Feeling her fear threatened to make my fangs descend, but I somehow managed to keep them inside of my gums. We were in full view of both humans and supernaturals. I’d already taken a risk by appearing at her side, without giving any thought about the speed with which I used. But I couldn’t stay away.
Not when I had felt her distress.
“Tell me lover,” I whispered soothingly into her ear. “Why do you feel fear?”
The vampire I recognized, from both the video and my files, to be the head of my security staff – Chow – had already put himself across the room and appeared to be giving orders to another. He no longer looked concerned about our presence, so I didn’t believe he was the cause for her growing fright. And she proved me right when she buried her face into my chest and reminded me my hearing wasn’t nearly as good as her own in some aspects when she softly replied, “There’s a man here looking for that Stonebrook woman. He thinks you’ve done something to her and he knows you’re a vampire. He…he…he’s angry.”
“Where?” I growled.
If she thought he was angry, then it was a good thing she couldn’t feel the fury rising up inside of me now. That Stonebrook bitch was the cause for our current ails. Even if it was her spell that helped bring me to my lover’s side – something I couldn’t be certain of – with all that I felt for her I was sure it would have only been a matter of time before I would’ve sought her out on my own. Simply there was no way I would have been able to stay away. Not for long.
Memories or no.
I loved her. I was sure of it before I was even sure of my own name.
But even with only my new reality to rely on, I could still take stock of the evidence I had seen for myself.
My home clued me into the fact I was wealthy.
My ownership of the busy establishment in which we now stood clued me into the fact I was successful.
The chatty witch had confirmed I was the leader of my race – in the southern portion of the state, at least – explaining the files we’d found back at my home earlier.
So I felt it was also safe to assume I would have the facilities necessary somewhere close by – if not in this very building – to house those who needed…special consideration. But it was a risk I could not take. While I had no doubt I could get my answers from the man whose thoughts frightened my lover, I had no personal knowledge of my own fucking life in order to carry out that strategy. If he was conspiring against me with the likes of the Stonebrook woman, then he too could be a witch. The threat to all that I held dear – currently located in my arms – was too great of a risk. I couldn’t confront him without more information. Information I didn’t possess, nor did I have any way of seeking it out without requesting help from those who worked for me. It was a move that would potentially give away my secret.
One of many I held, apparently.
But I needed my memories to know who to go to. I fucking needed them to know who to see about getting my memories returned.
Unsurprisingly, it felt like we were constantly running in circles.
But with nothing left to do for now, I softly whispered into her ear, “Where, lover?” Wrapping my arms around her body more tightly, I pulled her closer, knowing she didn’t need her eyes to find him. To the casual observer, at a glance we would look like nothing more than lovers sharing an intimate moment.
However to the supernaturally enhanced, we could possibly be overheard.
But it couldn’t be helped. I wanted to lay eyes on this angry man she’d spoken of – if for nothing else – to make sure he stayed away from her.
She was only there to help me. I would not allow her selfless actions to be repaid by any negligence on my part in keeping her safe.
“He’s maybe fifty feet behind me now,” she whispered in return. “It feels like he’s…pacing maybe? But I can’t really make out his thoughts anymore. His whole head turned red the moment he saw you.”
If he came near my lover I’d make sure that more than his head turned red. The whole of his body would be flayed and covered in his own blood if he laid a single finger on her pristine skin.
My eyes darted to the groups of people approximately fifty feet behind her, but there were too many for me to be able to pick out any one suspect. There were too many to pick out any supernatural scents above the numerous humans milling about, so I thought to draw him away, using ourselves as bait when I inquired, “Would you care to dance?”
“What?” she asked incredulously and dropped her voice back down from the shrieking levels she’d questioned me with, adding, “You wanna go cut a rug when there’s some guy lurking around, probably wanting to shove a stake into you where the sun don’t shine? I know we’re in New Orleans, but Ash Wednesday’s in March and we’re not even close to Fat Tuesday. So forgive me for not wanting to Mardi Gras my ass all over your ashes to the beat of Pitbull! You don’t even have any beads!”
I had no idea what her rant was about, so I ignored it completely and merely replied, “Yes.” Grasping her hand to pull her along with me, I leaned down and whispered into her ear, “I am hoping he will follow us. If you can, keep track of his movements with your gift. But if he doesn’t follow, we’ll circle back around and seek him out. But I would rather not let on that we know of his existence.”
We would only need to stay long enough for me to see who our adversary was. We already had more information than when our evening had begun, so it was a start. If she proved trustworthy – something we would need time to ascertain – I hoped the witch Octavia would have more resources at her disposal and would be able to do something productive with the little bit of information we could provide about Stonebrook and the unknown male. So the sooner I could lay eyes on the man – who would soon wish he had never laid eyes on me – the sooner we could leave.
And the sooner my lover would be out of harm’s way.
The sounds of music blaring in the distance made it easy to head straight for the dance club and the sea of people somehow knew to make a path for us. I couldn’t tell if it was due to my position as the owner or the humans’ innate sense of survival on a subconscious level. Because no matter how putty-like I became in my lover’s hands, it didn’t negate the fact at my core I was a predator and they were my prey.
Humans would not have survived for thousands of years without an underlying mode of judging the safety of their surroundings.
No sooner had I staked claim to a spot on the dance floor than she fell into step in front of me. Seamlessly moving her body against my own to the beat of the music, she made me temporarily forget what our true purpose was for being there.
My mind was puttied by her as well.
“He’s here,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around my neck to pull herself closer, with her words reminding me why now wasn’t the time to try and convince her, the ‘me’ with my memories would not be upset if she chose to give herself to me now.
I was quite certain we would both be the opposite of upset.
But before I could ask her where he was, she turned to put her back against my front and shimmied against my body, threatening to make my fangs descend for a whole other reason than anger.
Of course, I didn’t stop her from doing so.
I didn’t need my memories to know what a stupid idea that would have been.
My hands landed on her hips, doing nothing more than resting there, while the rest of me wondered if she would consider anal sex to be breaking her missing-memory-morality-code, when she turned back to face me and said, “He’s hovering at your ten o’clock.”
My cock had just been hovering around her six o’clock.
But unable to read my mind, she went on to say, “He’s about six feet tall. Brown hair. Angry eyes. He’s dressed in a grey jacket.”
My eyes immediately moved in the direction she’d said and met the angry eyes she’d also said would be there waiting. But instead of dropping my gaze, he defiantly stared back at me for only a moment before turning and storming out of the club. My instincts told me to pursue him. To hunt him down and rip every one of the answers I wanted from his body, while my lover ripped them from his mind.
And once again she surprised me by appearing to be thinking along the same lines when she stilled her body and her eyes grew wide with concern when she said, “He’s leaving! We should follow him!”
But remembering he too could be a witch, I stopped her from going after him. I wouldn’t allow her to be put in the line of fire, but I agreed with her assessment. Knowing what he looked like would do us no real good. We needed more information on him, so I said as much by agreeing, “Yes, but we should do it from a distance.”
We would need at least a name to go along with his face. But short of that, finding out where he resided would do just as well. I hoped it would be enough. With those few details, the woman who mentored the chatty witch might at least have some insight on who the perpetrators were and perhaps the knowledge of how to return me to my former state.
Because quite frankly, I wasn’t so sure of how much further I was willing to go.
I wasn’t willing to allow my lover to put herself into potentially dangerous situations night after night. And while a part of me still worried over how I might react when I regained my memories, there was yet another part of me that had taken root. Had grown at a rapid pace now having a better idea of what else I was missing out on.
Knowing all that I had – and seeing how little my lover possessed – made me want to be able to do more for her. She deserved everything her heart desired and knowing I could give it all to her made me more determined than ever to do all that I could to be able to give her those things.
But I was also still wary. Not just of the unknown the man represented, but of what else might change if my memories were restored. I had just as much to gain as I had to lose with either outcome and I still wasn’t sure if this was the prudent course of action to take.
No amount of wealth or power would be worth losing her.
But I also knew enough to know that she wouldn’t stop in her pursuit until we had tried every avenue. Run down every lead. We had already agreed upon the negotiated terms of our arrangement and were nowhere near the end of our allotted time in the city.
And I had promised her I would try.
I would not break the vow I had made to her.
So it was with a heavy heart that I followed along behind her. We kept pace with him as he left the casino, only getting as close as her gift demanded in order to keep him in her mental sights. So when he traveled a few blocks in the opposite direction of where she’d parked her pitiful car – yet another tick in my mental ‘Yes’ column in favor of regaining my memories – and got into his own, I pulled her into a dark alleyway to keep us out of sight.
I could feel her surprise, but still she smiled up at me and chuckled, “The last time I was in a dark alley with a vampire, things got out of hand.” Her emotions faltered for a brief moment with her off the cuff remark. Not with fear over her attack, but with the guilt she still harbored over her perceived betrayal.
It made my own guilt rise over that part of me that still wanted to keep things as they were.
But at the same time I knew it was only the ‘me’ with my memories intact that would be able to allay her remorse.
We both chose to ignore our matching emotions and instead she dropped her voice down to a seductive level as she teased, “So it’s a good thing I’m armed, but I guess that makes me Sheriff Woody since I’ve got a stake in my pants. Er…well…dress, but you know what I mean.”
Choosing to play along, I took her hand and showed her it wasn’t only our emotions that matched by placing it directly on the wood in my pants, while smiling back at her with, “Me too, so does that mean I’m a sheriff too?”
I didn’t wait for a response, nor did she have the time to give one because a moment later I had her in my arms and flew us straight up into the sky above the rooftops.
And feeling her grip tighten, I realized perhaps putting her hand on my wood as a distraction wasn’t such a good idea.
She finally released my cock from her grasp in order to slap at my chest before clutching my body as though her life depended on it, while she hissed, “You could warn a girl!”
“Lover?” I crooned with a smile, now feeling her wrath.
If she wouldn’t be in danger of plummeting to her death, she may have very well staked me then and there.
I was even more certain of it when she glared what must have been those daggers she had told me about and snapped, “What?”
So I smiled wider and warned, “Hold on.”
It took a moment for her ears to register my words, but hold on she did when I shot us forward, staying high enough above the ambient light to keep us out of sight. But low enough I could still see the suspect’s car traveling down below. Within twenty minutes we were hovering above a small home in the suburbs of New Orleans and watched as the witch’s accomplice entered the house. So I set us down in the shadows three houses away, hoping it would be close enough for her to hear his thoughts.
“Anything?” I asked after a full minute had come to pass in silence.
But it was possible I was getting the silent treatment.
She was still feeling vengeful.
“Yeah,” she nodded and jerked her head at the home directly in front of us. “The woman in there is thinking she hopes her husband hurries up and gets off soon, so he’ll get off of her and she can finish the laundry.”
Zeroing in on the house, I could hear the rhythmic squeaking of what I assumed was the bed, and asked, “Really?” And feeling concerned my lover may have had similar stray thoughts during our previous intimacies, I added, “Do you…ever…”
My question trailed off, not sure I wanted the answer, but she snickered anyways – perceptive as ever – and replied, “No.” I could feel her added amusement when she arched her brow at me challengingly and innocently offered, “You don’t have a washer and dryer at your house.”
My eyes narrowed down at her in return – daggers, just like she’d taught me – with my body and mind prepared to accept her challenge, when she nudged me in the direction of the accomplice’s home and grabbed my hand to pull me along saying, “Come on. I need to get away from her before I break in and start sorting the colors from the whites, so she can concentrate. Lord knows I can’t think straight from here.”
We had barely moved a meter when I detected the scent of Were on the breeze. My ears caught the muffled sounds of chanting a split-second later, but before I could focus on the words being spoken, I felt a wave of dizziness move through my lover.
“Eric?” she asked, with her eyes going wide. “I…I don’t feel…”
The scent of what I could only describe as magic exploded around us, while her legs gave out from underneath her. I caught her body before it could hit the ground and my fangs snapped down through my gums, when my eyes took in the likely cause for her unconscious state in the movement I saw coming from the shadows.
The witch’s accomplice stared back at me with a menacing glare and an evil grin.
“How does it feel?” he asked, moving from the darkness and into the light of the streetlamp. “To have someone you care about ripped away from you?”
“What. Have. You. Done?” I snarled, feeling equal parts panicked and pissed. Her heart rate was steady. As was her breathing, so I didn’t think she was in imminent danger.
The same could not be said about him.
“What have you done with my sister?” he hissed back.
The witch was his sister?
She was the cause for my current state of being. Of that I was almost certain. And now it would seem her brother wanted a hand in fucking with me and mine.
And to me and my enraged mind, the solution was simple.
My lover’s hair barely had the chance to settle into a golden halo surrounding her head on the grass I had set her down on, when I was holding the now detached head of her magical attacker in my hand. Above the blood, the unmistakable scent of Were permeated the air, but I paid it no mind. My only concern was lying on the grass. But when she didn’t stir back into consciousness when I tried to rouse her, I realized the error of my ways.
I should have known better. I hadn’t given any thought to my behavior. I’d been furious.
I acted on it.
But her attacker’s death did nothing to help bring my lover back from wherever his magic had sent her and my fear for her wellbeing rose with every second that ticked by. And it only grew tenfold when I realized my hasty actions might bring about a fate similar to my own in the much smaller blond before me.
And if she no longer remembered me if and when she woke up, my subsequent rage at myself for putting us in such a position could very well level the entire city.
My first instinct was to spirit her away, but I knew I could not leave the evidence of the decapitated Were-witch behind. After all that she had done to put the authorities off the trail of me and my kind, it would be a disservice to her to inadvertently lead them back to us.
A death brought about in such a gruesome way would surely draw their attention.
She appeared to be well and our blood tie told me she was in no pain, so I took the short time required to discard the head and body, sealing them inside of the witch’s home that could no longer keep me at bay with the owner’s death. The blood splatter was mainly confined to the grass – and me – so I saw no reason to do anything further to try to hide the evidence.
Perhaps it was reckless on my part, but it wouldn’t come close to how reckless I’d been with her safety. All I wanted was to get her out of there, so that’s exactly what I did.
First taking her high up into the clouds, I hoped the cool air would help bring her back to a conscious state. When her body began to tremble in my arms and the moisture settled on her skin and hair, I nuzzled her cheek with my own and whispered into her ear, “Lover?”
I felt no stirring within her mind, but my own was in an all out panic. It made me want to return to the witch’s home and shred him into pieces for taking her away from me. But it also made me realize I would give anything for her to come back, even if it meant she would no longer be mine.
Not knowing what else to do, I gently shook her and for the very first time tried out her given name on my tongue, calling out in a louder voice, “Sookie?”
All while I pleaded with her to wake, we literally flew in circles in the night sky, with my mind running through all of the possibilities.
She might wake up on her own. I could fly us back to my home in the country and wait there for her to rise.
I could feed her more of my blood.
But recalling her objection, both spoken and unspoken, to a permanent blood bond, I set that thought aside for now.
I would do it if she didn’t wake soon.
But not wanting to break trust with her – not wanting to feel her disappointment at my second hasty action on this night – my mind settled on the only course of action I could come up with. With every minute that ticked by, my worry rose and I no longer cared about keeping my secret – my memory loss – to myself. My only concern was bringing my lover back from wherever she was held hostage inside of her own mind, but even with my own already made up, I couldn’t help it when another fear moved through me then. But it was all my own.
My fear over finding the answers we sought, and thereby sealing our fate if my own memories returned and with them I ended up losing her.
But if it was the only way to save her, then so be it. As far as I was concerned, there were no other options, so I set course to the only conceivable place where I knew we could find help.
And moments later, with my lover’s body cradled in my blood covered arms, I stood face to sleepy face with my only option.
The chatty witch who – inconceivably – was my only hope.