“Godric,” I said with sudden realization. Maybe there was something that I could do to comfort Eric, after all.
With a kind of purpose I hadn’t felt in a long time, I walked up the stairs to the old attic and went straight to the corner of the large space, being careful not to hit my head on the sloping beams that I’d swung from as a kid. The corner of the attic farthest from the entrance had been my little sanctuary. I’d hidden there—behind a myriad of boxes—as much as possible when Uncle Barlett had come around. And even when he wasn’t around, I’d played there for hours when the voices of Gran and Jason got to be too loud inside my head.
There weren’t any old and rickety boxes in the attic anymore. Everything that had been salvaged during the renovation had been put into neatly labeled, pristine packing boxes—the kind with the thick cardboard that didn’t easily bend. Something inside of me told me that Eric had been responsible for doing even the packing of the attic. The handwriting looked like the same neat and elegant script that was on the note in my buffet drawer—the note that returned Gran’s home to me.
Why had I been so angry at him for his “high-handedness?” Why hadn’t I said thank you.
Oh yes. It was because I’d been shocked about missing a year of my life. I’d been freaked out about being “legally dead.” And I’d been afraid that Eric wanted to use me, which was a logical assumption based on the evidence that I had available to me at the time. It’d been the wrong assumption, but it had—perhaps—been the most feasible one.
I pushed a few of the perfectly stacked boxes out of the way and wondered just how comprehensive Eric’s renovation had been. I smiled as the floorboard squeaked under my foot and then bent down to pry up the loose board with my fingers.
Eric had missed a spot.
“Well—I guess nobody’s perfect,” I chuckled as the floorboard came up as it always had. I had found the spot by accident the first time I’d hidden in the attic to avoid Uncle Bartlett. Gran had taken Jason to the movie theater that day, but I couldn’t go because Gran knew that being around that many people was too difficult for me.
What she didn’t know at the time was that I would have preferred a thousand people’s heads bombarding me with thoughts over Uncle Bartlett’s single perverted mind. But I’d been afraid to speak up. The first time he’d asked me to sit on his lap and have some “special time” with him, he’d told me that Gran would make me leave if I told her about our “special hugs.” I was too young to know better, so I just tried to hide from him when I could.
Jason and Gran had been gone to the movies for three hours, but it had seemed like a lot longer. Uncle Bartlett had searched for me relentlessly—his mind thinking horrible things that I didn’t fully understand. He’d even come up to the attic, but I’d hidden carefully. Still—he’d been about to discover my hiding place. However, the loose floorboard had saved me. Just as he was wondering if I might be under the old tarp which I’d used to conceal myself, he tripped over the edge of the floorboard and hit his head on a beam. He’d broken his toe and required five stitches in his forehead because of the loose board, and he’d never come to the attic to search for me again.
After I’d returned to the house following the Maenad’s demise, I’d moved the few treasures that I could salvage to my old hiding place. It was my own version of a cubby, though it certainly wasn’t anything like Eric’s.
I smiled as I pulled out the tin box I’d put into the hidey hole as a kid. In it were little trinkets for the most part, but there were some items that I’d held onto as important pieces of myself. On the day that she’d befriended me, Tara had given me a tootsie roll. Jason had given me a handmade card on the first birthday I’d had following our parents’ death. In it, he’d written that he was going to look out for me for them. The carefully folded tootsie roll wrapper and the messily-written card were both well-preserved in the box.
I’d once asked Gran for a set of Lisa Frank stickers at Wal-Mart because all the other kids had them on their binders. But—as soon as I’d heard Gran’s head thinking about how she’d have to go without a new housedress if she bought the pricey stickers for me—I’d lied and told her that they weren’t actually the ones I wanted after all. Two months later, they’d been in my Christmas stocking—though Gran’s head held the same information I’d learned from my parents’ thoughts several years earlier. There was no such thing as Santa Claus—at least not for a telepath. So that Gran would know that I loved the gift, I’d placed one of the stickers prominently on the front cover of my notebook, but I had kept the others pristine in order to remind myself of the things that Gran would sacrifice for me if I wasn’t more careful. Those vividly colored stickers—depicting unicorns and rainbows—were in the box too.
I set the tin aside and brought out the small box I’d put into the hiding place two days after I’d reoccupied my home. It had still been a mess because of Maryann’s debauchery—a mess that I’d blamed myself for. I’d been so ashamed that Gran’s house had been defiled on my watch.
I’d painstakingly sifted through the wreckage, unwilling to let Bill speed through the house with large Hefty bags. I’d been too afraid that something more would be lost. In the rubble, I’d hit pay dirt! I’d found Gran’s favorite necklace, I single pearl on a delicate gold chain. Grandpa Earl had given it to her on their wedding day, according to Gran. I’d discovered it in a pile of shredded clothes and dirt and dead plants. I’d cleaned the item carefully.
Along with the necklace, I’d found a few unbroken knickknacks and some unsoiled lace handkerchiefs which Gran had loved. When I’d salvaged all that I could, I’d packed and hidden what little remained of my grandmother’s treasures.
However, I wasn’t after any of Gran’s items; those things wouldn’t do Eric any good. I was after something I’d held onto from Dallas. I pulled the item out of the box and looked at it through the large Ziploc bag I’d stored it in. Then I reclosed the box of Gran’s things and put it and the tin back into their hiding places before replacing the loose slat and sliding the packing boxes back into place. Somehow I felt better knowing that no Maenad or fairy or Were would be able to get to Gran’s few remaining treasures; I mean—if Eric had missed the loose floorboard, I figured that it was the most concealed place in the house!
Of course, Gran no longer needed her things, but I felt better nonetheless. Whether or not the house was in my name, this would always be Gran’s home to me. And even when I was dead and gone, I hoped that those few pieces from Gran’s life would remain there.
I walked back down to my room, hugging the item I’d collected to my chest and wishing it were Eric. I wanted to comfort him, to carry a part of his burden as he grieved.
That thought led me back to Arlene. I’d called the Bellefleur house as soon as I’d gotten home. According to Holly, Arlene had passed out from emotional exhaustion and too much liquor. Holly had promised me that she was looking after Andy, and Lala had promised that he wouldn’t let Andy drink. I’d let them know that I’d be over first thing in the morning with breakfast.
I felt hot tears falling down my cheeks for Terry and, especially, for Arlene. She had lost her husband, and her children had lost their father. It was strange; Terry hadn’t fathered Lisa or Coby, and he wasn’t even Mikey’s biological father. Of course, I’d not shared that knowledge, which I’d inadvertently learned from Arlene’s head, with anyone else—despite the fact that Terry had also intuited the truth about Mikey’s parentage. But biology didn’t matter to Terry—not at all. He had been those kids’ father by love—not by blood.
Not by blood.
Terry and Arlene and their kids had proven that love could be stronger than blood, but I wondered if that could be possible for me too.
God help me—I still felt love for Bill. I felt it with every trip my traitorous blood made through my heart. And that was the problem. My blood seemed to be in constant disagreement with my head and my heart.
Did I love Warlow? No. At least I had that going for me—even though I’d taken his blood and given him mine. Come to think of it, maybe I’d been trying to prove something to myself when I’d drunk from him. Maybe I was stubbornly trying to show that my will was stronger than Warlow’s ancient blood. Whatever the fuck that meant!
I sighed in frustration. “Not your smartest move ever, Sookie,” I berated myself out loud.
Of course, it was difficult for a mostly-human to win when blood and vampires were involved. And sex with a vampire almost always seemed to come with repercussions—at least when I was the one having it.
I had been so lonely—so fucking virginal—when I’d first had sex with Bill. He’d used our “love-making”—as he’d called it—to wrap me tightly around his finger. And I won’t lie. After Gran was gone, I had been looking for someone to take over—to take care of me. I’d just inadvertently picked the queen’s procurer.
Bill had insisted that he’d fallen in love with me during that time. Moreover—after I’d returned from the fairy realm—he’d claimed that he even killed the queen to protect me. But that particular act of “making things up to me” had come after Eric had exposed Bill’s duplicity. Would’ve Bill killed the queen otherwise? Would’ve he taken me to her? Or would’ve he tried to keep us on the same path we’d been on, which—let’s face it—had been based on lies.
I laid the bundle in my hands carefully on my bed and then went to the closet to look for something black to wear. The Maenad had destroyed most of my clothes, but when Eric had fixed the house, he’d “fixed” my wardrobe too. Everything he’d chosen had fit so far; therefore, I had no doubt that the knee length basic black dress that I pulled out would fit me too. It was chilly outside, so I also grabbed a black blazer. I sighed, knowing that I’d be putting both items to use over the next few days.
Of course, the dress I’d worn to Gran’s funeral was long gone; it had been yet another casualty of Maryann’s “visit.” The new dress was reminiscent of one Gran used to have—probably something from the 1960s. It was form-fitting but classic—very Jackie O.
I smiled to myself, thinking of all the times I’d dug through Gran’s old clothes playing dress up. My smile faded when I thought about the last time I’d worn one of Gran’s garments. I’d dressed in a “virginal” white nightgown and robe set that Gran had kept in the bottom drawer of her dresser. And wearing that garment, I’d hightailed it over to Bill’s house and “offered” myself to him the night after Gran had been laid to rest.
Losing my virginity was yet another moment about blood. Not only had I bled as Bill had thrust into me for the first time, as well as when he’d drunk from me, but also I had been trying to forget Gran’s blood—the blood I’d had to scrub from the kitchen floor.
Yes—the moment I’d given up my virginity had been about blood in almost every conceivable way.
I wasn’t into revising history, so I wouldn’t lie and say that I didn’t like having sex with Bill. I did—though sometimes it had scared me! Having a dirt-covered Bill crawl out of the ground and practically devour me in the graveyard had scared me. Seeing my blood pool in the bottom of the shower when Bill got a little over-zealous with his feeding had scared me. Even now I shook a little whenever I thought of that particular time with Bill. To make that moment even freakier, it had occurred just a couple of days after Bill had almost drained me in the back of that van. After that incident, he’d rushed to the hospital to feed me his blood. I had been grateful that he’d saved me, but I’d also been further messed up by the influence of more of Bill’s blood in me.
Looking back, I realized that I’d fought the power of that blood as much as I’d been able to. Even as I’d lain hooked up to various machines in the hospital, I’d told Bill goodbye—meaning it with my whole head and my whole heart. Of course, a couple of days later—when he’d come to help me with my little “Were problem”—my fucking blood had taken over again.
Bill and my “reunion” sex had been almost violent. It had ended with us in the shower, a claustrophobic space—just like the van. But I’d stifled my apprehension by detaching myself from the scene and studying the blood as it flowed down the drain. It had reminded me of that scene from Psycho—except my blood was real and red.
Of course, our “make-up sex” had just been the appetizer for more lies. Not ten minutes after our shower, Bill had lied about the file of information he’d gotten on me, blaming Eric and his interest in me for its existence. I hadn’t even questioned Bill further!
I sighed. Why hadn’t I asked the logical questions at the time? Had it been the influence of Bill’s blood? Had it been the fact that Eric had said he didn’t care about me while we were in Russell’s mansion?
I forcefully pulled my new black dress off of its hanger and angrily grabbed some fresh underwear.
“Stupid Bill and his stupid lies!” I ranted aloud. “And then after he lied, I had to help him clean up a dead—and naked—Were from my living room floor! Come to think of it—why did he need me to help him lift that Were at all?” I shivered at the thought of hoisting the dead man’s legs. “At least when Eric killed a Were on my floor, he had the decency to pick him up without my having to help!” I said, finishing my raving. I looked around as if someone might pop out of nowhere and agree with me.
I sighed, wishing that that someone could be Niall. I said a quick prayer that I would be able to figure out a way to get him back to this realm. I decided that I would ask Holly about it the next morning. She seemed “in the know” about a lot of magical things. Maybe she could help.
I also made a mental note to talk to her about the witchy version of the morning-after-pill that I knew she’d given to people before. Though I was not at a “dangerous” point in my cycle and I’d been on birth control pills since I was seventeen to alleviate the severe menstrual cramps I tended to have, I didn’t want to take any chances that Warlow’s swimmers had “survived” his transition to vampire just as his ability to exist in the sunlight had.
I couldn’t fathom how sperm could survive for over 5,000 years, but with my luck, they’d probably been preserved in some kind of magical stasis—just waiting for my unsuspecting fairy eggs. And I’d rather to be safe than sorry—thank you very much! I sighed. Yes. Having sex with Warlow had been a mistake in many ways.
I bit back my bitterness. What good would regret do me now? I needed to move on and to try to make better decisions as I did.
I went to the bathroom and stripped out of my clothes. As I thought about how I’d taken them off a few hours before with Warlow, I threw them into the trashcan. They didn’t even have blood on them, but they felt like they did.
I turned on the water—knowingly making it hotter than would be comfortable. But what had Gran always said about boiling things? That it killed all the germs?
I was anxious to get clean. I was anxious to feel clean.
As I scrubbed myself, my anger and my confusion welled up again. I’d felt a connection with Ben the fairy. And Warlow the vampire had saved my life.
But having sex with him had been the equivalent to sleeping with Bill after Gran’s funeral—idiotic! I shook my head, knowing that my actions had been fueled by grief and desperation. I once more recalled what it had felt like to discover that my own father—and by association my mother—had tried to throw me off a bridge and kill me. And—once more unable to process my heartache in a “non-self-destructive” way—I’d had sex with another vampire who wanted to possess me.
“Can’t you fucking learn, Stackhouse?” I asked myself aloud as I lathered up the washrag for a third time.
Hell—when I really thought about it, it was difficult to see much of a difference between the Bill and Warlow situations. Both had come to Bon Temps to hunt me—to take me away from my friends and what little family I had left. Both had lied about who they were and what they wanted from me. Both had conveniently glossed over their motives when they’d proclaimed they “loved” me.
And—with both—I’d reacted the same way: foolishly. I’d felt an immediate attraction to them—a connection to the “otherness” in them. Therefore, I hadn’t asked the important questions.
Yep. It was official. I’d learned nothing!
What did people say about history repeating itself?
I relished the uncomfortably hot water of the shower, thankful that it was practically scalding me. Self-punishment—after I’d fucked up yet again—seemed like an awesome solution right about now.
After I’d scrubbed my body for a fourth time, I reached out and grabbed the shampoo, which was on a perfectly placed built-in shelf that hadn’t been there until Eric renovated and restored the house. In fact, all of the items in the bathroom—shower and tub included—were new, and the pipes no longer moaned when conveying hot water.
An errant tear slipped from my eye as I put the shampoo back. Even through the steam of the shower, that tear felt hot.
Eric was the only man who’d ever had sex with me who didn’t have a selfish motive driving his actions. Of course, he’d been without his memories at the time. Maybe that was why I was so scared of him now that he had his memories back.
Maybe I was frightened that being with a “whole” Eric would devolve into something like the Bill debacle or the Warlow situation. And if that happened, I wasn’t sure I could survive it.
I’d been hurt enough to know that there were some wounds that cut too deep to ever heal properly.
I groaned loudly—my loss, my pain, and my frustration all warring for dominion in my head.
Finally, my brain settled on another emotion altogether: a strange sense of hope in the middle of a sea of hopelessness. It was an odd feeling to say the least.
Eric would never forget the girl in the white dress. And I would never forget the vampire without his memories.
But were either of those people even real? Had they ever been?
Or were they the most “real” people in my crazy life? Somehow, they sure seemed to be. When I thought about my life and looked for the best part of it, that time with Eric was the first thing that came to my mind. And that time was amidst witches’ curses and execution orders! I couldn’t help but to wonder what things might be like between us if we could just be “normal”—or, at least, as normal as a thousand-year-old Viking vampire and a human-fairy telepathic barmaid could be. Or maybe “normal” was overrated.
I closed my eyes as I rinsed shampoo #2 from my hair.
My hearing had gotten much better—as in supernaturally better—since I’d begun “using” my fairy spark. Therefore, I’d heard Nora and Eric speaking on my porch after I’d rescinded his invitation. Nora had practically accused Eric of loving me—as if it were some kind of sinful joke. He’d reacted in a way that had surprised me, saying words that I’d remember until the day I died. Instead of denying that he could love, as he’d done in Dallas, he’d said three words that meant everything to me: “In another life.”
Yes. In another life, Eric and I could be happy: him with the girl in the white dress and me with the vampire with no memories.
How fucked up was that? And how fucked up was it that I wanted that? Wished for it?
“But that just can’t fucking happen,” I whispered aloud as another tear slipped down my cheek.
“Sorry, Gran,” I apologized into the shower stream—once more recognizing that she’d disapprove of my “potty mouth.” Then again, I was an adult, so I figured the occasional expletive was okay—when called for.
I sighed. I hadn’t particularly liked Nora, but she had pointed out one of the inherent problems when a vampire felt anything resembling love, especially for someone “breakable” like me. I was Eric’s weakness, and though he’d easily gotten her not to “stir the pot”—because she’d so clearly loved him—he couldn’t do that with the whole vampire population, let alone all the humans, Weres, fairies, witches, etc., that were sure to threaten me now that I seemed to attract danger like the North Pole attracted magnets.
I closed my eyes and said a little prayer for Nora. Whether I liked her or not, she’d been loyal to Eric, and she’d loved him without placing conditions on that love. I couldn’t say the same.
“I guess I like you after all, Nora,” I said to the bottle of conditioner in my hand. “You were good to him—better than I’ve ever been.” I sighed. “I wish I would have gotten to know you,” I continued aloud, going for broke when it came to my crazy out-loud ramblings. “I would have liked to have talked with you about Godric,” I said, whispering Nora and Eric’s maker’s name. “I’d talk about him with Eric, but,” I paused and smiled a little, “well—you know how he is.”
As I conditioned my hair, my mind drifted to the moment when Bill had waltzed into the Bellefleur mansion—in broad daylight! It had been quite the sight to say the least!
In the past, I had dreamed about enjoying the daylight with Bill, but as I stepped out of the house with him, it had been anything but enjoyable. He’d told me that if he didn’t get Warlow back—specifically his blood—then a lot of vampires I cared about would die. Eric, Pam, Tara, Jessica—all burning in the sun.
And—of course—Bill had laid the blame on my shoulders if I didn’t serve Warlow up on a silver platter. I sighed. Bill really was an expert when it came to blaming others: the queen, Eric, Lorena, Russell, Lilith, the vampire authority.
Of course, I was guilty of plenty of sins, so I wasn’t going to cast the first stone.
After my conversation with Bill, I’d obediently walked back into the Bellefleur house and given Arlene a hug, promising to be back later. And then I’d driven back to the cemetery; it hadn’t surprised me when Bill tagged along.
Before we got out of the car, Bill told me that he’d be waiting at his home, ready to “call” Warlow as soon as he was returned to the human realm.
Without hesitation, I’d used my light and popped back to the “limbo” or “staging area” where I’d left Warlow.
Of course, Warlow had immediately smelled Bill on me, and his fangs had dropped in that “wonderful,” possessive way vampires have when they pronounce that word I’ve come to distrust more than any other: “Mine.”
Ignoring Warlow’s jealousy-driven claim of ownership, I’d told him why I smelled like Bill and what he had said concerning the threat to my friends. Maybe I’d hoped that Warlow would agree to help just because people I loved had been threatened. Maybe—if he had—I would have thought about giving a relationship with him a chance. After all, when he was “Ben,” he was pretty wonderful. And he could offer me the chance to be with someone who could function in my world—both the day and the night of it.
But he hadn’t offered to help.
And—once again—I realized that in seeking something “normal,” I was denying myself something that I knew for a fact could be damned near perfect. I shook my head in frustration.
It turned out that Warlow had already known that other vampires were in danger. Hell—to try to inspire Warlow’s cooperation, Bill had even told him that the threatened vampires included my oldest friend Tara!
However, Warlow was not keen on helping vampires—no matter who they were. And that’s when I’d first realized that being with Warlow really was like jumping into a time machine and going back to hang out with Bill before he’d become Billith. It seemed that Warlow hated himself—hated the vampire within. Bill had been the same brooding figure.
Of course, I could understand their attitude. After all, I’d spent years hating the telepath in me. And then I’d hated the fairy, even going so far as to try to shoot all my power from my fingers—so that I could run out of magic. Yes—self-loathing was a bitch.
And I was just as guilty of it as Warlow and Bill. I can’t say that my self-loathing had ever led me to lose control and take out an entire club full of fairies. Nor have I ever drunk the blood of a “god” in order to try to change myself. However, I’d wished that I was “normal” more times than I could count.
Maybe that’s why being around Eric—both incarnations of him—was so damned refreshing at times. There was zero self-loathing in him. He didn’t do something cruel and then blame “his nature” for it. Eric—for better or worse—owned his actions.
Every. Single. One.
He didn’t hate the vampire he was.
Maybe—in a screwed up way—that’s why I’d rescinded Eric’s invitation. He seemed to recognize that I hated myself—that I wanted to find a self “pre-vampire” that I could love. Of course, if I were telling myself the truth, there wasn’t really someone like that. The only time I’d ever been truly content “pre-vampire” had been when I was with Gran—helping her take care of her home or garden. I’d felt useful and unjudged. But Gran was gone, so I couldn’t get that feeling back—no matter what I did or how hard I tried to deny my true nature.
Slinging beers at Merlotte’s wasn’t the most personally satisfying thing in the world either. I liked my co-workers, though they went back and forth in their affection for and acceptance of me. Of course, I didn’t blame them for that.
I sighed. Eric hadn’t stopped caring for me, not even when I’d rejected him. Meanwhile, I’d been trying so hard to forget about my feelings for him that I’d pretended that they were never real in the first place.
No wonder Nora had wanted to drain me! Right about now, I’d be willing to hook up a mainline to my vein and help her do just that—if it could bring her back into Eric’s life. He deserved someone who would appreciate him. God knows, I hadn’t done that enough.
I sighed. Instead of pushing himself on me—as Bill had been prone to do in the past when we’d “broken up”—Eric had respected my wishes. The other night—when I’d rescinded his invitation—he’d understood what I was trying to do, and it was against “his nature” to stand in my way.
I’d told him I wanted to be the girl in the white dress, and he’d respected that choice enough to go. That said a lot about his character.
It also told me that he still loved me.
Instead of being bitter and angry that I’d sent him away, he’d informed Nora that they were going to stay away from me and not use me against Bill—not that the “new” version of Bill would have cared anyway.
For the thousandth time that day, I sighed.
There was a reason why Ben/Warlow had heard me thinking about only my failed love attempts with Bill when he’d first crept into my mind. There was a reason why I didn’t lump Eric in with those failures. And it wasn’t because I didn’t love Eric.
Although I had, at the time, felt strongly that I couldn’t be with Eric, I did—I do—love him. Thus, I wasn’t thinking about him in the same stream of thoughts as I had been thinking about Bill because I didn’t consider what I had with Eric to be a failure. I wasn’t sure what it was. But it wasn’t that.
Eric was right. It was a love that could have been perfect—”in another life.”
But I was stuck in the life that I was in. And in that one, Warlow had shown no compassion when I’d asked him to come back with me to help Bill find a way to save four individuals who I deeply cared for. On the contrary, he’d flat-out refused, citing the “fact” that vampires were “abominations” and should be expelled from the earth.
Of course, he hadn’t bunched himself in with “normal” vampires. Nope—in that moment, he was claiming to be Ben, the nice, benevolent, save-your-life fairy.
Two seconds later had come the blackmail. For once, I hadn’t been surprised by it.
Warlow had promised that he would return and help—but only if I agreed to “be his for eternity.” I realized then that those pretty words about tearing up the scroll that had basically sold me to him were subterfuge, machinations designed to soften my heart.
Trying to manipulate me, Warlow’s true colors had shined just as brightly as Bill’s when he’d paid the Rattrays to beat me up to “soften my heart” toward him.
It seemed that the “honorable,” self-loathing Warlow had no compunction about basing our “eternity together” on blackmail.
And for a moment—a brief one—I’d almost taken him up on his offer. I’d almost agreed to his “claim” over me in order to save my friends’ lives.
How many times had I run into a crappy situation without thinking it through first? And how many times had that turned out well?
As Warlow had continued trying to convince me that being with him would be blissful and it would allow me to save my friends as well, I shut out his voice and the niggling influence he was trying to have over me. Instead, thoughts of Eric had popped into my head, and I remembered how he’d once told me that my life was “too valuable to throw away.” He’d also told me not to underestimate myself. No one had ever said anything even remotely like that to me before.
I remembered the tears that had come into my eyes when he’d said those words. Or maybe it was the intensity and the belief—the belief in me—that had been in his voice that had caused my tears. I wasn’t sure.
But it was then—even as he’d walked away from me so that I couldn’t see the emotion in his eyes—that I knew Eric Northman cared about me. And I knew that I trusted him.
Of course, his using me to entrap Russell—after kissing me and then chaining me up in his dungeon—was enough to test that trust. And his pulling out all that, “You are mine,” shit after I’d gotten back from the fairy realm was enough to try my fucking patience! But when I’d seen him on that road—alone and shirtless—I’d helped him because I trusted and cared for him.
I could admit that Eric pissed me off—a lot—sometimes. He’d glamoured Alcide to think that I was gross for God’s sake! And the, “Please, Sookie, suck a bullet out of me so that I won’t die of silver poisoning,” episode still chapped my hide.
But when it really mattered, Eric didn’t lie to me. He didn’t always volunteer the full truth, but he usually came through with enough of it. Yes. I trusted him to save my life when I was in trouble. Hell—he’d even tried to save the piece of my heart that would always belong to the Bill I “thought” I’d fallen in love with—a Bill that may have never existed at all. Still—Eric had tried to help me to save Bill from the influence of Lilith even though his own past with him was “complicated.”
Of course, despite the fact that I was willing to trust Eric with everything else, blood prevented my trusting him in the area of love.
Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for that emotion.
Regardless, it was Eric’s voice in my head that had given me the courage to tell Warlow that there would be no deals between us. I was NOT going to allow the fairy-vampire to manipulate me into some eternal, shitty deal—not when I was actually the one with the power. Eric had been right. I was “too valuable to throw away.” Every life was valuable—whether that life belonged to a several-hundred-year-old vampire I didn’t personally like or an Iraq War veteran whom I loved like family.
It’s just that I had never believed in my own value before, which was probably why I tended to make shitty decisions.
However, thanks to Eric’s voice in my head, I’d stopped myself before I agreed to be Warlow’s “mate.” Instead, I’d simply “popped” us back to the human realm and let Billith take over the rest of the operation. It didn’t take him but a second to figure out that Warlow was back in the neighborhood, and then—whoosh—Warlow was gone in a flash to answer his “maker’s” call.
After that, I knew that Bill could command Warlow to do what needed to be done to save the others. And it was certainly a bonus that Bill had agreed to command him to destroy the contract which had said I was Warlow’s property.
I smiled. Having thought things through, I felt a little wiser than I’d felt the day before. I felt a little stronger. I was proud that I hadn’t allowed myself to be manipulated by Warlow.
Maybe I was finally learning that a little self-preservation could go a long way. Maybe I was finally learning that “normal” was neither possible nor preferable to the life I could make for myself if I just accepted who and what I was.
However, despite my revelations, my heart still ached.
I turned off the water and then dried my body before wrapping a towel around my hair. When I looked in the mirror, I noticed that my skin had been reddened by the heat of the water. I also noticed something about my eyes.
They conveyed certainty and confidence. And I realized that amidst all my musing, I’d made a choice.
I just hoped that I hadn’t made it too late.
I know that I’ve dwelled on Sookie’s inner musings for a while now, but I “needed” to in order to make sense of some things. I also needed to give her the opportunity to think because I wanted the actions that follow to seem well-thought-out and realistic.
In the next chapter, we will move out of Sookie’s brain and into Eric’s—which is the POV I love to write from the most!
Remember that since I’m posting this without taking it through my usual fine-tooth-comb editing process (where I revise something about 3 times and copy edit it twice before sharing it), some typos might slip through. I’m fine if you want to let me know about errors in responses or PM’s. (For instance, I caught an “of” when I meant “or” the other day.) But—please—don’t be offended if you never see your suggested change. Sometimes, people tell me to fix stuff that I don’t think is broken—like an intentional fragment or a neologism like “dumbassery.” If it’s not a real typo, I won’t touch it.
Again, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for reading!
P.S. I’m betting that a lot of you have figured out what is in that Ziploc bag by now. 😉