Just as Emma looked up to kiss Andre for a job well done, someone quietly knocked on the door. Completely disregarding the attempted interruption, Andre instead threaded his fingers into her hair as he cupped the back of her head in the large palm of his hand.
Holding her steady, he lowered his head to softly crush his lips to hers as he ran his other hand over the curve of her bottom before drawing her even closer into his body. His lips roamed lightly over hers before he slowly thrust his tongue between her lips to glide teasingly against hers.
Instinctively Emma raised her hands to clutch at his broad shoulders before slowly trailing them up his neck and into his hair as she encouraged him to draw her closer as he deepened his kiss. Her low moan of approval spurred him to purr quietly, a seductive vibration she both felt and heard.
Eventually someone tapped on the door again, but instead of releasing her, Andre broke the kiss to stroke his face along her cheeks and throat before finally nipping then sucking on her neck. He stepped back from her, and with a self-satisfied grin he took in her swollen lips, the mark he’d placed on her neck, and her noticeably kiss-dazed state. His inner beast was strongly urging him to take her back to bed, but was temporarily pacified at seeing the obvious effect he had on his mate. It was obvious who she belonged to, he thought as he sniffed their mingled scents in the air.
He opened the door to let the were and her cart in, and paused to quickly confer with the guards. As he was about to reenter his quarters, he automatically glanced down the long hallway as usual, and spotted the Sheriff and the Telepath approaching with Sigebert. Arms crossed and feet firmly planted, he snorted as he waited for the trio. Northman must not have followed any of the posted speed limits to have made such excellent time.
When they reached him, he returned Northman’s nod then, in a move that surprised the vampires and especially the partial-human, he nodded to Sookie in recognition of her presence before inviting them into his quarters.
A quick glance around showed Andre that Emma had displayed the human refreshments near her coffee area, and had arranged several more chairs around the larger table where they had sat during her first meal in his chambers. The rather austere room looked vaguely…homey, he realized.
“Northman, Tele…Sookie, this is my twice-bonded mate, Emma.” He had quickly drawn Emma into the protection of his arms during the introduction, and now looked down at her with an unintentionally captivated expression on his face that the two visitors immediately recognized even through their shock.
“Emma, this is Sheriff Eric Northman, based in Shreveport, and his bonded and pledged mate, Sookie Stackhouse. Or, is it Northman now?”
His question took Sookie by surprise. Her first impression of Andre’s mate had floored her. She’d been expecting…well, she wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but whatever it was, it wasn’t her. This Emma of his looked…sweet. Normal. Very pretty with lovely long dark hair and eyes, cheeks flushed pink and lips that appeared somewhat swollen. Knowing vampires as she did, Sookie wasn’t all that surprised to see the new mark on the woman’s neck, though, but was pleased with how relaxed she appeared to be in Andre’s arms. Maybe she just didn’t know his past, or what he did for a living…or fun?
Emma wondered why the pretty blonde woman and the gorgeous blond vamp seemed to be acting so surprised by everything. Maybe sheriffs and telepaths didn’t have a lot of social skills? Somehow she doubted that, but she did keep in mind that reading people’s brains all the time could make for an uncomfortable life, and instantly decided to do what she could to ease the situation. She immediately liked them both, and completely approved of how the blond giant kept an arm about his mate at all times. They looked so sweet together, and seemed like such a nice couple.
She couldn’t help but notice the physical similarities between Andre and this handsome Eric character, and immediately noted that they both had that same general “take no prisoners/I’ll kill you where you stand” air about them even if they didn’t seem to actually be friends. Of course, that could be because they seemed like they were so alike…
“Um, yeah, it’s Sookie Northman now,” Sookie said when she finally remembered that she was supposed to answer the question. This was just surreal, she thought. In the past when Andre had bothered speaking to her, it was in curt commands. Any other exchanges between them were awkward at best and threatening at worst. But here he was, being somewhat…nice. She still wasn’t sure of what to think about it all.
Sensing Sookie’s discomfort but not knowing the cause, Emma spoke up. “Well, then, Mrs. Northman, I imagine you must be parched after your trip. If you gentlemen would like to have a seat,” she gestured toward the chairs and sofas, “this lovely lady and I will check out the refreshments. Come on over here,” she invited Sookie as she extended her hand in invitation, “and let’s practice refreshing ourselves while they do their vampire head nods and bobs.” Emma gracefully removed herself from Andre’s embrace, squeezed his hand, then led the way.
Knowing exactly what she meant, Sookie laughed aloud in both humor and relief, and took a step toward the “kitchen” area where Tracy was waiting patiently leaning against the wall. “This is my friend Tracy. She’s the one who brought up all these delicious looking treats. Come on, let’s get a bite to eat before you have to go play with horridly disgusting weres. I’m certain the guys are going to be busy plotting.”
By nature Emma wanted to dissolve the weird tension she sensed between Andre and the visitors, and she really wanted to lighten the mood while she could. She had a rather realistic idea of what was going to happen with the were and the role Sookie would play, but damn, hospitality comes before were interrogations.
Before filling her own small plate with goodies, she heated three bottles of True Blood for the vamps and then tried to figure out how to hold all three to take them over to the guys without just grabbing them by the neck of the bottle, which seemed rather crass to her tastes. Sookie laughed, and said, “Here, let me. There’s a knack to it. I autta know, I used to be a waitress.”
She laughed at Emma’s overly-horrified expression. “But… um… I thought you were a telepath. Wouldn’t that make dealing with the public, which is bad enough as it is, even worse?” She cringed even as she laughed.
Nodding her head as she gathered the warmed bottles of faux blood, Sookie agreed. “Yeah, people can be pretty bad sometimes, but after a while I figured out how to sort of shield myself from most of it.”
Faux bloods safely delivered to the three tall blond vampires gathered stiffly near the sofas, the ladies proceeded to fill their plates, and Tracy poured Sookie her requested iced tea while Emma made herself another cup of coffee. She figured it was going to be a long night. At that thought, she urged Tracy to at least pull herself a chair over so she could be more comfortable.
Meanwhile Sigebert visually compared the two laughing, chattering, obviously relaxed females with the two vampires standing uneasily apart, and snorted. Each male was watching his chosen female as if he expected someone to attack at any moment, yet neither one realized that the other was doing the exact same thing. This should be interesting, he thought as he took up position in front of the comfortable chair he’d chosen.
When the ladies returned to the living area, they exchanged glances as they both noticed, and felt through their bonds, how uncomfortable their vamps were. Emma headed straight for Andre, placed her plate and cup on the coffee table in front of the sofa she’d chosen, sat, and patted the seat beside her to encourage Andre to “sit the fuck down already” as she mentally urged him. She knew he wouldn’t hear the actual words, but hoped he’d get the point via the bond.
Sookie handed her plate and drink to her vampire and sat on the sofa facing her hosts, and apparently issued her own version “sit your ass down” invitation. Soon enough the ladies were chattering away with each other so happily at ease that their respective vampires slowly relaxed and even attempted to join in the conversation. Only after the food was consumed did talk turn to the problems facing them.
Half an hour later, everyone was caught up on what was going on with BeauChamps, Rasul, and the prisoner. When Emma rose with the obvious intent of heating the vampires another blood before they left to interrogate the prisoner, Andre had to speak up. His mate, his future queen, for fuck’s sake, was acting like a damn waitress. This just would not do.
“Emma, stop,” he strongly instructed. “You are a future queen, not a maid.” He nodded toward Tracy. “Let her do her job.”
Neither noticed Eric and Sookie’s sudden gasp and truly startled expressions at that declaration. They had heard rumors that Queen Sophie Anne might have possibly offered the state of Arkansas to Andre, but nothing had been verified. Now, apparently he was not only offered the position and was going to accept it, but he was also going to place his human mate at his side as his queen. The fallout from all of that was bound to be spectacular.
Also unnoticed was the huge, semi-toothless, and completely uncharacteristic grin on Sigebert’s face. He was very, very pleased with his brother-by-Maker’s intentions. Although the pretty little girl was a mere slip of a human, he had had a strong suspicion that she would wrap The Mighty Andre around her littlest finger. Reminded him of his own long-dead youngest sister, she did, even if she was on the short side. At least she smelled nice, if a little strongly of Andre now.
“Oh, honey, I’ve always enjoyed providing hospitality to my friends, and we are among friends, right?”
Fucking dimples. They got him again, he groused inwardly knowing that he was going to cave at least a little. But, damn. If she was going to be his queen, she needed to learn to hold herself above the general populous, not serve them faux damn blood. Before he could continue with his admonishment while he still had at least a little bit of steam, however, she continued.
“It’s not like these people are strangers, honey. If they were, don’t worry, I’d still be on this sofa acting like a lump on a log and glaring down my nose at them.” She placed her hand on his shoulder and leaned down to his ear. “And besides, if they weren’t friends, they wouldn’t be in our quarters anyway, would they.” She completely ignored his growl, knowing she’d won the tiny argument even if Tracy had already started heating up the blood drinks in question.
Andre had felt that the Northman had stared at his Emma a bit too long and could not stop a growl from rising from his chest. Logically he knew that the Viking was mated to the Tele…Sookie, but logic had no place in the mind of a newly mated vampire. In a move too fast for human eyes to track, he had his Emma in his lap with his arms about her waist.
Mentally rolling her eyes at his possessive display, Emma just situated herself more comfortably and snuggled into his arms a bit more.
During this time Tracy had taken three more bottles and started the microwave to heat them. She just shook her head at Emma and Andre’s antics, and hoped they would soon find out more about Rasul. She had surprised herself with how worried she was about him even though she knew he was little more than a warrior ladies’ man.
After the second round of True Bloods, coffee, and iced tea were consumed and final questions asked about the situation, Andre instructed Sigebert to remain in the quarters with Emma while he, Northman, and the Tele…Sookie went to visit the prisoner. He had the usual two vampire guards stationed at the door, but still. He had a sinking suspicion that he would never feel that she had enough protection.
When they rose to leave, Emma stood as well and asked Sookie, “How hard is this going to be for you?”
The blonde ex-waitress rubbed her forehead then replied, “It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll be ok.”
“Will you be coming back here when you’re done?” Emma felt Andre’s arm slip around her waist, and she leaned into the comfort of his hard body. While she knew “things” had to be done regarding the were, she really just wanted to cuddle with her non-smiling vampire. She so needed to get ahold of her emotions, she castigated herself. For goodness sakes, they were just going down to the basement, not Mars!
Sookie nodded, then glanced at Eric to see if he had a problem with that. He leaned down and kissed her forehead, dreading the upcoming interrogation on her behalf, and nodded.
“Whiskey, brandy, or wine when you’re through?”
Emma’s unexpected question made Sookie laugh, which Eric certainly appreciated. “Gin and tonic, if you have it.”
“We will by the time you return. Now go and get it done so you can get back here and we can gossip while they play with used were parts,” Emma commanded teasingly, not knowing that she spoke the absolute truth.
They left, and Emma sent Tracy on a gin, tonic, and ice expedition. She then spent the next hour or so reading and pacing to Sigebert’s fascination and Tracy’s mild annoyance. Eventually Sookie returned looking exhausted, and Emma immediately ensconced her new friend on the longest sofa with a soft pillow, a warm blanket, and a triple gin and tonic.
Grateful for the consideration, Sookie let herself relax and decompress in the room’s blessed silence. Something was tickling the back of her mind, but she was so tired from trying to break the glamour holding the were’s mind hostage that she just gave into the blessed peace and quiet for a while.
In the dungeon, Andre and Eric enthusiastically disposed of the were after Sookie was escorted back to Andre’s quarters. Although few words had been exchanged between the blond vampires, both were concerned about the information they had finally acquired. Sookie had worked very hard to obtain what she had, and Andre had surprised Eric once again with his brief but glowing, for him, compliments.
Both males were also extremely aware of the unacknowledged but living, breathing tension between them. Suddenly, Andre knew what needed to be done to clear the air so that they could work better together in their mutual goals.
“Northman, you get one free shot. Make it count.” Andre stood directly in front of Eric, his tall, muscular body braced for impact.
“For what exactly,” Eric demanded. He wasn’t sure he’d heard Andre right. Had he really said what he thought he’d said? He’d felt the other vampire’s eyes on him off and on during the evening, and had wondered what was going through the future king’s mind.
“For trying to force a bond with your mate. I cannot apologize since I acted in the best interests of my Maker, but I now understand how my actions might have…affected you. So. You get one free shot. More than that, and we’re on.”
Andre didn’t have to ask Eric twice.
Over two hours later, Emma looked up from her book and Sookie groggily raised her head from her pillow to see Andre and Eric, freshly showered and dressed, come through the door obviously very pleased with themselves. While they were in no way best of friends, it was apparent that a new respect and camaraderie was quickly developing between the two.
The ladies exchanged identical questioning looks, then shrugged at each other. Unbeknownst to each, they had both reached the conclusion that manpires could be such childpires.
Andre scooped Emma up off the sofa, sat down, and placed her in his lap. Eric did the same with Sookie, and laughed at her playfully grumbling complaint. Tracy, having caught the very faintly lingering scent of blood that wasn’t were related, eyed the two old vampires suspiciously, then shrugged her shoulders as she heated them more blood. It wouldn’t be long before she had to call down to the kitchen for more, she mentally noted to herself.
When the males had entered the room, Sigebert had immediately, if faintly, scented the blood spilled even though they’d both showered and donned fresh clothing, and wondered at the odd, new solidarity shared between the two. Ahhh, he thought in understanding approval. They must have fought! He and his brother would sometimes do the same to settle a difference. Or to cure boredom. Whichever.
When an appropriate amount of time had passed and they could take their leave without appearing rude, Eric and Sookie said their goodbyes. Sookie was planning on doing a bit of shopping the next afternoon and wanted Emma to accompany her, but understood when Andre announced that it was still much too dangerous for Emma to even consider leaving his quarters. So, at Sookie’s suggestion, they made plans to talk to each other the next afternoon so Emma could give Sookie a shopping list, and said their goodbyes for the evening.
Sookie was quiet on their way to Eric’s place in New Orleans, and Eric didn’t press her for conversation as he figured she must still be exhausted from dealing with the were. Once they had arrived and were safely in their bed, however, Sookie finally spoke.
“Eric, I can’t hear her.”