Her head hung low with her face shrouded by the long dark strands now pulled loose from their pins. Her body suspended in the air by the same silver manacles that had kept me prisoner not so long ago, now attached around her wrists above her head. The silver exposed, no longer covered by either my blood or leather. Nothing to stop them from burning through her skin to the bone underneath.
Like her treatment of me had slowly burned its way through my sanity.
I felt no sympathy of course. For a year my mind had been shrouded by the long dark strands of my past.
All because of her.
Bloody rivulets, now dried to her naked skin, trailed down the front of her body. Both sharp and angular, she was the epitome of everything I didn’t want in a woman inside and out. The antithesis of the single spectator still in the room.
Standing. Watching. Waiting.
For her turn.
On my shoulder, in my mind, or in a corner of the room, Sookie was always there. But now wasn’t the time to go searching for the meaning of it – past, present, or future. Now my mind had a single focus.
On my former queen.
My children had gone first. Like any good parent, I saw to their needs before my own and had allowed them first crack at their evil stepmother. Disney had officially gone dark and now my two princesses each had a new fang to hang around their necks – both a keepsake and a cautionary notice to others – retrieved from the former queen by their own hands.
How else can children learn to do for themselves if they’re never taught to work for what they want?
But I had trained my girls well and merely watched with pride as they took turns in taking out their frustrations on the woman who had upended our lives for a year. A pittance of time, when one has all of eternity, unless yours is the life being upended.
She deserved the same meticulous treatment, but I would not drag it out for a year. I’d wasted enough time and energy on someone so undeserving of anything of mine, so I needed to make this – her last night – count for the last three hundred and sixty-five. She had already wasted five minutes of it, having passed out when Pam had to encourage Freyda’s fang to loosen from her gums.
She’d encouraged it with a left hook.
So now I’d been forced to wait for her to regain consciousness.
After all, it was her party and I didn’t want her to miss a moment of the fun.
And while I could ignore Sookie’s presence in the room, I couldn’t ignore her presence in my blood. Both left me admittedly conflicted, but I didn’t want to delve too deeply into the reasons why just yet. Now that the battle had been won, with me and my sanity the victors, doubt and confusion over what her presence and proclamations had meant were starting to seep in.
She loved me.
She’d said it and I could feel it as the truth. But it wasn’t a truth I hadn’t heard and felt from her before.
I still had a year’s worth of questions. Ones I needed answers for. A year’s worth of fact versus fiction to sort through, but I didn’t want to get lost in my own head yet again. Not when I still had Freyda to contend with.
One thing at a time.
I’d spent enough time in the room to have memorized every nook and cranny, so I walked to the ornately carved armoire – a torturer’s tool chest – and selected some of her favorite pieces. Seeing a few favorites of my own, I chose those as well and laid them out on the table beside her still form like a doctor preparing for surgery. I guessed it was in a way.
I was about to surgically extract the festering cancer from my life once and for all.
And I could already imagine the fangy ribbons Pam would insist on wearing to celebrate my remission.
I could both feel and hear Sookie’s approach behind me, but I hadn’t needed to turn to ascertain why. Still covered in blood from cruising through our earlier crusade, she backhanded Freyda across her face, eliciting a soft moan from her lips and alerting us to her conscious state before her mind could even register her present state.
“Wakey wakey,” she taunted before switching to a chiding tone I’d heard directed at me on more than one occasion, as she added, “You’re not a very good hostess.”
Still so very much alike the naïve girl who walked into a vampire bar in a white dress, this Sookie was so very different as well. She’d never been one for violence – even if she found ways to ease her mind with whatever rationales to explain away acts committed by her that would allow her to sleep at night. But now that my mind had adjusted to my new reality, I could see the glow surrounding her was just as real as the blade still clutched in my hand. Her scent, while not overpowering, was decidedly stronger.
It was just one more question on my list. One more answer I hoped to get. Was it a temporary magic bestowed on her by Niall?
It was the only thing that would make sense in this nonsensical circumstance.
Just like my dream that wasn’t a dream, when we’d separated in the ballroom – both going off on our own quests – my eyes and my blood had kept track of her. Watching. Waiting. Prepared to fly off to her should the need arise, so I was witness to her attack on Felipe. I’d zeroed in on their conversation and heard every threat uttered from his lips. At one time those words would have shocked her. Made her cower internally, no matter how straight her spine appeared. She couldn’t hide her reaction from my blood in her veins, but instead of feeling any fright, she felt exasperated. Amused, even.
And most of all she felt pissed off.
But that was nothing compared to the rage now flowing through her.
Her new fire power was yet one more thing I wanted answers for, but there would be time for that later on. Now however, I set my own need for vengeance aside and gestured to Freyda’s form, saying, “Lover? Is there anything else you need to get off of your chest before she’s gone?”
Turning to meet Freyda’s resigned eyes, I added, “For good.”
The moniker felt both foreign and familiar on my tongue. It was one I had never used before her and one I never would’ve used again if she hadn’t been the recipient. It was yet one more thing for me to consider.
Yet one more thing for me to push aside for now.
Her blood warmed in an entirely different way hearing me address her in such a way, but outwardly she showed no reaction and I watched as her eyes traveled over Freyda’s body from head to toe. I could feel her assessing. Searching. Strategizing. Flipping through whatever it was that clogged her mind, looking for whatever she deemed justifiable.
I must say, I was just as surprised as Freyda over her chosen method.
I don’t know that she could somehow tell that the dried blood on the on the steel rod was mine – caning was one of Freyda’s favorite past times – but she felt a wave of disgust as she reached for it before it was then swallowed by her fury. Taking a step back to allow for the needed distance, she planted her feet and asked, “Do you remember when you waltzed into my house and made crude remarks about my husband? Threatening me and walking all over me? Well your waltzing days are over.”
Swinging the metal rod like her last name was Ruth, the crack of Freyda’s ankle bones mimicked the crack of a homerun ball’s bat, and she swayed by her shackled wrists like a banner in a breeze. The scream that left her throat would make one think she’d wagered heavily on the opposing team and had just lost her shirt on the bet.
But then she’d already lost her shirt a while back.
Sookie ignored her yelling and snarled over her screams, berating her with, “You thought you were so high and mighty with your backroom schemes. You had to resort to buying Eric like he was some goddamn supermarket special. Well you know what bitch? He was never for sale.”
She took another swing – my lover was apparently a switch hitter – and broke Freyda’s other ankle. Rolling her eyes and waving her hand in the air like she could fan away the noise Freyda was making, she made her way over to the chains that held Freyda suspended in the air on a pulley system. Using all of the gentleness of an 18th century inquisitionist, Sookie lowered Freyda’s body until she was forced to rest her weight on her now broken legs. And knowing how quickly our kind healed, when she was satisfied with the height of the chains, she walked over a grabbed a length of silver chain and wrapped them around Freyda’s lower legs.
The sizzle from the silver meeting her skin crackled in the air and the scent of burning flesh permeated around us. I was still a shocked spectator to this new version of Sookie, so my mouth may have been agape when she turned to me, with her eyebrows furrowed in thought, as she asked, “Smells like chicken, don’tcha think?”
Quickly schooling my features – agape or otherwise – I offered, “I think you would be a better judge of that.”
She gave me a glimpse of the Sookie I knew when she giggled and said, “I suppose…”
I thought perhaps she was done with what she wanted to do Freyda.
I thought wrong.
Her eyes scanned the room and landed on the vial of blood perched on a shelf. The very same fairy blood Freyda had given me in order to force me to comply with my duties as her Royal Consort. The taste of full blooded Fae would forever be tainted in my mind because of it, so it was just another reason to be thankful Sookie was a hybrid.
And I discarded the thought just as quickly, not yet knowing what – if any – future we had together entailed.
Grabbing the vial, she pulled the stopper from the top and waved the opening underneath Freyda’s nose. Vampires didn’t need to breathe, but she was panting thanks to the pain from her broken and silver bedazzled legs.
“Did you know the Fae can sense the blood of their kin?” Sookie asked, using no more inflection in her tone than if she’d asked about the weather. Damming the top of the bottle, she flipped it over and coated her fingertip with the contents, before turning it upright and showing Freyda the blood now coloring her skin. Her tone remained the unaffected air of a professor lecturing a room full of students as she explained, “Even in a bottle, I can tell this fairy was one of my own. My blood tells me so. I can’t tell who or how far removed, but the fairy you drained was of the Brigant line.” She swiped her blood stained finger down the length of Freyda’s nose, with the close proximity of the scent causing her to snarl and hiss. So close and yet too far for her to taste, Freyda hadn’t been deprived of feeding for weeks on end, like I once was. She should have had more control.
But she’d already proven time and again she never really did have any control.
Sookie ignored the flailing former queen before her and repeated the process, moving down to her bare chest. She hadn’t flinched once, her human morality and sense of modesty having been checked at the door as it seemed, when she said, “Do you remember asking me if the rumors of Eric’s sexual prowess were true? I know you were eager to find out for yourself. After all, Eric’s skills are legendary. As a telepath I knew that before I ever got to experience it firsthand. But what you should have known was something like that can only be given. Not taken.” By the time she’d taken a step back, I could see she’d painted a scarlet letter ‘R’ on her chest, as she ended with, “There. Now everyone will know that you’re a rapist.”
Her assaults on my body weren’t as horrific as Ocella’s had been, but they were just as unwanted. Even if I had gone to her bed willingly, I never would’ve given her the pleasure I was capable of. Sookie was right when she said it had to be given freely. Not taken, by force or royal decree.
But it was also the one punishment I wouldn’t repay her in kind. I wasn’t a rapist in my human life and that had carried over with me into my undead one. Rape was about power, not pleasure of the flesh. The power, I already had, and I would derive no pleasure from her flesh that didn’t come from a blade.
“He was mine to take,” Freyda foolishly snarled.
“He was never yours,” Sookie snarled in return.
If I had to choose a word to describe what I felt coming from her through our shared blood in that moment, the one most fitting would be venom.
Pure venom flowed through her.
I still hadn’t given a lot of thought to her new powers, so I was shocked stupid again when Sookie reached out and touched Freyda’s body. Hovering her fingertip just above the painted ‘R’, Sookie traced the letter and in the process scorched it onto her skin. Freyda fruitlessly tried to arch away from the hybrid blowtorch in front of her, but it was a pointless exercise and only succeeded in adding to the strain on her broken legs.
And despite my doubts over where we stood with one another, I couldn’t help smirking at Sookie and asking, “Did I ever tell you how hot you are?”
“You may have insinuated it once,” she smiled back at me. “On the way to the orgy.”
My mind immediately leapt back in time to those shorts she’d worn.
“Like a caterpillar embraces a butterfly,” I recalled aloud.
Perhaps it was the bloodlust. Perhaps it was the scent of pure Fae blood. Perhaps it was the memory of a much simpler time when murdered fry cooks and maenads were our biggest worries that caused our own kind of butterfly effect.
I don’t know who moved first. Me or Sookie. Maybe it was just the fucking rotation of the earth on its axis that forced our bodies together, but the only fighting we did against it was waged over who would dominate the kiss when our lips crashed together.
All teeth and tongues. There was nothing sweet or sedate about it. There was no past. There was no future. In that moment we were both firmly rooted in the present and in each other’s mouths.
Fuck. Bite. Rub.
I wanted it all.
And while Sookie had definitely changed, I wasn’t so sure she’d changed enough to be okay with fucking right then and there with Freyda as a spectator. I certainly didn’t give a fuck, but I also knew if we did, it would be akin to climaxing too soon. The sexual tension we felt now would only add to my enjoyment over ending Freyda later. And no matter her state, I knew Freyda would get some enjoyment merely watching me fuck Sookie like she’d wanted me to fuck her.
Sookie and I could fuck later. And if I still hadn’t located my balls by then, maybe she could help me search for them while we talked about what it would mean.
But first I needed to end that bitch.
“Later, lover,” Eric whispered against my lips before he pulled away.
Screw ‘later’. I wanted to screw right now, but when he lifted his leg and kicked Freyda, making her body sway, her scream reminded me we weren’t alone, so I let him pull away.
Nothing about him was for her eyes and Eric gracing me with his graciously plentiful talent definitely qualified as something that wasn’t for her.
But it was hard to let him go. Our earlier kisses were filled with doubt. Doubt they were real? Doubt we would last? I couldn’t tell, but that kiss was one I remembered all too well. That kiss was given by the Eric I remembered. Cocky. Self-assured.
That was the kiss of a thousand year old Viking vampire.
And while I would be happy if he would just stake the bitch and be done with it, I knew Eric still had some retribution of his own he was due. So I tried to passively watch as he took the steel blade in his hand and slowly sauntered around her writhing body. She visibly shuddered when he pressed the cool metal against the skin of her spine and arched away from his touch, but it was impossible to be out of his reach.
I wondered if she now realized no matter what she’d done to him, she never would’ve been out of his reach.
I wouldn’t know without asking him, but I assumed he had a plan in place. He was Eric. Eric always had a plan, so I doubted he would’ve put up with her for the entire length of his contract. Eric was never a passive spectator to his own life, but he was a pragmatist. He would’ve plotted and waited for his opening to do whatever he needed to do to free himself. Of that I was sure.
I just sped up the process.
“So young,” he taunted, dragging the sharpened tip down the length of spine. Not deep enough to sever any nerves that would relieve her of any pain she felt, but deep enough to inflict more of it on her. He watched the fresh river of blood flow down her back and added, “So impetuous. Foolish. Your maker did you no favors by not warning you to avoid conspiring with the likes of mine.”
“You’ve got your little human whore back,” she hissed. “Just be done with it already.”
When would this bitch learn?
Before he could even open his mouth to respond, Passive Sookie fled the room and left Pissed Off Sookie in her place. I moved to stand in front of her and reminded her, “I’m neither a human nor a whore. Only whores would force a man into fucking them with fairy blood.”
I didn’t give her the time to reply or any warning it was coming, when we were all assaulted by the stench of burning flesh once more, intermingled with the scent of sulfur that came with burnt hair. Freyda’s pained shriek filled my ears, but it was nothing like the screams she’d let out from either her broken legs or the silver digging into her flesh because now the smoke was emanating from much lower. Eric glanced over her shoulder to see my still outstretched hand facing Freyda’s now smoking snatch, but his only response was an arched eyebrow.
Leaning forward, I smirked back at Freyda’s fangless screams, saying, “I’m no Moses, but I’d still call that a burning bush.”
Even if she hadn’t repeatedly raped Eric over the last year, I didn’t think that was something he would return to her. He may have been a vampire, but that didn’t mean he was a monster. No matter what, I didn’t believe he would willingly defile another being in that way.
No…Eric was no Bill.
So I didn’t feel bad making that part of her closed for business.
For more reasons than just that one.
Eric’s chuckle was accompanied by his own smirk and he took advantage of her open mouth by grabbing onto her jaw with one hand and a pair of pliers from the table with the other. I took a step back to give him room to work and watched as he gripped one of her molars with the pliers, pulling the first of many from her mouth while telling her, “My children will wear your fangs, but perhaps my lover would like a charm bracelet with what’s left to remind her of our time together.”
Not really, but it was the thought that counted.
He kept working until her mouth had no more teeth to pull, intermittently singing the stanzas to, ‘This little piggy.’ One went to the market. One stayed home. Blah blah blah.
I waited until he was finished to remind him that the singing game was meant for toes.
So he started all over again, pulling those off instead.
The bloodied stumps that were her feet were kind of gross, but I couldn’t find any sympathy in me to care. I was done with trying to apply human decency to the supernatural world. They certainly hadn’t used it with me when I still believed myself to be human and now that I’d taken the steps to make me more like them than Eric knew, I wouldn’t shy away from my chosen path.
Never again would I turn a blind eye. I was all in.
And my new mindset came in handy when Eric moved on to cutting ribbons of flesh away from Freyda’s body. Instead of being grossed out, I was enthralled, watching like a fascinated pupil as he skillfully fileted her body without so much as nicking the tendons underneath.
I wondered how well he’d do carving a Thanksgiving turkey.
When there was no more skin left to be fileted, other than her scorched letter ‘R’, he began cutting away the muscles. His attention to detail was so meticulous, he hadn’t uttered another word once the last little piggy had gone wee wee wee all the way home. Her pained screams and flailing body were of no consequence to him and he continued to work like Michelangelo sculpting a Mengele masterpiece.
His tool of choice was steel. I assumed because silver would’ve cauterized the wounds. Eventually she’d shouted herself hoarse, so our ears were spared from her wailing and I learned vampires could live without the majority of their internal organs.
The majority of hers sat in a pile off to the side of Eric’s feet.
When he finally stood back and assessed his work, he seemed satisfied and tossed the blade down onto the table. Picking up a large syringe, he dipped the needle into what looked like a bottle of liquid silver and filled it with the shiny liquid. He’d left her eyes intact, so she was able to see what was coming, and given the fright that shone out of them I could only assume this wasn’t the way she’d hoped to go.
Apparently a stake to the heart was too quick for Eric.
He slowly pressed the needle into her heart and gradually pushed its contents into her. Because the majority of her flesh was exposed, it was easy to see Eric had left her major arteries intact. The silver pumped through her veins, turning them black as they burned their way through her body, before traveling all the way back up to her heart.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Refused to blink and possibly miss seeing the finale. Her entire body seized, forcing her to bear even more weight on her broken legs, and her mouth opened in a silent scream as wide as her horrified eyes.
And then she slumped.
Her blackened veins turned to ash and began to quickly flake away, with the rest of her body charring and doing the same. It was like watching a fast moving forest fire without the flames.
And without the same sense of dread one might feel for any lives lost.
The pillar of ash left behind wasn’t much different than the pillar of salt Lot’s wife became. But like Lot’s wife, Freyda should have heeded the warning.
Eric simply stared down at what was left of his tormentor. He didn’t twitch. Didn’t take a breath because he didn’t need to. Didn’t blink. Without a fully formed blood bond, I had no idea of what he was feeling. No guess as to what he was thinking, but considering he was just standing there and not trying to initiate sexy times with me, I had to assume he was still processing it all.
He was the unofficial king of four states now. The last I’d heard, he didn’t want to be king of even one, so I was sure that was weighing heavily on his mind.
Maybe he thought he would be called before the council – like Sophie-Anne when she’d killed Threadgill – unaware that my claim on him negated any contract he once agreed to.
I’d told him I loved him. I’d told him I was and would always be his. I’d forced the start of another blood blond on him, but he’d initiated the second exchange. It may have taken me a year to get my head out of my ass, but I was back in his life now. For how long, only he could say.
I wished he would say something.
But Eric had always been the silent type, so I didn’t expect him to suddenly open up and share his every wish or worry with me. He would need time. Something I now had an abundance of, so I left him to his thoughts and left the room to go in search of a shower.
All the while wishing he had said something.