I knew he’d been up to something and if my head wasn’t constantly clouded by all things Sookie, I would’ve thought to have him guarded.
But now he was fucking gone with the wind, which would’ve made me laugh had I not been so fucking pissed, thanks to those ridiculous sideburns he wore.
Seeing Sookie staring back at me and feeling her confidence in me, only made me feel like even more of a failure.
But that didn’t last, when her shock came through and she turned to the dog, asking, “What do you mean you should have left Eric at the farmhouse when you found him?”
Since he hadn’t said anything out loud, I assumed she’d read his thoughts. And he looked back at her guiltily before her eyes turned back to me, asking, “You’d been to my house before?”
I sighed – fucking again – and answered in a calm tone that belied my true rage, “Yes, however now is not the time to discuss it.”
I still had no idea how I had ended up there and, considering all of the fucking things I’d been feeling as of late, I questioned just how truly random my path had been.
Even cursed and with no prior knowledge of her, I fucking clawed my way straight to where she should have been.
With my failure in securing Compton as the threat I now knew him to be – as well as feeling the uncertainty over what Sookie’s importance to me was, even when cursed – I felt caged.
I was already pacing but it wasn’t enough.
I wanted to rip something to shreds.
But I knew Sookie wouldn’t appreciate me tearing apart the dog, so I only looked at him and ordered, “You will tell no one you have seen Sookie or where she is. Do you understand?”
Until I could come up with a reasonable story for where she’d been all this time, the last fucking thing I needed was for the human authorities to come looking for her.
Because she would definitely be with me.
I wasn’t so difficult to find these days. I’d been popular enough, just being known as the owner of Fangtasia, but my popularity had soared following Sophie-Anne’s death and I had become New Orleans’ newest star attraction.
The meager crowds of tourists she used to draw as Queen were a pittance compared to the droves of men and women alike, who now camped out across from the palace.
Sookie had yet to see any of it and it was one of the reasons I’d taken her out of the palace through the escape hatch. I disliked being King enough, so the constant presence of the clumps of vermin – with their foul smelling stench wafting through the air – only added to my misery.
Pam, of course, had a field day at my expense and had even given me a pair of sunglasses telling me I should wear them whenever I left the palace, since that was what ‘all the rock stars wore’.
That very same night she went into her room just before sunrise to discover the torn sleeves from her favorite Chanel suits laid out on her bed.
In the form of the letters ‘F’ and ‘U’.
The memory of her mortification alone was enough to calm me some, until the dog shot up off of the couch and shouted, “You can’t just keep her! She’s got a life and a…a…”
He seemed to lose his train of thought – perhaps distracted by thoughts of a chasing a fucking tennis ball, for all I knew – but Sookie stood up and faced him, sadly asking, “I’ve got a what, Sam? My home is gone. Gran is gone and Jason is in prison. My life is all I have. What else have I got, exactly?”
If I didn’t already know better, I would’ve thought Sookie had read my thoughts because she smiled up at me and wrapped her arm around my waist, saying, “What I’ve got now is Eric looking out for me. But there seem to be some very bad…people after me and he’s keeping me safe. So please, don’t tell anyone just yet that I was here or that you’ve seen me, okay? I always thought of you as one of my closest friends Sam. I hope I can still count on our friendship now that it matters the most.”
“You’d always be welcome to stay here,” he mumbled, while not looking at her. “I’d protect you.”
She had been rubbing her hand up and down my back, perhaps from hearing the low growl building in my chest over the thought of my Sookie living with the dog.
The pity she felt for him annoyed me, but it was better than the fondness of the night before and he seemed to finally relent when he took her answering silence and said, “Of course you can count on me, Cher.”
His eyes glared at me, as he took a step forward and soiled her with his scent by hugging her again, and added, “I just hope you know what you’re doing by staying with him.”
“I do Sam,” she softly replied, before she finally pulled away.
I returned his glare, wanting to say much more than what actually came out, when I ordered, “You will contact me if you see or hear anything concerning Sookie.”
But feeling her irritation flaring up again, I added less harshly, “I will be in your debt.”
Again, I added silently.
Once we were back outside, I took Sookie into my arms once more, lifting us up into the sky and couldn’t help remarking with annoyance, “You smell like dog now.”
I loved her scent and he ruined it.
But Sookie snapped back, both sounding and feeling just as annoyed, “You don’t have to breathe. Get over it!”
Argh! This woman!
The way she was able to crawl under my skin so easily – both good and bad – still flummoxed me. Any other human wouldn’t have lived, if they had spoken to me as she had.
But then I wouldn’t have bothered with any other human – as I had with her – and in my wandering thoughts (all things Sookie, my new fucking normal) we somehow managed to end up hovering above the cemetery next to her former home.
Even with her in my arms, all paths led me to her.
Sookie, of course, noticed where we were and asked, “Will you tell me about the night Sam found you here?”
I could see how her telepathy could be viewed as a curse because it wasn’t something I liked to think about – much less talk about – but I could understand her curiosity, given I’d ended up there of all places, when I didn’t even know who I was.
Much less who Sookie was.
So I set us down next to the cemetery and explained, “I was at Fangtasia on this past New Year’s Eve. I’d been dealing with the leader of a coven of witches who had been trying to extort money from me for several days. But on that night she’d sent a messenger, with an offer to cut her demand in the percentage she wanted of the bar’s profits, if I would agree to…entertain her for seven nights.”
Sookie’s emotions had been steady up until then, when a jolt of pure fury ran through her. I’d never felt anything coming from her even close to the rage now flowing through her veins.
We were very alike, my greedy little lover and I.
So I smiled down at her, soothing, “I refused. Longshadow – the impetuous fuck that he was – killed her. But unknown to us, she had been bewitched. My memories end there and do not resume again until Pam was able to destroy the coven and recover the leader’s spellbook. She got away, but another witch was able to reverse the spell I was under.”
My tone quieted with my next words, hating the truth of them – hating my own weaknesses being exposed when cursed and the aggravation of not remembering all that had transpired when I was – when I finally explained, “From what I am told, I had no memories of my life at all during that timeframe and I still remember nothing of the few short days while I was cursed. I had disappeared from the office and was found here, wandering around what is left of your home, by the dog. I didn’t even know my own name. But he knew I was the Area Sheriff and contacted Pam, who then kept me safe until my memories were restored.”
Empathy flowed through her and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, until she said, “I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must have been for you. A thousand years’ worth of memories, just gone. And then to get them back, only to lose that brief time as well.”
Considering all she’d been through – not only losing a year and a half of her life, but her family as well – I was surprised she’d even consider my struggles.
But then I shouldn’t have been.
Sookie had done nothing but surprise me, since she’d first appeared in my office.
Drawing me back into the present, she asked, “But why would you come here?”
Because no matter what direction I set out on, it always seems to lead me back to you?
Trying to maintain some semblance of once having grown a set of balls, in my long lifetime, I forced myself to smirk at her and replied, “I don’t remember.”
I could sense she was getting nervous again, but before I could question why, the wind shifted and I growled smelling a familiar scent.
If he’d last been there a year and a half ago, his scent would’ve been long gone by now. He’d obviously been there much more recently, so I snatched Sookie back into my arms and sped us closer to the hovel he once called home.
Easily sensing my tension, she whispered, “What is it?”
“I smell Compton,” I snarled, while whipping out my cell phone and calling Rasul, to have him send me the tracker, Heidi.
He was closest vampire with any kind of authority, as he was still running Area 5 for now, and he would’ve already been notified to be on the lookout for Compton.
Heidi had been a spy planted by Nevada, while I had still been Sheriff. However, I had earned her loyalty, when I had her drug addicted son relocated from Reno to Shreveport, so she could keep an eye on him.
The fact Victor sent her at all, knowing she had a living son she was still watching out for, proved how worthless he truly was.
Hopefully, it was recklessness like that, that would lead to his downfall.
“Eric?” Sookie asked, with her tone a little louder than a whisper, once I ended the call.
When I looked down at her, she pointed at her head and added, “I can’t sense any other vampires around.”
He’d definitely been there very recently – of that I was sure – but her gift truly was remarkable, so I calmed down and said, “Very well, lover. We will wait here for the tracker to arrive, so we don’t contaminate any other scents she might be able to pick up from inside the house.”
“Eric?” she repeated again.
When I looked back at her this time, she was nervously biting her bottom lip, right before she blurted out, “I can hear you sometimes.”
It took a moment for me to realize she meant she could hear my thoughts.
Panic set in, knowing if any other vampire discovered she could read their minds, everyone would be out to kill her.
I would have to take her and flee.
Hide her where no one else would find us.
Fuck the kingdoms and the Pythoness’ warnings about the world ending, if I wasn’t the King.
My world would fucking end, without Sookie in it.
My mind was busy making exit strategies, as my rage simmered over the thought of anyone trying to harm her.
But the scent of Sookie’s tears brought me out of it and when I looked down at her, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” I asked, not giving a shit about being King.
Already, I was sifting through the various uninhabited islands in the south pacific where we could hide.
My lover, with tan lines…
Or better yet – no tan lines.
“You’re mad that I can hear you sometimes,” she sniffled and then added, “and oddly aroused, which reminds me…I can feel you – what you’re feeling – all of the time, but only if you’re nearby.”
Surprise fucking surprise…
Sookie surprised me again, by being able to feel me at all. But I didn’t care about that and latched onto the one word of her admission I’d missed in my panic.
I flooded my mind with every sinful thing I wanted to – and eventually would – do to her, knowing she would be the color of my Corvette if she heard any of it.
But I only felt her remorse and uncertainty, which she then voiced by saying, “I understand if it’s a deal breaker…you know…about there being any sort of us.”
Argh! This woman!
I snatched my dog scented lover back into my arms and – knowing Heidi would be arriving momentarily – I whispered into her ear, “Lover, I am not mad at you. I am worried others will try and kill you if they think you can read their thoughts.”
Unsure as to what I answer I truly wanted to hear, I asked, “Am I the only one?”
So when she nodded against my chest, I didn’t question the relief I felt and only said, “Then all will be well, but no one must know.”
Sookie nodded again and I felt her own hearty dose of relief running through her, but before we could discuss it further, Heidi’s arrival moments later kept us both quiet.
Luckily, she had met Compton previously and could pick out his scent easily, so after she’d been given her orders, I took Sookie into my arms and we were once again in the sky.
With each of us lost in our own thoughts, mine returned to the fact Sookie could sometimes hear my thoughts.
But more surprising than her admission was my reaction to it all.
While I had no doubt she would be killed instantly by any other vampire whose thoughts she could hear, I hadn’t even considered including myself amongst them.
Knowing her as I did now, I shuddered to think of what my reaction might have been had she told me her secret before she…
Before she was my…
Before she was mine.
I found myself hoping the tiger hadn’t featured in anything she heard, so I asked, “What have you heard from me?”
Strangely, Sookie was flooded with the adoration I’d felt coming from her the night before, along with a hint of insecurity, when she answered, “You thought I was beautiful.”
How could she not know this?
“And earlier,” she continued, feeling even more heartened, when she added, “At Sam’s. When I asked him, what else did I have – you thought, ‘me’.”
Sookie’s body was already plastered to mine, but she seemed to melt into me even more after her confessions.
Perhaps her reading my thoughts SOMETIMES wouldn’t be so bad.
“Thank you Eric,” she whispered against my neck. “For everything you’ve done for me and for helping my brother.”
She left behind a soft kiss pressed against my skin and – dog scented or not – she still drove me wild with desire.
But I could also feel her underlying concern over her brother. By then we were at the halfway point between Bon Temps and New Orleans, so on impulse, I headed east and soon we were descending at the gates of Angola.
“Eric?” she questioned, now seeing where we were.
It was well after visiting hours, even vampire ones.
But what good was being the fucking King, if I couldn’t throw my weight around once in a while?
After the Great Revelation, Angola renovated a portion of their facilities to be able to accommodate vampire convicted of human crimes. Wisely, they employed vampire corrections officers as well.
I recognized the two at the gate shack and upon seeing us, they immediately came out and bowed down in front of us, acknowledging me with, “Your Majesty. What can we do for you this evening?”
Wasting no time – and not bothering to offer any unnecessary explanations – I only said, “There is a human prisoner here by the name of Jason Stackhouse. I would like him brought into a private room, so that we may speak with him.”
I knew what I was asking went against every policy they had in place at the prison, but fuck it.
I was the goddamn king.
And I also didn’t want to deal with the red tape nightmare it would be, to go about it the right way.
They only eyed us for a second and before I deemed it a second too long, they smartly bowed again, with one of them replying, “Of course, your Majesty. If you would please just follow us, we will bring him to you shortly.”
I could feel Sookie’s surprise and gratitude, but she remained silent until we were left alone in what appeared to be a break room of sorts.
That was when she turned and hugged me again, with her gratitude rolling off of her in waves as she said, “Thank you so much Eric. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“Actually, I do,” I reminded her, with a small smile.
I could feel every elated emotion running through her and I was glad I could at least make part of her hellish evening happy.
So I certainly didn’t mind when she chose to make me happy in return, by pulling me down for a kiss.
Feeling her lips on mine once more, I knew I was well and truly screwed because there was nothing I wouldn’t do, so that she would always feel that way about me.
Her affection for me was only growing in size – which was good, given that my need to feel it from her was expanding just as quickly – and even though I could hear the approaching footsteps, I couldn’t bear to pull away from her until I absolutely had to.
So we were both surprised, when the door was opened with an angry, “Let go a me, fanger!”
Sookie gasped, as we both turned to see her brother glaring back at the guard who’d escorted him.
The guard – who showed great restraint by ignoring his ill-tempered charge – and only acknowledged me, when he explained, “This area will remain clear, until you no longer have need of it, your Majesty. All surveillance systems in and around this building are currently malfunctioning and will continue to do so until your departure. I will patrol the perimeter of the building and return when you call.”
He left immediately after and Sookie’s body was completely frozen, until her brother finally looked at us.
Disbelief colored his face upon seeing her, as he hesitantly asked, “Sookie?”
I could smell her tears before they had a chance to fall and she streaked to him in a blur, throwing her arms around him and nearly sobbing out, “Oh Jason! I’m so sorry for everything that’s happened to you. I know you could never hurt Gran or anyone else and Eric is going to help try and clear your name.”
His eyes landed on me upon hearing my name and his relief at seeing his sister after all of this time turned into cold hatred, as he pulled away and turned his glare on her, angrily shouting out, “This whole fuckin’ time, you been with a fuckin’ fanger?”
The guard hadn’t bothered to put restraints on him, as there would be no way Jason could overpower a vampire.
So I only had myself to blame for not thinking he could be a threat to Sookie.
It was why he’d been able to backhand her across her face, before I had him by the throat up against the wall.
Had he not been her brother, he would have already been dead.
But even still feeling the pain radiating across her cheek (I knew because I could fucking feel it), she was still pulling at my arm, while begging, “Please Eric. Please don’t hurt him.”
If I didn’t know my having any part in his death would truly destroy her, I would’ve ripped his throat out.
So instead, I moved my faces inches away from his own and snarled, “Lay a hand on your sister again and I’ll rip it off.”
He could still live without his hand.
Both of his hands, even.
I let him drop unceremoniously to the floor and led Sookie to the other side of the table where she would be out of his reach.
But he would still be within mine.
The ungrateful bastard stared back at me from the floor and let out an eloquent, “Fuck you!”
“Jason,” Sookie pleaded, with tears running down her face. “Why are you acting this way? I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you or Gran, but I’m here now. I want to help you.”
He threw himself down in a chair across from us, barking out, “What the fuck you gonna do, Sook? I’m already convicted! I’ve already served year one of the rest a my fuckin’ life of hard labor, all thanks to fuckin’ fangers, like that one!”
He was in very real danger of losing the finger he was pointing my way, but Sookie ignored his tirade and asked, “What are you talking about? Sam told us you thought maybe I’d been taken by a vampire, but why do you think one was responsible for Gran’s death? It happened in the daytime, didn’t it?”
“Fuck that noise,” he waved angrily back at her. “It was that fuckin’ vamp I saw leavin’ Gran’s house. He must a heard about me tellin’ e’eryone at Merlotte’s that he’s the one that probably killed Maudette and Dawn, since they had fuckin’ fang marks on ’em. Then he went and got somebody else to kill Gran durin’ the day, so he wouldn’t be looked at. Hell, they glamour e’erybody! He probably glamoured Maxine to do it and then to think she saw me!”
Undeterred by his angry rant, Sookie tried to reach across the table to take the hand I would be mounting in my office.
But he snatched it away from her, even as she beseeched, “Why are you acting like this? You were never so hateful before. Gran didn’t raise us to be that way.”
He cut her off, while glaring at each of us in turn, as he said, “I learned my lesson. Reverend Steve Newlin knows what he’s talkin’ about.”
My eyes rolled of their own volition, but feeling Sookie’s confusion, I turned towards her and explained, “The Fellowship of the Sun. They are a vampire hate group disguised as a church.”
Sookie’s outrage came out with her shouted rebuke of, “Jason! What would Gran think, if she knew you’d joined something like that?”
“Sookie!” he angrily mocked in return. “What would Gran think, if she knew you was fuckin’ a dead guy?”
A different kind of pain radiated through her then.
A stabbing ache in her chest.
And I nearly came out of my seat to snatch him out of his, when she placed her hand on my leg and despondently declared, “I’m your sister, Jason. You’re all the family I have left and I love you. I know you’ve had some tough times, but I want to help you.”
He scoffed back at her and stood up, yelling out, “Guard! We’re through here!”
The door opened a moment later and as he walked through it, he turned and looked at her, saying, “God has taken up my cause through Reverend Newlin and they will help to set me free, so I can continue to serve Him. The church is my new family because my family is dead and gone. You? You ain’t my sister. You’re just some fuckin’ fangbanger.”
Hearing Sookie’s sob and seeing my barely contained rage, the guard turned to face the insolent little fuck and caught his gaze, saying, “You. Will. Shut. Your. Mouth.”
Once Jason was glamoured into silence, the guard then turned to me and said, “I apologize, your Majesty. I didn’t know the purpose of your visit and assumed you were aware. Stackhouse is the leader of the FoTS here at the prison.”
Sookie only sobbed louder, hearing her brother’s latest endeavors, so I gathered her in my arms.
Ignoring the look of surprise on the guard’s face, seeing my compassion for her, I ordered, “Erase his memories of our entire visit and report to me on his dealings daily. Every visitor. Every letter. Every phone call and every whisper in between cell bars. I want to know about it all.”
“Yes, your Majesty,” he called out, as I sped through the building and took back to the skies, with Sookie in my arms, regretting I’d ever brought her there without waiting for Reuben’s report.
The anguish she felt was physically hurting her, but all I could do was hold onto her tighter and whisper how sorry I was into her ear, while I tried to get us as far away from her imbecile brother as fast as I could.
It wasn’t until we were nearly at the palace that I felt the numbness wash over her and even though it numbed the painful throbbing in her chest, I didn’t like the empty void it left behind either.
Sookie had always been so full of life. I’d been gorging myself on her feisty attitude and jovial spirit for weeks.
Even when I’d still been in denial that she actually meant something to me.
Now, the flame I could always feel burning so brightly inside of her – the fire that made her defy her captors and shove her princess title up their fairy asses – was barely flickering.
My own personal sun was burning out.
So when we arrived at the palace, instead of immediately taking her inside, I landed on the roof and carried her to a spot I’d discovered on my first night as King.
It was on the northern corner of the building, cordoned off by barricades on all sides, with a large turret on the farthest corner. Meant to be a battlement in the event the palace was to come under attack, the guards who routinely patrolled the rooftop had seen me up there enough over the last few weeks to know to give me a wide berth.
They scattered as soon as our presence was known, so I took her inside of it and sat us on the ground, with her in my lap and just waited.
For what, I wasn’t sure.
Something – anything – other than the nothingness that filled her now.
This one spot had become my own private sanctuary, ever since the nightmare of becoming King had been made into a reality, and I often used it to think.
When I could no longer stand the silence, I broke it by softly whispering my next words into her hair and began with, “I come here often. This spot reminds me of an area I used to go to in order to prepare myself mentally, before every battle I’d waged as a human.”
I let my statement hang there in the air between us, so when I felt the tendrils of curiosity reaching through the numbness inside of her, my eyes closed and an unbidden smile came on my face.
Hoping to stoke those embers and keep them from dying out, I continued on with, “From here, everything else is blocked from view so that it is only me and the stars. They are the same stars I used to guide my way to foreign lands and back home again, while I was at sea. But even after a thousand years of seeing them, I still marvel over their brilliance lighting up the sky. Their tenacity in surviving in an unforgiving environment. Their persistence in their existence. I’ve done my best to emulate them over the years and – as of late – I often come up here to try and figure out how I can do better.”
The detachment was slowly falling away from not just her emotional state, but from her expression as well.
Eventually, she looked up at me and softly said, “I think you’ve done a pretty good job.”
“I think you’ve done an even better one because these very stars remind me of you,” I offered, just as softly.
Her spirit was as fiery as any of the stars in the sky and the thought of it burning out was unacceptable to me. Rarely had I ever come across anyone with one or two of the qualities I admired, but I’d never come across anyone who encompassed them all.
Not until she – quite literally – popped into my life.
And I couldn’t let her spirit be broken by her idiotic sibling, so I offered, “Your brother is…misguided. But I will find Compton and I will do all that I can to learn the truth of what really happened.”
Her face fell as soon as I mentioned him, but I knew no good would come of burying everything she was feeling.
Sookie was too radiant inside to hide such darkness, so with a resigned sigh, she asked, “Can he be glamoured to forget he hates vampires? Or me?”
“He could,” I agreed. “But would you want a false version of your brother? He is not the same man from when you were taken. The anger inside of him is very real and while I could make him forget who he was angry with, it would still be there. It would just be deflected onto something or someone else.”
She remained silently thoughtful and once I felt the acceptance within her, I was able to relax for the first time that night.
Sookie seemed to relax when I did and she turned to wrap her arms around me, while she said, “Thank you. I know you wanted to kill him, but I…I don’t think I could handle losing him, even if he is like he is right now.”
I kissed her forehead, hoping to soften the truth of my words when I admitted, “That is why he still lives.”
The only reason.
November temperatures in southern Louisiana were nothing compared to that of my homeland. But even so, I could feel Sookie’s body begin to shiver, so I stood up and brought us back down to my chambers where Pam was waiting for us.
Seeing Sookie’s red and swollen eyes from all of the crying she’d been doing – and no doubt feeling my still aggressive protectiveness surrounding her – she wisely didn’t ask any questions and only said, “Heidi called. She tracked Compton’s scent to the Mississippi border and is waiting on further instructions.”
Mississippi was Russell’s territory and sending in a tracker without speaking to him first wouldn’t be received well should she be found.
“Tell her to stand down,” I replied and added, “I will speak to Russell myself and see if he knows of Compton being in his territory.”
I’d heard rumors his bitch of a Maker had been spending time there and Russell had no affinity towards females, so I didn’t see him denying my request.
Taking Sookie into my room, I could feel the ached that permeated her entire body, from all of the stress she’d been under. If it weren’t for the ramifications, I would’ve offered her more of my blood to ease her pain.
Instead, I stripped her of her clothes – neither hearing nor feeling any protest from her – and took off the t-shirt I’d been wearing.
Pulling it over her head, I placed her in the bed, with the kitten immediately jumping up and curling itself against her chest, while I removed my jeans and slipped in behind her. Dawn would be approaching soon, but instead of trying to get any work done in the short time I had left, I wrapped my arms around Sookie’s body because I couldn’t bear to be away from her when she still felt so dejected.
The fact that she was feeling anything was a small victory, compared to the numbness she’d felt earlier, but I still wracked my brain searching for anything more I could do or say to make her feel better.
I’d never felt so useless.
“You’ve already said everything I needed to hear,” she whispered into the darkness, once again reminding me of her secret. “I just need time to work through it all.”
Then pushing her body further back into my embrace, I could feel she would be asleep within moments, when she sleepily added, “And you’re not useless…you’re just what I need.”