Sookie told Bob and me about her day in Red Ditch, even as we finished the dinner we’d been making.
I wasn’t actually too surprised that Remy had tried something with her. But I was surprised—and glad—to hear that she’d gone back to set things straight with him.
Generally, Sookie avoided dealing with problems like the plague! I just wished that she’d chosen to deal with her issues with Eric, instead of those which had sprung up with Remy.
As we ate, Bob and I told her about the new wards, and then Sookie asked tons of questions about us, obviously happy to be catching up on our lives.
I felt guilty then, recognizing even more than before that I hadn’t been a good friend to Sookie for a while—probably even before Tray died. I’d been very self-focused back then—even though I’d known that Sookie was struggling over her relationship with Eric and their bond. And—of course—Bill and Quinn had been hovering around the edges back then too, just enough to lay small claims upon Sookie’s feelings, even though she had made it clear that she was pursuing something with Eric.
Talk about never leaving well enough alone!
I figured that Bill was skulking around outside even then—using the excuse of “guarding” Sookie to stay as close as possible to her. And I wouldn’t put it past Quinn to randomly pop out of the woodwork either.
“So—uh—how’s the witch stuff going?” Sookie asked Bob and me. I’d zoned out a bit since Sookie had been asking Bob about his “day job” as a hairdresser. He’d been telling her about the new shop he worked at.
“We’re working together on that,” Bob said with a grin, even as he reached out to take my hand. I gladly thread my fingers with his.
I explained to Sookie that Bob was now working part-time at the Genuine Magic Shop owned by my coven. I also told her about my own promotion—both at the store and in the coven.
I could tell that she was genuinely happy for me, though she knew that my success in New Orleans would mean that I wouldn’t be coming back to Bon Temps to live. After a couple of seconds though, Sookie seemed to take that knowledge in stride—just as she did with most of her disappointments.
Given the topic of the magic shop, I wasn’t surprised when Sookie asked if I’d learned anything about breaking blood bonds between vampires and humans.
I sighed, knowing that there was no way I would be able to keep the things I’d learned from her now. I’m sure my thoughts were screaming about the information—even then.
Stupid, uncontrollable thoughts.
“I learned quite a bit about bonds,” I admitted, squeezing Bob’s hand for support, “including how to break them.”
“Really?” Sookie asked looking suddenly excited—and hopeful. “There’s a way to get rid of it? There’s a way to know that my feelings are really mine? Can we do it now?”
“Are you sure you want to?” I asked.
“Yes!” she said with even more conviction, as she literally bounced in her seat.
“Sookie, how much do you know about bonds?” I asked cautiously. “How much has Eric told you?”
She sighed heavily. “Honestly, not a lot. Whenever I bring up the fact that the bond is controlling how I feel, he sort of shuts down about it. And, whenever he tries to talk about it, I sort of shut down about it,” she added a little guiltily.
“Sookie, breaking a blood bond is a major decision,” Bob said. “There are consequences—potentially both physical and political.”
“To Eric? It could hurt him?” she asked with concern.
“Well—not during the bond breaking itself, but he would certainly feel the loss of you,” Bob explained.
“And you’d feel the loss of him,” I added.
Sookie frowned. “I can’t imagine that that’d be any worse than not knowing what I feel.”
“At least call Eric about this,” I said firmly. “Talk it over with him before you do anything rash—okay?”
She sighed heavily. “I’d rather just do it. If I know Eric, he will try to talk me out of it, and what if he succeeded? I’d be in the same boat I’m in now—wondering if anything I feel is genuine.” She threw up her hands in frustration. “I honestly don’t even know what I actually feel anymore! I get this amazing, warm feeling whenever Eric comes near me—even if I’m having a horrible day. How can I know that any of my feelings are real—since I know that one’s not?”
I felt myself getting frustrated with my friend, mostly because she was trying to make me an accomplice to what I felt was a very rash decision on her part.
However, I took a breath and tried to put myself in her shoes for a moment.
“You can feel Eric’s emotions—right?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. That’s part of the bond.”
“And you say that you feel different when you see Eric?” I asked.
“Yeah. Especially right at first. I feel better, calmer somehow,” she sighed. “I know Eric’s just trying to make me feel better—pushing all these feelings at me—but it ends up feeling fake.”
“Sook, what if what you feel when you first see him is actually what he feels when he sees you?” I asked. “What if he’s not trying to influence you at all? What if he’s just letting you know that you make him feel better and calmer?”
She looked a little stunned at that thought—but then doubtful.
“I guess that’s the point,” she said sadly. “I can’t even tell my own emotions from his anymore. So—what if all my doubts are actually his? It’s not like either of us chose to bond. Andre forced us to do it.”
“But you’ve told me that Eric likes the bond,” I reminded.
She shrugged. “But will he continue to like it once I’m old and gray? Plus, wouldn’t it be better for the both of us if we were sure about our feelings for one another?”
“You aren’t sure of whether you love him?” I asked her.
She looked down and shook her head. “No. I think I love him. I want to love him. I thought I loved Bill once, too, but now I wonder if his blood influenced that. And it’s so confusing with Eric since I fell in love with him when he had amnesia. And—yes—that was before we bonded, but not before I had his blood. And then—by the time we got together again—we had bonded.”
She closed her eyes, squeezing them tightly shut.
“Please, Ames,” she said. “I need to break the bond. I have to know what I feel; otherwise, I’ll never trust Eric—not enough. And I’ll never trust myself either.”
“Okay,” I said, “Bob and I will do it—but on one condition.”
She opened her eyes and nodded excitedly. “Okay. Anything!”
I took a deep breath, even as I thought about all the times I could have been a better friend to Sookie. I was determined, however. Tonight I would be that better friend, even if Sookie hated me for it.
“Tonight we’re going to Fangtasia, and I want your word that you will talk to Eric about bonds—that you’ll speak with him about your relationship for,” I paused, “one hour—at least. And that you’ll ask all the questions you have—especially the scary ones. And that you’ll honestly answer all the questions he has—even the scary ones.”
Sookie paled considerably as she listened to my request. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat—as if my words had put ants into her pants. Literally.
“But—uh—Eric probably isn’t even at Fangtasia tonight,” she whimpered.
“The where doesn’t matter,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“But he’s probably busy,” she said again, “with the—uh—Victor mess.”
“Call him,” I ordered, unwaveringly.
She frowned. “This is ridiculous. Even if he was there, he wouldn’t agree to what you’re suggesting.”
“Dial, Sookie!” I pressed.
Biting her bottom lip in a way that looked uncomfortable, she took her phone from her purse and dialed.
I took my place on my throne, though, nowadays, doing so was more of a habit than anything else. I never chose a human to feed upon and/or fuck anymore. I would never disrespect my bonded in such a way—whether or not she realized that I’d vowed to be faithful to her in all ways.
Of course, my maker had taken even that vow away from me.
I tried to push that thought aside.
No one needed to know about the night when Appius decided that he “wanted to relive a few good times with me,” especially not Sookie. Nobody needed to know that—although I’d tried to fight him off and was hurt badly in the process—Appius did not take “no” for an answer. He never had.
Sookie also didn’t need to know that my vow of fidelity in peril once again—if I was forced to become Freyda’s consort.
I tried to brush that thought away too as I looked at the sparse clientele in my once-thriving club.
Hell! Even if I had still been selecting among fangbangers, the pickings were slim tonight—thanks to Victor’s new club, Vampire’s Kiss. I looked around Fangtasia. Opening my club had been a good idea—once upon a time. And I’d made a lot of money from the venture, but I was heavily contemplating just giving my share of the business to Pam. She could do with it as she wanted then, implementing whatever ideas that popped into her head. Or she could sell the club and move on.
I sighed again.
Given my own uncertain future in regards to Oklahoma, it seemed wise to see to Pam’s security—either way. Plus, I doubted very much that she’d want to have anything to do with me after Miriam died.
I frowned, anticipating that—if Pam decided to leave my side—I would have to give her the same speech I’d given Karin many years before. I’d have to explain that—though I wouldn’t yet free her—I also wouldn’t use my maker’s call upon her again unless she was in peril. I would also tell her that 300 was the “magic number” when it came to setting vampire children free, and I would promise to do so for her without question if she ever came to me following that “birthday.”
Of course, I wouldn’t explain how I’d learned about that tradition myself—or how Appius had used it to toy with my hopes. No. That was a story I’d told no one. And it was the reason why I should have known that my maker would find a way to keep ultimate control over my life—even after his final death.
I worked hard to school my expression as I felt my despair. I imagined marriage contracts lined up for millennia—one right after the next, transferring me from monarch to monarch like the “basest of whores,” as Appius had once enjoyed labeling me.
I was brought out of my thoughts by my phone ringing. I quickly zipped to my office to answer it, as I recognized the sound of the ringtone as the one I’d chosen for my bonded.
“Sookie,” I said, wondering what my tone of voice must have sounded like to her. Could she tell that I was thankful—though worried—that she’d called?
“Hi,” she said somewhat meekly.
“It is nice to hear from you, lover,” I said, trying to muffle both my concern and my earlier despair. Had she somehow felt that—from so far away?
Is that why she was calling?
“Eric—uh—Amelia’s in town, and we thought we’d come to Fangtasia for a while. Are you there?”
“Oh,” she said, sounding a little disappointed. “We wouldn’t want to bother you.”
“Your presence is always welcome,” I responded.
“Tell him we’ll be there in about an hour,” a feminine voice I recognized as Amelia’s said from the background.
“Did you get that?” Sookie asked nervously.
“Yes. I’ll be happy to see you, Sookie,” I said softly.
“Uh—sure. Me too,” she stammered before telling me goodbye and hanging up.
I accessed the bond.
She felt anything but happy.
NINETY MINUTES LATER
Since I knew that Sookie was coming, I had beefed up security by calling in a number of vampires whose loyalty I didn’t question. However, they weren’t in the club; that would draw too much attention, and Jock would unquestionably report any extra vampire presence to Victor.
Plus, I knew that Victor had a “secret” camera trained on Fangtasia’s exterior. However, all of my loyal vampires knew how to avoid its range.
As the ninety-second minute had come and gone since Sookie’s call, I wondered if she’d changed her mind, even though I could feel her getting closer in the bond. However, I knew enough about my bonded by now to recognize that she might have talked Amelia into checking out another Shreveport club—maybe even Vampire’s Kiss.
Or maybe they’d visit Herveaux’s pack.
Or a witches’ coven.
Or the botanical gardens, which had begun staying open at night.
Or maybe the Super Walmart which had opened a mile up the road would catch Sookie’s fancy.
I certainly felt no anticipation coming from Sookie; on the contrary, she was a ball of nerves.
I sipped my TrueBlood, marveling at the fact that I’d finally gotten used to the taste.
When had that happened?
Just as I was about to go up to the roof so that I could have a better vantage point, I felt Sookie nearing to within a mile of me.
My whole body relaxed at the presence of my bonded. The few days since I’d been near her had been too long. Of course, I’d not told Sookie that it physically hurt me to be apart from her. She would see such information as another defect of the bond, after all. And our bond was already suspect enough in her mind.
For a moment, I let myself enjoy her proximity, the joy of my own spirit insuppressible. I knew that—within moments—I would face her suspicions and her fear that I was somehow controlling her emotions with my own, however. So I tried to limit my reaction.
These were the things Sookie reacted against with the least forcefulness. Indeed, it was my joy that she seemed to push against the most.
I collected a breath just to mark the moment as she walked into the club. She was wearing one of her sundresses—orange with blue flowers.
Pam would have remarked that orange was such a “difficult” color if she’d been there. But she wasn’t there, and it didn’t look “difficult” on my bonded anyway. Sookie looked as lovely as ever.
As always, I took a mental snapshot of her and locked it into my mind, where it would be with me until I met my final death.
Amelia had her arm interlocked with Sookie’s as if she’d needed to usher her inside. The witch was wearing a jet black dress, and a somewhat dopey-looking human male followed them.
I inhaled and smirked as a recognized the scent.
Bob. The cat.
It didn’t escape my notice that Amelia seemed to be the leader of the little group. With difficulty, I kept my seat on the throne rather than jetting to my bonded.
Not surprisingly, Sookie seemed as reluctant to see me as I was eager to be with her. And she headed toward the bar as soon as Amelia let her go. I noticed that Bob followed Sookie, even as Amelia stalked up to me.
“Can we talk for a minute?” she asked.
I looked at Sookie.
She was studiously avoiding my gaze. Her emotions were all over the place. But mostly she was scared.
“She’s afraid,” I hissed.
“Yes. Very,” Amelia said. “And for a long time.” She looked at me pleadingly. “Help me stop that—will you?”
“I would have her smile—all the time,” I found myself saying. “I curse all her fears.”
“Is there somewhere that we could speak privately?” she emphasized.
I nodded and then led Amelia back into my office. It was soundproof and had been warded. It was the only certain sanctuary in the club from Victor’s spy.
“There is a ward here,” Amelia commented.
I nodded in confirmation.
“It is a good spell,” the witch observed, “but I could make it better.”
“How?” I asked.
“What one thing do you care about the most in this room?” she asked.
I frowned. “Why?”
“The privacy spell in here is efficient, but it lacks heart,” she returned. “For spells to be virtually unstoppable, I’ve learned that they need heart.”
I contemplated whether or not to let Amelia Broadway perform any magic in my presence. After all, she’d once turned a man into a cat! However, her eyes seemed wizened since I’d seen her last, and the smell of magic emanating from her was much more pronounced—and mature.
Thus, I opened my desk drawer, lifted the false bottom out of it, and then pulled out a picture.
“I care for this,” I said as I slid the picture toward the witch.
The image had been captured from security footage; it pictured Pam and Sookie speaking at the bar. Both looked happy. In fact, they were both laughing.
I’d done a screen capture and I’d had the image printed.
I gazed at it often.
The witch looked at me knowingly and then said some Latin words over the picture before sliding it back to me.
“You can put it back,” she said. “And—as long as it is in the room—the ward will hold more tightly.
I nodded and placed the photograph where it had been after glancing at the smiles of my child and my bonded for a moment.
“Your soul is hurting,” Amelia said.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Sookie has no idea that you are suffering from bond sickness—does she?”
I stood up and turned my back to her. “You will not tell her,” I said insistently. “She has too much to bear already.”
“And what about your burdens?” she asked.
“I am a vampire,” I said simply. “Burdens are required, accepted, and dealt with.”
Amelia sighed deeply. “You are as stubborn as she is when it comes to hiding feelings.”
I chuckled at that statement. “My stubbornness is nothing compared to Sookie’s.” I shrugged. “Maybe it is for the best that she refuses to entertain the notion of becoming a vampire. Can you imagine the level of stubbornness she might achieve if she had a thousand years to perfect it?”
“Horrifying,” she smirked.
“Well,” I shrugged, “we’ll never know.”
She sighed. “She wants me to break your bond, and I have a spell that will do it.”
I sat down heavily in my chair.
“Well—then—that’s it,” I sighed.
For once it wasn’t difficult to keep my feelings out of the bond. I felt the sledgehammer of inevitability, and—thankfully—it brought numbness with it.
A/N: First of all—an apology for people reading my other stories. My writing muse keeps on being interfered with by my need to give my neglected house a “post-semester” cleaning (I let things go a bit when I have stacks and stacks of essays during the last several weeks of any term.). Plus, there is Christmas shopping, giving friends rides to airports, and dealing w/ the hubby being underfoot more because he has some extra time off around the holiday. All in all, not very conducive to writing. But I intend to do some work today; it just might be a while before I’m back on my regular schedule with my other pieces. However, don’t worry about this one. I have a few chapters tucked away so that you can continue to expect a chapter each Saturday.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Next up: Sookie and Eric actually talk!
As always, thanks to kleannhouse and Seph!