BILL POV, CONTINUED
APPROXIMATELY TWO MINUTES BEFORE SUNSET
Despite my resolution to move on from my mistakes of the past and to concentrate upon my future with Sookie—a twinge of guilt stayed with me, concerning the things I had done or neglected doing where my beloved was concerned.
Again, I took my little piece of silver from the pouch and let it sear my palm. I sighed through my self-inflicted punishment, knowing that I deserved it to a certain extent, before putting the stop watch once more into its pouch.
“If I could only change the past . . . ,” I whispered.
I closed my eyes and let a recurring fantasy take hold of me.
I save Adele, and—in doing so—Sookie’s brother is also proven innocent of the murders of Dawn and Maudette.
As Sookie and her grandmother gush out their thanks to me, I realize that I am glad I did not allow Adele to be harmed. And—more importantly—I realize that I truly care for Sookie.
Right then and there, I tell Adele and Sookie all about Hadley and Sophie-Anne, making sure to downplay that seduction—not honesty—had been part of my initial plan to secure Sookie. I ask my beloved and her grandmother to accompany me to the queen’s court.
Excited by the prospect of seeing Hadley and weary because of recent events in Bon Temps, the Stackhouse women are happy to come with me to New Orleans.
When we arrive in New Orleans, the queen is willing to forgive my disclosure to Sookie and Adele once Hadley learns that I saved her grandmother’s life. Of course, the queen settles Hadley’s family into luxury. Adele, who so clearly treasures family, wishes to spend ample time reconnecting with her eldest granddaughter. Sookie does not want to leave her grandmother alone in New Orleans during the days, so she takes a leave of absence from the shifter’s bar.
Meanwhile, I work my magic to ease Sookie into doing small jobs for the queen, just as Sookie had been willing to do for Northman. Soon, Sookie sees the good she is doing for the queen, as she ferrets out crooks and Fellowship members from the court. Of course, Sophie-Anne pays Sookie well for her services.
Seeing how happy and comfortable her grandmother is in Sophie-Anne’s care—Sookie is pliable when it comes to formalizing a contract with the queen. Sophie-Anne makes clear that Sookie and Adele do not have to give up living in Bon Temps completely, and the Stackhouse ladies decide upon a split schedule between the court and the country.
Of course, as all these happenings occur, Sookie and I become closer and closer. She offers her virginity to me out of love and desire—not grief. Seeing our connection and wanting her telepath to stay happy, Sophie-Anne gives me permission to bond and pledge with Sookie, and I have ample opportunity to explain both rituals to my beloved.
Indeed, before I speak with Sookie, I formally ask Adele for her granddaughter’s hand, something that both Stackhouse women appreciate greatly.
Sookie is overjoyed and—of course—says yes to my proposals; not long after, we complete our bond in love and then pledge before the queen and the court. Even Northman is in attendance, though he is not fool enough to cause any trouble. Indeed, everyone there knows that Sookie is mine—and the queen’s through me.
Sookie and I, along with Adele, settle into a life of safety and opulence in the queen’s court. We spend Christmases and parts of the summers in Bon Temps, and the queen orders that Eric Northman leave us to ourselves.
In fact, Eric is but a tiny footnote in Sookie’s life.
And, importantly, under Sophie-Anne’s direct protection, I am left alone by Lorena. I complete my database in the comforts of court, and Sookie and I live quite happily and prosperously until she requests that I turn her.
Yes—all this could have been—should have been.
I frowned as realty replaced fantasy in my mind.
“One poor choice,” I whispered about the night I’d stood back as Adele had been murdered. That choice had led to consequences that I did not anticipate at all!
On the night when Sookie and I first had sex, when she practically begged me to take her virtue, I had allowed my lust—and bloodlust—for the part-Fae to overrule my reason.
To cloud my foresight.
Looking back, I realized that—after I’d tasted Sookie’s passion-laced blood—I began to covet her in a way that I almost could not control. Perhaps, it was the fairy blood in her that made me contemplate defying my queen and stealing Sookie away to keep for myself—only myself.
But I forced my burgeoning love for Sookie to override my selfishness.
“If Sookie only knew how difficult that had been. If she only knew what I did for her—what I sacrificed,” I whispered.
Indeed, after I’d realized that I loved Sookie, I’d convinced the queen to allow Sookie to stay in Bon Temps—not an easy thing to accomplish! But I’d done it! I’d persuaded Sophie-Anne to let Sookie ease into the Supernatural world. And I’d been prepared to guide Sookie until she was ready for the queen’s court.
But then three things had occurred that had been beyond my control to stop.
First, Northman made the request for Sookie to go to Dallas, a trip that had been a disaster upon my relationship with her. By the end of that trip, Sookie and I were estranged due to Northman’s manipulations.
Second, I had been forced to pitch my idea for the database to my queen before I’d wanted to. As I’d expected, Sophie-Anne had had the vision to anticipate its profitability. I lied and told her that I could work more quickly outside of the court; indeed, it was that lie that was ultimately the major determining factor in the queen’s patience regarding the arrival of her telepath at court. As a matter of fact, initially, my plan was to wait to pitch the database idea until I was back at court, for I did not arrive in Bon Temps wanting to stay there.
Yes—I’d sacrificed my own desires for Sookie!
Third, Lorena had reappeared into my life—using the fact that I was no longer living at court—to justify her intrusion. Of course, I could not tell her about either assignment my queen had me doing, so I could not avoid returning to her side. I’d hoped that Lorena’s use of me would be short-term. But, once she had smelled my blood tie with Sookie, she became extremely jealous—even more frenetic than before. And—somehow—she learned that I was working on a top-secret project for my queen, something that she wanted for herself so that she could gain a foothold into the power structure of vampire society. God knows, she had burned the usual bridges of advancement. It figured that she wanted to use me and my work to get ahead!
King Edgington had been enticed enough by Lorena’s promises of profit that he had agreed to house her for a while. Lorena had tried to seduce the information about my important assignment from the queen from me. Then she turned to torture. Then she decided to have Sookie kidnapped so that I would be more malleable and tell her what she wanted to know. Of course, she had no idea that Sookie herself had been my initial—my most important—assignment.
I sighed. The events in Jackson had turned out horribly. By the time all was said and done, Sookie seemed to be done with me—having even withdrawn my invitation to her home. Worse, Northman had managed to form an even stronger blood tie with her than the one Sookie and I shared. The queen, too, was angry at me and ordered me out of the country for a time—both to do research for the database and to punish me for not contacting her as soon as Lorena had summoned me.
Of course, the misfortunes of that time paled to the fortunes that seemed to be on the horizon for me.
I had slowly been re-earning Sookie’s trust even before the incident with the fairies. Now I was certain that I had her gratitude, her affection, and her trust again!
And—soon—I would win even more of her faith by helping her to thrive in the court of Felipe de Castro.
Of course, the bonus would be that my actions in placating Sookie would garner more of Felipe’s favor at the same time!
Yes—my fantasy where Sookie was concerned would soon become a reality.
Sensing that it was almost true dark, I reached out to try to “feel” Sookie. Alas, I could not.
By the time of her kidnapping by Neave and Lochlan, Sookie and my blood tie was already extremely weak—mostly because Northman’s bond had superseded the tie. After my silver poisoning, the tie was tenuous at best—though I had not told anyone—including Eric, Sookie, or de Castro—just how weak it had become. Still, Sookie and my blood tie had remained a flicker within me—at least when she was nearby and not behind some godforsaken magical barrier! I calmed myself and reminded myself that the tie still remained despite everything—as if it were as reluctant as I was to let the woman go.
Unfortunately, despite the waning of my blood connection with Sookie, I had been able to tell when she and Eric exchanged blood—at least before my silver poisoning—when the two exchanged in Sookie’s home. The euphoria of the heightened connection between my beloved and the Sheriff seemed to always make its way into my tie with her.
Experiencing that hint of her elation—and knowing that carnal acts had likely accompanied it—had been torture for me. My only comfort had been that Sookie had never agreed to live with Eric, so their time together was limited by their jobs and the distance between Shreveport and Bon Temps.
Still, I hated that Sookie had forged a connection with Eric through the blood that I had only fantasized about.
But, soon, there would be no impediments to the bond that I knew that Sookie would welcome with me!
Despite my elation at that idea, I knew that my bond with Sookie would come with problems. For one thing, I would become a target to vampires more powerful than myself, but I felt certain that my king would keep my beloved and me safe in order to protect his vested interests in both Sookie and myself.
After all, other than a handful of sheriffs (Eric, unfortunately, included), I was de Castro’s biggest earner, and I knew that he saw my potential to be even more profitable to him once I was fully absorbed into his personal retinue in the Las Vegas court.
And—as for Sookie—her value would become immeasurable under my tutelage. She had always underestimated herself, but I figured she would begin to understand her true potential after only a few weeks in Las Vegas.
And she would come to realize how Eric had been holding her back.
And she would recognize just how much her life was improved because of me.
Of course—despite how grateful Sookie would be—I also had to be prepared that a bond between Sookie and me could complicate our personal relationship.
I knew, for example, that she doubted her feelings for the Viking because she worried that their bond had been creating those feelings. I would simply have to assure my beloved that I would never influence her emotions, and I would hope that if I ever did need to “pull” her feelings in one direction or another, I could do so without her noticing.
And—if I could not—Sookie was trusting enough to believe that I had influenced her unintentionally or that I’d influenced her for her own good. Honestly, I did not think that the origin of her feelings would be that big of a deal for us—not like it had always been between her and Eric.
After all, she’d never confronted me about my potential influence over her before.
Indeed, even once she began to understand more fully the effects of vampire blood, Sookie had never questioned me about how much I had influenced her via our blood tie. And I had—for obvious reasons—never volunteered the information that I had used my blood to “soften her feelings” toward me after the Rattray attack. On the contrary, unlike with Eric, Sookie seemed to intuit that I had her best interests in mind and that I would not manipulate her with malicious or selfish intent.
And—to be honest—I did not plan to influence her unduly through our soon-to-be-formed bond.
That being said, another potential drawback of the bond was that Sookie might blame me if anything went wrong after we’d forged our connection. After all, facts had to be faced: Sookie drew in danger like a flame drew a moth! Inarguably, Sookie had blamed Eric—no, she had resented him—for not coming to her immediate aid when she had been taken by the fairies. But—as a vampire—I was very aware that Eric would have been greatly debilitated by the pain coming from Sookie’s side of the bond, pain which Victor had compounded by securing Eric in silver. It was a testament to Eric’s age, his strength, and his possessiveness that he had even tried to go to Sookie before being stopped by Victor—let alone after he had been released from the silver.
I felt myself in the uncomfortable position of admiring the Viking—at least for a moment. I truly could not imagine the agony he must have felt as his bond with Sookie had forced him to endure the pain Neave and Lochlan had inflicted upon her. I was even more uncomfortable recognizing that I had to be grateful to Eric.
And thankful for his now-severed bond with Sookie.
Obviously, despite his own pain—despite being silvered—the Viking had managed to send her strength through that bond.
To send her the will to live.
Otherwise, Sookie would have surely succumbed to her torturers.
I closed my eyes as I continued to count down the final minute to sundown.
After months of suffering, pain, and almost hopelessness—I could finally see happiness before me. Happiness and a life with Sookie Stackhouse.
“As it would have always been,” I said to myself. “If not for Northman,” I added bitterly.
Of course, the best part—the part that would most torture Northman—was that Sookie herself had “built” the avenue for our happiness. She had asked her witch friend to break her bond with the Viking, a sure sign that she did not want him. A sign that she wanted a fresh start.
With me—I hoped.
I said a quick prayer to that effect and prepared to leave my resting place since I could sense that the sun was moments from fully setting. I made plans to hurry to Sookie’s home, even as I again probed my blood to see if I could pick up any traces of her. There were none. But—given the witches’ new wards on Sookie’s dwelling—I was not surprised by this. After all, I’d not felt her the night before either.
But I had “felt”—intuitively—that she was home during my interaction with Thalia.
“Home,” I said to myself. A home with Sookie was the thing I wanted most, and I felt certain that—if I lobbied for it enough—Felipe would allow Sookie and me to dwell in Bon Temps for at least part of the year.
Of course, that did not mean that we could not also establish a lovely permanent home in Las Vegas.
I imagined that home in wonderful detail as I jetted from my resting place, showered and then sped to the old farmhouse.
Sookie was sitting on her porch, though I could not even step onto the first stair because of the witches’ spell.
“Invite me to come in,” I entreated her.
She was looking forward, her eyes seemingly glazed over as if she were glamoured. She was noticeably shivering, despite the mildness of the evening.
“Sookie!” I said louder. “Invite me to come past the spell!”
“Bill?” she asked almost tentatively, looking up at me with reddened eyes as if she had shed many tears and gotten little sleep. “What’s happened to me, Bill?”
I was so grateful to see her—to see her alive, despite the fact that she was also so despondent. Indeed, I was so distracted by her pale appearance that another vampire was almost able to sneak up on me.
I turned to face him when he was but ten feet away from me.
“Bubba!” I acknowledged with some surprise.
He nodded as if I was reminding him of his own name.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him.
“Visitin’,” he said in his simple manner.
“That is all well and good, Bubba, but I need to speak seriously with Miss Sookie for a while. Perhaps, you should return tomorrow night,” I suggested, though I knew that suggesting that Bubba travel to Vegas would be a more likely way for him to see Sookie the next night.
Perhaps it was time for the real Bubba to go to Vegas. It had been a while, after all.
“But I ain’t here just to see Miss Sookie,” Bubba said, following Sookie’s movements with concern in his somewhat droopy hazel eyes. “I’m here to see the new owner of the house, too.”
“New owner?” I asked, turning to look at Sookie. “What is he talking about, darling?”
With my senses, I could tell that the wards around Sookie’s home were the same as they had been the night before. And that had to mean that Sookie was still the owner—right?
“Me,” a voice said from the doorway.
“Thalia?” I asked.
“Yes, Bill,” the vampiress said with an uncharacteristic amount of pensiveness. She placed an afghan around Sookie, who was still shivering.
“Eric took your home away from you?” I asked Sookie.
“I’m empty, Bill,” Sookie said almost desperately.
I inhaled deeply. The wards around the house prevented me from smelling anything beyond the first stair of the porch. And—when I tried to step onto the porch again—they prevented that too.
“Invite me in, Sookie. Let me help you!” I implored.
“Someone took it, someone took it, someone took it,” Sookie repeated, rocking back and forth.
“Took what, darling?” I asked her. “Your house?”
“She has been ill since last night,” Thalia said evenly, though her eyes showed some concern. “But she is even more despondent now than she was then. The Weres who watched over the house said that she has sat in her current position since early morning. They did not see her take in food or even see to her human needs.” The vampiress shook her head sadly. “Her witch friends must have successfully broken the blood bond; nothing else could have caused this reaction. As for Sookie’s home, as I indicated last night, I was told to dwell here by the sheriff and invited inside by the telepath. It was not until I awoke tonight that I received a message that I now own this dwelling. It was,” she paused, “unexpected news.”
“Damn you, Eric!” I exclaimed as I tried to step onto the porch again. Again, I was repelled.
“If you own this house, why can I not access it?” I asked with—I will admit—somewhat unwarranted hostility in Thalia’s direction, given her clear concern for Sookie’s state.
The vampiress shook her head. “Hell if I know. I have tried to invite Bubba in too, but he cannot proceed past your current position either.”
I looked at the simpleton vampire. “Is that true?” I asked him.
“I was told to come here to help Miss Thalia with anythin’ she needed,” he answered. “And to make sure Miss Sookie was safe. I dug myself in right over there,” Bubba said, gesturing toward the tree line, “so I’d be here right at sundown.” The vampire frowned as he looked at Sookie. “Miss Sookie looks mighty sad—don’t she Mister Bill?”
I looked at my beloved. She was still rocking back and forth; mumbling “it’s gone,” again and again; and staring into space as if she were no longer seeing anything around her.
I looked at Thalia. “If you now own this place, invite me in,” I entreated, hoping that she would recall the détente we had seemingly reached the night before.
“You are welcome to enter this property,” Thalia said without hesitation. “Any part of it,” she added.
I tried, again, to breach the porch, but I could not.
“Call the witches,” Thalia suggested as Sookie continued to rock back and forth, shivering even more than before. “Maybe they will know how you can get in.”
“Just bring her to me,” I said after deciding that I did not want to wait for the witches. “Surely, she can exit the property! I will take her to Felipe, and he will make sure she is helped.”
Thalia contemplated for a moment and then went over to Sookie.
“Miss Stackhouse,” Thalia spoke in a more comforting tone that I thought she was capable of producing, “will you come with me? You need some help.”
Sookie did not acknowledge the vampiress until Thalia reached out to touch her. And then Sookie screamed bloody murder!
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the chapter.
As always, many thanks to both Kleannhouse and Sephrenia!!!