Sookie breathed, “There,” and pointed to the back of the hotel, letting her finger track Bill and Lorena’s progress as they approached. Such a practical defensive skill.
“Are you sure it’s them? Are they moving together?”
She was so tense that her nod barely registered. “Lorena’s pretty calm, but Bill’s freaking out.”
“His mind is really busy. Pissed, probably in trouble too. Lorena blames him for everything.”
“Of course, she does. Otherwise, she’d have to admit to being a complete failure as a Maker… Try to not react to seeing them again. Unless you prefer that I torture them for a while, they’ll be ended quickly too.”
“Comeuppance for what they did to you. I haven’t been in the Area, but I can…”
She shook her head. “No. I just want it to be over. Please.”
“We probably should have discussed this sooner, but this is your liberation. How do you want it to play out?” She was still nervously focusing on the wall, pointing to let me know how much time we had. As Compton reached the large front window, he stopped and stared, needing a shove from his Maker so that he would keep walking. “If you want them in silver or tortured in any way, all you have to do is say so. You’ve leveraged yourself for a decade… My dear, you should get exactly what you want for that price.”
She was visibly shaking. “I think I’d be… I’d be scared they would escape… just… just fast is good.”
“Fast is also known as anticlimactic, I’m told.”
“It… I think it’ll make me feel better to get it over with. Fast. Thanks.”
As the air hissed out of the front door to the hotel, I warned, “Very well. No complaining later.”
She nodded. “Yes sir…” when she realized she called me ‘sir’ again, she apologized.
Lorena swept into the room, oozing faux grace with Compton on her heels like the obedient bitch he was.
She managed to pretend that her ‘sister’ wasn’t puddled behind me, but Bill looked like he might have been sweating.
“Eric Northman. Long time, no see. What brings you back to Louisiana?”
She feigned a sympathetic pout and drawled, “Sookie is not for sale.”
“Showing your true colors, Lorena. Why would you think I’d be making an offer?”
“You mentioned that you wanted to negotiate.”
“I wasn’t suggesting I’d be buying Sookie. How could one possibly assign a cash value to something so priceless? No. I intend to negotiate Sookie’s compensation for what you’ve done to her while you’ve held her against her will.” I should’ve taken a picture. If they could shit, they would have. Bill and Lorena faltered enough to show that their knees weakened.
Compton blurted, “Sookie is Mine. You won’t be negotiating anything.”
“Actually, Sookie is Mine. Since you seem to have a hard time with this concept, let me explain… Gwen had the same difficulty. You can either cooperate or you can be ended and the Queen can compensate Sookie from your estates.”
Bill ignored me, because he was completely retarded… “Sookie. Get. Over. Here. NOW.” Lorena pushed against Compton’s chest in an effort to shut him up.
Sookie’s leg twitched autonomously, like it was trying to override that she knew I wasn’t going to let Compton hurt her anymore.
I shook my head. “Compton, you don’t get to address my pet. Sookie is Mine. You have been holding her against her will for four months now. You murdered her grandmother and brother. You burned her house down. We’ll start at $100,000,000.”
Lorena gasped, “That’s insane!”
“If you insist. $200,000,000.”
“That isn’t what I meant! She’s hardly worth $200,000,000! She’s just a…”
“She’s a partial-Fae telepath. I know exactly what she is, how she tastes and everything she excels at doing. She’d make a better Vampire than either of you imperceptive cunts… She’s more than earned it.”
“For GWEN! Not for us!”
I chuckled at them. “That would make you even dumber than I thought… Caging and torturing a girl without an incentive of your own? Tisk-tisk... It’s not that I had been of the belief you would ever be more than the whore you were as a Human… but just because your disgusting gash was hardly worth the two-pence per ride you charged…”
That was Lorena’s breaking point… and her downfall.
As soon as I reminded her that she’d been nothing but a filthy moll, she darted towards me…
She may very well have thought she was going to frighten me or perhaps she was too stupid to realize she couldn’t sneak up on me…
It didn’t matter.
Lorena’s momentum put the stake into her chest for me. All I had to do was hold it up… for that matter, her momentum is also responsible for how I ended up covered with her sludge. At least it didn’t seem to get on the computer.
Lorena’s bits were still settling when Compton, fine example of Vampire discipline and audacity that he was, ran.
The piece of shit darted through the front door of the hotel at a hilariously spineless velocity.
I kissed Sookie’s forehead, promising to be back in just a moment.
Truth be told, I hadn’t had so much fun in ages… reasons for my extracurricular activity notwithstanding, of course.
I hadn’t gotten my hands dirty in a while.
Compton had the gall to be surprised that I caught him. He’d run in a straight line down the street, leaving a ghastly trail of fear for me to follow. It wasn’t like I had to try. Asshole.
He kicked and squirmed, feeling my legs in the hopes of finding a weapon. “You’ll burn for this.”
I locked my arm under his jaw and let him dangle while I flew back towards the hotel. “I don’t think I will, but I’d be willing to report myself, if you like.”
He grunted, “What?”
“I’ll call the Queen and explain that I had to rescue her telepath from you… after you lied to her and told her Sookie wasn’t interested in seeing Hadley. That will go well, I think. We should do that when we get back.”
“What do you want?”
“I want the Sookie that you abused away. Can you arrange for that?”
“She’s a stubborn cunt. You can’t train that one. Lorena’s threatened to end me… she’ll submit and just when you think she’s trained to something, she’ll bite your hand.”
“You make that sound like a bad thing.”
“Humans need to submit. We are their betters.” What made Vampires ‘better’ than Humans was their lack of weaknesses. Sookie had already proven that she was, at her core, fearless and tough.
“Yet, if you ask a Faerie, you’ll be told the same… Sookie, at the very least, is better than other Humans. Pathetic Humans, make pathetic Vampires… you’re my case in point, lad.”
“I’m not a boy!”
“Grown men don’t snivel… Not that it matters… You’ll be nothing but a footnote soon enough.”
“Why not just take my head off now?”
“Because sweetheart, I have something special planned for you.”
Sookie scurried back to the wall when I returned with Bill.
She was absolutely horrified to see him again. I can only assume she thought I would have left his puddle wherever I found him.
“Don’t be frightened. I won’t let him…”
“You stupid slut! You’ll pay for this! A whole Queendom will be looking…” I didn’t let him finish his empty threat. I put my hand on either side of his jaw and squeezed, crushing his jaw severely enough that we would have a few minutes before he could say anything else.
Unfortunately, he moaned and wailed like a caned child.
“Shut the fuck up or I’ll relieve you of your voice box.”
He snorted when he nodded, his jaw still drooping.
I reached into his mouth, wiggling his fang to take it out by the root while he squirmed and resisted… I took my time removing the second one since it had been so hard for him to stay quiet for the first.
“Sookie, if you wouldn’t mind looking, I’m sure Gwen or Lorena kept a silver knife in one of their purses.”
She nodded, watching as she walked over to the table, barely paying attention to the contents of the purse as she riffled through it.
Sookie was shaking as she held the bowie knife out by the blade so that I could take it by the bone handle, careful to make sure that Compton couldn’t reach it.
He grunted, still unable to use his mouth for words.
“Do you know what my people used to do to rapists?”
He howled, immediately letting go of my arm to protect his dick with both hands… making it much easier for me.
One knife spiked through both hands and (at least grazing) his cock, lodging in his pelvis… the more he writhed, the more he hurt himself…
I could’ve fucked with him for days if it hadn’t been for the fact that Sookie’s face was soaked with tears again. I had to assume that she’d seen too much brutality to be able to enjoy the little bit of revenge I had in mind.
I nodded towards the stake I’d used for Lorena so that Sookie would grab it…
When she tried to hand it to me I guided it to Compton’s chest, poking it directly over his so-called heart.
She whimpered, shaking her head and stepping back. “I can’t…”
“Bill Compton lied and killed to steal you from your home, to take your life from you. Take it back.”
She bit her lip, shaking her head again, but stepping forward. “I… I’m afraid I’ll get you too.” Not broken.
I smiled at her and let go of Compton’s throat and held his shoulder instead. It wasn’t as though he was going far, but he needed to be held up.
“What if I miss?”
“It will be excruciating, but he won’t get away. You’ll have the chance to get it right… The offer still stands. I could cut him open and fill him with maggots. Do you want to know how quickly a Vampire can whither when their core is being devoured…?”
She shook her head and lifted the stake… I chuckled when she closed her eyes and had to encourage her to keep them open unless she wanted to miss.
Sookie sunk to her knees as Compton melted from my grasp. She shook and sobbed violently and if I hadn’t given her so much of my blood, I wouldn’t have known that what she was overcome with was relief.
Mary, the clerk, had been glamoured to give us a copy of Gwen’s room key and believe that two Vampires had entered the lobby to confront a third and that they’d all killed each other. Simple was usually better.
The room was a stereotypical double. Two full beds, a TV, a microscopic dinette set and a dresser… If the room didn’t stink of blood, hinting that it had been used for beatings and/or feedings, it wouldn’t have stood out at all.
I put the pilfered purses and laptop on the tiny table in the corner and set Sookie on the end of the bed.
Ransacking the closet and dresser, I found that all three of Sookie’s captors had a change of clothes stored there. While wearing Compton’s clothing wasn’t exactly inconspicuous, bare ankles would stand out less than being blood drenched.
I squatted down in front of Sookie, hoping she’d eventually speak again. “I know this isn’t ideal, but we need to clean up. As soon as we’re changed, we’ll go buy our own clothing.”
She sniffled and nodded.
“Normally, I’d say ‘ladies first’, but there are pieces of Lorena in my shirt. I win.”
She nodded again.
“Are you alright, Sookie?”
Another nod, but that time she made eye contact for a split second before looking back to the floor.
While I showered, I felt Sookie drifting further from me.
She had to know better than to think she could get away from me without my knowledge, but I didn’t think it would help my case if I went berserk and chased her. I’d reunite with her calmly and explain that she was free to leave my company as soon as she could maintain eye contact with someone.
Surprisingly, as I turned the water off and stepped out of the tub, I heard the door to the room open.
She jumped when I exited the bathroom, dropping her handful, still not looking at me. “I’m sorry… I… I… I remembered that there’s a lost and found in the laundry room. People leave stuff all the time. Especially by the pool. I’m sorry.” Impressive.
“How was your luck?”
She held a stack of clothes out for me. “It’ll probably fit better than Bill’s stuff… at least they won’t be highwaters.” The large t-shirt and jeans with a 34 inch inseam were definitely a step up from the medium and 36×30 leftovers from the fanged midget.
“Thank you. Did you find something for you?”
She nodded and tried to hold up her found ensemble and it made me wish I hadn’t killed them quickly. I didn’t have to ask… I knew she was asking me for approval.
I walked by her as dismissively as possible since I didn’t want her to think I was angry with her. “Brilliant idea then. Get your shower.”
“You don’t…” No. I didn’t.
“Get your shower. The mall will be closing soon.” It wasn’t. The mall was open until 10 and it was only just after 7. We had plenty of time, but I didn’t have the ability to kill, and re-kill Compton.
While I dressed I told myself over and over that she wasn’t broken.
She still had enough spirit to be angry and spiteful.
She was scared, but she didn’t know of a reason not to be.
She was submissive, but only because her survival instincts told her to be.
Until we had the time to talk, it was sensible for her to be suspicious. She was held captive for months and suddenly found herself belonging to a Vampire who enjoyed killing her previous owners.
And I had to hope that she was testing me and the length of her leash by leaving the room without me or my permission…
When I felt for her mood, thinking I might feel some semblance of her victory… I was met with uncertainty and melancholy.
I knocked on the door, more announcing my entrance than asking for an invitation. When I cracked the door I found Sookie sitting along the side of the tub nude, hugging her knees and watching the water go down the drain. Skin stretched over bone. She was easily 30 pounds lighter than her other self.
She answered with an inquisitive hum without looking in my direction or trying to cover herself at all.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m ok… I… I almost forgot how to do it.”
She nodded and put her legs over the side, standing up and closing the curtain halfway. “If I got to bathe, Bill did it.” I suddenly had the urge to go burn his gory remains.
“Are you feeling up to running errands tonight? We could check into another hotel so that you can rest instead.”
“Thanks. I’m ok.” Liar.
“Did you find a restaurant?”
“Yeah, but… I’m not really up for food right now. That was a little… gross.” Understandable. I was momentarily proud of myself for cleaning the bigger chunks out of the drain.
“We’ll shop first, then we’ll find somewhere for you to eat.”
“As long as you feel well.”
While we shopped, she tracked me. Not like the other Sookie who seemed to be browsing while waiting for her turn in a women’s boutique.
My Sookie matched every step I made as best she could. She was my shadow, just behind me and to the left with her hands clasped in front of her.
She had to be told what to buy. Not that I chose her clothing for her, but I felt as though I was shopping for an orphaned child.
What style of clothing she would normally wear… If she wore bras and panties or if she usually went without… hosiery… shoes… pajamas… a coat…
Shopping for 4 nights worth of clothing… nothing spectacular since we had no specific plans yet.
She had to try everything on since she didn’t know what size she wore anymore.
Even though she’d had an ample amount of my blood, there was an underlying weakness… she was still so frail.
I remembered that while shopping with the other Sookie, I thought she might never shut the fuck up. Shopping with Mine made me silently plead with her to give a verbal reply.
We were checking out before it occurred to me that she probably assumed that she’d be dressed like a doll since that was her only frame of reference…
Had it not been for Bill’s fangs, the pearly white little worry stones in my pocket, I probably would have broken something.
By the time we left the mall, the only thing open was a ‘Fridays’ but Sookie didn’t seem to mind. They served hot food on plates and that’s all she cared about.
I used my idle time in the restaurant as a chance to dig through Gwen’s hard drive again.
The file was that much more tempting now that there was time to kill.
I was only delayed in opening ‘Sookie’ by the waitress’s arrival to take Sookie’s order.
After watching Sookie bite her lip through indecision, I offered, “If you can’t find something appetizing, we can find somewhere else.”
She cringed. “That’s not it… I… it’s been a while… I’m having a hard time deciding. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t decide. Order all of it. Eat your fill and take the rest with us. There will be a microwave in our hotel room.”
“If you’re sure…”
“Positive. Get one of everything if you want.”
While she gave an order long enough for the waitress to laugh at her, I finally let myself click on the file that had been taunting me since I’d found it.
Listed by size, the first item was a document cataloging Sookie’s uses… names and dates… secrets she’d learned from pets, lies she’d overheard from politicians, and all of the ways Sookie had earned or saved them financially…
Everything from knowing the accurate values of the antiques Gwen traded to the itemized list of tributes that Sookie knew were light since she could sense dishonesty. Millions.
In just four months, Sookie earned, saved and found millions of dollars.
The original amount I suggested hadn’t been unfair.
They couldn’t spare the little it would have cost to feed and clothe Sookie properly when she put 9 figures, easily, into their pockets.
It was fucking unbelievable.
When the waitress delivered Sookie’s iced tea, she was more than willing to rent her cell phone to me since my brand new SIM card suddenly didn’t work anymore.
“Andre Cuif. How long has it been?”
“Good memory. I need to speak to your Maker.”
“Because I ended Gwen Roth tonight. We have a few things to settle.” Sookie’s heart might have frozen with the rest of her.
“YOU WHAT!?” That was the most emotional outburst I’d ever witnessed from the bland little cunt.
“I heard you! How do you justify ending one of HER Sheriffs?”
“That is something I’ll discuss with Sophie-Ann.”
“I’m not about…”
“You have your head up her ass far enough to consider her a sombrero, yes? Hello, Sophie-Ann.” Sookie covered her mouth with both hands and bit her tongue hard enough for me to feel it.
I could practically hear her eyes roll as she snatched the phone from her child. “Hello Northman. Explain.”
“A few months ago, you gave a troglodyte with fangs the task of meeting Hadley’s family. Since you didn’t bother telling him that you already knew about Sookie’s telepathy, the greedy fuck kept her to himself.”
“How is that…”
“Shut. Up. Show some respect before I annex your little sandbox. I’m getting there… His Maker and your recently departed Sheriff were sisters and have been keeping Sookie Stackhouse in a moldy cellar. Of course Compton murdered Adele and Jason first…”
“He… I didn’t think he had it in him. Initiative isn’t exactly in his resume.”
“Yes. I’m sure you would be quite proud to hear that she’s been abused for months and robbed of her life and family. Compton’s most successful venture was his last. The Gwen/Lorena/Bill puddle at the Holiday Inn Express has your name all over it.”
“Miss Stackhouse might have had the right to retribution, but by my account, you owe me a Sheriff.”
“Sorry love. I ran out of give-a-fuck years ago. Here’s what will happen… Sookie, by right, is owed recompense for the murders of her brother and grandmother and arson committed to her home. When you estimate the estates of the three Vampires so that you can send Sookie her settlement, keep in mind that I now have copies of their wills.”
“You’re so bold as to end them AND demand their estates? What makes you think…”
“Because, you silly little girl, if you don’t remit payment, I’ll be telling campfire stories with Arkansas and Nevada. You forget, I don’t care for your American political games. If you had any business in politics, you would have been allowed to play with the grownups in the Old World.”
Sophie-Ann huffed, “And when should I expect delivery of Miss Stackhouse?”
“When leprechauns start hiding their gold at the end of rainbows that spring from my asshole. Sookie Stackhouse belongs to me now.”
“I am a Queen!”
“And? Do you have any other questions?”
“Good. Make the check payable to Sookie Stackhouse and send it to me.”
“If you are in the States, I will find you.”
“If you find me, it will be because I’m on your lap. You know I have no ties here. 48 hours. Starting now. Bon chance.”
“How did Sookie contact you?”
“You know how. You call it a crossing, yes? Send a check. Replace your Sheriff. That should be simple enough that even you can manage it.”
Sookie’s face was soaked with more fear by the time I put the phone down.
All she could do is tremble.
“You know, I’ve seen your smile. It’s beautiful. You should do that more often.”
“Was that… was that really a Queen that… you…?”
“It was. I didn’t really take her seriously when I worked for her. The other Eric you met has a working relationship with her… he seems to have developed a tolerance.”
“So… did you… I…”
I leaned forward, trying to remind myself why she wasn’t more confident. It killed me that she was stammering because she was scared of me… yes, even though I’d actually tried to frighten her counterpart. “You are not an insignificant servant. You are a telepath who has earned millions in the last few months. Sookie, look me in the eyes and say what is on your mind.”
She took several deep breaths that looked more like hyperventilating than steeling herself. “Do you… think… that antagonizing her was a good idea?” That much bravery made her want to hide under the table.
I smiled and offered, “It was certainly fun.”
“She wanted you to… send me…”
“Wanting doesn’t produce results. She can’t touch me and she knows it. Try to relax, Sookie. Enjoy your meal. Our plane is waiting for us.”
I nodded, pleased that she was finally engaging in conversation. “I haven’t been to the States in a while. I thought I’d look up an old friend.”
“When did you have the chance to shop for airfare?”
“Between jeans and sweaters, I think.” Who’d have guessed that waiting in women’s wear would make me miss Pam enough…
She opened her mouth again, but the waitress arrived with a tray full of food to interrupt her.
To help make room on the table, I turned to sit sideways in our booth, putting the computer on my lap…
I turned my attention back to the ‘Sookie’ file so that I didn’t focus on how stoned Sookie seemed to be having so many options. The file was a good excuse to not seem as though I was gawking while she ate.
Unfortunately, Bill had kept a very detailed diary of his interactions with Sookie where his notes seemed like a task log that was meant to be turned over to his Queen. … his first meeting with Sookie, how Sookie rushed to his aid when he staged his own attack. How he’d discovered her gift and that she couldn’t be glamoured. How he’d systematically murdered the three surviving members of Sookie’s family; Uncle, grandmother, brother… How her subsequent isolation didn’t push her towards him, but made her consider him to be a ‘jinx’… She’d uninvited him and was packing a bag to go stay with a friend when he doused the exterior of her home with petrol and struck a match. He’d already called 9-1-1 and he took her from her hospital bed while she recovered from smoke inhalation.
Every item she asked for and was denied.
The first time she was taken into public, she yelled for Mary’s help… the next night when they took her from her cage, she was shown a video of her friend Lafayette’s rape and murder.
The second time Sookie tried to get help, she was shown a video of another friend… Arlene and her children had been run off the road.
The videos of each murder were in the file.
According to the log, Sookie didn’t know about Merlotte yet. He had been killed recently and was most likely being saved for the next time Sookie misbehaved.
Merlotte was beaten to death slowly over the course of 86 minutes… Since I was watching with the sound muted, I had to wonder if he was told why.
That wasn’t the worst of it though.
The videos of what had been done to her friends were nothing compared to the other videos… the ones that starred Sookie.
There were several videos of her being molested while she received her one and only ‘luxury’. Being bathed and groomed like a show horse. Compton clearly enjoyed the activity more than she did.
Each one was recorded on the 17th of the month to commemorate a disturbing ‘anniversary’…
Each one began with a close up of Sookie’s blindfolded face…
Each one was more than 3 hours long…
They were all too much for me to actually watch… skipping through, seeing only one frame every few minutes made me want to collect Bill and Lorena lookalikes and torture them in effigy.
She was held down, brutalized, defiled, battered, raped and drained until she was too weak to cry…
Skipping through the video dated January 17th reminded me of what I’d been told about the markings she had when she woke. The other Me healed what they had done to her just 3 nights ago.
As calmly as I possibly could, I closed the laptop and put it back in the bag. I hated that I couldn’t just destroy it, but I needed to keep some of the files in case Sophie-Ann decided to be difficult.
After reminding Sookie that she’d traveled across an aperture in reality, flown 12 miles in 40 degree weather piggy-back, and staked a Vampire, she almost laughed at her initial reaction to seeing the small charter we would be taking to Indiana.
Her grin was a big enough step in the right direction for me.
When she stored her leftovers in the small refrigerator, I told her to help herself to a drink…
She frowned as she sat on the sofa, sipping from her drink.
“Because it doesn’t ‘suit you’, right?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Is it because I smell like them, or…?”
“No. We’ll discuss it later.” Talking about what she’d been through was the last thing I wanted her to think about when I was taking her to meet another Sheriff. Even if she’d already been introduced to a Pam, she had also already met a Me… That reminded me…
I sat across from her. “Do you mind if I ask a question?”
She shrugged, “Could I really stop you?”
“No, but you can refuse to answer. Why is it that you seemed less fearful of the other Me?”
She shrugged and poked the ice in her drink. “He was make believe.”
“You thought that you were fantasizing about your freedom, yes?”
“My grandmother and my brother are dead… the little boy…”
“He looked like Hadley and I thought she was dead so I figured he was some dream-state amalgamation.”
“I’d met him. Gwen, she had a bunch of Weres come in once. They were all staring at me. I think they could tell something was up. I remembered Alcide because him and his dad were both there… they stood out because they were so massive.”
“How do you explain Me then?”
She shrugged again. “Someone asked Gwen where you were because you’d be pissed if you saw what happened to your Area… I figured it stuck with me because of how pissed it made her and just made up your face.”
“What did she tell the Vampire?”
“That he should either start a fan club or move to the Netherlands…”
She jumped when I laughed, “Bubba in November?”
I nodded. “He’s working at a coffeeshop. When anyone recognizes him, he blames the smoke. Pam and I spent most of a decade as part of his underground railroad of handlers.”
She giggled, but she was refilling her drink so I didn’t get to see it. “Good for him then… Can I ask you a question?”
“Could I really stop you?” As soon as I said it, I realized I was speaking to the wrong Sookie for that reply.
“But I wouldn’t. Go ahead and ask.”
“The other Eric said that Amsterdam made sense, but not why…”
“Ah. Easy enough… when I left Shreveport in the 80s, I traveled for a while… visiting old haunts and such… Amsterdam was always one of my favorites and where I ended my hiatus.”
She let out a long yawn once she sat down again. “How long of a vacation did you get?”
“Not long. Word spread that I wasn’t in Louisiana any longer. I was contacted for ‘side work’ within a month or two.”
“Sidework? How is sheriffing portable?”
I chuckled, “Not sheriffing. Enforcing. Much like… providing the services required to prevent unethical power mongers from causing trouble.”
“A hitman?” Among other things.
She snorted and finished her second drink. “A few months ago, I probably would’ve tried to church that up and say you keep cats and bullies out of the sandbox.”
I nodded. “And now?”
Her cheeks were flushed all the way to her ears… the alcohol was already having an effect. “Now what?”
“You said that you would try to make my living seem more palatable as though you wouldn’t bother now.”
She laid her head back and closed her eyes. “Murder is wrong.”
“So I was taught… I must’ve been distracted when they covered ‘necessary evils’.” Good for her.
“In my experience that lesson usually comes late.”
She yawned again, but it didn’t keep her from saying, “Tell me about it.”
I had been hoping a drink might calm her nerves… instead she was asleep, snoring before we took off.
With nothing better to do, I spent a few minutes packing our new clothing in our duffle bags… and the rest of the flight ignoring the urge to watch Sookie sleep.
I wasn’t that cliché. There just wasn’t anything else to do.
As it was, I had to calm her down, talk her out of some sort of nightmare. It wasn’t as though she had simply become fitful… she’d screamed as though she was being hurt and it was loud enough that the pilot left the cockpit long enough to check on her.
In the interest of having the pilot stay where he was most useful, I stayed on the sofa she’d stretched out on, loaning my leg as her pillow as I had to the other Sookie earlier in the impossibly long evening.
Sookie was so comatose that she didn’t notice the landing and I had to move her, prop her up and try to wake her for several minutes. I’d read the journal enough to try breaking contact with her first. It hadn’t worked. She was just that exhausted.
Not only did I find myself practically holding her up on the way to the cab, but she dozed off again on the way to our hotel, hugging my arm and mumbling an apology for being ‘wiped out’.
Sookie walked into the hotel on her own volition after a long catlike stretch… She didn’t even lean against the counter while we checked in and only held my hand because I offered it when I led the way to the lounge.
As though Pam hadn’t already proven her penchant for pinks and purples, the lounge in her hotel was decorated as though she thought it was Maker repellant.
I could have laughed as we walked through the large room lined with lavender and pink sheers, furnished with fuzzy seating and candle lit… It looked like a Victoria’s Secret after-party.
It was completely Pam.
Having plenty of practice at blocking our connection made getting to Evansville undetected that much easier, but being in the same room with her, mine this time… it made me miss her so much more.
As we approached, we were headed off by a wall of thugs blocking our path.
The ugliest of them grunted with a Croatian accent, “State your business.”
“Checking in with Sheriff Ravenscroft.”
The bouncer argued, “Too late. Tomorrow. Before midnight.”
I pointed towards Pam. “Do you think I don’t know what she looks like? Tell her Eric is here.”
He repeated, “Too late…” but Pam cut him off before he could finish his scripted lines.
“Like you idiots could stop him anyway! Show some fucking respect for a King!” Thanks Pam. That wasn’t the way I wanted Sookie to find out. It had been hard enough for her to get away from a Sheriff.
Sookie’s grip on my hand tightened as the Vampires in the room dropped to one knee.
I decided to ignore it since I wasn’t fond of groveling from my own subjects, let alone Crowe’s. “I’m just passing through and thought I’d visit.”
Pam’s perfectly sculpted eyebrow pitched. “Visit?” I even missed that skeptical look of hers.
I nodded and turned back towards the entrance. “We’ll visit tomorrow night.” I didn’t want to wait, but I was too concerned about Sookie to leave her alone… and Pam never did well when she felt cornered. If I didn’t give her any time to brace herself, she’d do something she’d regret. That was the last thing I wanted when I hadn’t seen her in so long.
“Sookie and me. Room 812. See you tomorrow?”
“I’d offer you a donor, but you’re traveling with your own…”
“Send one up.”
Pam huffed, “What type do you prefer these days?” Sookie’s type.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Sookie’s tension built exponentially as the elevator crept to the 8th floor… she was putting her leftovers in the mini-fridge and I was tipping the bell boy when the donor arrived.
A tall Hispanic man who didn’t know enough English to follow directions to the bathroom… Pam still had her sense of humor.
I didn’t waste any finesse on him. The only reason I was resorting to him was because of how much blood I’d given Sookie. All he did was prove that the little taste of Sookie’s blood I had spoiled me. Even though his A positive blood was quite unpolluted, every drop left me wanting…
He was sent on his way with a fresh glamour and crisp hundred dollar bill… and by the time the door to our suite was closed behind him, Sookie was tense and confused.
Instead of asking, she took a nightgown to the bathroom to change.
“Do I need one?” Fuck.
“I was asking because you enjoyed… Nevermind. No. You don’t need one.”
She nodded, more confused than before and closed the door behind her.
Honestly, I gave up. Even for me, it had been a long night. Jetlag wasn’t something Vampires complained about, for that matter, I enjoyed more than a few week-long-nights in my existence… 7 time zones, one skip, polar opposite telepath twins and 3 assassinations… mental exhaustion.
By the time she left the bathroom, I was already in bed, passively sprawled on one side of a large mattress. Just as she had in the Western Hills house, she laid on her back and nervously studied the ceiling… her heart was racing.
“If you leave the room while I’m dead, make sure you take your key and try to be back, or at least in the hotel when I rise.”
“There’s a spa and a restaurant downstairs. I doubt you’ll sleep all day.”
“You… You don’t mind if I…”
“No. I don’t mind. I encourage it. I understand if you feel awkward at first, but there was a time when you didn’t need someone to control every move you made.”
She didn’t say anything at first… she simply wept at the ceiling for a painfully long time before she sat up and spun around to face me. “I… Please explain… I don’t… Eric, I don’t know how to act.”
“In regards to what exactly?”
“I’m… I’m… If you’re going to to to… please just get it over with! I’m… I feel like I’m bracing myself for like…” She started hyperventilating… gasping until she was lightheaded…
I reached for her, pulling her to the mattress to stretch her out, assuming that letting her continue until she passed out would be counterproductive. Trying to settle her breathing was the longest that Sookie had maintained eye contact with me. Once she was merely panting, I used the calmest tone I could muster. “Now explain why you’re so hysterical.”
“You… told me how to get out of that house, but you felt like you were going to kill me if I tried to leave. You… when we were shopping you were pissed but you didn’t tell me what to get. You… told me to order as much as I wanted but the more I ate, the more pissed you got…” And all the while she’d been thinking it had been something she’d done. “You told me you weren’t hungry, but you ate that donor and I didn’t even have cabbage at dinner and… And now! You’re getting more pissed and I don’t know how to act, but I’ve never felt so much anger and if you’re gonna kill me or whatever, please, please just do it…”
“Sookie stop… I’m not angry because of anything you’ve done.”
She gasped for air, “Wha’wha… what?”
“I’m angry that a windowless room made you feel trapped. I’m angry that you’d been deprived of your own clothing. I’m angry about what was on the computer, not that you were enjoying your meal. I didn’t say I wasn’t hungry. I said that it didn’t suit me to feed from you because you’re malnourished. I’m furious because of the way you’ve been treated. I spent hours with 130 pounds of sass who told me to fuck myself and lectured me on propriety among royalty… Then I met 95 pounds of victimized prey who has no idea what she’s worth… I’m appalled with what Compton did to you. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Hurt. You.”
“You… you… you… you’re not?”
I shook my head slowly.
“I didn’t do anything?”
“No. This is my fault… as disturbed as I’ve been by your circumstances, I should have started this conversation before we left Gwen’s house. You are Mine as long as you choose to be. I have no intention of keeping you against your will. My plan is to take you back to Amsterdam and help you acclimate, but you are free to walk out at any time. If you prefer to stay in the states, then I suggest you stay in Evansville because I trust Pam to not exploit you.”
“You said… you said fuck and feed… you said 10 years… a different cage. That’s what you said.”
“Can you imagine how many times I’ve heard ‘I’ll do anything’ from someone? Anything becomes a much smaller concept to some once they find out what ‘anything’ entails.”
“So… what… what are the rules? I… I’m…”
“Rule number one: Don’t betray me.”
“Ok… what else?”
“That’s it. Don’t betray me. You should be able to remember one rule. I don’t give respect or trust often. I’m not very pleasant when someone makes me regret it.” Hence my ascent to the throne.
“I’m free to go? That’s it?”
I hadn’t put my weight on her, but I’d been hovering, so I returned to my side of the bed to further the point. “I’d prefer if you stayed with me since you were suicidal only a few hours ago and you’re rightfully paranoid at the moment, but yes. You are free to break ranks whenever it suits you to do so.”
“No questions asked? You wouldn’t care?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Which one is wrong?” What was wrong was the fact that I was getting excited by how confrontational her questions were becoming.
“Both. I can’t say ‘no questions asked’ because I’ll need to know where to forward your settlement. And I can’t say I wouldn’t care because I quite enjoyed your company earlier. I’d like to see that little bitch who slammed my hand in a car door come back. She was fun.”
“Why did you bring me to Evansville?”
“Two reasons. One, seeing the other Pam reminded me of how much I missed Mine. Two, so that you would be able to better evaluate your options.”
“Not so you could give me to her or introduce me to my future sister or rub her nose in your new toy or…”
She covered her face and started crying again. Sobbing, while I waited for her to gather herself enough to explain why, but the first thing she did was roll over to attach herself to my side like she had before we reset…
“The last Vampire I trusted took advantage of me.”
“No. I’m going to take care of you.”