Sitting in that tree all alone, pondering everything I’d been told, I didn’t know what to think at first.
It sounded like the title to a cheap knockoff book, masking itself as erotica.
I would have thought I’d imagined it all had it not been for the fact I was all alone. But I hadn’t really been surprised she’d left. Her telepathy might not have worked on me, but she could read our blood tie well enough.
Still in the grips of my emotional freefall, I’d damn near dropped her myself. She’d held on though, long enough to tell me she loved me, and I knew that she’d meant it.
It only made me feel worse.
While I might have admitted many things to myself about my feelings for Sookie, I had never admitted them to her. Calling her mine was the most I’d given voice to. That and a platinum rat were the most I’d ever given her – a pitiful comparison to her final declaration before leaving me – so she couldn’t have known the depth of my feelings for her.
My love for her.
Because she couldn’t read my mind.
But she was right to give me the space, even if she’d had no way of knowing what I would need it for.
I had no plan or desire to fight tooth and nail against it, as she had said. But I did need the time in order to wrap my head around the concept. Fated couples were a bit like unicorns. The idea of them was abstract – if not somewhat pleasant – but they didn’t really exist.
Much like the winged dragon I’d never ridden to the top of Machu Pikachu.
The thought I might have never stood a chance of not being captured in her snare was maddening, but it explained everything else I’d been questioning since I first laid eyes on her for the second time.
The strength of my attraction to her – my near obsession with her – defied all logic and reason. From before the time I’d ever laid eyes on her for the second time, I’d been intrigued by her.
Undeniably drawn to her.
Each were so different and yet so similar, but it hadn’t made any difference what she’d called herself.
I’d been hers long before we’d ever come to an agreement on the matter.
But was it by choice?
Or predestined bullshit?
Was it the chicken or the egg that made me want a permanent bond with her?
There was no telling now. My only solace came from knowing it was something I wanted before she told me everything.
And I had an odd sense of satisfaction that even knowing of our prophetic destiny – and actively fighting against it – she’d still been unable to withstand my charms.
Subjectively, it hadn’t taken me very long to reach the conclusion that none of it mattered. She’d had ten years of living in denial before I managed to knock down her defenses, without even knowing it and I’d only needed a couple of hours to decide it made no difference.
Either or, the fact remained that I wanted to be with her.
Although I wouldn’t call us fated.
Nothing about what we did together could be described as cheap erotica.
She’d shut down our blood tie about an hour after she’d left me with only the dizzying array of fireflies for company, but I could only imagine what she’d sensed coming from me.
Questioning the legitimacy of cheap erotica would have felt no different to her then if I’d been questioning the legitimacy of our relationship to one another. It was a falsehood I would relieve her of soon enough.
But before she’d shut it down, I’d felt the pull of our still incomplete bond stretch to the west, so I was certain she’d gone to her cousins. It only made sense considering she’d once told how being close to their bloodline healed whatever ailed them.
Not unlike our own relationship, by choice or by instinct, I couldn’t fault her for going to them if it would make her feel better.
Driving there from Gatlinburg – even at the speeds I drove – would have taken six hours at the very least.
It would depend on how often I would be forced to pull over and glamour unsuspecting law enforcement officers, for reaching the speeds I drove at.
Instead I left the car where it was and took off into the skies. Corvettes were a dime a dozen, but my in-no-way-cheap erotic lover and soon to be bonded was priceless.
Flying west gave me the added advantage of heading away from the sun, but still I flew at top speed, knowing we needed to clear the air.
And complete our bond.
I could appreciate the fact she’d refused me at first, wanting me to be able to make a fully informed decision. If she’d kept the knowledge to herself and I found out about it later – and with Alasdair in the loop, I inevitably would have found out about it – I probably would have questioned Sookie’s motives for keeping me in the dark.
Thinking she might have agreed to a permanent bond over some providence foretold to her years earlier was a hell of a lot worse than being told no upfront.
Of course the why was the spoonful of sugar that helped me to swallow it all down.
But thinking of little spoons and my candy coated lover had me soaring even faster in her direction. Were it not for my enhanced senses, I never would have heard or felt my phone vibrating, from the way the wind whipped at my body.
I thought for a moment to ignore it, but checking the display and seeing a Louisiana area code, even though I didn’t recognize the number, I answered on the off-chance it was Sookie calling me from her cousins’ club.
I didn’t recognize the voice stating my name into the receiver, but before I could ask, he answered, “This is Sookie’s cousin, Claude. I think something is wrong.”
Rolling my eyes, I tried to tell myself he was acting as any male family member worth their salt should act when a female in their line is upset with their…whatever we were to one another.
We’d never gotten past the possessive pronouns when discussing our relationship.
Calling her my bonded couldn’t happen soon enough.
“We had a…miscommunication,” I began, uncertain if he’d known of the dynamics and/or recent strife in our relationship.
Something he dissuaded me from believing any longer when he growled, “I’m not calling about the two of you being stupid assholes. I’m calling to tell you that my cousin went outside to talk to a redheaded vampire and we haven’t seen her since. That was an hour ago. When I went looking for her, I found her phone lying on the ground in the alley beside the club.”
“A redheaded vampire?” I growled. “Did you see her?”
I had no doubt it was a female vampire. And I could only think of two who would go looking for Sookie.
But I only knew of one she would agree to go outside to talk to.
Fucking wet kittens.
“No,” he barked back. “She used her little mind reading trick to get a picture of the vamp from the waitress’s thoughts, when she came to the back office to deliver the message. But before she walked out, Sookie told me, “It’s just Jessica.””
Not just Jessica would be dead before the night was through.
Her Maker was in my sights too.
I only had to veer slightly to the left to alter my course towards New Orleans. But knowing they only had a little over an hour head start out of the city, I estimated we would reach it at the same time.
However why Sookie would shut down our blood tie when she was in obvious danger was beyond me.
At least until I recalled the conversation that had taken place in her childhood home. The second time I’d gone looking for her there.
“I’m not sure how to feel about the fact you came running to save me again the moment you felt whatever it was when I was dreaming. I’m having a sort of chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Did you show up because of who I once was or because of who I am?”
“Stubborn bitch,” I muttered to myself.
Thinking she would purposely shut me out when she was in danger, just because of some bullshit want to keep our complicated history uncomplicated by the fact she’d been kidnapped…
I would kill her myself.
She would rise three nights later as my child, but still.
Semantics could fuck off.
Either not hearing my pet name for his cousin or not caring at the moment what I called her, his next words made my anger disappear and my fear for her wellbeing rise exponentially when he said, “I don’t know if she told you, but fairies can locate their kin through the magic in our blood. I searched for her and so did my sisters. We can’t find her.”
“You’re not telling me she’s…”
My words trailed off there, unable to say my previous empty threat out loud.
She couldn’t be dead.
I’d never had a blood tie to a human – hybrid or otherwise – to know what it would feel like when they died. Sookie had turned it on and off like a faucet enough times that I hadn’t worried when it disappeared yet again.
My lover was stubborn.
She’d said so herself.
“No,” he snarled. “She’s not dead. She would have appeared before our grandfather on her way to the Summerland by now if she was. I’ve already been in contact with him and he hasn’t gotten any visits, so he’s on his way here now, but it will take some time. He thinks someone is using magic to cloak her blood from us.”
In spite of the relief flooding through my body, knowing exactly who she was fucking with, I sneered, “Not from you. From me. Leclerq is trying to hide her from me.”
As if her palace wasn’t the first fucking place I would look.
“The queen?” he asked disbelievingly. “But Sookie said she was warned off by The Council. They’ll have her head for this.”
Oh no they won’t.
“I will have her head for this.”
That inglorious bitch and her red mane were all mine.
Making the necessary arrangements during my flight had been cumbersome, but it was enough of a distraction to keep me from thinking too hard on what Sookie might be facing at any given moment.
However, she was smart. Calculating. A warrior.
As long as a malnourished puppy didn’t cross her path, she should be able to keep her wits about her.
Having already been witness to the tortures she had been able to withstand once upon a time, I knew just how strong Sookie was and – unlike the fairy siblings – I doubted Leclerq had taken her merely to kill her.
But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t kill Leclerq and everyone else who stood in the way of me reaching her.
And thanks to her lineage, ancient vampires didn’t even need to use any aces up her sleeves to ensure the retrieval of the Cleaner. I wouldn’t be going after her alone.
Alasdair had already threatened to kill me himself if I didn’t leave anyone for him to kill by the time he got there.
It was our own version of playing ‘On your mark.’
But at his current location, he and his team were forced to wait for the fairy shuttle that would be taking them to the palace, so I couldn’t make any promises there would be anyone left by the time they arrived.
I only had one promise to keep. The one where I told Sookie I would come after her no matter who she had once been or who she was now.
She was mine.
And perhaps it took this fuckup for me to truly understand her parting words because only now could I see the truth of them.
Fate had nothing to do with it.
Thankfully I had fully stocked arsenals hidden at various locations throughout my territory, so I was able to arm myself along the way. Setting my own personal best record for speed, as I approached the palace, I could see my reinforcements moving into place. But even if they’d been late to the party, I wouldn’t have waited.
Now that I was so close to getting her back, nothing could have stopped me from soaring straight past the guards lining the grounds and through the front doors, reducing them to nothing more than matchsticks and announcing my arrival with a growled out, “Knock knock.”
And the joke would be on them if they thought I’d come alone.
The Berts were the first to greet me with their swords already drawn.
But already spoiling for a fight with the royally spoiled bitch I was there for, I flew straight at the closest one.
The size of a small T-Rex, his reach was far greater than mine, but being the offspring of Brunhilda and a mountain meant his bulk was a disadvantage. So I was able to use my agility to my own by rearing backwards at the waist, dodging the swing of his sword as it sailed horizontally across my body, before coming upright and spinning around to take off his head with my own.
The furious roar of another T-Rex reached my ears at nearly the same time, but before I could turn them into a matching set I was brought up short.
By a photon torpedo targeting the queen’s sunroom.
Blown against the far wall by the sheer force of the explosion, the other T-Rex blew by me and landed chest first, straight into one of the numerous hideous sculptures adorning the walls.
And given his true death all because of his Maker’s affinity for golden cherubs, holding a bow and arrow.
The entire room was quickly filling with smoke, so I wasn’t readily visible to the vampire of all kind who came pouring into the room. I recognized some to be skilled warriors. The others were cannon fodder.
What they all had in common – besides their impending deaths – was they had all pledged their fealty to their soon-dead queen and while unstable, Sophie-Anne had proven she wasn’t stupid. She’d known to try and stack the deck in her favor before attempting to cross me.
Or perhaps she really was stupid to not realize I would be two steps ahead of her before I ever arrived.
I could hear the battle now taking place outside, but just as Alasdair and his men came barreling in through the hole where the front doors had once stood, Brigant’s battalion of his Royal Guard began teleporting into various spots throughout the palace.
Covered in silver chainmail and armor wasn’t enough to disguise their fairy scent, but that was enough to distract Leclerq’s warriors from their mission and allowed them to be picked off one by one by Alasdair and his men.
Brigant himself was seeing to the magic that would hide our impending war from human eyes, but I didn’t care.
I didn’t give a fuck about our number one rule.
All I cared about was getting Sookie back safe and sound.
Finally managing to peel myself away from the wall I’d been plastered against, I soared over the gathered crowd, taking off as many heads along the way as I could, while heading straight into the wasteland of the sunroom.
Quickly taking in the room, I could see Compton among others lying along the floor up against the back wall. All of them had various burns across their bodies, but it looked as though they had been standing behind the blast of whatever had detonated in the room.
Through the slowly clearing smoke, I could see scorch marks trailing out from the center of the floor and up along the opposite wall, blackening the entire expanse as though a flamethrower had been aimed that way. But when my eyes landed on Sookie lying in the middle of ground zero, I could no longer see anything else.
Setting down beside her, my eyes did a quick inventory and seeing the red hot iron collar and shackles surrounding her neck and wrists, I ripped them away with a growl ripping its way out my chest.
She was in no way my pet, but it gave me a better understanding of Sookie’s emotional state watching those fucking ASPCA commercials.
And seeing the angry burn marks on her skin, I was momentarily grateful for small favors that she had been unconscious for my rash actions.
My own scorched hands were already knitting themselves back together, as I trailed them along her body looking for other signs of injuries and finding none, I moved my hands back up to cup her face, softly calling out, “Lover? Lover…wake up.”
I was still unable to have any sense of her through our blood tie and it was slowly driving me mad. Now that I knew what it was to feel the things she felt, I needed that connection to her.
I needed her.
And I really needed her to wake up.
My wrist was poised at my mouth, ready to rip through the flesh to pour my blood down her throat, when she finally stirred with her eyes fluttering open.
“Sookie?” I whispered, dropping my hand back to her cheek and wiping away the smudges of soot on her skin. “Say something, lover. What happened?”
Alasdair came barreling into the room in the same moment and taking a quick look around the room, he put himself in between us and the rest of the vampire now stirring against the far wall.
But I was confused by the huge smile on his face and even more so when he began to sing, “You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me hap-pee, when skies are gray…”
“I’m gonna hurt you,” Sookie giggled softly and then grimaced in pain.
I was still uncertain what they were talking about, but that was the least of my concerns. Her pain was my primary one and she made no argument when I took the opportunity to finally present her with my bloody wrist.
From the sounds filtering into the room, I could tell the battle was winding down and seeing Brigant come to stand in the doorway, I knew which side had won.
Watching his great-granddaughter drinking from my wrist, the expression he wore brought me back to another place and time when he had found me at her side. But aside from appearing grateful, the fury he’d shown on that night had been replaced by amusement because he only smirked, with a small shake of his head, before heading back into the waning fight.
While she drank, I could feel our connection slowly opening up to one another again and while it wasn’t as strong as before, for the first time since she’d left me on that mountaintop, I felt like I could finally breathe again.
Even if my lungs didn’t actually require air.
Alasdair’s focus returned to the remaining vampire in the room and he settled on Compton, with the tip of his sword settling against his chest, as he repeated Sookie’s last words to him, saying, “I’m gonna hurt you.”
With her wounds now healed – and our connection restored – I could feel her vertigo when she pushed herself into sitting upright and said, “I wanna watch.”
Turning to face her, Alasdair grinned knowingly and teased, “I always knew there was a voyeur lurking inside of you.”
She only rolled her eyes at him in response before turning them on me and smiling softly as she said, “I knew you would come.”
Staring back at her, I couldn’t fathom wanting to see any other. Having walked the world a thousand times over, I knew I had finally found what I didn’t even realize I’d been searching for.
So I tilted her chin up and gently met her lips with my own, smiling as I whispered her words back to her.
“And fate had nothing to do with it.”