Eric opened the condo door to a dark interior. Lillian was asleep on the couch. The only light in the room came from Godric’s cell phone, which eerily lit up his face as he played a game at lighting speed. Pam flipped on the overhead light.
“I smell your blood,” he observed in concern.
“I’m fine.” Eric crouched down to Lillian and nuzzled her hair. She woke to the sensation of cool lips caressing her temple.
“Mmm, thank god you’re back. How’d it go?” She sat up groggily.
“The short and sweet version? Greysolon is on the verge of war with the weres in Minnesota over some blood grudge and he has successfully roused Marduk. He’s headed our way. I’ve got Sophie-Anne holding Greysolon out in Metairie in a warehouse as bait.”
“Weres?” Lillian said, confused.
“Werewolves,” Pam said, making an icky face.
“Oh right, of course,” Lillian said, still half-asleep and dumbstruck at yet another supernatural revelation.
“It’s too late to fly back home,” Godric calmly commented. “Sun will be up within the hour.”
“I know,” agreed Eric. “We’ll just have to bunk here and hope for the best. We need allies, and fast. Let’s get some emails shot off before we go to ground for the day. Who do we know? We need ’em as old as they come.”
“Thalia is in California. Indira is with her, last I heard,” Pam brainstormed.
“My friend Anouk is in Montréal, she should be helpful. She may know what this grudge is about,” Godric offered.
“Do you have any were friends?” Lillian asked.
Pam eyed Eric warily.
“Yes, I know of several who owe me.”
“And the shifter,” Pam pointed out. “He can help too.”
Eric smirked in distaste and muttered something about ‘spawn of Loki’ before heading into the kitchen alcove. Kneeling in front of the open fridge, he began downing bag after bag of unheated blood. Lillian went to him.
“Are you okay?”
“Fthfiine,” he slurred between slurps.
“He overcooked himself trying to glamour 3 vampires, all well over 200 years old.” Pam, in her typical fashion, had her hands on her hips and was throwing a look at Eric’s maker. A thin smile snaked across Godric’s face. He was pleased with his child. Eric never ceased pushing his limits and he certainly never backed down from a challenge.
Usually a neat eater, Eric finished his 4th bag with a crimson ringed grin. Lillian offered him a damp dishtowel. He wiped his face and then unceremoniously tossed his lover over his shoulder and carried her off victoriously to the master suite.
Before kicking the door shut with the toe of his boot, he hollered at Pam. “Get those emails sent out, stat!”
Lillian landed with a bounce on the large bed. Eric kneeled over his beautiful woman and slowly peeled off her cardigan and jeans, followed by the pale pink layer of undergarments he discovered underneath. She lay there like an ethereal being, hair splayed out mermaid-like and her hypnotizing hazel eyes beckoning him.
“I want to make love to you for all eternity, Lila,” he whispered hotly, nibbling her earlobe and running his hands down her generous curves.
“You’ll have to let me undress you first, you big bad Viking,” she said, reaching for the buttons on his suit vest and dress shirt. She moaned at the sight of his chiseled chest, and began to tease his nipples. In a flash Eric was out of his pants and had Lillian pinned against the wall. He kissed her deeply, rolling his tongue over hers and letting her suck his fangs and lips. Picking her up, he carried her into the bathroom and pressed her against the tiles of the shower. She squealed when the spigot shot ice cold water down her back.
“Eric, it’s freezing!”
“Oh, I’ll have you hot and sweaty in no time, princess…”
He let her slide down the wall, slowly impaling her on the length of his throbbing cock. “Look at me, Lila. Look at me as I make you come.” She gasped as his slow, rhythmic thrusts built a fire deep within her. He leaned back, supporting her between his rock hard body and the wall with only one muscular arm, and ran his thumb in circles on her sensitive nub. Lillian threw her head back, blind with ecstasy.
“Look at me, lover!” he growled, pulling her hair. Rivulets of water glistened like a thousand tiny rivers cascading down his face. In that moment there was only him.
“Oh god…Eric!” She started to fall to pieces.
He took that as his cue. Lillian exploded and buried her face in his shoulder to muffle her cry. Eric reciprocated, sinking his fangs deep in her neck. Her gushing throat and tight little body squeezing around him drove him mad and he came hard, roaring with pleasure.
It was only after they had managed to dry off and tumble back into bed that Lillian really felt like she’d descended from her high. Eric lazily lapped at her neck, healing it. She sighed contentedly and they lay there in silence, utterly content.
She’d nearly drifted off to sleep when a sliver of light from the hallway cut a long diamond across the floor. Godric quietly padded across the carpet.
“May I sleep here with you?”
No one had broached the subject, but Lillian was fairly sure Eric and his maker normally shared a bed when together. Her presence had disrupted the order of things in yet another way. Since they all began living under the same roof in Shreveport, a silent détente had ensued and she had claimed a place next to Eric, relegating Godric to his own room. Now in the two bedroom New Orleans condo, the matter could no longer be avoided.
“I’m naked!” Lillian hissed in a whisper. As if Eric could wake – he was dead and gone for the day. Godric looked confused for a moment, then pulled off his t-shirt and offered it to her. Realizing she was too tired to explain the finer points of contemporary standards of modesty and propriety, she rolled her eyes and slipped it on.
“Underwear,” she pointed to her bag. He tossed a pair to her.
She lifted the covers for him and he slid in, cuddling up next to her.
Personal space much? Hello!?
“I have wanted to try this since I woke next to you.”
He toyed with a strand of his hair, lost in thought.
“Waking near you was like rising in a sunny meadow full of sweet aromas and a gentle breeze. At least, I think that is how I remember experiencing those things. I have wondered what it would be like to let the sun take me while lying next to your scent, your warmth. “
“Why?” she breathed, barely speaking.
“Because I have never fallen asleep next to a human.”
“Neither had Eric.”
“We trust each other, don’t we…” His words lingered, neither fully a statement nor a question, while his fingers lightly stroked the curve of her cheek.
“Goodnight, Lillian.” Closing his eyes, he slumped into dead weight. Lillian kissed her fingertips and brushed them over the sensuous curve of his mouth.
“Goodnight, Godric. Night, Eric, my love.” She smooched her Viking and snuggled down between the cool, firm bodies of the two vampires, letting herself slip past the woozy edge of consciousness.
The following night, Godric and Lillian found themselves standing outside of a boutique called “Mystix.” Smoky curlicues of heavy incense threaded through the storefront’s open door and out onto the street. Inside, the shop was claustrophobic in contrast to the wide New Orleans boulevard they had just come from. Stacks of books, trinkets, and crystals crammed every shelf. The register was barely visible behind cluttered arrangements of powder-filled apothecary jars, bottles of sacred water, and purported love potions.
“Hello?” Lillian called out warily. Godric looked around the store in childlike fascination. He picked up a sequined belly dancer top and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Put that down!” she hissed, pulling him away from the display. This place creeped her out. It wasn’t at all what it was pretending to be, which was just another new age hokum voodoo shop on the well-beaten tourist circuit. No, she’d felt it when they crossed the threshold. A cold shiver had run through her.
A tall and strikingly pretty older woman suddenly pulled aside a tinkling shell and bead curtain partitioning off the room.
“Hello. How ya’ll doin’?” she said in a lovely Cajun drawl.
“Hi, um. I’m looking for Octavia Fant? Is that you?”
Godric spoke up. “We are told you can evaluate this child’s gift. Can you?”
Good lord, Godric, Lillian thought to herself. Could you be any more conspicuous?
The woman looked over Lillian, who was clearly a good 10 years senior to the the pale youth with her.
“What can she do?”
“You tell us, witch,” Godric retorted.
The woman glared at him. She grabbed Lillian by the chin without warning and inspected her eyes, turning her face roughly.
“Oh, you lookin’ for a pure seer, eh?” The woman laughed at the pair, a sound as light-hearted as the pings of a wind chime. It was hard to be offended by a laugh like that. “Not even my great-great-grand mamma knew a true prophetess. Been a long time since we had once of those. Hein, I can try,” she shrugged, adding, “but my services don’t come cheap.”
“Money is of no concern to us.” Godric produced several hundred dollar bills from his wallet. She made no move to take them and instead gestured to give the cash to his companion, as though she wouldn’t deign to take something he had touched.
“C’mon then,” she said with a shrug and pulled back the long strings of the curtain. The two followed her. Octavia whipped around with a sharp look. “Not you, manjasang. You go on an’ wait outside.” She pointed a slender finger towards the door.
Godric gave a gracious nod. “Then I leave you in capable hands, Lily. Good luck.”
The back room was cozy, unlike the pell-mell shop. Thick oriental rugs carpeted the floor and soft lights were scattered here and there on mismatched furniture.
“Please, have a seat.” She took a place at an old, deeply scored oak table. Octavia sat across from her, smoothing her elegant silver hair. It was swept up in a chignon, accentuating her long swan-like neck. Bangles were piled around her thin wrists and her fingers were adorned with oversized silver rings of various shapes.
“Now what’s a nice girl like yourself doin’ goin’ round with that kind’a trouble?”
She narrowed her eyes.
“I…I’ve never heard that term before – manjasang. It’s French Creole, no?”
She dismissed her question with a jangly wave and set a stack of well-worn tarot cards out with a thwack.
“Tarot, seriously? I thought you were a real witch,” Lillian said bitterly, realizing Godric must have made a mistake.
“Cher, I got spirits that tell me things. Petits aides. So long as I keep them happy, they help me. Tell me how to read the cards, they do” she said with an impish smile. “So…you think you’re a prophetess or is that just what your little friend out there hopes you are?”
“I’ve seen things. Said things. Felt things. But honestly, I don’t know. It’s all really new to me.”
Octavia shrugged and shoved the cards across the table. “Shuffle them nine times toward your heart then set’em back down.”
Lillian picked them up the deck and felt a little zing of electricity run through her. She furrowed her brow and followed the woman’s instructions.
“Now cut’em four ways, one on each side of the center stack.” She made the new piles.
Octavia lit a candle and set it on the table. The flame danced, glinting off the gilt and black diamond pattern decorating the backs of the cards. Her long silver earrings spun about, sending light skittering in reflections across the table.
“This is what we call the shadow truth.” She flipped the top card in the center of the pile. “King of cups, reversed.” The woman closed her eyes, drawing in a long, even breathe of air. She sat entirely still for a protracted moment. Lillian’s anticipation felt palpable in the air.
“Well, cher, you got the gift. No doubt. The sight is in you. Question is, how you gonna dig it out and watcha goin’ do with it if you do? I see great power within you, but also great insecurity, fear. It’s buried deep underneath all that. You have long desired this power, but you are afraid of it, too.” She squinted her eyes, as if trying to hear something more clearly. “You gon hav’ta master your demons to get this power,” she said in a low, confidential voice.
She turned over the cards on either side of the center card.
“Temperance…and the reversed Tower. These fears of yours, they come from a good place. You want to be calm, balanced. But…” she paused, taking in another measured breathe. “I can’t be clearer about this: you’re walking towards catastrophe. Danger walls you in from every side. You can survive, but at great cost. You must make a great sacrifice.” She paused to arrange the final cards.
“Reversed Strength and Reversed Five of Coins. Hmm, okay ‘den. In these hard times, others will only see your weakness. They believe you can’t defend yourself and wanna take advantage of that if you let’em.” She patted the last card and took Lillian’s hand.
“If you can face your fears and overcome them, and if you are willing to be at once selfish and selfless, then your gift, cher, it’s gonna bloom.” She smiled sympathetically at Lillian, patting her hand.
“Ms. Fant…I…that’s…” she garbled her words. “Sorry. What the hell does that mean?”
“You’ll know when you know, hon. But think good and hard about it beforehand. What’s it worth to you? What you willin’ to do for the sight? What you willin’ to give up?”
The elegant woman ushered her back out to the front room.
“Here’s my card. You call me if you need me.”
Lillian stepped out onto the street, relieved to feel the humid breeze coming off the river after the closeness of Octavia Fant’s shop. Godric looked casual leaning against the brick exterior in shorts and flip flops, taking a drag off a cigarette.
Octavia stood by the door momentarily to give a nod to Godric.
In the lowest of whispers, she said “You have what she needs. But don’t you force it on her, you hear me? You let her ask, manjasang.” Then without missing a beat, she slammed the door and locked it, flipping over the “closed” sign.
“So, what did she tell you, Lily?”
“Fucking more incomprehensible predictions about my fucking incomprehensible predictions. Fuck!” she yelled in frustration. “Give me that.” She snagged the cigarette and took a long drag off it.
“Lillian, cigarettes will kill you! Be sensible.” He snatched it back and snuffed it out under his sandal. “I only had it to blend in. Otherwise I would look like a creepy, loitering man-boy looking for trouble.” He ran a hand through his sandy brown hair, making it stand on end.
“Maybe you are,” she laughed, shaking her head. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here. Sorry you wasted your money on that.” She snaked an arm through the crook of his elbow and they headed off down the street.
“Inconsequential. I found it in Pam’s purse. She is always taking money from her master anyway. I beat Eric for far less serious offenses at that age.”
“You used to beat Eric? That’s terrible.”
“Terrible? If only I’d done it more. Eric was a ferocious warrior and a skilled strategist when I found him, to be sure. But he lacked restraint and his pride, I feared…” Godric closed his eyes momentarily, as if to steady himself. “I have always feared his pride would be his downfall,” he said quietly. “Eric knows Pam’s greed is her flaw. As a maker, we must instill in our children the ability to recognize their preferences and tendencies – anything that comes to pattern their behavior too predictably – for these become weaknesses and can be used against us. Emotions, attachments…these will betray us to our enemies, whomever they might be – humans, other supes, time, ourselves.”
“But can’t that philosophy become your enemy too? So insistently rejecting your humanity?”
Godric laughed softly. “Perhaps. I used to believe life was only about survival or death. It’s only lately that I’ve come to see the value of certain feelings.”
“Compassion. Empathy.” He let out a little sigh of resignation. “Love.”
“But those are the strongest sentiments we possess, Godric.”
“I know. I see now how they allow humans to connect with each other – how precious bonds forged in those feelings can be for you. It was the meaningfulness I had forgotten – the actual shape and sensibility of feeling towards another and connecting with them in a particular way. I’ve been vampire so long I couldn’t comprehend humans anymore. Human relationships…they are simply incommensurable with vampire ones, Lily; ties of an entirely different order and scale. Surely you are realizing this. The first hundred, maybe two hundred years of one’s life is entirely consumed by the bond with one’s maker, be it good or bad.”
Godric paused to steer them around an obnoxiously loud group of drunken frat boys standing around a bar patio. Lillian hadn’t commented, but he had been obsessively scanning the streets as they walked through the French Quarter.
Glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one was too close behind to hear, he continued. “Having you bouncing around in our blood ties now…It is just as confounding for us to adjust to you as it is for you to figure out us.”
“I’m trying. I hope it isn’t too miserable having all of my stupid human feelings and notions about relationships banging around in your head.”
“Ah well, this is what I get for spending too much time with humans!” He grinned and bumped her playfully off the sidewalk.
“Monkeyass? Honestly, I would have thought a scholar of your caliber had a more refined vocabulary.”
“I’ll take that under advisement. Hey, look at that cute café! Can we stop in for a minute? I could use a drink after all that hocus pocus.”
He clenched his jaw. “No. Tonight’s outing was a necessary risk. We shouldn’t linger in public. I want you to recount in detail what the Fant woman told you.”
“Pretty please? How’s that poem go again…’He who binds to himself a joy doth the winged life destroy, but he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise!'”
He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her. “You’re quoting Blake to me? Now he was a madman high on toxic fumes.” He sighed, “Come on. You’ve got twenty minutes, not a second more.”
“Thank you!” She grabbed his hand and, bouncing, dragged him across the street.
Inside the Parisian styled cafe, the air conditioning felt luxurious. It was crowded, however, and patrons were stacked up three deep around the main bar. Busboys and waitresses shuffled by with clattering plates and dangerously full pitchers of beer. They found a free table in a dark corner near the back.
“Of course there are tvs broadcasting sports. Americans are savages,” Godric muttered.
“Oh chill, will you? They’re not trying to be a snooty restaurant, Mr. New Scandi Cuisine. Even Eric gets that you have to cater to your clientele.”
“Don’t get huffy. Look, the wine menu here is really well developed. Do you want to…” she caught herself, realizing she was about to ask whether he wanted to split a bottle. It struck her then that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d sat at a restaurant with another human being doing normal human things. “I, uh…Do you want to put a song on the jukebox?”
“There’s a jukebox too? Gods, Lillian. I don’t understand. Has the proprietor never been to a Parisian café? They’ve got it all wrong.”
“It’s creole, okay? Fusion? C’mon. I’m curious what song you would pick.” She dug a quarter out of her coin purse. “Surprise me!” Godric stood and scanned the restaurant nervously before going to the machine. Lillian turned back to the menu.
She was still perusing the cabernets when the waiter came to the table, his tray in tow.
“I’m sorry, I’m still trying to make a decision here. Could I have another minute?”
“Of course. However, a gentleman at the bar would like to offer you something special from our private reserves.” He set a square napkin down on the table and placed a glass in front of her. “Screaming Eagle 2010. Honestly miss, you’d be crazy not to accept it.”
Lillian blanched, recognizing that someone had just sent over a glass of one of the most expensive wines in America.
“Who?” she barked a little too harshly.
“The guy over there. Brunette, kinda wirey. See him?”
She spotted the man in question leaning against the bar. The blood drained out of her face. In all that had transpired, she hadn’t yet had the time to ask Eric just which characters in Charlaine’s books had real inspirations. She had captured his likeness well in her prose: diminutive, dark chocolate eyes like buttons, a dapper air about him. He gave a genteel nod of the head in her direction.
“Thanks,” she squeaked, waving the waiter away. Godric was still flipping through the music catalogue. He’d taken his mission seriously.
PROBLEM! She screamed at him mentally. He whipped around and pushed roughly through the crowd.
“Oh there you are! You were gone so long. I missed you, baby,” she said stiffly, knowing the unwelcome visitor could hear her perfectly. She threw her arms around Godric’s neck and nuzzled into him, rubbing his scent over her face and neck.
Vampire. 9 o’clock. Bar.
Godric spun in that direction, scooping her up behind him. She felt a rumbling vibration resonate deep from within his chest – a growl so low human ears couldn’t pick it up. The dark haired vampire held out his hands in a conciliatory manner and strolled calmly towards them.
Act glamoured, Godric thought at her. He pivoted then, positioning them so that the entrance was directly behind them.
“Well, well, well…I didn’t think I’d live to see the day the Celt would be out and about playing with his food,” he said in an accent that smacked of old white southern privilege. It made Lillian’s stomach turn.
“What do you want, Compton? Just here to stir up shit as usual?”
“Aw, come now, Godric. You never did have a sense of humor old boy, truly. You know as well as I that I’m just out doing my job. There I was out procuring for her majesty and what do I pick up but the most delectable scent. So here I am…to procure. Aren’t you going to introduce me?”
“She is mine!” he growled, rage bubbling just underneath the surface.
“Pity.” He sniffed the air. “Most curious indeed.”
“You dare threaten me? I could end you before you even blink.”
He didn’t flinch. “Our regent will be interested to know you are in town and haven’t come to court. We’ve just been entertaining your child and his progeny. But of course, I suspect you already knew that.”
“We are leaving. Come, let us go somewhere with a better…milieu.”
Lillian wasn’t sure what a glamoured person acted like, so she had been staring stupidly around the bar. When Godric pulled her to leave, she smiled dopily and waved goodbye to the beady-eyed vampire. Halfway out the door she recognized the song that had begun playing over the din of the restaurant. It was Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy.’
How can you have a day without a night?
You’re the book that I have opened
And now I’ve got to know much more
Like a soul without a mind
In a body without a heart
I’m missing every part
Godric dragged her to an alley, swearing all the way in his ancient tongue. Without warning, he grabbed her and shot off into the sky. She would have screamed, but the shock of the wind and the immense G-force knocked the air clear out of her lungs. In seconds they had landed by the loading dock at the apartment complex. Lillian sucked in a ragged, desperate breathe and promptly vomited down the front of Godric’s shirt.
“God dammit, woman!” He shoved her towards the lobby.
Safely inside, Lillian stumbled through a series of muddled attempts at apologizing while Godric showered off the human mess she’d left on him.
“I’m sorry!” she yelled from the living room. “Jesus, can you really blame me? I had no idea what I was getting into when I took Eric’s blood. This situation is completely unfair and totally fucked. And seriously, warn a girl before you warp speed her across town! The barf could not be helped. But I am sorry.”
“Leave it. What’s done is done,” he responded from the master bathroom.
“But I feel bad about it.”
Godric stepped out from the bedroom rubbing a towel in his hair at vamp speed. “Lillian, the involuntary responses of your bodily fluids is the least of our problems. It doesn’t matter.”
“Fine!” She snapped on the television and sat fuming on the couch.
She was scratching down notes about Octavia’s reading when Eric and Pam returned from their emergency summit at the palace. They were gathering powerful allies from all over North America to prepare for the crisis at hand.
She rushed to Eric and gave him a big bear hug.
“Oh, Eric…” she cried.
Godric appeared clad in a black tank top and sweatpants clearly pilfered out of Eric’s suitcase. They were a bit too large for him, but he wore the relaxed look well.
“I’m going out to feed. If I have to choke down one more freezer-burned blood bag I swear I’ll meet the sun,” He gave Eric an angry look before walking out and slamming the apartment door behind him.
Eric spun around to Lillian. “What did you do?!” he spat accusingly.
Lillian quickly recounted the evenings events.
“So you see, I’m really to blame. I convinced Godric to go in there.”
“Scenting yourself on him – that was smart thinking on your part.”
He paused, noticing Lillian’s notebook. She’d written down three words and connected them with lines:
Fear –– Selfishness –– Sacrifice = ?
“I haven’t the slightest idea what that woman meant. Tarot functions as a meditative device. I suppose it is a useful exercise insofar as it prompts you to reflect on your problems in a structured way. I mean, she raised good questions, even if they were absurdly vague.”
Eric set the little book back down. “I need to think. I’ll be back shortly.” Lillian motioned to stop him, but his demeanor told her not to push her luck.
“Great. Two down, one to go. While I’m at it, anything I can say or do to piss you off, Pam?”
Pam snorted and went to her bedroom, leaving Lily alone to ponder how complicated her life had become.