I had to force my eyes open, still not used to the spinning sensation when I learned to presto-change-o myself from one spot to another a few days earlier. Watching – now hidden from view in the safety of the tree line – my eyes remained glued to that crazy Children-of-the-Corn looking vampire, seeing him skid to a stop on his path towards where I’d been standing only a second earlier.
I was just thankful I’d been prepared for it, if not still a little surprised over who – or what – my tutor had been.
But Preston had warned me. About vampires and Weres and shifters.
They each had their own strengths. They each had their own weaknesses. And now thrust into a kill or be killed environment, I knew better than to think I could safely stay out of the fray. And while that didn’t mean I’d go killing willy nilly either, now seeing a couple of the other humans stand frozen in shock at the pandemonium erupting around them, at least I could be grateful I’d had a crash course in the supernatural.
According to Preston, Weres came in more than just the wolf variety. Something I now knew to be true given the Bengal tiger I could both see and hear roaring in the distance. And if he was to be believed, there were also the seemingly normal looking human beings who had the ability to shift into any animal of their choosing. Some, like Preston, might even be able to change their appearance into that of another person.
But his biggest beef was with the last category of my supernatural opponents.
I already knew about their existence of course, but the one thing Preston stressed above all else was the absolute need to stay away from them.
All of them.
And knowing what was at stake – pardon the pun – I agreed with his assessment.
No matter how dire he claimed my circumstances were, I refused to believe Eric would hurt me. Not when he’d had every opportunity to do so when I’d been locked away in his cell.
But he’d protected me instead. He’d tried to come up with different ways to help keep me safe and I didn’t think – or at least I hoped – anything had changed.
Nothing had changed for me.
Situation and circumstance. A life altering event. Maybe it was just the act of sharing our blood with one another. Whatever was the cause the fact remained I felt tied to Eric. With all that he’d said and done so far, I had to believe at least a small part of him felt the same way about me. So I refused to believe Eric was a threat. Not to me.
So Preston and I would just have to agree to disagree about that.
He learned the hard way just how attached I already was to my vampire when I’d woken up to his fairy doppelganger a week earlier. He had barely uttered my name out loud when my whole body lit up like a Christmas tree and I blasted him across the room. I was sure the only reason Preston had survived the experience was because in my sleepy state, my eyes, head, and festive hands weren’t on the same page. After all, I’d woken up in what looked like the exact same place I’d fallen to sleep, with the same one I’d fallen asleep next to, smiling across from me.
He looked just like Eric.
He sounded just like Eric.
But he just wasn’t my Eric.
Because instead of the blissful abyss of his vampire mind, the fairy light coming from the man in front of me, swirling in my head, told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Or – as it turned out – even in Eric’s cell.
I could tell the venue had changed by the sudden disappearance of the other minds I’d subconsciously been keeping track of whenever I wasn’t touching Eric. The empty voids; the red hazy heads; even the human minds I’d wished I could get away from for who knows how long were all suddenly gone.
At least I’d had better sense than to celebrate that fact. The fairies seemed to know a lot about me. More than I even knew – if my heritage was true, but they didn’t seem to know about my curse.
And I wanted to keep it that way.
But my sudden realization was also enough to be the kick start my inherited snap-crackle-pop needed for me to learn I actually could teleport. When Not-Eric took a step in my direction, after shaking off his unplanned and hasty departure from the bed, my body disappeared and reappeared ten feet away on instinct. I hadn’t gone far. Only to the other side of the room, so he found me easily and reached out, asking confusedly, “Sookie? What’s wrong?”
The fact he both looked and sounded like Eric only confused my addled mind more. If it weren’t for the mental alarms ringing in my head – literal flashing fairy lights – I likely would’ve run straight into his arms. But as it stood, I stood my ground and kept my distance. Holding up my hands towards him, while hoping and praying I still had the force of the Jedi behind them, I warned, “Stay away from me.”
‘Optimistic you are’, my inner Yoda praised.
Mental Yoda was right. I was betting my life on nothing more than wishes on stars in a galaxy far far away, when in actuality I had to force myself to remain standing on my own two feet. Between blasting Not-Eric from the cot and abracadabra-ing myself across the room, I felt more exhausted than ever.
Maybe Jedi powers included not just light saber hands, but a kickstand too? I certainly could’ve used one to keep my on my feet right about then.
But I remained upright on sheer willpower alone, digging deep within myself and tried to hold on to the adrenaline that was rapidly fading from my system. In that moment I wished more than anything there was a way for me to feel what Eric was feeling. I didn’t know if he was okay and it was that thought that straightened my spine and warmed my hands in preparation to light up his Yule log as I asked, “What did you do to Eric? Where is he?”
Not-Eric stared back at me, looking exactly like the man I had just asked about. He didn’t seem to know his fairy light gave his deception away, but he at least seemed to know the jig was up because he smiled at me and ruefully said, “And they say hybrids have no worth. I thought perhaps taking the form of the one you seem attached to would work in my favor, but I can see that was a mistake. Tell me Princess, how did you figure it out?”
He sounded more impressed than anything else. Proud, even. And even though I’d known all along he wasn’t Eric, I was still surprised when his physical appearance changed before my very eyes, morphing into one of the fairy guards I’d seen only once before.
“You?” I asked disbelievingly, while ignoring his Princess remark.
After all, it was the Bellefleur family who reigned over the monarchy of Bon Temps.
So maybe it was the invisible thorny crown she wore that made Portia so prickly?
But he wasn’t the only thing to change. Instead of standing in what looked like Eric’s fairy cell, now we appeared to be in a room decorated by – well – Lafayette.
If he’d won the lottery.
A huge canopy bed fit for a queen sat against one wall, with intricately carved nightstands and matching furniture sprinkled throughout. A gold gilded mirror hung above a dresser and an open armoire beside it showed it was filled with dresses made with what appeared to be the finest fabrics.
In my lightheaded state, I half expected the Von Trapp kids to come singing into the room, while I ripped down the drapes and made play clothes from them.
While I tried to turn off the, “Do-Re-Mi,” song now playing on a loop in my loopy mind, he pulled me from my Von Trapped thoughts by bowing down before me and saying, “Preston Pardloe, at your service.”
“At my service, huh?” I snapped back.
I was tired. I was hungry. And – quite frankly – I was no nun-in-training-turned-nanny. I was also done with being treated like the mouse to their cat and I figured Gran would forgive my unkind outburst in that moment, so my mouth had a mind of its own when I heard it exclaim, “Well then I want to speak to a manager because the service here sucks!”
And being a barmaid, I didn’t take too kindly to shoddy service.
And being a crabby-pants, I also hadn’t taken into account just how vulnerable I was in that moment because all it took was a literal blink of the eye for me to be reminded of it. Instead of hearing the sound of music, all I heard was a soft pop and the next thing I knew, my shoddy server was up close and way in my personal space.
“Careful princess,” he warned, now nose to nose with me. “Until you truly know all that your adversary can do, you must not provoke them into doing something you cannot defend yourself from.”
Doe, a deer. A staring-in-the-headlights-peeing-herself female deer.
My Jedi hands refused to unclench at my sides, but his not-so-veiled threat made my mental warning bells clang like the bells of the Nonnberg Abbey.
And that was how I somehow managed to find the strength to pop into a corner of the room.
I hadn’t gone far. Hell, I hadn’t even gone far, a long long way to run. He should have been able to see me in his peripheral vision, but when his head swung around, with his eyes searching near and far, I could tell he couldn’t see me.
Praise Mother Abbess.
I was hoping he’d be humming along to, “So long, farewell. Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight.”
Lord knows I felt like an absurd little bird at that moment.
I expected him to be angry – given every other interaction I’d had with fairies, it wasn’t so farfetched – but instead I silently watched his face form into a wide smile as he praised, “Princess, you are a delight. Your great-grandfather would have been proud.”
I figured he wasn’t talking about any one of my human great-grandfathers, but I wasn’t dumb enough to correct him either. Instead of continuing to search for me, all he did was take a seat on a chair meant for a real princess, and proudly explained, “You have inherited his gift to hide your presence. It is remarkable how strong your essential spark is, being only one-eighth Fae, but then the Brigant line is very powerful.”
I couldn’t refute his explanation given I’d never seen Gran disappear into thin air – although she had the uncanny ability to appear out of thin air whenever me or Jason were up to no good. But I kept all of that to myself – like my appearance, apparently – and held still while his eyes took a cursory glance around the room once more. And just like I hoped, they passed right on by me, but I nearly gave myself away and quickly swallowed the gasp in my throat when he added, “But I know that you are here. I have placed a spell on the room to keep others from teleporting in. Or out.”
Son of a…
I didn’t know what he wanted from me. Other than taking me away from Eric – and remembering his initial reaction to the barbecued fairy, I was sure he just loved that – he hadn’t really given me any reason to be afraid of him.
Other than the fact he was a fairy.
And I didn’t think I would be able to keep up my disappearing act for much longer. As it was, I was just grateful I’d popped myself into a corner of the room because I needed the walls to keep me upright. So it was no wonder I questioned whether or not he had the curse of telepathy when I heard him say, “You are weak from malnutrition. I know that you have not eaten anything since your arrival. It is only due to your bloodline that you have not yet succumbed to your frailty and you weaken yourself even further now by keeping yourself hidden from me. I swear to you Princess, I mean you no harm. I owe your great-grandfather a debt and I will repay it by doing all that I can to see you through this ordeal.”
The next thing I knew a tray of heaven appeared on one of the little tables in the room. Loaded with what looked – and more importantly smelled – like a Thanksgiving dinner fit for ten Jason’s. Not a lick of it was glowing. Nothing looked like it should be labeled a biohazard and every last bit of it looked like it would pass any FDA inspection.
At the very least, it had the Fairy Doppelganger Approval.
And he was right. I was weak, both in strength and willpower because his sudden five-star service was my undoing.
The undoing of my disappearing act, that is.
All it took was one whiff for my invisible walls to come crumbling down. I knew because his head snapped up, with his eyes meeting my own. But all he did was smile and gesture towards the table, saying, “Eat.”
And – God help me – I did.
And that was how Preston and I came to a truce because I must have been more like Jason than I wanted to admit, if all it took was some good food for me to be okay with someone. Although I didn’t trust him completely – being a fairy and all – but I trusted him enough. And while he may have praised my supposed Brigant blood for making me so powerful “even as a hybrid,” my self-preservation instincts were decidedly lacking when I kicked him after he’d told me his initial plan was to keep up his Eric charade and ‘mistreat’ me in the hopes I wouldn’t be so trusting of him. Preston then would have pretended to swoop in and save me from the big mean vamp, so I would be grateful and trust him.
Now he should be grateful if he was able to father any children after my foot had been introduced to his fairy family jewels.
But in our short time together he’d taught me all about the supernatural world I hadn’t known existed until I’d been kidnapped from my life. He told me stories about my supposed relatives and the war they fought – and lost – to the crazy-eyed fairy called Breandan. He’d told me that while he had stayed out of the political – and deadly – scuffle between the two clans, he now feigned allegiance to the new leader of their world, while he still harbored a secret loyalty to my own unknown kin. He told me of Breandan’s plans to insert humans – and if I was pressed to admit, fairy hybrids – into his weird game plan. He tried to prepare me for what I would be forced to face in the coming days by using his own fairy-ness to draw mine out in order for me to learn all that I could do in their world.
And I could do a lot.
And I was sure in another place and time – in another more human world – I would’ve fought tooth and nail against believing I was anything but a pure Stackhouse. Now – however – I could admit I was grateful to be decidedly a little less human than I’d originally thought.
I doubted a full human would survive everything that lied ahead.
Once Preston and I reached an understanding – he wouldn’t pretend to be Eric and I wouldn’t show him how human women could take down a fairy man with one good kick – he’d gone to Breandan and told him he’d captured me. He’d waited until nearly the last moment – not long before the games were to begin – in case Breandan insisted on taking me somewhere else in the meantime.
And I sure as hell hoped it wouldn’t be to the barbecued fairy’s sister’s place.
But Preston was allowed to remain as my guard. He didn’t know much about what would happen when I got to the hunting grounds though. He only knew how much Breandan liked to play games, so he told me to expect anything.
And trust nothing.
He wasn’t even sure my fairy powers would hold up once I got there, but it would seem they had considering I’d been able to pop away from my vampire snack stand. But that thought had me looking around for my vampire and I found him quickly.
Because he was suddenly right-there-in-my-face.
“That was quick,” I whisper gasped, thinking my hidey hole must not have been so great for him to find me so easily in the thick foliage.
“I can feel you,” he replied, oddly with a triumphant sounding low growl.
I thought it was weird since he made it sound like it was something new, when he’d already explained that little detail back when he’d given me his blood. But the thought left me just as quickly because just as suddenly, I could feel him too.
His vice-like arms around my body.
His tongue in my mouth.
His…his…turret, pressing against the barrier of another – just as poorly hidden – hidey hole of mine.
The kiss didn’t last for long – at least that was what my body was screaming when he finally pulled away – and his eyes and hands swept over my body while he asked, “You are well?”
I could only shrug because all I could be certain of in that moment was he was certainly fine.
Did I mention he was encased in a second skin of black leather?
“Sookie,” he barked and gently shook me from the stupor he’d put me in. “Have you been injured?”
He was already pulling his wrist to his descended fangs. And recalling how feeding from him before had made me feel – less like a lady and more like a lady of the night – I stopped him and said, “I’m good, but we should go.”
We had a lot to talk about, but now was hardly the time. I could hear the sickening sounds of howling – Weres, vampires, and humans alike – and I didn’t want to see the reasons why. I knew the humans had been given weapons to even the matchup against Supes – I was loaded down with a silver dagger and several wooden stakes – but I figured our best bet for now would be to find a safe hiding place in order to plan.
Not our attack, but our escape.
I didn’t think I’d have it in me to kill anyone else unless it was in defense of my own life or someone’s I cared about. And staring back at the only other someone there that I cared about made me recall what I’d done in defense of his life once already.
And I knew I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
Eric was doing some staring of his own – like trying to stare a hole into me – when he finally gave up and nodded slightly, saying, “We will have to run. My ability to fly doesn’t seem to work here.”
Stopped short by his admission, I admittedly gawked at him like the bumpkin I was. The only thing I really knew about him at all was what could be found out in a WWII prisoner of war camp.
Name: Eric Northman
Serial Number: Well…I didn’t know exactly how old he was, but he’d said he’d spent the last few decades in Shreveport. Few being more than two, so he was older than me.
And despite the danger we were in, my lips thought it prudent to ask, “You can fly?”
“Not at the moment, lover,” he smiled.
His moniker made my insides quiver – and parts of my outside do a little quivering of their own – but if he could feel that too, he ignored it and pulled me back into his arms.
And then put my head into a tailspin by trying to break the sound barrier with his takeoff.
It felt like I was strapped to the ass end of a jet, from the way the wind instantly whooped up around me, and made me seriously question his claim he couldn’t fly. And since I was clinging to him like a monkey to a banana tree, in the hopes I wouldn’t fall to my death, I could also say it felt like he had some other claims he was eager to make.
Like staking his claim in my lady garden with his banana tree.
But the thought had barely crossed my less than pristine mind when just-like-that the ride ended. I didn’t have time to question the why’s, where’s, or how come’s because I could see the cause when my eyes popped open.
Never mind the growling sound that went along with it.
Standing in our path was – technically – a vampire. But to the untrained eye, such as my own, this was no ordinary vampire.
This one was decidedly bigger.
If a shifter happened along in the form of a donkey – or perhaps a suave Latin lothario orange tabby cat – I wouldn’t hesitate to think he could be named Shrek.
But I didn’t need to understand the foreign sounding words he growled and grunted at us to know this was no misunderstood affable ogre. Nor was he a friend.
This giant of a vampire was undoubtedly a foe.