The luncheon broke up around dinnertime. Sookie helped with the cleanup and was walking out to the Range Rover right around the time Eric dropped down in the parking lot. She’d felt him coming and changed courses to go to him instead. She was exhausted and planned to sleep like a rock. Eric wrapped her in a big hug and rubbed her back soothingly.
“I’m so tired,” Sookie closed her eyes and breathed him in.
“It’s been a long day for you,” Eric continued to stroke her back.
“I just want to get these shoes off, take some aspirin and go to sleep,” she sighed and burrowed against him. “I’m too tired to drive.”
“I got it,” Eric kissed the top of her head.
He tried to pick Sookie up but she didn’t want that. They walked slowly to the Range Rover. Eric got behind the wheel after strapping Sookie into the passenger’s side and adjusting the driver’s seat. He started the car, adjusted the mirrors and started to back out of the parking space. He noticed a box marked ‘books’ in the backseat and quirked an eyebrow in Sookie’s direction. Her eyes were closed but she wasn’t sleeping.
“What are the books for?” Eric asked once he was headed out of the parking lot.
“Something Gran said… answers in the attic,” Sookie mumbled, clearly not thinking in complete thoughts. “Thought I’d check…”
What did she need answers for? He was missing something, he was sure of it. They were barely on the highway when Sookie fell asleep. Sookie was as curled on her side as she could get and every so often Eric looked over at her. She looked peaceful there, all curled up and snuggled into her jacket. He turned the heat up a little higher for her so she wouldn’t be cold. The drive back to Shreveport didn’t take long.
Eric pulled into the garage and took the box of books into the house first. He left them on the coffee table and then went back to the garage for Sookie. She’d slipped her shoes off and he left them there when he unbuckled her and lifted her out of the car. Sookie attempted to snuggle against him but that was easier said than done. Eric nudged the car door closed and carried her into the house.
He set her down on the bed and started to undress her but then brushed his head against the silver on her wrist. “Motherfucker,” he growled and her eyes opened.
“What’s wrong?” she felt his pain.
“The silver,” he stared at his hand but it was already healing.
“Sorry,” Sookie lifted her hand and unclasped the bracelet. She sat up and turned the chain around her neck to unclasp it.
“That dress looks good on you,” Eric smiled at her.
“Thank you. The dress is beautiful. I’ll be sure to send Pam a thank you note,” Sookie smiled back.
“Pam just picked it up for me,” Eric reached behind Sookie to unzip the dress for her.
“You picked all this stuff out?” Sookie raised an eyebrow.
“You don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say that,” she pulled her arms out of the straps of the dress and then let it fall to her waist before standing and letting it fall to the floor, leaving her standing in the black lace lingerie Eric had apparently chosen for her.
“The shoes were Pam’s idea,” Eric confessed and Sookie couldn’t help but laugh.
“That explains a lot,” she nodded and then sauntered off toward the closet to hang the dress up. It was too pretty—and expensive- to leave it in a heap on the bedroom floor.
Eric followed her to the closet and watched Sookie hang the dress. It reeked of cheap beer, fried food and grief. A trip to the cleaners was mandatory, assuming Sookie would ever want to wear the dress again. He wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.
“So do you want to tell me what the books are for?” Eric asked, his arms circling her waist from behind.
“That day I went to Merlotte’s and I talked to Gran she told me that my Grandaddy knew things the same way I know them. She told me the answers I’m looking for are up in the attic,” Sookie turned her head as much as she could. “I need to know more about fairies, Eric. I need to know how to control this power I have. I need to know what it does, how it works, why I have it, where it comes from… I need to understand it. I think if I can understand it, I won’t feel so lost all the time.”
“You feel lost?” Eric asked, having had no idea she felt that way. She’d been burying it pretty deep inside herself if that was true and she had no reason to lie.
“I’m not like anyone else, except for Barry, the other telepath I met in Dallas, and he’s stuck in that other place. I saw him there but he didn’t come back with me. It was too late for him. He’d already eaten that crazy light fruit. I didn’t eat it. I knew it was a trap. If I would have eaten it, I would have been stuck there, too.”
“Light fruit?” Eric let her go and leaned back against the wall.
Sookie picked up a pair of pajamas and put them on. Eric followed Sookie out of the closet and back to the bed. She climbed up on it and sat Indian style. She began rubbing her feet to dull the ache in them but Eric sat down beside her and took over. She moaned her appreciation and leaned back against the padded headboard of the bed.
“Will you tell me about where you went?” Eric asked as he rubbed her feet. Sookie smiled and recounted what happened the night she disappeared.
“The night I left was the night you came to my house and told me that Bill had betrayed me. I was so confused about everything. It was like the world was caving in on me and I didn’t know who to trust anymore. Bill had been lying to me from the beginning and he had sworn to me more times than I could count that I could trust him. And you… you’d never made any promises to me but you would show up when I needed you. You tricked me in Dallas and at the time, I hated you for it. Not just because of the blood but because I thought I could trust you. You had asked me to and then you turned around and took advantage of that trust.
“I was angry with you for that. It made me feel like a fool, like maybe Bill was right all those times he told me I couldn’t trust you. You proved him right. So even though you saved my life, the goodness of it was kind of canceled out when you did what you did. I understand now why you did it, but at the time it looked opportunistic and manipulative.
“But that night when you showed up at my house, covered in cement from head to toe something in me broke. Watching you burning in the sun didn’t sit right with me. It felt like the world wouldn’t be the same place without you in it. I didn’t really want to think about what that meant just then. Before you came, Bill had made me a promise that no matter what happened between the two of us, he would make sure I was protected. He’d told me he would do anything to make sure my secret about what I am didn’t get out.
“Bill confessed to killing you and I didn’t know what to think. Part of me was relieved because I was angry with you for handing me over to Russell the way you did. The other part was… I don’t even know what the word is, but I wasn’t happy. I have never wanted anyone to die to protect me. That includes you, just so we’re clear,” Sookie wiggled her foot to make sure she had Eric’s attention. “Enough people have died already.”
“I have absolutely no intention of dying, lover,” Eric smiled at her but of course, that didn’t mean a whole lot. The road to hell was paved with good intentions, wasn’t it?
“You know what happened after that,” Sookie didn’t want to go through the steps of recounting the conversation surrounding Bill’s betrayal, especially since Eric knew the story anyway. “After I sent you both away I spent some time cryin’ my eyes out, tryin’ to figure out what to do next. I knew it was over with Bill, and for good. After everything we’d been through I just couldn’t see a way to forgive him for all the things he’d done. When I thought of you, I thought of the battle that seemed to be going on inside you. When I met you, you were so cold and empty. I didn’t think there was a way I could ever have feelings for you.
“Maybe if I hadn’t seen you the night Godric died I never would have known but that night changed everything. I saw a side of you I suspected was there but wasn’t sure really existed. When Bill went missing and I went to see you… that night in the basement I saw the way you looked at me and it scared me. It reinforced all the thoughts I was too scared to think. I could see you were concerned for me and you flinched when I cried the night I came asking for help. Somehow all that hardness that surrounded you disappeared and even though I still didn’t know how to put everything behind me yet, I knew I could trust you.
“Then you went and undid all that by selling me out to Russell and I started to wonder what the hell was wrong with me. How could I have been so stupid as to let myself get caught up with not just one vampire who was willing to use me for their own gain, but two? I was angry, hurt, betrayed, lonely, scared… I didn’t know where else to go so I went to the cemetery with the intention of spillin’ my guts to Gran, which is what I’ve always done when I’ve felt lost or alone. Gran was the one person I knew I could always count on to help me make sense of things, so that’s where I went.
“I was gettin’ ready to head on home when this light appeared overhead. Claudine, the fairy you drained while you were cursed, came to me. She wasn’t alone. There were a bunch of fairies with her and she told me I wasn’t alone. She held her hand out to me and told me to come with her. At the time I thought anywhere was better than here, and so I reached back for her and we disappeared. I don’t know how but we traveled to the fairy world, or whatever you want to call it.
“Kind of reminded me of something you’d see in a movie about Greek Gods. Lots of big, heavy looking stone buildings. There were fairies and people moving around, talking, drinking and it looked like everyone was having fun. I saw Barry, the telepath from Dallas, and we talked for a bit. A fairy came by and offered us some of the light fruit they called Lumiere,” Sookie recounted, her eyes closed while she pictured it all.
“It means light in French,” Eric told her and she smiled.
“Yeah, I got that,” her eyes opened. “I saw my granddaddy, who’d been presumed dead for the last twenty years. He was eating the fruit and when I tried to tell him telepathically not to, he heard me, but so did the rest of the fairies. Queen Mab came forward-”
“Queen Mab? You saw her?” Eric stopped her.
“Saw her? That bitch tried to force feed me the Lumiere. She told me it was my fault that humans were being rounded up and brought to the fairy world. She said it was because I let a vampire drink my blood. When I did, I had no idea what I was. Of course she didn’t know all this and I sure as hell wasn’t going to have a coffee klatch with her. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I ended up stunning her with my… whatever it is,” Sookie held up her hands. “But when I did that the fairy world became a pretty nasty place. It turned into this barren desert and all of the beauty the fairies possessed disappeared.”
“Fairies are violent, evil creatures,” Eric supplied and Sookie felt her heart skip a beat. “Present company excluded, of course.”
She wanted to know what Eric knew of fairies but it would have to wait until she finished her story. Sookie went on to tell him about the little battle she’d gotten into and how one of the fairies who didn’t agree with what Queen Mab was doing had helped her escape through the portal. In total, she was sure she hadn’t been gone for more than ten minutes but a year had passed on Earth in that time.
“So there you have it. I came back and for me, it was like no time had passed at all. When I got to my house it was obvious that things had changed but it wasn’t until Jason showed up that I learned how long I’d been gone,” Sookie sighed and pulled her feet from Eric’s lap.
Eric let it all sink in; her feelings about him, Bill, and everything else washed over him. He’d paid attention to their bond while she spoke and he’d felt all of her emotions very clearly as she let herself get swept up in her memories. He felt her anger, confusion, hurt, betrayal, disappointment… he’d felt how lost she’d truly become after the confrontation with Russell Edgington. He felt no pride in having been a part of that.
“I need to know what I’m capable of, Eric. There is so much that I don’t know about myself and until I find out those things I’m going to be stuck in this loop. I need to fill in the blanks,” Sookie crossed her legs Indian style again and braced her elbows on her knees. “Can you tell me what you know about Queen Mab?”
Eric shifted on the bed so they were face to face and even mirrored her pose, which made her smile with sleepy eyes. “I encountered her once maybe a century after I was turned. I was in Ireland in a small town near Belfast. I’d just come down from Scotland. In those days it was easiest to go to ground at night when traveling. There are lots of places to do that in Ireland. Lots of woods, mountains and streams—it was easy to hide there. What I didn’t know was that I had chosen a place where there was a portal to the fairy world. At that time, I didn’t even know fairies existed.
“I’d heard of their existence but had never encountered a fairy before. Queen Mab didn’t reveal herself for what she was, at first. She attacked without warning and at one point, her fingers lit up the way yours do before you blast someone with that magic of yours. She pressed her lit finger to my forehead and I felt this wave of energy go through me but nothing else happened. I don’t know what it meant or why she did it. There were no side effects and I didn’t give it much thought once she disappeared.
“I asked Godric about it once but he avoided answering my questions. In those days Godric wasn’t the vampire you knew. He wasn’t quite as… patient, as the vampire you met,” Eric recalled, his eyes taking on that distant look to them that they’d had when he told Sookie about searching for Werewolves back in the 1940’s. “Since he is my maker, I couldn’t compel him to answer me. His word was law and when he ordered me to drop it; I had no choice but to comply. We never talked about it again and until your cousin told me your secret I hadn’t thought about it in more than a century.”
Sookie sighed and said, “I wish I knew where Hadley was. She took off after Sophie-Anne married Russell.”
“I can look into it,” Eric offered. “I have some pretty good private investigators on my payroll.”
“Do you now?” Sookie arched an eyebrow.
“I do,” Eric nodded.
The truth was that he’d had Sookie investigated after she’d first come to Fangtasia. He wasn’t sure he bought into her claims of being a telepath and he thought it was naïve and foolish of Bill to so easily believe that as well. So he’d put his best investigator on the case and had her checked out to make sure she wasn’t really a cop. The investigator had done so thorough a job that Eric was aware of the sexual abuse Sookie had endured at the hands of her great uncle Bartlett. He’d considered having the man killed, if for no other reason than he had been a father in his human life and he would have murdered anyone who violated his daughter in such a fashion. The one thing Eric would applaud Bill for was taking care of that himself. Without realizing it, Bill had done Eric a favor.
“Do you have any idea where she might have gone off to?”
“Not a clue,” Sookie sighed and leaned over until she was stretched out on her side. “The last time I saw her was at an aquarium in Monroe. She brought her little boy over for me to meet. He’s um… he’s a telepath like me.”
Eric’s head whipped around and in a blink he was stretched out next to Sookie. She recoiled a bit, surprised by the quick movements he’d made. “Her son is a telepath?”
Sookie nodded slowly. “No one knows about him. She never told Sophie-Anne he even existed. He lives with his father.”
“But there’s record of his birth,” Eric thought out loud. Anyone who did a search for Hadley was going to find the certificate of live birth for her son.
“Yeah,” Sookie said and it took her moment to get on the same train of thought as Eric. She panicked for a moment before saying, “But who really knew about Hadley?”
“Pretty much anyone who visited Sophie-Anne’s court. Hadley was her favorite companion. When Russell and I—” Eric stopped there.
“When you and Russell what?” Sookie wanted him to finish his thought.
“When Russell and I went to Sophie-Anne’s to persuade her to marry him, she’d called out for Hadley. Russell knows she exists,” Eric closed his eyes. Fuck. This was going to be a problem if Russell escaped early.
“But you killed Russell,” Sookie looked at him with confusion.
“No, Sookie, we didn’t. We buried him in cement in a parking structure that Alcide’s crew was pouring at the time,” Eric explained and Sookie sat bolt upright when she remembered what Alcide had told her about his problems at work.
“Eric, I think we have a problem.”
oOo ~ oOo ~ oOo
When Sookie told him about the problems Alcide was having, he was livid. He wasn’t angry at her, of course. How could Sookie have known how big of a deal it was? Alcide, on the other hand, knew all too well where Russell had been buried. His failure to report the information was going to cost him dearly. First he was responsible for not putting that werebitch of his down when he had the chance and now he’d failed to report Russell’s escape.
As far as Eric was concerned there wouldn’t be a chance for a third strike. Alcide had done enough damage to last a lifetime. If Russell was on the loose, as he certainly seemed to be, it was only a matter of time before he made himself known. This was a problem for several reasons and as much as Eric didn’t want to, he was going to need help in ridding the world of Russell once and for all.
While Eric made the necessary calls to Pam and Bill, Sookie called Alcide and asked him to meet her at the parking garage where Russell had been buried. Alcide sputtered at first and tried to convince her to stay away but Sookie was having nothing of it.
“You should have told me and you didn’t. You put my life in danger by not telling me, Alcide, and it’s not just me. Russell is beyond dangerous and because you told no one that he was free, God only knows where he’s gone,” Sookie was furious with Alcide.
After all they’d been through and all the things she had shared with him she’d thought they had an understanding. She thought she could trust him to tell her the truth and once again, someone she cared about let her down. Not only had he let her down but he’d put other people she loved in jeopardy. Hell, no one was safe from the likes of Russell Edgington. The man had proven several times over that he was insane.
Now he had a grudge and an axe to grind. Not only was he still hell bent on getting his hands on Sookie, but he was looking for some serious vengeance where Talbot was concerned. Everyone was a potential target. Russell would let no one stand in his way. He’d proven that when he killed an anchorman in the middle of the nightly news like it was no big deal.
With arrangements made for everyone to meet at the parking garage, Eric explained what had happened that Sookie didn’t know about. He told her the story of his family being slaughtered when he was human and how he had been searching for the man responsible for his entire vampire life. It wasn’t until he’d arrived in Jackson and was given a tour of Russell’s home that he found the crown his family’s killer had stolen. Because of Russell’s age, killing him would be next to impossible. Eric couldn’t do it alone. He needed the muscle and resources of the Authority but they were unwilling to help.
The way they saw it, Eric could be just as culpable for the death of the Magister. After all, charges had been filed against Eric, as well as his progeny, for treason and desecration of the blood. Both charges carried a penalty of the true death if they were found guilty. Seeing as how the Magister had found vials of blood on the premises at Fangtasia, it hadn’t looked good for Eric. The fact that he’d been ordered to sell the blood was inconsequential. Just mentioning it was an order was treasonous—whether or not it was the truth didn’t matter.
For that crime, Sophie-Anne would have faced charges of her own and most likely been found guilty. Over the course of the investigation against her it would most likely come to light that she had an obsession with the fae and that she was attempting to corral them for her own personal usage. Sookie’s identity would have been revealed and everyone who was involved would have been lined up and slaughtered, except for Sookie, who probably would have been sold to the highest bidder, or enslaved as an employee of the Authority. Whatever the outcome, it wouldn’t have been good for anyone.
While Eric talked Sookie sat in the back seat with the box of books she’d taken from her attic. She’d had Eric bring it out to the Range Rover with them on the chance that she might find something useful in there. Mostly she found volumes of literature from the Civil War era but at the middle of the pile she found an old leather bound book. Symbols had been branded, it seemed, into the spine of the book. She couldn’t make out what they meant and when she opened the book, the text was in the same symbols.
“I think I have something!” Sookie called out and climbed into the front seat. She held the book up for Eric to see.
“The pages are blank,” he looked at her with confusion.
“No they aren’t!” she argued and thrust the book closer to him.
“Sookie, I’m telling you the pages are blank. I have perfect night vision and there is nothing on any of those pages,” Eric insisted.
“Well I’m telling you the pages aren’t blank. Maybe you just can’t see it,” she suggested and began to flip through the book.
“What does it say?” Eric asked, hating to be at a disadvantage.
“I have no idea,” Sookie shook her head. “It’s all in symbols.”
“Hieroglyphics?” he suggested and she shrugged.
“Maybe. I can’t read those either,” Sookie stopped when she came across a picture. “Wait! Pictures,” she grinned at him.
“Pictures of what?” Eric glanced at the book but it did him no good.
“A necklace. I remember my Gran used to have one just like it when I was a little girl. She’d told me it was from a Halloween costume years ago when she dressed up like a gypsy. I never paid it much attention but now…”
“Do you still have that necklace?” Eric asked her.
“I don’t know. After Gran died I boxed all of her jewelry without going through it. The only pieces I kept with me were her wedding ring and the cross she used to wear. Everything else is still up in my attic,” Sookie told him.
“We need to check your attic,” Eric said as he pulled into the parking garage.
Pam was already there, sitting behind the wheel of a pink pearl Lexus. Talk about a car that would catch a person’s eye. Eric parked the Range Rover beside her and Sookie wisely left the book she’d found in the car. Sookie wrapped her arms around herself. It was definitely chilly outside and it was going to get worse before it got better.
“Sookie,” Pam looked Sookie up and down.
“Pam,” Sookie offered a polite smile. “Thank you for picking up the clothes for me.”
“No trouble,” Pam took in the outfit Sookie was wearing and reserved judgment.
Sookie had put on a pair of skinny jeans, a wine colored camisole and a cream colored hoodie with mauve flowers on it. She was wearing little ballet shoes and her hair was still pinned up from the funeral. She was wishing she’d thought to grab a jacket before leaving the house instead of trusting that the hoodie would be enough. Sadly, hugging Eric would do her little good since he had no body heat to offer her.
Alcide’s truck came into view and just as he was parking, Bill’s SUV pulled in as well. With the gang all present and accounted for, it was time to get down to business. Alcide certainly had some explaining to do. The air was thick with tension and it was obvious to Alcide pretty quickly that he’d pissed off vampires for the last time. If he survived the night it would be because of Sookie’s presence.
Without a word Alcide led the group over to the hole he’d been called in to examine. Since the hole was too deep to be the average wear ‘n tear pothole, it was suspected by the property manager that there was something faulty with the structural work, which meant Alcide’s company was on the hook for the costs to repair the damage. While that would take a chunk out of the company budget, that really was the least of anyone’s concerns. Comparatively speaking, any financial troubles Alcide might have were a drop in the bucket compared to the clusterfuck he was in now.
“How long?” Eric asked once everyone had a chance to observe the size and depth of the crater.
“Six days,” Alcide admitted and that got his glares from the three vampires and the very pissed off telepath standing before him.
“Did you know about this the day we met for coffee?” Sookie asked, speaking over the two male vampires who had opened their mouths to talk.
“I got the call late that night,” Alcide admitted.
“And you didn’t once stop to think that I might want to know about this? You knew what he did to me. You were there when Eric dragged his crispy ass out of Fangtasia and you didn’t think, ‘hey, maybe Sookie would want to know about this?'” Sookie felt her blood boiling but it wasn’t just hers; Eric was equally as furious.
Eric felt Pam’s amusement over her frustration and quickly turned his eyes on her, silently ordering her not to comment if she valued her undead life. Pam remained silent and continued to watch and listen to the exchange taking place. While Sookie and Alcide bickered back and forth Eric started to consider all the options. He’d been told by Nan to end Russell. If he had a six day head start there was no telling what sort of plan he had started to put into place.
What if Debbie Pelt had been a pawn in all of this? Glamouring werewolves wasn’t something the average vampire could do but one as old as Russell might have that ability. Since Eric didn’t know what kind of gifts had been bestowed to the ancient vampire it was hard to say what, exactly, he was capable of. Not having all the facts put Eric at a disadvantage and the odds were already not that great. The only potential ace in the hole he had was Sookie and the magic that was inside her.
Finally it was Bill that broke up the argument by asking, “Is the garage monitored by video surveillance?”
Sookie took a step back from Alcide when Eric put a hand on her shoulder. She was fuming mad and Eric attempted to calm her down through their bond. He did it very subtly and gradually in hopes that Sookie wouldn’t notice he was doing it. She’d caught him once before and she’d been mad as a wet hen over it.
“I’d have to check with building management,” Alcide said and Pam disappeared to go take care of it herself.
No way anyone was trusting Alcide with anything anymore. Sookie stood there, arms folded over her chest, staring daggers at Alcide. Bill and Eric stepped away from the group to talk strategy, leaving Sookie and Alcide by themselves.
“I’m sorry, Sookie. I don’t know what else to say,” Alcide apologized.
She said nothing because there was nothing to say. Sookie was too angry to even consider accepting his apology. There were no excuses he could offer as to why he hadn’t told her. He’d had plenty of chances to do so and even if he hadn’t, he should have called Eric and told him. Instead Alcide had sat on the information, wasting valuable time that could have been spent figuring out ways to put proper defenses in place.
Six days, 144 hours, had slipped by them. That was a lot of time for Russell to be on the loose undetected. The only thing Sookie knew for sure was that Russell had a plan. What that plan was, was anyone’s guess. Not having the advantage of those 144 hours to get their defenses in place was a huge deal.
“I got the footage,” Pam appeared from out of nowhere with CDs in her hands.
“We’ll take it back to my house for review,” Bill reached for the CDs and Pam only handed them over when Eric nodded for her to do so.
“What can I do to help?” Alcide offered and everyone but Sookie turned to look at him.
“I think you’ve done enough already,” Pam said in that typical, snarky tone of hers while rolling her eyes.