The night breeze was refreshing to my clammy skin. The smell of vegetation and water were thick in my nostrils. Croaking frogs leaped from lily pads in the marsh. Wolves howled at the full moon. Gators slid forth, calmly breaking the stillness of the water and settling close. Serpents snaked through the moss laden Cypress tree above us. Fire flies hovered, illuminating the darkness. Fish, fowl and all other creatures were drawn to the hypnotic song of the sorcerer that echoed in the night, surrendering to the command of tranquility.
I knew how they felt. The spell had me in its grasp, too, saturating like a vapor. Precious and fleeting are the few moments in my life that I consider truly peaceful. I guess that’s why I hold these scarcities so dear. I lay on the park bench looking through the spaced slats of wood to CJ, who was on the ground beneath me.
His pretty mouth, only, was all I could see. Perfect teeth and full lips mouthed enchantments of peace, forcing all life forms around us to bend to his will. My mind floated on a sea of serenity. How endearing it was that he knew that peace was what I longed for most. Well, it was second on my list of wants.
“Let me in,” I whispered. Let me see that beautiful mind, I silently beckoned. That would be the perfect finale to the first day of my HEA. After reciting poetry I knew his mind was ripe for the picking. He would not deny me.
“Sookie!” he said in a quiet, raspy growl. It was a helpless yelp of surrender.
I tried hard to mask my excitement, but my body was trembling. He placed a hand on the underside of the bench and I put my hand over his. I could feel his energy pulsating through the hard wood and flowing like a current of static electricity. I was taken aback by the magnitude of his power.
Caution consumed me for a moment. His mind packed a wallop for him and me. I was apprehensive and anxious to see what lay beneath the sacred throng of sonnets. Our hearts raced for a time and then slowed to a synchronized thumping. The current quieted beneath my hand to a low purr. He was in complete control of the both of us. My mind, which had been held in a soothing caress, was now ushered forward in billowy satin with a single phrase, “I got you.”
In the back of my mind I could hear a strange sound of heavy panting mixed with a loud whomping of a motor that churned and churned. I ignored it and stayed the course.
“Close one door before you open another.” My grandmother’s words played in my head. I fought the urge to scream “Mind your business!” It was good advice but not what either of us wanted to hear. Had I followed it in the past, I wouldn’t have two at a time setting up residence on my stoop.
The churning grew louder, like a great winged beast flapping in the wind and breathing hard. CJ was already on the next page, like he could not hear the roaring sounds. A consensual union was going to catapult our relationship to a new level and change things forever. He seized my mind, sucking me further in. “I need to touch you,” he thought to me. I remembered that was what took us both over the edge and the first time. I stretched my hand down to him apologizing to my grandmother along the way. I could not say no to the earth shattering experience that awaited us.
A violent yank flung me in the air and in a split second I landed on my back with a thump. Remnants of the park bench rained down in splinters. Air blew around us in a whirlwind. Vicious growls added to the chorus of churning and panting, a deafening and disorienting ringing to my hearing. Flood lights, shined down from above. CJ was crouched over me like a feral beast. His eyes aglow and searching wildly. The animals scurried back into the wilderness in response to the haunting snarl that escaped him.
I sat up and circled his waist with my arms, knowing that holding on to him would make our exit quick. His hand touched mine and I knew we were about to disappear but he hesitated. “Sup,” he said to someone. I quickly got to my feet and stood behind him before I accessed the situation.
Helicopter blades were the churning sound that I had been hearing. It landed in the yard and I strained to see the occupants.
“Sookie!” A familiar voice called and I followed the sound to the ground. The distinct color of the fur on the lone wolf made me recognize my brother, Jason. I fell on him with hugs and kisses. I didn’t realize how much I missed him. CJ raised a brow and I knew he was wondering about his own sibling.
Amelia exited the helicopter, cradling T2. The tabby cat was spooked from the flight, the strange surroundings and loud noises. I don’t know why I knew that but somehow I was able to sense the poor animal’s state. Amelia looked at CJ and me suspiciously and ran into the back entrance of the house.
Jason, in his wolf form, spoke the words, “We need to talk, baby sis.” We stood there stunned. Werewolves couldn’t speak as wolves, but Faewolves were way cooler. Jason sprinted to the house. CJ grabbed my hand and we followed him around to the front entrance.
Dean stood guard at the door. Dean was Sam the Shifter who was now in the form of a bloodhound. He was also my boss (when he was a human, that is) and owner of Merlotte’s Bar in my hometown.
“Cuppy!” CJ choked out. I didn’t see anyone but soon Amelia came bursting out of the house before we made it past the driveway. She bypassed the happy reunion hugs, that was customary for the siblings, and made a b-line for me. CJ caught her in mid-air and held her about the waist preventing her from reaching me. “My brother is not your new bodyguard or your new boyfriend,” she spat through clenched teeth. She turned her venomous words to CJ. “I can’t believe you brought her home.” The look of disapproval was something that I never expected from someone who was currently living in my home. “CJ! Do you realize the sh*t storm that’s about to rain down on your head?”
She was worried about CJ? That was something I had never been. He was my fire breathing dragon. She was also mad that he didn’t tell her what was going on. I couldn’t stand to hear anymore, aloud or from her thoughts. The unspoken concern was that she didn’t want her brother to end up like Tray. Tray was my last bodyguard and her boyfriend when he died in the line of duty.
Since you can’t unsay a cruel word, I opted not to tell my friend about herself. Her magic was about as useful as buttons on a dishrag when we met. She fled her home because of a major magic screw up and now she judges me. I never did forgive my sister-in-law for putting Jason in harm’s way so I understood her anger.
“Sookie,” she called to me as I headed to the house. For some strange reason I thought that she was going to apologize but I was sadly mistaken. “I pried this from the cold dead fingers of Arlene.” She held up her hand at my eye level. My grandmother’s gold chain was in her grasp with my engagement ring dangling on the end. Tears stung my eyes at the sight of it. I must have lost it when I fled. The tears dried up with her next words. “I retrieved it because I thought it was special to you.” Angry was an understatement, she was livid. “I got here just in time to stop you from biting the head off of your next victim.”
We all recoiled, even the Shifters. That was cold. I was too hurt to explain that she was mistaken. Wasn’t she? He was just trying to protect me when she saw us in that compromising position. It must have looked pretty bad from her aerial point of view: Her brother straddling me as I sat on the ground in front of him with my arms around his waist. Her vision had my hands positioned a little lower. I went inside and left CJ to talk some sense into her.
Jason stalked the perimeter of the house for a long while. He finally changed form and dressed so that he could converse without freaking everyone out. Hearing Jason’s voice come out of a wolf just gave me the heebee jeebees.
He asked everyone to come to the sitting room that was off of the foyer. I was a little nervous and feared more bad news. “Sookie. I’m sorry but I had to come to make sure you were okay.” Jason looked very distraught and broke down as he talked. He was scaring me. They’d come all this way, not for a visit, but to deliver news of the worst kind. News so bad that they couldn’t tell me over the phone.
“Tara or the baby?” I said in a shaky voice. I looked over to Amelia for clarification. I couldn’t bear to have Jason confirm my suspicions. I was afraid of what I might find if I searched their heads. Amelia shook her head “Claude?” again, no “Hunter?” I cried out. “Please tell me who died!”
“You died!” Jason said through clenched teeth. “I felt a dreadful pulling in my chest and I couldn’t rest.” Not this again. I thought.
“Amelia said CJ told her that you lived.” Jason added. “Judging from the company you keep I wasn’t sure of what that meant. We got the same blood coursing through our veins and that’s how Sam and I tracked you. Amelia followed in the chopper.” He was beside himself as he spoke. “When your path lead us through New Orleans, I panicked. There are so many of them here and I knew they had got you.”
“Magic masked the scent, sending them in circles,” Amelia added, speaking to the room. She didn’t want to address me directly. “I had the chopper stop at Daddy’s when I recognized the vicinity. I was just going to stop in and say hello.”
“Your scent became so strong. I thought I was hallucinating because I wanted to find you so bad,” Jason continued. “I was really convinced that you ended up like . . . like . . . Hadley.” Hadley had been our first cousin. We were all raised up together like siblings. Our cousin ran off as soon as she was old enough to hitch-hike out of Bon Temps. She became the love interest of Queen Sophie Ann, herself. Somewhere along the line the Queen made my cousin a vampire. Hadley got caught up in vampire politics and killed by another vampire. Jason's words became stiff and came out in a whisper. “We bolted through the wilderness to find my kin and bring you back home where you belong, alive or . . .” The "dead" went unspoken. When he finished speaking there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I don't ever remember my brother being like this. He was just so full of emotion, yet he wasn't weak. He stood erect and seemed bigger and so much more proud. Even the servants sniffled. I held my big brother in my arms for a long time.
“I should have called you my self,” I said. He would have still come anyway. You don’t shake off an omen like that.
Sam entered the room. He looked around on full alert. “The Weres and Panthers are on standby. I reported our status a few moments ago,” He said, refusing to sit still. He peeped out of windows and up the stairwell as if he was waiting for an ambush at any moment.
“You’re pack now, Sam?” He gave a slight nod.
“There is strength in numbers, Sookie. Felipe has flooded the Bon Temps area with vamps, muscling their way into every aspect of our lives,” Sam told me. Frustration and fatigue was written all over him. “Taking over the areas of Louisiana and Kentucky were just the tip of the iceberg.” The mere mention of that vampire evoked the silence of a four letter word in church. We were all afraid that if we said it, I would sprout fangs and someone would have to put me out of my misery. “They want to rule all the Supes to create a new world order. Can you imagine what life would be like if Supes ruled the world?”
“Alcide and Calvin have enlisted every lone and Pack Were for battle,” Amelia added. “The witches opted to sit this one out. They fear that Felipe has grown too powerful. They lost so many in Katrina and retaliation from the vamps would wipe them out.”
I didn’t notice Marley’s presence so his voice startled me a little when it floated from the corner. He sat in a winged back chair with his hands tented in front of him. “We shall see about that,” he said, referring to the participation of the witches. He was going for ominous and mysterious, and succeeding. “This concerns all of human kind. No one can afford to sit this one out. Greed like that does not stop until the world is under their thumb.” Jason’s eyes bugged wide and Sam stared into the dark corner for a long while. I knew that Marley was putting on his Baron Saturday show.
Jason went on but his eyes continued to drift back to the corner. “Felipe went ballistic when you disappeared and has been giving Eric hell, trying to force him to find you. The way I figure, Eric is trying to let the trail to you go cold, especially after what he told Sam.” All eyes focused on the antsy Sam, who still refused to sit.
“Listen Cher, all Eric said was that he wished that you had never entered the Supe world and I agree.” That sounded more like something Sam would say but I let him speak his piece. “He also thought you would be blamed for killing Arlene and Whit, even if you didn’t do it. It’s rumored that you are dead and if you are believed dead you can start over and the cops and Felipe will stop looking for you.”
“It appears that when Sookie and CJ were fleeing, Arlene and Whit were coming through the Stackhouse woods to kill her,” Amelia guessed. “It was assumed that they succeeded since Sookie disappeared. The get away was foiled by the blizzard and there they died.”
“Copley sent us away after the storm so Andy wasn’t able to question us again,” Jason said. For the remainder of the evening we discussed options. Removing the stasis spell should show how Arlene and Whit died which would clear me of murder charges, if they died from the storm. If not, who killed them and why? And why on my property?
It was 3 am before we were all settled in for the night. “I need to tell you something Sookie,” Sam said to me before he entered the guest room that I escorted him to. “Eric said that if I talked to you to make sure that I told you that the area investigator is on special assignment to find you.”
“Thanks, Sam.” I kissed him on the cheek. “for everything.” The hidden message was that Bill, Investigator of Area 5, was all better (My blood donation must have done the trick!) and Eric figured out a way to get the charges dropped, too. If Bill was still sick or on death row, he could not be searching for me.
Eric and Bill can track me here since they have had my blood but they haven’t. They have broken alliance with Felipe, I figured. I also wonder why Felipe is grieving my loss so heavily. Revealing his hand had to make Eric weary of him. It makes me question all of his motives since the Fae war. Like, why would he take an area sheriff and make him king? Why was he pushing for me to marry into his royal court?
“The HEA still stands” CJ thought to me when I entered the bedroom. I smiled up at him, too tired and emotionally drained to talk about anything else. He had a bath drawn for me, complete with bubbles and blush pink rose petals. Enchanted loofahs, towels and sponges washed me everywhere. Seeing the objects dance around brought a smile to my face. “Nope! Never gets old,” I said to myself. The white wine that was in the flute next to the tub turned out to be sparkling grape juice but I enjoyed it as if it were the real McCoy. Me and alcohol didn’t get along too well anyway. This meant I wouldn’t have to deal with any ramifications later.
I grabbed a blanket and curled up on the chaise near the bed. Amelia was right and I needed to break away from CJ to keep him safe. I would have gone to another room but feared Copley might go berserk and eat me, or angry Amelia might bespell me or the mighty morphing Marley might do some voodoo on me.
As I dozed off, I felt CJ swaddling me up in the covers. He stood, for a long while, swaying and humming a melody that soothed me down to my soul. Relaxed, was an understatement. "Putty in his hands" is what came to mind and I briefly wondered if that was part of the enchantment. Of course it was. Deeply, he inhaled my scent before depositing me in his bed. My night concluded like every other one that I remember since arriving at the Carmichael estate; a whispered chant of peace, as I lay on the bed and my body stills. Almond shaped eyelids close to shield me from the eerily bright amber glow of magic beaming from within. His lips, so close that I could feel his breath, the smell of sweet cookies wafting over my face.
As he went through the motions, I thought of how open and vulnerable I was in this altered state of consciousness. One could totally take advantage of a girl like this. One that I knew of would have my bra in pieces right about now. Another one I knew would be licking my wounds with a rough tongue, making me think of other uses for the powerful organ. I also knew of one who would be working long talented fingers under the tiny wedge of fabric that covers my . . . well, never mind.
“One can reach into your very soul, touching you in places that you never knew existed.” Heat licked up my body at the silky whispers. “You know of one who would knock down heaven to offer you paradise here on earth.” My backed arched involuntarily and my legs began to scissor. I noticed that my fingers were trembling when they slowly found his lips. His words or his voice or maybe even his thoughts had power. I just got this overwhelming feeling that I was teetering on the edge of something bigger that my human mind could conceive. Before I could get too excited or scared witless, a wave of his hand swept over my body and the writhing sea calmed. The last thing I remember is CJ pressing his warm, no, his hot lips to my frontal lobe, light as a butterfly. “Sweet dreams,” he commanded. . . Sookie out!
The morning run was, surprisingly exhilarating and the perfect compliment to the morning meditation. It was difficult at first, but magic makes stamina and fatigue a non-issue. CJ led me on a trail within the Carmichael estate that followed a creek behind the house. It flowed into the nearby bayou and we stopped to rest on our favorite bench, which had been restored or replaced or whatever. I was just happy that I could enjoy the serene surrounding again. Of course, serene is not how sorcerers roll. The back woods became our personal playground. Hills became mudslides that dipped, turned and catapulted us into the depths of the bayou. We wrestled with alligators and loped with deer. I met mythical creatures on our hike and went parasailing clasped in the claws of a bird that was the size of a condor.
CJ liked to take off at a dead run as soon as the house came into view. I’d accept the silent challenge and lose miserably, every single time. He would go into a sprint, leap over bushes and end on the patio in a Rocky victory dance.
After breakfast Copley invited me into his office alone. “Knowledge is king,” he said to me, sitting behind a stately desk. In my mind, Copley was the hideous but harmless beast from Beauty and the Beast. That thought is what kept me from bolting whenever he came near. A flat screen lowered from the ceiling behind him and he stood to the side. “If you are going to live in the world of the supernatural you should arm yourself with knowledge.” He pulled a laser pen from his pocket and pointed to the screen. He wanted to teach me? It took a moment to wrap my mind around it and then I decided to listen to what he had to say.
I was amazed to find out that nearly every animal that God ever created had a Were counterpart. I was also surprised that Copley was willing to help me. If helping me meant sticking it to the monopolizing vamps, he was all for it. What didn’t surprise me was that he could talk until my ears bled.
Copley handed me off to Marley who was in a vault full of weapons. The building was separate from the house and had a shooting range. I decided to amaze the undercover brother with my skills. I had been shooting beer cans off of a tree stump since I was knee high to a grass hopper. Melody applauded as I hit all the targets like a star pupil. She and Marley ran for cover when I started hurling the throwing stars. Softball this was not. Those things were some slippery sons-a-guns.
Spells and potions would have been perfect for Amelia and me to spend some much needed one-on-one time. My Roomie was missing in action. Melody and I went over the basics. “Some do magic, we are.” She meant that she, Marley and CJ were, I assumed. They all hail from a line of powerful mages. CJ and Marley were the children of sisters who descended from the Laveau family tree. Melody was a distant cousin but family just the same.
My own cousin, Hadley, had died while trying to resurrect the spirit of Marie Laveau. Here I am with her offspring. It feels like destiny or like I am fated to be here.
There were many things that affect the potency of a magic spell like who was casting it (which I already knew) but other things like the foods that the practitioner consumed. Various waters are key in potion making, as well as, different woods selected to burn when heating a cauldron. The time of day or night the spell was cast is also important and which deities to call upon for help. “You being Fae, exude magic and should adapt well to its uses,” Melody told me.
The symbols and signs to learn were endless. Time flew by fast but I promised myself that I would learn what the symbols on my body meant.
I felt like I was at Hogwarts School of Wizardry by the time I made it to the library. A yellow sign on the wall read: The Carmichael home is a magic free zone. All magic should be confined to the desginated area, which you are now in. Copely detests all forms of magic and prohibits the use of such activities within his home. Violators will be eaten. This means you too, Junior. Thank you for your cooperation. ~ Cope aka Dad
It appeared that someone was acting on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I knew a certain someone who did magic in the house like it was going out of style, I thought, looking at CJ as I read the policy. CJ trailed his next thoughts directly in my head "We are just going keep that on the DL."
Gifts are CJ’s specialty. He spoke in a loud formal voice that filled the small room which held two high back chairs and a table. The room was narrow with a window that stretched the entire length of the wall. “You have shunned your gift all of your life. Now it is time to embrace it, love it, control it,” he said walking around the room. “Most, if not all, humans use only 10 percent of their brain, mostly to talk, and do other physical, and mental things, but what about the other 90?” I didn't bother to shrug my shoulders. “Clairvoyant humans possess the innate ability to unveil the inner most layers of the psyche, wielding the power therein to tap into minds of others,” he communicated the latter silently with, what I could only describe as, a mental push. The sensation, warm and tickling at my frontal lobe and caused a shiver all the way down to my spine. “Or even manipulate matter,” he continued aloud “and the dimensions. You may have heard the theory referred to as Quantum Physics.”
He took a seat at the table across from me. “No matter what others say, one’s mind is the most powerful resource. It’s the most powerful weapon of all time. We all just have to open it." A pewter and brass looking chess game appeared, as if growing out of the wood. Maybe it was silver and gold, I wasn't sure but the pieces looked aged and were not the typical King, Queen, Rook, of the usual game. Some, I recognized as dragons, unicorns, gargoyles. Others, I had no name for. All were as unique as they were beautiful. “The mind can manipulate matter; move objects, heat, or cool things, shape items, or even create items.”
As he spoke, the chess pieces came to life; hooves stomped, wings flapped, bodies contorted, turned red with heat, frosted with cold or gaped in astonishment. (That last one was me) Catchin' flies, as my grandmother would say. “The mind can manipulate dimensions, like space, and time.” The animated pieces circled round and round the board in a small cyclone, hovering over the center of the table. “Others taught you to lock your gift down. I say unleash it and feed it.” The whirlwind in the table settled to reveal that a set of the pieces were now pressed together to form a winged pixie. The face was sculpted in my image and mounted on a dagger-like pin. “I say that if it manages a cognitive thought, you can read it. If you can read minds, even vamp minds, imagine the possibilities.” I picked up the pin which was still hot to the touch. There I was immortalized in the image of a Fae on dagger. “Telepathy works two ways. Not only can you read minds, you can also . . .”
“Send thoughts,” I blurted. I had done that with bellboy Barry. CJ inclined his head. I thought about Queen Sophie Ann and her ability to silently communicate with her progeny and wondered if she was telepathic as a human but lost her ability to read humans when she was brought over. “Can I learn all this stuff?” I said aloud and bewildered. Did I want to learn to read the minds of the dead? is what I said to myself.
“Perhaps,” he said “Telekinesis is my gift, like telepathy is yours. I could only create a light breeze at first, but after years of nurturing, honing and much encouragement, I can move mountains and rise above them.”
“How will I find out what I can do? What can you do? Can everybody do everything if they practice?” The questions flowed fast from my head.
“Let’s follow the KISS rule. Keep It So Simple. We can begin with what comes naturally, which is your telepathy and instead of suppressing and feeling ashamed, we will embrace and nurture and see where it goes from there.”
By lunchtime we had a few extra mouths to feed. Alcide and Calvin arrived followed by Weres who straggled in for the remainder of the afternoon. They retreated back in the woods and Amelia sent Jason out to let them know that clothing and food had been prepared to accommodate them.
The arrival of Claude broke me down. I knew it was only a matter of time before he made an appearance or sent a message to me. Seeing him was like having my Fairy Godmother and Great Grandfather here with me. I knew that he was sent on their behalf. “Greetings cousin,” he said kissing me on the forehead as he walked through the door that Pierre held open for him. “My grandfather sends his love,” he said absently. He was distracted by the enormous house and all the unexpected faces. “He sent you a gift.” My eyes were filled with tears and I was greedily trying to take in his beautiful face.
I hadn’t noticed my jewel encrusted gift box that he held. I could hear something rattling around in the box with a squeaking sound. I lifted the lid off. Out pops a tiny green pixie. “Cousin,” Claude smirked, “meet Dyxie with a Y.” I stifled a giggle. Dyxie the Pixie.
Dyxie thought this was no laughing matter. She got right in Claude’s face and snapped. His eyes crossed as he focused on the tiny fairy that hovered in front of his nose.
“I can’t believe you kept me in a box all this time!” her tiny voice needled. Her hands were on her hips. “I am not a gift to be given to anybody. I am my own fairy!” she said, flailing in anger. “I was flying along, minding my own business and next thing I know um in a dang box!”
Claude’s hand snatched her out of mid flight with preternatural speed. “Yeah, yeah. Take it up with the big guy. He sent you here not me.” He dropped her back in the box and closed the lid quickly. She protested, fussing and fighting inside. “Calm down Dyx. You know what they say about first impressions,” he said talking to the box. “Meet your new assignment.” The noises quieted and he cracked open the lid toward my face.
Dyxie forced the lid up far enough to scramble out, landing rather ungracefully in my waiting hand. She stood up straightening her lime green clothes on her lime green body, brushing off true to life lime green pixie dust.
“Hello!” she squeaked, marching up my arm. “Um sorry about the outburst but they know I don’t play that! They cannot just be nabbing me and throwing me into boxes all willy nilly,” she continued up my shoulder and neck, finally resting on the top of my ear. She set up residence there, curling around it like a cell phone earpiece.
Claude gazed up in amazement. I looked at him questioningly. He was still distracted. “Do you have any idea where you are?” Claude said, pressing his brows together in astonishment. “Can’t you just feel the magic?” The air was saturated with its distinctive fragrance. “The source?”
“The Carmichaels, mostly. Amelia’s a witch, CJ’s a sorcerer and their father, well, I still don’t know what he is.”
“All different magical beings? All in the same family?” He said. “Extraordinary!”
“Yep. There are others and Jason’s here, too. Niall made him a Faewolf.” Claude gave the oddest expression and then scoffed at that and furled his brow. I ignored him, not wanting to give him a chance to look down his nose at the prospect of my mostly human brother having Fae powers. I forced a smile. “The grounds are teaming with Weres and Shifters.”
“Do you trust them all?”
“With my life.” I was certain of that.
“You have a very interesting menagerie, dear cousin. I will be happy to report that news of your demise was greatly exaggerated and that you are extremely well protected. Introduce me to your new posse.”
I showed Claude around property and made the introductions. My ear constantly buzzed with Peanut Gallery comments from my new, independently animated, appendage. Dyxie said that Sam was definitely her flavor and wished she could be human for just a few hours. The language she used was a little more colorful.
Copely and family were busy attending the many new guests and were the last to meet my Fairy Godfather. Claude smiled when I gave him the new title. It made both of us think of Claudine and what a faithful and loving Godmother she was to me.
“Amelia,” I called to get her attention. “You remember my cousin, Claude.” He inclined his head in her direction. She gave a sly smile and I knew she was recalling the time she and Tara visited Claude’s strip club. He tensed at Copely’s entrance, thanking him for his hospitality. When CJ entered I saw a Claude I had never before witnessed.
“As I live and breathe,” he said, gaping at my friend. Claude was the typical Fae, high and mighty. He rarely even noticed us lowly humans. He loved attention, too. He mumbled under his breath and gave a full bow. He was so humble and nearly reverent. He continued mumbling inaudibly.
“D-D-D-Dayum! Heaven must be missing an angel,” Dyxie tinked a song in my ear. She trembled with excitement. “You his baby mama?”
“What? No!” This was not happening to me.
“Do you wanna be his baby mama? Can I be his baby mama?” After the first few questions, I stopped answering. “Somebody needs to ensure that gene pool lives on. He’s so fine!” she said dreamily. CJ was fresh from the shower clean and was working that linen suit owt. I stared at him so long that he actually blushed when he came near.
“Dimples!” Dyxie gushed. “Oooo and a cleft in his chin. Score!”
“What would you do with him anyway? Thumbelina!”
“Girl, I gots skillz. You betta ask somebody. I can put it on him. You know what they say, once you go fairy . . .” I chuckled, knowing she was making up stuff as she went along.
“Your grace, on behalf of my grandfather, Niall, the only living Fae prince, I welcome you back to your station,” Claude said ceremoniously.
I was stunned to say the least. “Wait a minute. You know each other?”
“Kinda.” they both said simultaneously.
“The likeness to your grandfather is uncanny,” Claude said, staring at CJ. “You have his light upon you.” CJ moved over to me pulling me in a comforting and possessive embrace.
“He smells so gooood!” Dyxie squeaked when CJ got a little too close.
CJ lifted my hair to reveal the source of the mouse-like noises. “Dyxie! Guard duty again?” he said in a mellow voice. She sighed and slid off my ear and landed in CJ’s awaiting hands. The impact of the fall startled her back to consciousness and she quickly fluttered back to my ear.
“A precaution . . . from my grandfather,” Claude explained.
“He spared his own personal guard?” CJ seemed impressed and offended. “The Princess is warded already, I assure you.”
“It is rumored that her misfortune happened on your watch.” Claude said in a haughty tone.
“Please give the prince my regards and let him know that I am pleased to offer refuge to his descendant, who is very much alive, in my stay.” CJ spoke in manner that was way before his time. It seemed a little awkward to me but he was quite comfortable with it. He invited Claude to join us for a meal.
“Uhm. He’s bow-legged, too.” Dyxie said, as she peeked from behind my ear to watch CJ walk away. “Uh, uh, uh. You know what they say about bow-legged men. I hate to see you go but I love to watch you leave.” I threatened her with time out in the box and she quieted.
Claude seemed genuinely interested in Jason and gave him some much needed attention. I was sure that Jason was quizzing our cousin about the world of the Fae. After dinner, we all retreated to the rear patio that over looked a back yard. It looked more like a golf course.
Clothes flew and bodies fell to the ground with a gloppy sound and soon the yard was sprawling with a phalanx of panthers, wolves, a collie and one Fae-wolf. The mandatory change of the Shifters was brought on by the second night of the full moon. They had all changed in front of me so many times that most of them weren’t shy about stripping down in public.
Alcide tried to get my attention by removing his clothing slower than necessary. It was difficult to ignore him with Dyxie whispering “Yeah baby! Take it off nice and slow,” in my ear. I instinctively gave my ear a whack. She flew a few feet out of my reach and let out a wolf’s howl as Alcide finished the exhibition. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for the babyish voice of the pixie. A female wolf nipped at Alcide’s heel. He flashed a most devilish smile and ended the show. I figured that must be Alcide’s new lady friend. He hadn’t introduced her though.
Copley, surprisingly seemed relaxed around the Shifters. He and Sam played fetch while Amelia and Jason sat on the lawn with T2 between them. Claude placed an arm over my shoulder and we just stood there enjoying the tranquility of the moment.
CJ walked up behind me, pulled me to him possessively and stamped me on the top of my head with a kiss. “Let me know if you need anything.” He said. I figured this display was for Claude who pulled his arm back and raised a brow. That was the moment I answered an age old question for myself. God cannot be a woman. She would have never invented testosterone. She would have driven any creature to extinction that carried the hormone.
“What of your vampire, cousin?” Claude asked taking the bait. CJ walked away with a snicker. “I’m sure he won’t approve of your untimely death or that the Big Kahuna is claiming you as his.” Claude said trying to ignore him and taking a jab at the same time. Claude was light in the loafers but clearly had testosterone issues, too.
“No vampires here.” I said feeling a little melancholy. It seemed strange having a hometown reunion without the leading man.
“You do realize that his nose is wide open?” Claude said shaking his head in disbelief. That’s what the old folks used to say when a guy was falling hard for someone. “He is not going to give you up without a fight.” At first I though that he was talking about Eric. Claude was looking at CJ who was chatting with Amelia but hadn’t taken his eyes off of us.
“CJ? We are just friends. He’s a prince of peace and tranquility” I said. Claude scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“He wants to give me peace alright or shall I say a piece. I’m sure it involves his foot and my hind parts.”
“It’s not what you think, cousin.” He and Amelia had it all wrong. I don’t think that many will understand our connection.
The entourage of shifters would dwindle down to a faithful few in the coming days. Several agreed to help guard the property in shifts. Jason, Alcide and Calvin took on security detail. Dyxie was charged with guarding my person on and off the property.
Life was good and my HEA in full throttle. Day after day I honed my skills with instruction. When our gifts combined (CJ and me) they became magnified. I suggested that we try it when I thought of Barry Bellboy and what we were able to do in Rhodes. I could also pull knowledge from CJ, learning fight techniques and incantations at record speeds.
Our common goal was to make it to the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year was a high holy day to most of New Orleans. It’s the day when the sun reaches its peak of power and magical creatures draw from the energy gaining enlightenment. I didn’t really buy into the hocus pocus but I decided to stick around for the journey.
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