**A/N: Ok *sniff* this is the Final Chapter with Epilogue of Andre and Emma’s story. While they will be relevant in the as-yet-unwritten sequel that will also include my Godric and Cara from Anticipating, it’s still a bit of a sad time for me because, dude, this is ANDRE…and his Emma!
This little underloved story has always been close to my heart. It hasn’t been my most popular by far – it *is* about Andre, after all, and a lot of readers couldn’t care less about him, but I hope those of you who took the chance – who trusted me to show him in a different light – weren’t disappointed.
He’s my buddy…and he’s been a delight to “reveal” from his furious addiction to foul language (mostly internalized…mostly) to his harsh edges (somewhat, well, I was going to say “softened” but let’s be real – somewhat ever-so-slightly less sharp…and mainly with his Emma) to his falling head over heels in forever love with his Em – a blasted mortal… He’s been a joy to get to know, and I thank those of you who’ve chosen to take this “revealing” trip with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!**
That’s the word that would always come to Emma’s mind whenever she would relive the moments with Andre leading up to her Pledging.
Well, her mini-Pledging at any rate.
By the time it had finally come around, in one way she hadn’t really cared. By then it was more a “spit in the eye of all the vampires who hated her” event than an emotional and spiritual union with her Andre. That… That in part had already happened, the biggest part of it at any rate, and in other ways would happen again every single day they shared together.
But she had wanted to be sure.
When she had stupidly asked him if he still wanted to pledge with her, if he still thought the whole thing was worth the hassle after all the trouble they’d just been through, he had gone quietly…volcanic.
Upon seeing his eyes suddenly darkening to a deep stormy green and his face hardening like stone, the Twins, even his Maker, all took a hasty step back while Godric and Eric had simply smirked (even if the Viking did preemptively move Sookie around behind his large body).
What of his face she could see while sitting on his lap had made the hair on the back of her neck rise, but she wouldn’t have taken the question back even if she could have.
Sure, the Coronation had been about him. Granted she’d been under painfully sharp scrutiny as The Human Curiosity during the “public if you’re a fellow monarch” ceremony; but in the end it was all about him (and his Maker) exactly as it should be.
The Pledging, though… The Pledging was supposed to be about the both of them, but all along it seemed that everything concerned with it had to do with either only or at least mainly her. It was as though Andre was an afterthought.
At some point along the way it had started feeling to Emma that in some nebulous way Andre had been left out. Of course he was in charge of the security procedures they needed for the combined ceremonies and it was true that he’d been the one to secure her dress/costume maker and such, but she just wanted to be sure that a Pledging with her was something he still really and truly wanted.
Just because he had asked her to Pledge with him didn’t mean he still wanted that to happen, and given the attack that evening, he would be smart to have second thoughts.
So she wanted to ask him…and she had…but she’d never expected this kind of reaction! As she craned around in his lap trying to get a better look at his face, she accessed their bond only to sense a dark, overwhelming chaos.
The fuck? Do I still want to… THE FUCK? She didn’t just…no, she…the fuck?
It took Andre a moment for his mind to believe what he’d thought his ears had heard. When all his mental wheels finally started working in unison, it hit.
He couldn’t believe she would even think to ask such an asinine, ridiculous – fucking outrageous – question.
Yes, things took a bad turn after the Coronation, but we won! How in the nine levels of hell could she even consider…? In all of my combined days and nights I have never heard a stupider question! Why would she even…? Wait…I hadn’t thought so by maybe she had injured her head somehow? But any head wound would surely have been healed from all of our blood…wouldn’t it? Oh, fuck, I’d better check…
In the blink of an eye he blurred to kneel before his Emma.
“Emma,” he growled, then stopped to clear his throat. Growling wouldn’t solve this issue. “Emma, light of my heart, love of my life, have you hit your head? Do you still need a human healer of some sort? There are…what do you call them…hostels? Hospitals in this city, I’m sure we can steal someone for you. Do you need a healer,” he demanded through clinched jaws.
Still reeling from suddenly being unseated from his lap only to have him immediately appear on his knee before her with blazing eyes and flaring nostrils, the unexpected question he’d asked so very seriously didn’t help restore her mental acuity. All she could comprehend at that moment was that her Andre was fuming and that his eyes had gone that “you better run” color.
“What? No, I didn’t, I don’t. I told you that I’m fine.”
A tic then formed at the corner of his right eye and he remained silent for a too-long moment.
“Then why the fuck would you think I no longer want to Pledge with you?”
“Well, for one thing you wanted us to all go home and…” Sadly that was the only logical reason she could grasp well enough in that moment to verbalize.
“That’s because you were fucking attacked not a fucking hour ago with what should have been a mortal fucking wound! Of course I want to take you home and put you to bed and…”
At this point Andre rose abruptly and started pacing as he broke into what Emma thought to be an old form of French, his snarled words often punctuated with semi-violent hand gestures and frequent glares sent her way.
With a wry but understanding twist of his lips, Godric quietly herded the now openly grinning Twins and Rasul, who wouldn’t release his hold on Tracy, out the door to the men’s changing area. While suppressing her own grin Sophie-Anne sent Andre a burst of calm, not that she thought it would do him any good given the state his emotions were in but figured it couldn’t hurt, as she vacated the impending scene in search of her own changing area.
Happily sensing that the Pledging was going to go forward sooner than later, Sookie led Eric to the suite’s large bathroom. She knew exactly how these vampire affairs tended to end up – things always managed to somehow go…awry – and had brought along extra gowns for herself, Emma, and Tracy…just in case.
Suitable outfits for Eric and Andre had been surreptitiously deposited in the men’s changing room as well.
In part to drown out the drama but mostly just to wash away evidence of the bloody skirmish still clinging to her skin, she had Eric help her undress so she could very quickly rinse off in the shower. Even if for some unfathomable reason the next ceremony was, in fact, delayed, she couldn’t wait to wash the blood of her apparent relatives off her skin.
That line of thought would bear much inquiry…at a later time.
Eric being Eric, he was quite pleased to assist as it allowed him to see for himself that she was safe and well, and if he was more than a little helpful in that large shower, who was to know?
Emma, wide-eyed and stunned into silence by Andre’s reaction, remained seated as she watched him stomp around the suddenly empty room. A part of her realized that at least some of his outburst – maybe most of it – was his way of releasing stress.
The weeks of planning, the kidnapping, the knowledge that several of his peers and an unknown number of his species in general and apparently those of another wanted her dead combined with the night’s attack and her very serious wound…of course he had reached his breaking point. Plus, even “good” stress was stressful, and he had just been through his own Coronation.
So, while the night wasn’t getting any younger, her Andre could take all the time he needed to get it out of his system. With a silent sigh she made herself comfortable on the sofa and sipped her tepid soda. His magnificent form, now more primal than ever with the blood of his enemies dried on his fight-damaged clothing, was truly a sight worth seeing as he paced and prowled. The language he was muttering might have been more beautiful without the intermittent snarling, but his voice was sexy nonetheless.
After a while he began to wind down a little and reverted back to modern English the instant he blurred to stand in front of her.
“Of course I still want to Pledge with you, Emma. Why the hell would you even think otherwise? The real reason, if you please.”
She held her palm out to him so he could help her rise then placed her hands loosely on his hips.
“Because I know you’ve been through so much here lately. I know it wasn’t easy planning even just the security aspects of all this, much less…well, there’s been a ton of stress on your shoulders and…and everything seemed to be about me.”
She shook her head as she gathered her thoughts. The expression on his harsh face revealed his confusion about her point.
“This Pledging is forever, honey, and that’s the way I want it, but I want you to be absolutely sure about this, too. And I’m serious about wanting to do a more private ceremony later, maybe even just a reception or something that’s between us and the family, but this one will definitely count. Forever is a long time to have doubts.”
If anything his expression now grew fiercer and…and he growled at her. She couldn’t believe it – he honest-to-God growled at her!
“Don’t you be growling at me, buddy,” she rebuked as she checked his emotions as best she could. Something she had just said had…had insulted him?
Huh. Well that hadn’t been her intention at all…!
“It’s not that I think you’re fickle or that I think you didn’t know what you wanted when you asked me before, nothing like that, so if that’s what set you off you can put a sock in it.”
At a later time he would think her glare and the fingertip poking into his broad chest were adorable, but for now? For now he seriously wondered about the state of her mind. Perhaps this was what they called “a case of cold feet”?
He glanced down at her blooded shoes.
He could certainly understand her feet growing cold but why not just change shoes? Why make it seem as though she suddenly thought that maybe he didn’t want to Pledge with her? Did she doubt his mind? What the fuck? He was the one who had asked in the first fucking place!
“No,” she began, and waited until his gaze zeroed back onto hers. “What I mean is that things around us have been going nuts for the last…,” her voice trailed off as she realized that things had been going crazy since she first met him. With a slight laugh, she continued, “Yeah, things have basically been chaotic the entire time we’ve been together. We haven’t had any chance at all to settle down and practice being bored together yet, but those times will come, I hope, and I want you to still be happy with me when those times do finally come. And besides, all this preparation for the Pledging, hell, everything about the Pledging, seems like it’s only been about me. What about you?”
Emma paused and looked into his eyes to gauge his reaction and found him staring intently back. She breathed a sigh when she saw that he was definitely listening. It beat the hell out of growling…
“In one way we don’t know much at all about each other but yet, in another way, I feel like I know exactly who you are. You’re a hell of a man, Andre. You’re decent, you’re secretly kind and heartwarmingly sweet, you’re considerate and attentive and the best lover a woman could ever want. Oh, I don’t know,” she exclaimed while his head reeled trying to keep up with whatever foreign logic that seemed to have invaded her mind. The compliments had been nice, though. “I feel like it’s all been about me from the moment you asked me. I just want to be sure that nothing has changed for you since then is all…,” she ended pitifully. She didn’t feel as though she had expressed herself well, but she so wanted…
Instantly his arms surrounded her, drawing her into his firm embrace as he exhaled deeply. He rested his head in the crook of her neck and simply held her close.
From what he could gather, he surmised that she was worried that they didn’t know how things would go between them should they ever be blessed with boredom and…and she was somehow concerned that not enough ado had been made of him regarding the Pledging?
He hoped he had that right.
Whatever it was, though, his mate was worried and his job now was to assure her that things of some sort questionable would be fine, and so that’s what he did.
Relief flooded her system as it seemed he’d seen through her words, perhaps even checking her through their bond, and that maybe-just-maybe he got it.
At first she didn’t think he was going to speak. A check of his emotions soothed her as what chaos remained had taken on a distinctly different feel. His emotions were still overwhelming and chaotic but now the chaos was beautiful as the bond roiled with love and tenderness and something so sweetly aching she couldn’t name it.
Eventually and after a tiny sniff, he loosened his hold enough to lean back. He gazed down into her face with eyes now a softer glowing sea green, his expression so tender it brought tears to her eyes. He stroked a long, gentle finger down her cheek before lowering his head to cover her lips with his own.
“Yes, Emma,” he affirmed in a deepened voice when he reluctantly broke their kiss, “I still wish to Pledge with you. Regardless of all that has happened, regardless of even tonight’s attack, you are mine and I want the world to know it. And yes, I fervently hope the times will come when we have the glorious comfort of boredom to enhance our nights, but make no mistake – our times together will never, ever even remotely qualify as…boring.”
His short, suggestive laugh sent erotic shivers through her body.
“Well, then, if you are determined to go forth with the ceremony before what witnesses remain, I suggest we do so quickly.”
His sudden agreement sent another surge of relief through her system which was promptly followed by a wave of exhaustion. Wearily she nodded – she just wanted it to all be over with now. Give the show, have things locked down and tied up and whatever other jargon meant not having to do it again…then go home and take a long nap before going the hell to bed.
After lifting her chin to thoroughly search her eyes, Andre gave her a small glower before kissing her forehead.
He had sensed the wave of exhaustion and while she appeared recovered, it still worried him. Considering the vast amount of old and truly ancient vampire blood flowing through her veins, she should currently have far more energy than she did.
“Tomorrow you will sleep and eat rich, healing things, yes?”
She nodded happily.
“Ok, then, let’s do this. Northman, you and your woman can come out now,” he called over his shoulder without actually releasing his Emma.
“So are we doing this,” Sookie asked as she followed her tall blond vampire, who for some reason was wearing only a towel about his waist, from the slightly smaller room. Dressed in an elegant white bathrobe herself, the telepath carried in her hands two long gowns; both resembled Emma’s original Pledging regalia only with far simpler lines. The two gowns were predominantly white, but while one had red trim with sparkling accents, the other had royal purple trim with sparkling accents.
The meaning was unmistakable.
When preparing for this night, Sookie had spoken with one the royal dressmakers and, knowing how things often went at these vampire affairs, had commissioned a total of three dresses – one for herself, one for Tracy, and of course, one for Emma. If nothing else, they could wear them to a night at the opera or something.
Emma nodded then spied the dresses. “What? Where did you find those?”
“I brought them. In my experience anything involving vampire business usually requires at least one change of clothes, so I brought them with my gown just in case. They’re not nearly as bulky as your Coronation and Pledging gowns which made it easy. So, which one do you want?” Her innocent question was belied by the twinkling in her eyes. “There’s also one with yellow on it that would look perfect on Tracy but you could easily wear it if…”
“The purple one,” Emma interrupted quickly. “Definitely the purple one. It’s gorgeous!” She gave her friend a sharp look. “You had this made on purpose, didn’t you!”
Sookie burst into laughter. “Of course I did! Shoes are in my other bag over there. So, are we doing this or what?”
After Andre and Eric left the room a few minutes later, Sookie suggested to Emma, “You know, you could just put your Coronation outfit back on. It’s fine and it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Emma nodded as she began shrugging out of the ruined swaths of now grotesquely colorful silk. “I could, but…no. It’s gorgeous and all, but it screams “coronation”, not “pledging”. Plus, it’s sweaty. That gown,” she nodded at the one Sookie had hung up, “is perfect. Be back out in a minute.”
Within fifteen minutes Emma and Tracy, reluctantly returned by her Rasul, had taken quick “rinse-off” showers, the kind that left their hair dry since no one had thought to bring a dryer and time was at a premium, and all three had donned their chosen gowns. All that was left was makeup and coiffures.
Earlier, while waiting for Andre and Eric to join them in the male’s dressing suite, Godric had thoughtfully arranged for guards to deliver to each royal guest – currently gossiping while enjoying the free-flowing blood products in the banqueting area – a set of cleansing fabrics so that they could freshen themselves up, too.
It would help to pass the time, he figured, knowing the mindsets of the wealthy and powerful of his species. That the sets of cloths and towels had come from a lowly linen closet and were only that afternoon laundered from being used to clean that very venue wasn’t disclosed. He vaguely hoped the Louisiana monarchy preferred a nicely scented detergent.
Seemingly all at once, everyone was ready – the hulking forms of the twins swiping more “at” their soiled clothing than actually cleaning anything – and even the excited yet somehow still marginally confused kingling managed to don his surprise hanger of new clothing without further drama. The badly hidden smirk on his sometimes-exasperating progeny’s face easily assured those gathered that all was well in the royal house so everyone simply shrugged and put it down to Pledging nerves. Sometimes he wondered how Sookie put up with the boy…
To her credit and in her infinite wisdom, Sookie had brought along a change of clothing for both Eric and Andre as well as the ladies. Somehow he doubted Eric would bother with something as irrelevant as replacement clothing in such a situation. Godric could see that the newly crowned king felt something strongly positive over the telepath’s kind consideration. It seemed she had taken yet another vampire under her wing.
Godric felt nicely refreshed after his brief shower and change. As she, too, had come to know more about the vampire world’s “propensity for damaging its inhabitants”, his Cara had also sent with him a change of clothing in a small bag she’d firmly insisted that he bring with him to “the upcoming drama”.
The smaller bag she’d sent along with it contained an odd assortment of small objects she had smilingly ordered him to give to this Emma person. She knew as much as he did about the Andre-Emma situation, and naturally her soft, mortal heart had felt for the human girl.
His Cara was such an intelligent, thoughtful sweetheart…although he would only be away for a few nights at most, he missed her most dearly.
He weighed the small bag in his palm. The contents of the hastily assembled gift had made little sense to the ancient vampire, but he would do whatever it took to ensure his beloved’s happiness…even if it did seem to involve odd wedding customs.
Ah, the vagaries of mortals…sending clothing and odd gifts as though they were…what were they called again…bags for lunch? Well, now, time for the next portion of the evening…
At the knock which Tracy answered, the door opened to admit the newly refreshed forms of Andre, Eric, The Twins and Rasul, and finally Godric.
More precisely, Andre, Eric, and Godric had on new, clean clothes.
Apparently nothing new had been available for Sigebert, Wybert, or Rasul, however some of the bloody evidence had been somewhat badly rearranged on their ruined outfits. Emma nodded when she saw them; it was the thought that counted, right?
When Godric entered the women’s dressing suite, he walked directly over to Emma.
She was pleased to see that Godric had been able to change, though. He had been rather gleefully soaked with enemy blood.
With a nod to the kingling, he looked to Emma and spoke. “My mate Cara sent this along for you in case you needed it, but I did not have time to give it to you before now.” He untied the small bag and motioned for her to hold her hands out, then he spilled the contents into her palms. “I am supposed to mention that this button is old, that this penny is new, that this gold bracelet is borrowed, and for some reason I am supposed to mention to you that this blue ribbon bow is blue. And as you can see, she included an assortment of safety pins. Apparently they are in high demand?”
Tears welled in Emma’s eyes. Of course she’d heard about this kind of thing in human wedding lore, that having “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” was somehow supposed to bring luck or whatever to the bride, but in all the chaos she hadn’t had a chance to bother with it.
Planning a mythical future wedding wasn’t something she’d ever wasted time on during her tumultuous early years, but getting married wasn’t something she’d ever dreaded, either. Through time a thought would drift along every now and then and while she’d never had anything along the lines of a wedding plan in mind, a few elements had stuck.
Thanks to a female vampire of all things – as Godric’s mate, she’d have to be a vampire, right? – now she could satisfy that lingering human superstition.
She closed her hand around her tiny treasures and threw her arms around the neck of a rather surprised if exquisitely pleased Godric.
Cara was right…but then, she’s always right…
Then, under Andre’s own pleased and curious gaze – indeed, every vampire and the one were in the room watched with a kind, perhaps even damp, eye – Emma made perfect use of her now-cherished gifts.
In moments she had the small blue bow pinned to her dress above her left breast, the bracelet on her wrist with Sookie’s help, the button wrapped in a small cloth that Tracy found somewhere and then pinned inside the bottom of her dress, and the penny safely tucked into her shoe.
Now…now she was ready.
Within fifteen minutes of their return to the ceremonial chambers that still resembled a slaughterhouse and before the remaining five Kings and three Queens, Andre and Emma were officially Pledged.
Because of the previous drama and current time constraints, the couple’s personally written vows and other meaningful elements were cast aside. Godric had preemptively eschewed the strictest protocol demanded of the most official version of the ceremony and had chosen to go with the far simpler, and far shorter, ritual approved for a much more intimate Pledge gathering.
The attending monarchs had taken the change in intimacy as a compliment indicative of their newly strengthened alliance with Louisiana and newly forged relationship with Arkansas.
No one in the Pledging party cared but all, especially Godric and Eric, were aware of how this perceived closeness could prove very beneficial. Despite all the time she had spent trying to learn who ruled which territory and memorizing what photographs had been available, Emma could not identify any of them and was heartily relieved when the idea of a “meet and greet” reception afterward was nixed in lieu of what she would later call a “hi-how are ya/go home now” line.
Their royal guests behaved with surprising graciousness. Although every one of them bore evidence of having fought alongside Louisiana and Arkansas, their manners were warmly impeccable as they seemed to honestly wish the happy couple every good fortune and blessing in the union of their lives. Flowery statements were the norm but were also kept short and genuine. All seemed curious about the new Pledge of the new king, and sincere if brief invitations to “get together soon” were extended.
The definition of soon being highly subjective, of course, considering vampire time.
Finally, it was over. The royal guests departed very soon thereafter in their shiny, expensive cars and two in their readied helicopters.
The core party along with their guards sped home almost as quickly as they had arrived, and within the hour Emma was home, disrobed, and asleep in their bed…with Andre by her side, watching over her as she dreamed of beautiful things.
The next night Andre kicked back on the overstuffed sofa in his now “royal” chambers. He swirled the nicely scented blend in the cut lead crystal snifter as he regarded the familiar guests who always seemed to congregate in his living quarters these nights.
That recent tradition he blamed solely on his Emma.
As per instinct, his eyes tracked his now Pledged and Bonded mate. Their permanent bond, supposedly publicly established directly after the chaos meant to halt their Pledging and end her life, assured him of her health and good humor, but observing her splendid form with his own eyes was vastly more reassuring.
Unforeseeable events of the previous evening had caused her precious blood to spill, but quick actions had saved her life.
She was fine, he reminded himself for the thousandth time. Even the strange exhaustion of the previous night – exhaustion that should have fled in the face of the old and ancient blood flowing freely through her veins – had entirely eased.
And now that the accumulated stress of the events was over, she was radiant, even and especially in her “around the house” clothing.
Emma’s Coronation and Pledging gowns could not possibly have been more perfectly suited for either the occasion or the wearer. The security cams at the venue had captured numerous shots of her in both gowns and he couldn’t wait to have stills rendered…and had already ordered a duplicate of the ruined Pledging regalia.
A low growl escaped. That outfit would be for private use only.
The replacement so thoughtfully supplied by the telepath had performed magnificently, and they were Pledged before royal witnesses as custom demanded…forever.
His thoughts drifted back to the time they had spent “affirming their vows” before emerging from their bedroom earlier that evening. The mattress hadn’t been ruined but it had been a close call…
It was a long moment before a laugh returned his attention to the room.
But…here, now, in her home environment surrounded by her friends and her new official vampire family, her customarily simple downtime outfit of loose yoga pants and a soft silk blouse suited her perfectly.
His Queen…his Queen holding court in their quarters while wearing her beloved cotton and his beloved silk.
He couldn’t wait to hold her official Coronation, but wisdom dictated a longer term plan.
His eyes darkened a bit as they followed her movements. The dark rose silk played well with her dark hair and eyes, and cast a bit of a glow to skin he couldn’t help but think was still a bit too pale.
Another growl with a different timbre escaped as he fought yet again the need to check the wound he logically knew old and ancient blood had well healed. He had thoroughly inspected her body – had disrobed her the night before partially for that reason and then had taken his delightfully sweet time doing so again mere hours earlier – and knew beyond doubt that no injuries remained. Logic, however, held little sway over a vampire where his mate was concerned – especially when the tainted knife wound had been so fucking deep.
He ground his teeth in remembered fear and frustration.
If she didn’t evict the guests soon, he most certainly would. It seemed they hadn’t had a single fucking moment of peace together since well before his Coronation the previous night and precious little in the weeks before that…and certainly not enough time spent alone.
Somehow he doubted there would ever be enough time spent alone.
The upcoming move to Arkansas was planned to infinite detail, and while he knew it should take place as soon as possible, he did not want to pile that unnecessary stress on his Emma’s shoulders.
Fucking Arkansas. As nice a state as it was, it could wait. His Emma was vastly, inconceivably, more important.
When the walking, breathing embodiment of his heart rose from Sookie’s side to lower herself to act as a damn serving wench for the Northman’s blessed Maker, his eyes narrowed as he yet again tracked her gait.
Of course she was healed…but the remembered terror refused to loosen the last of its grasp. This, he concluded, must be the curse love-Pledged vampires so often bitched about – one’s mate would, could, never be considered safe or healed or healthy enough.
It took a moment for him to unclench his clawed hand from the arm of the sofa.
He was certain that his foul mood had little to do with any jealousy he might feel toward Godric who had a beloved mate of his own.
The ancient fucker’s fast actions truly had helped save the night and his unimaginatively strong blood had definitely saved his Emma. The Northman, his telepath…Sigebert and Wybert…Rasul and his were…even his own Maker… Together with a handful of surprisingly supportive monarchs and the highly trained royal guards, they had banded and prevailed.
Andre shook his head and finished the cooling blood in his glass.
It had been so long since Godric had spent much, if any, time around the attending vampires that they hadn’t immediately recognized his scent, and somehow the Officiant’s robe had been spelled to buffer the elder’s inherent and immense power, so he’d had the full advantage of surprise on his side.
Andre was certain that a later review of footage from the attack would show more than a few shocked faces when Godric’s identity had become known. Hopefully it would provide more clues about their enemies, too.
Fucking fairy hybrids…current telepath excluded, of course.
Nothing objectionable had happened during the Coronation, a fact that had raised everyone’s hackles and caused a distinct escalation in vigilance.
In the end it was that vigilance which had saved his Emma’s life. Andre had been correct in predicting that something would likely happen.
Sometimes he detested being right.
An hour’s break had been scheduled after the Coronation so that the ladies could change and tend to human moments, the assembled vampire guests could be given refreshments while they gossiped and mingled, and the “ceremonial chamber”, formerly known as the old ballroom, could be prepared for the Pledging.
The break was primarily for his Emma’s benefit…and for the telepath and the were-lynx, too, of course. That the break would also allow the attending vampires to mingle and therefore gossip – gossip that would naturally be overheard and recorded – was simply an added bonus. She had to change into her Pledging regalia, but that realistically would only have taken half an hour at most but wouldn’t have been much of a respite from the stress. The ceremonies would be taxing on them all, sure, but they would be especially wearing on her human form and nerves no matter how firm her jaw or stiff her upper lip.
Pride, love, admiration…they and many more emotions surged through his being.
He had a fuck-load of shit to make up to her, he suddenly realized. If not for his involvement in her life, she’d never have been attacked or kidnapped or… He watched as his Emma, obviously sensing his inner loathing, patted Godric’s shoulder before coming over and plopping with careless grace into his lap.
With his beloved’s physical presence, he was able to calmly review the previous night’s course of events as he searched for more information about their attackers. The relaxed and relieved conversations freely flowing around him provided an oddly soothing backdrop to his musings.
The ladies had been safely escorted to their changing quarters before the assembled vampires had been obsequiously corralled into a small banqueting area adjacent to the ceremonial chamber for ‘refreshments and mingling’. Naturally the area was wired for sound, as Rasul enjoyed proclaiming, so that the security engineers could overhear anything said in real time as they recorded everything for future analysis, but nothing even remotely suspicious had reached their diligent ears.
He could only hope that intensive reviews later on might perhaps reveal something useful.
Since his Maker had led the herd of Kings and Queens into the banqueting area before visiting her own private changing quarters, Sigebert and Wybert had been obligated to tend to her, so that had left only Rasul from their inner group free to protect the ladies. Rasul…and a small troop of the palace’s finest guards…had stood watch both outside their door and at the head of the hallway leading to the private rooms.
The entire area was as thick with over-protective vampires as they could possibly make it. Weres literally prowling around the exterior and along the perimeters further secured the location.
Once inside his own changing area, Andre had witnessed and promptly attempted to ignore the unintentionally touching reunion between the Northman and his ancient Maker.
Godric – the surprise Officiant.
That voice…he had thought the male somehow known to him, and indeed had correctly guessed the male’s identity before the ending of the Coronation.
It all made sense. Only two vampires in the New World were known to be old enough, experienced enough, and especially powerful enough to Officiate most of the Ceremonies and Rites so important to vampire culture. Godric had never truly been all that involved in vampire politics and, at the time, seemed content to remain in the background, and the other elder North American vampire wasn’t at all suitable.
Sophie-Anne had been in charge of contacting her old friend Zacharias, an ancient Old World vampire almost two millennia old hailing from Albania. He would have to ask her about that since that elder had obviously not Officiated.
Having Godric join them made far better sense. Not only was he Maker to a firmly ensconced member of their party, but his impartiality was world renowned.
So was his strength and power.
Sadly, the other antique vampire on the North American continent had gone a bit barmy according to recent gossip. Andre snorted – he wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear that old Justin had met the sun trying to ski off Mount St. Helens one bright, sunny morning.
Nice guy…always had access to the good blood types and the worst jokes but a couple arrows short of a quiver.
Emma pinged him with curiosity over his humor, which almost made him crack a rare smile. She was a natural when it came to communicating via their bond. In lieu of an explanation he nuzzled the side of her throat and sent her a burst of pride. He tightened his arm about her waist as he leaned forward to place his empty glass on the nearby table then settled her back comfortably in his lap.
While being able to physically touch her always had a particularly invigorating effect on his senses, it somehow managed to both soothe him and allow his mind to function in an oddly clearer manner, too.
Strange how she both soothes me and hardens my cock…wonder why? Ah, silly ideas not worth wasting time with…not when there are other far more important things to spend my thoughts on. I need to review the course of the night for clues, then review all the footage, then form a plan…
Andre snuggled her a little deeper into his lap and briefly tuned into the current conversations before allowing his memories to continue. Wybert and Sigebert were busy out-bragging each other to Emma with fantastic tales of battle glory while Godric, Eric, and Sookie were discussing…whatever with Tracy and Rasul. Sophie-Anne seemed oddly preoccupied – had been at times for a while now but especially so since the assault – but she hadn’t mentioned any concerns to him yet.
She had wandered in about half an hour ago, taken her chosen seat, and hadn’t contributed much to the ever-changing rounds of conversation.
All of Emma’s guests seemed settled, so he rested his forehead against her shoulder.
He’d decided to go ahead and change into his Pledging robes in the suite’s otherwise unnecessary bathroom to give the Maker and his progeny their privacy, and once in the quiet of the bathing room, he had checked in on his Emma.
After changing his robes he’d exited the somewhat smaller room and was relieved to find the reunion concluded.
Emotional scenes were so not his forte.
After nodding respectfully to the ancient one – although he was now King and therefore of exalted rank, respect should be given when and where due – he had turned to Eric.
“So this is your ace in the hole.”
Godric had tipped his head with wry humor, his ubiquitously serene expression somehow sharper, more acute, than the new King remembered from eons ago.
With a tense nod Eric had replied, “Yes, and a most capable ace he is. I didn’t mention his possible attendance because we weren’t certain he would arrive in time. As it is he had barely half an hour to spare.”
While he would like to hear the story of how the plan had come about, this was not the time, however he truly did appreciate the powerful vampire’s presence.
Nothing was too much for his Emma.
“Thank you,” he had stated politely to the powerful old vampire. “I am grateful for your assistance.”
After Godric once again nodded benignly, Andre turned back to Eric to ask, “If he hadn’t been able to make it in time, who would have Officiated?”
Andre was certain his brows had risen to hit his hairline at that. The role of Officiant was sacred in the vampire world, the position surrounded by veils of dramatic mysticism and rampant rumor. It was not a role either given or taken lightly as an Officiant’s Word could supersede that of royalty. At times it had.
Although he wasn’t sure, it was understood that the honor could only be bestowed upon the truly powerful and ancient. He knew there were other requirements, perhaps other routes that could be taken to be granted the honor, but it wasn’t as though he would know what they were.
Eric… He wasn’t that much older than his own numerous years, at least he didn’t believe so, and he hadn’t thought him able to wield the kind of power necessary for such an honored position.
The Viking had given him a smug nod before turning back to his Maker.
Andre filed the information away to ponder at a later date and offered Godric one of the glass containers of fresh donor blood from the warmer.
“Your Emma seems to be a woman of worth,” Godric announced after graciously accepting the human body temperature glass. “She presented herself well in what must have been a very trying situation for a human.”
Andre had only been able to nod. He’d known the ceremonies would be taxing to his human woman, but was slowly realizing just how wearying they would be.
After some minor chatting about security measures and the like, it was time to assume their places for the Pledging.
And then all hell had broken loose.
When the deep, rumbling growl escaped and all eyes in the room flicked over to him, he thought it might just be a bit too soon to try to think rationally of the attack.
Emma, God love her, scooted around enough to kiss him.
Only she would be brave enough to snog a growling vampire…
Keeping that thought in mind, he returned her kiss until the urge to attack missing foes subsided.
With a burst of tinkling laugh, Sophie-Anne finally spoke to the group at large.
“And that, kiddies, is how I know our Emma will make a worthy queen. Who else would dare kiss a growling Andre?”
Now having everyone’s attention, she continued.
“When Andre first became enraptured with our darling little mortal, I was a bit annoyed because I had wanted her for myself,” she complained with a beautiful pout, “but I was glad for his sake when she returned his affections. I was worried, however. She was, and is, annoyingly mortal, but at the time I was more concerned with how she might fit into this world of ours. Of course the vampire world is fraught with danger even for vampires, but it’s also a labyrinth of political intrigue and mechanizations lined with corruption, lust, and greed.”
At odds with her words, her eyes gleamed with mischief.
“It takes a strong, solid character to withstand not just the temptations but the dangers and deceits lurking around every corner. There is also the threat of boredom that may come with an inconceivably long life, of habits turning into ruts and if time passing before you even know it.”
A wistful expression ghosted across her face as she turned to Sookie, then her gaze filled with admiration. “You, Sookie, have coped with grace and strength, but then, you are part supe yourself. I don’t know you all that well,” she spoke now to Tracy,” but you seem to fit into this little group very easily. Your were heritage is definitely to your benefit. Now,” she turned a sharper gaze back to Emma, “I suspect you are not entirely mortal, a feeling I believe our Andre shares, and I can’t wait to hear what you guys discover in the coming months and years. Any supernatural ties you may have, any supernatural strengths you may have, will be to your extreme benefit. However, you will have to find me to deliver the news.”
Her eyes twinkled at the shocked and confused reaction caused by her words.
“Godric, will you assume your Officiant’s role one last time for me?”
Having observed her performance from the sidelines as it were, he had a strong inkling about what she wanted. He stepped toward her.
With a nod, he stated solemnly and with a curious sadness, “Yes, your majesty, how may I be of service?”
“Bluntly, my friend, I have been tied to this state for far too long. I want out, and it is time. Therefore, in your presence I hereby abdicate my rule of the State of Louisiana and name King Arkansas as my honored successor. My child, Andre Paul, is of this moment reigning King of Louisiana.”
Godric gazed into her determined eyes for a long moment then bowed deeply. “And so it is done.”
He had suspected something of the sort was coming but hadn’t expected Sophie-Anne to abdicate so soon. He knew much of the wanderlust surging through her blood, knew well the call of the unknown, the almost mystical lure of that “something else” she would spend time searching for but might not know when she found it.
Despite all the additional paperwork her decision would cause, he truly did hope that she found what she sought in this new phase of her life.
To the shocked gazes of most of the assembled, she tartly reminded everyone, “It’s my crown, I can bestow it upon whichever head I wish. Andre, you’re now King Louisiana as well as King Arkansas, so you can remain here if that is your wish. All the royal estates are yours to do with as you will. Enjoy,” she enjoined before lowering her final boom. “I leave at first dark for Albania.”
Emma couldn’t help herself – she burst out laughing. Sophie-Anne could be such a little snot, and there she was sitting all prim and proper and looking so proud of herself that she could burst.
After giving Andre a huge hug – he had, after all, just been given the Kingship of Louisiana, after all – she was the first of many to hug the departing now-former queen and wish her the very best.
As the volume of questions and congratulations rose to an almost uncomfortable level, Andre silently fumed.
Now he was King of not just one fucking state…oh, no… Now he was King of two fucking states.
Two of the damn things!
He glanced over at his Emma still hugging his Maker, and felt most, well, some of the irritation and most of the shock fade away.
At least they didn’t have to move now, and plus, with his Emma by his side, he’d be fine.
Two of the damn things!
**A/N: Bye, Andre and Emma…hope to see y’all soon… *sniff* So…there ya have it – the Final Chapter with Epilogue for The Revealing of Andre. Andre has come a long way, most definitely he has, but some things never change, lol. He has his Emma now, and the power and respect of being King of not just one but two states, one of which is very powerful. And…he doesn’t have to move, although as beautiful as Arkansas is, I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma talked him into making their “royal” home there into a nice vacation escape.
QSA is free now to go and do and see and explore, and maybe-just-maybe find a snuggle-bunny of her own. We’ll have to find out later whether The Broders will voyage with her – I suspect only Sigebert will as Wybert has a li’l something going on, and plus Sig’y has been feeling a bit restless himself of late…but that’s for the sequel I guess. Godric…so, how’d you like Godric’s appearance? *grin* He and his beloved Cara will play a strong role in the sequel, too.
So…you know what I’m going to ask, but I’ll do it anyway: what’d ja think?**