The first thing I did the next day was call Jason to let him know that Gran was alright. I let him know that Hadley was alive, contrary to the assumptions we’d all made about her, and that she was the reason Gran had disappeared. I didn’t, of course, mention anything about the Rogues or any danger she might have put Gran in by dragging her into her mess. I still wanted to slap Hadley for that.
“So where is Gran?” Jason asked.
“She’s in a hotel just outside of Red Ditch for the time being. Jase, I’m sure you want to go see her but it’s probably best that you don’t. It’s complicated,” I told him.
“Complicated how? Gran ain’t helpin’ Hadley detoxify again, is she?”
“No, nothing like that.”
At that moment I was seriously reconsidering whether or not glamouring Jason might be a good idea. The last thing any of us needed was for him to show up, guns-a-blazin’ and acting like a damn fool/hero because he’s got some macho, cowboy complex. I had enough to worry about just then without Jason going and cocking things up even worse. It took a while for me to convince him to just chill out and let Gran come back when she was good and ready but he ultimately agreed.
“She’s a grown woman, Jase. She doesn’t need our permission to do anything,” I reminded him.
“I know, but I worry,” he said, and he genuinely did sound worried.
“So do I. Listen, I promise you’ll be the first to know if I hear anything else from her, okay? I’m sure she’ll be back in a few days.”
“I’m giving it a week, Sook, and then I gotta go check on her for myself,” Jason warned me.
“You do what you gotta do,” I sighed.
It was a good thing my brother wasn’t a little quicker or he probably would have had way more questions about why Gran was staying in a hotel instead of staying with Hadley. Finally his ‘me first’ attitude was working to my advantage. I really didn’t like being stuck in the middle of this.
My next call was to the sheriff’s office to let them know that I’d located Gran and she was just fine. They could call off the dogs. Andy Bellefleur was none too impressed with my call but at least I was saving him from looking for a woman that didn’t need to be found. After that I took a nice, hot bath in the big tub in my room at Eric’s house. I needed to get home and resume my job searching.
I debated whether or not I should go see Sam. We hadn’t spoken to each other since he fired me. What angered me was that Sam hadn’t fired me because I was doing a bad job, but because he didn’t approve of my personal life. What I did when I wasn’t working wasn’t any of his business. Maybe if he was just my boss I wouldn’t feel compelled to try and smooth things over, but there was a part of me that didn’t like being at odds with Sam.
Fixing things with him wasn’t really high on my list of priorities, though.
The biggest fish to fry was figuring out all this fairy nonsense. It was strange to hear that white noise in my head, and I found that I could sense where Eric was in the house by the black hole (for lack of a better term) I was feeling. After my bath I got dressed and went upstairs to the kitchen to make myself something to eat. While I cooked a small breakfast I wondered if Eric’s library might have any information on supernatural creatures, or maybe even telepathy. His collection was pretty extensive.
If I had my computer with me I’d research on the internet to see what I could learn about this new gift of mine. Being informed was the best way to make good decisions about things. That meant I was also back to thinking about moving out of Gran’s house. Assuming this telepathy thing wasn’t something I could get rid of, or learn to control, I was going to need to live alone. Not only would it become difficult to live with someone else’s thoughts in my head all the time but I didn’t want to know that much about Gran.
Not to mention I didn’t feel good about sneaking Eric into the house after she was asleep. Gran wouldn’t approve of it and she had a right to know who was in her house. The last thing I needed was for the two of them to bump into each other in the middle of the night for some reason. At least I didn’t have to worry about him making a trip down to the fridge for a midnight snack only for Gran to find him standing nearly naked in the middle of her kitchen. I wasn’t worried about Eric biting Gran either, although I wondered if Gran was concerned about that.
After I finished my breakfast I went upstairs to the library and started by searching to see if Eric had encyclopedias. I couldn’t even remember the last time I used one of those. It was probably back in grade school. The internet was so much faster and had many more resources right there in front of me. The only real problem with internet research was that the information wasn’t always correct. Much to my excitement Eric did had a set of encyclopedias, but they were just over a decade old. I had no idea how outdated the information might be, or what sort of new things may have been discovered about the condition since the book was published.
I found the entry on telepathy but there wasn’t a whole lot of information available. I learned that telepathy was discovered by the Greeks, surprise, surprise, and that it was suggested that it worked by the sending and receiving of brain waves. That explained why I couldn’t read Eric then, since he didn’t have brain waves as a vampire. I wondered if I could train myself to absorb his silence simply by ‘listening’ for it. Only time would tell, but it would be an interesting experiment to try out.
The encyclopedia didn’t offer any suggestions for how to control it, but there were links to clairvoyance and ESP. So of course I had to look up all the information I could about those two things as well. According to what I read it was damn near impossible to prove that a person had telepathy, clairvoyance or any other form of ESP. There were skeptics always trying to debunk such claims in the hopes of finding some sort of scientific explanation for the occurrences.
Frankly, it was fine with me if no one believed I was telepathic. It was probably better for me if no one knew about it. I was still in the library reading when Eric came and found me at sunset. He kissed the daylights out of me before taking a seat on the sofa next to me.
“I’m happy to see you too,” I said, and closed the book I was reading after marking the page.
“How was your day?”
“Mmm… educational. I did some reading on telepathy today to see if maybe I can figure out how to control it so I won’t have to live like a shut-in.”
“Were you able to find out anything?”
“Not really, but I think I know why I can’t read your mind.”
“Because scientists think telepathy has to do with brain waves and since you don’t have any…”
“There’s nothing for you to receive,” Eric finished for me.
“Interesting,” he nodded. “Now what are you reading?”
I lifted the book to show him the cover.
“Ah, good choice,” he smiled. “Of course now you realize Ms. Rice didn’t know much of what she was talking about.”
“That I do, but she tells good stories.”
“Yes, she does,” Eric agreed. “So what are your plans for this evening?”
“I’d like to go back to Bon Temps. I need to check on Tina and tomorrow I need to go out to the woods to see if I can find the portal to the fairy world.”
“I would prefer you don’t do that alone,” he said.
“Do you think I’d be in danger meeting someone from the fairy world?”
“It’s possible. I’d prefer to call Niall before you attempt to make contact, that way you’ll be sure of who is coming to meet you.”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
“Then I’ll make the call tonight,” he promised.
“There’s something else I want to talk to you about,” I said and he nodded for me to continue. “I’ve been thinking about moving out of my Gran’s house for a while now, since before you and I split up for that little bit of time. I think it’s time for me to be on my own and if I can’t control my telepathy I really don’t think continuing to live there with her is a good idea. So I think tomorrow I might go look at apartments.”
“You could live here,” he suggested.
“What? Eric, no, I can’t live here. I appreciate the offer but you and I are… I don’t even know what we are, really and I wouldn’t feel right about it. I need to find a job and get my life back on track, plus I need to learn how to deal with this mind reading thing. If I didn’t have any other choice or if we were more committed to each other that would be different, but I can’t just move in now.”
“I like having you here,” Eric said simply.
There was no pressure, no attempt to change my mind, just a simple declaration of how he felt right then and it made me smile.
“And I like being here.”
Eric leaned over to give me a kiss, but then he pulled back to dig his phone out of his pocket. He excused himself and then he was a blur of motion out of the room to take his call, leaving me to wonder if it was secret vampire business he had to attend to. I opened my book and resumed reading while I waited for him.
My hand absently went to the talisman hanging around my neck, sliding it back and forth on the chain while I read. All of a sudden a thought occurred to me from out of nowhere and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I remembered the night I’d gone to The Playground to confront Callisto about the things she’d said. Her attention had focused on my necklace and she had called it a talisman. Of course I knew what a talisman was, but no one else had ever referred to it that way.
It dawned on me, all of a sudden, that Eric seemed to know what it was when he came downstairs from wherever he had been hiding in the club. It was possible he could have heard us speaking all the way upstairs with his freaky good hearing but I started to wonder if maybe he knew more about it than he had been letting on. It wouldn’t be the first time he held something back and I was suddenly curious as to just how much he knew.
When Eric returned to the library a few minutes later it was with that same casual expression on his face. Not that he wasn’t capable of showing his emotions but he was pretty good at keeping things on lockdown. It would be nice to have a hint of what was going on with him sometimes just by looking at him. I wondered if that was a vampire thing since Pam seemed to be very similar and Longshadow… well, he was about as blank as a slate could get.
“Everything okay?” I asked him.
“Vampire business,” was his response.
“What does that mean?”
“It means I can’t discuss it,” he said. “But to answer your question everything is alright.”
I set my book aside and said, “Eric, I understand that there are probably lots of things I’m better off not knowing when it comes to vampires and whatnot, but… if you were serious about wanting me to live here don’t you think I deserve to know some things? Wouldn’t your associates, as you call them, be curious about the human you’re living with?”
“What do you want to know?” Eric asked me.
“Everything,” I admitted, “But I don’t think you’ll tell me. I’m just trying to make sense of this, Eric. I want to understand and I don’t want to walk into your world blind. I’m a girl that likes to go into things informed. You, of all people, should know that.”
Eric considered things for a moment before he spoke. Whether it was because he was sifting through and deciding what to tell me, or because he was trying to get his thoughts in order all together I wasn’t sure.
“You asked me before if I intended for you to know what I am,” he started. “You should know that Pam didn’t want to extend you membership at the club.”
“What? Why? Because y’all can’t glamour me?”
Eric nodded and continued, “And because she knew I was more interested in you than I am in the average member. The moment I saw you I was curious and the application you submitted only heightened that curiosity. Generally, when deciding on new members, Pam and Longshadow have a vote as well. I have the ability to trump them both as the majority owner and sheriff of our area—”
“Sheriff? Abe called you that too,” I cut him off rather rudely.
“I’ll explain that,” he promised and then continued, “But you should know that I chose you from the beginning. It isn’t often that a human catches my interest but you did. I decided that even if we weren’t a suitable pairing as far as your training went that I would find a way to insinuate myself in your life.”
“Why me?” I asked since he had given me the opening and I had been asking myself that same question pretty much from the start.
“Because you are a courageous, strong woman without being too hard. There is a kindness in you that radiates like sunshine.”
“You got all that from a picture and an application?”
“And your interview. I was listening and watching, don’t forget. I watched your mannerisms and the way you handled yourself. As you’ve since found out Pam isn’t easily pleased which is why she handles that portion of the application process. Even she had to admit you had grace under fire,” Eric told me.
“I impressed Pam?”
The corner of Eric’s mouth lifted as he said, “Pam finds amusement in any human that puts me in my place.”
“She’s a real pain in the ass a lot of the time, isn’t she?”
“She has her moments,” he agreed. “But she is also extremely loyal and invested in my well-being.”
It still spooked me that Pam would rip my throat out if she’d had the chance.
“As for why Abe called me ‘Sheriff’ the reason is simple. Vampires recognize our own government and our own laws. Just like Louisiana has its police force, mayors, senators, governors and the like, so do vampires. Each state is divided into different territories we refer to as areas. Each area has a vampire that is chosen to oversee the other vampires in said area to make sure things are running smoothly. That means dead bodies aren’t being left strewn about for human authority figures to find and any vampire taking a pet is properly monitoring said pet to ensure our secrets aren’t being told to humans,” Eric explained.
Pet. That got my attention.
“Is that why you called me your pet instead of… well, whatever other word you could have used? Were you planning to make me your pet outside of play, too?”
“It was something I had planned to bring up if the opportunity presented itself,” he nodded.
“And you didn’t think that opportunity came when I mentioned how freaked out I was over Callisto? Eric, you made me think I was going crazy for reacting when you knew the whole time it was your blood and whatever it was she was doing that made me feel like a damn superhero. You could have told me then.”
“I wasn’t sure you were prepared to hear the truth.”
“I may not like the truth but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it,” I argued.
“Then yes, I would have wanted to make you my pet. The training isn’t so different from what we were already doing.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that but for the time being I knew one thing for absolutely certain. “I don’t think we should play for a while. I’m not sure if I’m really ready to get back into it and right now I’m still working on trusting you again. I’m trying to get back to that place where I know without a doubt that I can put my life in your hands and you won’t do anything to make me regret it but I’m not there yet.”
“You understand I’m not asking you to be my pet now, don’t you?”
“Then what do you want?” I asked him.
“You,” he said simply. “I don’t care what way you choose to come to me as long as you do.”
“And if I do, do you really think you can handle not being with other women? You had sex with two other women in the time we were apart and maybe it didn’t mean anything to you but that’s beside the point. You told me you’d want to kill any other man that laid a hand on me.”
“That’s still true.”
“So where does that leave us?” I asked him.
“Where do you it want it to leave us? I think I have made my feelings for you known.”
“It leaves me wanting to be able to trust you again the way I used to. There’s still more that I want to know about you, your life… about vampires. I know I can’t learn it all at once and that it’ll take time. I’m not good at being patient,” I reminded him. “I’m not good at waiting for things to be revealed to me in due time. I’m trying to get better at it but it’s not something I can change overnight. I can also be impulsive and let my emotions get the better of me. Maybe that’s why we make a good match. Somewhere between us there’s balance.”
Eric smiled as if he had known this all along and had just been waiting for me to connect the dots.
“You knew,” I pointed at him and his smile only grew.
“I told you we would make a good match,” he said with a hint of smugness that had me launching myself at him. “And you are the only one I want, Sookie. If you are mine then I am yours.”
I smiled at that but to keep things from getting to serious I started wrestling with him. Eric played along and didn’t use his crazy vampire strength and it was fun. I liked him like that, all playful and almost childlike in his humor. Of course that didn’t last and before long my clothes were practically ribbons flung around the room courtesy of a horny vampire who had to be part Tasmanian Devil.
The next night Eric followed me out to the woods in the hopes of finding the trees Gran had spoken of in the hotel room. Since I didn’t know what to expect where the fairies were concerned and Eric wasn’t completely convinced I was safe meeting them alone, I had agreed to let him come along. Besides, if he was an ally, of sorts, with Niall then there was little reason to worry about Niall having a bad reaction to Eric’s presence. It took some time but I eventually found the trees.
“Okay, so Gran said I just need to put my hand here,” I said as I lifted my palm and let it hover over the knot like she’d told me.
Nothing seemed to happen but she’d told me I might not get an immediate response.
“How long should we wait here?” I asked Eric.
“It could be a while.” Eric was leaned against another tree, dressed casually as usual. “I can try to get in touch with Niall if you’d like.”
“No, I’m being patient, remember?” I smiled over at him. “I can be patient.”
We stayed there in the woods for a while, waiting around to see if someone would appear. Eric stayed close by but when I started to get restless he scooped me up and started to levitate. I clung to him only because it was bizarre to be floating above the ground like that and not because I was afraid he’d drop me. Eric continued to go up until we were floating above the trees. Bon Temps seemed like an entirely different place from that high up. I could see the various lights on in town, including the glowing green sign above Merlotte’s.
“You knew Sam was a shapeshifter, didn’t you?” I asked as we floated around over my property.
“I did,” Eric conceded.
“Will you please tell me what the real issue is between you two? I tried to get it out of Sam but he wouldn’t tell me.”
“Vampires and the two natured don’t generally trust one another for various reasons. The animosity between shapeshifters and Weres of any kind is even greater. Werewolves like to think themselves king of the mountain as far as the two natured go. Shapeshifters have the ability to take on any animal form they choose. Had I not just had a confrontation with Sam I might have thought I was being attacked by a werewolf instead of a shapeshifter,” Eric explained. “The reason that your former employer and I have had issues in the past is because of Callisto.”
“She’s just trouble wherever she goes,” I shook my head.
“Callisto demands tributes to Dionysus and failure to pay up can become quite costly. It is my understanding that Sam and Callisto had an affair for some time, but then The Playground opened up and she was offered a position in the orgy room. Bulls are a common tribute to Dionysus as they please his wife, Ariadne, goddess of labyrinths. However, the energy, drunkenness and frenzy of an orgy could be channeled through Callisto to her god, which pleased him even more.”
“So Callisto chose you over a much more meager offering than a bull that Sam might be able to provide for her?” I asked and Eric nodded.
Well that explained a lot, didn’t it? I wasn’t sure what to make of it and it didn’t excuse Sam’s behavior, but at least I thought I had a better understanding of why he’d done what he did. I wasn’t quite ready to forgive him for what he’d done and I wasn’t sure if I ever would be. It turned out there was a lot about Sam that I didn’t know, and the fact that he could shift into another animal wasn’t what bothered me—although it probably should have.
Eric being a vampire hadn’t really bothered me all that much either. Even when I really thought about it I realized it wasn’t a deal breaker for our relationship. Maybe it was because I had yet to see him in a situation where he would be forced to get violent or ‘act like a vampire.’ So far I had only seen him act like a vampire when he was feeding from me and generally that was accompanied with sex.
Before I could let myself think about it too much so my thoughts would get tangled I decided to just let it go. The past was the past and there was no changing what had already happened. I needed to decide what I wanted my life to look like going forward, and I knew that Eric was a part of the picture somehow. What his role was going to be I wasn’t exactly sure, but at least I knew I wanted him there. He had promised me I was the only one and I believed him.
Something told me that Eric wasn’t the type to go around making promises he couldn’t keep—not when he talked about the importance of honor and loyalty. Besides, I didn’t have to figure it all out just then. I could take my time and figure things out as they came up. Eric was a patient vampire, after all.
We flew around for another hour or so before giving up for the night. Jason’s old room was still fixed up to be light tight so Eric would be spending the day there. I just hoped I didn’t get any fairy visitors while Eric was resting.