And there it was.
The look I’d seen on countless faces. The same expression directed at me at one point or another from everyone I’d ever known for nearly my entire life.
The one that said I was a freak.
A freak with fangs, but a freak nonetheless.
Even with my death, I managed to retain the title.
And even worse, I knew it was because of my selfish and impulsive want to live – even without a heartbeat – that my even freakier special brand of mutant was putting Godric’s life in danger.
And now Eric’s and Pam’s too.
Even as a vampire, I wasn’t normal.
When we’d discovered not only had my telepathy remained, but that I was immune to the sun, Godric warned me of the dangers we now faced, emphasizing the ‘we’, due to my gifts.
Emphasis on ‘gifts’.
Up until then, he’d been nothing but humble about his two thousand years of existence. Shown me the softer human side of a two millennium old being.
The one who’d wanted to atone for two thousand years of wrongdoings in his mind.
But the monster he was capable of being practically radiated off him that night, even as he tried to calmly reassure me that he would keep me safe.
But my reason for wanting to be a vampire was so I wouldn’t need anyone’s protection. I’d wanted to be strong.
I’d wanted to be able to take care of myself.
Instead I was an impulsive idiot whose mere existence made me a perceived threat to everyone else’s.
And I’d already learned while I was still human that vampires didn’t play by human rules.
There wouldn’t be any disdainful or fearful looks aimed my way. No off the cuff remarks condemning me as a ‘devil child’, while the high and mighty normal folk turned tail and ran before I could hear their deepest darkest secrets.
Vampires played by a different set of rules.
A deadly set.
Somewhere out there, there was a stake with my name on it.
But at least when I was still human the only person in danger because of my curse had been me. Now it wasn’t just my life on the line, but the survival of the very man who’d given me the gift of eternal life was threatened.
Because I knew with my whole un-beating heart that Godric would fight for me to the death.
And it was only the thought of anyone coming after him that kept my spine straight. That gave me a sense of resolve that I would see us through this.
I would fight for him just as hard as he would fight for me.
Defeat was unacceptable because I knew, with my demise, he would once again despair. Maybe not right away, but eventually he would succumb to it.
Just the thought of him standing on some far off rooftop at sunrise was too much for me to bear.
No longer looking at anyone, not wanting to see whatever expression they wore on their face – be it anger or pity – I merely stared at my lap and went into downtime, waiting for someone to say something.
I didn’t have to wait long.
“You would be stubborn enough to not only gain the moon and stars, but to keep your beloved sun too.”
Looking up at Eric, certain I’d misread his teasing tone, his smirk highlighted his face when my eyes met his and he added, “You’re greedy. I like it.”
Eric – of all people – I expected to be the most upset at finding out my secret.
Both my secret survival and my secret gifts, which were still a curse in my book.
But he looked somewhat pleased, if not a little apprehensive, and a little bit envious to boot.
So I returned his backhanded olive branch with a smirk of my own, saying, “You can fly. That’s a more practical ability than mine.”
But it was as if fate was having fun at my expense because no sooner had I said the words when I heard them.
Them being the thoughts of the vampires who guarded the Magister and were now moving to surround the building.
I couldn’t read his thoughts since they – like Godric’s and Eric’s – were in another language, but I knew he wasn’t someone to be messed with. It was because of him that Jessica had been punished right along with Bill for his crime of staking Long Shadow to save me.
But some of the vampires with him thought in English and they were moving in fast.
Picking up on my distress, Godric glanced my way, so I didn’t take the time to somehow soften the blow, as I quickly explained, “The Magister is here. He’s been tipped off that Eric is selling V.”
From what I felt coming from him next, I wouldn’t say I picked up on Godric’s distress.
More like, I was nearly knocked over by his clashing waves of anger, disbelief, and disappointment, as his eyes found their way to his eldest child’s.
Looking as calm as ever, I idly wondered if his middle name was ‘Cucumber’ and then discarded the thought just as quickly, remembering some of the thoughts I’d picked up from the women he’d been with in the past.
Surely their memories of what he was packing were distorted.
Thankfully, I was the only mind reader in the room, and Eric just stared back at Godric as he admitted, “The queen ordered me to sell it, but I have not yet complied. I’ve been paying her out of my own funds, while I figure a way out of it. But they will find nothing. The blood has been secured at another location.”
Already shaking my head, hearing the thoughts whirling through the other heads, I sped from the room and was back just as quickly, with the evidence now in my hand as I said, “They got a tip that they were going to find some in the break room.”
“That bitch,” Pam seethed, with her eyes locked onto the small cooler in my hand.
And Eric sounded just as angry when he explained, “Sophie-Anne showed up unannounced the other night. She must have left it here and then tipped off the magister.”
All three of them looked like deer caught in the headlights, but I refused to believe there wasn’t a way out of it.
Call it the ‘Jason’ in me.
With one mental eye on the vampires who had yet to make their way inside, I sped back to the break room, with the cooler in hand and yanked open the refrigerator where I found our salvation.
In the form of a tuna fish sandwich.
Now having a vampire sense of smell, I couldn’t argue that human food smelled disgusting, but that sandwich was especially nasty.
Opening the cooler, there were only half a dozen vials of blood inside and while they were sealed, I could still smell the lingering odor of vampire blood on the lining even after I’d removed them. So I took the sandwich out of the Ziplock baggie it was in and shoved it into the cooler, zipping it up tight and tossing it on a shelf in the refrigerator.
Good luck to any vamp sticking their nose into that.
I shoved the vials into the baggie next and spying the coffee pot on the counter, I remembered seeing on the news that drugs were sometimes concealed in coffee grounds because they disguised the scent from dogs. Figuring it couldn’t hurt, I dumped the wet grounds into the baggie too and sealed it up.
And then shoved the whole thing up under my skirt and tucked into the front of my underwear.
The sound of soft applause behind me made me spin around to see that I’d had an audience of three.
I would have blushed to the high heavens if it was still possible.
But seeing that Pam had found the show applause worthy, I walked towards her and gestured to the one part of me she’d always shown the most interest in and said, “How does it smell?”
Bending down, she inhaled deeply, and her crinkled face nearly made me laugh, despite the danger we were all still in, as she said, “Not nearly as appetizing as I’d imagined.”
“So, it’s no summer’s eve, huh?” I chuckled.
“More like the dead of summer on a shrimp trawler,” she forced out, refusing to inhale any more air in order to speak.
I tucked that info away for future use, certain – at some point – I would want a way to get Pam to shut up.
Just as both Godric and Eric agreed they couldn’t scent the vampire blood on me, the startled gasps from the humans, at the Magister and his guards entering the bar, could be heard.
Eric and Pam sped out into the bar, but before I could follow, Godric held me back and whispered just loud enough for me to hear, “He will want the bar emptied of humans. Blend in with the crowd and take the car. I will find you once this is taken care of.”
My first impulse was to stay – to help in any way I could – but my first impulses were usually what led to me getting into trouble.
Likely sensing my rising argument, he only had to say, “Or I will command you,” to get my feet to do his bidding.
According to Godric I didn’t register as a vamp right away. My freakish nature knew no bounds apparently and he even said my skin was slightly warmer than usual.
Not much, but enough.
And I supposed he was right because his touch felt slightly cooler on my skin, but it was something I’d come to associate as comforting well before I became one of them, so I was okay with it.
Now I had to put my years of practice, pretending to not know what was really going on, to use.
I slipped out of the door and into the bar, just as the humans were being herded out the front. And reading the thoughts of one of the terrified patrons – a tourist who’d just wanted to see what the inside of a vampire bar looked like – I slid alongside of her and slipped my hand into hers. My fears – albeit for a different reason – matched the ones on her face and I tried to project a sisterly solidarity to her when she turned to look back at me.
Seeing me dressed as I was – not as a typical fangbanger – I knew from her head that she didn’t realize I was a vampire. In her mind, I was a tourist just like her and I got similar thoughts from the vampire guard we passed by together as we walked through the front door, just as I heard the Magister, sounding both impressed and cautious, say, “Godric. I didn’t realize you would be here.”
Knowing my Maker, he should be both impressed and cautious.
And once again, I had to fight the urge to turn around. But it was almost as if I could physically feel Godric’s hands pushing me out into the parking lot that made my feet carry me forward.
It wasn’t until I climbed into the driver’s seat that I realized my first impulse had once again failed me, now feeling the six vials of blood in their coffee grounds-filled pouch, pressing against my abdomen.
My departure would be more of a help to them than sticking around would ever be.
So I left them there, safely hidden away under my dress, and started the car, before pulling out onto the interstate with no particular destination in mind.
I knew Godric would be able to find me halfway across the globe and with the evidence of any V dealing out of the bar, I hoped the Magister’s visit wouldn’t take very long.
As I drove, my mind eventually wandered to Eric for some reason. Godric had been right – that he wasn’t the vampire I remembered him to be – but he was somewhat the same too.
Pushing my buttons and calling me ‘lover’ of all things.
Which I could admit to myself – in the empty car – pushed other buttons.
Being raped in the basement of the church had been traumatic, but in an out-of-body sort of way. With my back being broken at the time, I hadn’t been able to feel him on me – in me – so it was more like a bad dream.
A horrible nightmare.
Any physical evidence of the attack had been healed with my turning, so there weren’t any wounds to see or feel when I rose. But being a day walker came with other side effects I never imagined I would rather do without.
The sun didn’t take my consciousness with it. Instead I slept when my body needed rest and I’d been afflicted with nightmares of that day, on and off, since my turning.
It was only due to Godric’s age that he was able to wake, feeling my terror, if Gabe found me in my dreams during the daytime. His mere presence was a comfort.
My memories of what he had done to Gabe on my final day alive were a blessing.
If Godric hadn’t already killed him, I knew without a doubt I would have done it myself by now.
But even entertaining those kinds of thoughts made me wonder just how messed up my psyche was now. It was difficult to distinguish what I should feel. As a human I knew I would have felt at least guilt and remorse over both his death and wanting him dead.
As a vampire I only felt vindication.
All of it left me confused.
So I was grateful Godric hadn’t added to my burden. While I always felt affection from my Maker – my savior – I was thankful I hadn’t felt any lust from him.
If he felt it, he kept it carefully hidden from me.
But I’d somehow intuited on that day in the basement that he was a good man. The fact he’d given Eric a subtle reproach when he’d addressed me as ‘Lover’ showed he was still concerned about what had happened to me. But, then again, he’d witnessed the lingering aftereffects firsthand.
However, I knew from Bill sometimes Makers and their children had sexual relationships. He’d made it sound like it was practically a given. That vampires couldn’t control their urges. But Bill had proven himself a liar because I also knew from him that it wasn’t always the case.
Case in point, I knew he and Jessica had never been intimate.
It made me wonder what else he’d ever lied to me about.
But that was neither here nor there. The only care I felt for Bill these days was that of a friend. But the love I felt for Godric was pure.
It was the love of a daughter.
I didn’t know if it would change and evolve into something else in the future, but for now, I didn’t think I could handle anything else.
For now, he was exactly what I needed him to be.
But Eric, on the other hand, had always had a way of getting under my skin. Of igniting a fire in me that made me want to rip his eyes out.
Or his pants off.
Maybe both at the same time.
I’d always found him attractive, but it had been his personality that was off-putting. How he didn’t seem to care for anyone or anything other than himself.
But seeing him on his knees in front of our Maker on that very night, I knew now that wasn’t the case.
Not at all.
I just didn’t know what I felt about him, now that I knew there was a lot more to Eric Northman than met the eye.
Even supernaturally enhanced eyes.
But all thoughts of Eric and everything else fled my mind when I discovered I’d driven on autopilot back to the very place I’d been both eager and hesitant to see again.
Only it wasn’t the home I remembered leaving behind.