SOOKIE POV, CONTINUED
“Given what you know now,” Eric said, his smirk only growing, “I bet you can look back and distinguish between when you were simply feeling my emotions versus when you were receiving more active ‘pushes’ from me.”
I frowned as I tried to follow his suggestion and think back.
“I came here once—after a really shitty day. I was still mad about the pledging, but I wanted for you to comfort me. I needed it,” I said.
“And as your bonded—as the man who loved you—I couldn’t deny you that,” he said. “Yes that was one time.”
I thought for another moment. “When I was holding the soda can bomb. I could feel you trying to calm me down—and I also felt something else.” I frowned. “What else were you trying to send?”
Eric shook his head in frustration. “I was trying to outweigh your stubbornness with my own—so that you would hand me that fucking can!” He rolled his eyes. “You can see how well that worked.”
I chuckled, but then my laughter fell flat. “Another time was when the fairies had me—wasn’t it?”
He sighed and nodded. “I tried to send strength and comfort—to give you hope.”
“Do you think that’s what kept me alive?” I asked, even as I realized that I could answer that question myself. “It did,” I said aloud. “Or—at least—it kept me from falling apart.”
Eric squeezed my hand. “I am glad, min kära. Very glad to hear that.”
“What was the fourth time?” I asked him after a moment of thought.
“I’m not surprised you cannot figure out that one. After all, you completely ignored the ‘caution’ I tried to send you.”
“Sigebert,” I said. “I felt your fear, and I wanted to get to you. But I also felt a sense of caution. You were trying to stop me from coming—weren’t you?”
“Trying,” he smirked. “But I couldn’t hide my own feelings or anxiety from you, so you came anyway. Yet another example of your stubbornness.”
“Another example of yours,” I countered.
“Touché! And—for the record,” he added, “the types of feelings you felt when you walked into my office cannot be helped. I love you too much to stifle my happiness when I see you.”
I was glad to be sitting down since Eric had the ability to knock me off of my feet with a single glance—let alone with the power of the words he was saying to me.
“Eric,” I whispered.
“Other than losing the mental and physical connections we share, do you have any idea what will happen to us—to you—if you break our bond?” he asked soberly.
I was momentarily startled by his question, and the room seemed to become devoid of air. “No,” I whispered.
“You would be vulnerable and so would I?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Without a blood bond affirming our connection, our pledge would lose most, if not all, of its validity, for—with vampires—everything comes down to blood,” he said forebodingly. “Should you break the bond, you would be signaling Victor, Felipe, and all other vampires that you were rejecting my claim on you. And—do you know what that would mean?”
“They would all try to claim me?” I asked, shivering.
“Yes. Likely, Bill would be the first to try. He would say that it was to protect you. But—since he is de Castro’s spy—I cannot imagine it would take him long to advise you to cooperate more fully with the king.”
“What? Bill’s a spy?” I stammered. “What—uh? How do you know that?”
Eric sighed. “Oh—don’t worry. Bill’s the most innocuous kind of spy, or he’d be dead by now—by my hand,” he said in a deadly manner. “As of yet, Bill hasn’t told his master anything too damaging, so I’ve stayed my hand.”
“What kinds of things has he told the king?” I asked, still shivering.
Eric gripped my hand a little tighter.
“He’s passed along information about you—and us—to Felipe. For example, the king knows that we are not living with one another. And guess who called me half an hour before you arrived, questioning why I’d not told him about Sandra Pelt?”
My mouth fell open. “Felipe?” I managed.
“Yes,” Eric returned. “And—unless the incompetent Bon Temps Keystone Cops have the King of Nevada, Louisiana, and Arkansas on speed dial—I can only speculate that Bill was behind the information. Such incidents have added up enough for me to suspect Bill of other slips of the tongue, too.” Eric scoffed. “Of course, I’m certain that he has justified—to himself—that such information-sharing is ‘in your best interests,'” he added bitterly. “And it isn’t as if he isn’t an equal opportunity sycophant. After all, he gave Sophie-Anne reports about you—right until the very end.”
“He did?” I asked.
Eric nodded. “Bill is young, but he’s managed to make himself important to both of the monarchs he’s served. And he is in the information business—as you know. But Bill will find himself in trouble he cannot get out of soon enough.”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Vampires enjoy their private information being distributed even less than you do, min kära. Eventually, Bill will include information in his database that displeases a vampire who doesn’t give a fuck that de Castro has issued an order of protection over him.”
“You think someone will try to kill Bill?” I asked with a gasp.
“Yes. I just wish I could be the first in line,” Eric responded with a smirk.
“Eric!” I exclaimed.
He sighed. “I understand that you hate violence and killing, Sookie, but even before I was a vampire, I believed in values that you would find more,” he paused, “Old Testament than New Testament.” His eyebrow rose. “Bill has lied to me and gone out of his way to undermine me. However, none of this compares to the hurt he has caused you. For that alone, I would like to kill him—and to take my time doing so.”
“Despite this desire, however, I have respected your wishes by not harming him,” Eric continued. “But—if he ever brings irreparable harm onto you again, I will kill him.”
“Eric, I have never wanted anyone to die because of me,” I begged.
“Bill will be dying for his own actions,” he scoffed. “You already carry too much fucking guilt for things that are not your fault,” he added angrily.
“I believe in taking responsibility for what I’ve done!” I returned, my own frustration rising.
“Were you responsible for your parents’ death?” Eric challenged.
“They were driving to counselling—because of me—when they died,” I frowned.
“No—they were going to counselling because they were too weak to see the treasure they had in a child, and they were killed by Water Fairies who would have found a way to murder them regardless of the situation. How about your grandmother? Do you not blame yourself for her death too?”
“Gran did die because of me!” I insisted. “If I hadn’t been dating Bill, she wouldn’t have become a target of Rene!”
“Right,” Eric said sarcastically. “And you were supposed to make your romantic choices at the whims of a serial killer?” He shook his head. “The sad thing is that you likely thought about the risks to yourself and then decided that they were worth it. No one would have ever thought that the killer would victimize your grandmother. I bet if the possibility had occurred to you—or if you’d heard it from anyone’s head—then you would have immediately sacrificed your opportunity for personal happiness. And—don’t even try to tell me that you don’t feel guilt for those who died for you during the fairy battle.”
“Well—those people were protecting me!”
“Yes! From homicidal fairies who you didn’t encourage in any way!” Eric shook his head. “Hell—you probably even feel guilty about Appius.”
“Well—shouldn’t I?” I asked with challenge. He’s dead because someone was trying to kill me.
“And good fucking riddance too!” Eric yelled out with frustration. “If you knew what he did—what he’s still trying to do—you wouldn’t feel the guilt you do.”
“What did he do,” Eric?” I asked pleadingly. “What could he still be doing?”
“I don’t think it’s your turn to ask a question,” he growled.
I could tell that he was the one trying to “shut down” in that moment.
“We stopped recognizing turns a while back,” I said gently, and I tightened my grip on his hand when he tried to pull away from me again. “Just answer the question—please.”
“Fine,” he said, his voice turning cold. “Appius liked the looks of me when he stalked me as a human, so he turned me. Like I told you before, he taught me many things about being a vampire, including obedience and punishment.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
He seemed to be near-bursting.
And then he erupted in emotion and pain.
“It means that he raped me! Almost every night I was with him! Sometimes, he liked me to fight him—just so that he could punish me and beat me. Sometimes, he would order my compliance—or even my enjoyment. Do you have any idea how horrible it is to have your mind raped along with your body?” he asked coldly.
“Not like that,” I whispered. “But I do know what it’s like to have your mind penetrated in ways you can’t control.”
Eric’s expression softened immediately. “I know you do, min kära.” He sighed, even as his hand stopped fighting for freedom and interlaced with my own in solidarity. “I do not want to remind you of such things.”
“And I don’t want to remember them, but sometimes I have to—just so that I know they haven’t defeated me. Please, Eric. Please! Don’t hide yourself from me in the name of protecting me,” I cried.
“Don’t hide yourself from me in the name of protecting me.”
Sookie’s words resonated in my mind like an echo. They filled me up and they taught me.
Still—when she’d asked me how Appius’s actions could still hurt me—I found myself wanting to hide the truth from her.
Despite my promise to Sookie—and to her witch friend—to be honest.
Even when it hurt.
Clearly, Sookie felt my pause and my apprehension.
“No matter how hard it is to say, Eric, I need to hear it. Is this what you’ve been hiding from me?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Please. Tell me.”
“Appius signed a contract for my,” I paused,” services with Queen Freyda of Oklahoma.”
“It will make me her consort for a hundred years,” I whispered.
“Consort? I’ve heard that word before, but I’m not sure what it means,” Sookie said in a quiet voice. I could feel her apprehension growing.
“A consort is the husband or wife of a powerful person—usually a monarch. However, I would have no real power. Freyda wants me for muscle, and Appius liked the idea that he could sell me. Still,” I added meaningfully.
The implications of that word—still—hung in the air like a guillotine.
“But you’re already married,” Sookie said, “to me!”
“Are you ready to claim me?” I asked wryly.
She sighed in return, so I didn’t push my sarcasm at her. It would have only been a distraction tactic anyway.
“I am pledged,” I said, “but only to a human in the eyes of most vampires. And—apparently Appius signed that contract before you and I pledged.”
“Before,” she whispered.
“We were bonded before the contract was signed, however,” I said.
“Will that make a difference?”
“Maybe,” I relayed. “But Cataliades isn’t sure. There are other steps that could be taken, but I want to avoid them.”
“What other steps?” she asked.
“Like I said, I want to avoid them.”
“Because they involve me?”
I nodded in confirmation.
“Tell me,” she ordered, reminding me of why I’d first fallen in love with her.
“My case would be strengthened if you publicly claimed your Fae heritage,” I sighed. “Our bonding and pledging would both be seen as more legitimate then.”
“Oh,” she whispered.
“Like I said, I’ve been trying to keep you out of it,” I added firmly.
“But shouldn’t I be in it? Since I’m your wife?” she asked with some frustration.
I shook my head in confusion. “Sookie—besides our physical relationship—every signal you’ve ever offered me has suggested that my wife was the last thing you wanted to be,” I said honestly, allowing my disappointment to come through in my voice and in the bond.
“Eric, I just . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“You needn’t worry,” I said stiffly. “As I indicated, I have the demon lawyer looking into matters. He thinks that our bond might be enough, especially since we pledged soon after. And the fact that I was unaware of the contract negotiations might matter too, given my age. Such contracts are not made by,” I paused, “honorable makers.” I sighed. “And—if you break the bond—perhaps we could keep it a secret until after the Vampire Council rules on the issue. Or—there is always the possibility that Felipe will step in to denounce the contract—or to buy it out.”
“How likely is that?” Sookie asked, her eyes shining with unshed tears.
Even though they’d not yet fallen, I still hated them.
“Not very—at least not without a steep price,” I admitted.
“What price?” she asked.
“You,” I said simply. “He’s already told me that he will help me escape from Freyda’s claim if I convince you to live in Vegas so that you are at his disposal full-time.”
“But I don’t want to go to Vegas,” she whispered.
“I know. That is why I turned him down.”
“But if you are in Oklahoma? What then? Wouldn’t Felipe just take me?”
“There are things I might be able to do to work your safety into the marriage contract—if it comes to that,” I said enigmatically.
“What would that cost you?” she asked.
It was a question I didn’t want her to know the answer to, but I told her anyway.
“Another century of service—I would imagine. Freyda would pay Felipe a lot for that.”
“And you’d do that for me? You’d give up your freedom like that?” Sookie asked horrified.
I sighed. “When are you going to learn—you stubborn, beautiful, infuriating woman? I would do anything for you!”
A/N: Well—I hope you enjoyed the continuation of their talk. Many of you remarked that these two had A LOT to say to each other. Hope you haven’t been disappointed by this.