Eric was chewing on a toothpick, deep in thought, when Isabelle came into the living room. She crossed her arms and glared at him. He gestured for her to wait and remained focused on the chess board between him and Amleth. He settled on moving his bishop and Amleth grunted in response. It was a smart move. Satisfied, Eric looked up at Isabelle. “He gave me a human. I have to treat him with ‘dignity’. What did you get?”
“To be your Queen.” Eric ditched the toothpick with a curse and kicked his legs off the couch. “Exactly,” she said.
“Gods,” Amleth said, moving a game piece to capture Eric’s bishop. “It’s going to be that kind of century, isn’t it.”
Isabelle was not amused. “Do you have any idea how much trouble this will cause, Eric?”
Eric considered it. “It could be worse, Isa. We’ll run the hell out of Louisiana.”
“Sophie-Anne has been floating marriage proposals by a half dozen monarchies. She’s run afoul of the IRS.”
“She ran afoul of Godric. That’s all that matters, no?”
“You two sure pissed him off,” Amleth observed. “Whatever did you do?”
Eric sucked at his teeth. “I got Ros a donor while Godric was gone. It was her first live feed.”
Amleth shrugged in confusion. “Unfortunate but necessary, no?”
“We tried to cover it up. “
“He looks like Godric,” Eric added.
“Ros made the kid come in his pants.”
“Oh dear.” Amleth covered his smile with long fingers. “Godric was gone for a week?”
Eric gave his brother a look. “Four and a half days.”
“Aiming for a new record, are we?” Amleth’s shoulders started bouncing in laughter until he could not hold it back any longer. Eric had truly outdone himself. Between inciting treasonous behavior in Godric’s Second in Command and attempting to conceal Rosalyn’s very “special” baby steps as a vampiress, Eric had managed to make the irascible ancient both furious and wildly jealous. Amleth cackled with his infectious laugh.
“Save it, pretty boy,” Eric grumbled. “You’re next. Sookie pulled her shit in front of Godric.”
“Well damn.” Amleth was not surprised in the slightest. “But you say Godric gave you a human? You don’t mean the – “
His answer walked through the main corridor, bandaged and dazed, led by Stan. “Well, hel-lo,” Amleth purred. He was up in a flash, trashing the chess game in his haste.
“I was going to have you in three moves!” Eric protested, half-heartedly chucking one of the fallen game pieces after him. It clattered to a stop at Michael’s sneaker and the human bent over to pick it up.
Amleth scanned the donor up and down. “My, my, my. What do we have here? Amleth of Cumbria, Sheriff of London. Charmed, I’m sure. And you are?”
“Godric’s,” the boy responded flatly.
“Oh yes – and Eric’s too, I hear.”
“He is my ward and my employee, Amla.” Eric zipped to stand between the two. He snatched the pawn back from Michael. “And there is an edict on him. Back off. Or have you forgotten the last time Godric had your fangs?”
“An unfortunate misunderstanding and he had yours too, as I recall,” Amleth said, still distracted.
“Just the one fang,” Eric muttered.
Stan shifted uneasily in his cowboy boots. “Sheriffs, beggin’ y’alls pardon, but I got orders to get this’un home.”
“Shame.” Amleth licked his lips. “There is still plenty to go around.” He grazed the boy’s cheek with his knuckles and Michael leaned away from the touch. His resistance was instantly foiled. Amleth caught his attention. Michael swallowed and his pupils dilated. No one was immune to the strange siren song in Amleth’s blood. Everyone wanted to be him or to be with him, often both – regardless of whether Amleth behaved badly, which he often did, simply because the entrancing devil could.
“You are so like Godric. I wonder…” Amleth peeked down the boy’s t-shirt and grinned.
Michael pulled his collar back from Amleth’s intrusive fingertip. “I have to go. I’m supposed to get eight hours of sleep. But, um, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Will you then?” Amleth looked as pleased as the cat who ate the canary.
“Yeah. Godric wants me to learn martial arts from you. I took some karate when I was younger and I wrestled JV in high school, just so you know.” Eric rolled his eyes.
“Really,” Amleth said. “It will be my distinct pleasure to instruct you in any number of full contact sports, if you’ll oblige me.”
“Sure. Looking forward to it, sir.”
“You’ve been dismissed, Michael,” Eric said. “Goodnight.”
“Michael is it? How positively…Catholic.” Amleth sounded scandalized.
Eric took Amleth firmly by the arm. “I need to speak with you.” The vampires suddenly froze. Michael adjusted the duffel bag of clothing he was carrying over his shoulder, unsure of what they heard. Their eyes were fixed on the hallway leading to the secure guest suites. Moments later, Sookie came out and greeted the motionless gathering with a crazy smile. “Hey ya’ll. Oh hi!” She recognized the other human. She extended a hand to Michael. “We didn’t get a proper introduction. I’m Sookie Stackhouse.”
“I was just gonna order some takeaway.” Sookie giggled. “Take-out, I mean. They call it ‘takeaway’ in England. Isn’t that funny? Same language but how they came up with so many different ways of sayin’ the same thing as us, I’ll never know. Anyway, you want some? I can make it for two.”
“No,” Eric and Amleth said in unison.
“Sorry,” Michael said. He was unsure of the reason for the vampires’ harsh reaction. “Maybe some other time, Sookie. I’m heading home.”
“No worries. See ya, Michael. Oh, and just in case no one’s suggested it?” She pointed to the bandage on his neck. “Try some of that anti-bacterial spray with lidocaine if the bite gets itchy. Works wonders.”
“Sure, thanks,” Michael said. “Have a nice evening.”
Isabelle had watched the exchange unfold from the archway of the living room. She clucked her tongue and shook her head in dismay. Eric looked at his soon-to-be Queen, then at Amleth and the donor, and finally Sookie. He realized what a god damn nightmare Godric had given him. Between his incorrigible brother and Godric’s eager to please dark-haired doppelgänger and the fairy princess fangbait, this was a disaster already in motion.
Eric shooed Stan and the blood bag toward the foyer and dragged Amleth away by the arm. Amleth winked over his shoulder at the boy. “À bientôt, Michael,” he called out. Michael smiled back and waved. Eric cursed under his breath.
In Amleth’s guest suite, Eric laid into his raven-haired brother, painting an unflattering picture of the astronomic mess they were presently in and reminding him of how Godric’s current disposition was without precedent. “Rosalyn doesn’t have the first clue what a complete psychopath Godric can be, Amla. She’s trying to ‘handle’ him.”
“Why bless her heart,” Amleth said, channeling one of Sookie’s Southernisms.
“I can’t figure out how to communicate the scale of Godric’s strength or the depths of his twisted genius. Ros thinks he turned us over his knee and spanked us when we were naughty.”
Amleth sighed wistfully. “No, that’s only for very, very good fledglings.”
“Focus, you freak.” Eric leaned against the desk. “Ros does somehow manage to talk Godric down from his crazy tree. It’s the damnedest thing you’ve ever seen. But everyone is getting caught in his crosshairs in the meantime.”
“You are worried for her.”
“Of course. She’s my bloodkin.”
“She’s your bonded,” Amleth countereds, all too familiar with Eric’s deflections. “Does she know how serious a permanent tie is? Do you, for that matter?” Eric glared at him and Amleth glared right back. “Listen to yourself, denying how much you care.”
“We have an understanding,” Eric said coolly.
Amleth raised his eyebrows, wholly unconvinced. “Here I thought you dragged me into the time-out corner over Michael.”
“Michael is a key side effect of this crapfest.”
Amleth examined his gleaming nails. “Why shatter Rosalyn’s illusions? Perhaps you are just dying to tell her how tough and brave you are for having survived all of Godric’s big bad Byzantine days.”
“I had to put myself between them in the middle of their first spat, Amleth. Imagine had it actually come to blows. Are you going to give her a demonstration of what it’s like to have your spine crushed by an ancient?” They both shivered at the memory. “I didn’t think so.”
“He wouldn’t,” Amleth said.
“I pray to the Norns that is the case. But as I’m a betting man, I know never to wager on what Godric will or will not do – which is why I wasn’t taking any chances.”
“Perhaps you are afraid, Eric. Perhaps I should be too.”
“Of what happens now that Godric has moved on.”
Eric scoffed. “You’ll see for yourself how things are with Godric soon enough. He’s not different, Amla. He’s more. More everything. It’s glorious to behold.”
Amleth nodded in understanding. “Glorious and terrifying.”
“Mind yourself, Eric. Gods know I paid for getting involved in your shenanigans. He’ll shellac you for getting tangled up in hers.”
“Case and point. I knew the risk when I brought in Michael. Back off him. That’s an order. You mess with him, you’re messing with me.”
“Ditto for Sookie, little brother. Don’t think I missed how you were winding her up.”
Eric ran a hand through his hair. “Trade you.”
“Why trade when we can share?” Amleth said. “Double the trouble, double the fun – or something like that.” He sprawled out over the couch in the spacious sitting area of the suite. “You need to chill out, mate.” Eric mashed down a pithy retort. They would see how ‘chill’ Amleth kept when it came time to face down Roman and his hell-bitch sister. “Seriously, Eric. You’re off your game tonight. I don’t like it. You are letting this get to you and your color isn’t right. Want a hit?” He offered a pale wrist. Eric was about to refuse when he felt a misplaced heat rise in his belly. Eric’s glassy expression was not lost on Amleth. “Is that a ‘yes’?”
“No.” Eric blinked. Tasty as it might be, Amleth’s blood would not help him. The odd feeling built and he adjusted himself in his pants. Amleth propped up on his elbows and looked at him queerly. “Eric, what the devil is going on with you?” Eric was about to deny anything was amiss when his eyes rolled into his head and he dropped to the carpet with a bellowing moan. It was followed by a series of hard, full body spasms that left him grunting and gasping for air. Minutes later, when he finally rolled over on to his back, hair askew, Amleth was perched over the arm of the couch, peering down at him with absolute joy.
“Don’t say a fucking word,” Eric said.
“Not. A. Word.” Amleth peeled over in riotous laughter, gripping his knees to his chest as he wheezed. Eric shivered in a maker’s call and he slowly collected himself off the ground. Amleth pointed at the wet stain on Eric’s jeans and laughed even harder. Tears streamed from his eyes. Eric gave him the finger as he left.
Halfway across the estate, he could still hear Amleth. Eric paused at the master bedroom door. He had a fair idea of what to expect on the other side, but he was not sure why he was being called into it. Rosalyn broadcasted herself loudly and unfiltered in her bonds; she had not yet learned how to mute them. Eric was not interested in blocking their connection. He relished Rosalyn’s happiness. Her pleasure surging in his mind felt delicious. Judging by his internal clock, her appetites had been more than satisfactorily entertained for the last several hours. But it was not Rosalyn’s pleasure that had just stirred him and brought him to his knees. That was all Godric’s doing.
The heavy door shuddered as its large deadbolts disengaged and Eric’s eyes went wide at the scene inside. “Okay…” he said to no one in particular. He had not, in fact, seen this one coming. There were discarded blood bags strewn everywhere, as well as shredded sheets and pillows. A substantial amount of human blood had been splashed around. In the midst of the chaos, there were two very giddy vampires twirling and dancing to some slick music on the record player.
“Come, come!” Godric beckoned him while spinning Rosalyn in a circle. “I need both my progeny beside me.” A hand smear of blood striped Godric’s chest. He was clad only in a silk robe. There was blood matted in his hair.
Rosalyn, equally debauched, careened at Eric and took his hand. He quickly twisted away before she could latch onto him. She laughed and turned and twirled back towards him and he stepped aside again. “Eric!” she complained. He spun her around and brought her into a swing step where he could control her movement and keep her at an arm’s length. Godric continued dancing by himself. Eric looked at his maker, bewildered. What the hell did the old man expect him to do? Rosalyn was gleefully swept up in the heady thrall of unchecked bloodlust and marked six ways to Sunday as Godric’s. Godric had bred and fed and seeded his dam and her body screamed of his threatening claim. Even as her bonded brother, Eric was uncomfortable touching her without permission.
Eric pirouetted Rosalyn back to Godric, who caught the beauty by her waist and gave her a searing kiss. Godric gestured for Eric to take a seat. The record suddenly jumped and the music changed to a different song, this one slow and sultry. The record had not skipped – the needle was moved. Eric’s teeth dropped from his gums in shock and he swore. A tiny smile gathered at the corner of Godric’s mouth. Yes, his smile said. Telekinesis.
“Holy shit, Godric. When -” Godric shook his head. Not now. Rocking Rosalyn from behind, they slow danced closer until they were swaying between Eric’s knees. Rosalyn stumbled drunkenly and caught herself on Eric’s thighs. She laughed at the damp stain on his crotch. “You’ve been having fun!”
“Not nearly as much as you,” Eric said.
“Go clean up,” Godric told him. Godric tightened his grip on Rosalyn. “It is time to wind down, love.” Eric left the two lovebirds while he rinsed off and changed. Godric and Rosalyn were still slow dancing when he returned in a fresh racer tee and sweatpants. Godric deposited Rosalyn onto Eric’s knee and she nestled her head against his shoulder. Eric’s arms automatically folded around her, as though she had always been there. Not even Pam sought his affection quite like that. Rosalyn sighed and something relaxed in Eric too.
Godric pulled the footstool closer to Eric’s armchair. He reached over and carded his fingers through Eric’s golden mane, twining the soft strands. He ran a thumb over the shell of Eric’s ear. Elfin ears, Godric always called them. The thought made Eric smile.
In those quiet minutes, lost entirely in Godric’s intense focus and the calm settling into their bonds, Eric did not notice that the lights had dimmed, nor that the candles illuminated. It was only when his maker stood and pulled a different record from his shelf that he realized Godric was playing with his powers. The needle hit the vinyl record and the downtempo singer Godric had liked so much of late was replaced with something older. A frisson of recognition chilled the down Eric’s spine. The sultry notes of a piano and smooth saxophone lilted over the speakers. The slow tap of the drums rolled out heartache. Godric sat back down just as the lamenting wail of the legendary soul singer began. Eric could not school his features. He knew his face was raw with the memory.
Tearing down the backroads of upstate New York in his brand new ’68 Corvette, this song belting on the radio. Talking on the warm hood of the gorgeous car with his maker. Watching the same stars that had watched over them for a thousand years. Asking Godric yet again to join him in America. Yet again receiving the same answer. “Ain’t No Way,” was a song that dug up things better left buried.
Godric placed a smooth hand on his arm. “I should have said yes.”
Eric averted his eyes. “You did, eventually.”
“I should have said yes long before that.” Godric had deferred his move to the U.S. for nearly a century. And he had not been the man Eric had known once he finally came. Only since Rosalyn’s entrance in their lives had he found himself again. Eric had not been enough. Eric shrugged helplessly.
“I lost us a lifetime together,” Godric said quietly. “Perhaps two lifetimes.” Rosalyn was toying with the steel anchors Eric wore around his neck. Eric closed his hand around hers to still her. He did not want those symbols fiddled with, not when Godric was discussing something so serious. A tightness spread in Eric’s throat and he could not make himself speak. Godric did for him, his eyes searching and wet. “Can you ever forgive me?”
Eric squeezed the bundle of Rosalyn in his lap. Her pleasant weight was a reminder of the impossible gift Godric had given him. Godric made her for them both. A sister, a confidante. Eric finally had someone with whom he could share all of the mysteries and wonders of his maker without compromising Godric – and without compromising himself.
Godric furrowed his brow. “You do not accept my apology.”
Eric’s lips suddenly went dry. He licked them. Within his chest, in the place where Rosalyn resided, he could feel her urging him on: tell him, she said. Eric took a breath and risked it. “Maker, you were forgiven the night you first spoke to me and offered me an eternity at your side.”
Godric blinked back tears. “As were you, from the moment you accepted.” Godric pulled Eric’s face to his and nuzzled him. He let a deep, rumble of a growling purr against Eric’s throat. Eric swallowed, eyes closed. There was not a word in any language for that sound. It was his greatest weakness, his greatest drug.
“All the same,” Godric said, kissing him. “I was wrong.”
Rosalyn stretched up, cupped Eric’s cheek and gave him a tender kiss as well. “I should shower too.” She glided to the bathroom and Eric watched her, transfixed. She had the distinct air of a woman satisfied with her work.
“Ros will be busy training with Amleth tomorrow night,” Godric said.
“Will she.” Eric said neutrally. “I had hoped to start her on self-defense skills myself.”
“I know. Amla’s fighting style is better suited for her. You will introduce her to weaponry.” Eric did not reply. “I ordered extra steel when I made Rosalyn’s oathing knife. I assumed you would want to make her first weapons.”
“I’m thinking katanas.” Eric gave a furtive look at his longsword on the wall. He had not known it was here until Rosalyn walked into their lives and gave him a reason to enter his maker’s Dallas bedroom. “I was surprised that wasn’t one of the replicas.”
“The replicas are in the armory if you’d like to practice with them.” A beat of silence passed between them. “Do you think me very sentimental?”
“You did teach me that a vampire masters his emotions.”
“I did. And you taught me not to destroy the emotions that matter,” Godric said. Eric gave a shattered smile and ran a hand over his mouth, embarrassed and proud and willing back his own tears.
“I like seeing Grendl every night before I face the world,” Godric admitted.
“It’s okay if you want to put it in secure storage.”
“Never.” Godric gave Eric a sharp shake on his bicep and repeated his refusal. “Aldri, Eiríkr.” Godric would never let Grendl out of his sight. It was tantamount to giving the sword back. That would never happen. He would never renounce Eric’s oath.
Almost no one knew Eric had not been released. It had been an ugly matter between them. Godric could not, in good faith and with a clear conscience, promise never to release his child. What if Eric one day demanded it? They fought viciously over it. Eric wanted Godric’s word that he would never renounce their tie and yet the Celt refused to make false promises. Eric found their impasse intolerable. The cunning Viking engineered a workaround. He swore his fealty to his maker for all time or pledged to die by his own sword. The arrangement brilliantly bound them in mutual consent. Either Eric had to take Grendl back and prove himself an unfaithful liar in order to secure his release, or Godric had to foist Eric’s freedom upon him, knowing the stubborn man would die by his own hand just to prove his point. The sword would stay where it belonged – at Godric’s side.
Eric gave Godric a patronizing look. The sword had been there the entire time as a reminder of what Godric meant to Eric. “I know,” his maker said. “I should have known better. I will not forget again, my warrior.”
“As if Ros and I would let you try to check out again. It is two against one now, min lilla gubbe.” His little old man. Godric shook his head. It was an endearment for adorable babies.
“Are you satisfied? Are we good?” Godric said.
Eric’s icy eyes flickered over the arches of his high cheekbones. He licked his lips again in consideration. “Rosalyn is one hell of an apology, as apologies go. We’re good.” Godric clapped Eric’s shoulder and moved to the bed. He pulled the ruined comforter off and tossed it aside. “Would you care to explain why I was made privy to your little debauch this evening?” Eric swiveled in his chair and spread his knees, displaying the lingering and prominent effect of the passion that had incapacitated him through the bond.
Godric paused from stripping the bedsheets. “You are not fully healed. I was helping.”
“I was in the middle of a conversation.”
“When has that ever stopped you?”
Eric chuckled. “Fair point. I’m a Virgo. I like to multi-task.”
Godric ignored him. “My children are running around my Sheriffdom looking deader than dead. I won’t stand for it. Come to think of it…” Godric flapped the fresh sheet out across the mattress with sudden determination and called Rosalyn. She popped her head out from the bathroom looking like a wet meerkat.
“Sit,” Godric ordered, snapping at Eric to join Rosalyn on the big bed. He took his time picking up the remains of their feast from the floor. “As I was saying, Eric, I want Rosalyn to have time to get to know Amleth better. They need to exchange blood again. I thought we might have a boys night out tomorrow. You’ve wanted to get suits made. I do have a wedding coming up. What do you say, best man?”
“I’d be honored.” Eric was genuinely surprised. He had not known they would include such honorific positions in the wedding party.
“Ros can start learning the Old Gaelic with Amla too.”
“Amleth’s is purer than mine, for sure,” Eric agreed. “I was lazy,” he explained to Rosalyn. “And liked the tongue of the Angles much better.”
“English certainly came to have its advantages,” she said.
Godric snorted. “He doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body, Ros. He’s just a terrible snob who won’t do anything if he can’t be the best at it. Amleth started with an advantage. He was born near Hadrian’s Wall where both Pictish and early Gaelic were trade languages. Whatever it is that I was born speaking – some kind of Celtic proto-Gaelic – it eventually split into Amleth’s languages. Eric’s Old Gaelic is perfectly serviceable, he just stubbornly insists on filling it with Norse.”
“Norse insults are far superior. I can think of several I’d like to share right about now,” Eric said.
“You’ll get her up to speed with all the Scandinavian languages,” Godric assured him.
A sly smile slid over Eric’s lips. “You think I wasted our sick days? Show him, Ros.” Rosalyn burst forth with a string of very creative oaths describing, in detail, how she would smite her enemies, raze their villages, desecrate the bones of their ancestors, and bring down the wrath of the gods in her wake.
“How very practical of you, Eric,” Godric sat down between them on the big bed and Rosalyn whispered in her husband’s ear. He smiled and kissed her. “That is much more like it, love. Though equally unhelpful for sending coded messages in battle.” Eric grinned, having heard every last filthy word.
Godric hummed in thought. “Ros, Eric says you were able to feed like me when he restrained you.”
“Oh.” Rosalyn bit her lip, sheepish. She buried closer into him. “Yeah. It’s….nice.”
“That is not just an enjoyable trick, darling. You’ve inherited that ability, much like your cuddliness.”
Eric laughed and ran a hand over his face. “Gods save us. Godric the Great, fearsome Dark Lord of Death, creates snuggle monsters.”
“He what?” Ros said.
It was Godric’s turn to look sheepish. “We always wondered. Eric is very tactile for a vampire, as am I. So are you, it turns out.”
“Is that bad?”
Eric shook his head vigorously and laid back, hands beneath his head. His maker automatically reclined and rested his head in the crook of Eric’s arm as he had for centuries. Godric pulled Rosalyn into his own chest. The three of them fit like perfect concentric shells.
“It’s not bad, but you need to hide it,” Eric said. “Our kind only seek touch to feed and fuck.”
“How do you figure?” Ros flipped over. “You always see vampires draped all over each other.”
Eric understood her confusion. “You’re talking about nesting vampires, Ros. The morons who end up in front of Godric or me because they are misbehaving. Unrelated vampires sharing close ground for the day amplify each others’ predatory drives. They get out of hand if there’s no clear leader.”
“It’s why I only allow Isabelle and Stan to stay here,” Godric said, “and why I keep their quarters on the far side of the estate, so we do not affect each other.”
“But look at us,” Ros protested. “How is this different?”
“We’re kin. It’s comforting.” Godric drew circles down her arm with a fingertip. “The blood knows its source.”
“You,” Rosalyn said and Godric smiled softly at her. He radiated contentment at being bracketed on either side by his powerful progeny.
Eric propped his head up on a hand. “Ros, if I wasn’t sure before, I was certain when I felt you want to shake hands with Costas and Eva tonight. They scare the shit out of you – as they absolutely should – and yet you still had that urge. You wanted to hug Mabel tonight too.”
“I just wanted to be friendly.”
“No poppet. The human urge to make physical contact died when you did. This is a tactile gift, or the early symptom of one, at least.”
“It could take centuries to develop,” Godric warned.
Eric nodded. “I was already flying when it really began for me.”
“What is it? What does it do?” Rosalyn was excited to discover her new strengths.
Godric chewed his lip. “It is a kind of psychic tactility. I can read beings’ emotional states. I can suggest them too if I focus. Eric’s still early in it. He can only read objects.”
Eric reached over and touched Godric’s tattooed collar to demonstrate. “Obviously I know by instinct this vampire is ancient, just like you, Ros, even if none of us can pinpoint his age precisely. Even without being his child, my senses tell me he is more than two millennia old. Twenty-three hundred? Twenty-eight hundred? It isn’t clear. When I touch his ink, I can date it. I know when the woad leaves used to make the pigment were pulled from the soil. I know the ground they were grown in.”
“Jesus,” Rosalyn said in awe.
“Really, really not Jesus,” Eric replied and they laughed.
“How annoying. You must both go around feeling like antiques appraisers all night. Pull out a chair to sit – ‘mid-century Danish modern in leather and steel.’ Try to write a letter – ’18th century federal secretary, walnut, Maryland.'”
Godric shook his head in wonder at the woman. “Your empathy, precious one, is truly unparalleled. You see this for the burden it is.”
“I might just bring gloves back into fashion. At least I won’t have to think about it for what, a half millennium or more?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Godric said. “My ability to sense both people and things came almost immediately. Only more recently have I found that I could influence others through touch.”
“‘Recent’ meaning like circa the 1500s,” Eric clarified.
“You say ‘others,’ Godric. Do you mean it works on other vampires?”
“All creatures,” Godric said in a small voice.
Rosalyn looked at Godric, then at Eric. Eric prayed she did not blast a sudden epiphany all over their bonds and give him away for having spilled information about Godric’s past. Rosalyn let out a wave of great sadness, but nothing more. She understood. The abuse Godric had suffered in his early centuries of undeath would have been terrible enough as it was. This power would have amplified the horrors beyond measure. Eric had an errant thought about Sookie and her own ability. Her suffering must not be altogether dissimilar. But Sookie was a distraction, he reminded himself. He batted the her from his mind immediately.
Rosalyn took a deep breath and brightened. “And you think I inherited this other thing? How I bit Michael? I thought I glamoured him.”
“Trust me, poppet,” Eric said. “You were squarely focused on that boy’s throbbing arteries. You didn’t speak.”
“It’s a kind of mesmerization through touch,” Godric explained. “You nearly did it tonight while you were feeding too, had I not stopped you. But an orgasm isn’t worth needing a transfusion, which is where Michael was quickly headed. You wanted your meal to feel pleasure and you were trying to will him to come through your bite. It tastes so much better.” Godric huffed a laugh. “I can’t tell you how hard it was not to influence you when we first met.”
Rosalyn’s mouth hung open in amused shock. “That’s why you were so pissed off when I touched you!”
“Yes. And you kept touching me, you temptress. Over and over! Making me feel your curiosity and your wonder and well…everything else.”
Rosalyn grinned at him and they were both melted in each other’s gaze. She collected herself and turned back to Eric. “You scoundrel. That’s why you were so obsessed with where you’d touched me in D.C.”
“Not the same! I was keeping track of my slip-ups. You know we are all hyper-aware of our scent trails. What is decidedly not normal is that I like to be handsy, even with those I don’t intend on eating. We have to be mindful of displaying it, lillasyster. We don’t want to broadcast that there is something different about us to every passing supe.”
“Are you sure you weren’t compelling me?”
“No. I can’t compel through touch – yet. I can’t read people yet either – just things. And I can’t glamour through voice alone while you’ve got me listing my flaws, though you can bet your bippy I tried. That’s what messed you up at the hotel. I was trying to throw more of the glamour into my voice than my gaze.”
“Great work, butthead.”
“But I sure as hell can mesmerize my prey with a lusty bite and enjoy a mouthful of hot endorphins while I feed,” Eric retorted. “I didn’t hear any complaints from you, sugar cakes.”
“Eric!” Rosalyn buried her face in a pillow and shook with laughter. “I thought that’s just how feeding was!” Godric started laughing too. He jostled her happily in his arms. “Just the House of Godric, my love. Everyone else must rely on traditional methods, I’m afraid.”
“I, for one, certainly prefer the traditional methods,” Eric said.
Rosalyn resurfaced, breathless. Her cheeks were tinged pink. She could still blush she was so newly turned. “Would you like to get your troublemaker brother back?” Godric asked.
“Yes,” she said and reached past Godric to remonstrate Eric with a feather-light slap. He made a sad face and she moved to slap him again with force.
“Careful, Ros, you nearly broke your hand on me the last time you tried that,” he teased.
“Well this time I have fangs, you jerk.”
“Oooh!” Eric said, waggling his fingers in feigned fear.
Godric snorted at the two. “Bite him, Ros.”
Rosalyn lunged at Eric and they tussled for a brief second before Eric ‘gave’ up. “Oh no. Help. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” he said.
Godric smiled mischievously. “Bite him like Michael. See if you can influence a vampire.”
Rosalyn jerked upright. “What? You mean…? No, Godric.”
“No?” Godric pronounced the word slowly, turning it in his mouth like a foreign sound. “It is nearly sunrise. I’ve cleared all of my tasks for the night but one: you.”
Rosalyn sat back on her heels. “Me?”
“You let Eric trick you. You are his bonded and his bloodkin. You should have known he wasn’t well, even though you were sick yourself.”
“How could I – “
“Tsssst. Do not argue. I am not done speaking.” Rosalyn pursed her lips, but did not protest. She was rapidly becoming acquainted to the sound of Godric in ‘maker mode’. “You cannot read anything through touch yet, this is true. But you do have your blood ties and you must learn to read them carefully. I’m not convinced you know whether you are sending impulses through your bonds or your body. I’m not sure I know either.”
“Thor’s hammer. You think she…Has she been influencing me?” Eric said in sudden comprehension.
“It is more obvious with Amleth,” Godric replied.
The puzzle pieces clicked together immediately for Eric. “How she held him when he was upset. Amla calmed immediately.”
“I think she’s done it to me too.” Godric did not elaborate. Eric was fairly certain he knew at least one unlikely incident that would qualify, thanks to his candid talks with Rosalyn.
“Did I make Eric sick?” Rosalyn’s voice cracked. She set a hand on Eric’s and a crimson mist films her eyes. “Oh no!”
“It’s okay, baby girl,” Eric said. He froze, then snatched his hand away like it had been burned. His response had been automatic. Had she done that or was that simply how he reacted towards her?
“I don’t think she can send specific ideas, Eric. I think she’s pushing her empathy into others. Sometimes. Not always. It is more than enough. She makes you want to empathize with whatever she is feeling for you.”
“So that’s a yes,” Rosalyn said, visibly upset. “Like a bad feedback loop.”
Godric stroked her damp hair, tucking a tendril behind her ear. “Eric and I are already susceptible to it, being bonded and tactile ourselves. Your tie to Amleth also predisposes him. The question is whether you can do it to someone else.”
“Should we call Isabelle?” Eric said. Godric thought they should wait.
Eric considered this revelation. Maybe he had been approaching his tactile powers all wrong. He narrowed his eyes at Godric, then focused on how much he wanted him to be happy. How their reconciliation made him feel. Eric set his fingers on Godric’s bare knee, just below the hem of his robe. Godric smiled. “You’re getting warmer.”
“That’s not just from the bond?”
“I think we never paid very close attention.”
“Great.” Eric sucked at his teeth in annoyance, completely unenthused. The damn power conveyed through empathy. All this time he had been trying to forcibly will impulses at people for his own selfish reasons. “You think I’ve had it all along.”
Godric’s smile broadened. “I suspect so.”
“That’s why the gift came to you when it did. You stopped being a mega-asshole during the Renaissance.”
“I wanted to learn from humans then, not bend them to my will. I had not thought about how it differed from a glamour until recently. I’ve never been able to manipulate others maliciously with touch, so I disregarded the power as useless.”
“I think it’s a wonderful gift!” Rosalyn nudged Eric’s foot. “Sharing is caring, Blondie.”
Eric looked at her lazily. “Do not let Amleth hear you say that.”
The house’s security system let out its loud beep, arming itself for the coming dawn. Godric slapped his thighs. “Alright then, Rosalyn. Your brother is still not fully healed. This displeases me greatly. What is to be done about that?”
“Oh…um…” she said. Eric silently begged her not to antagonize their maker or offer up suggestions. This could go any one of several ways.
“Eric, what would I do if I was a ‘mega-asshole’, as you so charmingly put it?” Godric asked.
Eric groaned. Great. He was the one who had done the antagonizing. “You are no such thing. You never were. I was insolent and spoke out of turn.”
Godric had a determined gleam in his eye. “Humor me.”
“Seriously?” Godric did not reply. “Fine. I’ll bite. Ros, if Godric was not the exceptional, enlightened maker that he is, he would shame and embarrass you by forcing you to heal me completely – body and blood – in spite of the fact that neither of us are interested in or comfortable with that kind of intimacy at this juncture. He might do it precisely because of that fact in order to ruin what should otherwise be the highly enjoyable occasion of having you for the first time. He is pissed at me for picking Michael as your donor instead of some nasty hag who would have disgusted you. I might add that his objections are absurd, since you’re both getting a hell of a lot of ‘inspiration’ from the little beefcake. So I’ll say ‘you’re welcome’ instead.”
Godric was not impressed. “Proceed – and stay on topic.”
“Godric would, I suppose, remind you that I drained myself not once, not twice, but ultimately three times to sustain you – even as you inadvertently sickened me, his beloved firstborn. He would probably call you ‘young one’ a few dozen times so that you don’t forget your total ignorance in this new world and remind you that I am twice your size and nearly 40 times your age, and that there are whole nations of vampires whose sum total of blood is less powerful than that which I fed you. He would similarly point out that the ancient power flowing through our veins is his and very much not ours to do with as we please, and that he could easily command us to serve him as he sees fit. If, of course, he was a ‘mega-asshole’.”
“Why do I get the sense that you spent your entire youth getting bitched out?” Rosalyn asks.
“Because he did,” Godric says.
She slid a hand beneath Godric’s robe. “But since you’re a wonderful maker, maybe just some quality time on the diving board, husband of mine?”
Godric tried to suppress a smile that grew into a silent laugh. “Nice try.” Rosalyn blinked hard, fighting the rising sun. Godric salvaged one of the unharmed pillows and took it with him to the antechamber door. “I expect you two to take care of each other when I cannot. Rosalyn, you have not offered Eric your blood.”
“Oh! I didn’t realize I should.”
Godric gave her a funny look. “You are his bonded. Heal him how you like, but heal him. It is your duty. I can only drain myself so much each night. When you’re done, come to bed. Eric, you go to ground downstairs too. I want my progeny near me.”
“But Pamela…” Eric started to object.
Godric looked over his shoulder. “Pamela didn’t heal you fully.” He let the ‘as I ordered’ hang threateningly in the air, unspoken.
“Where do you think I was headed next? She’s tiny. I’m huge. I didn’t want her tapped out.”
Godric, thankfully, accepted this answer. The antechamber door shut and Eric counted the 13 pattering steps as Godric descended the stairwell. He turned back to Rosalyn. She was growing more owlish and bleary-eyed by the minute. “Bite your wrist for me, poppet.”
“I figured you’d try to go for my femoral artery again.”
“I doubt that’s on the menu.” In truth, Eric doubted he could sink fang so near where she had been claimed. It was not going to be especially pleasant to drink from her at all at the moment.
Rosalyn brushed her hair aside and craned her neck. “C’mon then. Drink up.” Eric did not hesitate. He swooped her in his arms and leaned in to bite Rosalyn’s throat for the very first time – and nothing happened. Eric swore. “You’ve got to be…” He pulled them both back upright, his heroic vampire dip thwarted.
“Unbelievable.” Eric shook his head. Godric was messing with them. This was what Eric got for teaching Rosalyn to feed from a sexy human without Godric – limps fangs and a dry cleaning bill for his designer jeans. Eric took her hands. “Tell me you want to heal me.”
“Mean it, Ros. You’re marked and you don’t mean it.”
“You mean you can’t?”
“I mean I…just…hang on.” Not once in his undead life had his fangs ever gone soft. He popped his neck, rotated his shoulders, and took a deep breath to concentrate. He loosened his grip on her hands and refocused his thoughts. His mindset was wrong. He stopped pushing at Ros to give him what he needed and instead reversed it. Eric Northman, Prince of the ancient and most noble House of Godric, asked for help. The hunger rushed through his fingertips and his fangs instantly dropped.
“Did I – ?” she said.
“Yes, and so did I. We were cancelling each other out.”
“We must be stronger together,” she said and Eric knew he was hearing the echoes of something Godric had taught her. Something Eric, too, had been taught – and was being taught yet again.
“Point taken!” he yelled at the basement door. They could hear Godric laughing below. “Bastard,” he grumbled. “Now my lovely, where were we?”
A/N: Oh my dear Mr. Northman! I do believe old dogs can learn new tricks! I hope you enjoyed Eric’s POV. Thanks for your feedback really fuels the muse. If you have a quick moment, drop me a note in the box below. Reviewers get swooped into Eric’s very capable arms ;F
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