Standing on the cliff side behind the house and staring out into the ocean, I was so lost in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed Sookie’s approach until right before she wrapped her arms around me from behind and softly asked, “Are you okay?”
Three days ago both of my parents had been dead.
Two days ago both of my parents had been alive.
One more than the other, but technically, an argument could be made my mother wasn’t quite dead at the time.
But not anymore because one day ago I’d killed them both.
I was still trying to figure out whether or not I’d done the right thing, much less how I felt about it all, but knowing Sookie was only worried about me – something I could relate to – I hugged her arms to me and said truthfully, “I will be.”
What other choice did I have?
Thankfully I didn’t have to explain everything in the aftermath that followed when I’d left the house with my father. He hadn’t known about the comm link still in my ear and I was too shell-shocked to give any thought to what would happen when he’d taken off the device he’d worn around his neck to hide his presence from Godric once we were away from the house.
And only once we were away from the house did I figure out my father had been lying. I didn’t see anyone waiting outside of the perimeter to storm the house, but neither one of us had acknowledged it.
After all, what was one more lie between us?
But Godric had apparently figured out something was wrong and he’d alerted the guys, who were already on their way to the panic room by the time I’d left with my father. They managed to rouse Sookie, who told them what had happened, but my father had waited until we were several miles away before turning off the device, so it wasn’t until then that Godric could track my location.
He’d turned off the sound to my ear piece, not sure if my father had enhanced hearing and would be able to hear the guys, but he remotely turned on my mic so they could hear everything that happened around me.
I was still trying to decide if that was a good or bad thing too.
I was ashamed of both myself and my father.
Feeling any shame was a new experience for me, but it would seem I had thirty years’ worth to make up for, so it was pouring into me by the bucketful.
But if it wasn’t for my father and his insane experiments, their fellow soldiers and friends would still be alive. They should still be living their normal lives, surrounded by their families and friends.
Instead they were unknown fugitives – technically deserters from the military they’d sworn an oath to – and nothing more than ghosts because Godric wiped their identities from every known database.
Because of my father.
Because of me.
Not that they blamed me – yet – but we hadn’t had much time to talk about anything yet. Once I’d pulled the roof down on top of the thing my father had turned into, the guys were just finishing up taking care of the guards outside of the warehouse.
Had they done so five seconds earlier, they would’ve been caught in the cave-in too.
I suppose it had been instincts – I would never know for sure now – that made my father automatically leap on top of my mother’s body, when he heard the building coming down around us, to try and shield her with his own.
But that was how I’d found them, once the guys manage to pull me from the debris.
My father back in his human form, with his body draped over my mother’s, and the twisted steel skewered through his body at a ninety degree angle.
Thankfully John was still in commander mode because he let me zone out to wrestle with my inner demons in peace, while he, Alcide, and Jake did the dirty work of cleaning up the site before the authorities arrived.
Pulling the bodies of the men they’d defeated into the wreckage, they had the forethought to pull the bodies of my parents out of it before setting charges throughout the debris, with the whole thing detonating in a huge explosion once we were out of the blast zone.
I’d had both my mother and father quietly – and discreetly – cremated that same night.
It was amazing the things that could be done when you had enough money to throw around.
And Sookie Stackhouse on your side.
She wasn’t someone many could say no to.
Not without losing a body part.
Six hours later she stood with me on that cliff, with the sun just rising over our shoulders, and silently watched as I released their combined ashes into the wind.
I’d hoped the act would give me some closure, but I supposed the wounds were still too fresh. My body may have already healed, but the invisible scars were still raw.
She knew me well enough to give me some time afterward and left me alone, but now that she was back I knew my time was up.
It was for the best. I doubted I would ever fully figure out how to feel about any of it, so moving forward was the only thing I could do.
“The new grave marker will be ready tomorrow,” she whispered against my back. “But with the way your name is being splashed all over the news, I think one of the guys should probably be the one to pick it up.”
I still didn’t know what I was going to do about that, but with Godric being the multitasker he was, he managed to weasel his way into the television network’s computer network and found out all the major networks had each received a dossier proclaiming I was ‘The Vampire’.
It had been one of Victor’s fail safes in the event of his untimely death.
A death I’d had no part in and yet I was still paying for it.
I was sure it was only a matter of time before the news helicopters took up permanent residence over the house.
There were already a few news vans parked outside of the gate.
But for once I wasn’t craving attention from anyone other than Sookie, so I turned around in her arms to face her and asked, “How are you feeling?”
When we’d gotten back to the house the first thing I’d done was taken a sample of Sookie’s blood to run tests on it, but it would take some time to get the results.
Time neither one of us had the patience for, which is why when she offered me her neck so I could sample it – as she put it – “The old fashioned way,” I didn’t hesitate.
Normally when I drank Sookie’s blood it was a sensual experience for both of us, but not then.
We were both too worried she’d been given any amount of the wolf serum.
But my worry stemmed from her being affected because of my father’s insanity. That she would blame me – rightfully so – and decide she’d had enough.
I couldn’t say that I would blame her.
However, Sookie was more worried that if she’d been dosed, I wouldn’t want to be with her anymore.
For that, I blamed my father.
I felt better not tasting anything new in her blood and she felt better hearing there was nothing that could change the way I felt about her.
Even so, I had a feeling we would both feel even better when the test results came in.
Splaying her hands across my chest, she stared up at me in a way that let me know she could see all the way into my thoughts and said, “I’m fine, Eric.”
At least that made one of us.
But it was as if I’d said my errant thought out loud because she narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Stop it. You might be inhumanly strong now, but your name is Eric – not Atlas. The weight of the world isn’t your burden to carry and you are not your father. His sins aren’t your price to pay.”
So she said.
“We know there are still others out there,” I softly argued in return.
When Godric tracked my location to the warehouse, he managed to infiltrate my father’s computer files. While there weren’t tons of men out there, who could turn into a superhuman Were animal of some sort thanks to my father – there were enough.
God only knows what they would do now, now that he was gone and there was no one holding their leash.
“And we’ll find them,” she smiled softly back at me, both sounding and feeling completely convinced.
The amount of confidence she had me still staggered me at times.
Couldn’t she see what a fuck up I was?
“Perhaps, I can be of some help.”
Turning at the sound of the not quite familiar voice, I pushed Sookie behind me, with my fangs snapped down on reflex seeing who had managed to sneak up on us.
Holding his hands up in surrender – waving the one that held two file folders in a way that made me think they were the help he’d just offered – he studied my elongated teeth for a second, but didn’t mention them and instead only said, “You are a difficult man to get a hold of.”
“I’ve been busy.”
I’d been so sure Russell had something he was hiding, but having already given away my no-longer-hidden-fangs, I didn’t see the point of hiding my skepticism.
“We’ve noticed,” he smiled, dropping his hands back down.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, still shielding Sookie with my body. “Who’s we?”
Whoever he’d meant, they weren’t the only ones to notice things because only a few seconds later we were joined by the guys.
And by the looks of them, they were ready to go to war.
Russell didn’t look fearful at all and instead only smiled as he said, “Good. Now I won’t have to repeat myself.”
But then looking only at me he went on to explain, “The others you’ve dealt with recently – the ones your father was responsible for – aren’t the only ones out there. There’s a whole other world out there everyday humans know nothing about.”
That he knew my father was behind it all was more of a surprise to me than everything else he’d just said and it must have shown on my face because he added, “We suspected him for quite some time, but he covered his tracks very well.”
Handing me the file folders, with the guys surrounding us I felt okay letting my guard down enough the take them from him, and flipped the first one open to reveal a photo of Sophie-Anne Leclerq clipped inside along with a stack of papers.
The second one was a carbon copy of the first, only it was on Felipe De Castro.
Passing them around to the guys, I looked back at Russell who said, “I don’t know what turned you on to looking into me, but I’m impressed by your initiative nonetheless. Whatever your motives were, I’m here to tell you what you would never be able to find out on your own.”
His gaze traveled over all over us as he said, “I am a member of an organization we call The Council. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to keep tabs on those like Leclerq and De Castro who are at this very moment making strides, much like those made by your father.”
“By you,” he added, looking directly at me.
“We intervene when we feel it’s necessary, but after watching how you chose to deal with the wolf threat, we decided you could be trusted.”
“And what would you have done if you decided we couldn’t be trusted,” I asked.
“Well,” he chuckled modestly. “Let’s just say we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Ignoring his implied threat, I analyzed everything else he’d said and asked, “Why didn’t you intervene when the wolves first made themselves public?”
I couldn’t be sure if his bullshit was just that – bullshit – but I could be sure the guys and I had been the only ones who’d shown up at the financial summit when the wolves first appeared.
“You and your men showed up before we could,” he replied easily. “We’d heard whispers you were working on human regeneration, but we had no concrete evidence. So when you showed yourselves to be on the right side, we decided to sit back and see what else you could do.”
Returning his focus onto us as a whole, he commended, “We were impressed. By all of you.”
But his eyes returned to me alone when he said, “But your secret is out. You’ve been publically identified and the truth is, technology is moving faster than we can cover it up. The public can’t un-see what’s already taken place, so I’m here to offer you a deal. You can be the face to our shared cause and we will be there to give you aid in whatever form you need when the next threat presents itself – both supernatural and human. Because make no mistake about it, the human authorities will either want to recruit you or imprison you. Or worse. Being a scientist yourself, I’m sure I don’t have to explain. But we can keep any of that from happening.”
“Who else is on this council?” John asked skeptically.
But Russell only chuckled again and said, “I only said we trusted you enough to handle the wolves. I said nothing about trusting you implicitly.”
Then holding his arms out at his sides, he added, “But as you can see, there isn’t an officer in sight – military or law enforcement – so we’ve already begun protecting you all. Of course our continued protection is contingent on your decision.”
“Contingent,” Jake huffed. “That’s what we were going to call ourselves. The Contingent.”
Pursing his lips, Russell thought about it for a second, and then finally said, “It needs work.”
But deciding it was too much too soon, I called an end to our impromptu meeting by saying, “And we need time to think about your offer.”
I was leery of trusting anyone who wasn’t a part of our group. Just because Russell said he was a part of some super-secret superhuman council didn’t mean he – or they – weren’t in all actuality the bad guys.
I would need more than just his friendly assurances they were on our side.
And I would also need to know just who they were.
“Fair enough,” he nodded and then nodded at the files, adding, “But think quickly.”
Disappearing the same way he came, the fellas and I all just shared a look before they too returned to the house and it wasn’t long before I could hear the television coming on, with Jake gushing, “Dude! Did you see the way I flew at them? You know what I am?”
And without waiting for anyone to acknowledge him, he answered the question himself by saying, “I’m awesome.”
As though he’d done it on purpose, he’d timed it perfectly to be the same exact moment when Alcide could be heard on the video saying, “You’re such a pussy!”
At least it could be heard if you had enhanced hearing.
But not having enhanced hearing, for the time being anyway – although we really needed to have that discussion still – Sookie leaned into my side and asked, “So what are you going to do?”
“Nothing,” I replied and wrapped my arm around her. “For the time being, anyways. I have other plans to attend to.”
Scrunching her face up, I was sure she was flipping through her mental calendar, while she asked, “What plans?”
“I believe I promised you a vacation,” I smiled, wrapping my other arm around her at the same time.
If the last few days had taught me anything, it was to cherish what time I did have with the one I loved.
“You did,” she smiled, sinking her body into mine. “So where are we going? I need to know what to pack.”
“What you have on is fine,” I grinned before shooting us both up into the air and out over the ocean.
I had no idea where we would ultimately end up, but I was sure of one thing.
She wouldn’t need clothes wherever it was we were going.