My consciousness didn’t slowly return the following day, so much as panic and fear seized my chest, like a white hot iron poker jabbing between my ribs. Instinct told me the sun was still high in the sky, but instinct would only pull me from my rest if I were in mortal danger.
But things hadn’t been so normal for me as of late and I suspected it was my abnormal attachment to a not quite human blond that had me feeling all measure of fright, along with her fight or flight response kicking in.
Hoping she was caught up in the throes of a nightmare, I used every ounce of strength I could muster to blindly reach for her next to me, only to have cold bedsheets meet my grasp. The sound of movement by the doorway filtered into my ears next, with my eyelids attempting to flutter open and her name half-formed on my lips, when I heard her shaky but determined voice say, “I won’t let them get you.”
The beeping sounds of the alarm pad were interspersed throughout her declaration, telling me whatever had her panicking was more than just a nightmare. I’d shown her how to use it only a few nights earlier, after she’d been attacked by Weres and left tied up in the warehouse. Normally, I would have engaged the security measures every night before going to rest, but I’d foregone the process in favor of allowing my abnormal attachment to have the freedom to move around throughout the day.
By engaging the security door, we would be automatically sealed in until nightfall. A fact I had stressed to her, lauding its physical capabilities in keeping the room safe from anything short of a direct hit by a nuclear warhead.
I was glad she remembered to use it.
Hearing the whirring of the hydraulic pocket door sliding into place and sealing us in, and hoping to get some answers before I was pulled back under by the sun, I forced out in a hoarse whisper, “Who? Wha…what happened?”
Now knowing we were safely locked away until sunset – the room was impenetrable, with layers of iron, silver, and concrete embedded behind the sheetrock on all sides, from the foundation up – I could feel the pull to die for the day getting stronger. But when my query was met with silence, I forced my eyelids open and her name through my lips, only to find I was alone in the room.
She’d sealed me safely inside, in order to face off against who knows what threat on her own.
And it was my own fucking fault for being so unspecific with my orders.
Not that she would have followed them if she didn’t want to, but at least I could have railed about it had I thought to include the obvious.
She was to remain with me on this side of the door.
The time of day precluded vampire from my list of possible predators, but Weres in the employ of the queen were a very real possibility, as were any number of Supes now that we’d learned exactly what she was.
A drunken Loa.
Any and all could be storming the house, but with my fucking luck she was likely squaring off against a mystical Orc at that very moment, with nothing more than a Slap Chop and her sarcastic wit as her weapons of choice.
The fear, panic, and anger that coursed through my body next was all my own, but there was nothing I could do. The fucking sun in the sky demanded I die for the day.
Just like the fucking venefican blond I’d once likened to the sun, demanded through her own actions that I stay there, while she did who knows the fuck what away from me.
The audacity – hers for daring to put her life in danger yet again and mine for believing she would do anything but – ate at me.
I’d hoped my rage would be enough keep me awake – alive – if only to monitor her through our blood tie. Not that I could do anything about it if I felt her in pain.
Or worse, felt nothing at all from her.
But Mother Nature, like my venefican lover, did whatever the hell she wanted and unable to remain awake any longer, my last thought before succumbing to my daytime death was that if she wasn’t dead when I rose for the night, I would kill her myself.
My eyes snapped open the moment my consciousness returned, but the ability to rise before the sun dipped below the horizon thanks to my age was no longer the advantage I once thought it to be.
Not when I was forced to remain where I was, in my soundproof bedroom, until the security protocols disengaged the locked door with nightfall.
The house wasn’t equipped with an intercom system. There had been no need until now. My phone – which I only then noticed wasn’t on my nightstand where I’d left it – would have been of no use to me either. Not when I hadn’t yet replaced Sookie’s. Nor did I have anyone else to call. I didn’t trust anyone other than Pam to come to her aid and she was of no use with the blasted sun still in the sky, metaphorically heating my insides, with all of its sunshiny fuck-you’s bringing my blood to a boil.
I had no way of contacting Sookie.
We didn’t even have a complete bond to communicate in that way, but I could feel her and my initial probe through our blood tie told me that she lived.
That she was close by.
Still in the house or at least on the property, if I had to guess.
But nothing more.
Her usually bright spirit was gone. There was no trace of the liveliness I normally felt from her. Instead she felt nothing.
She was numb. Shock could have prevented her – and therefore me – from feeling the pain of any wounds she might have amassed throughout the day. In my bedroom turned bastion, I had no way of even scenting any blood she could be covered in.
Digging deeper into our incomplete bond, the only emotion I could find was the smallest vestiges of a watchful determination existing where her amusement and curiosity usually resided.
I hated it.
Whatever it was that made her feel that way.
But more than that, I hated not being able to do anything about it.
In the remaining eighty-three minutes until nightfall, I preoccupied myself by plotting all manner of things, from where I would secure the shackles and chains to keep a stubborn venefica from wandering out of my reach, while I was dead to the world, to the mini-fridge and hot plate I would be obtaining, so she wouldn’t be hungry during her vampire-imposed daytime incarceration.
She could hate me all she wanted.
She would hate me from my side.
As soon as the locks began whirring, I was at the doorway, counting down the seconds it took for the reinforced door to slide back into the wall, barely waiting long enough for an opening I could fit through to be on the other side of it.
And then I forced myself to come to a complete standstill.
My fangs automatically snapped down as I was smacked in the face with the scent of pure fairy, but my worry for Sookie overrode any normal response and I forced my eyes to uncross, and my feet to move, as I sought her out.
A fairy shouldn’t have been able to enter the house. I had wards and strategically placed iron along the perimeter of the house to prevent that very thing, but their narcotizing aroma was everywhere.
Considering everything we’d learned from the Loa about her supernatural pedigree, my anxiety only increased not finding Sookie anywhere in the house. But sensing her nearby, I ripped open the front door and nearly tripped over my own feet in my haste at what I found on the other side of it.
A pile of fairy dust sat on my doorstep.
Sookie, who had been standing a few feet away, didn’t startle at my abrupt appearance and only looked over at me. Her clothes were disheveled and dirty in places and there was a small gash on her cheek. Her normally pristine ponytail was hanging loosely to one side, with the strands that had fallen loose dangling around her face.
Grimacing from the pain of her now split lip when she forced a smile onto her face, she used the iron fire poker in her hand to gesture at the pile at my feet and said with no joy, “So that happened. On the bright side, we won’t need any Oxy-Clean. Just a dustbuster. Got one of those?”
Moving towards her, I stopped short once more noticing two more piles further out in the yard, next to an overturned can of gasoline, but I ignored them in favor of getting to her.
Using a light touch and furious gaze to catalog each of her injuries, when my eyes met her now tear-filled ones, she asked in a hitched breath, “So how was your day?”
“Sookie,” I grumbled lowly, forcing myself to remain calm, when all I wanted to do was yell and scream. “What happened?”
Taking the poker from her shaking grasp, I wrapped my arms around her, with her body molding into mine and her head pressed against my chest, where I felt more than saw her shake it in the negative, while she said, “It’ll sound stupid and I was there for it.”
I was torn. I wanted to remain exactly as we were. In my arms, she was safe and my anxiety over her wellbeing all but disappeared.
But I could also feel her exhaustion. Whatever adrenaline that had kept her going throughout the day had waned now that she knew I was there to protect her. She was dead on her feet.
I split the difference by pulling her more firmly against my front to bear most of her weight and murmured into the top of her head, “Just start at the beginning.”
Still busy probing every part of her through our blood tie, I felt it when she surrendered, with her body slumping even more in my arms, as she said, “After last night, I needed a little bit of normal, so I figured I’d get some work done. The joke was on me though because I hadn’t done much more than setup camp on the couch with my laptop when I felt a…like a tingle or an itch under my skin? It felt…ominous. Raised my hackles enough that I paid attention and then I saw her, just through the front window.”
Her entire body shivered in my arms and for the first time in a very long time, I lamented my very nature.
I had no body heat to share with her.
Instead I rubbed my hands up and down her back and when she settled again, I asked, “Who was she?”
Slouching even more – an impossible feat she somehow managed to accomplish – she buried her head further against my chest and mumbled, “She said she was my fairy godmother.”
I blamed Walt Disney for the ridiculous images that immediately flitted through my mind, but suspecting Sookie’s incredulousness stemmed from the same cause, I attempted to lighten her mood by teasing, “I don’t see a pumpkin turned carriage in the driveway.”
“I pulled it around back so the neighbors wouldn’t get suspicious,” she snickered, without missing a beat.
That right there was why I was lost to her.
In spite of what she was – the perfectly formed trap designed to ensnare my kind and bring about our true deaths, with or without her consent – it was who she was that I’d fallen prey to.
I wasn’t as immune to her as Ludwig had hypothesized.
I shouldn’t care and yet I did.
I should be tired of her constant presence and yet I wasn’t.
I’d secretly wedded her only the night prior and yet it was Sookie that held all of the power.
That fact should bother me, but again, I couldn’t care less.
I was just grateful I was at least immune to the deadly properties of her blood.
I must have done something right in a former life for the gods to have graced me with that small favor.
But Sookie had been forced to face insurmountable tragedies throughout her lifetime and yet she somehow remained pure of heart. She found joy wherever she could, when no one could blame her for being nothing but bitter.
She was worth any amount of effort to keep her safe.
A world without her in it wasn’t one worth having.
But now wasn’t the time to wax quixotic – even in my own mind – so I got us back on topic by asking, “So what happened? Were the glass slippers not to your liking?”
“Only strippers wear see-through shoes,” she sighed. “But Claudine wasn’t here to fit me for new shoes. She was here to ‘take me home’.”
Hearing Sookie yelp at my inadvertently tighter grasp, I slackened my hold on her and repeated, “Take you home?”
I doubted she was speaking of her farmhouse.
Nodding against my chest, she explained, “They felt the power of Greystoke when we opened up that wormhole thingy in the woods behind my house, so they came to investigate. She said so many years had passed that they’d given up hope on having someone like me pop up in their family tree.”
Then pulling back just enough so she could look up at me, she added disbelievingly, “She said it was our great-grandfather who started my familial line seven hundred years ago.”
“Fairies are long-lived,” I nodded, but was more curious about her being related to the fairy who I assumed was littering my doorstep and asked, “She claimed to be your relative?”
“She called me cousin,” Sookie frowned. Then shrugging, she added, “But she could have called me Luke Skywalker. That doesn’t make me a Jedi. In any event, I told her that I’m not the cousin she was looking for. She either didn’t get the pop culture reference or she ignored it because she said I was and that fairies can locate their kin. That was how she found me here. I told her I had ninety-nine problems, but a bitch ain’t one and she needed to get the hell off the property.”
Pausing, she felt chagrinned and said, “That’s when uh…things devolved.”
“Devolved?” I questioned, when she said nothing further. But considering the pile of fairy dust at my front door, I had somewhat of a clue as to what ultimately happened.
“She reached out and grabbed me,” Sookie admitted with another shrug. “I bit her arm. It was a reflex.”
Unable to stop the chuckle that worked its way up my throat, I affectionately squeezed her tighter and said, “Perhaps you have some vampire in you if you reflexively bite your attackers.”
“I’ve had a lot of vampire in me lately,” she snickered, but her demeanor became more serious when she said, “But when she burst like a Christmas cracker into a pile of fairy-fetti, I started to worry more might come. She said she wasn’t my only cousin. That she had a brother and a sister. They’re triplets. And if it was true – that we were related and they could find me too – I wanted to be prepared.”
Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out my cell phone and handed it over, with displeasure coloring her features and her blood, as she said, “First, you’re really full of yourself and you should really change your passcode. ‘Eric’ is not a good one.”
“You could be full of me too, if you would hurry up and finish your story,” I teased to get her brow to unfurrow.
It worked, with her lips trying to not form the smile I could feel she wanted to make, but she only said, “Sooo…I pulled up your contacts and called your bokor buddy from last night to get the 411 on fairies. He told me that iron or lemon could kill them, but what do I know about any of that, so I ran around the house naming off every metal thing in sight, until he told me to grab the fire poker. It was good thing too because two more literally poofed into your front yard. They were mad, to put it lightly. But they didn’t seem willing to get too close to the house and when I wouldn’t come outside, they threatened to burn it down. That’s when I locked you in, so I could go outside and take care of it.”
That explained the other two piles of fairy dust and the overturned gas can on the front lawn. And while I was curious as to how she ‘took care of it’, feeling her mood taking a nosedive again recalling all that she’d faced that day, I decided I would satisfy my curiosity by watching the security footage later on.
I also squelched my desire to lay into her for not remaining in the room with me and instead marveled over her ability to emerge the victor in a fight against three full-blooded fairies, only saying, “The Fae are beautiful but vicious creatures. They would have killed you. Slowly. Do not feel bad for protecting yourself.”
I left out the part where I would have killed them for daring to look at her wrong, had she not already seen to their demise.
“It wasn’t just me I was protecting,” she admitted softly, but it was her next confession that stopped me cold.
“To quote Mary Shelly, ‘I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy one, I will indulge the other.’”
“Frankenstein?” I questioned, trying and failing to not read into her words.
I also tried and failed to not wonder what her answer would have been had I actually posed the question if she would agree to the pledging ceremony we’d already undergone.
“It’s a good read,” she shrugged. “Us monsters have a lot in common.”
“You’re not a monster,” I argued softly, with my lips pressed against her crown.
But having brought the fight to my doorstep, the Fae would soon learn just how much of a monster I could be.