I swatted the cat away like a fly and was pleased to hear bones cracking against the steel-reinforced walls that were standard on the vampire floors of the Pyramid of Gizeh hotel.
Truth be told, I’d been looking for a reason to skin this particular cat—as many ways as I could—until he was out of lives. Clearly, Sookie could now read the tiger like a picture book and had offered me a litany of new reasons to despise him.
The biggest offense? He’d hurt her!
Speaking of which—I needed to find a way to kill Bill, too.
Preferably without Sookie knowing or after he’d made the first move.
Just like the pussy had.
I smiled and enjoyed the sensation of my fangs dropping.
I’d already been returning to my bonded when I’d felt her fear. But I’d been tardy in reaching her because I’d been five miles away—meeting with a spy of mine, a Fellowship member whom I’d glamoured to feed me information regarding vampire attacks.
Come to find out, Gus wove quite a tale!
Even as I waited for the kitty to get to his feet, I recalled what my spy had spilled. Sadly enough, the bomb in Sookie’s hands was likely the smallest one in the building, and if Gus’s information was correct, there were currently 21 bombs in the pyramid. They’d been put into suitcases. And a few at a time, representatives—human representatives—of all the states in attendance at the summit were being called with instructions to pick up a piece of vampire luggage that had been missed upon regular check in. The humans, not wanting to overstep—or be killed—wouldn’t dare to open the bags. No. Dutifully, they would take the luggage to the chambers of their monarchs and let the nest in attendance figure things out. Given the security protocols that were supposedly in place at the hotel, no one would suspect foul play.
Thankfully, Gus had come through, and I’d learned that the bombs would be set off the day after tomorrow. I’d been on my way to get my bonded so that we could inform Sophie-Anne of all of this—and then get the fuck out of the ticking time bomb—when Sookie’s fear had gone through the pointed fucking roof of the hotel’s pyramid.
And I’d found her, holding a tiny bomb—of all things—in another hotel corridor. If only Andre were there, we’d be able to relive our earlier party. I was pretty sure that Sookie would have been willing to hand that mother fucker the bomb in her hands!
The kitty stumbled and I looked over at Sookie. Stress was eating into her face, but she was still lovely.
Did I regret bonding permanently with her? No.
First of all, I wasn’t one to have regrets; they were a waste of time. Plus, I wanted Sookie Stackhouse. I’d wanted her for a long time now. And a bond would make my getting her inevitable. If she would simply listen to reason and cooperate, I knew I’d have her that very night.
But listening to reason and cooperating were not Sookie’s strong points. She was still young—headstrong. But I honestly didn’t mind that so much. I’d been much the same—before I’d had a thousand years of vampire life to temper me.
However, feeling Sookie after we’d become permanently bonded had been a sensation I was still adjusting to. I’d had her blood before, felt her emotions before. But now feeling what she was feeling was like being in freefall with no hope of landing well—or at all. She felt things so strongly, so constantly, and so uncompromisingly.
We were opposites in that way. As a vampire—when I allowed myself to feel, which was rare—I hated it. And I tried to stuff any feeling away into the darkest recesses of my soul.
As if I had a soul.
When Sookie felt, she went all in—at least until she could no longer take it. And then she, similar to me, would tuck the feeling away. Only, that feeling would always swirl inside of her and then resurface—even stronger than before.
The paradox was that I didn’t mind feeling all that she felt. And I didn’t mind feeling for her. Doing so was reckless—and she’d likely be the death of me—but even so-called immortals died.
The tiger staggered again, having a difficult time putting weight on all four of his feet. He truly was a magnificent creature. But—even the mighty Weretiger was no match for a thousand-year-old vampire, and I wasn’t in the mood to make it an “even” fight—not with Sookie holding a bomb not ten feet away from where I stood.
With that in mind, I moved down the corridor—a little toward my foe and a little away from my bonded.
I glanced back at her. Even from my first meeting of her, there had been many things that I figured I would do with—and to—Sookie Stackhouse before her mortal coil was pulled. However, binding myself to her permanently hadn’t been one of them.
Until the previous January.
And the moment I’d seen Andre cornering her in that quiet hallway, something in me had snapped into place—not a memory of our time together exactly. I still had not been gifted with those recollections.
No—what I felt was more primordial than memory. It was nothing tactile or finite. It was a simple need: the need to protect Sookie.
Not because she was mine—because she was not.
But because she was Sookie.
And I aimed to have her stay that way.
So I’d stepped in to bond with her so that Andre couldn’t destroy her.
I’d already shared blood with Sookie several times—though never simultaneously. A drop of blood here. An ounce of blood there. Thus, I knew that we were already teetering on the line of permanence.
And I’d already had a good sense of her feelings.
For a while, I’d known, for example, that she loved me—even though she also resisted that love with the stubbornness of a mule.
I also knew that—after I told her all about the bond we’d completed—she’d likely try to kick me like a mule would kick a demanding master. And I didn’t expect that kick to be figurative either.
I glanced in her direction. Her eyes were closed and her hands were perfectly still. She’d obviously watched too many movies where bombs were involved. I’d have to educate her. Of course, she didn’t want to be shaking the damned bomb up and down! But cautious movements were okay for most explosives.
In other words, she could have put the goddamned bomb down carefully and run the fuck away!
Calming myself down as I waited for my foe to find his feet, I let myself sink into Sookie’s emotions for a moment.
And I felt something from her that I never really expected to feel: affection.
For me. Not the “me” she’d known last January.
It was—enjoyable—to say the least.
Quinn, of course, just had to choose that moment to get up. The fucker should have stayed down. I had already committed to stopping the fight whenever Quinn did.
For Sookie’s sake.
As if he were thinking about my personal preference to kill him, however, the fool rose and snarled, reminding me why I really did hate the motherfucker.
Was I jealous? Hmm….
No. Definitely. But not because of Quinn himself.
I was jealous because I was a territorial vampire—made even more that way by my leftover Viking ideals. I wanted Sookie for myself—for myself only.
But I didn’t fear that Sookie loved the tiger. Through the blood tie, I had felt that she was “trying” to love him, doing all that she could to be a “good girlfriend” to him.
But he was not the one she longed for.
At least the “I” that had been cursed.
However, as much as she might have longed for me, she never came to me, nor did she particularly welcome me when I came to her. Analyzing her feelings was very confusing—especially given the fact that I’d avoided analyzing my own for centuries.
Simply put, one did not survive Appius by dwelling on one’s feelings.
And I had always been a survivor; however, I was also a “feeling” survivor now.
And—after a thousand years—I accepted those feelings as my new “normal.”
I couldn’t quite recall how I’d managed both to feel and to survive as a human—at least, until Appius found me. But I was slowly getting the hang of things again, so to speak.
So I knew without a doubt that Sookie loved me, but she was afraid of rejection.
She and I had a lot in common.
The tiger lunged and, with a backhand, I sent him flying again. There was a cry and a throaty mewl from him before he rose once more.
Forcibly stifling the vampire in me, I found myself speaking, instead of killing (like I wanted to be doing). “In deference to my bonded, John Quinn, I will let you leave this place without laying another finger upon you. You betrayed her, but her heart is kind, and she would want you to go on.”
“I suggest you leave, tail between your legs. Sookie and I will give you five hours before we tell Sophie-Anne about Felipe. If you can make yourself and your kin safe before then, then do it. If not, go to your king and beg for his mercy. Tell him that I uncovered your plan through torturing that sister of yours. But do not tell him that Sookie heard you with her gift. If you do, I will extract suffering from you in a way that the Spanish king could never fathom. I am older than he is. And I am more brutal. I have great patience. And I have cause,” I added, glancing at Sookie.
She still had her eyes closed, but there was the faintest of smiles on her face. I searched the bond.
She was grateful that I was giving him a chance to live.
I sort of hoped he didn’t take me up on it. Sadly, he had at least one brain cell in his thick skull.
With a final growl, Quinn—still in his Bengal form—took off down the hall, likely going toward the back staircase.
He left his clothing behind.
I turned back toward my bonded.
Her eyes slowly opened to study me.
“Give me that bomb,” I requested for what felt like the umpteenth time.
She shook her head. “No.”
I was just about to school her in the physics of such devices as the one that she was holding when the elevator doors opened.
Out walked a vampire in heavy bomb gear, a fact that likely reinforced all of Sookie’s previous notions about bombs.
It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he was already instructing her on how to pass the bomb over to him.
Carefully, with a steadiness that was as beyond ordinary as Sookie was herself, my bonded put the device into a little box that the bomb squad person was carrying. Just as carefully, she lifted her hands out.
“Thanks, ma’am,” the bomb squad guy, who was wearing a nametag reading “Boom,” grinned.
He gestured toward the elevator, and I hit the button for it. The doors opened immediately, and I pushed the button to keep them that way. Slowly, “Boom” got into the conveyance; he was holding the box—and, therefore, the bomb—with both hands.
“Lobby, please,” Boom requested, still grinning. He seemed extremely pleased to have gotten hold of the bomb.
“To each his own,” I mumbled as I pressed the button.
“Or her own,” Sookie added, waving to Boom.
Once the door closed, it was as if time stopped for a moment.
And then—just as I was feeling that she would—my bonded fainted.
Of course, I caught her long before she hit the floor.
I would never let her fall—whether I had my memories or not.
I loved her—whether or not I remembered how he had loved her.