Pre Edit Count – 3,437 Words
Song I listened to for this chapter: Dance with the Devil by Breaking Benjamin
He looks up as he hears the light sound of steps, and then grins as he and Alcide trade looks. Here it begins…
Eric heads out first as he wants to confront and intimidate the man downstairs. He, Godric, and Bella have talked about how to handle her father, with Ludwig adding her input as well. He and Godric will be moving at vampire speed with Godric holding and moving Bella with him. When they reach the bottom, Godric and Eric will be in front, Pam will be beside Bella, and hopefully Alcide will take his place beside her. Ludwig will watch from the balcony seats.
He smiles as he sees the Shifter and the Werewolf look up at them. Then the Shifter almost jumps out of his skin as Eric and the rest make their way vamp speed down the stairs. Eric notes the surprise and will talk later to the Shifter.
Eric’s attention is focused on the man standing before him staring up at him in shock. He can’t help his cocky grin as he speaks to this man who has helped make his sisters life miserable.
“So Chief Swan, I heard you wanted to meet me.”
Charlie is just staring at the huge man in front of him. This is in no way how he pictured Godric’s Childe. If anything, this is exactly the opposite of what he imagined. He swallows as his eyes travel all the way up to meet the eyes of the man before him.
The “child” easily tops six feet, but gives the impression of being almost a foot taller than that. He is lithe, but there is no doubting his muscles since he is wearing a black racer top along with black cargo pants. His blond hair is almost to his shoulders, and his piercing blue eyes are staring straight back at him.
There is no doubt that this is a man who has seen war, and with his bearing, Charlie couldn’t help but wonder who this man had been before he was changed. He is intimidating to say the least, but in a completely different way than Godric.
You definitely have a sense of years with this man. Here, Charlie’s eyes are not telling him one thing while his senses are telling him something different. No, the man before him is a threat. His instincts are screaming that the man before him is a clear and very present danger to him.
Eric stares at the man before him, and fights a grin. He had been busy the night before, and one of the things he’d managed to do was to buy the mortgage on this home since this would allow the three of them to be here without worrying about permissions. He had planned on gifting the mortgage to Bella, but instead will hold it over this man’s head in case he tries anything. This will also make it easier for Bella to come back later for things she might be forgetting just now. Plus, the mortgage was easy to transfer since Godric already owned the mortgage company.
Charlie finally takes a breath, not noticing the looks of glee among the observers or Godric, who already has an arm around his Mate as he can feel her worry. He is ready to do whatever it takes to protect her, and pulls her close as he has a bad feeling about this meeting. He thinks back to the meeting with this man the previous day, and wonders how things had morphed to this level.
Reminding himself of what he’s facing, Charlie rises to his full height, wincing internally as that did not even top Godric’s height, and demands, “And who are you?” He pulls on all of his years as a cop to try to face down this vampire in front of him.
A slow grin crosses Eric’s face as he answers proudly, “My name is Eric Northman. I am Godric’s Childe, Pam’s Maker and the Goddess-blessed elder brother of Bella?”
“Bella? My Bella?” The pure indignation in his voice lets them know what he picked up from Eric’s introduction of himself.
Eric rocks on his feet a little, amused at this man in front of him. “Godric’s Bella, my sister. She agreed to the oath, and in front of these witnesses, the Goddess blessed it. But, in reality, this is nothing. You have never had a claim to Bella, and I have negated the little you did have by taking her under my House. She is in my care, as you and your ex-wife have failed to even follow the vaguest ideas of caring for a child.” And she is way above you and your pathetic posturing! Eric is extremely proud of adding Bella to his family. He will be toasted in Valhalla for the deed of adding such a valuable and perfect member to his family as soon as he found her.
Charlie’s face gets even darker, making many of them wonder if he will have a fit in front of them. Alcide hopes not, even though he can hear the quiet cackles from Ludwig above them as she watches from the balcony. The man in front of them doesn’t deserve to skip out on everything that easy.
Bella leans more into Godric as she looks at him. She has no idea why he is so upset, and seeks comfort in her Mate. She can feel the care and love he is pushing on her, making sure she is aware of how much he cares for her, and how this only matters as much as she wishes it to. He and Eric have already told her she is welcome to stay with them.
Eric, feeling his syrra (the more familiar form of sister) craving comfort, glances quickly behind him, and then looks back to the man in front of him. He raises an eyebrow at the man and quietly states, “Chief Swan, I recommend you calm down, or else this ‘talk’ will be ending shortly.” His tone told the other man that he’s bored, but that he will do as he claims: end this confrontation without any hesitation. Eric’s personal glee in making the man angry so easily is well hidden.
Charlie clenches his jaw but works to calm himself. He needs everything he can use, so he can make sure Bella stays here. She belongs here, not with dead people. Her future is here, finishing school and then going on to college. This is what she will be doing. He nods to himself as he plans out the life of the woman in front of him.
Eric studies the man and sends comfort to Bella, and also a little bit of caution to her and Godric. He does not want them surprised by what will be happening. He is sure that Charlie is going to find out why his Maker is one of the most feared vampires in the world. He himself will be taking out some of his anger, too. But he wants the man to bring himself down so that Bella will be justified in how she feels. Unfortunately, it will be better for all of them if she can leave this behind. Her future doesn’t include the people in this town anymore…
Finally calm enough, Charlie tells Eric, “Mr. Northman, what right do you think you have to be criticizing me and the way I treat Bella? I promise you it has to be better than you ever treated a woman.” He can just imagine how a barbarian like the man in front of him treated his women. He is too big to be anything but a barbarian.
Godric chuckles. This will be interesting. He can just imagine what the man in front of him thinks of Eric. But to make that kind of statement to one of the more progressive cultures of the times? They treated their women, and even their thralls, better than most did.
Straightening to his full height, Eric looks down at the man below him, “Excuse me?” He is attempting to keep a calm façade as he tries not to laugh in Charlie’s face. The images of his past come to mind, and he has a light smile on his lips as he realizes that Bella will remember that time from him, and he hopes that she will remember enough that sometime they can talk about it. Suddenly he yearns to be able to speak his mother tongue with someone else, to be able to talk to someone about his childhood, about growing up. He realizes that this is what Bella is, she is his sister, his confidant in the future of his past. He reflects on all this as he waits for the Chief’s answer.
Charlie snorts. “You heard me. Bella is treated better than anyone else. I let her have the freedom she’s used to from Renee. All I expect of her is that she have dinner on the table, that the house is clean, and that the laundry is done. She is also expected to keep her grades up as well as not participating in anything that would get her trouble with the law. Other than that, she can do as she wishes.”
His hands clasped behind him as he listens to the man in front of her, Eric nods. “Of course. As long as she keeps your house, prepares your food, and keeps her studies up, what more can a woman ask for?”
Relaxing slightly as he thinks the man in front of him agrees with him, Charlie nods.
Eric then lifts an eyebrow to the man. He states, “So she is your thrall.”
Charlie looks confused as he repeats, “Thrall?”
Nodding his head, Eric explains, “Your slave. The duties you have told me were hers are the same as a thrall in my household would hold. My wife was in charge of the thralls, making sure they do their duties, learning our customs so that they can be gainful to my house. She was in charge of everything, while I was aviking. She made sure that the food was gathered and ruled in my stead. My daughter, had I lived long enough for one, would have helped her, learning from her mother how to govern, until she was old enough for marriage. Then, she would come to me and her brothers to discuss who she wanted to marry. If I was not there, she would have had the right to marry the third of her brother’s choices, marrying of her preference. But neither of these fit with what you have said of Bella.” His eyes darken as he cannot comprehend his sister being used as a slave. Her blood oath raised her to the level of a villager. Her oath being accepted by the Goddess of his house elevated her to his rank before his father died.
Charlie is sputtering, but his mind is picking up key phrases. He demands, “And what would you do with Bella?”
Shaking his head slightly, Eric tells him, “I have already done it. She is my sister; the Patron Goddess of our Line has blessed our oath herself. Bella holds the right to pick her own lover, who I have already approved of and made sure she is aware of this fact. I will also be taking over her care since you think of her as a thrall, and as my sister, she is nowhere near the class of a slave. I will also approve Godric’s suit since he will treat her the way she should be treated. This I do as my sacred duty as her brother. I have been her brother for less than a day, and I have already fulfilled many of my duties by talking with her and listening to her choices.”
Snarling at Eric, Charlie‘s lips actually pulled back from his teeth. “She is too young to make those types of choices for her life. No, she will stay here. I do not recognize whatever a God dammed goddess-blessed-blood-oath is. It has no legal bearing and I am her father. She will stay right where she is.”
A side of Eric’s mouth lifts up. “How can you say that she is able to have no guidance in her life from you, but yet not make a decision on her life? Chief Swan, you are contradicting yourself. Can Bella make decisions or not?”
“Of course she can’t make that type of decision! I am her father, she came here to live under my roof, and she will obey my orders.”
Bella cringes away from her father; Godric by this time has pulled her into his arms. A light growl vibrates through him. He is well aware of Eric’s building anger, as well as his own. He was a Chieftain of his tribe, a King by today’s standards. Eric himself was a King when he died. Bella is now, by the standards of Eric’s people, a princess, and as his Mate, a queen in her own right. He will soon be taking the steps necessary to elevate her to the highest position that he can bestow upon her. She deserves nothing less.
But having this man in front of them speaking so dismissively of her ignites an anger in both of them. She has proven herself far beyond the customs of this time, much less theirs!
Eric asks, calm on the outside, “How old is Bella?” His jaw is set.
Charlie looks taken aback. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Eric pierces him with his gaze as he repeats, “How old is Bella?”
Shaking his head in confusion, Charlie answers, “18.”
Nodding his head, Eric states, “And by the laws of the United States, she is of age to make her own decisions.” And that truly is the last thing the man in front of him can say. One way or another they will be taking Bella from this hell on earth.
“She is still in High School! She can’t make any such decisions on her own.” Charlie cannot understand why this man is arguing with him about this. What does it matter to him what happens to Bella?
Calm as only he can be, Eric informs him, “She is of age to vote, of age to become a member of your military, of age to make her own decisions by the law you, yourself, represent. But in reality, she has already made many key decisions in her own life without needing or even having your input in them since she was five years old.”
Eric speaks calmly as he leans over the smaller man, but his anger is starting to leak through as he continues to instruct Charlie, “When she was five, she was making decisions on bills, on what to pay and how to figure a budget. In Godric’s time, and even in mine, she would be playing with her dolls still. At seven, she was doing odd jobs to bring in what money she could to help pay for those bills and food. At that age she would be playing with the villagers as that same village watched over her. She was doing adult actions, and making adult decisions, long before she ever came here.”
His eyes flash as he looms over the smaller man in front of him. “When she came here, you did nothing to acknowledge her besides buying her a vehicle that she has had to dip into her own savings to pay for the gas to run your errands, to buy your groceries. She used the money that she should have been able to use to buy clothes or other things girls her age buy, or even save for college. Instead, she is thinking that, on top of everything else she is doing, that it is time for her to get a job. And the worst part? She is trying to convince us that this is right.”
Charlie stares at him. “And why isn’t it? I bought that damn truck so she can make her way to school, and do what needs to be done around here. She needed to show the community that she wasn’t like her mother, that she is responsible. This was a way for her to do so. She should have gotten a job by now, but that damn Cullen took up too much of her time. But I allowed it since he was from what I thought was a good family.” The taste of that decision still leaves a bad taste in his mouth. He had thought that the son of a doctor would be a safe boyfriend; he may even have gotten money from the man. They had plenty…
Eric’s eyes narrow. He is getting the nasty thought that Bella’s father did not take her in for the reason they had all thought… He glances behind him at Godric, and can see his eyes going dark too as he catches on to what Eric is thinking.
Charlie, though, doesn’t know when to shut up. “I allowed her to come here to get away from her mother. I allowed her to stay here, not paying rent. I did what was expected of a single father in this town to take care of the daughter that had been thrust into my keeping. And here is where she will stay. She ran away once and I am still dealing with that mess. And then now, not even a half a year later, she runs away again, and I had to have a search party formed to find her ass. Now she’s bringing dead things into the house, and snuggling up to one. No way is this going to happen with my permission!” By the end he is yelling.
Eric glares at him, his fangs dropping halfway through Charlie’s rant. He also hears Godric’s and Pam’s fangs drop, and Alcide’s and Sam’s growling. “Allowed? Did what was expected of a single father? Are you thinking this makes you her father, much less in the running for father of the year?”
A quiet voice says, “No, he is running for Sheriff. It is election year, isn’t it…Daddy.” The heartbreak as she realizes that she is nothing more to the man than a gimmick causes both Eric and Godric to snap.
Eric snarls as he grabs the man in front of him, “You took her in because of a fucking election? That is why you don’t want her to leave? So you don’t ruin your chances at a piece of shit town’s election of Sheriff? There is probably no one here who would even run against you! You treated my sister like your slave so that the town would think better of you!”
He tosses Charlie into his chair, not wanting to accidently kill the man. “You don’t deserve the name of father, much less Bella’s!”
Charlie sputters, then gloats when he recalls something he was told last night. He yells at them, “I rescind your invitation!”
And when nothing happens, Eric gives a fangy smile of satisfaction. “I forgot to mention, your mortgage company sold your mortgage last night. It is now mine, and under Bella’s name. It took some legal maneuvering, but it was well worth the expense.” His eyes gleam with satisfaction.
Before he could say anything else, Bella is in his arms, and Godric is now in front of Charlie. He is growling, his entire bearing changed into that of the vampire Eric had seen for the first time over his funeral pyre.
Godric is seeing red because of his rage. His Mate’s pain has become too much to bear and he wants revenge for her. Her ideas were proven as fact as she realizes that the only reason her father wanted her to come was to get one over on her mother and to help win his election. He didn’t really care if she stayed or left so long as appearances were kept. Thinking that her father didn’t love her wasn’t the same thing as knowing it.
Godric looks Charlie in the eye and he tells him, “You will never contact Bella. Ever. You don’t deserve her. If she needs a guardian in this world, Eric will be that. You were given a gift from the very gods, and instead of treating her the way you should have, you have torn out her heart. No one should ever learn that their parents actually do not want or care for them other than to use them to get themselves ahead. It is truly sad that I am glad she spent so much time with the Cold Ones. Even though it is killing her now, she at least had them around to feel like she was involved with a loving family. For all that she feels as though she didn’t fit in, I still know that she had more affection from them than she ever got from you or your ex-wife.”
Godric grins, but it isn’t a pleasant sight for the very frightened Chief. “But all that ends now. Bella is Eric’s sister in all ways. She is my Mate. In the world that is about to become real for the rest of the planet, she is mine. Eric will be her guide, her family in ways you have never been to her. And between the two of us, she will never want for anything again.”
Then his eyes narrow as he forces his glamour upon the man. “You will never tell anyone about us, nor will you do anything to point out our existence before the reveal. After the revelation, you will never speak ill of us. If anyone asks about Bella, you will tell them nothing but that she has decided to go to Philadelphia to finish school. If pressed for details, tell them anything you like, but never mention ill of her. If I ever find out you have brought attention to us in a negative way, or tried to demean or contact Bella in any fashion, including directing people to us, I will come back here and flay you alive. I will make sure you survive, but each time Eric and I need to come back to punish you, it will become progressively worse. And as we have both survived thousands of years and the tortures that one can visit upon the alive and the undead, we can be very…creative. Do you understand me, Chief Swan?”
Bella is staring at him, hidden in Eric’s arms as he has her wrapped up. He murmurs to her in what she guesses is now their mother tongue, but she is feeling so lost in this world that has gone so much more wrong than she has ever deserved.
She is lost in her pain as Godric makes him repeat back the glamour, and as Pam tests it out. Then Godric backs away from her father, still clenching his fists, but reminding himself that Bella will not forgive him or Eric at this point of time if they do much more than this. She may tell herself and them otherwise, but his Mate is too gentle hearted to allow much else to happen to him. He had to be satisfied with the fear he smells from the man, as well as the scent of the Chief pissing himself.
He turns to his Mate and son, and nods to the rest. Soon the house is full of activity as they get ready to vacate the premises. Eric hands Bella back to him, and blurs out of the room. Godric carries Bella out to his car and carefully sits in the passenger seat with her in his lap. He nuzzles her as he pushes his love and concern to her through their bond.
Soon Eric sits down in the driver’s seat of his Bugatti, and tosses a bag on the floor by Godric’s feet. He answers to his Maker’s raised eyebrow, “I hunted through her room to see if there was anything else. I noticed a floorboard that had been loosened and when I looked into it, I saw that. It looked like it was what she had been missing. I sealed it in a bag Dr. Ludwig gave me for her to look through later. I will send Pam back at some point to gather pictures and anything else she may want. I also glamoured the father to not destroy anything until we are able to return.”
At his nod, they both understand. This is her human life, and she will want reminders at some point. And unlike the rest of them, she can have them.
Godric asks, “Are we following someone?” They need to go to the Cullen’s house, the last errand they have in this god-forsaken town.
As Eric backs the car out, he nods to the side where Sam is in the van with the others, “He will take us. Pam has already called to have the jet ready for when we are done. I hate flying when at rest, but the sooner we are gone…”
Godric nods. He holds his Mate as they make their way to where the Cold Ones had lived. It is time for some answers.
Final count, 4,223 words.