfumes were the saltiness of a frozen beach on the North Sea and the smokiness of a wood fire during the crispness of winter. Scents he’d surely encountered at some point in the past millennia, though he couldn’t remember them affecting him the same way. Flashes of his rustic childhood, the comradery of his village, the servant girls he amused himself with until his family’s murder… the all rushed to the forefront of his mind for the first time in many years.
Curious, Pam inhaled also. On top of the notes she remembered all-too-well, she caught hints of the dry wind in Texas where she spent her rebellious childhood, the sweat, lust and desperation of the brothel she first worked at then owned, the dirty fog of the San Francisco street where she first met her maker. Human memories flooded her brain and she looked at the silent blonde on the floor. “What is she,” she snarled.
The former prince laughed heartily. “Quite a find if I do say so myself. This is Addie Brennan, pre-law student, vampire rights advocate, and Mine.”
“But what is she?” Pam repeated through clenched teeth, her fangs threatening to drop if she inhaled again.
The Viking gripped his child’s shoulder a bit tighter than necessary. He was just as shaken by the force of his human recollections as his child, but had the experience to disregard it until later. “She is obviously the sheriff’s pet and none of our concern.” Eric returned his attention to Lex. “Pamela and I have been working to improve the market for synthetic blood. Although the Hep-V nightmare is safely confined to the past, TrueBlood is no longer a trustworthy brand. I’m sure you remember your first taste of it as well as I do – gritty, metallic, and bland. Our team of scientists and select vampire connoisseurs have worked together to refine NuBlood for the fresh market, rebuilding itself after our near genocide. It’s still no comparison to human, but we believe that, once we gain approval to put the bottles on shelves, the vampire population will again be seen as safe and tame, much the way we were right after the Great Revelation.”
Lex templed his fingers and looked at the pair. “And what do you need from me? I’m at a loss. You need no money, your brand and marketing are top-notch, and your face is far more famous than mine. Why are you pitching me?”
Eric had perfected his fake smile so it no longer looked pained as it did in his first infomercials. “I want your help pushing it through the red tape associated with FDA approval. The synthetic is able to be used in the same way as the original TrueBlood – human medical use. While not my primary concern, it is an additional market that lends validity to the brand. All we require is,” he sneered, “government approval.”
The Egyptian vampire drummed his fingertips together. “I see your point. However, before I spend any of my valuable time dealing with human politicians, I think I’d like to test your product. I assume you’ve managed to manufacture the different types?”
Nodding in the affirmative, Pam set to unpacking the bottles. The logo no longer glorified the now-late Sarah Newlin. The middle of the sunburst now featured the flavor/blood type the bottle contained. Lex looked over the variety then lifted Addie’s chin to meet his eyes. “O-positive, right, love?” he asked with a wink. They both knew he was guessing as he’d never tasted her in any way, but it wouldn’t do for the others in the room to know that. She forced a blush to her cheeks and quickly nodded.
Eric narrowed his eyes. He watched their interaction closer. He continued to indulge in the girl’s scent discreetly and the one thing missing from her aroma was any hint of the sheriff.
Lex continued on, not noticing the Viking’s scrutiny. “It’s always been a favorite of mine but…” his fangs dropped at the sight of the last bottle. “You managed to synthesize AB negative? The TrueBlood scientists never managed to.”
Pam grinned as the sheriff claimed a bottle to try. “Since it was originally created for human medical use, AB-negative wasn’t required since they are a universal-recipient of blood types A, B, and O negative, so the specific type wasn’t required for transfusions. However, science has advanced in the last thirty years. Our scientists and laboratories are world-class. We’d be fools if we didn’t see the benefits of bottling the rarest blood type. Humans tell me it would be the Cristal of bottled blood, if that means anything to you. The price per bottle would be justifiably higher to offset the time spent to make such a… difficult and rare product.”
Lex removed the bottle from his microwave and shook it. “Naturally, I prefer the real thing – who doesn’t?” he quipped with another wink to the co-ed. “But if this is as promising as it seems, you’ll be the gold-standard among mainstreamers.” Tentatively, he sipped the bottle of warm AB-negative. After licking his lips and taking another taste, he reviewed. “Good consistency, not watery or syrupy. Realistic flavor. Very low grit. Overall, one of the best synthetics I’ve tasted since the product was developed. I’m impressed Mr. Northman and Ms. de Beaufort. But I need more than a flavor assessment for the FDA. I assume you have relevant human research from a reputable source?”
Addie tuned out the boring political discussion and instead watched the maker-child duo interact with their host. She wondered if they were as frigid and aloof as they appeared. She also thought about the tales her mother told her after her father died. They were strange bedtime stories to be sure, but they enthralled the little girl like Snow White and Cinderella never could.
The naïve fairy princess and the Vampire sheriff of Northwestern Louisiana were an unlikely pair. The sheriff was cold and scary and liked to intimidate the princess when they first met. He used his overwhelming age and position of authority to bully his way into her company, but she fought him at every turn. The princess didn’t know when her head and heart started warring with each other over him. Her head told her to stay away from him – that he would use her, drink her, have his way with her, and leave her. Her heart begged for him to be given a chance. It told her that she needed to see behind mask to discover how much he truly cared for her. That he needed to fight himself to hide how much he wanted her. She listened to her head until the night that he thought he was going to meet his final death and kissed her goodbye.
In that kiss, her head shut-up. Addie’s mom told her that eventually the princess and the vampire simply… lost touch. They moved on in separate lives; he with his child and businesses, she with the man she would eventually marry and they created a princess of their own. But the fairy never forgot the vampire, or ever truly got over him.
Addie loved those stories. None of the vampires she grew up around seemed like monsters, but she had been told that they all had the capability to be so. No matter how many times the fairy tale was repeated, she had to ask – how could someone brave and kind like the fairy princess fall for someone devious and dangerous like the sheriff?
Her momma just smiled. “Sometimes Addie, a good girl falls for a bad boy. Sometimes the bad boy is really bad and he’s the kind you need to run from. But sometimes the bad boy just seems bad because he’s been hurt too many times. He makes himself seem hard and mean so no one wants to get close to him. But if you persist and make him want to lower his walls to let you in, you’ll know there’s good in him. That good makes him worth the work, and sometimes pain, to see past the mask. Because when someone can feel that deeply and that strongly, they’ll love you forever.”