Seeing Jason standing there – my brother who I hadn’t seen in two months and was now apparently a Fellowship soldier – physically, I froze. But my head didn’t get the all-stop message and instead, it forged on because I couldn’t seem to help but to hone in on his thoughts, with my mind unconsciously reaching for the familiarity of his.
He was confused, which in all honesty wasn’t an unfamiliar state for him. But he was also awed at seeing me again.
Relieved that he wasn’t the last surviving Stackhouse.
Leery of the company I was keeping.
Worried for my safety because of them.
He also had no idea I was a vampire.
The sting of tears burned behind my eyes, but letting them fall would be a dead giveaway.
Crying bloody tears would tell him I was dead – sort of – and as much as I wanted to run to him, to hold him to me in relief before I slapped the ever lovin’ snot out of him for joining the ranks of the Fellowship, now wasn’t the time.
Not with the Magister on his way.
I could only be grateful I’d taken the time to clean the bloody evidence from our fight with the Weres from my body before we’d gone out the front.
Torn between my two families – literally standing in between them – I wanted to protect them both.
It didn’t take long for me to realize there was only one way to do that.
Watching Jason put his high school football training to good use, he quickly began shouldering his way through the crowd that separated us. And the calm of my tone did nothing to hide the hysteria building inside of me, when I turned to face my Maker and all but begged him, “Please, Master. Glamour him and whoever he has here with him to forget they ever saw me.”
It was the only way. No matter how much it killed me inside, no matter how much I wanted to reconnect with my brother – to make him see reason – and get him away from the very ones who were truly responsible for my death, it would kill me more if something happened to any one of them.
Jason wasn’t the only one at risk. Godric and Eric were too, all because my brother would undoubtedly make a scene.
I had to believe there would be time later on to change Jason’s mind about his mislead anger at vampires.
I had no doubt if he stayed, he would be a distraction that would see us all dead by the Magister’s hand.
Godric was already moving to intercept him before I could even finish my plea, so maybe he’d already come to the same conclusion.
Or maybe he was just that good of a Maker.
Either way, I couldn’t bear to watch it unfold. To lose my brother for the second time in as many months, even knowing I might have a chance to one day fix it – third time’s a charm, or so they say – so I slammed my shields into place and turned around to avoid it all.
It was another gift of mine, even prior to becoming a vampire.
Master avoider. That was me.
But so focused on not focusing on anything, I’d unwittingly turned around to come face to face with Eric.
Unable to bear the weight of his stare either, my eyes dropped to the ground, while I tried to calm my frayed nerves. I needed to be small and inconsequential.
Godric’s newborn and nothing more.
I needed to not be a jittery mess when the Magister arrived.
Forgetting for a moment we had shared blood, Eric reminded me of it when I felt his attempt to ease my anxiety. Once upon a time, I was sure it would have irked me to no end.
Now I was grateful for it.
But now that he’d reminded me of that connection we shared – stronger than before, thanks to sharing our blood – my mind ran riot, recalling in vivid detail just how that particular situation came about.
I didn’t have to see his smirk to know it was there, with him feeling what I was now feeling.
And vice versa.
Just like he didn’t have to see my fangs to know they’d snapped down with my recollections.
One of which was that Eric Northman dressed to the right.
Apparently the need to fan my face hadn’t disappeared with my inability to blush.
On the inside, I was as red as a ripe tomato.
Taking deep breaths I didn’t –and yet did – need, I froze again at the unexpected voice coming from beside us, greeting Eric.
That’s what I got for slamming my shields into place.
Realizing what an epic fail that could turn out to be, given everything that had gone wrong that night already, I quickly lowered them and relaxed slightly, finding out straight from his thoughts that he was Eric’s tracker.
“Ruben,” Eric acknowledged.
Wondering how Eric was going to convey his need for Ruben to track down the queen – when she was still officially their queen, mind you – without every vampire surrounding us hearing his lead in to his Adventures in High Treason, I was prepared to be sufficiently awed at Eric’s skills in subterfuge.
Instead, we were both taken aback, more so by the end of his statement than the beginning, hearing the vampire say, “I tracked the Weres to Jackson. They’re in the employ of Russell Edgington. Compton is there as well.”
“Bill?” Eric repeated my thoughts out loud.
I couldn’t seem to catch a break in this seemingly never ending night, I’d mentally titled, ‘When Shit Goes Horribly Wrong.’
But Bill was the last thing I needed to deal with right now.
Right now, when I was already dealing with two Cajun fried monarchs, a Magister, my Fellowship soldier brother, and my vampire brother I’d inadvertently started a blood bond with.
Never mind the decidedly unbrotherly things I’d found myself doing with him.
And – if I was being honest with myself – maybe wanted to do with him again.
So while Bill was definitely on my Top Ten Shit List, he didn’t make the cut for the Top Five of shit I needed to worry about right now.
Now knowing everything he’d kept from me about giving me his blood, if I heard him huff out his Sookeh is mine bullshit, I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t fry his ass too.
Feeling Eric’s minor amusement at whatever nastiness he’d felt coming from me at the mention of Bill’s name, I glared at him, daring him to say something.
I wouldn’t kill him, but I’d make damn sure whatever retribution he faced would hurt.
Unaware his sheriff was in the midst of a sibling blood bond battle of wills, Ruben replied, “Yes. Compton’s Maker is there as well.”
Ahh…the almighty Lorena.
Bill hadn’t told me much of anything about her – other than the fact she hadn’t given him a choice in becoming her child – but then Bill hadn’t told me a lot of things. For all I knew that was just another lie among many, but he always seemed torn between reverence and disgust whenever she’d come up in conversation.
Sucks for him.
But having already lost all sympathy where he was concerned over his blatant lies to me, I didn’t much care where he was or who he was currently with.
Bigger fish currently occupied my frying pan.
I just needed to do whatever I could to keep our asses out of the fire.
And, if possible, finish frying up the other two monarchs’ asses before anything else could happen.
Somewhere in the distance, my mind catalogued the fact a now glamoured Jason was currently leaving the scene, none the wiser he’d seen his baby sister he now shared with the vampire at my side.
But it was my brother from another mother who provided me with the distraction I needed to keep from wallowing, when he spoke up and said, “So the queen is conspiring with Edgington.”
His tone wasn’t so much questioning as it was heavily laced with betrayal and a light sprinkling of wariness on top. But it was his inner voice that drew my attention, when he called out to me.
I’d only had one-sided silent conversations with Godric recently, so hearing another’s voice all but yelling in my mental ear made me startle internally.
Eric must have felt it because he’d seemingly been waiting for some sign I was paying attention to him before silently saying, “Can you tell from Ruben’s thoughts if he is loyal to the queen?”
Since I’d only had one-sided silent conversations with Godric recently, I hadn’t thought to school Eric on the finer points of telepathy.
Like giving me some warning he wanted me to dig into someone’s mind before asking them any leading questions.
Tuning out Eric and tuning into this Ruben fella, I could tell he was now focused more on the confusing connection to be made between the two monarchs than the queen herself.
So I had no choice but to pull Blond Bimbo Sookie out of the dusty corners of my mind she’d been stored in, giving her a somewhat harder edge than the one she so often used slinging beers at the bar, and tilted my head at Eric, asking with narrowed eyes, “The queen?”
I paid no mind to what Eric’s response was, instead focusing on Ruben’s inner voice.
Suffice it to say he wasn’t a fan.
But it was only from listening to his thoughts that I heard what Eric’s reply was because Ruben suddenly focused on trying to parse out the scent of the Weres through the fire that surrounded us.
He found it.
But Weres weren’t the only things he scented because he became eerily still and glanced warily at me – the stranger in the bunch – before looking at Eric for permission to speak freely in front of me.
Not a mind reader himself, I had to quickly send Eric a burst of calm, reading from both his thoughts and his stance that he’d taken Ruben’s glance the wrong way.
That Ruben had rightfully figured out the true answer in the vampire version of Clue we were playing.
That it was me, with the matchsticks for fingers, in the alley out back.
Eric was gearing up for a fight, so I had no choice but to commit a vampire faux pas, by reaching out and putting my hand on his forearm – more for the contact because there was no way I would ever be able to physically overpower him – and gave them both the answer they were seeking by softly saying, “Brother?”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but to a vampire tracker a single word is worth a thousand answers because in that moment Ruben put together the other clues in the air surrounding us.
Our scents verified we shared a Maker.
And the fact we had shared blood as well.
Put at ease by my connection to Eric, I only had a split second to lock down my facial expression right before he said in the barest of whispers, “I scent not only Mississippi’s Weres here, but Mississippi as well.”
I hadn’t so much forgotten Godric was there with us, but I was so used to his constant presence that I only truly noticed when he wasn’t nearby. Even so, I’d kind of forgotten he was there until he came to stand at our side and slightly admonished us all with, “Speak no further of this until the Magister arrives.”
Well, Pam did say that vampires loved to gossip, so I could only hope our actions would be attributed to that.
Advocating scandal over sedition.
A small part of me wondered if the Magister just had impeccable timing or if he was part Bloody Mary folklore part Chuck Norris because his name only had to be said one time for him to appear.
No mirror required.
“Speak no further of what?” he asked in lieu of any kind of greeting, with his eyes taking in the bonfire in front of us.
Where in the hell was the fire department anyway?
I wondered if anyone had bothered to call 911 – I know Eric wouldn’t have – but I didn’t dare ask. I didn’t make a peep because I got the feeling this was one of those situations where ‘the adults’ would be speaking and us youngin’s should be seen and not heard, so I kept my trap shut and let Godric do all of the talking.
I knew from our time together that he could weave a pretty fantastic tale, but he really outdid himself with the one he spun for the Magister.
He painted the picture of a queen so desperate to keep her throne that she attacked her loyal sheriff – his own child – unprovoked. It was only Eric’s prowess as a warrior that enabled him to defeat the Weres and save himself (and his insignificant-to-the-fight newborn sister).
There was BETRAYAL and VIOLENCE!
And he somehow managed to infer there might be a traitor in the Magister’s entourage – for Sophie-Anne to have caught wind of their plans – without ever saying the words out loud.
So Godric had basically filled in all of the blanks that made up a good vampire story.
But it was Ruben’s added two cents that really brought it home.
The fact he could scent not only the Weres he’d recently tracked to Edgington’s compound, but the scent of Edgington himself.
On the outside the Magister appeared to be as cool as a cucumber and even though his thoughts were in a language I didn’t understand, I could tell on the inside he was furious. After deliberating for only a few moments, he finally said in a tone that would’ve given me chills, if I was still susceptible to that kind of thing, “So they mean to usurp the power of The Authority.”
The menace he exuded was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard before. So I really hoped he never figured out a way to see past the wool we’d so artfully covered his eyes with.
He had really scary eyes.
And maybe he had a six-six-sixth sense because I’d barely finished my thought when he turned those scary eyes onto me, putting both Godric and Eric on alert.
So I wasn’t the only one then.
“I wasn’t aware you had made a new child.”
There was nothing in his expression or tone for me to go on.
Pleased? Indifferent? Disgusted?
It all looked the same on his stony face.
“Two months ago,” Godric replied.
But more than his words, it was feeling him flooding our bond with strength and calm that had my anxiety rising, so without it I can’t be sure I wouldn’t have fainted dead away when the Magister quickly did the math and came to one conclusion.
The one I wasn’t prepared for everyone to know about.
“Two months ago you were being held by the Fellowship,” he mused aloud before turning his gaze towards Eric. “You went to Dallas looking for your Maker and brought with you an asset to aid in your search.”
“A telepath,” he finished, with his eyes boring into my own.
If I could have, I would have been sweating buckets.
What with our asses now in the fire.
As it was, I had to restrain myself from swallowing hard and pulling at my nonexistent collar, to try and get some air into my lungs.
Air I didn’t – and yet did – need.
Taking a step closer, Godric’s body barely brushed against my own, but it felt like he was holding up all of my weight just the same.
Just like there was an unmistakable weight in his words, when he solemnly offered, “Sookie showed great courage, bravery, and loyalty when she came to my rescue that day. She had been mortally injured, but her only concern as she lay dying was that I escape. I gave her the choice to become my child and she accepted.”
While I could feel the admiration coming from Godric as he spoke, I could tell Eric only felt horror at the reminder of that night.
I almost wished I hadn’t told him Godric’s true purpose for being there.
But unaware of the drama currently circling through our shared blood, the Magister seemed to have a one-track mind and merely repeated, “A telepath.”
“I wasn’t aware of her gift to read human minds until she rose,” Godric calmly replied. And then answering what was surely the unspoken question, he added, “A gift she retained.”
Since the Magister had already been made aware of my existence at some point, I could see the reasoning why Godric thought to verify at least that much about me. After all, Sookie wasn’t a common name and I’d been caught up in their vampire bullshit back when I’d still been human.
Stupid supernatural super-gossips.
Why could I have been named Christy or Megan?
I knew of at least three of each in my high school graduating class.
No longer needing to blink, I was still staring at the man when I saw a brief glint in the Magister’s eyes – it was my only warning – before his mind was suddenly flooded with images of both his horrific past and his imaginings of the horrific things he could and would do to Godric, Eric, and Pam, while he calmly asked, “Just humans?”
I’d heard the words he’d spoken out loud, but all I saw was him flaying their skin from their bodies.
Cutting out their eyes and removing their limbs.
I knew it would be bad if anyone outside of our little family found out what I could do, but seeing it with my own mental eyes really brought home just how little I knew.
And he had no idea I was a day walker too.
It took every ounce of willpower I had to stay my fangs in my gums – and praise Jesus I didn’t have a heartbeat to give me away anymore – while I was flooded with caution and calm from two sides.
God only knows what all they were feeling from me.
But they must have figured out what he was doing because it was Eric’s mental voice that broke through the nightmare playing behind my eyes, all but shouting, “Sookie! Put your shields up!”
Slamming them into place, it helped enough to keep the Crazy Sookie smile from my face and I knew only seconds had passed. So I hoped he would be none the wiser, when I finally nodded my head in answer to his question, while only admitting, “Weres and Shifters too, but I haven’t been around very many since my turning to know if I can read them better now.”
It wasn’t a lie.
It just wasn’t the full truth.
I would claim it as a vampire skill, but I’d been doing the same thing for most of my life.
I never would have guessed I’d been training to become a vampire.
But it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I could do without all of the backstabbing and underhanded bullshit, but the same could be said about my human life.
At least now I had Godric – and maybe even Eric and Pam too – to stand with me.
Knowing I had at least one person unconditionally on my side no matter what did wonders for my confidence.
And as bad as it was now – as bad as I suspected it was going to get – I could still see us making it through it all to the other side and it brought to mind a quote from The Lorax.
‘It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.’
So while our present situation was dire, I didn’t see it as being insurmountable.
Alone, we were all vulnerable.
I had been as a human.
Godric had been when he’d turned himself over to the Fellowship.
Lord only knows what Eric would have been like had he lost our Maker. And even without knowing her very well, I was just as sure that would have had a negative effect on Pam.
But together, though…together, I believed we could be unstoppable.
And it was my next thought that – oddly enough – filled me with peace.
Because somewhere out there, there was a crispy three thousand year old vampire king, who could testify as to what happened when you went against us.
The man before us – Magister or not – wouldn’t stand a chance.