It felt good to be behind the wheel of her own car again. Sookie had thought all of the added safety features the Authority had insisted on were a waste. Not only was the car death-proof, but it was wired with a whole bunch of hi-tech bells and whistles Sookie had essentially no use for.
“Call headquarters,” Sookie gave the command as she pulled away from the farmhouse. Drizzle started to splash down on the windshield, and she turned on the wipers.
“Thank you for calling the American Vampire League, this is Kelly. How may I direct your call?” The receptionist asked.
“Kelly, this is Sookie. Can you connect me to Nora please?” she asked.
“Right away, Miss Stackhouse.”
Classical music filled the car while Sookie waited for Nora to pick up. Eric led the way in his Audi, heading them toward the highway. Little drops of rain started to fatten up and thunder rumbled overhead. Sookie rolled to a stop at a sign and to her right she could make out the bridge where her parents’ car had been swept away when she was a child. For years afterward, Sookie felt a little bit of panic every time she crossed over the bridge. She had more than one nightmare of what her parents’ final moments must have been like.
Had they seen the water coming?
How long had they suffered the agony of water in their lungs before they gave up the fight?
Had they tried to free themselves from the car?
There were so many questions about that night and what had happened, and they would remain unanswered until Sookie herself reached heaven. Assuming she would even go there. She had the Spark. The fairy in her was slowly but surely taking over as she got older. Claudine had told her that when fairies died they didn’t go to heaven because they weren’t the making of a christian god. Their mother was Gaia, the earth. Fairies went on to the Summerland when they expired.
“Chancellor Gainsborough,” Nora’s voice took the place of what Sookie was sure was Tchaikovsky.
“Nora, it’s Sookie,” she said. “I have some intel for you and I’m also going to need a link up in about an hour for a deposition.”
“Who are you deposing?”
“Lafayette Reynolds. He’s a human suspected of dealing vampire blood at the behest of Sophie-Anne LeClerq.”
“A queen was allowing humans to sell our blood?” Nora sounded both shocked and angry.
“Yes, but I think there’s a conspiracy going on, and I’m involved somehow. I know this wasn’t my mission, but I would like to request permission to further examine what’s been going on here. My family is at risk,” Sookie said.
There was a moment of silence before Nora said, “We’ll review the information gathered in the deposition and make a ruling from there. We’ve been informed that the funeral for Jackson Herveaux will take place the day after tomorrow. We need you to be present and scan the attendees. We expect Fellowship presence to protest the event. The ceremony will be held during the daytime so there will be no backup from us. A private Were ritual will take place in accordance with their traditions, at which time Alcide has consented to allow you to speak with his pack members. As you can imagine, the pack is as eager to locate Jackson’s killer as we are. Eric will accompany you to that meeting.”
Sookie nodded along as Nora spoke. So far so good. While she was in Mississippi, Sookie would do what she could to infiltrate known Were hangouts to see if she could learn anything further. Having been exsanguinated, Jackson was a confirmed victim of the Commandment Killer. It was possible this was a copycat situation, but highly unlikely.
“We’ll have that link up ready when you get to your destination. GPS shows you’re westbound on I-20.”
“I’m on my way back to Shreveport. Eric is in the car ahead of mine,” Sookie said. His lead foot had him very far ahead.
She always drove a little slower in the rain, and given the way her body reacted to electrical disturbances, as of late, driving during a thunderstorm was risky of her.
“Nora, I need to concentrate. The weather up this way is awful. I’ll call in when I’m ready. I have all the necessary equipment in my trunk.”
“We’ll be standing by. Let me know if you need assistance.”
By assistance, Nora meant hitmen. Regents were a dime a dozen, and if it could be proven that Bill Compton played a role in the former queen’s schemes to sell V to humans, his days on the throne were numbered. A sleek, black car raced past her, nearly clipping the rear driver’s side bumper of her car on its way. Sookie was traveling at about sixty miles per hour and she could no longer see the Audi’s distinctive taillights. She looked away from the road just long enough to turn on the satellite radio and tune it in to the country station she preferred.
A loud boom that might have been thunder rattled her car, but then a flash of light caught her attention. It wasn’t lightning, but a ball of fire on the side of the road a few hundred yards ahead. Her heart leapt into her throat before plummeting into her stomach as she wondered if the speeding car had lost control on the wet pavement. Wind whipped outside and it was officially pouring. She turned up the speed of her wipers and moved into the empty right lane, thinking she might need to stop and call for help if a car had exploded.
Sookie slowed down as she approached the crash, and then slammed on the brakes when she realized that the car on fire wasn’t the black speedster, but Eric’s Audi.
“Oh God, no!” Sookie put her car in park and threw her door open. The weather seemed to be keeping everyone else off the road, not that Sookie noticed much. She ran as fast as she could toward the flaming wreckage, screaming Eric’s name.
The grass was tall and the heat coming from the wreck was intense. Sookie shielded her eyes to protect them. Her hands tingled, ready to do the healing thing if she located Eric. Of course, getting him into her car might present a problem, depending on what his injuries were. There was the distinct possibility he had met the true death. His car was practically split in half by a tree trunk. It would be nothing short of a miracle if he survived.
“Eric!” Sookie screamed, coming to a skittering halt to catch her breath.
Her eyes scanned the landscape until she spotted a patch of grass streaked with red. Blood. Eric’s blood. She took off running again in that direction, praying that his injuries were too severe. Her heart stopped for a minute to see him lying on the soggy grass in a crumpled heap. He obviously had lots of cuts, burns and a few broken bones, judging by the way his arm was angled, but it was his legs that made her stomach turn.
“Oh God,” Sookie dropped to her knees and touched Eric’s wet, clammy face. “Eric, can you hear me?”
He was in bad shape and in need of assistance, mostly blood. Sookie’s hands were still tingling, ready to help, but the storm was interfering with her strength. Eric’s eyes stayed closed. There was no movement, but the fact that Eric wasn’t a puddle told Sookie that he could be saved. Her hands started at the top of his body and worked their way down slowly.
His T-shirt was shredded and his jeans weren’t much better. They were mangled below his knees, as were his legs. Sookie got as far as Eric’s chest before her energy started to flicker and fade, and by the time she reached his waist she was drained. Rain continued to pour down around them. Thunder rolled and Sookie tried to wake Eric, but her healing had minimal affect on him.
On her, however, it was another story. The energy it took to heal him had wiped her out. Sookie stood slowly, on wobbly legs. She felt the same as if she’d been running a high grade fever for days. Her head was disconnected from the rest of her, and even though she desperately wanted to get back to her car to call for help, her body simply refused to go.
Sookie collapsed in a heap on top of Eric.
There was an interesting war of sensations trying to claim hold of Eric’s body. He felt cold and wet just about everywhere, but there was warmth radiating from his head to his naval. It felt like a sunny summer day when he was human. Like he was drifting in a boat on the North Sea, dozing in the afternoon sunshine. But there was also agony. His legs felt like they were in a meat grinder going at full speed.
There was also a weight on his chest that hadn’t been there when he collapsed. The accident was a bit of a blur because it had happened so quickly. A black sports car had come from out of nowhere and started to swerve back and forth in front of him. Eric had slowed down, but then the other car slammed on its brakes. The car spun out, hydroplaning on the slick highway. Eric swerved past it and accelerated to take point in the deadly game he seemed to be playing with the unknown driver.
The black car righted itself and had turned off its headlights, making it difficult but not impossible to spot in his rearview mirror. More swerving and rain coupled with high speeds and the eventual tap of Eric’s rear passenger’s side sent the car careening off the highway. Eric tried to correct the spin, but the car was going too fast and smashed into the tree trunk, which explained the horrendous pain in his legs. He managed to punch his way through the driver’s side door and pull himself from the wreckage just as the car ignited.
The blast blew him back a good twenty feet from the car. He’d landed hard on his right side and tried to stand up, but his legs were too damaged to support his weight. He couldn’t fly thanks to the injuries and blood loss. Eric managed to drag himself until he couldn’t make himself move anymore. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but then he heard the fuzzy sound of someone calling his name, talking to him, trying to rouse him from a stupor he couldn’t get himself to come out of. Then there was the warm tingling, the sunny day feeling.
Eric had felt the sensation of his skin knitting itself back together. He was healing. Then it stopped. Now all that was left was the cold, wet agony of lying in the grass with a weight on his chest. Eric fought the hold his injuries had on him, willing him to rest so that he might heal himself. Somehow he managed to open his eyes.
Matted gold and pale pink lay across his torso. A slender, tan arm was extended so a small hand rested where his undead heart remained motionless in his cold chest. Sookie. Fuck. How did she end up there in top of him?
“Sookie,” Eric said in a raspy, gravelly voice. No response. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He tried to roll her over, but the pain in his legs prevented him from going too far. Instead, Eric tried to sit up. Sookie was streaked with his blood, but he didn’t scent hers in the air. She was unconscious, but didn’t seem to be injured.
“Sookie,” he tried again.
He attempted to drop his fangs, but was too weak. Eric felt her pulse rattling through him and he smoothed her hair back from her face. He called to Pam as her maker, although she was no doubt already on her way to him. If she wasn’t, the jolt from him would let her know this was serious business and that it was safe for her to approach.
“Sookie, wake up,” he said, and shook her a little.
Her eyes opened slowly, and as soon as the world came back into focus for her, Sookie reached up to touch Eric’s face. “You’re alive.”
Sookie smiled faintly and pulled his face to hers to kiss him. Her taste filled him and as their kisses deepened, the blood from his lips and inside his mouth where a few teeth had been knocked out, worked its way into her system. Sookie wasn’t hurt, but drained. The connection between them was faint, but it was there. Eric felt it take root inside her, and from now on he would know her location and emotions when they were in close proximity. This probably wasn’t what Sookie had in mind when she had left the Authority to investigate the Commandment Killer, but it was too late.
The kiss broke and Sookie said, “You need blood. I’m too weak to heal you, but I can give you blood. Can you drop fang?”
“No,” Eric admitted, and in that moment knew what it must feel like to be a neutered house pet.
“Wait here.” Sookie stood up and took slow, measured steps toward her car so as not to overexert herself.
It was painful for him to watch her staggering along, knowing it was because of him that she was so weak. Eric lay back and closed his eyes. Immediately he went into downtime and only came to again when Sookie knelt down beside him. She had a cell phone in one hand and a knife in the other. He sensed the silver in the shiny blade. His fangs wanted out as a protection measure; even though he knew Sookie wasn’t going to hurt him further.
She tucked the phone into her bra for safe keeping and then shifted so Eric’s head was in her lap. Her wrist lifted and then the blade appeared. Eric watched as she made a small slash on her skin and the smell of her blood immediately called to him.
“Don’t drain me,” Sookie said, and then lowered her bleeding arm to his mouth.
Her blood fell between his parted lips and as soon as her taste hit his tongue, instinct took over. Eric latched onto the wound and drew from her the way a man dying of thirst might drink after finding water. A few pulls into his feeding, his fangs burst from his gums, piercing her skin a second time. Sookie flinched, but didn’t pull away. In the distance he heard the sizzle of falling rain hit his engulfed car. He heard the steady slowing of Sookie’s heartbeat in contrast with her quickening breath.
He felt her worry and devastation over seeing him as he was, along with her desire to help him.
Bite. Fuck. Rub.
Bite. Fuck. Rub.
The chant repeated itself over and over, the animal in him wanting to be freed, wanting to claim the beautiful, kind woman that was risking her life to save his. He didn’t want to release her, but if he didn’t he would take too much and she was already weak. Eric reluctantly moved his head away. He lifted a hand, a Herculean effort on his part, and pricked a finger on his fang to heal her wounds.
“I called Pam. She should be here soon,” Eric said. He could feel the healing starting in his legs, alleviating some of his pain.
“Is there anything I can do?” Sookie asked, smoothing his hair back from his face. He felt her sympathy and concern for him.
“Just stay here with me until Pam comes,” he said.
“Of course,” Sookie nodded. She reached for his hand and threaded her fingers with his. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise. Try to rest.”
Sookie resumed smoothing his hair with her free hand and Eric slipped back into downtime while they waited in the rain for Pam.