Eric cradled his tremendously sick sister, trying to comfort her agony. He and Rosalyn quickly agreed as they fled into the bedroom that they would overact the scene to hide their tiny lie about the donor still upstairs. But when Eric’s arms closed around her, there was no exaggerating what he felt through their bond about the state of her health. Rosalyn was desperately ill and her suffering was obvious. “Oh, Frejya save you! You poor child!” he cried.
She was in horrid pain. This adorable, sweet creature had been given to him by his maker after a thousand years. This was his eternally blood-bonded sister. She was the sole daughter of Lord Goðrik the Great, Ruler Eternal and Eric was her Prince. Rosalyn belonged to Eric in a way no other could claim. And he had grown more than a little smitten with her. He loved her. He clung to Rosalyn and he kissed her deeply. She resisted, twisting away. “Eric! What the hell!”
“Maker is almost here.”
“I know. I can feel him, you donkey!” She thunked his chest weakly. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Kiss me, baby girl. Right now! Gods, Maker is furious. He’s already figured out that the donor wasn’t Isabelle’s and he is about to thrash anything that comes his way. Hurry!” he said. “Just kiss me! We cannot disobey him!”
Eric was thoroughly panicked. Rosalyn felt the same urgency. The command over her to accept her brother’s care was freezing her body into stone. The similar command on Eric had sent him into a total frenzy. Godric’s power filled the air with fury. It coated the hallways and corridors with rage incarnate. It was terrifying. Rosalyn was full of dread, but still she hesitated. “I don’t know why our blood bond makes me feel this way. I don’t -“
“We are of one blood. We are one! Right now, god dammit! Kiss me so he knows I’ve taken care of you!” he pleaded. “He needs to smell more of my scent on you so he knows I’ve done what he’s ordered me to do.”
Rosalyn suddenly gagged and wrenched up. She vomited a sheet of blood down her bathrobe. “Oh, holy fuck! Okay. It’s going to be okay. Maker is still on the other side of the estate. Let’s get you cleaned up. He cannot see you like this.” Eric pulled off her terrycloth robe and wiped down her chest with it. “I’m going to run upstairs to get you something else to wear. I’ll be gone two seconds.” He rolled up the robe and set it next to her. “If you feel nauseous again, aim into this.”
Eric ran to the upstairs master bedroom closet and swiped hangers left and right. He knew somewhere there was a Meiji-period blue silk uchikake wedding kimono that was heavily embroidered with cranes and branches of cherry blossoms in pure gold thread. It was an extraordinary garment. He and Godric had swiped it from the Japanese dowager empress. He saw it and tore it off the hanger, ripping off the plastic sheeting covering it.
He got Rosalyn into the gown. The furisode sleeves and the hem were too short for her – people were smaller back then – and the robe should be worn with several other kimonos layered beneath it and sashed at the waist with an obi belt, but he has no clue they are. Probably up in the attic storage. At least Rosalyn now looked like the Goðrik’s Queen, as she should.
Eric quickly weaved her hair into an asymmetrical braid. He pulled up his shirt and rolled on top of her, rubbing his scent all over her chest. He yanked on the tail of hair he had woven and forced her to his face. “You will kiss me now. Let me put more of my smell on you, for the love of Odin!” Rosalyn yielded and opened her mouth. Her hand accidentally ran up his washboard abs as their mouths touched and good Lord, his body felt insanely good.
“Gods syster!” Eric gasped, drawing back, stunned. “You taste like the sun, the wild wind running through sand and stone, and Maker.”
Godric was tearing down the private wing and was nearly there. “You…” She was equally overwhelmed. Rosalyn stared into his icy eyes, taken aback by what their bond did when they were close. “Eiríkr…”
He had no idea how she learned his true name. Eric rocked his beloved sister in his arms and began singing an old skald’s tale.
No one, absolutely no one – beyond the few vampires in their family – knew that Eric Northman had a beautiful singing voice. Even then, it was only something that his kin heard once or twice every several decades, if they were lucky. He did not share this talent.
The antechamber door clicked and pushed open. Godric nearly stumbled down the steps when he heard his child singing a Norse lullaby below. The deep, lilting rumble of Eric’s voice retold a story of triumph over death. It was the same song Eric had been singing when Godric stole him off his funeral bier and turned him. Between the haunting, baritone sounds, Rosalyn was weeping. Godric’s feet moved in a blur down the stairwell. “Oh, my dear gods!” he gasped. He rushed to her and leapt onto the bed. “Ros! My love, my wife!” He tried to take her out of Eric’s hold but his first child protectively snatched her back. Godric threw his arms around both of his progeny.
Rosalyn looked up at her husband with bloodshot eyes. “Love. You’re here,” she said, drooping.
“How…How…” Godric could not finish the question. Eric understood. Almost nothing scared the Viking. Nothing except for love, because shit like this could happen and it left him terrified. It was intolerable. Rosalyn was deathly green and weaker and sicker than a young vampire should be after only four and a half days apart from her maker. Godric tore open his wrist and began feeding her. He and his first child stared at each other as she nursed Godric’s blood.
“I have never seen anything so severe,” Eric whispered in his ancient dialect of Old Norse.
“I have. But only after months. Months and months of torture. Children this ill usually go into the sun rather than continue.”
Eric pointed his chin at the bathroom. Godric looked over his shoulder and saw the blood-soaked sheets on the tile floor. He had to put a hand down on the mattress to steady himself. The sight nearly caused him to faint. It was not blood sweat on the linens. It was blood, seeped into the organic bamboo bedding he prefered. Rosalyn had bled out during her day sleep. Godric virtually never swore in English, but he was so shocked that he let out a ripping stream of profanity.
“Maker,” Eric said, clutching the woman in his arms, kissing her hair. “I love you always. I do not presume to tell you how to raise your progeny. It is not my right.”
“I do not think you can ever be apart from min syster for at least a century. I barely kept her alive. I drained myself twice to keep her going. Twice. She doesn’t understand how much blood she took from me. I’ve never even given Pamela so much in our exchanges. Four days. If this had been two weeks, you’d be at a funeral. Ros wouldn’t have survived. Your blood has become something unparalleled in power. It is the awful cost of such strength.” He grimaced. “I will destroy Roman for this, Goðrik. Gods as my witnesses, he is going to die by my hand, and every last girl in Tarquin’s House and Line. No one does this to us. No one. I swear upon Odin and Thor and Tyr and the body of Baldr. By the gods, I will to ruin them all and I will desecrate their remains. They are going to die.”
Godric cursed again and re-opened his wrist for the quivering woman. It was a terrible place to feed from given the volume Rosalyn required. She fed desperately, sucking hard at the little wound, half unconscious. She began weeping again. “No, no, darling!” Godric said. “Do not cry. You cannot lose more blood.” Eric cradled her even more tightly and licked up her tears. She stopped feeding momentarily and offered Eric a mouthful of what she had taken from their maker. Eric stole a tiny lick and groaned. It had been far too long since he had tasted Godric’s delicious nectar. He realized he was more upset by this insanity than he thought.
“The donor upstairs was not Isabelle’s,” Godric said to Eric. He had known instantly something was off. “You brought that young man here for Ros.”
Eric licked his lips, thankful to have the pleasing blood of the one who made him sliding down his throat. “Fader, Ros needed nutrition.” Eric proceeded to explain that the donor had been untouched before he had brought him in and that Michael was a truly nice boy. “She fed so well on him. You should be very proud of her.”
Part of Godric wanted to throttle Eric for getting his Second in Command to lie to him. Another part was impressed that his child had been able to convince his most loyal colleague to fib for him on his behalf and, in the midst of this catastrophe, that he had taught Rosalyn to bite properly. Godric hated that he had missed his wife’s first live feed. And on a boy that weirdly resembled him. There was something strangely arousing about that. That Eric had unconsciously fallen into speaking a mishmash of English, Old Norse, and Swedish was telling. He only did that when he was absolutely distraught.
As Godric let his wife drink from him for the third time, he looked at his two beautiful progeny. They were masterworks of his own creation. They were his. “You were right to get her a donor,” he told Eric. “I would have done the same. Feed her. I cannot give more until I take some fresh blood.”
Rosalyn was too weak to drop fang. Eric offered his neck to his maker. Godric shook his head. “Go get a knife. I will not bite out your throat.”
There was nothing sharp in the antechamber bedroom. The only weapon Godric kept in the studio was an unassuming one – the wood screen partition next to his bed. A quick snap of the intricately carved sandalwood and an intruding vampire enemy would be ended. Eric carefully handed Rosalyn’s collapsed body into Godric’s arms and he rushed again to the upstairs master bedroom.
His ancient Viking longsword hung on the wall over an armoire. His maker had watched over it for decades. He had not known it was here until recently. Eric drew it from its sheath and was back at Godric’s side in a flash. He knelt and handed the sword to his maker. Godric whipped the thick steel around several times in swirls, reminding himself of the longsword’s weight and feel. “I am so sorry. This will be very deep,” he warned. He slit Eric’s throat over Rosalyn. Eric pulled at the gash, letting his sister have everything that might come out of him. Rosalyn slurped at him desperately. The cut closed and Eric wished he did not heal so quickly these days. She still needed more of their blood. Ros was horrifyingly green. “Slice me again, Maker. Empty me for her,” he said.
Godric refused. He licked the splash of Eric’s blood off the hilt of the heavy weapon. He set the famed longsword known as Grendl down on the floor. “My valiant child. Min krigare [My warrior].” Godric wanted to say much more, but words long ago stopped capturing his bond with Eric. “Thank you. A thousand thanks. We will rise up and defeat this.”
Eric stroked his maker’s cheek as Godric scented him lovingly with a purr. Godric bent and kissed Rosalyn. The blood and stress in the air was driving them into bloodlust. Rosalyn ground against her husband with need. Godric elbowed Eric aside.
Godric unbuttoned his trousers with one hand and took himself out and slipped himself into his wife under her skirt, giving her long, tantalizingly hard thrusts. She cried out, forgetting and uncaring that Eric was right next to her, so badly did she need Godric. She rubbed herself into a hard, long orgasm.
Eric sucked in a breath. The sight of their gorgeous bodies together was incredibly erotic. He ran a hand down his maker’s back and over the narrow curve of the slim, chiseled waist he knew so well. Godric narrowed his eyes and he stilled Rosalyn’s movement beneath him. Understanding as to why Eric was touching him sensually suddenly hit him.
“You’ve hidden it. The bonding sickness has affected you too. You’re ill.” Eric blinked in acknowledgment. It might have simply been his full bond with his sister and her illness spreading into him, but he had felt unbelievably unwell – worse than in centuries. He had silently vomited multiple times into the bathtub when Rosalyn was asleep. “This why you’ve been sending me lust through our bond. You’ve not done that in 70 years.”
“Ros asked about our history and relationship. It got me thinking about it and…I don’t know when or why you convinced yourself that I don’t need you anymore, because I do. I need you and I always will.” Eric’s jaw tensed, uncomfortable with his vulnerability.
“Wait for me in the bathroom. I’ll be with you shortly.”
Godric hiked Rosalyn’s legs over his shoulders and he took her roughly until, gasping, they both found pleasure in each others’ arms once more. He desperately wished he could open up his wrist again for her. “Darling, are you feeling any better?”
“Much better, thank you. I love you.”
“I love you more.” He hesitated. “Rosalyn?”
“When we first began dating, we spoke of our commitment to the concept of human monogamy. But you are no longer human. You are a vampiress – one who is about to become one of the most renowned and respected of our kind. I have responsibilities to both of my progeny. Eric needs my assistance. He is unwell too. Is it acceptable to you that I go care for his physical needs to help hasten his healing? I understand if you do not want me to do that. You need only say. But otherwise, if it’s not me, it will have to be you or Pamela. Only those in our direct bloodline can heal one another.”
“Eric and I talked about this while you were gone. He is always yours. Do what you need to do. What a dumbass for hiding that he was sick.”
Godric gave a grim laugh and went into the bathroom, closing the door. Rosalyn heard a series of cries from Eric and within minutes, the sound of hands being washed in the sink. Eric came out and grasped the doorway for support. “Hela and the flames of Sutr! He destroys me! That hasn’t happened in a long, god damned time.”
Godric strolled out and whacked him upside the back of his head. “You goon. Get back to your sister.” Eric wrapped around Rosalyn. Godric hopped on top of them and embraced them. “You two are my everything.” He kissed both of them. “We will right this mess.”
Godric held his progeny, Eric pale from giving so much blood when he had been secretly ill and his pledged wife turned to a sickly color he had rarely witnessed in a vampire. This episode in their lives was one of the most idiotic, pointless challenges and simultaneously one of the most critical trials their family had ever faced.
It was an easy decision. He slid off the bed and dropped his fists. He did something he had not allowed himself to do in more than a millennium. His etiquette and niceties and absolute self-control dissolved and his raged and power unhinged completely. He unleashed the Boy Death. Eric shrunk back in shock and covered Rosalyn with his arm.
“Call Isabelle,” Godric ordered his son. “Right now.” Eric knew that tone of voice. It was fatal. He pulled his cell from his pocket and Godric snatched it once it rang.
“Where are you?” Godric demanded.
“I am about to drop my donor off at his home,” Isabelle said. “I’m on Mockingbird Lane, almost in Lakewood.”
“Isabelle the Third, Child of the House of Antonio, King of España, my Second in Command! You dare. You dare lie to me!” Godric growled a sound so deep no one but a supernatural could hear it. It sent shivers through both of his progeny. Rosalyn burrowed underneath Eric. Godric’s underling on the other end of the phone gasped. “You think it wise to try to deceive me? After all these centuries? After everything I’ve given you? After the countless times I have rescued you? The donor was not yours and I knew it the second I smelled him!”
“My Lord, I apologize! I meant no offense,” Isabelle said.
“We will discuss how you’ve allowed my first child to manipulate you against me when you return.”
“My sovereign Lord, I beg your forgiveness!”
“I am extremely disappointed in you, Isabelle. You have failed me.”
“Godric, Great One, my dearest friend! I only sought to help your wife. Forgive me!”
“You have never done something this foolish. You will be punished for this, as will Eric. I will be speaking with your maker.” Isabelle cried and there was a screech of tires. She had pulled off the road. “Listen to your Lord Commander very carefully. Are you listening?”
“Yes! I hear you.”
“There is a change of plans. Take this boy Michael home. Have him pack a bag and bring him back here. He’ll need at least several days of clothing. Get some food for him on your way back to the estate. Tell him he will not be accepting any other clients. He now works exclusively for me.”
“Yes, Sheriff. I will bring the donor back immediately.”
Godric snapped off the phone and handed it back to Eric. He took his phone back, stunned. “Uh…Maker?”
“If this human boy pleases my wife, she will have him. I am going to enjoy every second of watching her feast upon my doppelgänger and, if she so wishes, ride his cock until dawn. ‘Fuck this shit’, as you would say.”
Eric’s jaw dropped.
“I have just dealt with four days of the stupidest nonsense I have ever endured. Look at this!” He gestured at Rosalyn. “I have flown over 20,800 miles and given almost all of my blood to heal my wife. You’re sick and I’ve nothing left inside to heal you properly. I am going to gut that son of a bitch Roman and torture and kill every one of his associates and every last traitorous girl in Tarquin’s line. And I’ll be laughing as I do it.” He sucked at his teeth, as if he could already taste their shattered bone and marrow. “You’re not going to get a chance at revenge, Eric, unless you think you can get to them before me. I hope they enjoy having their own entrails pulled from their bellies and stuffed, still attached, down their throats. They won’t even have their own screams for comfort. They’ll be choking and starving on themselves while I tear them to shreds with silver. I’ll do it slowly. Very slowly. I am going 3rd century BC on them. Not even you have seen what I will do when pushed this far.”
Eric’s eyes widened. Godric did not bluff. In a thousand years, he had seen his maker do unspeakable things. The prospect of him somehow exceeding his track record was unthinkable.
“We’ll have to restructure the Council completely,” Godric said. “I may move us to Shreveport so we can all be together. I’ll abdicate my Sheriffdom.”
Eric stuttered. “Um. Maker…my position might not be so stable. You should know that I had a blowout fight with Sophie-Anne last night. She sent Compton back into Area Nine. He’s been skulking around for intel on me and he squealed like a little pig to her that neither I nor Pam had been directly running the Area. She demanded $200,000 from me.”
“Put her on the phone. Now.”
“Gods, I warned her that this would happen.”
“Andre speaking,” the Queen’s Second in Command answered. Godric identified himself. The only response they heard was the rapid patter of Andre’s shoes slapping down the marble corridors in panic.
“Sheriff Godric. This is Sophie-Anne,” the Queen purred.
“Not Queen for much longer. You are a puppet regent far too young to control our capitol and you are a reckless, wasteful vampiress. Your conduct is reprehensible. My child will not be paying you extra tribute and you can forget about our House paying for the wedding party. You will be footing the bill for us. Consider your reign over.” Sophie-Anne went to reply and Godric hung up on her.
“Who’s running your Area de facto? Thalia?” Eric nodded. Godric scrolled through the contacts and dialed the ancient vampiress. “Thalia? Get Indira and sharpen your swords. It’s game time.”
How quickly Godric could think and act when he was motivated was dizzying. Godric looked again at the list of numbers and dialed Russell Edgington.
“Hello?” Edgington’s Greek consort answered.
“Talbot, get me the King. It’s Sheriff Godric.” There was a shuffle and scratch of fabric on the line.
“Godric!” Russell said cheerily in his fake Southern accent. He pronounced it ‘Gawwwdric’. Eric winced. He hated when people mispronounced his maker’s name.
“Russell, I require your assistance. You are coming to the wedding announcement party, yes?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Sheriff.”
“This is a very delicate matter. Are you alone? I must speak with you in confidence.”
“Yes, I’m in my office.”
“Talbot has left the room?”
“It’s just me.”
“This is not to be shared with anyone, under any circumstance.”
“Ooh, secrets between the ancients of the New World! Do tell.”
“I do not jest. If you betray me, I’ll kill you.”
“Come now, I’m a thousand years older than you. Save your threats.”
“No, you’re actually not, and we both know I’m the superior fighter.”
“Alright, testy, testy. What do you need? You know I’m still not very happy with Eric.”
“Forget your quarrel with Eric. That matter is over.”
“Russell, I am planning on kidnapping and killing the High Counselor at the party, most of the other counselors, and the girls of Lucius Tarquinius’ line. You are nearly Roman’s age. We have other elders on our team, but I could use some more backup if you would be so kind as to support us.”
“Why ever would you do that?”
“He has crossed me for the last time.” Godric explained what happened.
Edgington was stunned to learn that Godric had turned the human woman he had been pictured in the papers with. His shock turned to astonishment when Godric told him they had pledged marriage. No one – save for Godric and Eric’s superiors – actually knew who was being married at the New Orleans summit. Queen Sophie-Anne had been told, as had King Peter and High Counselor Roman.
“And here I thought you’d lost your mind and decided to marry Sophie-Anne,” Edgington quipped.
“You’d kill Roman too if he’d done this to Talbot,” Godric said. Edgington and his mate were the only other pledged maker-child pair in the Americas.
Russell heartily agreed. “What will we do about the Council?”
“We’ll reorganize it.”
“Will your wife be well enough to attend the festivities?”
“Yes. She is recovering.”
“Good. I do look forward to meeting her. My heartiest congratulations, old boy.”
“Come armed. I’ll see to it that the guards will not stop you.”
“I believe I have some very nice silver chains.”
“We will speak soon. Thank you, Russell.” Godric snapped at Eric to get up. “Heat up some blood.”
Eric scrambled for the fridge. “How much?”
“I don’t know. Just keep it coming.” He rung another number as the microwave was droning. The connection trilled with a UK ringtone. “Amleth? Gather your children and get on a plane right now.”
“Godric, what’s wrong?” his adopted child said.
“I said right now! I want you here beside me at once!” He quickly retold the story.
“What did that motherfucker Roman have to say for himself while he kept you?” Amleth hissed.
Godric’s face darkened. “He had nothing to say, save for wasting my time and horribly sickening both of my progeny.”
“Please tell me you staked him.”
“I could not get my hands on him. He was always protected and his resting place was guarded. We’re taking them all at the party.”
“He is dead. We will slay every last one of them.” Amleth paused to speak to one of his children. “Costas. Constantine! Get us a plane fueled and ready to go to Dallas.” He put the phone back to his ear. “Who do you want to run London if we all leave? Without Costas or Eva on the ground, there is no one to run my Sheriffdom.”
“I don’t give a fuck who runs London. Leave it. Let those useless vampires squabble and kill each other off if they are so incapable of conducting themselves without a Sheriff to tell them what to do. I’ll slaughter the Queen if she protests.”
Amleth was momentarily speechless. He had not heard that Godric since he was a wee vampire barely out of the ground. “Yes, sire. We’ll be there in about ten hours. What would you like me to do with Sookie? She won’t be protected if we’re all gone.”
“Bring her. I am done with Niall’s bullshit. He left Sookie in this family’s care. We will take care of her,” he said with a vicious gleam in his eye.