Lillian let her head fall against the headrest. The backseat of the sedan was comfortable and she was tired from the club. Having Jeremy around wasn’t entirely dreadful if it meant she could relax after a long night’s work. It had been so strange to be back at Fangtasy for the first time since learning Eric’s secret. She was also relieved to discover that she couldn’t feel anything from the only other vampire she knew, Chow. Her ability to sense vampire emotions was blessedly confined to Eric and his child. Chow had been his typical tight-lipped, brusque self, which was really a blessing in disguise, since it meant she didn’t have to interact much with him. Although he wasn’t unkind, and she knew he’d been instructed to keep an eye out for her, it was still weird having to pretend to him and everyone else that she didn’t know what he really was. Eric had said she should not, under any circumstance, let on or admit that she knew. Chow was under the impression that she’d been glamoured to forget, and the fact that she now bore Eric’s scent tangled in her own was only evidence that she had come entirely under Eric’s control. At least according to their cover story.
Pam and Eric had arrived safely in Duluth which, when Eric called to check in with her, he’d declared to be somewhat less of a shithole than Shreveport. She was disappointed to discover that she couldn’t feel him across the distance, but he wasn’t surprised by it. He said he could still feel her though, and that made her happy. Then he said he could feel her happiness, and that made her giggle. He didn’t have much time to chat, but he made the effort to call her each evening and she appreciated hearing his voice and knowing he was safe. Apparently there was a lot of schmoozing involved with Greysolon and he and Pam hadn’t even brought up the Longshadow issue yet. Politics was the same no matter what manner of species you were – no matter how hard Eric tried to convince her otherwise. It was a good thing she had her research to distract her the past few nights. If she dwelled too long on what was happening with them, she’d be sick with worry.
She was nearly asleep in the backseat when Jeremy’s cell rang. He answered in a foreign language the likes of which she had never heard. The sounds were so strange. She perked up.
“I thought you were American.”
“I am,” he said curtly.
“What language was that?”
“Hmm, don’t think I’ve heard of it. Where’s it from?”
“Not here.” Jeremy really wasn’t a sharing type. She’d noticed most of the people Eric associated with had this trait. Lillian was similar, in that she mostly listening carefully to people.
She was relieved when they turned up the drive to the Treehouse. By now, Lillian had turned into a complete night owl, but it didn’t mean she had limitless energy. Listening endlessly to people talk about themselves in the loud club took it out of her. Her mother always told her there was something about her that just made people want to tell her things. They would blab on and on and on. Ever she was a child, complete strangers would happily strike up conversations with her. It could be exhausting. Even Eric seemed susceptible, since he told her things he’d never share with a measly human.
Walking in the front door she tossed her bag down, kicked off her shoes, and went into the kitchen to make a cup of herb tea before bed. Loving the look of the house at night, she had gotten into the habit of using lights sparingly. In the kitchen, she turned on the single halogen hanging over the island and set the kettle on the stove. She leaned against the counter to wait, and that’s when she saw it: the dark silhouette of a man standing in front of the curtain glass. Cold terror struck her and just as she was about to scream for Jeremy, the words stuck in her throat and warmth spread inside her chest.
Calm. Quiet. Stay.
It was a vampire. And it was thinking at her.
“Whothefuckareyou!” she managed to say.
Quiet. Happiness. Home…
The foreign emotions tore at her, she felt them as her own, but she also felt her terror and desire to escape. The shadow shifted and moved towards her, but her body was petrified, glued to the spot. He was compelling her to stay. Oh god she was going to die and she was going to stand there of her own accord feeling happy about it!
A young man stepped into the light. He had sandy blond hair and a sensually curved mouth. His grey blue eyes stared at her, taking her in.
“Hello, child,” he said softly, a slight lilt in his accent.
“Godric!” Lillian whispered in shock.
He tilted his head to the side and smiled gently. So she knew of him. Strange things are afoot indeed he thought.
Lillian’s knees nearly buckled – she didn’t know whether to bow down to the ancient creature or throw her arms around his neck. Godric reached past her to the stove, pulling the teapot off the heat. She hadn’t even registered that the whistle was squealing away. She moved out of his way, giving him space. Her body was numb with shock. He rummaged about in various cabinets, pulling out a mug and then discovering where she’d stashed her tea. Godric was making her tea.
“You should answer your phone. It is Eric.” Godric had felt Eric’s shock when Lillian’s sudden fear ripped through their bond. Lillian’s scent was intertwined with Eric’s. He’d known immediately that they had bonded, and recently too, but how far Eric had taken the bond he did not yet know. Lillian shook her head trying to clear it. She hadn’t even heard the phone ringing, she was still standing there staring at Godric stupidly. Stumbling over to the chair she’d tossed her bag in, she dug it out, turning back to confirm that Godric was actually standing in her house. His house. Shit. She was in his house. She saw him raise the mug to his nose and sniff at the steam rising from it, then he looked at her.
Her eyebrows shot up. She didn’t lie to Eric, because she wanted Eric to be honest with her. She stood there in indecision.
LIE. This time his compulsion was too strong to fight, it overpowered her. Quickly, she answered the phone.
“What the fuck is happening!” Eric roared on the other end of the line.
Believe. Godric pushed the thought at her slowly. He was trying to make her feel calm and believe whatever bullshit she was about to tell Eric.
“Oh, god. The bond! Oh honey, I’m so sorry. You…you must have felt that. It scared you. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. I just…I saw a bug and it freaked me out.”
“You saw a bug!? Jesus christ, Lillian, I thought you were about to be murdered! Who gets that scared by a fucking bug!?”
Godric smiled and went back to dunking little bag into her tea.
“I’m really sorry. I hate spiders! I hope I didn’t interrupt.”
“Yes, you interrupted! I nearly kicked a door down in Greysolon’s fucking parlor to get to my phone. You are sure everything’s fine?” He was suspicious. Lowering his voice to a near inaudible whisper, he said “Tell me in the bond if someone’s there and you can’t answer.”
Happy. Happy. Safe. Godric was still controlling her.
Eric sighed on the other end of the line. “Jesus, Lillian. Don’t do that to me again.”
“I’m sorry okay! I can’t help having human emotions. You’re the one who wanted to bond in the first damn place! Deal!”
Eric laughed. “Alright, alright. Clearly everything is back to normal. Go get Jeremy to take care of your damnable insect.
“Okay. I’m really sorry min älskare.” The term of endearment came out a little better this time. She’d been practicing how to pronounce it. Hearing it, Godric looked at her in curiosity. Then he held up a jar of sugar cubes. Lillian shook her head.
No she thought at him. Feeling it, his eyes grew wide and he dropped the jar in surprise, sending it in shatters it all over the floor.
“What was that!?” Eric bellowed.
“Oh calm down, I just broke the sugar jar. I can’t make tea with one hand. Listen, I’m gonna get going. Go make your apologies to Greysolon. I hope you weren’t too rude.”
“No irreparable harm was done. Be careful cleaning that glass, lover. The only time you’re allowed to spill that delicious blood of yours is when it’s going into my mouth.”
Lust. Desire. Mine she pushed at Eric.
“Mmm. I can’t wait to get home,” he purred. “Hopefully it’ll just be a few more days.”
“I can’t wait for you to come home either. You said it would only be a couple days a couple days ago! Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Of course, lover. Dream of me today.”
“Good. Until tomorrow then. Hej då [Bye].” The line clicked.
Godric came into the living room and handed her the tea. “Sorry about the jar. That was the first time I’ve broken something on accident in a very long time. I’m not often taken by surprise.” He took her by the hand and led her to sit down with him on the couch. She was surprised he would touch her so freely. Vampires avoided touching humans at all costs. On contact with his soft hand, warmth and happiness spread through her.
Home. Mine, slipped out of her. What had Eric said? The blood knew its must be the blood now making her feel so good to be near him, and even more bizarrely, she felt possessive of him. Someone she’d just met!
“Now that is rather remarkable, child. Tell me how you are able to speak to me.” He let his porcelain colored arm drape casually over the back of the couch, next to where she was facing him. His angular features were stunning. His grey blue eyes reminded her of Eric’s, although they weren’t quite as piercing as his. When Eric’s pupils contracted, he looked positively otherworldly.
“Godric. I’m sorry…” she didn’t want to talk about her blood bond. She wanted to know why he was here. “I’m Lillian.” And I’m in your house she thought. She felt embarrassed. She didn’t know whether Eric had told him she was staying here for the time being. Godric must have been as shocked to have her waltz into his home as she was to find him staring out the living room window.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve been…seeing a lot of you lately.”
Now it was her turn to be surprised. “What do you mean?”
“Eric.” That was all he offered.
“I’m really sorry – you probably didn’t expect to have a human come tromping into your house. Have you traveled very far? Let me heat up some blood for you.” How she’d gotten to the point that it was entirely natural to offer a visitor some of the human blood stored in the fridge out in the garage was beyond her. She went to stand but the hand he’d rested on the back of the couch moved lightly to her shoulder. He tipped his head to the side, taking her in with an absorbed inquisitiveness, and he gently fingered a tendril of hair cascading off her shoulder.
“I could smell you all over the house. You didn’t surprise me.”
“I’m so sorry to have invaded your space. Eric was letting me stay here, did he tell you? I’ll get a room at the hotel, let me give them a call.”
He tsked her, shaking his head.
“You will stay here. It would please me greatly. Unless you mind my being here?”
“No, of course not!” she put a hand on his knee. The closer to him she was, the more relaxed and joyous she felt. It actually made her heart leap to hear him say that something – anything – she could do would make him happy. It was like every fiber in her body wanted to please him. She was starting to understand how even somebody as wonderfully bitchy as Pam could, at the same time, live halfway up Eric’s perfect ass. This magic blood of theirs did weird things.
“Why did you want me to lie to Eric? Surely he already feels you here?”
“I’m in stealth mode, I’m afraid. I wanted to find out why my children were in such…how do you say it? A kerfuffle?”
Lillian launched into the story of her now very crazy life, sipping her tea between each episode. She told him all about how she’d come here, Longshadow’s insane attempt to capture Eric, her role in the ordeal, the time at the safe house. He listened intently, only interrupting her a few times to ask questions.
“You were very brave, my child,” he said when at last she’d finished her tale.
“You aren’t mad?”
“Mad? Why would I be?”
“Because…you know. Eric said this wasn’t natural, being around an unglamoured human. Telling me things.”
The entire time she’d been talking, Godric had kept several fingers brushed against her shoulder. Lillian found she couldn’t help but keep touching his knee or arm when she got to the really juicy parts of the story. Well, most of the juicy parts. She left out the part where she and Eric had fucked in practically every room and on every surface in the house. She guessed he already knew as much, but owning up to it would have been pretty darn embarrassing.
“Lily, it is not how we usually do things. But then you aren’t usual, are you?” She blushed at hearing him give her a nickname. Only her mother called her Lily. She insisted people call her Lillian at work. It sounded more serious, tougher. She got pushed around enough as it was without sounding like a delicate flower.
“I dunno. I’m just a girl.”
“Ha!” he snorted in delight. “Right. And I’m just a boy.” He was still focused on the matter of her being able to feel them through her blood bond. She studied his face. He had been turned at a young age, he must have been not much older than 17 or 18. His build was compact, but extremely firm. She remembered what Eric had said about him being a sort of king. He must have come into his role at a young age indeed. But then again, people didn’t live very long at all in his time, did they.
He interrupted her musings when he asked her suddenly, “What are you, Lily?”
“What do you mean? I’m an anthropologist.”
“Your scent…I’m trying to place it, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“Eric said…” She stopped herself, unsure if she should share what he’d told Pam. She was happy being near Godric. She intuitively felt he was trustworthy as Eric’s maker, but she certainly didn’t want to encourage him to bite her either.
“What did Eric say?” he purred. Vampires, she was learning, could make just about anything sound sexy when they spoke like that.
Tell, Godric pushed.
“He said that I tasted funny.”
“Hmm. Well I will have to ask him about it when he gets back.”
Relief. Oops! She’d just directed that back at him.
“Lillian, I wouldn’t dare…” he stood and offered his hands to pull her up. She took them. It sent happy shivers down her spine. Standing there eye to eye – he was the same height as her – she felt an urge to hug him. Suddenly, she curled against his chest, laying her hands and cheek against him. She was drawn to him was like a magnet, it was beyond her volition. He wrapped his arms around her, and she simply couldn’t explain how vibrantly content this made her feel. It was if she’d always known him.
“Will you stay long?” she asked, closing her eyes and inhaling his crisp smell through his longsleeve shirt. Like Eric, his scent made her think of the air right before it snows. It was woodsy, smokey, and altogether intoxicating.
“As long as I’m needed.”
She pulled back to look at him, holding him by the arms. “I think you’re very much needed, Godric. Eric won’t admit it. He’s a stubborn ass, you know….”
Godric chuckled lightheartedly. Oh, how well he knew. That was his beloved child, through and through.
“I just know something bad is brewing. And it’s here. Close. I’m so scared for them, Godric,” she admitted.
His eyes narrowed. He was getting closer to figuring her out. “What is it, Lillian? What do you sense?”
“I don’t know, I just know. I feel like there’s a darkness hanging over us, and it tastes stale, like rotten mud.”
“And does this happen to you often? Where you just ‘know’ things?” he was getting closer to pinpointing her delicious scent. Even he, an elder, was having trouble keeping his fangs from running out.
“I dunno,” she said noncommittally. “Sometimes.”
He took her by the hand and started leading her upstairs. “Give me an example.”
“Like, earlier tonight. After the initial shock, I knew it was you.”
“And you never saw a picture of me?” She thought of Eric in her favorite photograph of him.
Love, she thought suddenly. And the thought went singing through the blood.
“Answer me, you’re distracted,” he said, ignoring the fact that Lillian had just sent her love over the bond to Eric. Love. The realization hit her hard.
“Give me another example,” he asked. “You’re Eric’s blood bonded, your intuition would have recognized me as kin even if you didn’t know me. And you didn’t seem surprised that I could speak to you through the bond, perhaps you already knew of my gift?”
I’m falling in love. With Eric. With a vampire…she tried to process this. Was it just his blood doing this to her? Or were these her own feelings?
He led her down the hall and into the master bedroom. Godric held up the sheets and she automatically crawled underneath. He sat down on the edge of the bed. It was freakishly domestic and completely unsettling, considering how at ease Lillian was with the entire scene. An ancient vampire just tucked her into bed. And she was going right along with it on autopilot, like this was something she did every day.
She was still wandering in her own thoughts.
“Lily.” She snapped back into the present moment.
Godric sighed unnecessarily. “Eric felt that. He loves you too. But he doesn’t fully know it yet.” He was feeling Eric rippling through their bond and interpreting it for her, since she couldn’t feel him herself.
“Yes. He is, as you say, a stubborn ass. Give him time.”
“You’re probably right.” She yawned.
“Think more about what I asked you. I shall see you in the evening.”
He rose to leave when the nearly asleep Lily said, “I’m really glad you’re here, Godric.”
“I’m glad you are here, too.” He shut the door silently. He needed to reflect more on the evening’s events.
The following evening, Godric touched the panel next to the door in the light-tight room and the machine, identifying his fingerprints, unlocked the door. He pushed it. A bookcase in the library swung open, and Godric emerged from it. It was still light out, but his day death had been fraught with busy dreams and he’d woken earlier than usual. He liked his tiny cabin in Lundsen very much – it was all he really needed – but he truly loved Trädkojan. He remembered when Eric brought him here the first time. He was so touched by what his child had done for him – how beautiful a thing the house was and how lovingly Eric had crafted it, leaving no detail unconsidered. A blood tear had escaped from his eye that day. There were so many centuries of love and brotherhood between them, endless nights of adventures and travel. Eric had sensed his boredom and, knowing its dangers, built him this place to entice him to stay for a time. That first night, they’d sat in front of the fireplace in the living room talking and laughing. Then as dawn approached, Eric had revealed to him the true secret of the home.
As it turned out, Eric was funding the work of an Italian inventor who had formerly worked for a sunglasses company. Persol, it was named, recalling their conversation. The man had found a way to make sheets of bulletproof glass that filtered out the UV rays that caused vampires to burn. That morning was one he would never, ever forget. He had sat cross-legged on the bedroom floor in front of one of the huge windows that made up half of the house’s walls. Eric sat behind him, barefoot and clad only in jeans, his head on Godric’s shoulder and an arm wrapped protectively around his maker. And together they watched the sun rise for the first time in millennia. His child had given him the sun.
So overwhelmed was he that he’d blood bonded fiercely that day with his child, refusing to let go of him even as they slept in the daylight. The very source of his life was all he could give Eric, and even then it didn’t seem enough. They’d stayed that way nearly twenty-four hours. When Godric finally relented and released Eric, he realized there probably wasn’t another vampire in existence who had ever bonded for so long or as frequently as Eric had with his master. Not only was it rare for a maker and child to stick together for as long as they had, it was against every instinct to bite one’s maker. It took a powerful ability to manipulate the blood bond to entice a child to exchange blood. Since then, he’d often wondered just how strong Eric really was. He’d inherited many of Godric’s gifts – a few had transferred precisely on that occasion.
Godric smiled, thinking of his child and watching the sun slip down below the horizon. He silently passed upstairs. He could hear Lillian’s even, long breaths, and knew she was still asleep. Slipping into the bedroom, he stood over her and watched her. She was dreaming and her eyes fluttered beneath her delicately fringed eyelids. He caressed her face with the lightest of touches, then went into the master bathroom, shutting the door.
Lillian woke slowly. She hadn’t lowered the room’s electronic shades last night, and then she remembered, of course, that she hadn’t been alone. The sky was a purple pink cotton candy hue. She had slept the entire day and not even woken up while the sun was blasting through the windows!
Hopping out of bed, she peeled off the clothes she’d ended up sleeping in and slipped on her favorite silk robe. She headed for the toilet, and when she opened the door, she jolted in surprise. Godric was submerged in the big spa tub in the center of the room. He had on headphones and looked thoroughly relaxed. Tiptoeing, she went into the W.C. and did her business, glad that Eric had designed the toilet in a separate chamber, European style. When she came out to wash her hands, Godric opened his eyes and smiled at her.
“God kväll, dear.”
She lathered her hands and looked at him in the reflection of the mirror. “What does that mean?”
“Ah. Hej to you too. I didn’t realize you were Swedish.”
“I’m not, but I thought I’d help you along with your studies.” She blushed, realizing he was teasing her about her and Eric’s pet name for each other. She ran her hand through the handtowel.
“What is that amazing smell?” A lush, heavy perfume wafted through the air.
“You like? It’s my own bath oil concoction. Try it.” He pointed to a green bottle on the edge of the tub. She picked it up and sat on the edge of the tub, her back turned to Godric. She really was trying not to check out her lover’s maker. That was just weird. Even weirder was how the blood bond made her utterly comfortable with the fact that a strange undead man was floating in her bathtub.
“Mmmm. Sandalwood. A hint of patchouli, not too much.” She inhaled again. “Musk?”
“Something else too. Don’t tell me. She poured a bit on her hands and rubbed them together, breathing in as she did.
“Oh god. Vetiver. That’s why I like it so much. I always like scents with vetiver, it’s so subtle, you know?” He nodded, detaching the headphones he’d been wearing from the Ipod. Godric sat up, sloshing the water around, and stretched over to the cabinet next to the bath. He plugged in the mp3 player into a little stand she handed noticed before. Music suddenly flooded through the bathroom.
“Oh wow, that’s really cool! I didn’t know there was a sound sytem in here. I haven’t had much time to explore. I still don’t even know where Eric disappears to during the day.” She paused, registering the music. “Wait, you’re listening to new age?” It was something vaguely Celtic.
“Yes. It isn’t really similar to what we played when I was human, but it I like it.”
“You’re a Celt,” she whispered breathlessly. She had tried not to overtly eye the tattoos around his neck and arms, but now they made a little more sense.
“Yes,” he replied.
Lillian mindlessly started rubbing the oil into her legs and feet, taking this all in. She was trying to do the math in her head. Two thousand years…A light bulb went off. She’d once dated an intensely boring archaeologist who worked on early Iron Age Europe and nearly never shut up about it. She never thought such a tedious string of dates would ever come in handy.
“Hallstatt culture? You lived during Hallstatt C?!” Lily couldn’t help jumping up and looking at him.
“Lily darling, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The early Iron Age. Were you from Britain or mainland Europe?
“Ah. I am originally from what we now call Britain. It was a time of great change, migration, new ideas. I believe it is what you call the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age.”
“Jesus christ!” Lillian blurted.
“Hardly. I’m actually twice as old as him. Never met him. Heard he caused quite a sensation, though.” He smiled dryly.
Happy. She laughed heartily, feeling him send her his joy. Then she realized she was standing in front of a gorgeous man floating stark naked in the tub, and she turned around in embarrassment. Her hands were slick from the luxurious oil.
“That’s the smell you didn’t pick up on in the bath oil. You probably haven’t ever smelled it. It’s only used now in very expensive custom perfumes. I prefer it over alcohol, which is too sharp and astringent smelling.”
“Ambergris…” she’d heard of it before. It was extremely valuable, traded across vast stretches in the Old World…Then she remembered where it came from. “Oh gross! This has whale shit in it!?”
“It is not whale shit…But it does come from their intestinal tract.”
“Oh yuck!” She looked around for something to wipe her hands on. She’d been rubbing amazing smelling whale poo all over herself.
“Don’t waste it, Lily. It cost a fortune to make!”
She got up and walked around the tub haughtily. She slapped her hands on Godric’s shoulders, smearing as much of the oil off as she could. He chuckled.
“Come on, gently now! I’m an old man.”
“The hell you are.” He laughed harder, sloshing the water over the side of the tub. Touching him now amplified her own feeling of happiness.
Closer. Touch, he urged her.
Lillian didn’t even realize the impulse wasn’t hers when she kneeled down. The little octagonal floor tiles were cold and pinched at the skin on her knees, but the silky skin under her fingers more than distracted her. She let her hands slide slowly over his shoulders, massaging the thick muscles. Eric was muscular too, but he was so darn tall that his bulk seemed lanky, leonine in comparison. Godric moaned in pleasure. The sound pulled her closer still. Her hands wandered over his chest, across the beautiful blue collar tattooed around his neck. The water must have been incredibly hot when he’d gotten in, because his body was as warm, maybe warmer, than a human’s.
Beautiful, she thought at him.
She was completely absorbed and had her face nuzzled into his neck where she was slowly breathing in his scent.
Delicious. Want. Need.
Her hand wandered over his pecs, lightly brushing his nipples. Godric arched his back and snarled, his fangs slamming out. He grabbed her arms to stop her movement, turning to look her in the eye.
Careful, he pushed at her slowly, deliberately. She saw the wild, dark look in his eyes and she jerked her arms out of the tub and backed away. What the hell was she doing!? What the hell was that?! She grabbed onto the towel rack to steady herself, pushing her face into the fluffy cotton.
Regret. The thought broadcast loudly out of her. She heard the tub slosh and the sound of wet feet slapped on the tile. In her peripheral vision Godric’s pale arm reached past her and pulled a towel off the rack she was clinging to.
Whatever you do, under no circumstances do you turn around, Lillian ordered herself. Her lover’s maker was naked as a jay bird standing right behind her.
Godric wrapped the towel around his waist and set a hand lightly on her back.
“Lillian, don’t be upset.” She turned around.
“Don’t be upset? I’m Eric’s girlfriend!” Was she? She wasn’t sure what she was. “Or his lover…or…whatever. I’m bonded with Eric!”
“And it is because you’re bonded with him that you feel attracted to me.” Boy, he didn’t mince words.
“I don’t. I’m not.” The mouth-watering scent drifting off of her revealed her words to be a total fabrication, but Godric wasn’t going to argue with her. “I…I just feel drawn to you, like a magnet. It’s like Eric’s blood wants to crawl back in you. You’re its home.” She pulled at the edges of her robe, cinching it tighter.
“Lillian, Eric and I…well…” She looked at him searchingly. Her pleading eyes tugged at him, something about them made him want to bear his soul to her. They were such an amazing pool of color and light: sea green, aqua blue, and an amber brown dominated in swirls. But there was also a golden yellow flecked around her black pupils, making them look like sunflowers, and the whole of each iris was ringed in the deep, dark grey. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom. He hopped on the bed, patting for her to sit next to him.
Tell, she urged him.
“Eric and I are unusually close for a maker and child. We are bonded so tightly that…I suspect he is almost as strong as me. He shares many of my powers, far more than anyone similar to his age, and more still than many much older. We are a unique bloodline.”
“He’s sorta hinted as much.”
“Eric and Pam are closely bound as well, but she is still young. Did you not feel a very strong urge to be near her too?”
“Yeah, but…” He raised an eyebrow. “But it wasn’t the same.”
“How so? What exactly are you feeling?”
“It’s hard to say.” She thought about it. She put a hand on his arm and closed her eyes, letting the pull strengthen, hoping it would help her put it into words. Then the emotions tumbled out.
Fuck. Bite. Feed you. Please you. Anything. Anything. MINE.
His eyes widened at this. She put her other hand on his shoulder, her arm rigid. It wasn’t clear if she was holding herself back or pushing him away. Slowly she opened her eyes, her cheeks flushed pink in mortification over her unruly emotions.
“I see.” It was all he needed to say. Eric’s blood bond had tilted the axis of Lillian’s internal world to spin around his maker. Lillian was feeling vampire urges, and she was drawn to Godric as though he had turned her himself.
Eric leaned on the balcony railing, looking out over the twinkling lights of the city. It was windy this evening and the lake that spread out beyond the skyline was choppy. He rose, swigging down the rest of his meal in the glass he was holding, and sauntered back inside. Daniel Greysolon’s penthouse was elegantly appointed, certainly fitting of the Lord of the Land. It was also in the tallest building in the city, an imposing structure. Eric supposed that if he lived in a city named after him, as Duluth was after Greysolon, known in his human years as the Sieur du Lhut, he might want to be able to stand over it and hold court. Then again, Eric ran his shop out of the back of a club in a strip mall. He could give a fuck what people thought. If he had anything to prove, he’d prove it with the business end of his sword, Grendl. And he was the High Lord of Louisiana, half of Mississippi, and a small swath of land around Houston. But not Arkansas. Fuck that shit. Greysolon – who at the moment was stretched out in an armchair in a dark pinstripe suit, putting on airs of sophistication – what did he have? A frozen land of muddy lakes crawling with leaches; a land inhabited mainly by the miscreant ancestors of men and women who couldn’t hack his Nordic homelands. And these humans had the gall – the gall! – to call themselves Vikings. At one point he’d actually considered buying the humans’ little football team they loved so much, just so he could change the name and dismantle them bit by bit. He was really letting himself get fired up when Pam eyed him in a warning. She had been sitting next to Greysolon all evening, fawning at his side, hanging on his every word. She was a good actress.
CHILL! She practically punched him in the stomach with the thought. He sighed and sat down next to her, crossing his long legs and stretching his arms along the back of the couch. It drew his pale grey dress jacket open to good effect, showing off the immaculate tailoring of both it and the vest he wore underneath. He was using every inch of his body to show dominance, taking up as much space and possible.
Peacock. Stop! Pam shot at him. She was sending him the random image of a peacock, swooping its head and fanning its tail. Point taken. He leaned forward on his knees. Several other of their kind were in attendance, milling about the suites various rooms, and the mood of their little soiree was, on the whole, jovial. Excepting Eric, who was barely keeping his antsy mood under control. Pam knew he was sick of kowtowing and carrying on. It had been days now and it was time to get down to brass tacks. Eric made his move and casually mentioned Longshadow’s theft to him. Greysolon had clapped his hands in horror.
“No! You are sure? This must be some terrible mistake. Virginia,” he called to an underling, “be a dear and get the North Man here my accountant’s number. You just call him up and he’ll square away whatever Longshadow owes you.”
Pam had prayed in that moment that Eric wouldn’t snap and kill him on the spot for his insolent attitude. The last thing they needed was another territory to run. She had come here for a bit of quiet after a long stint in New York, but she was good and over Minnesota. By some miracle, Eric held it together. And Greysolon had just shown them the weak link in his little empire. Victoria was his right hand. It hadn’t been clear until now, since he kept so many groveling underlings around.
“Now you see, my friend, it’s not really about the money.” They were strolling around the parlor together, but as he said this, Eric had stopped, taken him by the shoulders, and looked him dead in the eyes. “Surely you realize I am vastly, vastly wealthy.” Greysolon’s eye twitched ever so slightly. Pam smiled inwardly. He was trying to goad him into revealing he had a money problem. And it had worked. Eric relaxed and clapped him on the back, continuing their perambulation, stopping once to look in one of the large mirrors in the room and check his hair. Oh, Eric knew how to play people. Greysolon was clearly as vain as they came and Eric was rubbing every virtue he possessed in his face. The trick was not to overdo it, and that’s where Pam made herself useful. Usually Eric had no problem being supremely subtle, but Greysolon simply annoyed the shit out of him and Pam could feel he was seething just below the surface. He hated having to waste precious moments of his eternity on a simpering specimen like the one before him. On top of it, he was pissy at having to be gone from Lillian for longer than expected, nevermind how it irked him to let work pile up in his own territory. Eric ran a very tight ship.
Pam got up and cut in, taking Greysolon’s arm. “You men and your business. Laisse mon beau Daniel tranquil, Eric.” [Leave my handsome Daniel alone, Eric.]
She gave him a sparkling smile. “Alors, racontez-moi un autre de vos petits histoires, cheri.” [Now then, tell me another of your tales, dear]. Pam was buttering him up using his mother tongue. He took the bait.
While Greysolon launched into yet another long-winded story about his human days as a coureur de bois, a fur trapper in the north, Eric slipped out of the room. He walked through a hallway and bingo, found what he was looking for.
“Oh, Victoria!” He stood too closely to her. “I am so glad to have found you.”
“Yes Lord Northman? What can I help you with?”
He leaned into her ear and whispered huskily, “I seem to be incredibly aroused by the thought of your ruby red lips wrapped around my glorious member. Would you care to help me?” He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand and at vamp speed, she whisked them both down the hall to an empty bedroom.
Eric shut the door silently and turned, only his face wasn’t of lust, it was absolutely fearsome. He stalked towards her, keeping direct eye contact. His pupils were tiny pinpoints. “Now, listen very carefully Victoria. You are going to tell me everything you’ve seen or heard that seems out of place regarding this territory’s finances and regarding Longshadow being in my territory. Sing, little bird.” She was fully under his influence. It was a rare and extraordinarily useful gift. Eric could glamour other vampires. It wasn’t easy, it couldn’t override information blocked with a maker’s command (which is why he’d gotten so little out of Longshadow), and it was less certain to fully work the older the creature was. But the young thing before him was a snap. Pam had talked him out of trying it on Greysolon in the off chance it didn’t thoroughly take. She really, really didn’t want Eric to be forced to kill him and end up with this damnable territory.
Victoria started spilling everything she knew. As she talked, Eric’s eyes grew wide. Then wider. Then his hand was over his mouth.
When she was finished, Eric was pale as a ghost. “You will forget we every spoke in this room. You came here, gave me a mediocre blowjob, and I left. My penis was too much for you to handle.” He couldn’t help adding that last bit in the hopes she’d let it slip to Greysolon.
He headed quickly out to the salon to retrieve his child.
“…and the Ojibwe were so kind to me, they shared their campfire and we broke bread together, as brothers should. My hunts were very successful that season…”
“Greysolon, I have been so very honored to be hosted by you and yours. Your reputation for generosity could never do justice to how welcomed we have been.” Eric spoke a little too quickly, but the Lord of Minnesota thankfully didn’t catch on to the fact that he was being entirely disingenuous. “I am afraid I must make my humblest of apologies and beg to take your leave. It seems my underling has discovered a newborn feeding on one of my human clients. The fool nearly drained him dry.” Eric eyed Greysolon. He didn’t flinch.
“Oh newborns are so very troublesome. Are they not? Good luck Lord Eric of the North. I do hope you will come visit us again soon.”
“Indeed. I shall take that under advisement. Lord Greysolon.” He gave a nod of his head, but Pam was required to give the Lord a deep curtsy. Greysolon took her hand and kissed it tenderly, and Pam pretended to blush, waving him off shyly as though he were Rhett Butler.
Once they were downstairs and free of the possibility of prying ears, Pam let loose.
“Gods Eric! Never in my undead life have I heard a vampire clackity clack on and on about his bloody human days! You’re fucking dead, get over it!” She was heading down the street towards their “rental” car. It was some stupidly fast thing that Eric had glamoured a poor dealership manager into letting them walk off with for the time being. They’d parked a half acre away; Eric had refused to let the building valets park it, insisting they would bug it or wreck it. Probably both.
She stopped, realizing he wasn’t with her. “Eric?…” He had stopped and was standing on the sidewalk, looking completely white and forlorn.
“Eric…” her voice lowered. She really, really didn’t like the look on his face.
“Pamela, we’re fucked.”
“How fucked? Fuck a zombie fucked?”
Before she could react, he grabbed her around the waist and rocketed into the sky. He was taking her at speeds he’d never dared to before. She was shocked he could go this fast. He went high, extremely high, in the hopes of avoiding planes or military attention. They must be traveling just under the sound barrier. If he broke it –if he could break it, that is – it would set off every car alarm along their path, not to mention shattering more than a few windows. She clung to him.
“Where are we going?”
“NOW?!” Normally they took charter flights. She didn’t like Eric carrying her very long distances.
“Now.” He pushed himself even harder.
Lillian and Godric were spread out in front of the fireplace on the large wool flokati rug. He’d built a big blaze and it was all the light they needed for what they were doing. He held his out in front of her and she eyed them, waiting.
They’d been playing games of chance all evening. Anything based on strategy was out of the question – Godric would crush her without batting an eye. She pulled a card from the deck and added it to her pile. She didn’t flinch when she saw it was what she was looking for. Lillian might be the anthropologist, but Godric had 2,000 years to study people.
“Do you have a 3 of diamonds?” he asked.
He pushed his cards together and neatly set them down. “Lillian? Let’s play something else. This is a profoundly boring game.”
“I know, I agree. But I hate losing. If we try Risk you’re going to stomp me.”
“I will, it is true.” He smiled slyly. “How about something else?” He’d been working her up to this all evening, ever since they’d decided to just ignore the obvious side effects of her blood bond with Eric and do something that kept them out of trouble. He took the deck and shuffled it. “Okay, this is how it works. You draw a card and place it on your forehead. You can’t look at it. Then you have to guess what it is.”
“What? Pfft. That’s a really dumb game. It’s totally random. Do you reshuffle after each draw?”
“Then it’s dumb. You have 1 in 52 odds of getting it right. Do you really want to sit around with cards stuck to your head all night guessing and getting it wrong?”
“I’m not going to sit around guessing. You are. And anyways, that’s the interesting part about stochastic process.”
“You mean how probabilities work?” Jeez, the last stats class she’d taken was forever ago and the man before her probably learned mathematics from some Arab magi on freaking cuneiform clay tablets. Where was he going with this?
“Yes. In infinite time, your chances are equally 1 in 52. But we’ll play for just an hour, yes? Sometimes you get a string of wins, sometimes not. Shall we just try and see?”
“Ugh. Fine.” She pulled the top card off and slapped it to her head. “You know, this would be more fun if it was a drinking game.”
“Shhh. Focus on the card.”
“Five of spades.”
“Nope.” She flipped the card back at him huffily but he caught it in a movement too fast for her eyes. He slid it back in the deck. “Draw again.”
She put another one up to her head. Focus, he pushed at her. She tried closing her eyes.
He tapped lightly on the middle of the card stuck on her forehead and he held his finger against it, hoping to get her to put her thoughts on the spot.
“Start with the color.”
“Red,” she said instinctively.
“Very good.” She smiled and opened her eyes. “Shh. Close your eyes. Focus.”
In her mind she worked through the numbers, she tried to see what it was. She narrowed it down to a couple.
“I want to say it’s an 8 or 9.”
“Which is it, Lily?”
“Eight of hearts.”
He pulled the card off and showed her. She’d guessed right. She wrestled it from him and laughed riotously, “You cheated! You pushed the answer at me!”
“I did not! You know I wasn’t sending you anything. Just helping you focus.” She kept tugging at his arms, accusing him of cheating, when she realized yet again that she’d let her hands roam onto his bare skin and she was being brought under his spell. She let go of him quickly and smoothed her shirt.
They played the game a while longer until Lillian had enough. But he’d been keeping track of her wins, and they’d gone through enough rounds to make it an acceptably large sample. In other words, his rough figure was statistically significant, and her batting average was a lot higher than the average 1.9% chance a regular guesser would have of getting the cards right over time. When she’d gotten fed up with guessing the numbers, he convinced her to keep going just with the colors. That’s when it got interesting. She should have guessed right half the time. She was spot on over 80% of the time.
He laid on his back in contemplation. Lillian had gone off into the kitchen and fixed herself a cup of tea. While it was steeping, she poured the rest of the water in a pan and warmed a drink for him as well. She hadn’t made mention of the fact that he had only been drinking O+. Best to not poke that fire. When it was ready, she brought the now body temperature bag and her own mug back out to their spot on the floor. Godric had gone into downtime. She squeezed his shoulder and he came back around. By now, she’d gotten used to how vampires tended to do this. She wondered if they could ever just space out so deeply that they never woke up. The thought sent a shiver down her back.
“Are you cold? I can add more wood to the fire,” he offered.
“No, I’m fine, just had a creepy thought. Anyways, your electricity bill is going to be hideous after this.” It was mid-July in Louisiana. They had the A/C running at max to offset the heat from the fire. Godric wanted to have the blaze and her protests were half-hearted. He said something breezily about doing enough to save humanity and that they could be wasteful just this one night.
“What…how do you say…creeped you?”
“Nothing, really.” She sipped at her tea.
Confess, he sent the warm impulse through her.
She grumbled. “You know, I’m getting so used to talking like this I’ll never be able to be around normal people again. Half the time I don’t know if what I’m feeling is me or you or what.”
“Tell me.” She told him about her errant thought regarding downtime and he was very still.
“Yes,” he said, not offering more. She gaped in horror. Vampires could slip into oblivion, caught in a body that couldn’t die. It was beyond cruel. The topic had clearly disturbed Godric.
Love. Safe, she sent to him in a big push. He surprised her when he sat up and wrapped his arms around her. Weren’t they trying to avoid trouble? If that were the case she probably shouldn’t be sending him happy love thought bubbles. But she really couldn’t help it, it’s how the bond made her feel.
He answered back, kissing her hair Love. Stay. Family. He pulled away and lay back down on the rug, mindlessly biting into the bag she’d brought him.
She watched in fascination. The dark blue heather shirt he was wearing brought out the muted blues in his eyes. It also showed off the indigo blue tattoos around his arm and neck. She flopped down on her belly next to him and traced a finger over the neat stacks of zigzagged lines on his arm.
“Would you tell me about them?” She’d been dying to ask.
“Of course, darling.” He pulled off his shirt without further ado. So much for the fully clothed rule she’d instituted. She had to practically beg him to try to wear more than the linen pants he seemed content in. All that skin was just too distracting to the vampire blood in her system. He sat there now, gazing at her with his soft expressive eyes and beautifully curved mouth.
“This,” he touched the collar around his neck. “This was put on me when I ascended to power. I was a Druid, a kind of aristocratic shaman king. Every blade along this marks an important event in my human life – mostly they stand for battles won. Normally these collars were quite short, like a choker around the neck. But I had much to celebrate.” He smiled softly. Lillian traced the elegant sweep of the design that hung well below his clavicles.
“Now these…these stand for water.” He showed her his bicep. “It was the element with which I had the strongest affinity, the element that guided my spirit. It was said I would travel far over many seas, and it would be on the sea that I would find my destiny.”
“I think so, yes. I found Eric dying a few meters inland from the North Sea. He was already in his longship, waiting to be pushed to out in a blaze and sent to Valhalla.”
Lillian trembled, hearing how close her sweetheart had nearly come to death. It probably wasn’t the only time, but she’d rather not think about that. Godric turned around to show her his back. From the base of his neck down the length of his spine slithered a dragon. It was incredibly ornate and done in green ink. Celtic knots swooped and looped through it, bringing its tail all the way back into the dragon’s mouth. Lillian let her hand pass over it, as if to pet it.
“It’s an ouroboros,” she whispered. He nodded. The snake or dragon who bit its own tail symbolized eternity. “That sure became more appropriate as time wore on.” He chuckled, agreeing.
“The red circle on my shoulder is an early form of a sigil, a family crest. It marked me as a keeper of my people’s sacred grove, where our spirits and gods lived.”
“These colors, Godric…the indigo blues and the red especially…the ochres used to make them must have been very rare in your time, no?”
“Indeed.” He turned back towards her and showed his other arm. Double lines circled his bicep, inside which there were the funny little squiggles of the rune alphabet. “That was my title.”
“What does it say?”
“Something like ‘Godric the Great. King. Warrior. Leader of men.'”
“Yeah right. It probably says ‘Chicken thief and lover of goats.'”
He fell back on the rug, howling in laughter. He was wheezing he was laughing so hard, and there was a pink blood mist around his eyes. He wiped at it with his shirt.
Lillian got up, remembering something. Over the mantle hung Eric’s sword. She was surprised he hadn’t taken it with him, but he’d explained that there was no taking it on the plane, and he didn’t trust anyone to handle it in checked baggage. She stood on tip toe to look at the inscription that ran from the hilt down the center of the blade.
“What does this say?”
He was quiet for a moment. “It says Eiríkr, Son of Godrík. King. Warrior. Leader of Men.” He paused again before continuing. “I etched it myself on the 500th anniversary of his turning.”
“He told me this was his father’s sword…I thought he meant his human father.”
“It was.” He lost himself in a far away thought.
Share. Our secret. My silence. With practice, she realized, was getting better at sending more complex thoughts.
“On that auspicious night, Eric gained his gift of flight. He asked me commemorate it by inscribing something on Grendl. It was the only thing that seemed fitting. Eric is the greatest thing I have ever done or made. We are each other’s father, brother, son.”
She was speechless. The magnitude of the relationship these two men shared was beyond her comprehension. No wonder Eric’s blood in her system was screaming to be near him. And what was this business about flying!?
“Eric can fly? Like superman?!”
He nodded yes with a slightly fangy grin.
“No, not yet….and if I were you, I wouldn’t bring it up. She’s a bit touchy about it. It’s never certain what gifts will emerge and when.”
She mulled over that, feeling bad that Pam was left out so far.
“You should also know, dear child…Eric is flying as we speak. He’s been heading this way for some time. I expect we’ll see him within the hour.”
“Really!?” her heart leapt. Love. Come home, she pushed out into the night, thinking at him hard.
“I should probably start opening my end of our bond back up. We don’t want to give him a shock, now, do we?”
Eric was tearing across the sky at top speed. Judging by the mountains down below, they were halfway across Arkansas. Fucking Arkansas. He threw all of his force into his forward motion when suddenly, out of nowhere, he felt Godric blip into his mind. It startled him and he forgot to fly for a moment – he and Pam tumbled down a hundred feet or so before he regained himself. Pam had a death grip on his neck, but now she removed one arm in order to beat at his chest repeatedly and berate him.
“Damn you! Fly if you’re gonna fucking fly, Eric! You nearly dropped me into the middle of some banjo picking backwater. One of my Jimmy Choos fell off! I already had to leave everything I brought back in Duluth!”
He smiled, ignoring his child, and regaining his momentum, ripped through the night. Godric was here. He could feel him. He was getting louder in his head. He was…he was at home.
Excitement and desire spread through him. If Godric was at Trädkojan…he was with Lillian. What did he think of her? How did she like him? He couldn’t wait to get home. He hoped his maker was pleased with his bonded. Just a little while longer and he would know.