Struggling to keep my fangs in check, it was more than my agitation that had them itching in my gums.
It had been the scent of four missing vampires – although worthless they may be – that had led me to her front door, but undoubtedly it was the scent surrounding the house that left me mystified.
Sweeter than anything I could recall, it tickled a faint memory in the recesses of my mind, but it remained just out of grasp.
But at least I’d had the forethought to check the mailbox, so I had a name to go with the shotgun.
Although, ‘Sookie’ as a first name had to be a typo.
Perhaps she was a stripper named Cookie?
Even in the darkened house, my preternatural sight allowed me to see the shape of her body through the curtain covered window, and what I saw told me it was a distinct possibility.
Hourglass figures were hard to come by these days, where extremes on either end of the bathroom scale were more commonplace.
Stick figures or a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float were the norm nowadays.
But as tempting as her scent and body were, it was the distinct scents of the four missing vampires – whose ends had undoubtedly taken place on her gravel driveway – that were my only concern for now.
Compton had checked in with me two weeks earlier. With the passing of the recent VRA legislation, he’d stated he would be looking into the possibility of reacquiring his former human home, now that his last descendant had died.
But regardless of its name, I had yet to see anything that would lead one to believe good times could be found here in this backwoods bayou.
Knowing the likelihood a suitable resting place would be found there was nil, in the meantime he claimed he would be staying with a nest in Monroe. Three of my more problematic vampires, Malcolm, Liam, and Diane were to be his host.
I’d known then it would only mean more work for me.
So when none of them had shown up for their scheduled appearances at the bar – as all area vampires were required to – I’d gone in search of them, certain I would find them in the midst of a bloody orgy. But when I arrived, my only clue was their scents and the faintness of them told me the four hadn’t been in the Monroe house recently.
For a week, at least.
So I brought my search here, thinking perhaps the four had taken up residence in Compton’s former home, and there is where I’d found another clue in the form of Malcolm’s car in Compton’s driveway. Their scents were just as weak as they had been in the Monroe house, but between the four of them there had been enough of a trace left behind for me to follow it across the field.
All the way to what I was sure had been their gravelly graves.
I didn’t particularly care for any of them, but I couldn’t allow an attack on any vampire in my retinue – by a human, no less – go unanswered for.
A string of muttered expletives were followed by the porch light coming on and a slow turn of the doorknob. Who I assumed was the homeowner, stayed hidden behind the door, with only her head peeking out as she casually asked, “What can I do for you, sheriff?
I had to smile at her mettle.
Her expression gave away nothing, as though she normally entertained visiting vampire sheriffs in the dead of night.
“Northman,” I clarified for some unknown reason. And wondering if she would clarify her own name for me as well, I added, “Eric Northman.”
Her blue eyes were thoughtful, but I was sure her show of bravery had more to do with the threshold that kept us separated when she smiled and said, “Nice to meet you, Eric Northman. How can I help you? Is there an upcoming election I’m not aware of? Are you here campaigning to keep your position as sheriff?”
Barking laughter came out of my chest before I could stop it. So used to the trash that entered my bar – asking the inane questions about coffins, garlic, and mirrors – her pluck was quite refreshing, especially considering I’d just threatened to tear down her house around her.
But rather than tell her about all of the positions my cock was campaigning to put her in, I simply captured her gaze and gave a slight push with my glamour, telling her, “Invite me in.”
As entertaining as she was, she still had to answer for the four vampires who’d met their ends in her driveway. The possibility existed she’d had nothing whatsoever to do with their deaths, but I needed to question her in order to find out.
But instead of inviting me in, she surprised me by taking a step further back into the house and said, “I’m afraid I’m not really up for any company. Humans and our pesky need for sleep and all, so I hope you understand. Besides, I don’t have any of that True Blood to offer you.”
How the fuck had she resisted my glamour?
It was a first for me, which – given my age – was saying something.
Zeroing in on her bright blue eyes, I pushed away the errant thought of how the color reminded me of a cloudless day, and instead pushed with the full force of my glamour, asking, “Have you seen any vampires in the area recently?”
Barely imperceptible, a flicker of caution passed through her eyes, but once again my glamour had been wasted on her as she replied, “Why do you ask?”
Certainly not for my health.
Although hers relied heavily on giving me an answer.
But considering I had no way of glamouring my way in, I fell back on my other talents in the hopes of luring her out.
I would get answers one way or another.
Infusing my expression into one of chagrin, I softened my stance and my voice as I explained, “Four of the vampires in my area have gone missing. Honestly, I care nothing for their wellbeing, but as the local sheriff, I have a job to do and that includes investigating their disappearance. One of them was looking into the possibility of reacquiring his former home, just across the field from here. The other three have caused me more trouble than they’re worth, so if I were to learn their folly resulted in their justifiable ends, well then, I could wrap up my investigation and go back to more important things.”
Adding a flirty lilt to my tone, I dropped my head and looked up at her through my eyelashes and said, “Like finding out if you’re single.”
A tempting blush rose up on her skin, but her expression was conflicted when she asked, “So you’re saying if they happened to be…ended…in the course of say…an unprovoked attack…would that be considered justifiable?”
However, I filled my eyes and tone with as much understanding as I could muster and replied, “Of course.”
But the fact she’d been able to end four vampires at once was something else altogether.
And the fact she appeared to be impervious to glamour added to my thoughts that I was in the midst of a skilled drainer. A theory that was only strengthened when she drifted closer to the threshold and another scent wafted through the entryway.
The unmistakable odor of vampire blood.
A long moment silently stretched between us, while I watched the war taking place behind her eyes. I could only guess that she was grasping at straws, hoping she would be able to lie her way out of her crimes against my kind.
So I was sure to keep my posture as non-threatening as possible, when her feet took her another step closer to the invisible barrier that separated us, as she stuttered, “I…they…”
No longer courageous, her body trembled before me, while her confession caught in her throat. So I took a step back and tried to appear sympathetic, as I gestured towards her driveway and softly said, “Why don’t you walk me through it, Miss Stackhouse, so you can get back to bed.”
More like her final rest.
“Sookie,” she whispered, with her eyes seemingly staring into the past.
Locked onto the spot on her driveway where she’d ended four of my kind.
I wouldn’t have been so at ease were it not for the flimsy tank top and cotton shorts she wore.
They hid nothing.
So I wasn’t concerned she was carrying a stake. Nor did she smell of silver.
Six inches forward and she would be within my grasp.
It was a good thing she wasn’t a mind reader.
Her eyes seemed to lose focus, staring out at her driveway, so I refocused her attention on me by softly reminding her of my presence in saying, “Sookie?”
It seemed to snap her out of her reverie, with her eyes snapping back to mine and they seemed to study me for another long moment, when I saw another flicker behind them.
I froze every muscle in place, watching as she swallowed hard and took that fateful step forward, while she began to explain, “I’d heard a noise…”
As soon as she’d stepped through the barrier, I grabbed her arm, spinning her around so that her back was against my front, with my arms pinning her in place. That same impossibly sweet scent that surrounded her house invaded my senses, but it was the underlying aroma of vampire blood emanating from her that kept me on track as I held her up and scraped my teeth along her carotid artery in warning.
My sudden actions pulled a startled squeak from her throat and then she gave me a warning of her own, threatening, “I’ll kill you!”
“I doubt it,” I chuckled darkly. “But threaten me again and I’ll make sure your end is much more painful than you could ever imagine.”
“No,” she choked out and allowed her body to go limp. “That’s not what I meant.”
The only struggle that seemed to be left in her was in her voice as she said, “That’s how the others died. They bit me.”
“Impossible,” I scoffed.
The only way for a vampire to meet their end through feeding was by feeding from a human infected by the Sino-Virus. And that took weeks and, even then, only when left untreated.
“It’s true,” she sniffled. “I know you have no reason to believe me, but I’m telling you the truth. I am death.”
Her ridiculous admission seemed to be sincere, but that could be due to the fact her own death was imminent, so I asked, “Then why warn me? I have you trapped, with nowhere to go but down my throat. So why warn me of your deadliness unless it was meant to save your own life? Did it not occur to you that I could just snap your neck and be done with you?”
“Well it does now, you jackass!” she huffed and again, I involuntarily laughed at her grit.
“I warned you because – as you said – you have a job to do in investigating their deaths. I was trying to not hold that against you, but I want my conscience clear. If you choose to bite me now, I won’t feel as much guilt as I would have had I not warned you, when I’m hosing you off of my front porch.”
“My blood would stain the wooden grain in the floorboards,” I chuckled. “Would your conscience feel better if I carried you over to the driveway before I meet my end?”
She huffed again and snipped, “If I have a choice, I’d prefer it if you walked over to the fire pit. That way I can just hose myself off, while I roast marshmallows during your funeral. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’ll probably never eat another S’more without thinking about a jackass.”
I’d smelled the fire pit on my initial pass through her yard before knocking on her door. But hearing her words, I assumed it was what she’d done with the remains of the other four, so I did in fact carry out her request by carrying her there.
Digging into the ground with the heel of my boot, I could easily tell the ground had been turned over recently.
She’d likely buried the ashy evidence.
“Is here good?” I asked, still not believing anything more than she’d managed to kill – and possibly drain – four vampires on her property.
Her limp body managed to sag even more and her next words were missing the annoyance of her former ones, when she whispered sadly, “Please don’t, Eric. I know you don’t believe me, but causing five deaths in the span of a week is a lot, even for me.”
“You’ve killed others?” I asked, wondering if her confession would include any more vampires.
There hadn’t been any other recent disappearances within my area, but she could’ve traveled over the course of her crime spree.
The scent of her tears wasn’t the only clue she was in distress. Her body trembled in my arms and even her voice wobbled, when she softly admitted, “Everyone.”
What in the hell was that supposed to mean?
“Everyone,” she snarled out angrily and then sobbed, “I’ve killed everyone I’ve ever loved and some vampires I didn’t care for at all. I was born cursed and I’ve been shrouded in death from the time I was born.”
“Cursed how?” I asked, unable to not be drawn in by her words.
“I don’t know,” she sniffled. “All I know is that people seem to fall dead in my presence, for no other reason than being in my presence.”
That sounded as likely as a vampire dying from simply biting her, but there was something about her that made me wonder if perhaps she was telling me the truth.
At least the truth as she knew it.
“What are you?”
Having her body pressed against my own, it was impossible to not notice how much sweeter her scent was than that of any other human I’d ever come across.
It put me in mind of the Fae.
Of course, I’d have no way of confirming my suspicion without tasting her.
A catch-22 if there ever was one.
“Other than toxic?” she asked with a minute shrug, again carrying on as though she normally had conversations while in the grasp of strange vampires that may or may not mean her harm.
If nothing else, she was definitely odd.
“I’m not sure,” she went on to say. “But in my lifelong quest for answers, the closest thing I’ve been able to find that resembles me – but doesn’t – is a venefica.”
“A venefica?” I asked, with all of my incredulity coming through in my voice. “I’ve never heard of a real one.”
As far as I’d known, they only existed in folklore.
In Latin, the word venefica was defined as a female who poisons. Legend had it a venefica was a roman sorceress who used drugs, potions, and poisons. Some were even thought to have ingested those very same poisons in small quantities over the course of their childhood, similar to the way modern day medicine prescribed giving human children small amounts of live viruses to give them an immunity to things like polio and small pox.
And once these girls – veneficas – reached their maidenhood they were left unharmed by the poison coursing through their bodies. But, according to folklore, they were so toxic that any man who beds them – or, more specifically – anyone who partakes of her juices, dies in an instant.
It would certainly explain the four horses’ asses meeting their untimely ends.
But only if it were true.
She sniffled again and softly laughed, “Well a thousand points to you for even knowing what one is. But the only things that don’t mesh with my theory is that I’m not a sorceress and unless chocolate is poisonous to more than just dogs, I haven’t ingested large quantities of anything else over my lifetime.”
“Maybe for you,” she sighed. “But now I have to wonder if I’ll never be rid of it. After your, uh…friends bit me and exploded into goopy bits all around me, their bite marks disappeared from my skin within minutes and I didn’t feel any worse for the wear. So I’m worried that maybe my curse means I’m the only one who can’t die.”
If they had indeed exploded around her, it was conceivable she’d inadvertently ingested some of their blood, which would explain the lingering scent that still clung to her. And if it slathered her skin as well, it would have aided in her speedy recovery.
But I wasn’t prepared to explain all of that just yet and instead sought out the answer to something else I wanted to know.
“Is that what you want?” I asked. “To die?”
I was admittedly intrigued by her story and for some unknown reason, I wanted to hear more of it.
But if she truly wanted death to take her – and if I was feeling especially merciful – I could always follow through on my earlier threat and snap her neck to see if it would put her out of her misery.
And if not, I would tease her mercilessly, asking her about what she was thinking that had her head hanging down.
“Not especially,” she replied. “I mean, I’ve gotten used to living alone. I have my work to keep me busy and books to take me away to far off lands I can only dream about.”
But her voice grew incredibly small when she ended with, “But will that be enough to keep me going for an eternity?”
It was a question I’d faced each night for the last one thousand years. So perhaps it was feeling that kinship with her – regardless of whether or not she was immortal – that had me setting her down on her feet and spinning her around to face me as I said, “You’d be surprised at how little can keep you going for an eternity.”
In fact, I was certain I’d just stumbled across a little something new that was considerably more interesting than the final deaths of four worthless vampires.
A little something that could keep me occupied for the foreseeable future.
At least for as long as I was able to avoid the temptation of her scent.
But if I failed, then the future – my own included – was anyone’s guess.