He was tangled all around me, his coolness offering relief to the hot temperature of my skin after his lessons in why this was the right decision for me to make. I wanted to bliss out, and forget the part that needed to come next, but the size of the choice before me created a knot in my chest that left me struggling for air.
It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I tried to hide it from him, but as always he saw through me, and as always accepted me, just as I was, even when I was in full panic mode. “Shhh,” he soothed me as he stroked my hair, and held me tight to his chest. “You’re all right, Sookie. I’m right here.”
“But that’s just it,” I mumbled into his chest, not even wanting to hear it myself, sure that he would feel the same when I let loose all the doubts that were tearing at me. “What happens if I lose you in all this?”
“I can only tell you that I would never leave you willingly.” He held me tighter to emphasize his words, and though well intentioned, they triggered an even larger wave of panic in me as I struggled for air. I pushed him away, moving quickly to the side of the bed, panting as though I had run a mile. I felt nauseous and dizzy, consciousness sliding away from me in the dark cold tunnel of panic. He was beside me in an instant, trying his best to calm me, but this was something I would have to do for myself.
Dozens of nightmarish scenarios bombarded me in ruthless succession. Russell killing him because I fucked up, and did something stupid. Russell killing me because I fucked, and did something stupid. Russell killing us both for no reason at all. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, trying to hold it together as my mind ran wild with horrible things that were all too possible.
I had seen firsthand how it was with Russell in Jackson, and pretty dancing and dazzling Viking aside, he was a powder keg waiting to blow. The most dangerous thing I had ever faced before meeting Bill Compton was a handsy backwoods redneck who thought my body was his playground. I had been standing in a field of daisies by comparison to what we had seen in Jackson.
That would be my life all the time. In Mississippi I had shut it all out, and focused only on Eric. I took my cues from him, and acted in the way that he asked me to behave. While it had seemed to last forever, in actuality, it had been only a few hours in total. What would happen to me if I dived into the deep end of this pool, and lost my handsome blue eyed floaty? Would they just let me pack a bag, and leave by the backdoor? Not likely, and so, if this was to be my path, I would have to learn how to handle them as I had learned to handle the handsy backwoods rednecks.
I started to calm as I imagined myself sailing among these creatures with my head held high, focused only on doing what needed to be done. Silver, sunlight and wood would be my allies in the night world, where as in the day, it had been a quick kick to the balls, and an icy glare.
“What happens if you kick a vampire in the balls?” I asked Eric, my head still down between my knees, though I was slowly starting to relax.
“Do I need to be worried?” he sounded amused, but slightly on edge.
“Probably not. I was thinking about ways to defend myself when you are not there.”
“Ah. Well, if you kick a vampire in the balls he will go down just like a regular human male, but with a much faster recovery time, and you have to really lay into him because we have a higher tolerance for pain. You know that if anyone ever dared to touch you, they would have to answer to me, right?”
“I know, but I want to make sure I am around to see it happen.”
“You are frightened?”
“Aren’t you?” He hesitated to answer making me wonder if he was disappointed in me for being a coward.
“Yes, but you mustn’t let that add to your fears. I will master my emotions to keep us safe.” A thought struck me, pulled up from the mix of anxiety by his calm words.
“Are the wolves still after me?” As soon as I said it, I realized I was asking the wrong question. “Is Russell still after me?”
“I don’t think so. He knew who you were, but based on his desire to take Louisiana, and the fact that Compton had told him of Sophie Anne’s V ring as leverage for his take over, I believe that you were only a target to keep him in line. It was the fact that you tried to save Talbot that spurred him into sparing me, I think. ” I thought that over and came to another nasty conclusion.
“Lorena did this, didn’t she? To get Bill back, she went to Russell, and told him that Bill could help him take Louisiana for his own.”
“Did the Magister kill her?” Anger had taken all the space that fear had owned a moment before, as I imagined watching that bitch fry in the sun.
“He took possession of her to stand trial for the V. Her final fate has not been decided yet. I expect that both Russell and I will be required to speak at her trial.” I huffed in anger at even the thought she would see another moonrise. “Fear not, Sookie. Russell has been damning in his testimony of her leadership in the V ring. She will not escape her trial alive.”
“Does Russell know I am a telepath?”
“If so, he does not know it from me, nor will he, ever. I am fairly certain that Bill has told Sophie Anne.”
“And she won’t tell him?”
“Not unless it serves her in some way.”
“Assume it does serve her, what happens if he finds out?” He laid back on the bed, distancing himself from the words he wanted to say even less than I wanted to hear them.
“He will probably seek to turn it to his advantage. Perhaps encourage you to use you gift to serve him.”
“That is a really pretty way to say he would force me to listen for him. What would happen to you if he found out you had hidden it from him?”
“He would not be pleased.”
“So we will tell him ourselves.” Eric sat up quickly, I could feel the intensity of his gaze.
“What? Why would you do that?” he asked, his voice filled with disbelief.
“Because I won’t let Sophie Anne hang it over our heads as weapon. If we go into this, you as his security chief and me as…whatever I am to you, then we should go in with our cards on the table.”
“Whatever you are to me…?” he sounded hurt that I did not have a label handy for what had been happening between us. I knew how I thought of us, but I wasn’t sure how he thought of us. His reaction told me that I had wounded him with my uncertainty. “I have told you what you mean to me, Sookie. Why do you doubt me?”
“I suppose it’s myself that I doubt. I’m still trying to figure out what is so all fired special about me that Bill and the queen would target me. I’m just a fucked up little waitress who does badly in large crowds because of how I am.” I turned on the bed to face him. “Remember, I told you I had a lifetime of thinking to change about myself. That doesn’t happen overnight.”
“Surely, you see the irony in offering your greatest secret up to Russell while doubting who you are?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know anyone that brave. Myself included.”
“It’s not bravery, it’s common sense. Russell is the power player. We need what good will he might have for us; to play him in any way could only end badly. We need him on our side, and he we need him to believe that we are on his.”
“Even so, to offer such a thing is…remarkable.” I started to dismiss him, but I stopped and accepted the compliment as it was intended. After a brief struggled I realized again, that I liked how he made me see myself.
“If Bill had not already betrayed me to Sophie Anne I might agree that telling Russell was a bad idea, but this information is already in play. All we can do now is spin it to our advantage.” I reached out to take his hand before going on. “I do want to be very clear about one thing, though.”
“That I think we should tell him because I want to keep you safe.”
“Which is the very reason I am against it. I want to keep you safe as well.”
“But you will do it?”
“As much as I hate the idea, it does seem to be the practical thing to do. There is a small chance he already knows. If we go to him, and tell him ourselves it may, as you say, allow us to spin it in our favor.”
“And if he already knows, then the safest place I can be is with you, at his side.”
When I rose the next night Sookie was watching a news broadcast. She held her hand out for me to join her, never taking her eyes off the screen.
“And in a late breaking story, there has been an attack on the Fellowship of the Sun. Reports are still coming in but it seems that in the middle of an afternoon service at least a dozen wolves entered into the church and attacked the congregation. Reverend Steve Newlin and his wife are reported missing at this time. An all-points bulletin has been issued on both Newlins, and our prayers go out those who have been harmed in the attack. To help us understand how this might have happened we have asked a representative from Game and Wildlife to speak with us tonight on the behavior of wolves, and just why they seem to have committed this attack in Dallas. For that report, we go to Rob Barnes, on site with Crandall James. Rob?”
Sookie turned to me with her eyes wide. “Russell’s wolves?”
“Yes.” I knew he had lied to Nora and Salome, but I had never dreamed he would send his pack in broad daylight to avenge Talbot.
“Did you know he was going to do this?”
“No. I thought he might do something, but not this.” No wonder he sent me away. If I had been there I might have talked him out of it, listing all the reasons why this was not going to go the way he wanted it to. Steve Newlin was a weasel, in every sense of the word, but he was a weasel who stood brightly in the spotlights after what had happened in Dallas just a few weeks ago. Any attack on him now would be blamed on vampires, even if it seemed to be a random animal attack.
Nan Flannigan, representing the AVL was now on the screen, answering questions about that very thing.
“We live in a modern world of science and empirical evidence. It is absolutely medieval for vampires to be blamed every time something goes bump in the night. We do not have the ability to control wolves, no matter what modern cinema might lead you to believe. Reverend Newlin and I have certainly had our differences in the past, but at this time we should focus on making sure he and his wife are safely returned. I feel certain that if we can investigate professionally, and set aside our bigotry and bias, we will find out the truth of the tragedy that has happened today in Dallas, and use that knowledge to avoid such occurrences in the future.”
Gods, how I hated that bitch. I would never forgive the disrespect that she had shown Godric in Dallas, which was salt on the wound of what she had done to me in France. The night I took her head all would be squared between us. I looked forward to it more and more every time I saw her face, but she was also was mighty right now. She was the face of all vampires to the human world, but spotlights fade and the mighty always fall. My time would come. I took some small satisfaction from knowing that she was probably shitting bricks right now.
Sookie turned off the television and turned to me. “What does this mean for us?” I had not told her of Nora and Salome’s treachery simply because there was too much backstory she would need to even begin to understand. Quickly, I weighed out the possibility of going to Roman, telling him everything and letting him deal with Russell. I dismissed it almost as soon as I thought it.
He might be able to stand against Russell, but the foundation of his house was cracking. Bringing him in on what I knew would lead to first his death, and then ours, by forcing an alliance between Russell and the Sanguanistas to stand united against him. I didn’t doubt for a second that Nora would leap at another chance to recruit him.
“I think the best chance we have is to put our hands on the burning wheel that is Russell Edgington, and hope that we can hold on long enough to turn him before he crashes us all into the wall.” She was quiet for a very long time beside me, no doubt reconsidering her decision, and as much as I hated it, I could not blame her. Already, this was more than she had bargained for when she signed on with me.
“Sookie,” I started, ready to tell her that I wanted her to stay here, where it might be safer than at my side, but she stopped me.
“I need to go tell Sam that I am quitting, and I would like to find Jason to say good-bye. He’s probably at the bar now, too. Will you come with me?” She held her hand out to me after she stood. Hating myself for it, I took it in mine, and silently followed her out.
“Just take a booth and order me a burger,” she said, looking up at me with a slight smile on her lips. “I’ll go find Sam, and be right with you. Maybe Jason will come in before we leave, or we can stop by his house on the way home.” I nodded, allowing a brash red head who looked very uncomfortable to seat me.
I was lost in my thoughts when she came out a few minutes later, red in the face and shaking. The shifter slunk out a few minutes later, pouring himself a stout drink and downing it quickly, glaring at her the whole time. “He doesn’t approve,” I observed dryly.
“Not of anything he can’t control.” The red head sat her food down, and scurried away without asking if there was anything else we required. I shook my head in disgust at these people that filled her daylight life. If they cared for her, why would they treat her like this? And while I was taking her into danger it was starting to seem almost better than leaving her here with these dead eyed people whose hearts still beat.
Jason came in a few minutes later, talking loudly to some of his friends as they sat down at the bar. Sookie excused herself, and went to get him, wanting us to meet, she said as she touched my hand briefly. If Merlotte was any indication, I was not expecting the warm welcome that Sookie was so evidently hoping would come from this meeting.
When he strutted over, stopping to flip his cap around before plopping into the booth beside her, across from me, I was even less reassured. “What’s up, Sis?”
“Jason, this is Eric Northman.” He took a swig of his beer, and then held out his hand to me. I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes at this annoying human custom and took it, shaking it firmly, careful not to break his hand. I was sure he remembered our words in Dallas just before the bomb had gone off. He had been scared of me then, and was now as well, but he was hiding it from her.
“I remember you from Dallas,” he offered, his silent nod to our conversation.
“As do I,” I assured him, as I released his hand.
“I’m going to be gone for a while Jason. I want you to keep an eye on the house for me.”
“Back to Dallas?” he asked, taking another drink of beer. “Did you hear about what happened to the Newlins? Mutherfuckers had it coming, if you ask me. I can come with you if you need me to? I still owe that Newlin fucker a kick in the balls.”
“No, not to Dallas. I will be traveling with Eric.” She hesitated waiting to see if he would pick up what she was alluding to.
“Yer with him now? What about Bill?”
“Bill is dead.”
“What the fuck? What happened? I thought ya’ll was gettin’ hitched?”
“He died in the bar explosion in Jackson last week.”
“Shit! I heard about that, another one of those Fellowship nut jobs. Hell, I’m sorry Sook, I know you loved him. He was all right, and I told him so in Dallas.” He finished his beer, belching with gusto before he held his empty up until he caught the red heads eye to bring him another. “Still, taking up with another vampire, that’s fast, Sookie. Gran didn’t raise you to be no fast girl.”
“No, she raised me to be a smart girl, and this is the smart thing for me to do.” Before he could insult her again, provoking me further, she took his hand. “There’s food at the house that needs to be eaten. Come on by, and take it back to your place. No sense in letting it going to waste.”
“Will I be able to call you, just to make sure you’re all right? I feel like Gran would want me to check on you.” His caring for her welfare underwhelmed me. He would check on her from obligation, but not from a genuine desire to know she was well. I was suddenly overcome with a desire to kill them all for their careless and callous treatment of her.
“I’ll be in touch when we get settled,” she assured him. I had every hope she would never have to talk to this piece of shit again.
“When you leaving?”
“Tomorrow night, first thing.”
“All right, I’ll come by day after and clean out the fridge.” He turned to me. “You gonna take care of her? Call me if she gets in any trouble?” To do what, I wondered? For her sake I found a scrap of graciousness.
“I will care for her as she deserves, and keep her safe. You have my word. Rest assured when I give my word on something, it is my bond.” He paled under his redneck tan, before nodding, and making his excuses to be away. He didn’t even hug her, and while she hid her hurt masterfully, she could not hide it from the bond we shared. After watching her heart break when he walked away, I suggested we go. She looked at her untouched burger, her face scrunching in distaste, too upset to eat.
I stood, dropping a fifty on the table, and holding my hand out to her. She rose gracefully, taking it, and squeezing it tightly as we headed for the door. Just before we got there it swung open, allowing a tall gorgeous brunette to sweep through. The scent of her hit me full force, making my fangs explode from my gums and my cock harden.
“Eric?” Sookie whispered to me, sensing that something was amiss with me. My eyes were stuck on the brunette who breezed by me, covering me in a cloud of her delicious scent. Sookie jerked my arm when I took a step to follow her. The jolt pulled me back to myself. Before I could figure out what had happened, the woman turned, and took a step back toward us, her smile blinding me.
“I’m sorry, don’t I know you from somewhere?” Her voice was like a thousand little silver bells in my ears. My feet took another step toward her. Sookie slid between us like quicksilver, looking up at me with a frown.
“Eric?” It was feeling her distress that freed me enough to break my lock on the woman, who was now coming toward me, and look into Sookie’s eyes. I was scaring her. Fuck, I was scaring myself.
“Guess I was mistaken. Sorry about that,” the woman said before she turned away with a wink, and headed deeper into the bar.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked him, once I had dragged him outside. I was answered with a ferocious kiss that took away my anger, setting something free in me that was every bit as dark and consuming.
“Need you,” he said against my lips, lifting me off the ground, his hands under my hips as my legs wrapped around him. He groaned when I rocked against him, using his hands to press me harder to him. I felt us leave the ground when the bottom fell out of my stomach. I held on tightly as he flew us toward my old farm house, using some internal guide I could not measure as he continued to kiss me savagely.
When we touched down in my yard, I was in such an aroused state that all reason was in a land some place far away. I grabbed a handful of his hair, pulling his head back to make him look at me. “Did you want her?” I demanded to know. He looked dazed and confused. “Well you can’t have her! You are mine!” He shuddered under me, his knees giving way, he sat down hard on my grass. I rode him down, my passion and anger mixing in a dangerous recipe of lip freeing magic.
“Say that again.”
“Mine. Mine. MINE!” I pushed him down the grass, leaning over him as I raged. In a blink he flipped us over, pressing his hips between my thighs, dry humping me right there in my yard. I wanted to tear his flesh, mark him in some way so that strange women would know better. I saw her again in my mind’s eye. There was something about her, more than her looks and his reaction to her that made me feel primal and wild.
I tugged his shirt up, and bit him on his chest, tasting the faintest traces of his blood in my mouth has he howled my name. I bit him again, scratching his skin with my short nails. Every time I draw blood from him, he howled again, rocking harder into me, his eyes closed in ecstasy.
He must have shredded our clothes, but I only noticed because there was nothing between us any longer. This time when he rocked into me he sank all the way in, his whole body stiffening as he felt me take him completely. I pulled his hair again.
“I want to mark you. I want them all to know who you belong to!”
“Yes,” he groaned, punctuating his capitulation with another long hard thrust into me. “Do it!” Something happened inside me when he agreed, it felt like I was burning from the inside out. My hands clutched him tighter, the fire in me focusing there, like I had stuck them into a burning flame.
He must had felt it, too, because he started fucking me faster, grunting with me on the downfall of each thrust. The mix of pain from my hands, and pleasure from what his body was doing to mine, coalesced into a perfect storm of completion.
“They’ll all know,” I babbled, hearing my words turn to a scream as a rush of power ran up my arms, exiting through my hands, and landing full force on his skin. His fangs sank into my neck as we fell apart together there on the grass. I wrapped my arms and legs around him tightly, planning to never let him go as he sipped my blood. Without thinking, I turned my face into his long neck, and bit him again, hard enough to draw his blood into my mouth as I sucked hard on the wound.
For just a moment I felt him winding his soul around mine, and it was sublime. Then there was another surge of power, this time throughout my entire body. I opened my eyes in time to see an explosion of light break the dark around us. It rose up through the night like a spotlight, the intensity blinding me before it ended as quickly as it had come.
We lay there in the grass, still locked together shaking from the intensity of what we had just shared. I wanted to tell him that I really hoped he was serious about loving me because he was never getting rid of me now, but I didn’t have the heart to tease him. I could feel his love for me now. It was a strange love, like a living thing between us. There was no room for doubt, or fear any longer.