Some part of me – a very small part, mind you – was doing its damnedest to stand up and shake my fist the Women’s Rights Movement entitled me to make at him and his – “She is mine” – crap.
But my pointy teeth nearly popping out of my gums – which ironically, were a very small part of me, just like my suddenly throbbing girly bits – gave evidence of how the rest of me felt about it.
We liked it.
Maybe it was because he was my vampire daddy.
Maybe it was because he came from a time when to be claimed by a man was something women strived for, as a symbol of status or worth or to keep them safe from others.
Or maybe it was just the fact he’d chosen to learn those three words in particular, to be his first actual sentence spoken in my language.
They were much better than whack-a-doodle.
Because whether or not his words were meant for me to understand, I knew from Niall’s thoughts when he was doing the mental translation, that it was something Eric-er wanted him to understand.
That I was his.
It shouldn’t have been as sexy as it was, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t.
Or maybe I’d already been damned?
As much as I thought I should be mad at him for what boiled down to him murdering me, that didn’t really feel right, now that I was sitting on the other end of death.
Logically – because of him – I’d cheated death, given my formerly terminal diagnosis.
So really, it felt like I should be thanking him.
Besides, having been born a thousand years earlier, in my past reality he shouldn’t have even been there to make his caveman claims.
In my present reality, who was I to judge someone whose traditions and values surpassed mine by many lifetimes?
But whatever his motives were, I wasn’t angry at him. And I could tell that it wasn’t him making me feel that way.
It was all me.
And remembering how possessive I’d felt when Barbara the Hershey bar was wanting more than just his fangs in her body, I understood something else.
It wasn’t just me.
It was Eric-er and me.
Apparently, until the end of time.
I felt like the living – or maybe more like undead – chorus to the Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’ song.
Pulling me from my doe-ray-me-one-two-three thoughts, Niall chuckled, “It seems you’ve gotten yourself a possessive vampire.”
Rolling my eyes – because I knew he was tickled, considering he’d heard my, ‘I am my own woman’ rant more than once – I snarked, “Yeah, well…there were so many to choose from at the Vampire Humane Society, I just picked the prettiest one from the bunch and crossed my fingers.”
Unlike my legs.
I hadn’t crossed those, since I’d met him.
Not even once.
And even though I’d never seen another vampire – that I knew of, anyway – I had no doubt Eric-er was the prettiest one of the bunch.
He was so hot I was surprised the glacier he’d been chillin’ in for a thousand years hadn’t melted away nine hundred and ninety-nine years earlier.
But thinking of vampires I may or may not have met in my lifetime, I told Niall, “Ask him if there are others. You know…like us. Does he have a vamp daddy too?”
Because if he was my vampire daddy, then it made sense I could possibly have a vampire granddaddy.
But recalling the vivid details of how I reacted towards him, when I’d first woken up with pointy teeth, my eyes narrowed at the thought of him having a vampire mommy.
I wasn’t up to sharing with my vampire grandmother.
Not even a little bit.
But I wasn’t so sure if I would be able to pull the same – ‘He is mine’ – crap with whoever turned him into a vampire, much less if there would be any way for me to stop it from happening.
Suddenly, the only thing I could be sure of was that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know the answer.
But it was already too late, with Mr. Johnny-On-the-Spot already asking him the question. So I felt a ridiculous amount of relief seeing Eric-er shake his head in the negative and gobbledygook something in return.
I tried to not let on how much just the thought of my Maker disgusted me and attempted to temper our bond so that Soo-key wouldn’t feel it either. She was my Child, but she was also a newborn and had enough to contend with.
Ocella was a story I would share only with her, so it would have to wait until we were alone and could communicate with one another effectively.
“He is dead,” I answered, without the feeling the slightest bit of hesitation at my claim, even though he’d been very much alive when I’d jumped into the frozen sea.
My bond to him no longer existed, so I was certain he was gone.
But not wanting to have to speak of him further, I effectively changed the subject by adding, “He had valuables hidden not far from here. They belong to me now that he is gone, so once I retrieve them I will be able to provide whatever Soo-key needs.”
“You have been…away…for quite some time,” the Niall offered hesitantly. “There is a very real possibility whatever valuables you had hidden have since been discovered by humans. If so, they are more than likely now part of private collections or on display at any number of…museums. There isn’t a suitable word that translates, but it is a place where humans display artwork and historical artifacts, where other humans can go and appreciate them. They’re located all across the world.”
My fangs snapped down, with anger filling my veins.
Those precious metals and stones were rightfully mine.
“Why is he so mad?” Soo-key asked, with her hand covering her mouth, surprised at her own fangs snapping down with mine.
She was too young to be able to control her own urges in opposition of my own, but I was still too angry to calm down. I had been relying on those hidden treasures to aid in our survival. To give my Child a proper life.
One that my own Maker had denied me of.
Ocella had been the richest and oldest vampire I had ever come across in my time at his side, but he enjoyed living as a pauper. He relished in taking whatever he wanted by any means necessary, not for want of riches.
But to prove that he could.
We lived like filthy rogues, wearing rags while he amassed riches hand over fist. Taking the fortunes and lives of whoever we came across, he kept us in poverty, while he buried his ill-gotten prosperity.
“I am teaching you survival at any costs,” he had once explained, allowing me a glimpse of a rarely shown consideration for my feelings, either seeing or sensing my hostility, as I was forced to bury yet another cornucopia of riches in the dirt.
I knew better than to respond with anything more than, “Yes, Master.”
It had been yet another lesson in survival he had taught me.
All of it only served to add to the cornucopia of hatred I felt towards him.
I hadn’t been longing for a life of leisure by any means. All of my life as a human had been spent on working to survive.
My people had raided other villages for the survival of our own as well.
But my people shared in the fruits of our labor when good fortune had found us, so I never fully accepted his reasons for making our survival harder than it needed to be.
Now, hearing my fortunes may have been found and shared by others, I bristled inside thinking I could very well be forced to put his lessons in survival to use out of necessity.
Looking over at Soo-key, I didn’t need our bond to know she was distressed.
But it was because of our bond that was causing her to feel that way.
Our survival was my burden alone.
It had been my actions and ultimately my decision to bring her over into this life, so I alone was responsible for ensuring her survival.
But her safety here and now – in this dwelling – appeared secure enough. In spite of our inability to communicate effectively, I knew she trusted the homeowner, Niall. He seemed invested in her wellbeing as well, given he’d gone out of his way to acquire blood for her, so I trusted my gut instincts by trusting her own.
Turning towards Soo-key, I already knew it would make no difference she could not understand my words, when I ordered, “I command you to stay inside this dwelling, until my return.”
Then glancing at her mentor of sorts, I added as an afterthought, “You will not physically harm Niall, unless he becomes a threat to your life. You will only drink from the blood he has procured for you.”
Our blood tie and her eyes widening told me my command had taken effect.
But also knowing he could translate more than just my command for her, I turned to him and warned, “You will explain my departure and keep her safe while I am gone. I will try to be back before sunrise, but I must go and see for myself if my stores remain intact.”
My own internal sense of direction told me I wasn’t very far from the location where Ocella had hidden the largest stash of his riches, but it was far enough away that I might not make it back before daybreak.
It was only after I’d left my Child and flown off into the night skies, on a mission to secure our future, did it occur to me my own Maker may have very well seen to it there would be nothing left for me to find before his own existence was brought to an end.
“Where did he go?” I asked in a panic and rambled out in the same breath, “What did he say?”
Standing in the open doorway, I couldn’t seem to cross the threshold, no matter how much I tried to get my foot through the door.
It just wouldn’t budge.
“And why can’t I leave?” I whined. “I want to go with him.”
“Sookie,” Niall softly called out over my shoulder and turning to face him I could tell he was hesitant to reach out to me, even though I could hear from his thoughts that was exactly what he wanted to do.
He was right, not to though.
In that moment, I wasn’t sure I would be able to control myself.
I felt cornered, without Eric-er there.
It was almost as if he’d taken what was left of my humanity with him and left behind nothing but my vampire self.
Ridiculous, but true.
Staring at the still open front door, Niall calmly stood up and walked over, waiting for me to take a step back before shutting it and when I finally took a seat again, he turned to me and said, “He commanded you to stay here and the way he said it seemed to hold some unspoken significance. Maybe it is due to your connection to one another. At any rate, I suspect that is why you are unable to walk through the door. But before he left he told me to keep you safe, saying he needed to go see if the area where he’d hidden his treasures is still intact.”
“Treasures?” I repeated, with my complete and utter disbelief shining through.
God help me, I didn’t even have the mental fortitude to get pissed over being commanded to do anything because all I could picture was Captain Jack Sparrow, drunkenly carting off a treasure chest, with Davy Jones’ nasty ass beating heart in it.
I always had a soft spot for Bootstrap Bill Turner though.
Something about his eyes had always seemed familiar.
“Valuables,” Niall corrected and added, “After saying the one who made him a vampire was dead, he went on to say that he had valuables hidden not far from here. But I don’t think he fully realizes just how long he had been…incapacitated in his frozen state. So much has changed and evolved in the time he was unaware, so I tried to gently explain those valuables may have already been discovered by mankind. He wasn’t pleased.”
I guess I could understand that.
Putting it in the only terms I could appreciate, I likened it to having your bank account drained by an identity thief.
At my soft nod, he added in a pleased tone, “He sees it as a way for him to take care of you. To provide for you. He is a good man.”
“This isn’t the Stone Ages,” I huffed, to his amusement.
Amusement he voiced by adding, “Close enough, considering what was considered the norm when he was first submerged in the ice.”
At my responding glower – because I was no Wilma Flintstone – he only shook his head and sighed, “Are you so stubborn to fault him for wanting to take care of you? I admit, I don’t know the intricacies of how you came to be a vampire, but he is undoubtedly responsible for your new state. In all likelihood, he could have conceivably left you to fend for yourself and then where would you be? Instead of running off to see and experience everything that has changed since his reawakening, he has stayed by your side and has done what he could to aid in your adjustment. He has proven himself to be nothing short of noble, while you are being pigheaded.”
Normally, I might have rolled my eyes, at his admonishment, proving myself to be the pigheaded brat he was referring to.
But I wasn’t normal anymore.
My pointy teeth had been my first clue.
So I could only guess my new nature was to blame for why I’d literally flown across the coffee table and had Niall pinned by his throat to the wall in the next second, while I hissed in his face.
In that moment, all I wanted to do was rip him to shreds.
It was all consuming.
And yet – despite of my new strength – I couldn’t do anything more than hold him in place.
I only learned why, hearing the answer in Niall’s thoughts, now blaring in my head due to the physical contact.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and calmed myself enough to release him. The horror over what I’d just done hadn’t hit me yet and I felt no signs that it would.
Normal Me would have been sobbing out her apologies for attacking the man I viewed as my family.
So I didn’t know what to think of the New Me, when I heard myself say, “Fortunately for you, I guess that command thing of his really works.”
Because I knew it was only Eric-er’s gobbledygook that had saved his life and saved me from killing him.
Nothing looked as I remembered it, but my senses told me I was in the right spot.
Now, however, instead of a deserted forest as far as the eye could see, civilization had undoubtedly carved its way into the landscape.
Hardened black trails wove their way through the trees, the ones that hadn’t been sacrificed for humanity’s expansion, with dwellings of all shapes and sizes dotting the periphery.
The metal beasts were in abundance – in all shapes, sizes, and colors – with their eyes lighting up the darkness before them and moving about along the trails, with some moving faster than others, but all seeming to have a destination in mind.
In my haste for answers about learning if my inherited stockpiles were still indeed hidden, I realized too late I’d left before getting all of the answers I would need to navigate in this new world.
But I had learned to both keep myself hidden from humans, as well as how to blend among them and – having exchanged my previous garments for ones that suit this time – I felt confident now that I could walk among them unnoticed.
“You are too confident for your own good,” the ghost of Ocella’s voice whispered in my ear.
But I ignored it and him, striding with purpose through the grass alongside the blackened trail way. Moving through the trees, I came to a stop and stared at the spot where I knew the stash of treasures to be.
Only to be confronted by the reality I wasn’t the only vampire in the immediate area.
In front of the structure that now sat atop my hidden vault, were three of my kind, conversing amongst themselves.
I knew by the faint glow we all emitted what they were.
I knew when I automatically reached for the sword – that hadn’t been strapped to my back in over a thousand years – and found nothing there to grab onto, that I was at a distinct disadvantage.
Not only did I not have any weapons of any kind, I doubted I would even be able to effectively communicate with them if confronted by any one of them.
A vampire’s strength increased with their age, but how I came to be there a thousand years after my turning were very different circumstances. I had been frozen in time – literally – so I had no way of knowing if I had been afforded that same quality.
I hadn’t fed in all of that time.
I had barely existed.
I wouldn’t know until I was in the midst of a battle whether or not I could overpower anyone other than a newborn.
Which was what I was still considered when I’d jumped into the icy fjord to get away from my Maker.
Technically I was barely older than my own Child, but the fact my blood had been strong enough to turn her gave me hope my strength had increased with my age, despite my inanimate state.
I was still standing in the dark of the forest, oscillating on whether or not I should move forward or retreat, when hope unexpectedly showed itself in another form.
Hearing the ghost of another’s voice – one I hadn’t heard in over a thousand years – I whipped around and came face to face with my past.
And now, it would seem, my present.
Hoping I wasn’t imagining things – hoping I now had a reason to believe I would gain a familiar ally to help me navigate in this unfamiliar world – all of my hopes and fears could be heard in my voice, when I softly questioned, “Godric?”