Getting back before sunrise that first night was impossible. The queen had insisted they stay the day and feed with her before returning to Area 5. Nora had been bullshitting the queen when she claimed to be a telepath, but the queen was too paranoid to test Nora’s skills. She was, however, very curious to hear what Nora had to say about any possible treason that might be going on behind her back.
Eric hadn’t rested at all that day. He stood guard over Nora while she rested to ensure that neither of them was staked during daylight hours. The last ten minutes before sunrise were the most difficult for him. In order to allow Eric a little rest before going down to feed with the queen, Nora had put on quite a vocal show to give the impression that Eric was rocking her world. She’d made sure they were covered with blankets just in case there was a camera somewhere in the room keeping a watchful eye on them.
With vampires, one could never be too careful.
Nora kept it up for an hour before rousing Eric in a way she hadn’t since she was a newly turned vampire centuries before. No sooner was he awake than he had Nora pinned underneath him, fangs out and a look of fury on his face.
“Those days are over, Nora,” he hissed at her.
She had smiled at him and said, “That’s not what everyone else in the house is going to think, so suck it up and play along.”
Eric had played along to the best of his ability; even feeding from a young man that he couldn’t have been less attracted to if it was Bill Compton’s neck he was drinking from. When the feeding was over, Eric insisted he needed to return to his area to handle his duties as sheriff. He and Nora were excused for the time being, although she warned she might call them back if problems with Bill arose. Already he was being summoned to her court.
“Which of them do you think will meet the True Death?” Nora asked once she and Eric were airborne and headed for Shreveport.
“It’s hard to say. They’re both power hungry bitches,” Eric mused.
“I have a meeting to attend. I’ll inform you of the outcome with Mississippi once a decision has been handed down,” Nora promised him, and then turned in another direction.
The flight to Caddo Lake had taken a little more than an hour, and when Eric landed on the island he was relieved to see that nothing looked disturbed. There were no signs of struggle. What worried him, however, was that he didn’t catch Sookie’s scent easily. He should have been able to find her by traces of that alone since she would have had to come outside with the puppy. He didn’t scent the dog either.
His blood told him that she was right where she was supposed to be. Quickly he rolled the boulder over and went through the process of opening the cave. The second the door opened Moli came shooting out of the cave and found an unmarked spot to cover with her scent. Eric let her be while he went down to check on Sookie. He found her lying in bed, her heartbeat and breathing slow and steady as she slept. There was a white flower in her hand, but he didn’t dare touch it.
It was curious, however, how it had gotten there. The flower certainly didn’t grow anywhere on the island. He went to the security system with the intention of rewinding the last eighteen hours to see how the flower had gotten there. He didn’t scent any scents other than Sookie’s, Moli’s and his own down in that little cavern.
“Sookie,” he spoke softly, but got no result. She didn’t flinch or make a sound.
Assuming she was just in a deep sleep, Eric let her be for the moment and went outside to fetch Moli. There were little dog messes around the cavern that needed to be cleaned up, suggesting that Sookie had been asleep for quite some time. It was true her schedule was probably all out of whack with all of the time she had been spending with him, and that was something Eric resolved to change. He didn’t want her to make herself sick because she wasn’t eating or sleeping the way a human should.
Eric pulled his cell phone from his pocket and placed a call to Pam. He hadn’t felt comfortable enough to make such a call in the queen’s house. The phone had barely rung before Pam was answering.
“You’re alive,” she said with relief.
“Of course I am. She made me stay to feed tonight, or I would have been back sooner,” Eric explained.
“A fax came in about ten minutes ago,” Pam told him,
“Put it in a manila envelope and then in the safe. That is confidential. I don’t even want Chow to read it, am I understood?”
“Yes, Master,” Pam answered. “Will you be here tonight?”
“No. Tonight I am with Sookie, but I will be in tomorrow.”
“I will come to you,” Pam offered.
“No. You will stay at Fangtasia and everything will appear to be business as usual. Nora has gone off to attend Russell Edgington’s trial. When I find out what his fate is I will inform you. A Were was sent to attack Sookie last night, so keep your eyes open in case they come to the bar,” Eric warned.
“I’m not a dog catcher, Eric,” she grumbled. Pam hated the smell of Were.
“Tonight you are, and I’m in no mood for your petulance and laziness,” he said in a hard voice.
The conversation didn’t last much longer before Eric hung up so Pam could go back to work at the bar. He brought Moli back into the cave and again tried to wake Sookie. She was still in her deep sleep. She was breathing just fine. Her heart was beating steadily. Her blood said she was calm and happy, so whatever she was dreaming about must have been pleasant. He let her be, but went to the bathroom to shower and get the smell of the young man he’d fed from off of him.
After changing clothes and downing a TruBlood (it was actually better than the human he’d had), Eric stretched out on the bed beside Sookie and let himself go into downtime. He knew that the slightest move from her would make him alert again, but she didn’t move. There wasn’t as much as a twitch of her fingers.
He woke before sunrise to see that Sookie was still out cold beside him. He tried again to wake her, but to no avail. He got up to check the cameras to see if he could find how long she had been asleep, and after a few minutes discovered she’d been out for about twenty-four hours. That wasn’t right. Something had to be wrong with her. He checked her for injuries, but found nothing wrong.
As a last resort he called Dr. Ludwig, wondering if it was possible Sookie had slipped into a coma somehow. Perhaps she’d had a stroke in her sleep. It was rare for a human as young as Sookie to suffer such a thing, but it wasn’t impossible. Dr. Ludwig was the one supernatural he trusted in that secret space, and she popped herself in to give Sookie a once over.
“She’s resting, Vampire. No doubt you’ve worn her out,” Dr. Ludwig stared at him with annoyance in her eyes. “She’s just a little girl, you know.”
“She’s been asleep for twenty-four hours. She hasn’t moved at all,” he argued.
“Exhaustion will do that,” Dr. Ludwig said, and it was just Eric’s luck that the doctor was there when Sookie’s hands began to glow. “She’s fae. You didn’t tell me she’s fae.”
“What difference does that make?” Eric asked.
“Move,” Dr. Ludwig pushed him out of the way. “Did you bring her this?” she pointed to the flower in Sookie’s hand.
“No, it was here when I arrived. I was wondering where it came from,” he said.
“It’s a Comet Orchid from the genus Angraecum, also known as…” Dr. Ludwig stopped talking as the sweet smell of Plumeria filled the air. “The Summerland. Your little fairy has gone home.”
“How do I get her back?” Eric demanded.
“You wait. Her physical body is still here, so they don’t plan to keep her. She’ll wake up when she’s good and ready and not a minute before. Just let her be. Call me again if her body disappears,” Dr. Ludwig said nonchalantly.
“That’s it?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes, that’s it. I’ll send my bill,” Dr. Ludwig said with a smirk and then disappeared as quickly as she came.
So Eric followed the doctor’s advice and waited for Sookie to wake up. He paced like a caged lion doing the nighttime hours, blowing off everything else in his life to keep a vigil for her. There was no way of knowing how long she would stay asleep. Not once did she move the entire time Sookie was asleep. He left her only to take Moli outside, and once for an hour to go to Fangtasia to retrieve the papers that had been faxed to him from the queen’s attorney. He would discuss them with Sookie when she woke up.
Finally, on his second night back his patience started to give way. He was on the verge of shaking Sookie awake, if need be, when his phone rang. Nora was calling.
“Northman,” he answered.
“The trial is concluded,” she said.
“There was insufficient evidence to support the claims made. The king has been put on probation for the term of a decade,” she said.
Ten years was a drop in the bucket for a vampire as old as Russell, but it would certainly make maneuvering much more difficult if he was the vampire running a group of Nazi Werewolves.
“There’s something else of note you should be aware of,” Nora said. “A character witness spoke on his behalf.”
“Not Sophie-Anne, I presume,” he said.
“No, his child, Lorena. While Russell may not be able to act, he is still within his right to command Lorena to act in his stead,” Nora told him.
That was a problem. A very big problem.
“Lorena is Bill’s Maker,” Eric revealed.
“Then he needs to be taken out, Eric. You need to convince Sookie—”
“She’s suffered enough! If I must, I will take him out myself,” Eric said.
“Your weakness for her is a problem, Eric. You’re not thinking clearly,” Nora argued. “Use her to your advantage before your inaction gets her killed.”
Eric didn’t like the implications of what Nora was suggesting, that he wasn’t acting in Sookie’s best interest, or that he wasn’t adequately protecting her, but he supposed that was true as long as he allowed the threats to remain. They were running and hiding instead of fighting back. There would always be someone out there just waiting to get their hands on her. The truth of what she was wouldn’t stay secret forever.
After Eric got off the phone he resumed pacing. His patience was running thin, and he wanted nothing more than for Sookie to wake up. Finally the impatience and anxiety got the better of him and he tried waking her again.
“Sookie, open your eyes,” he commanded in a harsh whisper.
“But my eyes are open,” she mumbled, but her eyes were most definitely not open.
Eric leaned over her, elated to hear her voice for the first time in days. “No, Sookie,” he touched her cheek gently and her hands began to glow again. “Open your eyes, lover.”
Her eyes fluttered open and there were flecks of green in them that he didn’t recall having been there before. She reached up with a glowing hand still holding the orchid, and gasped when she realized there was light coming from her skin.
“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.