The gunshot pulled Sookie out of the deep sleep she’d fallen into. Eric wasn’t with her in bed anymore and before she could wonder if he had left, she felt his pain. She threw the covers off the bed and took off running. He was in the living room; she could feel it.
“Eric! Eric!” she screamed as she ran down the steps.
The front door was closed and locked, which was strange. She had expected to see it wide open and sense someone else running away from the house. Sookie skittered into the living room to find Eric flat on his back, blood pouring out of his chest. She ran to Eric’s side and knelt down next to him.
“Oh God,” she muttered.
“Blood,” was all Eric could say and without a second thought, Sookie shifted and lifted his head so it was resting on her legs. She held her wrist in front of his mouth and she barely felt the pain when he bit her.
Sookie watched his eyes as he nursed at her wrist. There was a gurgling sound coming from his chest and she watched with amazement as the bullet worked its way out of Eric’s chest. When it got to the surface of his skin she reached over and pulled it out the rest of the way. He released her wrist with a grunt and licked the wounds to seal them.
“Are you okay?” Sookie asked, her nerves starting to calm a little.
“Still sore,” Eric admitted and didn’t make a move to get up.
“Are you healing?” Sookie gently brushed his hair back from his eyes.
“Slowly. Silver bullet,” he winced and tried to sit up but gave up at about the halfway point.
“Want some help?” Sookie offered.
Eric shook his head and closed his eyes. What he needed was more blood but he wouldn’t take anymore of Sookie’s. She was going to need to start keeping synthetics on hand since he couldn’t feed from her every day, as much as he would have liked to. She sat there quietly, running her fingers through his hair and humming softly like a mother would do for a child sick with a fever.
A few minutes later Eric felt healed enough to try and sit up again. It was painful at first, but not impossible. As the shock wore off over having been shot, his anger began to rise. Eric got to his feet and carefully opened just one of the cabinet doors. When Sookie got a little too close, he pulled her back out of the way.
“Stand back until I disarm this fucking thing,” he growled and thanks to his perfect night vision, he was able to locate a second trigger point on the trap.
It was obvious the shot hadn’t been intended or wooden bullets would have been used. Of course silver stung like a bitch but it wasn’t going to kill him. That shot was meant to kill a werewolf, or even better, a 5’6″ human woman. For Sookie, it wouldn’t matter what sort of bullet struck her since it would be right in the head.
“Debbie did this,” Sookie said through a clenched jaw.
Eric kicked himself mentally for not noticing the smell inside the house. How had he missed it? But then he remembered smelling it the night of the tolerance festival. He knew from what Sookie had told him that Debbie had been in the house. Maybe that was why the smell didn’t seem out of place to him. Eric had never met Debbie personally but he had no doubt in his mind he would be paying her a visit after this.
“We need to go have a talk with Bill,” Eric said once the gun had been disarmed. “His guards should come do a sweep of your house to make sure nothing else is trapped like this cabinet was.”
When he turned toward Sookie her eyes went wide. She noticed the spot where Eric had been shot was right about eye level for her and she realized that if she had been the one to open that cabinet, she’d be dead. But why use silver bullets? What difference would that make? Oh, right, because Debbie was under the impression that Alcide was cheating on her. What was head level for Sookie was chest level for Alcide or Eric.
Sookie nodded absently, somewhat lost in her thoughts. She didn’t want to be run out of her own home but maybe it was for the best if she took a step back and let people who knew what they were doing take a look before she planted that stubborn flag of hers too deeply in the soil. At the very least she was going to need her locks changed. Maybe she could stay with Jason for a couple of days until she got things in order. Having a cop for a brother might deter Debbie from trying again.
“You know, Eric, would try talking to my brother. Technically, Debbie did break into my house. With Jason being a deputy, we could involve the human authorities here,” Sookie pointed out.
Eric nodded his agreement with her line of thinking. Informing Bill of this was a courtesy but this really did fall outside the realm of his jurisdiction where justice was concerned. Generally Eric was against involving human authorities in supernatural matters but this time it was different. A vampire wasn’t involved in this, that much he was sure of.
“I can probably stay with Jason until this gets straightened out,” Sookie sighed and ran her hand through her hair.
“Or you could stay with me,” Eric suggested. When Sookie didn’t look too enthusiastic over the idea he said, “If Debbie thinks you’re having an affair with her lover, then what better way to prove that you aren’t? Vampires are even more territorial than werewolves when it comes to their mates.”
Mates? Is that how Eric saw her? That was a conversation they needed to have later, that’s for sure. In the meantime Sookie went up to her bedroom to get some of her things packed up to take with her, wherever she ended up staying. Ultimately, she supposed it didn’t really matter whether it was with Eric or Jason so long as her house got secure again.
When she came downstairs with a small suitcase packed, Eric took it from her and led her out of the house. Sookie locked up the place and followed him to his car. He made a quick phone call to Pam to let her know what had happened. As expected, his child was downright pissed that her maker had been shot because of a Shifter’s quarrel. The fucking two-natured could never be trusted, as far as either of them was concerned.
The drive to Bill’s took less than two minutes and there were guards posted in the driveway who stopped the car. “I’m Eric Northman, sheriff of area five. I need to see the king immediately.”
The fact that Eric’s shirt was bloody probably went a long way to convincing the guards that something urgent was definitely happening. The guard standing next to the driver’s side door spoke into an ear piece and then nodded for Eric to drive on. He parked at the front of the house and was out of the car to let Sookie out before she even had her seat belt unfastened. They walked up to the front door, hand in hand, and were greeted by Jessica.
“Jesus, Eric, what happened to you?” Jessica asked with concern.
“Where’s Bill?” Eric didn’t bother to answer Jessica’s question.
“His office,” Jessica pointed to the left.
“I’ll wait here,” Sookie offered, figuring whatever the two of them had to say she probably didn’t want to hear anyway.
Eric went to Bill’s office and knocked. Barging in on the king was probably a bad idea and if Eric was looking for Bill’s help, it was a good idea to act like he respected the king. Bill called out a greeting and Eric opened the door.
“Your Majesty, we have a problem,” Eric stepped into the office and Bill was on his feet as soon as he saw the large red stain on the front of Eric’s shirt.
“What happened? Is Sookie alright?” Bill asked immediately.
“She’s fine,” Eric stepped closer to Bill’s desk. “You remember Alcide Herveaux?”
“I do,” Bill narrowed his eyes a bit and took a seat.
“His woman, Debbie Pelt, is under the false impression that Sookie is romantically involved with Alcide. To that end, she’s decided to eliminate the competition and she broke into Sookie’s house. She set a booby trap in the door of the light tight space I constructed when I purchased the house. When I opened the door, I was shot in the chest with a silver bullet. The location of the gun indicates she was hoping to shoot Sookie in the head,” Eric motioned to his chest and Bill growled quietly. “The silver bullets suggest she took no issue with ending Alcide, should he have been the one to open that door first.”
“Werewolves,” Bill muttered under his breath. “Since Herveaux is your contact, I don’t suppose you would know if he’s a member of the Shreveport pack, would you?”
“He owed me a debt. Whether or not he belonged to a pack was of no consequence to me,” Eric shrugged.
“Perhaps Sookie would know?” Bill suggested. “Is she here as well?”
Like Bill didn’t already know the answer to that. There was only one heartbeat in the house at the moment and Bill was damn well aware of it. Not to mention, no two heartbeats sound exactly alike. It took a trained ear to be able to really note the differences but since Bill had spent enough time with her, it would be easy for him to pick out Sookie’s heartbeat in a room full of humans. Or at least it should have been.
“She’s with your prodigy,” Eric told him.
Jessica, as it turned out, wasn’t a half bad vampire from all Eric could gather. She had been a pain in the ass when she’d first been turned but Eric suspected that had a great deal to do with the age at which she had been turned. It didn’t help that Bill hadn’t taken his responsibilities as a maker very seriously. He had been too focused on Sookie to see the bigger picture but that seemed to be a common theme in their relationship.
Bill had wisely withheld a great deal of information about what was happening in Bon Temps, knowing Eric would have intervened. There were resources available to Eric that Bill simply didn’t have, as much as Bill hated to admit it. There was also the issue of pride at stake, not to mention Sookie’s previous disdain for Eric. No vampire wanted to admit they were in over their head and going to Eric for help in the early days of his relationship with Sookie would have altered the course of things dramatically. That first night he’d brought her to Fangtasia, Bill had felt her curiosity and attraction to the older vampire.
Sookie hadn’t made a big deal about it but then she hadn’t been aware that Bill could feel the things she did. He often kicked himself for not telling her more of the things he should have. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have lost her. Losing Sookie at all was bad enough, but losing her to another vampire was insult to injury. The fact that the vampire he lost her to was Eric only compounded that.
“Will you be handling this personally?” Bill asked, leaning back in his seat in attempts to look casual.
“Sookie mentioned letting the human authorities fix this situation. As far as the law would be concerned, Debbie Pelt is just a jealous lover looking to eliminate the competition by any means necessary. She couldn’t give herself away without sounding completely insane, or giving away her race. I would prefer to deal with this my own way since I was the one who was shot but I think Sookie might have a good point in letting humans deal with it. I have more important things to worry about than some crazy bitch. In the meantime, Sookie will stay with me to ensure she’s safe,” Eric informed Bill, who looked like he’d just been shot in the eye with a lemon wedge.
“You didn’t notice the wolf had been in her house,” Bill pointed out.
Eric’s face remained neutral while he said, “She had been invited into the home recently.”
“Eric, I’m less inclined to let the humans deal with this. We’ve had enough bad PR in the last couple of weeks to set our cause back a hundred years. The last thing any of us needs is for word to get out that there are werewolves attacking vampires.”
Eric kept quiet and let Bill ramble on about politics and the wishes of the Authority as if he was absolutely clueless as to what was happening. Bill just couldn’t seem to stop himself from talking and if it wasn’t so pathetic, it would have been amusing. Centuries of listening to people who loved to hear themselves speak had allowed Eric to master the art of looking like he gave a fuck. Instead, he was thinking dirty thoughts at Sookie and he knew she was hearing him loud and clear thanks to the embarrassment and intrigue he was feeling in their bond.
“I’ll send a team by to check and make sure there aren’t any other traps set in the house,” Bill offered which was what Eric was going to suggest if Bill would have shut the hell up twenty minutes before.
“Excellent idea,” Eric said and it earned him a pair of narrowed eyes from the king. “If you’ll excuse me, Sookie and I should be heading back to Shreveport.”
It was on the tip of Bill’s tongue to suggest Sookie stay with him and he would have ordered it, but the bond between them superseded his power as king. Interfering with a bonded pair was grounds for the true death. Bill wondered how many threats or promises Eric had to make in order to convince Sookie to bond with him. He also started the search to find a way to break the bond since he refused to believe that it was really what Sookie wanted.
For so long she had shown nothing but disdain for the senior vampire. It didn’t make any sense that Sookie would change her mind so completely almost overnight. There had to be something Bill was missing, otherwise this didn’t make any sense to him. Bill was very aware of what the average woman would see in Eric but Sookie wasn’t average.
“I’ll have my patrol keep an eye on her house,” Bill offered as well.
Whether or not she was bonded to Eric, Bill knew she was a valuable asset to his kingdom and he hadn’t been lying when he had sworn to her that he would protect her. He would have preferred to be more hands-on about it but since that wasn’t an option he could pursue, he would do the best he could. Eric rose and turned to go but stopped when Bill spoke again.
“I’ll be selecting new sheriffs to run areas one, two, three and four in the next week or so. I may need your assistance in getting them acclimated to their roles,” Bill warned.
“Of course,” Eric said and then went to collect Sookie.
oOo ~ oOo ~ oOo
“Merlotte’s,” Arlene sounded rushed and impatient when she answered the phone.
“Hey, Arlene, it’s Sookie. Is Sam around somewhere?” she asked.
“I wish. I haven’t seen him since the fire and trying to run this place just Terry and me is startin’ to get old,” Arlene complained.
“What fire?” Sookie asked, her heart leaping into her throat.
“There was an accident at my place. The whole house went up like a Roman candle of the fourth of July. Ever since Sam’s been just about anywhere but here. I sure wish he’d get you back on the schedule.”
“Me, too. That’s actually why I was calling but if he’s not around… would you let him know I called if you see him?” Sookie asked.
“Sure will. I don’t know what’s gotten into him lately but Tommy’s gone missin’ so I assume that has something to do with it,” Arlene sighed and then there was the sound of a baby squawking nearby. “Sookie, I have to go; it’s time to feed Mikey. I’ll catch up with ya soon.”
“Thanks Arl-” Sookie didn’t bother finishing when Arlene hung up.
Sookie had half a mind to get in the Range Rover and drive out to Bon Temps to see if she could track down Sam on her own but decided against it. After discussing things with Eric she had no reservation the shot that had been meant for her and not him. A silver bullet wasn’t going to stop Eric; especially not one lodged dead center in his chest. It would, however, stop her if it was lodged between her eyes. Fucking Debbie. That bitch was crazy and Sookie had known deep down that her request to be friends was nothing but a farce.
But wanting to give Debbie the benefit of the doubt for Alcide’s sake seemed like a good idea. Instead of going to Bon Temps, Sookie called her brother to fill him in on what happened. He didn’t pick up his cell so she left him a message, asking him to call her back as soon as he possibly could. According to Eric, Bill hadn’t been too keen on letting the human authorities figure it all out but that wasn’t really Bill’s decision to make. If the Shreveport pack master had been party to Debbie rigging up that gun—and Sookie was sure Debbie wasn’t that diabolical on her own- then talking to Marcus would be a total waste of time.
Werewolf or not, Debbie had a pulse which meant she needed to be dealt with by humans. Of course there was the distinct possibility that Eric might find the werewolf first but he seemed more concerned with keeping Sookie safe than hunting that bitch down. Sookie wasn’t crazy about the body count that was piling up around her but somewhere along the way she’d lost the naïve notion that everyone could be dealt with by human authorities. Like it or not, human police simply weren’t qualified to handle vampires, no matter how much training they went through. And since it wasn’t generally known that werewolves existed, a human cop wouldn’t be aware of the special concessions that would need to be made in taking a werewolf prisoner.
Sookie got out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen to get something to eat. She found some instant oatmeal in one of the cabinets and made that along with a pot of coffee. She grabbed some fruit from the crisper in the fridge and a few minutes later she sat down at the kitchen table to eat. Afterward she cleaned up and browsed the collection of books in Eric’s living room. With a copy of The Grapes of Wrath in hand, Sookie headed out back to read for a while.
Eric had started the waterfall for her the night before and it wasn’t long before she fell asleep in the chaise lounge she’d been reading in. It was the ringing of her cell phone that woke her a short time later. Jason’s name was on the display.
“Just got your message, Sook. What’s going on?” Jason asked.
“Eric was shot last night,” Sookie said simply. There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Jason?”
“He’s a vampire, Sook. There ain’t exactly nothin’ I can do ’bout it unless that bullet was made of wood.” Jason told her.
“No, it wasn’t made of wood; it was silver, but that’s not even the point. Someone broke into my house and rigged up a nine millimeter in the cubby Eric stays in during the daytime. When he opened the doors, he was shot in the chest. If I would have opened those doors, I woulda been shot in the head,” she explained to him and again there was silence.
“Motherfucker,” Jason muttered and then asked, “Got any ideas who done it?”
“Pretty sure it was one of two people. A friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend. She thinks he’s been cheatin’ on her with me but Alcide and I aren’t that way. It’s a long story and most of it you couldn’t even put in a formal complaint but the important thing is that she thinks I’m tryin’ to steal her man.” Sookie sighed.
“But ain’t you with that tall, blond vampire now?” Sookie could practically see the confusion on her brother’s face. “I know you ain’t the type to step out on a fella.”
“Yes, I’m still with Eric. Debbie’s just a little bit crazy,” Sookie told him. “Look, I’ll be happy to tell you everything, Jase, but… well… Debbie and Alcide are werewolves.”
“Shit,” Jason muttered. “You know, if I wouldn’ta been kidnapped by those fuckin’ werepanthers, I’d think you was crazy.”
“I know,” she sighed again. “Listen, this isn’t the kind of thing you can put in your report but seein’ as they ain’t vampires I thought it was best to come to you with this. I mean, she broke into my house and that’s against the law, werewolf or not.”
“Damn right it is. I’ll get on over there and see if we can’t get some fingerprints or something.” Jason offered. “Y’all didn’t mess with the gun, didya?”
“Eric disarmed it so it wouldn’t fire again but he left it rigged up where they put it,” Sookie told him. “And I did invite Debbie into the house a couple of days ago but she didn’t ever touch anything other than things in the kitchen.”
“You invited her into Gran’s house?” Jason didn’t sound too thrilled with that.
“My house. Well, technically, I guess it’s still Eric’s house, but that’s not even the point. Gran woulda encouraged me to forgive Debbie for what she did in the past and I was tryin’ to for Alcide’s sake. Anyway, that’s over now. Bill’s got some of his guards checkin’ up on the house but he knows that you’re on top of this one. If you need me to come in and fill out some paperwork I can do that after sunset when Eric is up.” Sookie promised him.
“Yeah, I’mma need you to write up a statement for me. If you can give me a number of where I can contact that Alcide fella, I’ll see if I can’t find Debbie myself,” Jason said and it was strange to hear him connecting dots so easily.
It was kind of amazing how good Jason was at being a cop. Sookie never would have guessed it was a profession her brother was good at, but he seemed to take it pretty seriously. He’d grown up a lot in the year she was gone and she was sorry she hadn’t been around to watch the transition. When she’d left, he was still the sort who was led by points south of his waistline and even though he was still capable of slipping up from time to time, Jason was definitely more responsible than he’d been in the past.
“Thank you, Jason; I appreciate it. I’ll call you when Eric and I are on our way to Bon Temps,” Sookie promised.
They made a few minutes of small talk and she considered asking Jason about Sam but she figured if he knew anything about Tommy he would have said something. They got off the phone a few minutes later and Sookie headed back into the house. She hemmed and hawed for a few minutes before dialing Alcide’s number.
“Herveaux,” Alcide answered the phone.
“Alcide, its Sookie.”
“Everything alright?” Alcide sounded concerned.
“No,” Sookie said and then went on to tell Alcide what had happened the night before.
He growled and said, “I’m sorry, Sookie. Is there anything I can do?”
“Try and find out where Debbie’s hanging out so my brother can pick her up for breaking into my house,” Sookie told him.
“I’ll see what I can do but Marcus and I aren’t really on speaking terms anymore,” Alcide grumbled.
“Anything you can do I would appreciate. Oh! Have you heard anything from Sam? I’m worried about him. I called Merlotte’s earlier to check on him and one of waitresses said Sam hasn’t been around in the last couple of days.”
“I haven’t seen him since the night Tommy died. If I hear anything I’ll be sure to let you know,” Alcide promised.
“Thanks. I’ll keep you updated on Debbie.”
“Likewise. Take care of yourself, Sookie.”
“You, too,” Sookie said and they hung up.
Sookie closed her phone and rested her head against the back of the chaise lounge. The sun was just starting to dip in the sky but there had to be at least an hour before sunset. Sookie watched the colors change as the sun got lower and thought about how different her life would be if she hadn’t met Alcide. Quite honestly, Russell would have found her even if she wouldn’t have gone to Jackson in search of Bill. Actually, Sookie had made it easier for Russell to get his hands on her by going to look for Bill, and what good had finding Bill done her?
Finding Bill had forced her to kill Lorena—which she found odd since it was Sookie’s understanding that a vampire’s child couldn’t cause the death of the maker. As vile a creature at Lorena could be, Sookie hadn’t been thrilled with being the one who killed her. Too many people had died already. And in thanks for setting him free, Bill had drained her in the back of Alcide’s van. He could have killed her but in looking back, she realized that was partially her own fault. What was she thinking cutting her arm like that for a wounded vampire? Of course he latched onto her like he did! But the fact that Bill had covered her mouth to silence her screams for help was very telling.
Eric had fed from Sookie when he was wounded and he’d never tried to overpower her or take more than he needed. Yet it was Bill who was ‘concerned’ about other vampires being able to exorcise his level of control? Sookie’s eyes watered a little when she thought of all the mistakes she’d made in the past. She’d been so uneducated about that world and she’d been thrown into the deep end. Bill had been so unwilling to share things with her, to tell her how to keep herself safe. He’d made her dependent on him and she had convinced herself that it was okay because he loved her.
But Eric loved her too and he never took away her ability to make choices for herself. He would give her the information to make better informed decisions. He had given her a choice about taking his blood and he had explained what a blood bond was before letting her decide if it was something she wanted. If she would have said no, he would have accepted it. Bill, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been so okay with Sookie saying no. But then again, would Sookie have said no?
She realized she probably wouldn’t have had the guts to turn him down, but she wouldn’t have been enthusiastic about it either. She would have done it because she loved him and it was what he wanted. She would have ended up trapped in a relationship with a vampire she had some pretty significant doubts about, and to find out in the end that it had all pretty much been a lie from the very beginning had broken her. Too many people had let her down or betrayed her and to learn that Bill was just another in a long line of users made her sick to her stomach.
After all they’d been through and all the sacrifices she’d made for him, it turned out he was just using her. Maybe he didn’t have a choice in the matter and he was just acting on the orders of his queen… she could give him a little leeway on that but that didn’t excuse the lying. Nor did it excuse him allowing her to nearly get beaten to death after she saved his life. Was it all a set up from the start? She would never know the truth since Bill had made sure to cover his tracks by killing the Rattrays and she sure has hell couldn’t trust anything Bill said anymore.
The sun had been below the horizon for less than a minute when the sliding patio door opened and Eric came outside. He knelt beside the chaise lounge, concerned by the sadness and disappointment he felt in Sookie. She turned her head toward his but didn’t smile like she normally would.
“You know this isn’t quite how I’d hoped to wake up today,” Eric leaned over and kissed her forehead.
“I’m sorry. I was just out here thinking about some things,” she admitted and gave him a weak half smile.
Eric pulled her up and shifted them so he was sitting behind her. His feet touched the cobblestone on either side of the chair and Sookie leaned back against his chest. Eric wrapped his arms around her shoulders, holding her tightly to him. He breathed in the smell of sunshine that clung to her hair and skin.
“I talked to my brother; he’s going to go out to my house and dust for fingerprints. We have to go to the sheriff’s office and sign some paperwork to file the complaint formally. Jason knows that Debbie is a werewolf but that he can’t put that in the report. Sam is still missing and I’m worried about him. His brother died; I should be there for him. He was there for me when Gran died. And I called Alcide to see if he would know where Debbie might be. He’s going to get in touch with Jason and cooperate in any way he can. He feels awful about what happened,” Sookie spoke quietly; her emotions still conflicted, leaving her in turmoil.
“We’ll go see your brother and then I have to get to Fangtasia. Will you come with me?” Eric kissed the side of her head.
Sookie nodded and asked, “Can we stay here just a little while longer? I’d like to just sit here with you if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” he hugged her a little tighter and they stayed that way, perfectly silent and calm, until the sky was full dark.