If our bond hadn’t felt like a live wire, zapping every nerve ending in my body, I might not have noticed something was amiss.
One moment Isabel was in the middle of giving us the latest findings from one of their larger Areas and in the next moment it was almost as if time stood still for just a fraction of a second.
Ninety-nine one-hundredths of a second.
But it was long enough for me to notice the difference.
A soft echo of sound – the ghost of a click – as though the already closed door had been shut for a second time.
A muted clink of steel hitting steel, sounding from the floor beside me where I knew Sookie’s swords lay.
The air itself almost seemed like it had been paused on some greater being’s DVR.
But when that ninety-nine one-hundredths of a second was up it was as though the world came back to life, with Isabel’s speech hitching just a hair mid syllable. Neither she nor Davis seemed aware of anything being out of the ordinary.
I might have thought I’d imagined it all had my bond with Sookie not tased me, like a common street thug.
Focusing solely on my connection with her, I could sense she was fine – if not somewhat troubled – but given her mission, I had reasonable cause to believe her emotional state was due to whatever thoughts she was hearing in the human’s mind.
Sookie was less forgiving of human flaws than most vampire I knew.
Or rather, Susannah was completely intolerant of humans and their failings.
So there was no logical reason for why I felt the unreasonably overpowering need to go to her. It drove me to my feet and my fangs to descend from my gums, while I ignored the questioning looks on the others’ faces, as I sped out of the room.
While a part of my mind had registered the fact she’d been conversing with Isabel’s human, I hadn’t paid any attention to what was being said and had no idea what she meant when her eyes darted to me and back to the human again, saying, “See? Like that. Blink and they’re gone or blink and there they are.”
“What’s going on?” I asked her, with my query having nothing to do with whatever they were talking about.
But scanning every inch of her with my eyes, she appeared just as she’d felt.
And yet I still had to physically lock every muscle in place in order to not give into the crushing urge of our bond, demanding I snatch her up off of the couch and into my arms.
I simultaneously wanted to blanket her body with mine and slay every living creature around us, bathing in their blood.
Given the circumstances and our surroundings, it made no sense.
But I had a difficult time finding a reason to give a fuck and not give in anyway.
I sensed her want for me as well, but at the same time she pushed caution into our bond, telling me what she couldn’t say aloud if she were to keep up the appearance of being a pet.
Back the fuck off and let it go.
But just as her mouth opened, the human pet spoke up and answered for her by saying, “She was just startled by another vampire. Peter is harmless though. He stops by every now and then, but he just left.”
And then seemingly speaking only to Sookie, he chuckled, “Well more like he disappeared into thin air, wouldn’t you say?”
Staring down at her I could feel her sense of foreboding come over her when she sensed the puzzle pieces snapping into place within me.
But it had faepire fuck written all over it.
So without any fanfare she took advantage of my rage induced stupor by looking back towards the human and asking point blank, “How do you feel about vampires? The Brotherhood? Do you know of anyone planning to commit acts of treason against this kingdom or any other? What about the Weres? Do you know if they’re unhappy to be answering to vampires and are they planning to do anything about it? Are there other supernatural creatures you know of that aren’t commonly known to other humans? Witches? Elves? Fairies?”
There had been pauses – both long and short – throughout her ninety second inquisition, with Davis and Beaumont having made their way into the room in the meantime. But no one other than Sookie had said a word during that time.
Out loud, anyway.
When she was satisfied with whatever she’d heard, she stood up from the couch and retrieved her swords from the office before returning to the room and speaking only to Stan, when she said, “I apologize, Your Majesty, but we must be going now. You will have a full report of my findings in your inbox before the end of the night.”
Be it from my rigid stance – my still descended fangs – or just his survival instincts kicking in, Stan didn’t argue, flirt, or do anything else that would give me the slightest push that would be all that was needed for me to have two kingdoms to oversee by the end of the night.
It was a lucky happenstance I hadn’t been standing over an air vent.
One small breeze could have sent me over the edge and into a killing spree.
Having given up the pretense of being just a pet, Sookie didn’t wait for me to say or do anything and merely walked out of the room, back the way we’d first come into it.
Be it from my rigid stance – my still descended fangs – or just my survival instincts kicking in, I didn’t argue and silently followed behind her. I’d managed to overcome – or more like, managed to endure – the unreasonable need to be within touching distance of her when we’d first formed our blood bond. But it was the Fae bond pulling my strings now, demanding I stay close to her.
I couldn’t have fought it back if I’d tried.
So I didn’t.
Even through the red haze clouding my mind at the thought of that fairy-vampire fuck being so close to her again, I could still recall another time and place when I’d come to the same conclusion. The moment when it dawned on me she would only have to put one foot in front of the other and I would follow behind her.
Sookie had me well before I ever had her.
There was no bounce to her step. No swagger in her stride. Instead she walked the proverbial gauntlet as though she held the deed to this palace as well.
For all I knew, she very well might have, if Stan had thought to add it into his arsenal of woo-attempts.
But while she could have hidden ownership of the palace from me, her emotions were mine to be had. Our bonds made it impossible to keep our true feelings hidden away from the other, so I knew she was on high alert. I knew she was utilizing every capability she had – both those she’d been born with and those she’d been taught and honed through years of training – to take in everything around us, as she walked us out of the palace and into a darkened patch of the grounds, just inside of a grove of trees.
Coming to a stop, she turned to face me but didn’t meet my eyes. Instead she reached up and put her left hand over my heart, with my own automatically reaching up to cover hers.
Staring at the ring that now encircled my finger, an overwhelming amount of sorrow filled her veins, drowning out most of the fury still flowing through mine. But just as I opened my mouth to question why she felt the way she did, she teleported us back to the southern estate.
The one she actually did hold the title to.
The moment our feet found purchase on the floor of my chambers, she attempted to pull away, but my hand still covering hers kept her in place as I guessed at what was bothering her by saying, “There was nothing you could have done to subdue him, without revealing your true nature. We will have another opportunity.”
Of that I was certain, but Sookie didn’t feel certain about anything, with her conflicting emotions at war with one another.
Disappointed. Sad. Angry. Confused.
All of them seemed to battle against the love she had for me, but I didn’t understand why. The last time they’d met face to face the faepire fuck had her questioning whether or not she mattered – he’d likened her to a slave – but there was no way she could’ve questioned what she meant to me now.
No matter what I wished for them to see or believe, it was clear to everyone around us.
She owned me.
Wondering what he could have possibly said or done to make her feel the way she did now, my lips opened to ask the question, but my query died on my tongue when she took the opportunity to insert hers into my mouth.
And what happened next was a completely new experience for me, which after a thousand years said a lot.
After bonding with Sookie – both the vampire way and the fairy way – we’d been together countless times. It almost felt like we had a thousand years of being apart to make up for and had been doing our best to right that wrong.
Our couplings had always been a joyous occasion. Playfully loving or deeply meaningful, coming together with her – be it in a bed, a shower, or on the desk in my office – we were both fully engaged and happy in the moment, just being together.
This time, however, there was something else altogether going through her, in spite of me being as deep inside of her as I could get.
She felt no joy. Only sorrow.
For the first time in a thousand years, finding any sort of release for either one of us felt like an impossible endeavor, so I stopped moving and stared down at her, willing her with my eyes and our bonds for an explanation.
But instead of giving me one, a sad sense of resignation filled her veins and she tried to get up when I pulled out of her, only I refused to let her leave the bed.
Still waiting on an answer she seemed hell bent on not giving me, she avoided my eyes and halfheartedly argued, “I need to type up the report and send it to King Davis before dawn.”
“Fuck King Davis,” I replied, feeling more worried than anything else. “What was that?”
“What was what?” she questioned, still not looking at me.
Sitting up beside her, I tilted her head up by her chin and waited until her eyes finally met mine. Seeing the wetness gathering in them, I fought the urge to gather her in my arms, knowing if I did she would manage to avoid telling me what was wrong.
She knew what I was feeling – just as I knew what she was feeling – so I was stating the obvious when I answered, “What just happened. Here. Now. It felt like you were…”
My words trailed off, unable to say what I’d really been thinking.
It felt a lot like she’d been saying a sorrowful goodbye, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words aloud.
Even though I’d softened the blow by not saying much of anything, she could still feel the crux of my thoughts through our bond and the words I did manage to say, only managed to make her tears break free from her eyes.
We both ignored them.
My fear over not hearing – much less feeling – any denial from her overrode everything else and brought me back to another time and place. One not long before I realized I would always follow behind her, when I’d told myself – Sookie remaining at my side would always be her choice.
My reasoning at the time had more to do with how she’d been raised to believe it was her duty – her life’s purpose – to remain with me until the day she died, but our relationship was very different now compared to then.
Our dual bonds, pledging, and marriage notwithstanding, I didn’t know what I would do if she chose to walk away now.
Her responding silence wasn’t helping matters and unbelievably, neither did her next words when she eventually broke the stillness that had descended on us by offering, “I love you.”
I knew she did. She was a master of talking around the truth, but she couldn’t lie outright.
Either verbally or through our bonds.
But love wasn’t the only thing she was feeling, so I asked, “Why do you say it as though it’s a bad thing?”
What could that asshole possibly have said to her to make her feel this way?
Because I had no doubt – he was the cause for her turmoil.
And her reply was like a knife through my very soul when she sadly answered, “It is.”
I didn’t even feel any better feeling the same pain radiating from her with her admission. Nor did I think I could find the wherewithal to respond, despite the mass of questions and denials running rampant through my mind.
But it all came into focus when she explained, “I’ve done you an injustice by giving into my own wants and desires. I’ve acted selfishly instead of selflessly by allowing myself to be with you. To love you. I can’t protect you like I should be able to – like I was trained to do. Instead of reacting as I should – doing what needs to be done in your best interests – I’ve become your weakness, just as you have become mine.”
Sinking into herself, her eyes dropped away from mine, when she admitted in a soft whisper, “I’ve already killed you. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
Staring back at her, my eyes took in the scars I hardly took notice of anymore that still littered her body. But the biggest one remained unseen, so it was sometimes forgotten by me.
The truly selfish one in our pairing.
Because nestled deep inside of her chest, I knew the largest scar resided on her heart and soul.
Raised to believe she was less than every other, even becoming a queen hadn’t repaired the damage done to her over her lifetime. With everything else going on, along with the joy of just being together as one, it had been easy to forget she wasn’t as whole as she appeared.
If it was the last thing I ever did, I would find a way into the Fae Realm and slaughter every last one of them.
And I would start with the fairy turned vampire left in this realm.
Both of our bonds – vampire and fairy alike – were nothing but weeping wounds, throbbing in pain from the damage we were inflicting on them with our conflicted emotions. Even so, I could tell she was fighting her own wants to seek the comfort she knew would be found in my embrace.
She felt unworthy of being comforted, as though she had somehow betrayed me for having dared to love me.
So I did what she wouldn’t by taking her into my arms and tried to repair the damage a lifetime had done to her, one small step at a time, by starting off with, “You have not weakened me. If anything you’ve only made me stronger by giving me a reason to fight, for there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do – any obstacle I wouldn’t overcome – in order to be by your side.”
“I cannot say the same,” she sadly replied, hating herself for finding the comfort in my arms she’d been trying so hard to not give into.
But before I could ask, she went on to add, “When Ailill – or Peter, as he’s known to the others – showed up, he offered me more of the same. A chance to go with him and get the answers we seek. He hasn’t said as much, but I get the feeling he just wants me – whatever his motives are – and insinuated our bonds could be broken.”
My grip on her tightened, hearing the idea – no matter how true or untrue – he could possibly break our bonds, and made me worry in more ways than one.
Those very same bonds were now seizing at the thought and I could very well crush her in my arms if I wasn’t careful.
But either not noticing or resigned to that as well, she went on to say, “The Susannah who showed up on your doorstep on the eve of her twenty-first birthday would’ve taken the calculated risk and gone with him, if only to gain the advantage of getting answers. But unfortunately, the woman I’ve become – the one who’s fallen in love and bonded with her king – could not bear the thought of hurting you in such a way. In spite of the vow I made to you – to uphold your survival above all others – I’ve allowed myself to become entwined in your wellbeing. Just as I saved your child from harm knowing losing her would harm you, I know losing me would harm you just as much. So I didn’t go because I knew risking my life by accepting his offer was an unacceptable gamble, when your life wasn’t on the line.”
“More,” I argued in a hoarse voice, holding her to my body even tighter. “Losing you would harm me more.”
Losing Pam would surely devastate me in ways I couldn’t even begin to imagine, but I knew I could go on.
Losing Sookie, whether or not I could go on, I already knew I wouldn’t want to.
Pulling away enough to meet my eyes with her own, hers were once again filled with unshed tears as she said, “I know, which is how I know I’ve already killed you because I will sacrifice my life if it means saving yours. But how do I save you from yourself when I’m gone?”
“You don’t die,” I answered.
No matter how unreasonable my request, I expected it to be honored.
“I am expendable,” she argued. And already knowing I wouldn’t agree with her assessment, she was quick to add, “You know this. Logically, you know your survival is more important than my own.”
“I know no such thing,” I heatedly argued in return. “In fact, if your fucking great-grandfather could be bothered to dole out information, like he doled out child abuse, we might learn it is in fact you who is the key to winning this war that seems slow in coming. His claims of raising you like a pit bull meant for fighting to the bloody death in order to be prepared for it, leads me to believe your life’s purpose is far greater than saving the likes of me.”
My inflammatory words sparked some of that fire back inside of her that had been drowning in her pity party for one.
Not only had I besmirched her beloved abuser, I’d negated my own importance in the grand scheme of things, thereby taking the wind out her born-for-me sails in the next breath.
I was two for two.
And hoping to fan the flames into a burning inferno, I added, “As for the girl who darkened my doorway in her Dominatrix Barbie birthday suit, I’m glad she’s gone. That girl didn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground.”
My ploy worked.
Almost too well.
Blue lasers zeroed in on me and our bond was back to feeling like a Taser gun now aimed at my balls, as she searched for the truth of my words. Upon finding it – because I most definitely preferred the woman in my arms to the girl from that night – she reared back, with the argument bubbling its way up her chest.
But before it could come out through her lips, I laughingly took them with my own, relieved to have the woman I had bonded to back in my arms because that woman was all fire.
She could even shoot sunlight from her hands if she was pissed enough.
And I most definitely preferred the next round of make-up sex to the last because instead of feeling as though she was saying goodbye or that she was sorry for loving me, she felt as though she would never again say anything of the sort.
Instead she seemed to be trying to find another way – to find another viewpoint I was more than willing to push her towards – and see that I was right.
Love only strengthened our will to fight to come out on top.
I couldn’t be sure if this would be the last discussion we would have on that topic, but that didn’t stop me from teasing her with my proverbial win at the end of round two.
Which led us to round three.
After all, I’d fallen for someone with not only a fighting spirit, but a competitive one as well.
But no matter how wounded or scarred she was on the inside, I would always be there, ready and willing to soothe the marks whenever she needed me to.
After all, it wasn’t an unreasonable task for a husband to do for his wife.
So it wasn’t until the early morning hours, after round three, as she was typing up her report for Davis, that she told me the rest of the story.
Her suspicions as to Isabel’s human’s origins, giving the answer to both how and why Victor had been ended in my basement dungeon.
The human’s belief that Isabel didn’t value their relationship as much as he did and her feelings there could be trouble in the future because of it. He knew of The Brotherhood’s recent uprising and was considering joining their cause in petty payback for the imagined slight he felt.
But all of that fell by the wayside when she told me how the faepire managed to stop time, in order for them to have an uninterrupted conversation.
Instead of feeling any amount of wariness over the kind of magic he was capable of, I only felt rage.
I hadn’t met him – hadn’t laid eyes on him – and yet I had no doubts her earlier musings had been on the mark.
He wanted her.
Whatever his motives were – her attributes were too abundant to pinpoint any single one as the cause – I didn’t care.
I seethed on the inside knowing he’d somehow managed to steal those moments with her. To take something he had no right to take.
To take something I had no way of getting back.
So while she finished up her report – wondering aloud over Stan Davis’s complicity in it all – I wondered silently over what I would consider to be a sufficient recompense from the faepire fuck when I got my hands on him.
I didn’t have to wonder for very long.
Only his death at my hand would suffice.
But knowing Godric had been searching for him for years and had yet to find him, I didn’t want to wait just as long to have the opportunity to end him once and for all, when it hit me.
Abusive fairy assholes weren’t the only ones around for centuries longer than me.
And given his cryptic warning on the night we’d completed our Fae bond, I even had a good reason to contact her.
Even though I knew of her gift of sight – in spite of her blind eyes – I was still surprised when my phone rang in the next moment and finding it was she on the other end of the line.
“Tomorrow at sunset,” she said, offering no other greeting. “I will be at your palace and we can discuss everything that is on your mind.”
“The sun has already risen,” I answered and in case she hadn’t seen everything, I added, “I am not at the palace.”
Her soft laughter filtered into my ear and her next words let me know she had, in fact, seen everything.
“Even if you hadn’t blood bonded to a fairy with the power of teleportation, your fairy bond makes you impervious to sunlight, yes?”
Then without waiting for a reply, she ended the call with, “You will be there at sunset.”
Setting the phone back on the nightstand, Sookie stared back at me and sifting through my emotions, she asked, “Do I want to know?”
Even if she didn’t, she would know about it anyway.
Not only could I not hide anything from her thanks to our bond, she was my way back to the palace by sunset.
After all, it wasn’t an unreasonable task for a wife to do for her husband.