Monday, June 27, 2011

89 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Nine

About an hour before dawn the phone rang. It was Eric.

"Hi Eric, we need to talk," I said without preamble.

I needed to get the information I told Adele about the Valerian off my chest. I was starting to get sick and tired of all this subterfuge, all these secrets. Eric and I were going to need to level with each other, put all our cards on the table or else we were going to have a meaningless relationship.

"I agree. However I am not available this evening nor will I be able to come tomorrow night," he said.

I thought I heard the sound of an airplane engine in the background.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"I will explain when I see you," he countered.

"This upcoming weekend is Jason and Angellica's anniversary party. Will you be here for that?" I asked, a slight edge to my voice.

"Definitely. I had not forgotten," he said.

"I heard about what happened to King Soprano," I said, just to get his reaction.

"It was most unfortunate and horribly horrible," he said blandly.

It was then I knew that someone might be listening to our conversation. Eric wasn't going to say anythng that could get either one of us in trouble on the phone. I felt a connection to him with his veiled reference to our conversation about what horrible thing could (and maybe should) happen to King Soprano.

"I have a question for you," he said. "Has the VEP received their payment from our settlement yet?"

"Yes, they sent me a thank you email today. Apparently this quick payment is a show of remorse for the defendant."

I didn't want to say Queen Ailine's name if Eric wasn't mentioning it. Vampires had super duper hearing. If any were nearby they might find out something Eric didn't want them to know, especially because he had signed an agreement that he would not disclose the breach in ethical behavior of the blue fairy queen to the vampire community if the conditions of her sentencing were carried out.

Ailine was the first blue elf to ever behave that way. The elves didn't want their reputation as fine legal representatives sullied. Eric believed the elimination of blue elves from the lower court vampire legal system would lead to chaos, pandemonium and excessive violence. Having seen some purely vampire proceedings myself I had to agree with him.

The higher court was governed by a very ancient mysterious blind vampire, the Ancient Pythoness. On rare occasions she was called on to rule in major cases, usually when vampire royalty had a beef.

"That part is settled then. My money also arrived and has been placed in an account. I will see you in two nights, then you can talk to me," he said.

Not very warm or loving but I got that he had ears on his conversation. No kissing noises or "I love you" to embarrass him in front of his cronies, I guess.

Maybe he was overseas attending to our finances. He never kept all his money in one country or even on one continent. He always wanted the option to set up a new life somewhere else if need be, a holdover from the days when a vampire would surely be staked or burned if he or she was discovered.

"Great," I said lightly, "I'll see you then."

"Sookie ....." he said, but then he didn't say anything else. He didn't have to. That one word was filled with love, longing and regret.

"I know, Eric. I'll be here waiting for you."

The connection ended. I put the phone down and walked around the house, thinking about how empty it seemed without Eric. We had been happy here, raised our three boistrous daughters here, made and been in love here. And all that time Eric had been plotting to enslave the human race under tyrannical vampire rule. Didn't he make the connection between how I would react and this nefarious plot?

The answer was obvious, of course he did. That's why he didn't tell me. If only he had gotten me to Turn before I found all this out I might have reacted in a different way, or so he thought. I didn't think so. I couldn't imagine growing so far from my human origins that human feelings, human life, would be a matter of indifference to me.

Yet even with those loyalties I had to admit I didn't walk around wringing my hands about the conditions in so many bad situations humans found themselves in. Would it be such a stretch to carry that indifference to all humans? Especially when the mess many of them found themselves in was unnecessary, a result of human greed, pride or sheer cussedness?

No one, to my knowledge, had ever been able to solve the mystery of why humans chose to do wrong when they could do right. Vampires wouldn't be able to change that but they could weed out the bad ones and scare the stuffing out of everybody else to stay in line.

Like a shepherd each ruler would watch over their flock of humans, culling out the sick and the worthless, maybe breeding the ones with the extra good blood. Sure the sheep would be protected from predators but the biggest predators of all would control every single aspect of their lives. Nobody asks sheep if they want to be sheared or slaughtered.

With a sigh I went to read a good book and try to stop cogitating on all this mess, I wasn't going to solve the questions of the ages tonight.

more to come .....(Good Monday Everyone - Just a heads up - my next posting will be on Friday due to my schedule this week. See you then!)


Sunday, June 26, 2011

88 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Eight

After a nice high protein lunch Adele had to leave to attend to a garden gnome with arthritis.

"It's the damp from all the watering, it gets into their joints after a few years," she said sadly.

I called Amelia and asked her if the potion in the mayonaisse jar would work to charge a second ring. She said it would but the effect wouldn't be long lasting, maybe under ten years. That seemed like plenty of time for Dr. Pattaya to do his tooth extractions, if he agreed to do it and if the teeth didn't keep growing back. So little was known about Gorgon bites.

Amelia knew I had planned on Turning in a month or so, now that seemed to be on hold. I told her that.

"I have to admit, Roomie," she said, "I was having a hard time picturing you as a vampire."

What did she think I would look like?

I pictured the same little old me but more pale. I had already given up tanning in the sun due to the aging thing. I now used a bronzer, something I might continue to do after I Turned. Maybe I wouldn't need to do so much exfoliating to prevent looking streaky. I kidded about becoming the first tanpire, now I might not do that.

"I have a hard time thinking about making such a drastic change. Maybe a compelling reason will appear," I said dubiously, recalling what HoloGran had said, that I would know it when I saw it.

After a half hearted workout with Halder I went to take a nap, though I wouldn't need to be awake tonight for Eric. He was staying somewhere else on businees and to give me time to think.

I tried to think of the positive aspects of the vampire take over, I truly did, but all I came up with was a sense of horror, a feeling that this time Eric was coming down on the wrong side of the issue. I could not back down on this one, he was just plain wrong even if he had been drooling over the day he would rule for at least five hundred years.

Should he have told me about all this Vampire Liberation stuff before we married? I could see why he didn't.

After so many years of disappointing attempts to discover the secret of daywalking he probably thought of it more like a fairy tale. All those conferences dividing up land and power must have become just so much palaver without a real way to be present during the day. It was only after our trip to the mine to rescue Lingza that the possibility seemed to come into focus and that trip was after our marriage.

Now Daynight was progressing, Tabula and Jagula were expected and Anna Hita was checking into the results other vampire take overs had in alternative universes. Maybe I could talk to her when she got back and convince her to tell the vampire planning board or whoever that it just wasn't an option. She might listen to me and my reasoning.

Could I talk Eric into changing his mind? Even if I did that nearly impossible feat it wouldn't change what all the other vampires had planned. Eric alone would be unable to defeat every vampire that chose to go ahead and take over. If Quinn was against VL maybe he had an organization that backed him. Would Eric join forces with the werewolves against his fellow vamps?

Maybe Eric would fight shoulder to shoulder with the werewolves and the Fellowship of the Sun against vampire rule.

No, that was ridiculous. Of course Eric wouldn't turn against his own kind. Vampires first.

What about humans first, my own kind? I knew of a weapon that could be used to immobilize and even kill vampires, something that would leave humans unharmed. If I went to the Pentagon or something maybe I could turn the secret of how to defeat vampires over to them. They would need to launch a pre-emptive strike, spray and stake the vampires before the Lightning Brothers showed up with their world wide glamour power.

The only problem with that plan was that I would never do that. It would be a death sentence for Eric. I needed to find some other way to stop VL day from happening. The imperfections in Daynight would be a deterrent for a while longer. And Anna Hita's feasability study might show that it would never work out well for the vampires. The Lightning Brothers might never show up, or they might show up thousands of years from now.

Would the vampire-run world Eric outlined really be such a bad place? Maybe they did hold the key to world peace, a green and healthy planet and world wide prosperity. Looking at it from a purely rational point of view it might be a big improvement. Would humans, left to their own devices ever fare as well? If there was a scale big enough to measure human suffering would a vampire totalitarian government result in more or less human suffering?

I pondered all these imponderables until my tired brain finally shut down and I slept.

When I woke up I had a clear idea of what I should do next. That happened to me sometimes after a sleep. I needed to contact Eric and let him know I told Adele about the Valerian. We were her parents, we needed to be on the same page. I also wanted to let him know that we could make a beguilement proof ring for Dr. Pattaya. The only problem was I didn't know how to reach my husband.

I tried his cell phone and got the hated "Out of Range" message. I wished I had thought to get a number where I could have reached him before he left last night.

It was full dark out. With a sigh I called Fangtasia and asked whoever answered the phone if I could speak to Pam.

Here we go again, I thought wearily.

"Sookie, so good to hear from you. How may I be of service to you to you tonight?" Pam said cordially.

For a second I worried that I was still asleep and just dreaming I was making this call. But no, the phone in my hand was real.

"Hi Pam. Is Eric there?" I asked warily.

"I'm very sorry to say he is not here at the moment, but if at first you don't succeed, try, try again," she chirped.

"Do you know where he is?"

"No, but the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious."

"Do you expect him in later?"

"It may be little, it may be big, but surprises happen when you least expect them. Take what life gives you, delight in it and enjoy it," she quoted from somebody or other.

"So, I take it that's a no. Could you give him a message for me?"

"More bliss can be gotten from serving others than from merely serving oneself. Let me get a pencil and paper so I might get your message exactly," she said and left before I could stop her.

I heard the booming music in the background for a few beats, then Pam was back. "All right Sookie, I'm ready to take down your message."

"The message is - 'Please call your wife'," I said. Maybe I should have made up something more elaborate since Pam went to all the trouble of getting writing implements.

"Got it. Is there anything else I can do for you tonight? Perhaps you could use a break. I could come by and watch the girls while you take a little time for yourself," she offered.

I actually held the phone away from my head and looked at it. Could this really be Pam on the other end?

I put the phone back to my ear. "Uh, thanks Pam, but the girls don't live here any more, remember? They're twenty two now so they don't need looking after. Thanks anyway."

"Oh yes, I quite forgot. They grow up so fast. If you can think of anything else I could do to help ... perhaps I could give you a call later to check up and see how you're doing ...?"

"No, that's all right. .... Pam, I notice a real change in you tonight. Is there a reason for that?"

"Frankly, yes. The Master was very displeased at the way I behaved towards you the last time he left you. He said I was rude, cold and uncooperative, that I was disrespectful of his wife, therefore I disrespected his blood. I merely thought I was covering for him as he would have wished but he made it clear that I was to be supportive and helpful to you in the future. How am I doing?" she asked anxiously.

"You're doing great. I'll be sure to tell him when I speak with him," I assured her.

With vampires the blood was the symbol of everything meaningful including familial relationships and respect. Telling Pam she disrespected his blood was like telling her she as much as spit in his face.

"Thank you. Remember this is the first night of the rest of your life. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It's always darkest right before the dawn. The only thing we have to fear is.."

"Thanks again Pam." I interrupted her inspirathon, "I appreciate you being so nice to me."

"I wish you comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, love to complete your life.” she recited.

"Thank you, Pam, that was beautiful." I said.

"Bye," I added quickly and hung up before she began a new series of quotes on beauty.

Even though she was making an effort to do Eric's bidding I found her kind words moving and helpful. I liked the new improved Pam. I would have to remember to thank Eric for her when I spoke to him.

more to come .....(Howdy Fanpires! So glad you were able to stop by!)


Saturday, June 25, 2011

87 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Seven

"What is it?" I asked, almost afraid to find out anything else.

"Have you heard of Hep D?" she asked.

"Yes, I believe it's a strain of hepatitis virus that doesn't have much of an effect on those that contract it," I said, being less than fully forthcoming, as usual. No wonder Adele screamed at me.

"It may not harm humans but if a vampire bites a human with Hepatitis D it will weaken them, maybe even make them sick," she told me.

I already knew this from an experience I had at Bill Compton's house back when I was first getting to know him. One of his friends had a male human boy toy with Hep D and Bill was going to bite him. I read the man's mind, Jerry I think his name was, and warned Bill before he got infected.

"You know, I think I may have heard about that," I allowed. Liar liar pants on fire.

"Anyway, the virus has mutated. Dr. Fang discovered a new strain of the disease that is very much worse for vampires. It weakens all their hard tissues like their bones and even more significantly, their teeth. Dr. Fang has named this new strain "Fang's Disease" after his own name. Ironically it also is a disease that softens vampire fangs."

"How widespread is it?" I asked, suddenly worried about Eric. Was his business trip to China? Did he know about Fang's disease?

"It's limited to a remote area in Northern China right now but you know how these things go, they can spread easily and quickly due to air travel. The testing kits for regular Hep D will not pick up this new strain. Dr. Fang is working with the center to come up with a new test kit," she said.

"How come you know this?" I asked her.

"I worked with Dr. Vay to treat a slaveling's pet, a Rüzgar Tayi with a bad cough. The slaveling was from Inner Mongolia and he had Hep D. I picked up the information about the new strain from Dr. Vay's thoughts," she said. "She was thinking she was glad the slaveling didn't have Fang's Disease. I looked it up on her computer when she left the room."

Dr. Vay was a doctor that was part vampire. She worked with Dr. Fay, my fairy ob/gyn at their clinic.

"What's a Rüzgar Tayi? And I thought slavelings were illegal," I said, remembering how angry the King had been about Preston, a slaveling that was made by an out-of-control vampire named Adrijana many years ago.

Eric had taken the criminal vampire Adrijana into custody. For his service Eric had been awarded the slaveling, a partially turned vampire, to completely Turn and keep for himself. Eric was underjoyed, to say the least. Like most vampires Eric found slavelings to be repulsively imperfect, a flawed image of the powerful and almost invulnerable true Vampire.

Preston's final Turning hadn't completely taken and Preston remained impaired as a vampire. He lived on insects instead of blood. Charlaine had called him a "Renfield".

After an under-the-table deal between Jure and Eric, Preston ended up living in Jure's house across the lake. Jure liked him, treated him well and over the years Preston gained more function, a result of being given some of Jure's powerful blood, I suspected, though of course I would never ask him about anything that personal.

"Yup, slavelings are illegal. This one arrived in a shipment of vampire refugees from China. No one would admit to creating the slaveling and he was too confused to tell anyone what happened. A Rüzgar Tayi is a wind colt, a small flying horse that runs on the desert plains of Mongolia. She was the pet of the slaveling before he was created."

"Does the slaveling have a name?" I asked.

"Yes, he is called Kuku by the other vampires. The little wind horse is named Lungta. She's very sweet. If they settle down near here I'll take you to meet her. It's believed to bring good fortune to stroke her mane," Adele said.

I sure could use a little good fortune right about now. I wondered if the wind horse was related to the unicorn but I didn't ask my supernatural veterinarian daughter.

More than anything I wanted to make sure Adele was clear about never ever mentioning Valerian or using it around a vampire.

She assured me she understood with her pained "I know already" voice. Then she added, "I'm still going to be sending some to Char for her and Darren to have when they go out during the full moons. They believe you're super allergic so they'll be careful to keep it out of the house."

She added, "It was pretty cool how Daddy got rid of that Tony Soprano guy. Char was shocked when I told her what happened to him."

"What did happen to him?" I knew he had rushed back to the States to be part of the ongoing clinical trials of Daynight.

Adele said, "Daddy didn't tell you? King Soprano insisted on going out in the day time and playing golf with his old mob friends. He was supposed to stay in the special housing provided for test subjects. Maybe he was showing off. Anyway he went out without any support from the center. He has an unreasonable prejudice against werewolves so he refused to have the werewolf orderlies attend him. Things went well to begin with, then on the ninth tee he suddenly burst into flame. The sun was too much for him. His buddies, all human goodfellas tried to put him out and drag him into the shade but King Soprano was very badly incinerated before he was rescued."

She observed, "Werewolf orderlies could have gotten him help much faster because they are so much stronger. King Tony wasn't having it. He called them "mutts". It's going to be months, maybe years, before King Soprano heals. Already his head honchos are jockeying for his vacant position. New Jersey vampire politics is a mess right now," she concluded, not sounding too put out by the King's misfortune.

I knew she would take King Soprano's prejudice against werewolves personally because her boyfriend was one. I knew how Adele thought, she would think it was his rightful comeuppance for being a werewolf hater and in a very real way she was right.

This must be the horrible accident Eric mentioned. Maybe they gave King Soprano a defective dose of Daynight, or maybe they just knew he was the type of person to ignore safety measures.

However it happened, King de Castro had gotten rid of a major thorn in his side and Darren was safe from King Soprano returning any time soon to bully his way into Darren's business.

There was no more reason for us to stay in the sound proof tunnel. We headed back to the kitchen for lunch.

more to come ....(Super Saturday! Love reading your comments, thanks for stopping by.

Z - Hope your eye is better super fast!)


Friday, June 24, 2011

86 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Six

I thought about talking to her in the kitchen but I was still so paranoid that someone might overhear us I insisted we go down into the soundproof tunnel.

Sometimes the girls, and especially Adele, felt that I was excessively cautious. This secret was one I had kept for more than two decades, it wasn't something I was going to have an easy time sharing with Adele, especially since I hadn't discussed it with Eric.

Well, Eric was gone, leaving me to think about things for myself. This was one of the things I thought about. I would tell Eric after the fact and let him deal with it.

Tit for tat, I thought resentfully, then scolded myself for being petty. That wasn't the reason I was telling Adele, I was telling her because she was in danger if she stumbled into a situation with a vampire armed with her Valerian spray.

"Adele, you have come up with a spray to repel those yawhoos, a spray that contains Valerian," I began, not telling her anything she didn't already know.

There was no echo in this tunnel. The corrugated inner surface seemed to absorb the sound of my voice as soon as it left my lips.

"I know Mom. No worries. I'll be sure to keep it away from you," she said, sounding like that would be the end of the conversation.

"I didn't tell you the truth. I'm not the one that is allergic to it .."

"Then why did you break out in spots?" she interrupted.

"I didn't. I ... uh, drew those on with a lipstick pencil. The real problem is your father..."

"Daddy is allergic to the Valerian?" she interrupted again. "Why not just tell me that?"

"It's much more serious than an allergy. Valerian will kill him if he's exposed to it. That's why he had to leave us to fight the yawhoo ourselves. He crawled away from the area because he was so weakened by the spray. All vampires are extremely vulnerable to Valerian, it paralyzes them, sickens them, makes their fangs fall out. A second exposure would probably be fatal. I accidentally sprayed your father with it many years ago and he almost died. He wouldn't survive a second time."

"Why the HELL didn't you tell me that, Mom? I could have KILLED Daddy! What's wrong with you? Why is everything always such a big secret?" she shouted.

Her words stung. Though the sound proofing foam swallowed up the loudness of her words, making them less strident, I got what she was saying. Growing up in a household like ours meant there were things that could not be disclosed. I tried to bridge the gap between what had to be kept under wraps and what I felt they should know. Sometimes I fell short, like now.

She was almost hyperventilating she was so upset with me.

"I understand your anger. I promised your father, swore to him, that I would never reveal this weakness vampires have. In the wrong hands it would enable hate groups to immobilize and stake vampires without them being able to defend themselves. Large areas could be sprayed rendering all the vampires in the area weak and unable to eat. Daddy never ever wanted anyone to know. In the past vampires have taken drastic measures to prevent anyone from knowing."

"Surely I can't be the first person that stumbled on this herb. It's a very common herb, you can get it in any health food store."

"No human alive knows this except you and I," I told her firmly. I didn't want to come right out and tell her that she could be killed. Then I changed my mind, she should know it all. "They will kill you to keep their secret. You must never mention Valerian, never let anyone know about the spray."

She stood there for a moment taking it all in. "Does Daddy know you're telling me this?" she finally asked.

"Not yet. I plan to tell him when I have the chance. We're having a little rocky place in our relationship right now. I needed to tell you right away before you accidentally mentioned it to someone that would want to silence you," I said.

"Is Daddy going to want to silence me?" she asked in a small voice.

"No, honey, no no no! Daddy loves you, he just wanted to protect you. I thought you were in more danger not knowing about this. He'll see it that way too," I promised her, hoping that would be the truth.

"Are you and Daddy splitting up?" she asked, changing her direction and focusing on what I had just said about our marriage.

"Oh no, not at all! We just needed some time to work out a few issues, time to think things through." Like who's going to rule the earth, I thought. "All couples go through some rough water."

"That's true. Lachlain gets on my last nerve sometimes. He knew what I did for a living before we moved in together, yet he has the gall to complain sometimes when I have to travel to far off places to help the creatures that need me," she pouted.

"The nerve of him!" I exclaimed in mock horror.

We both laughed about it. We both thought Lachlain was a great guy. It was understandable he would get a little tired of globe trekking on occasion. Adele realized that too and let him stay home sometimes when he needed to tend to his father's trucking business.

Then she said smugly, "Well, I know a secret too. And it's something the vampires at the research center don't want anyone to know."

more to come .....(Fabulous Friday Fangpires - Thanks so much for your interesting and insightful comments, they make my day!)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

85 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Five

I did hang on, even managing to get a few hours of fitful sleep sometime after the first faint rosy light of dawn came through the window. Then I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth and made a pot of coffee.

After a power bar and a cup of coffee I went out to the back yard near the tree line to the area where HoloGran's grotto of ivy leaves appeared. Sometimes she showed up, most times recently she didn't.

When I asked her why she didn't always show up she said she wasn't called. I took that to mean that my need wasn't great enough to bring her from where ever she was on those occasions.

Today my concerns were almost frantic. As soon as I arrived in the right spot the light green shoots of ivy sprouted out of the ground, rising and twining like leafy serpents around, over and under until a structure about the size of a single car garage had been woven.

Inside a silvery haze of magic shimmered and HoloGran appeared in a blue flowered housedress covered with a worn pink ginham apron. She was sitting at her old wooden kitchen table, pitting cherries into her big sky blue ceramic bowl, the one I accidentally chipped the time I tried to snatch my glass of chocolate milk away from Jason. She put the pits in a matching smaller blue bowl from the same set. It was chipped too, though I didn't do it. Gran was probably fixing to make a pie.

She looked up and smiled, motioning me in.

"Sookie, my dear child, how good it is to see you again! Sit down and we'll have a nice talk," she said, her voice so familiar and sweet to me it brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

I sat down and saw that, yes, the chips were still there. That bowl and the smaller one had been destroyed in a kitchen fire at the Bon Temps farmhouse years many years ago, yet here they were, chips and all. I found that comforting and creepy at the same time.

She dried her hands on the dishtowel she had hanging from her apron pocket, then patted my cold hand with her warm, blue-veined grandmotherly one. Her finger tips were stained red from the cherries. Then she went back to pitting cherries with her little paring knife.

"Gran, I feel like my whole world is being turned upside down," I began uncertainly.

She stopped pitting and looked at me over the top of her wire rimmed reading glasses. "It wouldn't be the first time life has thrown you a curve ball."

She removed her glasses and placed them on the table. "What's troubling you so?"

"I have more than one big problem. The first problem is that I was having second thoughts about Turning vampire. I was going to do it to assure Eric that I wouldn't die of human diseases or accidents. Now I'm not sure if I want to give up my human life for the life of a vampire."

"Would things be so different?" she asked.

"Sure. I'd have to give up eating, give up daytime, give up being human," I said.

"Doesn't sound very appealing. Don't vampires feed on blood?"

"Yes, that seems really yucky to me," I said, though I had taken tiny amounts of Eric's blood many times and enjoyed it.

"A baby drinks from the breast. Not the way I would want to be nourished but when you're a baby the breast is a little bit of heaven," she said.

I recalled my own girls as babies, how they loved to nurse. Their eyes would roll up in their heads as they latched on to my nipple and the first sweet warm drops of milk filled their pretty little eager mouths.

"I see what you mean. If I was a vampire I would love drinking blood. Maybe a little too much," I said, looking down.

"Are you afraid you're going to kill someone?" she asked, sounding surprised. "You're the most tender-hearted person I know. Land sakes alive, you wouldn't even let me set a mouse trap back home!"

She laughed, shaking her gray head.

"I'm afraid becoming a vampire will change me, make me cold and cruel," I admitted.

"Not a chance of it," she affirmed in her "that is that" tone of voice.

"Well, it doesn't matter anyway because Eric and I have irreconcilable differences," I said, beginning to cry. "I just found out he's been planning to do something awful."

"Planning isn't doing," Gran said. "Does he know it's awful?"

"No, that's just it. He thinks he's going to be doing something good."

I hadn't really thought of it that way, as his attempt to do good for mankind. Was it, or was that just the sugar coating put on a ruthless take over?

"Sounds like his notions are mistaken. Maybe he could use a guiding light," she said, putting her glasses back on and picking up the paring knife.

A guiding light. That was what Eric called me when he proposed we renew our vows. Was that my role in this, to guide him away from the ideas he had been cultivating for centuries?

"How Gran? How do I lead him away from the wrong path? And it isn't just him, there's a lot of powerful vampires in on it with him," I said, feeling hopelessness wash over me. All the important vampires in the world were not going to heed my words.

"You know what I always say dear, when you're doing the right thing the way opens up for you. Just be prepared for a surprise," she said plopping a halved cherry in the big blue bowl and a pit in the smaller one.

"Should I do it, should I Turn?" I asked her, sensing our time together was drawing to a close.

"If you have a good enough reason. You'll know it when you see it. Good bye darling Sookie. I'll see you again soon," she said, beginning to shimmer then fade out with static and a faint crackling noise.

I stood up and left the grotto. I watched while the vines unentangled themselves and returned to the ground leaving no trace of their ever having been there.

"Mom!" a voice called from the house.

I turned around and saw that Adele had arrived for our talk.

more to come .....(Greetings Fanpires - Thanks for all your thoughts and encouragement, you're the best!)


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

84 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Four

"You've given me a lot to think about. Maybe once the initial shock wears off I'll be able to think about your plan more objectively," I said neutrally.

My mind was already saying "No way, no how" but I needed to keep the lines of communication between us flowing. The enormity of the problem we had here just boggled my mind. Vampires have been fantasizing about the Day of the Dead for centuries. It was like a mass delusion.

"You do realize you must not breathe a word of this to anyone, not even our daughters. Any human that has learned of our plan ... Sookie, there are no humans alive that know. That was the main reason I did not tell you, this information is dangerous for you to have. I know I can trust you."

"What about all those websites? There's plenty of people online that think you're doing just what you're doing," I pointed out.

"They are crackpots, easily written off as paranoid conspirisists. No one of import pays any attention to them," he said scornfully.

That's what I had done, written off their ideas as the ravings of an unstable mind.

"Eric, tell me, would you really be so unhappy if you just left things the way they are?" I took his hand.

He obviously felt his life was not all it could be, a feeling I could relate to. For so many years growing up I felt like my miserable lonely life ran parallel to the wonderful life I could have had if I hadn't been born telepathic, if my parents hadn't died when I was young.

If Eric knew of other civilizations where vampires ruled the roost he must feel his vampiric rights on this planet had been derailed. I couldn't imagine things different than they were, but he could.

"I have accepted things the way they are because I knew that in time, the fullness of time, they would be different. Now that the time grows closer I feel excitement about the new world. I can end the madness humans have generated for millenniums. I can make a difference."

Here his smile faded. "Naturally my joy is tempered by the realization that you do not positively envision the world I described. I am also sorry that you have serious misgivings about Turning. My hope is that you will be persuaded to see both things differently."

I replied, "There's no point fighting with you about this. Your mind has been made up for centuries. It was a dream for the future you never shared with me. I think that's because you knew how I would react. Maybe you were going to tell me about it after I Turned? Is there anything else I should know about? Anything else you're holding back to spare me from upset?"

I tried not to sound as sarcastic and exasperated as I really felt, though some of it leaked out in the tone of my words.

"Sookie, I realize this must all come as a big shock but understand that it will be many years, maybe centuries, before anything changes. In the meantime our leaders will continue to negotiate, define and solidify the order things will take. I will keep you informed from now on about any changes or progress in our plans. Once again I must caution you, absolute secrecy is required."

"Nobody would believe me anyway. You vampires have everyone fooled into thinking you want to be part of human civilization. Eric, it's like I never really knew you, never really knew what was in your innermost heart."

He looked sad and a little angry. "I never made a secret of my loyalties. I have always said 'Vampires first'. But if you want to know what is in my innermost heart all you need to do is look in a mirror."

He stood up. "You need time to think all this through. I am tempted to stay here and try to convince you. That would be unfair and futile. There is some urgent business to which I must attend. Now would be the ideal time for me to take care of it. This will give you time to consider the benefits of rational rulers. Let me know when you wish to see me and we will talk again. Always remember I love you, I love our daughters. That will never change."

On his way out of the room he said, "Do not worry about me, this business trip is not dangerous. I will keep myself safe until you are ready to see me."

He went to our room and packed a few things, he said softly at the door, "Good bye Sookie."

Then I heard him leave. His car started up and drove off, a replay of the night he walked out on me for Ailine.

Only this time things were much much worse.

I sat there numb for a while. Then I decided to try and figure things out, but not tonight. Everything would look different in the morning. I just needed to hang on until dawn.

more to come .....(Wonderful Wednesday Wonder Women - Thank you so much for keeping the faith and sticking with this story. Gran is going to show up soon, let's see what she has to say about this.)


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

83 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Three

I thought for a moment. "You know, the root cause of many bad behaviors is a bad upbringing. Some of those people can be redeemed with treatment. How would you address that issue?"

He nodded. "Intelligent question, one we struggled to resolve. We will issue parenting licenses. Only those that are qualified will be allowed to reproduce. Only those doing a good job will be allowed to keep their children. Humans do this to a degree now. A child in a bad home can be taken into a foster home for their safety."

"What if somebody without a license gets pregnant?"

"That will not be possible. All humans will be kept on birth control hormones until they get their license."

I feared Eric had greatly underestimated the power of religious and cultural beliefs around this subject. I told him that.

"This has been a subject of much debate at our conferences. Some behaviorists insist humans will not change their beliefs. I see you agree with them."

"I do, not only that but the hormones you mention have serious side effects for some people. They would be unable to stay on them."

"Those people we would sterilize. If they qualify they could become foster or adoptive parents."

"Eric!" I exploded, "You would be playing God in their lives! Some decisions are up to the individual. They might be flawed, they might be messed up, but it's their life! That's human nature, you're never going to change that!"

"We also plan on developing better ways to control fertility, that is why Hector Lee specialized in human gynecology. We also have a doctor in urology studying a pill to control male fertility," he said hopefully.

He knew I had a "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" mentality and he was hoping this balance of mad science would appease me.

"Can't you see this is all crazy, honey?" I asked in a kind way.

Eric looked at me steadily for a moment. "I realize this is a lot to take in. I must admit that none of these plans have a date for execution. We are waiting for the Lightning brothers to visit and advise us. Also, Anna Hita is doing a feasibility study. In some nearby dimensions vampires have taken control of the planet. She is evaluating how well the take over has gone."

Ah, that explained her long absence. I relaxed, she would see that humans couldn't be kept as pets or food herds. It would all go terribly wrong somehow.

"You seem opposed to the idea even though what we propose would be the end to poverty, pollution, disease and discord. Why is that?"

His confusion didn't sound quite genuine to me. I was sure he was beginning to see things from my human point of view.

"It's human nature. We need to be free, even free to make terrible mistakes. I think things are going to get better. You think things are going to hell in a hand basket. We don't see eye to eye on this. Eric, your daughters are human. Their children are going to be human. You want them sterilized, controlled, threatened with death for any infraction of the rules?"

"No, of course not. As my family you would be exempt from the rules governing most humans. That is why I have made myself so visible in these proceedings, to assure our family will have all the benefits of being the rulers."

He frowned trying to understand where I was coming from. Obviously he thought I would appreciate his efforts on our behalf and see the benefits of vampire rule to humankind.

"That's another thing you don't seem to understand. Humans have empathy, at least the good ones do. How could I or the girls enjoy freedom and privilege if others are denied those things?"

"Sookie, all over the world people don't have one one-thousandth of what you have, yet you enjoy your wealth, your freedom, your benefits. I doubt if you give it a thought. What would be different about the benefits you would obtain under vampire government?"

He had me there. He was right. I didn't give all my money to the poor or worry about how other people lived. Did that make me a bad person? I could see how my objections would look hypocritical to Eric.

"You make a valid point. My point is that whatever mess we've made of things, it's our mess to clean up and fix. Remember when Adele had a messy room? She didn't want anyone to clean it up for her. She resented anyone even offering to step in and fix things. It would have made more sense if she let me or Sheila into her room to clean but it went against her psychology. Haven't you talked to any human psychologists about this idea of vampire rule? They can tell you it just won't work."

"It works on every other planet. Vampires are naturally the superior life form, they rule everywhere they establish a core group. Only here on earth are vampires restricted in their power."

"Why is that?" I asked, feeling he was about to tell me something central to his plan.

He gave a bitter little laugh. "Our sun is different than almost every other sun in the universe. Our sun creates a rare type of neutrino that interferes with the vampire life force. Direct exposure causes our atoms to disarrange, collide and by colliding eventually ignite. This problem has plagued us from day one. Our inability to be present during the day would give clever humans time to find us and destroy us. Now that we are getting close to solving this problem we can begin to think about the next step."

"How long have you been working on all this?" I asked him.

"We have been working on the plans since the mid fifteen hundreds. Of course back then a cure for our daytime sleep was just a dream. We had alchemists working on it but that came to nothing. Now, with modern science, it is coming close to a reality." He looked almost intoxicated with his vision of the future.

Talk about keeping secrets!

"Eric, how come you never told me about this before now?"

"When you think about something for hundreds of years it has the quality of a dream, a fantasy. It has only been since the research center was established that we have been able to find out what is holding us back. As the obstacles fall we will have a clear path to power."

A clear path to power. Wasn't the road to hell paved with good intentions?

more to come .....(Terrific Tuesday Temptresses - What very thought provoking comments! Thank you so much for reading along and giving me your valuable insights, they are much appreciated.)


Monday, June 20, 2011

82 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty Two

"Anna Hita's husband?" I knew that was how she described him, from beyond the stars.

"No, unfortunately Z'acab is unable to come. I am speaking of the Lightning Brothers."

He looked at me expectantly.

I slowly shook my head as I went over everything I could think of that might apply. I came up with a goose egg.

"Sorry ... I don't know who they are."

He looked puzzled. "Are they not in your holy book?"

"Not as far as I know, though I don't know everything that's in there," I admitted.

I vaguely recalled something about Satan falling like lightning but I didn't think that was what Eric was referring to.

He said, with a dismissive wave of his hand, "It does not matter. The important thing is that they have the power to glamour everyone on the planet. They are the source of our ability to glamour humans."

I was having trouble following what he was saying. "How are they the source of your vampire glamouring abilities?"

"Because they are the original vampires. Five original vampires came here - Mava, Z'acab, Tjabuinji, Jagtjadbulla and Dracula. Mava was killed by one of her Children. Z'acab, Tjabuinji and Jagtjadbulla returned home."

"What about Dracula?" I asked.

"He did not return to his home planet. It is believed he has remained here. No one knows where he is or why he stayed."

"So this Tjabuinji and Jagtjadbulla are the Lightning brothers? They Turned some humans and that started the line of vampires here?" My speech stumbled trying to wrap my mouth around those strange names.

"Exactly! All the five original vampires began lines of descendants. That is how they reproduce, by Turning beings on other planets. You may call the Lightning brothers Tabula and Jagula as we do."

"So they don't make babies on their planet, they just make vampires?"

"The story I was told many years ago goes like this; before the earth was even formed, the Originals had children as humans do. An accident in one of their power plants poisoned their world, gradually reducing the number of people that could reproduce. They worked on a way to save their race and discovered the means to inject and combine their DNA into other living beings. Those that were injected changed, making them nearly immortal as were their Makers. They also learned how to change their own DNA. By modifying their genetic patterns they developed the ability to grow fangs. They passed that trait on to us along with our abilities to withstand most things that would kill humans."

"Why didn't they modify your DNA so you could go out in the sun?" I asked.

"Lack of interest I suppose. These beings cover vast areas of space, we are only a speck to them."

"Didn't there come a time when everyone on their planet was a vampire? How did they eat?"

"They have the ability to travel quickly through space using black holes. They can visit other planets and feed any time they want. On most planets with intelligent beings they begin a core population of vampires to carry on their DNA. Any vampires those vampires Turn pass on the DNA. The original vampires found a way to reproduce that doesn't require sexual mating."

"That means there are vampires all across the universe," I said.

"Yes, though they do not all look like humans. They conform to look like the intelligent life on the planet they visit," he explained.

"One more thing," Eric added. "Your ability to read minds comes from the mixing of extraterrestrial vampire blood with human. Anna Hita's husband Z'acab was a telepathic vampire but he was one of the few that also retained the ability to reproduce sexually. She became telepathic after their first blood exchange. All the children subsequently born to her and Z'acab were telepaths. After she was done having children she Turned and her telepathic powers grew. You are a descendant of hers. You have the blood of one of the original vampires in you."

He said this last with a measure of awe. I thought that it must be pretty diluted by now after all those generations but I didn't say that. I could see that the thought of my original vampire bloodline really appealed to Eric.

"What do Z'acab and the others look like?" I asked.

"No one really knows. They project images of themselves to look attractive to the natives of the planet they are on. Anna Hita said Z'acab was the most beautiful man she ever saw. Since you are one of their descendants I would have to think she was right."

Eric was being charming. I wished I was feeling charmed.

"I appreciate you telling me all this," I said. "Let me see if I understand. Tabula and Jagula are coming to glamour all the humans into a trance. Then what?"

"Then vampire leaders step into the roles held by human leaders now. The cultures of the countries will remain the same, commerce will continue, people will do what they have always done but under the watchful eyes of vampire sheriffs."

"Eric, that isn't going to stop bad people from being bad. Countries that have always hated each other are still going to hate each other. Religious zealots are still going to believe that their religion is right and everyone else's is wrong."

"True, but the troublemakers will be dealt with immediately by a world council. The population must be thinned anyway, why not remove those that spread hate, violence and discontent?"

"By remove you mean kill?" I asked.

"Of course. I remember public executions, they were a deterent to future crime. Our courts can decide in a moment who is at fault. Under glamour the guilty one will confess. Soon the only ones left will be those willing to live peacefully."

He spread his hands open as if offering all the riches of the kingdom.

He said, "When resources no longer need to be channeled into police, armies, and weapons, those resources can be used for the health, education and higher living standard of the peaceful humans that are left. A new day will dawn, peace will reign, cures for diseases will be found, pollution will end. Earth will become a paradise."

His face glowed with his vision for the future.

How could something that sounded so good be so impossibly wrong?

more to come .....(Marvelous Monday Mermaids of Mental Mirth - As always I am delighted to see you stopped by and left your thoughts. I feel like you do, so many things can happen, so many issues to resolve. Sure hope all this works out. I type whenever I get the chance to try and stay ahead and see what's around the next bend.)


Sunday, June 19, 2011

81 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty One

I changed out of my good brown suit when I got home, let down my hair and padded to the kitchen in my slippers and robe to get a cup of cocoa and a high protein power bar to keep up my intake of calories and protein. Slowly and carefully I was putting back on some of the weight I lost.

When I was done I went in our living room where Eric had a fire going in our gas fireplace, sitting across from him so I could see his face as he talked.

"Go ahead," I said, my guts clenching in fear.

Eric looked up towards the ceiling for a second then he began speaking in a calm gentle reasonable voice, looking at me with a determined expression.

"Even in your relatively short life you must know that humans have mismanaged their affairs at every turn. Wars, squandered resources, cruelty, violence - these have been the norm. No true enlightenment has changed human nature. I have seen unspeakable human atrocities over the years, so many that I have become indifferent to them."

He waited for me to respond.

"I can't argue with you there, it's been a mess from the beginning," I agreed.

"In the past the capacity for human mayhem was limited but as technology advances the ability of humans to destroy themselves and this planet grows. The ever increasing population has put an intolerable strain on the ecology. That will have dire consequences over the next centuries. Our scientists have created projections of where things are headed. Sookie, it is only a matter of time before the human race devastates this world and wipes itself out in the process. A thousand years is a long time to come to a mortal human. To a vampire it is a fact in our inevitable future."

No humans, no blood. That would wipe out the vampires too unless they were content to keep themselves alive on artificial blood. From the reactions I had seen no vampire would willingly live on the fake stuff indefinitely.

It wasn't even sure if they could live on the fake stuff for extended periods of time. In the long term voluntary tests that were conducted it was only a matter of time before the artificial blood test subjects broke free and bit someone. The ones that were locked up in prison trials went mad and were never right in the head again. They were so dangerous they had to be destroyed.

This decision to take over humankind wasn't altruism, it was enlightened self interest.

"I can see where those scientists might think that but people can learn and do better in those years," I said, wondering as I spoke if that was really true.

"You have taught me that the greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior," he pointed out.

I learned that from Dr. Phil. I couldn't discount what Eric was saying, he hit the nail on the head when it came to how we humans behave.

"So to fix things you're going to wage a war with humans that will probably end up in humans destroying every vampire on the planet, including you?" I asked, leaning forward. "There's a lot more of us than there is of you."

"Is that your concern, for the vampire's safety?" he asked, surprised. He leaned forward too.

"Of course that's one of my concerns. Your daughters are human, that's another concern. My biggest concern is you-all starting any kind of war. Nobody will win, but I can guarantee you that when the dust settles there won't be a vampire left alive."

I was sure of that. Ordinary humans would take up arms to defend their lives against vampires. I pictured those scenes in old movies where a mob of angry villagers descended on the vampire's lair with torches and pitchforks.

"What if I told you that there would not be a war, that all humans would become compliant and accept vampire rule?" he asked.

"There aren't enough vampires to glamour everybody, Eric."

Was this his master plan, to run around glamouring people left and right?

"Besides, humans don't stay glamoured. Once the effect wore off they would come to their senses and fight you."

Glamour worked for a while until the person began to feel a disconnect between what they were told and what was really true. Then they snapped back into their old reality. It might stick for little things like a few missing moments on a moonless night, for major life issues it was short lived.

He sat back smiling. "Then I have good news for you. We have the means to glamour everyone on the planet simultaneously. Not a drop of blood would be wasted."

"How? Who? Anna Hita?" I asked, naming the most powerful vampire I knew. Would she really do something like that, even if she could?

"No, someone much more powerful. Someone from beyond the stars," he said.

more to come .....(Tranquil Sunday All! Glad to see were able to stop by, I always always appreciate it.

Sophie, I hope things are better for you today.)


Saturday, June 18, 2011

80 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Eighty

Taryn, Lingza, Eric and I walked into the research center together. Tonight the entrance was through the underground parking area of a small mall. They moved the entrances and exits periodically so no pattern of activity could be discerned.

Many of the scientists lived at the center. There was also a small army of people - vampires, humans and supernaturals - that came and left on a regular basis. Not attracting attention had allowed the research center to operate undetected for decades.

Lingza looked like he usually did, only spiffier. Tonight he had on a vintage reproduction Mitchell & Ness 1934 Cardinals Dizzy Dean jersey, Armani diesal jeans and Adidas Run DMC shoes.

I know this because Taryn proudly explained each article of Lingza's urban outfit. I could tell she loved dressing him, he was like her Neanderthal hip hop doll. Lingza smiled his scary sweet fangy smile. I was glad to see he didn't look as down in the dumps as he had been.

Taryn explained she had on an outfit by Sean John, though to me it just looked like a cropped black hoodie, white v neck baby doll tee and black pants. They made a nice looking couple. When Lingza didn't smile they looked like they could roam the streets with their posse.

I noticed a small brown chipped tooth in a gold setting hanging from a chain around Lingza's neck. This wasn't just some bling, this was the tooth Linda told me about, the one he found in the cave in France, possibly the only remaining trace of his long gone child Tun.

It made me sort of sad to see it. His thick hand reached up and touched it as Taryn talked. I hoped the little tooth brought him some peace, a sense of connection. His loss was unimaginable. I tried not to think about my own future.

When Taryn was done talking Eric nodded to her and we walked through the tall clear glass doors into the main entrance to the research center. It was modern and spare with shades of gray and tan the dominant decorating feature. The tan stone floor was polished to a shine, my low heels made a crisp sound as I walked. Numerous small ceiling lights illuminated every step of the way.

Lars was talking to Adele in the lobby. From her body language it looked like she was telling him about the struggle with the yawhoo in New Zealand. I hoped she hadn't mentioned the Valerian spray.

I wanted to tell her the truth about it, not the lame story that I was allergic. I knew Eric would be against her knowing so I hadn't made a decision on how to handle it yet.

Lingza and Taryn's vibes made it seem like they had gotten closer. They weren't holding hands but Taryn stood close to him, looking at him often with a smile. Could romance be brewing between them?

They spent a lot of time together, sometimes that was enough to form a bond. Propinquity was the word for it, I think. It had been the word on my word-a-day calendar last Monday. That would be wonderful, if Lingza found someone to fill his empty lonely heart with love.

"Adele!" I exclaimed, hoping to derail her narrative before she got to the part about using the Valerian spray. "Don't you look lovely tonight!"

I went up to her and put my arm around her. She did look lovely in a light orange ruffled blouse and dark brown skirt, her blond mane in a stylishly messy French twist. "Is Lachlain here?"

"He's at the buffet table. Honestly, he just had dinner an hour ago and now he's eating again. If I ate like he did I'd be as big as a house and lot!" she laughed.

Eric greeted his boldest daughter with a hug, nodded at Lars and then nodded again at Lachlain as he walked up to us holding a paper plate loaded with cold cuts.

It was only a few days until the full moon, shifters and werewolves always ate more meat around that time of the month. I've seen Jason eat a whole rotisserie chicken in one sitting right before his change. They burned it off during their transformation.

Lars said, "Adele was just telling me about your trip to New Zealand. It sounds exciting."

He didn't exactly look excited, but then he never did. Lars was the security for the research center, a big bald headed man with an impressive bushy red beard. He had been like an uncle to the girls in their childhood, he still filled that role for them now.

"It was. There were birds and trees all round that I had never seen before," I chattered inanely, trying to dominate the conversation.

I decided at that moment I was going to have to tell Adele the truth the next time I could get her alone. She was in more danger not knowing what she knew than knowing.

"Where's Linda?" I asked her, though I figured she was probably in the big conference room with Hector Lee.

"Let's go find her," Adele suggested, to my relief.

Arm in arm we walked off leaving Eric, Lars and Lachlain discussing something that involved Lars pointing at the corner of the ceiling, probably the planned upgrade to the security cameras.

Linda spotted us as we entered the conference room. There were about fifty people standing around in small groups, talking. Most of them were vampire. Many were scientists in lab coats or outdated suits that were once worn by learned men. Among the usual familiar faces were some new ones I didn't recognize. They stood in little clusters discussing whatever it was learned men of science discussed.

Hector Lee, the graduate from medical school, stood at the center of one group. He had an Asian name because he had been adopted by Asian parents but he was obviously not Asian. Blond haired, blue-eyed Hector looked to be of German or Scandinavian descent.

With him were his mentors Dr. Fang and Dr. Mellen, and his Maker Dr. Frank Clark. They looked as proud as Hector's human parents would have looked if they hadn't been bigots that had disowned their son when he Turned vampire.

Dr. Banger, a noted sex therapist and Dr. Vay, a part vampire ob-gyn were there too. From the way Dr. Banger smiled at Dr. Mellen I thought there might be something going on between them.

Linda brought us over to congratulate Hector. I called him Dr. Lee and he almost blushed - almost, but not quite because vampires didn't blush unless they had just fed.

"Where are you going to practice?" Adele asked him, one supernatural medical person to another.

"With us," Dr. Vay said. "Didn't Hector tell you? He specialized in gynecology." Dr. Vay smiled at Hector and patted his arm as a kindly aunt would.

I saw Linda draw back a little, then recover and paste on her version of the famous fake Stackhouse smile.

"That's wonderful, just wonderful. I'm sure he'll be a wonderful gynecologist," she said warmly.

Who was he going to gynecologize? As a vampire he would not be allowed to treat human women. Each species of supernatural had their own special doctors. Dr. Fay treated the fairies. I had seen her when I was expecting because of my fairy heritage. Vampires didn't need any kind of medical attention, as a rule.

Hector Lee still looked like he was barely seventeen. I thought about how unsettling it would be to be his patient, to lay on the examining table and see such a young man down there poking around.

It was obvious to me that Linda wasn't going to want to take her relationship with Hector to another level, both because of his chosen career and because she was continuing to grow older while Hector would look seventeen forever.

With Hector out of the picture that left more room for Jure to monopolize Linda's time and attention. I racked my brains trying to think of other eligible men she might take a liking to. Nobody came right to mind. At least we still had Calabim the handsome djinn in the running.

After circulating through the room and some more chit chat with various folks, I got Adele alone and told her I absolutely needed to speak with her in private. She offered to drop by the house the next day in the late morning.

Right after Eric entered the big room and joined me the ceremony honoring Hector Lee began with informal speeches praising Hector's achievement made by his Maker Dr. Clark and the center's director Dr. Mellen.

The high point of the ceremony was a visit via webcam from the King congratulating Hector followed by polite applause and the room singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to Hector. A True Blood or champagne toast was hoisted in his honor at the end of the song.

Then the party was over. I always found the brevity of vampire social gatherings to be a relief after the never ending quality of Louisiana polite leave-taking, which could take several hours as it inched towards the exit.

When Eric and I were in the car leaving the parking lot he said, "Can we go home and talk?"

I said sure and off we went, hurtling through the crisp fall night towards a conversation that might change our relationship forever.

more to come ....(Super Saturday Supernaturals! Wishing you well and happy to see you stopped by!)


Friday, June 17, 2011

79 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Seventy Nine

"I don't think you're rushing me into Turning but I think you're too happy about it. You're just seeing the benefits to you and to me, you don't see the downside to it," I said.

He thought about this before he answered. "It is true I am happy about your decision. To my way of thinking it is the only rational decision for you to make. As unfortunate as it is, your childbearing years seem to be over ..."

I wasn't sure why but I felt a flash of hot anger at him for saying this.

I interrupted him. "No! They're not over! It's just that it might take me another hundred years to conceive."

He nodded. "I see. The possibility of having more children appeals to you. Do you wish to wait until your fertile time comes back?"

I tried to dump this on him. "Don't you want more children?"

"I would treasure more children as I do the ones we have. It is the ongoing risk to your human life that troubles me. I can wait until you bear more children. Is that what you want?" he asked, his head tilting to the side as he tried to understand what I was saying to him.

His head could tilt until it fell off his shoulders but he wasn't going to understand what I wanted because I didn't know what I wanted. If I waited to conceive again my own girls could be long dead from old age by the time I glowed pink.

Would I really want to start the whole thing up again? Living through the aging, decline, and death of Adele, Linda and Char seemed to be beyond my powers of coping. Adding more children that would grow old and die in front of my eyes just seemed to multiply the misery and grief.

How did Eric stand it?

I wanted to scream "NOOOOO!" at the universe it all seemed so unfair.

And that was exactly what Eric was fearing. I had the security of knowing he was almost indestructible. He would survive car crashes and lightning strikes. He had zero security about my own continued existence except for the longevity my fairy blood gave me. This wasn't all about giving up the hope for future children.

"Eric, I don't know what I want. This isn't about having more kids exactly, though that would have been nice. This is about giving up all the things that make me human. It's taking a leap of faith that what awaits me on the other side would be worth the sacrifice. I would be doing it for you, to make sure I'm here for you. I wouldn't be doing it for me. I'm willing to take my chances as a human," I said, uncertain of what I was saying even as the words left my mouth.

Was that really the truth? Was I willing to risk having my life cut short when I could guarantee myself a disease free, accident proof future? What if I didn't live to see Char's baby? What if my girls needed their mother but I wasn't around to help them out? Their vampire Mom could bring the big guns to protect them if need be. Their vampire Mom could even babysit at night.

His face looked grim. "I see now. You would be giving up your human existence only to prevent me from suffering should I lose you."

He tenderly touched my face. "How much you love me."

He shook his head slowly from side to side. "It is humbling. That would not be enough, Sookie. My peace of mind would not be enough reason. I know that and you know that."

I waited for him to extoll the benefits of becoming Vampire, but he didn't. He said, "I feel your confusion. Your fear is almost a taste in my mouth. This is not the start to our new life, this is a tragedy waiting to happen. I have too much invested in the outcome to advise you. Is there no one you can talk to about your decision?"

I hadn't talked to anyone because I hadn't wanted to be talked out of, or into, a decision to either Turn or stay human. Now it looks like I had done both all by myself. I really did need to sort out my feelings. Eric was right, he couldn't help.

Suddenly I had a thought.

HoloGran! I hadn't been able to get her to appear for a while, maybe now that I really really needed some advice she would come and I could get her perspective on things.

Eric wasn't crazy about HoloGran. He didn't know who or what she was and that made him uneasy. I didn't know what she was either. In the past she had been nothing but kind and supportive, as she was in life. She didn't seem to have any supernatural knowledge like what was going to happen in the future, she was just willing to have a nice sensible chat with me. Who could ask for more?

"I think I have someone I can talk to," I said. "I'll continue this discussion after that. I don't know what I'm saying anymore. I seem to be of two minds. Can we stop talking about all this now? My head feels like it's going to explode."

"My head does too. I have not felt so overwhelmed since the Baltic Crusades. Still, I am glad we had this talk. There must be no secrets between us. I can cope with whatever is in your heart but you must tell me. Unlike you, I am not telepathic."

I thought I detected a hint of reproach in his tone. Then he started the car and we continued on to the research center. Eric turned on the radio to fill the silence that had settled between us.

It was the Fine Young Cannibals singing, "She Drives Me Crazy".

Eric snickered.

I giggled.

Then we both laughed until our sides hurt. Eric was laughing so hard I was afraid he might veer off the road. If we weren't already late to the graduation party I would have made him pull over again.

In the research center parking lot, still laughing at ourselves, we kissed passionately until someone pulled in next to us, honked and yelled "Get a room!"

It was Taryn in her vintage yellow Cadillac Seville with Lingza sitting right next to her.

more to come .....(Friday at last! Greeting Ghoulfriends! Thanks for your insightful and thoughtful comments when you have the time, and for just stopping by and reading when you don't.)


Thursday, June 16, 2011

78 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Seventy Eight

It didn't sound like all this VL stuff was going to happen right away but now I knew for sure Quinn was gunning for Eric. I had to warn Eric and tell him everything I knew.

I wasn't going to fight with Eric about VL. I could learn more if I pretended to keep an open mind. If I listened and learned everything, I might be able to talk some sense into Eric.

I would also be able to accomplish more if I Turned vampire. My main concern was protecting my girls, my brother and his family, Amelia and all the other humans I loved. I wanted to stop VL from happening altogether. If I couldn't, I would fight to rescue those I could.

I paced around until Eric rose, too jittery to sit still.

He raised an eyebrow at my agitated state. His cool Nordic features and steady heavy lidded gaze gave him an almost haughty look. I knew that was just the way his face was structured and the erectness of his posture. To me he was emotionally available and concerned with my happiness. He just needed to tell that to his ultra Scandinavian face.

"Your talk with Ailine did not go well?" he inquired.

He went to our room to get dressed. I needed to pull something on for the graduation party too. I looked like I felt, disoriented and distressed.

"I learned some very upsetting things. Could we sit for a while and talk?" I asked him, going over to the sitting area in our room.

"Of course," he said, changing direction.

He was still in his black silk pajama bottoms, naked from below the belly button up, the golden hair dusted on his stomach growing more dense as it descended.

"I learned that Quinn is the one that set Ailine up to take you. He was fixing to have her bring you to a place he arranged in Arizona so he could get to you. He was the one that set Frannie on you too. Quinn's trying to kill you," I said, making sure Eric understood he was in danger.

He looked thoughtful but not surprised. "Do you know where he is?" he asked.

"Me? No! I haven't seen him ..." I trailed off remembering I hadn't told him about seeing Quinn in Darla's Deli parking lot.

"Since your late night meeting with him in the mall parking lot?" Eric asked. His blue eyes regarded me without accusation.

"You knew about that?" I asked, surprised.

"Of course. You had both Aleksis and Kinnan there to protect you. That was good," Eric said.

I should have realized they both reported to Eric. "How come you didn't ask me about it?"

"I thought you must have a reason for keeping the meeting to yourself," he said calmly.

"I did. Quinn was saying a lot of stuff about how the vampires were planning on taking over the world. It sounded crazy to me. I wanted to find out if he was telling me the truth," I said.

"Was he?" he asked with a slight smile. He already knew the answer.

"Well, Ailine as much as said he was. She talked about it like we were all on the same team. I guess she thought I was right in there with the rest of you, plotting to take over."

"And now that you know it is true, how do you feel about it?" he asked. He was remarkably calm for someone that just had his master take-over-the-world plot exposed.

"I think it's a big big BIG mistake! There's way too many humans for a handful of vampires to fight and glamour them all into submission. Once people get riled up about an enemy they aren't going to rest until every last vampire is staked. Call it off before you unleash a problem you can't fix," I said heatedly.

So much for pretending to keep an open mind.

"There is so much I want to tell you, so much I need to tell you. Unfortunately we do not have the time right now. Promise me you will hear me out before deciding our plan is crazy," he said, taking my hand. "I am relieved to have this out in the open. I do not like to keep secrets from you."

"I don't like keeping secrets from you either. Right now I don't know what to think. I'll try to keep an open mind," I said, not sure if I could.

No matter how thin you sliced it he was talking about taking over the planet. Right now I couldn't even fake having an open mind.

"A hearing is all I ask," he said.

"How soon is this Vampire Liberation going to take place?" I asked.

"Not for a very long time. Things have to be in place before we make our move. I will explain it all later tonight," he said, standing.

We got ready for the graduation party without speaking a word to each other.

In the car on the way to the research center I asked, "Is our renewing vows going to be a vampire arrangement this time? I mean, a hundred years and no real commitment?"

I spoke into the darkness, both the darkness in front of the windshield and the darkness that was overtaking my heart.

He stopped the car, pulling into a little cut in area next to the dark country road that led to the county road that led to the state road that took us to Shreveport. He shut the car off but left the dashboard lights on so we could see each other.

"Is that what you have been thinking? I am using this as a way to modify our relationship?"

"I don't know what to think anymore Eric. Every time I try to understand one situation a new one comes up that is even more incomprehensible. I just want a simple answer. Do you want to impose a time limit on our marriage?" My voice was without inflection. I already sounded as dead as a vampire. I continued to stare out the windshield into the black.

"Look at me," he said gently.

I did. I unfastened my seat belt and turned in my seat to look at him. He was the familiar beautiful Eric I loved with all my heart. He was also a dangerous vampire, a stranger that was planning to turn humans into cattle. How could I reconcile the two?

"Do you know me?" he asked seriously. He unhooked his seatbelt so he could turn in his seat too, as much as his long legs and the Corvette would allow.

"I thought I did. Then Pam told me you could turn your feelings on and off like a light switch," I went to take a breath to continue on about the whole VL project but Eric answered immediately.

"Pam knows what she has seen me do, how I have behaved. She has drawn conclusions from her experiences with me but her conclusions are not always accurate. She can not see into my heart. She can not read my mind. Only I know what my intentions are and what I am capable of doing. I tell you now it is not my intention to leave you, not in a hundred years, not ever. If I ever leave your side it will be because I have been taken from you by an enemy or by my final death. Can I make myself any clearer?" His intense eyes never wavered as he looked into mine.

I let his words sink into my mind, then into my heart. I felt the truth of them. I checked that problem off my growing list.

"I absolutely believe you, Eric. I just get afraid, you know? Afraid of the future, afraid of losing you, of having to live my life, my very long life, without you. I think losing my parents at an early age taught me that someone you love and need more than anything in the world can just be taken and gone in the blink of an eye. It's hard to believe that I can have so much, that my life can be so good. The more I have the more I can lose."

"I agree, the more we have the more we have to lose. We have to work together as a team to insure our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. I need you by my side protecting what needs to be protected. As a vampire you will have the power to do what must be done," he said.

I hesitated, then told him the truth. "I have a lot of doubts and fears about losing my human life and Turning. Every time I think of it I feel sick inside with the enormity of it."

His face looked so loving and tender as he took my hand, the hand with my wedding ring on it. "Why have you kept these feelings from me, my beloved wife? I can understand how you might feel this way but not why you did not come to me and tell me? Do you feel I am forcing you, rushing you into Turning?"

Good questions. I took a deep breath before I answered him.

more to come .....(Terrific Thursday Fangirls, hope your week has been peaceful. What a marvelous community we have here. I grow more grateful every day!)


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

77 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Seventy Seven

"You picked Eric up at the most recent Vampire Alliance Counsel conference?" I asked her.

"Yes, after a night of hot and heavy negotiations even the mighty Eric was tired. He was easy to beguile, easy to put under my spell," she bragged.

"Things weren't going smoothly at the conference," I said.

She chuckled, "When it comes to dividing up the world each ruler wants to get more than the others. It's like greedy children after a pinata is broken. The arguments and debates are endless."

A pinata of death I thought. What did vampires have as weapons? Guns, death rays? I thought of Tesla and his inventions. This would be war on a scale the world had never seen. I almost couldn't get my breath I was so upset.

"I sure do hope Eric gets his fair share for all he's done," I said lightly.

"Oh no worries there. He will oversee the sheriffs in all of North America, not a bad piece of the pie," Ailine said. "He probably didn't want to brag."

"No, that's sure like Eric, keeping his accomplishments on the down low," I chuckled along with her. Just two gals amused at how cute it was that Eric was going to rule America.

It occured to me that Ailine might be feeding me a line of bull. Quinn wouldn't admit to her that he attacked Eric, not if he wanted to finish Eric off.

"I don't know how you got Quinn to tell you what his plans for Eric were," I said with an admiring laugh. "I can never get anything out of the big guy."

"Oh, I have my little ways, as you know, of getting what I want. But shhhhhhh, I won't tell if you won't." She winked at me, like we were both in on this together.

Obviously she felt free to beguile anyone she wanted to, her being the Queen and all. She wouldn't be the first ruler that thought she was above the law. I didn't think she was going to be rehabilitated any time soon, if ever. Maybe Eric was right, maybe she should have been terminated.

"How soon do you Turn, if you don't mind my asking?" she inquired in a friendly way, breaking into my thoughts of her sudden death.

"A little over a month," I told her, sick to my stomach at the thought of it.

"Oh then you'll have years and years of boring conferences where every tiny issue is talked to death," she said with a sigh.

"Yup, can't say I'm looking forward to it," I said truthfully.

"Who is? At least my sentence will keep me out of the loop for a few years. I can really use the rest, regroup, establish some new goals," she said, thinking about her future.

"Tell me," she asked, girl to girl, "Do you think I would look better as a blond?"

"If that's what you want, go for it," I said absently, not thinking at all about her hair color.

"That's just what Quinn said," she replied with a smile.

Alfdis appeared in a third embedded screen. "Time's up. Did you get the answers you sought Mrs. Stackhouse?" she asked me.

"Yes, ma'am, I surely did," I said. "Queen Gormlaith was real generous with her time and answers," I said.

I wanted to keep Ailine as an ally in case I needed to pick her brains again.

"Mrs. Stackhouse has been most kind and gracious. I cannot express how sorry I am that I trespassed against her," Ailine replied.

"Then I will wish both of you a good day and conclude the online conference," Alfdis said. "I remind you, Queen Gormlaith, the restraining order is still in effect. Any violation will be dealt with harshly."

After a few seconds of static the screens went blank.

I sat there stunned by what I had learned. Everything Quinn said was true. My mistake was in thinking that only one or maybe a few vampire rulers were hatching this crazy plot. From what Alfdis said, all the vampire rulers were in on it, coordinating their roles and buying off the other supernaturals with promises of wealth and power.

My whole world as I knew it looked like it was about to be turned upside down. Supernaturals on top, humans low down in the pecking order.

When Halder showed up I sent him away telling him I had a belly ache. It was the truth.

more to come .....(Wonderful Wednesday everyone! I always read every comment carefully and take them to heart. Thanks so much for taking the time, when you have it, to stop by and leave your impressions.)


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

76 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Seventy Six

After some static and a frozen screen on my computer the meeting with Ailine finally connected. She wore a black turtleneck shirt, no make up or jewelry, hair pulled straight back. Her pale lips were compressed like she was going to try to keep all her words inside. It would be up to me to pry the truth out of her.

For some reason I had expected Alfdis to moderate our talk. I was very pleased to find out I had Ms. Gormlaith all to myself. I decided to start out with a little sugar.

"I really want to thank you, Queen Gormlaith, for agreeing to talk with me today," I said in a humble and kindly way.

She blinked a few times, perhaps surprised at my mild tone. I had been more strident when we met in her lair.

"It seemed like the least I could do after all the trouble I caused," she said cautiously.

It did to me too, but I didn't say that. "As you can imagine, I have a few questions in my mind about what happened. I may look like I'm just out of my teens but Eric and I .."

"I know how that works, you don't need to explain it to me. You and Eric are a long time married couple, long for these modern times that is. You want to know why I inserted myself into your relationship as I did."

"I have a pretty good idea who put you up to it. John Quinn as much as told me so himself when we met a few weeks back," I said, leading the conversation to where I really wanted to go.

She looked surprised, her thin arches of eyebrows raising until her forehead wrinkled. She leaned forward to stare into the screen. "You know about that?" she asked.

"He didn't say all that much. Could you tell me how that came about, him convincin' you to make a grab at Eric?" I asked in a down home way. I wanted her to let her guard down and maybe try to shift all the blame for her actions onto Quinn. I wanted her to tell me everything.

She appeared to think, looking down for a moment to gather her thoughts before speaking. "I have known John Quinn for many years both as a friend and on a professional basis. I was always attracted to Eric, even though I knew our two races were incompatible. He seemed to embody everything a male should be - decisive, powerful, and of course, very handsome."

She gave a shy little smile. "Our physical incompatibility became a moot point because of my unfortunate condition. I wanted Eric for his dynamic companionship. Quinn and I spoke about this at a low point in my life. I had been depressed for a while over my situation. That doesn't excuse anything ..." here she trailed off, thinking.

Dynamic companionship my foot! She wanted him as a boy toy, a handsome man to ogle and play with. I tamped my anger down to stay in the role of a truly compassionate person.

After a few seconds I said in a gentle tone, "Well, it sure goes a long way towards explaining why you might have been clutching at straws, trying to find a little happiness after fate dealt you a cruel blow."

Ailine relaxed a little more, the way one does when in the presence of a sympathetic and understanding listener.

"Quinn talked and talked to me, telling me that Eric could never be happy married to a human, that he was staying with you out of obligation towards his daughters. He can be very persuasive. He told me I had the means to beguile him and that Eric had always appeared to be attracted to me even when I wasn't specifically flirting with him. Quinn told me to go for it. After that it was just a matter of figuring out a plan, how to get him, where to take him."

"Quinn was the one that suggested bringing Eric to Litla Dimun?" I asked.

I remembered how persuasive Quinn could be. I had to finally pull the plug on his romantic aspirations after I realized he had too much baggage to make him a good partner. Nothing he could say changed my mind, though I did feel bad at the time.

"No, actually he had a hiding place ready in Arizone for me to bring Eric but I decided at the last minute to take him to my island. This way no one, not even Quinn, would know where Eric was. I felt that given enough time Eric would come to love me for myself. I didn't want us to be disturbed."

She made a face and scrunched up her eyes like she was trying not to cry. "It was so very stupid and crazy of me ..." she whispered.

That explained something I had wondered about. If Quinn went to all the trouble to lure Eric to a remote location, why didn't he then go there and finish Eric off.

Ailine added, "I started to get a bad feeling about Quinn. He has not been mollified by the promises the Vampire kings and queens have made him for his role, the role of all shifters and were's after Vampire Liberation. I had the impression that Quinn wanted to stop the vampires from executing their plan. Do you think that was possible?"

She spoke to me as if I was well aquainted with Vampire Liberation. I decided to play along. "I got the same impression. He was not sure he would get the things he was wanting after VL," I said, rephrasing her words to me, trying to sound knowledgeable.

Ailine brightened a little, "Exactly! Instead of helping the vampires achieve their noble goals, Quinn actually seemed to be setting himself up to oppose the Day of the Dead, as futile as that would be," she gave a derisive little laugh.

I laughed too, we were all on the same page here, at least that's what I wanted her to believe. "Of course, he would just be butting his head against a stone wall." I had no idea what we were actually talking about. I'd piece it together once our call was over.

She said firmly, "I did not want Quinn to kill Eric. What a waste that would be. His sister bungled the first attempt, I wasn't going to give Quinn a second chance."

"So Frannie came here specifically that night to kill Eric," I said, "Not me."

"Frannie wanted to kill you and your daughters but Quinn released her and sent her there to take out Eric." Ailine shook her head at the thought of such a waste of a fine man.

"Quinn should know that nothing is going to stop the Day of the Dead," she said. "It's just a matter of time."

"And then the vampires will rule the world," I said, more to myself than to her.

"Of course," she said with a smile, "Along with other supernaturals we will take charge. The way it was always meant to be."

more to come .....(Terrific Tuesday Everyone! Thank you so much for your feedback and your interest. I really appreciate the time you take to let me know what's on your mind.)


Monday, June 13, 2011

75 - Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman Look to the Future

Chapter Seventy Five

After we cleared our house of elves Eric and I went to the living room to talk. While Eric turned on the gas fireplace I asked him how he thought the trial went.

He sat down next to me on the sofa, we each turned so we could look at each other.

"Unsatisfactory. Alfdis indicated to me privately before the trial that her sentence would eliminate the problem of the Queen and her neurosis permanently. Three years of confinement in her luxurious underground home on Litla Dimun is merely a slap on the wrist. I agreed to keep the problem with the Queen confidential. I did not get fair compensation for that."

His immobile face indicated his anger. His midnight blue eyes looked dangerous.

"By eliminating the symptoms of her Gorgon bite and getting counseling Ailine's outlook and behavior might well change. She wasn't a problem before this, was she?" I asked, moving a little closer to him.

A dissatisfied Eric was not going to let the verdict rest. I hoped I could get him to see the positive side of things. A war with the elves was not something any of us wanted.

"Not to my knowledge, though she had been overly friendly towards me during our Vampire Alliance conventions," he said.

I bet he had been overly friendly towards her too since she had her natural elf charm working for her.

"She never took you to her room or anything, did she?" I asked.

"Of course not. There can not be a satisfying relationship between our species except professionally. Her interest in me was aberrant, a sign of her mental instability."

"Instability brought on by years of suffering with ... well, you get what was wrong with her."

"She was also short tempered, angry and at times nasty. She was a most unpleasant person to be around."

"And how would you be after decades of not having Mr. Happy anymore?" I asked him.

That stopped him in his tracks. He gave a small half smile. "I see what you mean. I would be Mr. Unhappy."

"Exactly. Let's see what some creative dentistry and a good therapist can do. Besides, I bet Stuart is going to pester her six ways to Sunday."

He nodded. "You are correct. As her jailer Stuart will get to pick her wardrobe. He is fond of tight corsets, garter belts and five inch heels, as all demons are. Letting Stuart decide what Ailine will wear was a suggestion from Alfdis."

I could see this made Eric slightly more happy about the verdict. It must have been what Eric was laughing about on the phone with Alfdis. I didn't even know they made five inch heels.

"I can not imagine where they will get a dentist to address her problem," Eric said.

"I do, I asked Adele who does the dental work for their practice. She recommended Dr. Pattaya from Thailand."

"I have heard of him. He made new fangs for Lord Ruthven after the sentence against him was reversed."

"Dr. Pattaya is a vampire?" I asked.

"Yes. He should have a ring like mine before beginning his treatment of Ailine," Eric said. "Do you think the jar of potion Amelia sent here is still effective?" he asked.

"I'll ask her and find out. You're right, Dr. Pattaya really should have a ring too."

"Why do you wish to speak to Ailine?" Eric asked, suddenly changing the subject.

Maybe he hoped to catch me off guard but I was prepared for this question.

"I wanted to find out exactly what she did with you, how many ways she enjoyed your company. You recall some of it but not all. Knowing is better than letting my imagination do a number on my head," I said, trying to sound jealous and angry.

"Has she not made it clear that her limitations would prevent her enjoyment of my company on any meaningful level?" he asked reasonably.

"That's what she says. I saw you dancing for her. Who knows what-all went on. That reminds me, I didn't know you could dance like that. Would you dance for me that way sometime?" I asked.

"I would love to dance for you on the condition that it can involve touching," he said, nuzzling my neck.

"Like a lap dance?" I asked.

Surprised, he said, "I did not know you were aware such things existed."

"Eric, I was raised in a small town, not a convent. I've seen places like that on TV. Jason went a few times too. And remember Claude and Claudine?"

He nodded.

"Claude danced at a club like that, Hooligans, a club he and his sister both owned," I told him.

"I did not realize you knew what he did for a living," Eric said. "Did you like watching men dance?"

"Well, I only went the once and that was with my gal friends so it was more of a hoot than a holler, but yes, I thought it was kind of hot. It's a thousand times more sexy when you do it," I told him, running my hands over him, guiding him with my touch towards me and away from the topics I wished to avoid.

We didn't talk any more that night about the trial. We went to the bedroom and focused on each other, much better than hashing through everything again. Much better than Eric turning his inquisitive mind on what I was doing, what I was really trying to find out.

I tried to keep busy the next day until my teleconference with Ailine. I called the girls one by one and filled them in on how the trial went.

"Good for you, Mom!" Linda said approvingly when I told her of the monetary judgements. "The Louisiana Vampire Entrance Program is woefully underfunded."

The Vampire Entrance Program, or VEP, was a state-by-state fund set up to help newly Turned vampires to begin their transformed lives. Safe housing, donor blood, help with paperwork and new identities were just some of the services offered by VEP.

Many vampires these enlightened days had the benefit of a well-to-do Maker and the tutoring and guidance that went along with it due to the stringent Turning laws each state's ruler imposed and vigorously enforced.

Unfortunately some newbies did not have the benefits of a caring Maker. Sometimes a newly Turned vampire showed up on the streets of a city or wandering through the countryside, disoriented, penniless and very hungry.

They were dangerous to the human population, unable to fend for themselves except in the crudest way and usually unable to name their Maker. They needed loads of help, but who was going to pay for it?

Vamp Kings and Queens were notoriously tight with the purse strings. Locking the abandoned homeless vampires in a dungeon or killing them was the most economical solution but politically unpopular. A tax was leveed on all vampires to pay for the unaffiliated new ones. The paltry sum was not enough for all the necessities.

That's where the VEP came in. A sponsor took the newbie under their cape and set them up with a sustainable life. If you give a new vampire a victim you feed him for a night, if you teach him how to acquire willing donors you feed him for the rest of his very long life.

"Jure is on the VEP board now, did you know that?" Linda asked.

I hadn't known. "No, he will have a lot of experience to offer," I said neutrally. I had a hard time picturing Jure undertaking anything that didn't directly benefit Jure.

I turned the conversation to Lingza. "How is he doing now that he's back?" I asked.

"Not so good. Finding the drawings left by his family sent him into a depression. He realizes that everyone he ever loved is dead, all his descendants are dead. He found a baby tooth in one of the caves, now he wears it around his neck on a chain. He's convinced it came from his oldest boy Tun. I'm trying to find some women interested in him to spice up his love life but no vampire woman seems to want a Neanderthal as a partner. Besides, vampire relationships are a lot different than ours are. They don't seem really committed for the long haul."

She was silent for a moment after that, probably realizing that she just put her foot in her mouth. Eric and I were planning a vampire wedding or re-committment ceremony. Did she think that would have an expiration date on it? Had Eric told her that it would?

She gave an uneasy laugh. "Not you and Daddy, of course. You guys are the exceptions to every rule. I know you'll be together forever."

I let her off the hook. "I know you didn't mean us, sweetheart. Anna Hita herself told me that our love was written in the stars."

"Hey, do you think Anna Hita could cheer Lingza up? She's pretty old too and has a lot of knowledge. Maybe she could help him make peace with his past."

"She might be able to help. Right now I don't know where she is. I could leave a message with Corinth for Anna Hita to call you when she gets back."

"That would be great. In the meantime I walk with him and the three D's. That seems to be the high point of his day."

I was sorry to hear that Lingza was having a hard time of it. As soon as things settled down around here I planned to have him over for a night.

Linda reminded me that tonight was Hector Lee's graduation party. I told her I would see her at the research center around eleven.

Next I called Adele. I outlined the results of the trial to her while she was waiting for a crane to lift Babba the Hut and put him on the specially reinforced ambulance flatbed Dr. Dolittle kept for the enormous patients. I cautioned her not to get under the Hut as he was lifted. She snickered at the thought of herself imbedded in a Hut butt.

"Laugh if you want, just be careful," I said lovingly.

"He's Jabba's 500-year-old little brother, not nearly as reprehensible as the rest of his family," Adele told me. "The worst thing is the slime and the smell. Don't worry, I'm staying far back."

I reminded her about Hector Lee's graduation party tonight. She said she wouldn't miss it for anything.

She hung up as men in the background were shouting "Whoa! Whoa!"

Charlaine was in her studio sculpting when I told her about the outcome of the trial. I told her I would try to arrange a camera set up in Ailiene's place to send the necessary images when I spoke to her later.

"I'm having second thoughts," she mused. "Auguste was thinking of the sculpture from a purely artistic viewpoint but I think it might be too much for public viewing. I'm going with the bust of Tesla instead. It's something everyone can see and it's already gone to the foundry for casting."

I was relieved. Charlaine made the right decision all by herself, I was proud of her.

"I'm glad you're not going to have anything more to do with her," I said.

"I'm not, however Auguste is going to sculpt her instead. It will just be for her own collection," she said. "Auguste can get some gremlins to set up one of the 3-D cameras since he has no intention of traveling to the Faroe Islands."

"Are you sorry to miss the chance to sculpt her?" I asked.

She laughed, "Mom, I have so much work on back order I won't be able to think about her. Besides, right now, I'm looking more to the future."

I knew she was talking about her expected little one. My heart beat faster every time I thought about it.

After a bit more chit chat we said our goodbyes. During our conversation I had mentioned to Charlaine that Linda said Lingza was down in the dumps. She was going to give him a call next.

I looked at the clock. I had just enough time for a quick high protein lunch before speaking with Ailine.

more to come .....(Howdy Everyone - The start of a fresh week. Hope you are all well and your computers are behaving. Thank you for stopping by and letting me know you were here when you get the chance. It's always appreciated!)