Godric led Rosalyn to a wrought iron gate guarded by a huge block of a man. “Let us pass. Allow Northman and his progeny by, but no others,” he said to the werewolf. “When we leave, you will tell your team to stand down. Extract them unnoticed. You will be paid in full.” The guard grunted and they slipped into a smaller courtyard protected by a dense wall of greenery and thick fencing.
“What was that about?” Ros said.
Godric was tempted to backtrack on his resolution. He forced himself to give her as much truth as possible. He was limited by what he could say in the Queen’s private garden. “Eric has me here under false pretenses. You had no part in this. I cannot explain more here.” He closed his eyes with a little shiver and called Eric through their bond. Eric appeared in short order.
“You rang?” he said with a smug leer. Godric looked up at him with narrowed eyes, crushing the cockiness right out of Eric’s proud stance. He shrank in his tall frame and hung his head. He did not dare look at Rosalyn.
Godric began laying into him in jerky sentences in an ancient tongue. As he spoke his low voice grew into a harsh bark. He repeatedly jammed a finger into Eric’s face and each time Godric shook it in anger, Eric flinched.
Eric had warned Rosalyn that Godric would react poorly to being manipulated. Now she seriously wondered whether Eric had not been exaggerating when he suggested his maker might dismember him. He acted like that single finger could annihilate him. Maybe it could.
“Godric,” she said softly. Godric turned, shocked to be interrupted while reprimanding his progeny. It had not happened – ever. No one would so flagrantly disregard such an inviolable protocol. He was wild-eyed and lost to his fury when his lizard brain connected that the human did not know any better. Eric shook his head at her, desperately trying to warn her to shut up. “I don’t know exactly what Eric has done, but you should know that last September he saved me from a full-blooded demon. He rescued me and sheltered me and he’s protected me ever since then until this very night.”
“Who,” Godric demanded, his fangs drawn and his voice thick with the Old Norse he had been speaking.
“Derek Ronwe,” Eric muttered.
“The soul thief?” Godric said, astounded. “He was a Great Earl of Hell before he…My god, Rosalyn, do you even…Ronwe!…Ronwe?” he asked again, incredulous, as though somehow he had heard it incorrectly. Eric just closed his eyes. “Ronwe would do anything to earn his freedom back! He was tricked into slavery by a vampire named Roman!”
“Who is…” Rosalyn began.
“A member of the High Council! But what does it matter? He’s a vampire dangerous enough to out-devil a devil, that’s who!” Godric grabbed at his own hair, completely unglued. He turned back to his child, stunned.
Eric sent a silent prayer of thanks to Freyja for bringing Rosalyn into their lives. Not only had she spoken up before his maker very likely beat him to a pulp in semi-public (not exactly a first, but still, less than ideal), it was as though fresh life had been breathed into the ancient. He was yelling and shouting like a feral animal, true, but he was doing so because he actually cared about something again.
“This entire situation is unacceptable. UN-AC-CEPTABLE,” Godric said. “Call Pamela.”
In a blur, the petite blonde vampire joined their VIP garden party. She started to ask Eric what he needed. He jerked his head at his maker. “Fuck,” was all she managed to get out.
“Pamela Swynfort de Beaufort,” Godric said. Pam dropped to her knees without hesitation, let alone concern for what the brick patio would do to her red couture gown. Her terror was plain. “I have learned a great many things tonight that displease me. Have you ever seen me displeased, Pamela?” Pamela swallowed. “I assume by your silence that is a yes, young one? You should be advised, then, that my anger with this bloodline is unprecedented.”
The word hung in the air like a noose.
Eric fell to his knees and Pam actually threw herself down in full supplication, arms spread wide. “Never have I seen such treasonous, dishonorable behavior from you both. Scheming and plotting behind my back. Plots involving your own patriarch! All for what? To deliver Rosalyn to me like some accursed Helen of Troy? To insinuate yourselves into my personal affairs? Do I look like I need young whelps to play matchmaker for me?! I’ve been feasting and fornicating long before your gods were even born, let alone the cavemen you call your ancestors!”
Ros backed away, not sure how offended or scared she should be at this point.
“Do you not respect my rights as head of this bloodline? It is an outrage! This shall not be borne. Have you any idea of the scale of misery your little lies could have cost? Had someone even looked at Eric the wrong way tonight…” He lapsed into Old Norse so that no one else would overhear the terrifying truth. “…I was ready to declare total global war! On everyone! Every last royal head in this court would have rolled. For what?”
He paced the courtyard, unhinged by his anger. “What do you have to say for yourself, Pamela?” There was no movement from her. “Answer me, child!”
“Answer, Pam,” Eric said, knowing he was ordering her to dig her grave deeper. Godric was baiting his grandprogeny to give the sort of excuse he despised.
“It was done in good faith.” She pleaded against the hard ground. Loose sand from between the brick sticks to her ruby lipstick.
“I am uninterested in your best intentions! It is your actions which provoke me!” Godric seethed. “Tell me, Eric, what part of this rotten business was she forced by your maker’s command to see out? Choose your next words wisely.”
Eric gritted his teeth, knowing he could not lie. “None, Maker.”
“None?” Godric said in disbelief. “You were not compelled and you happily complied, Pamela? You did not seek out your grandsire for advice? You did not trust that your grandsire would listen to you without judgment? That I would not do what was best for us all?” She did not make a peep. “Unprecedented,” he said again. “Eric, what did I first teach you after I turned you?”
Eric’s mind raced back over the millennium, trying to dig up those distant memories. “When exactly, Maker?”
“The night I introduced you to others of our kind. The Denmark fiasco. Right before we entered court.”
True fear struck Eric for the second time that night. He did not like where this was going. Not one bit. “You taught me that ‘the only vampire you can trust fully is the one you make,’” He quoted verbatim, the lesson etched on his soul.
“I have been blind, Eric, to forget that you cannot appreciate the position of the pater having only ever had me. You have not taught your child well and I am to blame. Let us correct that immediately. Instruct her.”
“Pamela, Godric is the chieftain of our bloodline. You must always go to him when you are worried or frightened, even if it is me who is doing something wrong. Especially then. You can and must trust him. As your maker, I command it.”
Godric jutted his chin and glared down at the woman splayed on the ground. “It is true what he says, Pamela. You can always come to me, no matter the problem.” His voice had grown dangerously soft. “But perhaps you are both too young and naïve to understand my point. Let me make it perfectly clear. A maker’s command always takes precedence. Eric orders you to seek my council today, but what about tomorrow? In your trickery, you have compromised the perfect trust you and I have enjoyed these few hundred years. It grieves me to say this to you, Eiríkrsdóttir, but I must: I did not make you. The only vampire you can ever fully trust is the one you have made.” He looked at Eric painfully. “Perhaps that is not even true, in the end.”
Eric looked away, visibly struggling to keep it together. Godric stood over Pamela. He made her wait painful minutes before speaking further. “I did, however, approve your turning,” he said finally. “I can unnapprove it, too.” She exhaled in a cry. “Do we understand each other?”
Her blonde head gave a shake and blood tears involuntarily escaped down her cheeks. Godric clenched his jaw, staving off more cruel words. He changed gears dizzyingly fast. “Now that we have that settled, you may wish to earn your way back into my good graces one day. I have been told you have shown yourself capable of running Area Five?”
She nodded hastily and Eric agreed.
“Eric will be absent for several days, perhaps a week. Are you willing and able to stand in as acting Sheriff while he is gone?”
“I am, Grandsire.”
“Do not fail in this task.” His message was clear: Do not fail me. “I have sent Amleth to Bon Temps. You are not to go there or interfere with his work under any condition. Should you run into disciplinary problems with the area vampires or need his assistance, do not hesitate. Seek it at once. William Compton is hereby banned from your Area. If he appears, get Amleth to handle him. He tells me he has run him out of London more times than he cares to remember.”
“If for some reason Sophie-Anne comes sniffing around for Sookie Stackhouse, you call me first, then Amleth.” Pam nodded, understanding that the Queen showing up could pose major problems. “Can I trust that you and Amleth will behave yourselves?”
“Yes, Grandsire. No shenanigans.”
“You no longer have a cent to your name, so I imagine it shouldn’t be too difficult. Run your bar, do the Area paperwork, go to ground. Understood?”
“You are excused. Leave for Shreveport now.” Pamela pushed off the ground, not bothering to right her crumpled dress. She hobbled through the garden gate. One of her five-inch heels had snapped in her hastiness to submit to her elder. “And Pamela?”
“This is a test.” She blinked in comprehension and limped away.
“You,” Godric snapped at Eric. “I have yet to even think of how I’m going to deal with you. For now, get Rosalyn’s effects from her hotel and go ahead of us to Dallas. Clear my nest of all but my Second and lock it down. I want you to get Stan as far from there as possible. If he resists, kill him. If there are questions, say that I grew tired of having a bored assassin in my home. He’s no better than a lap dog that bites.”
“There is one final piece of business. You will apologize to Rosalyn.”
“Of course, Maker. What specifically am I apologizing for?”
“Look at her.”
Rosalyn was wide-eyed and clutching Godric’s suit jacket around her. She smelled strongly of fear. Eric chewed his cheek. It was the first time he had been able to check-in with her and he genuinely wanted to hear all the details of their reunion. Godric felt his wave of excitement. He growled and put a possessive arm up between she and Eric. The Viking bit back a smile.
“Forgive me, Ros. You didn’t know what you were getting into.”
“No. Start over,” Godric said.
Eric took a deep breath. He much preferred to ask for forgiveness; it required nothing on his part. Godric was having none of it tonight. Eric loathed actual apologies, especially when he had absolutely no regrets whatsoever. This whole ordeal had gone pretty fucking smoothly, if you asked him. Except the part where Pam was now on Godric’s shit list. That was a frightening oversight on his part, but it was fixable in time.
“Do it again!”
“I apologize, Dr. Murray, for betraying your trust by implicating you in a plan that I knew would enrage my maker and push him to the limits of his reason. I did it because I thought he had already lost his damn mind and it turns out I was right. I did it to save his life.”
“Wrong. Again!” Godric bared his fangs and stepped forward. Eric instinctively threw his arms up and got real repentant, real fast.
“I apologize to you, Dr. Murray! I am sorry I have involved you in this sordid business. I’m sorry you have to see this. You are my friend and I’ve made a vow of fealty to serve you! I’m so sorry! Jag ber dig att förlåta mig! [I beg you to forgive me!]”
The admission was another shock to Godric’s system. His child had made a pledge to this woman? He called her a friend? Eric joked about a lot of things, but not his word. It reminded Godric that Rosalyn had been threatened by the demon Ronwe. Deep down, he knew Eric had done all of this because he knew no other way. If Eric was in the wrong, it was only because Godric had taught him too well.
“Enough,” Ros announced. “Whatever you’ve done, Blondie, I forgive you. It brought me to Godric and I’m glad. I’m sorry everyone is so upset and it’s caused such strife in your family, but as far as I can tell everything has worked out for the best, yes?” She placed a steady hand on Godric’s arm and gazed into his stormy sage eyes. Godric’s teeth popped back into his gums. Eric found it a remarkable thing to observe – a simple human woman pacifying one of the most terrifying supernatural creatures on Earth.
“Rosalyn, I must ask that you apologize to Eric and to me as well,” Godric said. “You’ve been a willing co-conspirator and, as I think you’ve gathered by now, I do not allow deception in my own family. It gravely undermines our safety and our order.”
“I am sorry, Godric. I’m sorry for going along with Eric’s plans, whatever they may have been and I’m sorry, Eric, that I’ve helped you get yourself into such trouble.” Something occured to her. “How much money have they raised tonight?”
Eric shrugged. “Looks like it will top out at around $330 million. Recession has hit people hard, I guess.”
Ros swore in amazement and horror. Godric had volunteered his progeny to match the contributions, presumably as a punishment. “Can you even…?”
“We’ll be ok. We don’t have crap left for liquid funds now,” he gave Godric a pointed look, “but I’ll move some things around and we’ll bounce back.”
That kind of wealth was dizzying. “Alright. I’ve had enough of this drama-fest. We’re all upset and we’ve all apologized. Can we please get out of here now?”
Godric eyeballed Rosalyn. “You cannot possibly still wish to go to Dallas after all that you’ve just seen. I will not begrudge you if you want to take up my offer – I’ll see to it that no other vampires seek you out now that we have been associated.”
Rosalyn looked to Eric. “Did you really do something that deserved what I just witnessed?”
Eric gave a guilty shrug. “Yeah, I’ve been a very bad boy. Didn’t I say it was going to be next to impossible to get him here?”
“Godric, if I go with you, are you going to explain all of this?” The ancient chewed a lip and nodded slowly. “Alright, let’s go.”
“You are certain?” he said, genuinely surprised that he had not scared her off.
“And turn down my chance to see the hallowed halls of Dallas Area Nine? No way. Let’s bounce this popsicle palace,” she said with a sly grin.
“Of course,” Godric replied, nose flaring in amusement. “Did you know they weren’t even serving frozen bloodsicles tonight? Most disappointing,” he jested.
Eric looked at the two like they are completely insane. And perfect for each other.
“Go on, Eric. Be quick,” Godric ordered.
Eric paused at the hedge and turned back to say something to his maker in Norse. “She’s worth it,” he said, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
As soon as the door sealed on the private jet, Rosalyn demanded an explanation for what was so dire that Godric needed to read his family the riot act. She was oblivious to the plane’s luxurious grained wood paneling and designer interior. Godric ignored her momentarily and began fussing about the cabin, first giving the pilot instructions and then asking that she buckle her safety belt. There was no stewardess, so he offered to serve her something himself. She skipped more booze in favor of a bottle of water. He set a blue cashmere blanket down in the empty seat next to her in case the ambient temperature was uncomfortable. The blanket was monogramed with a large looping white ‘G’. When he started messing with the air conditioner vents and the thermostat, however, she grew exasperated. “I’m fine, Godric. Just start talking.”
He sighed and settled into the wide seat across from her. It took him a minute to find the right place to begin. “I am not in the habit of attending public events. It was a fluke that I went to the AVL gala last summer.”
“My presence, as you saw, is often more of a disruption to others than anything else. That, and I basically do what I want. There are only a score of other vampires in existence that are older than me; only seven have both the age and the political power to truly force me do anything. I may be just a Sheriff, but believe me when I say almost all of the nobility in the New World serve at my pleasure. If I wanted a territory, I could take it. But I don’t. The King of Texas makes no requests of me and he considers himself lucky to have me as part of his kingdom.”
“Let me guess why: nobody messes with Texas?”
Godric reclined in his seat, making the leather squeak. “Seven vampires with real power over me, Rosalyn. Yet there’s only one vampire in the world for whom I’d move heaven and earth. Only one that can truly defy me and live.”
“Christ, Godric. What did Eric do?”
“Eiríkr Goðríkson,” he said, using his child’s true vampire name, “went to great lengths to make me believe that his life was in grave danger – that there would be an assassination attempt at the ball.”
“Alright, that is really low. No wonder you’re so pissed. You must have been so scared!”
“It certainly got my attention.”
Godric stared out the oval window as the jet turbines began to whine. “I was ready to kill them all.” Rosalyn swallowed hard. “Enemies, acquaintances, faces I’ve never known. I could have ended every last one of them at that ball. A massacre. After I swore ages ago to seek peace. To no longer be the boy they called Death. One wrong look or move from an elder around Eric tonight and I would have given the order. Do you understand the geopolitical ramifications? I was going to annex half of the continent and crown myself sovereign, all to save my lying boy from a nonexistent threat. Your project would have been utterly ruined, nevermind caused disaster for the Great Revelation. It would have wreaked havoc, probably started global war among our kind. I’ve been in those wars before. I have started those wars before! There were times when I built whole empires just to topple them for my amusement. I’ve been a monster most of my undead life.”
Silence lapsed as he let his mind wander back over those bloody years. His memories ran red with the blood he had spilt. “I would do anything to protect my child. As it turns out, he really will do anything to protect me. Even from myself.”
Ros reached across the small collapsible table between them and took his hand. He pressed the back of her palm again his nose and breathed in her scent. “You’re not a monster, Godric.”
“Gods above,” he exclaimed. “How can you even say that after what I’ve just said?”
“Silly vampire,” she chastised gently. “Any parent would do as you would. Maybe not quite on that scale, but -”
“No. Do not make that mistake. Eric is not my son in the human sense and I am not his father. Don’t use that analogy. The roles are utterly incommensurable. A maker and progeny are all things to each other in time. Not everything all the time but all things, in the end.”
“Okay. Well, there you go. I’d probably do anything for someone who was my everything too.” She pushed the table down into its storage slot. Unbuckling her belt, she crawled into the seat next to him and rested her head on his shoulder. “Your reaction, your anger – that’s not unreasonable. Nothing I’ve seen in the short hours I’ve spent with you or in the time I’ve gotten to know Eric tells me you are anything but decent and caring.”
Godric tensed beneath her. “Perhaps you went home with the wrong vampire if you feel you know me so well just from spending time with Eric.”
She lifted her head. “Oh, cut the defensive crap. It’s true, I like Eric. He’s a contradiction; his outward appearances are almost the exact opposite of who he really is inside. He’s like a beautiful quandary. I doubt most people take the time to look past the pretty packaging and the arrogant attitude.”
Godric balked in surprise. Eric Northman did not allow others to see past his carefully schooled masks. Almost no one saw through him. It bespoke volumes that she had figured out his child so well. “This is supposed to reassure me? He calls you a friend. I have never heard him honor a human this way.”
“Exactly. I really like your ‘progeny,’” she said carefully, “but Eric does not respect humans. He may be kind to me now, but it is who I am to you and what I can do for you – and by extension him – that interests him. He had to dig pretty deep just to get over his self-importance to listen to me.”
“I will speak with him, for that is my fault. I made him that way. I hated humans for a very long time in my younger days,” he said quietly.
“Hated – as in past tense. You yourself said that actions are what matter. It’s so plain to me that you are different, Godric. You listen to me. We talk. You care about my dignity as a being first, not about what kind of being I am.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, then you already know why I’m sitting here next to you and not in one of Eric’s stupid sports cars.”
A faint smile traced over Godric’s mouth. “To be fair, this plane is one of his selections too.”
“Ah. The monogrammed stuff should have been a dead giveaway. So over the top.”
Godric eyed the blanket. “I hadn’t even noticed. I think those actually came with it. The G is for Gulfstream?” He shrugged and they laughed. “Eric handles the family property. He’s a Viking; he likes his treasure and he likes his comforts. Pam is the entrepreneur. It’s not surprising – she was born during the Industrial Revolution. She’s really the one who has made our substantial wealth truly obscene. They are quite the pair.”
“And you? I’m not sure I understood all that business about being the patriarch.”
“I am the power. I am – I used to be – the compass. And the needle only has only ever pointed in one direction: survival. But Eric doesn’t need me for that anymore. Now surviving just to survive…” Godric let his head fall back and he closed his eyes. “I don’t think quite like a vampire anymore. I’m not even sure I know what that means now – to be vampire. We’ve been so set in our ways and so caught up in our high and mighty routines and rituals. So much of what we call instinct is just bad habit that we accept as normal. It’s hard to disentangle it all. And yet I barely remember being human. I don’t understand humans either.” The confession felt alien. Ros lifted up the armrest and snuggled in closer to him. Her breath came in even, warm puffs across his neck and it was immensely reassuring. Words he found impossible to share with Eric flowed out of him like a sigh.
“I’ve tried to remember, Rosalyn, what you told me that night in the desert. How I am connected to everything? How I belong?”
“I still don’t understand. I’ve tried looking but I don’t really see, not the way you do.”
She smiled tenderly. “Let me show you. We’ll have an adventure this weekend. We’ll talk together and laugh together. We can go exploring. Let’s get lost together!”
Godric gave her a heated look. “The only thing I want to explore is right here in my arms.” He brushed his nose against her cheek and her lips parted. “Every peak.” Godric kissed her jaw. “Every valley.” His hand slipped into the curve of her waist and he kissed her lips. “All of you. I could lose myself in you.” He held her gently, desperate to be careful with the vital, pulsing creature in his arms. She grabbed his shirt roughly and demanded his mouth. They kissed hungrily, starving for each other’s taste, each other’s feel. Between them there were tongues and blunt bites; moans of ‘yes’ and gasps for ‘more.’ Godric’s eyes rolled back as he tried to keep himself from coming apart at the seams, so long had he waited and how much he had longed for this. The air in the cabin swelled with the scent of arousal and need, and it hit Godric’s throat and groin with an ache he had not known for years. Rosalyn wound her fingers up into his hair and pulled him to her, devouring him. He suddenly jerked away, wincing.
“You…can we wash our hands?”
Rosalyn furrowed her brow and laughed at the odd request. “Uh, sure. You’re a fastidious one, eh? I wasn’t planning on sticking my fingers anywhere too exciting just yet.”
Godric chuckled and shook his head. “You may actually be the first person to ever accuse me of being overly obsessed by cleanliness. You can’t imagine what a pig I was before Eric straightened me out. But no, it’s just that I forgot that we’ve both got Amleth’s scent on us. It is jarring, that’s all. I’d rather not have the thought of him pop in my head while I’m enjoying the feel of you sucking on my fangs, if you know what I mean.”
Rosalyn laughed and found the bathroom. While Godric was still lathering away at the sink, she sniffed her damp hands. “This soap smells amazing.”
“Isabelle makes it for me,” he muttered absentmindedly. He wetted a towel and wiped down the part of his jacket sleeve where Amleth had grabbed it, lifting and turning Rosalyn’s arm around to make sure he had cleaned off every last trace of the distinct musky smell.
“Alright,” he assessed. “I think we pass. Sorry about that. My senses are hyper-sensitive in my old age. Most of the time I can block it out, but not always.” He was still talking about his ability to hear and smell and see well beyond anything a human could understand when Rosalyn interrupted.
“Who is Isabelle?”
“She’s my Second,” he said, not sure what Isabelle had to do with anything.
“That’s what?” Rosalyn’s heartbeat suddenly tripped into a faster rhythm. “Are you…oh my god are you married?” She could not even believe she had not thought to ask. In fact, she had no idea what sort of arrangements vampires had.
“What? No. She’s my Second in Command. It’s a political position, like a lieutenant.”
“But she makes you soap.”
“Yes. She makes a lot of my clothes, too. Why?”
“So, she’s what to you? A girlfriend? A lover?”
“What? No, Rosalyn, nothing like that.” Only then did he suddenly understand her confusion. “Isabelle is a colleague and someone I trust to take care of a lot of the business I dislike handling. Part of her duties are secretarial in nature – she does things to make my life more comfortable. We are not lovers and never have been, nor am I married to her or anyone else. Vampire marriage is almost exclusively for political alliances. I would never ally myself to another bloodline in that way – that is absolute madness. I think…” he began. “I think what you are trying to ask me is whether I share a blood bond with anyone I am not related to.”
“No, I do not. I’ve had only a few such bonds over the many centuries of my life. None were even remotely recently, and they were all with other vampires.”
“Oh.” Her voice was small and she slumped into her chair. “Well, I’m certainly relieved that you aren’t a 2300 year old virgin. That would have been a shock. I was rather hoping you had picked up some interesting moves over the years.”
Godric snorted. “I may have a few tricks up my sleeve. But you’ll have to be the judge.” He spoke with a mysterious little smile, and Rosalyn is certain he was being coy. He pulled her into his lap and nipped at her earlobe, then nuzzled the spot where he had fed from her months ago. “You still don’t entirely understand what I’m telling you about the blood.”
“What don’t I understand, handsome one?” She ran a thumb over the velvet flare of his beautiful mouth.
“That I’ve only ever had blood bonds with vampires. It is meaningful because it is meaningless in the end. Well,” he countered, “strictly speaking, I technically did have a blood bond with a human for one night.”
“Okay. Explain. They definitely don’t talk about this stuff on TV.”
“No, they don’t. It matters, my dear, because unrelated vampires can only form temporary blood bonds with each other. They fade over time, quite quickly in fact. It allows for a thin psychic connection. We can feel each other, sense where the other is, even communicate to a certain extent.”
“Yes, it can be, if done for the right reasons. But then it’s over and we go our separate ways. So the answer to your question is no – I’m not attached to anyone in that way. But blood shared between a vampire and human has very different implications and these are complex. Take Compton and the Stackhouse woman, for example. She had consumed massive amounts of his blood – many pints. It wasn’t a mutual exchange; he didn’t drink from her when he gave it. That is a unidirectional bond. He could and no doubt was pushing ideas and impulses at her. She probably had no idea those feelings were not her own.”
“That is seriously demented.”
“Yes, it is. She also had unhealed bites on her.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“They were on her thighs, we could smell them under her dress. It meant he was controlling her without claiming her. She seemed to think they were in a committed relationship. To us it read like she was a snack he wasn’t quite done with, and an especially disobedient one that he was willing to control with his blood.”
“Like cheap take-out food that keeps trying to escape from the fridge?”
“Something like that, yes. I found it extremely offensive.”
“Eeesh. I did too and I didn’t even pick up on all that.”
Godric gazed into her eyes, losing himself for a long moment. “For vampires, sharing blood, being one in the blood, taking another’s blood…it’s the substance that defines everything about our statuses and our relationships. I put my blood kiss on you to protect you, my beauty. I will always seal your bites, if it is what you wish. You must understand that others will read it as a claim and a threat.” He huffed a laugh and narrowed his eyes. “Coming from me it is more of a promise, really. If another even touches you without my permission, I will make them suffer dearly. It marks you as my feeding ground. But I won’t even drink from you if you don’t want me to. I cannot blame you if you find the practice grotesque.”
Rosalyn remembered the night he had fed from her quite differently. “Grotesque? That experience was erotic. Beautiful. I don’t begrudge you your needs. It doesn’t do anything to me, right? The blood marks?”
“No. But…” He looked down, sheepish. “The first month, I probably still could have tracked you down if I’d really tried pulling on the power of my own blood in your skin; I doubt Eric knows that. It’s not at all a common skill. I just want you to understand, Rosalyn, that the bonds of blood are sacred to me. Forcing blood on a human for any reason is unconscionable. I would never do that.”
“You said you’ve shared it once.”
“Yes. To save Eric’s life. Our blood has powerful healing properties. I spared him from a death blow in battle. It kept him alive through the day until I could return to him. For one day and one night I had a mutual bond with a human.”
“What was it like?” she asked.
He smiled shyly. “I could locate him immediately. Could feel his agonizing pain. I knew he felt doubt and hope and acceptance. Doubt that I might not return, hope that I would, and above all, his acceptance of my offer to be turned or else to embrace his true death.”
“What else did it do?”
“He sensed when I was near. It’s hard to say how he experienced it. He was in really rough shape and it was only the one exchange. After that, we began his transformation and that bond became layered into the bond between a maker and progeny, which is entirely different. So long as the person remains human, the more exchanges, the more the connection opens and, unlike with bonds between unrelated vampires, a bond with a human can be made permanent.”
“It can? How? Do you mind me asking?”
“Of course. Never hesitate to ask, although I may not always have the answers or be able to give them to you. A mutual blood bond prevents most of the manipulation that can occur with a one-way feeding. The vampire still has more control over how intensely they feel the other end of the bond and the human’s feelings – whatever they might be – are enhanced in a way that they cannot temper until the bond fades. It does not change how they feel though. If there are enough blood exchanges, the bond seals in both partners. It’s similar to a temporary vampire-to-vampire connection, only it lasts until one or both partners dies.”
“I apologize if I’m overwhelming you with so much information, it’s just something we need to get out on the table sooner rather than later.”
“Why? I don’t get how humans have such fleeting lives and take months, even years to figure out their relationships, yet you’ve got forever and want to suss it out on our second date. It’s unnerving.” She twisted the buttons on the cuff of Godric’s grey suit jacket.
“Because it determines my legal rights over you. I can’t keep my nest shut down for long. I’m a political figure. Regardless of what we decide privately we are to each other, I’ll have to give some public statement about you in the near future. I want you to understand the stakes of what those terms mean and I want you to have a say in it. There’s no pressure. If you feel you’re not ready or not willing to accept any aspect of it, I’ll send you home with the protection I’ve promised until you tell me otherwise.”
“I see. Your job really complicates your personal life.”
He hummed in agreement. “Our laws regarding humans all frame you as property of a vampire. The severity of an infraction of any of these laws is based on potential harm to the vampire – not, I’m sad to say, the human. That harm is calculated based on the degree of claim placed upon you. As you are now, unmarked and unclaimed, you’re fair game. If you had even a single of my blood healed bites on you, another could make a request of me to enjoy your company, but they would be either very stupid or very brave to do so. It is well known that I do not share what I consider mine. If someone did go after you as such, as distasteful as it is, it would be seen as a feeding territory infringement. It’s not subject to capital punishment. There’s the possibility of claiming you as a formal asset to my Area. That gives a better measure of protection, but then you don’t live in Dallas. I’d have to try making a treaty with the Portland Sheriff, whom I don’t know especially well. This gets us back to needing to have some team in place for your safekeeping and there we have options, although I’ll be honest, I’ll only ever be fully satisfied if it’s me, Eric, or Amleth keeping an eye on you. I must say Eric called it correctly on that one; you can’t quite appreciate what a special thing it was to be guarded by that magpie. He is family to us and he is an extremely powerful political player; older than Eric by centuries. Alas, none of us can go running around relocating so easily and I realize that such talk is getting way ahead of ourselves. It is blood bonded human partners, however, that are protected under our legal statutes in unparalleled ways. The only tie more inviolable is that of a maker’s dominion over his progeny and bloodline. But that is a big step, even a token bond.”
Ros shook her head in disbelief. It was too much to take in. “Is this your version of ‘I’m looking for commitment?’”
“It’s more that I’m saying it’s all up for negotiation. I’m willing to try out what you want. You need to know about the effects of our blood because – and you know now how very serious I am when I make this offer – I can say with some certainty that,” Godric hesitated and a shadow of worry crossed his features. “if some tragedy were to befall you – an accident or some chance occurrence – I know that I would give you my blood immediately to save you. I feel great responsibility towards you, more so now that I’m bringing you into my home. And if I could not, if for some reason I was unable to be with you, I would expect Eric to do the same. But you should tell me right now if that is not something you would want. I would try, if at all possible, to make it a mutual exchange so you wouldn’t feel under my influence once the danger had passed. That is not something I desire.”
“Jesus. Is a weekend in Dallas so risky? You want me to tell you my last will and testament? Should I sign a liability release or something?” He gave her a sharp look. He was not joking. “Yes, fine. I’d better not get broken, but if I do, you had better damn well fix me.” She poked him to make her point.
“I shall not fail you, Rosalyn.”
“Oh, lighten up.” She pinched his chest and he quirked an eyebrow. She had the distinct feeling that he liked it.
“I know that I am not a good communicator. It’s been a great source of frustration to others and I’m really making an effort here. I do not want us to talk past each other as we figure out who we want to be to each other. I may have…tried to do a little research on what passes for human relationships these days. I have questions too, you know.”
Rosalyn suppressed a smile. “Oh dear. Let’s have it.”
“What is an FWB?” he asked, looking earnest.
Rosalyn struggled not to laugh at the question. “Friends with benefits. It’s like just someone you have sex with, without the emotional attachments or expectations about monogamy or any further development of the relationship.”
“I see. And then there are various levels of dating with more or fewer strictures on monogamy as well?”
“Yep. Casual dating, exclusive dating.”
“But your marriage arrangements now have transformed wildly in recent years. Open and closed marriages, yes? Or unmarried long-term partnerships. And there is this idea of swinging? Humans are finally accepting of various gender pairings and couplings.”
“Well, some people are. Not enough, if you ask me.”
“Do you not value monogamy then? It seems to be the defining variable for humans.”
“I value it and I practice it, but I think often when we say monogamy, we’re really talking about several things. Often, it’s a concern about trust. Just because the person you’re sleeping with doesn’t sleep with others does not mean they’re automatically trustworthy.”
“Say more,” he prompted.
“Maybe a woman wants to have an affair with the hot guy in the supermarket and plans on leaving her lover before she actually cheats. That’s monogamy. People divorce when they think your body gets too fat or too worn down from having kids. That’s monogamy too. Maybe it’s a husband who trades out his wives on a regular basis when he gets bored. Monogamy as well. Very few people have a single sex partner for their entire lives these days. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
“Trust is far more crucial, I think. Maybe someone’s boyfriend is jerking off to something on the internet while the girlfriend is asleep and she’s fantasizing about somebody else while she dreams. But maybe they also love each other dearly and have no intention of ever letting the other go. There’s extraordinary trust there that is real and essential. I’m not convinced we’re supposed to give up our sexuality to all but a single person when we make a commitment to them, but I’ve never been with someone for so long that I felt like I needed to pursue some other sexual fulfillment. For others, I think it depends on the kind of relationship one has and no single mold is right for everyone. What about you all? Something tells me Eric thinks monogamy is literally not having sex with two or more people at the exact same time.”
Godric suppressed a smile. “Interesting. Vampires cannot be expected to be eternally monogamous, if by that we mean only one sex partner. It’s impossible given our lifespans and the lengths of our associations. There are those who stay partnered and bonded to a mate, even pledged – which is a very special form of our marriage – and they remain undyingly committed to each other, much like in your last example. But even then they often invite other lovers into their bed, together or separately, to spice things up. They almost certainly will have sex with the humans they feed upon. The two drives are very connected for us and we can’t subsist on vampire blood. Is it cheating if a human orgasms from an especially fine piece of chocolate?”
“Godric! I’m not sure that actually happens. Sex and food are not usually connected for us. The vast majority of us don’t get turned on by eating, despite all the myths about chocolate and oysters and other aphrodisiacs. Booze and drugs work, but that’s because they lower inhibitions.”
He laughed. “Perhaps the Dove chocolate company should be punished for false advertising. But you see my point, I hope. If a vampire is simply meeting their basic needs, these two drives that are intertwined for us, such actions are not seen as disloyal or even unfaithful. Disloyalty would be failing to honor the nature of the agreement between them. Like you said: trust is more important and I wholly concur. As for Eric’s habits, I will not comment. They are his to explain to you if you wish to know more on the subject. But, I can say that if you wanted exclusivity from me, both in intimacy and feeding, it is something I am more than willing and capable of providing for you.”
“Cool. I’d say let’s try that for now?”
“Certainly. Since I know you are going to harp on me about my nutrition, may I ask whether you would be bothered by bagged donor blood or Royalty Blended?”
“Of course, bagged is fine. I probably wouldn’t mind a donor if it was just feeding, although they seem kind of sketch. Isn’t Royalty synthetic though?”
“It is only part synthetic. And I cannot abide donors, so that’s out completely. I prefer to drink from you, if that is acceptable. I need very little blood at my age, so such an arrangement is easily sustainable. Were I young, it would be virtually impossible for me to make such promises of what we are calling ‘monogamy’.” Godric paused and looks at her curiously. “You must have a very clean diet, your blood is exceptionally pure. It’s beyond delicious.”
“Thanks. I eat organic.” Ros smiled and gave him a kiss. “So, I was kinda wondering about something else. I sort of get the impression that you’re bisexual.”
“Ah, yes, well. Gender identity does not matter much to vampires. We’re intensely sensual beings and we’re far more concerned with experiencing pleasure in all its forms. The only thing that complicates it much is age, which means unequal strength and abilities. It is the power dynamic that worries us. That’s why trust is a very big issue for me. I wasn’t always so old and invulnerable.”
“So no preferences?”
“Mmm…the young ones often stick with what they’ve known as humans until they want to try something new. You are really asking me about my preferences, yes?”
She nodded. “You’ve never tried a relationship with a human before. Am I just some experiment to you?”
“Ah, my muse. I’ve never tried a relationship with a human because I had no desire to nor did I think it was possible until I met you.” He traced his hands over the curves of her body, then stroked her face with the tips of his fingers. “You remind me of the first time I saw a bronze sculpture of Aphrodite. I didn’t know then that humans could shape metal in such a fashion. I was such a savage then. It was in Rome, when Rome had barely been founded. The royal families imported Greek statues to beautify their courts. You are perhaps familiar with the marble copies that were made much later? The copies of Polykleitus, Praxiteles, Myron and such?” Rosalyn knew them. She had been to the Louvre and British Museum. “You are like that statue, Rosalyn, like the first time I saw a goddess and didn’t know such a thing could exist. Only, you came to life right before my eyes. Beauty and intelligence, in equal measure. The ideal of womanhood in perfect symmetry. Those are my preferences. You are my preference. You’re simply stunning. You carry yourself with such grace. And I suspect you are deeply loyal, which is very much a – how do you say? – a turn on for me.”
She blushed and was rendered speechless by the compliment, so she kissed him hard instead. Her hands roamed over his broad shoulders and strong arms and he arched under her touch, growling.
“Mmm, make that sound again,” she demanded.
“Which?” he asked, feigning ignorance.
“That purring gravelly sound.”
“Hmm, you’ll have to make me,” he said, his voice growing husky.
She ran her hands over his shirt, feeling his solid muscles underneath and licked his mouth, biting his lower lip. It elicited the same rumble and she moaned in victory. Her hands wandered over his hips, down his thighs, and over the hardness of his crotch. Nimble fingers found the band of his pants and she went to unbutton them.
Godric placed his hands over hers, stopping her. “I need more time.”
Rosalyn retreated, concerned she had crossed some unspoken line. “Okay. Alright, I’m sorry.”
She tried to slide off his lap but he held onto her, keeping her there. “You misunderstand me. Did you not feel the plane start to lose altitude a minute ago?”
“I was busy.”
“Mmm. We’re starting the initial descent. So, like I said, I’m going to need more time. Twenty-six minutes until landing isn’t enough time to even begin all the things I want to do with you.”
“Oh,” she said, rubbing her nose against his in relief. She whispered into his ear, “Do I get any spoilers?”
“You’d like a preview?”
“Mmmhmmm.” He was immediately intrigued. She liked dirty talk. As it happened, he did too.
“You first. Tell me what you wanted to do just then.”
“Oooh, you are a naughty one! You want to know?”
“Oh yes,” he said, his fangs peeking out.
She gave him a sultry look. “I wanted to taste your cock.”
“Did you now?”
“Yes. Is that shocking?”
“It’s exciting,” he said, pushing her hands back down over the length in his pants, making her feel just how rock hard he’d grown. His pupils dilated and he licked his lips. “You want to taste me, lover?”
“Yes,” she panted.
“You wish to know if I will let you?”
“Uh huh.” She stroked him and it was almost too much. “I’m going to watch as you fuck my cock slowly with your mouth. I always will give you what you want, lover. You need only ask.”
Rosalyn swallowed reflexively at the sight of his sumptuous lips uttering such filthy words. “Do you come?”
“Ejaculate? Of course. Would you want me to?”
“Where?” he asked in a whisper. His eyes were focused on her lips.
“Down my throat.”
Godric’s head dropped back and he nearly lost it. “Then I hope you’re thirsty.” He wrapped her arms around his neck, trying to reel himself in before getting too carried away.
Ros shivered in lust against him. “You sure we don’t have time? I’m feeling up to a challenge.”
“Only eighteen minutes now. I’m sure you could destroy me within seconds, Rosalyn, but no. I may be immortal, but it means I like to savor my firsts. They happen far too few and in between. Let’s not rush.”
“Fair enough. I just hope to hell you don’t live far from the airport.”
Godric threw his head back and howled in laughter. “The house is exactly 12.7 miles from the airport. But I’m sure we can rely on Eric to have left us some stupidly fast vehicle in the parking lot. The second we hit the tarmac, I promise I’ll drive like the wind.” He gave her a saucy look. “Who am I to keep a goddess waiting?”