I rose, struggling for air I don’t need…
Panicked, afraid, clawing at my throat…
Ringing in my ears, weight on my chest…
In my room, Gawain was lying on his bed motionless… it was a nightmare I couldn’t have been having.
Confused enough to not notice the sounds of a struggle downstairs right away…
Sookie and a man… echoes against the hardwood floor… slapping… louder blows and sudden pains in my face and ribs…
I knew it was all happening quickly, but it still felt like forever before I could get to my feet.
Hoping there wasn’t so much sunlight in the stairway that I’d have to turn back…
And everything stopped, every fucking thing in the world stopped, when I heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being racked.
The shot was fired…
The pain in my side multiplied to the point that I leaned against the door…
One body hit the floor.
Sookie’s emotions collapsed, falling away quickly…
The gun hit the floor and slid over the boards…
One heartbeat stopped suddenly while the other began to race…
And neither of them were breathing.
“Sookie, say something.”
Nothing, not even the slightest hint that she’d heard me.
Taking my shirt from the bed to cover myself as much as possible and yanking it over my head…
Not realizing Gawain was awake until he warned, “You don’t know how bright it is on the other side.”
As though I cared about burns when I couldn’t feel Sookie?
After what I’d just heard and felt?
He’d lost his mind if he thought I’d leave her…
I had a sense of where she was before I lost her feelings, but I almost lost my bearings when I raced to the kitchen…
The pain from blistering in the sunlit hallway was nothing compared to how I reacted to seeing blood, bone and brain matter splattered on nearly every surface…
Walls, counters, the underside of the overturned table, the appliances and still dripping from the curtains.
Sookie was leaning against the refrigerator.
Covered in blood.
Staring blankly at the ceiling.
But it was her heart that was still beating.
She was holding her breath and… it had to have been the recoil that caused the pain in her ribs.
She had it in her to wince when I lifted her, taking her back to my room as quickly as possible.
By the time I was trying to set her on my bed, she was trembling and sobbing violently and clinging to my neck…
I sat on my bed, placing her on my legs and as her moods returned to me, even I was overwhelmed…
Her blouse and denim skirt were ripped. There was skin and blood caked under her nails, matting her hair, streaking her body…
Gawain left quickly, returning just a moment later with a pitcher of water and handful of washrags…
Giving her the time she needed to collect herself and explain was harder than I thought it would be, but we filled the time by cleaning Sookie enough to find her wounds…
The first coherent thing she managed to say was, “I shot him.” Over and over, sputtered between gasps of air while Gawain scraped the flesh out from under her nails and I dabbed an unstoppable stream of blood coming from a gash on her cheek. “I shot him. I couldn’t help it. I shot him. I shot a man. I shot him.”
She hid her face against my neck as soon as I let her move.
Before she could begin explaining, we heard a truck approach the house…
Sookie held her breath when the footsteps pounded up the front steps… stopped in the foyer as Calvin breathed, “Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” and stepped towards the kitchen.
Gawain called out, “Upstairs on the left,” and the footsteps hammered frantically in our direction.
When Calvin charged into the room, Gawain was waiting to pull him into the room enough to close the door behind him.
Calvin took the three steps he needed and dropped to his knees next to where I was sitting with Sookie.
“Baby girl… what happened down there?”
She panted, “I… I don’t know… I heard your truck come up the driveway… I heard you walk up steps… I thought it was you… I was storing the formula in the pantry… then there was something around my neck… he called me a fangbanger… he remembered me from Merlotte’s last night… but I don’t know who he is…”
I explained, “If he doesn’t have identification, they’ll need to fingerprint his body. There’s nothing left of his face…”
Gawain ordered, “Picture him.”
Sookie sighed and bit her lip.
Her heart started racing all over again just thinking about the man who attacked her, pushing her face back to the side of my neck.
Gawain offered, “He was the waitress’s husband. The one that danced when we did. I didn’t catch his name because she called him ‘Baby’ repeatedly, but her name was Arlene.”
Sookie whined, “Rene Lanier… I should have known… I didn’t give him a second thought last night.”
The name was only vaguely familiar… As I drove from Eijsden to Bern with my first Sookie, she’d added Rene Lanier to a list of ‘shit not to sweat over’… ‘Rene Lanier- hate-driven Jack The Ripper wannabe’, was listed with ‘Steve Newlin-typical sermonizing shithead’ and a coven led by ‘a vengeful Were-Witch with a hard-on for Shreveport’.
Calvin sighed, “Oh shit… I’m gonna call Bud, Sook. We should get this over with. Other than calling you a fangbanger, did he say or think anything else?”
She tensed, tightening her arms around my neck.
Gawain growled and explained, “She needed to be taught a lesson for slumming with fangers. He… he was planning to rape and kill her… and from what I’m getting, Sookie wouldn’t be the first.”
When Calvin growled, his eyes flashed… He kissed the back of Sookie’s head as he stood up and fished his phone from his pocket. “You did good, baby. Did the world a favor… How bad are you hurt?”
She whimpered, “I’m alright…”
“She has several broken or cracked ribs. Whatever he was using to strangle her, cut into her neck. Her cheek has a gash in it so deep her blood has run halfway down my chest. And her lower back and hips are in agony.”
She whined, “And you’re covered in burns.”
“Really? I have minor burns that will heal themselves and you would have been murdered if you hadn’t… Where was the gun?”
“In the pantry. The house is so secluded… when we put garbage in the bins… it attracts anything from raccoons to black bears.”
“How long did you struggle?”
She shook her head slightly, still trembling. “Not… I don’t think it was… It’s all a blur… It happened so fast.”
“Try to explain what happened.”
She cleared her throat and started, “I… we ran errands most of the morning… after the hospital, we split up so Calvin could stop at the hardware store to get a few Rubbermaid bins to collect the baby’s little stuff and I went to the market for groceries… I brought in a load and… we’re in the middle of nowhere and the weather is nice. I left the door open behind me since I was going to make several trips… I was expecting Calvin… I didn’t think anything of hearing someone...”
When her throat clenched, I offered, “You were putting groceries in the pantry when he attacked without warning. I rose soon thereafter to the sensation of being strangled… I should heal you so Calvin can take you somewhere so you can settle your nerves. We’ll have the body and mess taken care of by sunset.”
She shook her head. “That’s sweet, but… we need to call the police. There’s other victims… I was just defending myself.”
“If your divorce made headlines, this will too.”
“Unless you’re worried about Mata finding out you’re here, I’d rather deal with the press… the other victims…”
“Fuck Mata. I’m concerned about you… If you go through the authorities, you’ll have to keep your injuries.”
She squeaked, “Only for a day or two?”
I growled at her just for being so fucking concerned about the other victims she’d rather suffer…
The old injury to her pelvis had been aggravated and her ribs were so tender that breathing was painful.
The longer I thought about it, the more incensed I became…
I leaned back, pulling away from her enough to make her look at me and whimper, “please,” with a wretched look on her face. “The other women. They have families who’d want to know.”
I nodded and Calvin reached for Sookie’s hand, but as soon as Sookie moved her leg to stand, there was a stabbing pain in her hip.
She actually cried out…
As many times as I’d seen her harmed, from Alexei breaking her ankle to wrestling with me on the stone floor of my room… she’d never complained…
That sound cut straight through me.
I growled, “Change of plans. Calvin, go downstairs and cover the windows so Gawain can…”
“What about his car? If he’s got a wife…”
“I doubt he told his wife he was leaving home to rape and murder Sookie. There’s no reason for anyone to look for him here. I’ll dump his truck and what’s left of his body as soon as the sun sets.”
“How bad is it? Her hip?”
I only had the pain Sookie was in to judge and she wasn’t willing to elaborate.
Thankfully, Gawain volunteered, “Something’s damaged enough she can’t feel her foot. She doesn’t know if she pinched a nerve or re-broke her pelvis.”
Calvin growled, “And in too much pain to shield her thoughts. Sook…”
I hadn’t realized her foot was numb… distracted by her other injuries, perhaps… I reached down and slid her shoe off and, knowing how ticklish she was, ran my fingers over the bottom of her foot…
No reaction. Not even a twitch.
I sighed, “Why the fuck would you wait to be healed? Nothing can be done for his other victims and you already made sure there won’t be more.”
She whimpered, “I was just thinking… I’d want to know. If he’d killed one of my girls… and…”
Before she finished, Gawain snorted, “Unfuckingbelievable. She was hoping his crimes would help push legislation that recognizes Vampires as an individual race so this kind of thing would be viewed as a hate crime…” He opened the door and nodded towards the stairs. “Come along, Calvin. Once you close the curtains, I’ll teach you how to clean.”
As Calvin walked down the stairs, he grumbled, “That girl’s gonna get herself killed trying to not be like her mother… Michelle only thought about Michelle. Sookie thinks about everyone but Sookie.”
At least Sookie thought about herself for long enough to pull the trigger.
She gave me an apologetic look. “You can’t blame me for having a wish list. Vampires are demonized in the States.”
I whispered, “Foolish.”
“What is? I didn’t run into the sun.”
“How was I supposed to know Calvin would arrive so soon? After the gun was fired, I couldn’t feel you.”
She grimaced and tilted her head to examine the side of my neck. “And you’re going to heal me while you’re still recovering.”
“I’ll be just fine. I recently fed from a plethora of donors.”
“At least something good came from me interfering… How are you awake? It’s only two o’clock.”
“I’m sure you’re why. You were attacked only a few meters from me. I rose in pain and terrified… The FaePire slept until you fired the gun… Apparently, he’s a heavy sleeper.”
She breathed, “I feel so stupid,” and laid her head on my shoulder. “How could I let him sneak up on me?”
“I’m prepared to blame your mother. If she hadn’t hospitalized you, your shields wouldn’t be so impenetrable. Most other Sookies would have heard his thoughts as he approached.”
She snorted, “Hard to argue with that. Blaming Michelle is pretty popular ‘round these parts.”
I nodded and lifted my arm so I could bite my wrist, but just as I ran my fangs out, she blurted, “Hold on.”
For a moment I thought she was hesitant, but her curiosity is what stopped me.
I waited for the question I expected her to ask, but after a moment she offered, “I won’t remember this. Gawain’s going to glamour me and Calvin.”
The unglamourable telepath and the Were?
“I’d like to see him try…”
She nodded. “Gawain can. That was his thing, from when he was Human. He could push. Eric, the one that brained you with the basement door, he told me…”
“You’ll know though. Your healing will complete our bond. You’ll be able to sense Calvin was glamoured.”
She nodded. “Yeah, and I want you to tell me about it, but… If I remember it, the girls will see what I saw, and I’ll be rattled for God knows how long. With Hope and Hadley coming and our meeting with Isabel tonight… I need to keep my shit together. This is one of those things I’d rather not relive every time I close my eyes. I doubt having you tell me about it after the fact will cause that. K?”
“You’re going to be a cunt. You’ll accuse me of being mad or trying to play a prank…”
She managed to smile and frown at the same time. “I know. I’m sorry in advance.”
“You’d better apologize… Your reasons are rational, but it won’t be long before you’re abusing me with hostility.”
“You’ll have Gawain as backup…”
I scoffed, bit my wrist and put it to her mouth… While she pulled, holding the back of my hand, I offered, “Do you think after the way we fucked with him last night he’ll help me substantiate anything? No. He’ll deny everything and offer a fork…”
I felt a mouthful of my blood catch in her throat, coughing and choking, sputtering that she would kick my ass for making her laugh.
“I suggest Misty, Jenny and Lindy teach Hope how to eat without making a mess.” She’d gotten enough blood that the pain in her back was already subsiding and the gash on her cheek was closing slowly.
She tried to scowl while she was still giggling, “Stop goofing off. You need your blood too. I don’t want to waste it.”
I lifted my hand again and paused to ask, “Are you going to spit at me again?”
She forced the smile from her face and cleared her throat. “No.”
“I’ll do my best.”
As soon as I bit, Sookie used one hand to hold mine, and the other to cover my mouth.
“You know this doesn’t work.”
She rolled her eyes and moved her hand, reaching over my shoulder to run her fingers into my hair.
I opened my mouth to warn her that pulling my hair while she was taking my blood wasn’t a wise choice… but she didn’t pull my hair. Her fingernails gently scraped my scalp…
My eyes rolled back before I could decide if I objected to being stroked like a cat.
“This is to shut me up, yes?”
Her most brilliant idea yet.
She nodded, moving my arm with her.
“You’d laugh if I were to start purring.”
She laughed through her nose, but managed to keep from choking.
The wound on my wrist closed too soon for my taste. Her hand stopped working through my hair when she pulled my wrist from her mouth.
I actually groaned.
After she licked her lips, she snorted, “That worked better than I thought it would.”
“You might be able to lull a Vampire to sleep.”
She grinned. “Shhhhhh… If anyone found out I can make you shut the fuck up, I might find myself in high demand.”
Gawain snorted from downstairs, “Amen.”
Sookie suddenly covered her mouth to giggle… the giggle became a laugh that made her bend over… it only took a moment before she was crying and cackling for him to stop.
“Do I want to know?”
She shook her head and wiped her eyes. “He’s paying me back for… the Eric/Sookie porn… you and him… spooning… he’s… his fingers… through your hair…”
“I’ll end him.”
But she was smiling, laughing… and as she moved, she was only stiff and sore…
Anything but sobbing, pained and terrified.
I reached down to her foot again, running my fingers over the bottom… just one touch and Sookie’s leg jumped.
“We’re not going to start this again, are we?”
I shook my head. “Just checking…” I lifted her chin to examine her neck and there wasn’t a hint that she’d been strangled a few minutes earlier. “Your cheek might need more blood to heal completely. Stand up. Test your hip.”
She nodded and carefully moved to put her feet on the floor between mine…
Slowly putting her weight on her legs…
Shifting her weight from one leg to the other…
Only a bit of soreness left from her injury, but not enough for her to show a reaction.
She nodded, “Much better. I think I’m alright. I feel alright. Just a little sore.”
“That will improve in a few minutes.”
She grinned. “Thank you. I don’t want to think about how long I’d have been down without your help.”
She sighed, “I guess I should go help clean up my mess…” As she leaned over, she warned, “I probably smell nasty thanks to the dirt-bag, but I’m still hugging you.”
Instead of irritating her hips by putting my arms around her waist, I only put my hands on the backs of her legs.
“You’re still shaken.” We both were.
She cooed, “Not for long… You’re going to be bored up here. Do you want anything? Your laptop maybe?”
“You can keep me company. We’ll watch more Twilight Zone.”
She giggled, “Now that I’ve had your blood again, we’ll probably end up in our own Twilight Zone soon enough.”
The idea of her waking with another Me, one who didn’t know who she was or why she would be with Him, wasn’t exactly a pleasant thought.
She pulled away enough to put her mouth to my ear and breathe, “No matter how nasty I am when you explain later, just remember how much it means to me that you came to get me. It was really sweet of you to worry about me.”
She was going to have her near rape/death experience erased from her afternoon, and she was thinking about my ego.
“Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.”
She kissed my cheek and stood up, resting her hands on my shoulders. “Just yell if you need anything… Well, I don’t guess you have to yell.”
“I could be bored enough to experiment. Perhaps I’ll call you.”
She smirked, staring at me for a moment before offering, “You’re in a weird mood… Kind of like you want to say a million things, but you’re keeping them to yourself.”
I didn’t necessarily want to say anything, but there was plenty on my mind.
“We should have brought guards with us… Your attacker wouldn’t have made it out of his truck if we had one on the property.”
“I’ll call a guy and get him to put a detail together if it’ll make you feel better.”
“No. Call Miles. Offer him whatever he wants to be here by dawn. No more errands alone.”
She stared at me long enough for a lump to form in her throat. She whispered, “You aren’t even thinking he could have been coming after y’all, are you?”
I was prepared to blame Gawain for filling my head with nonsensical drivel about how much I cared for Sookie and the ‘startling impact’ she’d made on my temperament.
“You were harmed by someone who shouldn’t have been here. Isn’t that enough?”
She kissed me, but didn’t move away. “I’m going to be a bitch, call you overprotective, accuse you of being worried about the braid because I won’t remember feeling that you really care about my safety.”
It was probably better that way.
“I know. As bellicose as I’ve been towards you, it’s only fair.”
“That’s sweet, but it’s anything but fair. I still owe you an apology for how I acted last night.”
“Molesting me in the restroom?”
She rolled her eyes. “I meant between Ricky and the hospital. I was in a crappy mood and I took it out on you… You asked for what I did in the bathroom.”
“I don’t remember that. How would I ask again?”
Her eyebrow pulled up to a point. “Don’t you dare start flirting with me. The last thing we need is another complication.”
I wasn’t flirting.
“How is flirting a complication?”
She opened her mouth, seemingly sure of her answer until my hands started sliding up the backs of her legs.
She cleared her throat as she started, “It’s not by itself, but nothing else about us is normal. We’re just starting to figure one another out…”
I gave a slight pull to encourage her to come closer, leaving my hands just at the hem of her skirt, drifting my thumbs from side to side.
“Since I don’t see your point, I think I’ll flirt regardless.”
She growled quietly. “Asshole.”
She sighed, “You know what?” and took my wrists to pull my hands away from her legs.
Knowing she was too stubborn to let go, I stretched my arms out… effectively pulling her to me until she almost tumbled onto my lap.
She was so close my lips brushed hers when I asked, “What?”
“This is a bad idea.”
“In my experience, that usually means it’ll be more fun.”
“You don’t want me. It’s the blood and adrenaline…”
“That excuse doesn’t explain last night… Stop trying to rationalize. Just kiss me.”
“I won’t remember it.”
“Then you won’t be able to regret it. Kiss me.”
“Just a kiss?”
“I’m restrained, aren’t I?”
She scoffed, “Yeah. At my mercy.”
“That could be interesting, but I thought you said you weren’t going to flirt.”
“You’re such an ass.”
“And you’re amazing for putting up with me.”
She took a deep breath and whimpered when she let it out…
Staring at me without a comeback…
Finally shaking her head slightly before pressing her lips to mine.
I was completely prepared to catch her if she thought she was going to get away with just a peck…
But she nibbled my lip as she released my wrists…
Her tongue was waiting for mine…
Her arms wrapped around my head…
Pulling her legs, straddling her to my legs was no chore…
It was too easy to understand how we could lose time together.
Her racing heart set the pace… what started as a kiss became need…
I couldn’t tell if lust was ricocheting across a bond we hadn’t confirmed existed yet, but I wasn’t about to stop to ask…
Her warmth, our friction…
The little hums she made while we kissed and the way her sighs fell over my ear when I turned to her neck to let her catch her breath…
The only thing I could complain about was the way she eventually pushed my shoulders and whispered, “Stop… Shhhhhhh, ssssssstop.”
I growled, but she was just as confused as I was.
Her eyes were unfocused, but she managed to concentrate on my face for a moment before breathing, “Fuuuuuuuuuck.”
No sooner than I asked, I felt what made her put an end to our fun…
Whatever it had been, be it Sookie’s fear or adrenaline, had waned enough… whatever reason I was alive at two o’clock in the afternoon was passing…
Of all the times to die.
She sighed and shifted to put herself on the bed to give me room to stretch out.
“I needed a shower anyway… I guess a cold shower won’t be a huge deviation…” She shoved my thigh as though I’d done something untoward. “Thanks for spinning me up. I won’t remember why I’m horny as hell.”
I chuckled, “Excuse my lack of sympathy, but… As ‘spun up’ as I am, I’ll have to start over.”