Sookie insisted on coming back Saturday night to do a second reading, since we would be busier that night. I offered to pay her for her time since she would have to trade shifts with one of the waitresses she worked with in order to do it, but she refused. I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“If you won’t let me pay you, then at least allow me the privilege of taking you to dinner beforehand.” I suggested the alternative.
I was intrigued. “Name it.”
“You remember it’s not a date; it’s business,” her tone was sharp but her smile was warm.
“We have a deal, Miss Stackhouse.”
“Very well, Mr. Northman, then I’ll see you Saturday evening. I’ll be here at eight.”
I watched as she drove away. It was a small victory, but it felt good. We’d spent a few hours together talking about things that weren’t work related, and it was very satisfactory. I knew Sookie had a sense of humor. She’d shown me glimpses of it in the past, and she could be just as dark as I could. I walked back into the bar with a grin on my face.
“Did she finally yield to you?” Pam smirked as I walked into the office.
“Only a matter of time, Pam.”
“You’ve been saying that for months.”
“And it’s still as true now as it was then.” I had yet to mention the journal I kept while I was cursed, but I thought about revealing it from time to time. Then Pam would go and make one of her remarks and I’d change my mind. I wasn’t in the mood for her teasing.
“Master, may I speak freely?” If Pam was calling me ‘Master,’ and asking for permission to speak freely it meant she was about to say something I wasn’t going to like. Still, I knew Pam only gave advice when she thought it in my best interest.
“Go on,” I gestured and sat behind the desk.
“It seems to me that no amount of trying to convince you pursuing Sookie is a bad idea will work. I may not understand your fascination with her, but I do wish you to be happy. I do not want you to be lonely.” My bond with Pam told me she was both sincere and uncomfortable with her display of emotion. “Furthermore, I suggest if you wish to win her, you try a different tactic than you usually would. I know you haven’t been feeding on humans, nor have you been fucking them. You have changed for her. Is she aware of this change?”
“No, and I don’t plan to reveal it to her until she has agreed to be mine.”
Pam pressed her lips together in a thoughtful way before saying, “Eric, Sookie won’t be comfortable with such a possessive pronoun. Unless, of course, you are willing to give equal parts.”
“She told you this?”
“Dear Abby. Really, Eric, it wouldn’t kill you to at least skim modern periodicals.” Pam shook her head disapprovingly at me. “The days of clubbing a woman and dragging her off to your hut were over before even I was born. Women today definitely do not want to be labeled as a possession, nor do they want to feel owned.”
“Your vast experience with female companions tells you this?” I teased Pam.
“I also need to be able to blend in, Eric. Clinging to the social standards of my human life would be dangerous. You’re the one who taught me to adapt. You might want to try it yourself.” She deadpanned. “My point is, there are certain aspects in which you will never be equals. Surely, Sookie is aware of this by now.”
“But when we’re alone…” I trailed off, getting the point of what Pam was saying.
“Yes. When you’re alone with her, it will be different. You can still treat her with dignity and respect when you’re in public together, but you have to explain to her why it must be different when you’re with other vampires. Eric, her knowledge of our world and the way things work is very limited. You’re going to have to tell her things. Are you sure she can be trusted?”
I thought for a moment and said, “We have many allies, Pam, that could have kept me safe during the time I was cursed. Yet you decided Sookie was the best choice. She lived up to her end of things. Isn’t that proof enough?”
Pam nodded slowly and turned toward the door. “You were happy with her, Eric. Happier than I’ve ever seen you. Don’t fuck up.”
I left instructions for daytime staff at Fangtasia to call Sookie and request she come to the back door when she arrived, rather than dealing with the crowds out front. I knew she was close when the hum of her blood started to buzz in my veins. I was dressed a bit more formally than I normally would be for a night at the bar, but it seemed fitting for the occasion.
My computer was wired to pick up the closed circuit monitoring of the cameras out in the parking lot. I watched Sookie’s beat up old car I hoped she would some day allow me to replace, pull into the lot and park at the back end. She didn’t get out of her car right away, but I couldn’t tell what she was doing in there. What I did see was a van pull into the alley and drive past the bar. Usually the only vehicles to drive behind the building were police cars or delivery trucks.
I had four different views available to me at once. I could see the front entrance of the bar, the parking lot, the alley and the back entrance. I saw Sookie get out of her car just as the van came to a stop. The sliding door opened, and I prepared to make a very fast run for it if someone was going to jump out of the van and snatch Sookie. Instead I saw a body come tumbling out of the door and land hard on the pavement.
Sookie saw this as well, and she froze in her tracks. The van peeled off into the darkness, leaving the body right where it was in a heap of limbs. I felt Sookie’s panic and watched as she took off running toward the body. I growled, then headed out. I got to the body before Sookie, and hissed in anger when I saw the body was that of Nerissa. She was extremely pale, even for a vampire, and bound in silver.
“Go inside and tell Clancy we need blood in the basement,” I said without looking up from Nerissa.
“Eric is she-”
“Go!” I shouted at her, and instantly regretted it when I felt her emotional flinch. I used my bond with Pam to call her. She appeared before Sookie was even inside the bar.
“Nerissa.” Pam shook her head.
“Get gloves.” I knelt down beside Nerissa.
Her eyes were closed, but she wasn’t dead. When I touched her forehead, she hissed at me. Her eyes opened, as did her mouth, but her fangs didn’t descend.
“You’re safe now, Nerissa.” I smoothed her hair back. “Who did this to you?”
“I don’t know, Sheriff. I never saw a face.” Her voice was weak, as was, I suspected, the rest of her.
Pam returned with two pairs of gloves. We were removing the silver from Nerissa’s arms and legs when Sookie came back.
“She smells delicious,” Nerissa’s eyes were trained on Sookie.
“She’s mine,” I stared hard at Nerissa, who immediately looked away from Sookie with a pout.
I felt Sookie glaring at me as Pam snorted. So far my evening wasn’t at all going according to plan, and I had a feeling it was only going to get worse. Once the chains were off of Nerissa, Pam held onto them while Sookie held the door and I carried Nerissa inside. I took her downstairs and put her on a table not usually used for recuperating.
“Here, Eric,” Sookie held out a True Blood for me. “I’m sorry, Miss, I didn’t know what type you preferred.”
Leave it to Sookie to be concerned about the dietary preferences of a vampire that would have drained her just moments before. I uncapped the True Blood and handed it over to Nerissa, who sat up faintly and began to drink. She sighed with relief, and gulped down the rest. Sookie had just handed me a second bottle when Nerissa began to gag. I knew what that meant.
I scooped Sookie up and moved to the other side of the room just in time for Nerissa to vomit violently. Generally, a vomiting vampire meant silver poisoning. I looked to Pam, who had a curious eyebrow cocked in my direction. I didn’t even need to tell her what to do. She simply zoomed past us and went up the stairs to the stock room. One of the shelves was actually a trick wall behind which, we had what equated to a small panic room.
The walls were concrete with layers of silver and steel to aid in defense against shifters and the fae. We had supplies in there for various things, but mostly, that was where we kept bagged human blood that one of Pam’s companions (she refused to call them pets) obtained for us as a hospital employee. If Nerissa was rejecting synthetic blood, we had to try pure human before calling in Dr. Ludwig to examine her.
“You can put me down now, Eric,” Sookie whispered.
I looked down at her to find there was a slightly terrified expression on her face. I set her down gently and after straightening her skirt, she stepped around the blood to be closer to Nerissa. Her face changed to something more gentle. I knew Nerissa wouldn’t harm her or I would have pulled Sookie back.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Sookie asked Nerissa, who looked to me.
“Sookie, I think Nerissa might have silver poisoning.” I explained.
“Silver poisoning?” Sookie looked horrified again. “How is that possible?”
Before I could answer, Pam came back with the bagged blood and some tubing for Nerissa to drink from since she couldn’t drop fang and squeeze the liquid out. I quietly explained to Sookie how silver poisoning was not only possible, but very difficult to cure. If I was correct in my theory, no amount of synthetic or human blood was going to help Nerissa.
“Then what do we do?” Sookie’s worried eyes were trained on Nerissa.
“We?” I smirked.
Sookie’s eyes snapped back to me. “Yes, we. I’m here, aren’t I? Or did you want me to leave since this is vampire business?”
“Technically, the mystery has been solved, but you’re welcome to stay if you would like to see this through.”
She thought it over for a moment before asking, “How do we cure her?”
“She needs the blood of her maker. If that isn’t available, we need a sibling.” I said quietly. “Pam, are you okay here?”
“Fine,” she didn’t even look away from Nerissa.
I pulled Sookie up the stairs behind me. Once we were back in my office, I checked the information we had on Nerissa. We asked for a vampire’s children, maker and known blood siblings when they applied for residency. Not only in case of emergencies like these, but because sometimes all it took to get an insubordinate vampire back on the straight and narrow was a phone call to their maker.
Unfortunately for Nerissa, she didn’t have progeny. Her maker had met his final death during World War II, and the only blood sibling of note was last known to be in Serbia and hadn’t been heard from since the mid 1800s. It was anyone’s guess where he’d ended up and there was no guarantee he would come around to patch up his blood sister. I went to my personal vault in search of my black book of contact numbers. My journal was back in the vault, but I made no effort to hide it from Sookie. I made a quick phone call to the vampire queen of Serbia and asked her to do a little checking around to see if Yuri was still in residence there. In the meantime, a vampire could donate their blood to sustain her.
“That’s good right? I mean, other vampires will help her.” There was so much hope in her I hated to tell her the chances of it were very slim.
“Sookie, you know how vampires are. We don’t give our blood easily.”
Sookie was appalled at what I as saying. “So does this mean you won’t help her?”
“I can’t give her my blood, Sookie. But perhaps some of her friends will be willing to donate.”
“Like her nestmates?”
“Possibly. Listen, if you want to go-”
“No, I’ll stay. I want to help her.” Sookie insisted.
We went back to the basement where I traded places with Pam so she could summon Kaydee and Ivan to see if they would be willing to donate if the need arose. I didn’t doubt Kaydee would be willing, although I wasn’t so sure Ivan would. He was older than both females, and was also childless.
“How are you feeling, Nerissa?” Sookie asked.
“Would you like more blood?” Sookie offered.
“Do you know where you were, Nerissa?”
“No,” she shook her head slowly. “I don’t remember anything. The last thing I remember was the witch war. I was injured that night by one of the Weres. He clawed my back pretty badly, and it took me out of the fight. Someone dropped a piece of silver in one of the scratches so it wouldn’t heal, and I couldn’t dig it out myself. I went into trance, and when I came to, I was in the alley behind the bar. How long have I been gone, Sheriff?”
I looked over my shoulder at Sookie, who looked every bit as disappointed as she felt. If she’d gone missing the night of the witch war, that meant she’d been gone for nine days. A lot could happen in nine days. It was obvious she’d been drained, which suggested there was, in fact, a cell of drainers nearby.
“I’ll be right back.” I went up to the office to print one of the pictures of Kevin we’d taken.
Nine days was ample time to turn someone. Nerissa had no reason to lie about turning Kevin, not when she’d been so afraid of turning another human in case it went wrong. I grabbed the journal out of the vault and left it open on the desk with my cell phone on top of it before going back to the basement. Nerissa was just finishing her second bag of blood when she suddenly dropped the bag and turned away from Sookie. She began vomiting again, sending Sookie skittering backward right into me.
If Nerissa couldn’t hold blood, it meant silver poisoning. We needed to get a hold of Ludwig to be sure, and then call Kevin in to see if he was, in fact, Nerissa’s child. The sympathy Sookie felt for Nerissa was nearly crippling. She looked at me with sad eyes, then at Nerissa.
“Can’t hold it down,” the vampire collapsed on the table and wiped her brow like she was sweating.
I stepped forward and held up the picture of Kevin. “Nerissa, do you recognize this man?”
Nerissa looked closely and shook her head. “No, I’ve never seen him before.”
I glanced at Sookie, whose eyes were wide. Clearly, the wheels in her head were turning and she understood what I was getting at. Her mouth opened, but a slight nod of my head stopped her from speaking.
“Who is he?” Nerissa asked, but then began vomiting again.
“Sookie, will you go up to my office and get my cell phone from my desk and a towel from the rack?”
“Sure,” Sookie took off quickly to retrieve the items I asked for.
“It’s silver poisoning, isn’t it?” Nerissa asked in a faint voice. “Yuri won’t come for me. We never got along. He was jealous that I was our maker’s favorite.”
“We’re going to get Dr. Ludwig here to confirm it first. If it’s true that you do have silver poisoning, we may already have the cure. I just need to summon him.”
“Him?” Nerissa’s eyes widened just as I heard the curse I’d been waiting for from overhead.
“Jesus Christ, shepherd of Judea!” Sookie’s sweet southern lilt cried out, followed by what I assumed to be a stomp of her foot.
I guess she found the journal.