WARNING – This chapter contains canon-typical violence and drug use references. Grab your tissues in advance. This one’s an angst/fluff/heart-crushing angst sandwich.
Amleth was gone. His spicy musk lingered in the jail, tinged a sickening sweet from decay. Not even the reek of adrenaline and death could overpower his scent entirely. Godric stood in the middle of Amleth’s empty cell, staring at the smashed blood pump on the floor. His powerful shoulders rose and fell in a jagged rhythm. He had started breathing unconsciously. Godric never breathed out of reflex.
Eric switched his sword into his left hand and took a silent step backwards. Then another. “We can track him. We’ll find him.” It was a desperate lie. They could not smell a thing upstairs. There wasn’t a scent inside the jail they did not recognize.
Eva thumped at the glass wall of her cell. “Please,” she begged. “Go after him! Amla won’t survive another night without us.”
Constantine folded her into his arms and shushed her. “They didn’t believe us before. They aren’t going to help us now.”
Godric turned slowly on his heel, panting in a berserker rage. Eric crouched and put an unarmed hand up. “Godric, stop and think.” Godric snarled an inhuman sound. “Woah, shit!” Eric yelped and jumped back. “Okay. That’s how we’re gonna do it? Alright.” He positioned himself in front of Eva and Constantine’s cell door. “You’re going to have to go through me to get to them. We need them for questioning. Stop and think.”
Godric roared. All three younger vampires cowered in terror. Eric pulled himself back up, blood trickling out of his right ear. The sound had burst his eardrum. “Start talking, kids! What happened?”
“It was two men,” Constantine said. “Masked. Medium build. One was 5’9, the other 5’11. They killed Ronwe and took Amleth’s body.”
“Clothes, details, anything that stood out,” Eric demanded.
Godric spoke in the hollow voice of Death. “They have been commanded. They are useless to us.”
“Is that true? Have you been commanded?” Eric asked. Eva and Constantine vehemently denied it. He changed the question slightly. Makers often ordered their children to conceal the command itself. “Did Amleth walk out of here on his own steam?”
“No,” Constantine retorted, appalled. “You smell him. He’s a day away from true death if that.” Godric bent down and examined the biometric lock on Amleth’s cell door. “They had your key code,” Constantine told him.
“Impossible,” Godric said.
Eva explained. “It was the shorter one who unlocked everything. He used the keypad.”
Godric sniffed the keypad and inspected it from an angle. “You lie.”
“This is your fault!” Constantine slammed a fist against his enclosure. “All of this has been your fault. Check the logs and then tell me I’m lying, you fucking psycho!”
Godric moved faster than anyone could trace. Eric felt a breeze and a sudden push of pressure at his side and a pop. A powerful spray of glass exploded over Constantine and Eva. Godric had run straight through the bullet-proof partition. He had Constantine pinned against the wall by the throat, his tongue pinched between two fingers. Godric cocked his head. “I warned you about your tongue.” Costas choked and kicked his legs in terror. Godric whipped his head at Eva, eyes blazing. “Talk, or he loses it.”
Eva huddled in the shattered debris, violently shivering. Eric kicked out the sagging remains of the partition. “Talk!” he barked at her.
“1:45 a.m. Two men entered. They executed Ronwe, then went straight for Amleth. Your people slowed them at the exit. They were out by 2 a.m.”
“Vampire? Demon? Fae? What were they?” Godric demanded. Constantine tried to speak and Godric squeezed his throat harder.
“I don’t know. We don’t know anything!” Eva cried. “Please, Godric, don’t kill him!”
“Kill him?” He laughed cruelly and threw Constantine to the ground like a rag doll. Something snapped as he landed and he belted out a cry. Godric tutted at Eva and her brother. “You won’t get quick deaths from me, you tender little things. You ought to be far more worried that you’ll be alive for what I’m going to do to you.”
Godric stalked towards Constantine and he scuttled frantically backwards, dragging his leg. Godric leaned down into his face. “Your sister says you know ‘nothing’. Nothing is a very poor cover for knowing plenty. You two would know that if I’d had a hand in raising you. Pity that I didn’t. You’ll learn now. Start singing.” He placed a foot on Constantine’s broken ankle and Constantine wailed in pain.
“Vampire!” Eva sobbed. “They moved like vampires. But we couldn’t smell them.”
“It’s true,” Constantine said. He grabbed desperately at Godric’s pants cuff. Godric stamped down and he howled in agony. “They knew exactly what they wanted! They didn’t hesitate!”
“What did they say to you?” Godric barked.
“A lie. Learn faster, Costas.” Godric pressed harder.
“Nothing!” he screamed. “They looked at us but said nothing!”
“Ah, so they looked. That’s more than nothing, isn’t it, my pretty little liar?” Constantine scratched wildly through the rubble for something with which to defend himself. He filled his hands with pebbles of glass. Godric leaned into his weight. “Throw that and you’ll lose your hands along with your foot.”
“They’re witnesses, Godric, not suspects,” Eric reminded him.
“Only a fool would believe that,” Godric sneered.
“The intruders were fully masked in SWAT gear,” Eva offered. “They wouldn’t talk to us. We tried. Please, let us out! We’ll help you find them.”
“You need us, Godric,” Constantine sobbed. “Release us.”
“Release?” Godric said. He turned the word in his mouth as if it was foreign. “You and your maker have infiltrated my House and brought ruin to my doorstep. Release is the very last thing I’ll grant you.” The ancient grabbed Constantine by his dark hair, then snatched Eva up by a twist of her white blond mane, and dragged them out of their cell down the corridor.
“Maker…” Eric warned.
“Stand down,” Godric said, his tone frighteningly quiet.
“Maker!” Eric repeated sharply.
Godric turned with a command boiling in his mouth and Eric loosed a cry through his blood. Godric stilled. “You did not just do what I think you did.”
“You’re off the fucking rails.”
“You will regret this.”
Eric held his chin high. “But you’ll regret it first.”
Footsteps pounded through the house above them. They heard Rosalyn gasp when she encountered the interrogation block of the jail. She unlocked the inner security door to the holding cells, sliding on the bloody floor under its weight. She stopped dead in her tracks at the entrance. She and Godric stared at each other for a long, tense moment.
She finally nodded in understanding. “You’re having some trouble here, aren’t you, love?” Godric was breathing again, this time to scent her. “We’re not secure here anymore, are we?” Godric shook his head. He looked like a lost little boy, covered in gore, standing in the midst of murder. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s get somewhere safe. How much time before sunrise?”
“Two and a half hours,” Eric supplied. “You’ll be down in two.”
She stepped nimbly through the disaster, pausing to rattle the sealed door of an empty cell. When she reached Godric, she set a hand on his chest. “You’ve been in a bad fight. Let me clean this up, yeah?” She stroked his shoulders gently. “It’s alright. You can let your grandchildren go now. They’re going to walk into that cell themselves if they know what’s good for them.”
Godric dropped the two prisoners and palmed the cell door open for her. Eva grabbed Constantine and they scrambled into the cell. Godric walked out, squelching through dead vampire remains. He paused and looked back at Rosalyn over his shoulder. His expression was deadly. “You will learn, young mistress, that acts of mercy are a vanity. You indulge in them only to delay your suffering. And mark my words, you will suffer for your mercy.”
Rosalyn swallowed. “Michael was here. Can you please check on him? Then sit down and figure out where we’re going to go to ground. I’ll be up shortly.” Godric evaporated from the spot where he stood without a word or a nod.
“‘Your grandchildren’?” Eric quoted. “Where the fuck did you learn to negotiate like that?”
Constantine was feeding from Eva to heal. He paused, flexed his ankle, and winced. “Thank you, Rosalyn.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” she said.
“You’re a saint,” Eva insisted.
Rosalyn blew a tense breath between her teeth. “I am the bloodchild of Godric. I wouldn’t get ahead of yourselves.” Eric’s expression subtly morphed from surprise, to pride, to a rush of desire. “Please tell me I’m not standing in Amleth,” she said to him.
Eric shook his head slowly. “He was taken. Two unidentified male culprits, if we believe the Bobbsy Twins here.”
She looked around, baffled. “But why?”
Eric glanced uneasily at the prisoners. “It was an extraction.”
“You think…?” She did not dare say more in front of Constantine and Eva. Godric suspected Amleth of defecting to his sister’s side. Rosalyn had thought it impossible, given Thea’s crimes against their maker, but Amleth’s absence was damning. “Rescue? Or cleaning up loose ends?” she asked instead.
Eric’s expression was stony. “We’ll know more if he’s not dead tomorrow.”
Rosalyn swore colorfully. She gestured at the cell in the back of the jail. A crystalline demon-shaped husk lay curled on the ground. “Ronwe?” Eric nodded. She palmed her face. “Jesus Christ, Eric. Half the elders at the wedding wanted to know when I was going to pass sentence and execute him.”
“They want to see if you have what it takes to run a family. Now you can’t make an example of him. Congratulations. You’ve got your first major optics problem, among a half dozen others.”
“He outlived his utility,” she said, floating her suspicion.
“Ronwe was never going to get out of this one alive, Ros. People have wanted him gone for ages.”
She clenched her jaw. “What happens if Amleth wakes up?”
“Then we find him.”
“Eric, this is not looking good -“
“I will not give up on him!” he said, half a threat, half a plea.
Rosalyn chewed her cheek in thought. Constantine was propped up in the crook of his sister’s arm. His jumpsuit was torn and he had lost both shoes. He had cut his feet on the broken glass. Eva was gaunt from feeding him. She ran her slender artist’s fingers through his disheveled hair.
“Why were they left behind?” she said.
Eric pursed his lips. “That’s what Godric was about to find out – the old way.”
Coming to a decision, she squatted down in front of the cell partition. “You two are fucked without me. You know that, right?”
“We’ll do anything you ask,” Eva said. She left her brother’s side to prostrate herself face-down on the concrete. “We are yours to command, madame.”
Constantine struggled to lean forward. “Please. Help us.”
Rosalyn stood and towered over them with crossed arms. “Costas, the last time we talked, you pointed out that prisoners have next to no rights in our legal system. You were quite the little shit to me about it, as I recall.”
“I am distinctly regretting my words at present, madame.”
“Alright.” She knocked decisively on the glass with a knuckle. “I wasn’t playing good cop before. Fair warning: I am now. I have no idea where you’ll end up after tonight. I want to see that you receive a basic standard of care, but I can only help you if you help yourselves. So here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to answer every single question put to you, without hesitation, and cooperate in every way that you are asked. If you try my patience or even think about pulling any bullshit with us, I will turn Godric loose on you and shut the door. Understood?”
“Yes, madame,” they said.
“I’ll get you some blood, bathing water, and fresh clothes.”
“I’ll handle it,” Eric said. “They can’t be trusted not to try to escape.”
She glanced back at Amleth’s empty cell and shook her head at Constantine and Eva. “Do not test me. Your maker understood. He begged me to never let him fall from my good graces.”
Rosalyn went to the CCTV control room while Eric saw to the prisoners. She shuffled through the smashed computer hardware to see whether any of the backup fail-safes had survived. Eric stuck his head in. He watched her dig around. “Can you help?” she said. “Maybe check behind the server tower there. There were high-capacity micro-cards.”
“You had Stan show you how the surveillance system works,” he said in realization.
“Did you think I wouldn’t take advantage of being allowed down here? Let’s see if any of this still has power.” She tugged a handful of cords.
Eric stood motionless for a minute, then quietly shut the door behind him. “Rosalyn.”
“Maybe if – ” She glanced up at him again. She tossed a shattered hard drive back down on the desk. “Why do you look like you ate bad blood? What’s wrong? Apart from literally everything,” she quickly amended.
She suddenly found herself swept up in his arms. His kiss was deep and mournful, filled with aching need. Her back hit the wall and his hands cupped her face. “Eric,” she said, half-lost in the passion of his mouth. He moaned and she hummed and kissed back, then came to her senses. “Eric!”
He released her, eyes wild with hunger. She held up her hands. “What the hell?”
“One night as consort and look at you go.” He licked his lips.
“As messed up as it is, this is my wedding night. Do you mind?”
“I need you to know.”
“Know what, precisely?” She gestured in a vague circle at him. “There’s a whole lot going on in there right now.”
He gazed at the ground, searching for a way to explain himself. “I’ve never seen a vampire do what you just did for Amleth’s children.”
“Well.” She shrugged. “What did you expect?”
“Not that. You’ve never seen murder before.”
“And I am more certain than ever that I was right about you.” He gave a soft smile. “I am sorry.”
“Not for the kiss,” he clarified with a smirk. “For calling you into this. I panicked. Godric was going to take them apart.”
“Surely if they were involved they’d have been taken too?”
“One would expect. Amla would never leave his children behind.”
“I don’t get it.” She furrowed a brow. “Christ…” She dropped her voice, horrified. “Costas thought that Godric wanted to resuscitate Amleth just so he could kill him himself.”
Eric studied her, unsure whether to elaborate. “It is – was – one of Godric’s specialties. He often wasn’t satisfied killing an enemy just once.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Oh, baby girl,” he said in sympathy. He scrunched his face. “You know the bog people archaeologists have found?”
“Yeah?” she said hesitantly.
“Those were traitors’ deaths in the old Celtic world. Killed three ways – hung, drowned, and stabbed. That’s nothing compared to what Godric can do. He is legendary for murdering people repeatedly. The true death is a blessing from him.”
She exhaled and blinked hard, trying to process it. “Would Thea know how to do something like that? Maybe she took Amleth to finish him off.”
He sucked at his teeth. He had clearly considered it already. “It’s possible. Godric worked as the enforcer in Tarquin’s court before he made me. He should have killed the bitch when he had the chance.”
“What are we going to do?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve made everything worse. Using you against Godric was a dirty move, even for me.”
“Eric, I don’t want mercy for Costas and Eva. Godric’s got it wrong. I want to maintain their dignity – and ours – while we determine their involvement. He can’t punish us for doing the right thing.”
Eric snorted an ugly laugh. “He may well exile me, poppet. I’ve lost track of how many times I defied him tonight.”
“He can’t do that! You’re my bonded. As consort -“
“No, Ros. Gods, have you not learned your lesson? Do not play lawyer with him. You’ll enrage him even worse if you try to throw the law at him. He’s your maker. The law is whatever Godric says it is. Who do you think you’ll appeal to anyways? The Council? Three of the four counselors are currently being transported to my jail at Fangtasia.”
She growled. “I’m not going to live in fear of that man’s god damn temper! He’s out of control because he’s afraid.”
“He should be afraid!” Eric slid blindly into a desk chair, half missing it. He gestured at the mess around them. “This is catastrophic.”
Rosalyn set her hands on his knees and leaned down. She brushed his hair away from his face. “We’ll figure this out together. You’ve got me. We’re a good team, you and I.”
“I know. It’s why I gave you my blood.” He sniffed, looking terribly vulnerable. “I was always going to give you my blood, Ros. I decided early on.”
“What?” she stammered, a little breathless.
He stroked her jawline and gave her a fond smile. “One of those things we’ll talk about in a hundred years, okay? I’m sorry to tell you tonight, of all nights. But I needed you to know, in case he sends me away.”
She stared at him, astonished. “I’ve got your back, no matter what.”
“And I yours. Let’s just not present too united a front. We don’t want Godric to think we’re ganging up on him.”
“In case you didn’t notice, I’m not the ‘fall in line’ type.”
Eric chuckled. “I’m counting on it, lillasyster.”
Cases of their belongings were packed and stacked by the door. Pamela carried out another as Rosalyn and Eric surfaced from the jail. Michael was sitting at the dining room table with Godric. He was terrified, quite rightly.
Rosalyn sagged when she saw him. “Thank god.”
Godric reached over and stroked Michael’s head and cheek. The touch was invasive and over-familiar. He locked a paw over Michael’s wrist. “How you answer my next question determines his fate.”
Rosalyn froze. “That is a very dangerous way to begin a conversation.”
“It’s a very dangerous question,” Godric told her.
“Let’s have it then,” she said.
Godric searched her face, as if to memorize every muscle that was about to move. “Who did you tell about the over-ride on my security system?”
Rosalyn blanched. “No one.”
“No one,” she said forcefully. “Not a single person. I swore to you and I kept my promise.”
He smirked in disappointment. “That was your only chance, Ros. I command you to tell me who you told about how my system is bypassed.”
She shook her head. “And my answer is still no one. I can tell you that I discussed security protocols with Isabelle and Stan, poor guy. I talked to Caleb and his teammates about guard rotations. And as I just told Eric, I learned a little about how the CCTV works. Or worked. It’s obliterated, so you know. They knew what they were doing. We would have had off-site backup, but you ripped out our internet.” Eric squeezed her hand in warning.
Godric shot to his feet. “Then you were playing around with the security system and someone saw you. I command you! Who saw you!” Hot tears began streaming down Michael’s face. One jerk of Godric’s hand and he would be dismembered.
“I practiced with the system once, inside the master bedroom, the first night I was here. And I didn’t touch the control panel – which was why you told me how your system worked.”
Eric balked. Almost no one knew Godric was left-handed. “You told her how to bypass your security when she was still human? What the fuck were you thinking?” He looked at Rosalyn in horror.
Godric ground his jaw at his eldest. “I wasn’t thinking, Eric. I was acting like a lovesick puppy.”
“I didn’t tell anyone!” Rosalyn insisted. “You’re reaching, Godric, and you know it. You told me Eric and Pam knew your secret. I’m assuming Amleth knows too? You didn’t mention that because you were too busy hiding who he is to you.”
“Who he was to me,” Godric corrected, in a tone that chilled the room.
Eric growled in a threat. “Amleth didn’t do this! The intruders entered a code. Your palm scan is irrelevant.”
Godric looked between his two progeny. “And here everyone thinks I’m the luddite in the family. The scan generates a digital code, you dolt, not an image. There is no other bypass on the system. I used the code in front of her, for show.”
Rosalyn narrowed her eyes. “Then the system was hacked. They knew what to look for.”
“Which brings us full circle to my original question,” he said, grinding out every word with fury.
“Flames of Hela,” Eric swore. “She must have been glamoured.”
“Eric! What happened to having my back?” Rosalyn said.
“It’s not your fault,” he offered. “Someone must have cornered you. Who do you remember speaking with alone?”
Rosalyn bit her lips. “Godric had me sequestered in his private wing. I didn’t talk to anyone other than you, him…and Amleth.”
Eric shook his head in disgust. “That can’t be true. Stan, Isabelle, even -“
“No, Eric. Amleth was the only other vampire I talked with alone. He stopped me in the hallway a few times. I wouldn’t be able to tell if he’d done something, would I?”
Eric dropped his head, crushed. “We can’t get at traces of glamour once someone has been turned.”
Godric palmed the back of Michael’s head to catch his gaze. “You will not remember this night. The only thing you know about vampire security is that it is impenetrable,” he told him. “Get your things. We are moving.” Michael went to spring out from his seat at the dining room table. Godric held him back. “Walk, little jackrabbit. Don’t run. You don’t want to give chase around angry vampires.”
“Sorry, sir,” he muttered.
“Godric.” Eric turned back to his maker. “You’ve had a lot of visitors in this nest. A lot to distract you. My brother could not have possibly -“
“Devil take me,” Godric snarled. “We don’t have time for this. Get your longsword and help Rosalyn with her things. Pack only what is precious.”
In the early hours of the morning, Godric relocated the family to Shreveport. They arrived at Eric’s unassuming ranch house with the sun bearing down on them. Godric carried Rosalyn inside. “Are you angry with me?” she asked from behind closed eyes.
“Am I in trouble?”
He let out an ironic laugh. “Most assuredly. You married me.” As she fought the rising sun, he made love to her in the master suite, whispering of his devotion.
Rosalyn slipped into her day rest with the touch of Godric’s lips on hers and the slow stir of his cock inside her. She woke in darkness alone, with only the feel of deliciously soft sheets between her legs. The room smelled strongly of Eric. Her senses were on edge – in every way. Bloodlust rumbled in her blood ties and the sumptuous roll of cotton against her skin roused more than one hunger. She found her way upstairs in the unfamiliar house.
The sixties-era interior had been gutted of its outdated features and remodeled along open lines. The rooms were filled with low, Scandinavian furniture in earthy golds and yellows. Light-tight shutters were drawn over the front of the house, while the large windows at the back had been uncovered. The hard-sided trunks with their belongings sat by the entryway. Nothing had been unpacked save for Eric’s ancient longsword. Grendl had been given a place of honor over the fireplace mantle.
In the dining room, a picture collage over the credenza caught Rosalyn’s eye. A frame was missing. The sliding glass door off the kitchen skated open in its track. Eric came in from the patio barefoot, clad only in jeans. “Where is everybody?” she asked.
“Godric and Pam took the prisoners to my club.”
“How is Godric tonight? He’s muting our connection.”
Eric glanced at the bare spot in his dining room art arrangement. “Well, he woke up and ripped a family portrait off the wall first thing, so I’d say not great?”
She groaned. “Costas and Eva -“
“Will be fine,” he said calmly. “The club is open and I always have some of my subjects working the floors, plus my underlings are behind the bar and in the offices. Pam is with Godric. He won’t do anything in front of witnesses.”
“Very clever, Sheriff.” She hummed. “Where’s breakfast?”
“Michael and Sookie are locked down in the guest rooms.” He strolled to the fridge and popped a bottle in the microwave.
She sat on a stool at the counter. “I feel off,” she admitted.
He suppressed a smile. “You’ve never been in someone else’s nest before. It makes us very territorial until the pecking order gets established.”
Territorial did not begin to describe the itch Rosalyn needed to scratch. “Are your rules different from Godric’s?”
“Not where you’re concerned.” He gave her a patronizing look and handed her a drink. “And just so we’re clear, this is mi casa and you’re in my Sheriffdom now. You answer to me.”
She took a sip and winced. “This is ghastly.” Godric had never given her synthetic blood.
“I don’t have donor blood here. I usually eat at Fangtasia.”
She set the bottle down. “Fine. Just let me into Michael’s room.”
“I can’t. Even if I could, you’d rip your snack apart right now.”
She huffed in disbelief. “Godric’s doing?”
“You got it.”
She eyed his bare chest. “I’m ravenous, Eric. Please get me something more substantial to eat.”
Eric closed his eyes. “Baby girl, drink your shitty Tru Blood and don’t press your luck. I’m under a command to care for you, remember? You push me and you will get something substantial from me. You are broadcasting rather loudly.”
She realized Eric was gripping the edge of the countertop. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Godric is using our commands against us as punishment?”
“Spending a little quality time with your bonded shouldn’t be considered punishment, Ros. But whatever you do, do not touch me until you’ve finished your drink.”
She swore. “Can you at least put a shirt on?”
“I was working in the yard.” He brushed self-consciously at the soil on the knees of his jeans.
“Can we call a donor?”
“I do not allow humans here.”
“You do now,” she pointed out.
“Hence why we blindfolded Sookie and Michael when we drove in. How half-dead were you when we got here?”
“Pretty far gone.”
“Gods, you sleep a lot,” he laughed. “It’s an hour after sundown, babykins.”
“Where should I start?” he asked, a predatory gleam in his eyes.
She took a long drag off the bottle instead of answering. A brand new coffee pot sat on the counter next to him. “Do I even want to know why the house where humans supposedly aren’t allowed is stocked for humans? Who were you hoping to entertain?”
He raised his eyebrows at her. “I learned from Godric’s mistake and prepped the house for you, my dear, in case we needed to run while you were still alive. I appreciate that you’re jealous, but dial it back. I’m hungry too.”
“Oh,” she said sheepishly. She offered him the bottle and he curled a lip in disgust. He watched as she sipped at it and worried the corner of the label for a long minute. He turned to wash his hands in the sink. He could feel her building up to an uncomfortable question. “I hate to ask…” she said. “Can you feel Amleth this evening?”
“No.” There was a hard edge to his voice.
“It could be the distance, right?” He gave a careless shrug. “God, Eric. I -“
“Don’t,” he said, flicking off his wet hands and her sympathies. “Finish that and follow me.”
They wandered down a short hallway to the garage. A covered vehicle was parked inside. It appeared to be a vintage Corvette. In front of the car was a workbench organized with tools, many of which were old and well-worn. A small brown fridge hummed diligently beneath the table. Eric pulled out a box from the mini-fridge and rummaged through it. He held up a vial of blood, shook it, then tossed it to Rosalyn.
She sniffed the cap. “What’s this?”
“That, Rosalyn, is Lafayette Reynolds. He’s an acquaintance of mine with – shall we say – an eclectic taste in recreational drugs.”
“This is drugged?”
“A cocktail of opiates and benzodiazepines, to be precise. It won’t kill your hunger but it will cut it. They are downers. Let’s do a few hits and play some Mario Kart until Maker gets back.”
“You aren’t serious.”
He blinked innocently. “I’d offer you the coked up blood but then we’re definitely going to fuck and you’ll resent me for how life-changing it will be.”
She rolled her eyes. “You don’t do humble do you?”
“Why should I? It’s the truth.”
She contemplated the small vial in her palm. “Won’t Godric disapprove?”
He made a skeptical sound. “Did you miss the part where he turned you into a blood fiend for all eternity? This will keep you mildly satiated while he’s out. It’s practical. If anything, you need to learn to recognize how your donors can affect you.”
“You should get the man who donated this some help. He did donate it willingly, didn’t he?”
“Done and done, Ros. I take care of my people. Lafayette is a good egg.”
She debated. She had never experimented with pills. “How long does it last?”
“Atta girl,” he grinned.
She snorted. “You are a terrible influence.”
In the sunken den, Eric dimmed the lights and put on some electronic music. Rosalyn settled into the sectional. “I figured you’d get sick of listening to dance music, what with your club and all,” she said.
Eric scoffed. “This? Please. Way too high brow for Shreveport.” He plopped down next to her.
“Do you miss New York?”
“Yes,” he said simply. He took her arm and tapped several droplets from the vial onto her wrist, then licked them off.
She tried to keep her head above her impulses by talking. “Would you go back to New York if you could?”
“No.” He motioned for her to tip her chin back. It gave Eric a dark and twisting thrill every time Rosalyn wore one of Godric’s dress shirts. It was transgressive and wrong – in all the right ways. He pushed aside the collar and left another drop in the well of her throat. He sucked at it, eliciting an appreciative hum from her.
“Why not?” she asked. He rested a cheek against her chest and she stroked his long hair. “If you like city life…”
He took a moment to explain. “Manhattan is a twenty-three square mile territory jam-packed with quarrelsome elders. Godric can’t live there unless he’s king. He won’t wear a crown, I won’t live far apart from him, and now we have you. It’s not a workable setup.” He leaned up and stole a kiss from her. “Unbutton your shirt a little.”
“You are pushing it.”
“It’s called ‘coping’.”
“Yeah, right.” She fingered open a few buttons and he let a long drip paint the swell of her breast. “Northman, you naughty animal,” she laughed. “Don’t stain my bra.”
“It’s better this way. You’ll see.” He lapped it up, sucking the globe of her breast and releasing it with a pop. “Delicious,” he said. He handed her the vial and leaned back. “Your turn. Feast, my lusty bonded.”
Rosalyn would be lying if she said her mouth hadn’t watered at the sight of him spreading his arms in invitation. He waited, exceedingly pleased by the effect he had on her. She took the first hit off his wrist, as he had. The velvety taste washed over her, carried on the back of Eric’s scent. “That’s…very nice. You wouldn’t have tasted like that though.”
“Everyone’s unique. You could always ask Godric to show you how he remembers me as a human, if he’s willing.”
She licked her lips and drew little mindless circles on his chest with a finger. “Did he keep you…you know. Alive. For a while?”
Eric sat up slightly. “You’re asking about my turning?” He studied her. “That is easily the most private thing you could ask me, Ros.”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I’ve been having…dreams. Or fragments of memories? I’m not sure. They’re very intense.”
He smiled gently. “You don’t remember, do you?”
“You rose August 10th. Our Bonding Night was the 7th.”
“Right.” She shrugged, not understanding.
“Goðí only went to ground with you the day before you reawakened.”
She stared in disbelief. “I was alive that whole time? I thought progeny stayed dead for three days to turn.”
“Not when Godric creates.” He blinked appreciatively. The drugged blood had taken hold and he was more relaxed than he had been in weeks. His pupils were constricted into pinpoints. “Remind Maker to command you now that you’ve realized. You should not share that information with anyone.”
“Oh,” she breathed.
“Those three days are sacred – they are between you and him. He can’t undo the glamour now that you’ve turned. But it’s good that it’s coming back to you. Savor the dreams your maker sends you. Dreams are very special for our kind.” Rosalyn was at a loss for words. “You haven’t, by any chance, been dreaming of me, have you?” She thumped his leg and he grinned. “Mmm. Excellent.”
“What about you?” she asked, certain she would blush if she still could.
He chuckled and tucked his arms behind his head. “You fill my head with all sorts of depraved ideas.”
“Well, file this one for reference.” She drizzled a stripe of blood on his pec and licked it up, catching a nipple between her teeth along the way. He watched her with amusement as she tried to decide on her next place.
“Only a drop or two to finish up,” he warned.
She chose his belly button and he flinched when she poked it. “This is the only proof that you were ever human.” Much to her surprise, Eric squeaked and squirmed when she fished out the droplets. “You’re ticklish! Where else?” She threatened his sides with wiggling fingertips.
He staved off the attack and shoved a game controller at her. “A discovery for another night. I call dibs on King Koopa. You can play Rosalina.”
“Hell no. I’m more of a Bowser.” She snatched the controller.
“Mmm, competitive. I love it. Bring it on.”
Godric found his progeny slumped together on the couch, battling each other on screen. “Hi love,” Rosalyn said, concentrating on her game.
“Everyone settled?” Eric asked him, keeping one eye on the tv.
Godric picked up the half-empty vial on the coffee table and sniffed it. He dipped a pinky in the vial and offered it to Rosalyn. She took it without question, sucking his finger slowly and watching him watch her.
He set the vial back down. “Amleth’s children can still feel his spark.” Eric froze and his cartoon car crashed into a barrier. Rosalyn reached for the remote and silenced the entertainment system. “They know more than they are saying.”
“How do we proceed?” Rosalyn asked.
Godric looked at her expectantly. “You tell me.”
She was grateful for the blood on her tongue. She would be panicked otherwise. “Can they tell where he is?”
“They claim he is being moved east.”
Godric gnashed his teeth. “Tarquin’s brood are utter garbage at communicating in the blood. They always have been. It’s one of their weakest traits.”
“That and not flying,” Eric added. “Until yesterday. I’ve half a mind to toss Eva and Costas off a building just to test them.”
“Your bonded might take umbrage with that tactic,” Godric said, clearly in favor of the idea.
Rosalyn took a deep breath. “Where would Thea take Amleth? Surely not back to her own ground. It’s too obvious.”
Eric floated several possibilities. Tunis. Kiev. Tbilisi. He and Godric debated. It quickly became heated. “A quick recon will tell us if Thea is out of Athens,” Eric said. “We should strike now and take Calla while we can.”
“Strike with what team, child? I have no Second. My assassins have been killed, my nest compromised, my Sheriffdom abdicated. Who do you propose will risk their necks for a fight in the Old World?”
“Give me a break. You could walk in there on your own and tear Thea’s house down around her ears.”
Godric glared at him. “It’s not a hit, Eric, it’s a battle in a war. I have never, in all my years, waged a war in the Old World without Tarquin and his family working in the shadows for me. Now I must fight his wretched children and you would have me go against them empty-handed? Your maker has taught you nothing.”
“Gods damn it all,” Eric barked. “You have me.”
“And we have a newborn to raise, Eric.” He gestured at the couch.
“How many times do I have to say it? Amleth didn’t do this! You’d have Constantine and Eva’s help if you weren’t being so fucking pig-headed!” he thundered.
Before Rosalyn could scream, Godric had Eric on his knees and subdued with a crushing grip on his throat. She had experienced only a fraction of Eric’s indomitable strength. It was terrifying to see him so easily incapacitated – and Godric had not exerted himself in the slightest. He let out a low, rattling growl beside Eric’s ear and yanked his head back by a fistful of his hair. Eric coughed violently. His windpipe had been damaged. “Why are you so blinded by foolish brotherhood?” Godric seethed. “Your human brothers led you to one grave. Amleth will lead you to the next.”
“You frighten your wife, Maker,” Eric said hoarsely.
“Blood will out, Eiríkr Goðríkson! The Tarquinii are a clan of traitors and you would join them!” He shook Eric again, hard, and Eric slumped in his grip, submitting completely. “You will help me rip that noxious bloodline out by the root, or gods as my witnesses, you will not darken my doorstep for a hundred years. Defy me again and see!” Spittle had gathered at the corners of Godric’s mouth. He threw him down. Eric hit the ground in a roll and was instantly on his feet again. He drew his sword from above the mantle.
“I am no oath breaker,” he declared in Norse. He put Grendl to his throat.
“Stop this!” Rosalyn shouted. She moved more quickly than she ever had, materializing between the two of them. She grabbed the blade with both hands and the ancient steel bit through her fingers. “Give it to me, Eric. Now.” Eric resisted. “You trust me. I am yours. Hand it over.” Slowly, he released his hold on the sword. He glared at her in furious determination. She recognized that look. It was the same determination she had seen in Amleth. She furrowed her brow.
“If Godric ordered me to drive a stake into my own heart tomorrow, I would do it without question,” Amleth had said to her.
She closed her eyes at the memory. She saw Amleth’s flashing green gaze. The pout of his full mouth curving into a smile. His wicked wit and his seductive winks. His hand upon her knee, his kiss upon her ring. His sultry passion and the whispered promise of more.
There was a fire in Amleth’s voice when he swore he would give his life just to please Godric. There was a desperate love in his trembling lip each time he spoke of Tarquin. She felt that love constantly – felt it when he pressed Tarquin’s ancient coin into her hand, felt it when he swore he would teach her of Tarquin’s legacy.
Rosalyn’s hand went to her bare neck where the coin had hung. “Tarquinii,” she gasped.
Godric cocked his head suspiciously. “What?”
She sucked in a ragged breath in shock. She looked up at Godric. “Oh my god.”
Godric took the sword from her and roughly deposited her into the couch. “Speak now or I will drain your bones for the truth. I am done waiting.”
Rosalyn trembled. “Amleth doesn’t use his bloodname, does he?”
“Not since 1824,” Godric spat. “When Thea Tarquinii usurped their House.”
Rosalyn looked at her lover, her maker, her moonlight. It cut her to the quick to have to tell him. Amleth had not hidden his resentment. It had been in her memories all along.
“Do you know what Godric thought was so important that he dragged me off to the suburbs…that night? Glamouring a human. For our ‘security’! We would have been at the Council were it not for him.”
“He makes mistakes, Amleth. I realize that’s not the popular opinion around here, but it’s true. He just apologized for one of his biggest screw-ups. Accept it. And please don’t call me ‘little one’.”
“Yes, madame. Forgive me.”
“That’s Sheriff Dingbat Tarquinii of Cumbria to you.”
“Speak!” Godric commanded.
A tear streaked down her cheek. “Amleth called himself a Tarquinii when we were driving to the rigged house – and he blamed you for Tarquin’s death.”
A Tarquinii. Minutes after being re-anointed yet again as Godric’s child, Amleth had used his former surname. Playfully, jokingly, provocateur that he was. He had painted himself a child of the same lineage as his traitorous blood kin. Half of what Amleth said could be taken the wrong way. More than half he intended to be taken as such. Rosalyn tried to express this to Godric. She tried to walk back what such a thing might mean. It was too explosive.
In that moment, time ground to a halt, allowing for several things to transpire simultaneously. Godric’s face fell, obliterated. He turned on his heel for the door. Eric lunged and hit the panic button on the security panel in the den, tripping the alarm settings. The house went into lock-down, bolting every exit. The remaining light tight shutters engaged, drawing down over the large picture windows.
Godric turned on Eric. Someone else spoke behind his lips. Someone else had taken over his limbs. “Defiance against your maker is your ugliest trait.”
Eric towered over him, his eyes blazing fiercely with unshed tears. “Unchecked cruelty is yours. But you gave Ros standing orders on that, didn’t you? What were you ordered, Ros? Remind your maker, baby girl.”
Rosalyn stood slowly. She was not sure where she found her bravery. Her bonds were on fire. She stepped toward Godric. Eric grabbed her hand to stop her. She twisted from his hold. Godric let out a deep growl in warning. She could smell his blood. He had dug his fingernails into the skin of his balled fists. This was the vampire they called Death, Rosalyn realized.
“You would defy me too?” he said, in an empty, inhuman voice.
“It feels safer to hide in the brutality of your own power, doesn’t it?” she said to him.
“Get out of my way,” he said. “Unlock the house, Eric.”
Rosalyn knew, as Eric knew without a doubt, that if Godric got past them, he was going to do something irretrievable to Amleth’s children – and anyone else who crossed him. She squared her shoulders and leveled her gaze at him. “You’re safe with me, Godric. You’re safe right now.” She held out her hands.
“No,” he said, eying her open palms and their empathic touch. “You do not manipulate me, deceitful child.”
“Eric is right. I haven’t forgotten your command. How could I? You ordered me to find the peaceful path in war. You ordered me to prove that your destructive powers have a place in a world we are trying to make better.”
Godric snarled in disgust. “Your world is a fantasy, Rosalyn. This is the nightlife. This is all there is! Betrayal, and murder, and villains!”
She shook her head. “You are wrong. You’re forgetting all the magic and beauty. You’re forgetting moondancing and awe and the wonder that we share.” She beckoned to Eric and thought a quick set of directions at him.
Eric zipped to the cases in the entryway. Within seconds, he deposited a book into her hands. She held it out to Godric, letting the pages fall open to a deep crease in the spine. Her preserved flower sat suspended among poems. “Plant magic dust,” she reminded him. It was the title he had chosen for her blossom. Another tear escaped from the corner of her eye. “Fate is a garden, Godric. We can choose to grow it with love – night by night. My maker taught me that. And I taught him that too.”
Godric did not move. She blinked at her tears. “You are mine. And you gave me all of yourself. You are my weapon to command, isn’t that right? I am commanding you now to stand down. You are terrifying the very people you are trying to protect. Apologize to Eric. You hurt him. Apologize to me. You shoved me around like a brute. You are going to destroy your family out of fear.”
He laughed meanly at her. His fangs gleamed like knives. “You ridiculous modern creature. You surpass even Eric in your arrogance. Do you actually think I will obey you?”
A genuine smile danced over her mouth. “Oh, I know you will. You’ve never had so much to lose as you do in this moment. You’re ready to smash the things you love because they make you feel. You’re behaving like a terrified, cruel little boy.”
“You dare speak to your maker that way.”
“I am speaking to my husband,” she said sharply. She held up an open palm and closed it over an invisible whip. Godric blinked. She raised an eyebrow. “Your move. Or are all your promises meaningless?”
Godric stared at her for a long, suspended moment. His teeth receded with a click. Slowly, he bowed to her. “Mater,” he conceded to his consort. Matriarch.
Eric was sheet white, bewildered and uncertain about the power play that had just transpired. He sunk to one knee before them and lowered his head in fealty, a fist over his heart.
Rosalyn held out a hand to Godric. He took it and she pulled him close. “You are our sire and our Pater. Apologize to us.”
He breathed in her scent and ran his lips over her stained cheek. “I’m sorry,” he said, in the barest of whispers. He dropped his head against her shoulder. “I am so sorry,” he gasped. “I have failed you all.” Rosalyn wrapped her arms around him and it finished him. A tortured sob racked his whole body. “My boy,” he cried out in anguish. “They’ve taken my boy. My magpie!”
He curled his fists into Rosalyn’s shirt and wailed in long, howling sobs. His knees went out from under him and he collapsed, taking Rosalyn down with him. Eric was instantly beside them. Godric laid on the floor and pushed his palms against his eyes, inconsolable. “Why! Why have they done this to us!”
Rosalyn locked eyes with Eric over Godric’s prone form. “It’s personal,” she said with sudden clarity.
A/N – WHAT?! Phew. Breathe. Still with me? I mean, ya’ll knew Godric wasn’t going to handle this well. Note to self: do NOT swear at that vampire.
Please take a quick moment to leave a comment on this chapter. Thoughts, reactions, even just a little note to let me know you are following. I rely a lot on feedback to keep motivated. I cannot wait to share what happens next with you. Plus, I heard reviewers get to play with a half-dressed Viking. Mario Kart is optional XD.
The soundtrack to this chapter was as follows:
Dirty Knife – Neko Case
Dangerous – Big Data
Holy Ghost! [album] – Holy Ghost!
Restless (Fake Blood Remix) – UNKLE
Lonely Soul – UNKLE