My body immediately startled hearing the shouts from my guards outside of my bedroom doors, not sure that I’d heard them correctly, but hoping against hope that it was true and I’d finally have a chance to escape this strange land.
I’d been held prisoner there for what felt like forever, but in reality couldn’t have been more than a few weeks. I suspected I was somewhere to the far North since the sun moved around in the sky, but never seemed to truly set and my sleep schedule was off because of it.
But none of that mattered now.
I steeled myself, knowing I might have a chance to get away in the ensuing chaos if there really was a fire and for the first time since I’d been taken away from everyone I loved – everything I knew – I felt hope.
I remembered all too well the day my life changed forever. It had been like any other sunny spring day with Gran and I chitchatting over breakfast before I headed out to work. It was a balmy day in early June, so I was wearing Merlotte’s warm weather uniform of a white t-shirt with capped sleeves, black shorts, and sneakers.
I remembered vainly thinking I’d been grateful to have had the chance to tan for a bit the day before and thought I’d looked especially good that day.
It had been the little things like that that kept me in high spirits back then, seeing as how I couldn’t lead a normal life.
My curse of telepathy made it so I couldn’t date anyone like a normal girl, which was why at the age of twenty-five, I was still a virgin.
But I was still happy.
My mind had been on other things, busy going through the list of errands I needed to attend to on my day off, while I was walking through the parking lot at Merlotte’s, when I was suddenly grabbed from behind.
And then in the next moment – literally – I was here, in what would become my gilded cage for the following weeks.
I’d been too busy freaking out to question how I’d come to be there and instead bit down on the hand that covered my mouth, while thrusting my elbows into the chest at my back and kicking my legs out in order to break free.
I’d seen enough talk shows to know that if anyone ever attempted to kidnap you, you were to do whatever you needed to in order to not be taken to a second location.
But seeing as how it was too late for that, all I could do was fight for my life.
The arms holding me released me from their grasp and I grabbed a lamp off of a table at my side, spinning around and using it like a bat on my kidnapper. But my blow only met thin air, as he literally disappeared from the spot he’d been standing in and then rematerialized farther away.
And – unfortunately – out of my reach.
My mind had been working frantically by that point, with me questioning if he’d somehow managed to drug me without me knowing. But I threw the lamp at him and took off running in the opposite direction where I’d spotted French doors leading out to a balcony.
Throwing them open, I screamed for help at the same time my eyes landed on a trellis next to the ledge. But when I tried to throw my leg over the side, I couldn’t.
Tears streamed down my face with me looking like the world’s most ridiculous mime, as my hands searched the invisible barrier that surrounded the balcony, looking for a way through it to no avail.
I eventually sunk down to the floor in defeat when I heard him softly say, “Sookie, I mean you no harm.”
Looking up, I saw my kidnapper staring back at me from the doorway, with his hands held up in front of him, and I felt empowered seeing the blood trickling down his arm from my bite.
He might have had some strange magical power, but the proof was in front of me that he could be harmed, so I tucked that bit of knowledge away for later.
At the moment, I needed to find out what he wanted from me, so I asked, “What do you want? Why have you kidnapped me?”
He flinched when I’d said the word ‘kidnapped’, but I didn’t feel bad.
A spade was a spade and that was exactly what he’d done.
He turned sideways and gestured towards the room I’d just run out of saying, “Please. Come back inside and I will explain everything to you.”
Seeing as how I couldn’t escape from the balcony, I figured there had to be another way out of that room and waited for him to move further back before I warily followed along behind him.
I kept one eye on him, while the rest of me searched the room for a way out and saw there were several doors. One of them appeared to lead into a lavish bathroom, but I was betting the pair of tall ornately carved double doors I spotted along one wall would be the ones I needed to get through.
My feet started slowly moving towards them and hoping he wouldn’t notice, while I said, “So, explain.”
I wasn’t sure if it was my movements or maybe his magical powers included telepathy, but instead of explaining why he’d kidnapped me, he only said, “You won’t be able to get through the doors; at least, not right away.”
So he did notice.
But it was then that I realized I hadn’t even tried to read his mind, so I dropped my shields with my mind reaching out towards his, but all I could hear was something akin to white noise.
Not quite like static or a hum, but something.
In my nearly twenty-six years, I’d come across minds that were harder for me to read, like my boss Sam.
Not that I ever really tried to read him.
I’d had to leave jobs in the past thanks to the nasty thoughts of my bosses, so I did my best to stay out of Sam’s head. But even when my shields occasionally slipped around him over the years, all I could really get from him was the occasional stray thought and the emotions he was feeling.
There were a few customers whose thoughts were tinged red and snarly, but I’d never run across anyone like him before and before I had a chance to process it all, he offered, “I am Niall Brigant, Prince of the Sky Fae. A fairy.”
Was he trying to tell me he was like Lafayette and therefore, I didn’t have to worry about him trying to rape me?
But not wanting to put any ideas into his head, I went the literal route and asked, “Like Tinker Bell?”
Other than the derogatory slang I would never tolerate, it was my only frame of reference and I felt my eyes go wide when he said, “Well, we are not the same as your human fairytales, but yes. We are creatures of magic.”
Thinking maybe he was under the influence of whatever psychotropic drug he’d managed to slip me, I heard myself laugh hysterically, while I focused my mind, singularly concentrating on not believing in him so that he might die.
I would have to remember to not clap in my glee if he did, lest he come back to life.
He looked back at me worriedly, but he certainly didn’t look as though he was dying and he took a small step towards me, saying, “You are my great-granddaughter and you are in danger. It is why I have brought you here to my home.”
His words shocked me to my core, but forgetting my fear, I let my fury take over, with me taking a step towards him and shouting, “I most certainly AM NOT your great-granddaughter! I know my ancestry going back several generations and there is no mention of a Niall Brigant anywhere!”
Now that I’d been in his presence for a bit, I sensed that he was no danger to me.
Or maybe I just had no sense.
But whether or not it was because he believed the nonsense he’d just spewed about being my great-grandfather, I didn’t think he would hurt me.
Clearly he was a sandwich shy of a full picnic basket because he couldn’t have been more than fifty-five years old – tops – which would make him younger than my Gran.
His expression softened as he took yet another step closer to me and explained, “My son Fintan had a human mother so he was only half-fairy. He mated with your grandmother, Adele Stackhouse, and your father and aunt were the products of their joining. But of the three offspring between them, you are the only one to contain the essential spark of the Fae. The Brigant are a powerful line and it shows in you, since you are only one–eighth Fae.”
Anger tinged my mind red, just as I lunged for him.
How dare he say my Gran cheated on my Granddaddy?
She was a good and kind lady. A good Christian woman, with good Christian values and would do no such thing, so I wasn’t about to stand there and listen to him say such horrible things about her.
He must have not been expecting my attack because I managed to get a punch to his nose and a kick to his shin before he did the disappearing act again, so that he was standing on the opposite side of the room where he said, “I see that you need some time to process all of this new information, so I’ll leave you for now. There is clothing in the wardrobe for you to wear and food will be sent up shortly, but please know that what I’ve told you is true and you are in grave danger because of it. I will, however, keep you safe.”
With that, he poofed out of the room, so I ran to the doors and pulled on them with all of my might, but they wouldn’t budge. The adrenaline was still coursing through my veins and I knew if it wasn’t for my anger at what he’d said about Gran, I probably would have fallen apart right then.
But Gran didn’t raise any weeping willows. I was a strong southern woman and I would figure a way out of this mess, if it was the last thing I would do.
At least that was what I’d thought at the time…
The room he’d left me in was the most beautiful and luxurious bedroom I’d ever seen, much less been in. The furniture, bedding, carpet, and drapes were like nothing I’d ever seen before and were fit for a princess.
Which I was not, no matter what Prince Tinker Bell tried to tell me.
The closet I found was full of beautiful gowns, all of which looked as though they would have fit me, but I refused to change out of my Merlotte’s uniform, especially after I’d gone into the bathroom and saw the smudges of blood on my shirt from where I’d managed to do some damage to my kidnapper.
Instead I preferred to wear them as my badge of honor. Because that’s how I thought of him…
…As my kidnapper.
I’d read enough books to know about Stockholm Syndrome and even though I’d seen enough weirdness while I was there that I couldn’t really explain away – like the invisible barriers and poof modes of transportation – I didn’t believe for one second that he was my kin.
Who would do that to their own flesh and blood?
I forced away thoughts of my Uncle Bartlett, remembering what he did to his own kin, but I was older now and I refused to be a victim again.
I was a survivor and I would survive this.
Over the next several days, I met even more fairies and I’d come to allow myself to believe they were real. After all, it was only two years earlier when vampires revealed their existence to the world and as a telepath, I couldn’t really expect that there weren’t other types of creatures out there.
But I did refuse to believe I was one of them.
I’d even met one that claimed to be my cousin and Fairy Godmother of all things, but I refused to converse with any of them. I refused to do or say anything they asked of me and wished I had a serial number I could spout off, along with my name and rank like I’d seen in those old World War II movies.
But Claudine refused to give up and continued to visit me daily, trying to coax me into talking to her. She’d even tried to convince me to change out of my bloody clothes after a few days and made the mistake of getting close enough to touch me.
So I spit on her.
Granted, it wasn’t very ladylike and I was sure, under different circumstances, Gran would’ve been appalled at my behavior. But given they were my captors, I had a sneaking suspicion that even Gran might be willing to hock a loogie their way.
Claudine had been horrified, which only delighted me more. But she ended up having the last say in the matter when she waved her perfectly manicured hand towards me and I looked down to see that my uniform had been replaced by one of their ridiculous gowns.
It wasn’t quite prom or bridesmaid material, but it certainly would be over the top for running to Wal-Mart or the library.
But having what little control I’d thought I had taken away from me, only infuriated me more.
I hated having every choice made for me regardless of what I wanted and their attempts to placate me with the finer things in life just showed that they didn’t know me at all.
My affections couldn’t be bought and I refused to budge an inch on anything, but it was hard to stand firm whenever Niall would drop in and speak with me. He claimed he’d been warned by some ancient oracle that I was in danger and that was the reason why I’d been kidnapped.
I didn’t know if I believed him, but I certainly didn’t care. It didn’t make it right and all I wanted was to go home, but no matter how much I wanted to know more, I didn’t ask.
I hadn’t spoken a word to any of them after that first day, knowing it was the only way to show my defiance.
But I still watched and I listened and the more time I spent there, the more I learned.
My telepathy seemed to be getting stronger because while I could only hear the white noise from them in the beginning, after more time I was able to hear stray thoughts. I rarely understood them since they seemed to think in their native language, but it was something.
And just like with Sam, I could sense their emotions.
It was how I knew they wouldn’t harm me, no matter how much they seemed to want to at times, and it only made me more brazen.
They’d all come to learn not to get within striking distance of me because my anger over my situation only grew as the days passed by and I’d been physically lashing out whenever I could. But with my new strengths I could sense whenever one of them was about to poof into my room with my meals and eventually I could pinpoint where in the room they would materialize.
I tested myself over the following days and when I hadn’t once guessed incorrectly, I took to standing in the center of the room with my weapon of choice – be it a perfume bottle, a bowl, or a hairbrush – and as soon as they would appear, I would hurl the object at them.
It only took a few bullseyes before my meals would just magically appear on my table all on their own.
The only times I would allow myself to wallow were when I was in bed. It was there that I let myself quietly weep for everything I’d lost and it was there I would berate myself for ever thinking I’d had a difficult life before.
So what if I couldn’t date, ever hope to get married or have children?
At least I’d been free.
I missed my Gran and even my numbskull brother. I missed my friends and my cat Tina and my job.
My life hadn’t been all that bad and I wanted it back more than anything else in the world, so it was those thoughts that gave me the strength to continue fighting.
In my forced and preferred solitude, I would sometimes watch the others from my balcony, out on the lawn practicing their sword fighting skills. It seemed an archaic form of weaponry, but even I could see the beauty in their fluid movements and when I was bored, I would try and mimic their actions even though I had no sword to hold.
I refused everything given to me but food, knowing I would need to maintain my strength if I ever hoped to escape, and whenever I wasn’t practicing my imaginary sword fighting, I would do stretches and strength training in my room.
I felt noticeably stronger after only a few days, but I figured that was my own wishful thinking. However I needed all of the good thoughts I could hold onto to combat the overwhelming loneliness I felt.
I knew I only had to call out to my guards and tell them that I wanted to speak to Niall or Claudine and they would be there.
They would probably happily speak to me for hours if I asked them to, but I hated them with a passion.
I just wanted to go home.
So when I’d heard someone yell out there was a fire that night, I prepared myself to pounce on whoever came to get me. I wasn’t sure if they’d use the door or their magic and kept my mind open and alert.
But Niall must have known me well enough by that point because the restraints magically appeared on my wrists and ankles, just seconds before he materialized in my room, apologizing, “I’m sorry great-granddaughter, but I don’t have the time to dodge your blows. The castle is being attacked and I must get you out of here.”
Completely disregarding his words, as soon as he grabbed onto my arm, I leaned over to try and bite him, when instantly there was a silk scarf tied around my head, so I grunted in frustration instead.
I barely noticed he was covered in blood and soot when he wrapped his arms around me and we were suddenly in a hallway I didn’t recognize.
I hadn’t been let out of my room at all since I’d first been kidnapped, so I wasn’t sure if we’d actually left his home, considering it was just as fancy as my room, until he said, “We are in the palace of the King of Louisiana.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about and wondered if he stupidly thought the Governor was a King, when I heard a movement behind me and my mind reached out towards the sound as my head turned.
Seeing the two men standing just outside of a closed door, their luminescence stumped me until I noticed a set of fangs peeking out and I felt the shock go through me, now knowing I was in the presence of vampires.
I’d of course seen them on TV, but I’d never met any in person and I wondered why they didn’t seem to notice our presence, when Niall waved his magic hands and they literally froze where they stood.
I didn’t know if I couldn’t read their minds due to their frozen state of being or because they were vampires, but I didn’t have time to speculate anymore when Niall pulled me along towards the door they’d seemed to be guarding, while saying, “He will protect you, but say nothing about your telepathy to anyone.”
Shock moved through me again because I’d never said a word about my telepathy and didn’t know he’d been aware all along.
It just made me even angrier and I’m sure it was written all across my face, when he knocked on the door and pulled me into the office behind him without waiting for a greeting.
The man sitting behind the desk was admittedly beautiful, but I’d been surrounded by beauty for weeks by then. I wasn’t impressed and – if anything – I’d probably begun to associate beauty with being a bad thing.
Lately, in my experience at least, it was.
They were remarkably polite to one another given one of them was a vampire and the other a crazy magical kidnapper, so I stood there passively observing them. I had no idea what debt they were talking about, but knowing I seemed to be back in Louisiana made my heart soar.
I was that much closer to home, but when I heard the excitement in the vampire King’s voice, asking if I was some sort of human Twinkie, my knees wobbled.
I knew the fairies wouldn’t harm me, but I had no idea of what the vampire might do to me. However, I still couldn’t stop myself from scoffing over Niall’s claim that I was a Brigant.
I was a Stackhouse damn it!
I got the impression that the vampire seemed to have a sense of humor about him and I listened intently, while trying to take in my surroundings. Being in this new environment was my best chance to escape, but I knew I would have to play my cards right.
And I had an internal oh-shit-moment when Niall slipped a few new cards into the deck, by saying I was to be protected from fairies and demons.
Was I really so bad a Christian that the devil himself was out to get me now too?
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so stubborn before and asked a few questions. Or perhaps, spitting on Claudine had been more of a disgrace than I’d thought, now that it occurred to me she’d mentioned wanting to be angel.
But there was no changing it now, so I tried to keep my expression blank while listening to Niall blather on about my not-grandfather Fintan being killed by a demon.
Even though I couldn’t help scoffing again over the vampire’s arrogance that I might want to be bitten.
But when it was suddenly just him and I in the room together, I wasn’t sure what to do.
His eyes traveled over my body like I was a plate full of brownies left out in a Weight Watcher’s meeting. But I was almost certain Niall wouldn’t have left me alone with him if I was in danger of being eaten by the pretty man behind the desk and I focused my mind on him trying to read his thoughts.
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t even sense his emotions. All I got from him was a void where his brain was, like a bubble suspended in the air.
So I was busy trying to figure out how that could possibly help me to escape, when he strode from the room barking out orders at me like I was some mutt, shouting, “Come!”
Gran would’ve hit him upside his head with her rolling pin, vampire or not!
I stood there without moving, knowing I wouldn’t get very far if I’d tried to escape as long as I was still bound, and waited for someone to come back. So when he appeared in the doorway again, looking completely agitated, I did an internal fist pump.
I hadn’t broken for the fairies and I would be damned if I would let this vampire treat me like anything but the proper young lady I was raised to be.
Even if I’d epically failed at acting like one lately.
But he seemed to have gotten the message and I was grateful when he removed the gag from my mouth. It was kind of gross and I had no intention of lashing out at him.
I needed to get my bearings and I didn’t want to rock the boat just yet, until I could come up with a plan to escape.
But I couldn’t contain the gasp when he literally tore apart the chains holding my feet together and I was suddenly thankful for all of the exercising I’d done while I’d been held captive, since I was sure I’d be throwing up a lung when I literally had to run behind him.
The guards we passed were no longer frozen, but I was too busy trying to keep up and tasted the blood on my tongue before I even knew his finger had been in my mouth.
I felt better hearing his explanation, even though I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the room being warded, however when he threw some clothes at me and ordered me to shower, I was done being passive.
My Stackhouse temper had been redlined, so it wasn’t until he’d thrown me into the tub and warned that I was in danger of being drained that I finally calmed down.
I realized it was foolish to antagonize him when I didn’t know for sure that he wouldn’t hurt me. All I really wanted was my freedom and since he seemed a bit put out over having to keep an eye on me, I hoped he would just set me free.
Just talking to him was a novelty since I’d spent so much time alone lately, but I hated having to give up my name to him. There was so much I didn’t know, so giving up even the littlest amount of information made it feel like I was surrendering.
But I knew you had to give a little to get a little and it was a small price to pay, especially considering he was under the impression that I was a Brigant. I certainly didn’t correct him, but I suddenly found myself hoping he would correct himself when he finally answered my question.
I’d been in a different realm; like a whole other WORLD.
I’d been gone from my life for five months.
He’d guessed May, but I’d actually been taken on June 12th and didn’t feel the need to correct him. I also didn’t feel out of line for rounding up because it was my life we were talking about.
But finding out I’d been gone, not for five months, but a year and five months was more than my brain or body could take.
I’d been through too much in too short – or too long, depending on how you looked at it – of a time and simply couldn’t handle the overload, so I actually welcomed the darkness when it came.