Eric came out of the cabin a short time later, covered in blood and looking a little pissed off. He came to the passenger’s side where I was sitting and I opened the door for him.
“He’s dead,” he said.
“I figured as much. Did he give you anything?”
“Not much.” Eric handed me a key ring. “Take the van back to my house. I need to dispose of the body. I’ll make sure to be back before dawn.”
“What about the gate code?”
“You won’t need one. There’s a chip on the van that will trigger the gate when you drive up. In the glovebox there’s a remote for the garage. I’ll be home as soon as possible,” he told me.
“Okay. Are you sure you’re going to be okay here on your own?”
“Positive. Go on,” he insisted.
Frankly, I was glad he didn’t need me to stick around. I was bored out of my mind and didn’t really want to help dismember a body. Not to mention there was the matter of the mystery lurker somewhere close by.
“There’s someone else here,” I told Eric. “At one point I counted you, Coltrane and an unknown something. I couldn’t get a good read on Coltrane for some reason and this new brain is like the opposite of your black one. I can’t read it but it’s white light I get instead of a black hole like with yours.”
“Interesting,” he said. “Perhaps a fairy has come looking for you?”
Eric sniffed the air and I wondered what fairies smelled like. He had told me the smell alone could be intoxicating. Fairies had a unique, sweet smell to them and he had told me that my scent wasn’t identical he could sometimes pick up traces of it. Mostly I just smelled sweeter than the average human.
“Could be,” I agreed. Callisto had said that fairies were the light to the vampires’ dark.
“If you have any trouble I’ll know,” Eric reminded me.
I nodded and held still when he moved in to kiss my forehead. He had what looked like dried blood on his lips so I was glad he hadn’t tried to kiss me on the mouth. After that I took the keys from Eric and moved over to the driver’s side. He stood and watched while I backed away from the cabin. I debated calling Gran but it was very late by that point and Eric had more than likely already passed on to Pam what Gran needed to be told, at least in an immediate sense.
I wondered if the Rogues had done any research on Hadley’s family. If Coltrane knew what her house looked like it was safe to assume he had told someone about it. It was also safe to assume that they had probably been doing some research into her past. I felt better about Pam being at Gran’s, at least until sunrise. But what about after that? If the Rogues sent someone during the day, then what?
Gran knew how to fire a shotgun but I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Freakin’ Hadley.
It was amazing. Hadley made Jason look like a saint by comparison and that was no easy feat. Obviously Gran knew telling Jason about vampires, fairies and werewolves was a bad idea. Jason was the type to go up to Merlotte’s and start flapping his gums about how Gran had gone off the deep end. Keeping him in the dark was to everyone’s benefit, even Sam.
The drive back to Shreveport took about forty-five minutes. Just like Eric had said it would the chip on the van triggered the sensor on the gate and it opened automatically for me. I checked the rearview mirror to make sure I hadn’t been followed and that the gate closed behind me. As the van rolled toward the garage I reached into the glove-box for the remote.
I parked the van in the enormous garage in the spot where I’d seen it before and closed everything up before sliding out from behind the wheel. The emotional toll of the evening left me exhausted. I trudged into the house and pulled my phone from my pocket to text Eric and let him know I’d gotten back to his house okay. After that I called home as well. Late or not I wanted Gran to hear for herself that I was okay.
Pam picked up the phone before the first ring was even finished.
“Stackhouse residence,” she answered politely.
“It’s Sookie,” I said. “Is Gran awake?”
“No. I convinced her to drink some warm milk and get to bed about an hour ago. I promised I would wake her if anything happened,” Pam told me.
I was relieved to hear that Gran was tucked into her own bed again. Just knowing that she was alright made me feel better.
“Thank you, Pam. I appreciate you looking after her. I’m sure you would have much preferred assisting Eric.”
“Actually, I enjoyed speaking with your grandmother. If it wouldn’t be so bizarre I might make her a club member,” Pam said without a hint of teasing and it made me cringe. Hard.
No way in hell did I ever want to go to the club and happen upon Gran in the orgy room. It was bad enough catching glimpses of Tara or Eggs at the swing set.
“I have a greater understanding of your stubborn streak now,” Pam told me. “Although your grandmother does seem to have a bit more sense than you.”
I narrowed my eyes and said, “Yes, Pam, but Gran is much older than I am, not to mention she’s had a great deal more time to get used to the idea that the world is made up of more than just humans.”
“Perhaps, but your listening skills leave something to be desired at times.”
Pam might have been right but I wasn’t too keen on her passing judgment without really knowing me. She knew things about me of course. Obviously Eric at least saw something trustworthy in me since I’d been extended a membership offer to his club. He had ordered Pam not to do me bodily harm. He had continued to pursue me even after I’d stormed out and told him I never wanted to see him again. Somehow I knew arguing with Pam would only prove her point.
“Well, Pam, what do you think I should be doing differently?” I asked her. Pain in the ass or not, she knew Eric very well and she was also older than Gran and me combined. Pam didn’t strike me as stupid, so perhaps she might have some good advice to offer.
“There are times when it is to your advantage to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open,” she advised me. “At the same turn, Eric doesn’t want a doormat. He has no interest in damsels any more than he’s interested in fools. If our world is one you think you’d like to play in, I suggest you learn the importance of balance as soon as possible.”
That wasn’t bad advice. In fact, if I subtracted the slightly condescending tone Pam used it might sound like something Gran would say when she got frustrated.
“Thank you, Pam. I’ll take that under advisement.”
“Please do. I don’t enjoy it when my master feels anxious,” she said.
I found it difficult to believe that Eric felt anxious over anything. He didn’t strike me as the sort who spent his time pacing like a caged lion, just waiting for things to happen. Eric seemed more like the go-getter who made things happen. He hadn’t hesitated when I told him about Gran. When he was unable to give me answers himself he contacted someone that could. In the meantime we had found ways to keep busy.
“Why in the world would Eric be feeling anxious? He’s always confident around me,” I told her.
“Weaknesses will get you killed in our world. Of course we all have them but we don’t let them show. Parading you around like a girlfriend in front of other vampires could be dangerous for him, but presenting you like a pet that he has complete control over is another story. But just because you act a certain way in public doesn’t mean that’s the way you are in private,” Pam pointed out. “Just look at me, for example. To the members of the club I play a part. I am Madame Raven, dressed in fancy Parisian corsets and gowns that are more than a century old. Did I come to the hotel that way tonight?”
No, Pam had shown up in a track suit, of all things. Not one of those hideous eighties numbers with awful print, but something sleek and black that nearly gave off the impression that she was fashionista moonlighting as a ninja. Her considerably more relaxed appearance hadn’t made her any less dangerous to her enemies.
“I understand what you’re saying,” I said.
“No, I don’t think you do. The anxiety Eric feels has nothing to do with what’s going on with your fool cousin or for the safety of your grandmother, although I do get the impression he’s amused by her. After meeting her myself I can understand why. Some of her colloquialisms are quite colorful.”
If Eric wasn’t worried about my family then what was he so concerned about? It seemed like the obvious answer was me, but I wasn’t so sure about that. Eric was the guy who has insisted on complete honest and that I trust him, only for him to lie to me the entire time we were together. To make matters worse, he had continued to court me through flowers but he was having sex with other women. Talk about a mixed message there.
“Gran does have an interesting way of turning a phrase,” I agreed.
“I’ll rest here for the day and stay here until Eric gives me permission to leave. You should know that this is the first time that my master has tasked me with guarding a human that wasn’t being detained. To you that might not sound like a big deal, but trust me when I tell you that it is, and he’s doing this for you, to make sure you’re happy. Your happiness means a great deal to him.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Pam, but I wanted to hear that from Eric. So far he had told me that he liked me and that he believed I was a good match for him but where did that leave us? Pam couldn’t keep playing the role of intermediary every time there was a communication failure between Eric and me. It wasn’t her job to translate his emotions. I didn’t want to hear those things from her. They should come straight from the horse’s mouth.
I got off the phone with Pam when she hung up on me after telling me not to take Eric for granted. I didn’t think I was taking him for granted at all. I appreciated everything he had done for me in the last few days and I had been sure to tell him so. Gran going missing had been the push I needed to let him back in and I could never repay him for being there for me when I felt so scared and alone, but as yet we hadn’t really talked about being together as a couple.
If Eric was having sex with other women then maybe he wasn’t really as interested in being with me as I’d thought. Or maybe all he wanted from me was sex. I went down to the bedroom that he had assigned to me and straight to the bathroom. A shower sounded like a fantastic idea after the night I’d had.
I got the water running and stripped off my clothes. Just out of curiosity I went to the closet to find that all of the clothes and shoes were still there. It confused me to see them. Something wasn’t adding up. Everything was pointing to Eric wanting me back, including the things that Pam had said. While it was possible that Eric had ordered her to say those things something told me Pam was speaking up on her own volition.
So then why would he sleep with someone else? I didn’t know if it was one woman or two, but it didn’t really matter. Just having slept with someone else was what stuck with me. I had let that slide in the moment because my mind wasn’t really focused on the fate of my relationship with Eric. In that moment I had allowed myself to get swept up and distracted but that didn’t mean I’d forgotten. Maybe I was sending a few mixed messages of my own but I was twenty-five. Eric should know better.
I went back to the shower and stepped in. Steam was billowing up over the frosted glass of the stall and the water pressure was perfect on my back. My eyes closed and I took a few deep breaths like Eric had taught me. Having my head all to myself was a wonderful thing. I lost track of how long I stood under the water but it never got any colder. Back at Gran’s we were lucky if she and I could shower back to back without depleting the hot water supply. Then again Gran’s water heater had seen better days and wasn’t very big.
I washed my hair and was just about to start washing my body when I heard Eric calling to me.
“Sookie?” he called.
“In here!” I called back.
The shower door opened to reveal a grimy, dirty Eric standing there in desperate need of a cleanup. I waved him in and stepped out of the way so he could get some of the filth off of him.
“Is the problem resolved?” I asked while he rinsed.
“Yes. The bayou is a vampire’s best friend sometimes,” he said.
That was about all the detail I needed at that point. I almost understood what it felt like to be Tony Soprano’s wife.
“How long before someone comes looking for him?” I asked while Eric washed himself up.
“Probably a few days,” he answered. “But the Rogues would be asking for trouble by crossing into Louisiana. Gervaise, the sheriff of area four, won’t take kindly to blood drinking werewolves in his territory. If they make it to area five they’ll have a hell of a fight on their hands. Our best bet is to join forces and cut them off at the pass. I’ve already spoken to Gervaise on the matter. His retinue will be on the lookout for Rogues.”
“How can you tell just by looking?”
“It’s their scent. We can smell the vampire blood in them,” Eric explained.
“So then if another vampire smelled me they would know I’d had your blood?”
That was good to know. A human obviously wouldn’t know the difference, thank God. I wasn’t sure how I felt about other supernaturals knowing.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked since I had a curiosity.
“Of course,” Eric said as he rinsed himself off. The water on the shower floor was murky, swirling with dirt and blood at his feet.
“The werewolves that drink vampire blood, what’s the attraction to it? Is there something addictive about it?”
“It depends on the method in which the blood is ingested. If the blood is taken straight from the source as you have done, it works to heal whatever is injured in a human. You receive the super powers, as you’ve called them, with the sharper reflexes, keener senses and there is the connection from the vampire to the human,” Eric explained. “But when the blood is drained and portioned off into doses the effect is different. Characteristics of the vampire carry over into the blood so the reaction isn’t always the same. For instance if you get a vampire with dark, murderous tendencies, its blood could cause a violent reaction in the human who takes it. It’s a bit like playing Russian Roulette if a human doesn’t know the vampire they’re taking the blood of.”
“So these werewolves are drinking straight from the source?”
“I don’t know. If I knew who was supplying these werewolves I wouldn’t hesitate to take him or her out personally. They’re endangering our kind by doing this,” he said. “If they’re not getting the blood straight from the source it’s like taking any other drug, only the addiction seems to be much more powerful than any addiction I’ve seen to any man-made substance.”
Well that was scary. I had seen Hadley high on meth before and that was bad enough.
“What about that night in the orgy room. I wasn’t injured that night and I had your blood.”
“You may have caught a buzz from it,” he conceded. “You’re the first human I’ve given it to besides Pam. I only let her have it because I was turning her.”
From all the things I’d learned so far it was a big deal that Eric had given me his blood at all, let alone let me take it without his permission for basically recreational purposes. I had to wonder if he resented having that connection to me. He had chosen to heal me the second time but that didn’t mean he liked the connection he had to me.
“How long does it take for a connection between a vampire and a person to fade?”
“It varies depending upon how much blood was taken and how old the vampire is. The older the vampire the stronger the blood.”
“Sounds like a mystical wine,” I smiled faintly and then moved under the water to warm up a little since it got cold standing there all wet like that.
“Something like that.”
“Do you… Do you want the connection we have to fade?” I asked since there was really no better time to open that can of worms.
Eric stopped moving and I could feel his eyes sweeping over me. I knew he could feel what I was feeling so he knew I was nervous and a little confused about things. I was trying hard to keep up but there was a lot to take in. My world had changed drastically from what I thought it was, and it turned out the people I trusted the most had all lied to me about some pretty important things. They all had their reasons and I could even understand why they had done it, but it didn’t make any of them less dishonest. It was going to take time to get past it.
Gran was the easiest to forgive. Maybe it was because she was family, or maybe because she was still human at the end of the day. Whatever the reason it was easier to let Gran’s omissions go.
Eric lifted my chin so our eyes met and I knew then that it was time to let the sass out.
“Why do you look so sad?” he asked instead of answering my question.
“Answer my question. Do you want the connection to fade?”
“No, I do not.”
“I look sad because before I found out that you are a vampire I was falling for the person I thought you were and finding out the truth completely destroyed the trust that had been built up between us. I thought I was falling in love with you and I still don’t know what to believe. You sent me flowers practically every day apologizing for what you did but then you had sex with other women. Maybe I don’t have a right to be upset about that but I am. I don’t understand how you can want me back and still think it’s okay for you to be with other people. I’m sad because I thought I meant more to you than just some girl you were with out of convenience. I can’t understand why you would let me find out something so personal to you, something that you have worked so hard to conceal only to sleep with someone else.
“And maybe this isn’t fair to you because I let you back into my bed because I was scared and lonely but I needed to feel something good and I knew you could give me that. I knew you could make me forget for just a little while but it doesn’t change anything between us. I’m still hurt and I’m trying to put the pieces back together but it hasn’t all slid into place for me yet. I can deal with the vampire issue. What I’m having a hard time with is the lying. I want to be able to trust you again and everything you’ve done to help me find Gran is more appreciated than I can ever possibly express to you, but I’m just not there yet.”
What surprised me was that I didn’t cry. I didn’t even feel the urge to cry. Maybe I was past that. I was still disappointed in the way things had worked out but the way Eric had been helping and supporting me let me see that there was the possibility of a future for us. I just needed to slow things down.
“Do you even want to be with me?” I asked. I’d never really asked him that. We had gone from zero to sixty so quick that there hadn’t been much time to talk about some things, despite all of the negotiating we had done.
“I very much enjoy being with you, Sookie. I don’t think I could possibly express how freeing it is to be able to show you who I really am after pretending to be someone else for so long. For centuries I have lived among the shadows, always prepared to move on if my secret gets out. Now I not only had to show you who I am, but I want you to know.”
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to pretend to be something you’re not, just like I’m sure it took a lot of trust for you to tell me the truth. I’m thankful that you did tell me. Can you understand why it upset me that you didn’t tell me sooner? Just put yourself in my shoes for a second. Especially given the terms of the contract and the fact that you were the one who insisted on full disclosure, I feel like there were so many violations of that term.”
“I know what you want me to say is that I was wrong. I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt but I don’t feel like I was wrong,” he said. “Given these circumstances, and the seriousness of the subject I told you when I felt comfortable telling you. That I don’t regret.”
Well then there’s that. There was a part of me that respected Eric for sticking to his guns and not caving in just because I wanted to hear something, just like I knew he respected me for having my limits and sticking to them. Arguments with him were always going to be interesting with two strong-willed people. His age would probably be enough to convince him he was right a lot of the time but that was a load of horse puck. Being older didn’t always make a person wiser. Just look at Mrs. Fortenberry as exhibit A.
But when Eric and I were on the same page, heading in the same direction things were good. I didn’t want to throw something away because of some hurt feelings that would pass if I opened myself up to the possibility of moving forward. Holding a grudge was like holding poison on my tongue. The only person I was hurting was myself.
“If we try this again I want the truth from you, Eric. We need to be equals everywhere outside the bedroom. That means not having sex with anyone but me, being completely honest even about the things we would normally try to hide and I still need your patience. Just keeping my head above water right now is hard enough,” I told him.
“And I need for you to understand that when we are in front of other vampires, with the exception of Pam, I will need for you to assume the role of my pet. I chose you because of your ability to be submissive without losing yourself. You have elegance and charm about you,” he said with genuine appreciation in his voice.
“Why does it matter what other vampires think?”
“To them I should be in control. I should have the ability to basically program you via glamour,” he explained. “Do you think you can handle having to be someone you’re not when other vampires are around?”
It would be a challenge, but if Eric could basically be someone else everyday to fit in the human world, I could be a good little pet every now and then in front of other vampires. Besides, it might even be a big turn-on for us both. There might just be some advantages. Besides, the only vampire’s opinion I cared about was Eric’s so as long as he was happy with me that was all that mattered.
“Yes, I can do that,” I said.
“So then we have reached a new agreement?”
I nodded and said, “I want to tear up the old contract and start over.”
“That can be arranged.”
“Good. Now um, how do vampires seal the deal?” I asked with a nervous smile.
Eric open his mouth and his fangs shot out of his jaw. Immediately my lady parts were tingling as I tried to figure out what part of my body those teeth were going to end up buried in, most likely while he fucked me silly.