Hearing his approval, I immediately bit down on the most tempting creature I could ever recall. Both in sight and scent.
And I soon learned in taste.
Familiar and yet foreign, something niggled at the back of my mind, but it was what was happening at the forefront that soon held all of my attention.
I barely registered being bitten in return because with every swallow of blood by each of us, the opaque world I had found myself trapped in suddenly exploded into a kaleidoscope of colors.
Bright and vibrant.
Living and breathing.
Just like the clever girl trapped in my arms.
Her whispered name fell from my lips, sounding like both a plea and an apology, but she paid me no mind and continued to suck my blood in through her lips and down her throat, as though her life depended on it.
And it very well might have.
Lost in her own euphoria – be it from being in my arms or from the effects of our third mutual exchange – I could feel our now permanent bond igniting its way through my veins and hers, sealing us together in a way I had no words for.
But it was just as well.
Words were so inconsequential when we could feel everything the other felt.
And I could feel that she didn’t feel like talking anyway.
My blood was old and it wouldn’t take much more to cook her, so I pulled her ravenous lips away from my skin and gave them something else to feast on.
Holding the back of her head in my hands, I kept my strength in check and allowed her newest attack to go on unhindered.
Slicing her tongue on my descended fangs, I mimicked her actions, while we both lost ourselves for a moment in the heady combination of our blood seeping into our palates. With the infusion of mine in her system, she easily scaled my body and wrapped hers around mine, moving against me in ways that had me moving my hands down her body, with the intent of ripping away the clothes that covered her, so I could lose myself completely in her.
The fog was still lifting from my mind, but hearing the slightest of sounds at my back was all it took for me to remember something else.
The fucker who had taken her from me in the first place – in ways I hadn’t even conceived imaginable, until she was nothing more than a memory just out of my reach – known to me only as ‘Master’.
And I now knew he was a threat to more than just the two of us, in ways I hadn’t conceived imaginable until I had been nothing more than a memory just out of my reach.
So I sent my silent apology through our shared connection, just as I ripped her body away from mine and spun around, setting my sights on him.
At his relatively young age, his medical knowhow had been the only way he’d been able to control any of us. But looking at him now, with my vision no longer masked by the countless drugs they had pumped into my veins, I recognized him for exactly who he was.
What he was.
A fucking monster, both when he was a human and now that he was a vampire.
His barked out words sounded more questioning than commanding, but they no longer had a hold on me. While I could still feel his foreign presence in my blood – like a cancer that had eaten away at my own will, until it had nearly consumed it whole – the power that had somehow allowed him to command me as only a Maker could was gone. Whether it was the blood bond itself or whatever it was in Sookie’s blood that had allowed me to heal at an accelerated rate the first time she’d rescued me, I had regained control over myself.
No longer a puppet, the strings had been cut from the master.
I was free.
I could practically see her scolding blood working its way through my body, all but scalding his away. And similar to how Sookie had once described a vampire’s glamour directed at her, I could feel his attempt to control me, but I knew thanks to her I was now immune to it.
Something he quickly realized when I had him in my grasp a split second later.
Mentally I felt fine, but physically my body felt off and looking down, I could see why. Whatever it was they’d done to Compton had been done to me, making me twice the size I was normally.
Unused to my new state, I only faltered for a moment before adjusting as well as I could. And as much as I wanted to rip the head from the bastard in my grasp and be done with it, I couldn’t.
We could very well need him, if we wanted any hope of winning the war they’d started. Because as more of the fog cleared, more memories of my altered time spent there returned. Snippets of conversations held in my presence because I hadn’t been present in my own mind.
The carnage in Dallas hadn’t been the lynchpin for this Holocaust.
It had been going on right underneath our proverbial noses in this underground Auschwitz all along.
Dallas had merely brought the likes of Newlin and others like him out of the woodwork to secretly join their cause.
Who better to place the blame with, if it all went south and they were found out, than bible thumping hatemongers?
The northern states hadn’t yet jumped onto Newlin’s Bible Belt Bandwagon. They were cautious, but they weren’t convinced only the extinction of the vampire race would save theirs.
I knew now it was the explanation for why Sookie had seen other holding facilities in Gabe’s thoughts. Others of my kind were still being held against their will.
The youngest of them – whose ages and existences were outed thanks to Compton’s pilfered database – and still considered newborns, with none of those being held more than a few decades old at most.
Only instead of winning the prize of being treated as lab rats, they were being given another kind of treatment known at Auschwitz.
They were being starved to death.
Newlin was the patsy leading that particular charge. He was going to release the starved vampire en masse on a crowd of unsuspecting humans in one of the larger cities in the north.
It would be a feeding frenzy.
One those in charge of this hellhole knew could only be stopped by the likes of Compton and the other vampire soldiers under Himmler’s command.
With an attack of that magnitude the government would be forced to act and that act itself would give Himmler and those who supported him free rein to do whatever was necessary in order to control the fallout.
By proxy, they would have control over the leaders of the free world.
It was madness.
Pure and simple.
But considering Himmler’s former affiliations, it was to be expected. Why whoever held his leash thought any differently wasn’t my concern.
Stopping it from ever happening to begin with and exposing them for what they were was the only viable option now.
But where before I only had a ragtag team of vampire and Weres to help restore order, now I had a much larger force, all gathered together in the same place here in the bowels of this hellhole.
I just had to convince them to join our cause.
With the fog lifting, my thoughts had only taken seconds to filter through my mind. But hearing the uncertainty in Sookie’s voice only amplified those same feelings I could sense in the bond we’d just completed.
So I tested the strength of our new connection and sent her my own surety.
That I knew who I was.
And I most definitely knew who she was.
My very own Valkyrie.
Blood covered and pissed off, my little warrior stood tall.
And seemingly satisfied by whatever she saw in my eyes and felt running through our bond, she didn’t wait for any response and I felt her shoving her emotions away into boxes likely labeled, ‘later’ in her mind.
Instead she stalked across the room like she owned it and grabbed the restraints lying on the table, spitting out, “Hold him down where I can reach him.”
Binding his wrists with the silver manacles attached at the end of small platforms on each side of the table, she roughly shoved his legs into similar ones and secured them around his ankles.
Then holding the steel bit that I knew from experience was meant to go through his teeth, she stared down at him – every bit the steel magnolia – and snarled, “Who in the hell thought you would be a good idea for a vampire?”
“Someone whose usefulness ended with my turning,” he bit out in response.
“If ever there was a time I wished I could read a vampire’s mind, it would be now,” she glared down at him, as though her will alone would grant her the power to do so.
But staring straight into his eyes – and not knowing about her own set of gifts, which included immunity to glamour – I could see his attempt to do that very thing, as he said, “You will release me.”
“I will release you,” she repeated robotically. But I knew from our bond she only felt furious and it came through in her response when she spit out, “By putting a stake through your cold dead heart and hosing you down the drain, with the rest of the raw sewage where you belong.”
He was secured in a way he had no hopes of freeing himself.
Trapped in a room with a vampire who was a thousand years older and – thanks to him – a hundred times stronger.
A vampire who had more than enough cause to want vengeance.
And yet the first glimmer of fear he’d shown came when staring into the eyes of a young – mostly human – woman.
So maybe he wasn’t so stupid after all.
“Why can’t I glamour you?” he asked after trying and failing yet again.
“Because God likes me more than he does you,” she blithely answered and then asked, “And why do you think you’re God by fucking with vampires when you are one?”
“Because I learned my battle lessons as a human!” he roared back in frustration. “Humans are frail and weak. They’re nothing more than cattle, mindlessly following the rest of the herd. Even I hadn’t realized my true potential until I was no longer one and yet I still found myself surrounded by cattle because most vampires – at the top of the food chain – hadn’t lost their herd mentality.”
Struggling against the bonds that kept him clamped to the table, he thrashed from side to side, yelling out, “Mainstreaming! Debasing ourselves and allowing the cattle to believe we were nothing more than sickly and weak individuals with an allergy to sunlight. Well I had had enough. I had already started my experiments to learn our full potential. Accelerating the regeneration process our bodies are already capable of and adding strength and speed. I knew even sunlight could be combatted, but I needed more resources. So I infiltrated the humans in order to fully realize my dreams. Taking the will of other vampires for my own.”
Looking both pleased and disgusted, he added, “Cattle are easily prodded to take the path presented to them, especially when vampires are stupid enough to portray it as the only path to be taken.”
Shaking her head, I knew Sookie only felt disgust, when she shoved the steel bit into his mouth and secured it in place with the buckle at the side of his head before leaning over him and saying, “Moo.”
Then rearing back, she punched him in the face, spraying them both with the blood now gushing from his broken nose before turning to face me and looking completely affronted when she said, “He’s an asshole.”
And while now certainly wasn’t the time for it, I didn’t let that stop me from chuckling, as I lifted her up and crashed my lips back down onto her own.
She truly was remarkable.
Equal amounts of relief flowed back and forth across our bond, but that kiss was all that we needed to say in that moment.
“You don’t seem nearly as happy to see me.”
The blush that bloomed across Sookie’s skin almost felt as though it could be my own from the heat she was throwing off. But it was only my need to see the owner of the voice that made me release her before turning to face my child who’d always had impeccable timing.
In her own mind, at least.
But she had always enjoyed making an entrance and I smiled indulgently, nodding my thanks towards Sookie’s shifter at her side, as I walked forward and pulled her into my arms, with my undeniable relief coming through in my whispered words.
“You are well?”
Battling my relief was the rage I still felt over her kidnapping.
But I was sure there was someone around I could kill to vent my frustrations on if she answered in the negative.
“More than well,” she nodded against my chest, with her arms going around me.
Like her Maker, Pam wasn’t one to show affection in front of others, but neither one of us were willing to let that stop us in the moment.
So firmly pressed against my chest, I could feel the small upturn of her lips when she said, “That girl’s blood packs a punch.”
As did that girl.
Himmler’s bloodied nose was proof of that.
I bristled for a moment at the thought of anyone but me feeding from Sookie, but I quashed the feeling just as quickly and replaced it with my gratefulness.
She’d obviously done whatever was necessary to save my child.
I couldn’t possibly be upset with either one of them, now that I had both of them back again.
Now, however, we were bonded and there would be no more free meals at Chez Stackhouse.
Sookie was officially off the menu.
But pulling back, Pam grimaced as she ran her hands across my new form and clucked her tongue as she added, “But this just reinforces the fact I can no longer walk both sides of the street.”
Sookie was the one who bristled internally then, but I couldn’t be sure if she was offended on my behalf or agreed with Pam’s assessment.
Before I could chuckle over the former or become concerned over the latter, Pam cast a suggestive glance Sookie’s way and added, “Your belle, however, is more than welcome to take a walk with me.”
“Jeez, you all really are related, aren’t you? It’s like you have matching lesbidos or something,” Sookie huffed, with her face flaming red, before she smiled overly sweetly and said, “I’ll be staying out of your Diagon Alley, but thanks anyway Pam.”
“We need to get out of here,” the shifter warned, pacing back and forth by the door and paying no mind to the banter going on around him. “But I don’t know how all of us are going to get out now.”
Facing the sound of another’s voice, she was unrecognizable to me.
But the same could not be said of Sookie, whose recognition registered in our bond a split second before she launched herself at the woman, shouting, “You bitch!”
Sookie’s shifter barely managed to put his body in her path, but with the infusion of my blood in her system, she was much stronger than any regular human and fought her way free before I even had the chance to come to her aid.
Only Sam’s quick reflexes allowed him to grab a hold around her waist, while Sookie kicked her feet out towards the woman and yelled out, “You betrayed us!”
“I didn’t!” she yelled back and I could see her irises flash yellow before they turned brown again, as she took a step back and said, “Well…I sort of did, but it was the only way to get you inside. It’s what you wanted!”
“I wanted inside!” Sookie shouted like a madwoman. “I didn’t want us to be taken prisoner!”
And when she still couldn’t reach the woman, she lashed out at the one who was holding her back by snarling, “Let. Me. Go. Sam!”
“Not until you calm down,” he huffed, still struggling to hold on to her.
I’d been caught up for a moment trying to fill in the blanks of their acquaintance, but no sooner had my foot twitched, with my intent to free her myself, when he took one deep breath and released her from his hold.
Then using the newfound oxygen in his lungs, he spat out accusatorily, “You’ve bonded yourself to him?”
“Big picture, Sam!” she snapped back at him and threw her hand up in his face before turning to face the other woman and glared, “And what was your grand plan for after we were kidnapped?”
“It was a work in progress,” she growled out. “But considering you’re free now, you’re welcome!”
“And I thought you were highhanded,” Sookie grumbled, with her eyes darting at me, before I could sense her forcing all of her focus on the woman, I assumed to gauge the truth from her thoughts.
“She’s on our side,” Sam interjected, when neither woman said anything else. “I wouldn’t have known how to play the part to get as far as I did without her help. Flood and the others are all on standby, waiting for us outside. But we need to go!”
“We can’t!” Sookie spat out in disbelief and then answered his questioning expression with, “What about everyone else trapped in here? We can’t leave them!”
The shifter woman whose name I had yet to learn, turned her wide disbelieving eyes towards Sam and snapped out, “You said we were coming in for three of them.”
Then letting her eyes travel across Sookie, Pam, and myself, she looked back to him and said, “I count three. There is no way in hell we’ll be able to get more than three hundred of them out without being spotted.”
While freeing Pam had been my primary objective at the start, now that I knew more of what their plans entailed, I agreed with Sookie.
We couldn’t leave the others behind.
More so because I would need their help if we had any hope of stopping what could very well turn out to be the end of the world as we knew it.
So I felt oddly proud not sensing the slightest bit of apprehension in Sookie when she declared, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And we will find a way to get them all out of here.”
“Uh huh,” the woman glared back at her in return and with a roll of her eyes, she added, “And will your will alone stop the sun from rising? Because that is happening any minute, so how do you propose we get them all out without them burning up in the process? Do you have a grand plan for that?”
“We don’t have to,” Sookie answered after a moment and turned her gaze back to Himmler.
I could sense the pieces falling into place she had yet to name, but they soon fell into place for me too, when she added with a calculating glint in her eye, “Because cattle will just follow the rest of the herd or so I’ve recently been told.”
Then turning her eyes back on the rest of us, her determination filled up our bond, when she said, “Now all we have to do is get them to moo.”