When they arrived in Dallas, Rosalyn and Godric beat a hasty retreat to the master suite and put to good use the few remaining hours left in the evening. Just before dawn, Godric programmed the security system to recognize Rosalyn’s palm. They descended into the dark antechamber. Her new vision allowed her to see that they were heading down a modern floating staircase. Judging by what she had gleaned from Godric and Eric’s conversations, she had expected the space to be small, with just enough room for a bed and a closet. A bunker, in effect. How wrong she was.
Godric flipped on a set of switches and the space illuminated with soft recessed lighting. It was a large studio apartment – and quite a luxurious one at that. The color palette of the décor was similar to the room above, all greys and dark blues. A king size bed and armoire sat in one corner. The bedroom was partitioned off by a large wooden screen. On the other side was a sitting area with bookshelves and surprisingly, a tv. In addition, there was a kitchenette with a cleverly hidden fridge. It was stuffed to the gills with blood – for emergencies, Rosalyn supposed. There was also a beautiful bathroom boasting all the amenities, save for a toilet.
He tucked his wife into bed and slid in next to her. He watched her fall into her day death. How the gods saw fit to bless him with this creature, he would never understand. He stroked her rich hair and porcelain skin. She was a masterpiece. Ros did not remember being glamoured again in her weak state. She did not recall any pain, nor that he had pushed through the entire day and night and another day again to fill her with everything he had. Godric had turned her as he did Eric, except with the strength of an extra millennium. He was still so exhausted from the process that the sun claimed him not long after her.
Rosalyn woke disoriented, forgetting momentarily that she had slept down in the antechamber with Godric. An arm coiled around her and pulled her close. She turned to meet his soft green eyes. They gazed at each other, smiling. “I suppose we have to resurface,” Godric said.
He chuckled and hopped out of bed to fix them breakfast. “We gave you O neg last night. Both Eric and I prefer it, so we assumed it might be a trait in my line. Would you like to try something else?”
“Do we have time to experiment?”
“Of course.” He proceeded to warm up eight bags of blood and create a sampler set for her. She liked the O negative and positive best, the A samples were fine, and she rather enjoyed the AB negative. Godric cringed when she went to try the glass of B positive.
“Eeesh,” she said, making a face.
“We don’t care for it either.” He winced in sympathy for her. “I’ll go ahead and warn you, don’t try it in synthetic form. It’s absolutely vile.” A thought occurred to him. “Did you send those ridiculous Royalty Blended bottles to Eric?”
She bit her lip and her shoulders started shaking in silent laughter. Godric shook his head. “You know I ended up tasting that wretched B+? Disgusting.”
“Sorry,” she said, still giggling.
“You’re not even remotely sorry. Here, finish the O neg and let’s go upstairs. I believe Isabelle put your things in my closet. Pam already started supplementing your wardrobe. She cannot be stopped.”
Rosalyn rolled her eyes, knowing exactly how pushy the vampiress could be about clothing. Their fights over her ball gown had been epic but ultimately pointless. In the end, Pam’s taste had been spot-on.
As they dressed, Rosalyn stopped Godric as he was pulling on his pants. “I know we’re going to have a very serious discussion tonight. I don’t want to feel completely clueless. Would you please explain that business about you nearly killing Amleth?”
“Ah, yes. His maker brought him to me thinking I might want to turn him. I flew into a rage that he would dare presume to choose a progeny for me and I drained Amla to the point that he should have died. Instead, he was turned.”
“Look how that worked out. Now he is your child.”
Godric gave a crooked smile. “Life has a sense of irony.”
The atmosphere in the dining room was grim. It had initially struck Rosalyn as odd that vampires would bother with a dining room, but now she saw its true purpose. This was a war room. They gathered around the table. Godric sat at the head with Isabelle and Stan flanking him on either side. Eric was next to Isabelle and much to her surprise, Godric insisted that Ros hold down the other head of the table to demonstrate her new status. There were several other vampires in attendance whom Ros vaguely remembered from the disastrous night the nest was re-opened. They seemed to be here in some advisory capacity. Isabelle and Stan kept staring at her, astonished by Godric’s decision to turn another child after so long.
Isabelle leaned over to Eric. “She feels like she’s 30, maybe rounding 40 years old!”
Eric smirked. “Godric is a true elder, what can I say.”
Amleth strolled in, apparently delayed trying to appease Sookie. Everyone in the house had heard her litany of complaints. She was furious about Amleth’s absence, which was downright absurd. It was clear to any vampire with a nose that they were not romantically involved. Eric shot to his feet.
“Amla,” he said, his tone unusually soft-spoken. “You don’t have to be here for this. Why don’t you go read or swim in Godric’s wing?”
“It’s not like this is news to me.”
“Still.” Amleth gave Eric a pointed look and pulled a seat out next to Pam.
Godric folded his hands on the table. “Now that we are all here, let us convene this meeting. First and foremost, I would like you to welcome my pledged and bonded wife, Madame Rosalyn. We are honored to have her at this table.” Heads bobbed in acknowledgment and a few eyes grew wide hearing that they had married in a pledging ceremony.
“We are here tonight to discuss the matter of High Counselor Roman. His actions have directly and repeatedly assaulted my House and Line. Most of you here were witness to the most recent incident in which his minion, Derek Ronwe, entered my home uninvited and attacked Madame Rosalyn in my very own kitchen, leaving her with a severe demon scald.
“Allow me to review several points, as a number of you are not fully informed about the gravity of the situation. None of us are entirely sure of Roman’s age, but he must be at least 3000 years old, maybe older. I did not know of his existence until the early 17th century when we crossed paths in Italy. Our encounter was civil and we parted ways on good terms. Eric and Amleth – whom I had long before claimed as my own by then – were elsewhere in Naples that evening. They assure me they saw no other vampires and were not tracked. Given their ages and skillsets at that point, I wholly trust their assertion. I believe Roman was not aware of Amleth’s connection to me or of our connection to his original family.
“Why and when Roman became interested in attaining political power, I do not know. He had, to my knowledge, never held any prominent position or even controlled a fiefdom. No one sitting on the Council had ever heard of him. I do not know from whence he hails or who made him, nor do I have much information about his supernatural gifts. He is not known to have progeny, but this is merely a dangerous assumption.”
“There ain’t nothing worse than a wandering elder poppin’ out of the fuckin’ woodwork,” Stan said.
“Indeed,” Godric said. “Fast forward to France in 1824. Paris was chaos and buildings were constantly at risk of being burnt down or invaded by humans. It was no longer safe for vampires in the city. I arrived to assist the High Counselor,” the name stuck in his throat, “Lucius Tarquinius Superbus in relocating the Council to London. Tarquin, as you may or may not know, was Amleth’s maker.”
“Superbus,” Rosalyn repeated, the name sounding vaguely familiar. “Tarquin…the Proud? Your maker was the last king of Rome?!” She lurched forward in disbelief.
“Yes,” Amleth replied. “But his human life was inconsequential. Mostly.” His blasé attitude was completely forced. Rosalyn could feel Amleth wobbling and careening in their bond.
“The details aren’t especially important here,” Godric continued, “but suffice it to say that Eric was in London and Amleth and I were out of the city when the attack on Tarquin’s life occurred.” Godric paused and stared at his folded hands on the table, swallowing down a deadly combination of sorrow, rage, and staggering guilt. “He and three other counselors were murdered in cold blood, for what turned out to be a petty power grab by none other than Roman himself. Roman wanted the Council – our Council!” Godric slammed his fist on the table. Everyone stiffened. “The very governing body that Tarquin and I created to assert order over our kind! Tarquin served faithfully and judiciously for most of his undead life. And as if this usurpation was not heinous enough, it grows far, far worse. We soon learned that Roman had engineered this despicable crime with Thea – Tarquin’s eldest daughter.”
Gasps of horror were heard around the room. Isabelle looked petrified and even Stan turned a shade whiter. Eric was grumbling again through tight lips about ‘how the bitch turned everyone’s lives into a fucking Greek tragedy play’ and Rosalyn actually wanted to vomit, so horrific was the thought. Everything in her new nature demanded that she protect her maker. No wonder vampires could not drop fang into their makers.
“Thea, along with her two youngest siblings, are guilty of a conspiracy which resulted in the death of their maker and my friend of over two millennia. All because Roman promised to make her regent of Athens.” Godric paused. To this day it still sounded inconceivable. “I never trusted Thea and she resented me greatly for warning Tarquin that he needed to reign her in. To protect herself from my wrath, she filled Roman in on my association with Tarquin and Amleth’s connection to her family. Then to directly provoke me, she killed two of her siblings – the two who refused to cooperate in her scheme and who, not coincidentally, were the only two that I favored besides Amleth. All these deaths of great and promising vampires and for what?”
“Dios mio and with Roman sitting in the High Counselor’s chair…” Isabelle filled in the blanks.
“Exactly. Roman refused to pass a judgement of capital punishment for patricide.” He looked across the table to Rosalyn. “There is no greater crime in our world than that which they have committed. It is an abomination.”
Isabelle was outraged. “Even fratricide or murder of a Council member merits a death sentence! They are due the true death three times over!”
“She can’t possibly still be in power,” said one of the other vampires.
“She remains regent and she is now matriarch of Tarquin’s line as well. One of the siblings she slaughtered was her elder brother, Arun.”
“But why wasn’t something done about this earlier, Godric?” Rosalyn said.
“Because no one knows. Roman explained away the counselors’ deaths as a random act of vengeance – someone unhappy with a case verdict. Then he put a gag order on me and threatened Eric and Amleth’s lives should I speak or act. My hands have been tied ever since; he’s got the power and resources to make good on his threat. I have waited for an opportunity to take out Thea and her sisters and searched for a way to end Roman, but it appears he decided to make the first move and attack us. Attack you.”
“Holy shit,” she said. Goosebumps shivered down her neck and arms as she digested just how dangerous her situation had been.
“It is clear that Nan Flannigan and Ronwe had separate orders from Roman. I do not wish to ponder further what horrors Roman was planning had Ronwe succeeded in capturing you.”
“So we need some really old fuckers to go in there and stake the bastard,” Stan said.
Godric closed his eyes, praying for patience with his idiot assassin. “Stan, not everything is as simple as killing.”
“He’s right, though, grandsire. Why not get an elder to do the deed?” Pam said.
“And who will sit at the head of the Council’s table, Pamela?”
“You could, Sheriff,” Isabelle said. “You are a legendary leader and as prudent and fair as they come.”
“Eric, instruct our assembly what I taught you in your fifth year.”
“‘A crown is nothing but a golden target on your head,'” he recited.
“Precisely. As our beloved friend Tarquin learned the hard way – twice. His first crown sent him into exile as a human, the second sent him to the true death.” Amleth got up from the table and left. “Neither myself nor anyone in my bloodline will take a position higher than sheriff unless absolutely unavoidable. I forbid it.”
Rosalyn could not believe she was seriously thinking about how to murder a high official. Two nights as a vampire and her peaceable ways were already out the window. Her hesitation was countered, however, when she considered that a human guilty the same offenses would face a similar fate. A criminal within the highest authority undermined the entire system. “So even if we could somehow deal with Roman, there’s still the issue of who to install,” she said.
“Exactly, Ros,” Godric replied, masking how pleased he was with his clever wife. “I need to think further on who would be appropriate. In the meantime, we need to consider our options for resolving the Roman issue. Amleth needs to get the Stackhouse girl out of here at once now that Roman is interested in her. The Fae prince will protect them, but luring Roman to my door is the last thing I want to do.”
The war party continued to talk strategies. The pain broadcasting from Amleth’s bond grew until it became unbearable for Rosalyn. “Excuse me,” she said and left the table. Eric was right on her tail. They walked briskly together through the hallways. “Eric, you know I abhor violence. But I don’t think I get a choice, do I?”
“Why didn’t Godric just flat out tell me ‘oh by the way you’re a pawn in the middle of a centuries-old blood feud and a 3000 year old vampire wants to abduct you and do god knows what just to piss me off’?”
Eric threw back his head and howled with laughter. “Because if Godric did anything straightforwardly, he wouldn’t be Godric. Just trust him. He hasn’t survived this long without reason. He reveals things at his own pace. It’s unhelpful having people freaking out while he’s trying to plan ten steps ahead. He’s always told me that ‘panic isn’t a plan’, and he’s right.”
“Am I in over my head, becoming vampire?”
“No,” he said fiercely. “You have untold gifts and you have us.”
“I’m realizing I might need to compartmentalize vampire politics from my hopes for inter-species relations. This is a dog-eat-dog world and frankly it’s not so different from the university system. Just different tools.”
“You need to teach me self-defense, Eric. Martial arts. Weapons. Whatever you know. I need to learn fast,” she said.
“Yes!” He punched the air, giddy at the prospect.
“Wait, where are you headed?” Rosalyn realized that they were both going to Godric’s private wing.
“To check on Amleth.”
Rosalyn stopped dead in her tracks. Scenting him, a lightbulb clicked. Eric and Amleth were bonded – and quite heavily at that. “I see. Well, good. He needs us. He’s in a bad way.” Eric grinned, proud that his lillasyster was quickly learning how to wield her abilities. Far faster than average. Gods above, Godric’s blood had grown inconceivably powerful.
They found Amleth in Godric’s library, curled up in a chair. His back was to them and when Rosalyn came around to face him, her heart ached with pity. His face, neck, and the entire front of his shirt were covered in blood tears. Rosalyn and Eric squatted down in front of him. She put a hand on Amleth’s knee. “How you doing?” she said softly.
“I’m fine. Leave me.”
“Amla?” She tipped his face up with a finger. “This isn’t what ‘fine’ looks like.” She glanced at Eric. Quickly touching her shirt and hair, she thought at him what she was after. He got up to retrieve the items. “What can we do?”
“I doubt that’s true. Come on. Let’s get you out of that shirt. I’ve been looking for a good excuse to get you naked,” she teased. He huffed a humorless laugh. She helped pull his formerly white t-shirt over his head and she used the back of it to wipe his face and neck off. Eric returned with a clean shirt and hairbrush. Rosalyn took Amleth’s hand and led him to the settee. He flopped down. Eric wrangled the fresh shirt on him and Rosalyn began brushing out his hair. “Before she died, my mother used to do this when I was upset. I always found it comforting.” Eric settled in front of him, speaking another language in a low, fast whisper. Rosalyn wondered what it was.
Catalan, Eric thought at her. His speech did not falter.
“We should have been there!” Amleth cried and the pain in their bonds was gut-wrenching.
“And we would have all been dead,” Eric said. “Instead, you carry on Tarquin’s line with honor as do your progeny. We will avenge him. Of this I have no doubt.”
Rosalyn set the brush aside. She had the distinct feeling that they had been having iterations of this same discussion over and over for 190 years. She tried a different tactic. Laying her head against his back, she wrapped her arms around him. Amleth immediately put a hand on her arm and turned to her. He buried his face in her shoulder. She did not try to fill the grief with words. She simply held him and rubbed gentle circles on his back. The rumbling anguish in him slowly flattened out. Over his shoulder, Eric raised an impressed eyebrow. After a half hour, Amleth let go and Rosalyn smiled at him, still pushing calm at him through their bond. He caressed her cheek with his knuckles. “Thank you, Ros,” he said almost silently.
Several hours before dusk, Eric’s cell started ringing incessantly. The shrill sound cut through his day death. The Viking did not respond well to being woken early. He reached blindly for the phone on the nightstand. Half-dead, he answered. “What.”
“It’s Desmond. Sorry to wake you. This cannot wait.” Eric grunted, eyes closed. “The Underworld won’t take Ronwe back. They don’t want anything to do with him – he’s disgraced himself by being enslaved by a vampire. Azrael let me know about an hour ago.”
“What do you want me to do?” the demon lawyer asked.
“Hold on.” Eric switched on the light in the guestroom suite and staggered over to the fridge. He tossed a bag of blood in the microwave and downed a cold one while he waited for the timer to ding. “Okay. Can you…” He was so groggy he had not thought to check whether Godric was awake. “Godric’s up, I’ll put him on.”
Eric really hated being awake this early. Making his way to the master bedroom, he let himself in. He scratched lightly on the antechamber door, bracing himself against the wall. His maker quickly came up. Eric handed him the phone and promptly collapsed face first on the bed, with one leg still hanging off. “Yes?” Godric said into the receiver.
“I take it your child didn’t relay my message,” Desmond said. He repeated what he had told Eric and Godric muttered some choice words in ancient Gaelic.
“Is it feasible to keep him locked up there until I make a decision?” Godric asked.
“Thank you. I will be in touch.”
Godric opened the main door and sent the phone skidding across the carpet like a hockey puck. It bounced against the far wall at the end of the hallway. “Damnable tracking devices,” he muttered. He set Eric’s other leg on the bed and returned to Rosalyn downstairs. He would never tire of seeing her wake. He savored the moment those hazel eyes suddenly lit up his world. He curled around Rosalyn and waited the three hours until sundown, content to be wrapped in her scent.
The time passed quickly. Rosalyn’s eyes popped open. Godric was inches from her face. “Good evening, lover,” he said. She could feel his lust burning across the bond. Rosalyn trapped his lips and kissed him deeply, making him purr into her mouth. She threw the covers back and mounted him, pinning his arms over his head. The things she proceeded to do with her hips had him calling out to the old gods. He lifted his head, shocked at how turned on he had become by being made to submit.
“That’s right, love,” she told him. “You just need to lie back and let me get what I need.” She adjusted her firm hold on his wrists and rode him hard and fast. She was so wet for him that her sweet juices dripped down the creases of his pelvis. He could feel how much she liked having her way with him and it excited him even more. He let her come on him several times before sending her more lust in encouragement. Her moans matched his and spiraled higher and higher in pitch until he could not help but meet her thrusts. They exploded in pleasure. She collapsed on him and started placing kisses on the barbed tips of his tattooed collar. Godric could not say why he found it so endearing. She had once spent an entire hour making sure she had kissed each one. Perhaps it was feeling so cherished, especially when each of those barbs represented a battle won or another notable feat. Every kiss from his Rosalyn was a victory.
“Was that alright?” she asked.
She sat astride him to get a clear view of his face. “Unexpected good or unexpected bad?”
He chuckled. “Very good. I was just surprised to like it. You really are a strong newborn. ”
“I think it just excites you to see your progeny strong and wild like you,” she teased.
He smirked. “Perhaps.” She rolled off to his side and cuddled up to him. “You smell of Amleth.”
Her face fell. “Oh god. I’m sorry. I’ll go shower.” He stopped her easily with two fingers.
“It doesn’t bother me now. We only feel irrationally possessive of humans.”
“It is a crude metaphor, especially since we are most definitely not weres, but think of it like trying to take a bone from a dog’s mouth. He’ll growl and bite. Packmates are fine with each other, so long as food isn’t involved.”
“Uh, yeah, that is pretty crass.”
He shrugged. “I only meant to say that I can tell you were comforting Amleth and I’m thankful you were there for him. I didn’t have time to ask how he fared. You were asleep by the time I came down.”
“He was a mess but he’s fine now. Eric needs to learn to switch it up when something isn’t working. Instead of talking him to death I just gave the poor guy a hug. It’s not rocket science.”
A ribbon of a smile threaded across Godric’s face. “It is also not an intuitive thing for a vampire to do. Your empathy is no doubt the first of your gifts. It will be a powerful tool as it strengthens. It will earn you many allies.” He ran his hand down the length of her arm and began toying with the large pearl on her finger.
“Did you make any headway on how to take out Roman?”
“No, although I have a shortlist of possible replacements.”
“You could always put Nan Flannigan in,” she said. The bed shook with their laughter.
“Rosalyn, we will have to make an announcement soon about your turning and our pledged marriage. It’s best not to let rumors start and have notable vampires feel like they are being purposefully kept in the dark.”
She hummed in thought. “How is that typically handled?”
“It isn’t at all typical. As an elder in the nobility system with only one previous progeny and with you already being known to the community, this will be quite a sensation, I’m afraid. We will have to hold court. King Peter would happily host us in Austin, but frankly something this big ought to be in the vampire capital of the U.S.”
“Please don’t say New Orleans.”
He scrunched up his face. “It will have to be New Orleans.”
“I’m going to have to wear that god damned necklace!” she said between clenched teeth.
“Queen Sophie-Anne sent me this monstrosity of a thing. It’s five pounds of emeralds and diamonds.”
“Ugh.” She stared at the ceiling, dreading the thought of another crazy ball – this time focused exclusively on them. A shadow crossed her features. She furrowed her brow.
“What is it?” he said. Rosalyn suddenly sat upright. “Is it Amleth? Is he alright?”
She held up a hand so she could think. “That’s it.”
“Talk. I can’t read what you’re thinking precisely.”
“A ball.” She ran her tongue across her teeth. “We’ll invite Roman to our announcement party. He won’t stop until he’s killed someone or everyone in this family, right?”
Godric shaded his eyes behind long lashes. “Yes.”
“You yourself said you were ready to slaughter everyone at the charity event to save Eric. You had all sorts of plans in place, right?”
“Yes. What are you thinking?”
Godric’s eyes flooded black. “It’s perfect.” He started smothering her with kisses. “You perfect, brilliant, clever wife! And now we have two things Roman is after – Stackhouse and the demon. I got a call earlier today. The Underworld won’t have him back.”
“Call the war party. We need to get to work.”
A/N: Wow, you all! Thank you so much for the great feedback. As you can tell, it really fuels my productivity. Please leave a review if you have a moment.
In other news, this is a pretty monumental landmark for me – this story now has over 500 followers and 500 reviews on FF.net. Thank you so much for your support!