Just like Pam had so accurately described me – all heart and no brains – I almost asked Karin to sneak me into Oklahoma that very same night. But if I truly wanted to change things, I knew I needed to start with my own actions and running off into a foreign state where the only person I knew was the one I wanted to save, wouldn’t do either one of us any good. I needed to be smart about it for once, which meant I needed help. Help figuring out how to actually free Eric in a way where he wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. I knew him well enough to know that was a life he wouldn’t want to live.
If he had, he would’ve taken off long before the contracts were ever signed.
I didn’t know where to start or how to even begin figuring out a way to get Eric out of his marriage contract. Supernatural legalities weren’t my specialty, but it was that very same thought that gave me my first clue on who I needed to talk to.
So I called Mr. Cataliades.
Thankfully he happened to be in Shreveport on other business and agreed to meet with me the very next afternoon. So with my heart on my sleeve and my stomach in knots, I met him in an office building the following day.
Seeing me enter his office, he was as warm as ever and greeted me by saying, “Sookie, I hope you are doing well?”
I fought against the tears that were constantly threatening to spill out of my eyes and tried to smile through them, admitting, “Actually, I’m not. That’s why I’m here. I need your help.”
He gestured for me to take a seat and looked appropriately concerned as he said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I take it you’re here to see me about taking away your telepathy?”
“What?” I asked in shock. At least it was enough to make my emotional state toughen up some, so I added, “No. No I…I guess it’s nice to know that I have the option, but it’s a part of me. It’s what made me who I am.”
And it was a part of me that I might need in order to free Eric, hopefully one day soon. I’d spent my whole life bemoaning my weirdness. Crying inside over wanting to be normal. Not once did I ever embrace my otherness, even if I had no issues with using it to my advantage when my life – or someone else’s I cared about – was on the line.
I really was a hypocrite.
Looking confused, he said, “Well then my dear, I’m afraid I don’t know your purpose in asking for this meeting. Do you have legal issues you need assistance with?”
“As a matter of fact I do.” Leaning forward, I let my desperation shine through and asked, “Do you know of any way for Eric to get out of his contract with Oklahoma?”
In my past dealings with Mr. C, I’d seen his eyes dance with amusement. I’d witnessed them scorn the Arkansas vamp Jade right before he killed her for murdering his own niece. I’d observed him remain completely stone faced during Sophie-Anne’s trial in front of the ancient oracle in Rhodes and saw them weary when he carried her injured body from the rubble. But now I was beholding an entirely new sight on his face.
If he were a cartoon character, his eyeballs would’ve shot out of his skull on springs, while the sound of a trumpet blared in the background.
But the savvy lawyer in him quickly returned, with him wiping his face clean of any emotion when he questioned, “Why do you ask, my dear?”
I wasn’t sure if there was some confidentiality clause he was bound by. And knowing some of what the supernatural world was like, I knew that could very well mean he literally couldn’t talk about it. He could be bound by some sort of magical mouth shutter that would make it impossible for him to speak of it, but I was desperate. I knew there was no way I could rescue Eric on my own and I would do whatever I had to do in order to set him free.
Even if that would mean he would then be free to choose not to be with me again.
He might not be my monarch, but Eric was my butterfly.
I didn’t hold back anything and admitted, “I miss him terribly. I still love him and I hate that I didn’t try to fight for him when everything went down. I know he still loved me at the time and I have no idea if that still holds true today, but I can’t leave things the way they are. I can’t live with myself knowing he’ll live his next two hundred years as a slave. So I’m asking is there anything that can be done to get him out of it? Is there some being in higher power I can go to, to ask for their help? I know the money my great-grandfather left me isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I’m willing to give it all to whoever can help free Eric. And I’m willing to use my telepathy for them whenever they have need of it for the rest of my life.”
It was the least I could do, considering Eric had committed himself to an additional one hundred years of slavery to ensure my own freedom. I had another fifty years at best, if I was lucky.
It was a bargain price.
Fifty percent off.
“What you are saying could be considered treasonous,” he warned.
And if I could find any humor in the situation we were in, I would’ve made a show of turning out my pockets to show him I didn’t have a single fig to give.
But seeing the small smile form on his lips, I assumed Mr. C was fig-free too, right before he added, “Were we in Oklahoma.”
“But we’re not,” I smiled in return, with hope filling my chest.
“No, my dear,” he smiled, showing me his razor sharp pearly whites. “We most certainly are not.” He put his lawyer face back in place and said, “As the lawyer for the Sovereignty of Louisiana, I had a hand in negotiating the contract on King de Castro’s behalf and thereby in part, on Mr. Northman’s behalf as well.”
I had a feeling he was putting down something I should be picking up, but I didn’t know quite what it was. That is until his eyes pierced mine – with them saying much more than his actual words – when he adopted a formal tone in saying, “Sookie Stackhouse. Are you here to notify me of your intention to claim your husband and keeping him bound to your marriage by the knife, by invoking your birthright as Princess of the Sky Fae?”
I could do that?
How many times had I hated that very thing? It was thanks to my grandfather Fintan’s friendship with Mr. C that made me end up with my curse of telepathy to begin with. It was my fairy heritage that made me the prize for Lochlan and Neave, causing me to experience pain the likes of which I hadn’t known was possible. But even then – even when Eric was being tortured himself by Victor – he did all that he could to take my pain away through the bond I’d always been suspicious of. He came to me as soon as he could and healed me with his blood, even though he needed it himself. He stood side by side with me and took down the fairies who came to finish me off, when he was still weak himself.
Before that he’d come to me on the night of the takeover, standing with me when it could’ve very well been our end. Jackson. Mickey. New Orleans. Both when I’d been kidnapped and when I was later in the hospital. The hallway in Rhodes where Andre would’ve forced me to bond with him. Even when he didn’t know his own name, he’d headed straight for me.
Over and over, time and again, Eric had always come for me. He’d always come to me.
No matter what – when it counted – that was where Eric always was.
Next to me.
Now I would gladly go through the torture all over again if it meant I would get Eric back. Now I knew I would never be normal. And if being normal meant I wouldn’t have Eric, then I didn’t want to be. I would gladly shout from the mountaintops, telling everyone I was a fairy goddammit!
Hear me roar!
And I wanted to roar at Mr. C and ask him why he didn’t tell me about my fairy birthright sooner, but I knew even if he had, I probably wouldn’t have used it before now. Just like I hadn’t used the Cluviel Dor to save him. I’d still been too angry. Too hurt. Too blind to see what had been in front of me all along.
Or rather, beside me all along.
But I had a feeling he wasn’t looking for me to ask any questions – even if I now had a million more – so I trusted my gut instincts – and him – and simply replied, “I am.”
“Very well,” he smiled. I’d apparently picked up what he’d put down satisfactorily, so he glanced down at his desk calendar and shook his head ruefully, saying, “My schedule is quite full over the next several days. I’m afraid I might not have the chance to inform Oklahoma of your intentions right away.” Looking back up at me, he put down something new when he offered, “Perhaps you could use that time to speak to your great-grandfather. It is his duty to stand by his kin in matters such as this. Royalty by blood supersedes royalty of any other kind in the supernatural world, regardless of the species involved. And his presence would help solidify your claim when you appear before Oklahoma.”
“When I do what, now?” I asked.
I assumed he could just make a call. Send a snowy white owl or an email. I could sign something in blood and have him pass it on, along with a message to my husband to pick up a gallon of milk on his way home.
“I’m forbidden to go into Oklahoma,” I reminded him when he just stared at me. And in case he forgot, I added, “On penalty of death.”
“Yes,” he nodded, like I wasn’t wearing a bullseye on my back. His eyebrow quirked up as he said, “I believe the contract specifically states, ‘If the human Sookie Stackhouse is found within Oklahoma’s borders, she shall be killed forthwith.’”
I waited for him to at least give the appearance he was concerned over my forthwith death, but instead he just smiled and said, “So it’s a good thing you won’t be entering Oklahoma as the human, Sookie Stackhouse. Isn’t that right, Princess Brigant?”
Oh. I see what he did there.
“You did that,” I said, finally realizing what he meant. And realizing there was only one reason why he would make sure it was written that way.
Tears filled my eyes again, seeing him nod, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Why?”
He didn’t owe me anything and yet he ensured a way for me to get Eric back when even I didn’t know at the time that I would want to. I’m sure if I had been asked back then, I would have vehemently stated, “Hell no!”
“My dear,” he smiled softly and explained, “When I offered the gift of my blood to your grandparents, at the time I thought it a grand gesture of friendship towards my good friend Fintan. But when we finally met, I could see how much your telepathy had cost you over the years. At the time of my offer, I didn’t think of the troubles you would face due to my interference. Even if I took your telepathy away now, it wouldn’t take back all that you’ve had to go through because of me. And as for why I made sure the contract was worded in a specific way, even a blind man would see that you loved the Sheriff and I know he loved you as well. But I also knew you were hurt by everything that transpired, so I made sure you would have the option to seek a more fitting resolution, if you chose to do so later on.”
After what felt like a lifetime of not having any choice in what happened in my life, I wanted to hug the stuffing out of him. But I wasn’t sure if that would be appreciated, so instead I just smiled through my tears and sincerely offered, “Thank you.”
“It was nothing,” he replied and then said, “But be aware, if you claim Mr. Northman as your husband by invoking your birthright, your fairy heritage will be known to the entire supernatural world. It will cause quite the ruckus and you will never again be able to go back into the shadows of living as a pure human.” Locking his gaze onto mine, he added, “And as a royal, Mr. Northman will be bound to abide by your wishes. No matter what it is you wish for him to do.”
“What was that?” I asked.
I’d already come to terms with throwing my fairy weight around, so I had no issue with who knew about it if it meant I could free Eric. But I could’ve sworn he said something about me having the higher hand over Mr. Highhanded.
“You are a royal by blood. Mr. Northman is not and he was merely a Sheriff when you married. Even if he’d been the King of Louisiana at the time, his station would never supersede your own. He will once again be your husband, if you claim him by your birthright, but you will never be equals,” he explained.
That right there was hooky talk. A leopard didn’t change their spots and I didn’t think for one moment Eric would suddenly be kowtowing to me because I wore an invisible tiara. Nor did I want him to.
I’d hated each and every time he said something that came off as humans being inferior to vampires. How they were so much better because they were immortal or whatever, but I would never use my royal fairy blood against him to make him do whatever I wanted.
I enjoyed his fire. I even liked fighting with him because making up was so much fun. Eric would always be my equal no matter what my royal pedigree said, of that I was sure.
And if I got to Oklahoma and he said he wanted to stay there, then I wouldn’t force him to come with me either. He’d suffered enough coercion to last many lifetimes. I wouldn’t add to it.
It would be my karmic ass kicking I was still owed.
But in order for me to collect on my possible ass kicking by karma, I needed to get to Oklahoma. And apparently I needed Niall there to back me up, so I asked, “Do you know how I can get in contact with Niall? Aren’t the portals closed?”
“I can get word to him,” he nodded. “And he was able to open the portals so your cousin Claude could reenter the human realm. I’m sure he can do it a second time.”
“But do you think he will?”
While Niall had left me his earthly possessions, and I now had him to thank for not having to worry about money ever again, I never truly trusted him to stand by me. And I’d had a feeling the Cluviel Dor had been a test of my relationship with Eric.
One that we epically failed.
I didn’t know if he’d be willing to risk opening the portals just because I needed him. And I didn’t know how he’d feel about me claiming my Brigant birthright in order to claim a vampire – their natural enemy.
And since my pockets were empty of figs, I couldn’t give him one either if he had something nasty to say about it.
“I will make sure he knows of your intention to invoke your birthright. The prince will open the portal,” he said assuredly.
At least one of us was sure.
Mr. C told me he would send the magical carrier pigeon off into the fairy realm – or however it was they traded information – and told me to go home and wait. But I didn’t want to wait. I was impatient. I was worried about Eric and what could possibly be happening to him.
I wanted to run all the way to Oklahoma dressed as Tinkerbelle and wave my glittery plastic wand at them, telling Freyda to back the hell off of my man while I shoved that same wand up her ass.
But Mr. C had already proven he knew best by writing a loophole into the contract, so I could have the opportunity to shove plastic wands up vampire queen’s asses.
So I went home and waited – sans glittery plastic wand.
Karin had known what I would be up to over the daytime hours, so I wasn’t surprised to feel the void approaching the farmhouse at first dark. Grabbing a warmed TruBlood and a glass of sweet tea, I went out onto the porch to greet her.
Only to find Bill coming up the steps.
“Sookie,” he smiled. “I just came to see how you are faring. I heard Sam has moved out?”
And given his hopeful expression, I could assume he thought that meant he could move right on in.
“Yes, Bill. He did,” I admitted and took a seat on the porch swing. He took the seat beside me without waiting for me to offer it to him and it struck a nerve.
After all, it wasn’t the first time Bill took something from me I hadn’t offered.
And when he reached for the bottle of TruBlood still in my hand, I pulled it away from his outreached grasp and admonished, “Did I say that was for you?”
I could already imagine Gran’s horrified expression over my rudeness. But then I imagined if she could’ve seen what Bill had done to me in the trunk of that car in Jackson, she would’ve sharpened the stake to end him herself.
He looked both confused at my unexplained anger and chagrined at the same time, saying, “I am sorry. I just assumed you’d brought it out for me.”
“You do that a lot,” I said, with my anger building and flowing out through my mouth. “Just like you assumed I was there to feed from and fuck when Debbie Pelt locked me in that trunk with you.”
He looked like I’d just shoved silver-tipped bamboo under his fingernails.
But I didn’t care, considering what he’d shoved into me in that trunk.
I don’t know why I was suddenly thinking about all of it now. Maybe it had something to do with wanting to rescue Eric. Even if he never wanted to see me again after that, I needed closure. It was something we didn’t get to have before he’d left for Oklahoma.
And it was something I’d never gotten with Bill because I avoided feeling much of anything back when it happened. Even as recently as the night before I hadn’t wanted to think about it, but it seemed like I was ready to finally face the facts.
“You raped me,” I informed both him and my psyche.
“Sookie, I…I…” he stuttered, looking dismayed. “I wasn’t in my right mind. I’d been tortured and starved. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“I know that Bill,” I agreed. And I did know it. I think that was a big reason why I’d been able to push it aside at the time. I’d seen the state he was in thanks to Lorena.
But that didn’t mean it didn’t happen, nor did it make it okay.
And I was sick at myself when I remembered thinking about having revenge sex with him when I’d been mad at Eric over everything that happened nearly a year earlier. I truly hadn’t been in a very good place back then, so I was just thankful I hadn’t actually gone through with it. But more than my gruff got up when he said, “I love you! I’ve always loved you, sweetheart. I came for you and rescued you from Lochlan and Neave. I nearly died for you!”
Me and my gruff stood up, so I could glare down at him and yelled back, “And I came for you in Jackson first! I nearly died twice! I got staked at Club Dead because I was there for you and then your maker nearly killed me when I rescued you!” My hands slapped onto my hips as I spat out, “I think we’re even on that front. But I didn’t violate you!”
And my heart hurt remembering not only had Eric rescued me in the club, but he’d rescued me from that trunk with Bill too.
I hadn’t even thanked him for it.
It wasn’t the only thing I hadn’t done. I was so angry I didn’t sense the approach of anyone else when Karin was suddenly standing in between Bill and me. With her back to me, she looked down at him and said, “Billy Bangs. Are you bothering my mistress?”
“Karin the Slaughterer,” he acknowledged, sounding just as amiable as I did a minute earlier.
But seriously? That was her full name?
It sounded like she’d won in it some ludicrous contest.
“Sookie is no longer your mistress,” he snapped out and then gloated, “Or perhaps you have forgotten your maker is newly wed.”
Oh. No. He. Didn’t.
But it was Bill. So of course he did.
My mind flashed back to when he’d told me about Eric’s stipulation that he would give Sam the money to bail me out of jail, but in exchange Sam couldn’t pursue me romantically. Bill had had that same gloating tone when he told me all about it, gleefully tattling on Eric as a payback for when Eric forced him to tell me the truth on why he’d come to Bon Temps in the first place.
And I felt the same hurt and rage I’d felt in New Orleans all over again.
The differences between Eric and Bill had never been clearer in my mind. Eric never purposefully hurt me. But that was all Bill seemed capable of doing.
I took a step to the side, so I could glare down at him too and said, “You can bet your pasty white ass Eric is still mine. And you can take that same pasty ass off of my property. I don’t want to see you again Bill Compton.”
“Sookie,” he gasped. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but you have to realize Eric is no longer yours. And you are no longer his. When she leaves after her yearlong commitment to watch over you, you’ll need me to keep you safe.”
“Is that what you’ve been waiting around for?” I shrieked. “Did you think I’d go running back to you – my rapist – in the hopes you of all people would keep me safe from harm? Who in the hell would be protecting me from you?”
He stared back at me, looking as if I’d physically slapped him in the face, and maybe I would have had he not opened his mouth and said, “You have some foolish notion you can get Eric back.”
I already knew I could get Eric back – at least if he wanted to come back, but I didn’t trust Bill with that information.
He’d already sold me out once to the Queen of Louisiana. There was no reason to believe he wouldn’t sell me out to the Queen of Oklahoma too.
So instead I replied, “No Bill. The only foolish notion I had was thinking we could still be friends after everything you’ve done to me. Betraying not just my heart; or our relationship; or my body, but you betrayed everything I hold dear in a friend. A friend doesn’t gloat and hurt their friend, just so they can feel good about themselves. A friend doesn’t twist the knife when their friend already felt like they’d been stabbed in the heart. You are not my friend Bill Compton and you never were. But I see that now and now I would like for you to leave.”
He opened his mouth to say something else, but Karin snarled out menacingly. I wasn’t quite sure how old she was, but I knew she was older than Pam and therefore older than Bill.
She could kick his ass all the way to New Orleans, I was sure.
Her last name must have been Slaughterer for a reason.
When he was finally gone, I invited her into the house just in case Mr. Nosy was lurking close enough to hear what we said. She looked just as hopeful as I felt when I told her everything Mr. C had told me that afternoon. But remembering what she’d said about Pam’s protective measures and her worry about me acting rashly, I had to ask, “Why are you so okay with this? Pam obviously didn’t want me to do anything foolish,” I bit out remembering Bill’s accusation. “So why did you plant the seed last night?”
I expected her to say something about missing her maker. Or perhaps feeling vengeful over his forced servitude. But given how vamps normally treated humans – royal fairy hybrids or not – I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was hearing her say, “I don’t care about you.”
“Well thanks for clearing that up,” I snapped back at her.
She smiled, making me want to punch her all the more, and said, “You misunderstand me. I care about you in that my maker cares about you. I will always see to your welfare for that reason alone. But I do not care for you as Pam does. Her affection for you has grown over the time she has known you. She does not want to see you hurt, physically or emotionally. I do not know you as she does, but I’m starting to see what it is that holds you in their high esteem.”
“Oh,” I mumbled.
Well that certainly cleared things up.
But before either one of us had the chance to ruin our bonding moment with another misconstrued remark, we were suddenly interrupted.
And by suddenly, I meant poof!
Because Niall had just popped into my living room.
“Great-granddaughter,” he acknowledged, but ignored the vampire at my side. And thankfully, she ignored him too, so I assumed he was blocking his scent.
If nothing else, I viewed his acknowledgement as a good sign. It showed he still saw me as one of his own, but his face gave nothing away when he said, “I understand you wanted to speak with me.”
Well…here goes nothing.