My eyes fluttered open and I could tell that I was moving but I didn’t have the strength to lift my head. “Eric,” I mumbled, and reached out for him. He was the last thing I saw before I passed out. A large, cool hand took mine and I settled down.
“You’re okay, Sookie. You just passed out but I’m taking you home,” he said calmly.
My eyes closed and warm waves of calm spread through me. I thought about waking up in my own bed and I let myself fall back into the darkness. Between Eric’s hand holding mine, the soothing sensation of movement and how tired I was it was hard not to fall asleep. When I woke again I was stretched out on my back, but I wasn’t lying against pillows. I was propped up against Eric.
His arms were wrapped around me and his hand was on my chest over my heart, like he was monitoring the beats it took. My head rolled and when I looked up Eric was looking down at me.
“How’s your head?” he asked right away.
I thought for a moment but realized I didn’t feel any pain. My head, chest and shoulders all felt good as new. Hell, better than before I was attacked. Then I remembered Eric biting into his wrist with those sharp teeth of his, and feeding me his blood.
“What did you do to me?” I asked. “Why aren’t I in a hospital?”
“Because I healed you,” he said, and carefully shifted out from behind me. “My blood has the power to heal an injured human.”
His choice of words raised all kinds of red flags.
“How is that possible?”
I knew blood healed people when they were missing it, but having extra blood in the body didn’t act as a healing agent. Nor did having a transfusion heal superficial wounds. If it was that easy people wouldn’t die from gunshots.
“My blood isn’t like your blood, Sookie.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that my blood is more than 1,000 years old,” he started and I scoffed. Which one of us had the head injury?
“Eric, are you feeling okay?” I asked, and took a closer look at his head to inspect it for bumps or bruises.
“Sookie,” he said to get my attention, and then I heard a clicking noise. When I looked down I saw those fangs again and I pulled back.
“What the… How did you do that?”
What the hell was happening? Did I wake up in a Tim Burton movie or something?
“I’m a vampire,” Eric said bluntly.
I lifted an eyebrow and then started to laugh. That was ridiculous. Vampires weren’t real. They were mythological creatures that made for great villains in scary movies, but that was it.
“Very funny, Eric,” I shook my head.
He picked up my hand and put it on the left side of his chest. There was no movement and I stopped laughing. How was that possible? He didn’t have a heartbeat. How had I never noticed that before? I took my hand back, my panic level starting to rise a little.
“I’m more than 1,000 years old, Sookie. I am originally from a small village in western Sweden, close to the border of Norway. I was a warrior in those days but my Maker found me stumbling home drunk from a meeting to determine the contract for my second wife-”
“Second wife? Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. Eric, there’s no way…” I trailed off. This was all crazy. I had to still be knocked out cold and dreaming all of this up.
“My Maker turned me against my will after seeing me fight on the battlefield. I have been a vampire since that night, Sookie.”
I didn’t know what to say. What is the right response to something like that? I was too stunned to say much of anything right then. All of the vampire lore I knew went through my mind. Eric didn’t have a pulse, his skin was always cool, I’d never seen him during the day, he had fangs… Holy fucking shit.
I scrambled off the bed but I didn’t get very far before Eric was standing as well.
“Don’t!” I held up my hand. “Do not come any closer to me.”
“I’m not going to hurt you, Sookie,” he said calmly.
“You lied to me. You’ve been lying to me from the night I met you. How could you do that?” I demanded.
“Because it isn’t safe for me to reveal myself to someone whose memory I can’t erase,” he reasoned.
“You can erase someone’s memory?” I felt a stab in my chest. Jesus, fuck, how many things was I missing from my life because of him?
“Yes, but not yours. For some reason my glamour doesn’t work on you,” he said.
“But you’ve tried? You tried to erase my memories?” My stomach turned. My heart hurt.
“I should have been able to but-”
“You son of a bitch!” I cut him off and before I knew what I was doing I ran at him. My hands flew all over, slapping at whatever part of him they could reach and Eric didn’t try to stop me.
As my anger rose the tears came. I had never felt to betrayed and used in my whole life. My temper overrode common sense in that I didn’t even think about how foolish it was to attack a vampire, but true to his word, Eric didn’t hurt me. He let me unload everything I was feeling on him until I felt empty. Finally my body sagged and all that was left were my tears.
“Sookie, please try to understand-”
“I trusted you and you betrayed me. I let you do things that I… We agreed to be completely honest and you have done nothing but lie to me. I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you,” I said in an icy cold tone.
Eric was silent. I didn’t know if that was worse than him arguing or trying to explain. I lifted my eyes to his as something awful crossed my mind.
“If you could erase this from my memory you would, wouldn’t you?” I asked him.
Eric remained silent which was answer enough for me.
“Fuck you, Eric. I don’t ever want to see you again.” I backed away from him.
“Please don’t go, Sookie. I know that you’re angry and you have a right to be, but let me explain this to you.”
“No,” I shook my head. It was too late. I was too hurt and angry to hear anything he wanted to say.
“Please,” he pleaded.
“Octopus,” I whispered. Somehow I knew he heard me, as close to silently as I’d said it.
I was done.
I found my purse and dug into it for my phone with the intention of calling for a cab if I couldn’t get my brother to come pick me up.
“If you want to leave I’ll take you back,” Eric offered.
“I don’t want anything from you,” I said and hurled the phone at him. “There. You can have my electronic leash back. I’ll figure out my own way home.”
“Sookie, it’s almost three in the morning,” he tried to rationalize.
“I can take care of myself,” I insisted. When I looked down at my ruined work shirt I knew there wasn’t anyone I could call without a whole mess of questions being asked about what happened to me, and Shreveport was a long walk from Bon Temps.
I didn’t care; I’d figure it out.
I took one last look at Eric and then I walked out of the room, his house and then his life—for good.
I was walking quickly, hoping to find a pay phone so I could call a cab. It was my only real option at that point. As independent as I was, I wasn’t foolish enough to think I could walk all the way back home. I made it out of Eric’s subdivision and a few blocks later I found a pay phone at a gas station. There was a phone book attached to the stall and I looked up the number of a cab company.
After calling in my order and giving my location I went and sat down on a nearby bench to wait. There were no cars on the road and I was mostly thankful I hadn’t passed a cop car. The gas station attendant was watching me, probably wondering what the hell happened to me that I was all covered in blood like I was. It didn’t help that my shirt was slashed open from the wolf’s claws.
The amazing thing was that I really was completely healed. The only pain I felt in my chest came from learning that Eric had been lying to me. I didn’t even know how to process what he’d told me. It all hinged on me believing that vampires were real and that Eric was one of them, and that just sounded insane. Mostly I knew I didn’t want to believe it because then I would have to ask myself how I hadn’t figured it out.
I’d known Eric was different but him being a vampire would never have crossed my mind in a million years. The way I was feeling physically was a lot like I’d felt the night I’d met Callisto and then I remembered that I’d bitten him that night. I’d had his blood then and it had changed me. I’d told Eric about the changes and he had seen how freaked out I was over it, and he could have told me then but he didn’t. I came to the conclusion that Eric never planned for me to find out.
He was never going to tell me the truth about himself.
I sighed heavily, refusing to be a sobbing mess when the cab came to get me. A sleek, black BMW pulled up in front of the bench. The passenger’s side window lowered and the driver leaned over, putting Madame Raven into view.
“Get in, Sookie,” she said.
“Fuck you and your boss. I’m not going anywhere with you!” I yelled, and petulantly folded my arms over my chest.
“I’m not asking you, Sookie, I’m telling you. Get in or I’ll make you get in,” she threatened.
“Why? So you can take me back to him? No thanks. I’m done with him, you and that whole fucked up scene of a club you two run. Get the fuck away from me!”
The cab pulled up and I got up to get in it and away from Madame Raven. If I never saw any of them ever again that would be just fine by me.
Unfortunately, Madame Raven wasn’t joking around. She was out of her car and grabbing my arm to pull me away from the cab before I even knew she’d moved. Like Eric, her hand was cold but my hands were cold then, too. The cab driver got out to try intervening on my behalf but Madame Raven wasn’t having that.
“Ma’am, let go of the girl,” the driver said. “Don’t make me radio dispatch for the pol-”
“Take a hike, Body Odor. I’ll take care of the girl. She’s just fine,” she said.
There was a glazed over look in the cab driver’s eyes as he nodded and then turned to get back in the car. I started to struggle with Madame Raven but she was surprisingly strong. I fought as much as I could but she finally got my arms behind my back.
“Stop fighting me or I’ll put you in the trunk,” she threatened.
“Fuck you,” I spat at her, but let her load me into the front seat.
Madame Raven got in behind the wheel and peeled away from the curb. She wasn’t dressed in her usual club wear, nor was her hair so elaborately styled and she didn’t have as much makeup on either. All the same, she was still stunning.
“So did Eric send you here to talk me into staying with him?” I asked with my arms folded over my chest again.
“He doesn’t know I went looking for you. In fact, he’ll probably be pissed that I’m interfering. Unfortunately, my Maker can be daft sometimes.”
“Your what?” I asked and turned my head toward her.
Madame Raven looked at me and she had fangs again. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen her with fangs, but I had just assumed it was a costume before. Now my heart leapt up into my throat. She was a vampire too? What the ever loving fuck was going on?
“I know that Eric told you what he is,” she said.
“Yeah, I’m sure he was just crying on your shoulder,” I rolled my eyes.
“Quit being an ignorant bitch and I’ll explain this to you in words that even the most inbred redneck could understand,” Madame Raven snapped at me.
“Fine,” I huffed.
“I knew he told you because I felt his pain. A Maker and child have a bond by blood that permits us to locate one another and sense each other’s feelings. Generally speaking, Eric prefers to keep his end of the bond pretty closed off so that we have our privacy. He’s much more of an emotional creature than he likes to admit. For our kind emotions are a dangerous thing, but even more dangerous is having feelings for a human,” she explained.
“And you two are really convinced that you’re vampires?” I snickered.
“We are vampires, Sookie.”
“Oh yeah? Prove it. Turn into a bat and fly away,” I told her.
“Stupid girl,” she shook her head. “We are not shapeshifters. We don’t sprout wings or grow fur. We are faster, stronger and more organized than those two-natured flea bags.”
What the fuck was a shapeshifter? I didn’t get the chance to ask before Madame Raven started talking again.
“We aren’t like what you see in the movies, Sookie. We don’t just sleep in coffins and spend the night stalking the streets for the first hint of neck cleavage we can find. We own homes and businesses. We pay taxes and make generous charitable contributions to human causes. Some of those unwilling to let go of their human lives still attend church services or own pets. Not all vampires are soulless bloodsucking fiends that purely thirst for blood, anarchy and suffering on humankind.”
“Of course not. That would destroy the food source,” I said bitterly.
“Up until Eric told you that he was a vampire, did you trust him?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter. All of it is cancelled out by the fact that he wasn’t honest with me, and since you are the last girl he trained before me, you know how important it is to be able to trust the person you’re with. I can’t trust him now.”
“Sookie, he couldn’t tell you what he is. Not just because it would be difficult for you to understand, but because it is unsafe for us to reveal ourselves to humans. Vampires will always do what is necessary for us to save ourselves. In that capacity we are no different from humans. We have managed to live among you for thousands of years. Rumors of our existence have circulated for just about that entire time. We have been able to control what is known about us, what is fact and what is fiction.”
“Well good for you,” I sassed. “Why are you here with me? What do you care about me or my reaction to all of this?”
“I care because my Maker cares. Since you have come into his life I haven’t felt things so strongly from him in a great many years. Eric and I have been together for more than two centuries. I owe him my life. He took me out of a life that didn’t fit and gave me something I can never repay him for. Everything I am I owe to him.”
“But he killed you,” I argued. “Is it true that a vampire has to drink the blood of a human and replace it with their own?”
“Yes. Then we were buried in the ground for three days until the change was complete. Since that first night I rose from the earth I have been a vampire. Never have I regretted or mourned the loss of my human life.”
“But he murdered you, Pam,” I said, using her real name.
The corner of her mouth lifted just a little and she said, “You can’t tell me that you don’t know that death can sometimes be a gift.”
“You were murdered, Pam! That’s hardly the same thing as taking someone off life support or having a heart attack after finding out you’re diagnosed with stage four, inoperable cancer,” I argued.
“It’s a matter of perception,” she said. “In my human life I was born into a wealthy family that had certain expectations of what my life should be. Because I’m a woman no one cared about what I thought. I wasn’t given a vote or asked for my opinion or asked what I wanted. My father thought education was wasted on me. He wanted me to marry well and have as many babies as the Lord would curse me with. I’m not the maternal type. In more than 200 years that hasn’t changed. I am not, and never have been, destined to be someone’s mother. Eric may have taken my human life but he did me a favor. I will forever be in his debt.”
I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. To me it sounded like Pam was suffering from an extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome. Eric had killed her and somehow convinced Pam to be thankful for it. It was sick and twisted.
“Pull over,” I said. I didn’t want anything more to do with either of them.
“I’m not letting you out of the car until we reach that backwater town you call home,” she said. “Eric might not chase after you, but that’s because he’s lived long enough not to have to do those things. You have a right to be angry with him for keeping such a big secret from you, but you’re not even trying to listen to the whole story.”
“Why should I? At the end of the day I don’t know if he’s telling me the truth now.”
“He lied to protect you,” she said. “He takes no pleasure in the hurt or anger that you’re feeling right now, I guarantee you that.”
“Eric doesn’t know shit about how I feel.”
“You’ve had his blood,” she said, and that got my attention. “Don’t look so surprised that I know, Sookie. I knew after the night you met Callisto. I smelled it on you. I told Eric then that he needed to tell you the truth. Sadly my Maker is as stubborn as you are. He insisted that it wasn’t the right time. I warned him that if you discovered the truth on your own it would be much worse for him than if he just confessed. He still didn’t listen.”
“So why didn’t you tell me? If you knew then why did you keep quiet?”
“Because Eric is my Maker. My loyalty is to him and not to morality, or to you. Besides that, it wasn’t my place to get involved. What would you have done had I gone over Eric’s head to tell you the truth? You wouldn’t have believed me and I would have gotten into serious trouble with my master,” she said. “The world is full of gray areas, little girl.”
“No,” I shook my head. “There is truth and there are lies. He demanded that I be honest about everything and the whole time he was lying to me. There are things about me that I would rather he didn’t know, but that went against the agreement we made. I told him everything he wanted to know.”
“And what did telling the truth cost you outside of a little discomfort?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I live by a different set of rules because I have a pulse? That’s bullshit, Pam. Even you must know that or you wouldn’t be here right now trying to smooth things over,” I said.
Pam was quiet for a few miles. I didn’t think that I was out of line for feeling so betrayed. Eric had his reasons for doing what he’d done but that didn’t make it right. There was nothing that Pam could say that would change things. I had kept my end of the bargain. I had trusted Eric, maybe foolishly, and I had opened myself up to him. I could accept that I had let myself get carried away or swept up in my feelings. I was partially to blame, if only because I had refused to see what was right in front of me.
When we pulled up to my house and Pam’s car came to a stop I said, “I won’t tell anyone what you are. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know either of you. I’ll happily pretend that neither of you ever existed. Your secret is safe with me.”
“You know if it was up to me you wouldn’t have your throat anymore,” she said. “But Eric has forbidden me from harming you. Think what you will about the decision he made, but know that he does care for you.”
“Not nearly enough,” I said, and then got out of Pam’s fancy car.
I didn’t look back as I walked into the house. My car was still at Merlotte’s so I was going to have to ask Jason to run me up there the next day. At the moment I was too tired to really be worried about it. Physically it wasn’t too bad, but I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I went upstairs to the bathroom and carefully removed my clothes, mindful of the material that was crusted to my chest with blood just in case I wasn’t as healed as I’d thought I was. I started the water in the tub for a shower. No way could I go to bed with all that blood on me.
I brushed my teeth but didn’t even bother with my hair. It was too matted from all of the blood. When I stepped into the shower I paid close attention to my chest where I had been scratched. As the blood washed away perfectly unmarred skin was revealed as if nothing ever happened. There were no claw marks on my shoulders and the bump that had been forming on my head was gone.
I was in perfect condition physically. Mentally and emotionally I was devastated and exhausted. I finished washing up and got out of the tub. I could have just let it fill so I could soak, but I knew I’d just fall asleep only to wake up in cold water. So instead I dried off and went to my bedroom for pajamas. I got dressed, closed my curtains and climbed into bed. My eyes closed as soon as they hit the pillow, but sleep didn’t come right away.
I tried to find a comfortable position but couldn’t seem to find it. When I realized what I wanted was to be wrapped up in Eric my heart clenched. Seconds later the tears came, and didn’t stop until I finally fell asleep just before sunrise.