The small, dinner-only restaurant had closed hours ago, but the owner and creative director was still at work in front of a large brazier of coals perfecting a new recipe he wanted his executive chef to try. He pushed the birch embers around, blowing on them, trying to get them to the exact temperature he wanted. The fresh ingredients he’d collected earlier that evening in the forest – juniper berries, a wild variety of mushroom, some type of edible moss he didn’t know the name of – these he carefully sprinkled into the hot coats. Inhaling deeply, he tested their smoky aroma and was satisfied. It was time to add the scallops. He placed several of the beautifully symmetrical shells on the fire, allowing the herbed steam and aromatic heat of the wood to slowly cook the delicate flesh inside. It would only take a few minutes. He was just about to turn the first of the scallop shells with his tongs, when an indescribable force of emotion slammed down on him, nearly causing him to fall over and overturn the grill.
He swore in an ancient language and steadied himself, trying to salvage his scallop experiment. There wasn’t any point in continuing, the roiling sensations he was experiencing through the blood bond were too distracting. He doused the coals with water and, locking up the restaurant, headed up the hill into the forest to his cabin. Godric would just have to write up his notes for the chef later. It may have been summertime, but this far north in Sweden never warmed much, and he still liked a good fire. Settling into his favorite chair in front of a crackling blaze, he let his eyes close and he released his mind into the magic blood that had animated him for over two thousand years. His child Eric was there, fierce and strong as always, as was his child’s own wily, indomitable progeny. They were ecstatic and nearly indistinguishable from each other.
Ah, they are strengthening our bloodline, he thought, pleased. No wonder he’d nearly been nearly knocked over. To be connected to such powerful creatures in a moment when they were both singing unfiltered feeling over their shared bond…even one as old as he couldn’t help but be moved. He sent his love to them, a vampire version of a cosmic hug. Their emotions ricocheted through him, and he savored their intensity. Above all, one sentiment stood out, and it swirled around a figure he had trouble identifying. Both his children were racked with anxiety, although a sense of need and desperation also crosscut this worry. It was difficult to distinguish which sentiments were Eric’s and which were Pam’s, since they were joined together. Images flickered by. They were not entirely distinct since he was far from his children, but he saw a female human in these visions, tangled in the mists of their thoughts. He wondered why Eric had decided to bloodshare at this moment, and how this statuesque woman with haunting hazel eyes had to do with it, if anything. What was going on over in the New World?
Nights came and went after that evening. Godric felt no more disturbances in the bond, and he went about his business. He trusted Eric would contact him if things were not well. Godric had shown Magnus his new recipe, and the young human chef had eagerly introduced it as a new dish. It was a bizarre impulse on Godric’s part, to start a restaurant. But after two millennia, he had pretty much done and seen it all. He was bored, and this was never a good thing. After spending some time in Louisiana with Eric and Pam to see their successful new business venture, he’d decided to come back to a tract of thickly forested land in Sweden he and Eric had bought long ago. He could never stand drinking from Americans for very long. Their blood was greasy and their hearts often weakened from their poor diets. He longed for the flavors of strong, healthy humans he’d enjoyed long ago. And this is how he’d hit upon the idea. The last thing on earth a vampire would do is fool with cooking. What motivation had they? Alas, he had struck on something he’d never tried in all his years. So he returned to the forests of Lundsen, found a daring young chef, and they built a small restaurant specializing in all organic, sustainably grown and locally harvested, New Scandinavian cuisine.
Godric harkened back to the wild edibles and flavors he’d remembered people once used, and although he couldn’t taste the food himself, his senses were so refined that he could gauge exactly what combinations would be intriguing for humans – and what their effect would be on the taste of their blood. Of course, he’d had to experiment at first with human volunteers to relearn how their palates responded to different flavors and textures. There had been several catastrophes on his part: several foul concoctions that left the poor taste testers green around the gills and one case of moderate food poisoning (he had to remember about food-borne pathogens…). But overall it was a challenge and he was enjoying himself immensely. Godric enjoyed his collaboration with the young man, although he had to remain careful not to reveal himself for what he was. On several reckless occasions he had to suck it up and pretend to eat something Magnus had prepared to show him. As a younger vampire, he would have probably vomited blood, but he was surprised to find in his old age that, in a pinch, he could choke something down and cough it up later so long as he didn’t have to breathe too much. Vampires only had to breathe to force air through their vocal chords in order to speak, and thankfully Magnus was a bit of a quiet wildling. Godric had been spared having to say more than a few words to praise his dish. Human food still tasted like ash – it simply didn’t connect to his thirst. But surprisingly, he’d learned that nibbling on wild herbs and mosses – things he was now fond of including in their dishes – actually could be pleasant, a bit like chewing gum. The aromas were enjoyable to his sense of smell, but not too overpowering like cooked food.
The restaurant was close enough to Uppsala to attract plenty of wealthy and adventurous customers. And Magnus was a truly gifted cook. The fact that he was handsome didn’t hurt either. He had aquiline features with large smoky amber eyes and a full mouth set under a flop of curly raven hair. Along with his quiet, softspoken nature, he had become an object of public speculation and intrigue. Godric had even given him a heavy black Mongolian lamb fur cloak that matched his hair to make him seem more mysterious and wild, and he wore it virtually everywhere. He had caught the attention of the culinary world and was enjoying his newfound fame. Some celebrity in America named Padma had been hounding them for months trying to get Magnus to be on television. But he was loyal to Godric and he preferred their quiet little cabin of a restaurant in the woods.
Godric couldn’t be more pleased with the arrangement. His new vampire menus for humans improved their health – and the taste of their blood – significantly, and he was increasingly realizing how important this work might be. He now envisioned a much larger scheme. Godric started funneling his wealth into a common fund which supported numerous research agendas focusing on creating sustainable, green resources. If humans weren’t going to save themselves, he damn sure would.
He had nearly forgotten about the incident he’d experienced in the bond when, a week later, he was asleep in his underground chamber and was awoken by a strong burst of lust. He sensed the sun was still high and it would be hours before he would properly wake. Drifting back into his rest, sexy images of a hazel eyed woman floated through his dreams. He knew vaguely in the back of his mind these were Eric’s thoughts, but he was deep asleep and let them wash over him like the gentle lapping of waves on the shore.
That night, he started silently down the leafy path to the restaurant. There was a light frost forming on the ground, and it crunched under his shoes. Magnus was already there, his mop of black hair bouncing with the motions of his flipping of a pan, the stirring of a pot. Godric gave him a friendly squeeze on the shoulder and sat at one of the picnic bench style tables. Magnus was more talkative that usual, and was telling him all about a new feature article he was going to be in. Some major magazine that barely registered a blip with him. He was happy for his young friend, but distracted by something that had been bothering him since he’d risen. Godric was utterly confused why Eric had been powerfully directing images of a bed partner at him. Eric had taken more lovers over the centuries than could be remembered, but he’d never woken Godric out of the deepest sleep of day death because of it. The vision had been wrapped up with two distinct emotions – excitement and the pull to go to him. This was the same human he’d seen tangled up in his childrens’ blood exchange. Something definitely was going on.
Lillian shifted the Audi into fifth gear and urged the engine faster down the country lane. She didn’t like to be out alone past sunset since “the incident” and it was nice to be home at the Treehouse when Eric came lumbering out from his day room at dusk. He usually had on pajama pants and his hair was all adorably mussed. It was just too cute. She also was slightly anxious, since he and Pam were leaving for Minnesota tonight. She’d run into town to get him a little gift, something to remember her by while he was gone. She hoped it didn’t come off as clingy, especially since they hadn’t defined the nature of their relationship. But then again, who could? Every aspect of it was an unusual.
When she pulled up, she could see Eric fussing around in the living room. Darn! She’d missed him waking up. Heading inside, he greeted her with a warm kiss.
“Good evening, lover. You look delicious tonight.” She’d gone a little out of her way to dress up. She eyed the bags he was packing warily.
“I already told you. It’s just a couple of days. Don’t worry about us.”
She pulled out a little white box and handed it to him.
“What is this?” he said, genuinely surprised.
“Just a little something for you, so you don’t get lost on your way.”
He opened the lid and recognition spread across his face. He pulled up the oxidized bronze chain and inspected the pendant. It was a vegvisir compass.
“Lila, this is so thoughtful! Thank you, lover.” He kissed her tenderly and pulled the chain over his head. I shan’t take it off while I’m away.” It made her happy.
“Now, I have something for you too.”
“What is it?”
“Come upstairs and I’ll show you…” he taunted, running his hand slowly down the front of his pants.
“Oh you dirty Viking!” He grinned and raced up the stairs, Lillian running after him, laughing.
They took their time pleasing each other’s bodies, each taking turns teasing and delighting the other. She wished they could have dragged it out all night (it seemed like that’s mostly all they’d done the past few days!), but she knew he would have to get going soon. He and Pam had a charter flight waiting to take them to Duluth.
“Lover, I still haven’t given you my gift.”
“Oh, that was only the prelude. Have you thought more about what I said the other day?”
“Taking my blood.”
Oh. She had thought about it, but was still nervous about the idea. It seemed kind of gross, and even if she could see past that, she didn’t know if they were ready for that.
“I have. Why do you ask?”
“I’d like you to take some now. I have your compass, but in case anything happens…I’d like to know which way to point it.”
Oh swoon! Damn this man, he was good! Eric was such a sweet talker, he knew how to get you to agree to anything. “I would be able to find you, and you could call to me through it.”
“How do you mean?”
“You would be able to push strong emotions at me and I’d feel them.”
“I’d just think really hard at you and you’ll know what I am thinking?”
“Generally speaking. I’ll also feel you like a background hum. I’ll know that you’re alright.”
“How long what?”
“Does it last? You said this would be temporary.”
“A few weeks maybe. A month at most. Can you put up with me for that long?” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
She chuckled. “That’s sounds do-able.”
“Oh I am very doable, Dr. Choate…” He rolled on top of her and kissed her hard. “Look at me,” he ordered. He liked eye contact. She watched as his fangs slid down, far down. All the way. It didn’t frighten her any longer, but was something fascinating. “Let’s make love again,” he whispered in a heated voice.
She blushed. That was the first time he’d referred to their very naughty romps as lovemaking. It made her heart skip, but she didn’t want to read too much into it. Better to let things evolve on their own.
He pushed into her and she gasped in pleasure. She licked and sucked on his fangs – it drove him wild – and he nuzzled and rubbed himself all over her. They worked each other into a frenzy, panting, gasping, nipping at each other, until Lillian cried out his name and he moaned, exploding into her. At the same instant, he sank his fangs deep into her neck, just to the side of her carotid artery. He came in her, and Eric wasn’t joking about the effects. Lillian arched her back and she literally had colors flash in her vision, her skin felt like every neuron was firing. She was just starting to come back down from whatever heaven Eric had just sent her to, when he called to her to open her eyes.
“Look at me, Lila.” Her eyelids fluttered open and took in his beautiful face, those deep grey blue eyes that she thought must be the color of the ocean near his childhood home. He bit his wrist and gave it to her. She licked the slow, oozing liquid timidly at first, and the cool sweet flavor on her tongue immediately made her orgasm again, even harder. Eric continued to move in her, and in between light draws at her own neck, cooed words in Old Norse at her ear.
She could hear him in her mind, and understood his meaning. Drink. All of me. All of me. She did as he told her to. Her mouth flooded with his delicious taste, his life force. And she lost herself to him, feeling a wash of intense emotion spread hotly over her. She lost track of all time, all sense of being. It was just the two of them, and they were one.
She was completely disoriented when she awoke. It was dark in the bedroom, and she could feel Eric’s firm chest pressed against her side. He was gently stroking tendrils of her hair and tracing the soft lines of her jaw with his knuckles.
“You are back.”
Lover, she pushed at him. He raised his eyebrows in surprise.
She felt a warmth rise in her chest and a strong sense of possessiveness took hold of her. It was weird. She felt possessiveness over herself.
“What…was that you?” He looked at her quizzically.
Desire. Mine. She felt it again. It was the oddest feeling, it felt entirely like her own emotions except the slight warmth that rose around them. Eric was doing this to her.
“Eric, stop! It feels funny.”
“Lover,” he knit his eyebrows together. “What are feeling?”
“You! You’re making me want to pleasure myself and kill anyone who looks at me the wrong way!”
He shot up to his knees, eyeing her. “Lila, this is most unusual. Tell me exactly what you feel. Wait….Now. What do you feel?”
She felt the warmth, but the emotion was complicated. “I…it is hard to describe. I feel ecstatic joy, like my heart is swelling all the way up to the sky. Is it pride? I almost feel like crying, but with happiness. What is it?”
Eric knelt there in front of her on the bed, unmoving. It sometimes freaked her out when he went vamp silent. He didn’t move at all. Instead, he looked like a big gorgeous statue, except that he was clearly alive. Well, maybe not alive, but living.
“What? What’s wrong?” Now the heat was shimmering over her, it felt warm and splattery, too chaotic.
STOP she thought at him. The sensations stopped.
“Lillian, you are hearing my end of the bond. That doesn’t happen. That…shouldn’t happen.”
Fear. That was Eric’s. Or hers. It was hard to tell.
“Are you mad? I’m sorry…”
Calm. Hugs, he sent her.
“I’m not mad. You would feel it. And don’t apologize. It just appears you are somehow receptive to the connection.”
“Did we overdo it or something? This isn’t permanent is it!?” Panic. Fear. Run.
“Lila, calm down. It’s ok. No, it couldn’t be permanent. It takes much more than that. This is unexpected, but it’s not a bad thing at all.” He smiled.
Happiness. She felt that.
The front door slammed downstairs and someone came in, tossing their keys loudly on the counter. Pam’s voice cackled up to them, “If you’re done fucking, Master, we’ve got a flight to catch. Hi, Lillian. Are you indecent? If so, I’ll come right up….”
Lily didn’t know what suddenly overcame her, but she pulled on her creme silk robe and skipped down the stairs, catching Pam by surprise in a big bear hug.
“Pam, I’m so glad I got to see you before you left.” Friend. Happy. Safe.
Pam froze at her impromptu show of affection, awkwardly patting Lillian on the shoulder and unwrapping her from her body. “Master, your human is behaving oddly. She also reeks of you.” She stepped back to inspect Lillian, something was weird here. She thought she’d just felt…
Eric tromped downstairs, shaking his head.
“Pamela, are you insinuating that I smell bad? Because if that’s the case, blood of my blood, you are equally foul. But as for your nasty mouth, I cannot be accused of being responsible for that.”
“Eric, what the fuck is going on? I can feel her…in the blood! She…she thought things at me!”
“She hugged me and she was thinking how happy she was to be near me!” screeched Pam accusingly.
Lillian frowned at Pam’s seeming rejection. She suddenly felt like bursting into tears. Eric put and arm around her and pulled her to him and Pam couldn’t help putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Shhh, it’s okay, lover.”
“Lillian, calm down,” Pam offered.
Eric tried to summarize as quickly as possible. “I made a temporary bond with her tonight and afterwards she said she could feel me. I asked her specifically to identify something I sent her. I’d just felt you coming up the road so I sent her that. She got it.
“That’s how you feel when Pam is coming to you?” Lillian whispered in awe. She looked at Pam.
“Why did you…hug…me?” asked Pam.
“I don’t know. I heard you come in and it just made me happy.”
Eric scowled in thought. “The blood knows the blood. One expects as much, to feel more at ease around bloodkin. I suppose it’s just more intense if she’s receptive to our end of the bond.”
“Extraordinary,” Pam couldn’t help blurting out. “Only Godric is capable of….” she stopped herself, realizing she was about to disclose something she shouldn’t.
Lillian was too curious. “Capable of what?” Pam looked at Eric.
“My maker is capable of sending impulses and compulsions into human minds with just a thought.”
“Maybe you have that gift too, but it’s just coming out now, with someone you’re closer to.”
“You can feel Pam, too,” he pointed out.
I’m beginning to understand the fuss you’ve been making, Eric.” She paused. “What does she taste like?”
“Pamela,” Eric said in sharp warning.
“Oh chill out. I just meant, is she rare?”
He hesitated. Clearly he was about to admit something to Pam that he didn’t want to share. “The rarest. I’ve never tasted anything like it.” He gave a sidelong glance at Lillian.
Laughter. Just us. She smirked, knowing he was thinking about his “surprise” the first time he drank from her.
Mine, she sent back.
“Well, I don’t really know what to say. Welcome to the family, I guess. You’re the first human member in our blood bond, no doubt.”
“Don’t worry, Lila. It will probably fade soon. In any case, it’s good to know we can keep in touch. I don’t know if you’ll be able to hear me from so far, but we’ll see.”
Eric dressed and he and Pam gathered their things and packed up the back of a compact SUV. Lillian hadn’t seen the vehicle before. How many freaking cars could a couple vampires squirrel away? Everything seemed to be set to go, when a car pulled into the drive. Eric snapped at her at pointed to the door. She scooted inside quickly. You listened when he wasn’t messing around. Eric just had that way of commanding. A few moments later, Eric and another man came in the door, Pam trailing behind.
“Lillian, this is your security man, Jeremy. Jeremy is an ex-Marine and he’s very good at his job. He’ll be around during the day and he’ll drive you to and from Fangtasy in the evenings, and anywhere else you want to go. When you’re at the club, Chow will always be there. You go to him if anyone bothers you. Understand?”
ANNOYANCE. She glared at him, arms crossed.
“Don’t fight me on this. It’s only a few days.”
Lillian sighed, uncrossing her arms. “Hi, Jeremy. Nice to meet you. Would you care for some sweet tea?” He declined and stationed himself outside on the front stoop.
Eric pulled her into a big hug, kissing her on the temple. “Lover, it is for the best. Just be careful, tell Jeremy or Chow if anything seems out of the ordinary, ok? I’ll be thinking of you the entire time and hopefully this will all be resolved by the time I get back.”
She gave him a long, deep kiss, and nuzzled his nose with hers.
“Maybe we can take a trip afterwards, hmm? There’s a beautiful place I know of in Sweden. Have you ever been?”
“No, I’ve only been as far east as the Czech Republic.”
“Ah. Well, it would be nice.” He kissed her longingly. “Think of me while I’m gone, and try to play with the extra perk of our blood bond. I’d like to be deep in a conference with my underlings and get a filthy, depraved thought from you….” She pushed against Eric and shooed him out the door, stealing one last kiss and waving them goodbye.
Pam paused before getting in the car and looked at her.
Friend, she thought.
She hurriedly got inside without another word.