Eric landed in New Orleans just outside the French Quarter, and began to maneuver his way through the crowds. He sent a text message to Nora to let her know he had arrived, and he received one back with her location. He found her in an alley off of Bourbon Street, fangs deep in a pretty, dark haired woman. Eric could smell the Creole in her blood, and while his fangs twitched in his jaw, he ordered them to stay put.
“Want a taste?” Nora pulled away from the bleeding woman’s neck long enough to ask.
“No, thank you,” Eric said politely.
“Are you sure? She’s divine,” Nora attempted to entice him.
Eric remained quiet, knowing there was no chance in hell whatever Nora was feeding on was ever going to surpass Sookie’s blood. While they hadn’t discussed it exactly, Eric made the assumption that feeding from another human would be an issue for her. Sookie was aware of the strong ties between sex and blood, and the last thing he needed was for her to think he had fucked another woman.
He realized then that the queen may require it of him. She could put him in a room of a thousand women and command him to feed from, and fuck them all before allowing his release. That was something he hadn’t prepared Sookie for. It would be meaningless to him, but it would hurt Sookie and Sophie-Anne wasn’t above doing something just like that to make her point.
The woman Nora was feeding from was panting and moaning, and just as the noises were about to reach their crescendo, Nora’s hand came up to cover the woman’s mouth. The wounds were healed, the glamouring was completed and the confused meal was on her way to wherever she was going next. Nora licked the excess blood from her lips, leaving them just slightly stained, and smiled at Eric.
“She’s got you trained already? That’s impressive,” she goaded.
Eric was in no mood for bantering over Sookie, and therefore completely disregarded Nora’s bait.
“A werewolf was sent from Mississippi to attack, and most likely abduct, Sookie. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” Eric fixed his eyes on Nora.
“No, I wouldn’t,” she said simply.
“Is Russell Edgington in the magister’s custody?” he asked.
“The last I heard a trial was going to be taking place via video conference. I’m scheduled to attend it tomorrow night. To answer your question, yes, the magister has made contact with Russell Edgington and his home in Jackson has been locked down for the time being. No one is coming or going from the home,” Nora said.
“But he still has the ability to make phone calls or converse with members of his staff?”
“I don’t know. I suppose that’s true,” Nora shrugged. “You think he sent the Were?”
“I know the Were was from Jackson. I also know the Were had a brand on his neck that matches the brand I have seen on other wolves that drink vampire blood,” he said.
“The Nazi Werewolves…” she supplied, although Eric already knew that much. “It is curious what they would want with a human woman from Bon Temps.”
“I don’t think they were acting alone,” Eric told her and continued, “We need to head over to the queen’s compound.”
Since they were undercover in an ally, they launched into the sky and Eric led the way to Sophie-Anne’s home. It was hard to miss since it didn’t look like any other house in all of New Orleans. It wasn’t every day a house was surrounded by a mote and constructed out of expensive Italian marble with intricate carvings. Hell, Sophie-Anne’s name was chiseled above the front door along with what might have been her family’s crest when she was human. Cacti were planted in lieu of bushes, and staggered marble slabs created a walkway for visitors.
The front door was frosted glass framed in wrought iron… good for keeping fairies away. Not that they needed to be able to open a door. Fairies had the kind of magic that allowed them to simply take form wherever they wished to go, whether it was someone’s home, a church, an airplane in flight or a surgical suite during an operation. As long as there was no iron to impede their passage, a fairy could turn up anywhere at any time.
And they were vicious little fuckers.
Like other supernaturals they had enhanced reflexes and senses, but their speed wasn’t quite on parallel with vampires. They were hard to catch, but not impossible. He wondered if Sookie’s fairy kin knew she was potentially in trouble at the moment, what with Sophie-Anne’s interest in her. Generally the fae were highly protective of their kind, but Sookie was a hybrid so he wasn’t sure how that would factor into things.
Knowing what line she came from would be very helpful. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure how he was going to figure that out.
The front door opened without either vampire knocking on it. Nora took Eric’s arm and in Morse code she tapped out, “By my count there are eight guards in front and six on the roof.”
Eric gave a slight nod in acknowledgement, agreeing with her summation. Marble mosaics decorated the floor every few feet, and there were jewel toned marble inlays in the walls as well. It was, as Sookie would have called it, tacky as sin. The house screamed of someone who was trying too hard to show off her wealth, leading Eric to wonder just how rich the queen really was. The state had been suffering since Katrina. The first year after the hurricane had wiped it out, a great deal of the vampires had left due to the evacuations and lack of fresh food.
One could only subsist on synthetics for so long, after all.
There was so much more to feeding than just the simple act of obtaining nutrients. Feeding was the physical manifestation of what made a vampire a vampire, and the human act of simply opening a bottle just didn’t cut it after a while. A vampire needed to hunt—stalk its prey and give chase. Just thinking about it reminded him of earlier in the evening when Sookie had run from him and it took everything in him not to turn and leave the meeting to return to Sookie instead.
“All this wasteful opulence excites you?” Nora tapped against his arm in code, and she got a growl in response.
A vampire in an expensive suit and a pair of Ray Bans appeared. He looked like a secret service agent or one of the Men in Black.
“The queen is behind schedule but she’ll see you in her day room shortly,” the man said and led them to the same room Eric had met Sophie-Anne in previously.
She was so proud of this little room although Eric couldn’t figure out why. All she’d done was put too many halogen lights in the ceiling. There was no mistaking sunlight for anything else. There was no warmth coming from the lights, no clouds moving overhead, to create shadows. There was no breeze. There was the smell of chlorine coming from the swimming pool, the stale air being pumped through the air conditioner and of course, the heavy scent of desperation.
“I’ve seen little children with better taste,” Nora tapped against Eric’s arm, and that got the corner of his mouth to lift.
The two of them looked around the room, more than likely trying to figure out what their escape route would be should the need arise. Eric noted the cameras in the corners and tapped a message to Nora relaying that information. They were able to do it so quickly that even if the cameras caught the action, it would be too fast for anyone to decipher what their messages were.
Finally, after keeping them waiting for close to an hour, the queen finally made her entrance into the day room. She was dressed in white, as she almost always was. Her hair was styled as if she’d just stepped out of a film noir movie set, and Eric was willing to bed the expensive looking earrings hanging from her lobes were nothing more than paste and costume jewelry. Already he was certain the silk upholstered sofas place sporadically along the walls were reproductions and not original pieces brought over from France.
“Sheriff…” Sophie-Anne said as she approached, her eyes flitting over to Nora.
“Your Majesty, it’s lovely to see you again,” he said, but was careful not to lay on the charm too thick. “This is Nora. Nora, this is Sophie-Anne LeClerq.”
Nora and Sophie-Anne nodded to one another instead of shaking hands, as was custom among their kind.
“I thought you would be bringing the telepath with you this evening,” Sophie-Anne said through a clenched jaw.
“Not tonight, Your Majesty. Tonight, I have something else I need to discuss with you,” Eric said.
“The only things I’m interested in discussing are the telepath you stole from me,” her eyes blazed. “And ways to increase the cash flow in this state. I swear it’s sucking me dry.”
Eric didn’t both to mention she had more than likely wasted millions of dollars on the construction of the very room they were standing in.
“Majesty, I was unaware you had an agreement in place with Sookie at the time I became involved with her,” Eric pointed out, and the queen hissed at him.
“Cut the shit, Northman,” she fired back. “Compton told me everything.”
“I doubt that,” Eric smirked. “In fact, I think you’d be very interested to know just how much he hasn’t told you.”
Sophie-Anne’s fangs lowered and her eyes blazed as she asked, “What do you know?”
“It’s what I know,” Nora volunteered.
“Who the fuck are you?” Sophie-Anne asked in a blasé manner.
“I’m Eric’s sister,” Nora said, looping her arm through Eric’s again. “I’m also a telepath.”
Sookie tried to keep herself calm by pacing the length of the room she was in. It was the size of a large bedroom, but not much bigger than that. She’d never been the claustrophobic sort in the past, but being underwater was different. She could hear the water moving around her thanks to the vampire blood in her system, and every time some water dwelling creature swam by she heard the swish of it. Moli was asleep on the floor, and had been for the last hour.
Eric had promised to try and return to her before sunrise, but seeing as how it was getting close to four in the morning, she didn’t think that was going to happen. She checked the security monitors again just because she was feeling a bit paranoid, and also because she hoped to see a giant land near the cave entrance. The only thing she saw moving was a pair of squirrels chasing each other. She sighed heavily and moved on to the bookcases.
Sookie pulled one of the oldest looking books from the shelf and just as she suspected, the language she found inside was undecipherable to her. It was a series of symbols that could have been Egyptian, for all she knew. The only other language she could even read a little bit of was French, and she certainly wasn’t fluent in it. She had only taken two French classes in high school, which meant she knew enough to be able to ask where the bathroom was, or how to find the police if she had been robbed.
She consulted a few other volumes but learned absolutely nothing from any of them. After another half hour of pacing, she finally curled up on the large bed and hugged one of the pillows in attempts to convince herself that it was Eric she was cuddled up to. It did her no good. His scent didn’t linger there and the pillow was too soft. All the same, she closed her eyes and tried to relax her mind enough that she could fall asleep.
It took a while, but eventually, Sookie dropped off.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m being pulled toward it. When I look down my clothes have been replaced with a flowing white gown. I touch my hair and my ponytail is gone… replaced with elegant curls. A pendant hangs from my neck made of gold in the shape of a sunburst. There is a crown on my head made of ivy, and there are flowers in my hair where it’s pinned at the nape of my neck. I pull a flower to see a white orchid of some sort, but I don’t know which kind it is.
“Sookie,” I hear a woman whisper to me. Her voice is coming from the light.
“Gran?” I ask hopefully and start to run toward the light. I want to see Gran. Gran will explain all of this to me.
When I get to the end of the tunnel I don’t see Gran anywhere. Instead I find myself standing in a beautiful meadow with glowing orbs up in the trees. A serene pond is but a few feet away.
“Sookie,” the woman calls my name again. She’s got a faint Irish lilt to her voice. I turn my head to the right and there she is.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” the woman says as she steps closer with a glowing pitcher in her hand.
“Who are you?” I ask, and realize I’m holding a glass in my hand that wasn’t there moments ago.
“I am called Claudine,” she says and fills my glass with whatever is glowing in the pitcher. “Taste it. There is nothing else like it.”
I sniff the glass first and it smells like Gran’s lemonade, only a bit sweeter. The second the glowing liquid hits my tongue I want more. I drain my glass quickly and feel myself replenishing something I didn’t know was even missing. Claudine refills my glass over and over while I drink my fill. Slowly, more people start to enter the meadow. Some of them lounge in the sunlight while others begin to frolic in the pond. I flinch when water splashes toward me.
“Have no fear. Water cannot harm you here,” Claudine whispers to me.
Her hair is dark and curled, but left hanging loosely. There isn’t a crown on her head, but there are intricate flowers made of lace and silk sewn to her dress. Her eyes are grey with just the littlest hint of green in them. Her lips are thin and glossy. She smells like summertime.
“Where am I, Claudine? How do you know who I am?” I ask.
“You see this?” she lifts her pendant and I realize it’s the same as mine. “We are cousins, dear Sookie.”
“But I don’t—”
“I’m from the fairy side of your kin,” Claudine cuts me off.
“But how did I get here? Where is here?”
“Here is the Summerland, where all fairies live. You got here by magic, of course,” Claudine smiles warmly at me.
“Magic? Like hocus pocus and abra cadabra?” I snort.
“Not even close,” Claudine laughs and puts an arm around me.
I feel a closeness to her that has nothing to do with her arm being around me. I feel as though I belong, and it takes me a few moments to realize that I’m not the only telepath in the crowd. In fact, everyone in the meadow can read minds as well. They all greet me kindly, with smiles and acceptance. I have never felt so… comfortable.
“Why am I here?” I ask her.
“Because it’s your time, my dear,” Claudine sits at the edge of the pond and when her feet touch the water it begins to glow.
I sit and do the same, delighting in the glow coming from the water wherever my feet move in it. I’ve never seen anything like this.
“You’re in a tough spot now, Sookie. Aligning yourself with vampires is a dangerous thing for the likes of us,” Claudine warns.
“Eric will protect me,” I say with confidence.
“The Viking’s heart is pure,” Claudine agrees.
“You know Eric?”
“I’ve been watching and listening.”
“You can read vampires’ minds?”
“So can you, if you choose,” Claudine tells me.
“No, I don’t want to read Eric’s mind. I’ve been lookin’ for silence all my life,” I tell her, and she puts a sympathetic hand on my shoulder.
“You can turn it off, Sookie,” Claudine tells me. “Give me your hand.”
I hold my hand out to Claudine and she grips it tightly. I feel as if she’s transferring something to me, and then she leans over to kiss my forehead.
“There,” she says with a beaming smile. “All done.”
“What did you do?” I ask her nervously.
“The next time you are in a room full of humans just imagine yourself closing a door in your mind, and it will keep all of the unwanted thoughts away,” Claudine says.
“Just close a door?” I ask incredulously.
“That’s it; just close the door. Try it now, if you like,” she says, looking around at the other telepaths in the meadow.
The sound of their minds is a pleasant white noise, like the pitch of an old television getting nothing but snow. Yet when I close the door in my mind, it all stops. Everything is silent and the only voice I hear is my own.
“It worked!” I say with excitement and wrap her in a hug. “Where have you been all my life?”
Claudine laughs and says, “Here. Waiting for you.”
“How do I get back if I ever want to see you again?” I ask, and move my feet in the water. It feels as warm as a bath would.
“Just close your eyes and think yourself here,” she says.
“And how do I get home again?”
“Open your eyes,” she says.
“But my eyes are open,” I argue with her.
“No, Sookie,” her voice takes on a more masculine tone. “Open your eyes, lover.”
Sookie’s eyes opened to find Eric standing over her with a strange look on his face, his hand on her cheek and his eyes moving up and down the length of her body. When she reached up to touch his face she realized her hands were glowing, and there was one of those white orchids in it.
“It was real!” she said in disbelief.
“What was real?” Eric asked.
“My dream. I was in the Summerland with the fairies and… it was real…” she said as the glow began to fade. The way Eric was looking at her was still puzzling so she asked, “Eric, what’s wrong?”
“Sookie, you’ve been asleep for three days,” he said.