My body reacted on instinct, taking in the blood it so desperately needed, and in my barely lucid state I couldn’t even see clearly. While the room was lit only by the full moon’s rays streaming in through the open door, the being trapped in my arms quite literally blinded me to the point I couldn’t make out anything but a hazy white light.
It was as though I’d somehow managed the impossible and had ensnared the sun.
The warmth in my arms and the sweet scent that went with it made other parts of me stir as well, but they were nothing compared to the unbelievably sweet nectar that was sliding across my tongue and down my throat. I had nothing I could compare it to and couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I’d met my true death because surely I could only find something as delectable as this in Valhalla. In my hunger I tried to bite further into the skin at my lips, growling out in my frustration when I realized I had nothing but my blunt teeth to aid me in my quest for more blood. In my confusion I pulled back slightly and ran my tongue along my gums, then remembered why when I felt the holes where my fangs should have been. But I’d paused long enough to register the crying voice of my shining star, pleading, “Please Eric! It’s Sookie! I’m here to help you!”
Even in my bloodlust state I remembered the name and the woman it belonged to. In the weeks following our first meeting I often found my thoughts wandering back to her whenever I felt the need for a break from the clusterfuck we’d found ourselves in. Thanks to the Area 9 vampires, they had managed to ruin two years’ worth of what had been a slowly improving co-existence between vampire and humans. My brief memories of Sookie had gotten me through more than one long night, but I hadn’t given in to the urge to seek her out, knowing it wouldn’t be safe for either one of us.
Just hearing the fear in her voice made me release her from my grasp, but now that I no longer had the good fortune of having fingers, I was barely able to keep hold of her arm so I could lick her wound closed before letting her go. I knew it would take some time for me to fully heal, but even with the amount of blood I’d just taken I could already feel the tingling sensation of the digits beginning to regenerate. When my eyes were finally able to focus I could see her pale tear stricken face and worried I might have taken too much blood, so I forced out a hoarse but genuine, “I’m sorry.”
She’d only taken one step back from me, but her eyes never wavered from mine as she gasped out in a hitched breath, “Are you okay?”
No, I wasn’t fucking okay. I’d been bested by idiots with a silver net because I’d been too blinded by my rage caused by my own child’s pain and was focused on trying to get to her when I too was captured. I’d lived through worse torture, but the overwhelming ache I had to get to Pam was worse than anything that prick could do to me. He’d been coming to me every night – taunting, cutting, and mutilating to his heart’s content.
And I planned on returning the favor.
He’d been quite talkative when explaining his diabolical plans, so I knew he was under the leadership of the false prophet Newlin. But thinking on it now made me wonder how Sookie knew where I was. I’d had nothing but time on my hands – so to speak – since my capture, so I’d known based on what I could hear that my redneck prison was set far back in the woods, at least two miles from the nearest road.
How did she know where to find me?
The only logical conclusion I could draw was that she was somehow affiliated with my torturer. It even made sense considering what I knew of her run in with the three vampire I’d stupidly saved her from, so I reached out and grabbed her again before she could get away. With my arms holding her securely against my weakened body, I snarled out, “How did you know where to find me?”
I knew she couldn’t be glamoured and while I would hate to mar her perfect skin, I would do it if necessary. My bond with Pam was weak but there, so I knew she hadn’t met her true death yet. And even though I’d been tamping down my side to spare her from any additional pain, I knew she too had been experiencing her own. Not even the distracting blond with the delectable blood would dissuade me from doing whatever was necessary to free my child and avenge whatever atrocities were forced upon her. So when she didn’t answer me, I used what little strength I could muster and aided by gravity, I threw us both down onto the rotted wooden floor with me on top of her. She yelped in surprise and yet even full of my own anger. along with the confusing sense of betrayal I felt over her complicity, I hated seeing the fear in her eyes. But I had no choice. If she was one of the Fellowship’s followers, she would be meeting her God much sooner than she could’ve guessed.
But first, I needed answers.
Without the use of fingers I was forced to pin her arms at her sides using my legs and my rage shone through with another snarl when I realized I couldn’t even grab the knife lying at our side. Other than hitting her with the mangled stumps at the ends of my arms, my only other option would be to bite her with my teeth. And without fangs it would be considerably more painful and messier.
Before I could decide on which course to pursue, she whimpered, “Please Eric, I came here to help you.”
“HOW DID YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME? WHERE IS MY CHILD?” I yelled, while ignoring the nagging in the pit of my gut to set her free.
She somehow managed to shrink down into the floor even more, but her silence only enraged me further. It wasn’t until my arm was raised, preparing to strike, that her teary eyes met mine as she whispered, “I’m a telepath.”
In my millennia walking the earth I’d never come across a true telepath. I’d come across several charlatans claiming to have the gift. But since I already knew she couldn’t be glamoured – and now wondered if it was due to her being an actual telepath – it stayed my hand long enough for her to softly sob out, “I saw what Rene did to you in his thoughts. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. If I had known, I would’ve come sooner. Maybe…maybe…I could’ve stopped him. Maybe…you wouldn’t have been hurt. But I only found out where you were tonight when I went to Rene’s sermon, hoping he would think about you. And he did. And he thought about what he did to you…I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry…”
She was sobbing uncontrollably by then, but I was frozen on top of her even though my mind was swaying. In my weakened condition it wasn’t long before my body was swaying as well, but it only served to remind me that she had indeed freed me. The chains that had been holding me down for a week had been removed from my body before I came back to consciousness.
And I’d woken up to her feeding me – her bloody wrist at my lips – something she would’ve had to do because I’d been incapable of biting her.
I let myself fall to her side and reached out, intending on wiping her tears away. But I pulled back just as quickly seeing the bloodied stump I was stuck with for the time being and instead only said softly, “I am truly sorry Sookie. I wasn’t thinking clearly and thought perhaps you were with the Fellowship as well.”
In my shame, I couldn’t even meet her eyes with my own trained on the floor, so I was startled when I felt her hand come to rest on my knee as she sniffled out, “It’s…it’s okay, but I think we should get out of here. Rene’s thoughts were angry earlier because he had to go to a school play instead of being able to come here tonight. But I don’t know if he’ll change his mind.”
Any other time I would lie in wait hoping he would show up, but it would be foolish to do so now when I couldn’t even hold a weapon. My body was too weak from the silver and loss of blood to be a real threat to him, so I had no choice but to retreat for now.
But I would get my revenge.
I felt even more emasculated when I had to accept her help in pulling me to my feet. But at least I was rewarded with another blush when her eyes took in what I was wearing – or not wearing as the case may be. She averted them once more by scanning the room, I assumed for something to cover me with, but the clothes I’d been wearing were nothing but scraps by the time they’d been cut off of my body. Finding nothing, she turned to me and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think to bring anything with me, but there’s a blanket in my car.”
“Please stop apologizing,” I softly entreated, recalling my thoughts when I’d first happened upon her. I’d been outraged by those three insolent fucks who were going to harm her – an innocent – and yet that was exactly what I had done. I didn’t even have it in me to make a joke that I was wearing the Chippendale’s Sheriff’s costume again. But I was grateful for her silence as she wrapped my arm around her shoulders – showing no sign of being disgusted by what was left of my hand – and started moving towards the door.
So rare was she – a true steel magnolia.
I leaned on her more than I was comfortable with – not because I didn’t want to touch her, but because I didn’t like showing any weakness to anyone, much less her. She hadn’t said a word since we’d left the cabin and we moved slowly through the woods, so my thoughts were free to roam and brought me back to her confession.
She was a telepath.
“Is that why you got into my car that night?” I asked and seeing the confusion on her face when she turned to face me, I elaborated, “You read from my thoughts that I meant you no harm?”
It was one of the things I’d often pondered in my downtime since meeting her, but she showed no signs of deception when she didn’t hesitate in answering, “I can’t hear vampires’ thoughts. It’s one of the reasons I first told Bill he could call on me. I was more interested in the fact his thoughts were silent than the man himself.”
It was a small relief knowing she couldn’t hear my thoughts, but her answer only made me feel worse as I said, “If I recall correctly, your feelings changed when you inadvertently witnessed some of what he was capable of.” She hadn’t elaborated on what she’d seen, but if the four of them were together, I had my suspicions. What she’d witnessed from me was likely worse – much worse. The violence I’d used on the night we had met had been to save her, so she hadn’t faulted me for it. But now…now I’d directed my anger – only a fraction of the violence I was capable of – at her. And a large part of me was grateful I’d lost my fingers and fangs because I knew very well what would have happened if I hadn’t paused trying to figure out how I would harm her, thereby giving her the opening she wouldn’t have had otherwise to tell me her secret. And giving me the opportunity to realize my mistake before it was too late.
When she only nodded, I had to ask, “You saw on the night we’d met what I am capable of, but now that you’ve been forced to bear the brunt of that as well, I’m left wondering why you didn’t just leave me behind. I am obviously too weak to chase after you if you tried to flee.”
I couldn’t understand the overwhelming guilt I felt, but it was undeniably present. I hated that I’d hurt her – frightened her to the point of tears – and for some strange reason I wanted her to grant me absolution for my sins against her.
My shock was unmistakable thanks to the look on my face when she chuckled, “It’s hard to be afraid of a guy wearing itty bitty red underwear.”
I couldn’t tell if her name had come out as a warning, a question, or a plea, but her expression became more serious when she said, “How could I leave you there knowing what was happening to you? What had already happened to you? I understand why you were angry at first, but you let me explain. And ever since then you’ve been wearing sad puppy dog eyes, so I know you feel bad for doing it.”
Not wanting to acknowledge anything that had to do with sad puppy dog eyes, I ignored that part and instead clarified, “A quid pro quo. I saved you, so you felt you had to repay your debt.”
That I could understand – could wrap my head around – because why else would she put herself at risk by attempting to rescue me. If it weren’t for my age and my previous fascination with her, she would’ve likely been drained. But I nearly stumbled when she stopped short and huffed out her irritation with, “What is it with you guys? First Bill tried to give me his blood for saving him from the Rattrays and now you’re insinuating that I would’ve left you there if you hadn’t already saved my life. Is everything so black and white in your world? Why did you pull over on the side of the highway to begin with? Why did you save me?”
Initially I’d only stopped to fuck with Malcolm and his merry band of cocksuckers, but she was why I had stayed and I suspected saving her had more to do with than just her innocence or her fear of them. I was curiously drawn to her. The fact I’d been unable to get her out of my mind for weeks after only having spent such a short time with her proved that much, but for that I had no answer. When the silence between us only grew, I changed the subject by asking, “Do you know from his thoughts where my child is being held?”
My off the wall question was enough to jar her from our previous conversation and I didn’t have to specify whose thoughts I was asking about because recognition dawned in her eyes. She furrowed her eyebrows as she asked, “You have a child? I haven’t seen any kids other than Arlene’s in Rene’s head.”
I was already shaking my head at her misconception as I urged her to begin moving again and explained, “My vampire child, Pam. I am her Maker – the one who made her vampire. She was captured at the same time I was, but I can feel through our bond that she’s west of here. Too far away to be certain exactly where though.”
I would be able to get a better bead on her if I were closer, but there was no way I’d be able to fly to her given the state I was in. Nor could I mount a successful rescue for the very same reason, however Sookie’s voice pulled me from my thoughts by asking, “Is she blond?” When I nodded, she added, “I saw you – all of you – in Rene’s thoughts from that night. There was a big Native American looking vampire that came out first and then a blond woman. And then you.” Thankfully she failed to mention the triumph of our captors and continued with, “Everyone was put into separate vans, but from what I could hear, the others working with Rene were Fellowship soldiers that aren’t from around here. But he hasn’t thought about the other two at all when I’ve been around him. I’m sorry.”
While I mentally worked at putting together some sort of strategy to get Pam back – and maybe Longshadow if I wouldn’t have to expend too much energy in locating him – we walked in silence. Since we’d all been taken at once, I had no doubts the other vampire in my fealty would have gone to ground. But revealing myself to any one of them in the shape I was in only begged for them to try and end me – be it for my territory or bragging rights. With Sophie-Anne finally dead the remaining sheriffs had been running the state and it was only because the rest of the southern states had their own issues to deal with in the fallout from Area 9’s clusterfuck that we hadn’t been taken over. The only vampire I could trust in my weakened condition was the one I needed to rescue, so I was still at a loss by the time we were finally at her car.
She moved the passenger seat back as far as it would go before motioning for me to get in and comically wrapped a blanket around my torso.
After she’d buckled me in.
I kept my less than stellar opinion of her car to myself, but as she maneuvered back onto the road she turned to me with a smile, saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you, thanks for getting my car fixed. If you had come by on the night you were supposed to, I probably would’ve given you grief over your highhandedness, but I really do appreciate it.” Her eyebrow rose a second later as she asked seriously, “What do I owe you, Mr. Quid Pro Quo?”
It was a good thing she couldn’t read my thoughts because I could think of several things I’d like from her – all of them starting with her naked. But I’d rather be operating at 100% for that anyway and only responded sincerely, “Nothing. You freeing me and feeding me is more than enough repayment.”
I pondered over the memory of how good her blood had tasted and wondered if I’d imagined it due to the fact I’d been starving. I might have even asked her for another taste just to see, but the sudden humiliation I felt remembering I no longer had fangs to bite her with kept my mouth shut.
And I found myself rapidly spiraling downward feeling…insecure?
The warrior I’d been was all that I’d known for the last millennia, but now I couldn’t even feed myself much less defend myself. I suddenly felt like hiding and was grateful for the ridiculous blanket she’d covered me with, but she relieved me of my thoughts by saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t have any Tru Blood with me. I didn’t really think things through when I saw what Rene had done to you and just ran over as soon as I could. But I can’t think of anywhere that even carries it anymore.” Before I could tell her that that swill would do little in terms of healing me – I’d need real blood for that – she gasped and turned towards me saying, “Sam! He ordered a couple of cases when Bill first started coming around. It’s just been sitting in the stockroom gathering dust for the last couple of weeks, so maybe I could buy it from him…when he’s out on a bank run…and nobody’s around to see me.”
Normally I’d just task Bobby to get donor blood from the hospital for me, but he’d gone missing a week before I’d been captured. I’d been unable to ascertain if he’d been kidnapped or had just taken off on his own, so I’d been going to ground on the nights I didn’t stay at Fangtasia because he’d known where most of my safe houses were. And there were enough clues he had access to, to find the locations of the others. Ironically, it was at that very moment that she pulled to a stop and turned to me, asking, “So, where am I taking you to?”
“That’s a very good question,” I sighed. For yet another unknown reason I ended up explaining everything with Bobby and my resting places. And even though she’d managed to shock me more than any other human in my long lifetime, I was still surprised when she didn’t hesitate in saying, “Then, you’ll stay with me.”
She’d already started driving again and when I could find the words, I shook my head saying, “It’s too dangerous.” It stood to reason if she knew who my captor was then he knew her as well. And if she was found to be harboring a vampire – his escaped prized prisoner no less – I shuddered to think what he would do to her. Until I was healed I couldn’t be much of a protector for her, but it would be impossible for me to keep her safe during the daytime. Were guards were the first thing to come to mind, but our already tense relationship with them was strained further when the humans started protesting our existence. Weres had their own secrets to keep and keeping company with vampire only subjected them to more scrutiny from those they were trying to blend in with.
If it wasn’t for Pam’s captivity I would simply go north and wait until I was fully healed before moving, possibly back to Europe where vampire/human relations weren’t as tense. But my thoughts were interrupted by the feel of her hand as it reached over and patted my knee while she earnestly said, “Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe.”
I felt like a fucking blow-up doll from the semi-permanent gaping hole on my face thanks to her.
“I am more concerned about your safety,” I said incredulously.
“Why?” she asked looking just as bewildered as I felt.
“What if Rene figures out you were the one to free me? What if he comes for you during the day? I could barely defend you now, but you are completely vulnerable during the daytime!”
I hated admitting to any weakness – especially to her, but it needed to be said. If I could gorge myself on human blood for days on end, I might be able to heal in a few weeks’ time, but that wasn’t an option.
“You’re really worried about me?” she shyly asked. Thankfully she didn’t wait on an answer and only said, “I’ll be fine. Besides, you already seem to be on the road to recovery, so I’ll get those cases of Tru Blood from Sam somehow and in the meantime you can just feed from me.”
I wondered over her definition of the road to recovery, but figured it had more to do with my level of alertness than anything else until her hand moved from my knee to my left hand. I hadn’t paid any attention to what I’d been physically feeling, but only because I was so used to blocking myself from feeling the pain that had been inflicted on me over the past week. So when she held my hand up in between us, I once again imitated a blow-up doll.
Bumps had already formed where my fingers were regenerating.
“This…” I stuttered, “This…is impossible.” I’d lost fingers before – my own Maker wasn’t known for his patience and was quick to dole out punishment for the slightest infractions – so I knew how long it took to heal from those types of injuries. Even if my advanced age played a factor – which I couldn’t be sure if it did – I doubted it would make that much of a difference. I was already at what I knew would be the fourth or fifth day mark in regards to how much I had re-grown in the matter of an hour.
I could only make one assumption because there was only one difference between then and now.
Turning to face Sookie, I asked, “What are you?”
Her scent and taste weren’t like any other human’s I’d ever come across, but the jarring of the car told me we had turned up her pitiful driveway. She waited until she’d parked around the back of the house before turning to me and saying, “A waitress? We’ve been over that.”
Again she didn’t wait for me to respond and got out of the car, while I sat there stewing, only because I couldn’t open the car door on my own and had to wait for her to do it for me. She draped the blanket over my shoulders once I was standing and motioned for me to follow her, but in my emasculated state I said nothing else until we reached the backdoor. Remembering her telling me of her Gran made me ask, “Do you live here alone?”
There were several other scents – human scents, so I wasn’t surprised when she shook her head while unlocking the door, saying, “No. This is my Gran’s house, but I’ve lived here with her since I was a little girl.”
But I was surprised when she immediately followed up with, “Please come in Eric.”
I don’t know why I was surprised, considering we’d talked about it on the way there – even if we hadn’t come to any real resolution on the matter. But knowing what I did of her refusal to invite Compton into her home, I was a little stunned she’d issued my invitation without hesitation.
She didn’t seem to notice my hesitation as she entered what appeared to be the kitchen and turned on the light saying, “Gran is gone for the weekend. She’s moving around a little better now, but she’s going stir crazy from sitting at home for so long. So her and Mrs. Fortenberry went with their Descendents of the Glorious Dead group on a trip out to Meridian and they’ll hit Jackson and Vicksburg on their way back. She won’t be home until sometime Monday evening. I have the weekend off, so I can help take care of you, but I’ll try and think of a way to get that Tru Blood from Sam without raising too many suspicions.”
I recalled Sookie talking about her grandmother’s interest in the American Civil War and recognized the cities she’d mentioned from having had battles fought there. But the only thing I could focus on was the fact Sookie had invited me – an injured vampire who’d already attacked her once – into her home when she would be all alone for the entire weekend.
I now knew what she was – insane.
“Why aren’t you fearful of me?”
I couldn’t stop the question from leaving my lips and shored up what little pride I had left in case she was about to tell me it was because I was too weak to do anything to her. But she quickly put me out of my misery by coming to stand directly in front of me and locked her eyes onto mine as she said, “I watched you rip the head off of another being when you were at your strongest. And yet you were nothing but kind – albeit a tad flirtatious – with me and I couldn’t have felt safer. Why would I fear you now when you’re more worried about me than I am?”
My mouth fell open and I really wished there was something in there – some words of wisdom – or hell, I’d even settle for something flirtatious. But all I could do was shut it again not knowing how to address anything she’d just said. She seemed to notice my internal struggle and left me alone for a few minutes, but when she returned, there was a whole new dilemma to ponder.
Holding my now clean t-shirt – the same one she’d borrowed on the night we’d first met – along with a pair of sweatpants I surmised belonged to her brother, her blush was bright red on every inch of skin that was visible to me as she asked, “Would you like me to help you bathe?”