While Sookie and Eric had been in his office, Bob and I had been enjoying Jock’s liquid concoctions. The congenial vampire was a wizard behind the bar, and—though Bob had stopped drinking alcohol after his first drink because he’d be driving me (but hopefully not Sookie) home—the “virgin” beverages that he made were almost as delicious as the fully-loaded ones I was enjoying.
I knew—because I’d tasted all of them.
I glanced at the stopwatch I’d set on my cell phone.
“What’s the verdict?” Bob asked.
“They’ve been in there for over an hour,” I said, showing him the screen of the phone which indicated that they’d been—hopefully—talking for an hour and twenty-two minutes and forty-two seconds.
To be precise.
I stopped the timer when I saw Eric come into the main bar from the back.
He didn’t look pleased.
“Witches! Come!” he barked out. Immediately, he turned and zipped back toward his office.
Fuming, I grabbed Bob’s hand and stomped my way toward the back, ignoring the concerned look on Jock’s face.
Yes—I was pissed off! I’d tried to help that son of a bitch! And I wasn’t going to stand for being ordered around like a dog!
When Bob and I entered Eric’s office and I saw that Sookie was wearing a different dress, I growled angrily. “Sookie Stackhouse! You promised you wouldn’t fuck him!”
It didn’t help that Eric chuckled as if I’d told a joke, even as he closed the door behind us.
“You promised to talk too!” I yelled in Eric’s direction as the vampire joined Sookie to sit on the couch. They were both “pink”-looking. Eric was obviously “pink” because he’d recently fed. Sookie’s color was from a blush.
“We did discuss many things, witch,” Eric said with a smirk. “And we wanted to thank you for that. But out there was not the place to do it.”
“Why not?” I asked, still miffed about how Bob and I had been “summoned.”
“Jock is a spy,” Sookie said as she took Eric’s hand.
“And we want him to think that all is not happy in the Eric/Sookie universe.”
Reluctantly—grudgingly—I let my anger deflate. I was just glad that Bob and I hadn’t discussed Eric and Sookie much in Jock’s presence. All we’d said was that we hoped they could work things out, but beyond that, we’d kept our conversation light, given the number of vampire ears in the room. The last thing we’d wanted was to undermine Eric or to openly discuss things like breaking bonds!
I felt my frown leaving my face as I studied both Eric’s and Sookie’s faces. They seemed much more relaxed—much more at ease—and not just in a post-coital bliss kind of way.
“Sit down,” Eric invited, gesturing for Bob and me to take the two chairs that had been set up across from the couch. I noticed Sookie’s destroyed dress in the trashcan by the desk as we passed it.
“You’d think that you would have learned to operate zippers in the last thousand years,” I muttered sarcastically in Eric’s direction.
“Sadly—no,” he winked, while Sookie flamed even redder.
“So?” I asked as soon as Bob and I had sat down.
“We talked. We’re together,” Sookie said with a wide smile as she leaned against Eric.
“And the bond?” I asked.
“We’re not breaking it,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked. If she spewed off some kind of “practical” explanation, I would likely strangle her. Yes—I figured that the bond would help her to stay safe from other vampires. However, the part of me who had lost Tray and then had found Bob again prayed that Sookie’s reasoning for wanting to keep the bond would be love.
“It is,” she said sincerely, as she reached out her free hand to grab mine.
She was obviously listening to my thoughts, but she clarified for the others. “It is love—and all the practical stuff too. But, mostly, it’s love.”
I smiled in return and squeezed her hand. “And your doubts? Your fears about the bond?”
“Eric told me that the bond can’t create feelings, and I trust him,” she said firmly, even as the vampire seemed to relax even more at her words. “I should have trusted him all along,” she added.
“We are both guilty of mistrust, lover,” Eric said gently. “But no more.”
Sookie nodded and released my hand to wipe away a tear that was falling down her cheek. “Anyway,” she said as if trying to hurdle over past pains, “Eric and I are going to keep working on our communication skills—but thanks to you, we’ve had a good start.”
“I’m glad, Sook,” I said sincerely as Bob took my hand. I could tell that my boyfriend was glad for Sookie—and glad that my little scheme to force my friend and her vampire to talk had actually worked. And I loved Bob all the more for that pride.
“So—what now?” I asked.
“Well—for one—I’m going to move in with Eric,” Sookie announced proudly. “And—for another—I’m going to come out as a fairy and claim Eric as mine,” she practically growled.
She looked as fierce as I’d ever seen her. She looked like the fairy she’d been trying to deny that she was.
And Eric looked ready to ruin another dress.
“Should we go?” Bob asked nervously, sensing the charge in the room just as I had.
“No,” Sookie said quickly, as she placed a hand on Eric’s arm to signal him to calm down. We’re working on a plan to deal with Victor Madden,” she announced. “And we need your help.”
“Our help?” I asked.
“If you’re willing to give it,” Sookie said.
“If it helps to rid the world of that smug bastard, Victor Madden, then I’m in,” I promised.
“I’m with you,” Bob volunteered from next to me.
I turned to smile at my boyfriend. I really did love him.
“If we kill Victor directly, then Felipe will kill me and take Sookie,” Eric said gravely.
Surprisingly, Sookie’s smile looked like one of Eric’s in that moment: feral. Indeed, it seemed as if she were finally ready to embrace her fairy heritage in more ways than one.
“That’s why he needs to die while saving my life,” Sookie said.
I cradled Miriam’s body to my own as carefully as I could.
The chemotherapy she’d been enduring might as well have been called “poison-therapy.” I knew that it was the best humans had to offer her, and my studies had also told me that it worked for many people. However, that didn’t change the fact that the “treatment” was a crapshoot.
The question was: Could the cancer be eliminated before the body was too poisoned to survive the cure?
I hated the very premise of the treatment! The torture involved!
And I hated the fact that cancer was one of the few ailments that vampire blood would make worse. In fact, if I fed Miriam my blood, it would only feed the rogue cells inside of her.
Unless I drained almost all of her blood first.
Unless I made her my child—something I’d been forbidden from doing by Victor fucking Madden!
And by Eric.
I scoffed quietly so that I wouldn’t wake up my beloved. She moaned in my arms. I’d spent my “vacation” from Fangtasia with her—trying to ease the suffering that her cancer and its treatment had caused her.
I’d felt fucking powerless!
Holding her hair as she vomited into her toilet.
Holding her hair and a bucket when she couldn’t make it to the toilet to vomit the paltry amount of food and water she’d been able to take in.
Crackers and sips.
Not having the energy to cry, Miriam had whimpered herself to a fitful sleep. She’d spent her restless slumber taking turns between hugging my body to her to—hoping to quell her fever—and pushing me away because any contact caused her pain at times.
I was at a loss.
And I was fucking pissed!
Still—I could understand Victor’s motivation for stopping me from turning my lover. After all, he was a spiteful bastard who had no concept about affection or love—and he wanted to further punish my maker by denying me. But what I couldn’t understand was my maker’s reasoning for not just killing the asshole right away.
I knew that he planned to, after all!
But Eric was determined to “wait” for the “right opportunity!”
The right time.
As if Miriam had any fucking time to wait for my maker to put a fucking plan together!
A stake. An asshole.
An asshole on a stake.
How fucking hard could a “plan” be?!
My phone vibrated from the nightstand where I’d placed it earlier, but I didn’t want to disturb Miriam’s “rest” in order to reach for it, so I let the call go to voice mail.
A minute later, my phone rang again. This time, I felt a small pull from my maker, letting me know that it was him calling.
I knew Eric would keep up the calls until I answered, so—as carefully as I could—I moved so that I could reach my phone. Miriam groaned in my arms; thus, my bitterness was at an all-time high as I answered.
“What?” I spat.
“Do it. But do not take her to ground in Louisiana. I’d suggest the safe house in Texas. Given Miriam’s current state, you’ll need to go to ground with her and stay with her in order to ensure a positive outcome.”
“You’re giving me permission?” I asked in a whisper. A whimper.
“Yes. I am hereby lifting my command that you not turn Miriam. Turn her, Pam. Turn your beloved.”
“But Victor?” I asked, even as I felt my maker’s command lift from my body like a blanket being tossed aside. “Why Texas?”
“By the time you rise with your new child, Victor will either be dead or the rest of your allies in Area 5—including me—will be no more. If you cannot feel me when you rise, then I want you to lay low for a while. As soon as your child has enough control, go to Karin,” my maker said. “And be secret about it.”
“Why her?” I asked. All I knew about Karin was that she was my sire’s first “made” child. I had never even spoken to her—let alone seen her. In fact, about Karin, I knew only the name of the place where my maker had told me she was staying: a small city in Columbia.
“I’m taking steps to ensure that my children won’t be implicated in my actions,” he said enigmatically. “Thus, I do not think that retaliation would be made against you or Karin, but the possibility exists. If troubles come, you two will be stronger together.”
“What steps are you taking?” I asked.
“Do not be in Louisiana tomorrow night,” he emphasized. “And—if I die—you are to make sure that Karin has half of the money I left behind. You know how to access the offshore accounts. She doesn’t.”
“Eric? Master?” I asked, feeling dread rise within me once more. “I will help you kill Victor.”
“No,” he said firmly. “Think, Pamela. If you were lost, then Miriam would be too.”
“I could turn her and then help,” I tried.
“And risk leaving her as a newborn without a maker?” he asked.
“Master?!” I whispered, half question, half plea.
“No, Pam. Leave Area 5 and turn your beloved. Go right now—within the half hour.” He paused and seemed to sigh. “I want you to have a happy life, and—once it’s possible—I’ll call you back here.”
“Wait! What do you mean?” I asked loud enough to cause Miriam to stir.
“The steps I am taking to keep you from being implicated will also make it difficult for me to allow you return to Area 5 for a while, even if all goes well,” he said.
“You’re going to claim that I defied you. But how?” I asked. “Victor was there when you gave me the command not to turn Miriam. He was the one who ordered you to do it!”
“There is a plan. That’s all you need to know, Pam. That—and that I am sorry for making you wait to have your own heart’s desire,” he sighed. “Goodbye,” he said before hanging up. When I tried to call back, his voice mail picked up.
“What’s wrong?” Miriam asked groggily.
I forced my worries about Eric to the back of my mind.
“Are you ready to become my child?” I asked my beloved instead.
“Can we?” she asked hopefully. She was, of course, aware of my maker’s previous command.
“We can,” I returned.