My eyes blinked open and for a moment, I thought everything had just been a bad dream.
At least until I realized I’d just woken from another dirt nap.
If this was my new reality, there had to be a better way than sleeping under the ground.
But no sooner had I blinked than I registered Eric-er’s presence at my side and he quickly dug us both out of the ground.
While I longed for a shower – and decidedly ignored the harsh and pointy reality now poking out of my gums – I didn’t let the fact he couldn’t understand anything more than ‘Whack-a-doodle’ stop me from looking at him and asking, “Where are we? What happened?”
The last thing I could remember was getting a condensed version of ‘This is Your Life’ from Niall’s…
So, not only was I a vampire, but I was a telepathic one to boot?
Jesus H. Christ…
‘H’ as in ‘Holy shit!’
I didn’t know what was worse.
Being a vampire.
Being made a vampire by another one, whose native language was the equivalent of diddlysquat to my not-so-worldly ears.
Or perhaps it was now being able to hear every thought going through everyone else’s head that was the worst of all.
Everyone except for Mr. Diddly Squat.
But what did it all mean? How could I go back to my regular life, if any or all of the above were true?
What would Gran say?
As if my no-longer-just-folklore fangs were tied directly to my growing panic, they throbbed in my gums, which brought about another realization.
I was hungry.
And meeting Eric-er’s hungry gaze with my own, I had yet another.
I was hungry for a whole bunch of things.
But instead of tearing into me the moment I leapt at him, he just caught me and let me attack his mouth with my own, while unwanted feelings of serenity flooded through my body.
So much of it, I could almost hear George Costanza yelling, “Serenity now!”
I had no defense against it. No way to stop the compulsion to calm down, but as my sanity returned, with it came an awareness that there was no way those feelings had been coming from me.
So – by default – it had to be him.
My vampire daddy.
His actions and our weird connection to each other was enough to dampen the mood and when I pulled back to look at him, he at least looked a little put out over not putting out. But he smiled ruefully and handed me a folded up piece of paper, only saying, “Niall.”
His single word explanation was enough to bring me out of my stupor, so I opened the letter and began to read.
I must admit I am still in shock over the changes you’ve gone through and everything I have witnessed tonight. And while I know you are still struggling with the very same same things, I hope you come to realize what a blessing this is. It pained me more than you know to watch you over the past few months, knowing that your time was coming to an end, much too soon.
But now, thanks to your vampire, you are no longer sick. You’re strong and as healthy as you can be. While I’m sure there are some limitations to what you can do, who among us doesn’t have limitations? The benefits will surely outweigh the sacrifices.
Now, I also know how stubborn you can be. Even with the proof of your new state of being erupting from your gums, you were still refusing to believe that you have undoubtedly gone through a few changes. So let me reassure you.
You are a vampire now Sookie.
Apparently, a telepathic one.
I thought you had fainted tonight, but your vampire explained to me that you merely died with the approaching daybreak.
When you learn to communicate with him better, I would ask that you attempt to teach him the art of subtlety.
But ‘died’ was the appropriate verb. I checked your pulse.
There wasn’t one.
To say I’m intrigued would be a gross understatement.
I managed to convince your vampire to wait until I could write you this brief explanation and he said he was willing to return to the house again when you woke. He seems just as eager to learn more about you and how to communicate with you, as well as all of the changes that occurred while he was away.
See? THAT is subtlety at its finest.
I’ll see you soon, dear girl.
I was dead?
No pulse, but I could walk, talk, and bang my vampire daddy to my un-beating heart’s content?
At least when he wasn’t forcing me to calm down.
So if I chose to believe it all, then that would mean I was a vampire too.
A telepathic one.
Serenity NOW, indeed.
Filled with an ebbing bewilderment, I could feel her attempt to remain calm, while she looked up at me and questioned, “Niall?”
The pixie/witch/human had promised to give us aid and while I had my own doubts as to his trustworthiness, I had no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I had to when I hadn’t given any thought to the repercussions of making Soo-key my child.
My actions had been rash.
It was a trait I’d had even as a human. One my own Maker had obviously failed to break me of.
Not only could we not effectively communicate with one another, but I’d only lived as a vampire for eighteen summers. Hardly enough time to learn all that I needed to in order to survive on my own, much less with a newborn in my charge.
Never mind my own Maker was hardly a proper tutor.
But that Niall human-like creature asserted I had been submerged and frozen for over a thousand years. I had no way to refute his unbelievable claim and everything I’d seen since my second first night rising told me his words were true.
The landscape. The clothing. The structures surrounding us at every turn in the populated areas were nothing like I’d ever seen before.
But the moon and the stars. They, at least, were the same. And their positioning in the sky told me this was my homeland.
It looked nothing like I remembered it to be.
Regardless of my impetuous actions, I was now Soo-key’s Maker. I had an obligation to take care of her. To teach her and provide for her.
To do better for her than had been done for me.
And do better, I would.
So I nodded and repeated the creature’s name before gathering her in my arms and flying us back to his home. I could feel her hunger – both for blood and for me – but he claimed he would have a supply of blood at the ready for her that wouldn’t involve actual humans being present, so at least one of her hungers could be satisfied for now.
I would take care of her other hunger later on.
He had called it bagged blood. There hadn’t been much time for more of an explanation than that. But Soo-key’s fortuitous gift of telepathy certainly explained her opposition to feeding from live humans, so I hoped this bagged blood would be enough to sustain her until she could learn to manage her gift.
And if his claims were false, then he would be her meal for the night.
I could even glamour him to have no thoughts at all, so she could enjoy her meal in peace and quiet.
I shook my head to shake the thoughts from them, remembering all too well how Ocella had done something very similar to me. Draining men from my own village had been horrifying, once I had the presence of mind to register who they were.
Who they had been.
I would never willingly put my own child through the same kind of tortuous nightmare.
She obviously had an attachment to this Niall. And while I’d known nothing about her before making her my child, I now knew through our bond that she was generally a happy person. Her spirit had been nearly weightless when she’d risen on her first night and while she could feel copious amounts of lust, there was no amount of bloodlust within her.
She managed to maintain a light inside of her soul that hadn’t been snuffed out when I’d taken her life and left her with an eternity of perpetual darkness.
And I would do all that I could to keep that light burning.
She deserved no less.
With the previous night’s excitement, I hadn’t given any thought to the impending daybreak until it was nearly upon us. As a newborn Soo-key had been the first to succumb, just as the sky began to lighten. But not knowing if my thousand years in ice would afford me the same benefits my Maker had when he’d made me at roughly the same age, I didn’t take any chances I would be able to fight off the effects of the coming dawn and only waited – at the pixie/witch/man’s insistence – long enough for him to write a note of explanation to my child, before flying us off into the forest and going to ground.
After all of our mutual confusion the night before, I had hoped his written explanation would make our next night’s start easier. So far, it seemed to have worked and I could only hope it was a sign of better things on the horizon.
Because of the village’s dense population and the prevalent amount of light without fires, I was forced to land us further away from his home. It was much earlier in the night than when we’d visited the night before, so there were humans still walking about on the stone paths.
And more of the awakened metal beasts, with lights shooting from their eyes.
I was hesitant to move forward and put ourselves in their path – making a mental note to inquire about obtaining weapons from the Niall creature – but Soo-key paid them no mind and took my hand to pull me forward. The metal beasts didn’t appear to pay any attention to us either, as she led us back towards his house, but I still kept my guard up and remained alert for an unexpected attack.
It was why I was able to sense – and then halt – Soo-key’s attack on an unsuspecting human who got just a little too close to my already ravenous child.
I don’t know what happened.
One minute I was traipsing down the street, holding my vampire daddy’s hand and trying to block out the giant jumble of what sounded like a thousand voices from my mind.
And the next I was lunging for some guy who smelled like a steak dinner.
Eric-er’s grip on my hand was the only thing that kept me from becoming a headline news story and the steak dinner only startled and then chuckled, when Eric-er pulled me back and spun me around, before crashing his lips to mine.
Not only did his lip lock manage to hide my pointy teeth, but it managed to make me focus on the other kind of hunger I was still feeling.
I was such a bad Christian.
Now certainly wasn’t the time for that.
But damn if he didn’t make it feel so good.
Eric-er didn’t seem to mind that I climbed him like a tree, but he kept my hands pinned with one of his own, while the other held my head to his.
I didn’t exactly fight him on that one.
We may have continued moving. Or maybe it was just my hips doing all of the moving, but when he finally peeled my face away from his, Eric-er’s expression said it all.
He was just as hungry as I was and it wasn’t for any steak dinner.
“Distracting you is my new favorite pastime,” he smiled.
His low spoken gobbledygook went in one ear and straight out of my girly bits, but before I could goad him into giving me more than just thunderwear, I heard, “You’re here!”
Hearing Niall’s voice was enough to dampen my other-kind-of-dampened panties.
But smelling him was grossing me out and making me hungrier in turn.
He was my mentor.
He was my pseudo-grandfather.
I shouldn’t be wanting to eat him in any way.
So rather than disembark from my Viking longboat, I chose to remain firmly anchored – if not embarrassed – rather than eat our host.
“She is fighting her hunger,” the ship’s amused captain announced.
“Of course,” Niall gobbledygooked in return and then said for the gobbledygook challenged, “Come in! Come in!”
My ship set sail for the living room and docked on the couch, but no matter how embarrassed I was to be perched on his cannon, I was too afraid to let go.
Captain Fangy didn’t seem to mind.
However he did keep a firm grip on me, but I was thankful for it. When Niall had disappeared into the kitchen, I could hear him moving around, but I had a harder time holding still when I could smell what was in the two large wine glasses before he even entered the room.
I moved as much of my body as I was allowed to, by twisting it around like a pretzel and snatched them from his hands, downing the first before moving on to the second.
Eric-er only chuckled at what would’ve had Gran telling me to ‘pick my switch’, while Niall ran back to the kitchen and returned with two more.
I hadn’t given any thought to the sound of the microwave, until I was in the middle of guzzling the fourth glass, when enough of my wits returned for me to realize he must have warmed the blood up.
It was delicious.
“Thank you,” I finally squeaked out, still embarrassed by my actions – both from snatching the glasses and my snatch being perched on Eric-er’s lap.
Because I was sure I’d moaned and given him an impromptu lap dance sometime during my chugging of the third glass.
And it was probably why he was still smiling at me, like the cat with another-kind-of cream in his lap.
“No need to thank me, my dear,” Niall offered kindly. “Would you like another?”
I nodded, even though I felt full, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Not when I would’ve already eaten a steak dinner if Eric-er hadn’t stopped me.
While Niall returned to the kitchen, Eric-er pet me, soothing my frayed nerves and calming me down even more than George Costanza’s mantra could.
Of course the feminist in me wanted to smack his hand away and wag a haughty finger at him. So I drowned that arrogant bitch and told her to bite me.
With my new set of pointy teeth, I would most definitely bite back.
I was proud of my Soo-key for having so much restraint as a newborn. It was my own failing as her Maker for not thinking about what the presence of humans would do to her, when she hadn’t yet fed for the night.
But feeding one of her hungers, while she waited to sate the other, had been satisfying for both of us.
The Niall returned with two more goblets of blood and handed one to Soo-key, while offering me the other. Having drained her entire body only four nights earlier, I shouldn’t have needed to feed, but I was feeling the effects of her hunger as well.
So I took the goblet from him and sniffed at the contents, wondering why humans would have the need for their own blood to be stored and served in such a way. But wondering more what the taste would be like, I took a sip and let it linger on my palate.
The flavor was close to that of a live human, but it lacked the freshness of feeding directly from the source and the delivery was lacking as well. However it was close enough and if it gave my child the peace of mind she needed in order to feed, then I wouldn’t oppose it.
But I would be keeping a close watch on her to be sure she was getting all of the nutrients she required to remain strong.
If she appeared to be withering in any way, I would glamour her meals’ minds to be silent.
The pixie/witch/man only stared at her in wonder, but I could feel her growing unease at being gawked at, so I asked him, “How did you gather such a large quantity of blood?”
Given the size of the goblets, I would estimate the six he’d produced would have contained the entire blood supply of a large sized human, if not more.
I didn’t know what to make of his attachment to Soo-key, if he’d been willing to hunt them on his own.
“Blood banks,” he replied. And at my questioning gaze, he explained, “Humans voluntarily have blood drawn, which is then stored and used by doctors – healers – to treat other humans who are ill or have been injured in some way.”
The healers in my time used plants and herbs – and sometimes animal sacrifices to the Gods – to heal the ill and injured.
Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes it didn’t.
I’d succeeded in drawing his attention away from Soo-key, but she didn’t feel any more at ease. If anything, she only felt more unnerved, so I could only assume it was from his thoughts and asked him, “What is it you are thinking? She is feeling…distressed.”
His eyes widened and a reddish hue appeared on his skin, only making her more uncomfortable as the scent of his blood became more pronounced, by pooling just underneath his skin, when he said, “I’m sorry, Sookie.”
And hearing the low grumble in my chest, he looked to me and explained, “I was just wondering why you both appear to be covered in dirt.”
“We have to seek shelter from the sun,” I replied. “Our resting place has to be kept hidden from others and without another secure alternative, digging into the ground for the day is our best option.”
But I was uncomfortable with the dirt covering my body as well and added, “Tell her I spotted several lakes on our way here and that we will stop at one on our way back to bathe.”
My people were notoriously clean.
It was yet another trait that had carried over into my vampire state.
“You could bathe here,” he offered and then looked to her, saying, “I took the liberty of gathering your clothing and personal affects. You’re welcome to stay here, Sookie, for as long as you need to. Both of you, if that is what you wish. Your vampire said that you must stay out of the sun, so I can cover the window in the spare room upstairs. You’ll have access to a shower and I can get more bagged blood from the university hospital. We’ll have the opportunity for the both of you to learn to communicate with one another and then we can figure out what to do from there.”
Soo-key felt equal amounts of sadness and amusement when she said, “Always eager to study something new. You’re willing to bunk up with a couple of vampires, just so you can settle your curiosity?”
“Sookie,”he said harshly and waited until she turned to face him to say, “I’m thanking a God I never believed in until now that you were given a chance at a life I could only dream of having. I’m thanking every deity I can think of that I don’t have to go to your funeral in a few month’s time and tell stories of how wonderful you were or lambast how short your life was. This is a gift, so stop acting like it’s the end of the world.”
Whatever it was he was saying to her was making her angry and apologetic at the same time. But before I could ask for an explanation, he stood up and pointed at the passageway leading to the upper area of the structure, commanding, “Now, go upstairs and wash the dirt and melancholy away, while I seal off the window in the spare room. We have a lot to go over tonight and not nearly enough time to get through it all.”
He left the room and before I could do or say anything, he returned with an odd looking satchel that made a weird noise. Tossing it to me, he finally spoke in a language I could understand and said, “I got you some clothes that will hopefully fit you. Sookie will show you to the room upstairs where you can both bathe. When you’re finished, we’ll get to work on teaching you both how to talk to one another.”
I didn’t care for being ordered about by a human, but Soo-key spoke up before I could and said, “He…he won’t know how. I’ll…uh…have to show him how to take a shower.”
Why was she feeling embarrassed?
And those feelings only grew tenfold when he chuckled, “My dear, I may be OLD, but I’m not STUPID. You are a grown woman and you obviously have a connection to him that I couldn’t even begin to understand. Whatever you choose to do with him is your choice.”
Grabbing something from a small table by the front door, he moved towards it and said, “I’ll be heading out now to get the supplies to cover the window. I’ll see you when I get back.”
He left through the door, shutting it behind him, and Soo-key buried her face in her hands, mumbling over and over, “Sereneity now…serenity now…”
But when she finally lifted her head to look at me, she only gave me a bewildered smile as she softly shook her head and said, “I can’t believe he left, just so we could have sex in private.”
I was just as confused about her conflicting emotions, as I was her foreign words. So I pushed my affection for her through our bond and hoped it would make her feel better.
My Soo-key was a sensitive creature.
She allowed herself to be soothed by me and eventually filled with a sense of determination, right before she stood up from my lap and took my hand to pull me up with her. Even if we had spoken the same language, there would have been no need to question where we were headed, since the Niall had already explained.
Coming to a stop in the doorway where a large basin was situated on the floor just inside of the room, I stood dumbstruck when she walked over to it and twisted a small knob that somehow made rainwater begin to fall from up above.
However dumbstruck wasn’t the only thing I was feeling when she turned towards me and began to disrobe.