A vampire’s mind could click through a hundred thoughts at once—if the vampire practiced, that is. Godric had made me practice a lot during my early years with him.
Moves and countermoves. Strategies and counterstrategies. Schemes and counter-schemes.
Thinking in this way had kept me alive for a thousand years. But times were changing, and staying alive was becoming more and more difficult.
I sighed and then berated myself for the action. Sighing was such a human thing to do, and I felt decidedly inhuman in that moment. Plus, it was unnecessary for vampires. In fact, the only reason we needed to take air into our bodies at all was to produce speech. And a sigh was certainly not a word of any use.
Even as I had been washing the blood from my body, I had been contemplating ways to infiltrate the so-called “Vamp-Camp.” Sadly, Governor Burrell was no more; however, there were many humans there who would meet the sharp end of my fangs or sword.
And—this time—my vengeance over the death of a family member wouldn’t take a thousand years to come to fruition. My judgment would be swift, and my enemies would fall just as swiftly. Anyone who had helped to conceive or develop Hepatitis V would die. All those who had devised what was essentially a vampire Concentration Camp would also perish.
Before I was done, I intended to blow the new TruBlood factory to hell—along with Vamp-Camp. And I had just the explosives in mind for the job. Dynamite really was the best choice—a classic, really. And I happened to keep a stockpile handy. I liked dynamite because it wouldn’t completely obliterate a target—like the newer, “more-efficient” kinds of explosives. Instead, it would leave a twisted and gnarled mess—a clear warning to anyone who might try to fuck with vampires in the same way again. Moreover, the authorities would find pieces—though mangled—of both bodies and evidence. Therefore, the truth about what had been going on in there would come out.
I quickly dried myself off and dressed in the clothing Bill had managed to find for me.
“Once a procurer, always a procurer,” I chuckled to myself.
The pants were a little too short and a bit tight in the crotch area, but they’d do. I tucked them into my boots—just in case I saw Pam before all hell broke loose. Of course, if she were still in the Vamp-Camp standard jumpsuit, she’d be in no position to criticize me for my “high waters”—but such things had never stopped her before.
I buttoned the last button of my shirt and waited for the sun to go down. I’d been forced to stay animated during most of my days at Vamp Camp; moreover, I’d stayed awake to sit vigil over Nora. Luckily, Bill had been able to supply me with some fresh blood, however, and I felt my strength building up again, even as the sun was waning. Finally, it went down, and—no longer having to fight the sun’s pull—my body relaxed a little,
Although my rancor was intense and I wanted to rush into the Vamp-Camp like a Viking berserker of old, I restrained myself. I compartmentalized my anger as Godric had taught me to do centuries before. After all, I had one last tribute to pay to my sister before I annihilated the bastards responsible for her death. And I had a promise to keep to Bill, for—even though his blood had failed to save Nora—he had tried, just as I’d asked. I was still agitated that Warlow hadn’t been there in time to make an attempt to save her with his blood, but I was beginning to accept the fact that he would have been unable to help Nora.
Despite this “cooling” of my furiousness regarding Bill and Sookie’s new boy-toy in regards to Nora’s death, however, my blood boiled as I remembered picking up Warlow’s scent on and in Sookie. I allowed one part of my head to contemplate why the fledgling bond Sookie and I had begun was still present in her—despite the fact that she’d drunk an older vampire’s blood.
However, most of my supple mind was still bent upon figuring out the best way to quickly and summarily destroy my human enemies, though the occasional fantasy of torturing each and every one of them for years fluttered into my mind. Perhaps the Newlins—both the vampire traitor and his human ex-wife—would serve as adequate vessels for the perpetual pain I craved to inflict.
I closed my eyes for a moment, cautioning the monster within to be patient. Revenge would be sweeter if it were well-planned and eliminated all enemies and potential threats. It would also be sweeter if my progenies were alive at the end of it and if I were still undead to enjoy the victory.
And that meant that I needed to keep a level head and not get caught up in fantasies of torturing my foes—at least not yet.
Moves and countermoves. Strategies and counterstrategies. Schemes and counter-schemes.
Life or death. Escape or imprisonment. Victory or defeat.
I walked slowly back into the bedroom Nora and I had been using. I’d wrapped up my sister’s remains in the blanket she’d died upon, her once beautiful body torn apart by the disease that had finally claimed her. It was ironic that the Black Plague had not been able to do the job, but another disease—hundreds of years later—gave her a similar fate to what her human self would have suffered if I had not found her.
I gathered the blanket into my arms, trying to ignore the fact that what was left of my sister did not feel like a body at all.
As I walked down the stairs, Bill stepped into his foyer.
“You will be needed to fulfill my plan,” he said—his tone conveying that “superior” manner he’d always had around me. At least now that he was “goddish,” he was justified in taking the tone; before, it had just been annoying.
I nodded. “I will return here after she has been interred. And then I will listen to your plan, and I will decide whether to follow it or my own. In either case, I will be going back to that camp very soon,” I vowed, my tone sounding ominous even to my own ears.
“We had an agreement, Eric. I will not allow you to break it,” Bill said evenly.
“Your blood did not save her,” I reminded.
“But I tried.”
“Trying is not doing,” I answered coldly. “But—as I said—I will return and listen to what you propose. If it is worthy, I will help you. If it is not worthy, then you are not worth my help.”
Bill looked at the bundle in my arms and then back into my eyes. God or no god, he wasn’t going to stop me from seeing my sister off to her god.
Luckily for both of us, he didn’t try.
I left his mansion at a slow pace—a human pace—not quite ready to say goodbye to the being who had been such a large part of my existence for so many years. My grief seemed to be lodged in my throat, choking and hot.
Within the brief span of two years’ time, I’d lost Godric and now Nora. And the pain seemed too much to bear or even to comprehend—even for a brain that had been trained to process many things all at once.
I inhaled deeply, my active thoughts moving to Sookie as I smelled her. She was next to her Gran’s grave—waiting for me, I suppose. In truth, I didn’t know whether I was happy or angry that she was there.
Where she was concerned, my feelings were often unsettled and unsettling, and I wasn’t about to let them interfere with what needed to be done.
Therefore, my anger won out as I approached. “What the fuck are you doing here?” I asked accusingly—harshly.
She turned around, and though it was cloudy and dark, she emitted a light from her very pores. She was beautiful.
But—then again—she had always been a beacon to me. A literal light—not a figurative one. To my eyes, she was illuminated by a soft glow at all times. Her “light” was something I’d always seen—though Godric and later Nora had told me that they did not see it. They could discern that Sookie was something “other” by looking at her, but neither of them saw what I did. However, neither of them thought I was crazy either; we’d all witnessed the unexplained and the unexplainable in life. And the luminosity that I saw when I looked at Sookie was just added to the list of those things.
I’d never asked Bill if he saw it too—never trusted him enough to ask him. If he did, then the light would no longer be just “mine.” And—if he didn’t see it—then his already-mounting insecurity regarding my interest in Sookie would have grown even more quickly, making him a bigger obstacle and potentially more harmful to Sookie.
I’d also refrained from checking with Pam, knowing that she would have volunteered the information if she’d seen Sookie’s “light” as I had; plus, I was not anxious for Pam to have yet another reason to be jealous of Sookie. And Pam had been resentful of her—especially since the Dallas trip. My child was intensely annoyed by my fascination with Sookie, and—through our vampire-child bond—I could tell that jealousy was at the root of Pam’s disdain. I didn’t blame my child. I had been jealous of Nora and Godric’s closeness once upon a time. It was the way of all vampires when it came to their makers. A vampire child always wanted to be “first”—to feel as if he or she ranked number one in his or her maker’s affections. Thus, when a new child was made or when a tie with a human was created, any previous vampire child would feel a sting. However, that jealousy would pass—hopefully before anyone met the true death.
From the first moment I saw Sookie—saw her “light”—I had studied every vampire’s initial reaction to her. And—though they all were clearly attracted by her sweet scent—no other vampires seemed to notice her “light.” So I had begun to think of it as only for me. And that “light” was just one of the reasons why I had wanted Sookie Stackhouse to be mine in every way imaginable.
I’d never told Sookie about her “light.” I almost had—the night she’d come to Fangtasia to ask about Werewolves—but I’d managed to stop myself.
I refrained from sighing as I took in her appearance. Sookie was wearing black, the traditional mourning color for humans in America. I recognized the dress. I’d picked it to accentuate her curves and to cater to her modesty. She looked as lovely in it as I’d known she would, though I wished that she was not wearing the blazer over it. I missed seeing her smooth shoulders. However, there was a cool wind, so I couldn’t really begrudge her for her need to stay warm. Sookie’s hair was pulled into a simple bun—a conservative style that suited the outfit and the somber occasion.
“What are you doing here?” I asked again, though my tone had lost some of its rancor.
She stepped forward a little, but there was still about ten feet separating us. “I’ll leave if you want,” she said softly. “But I have something for you,” she added, gesturing toward a bundle that was resting on her grandmother’s gravestone. “And I wanted to tell Gran a little about Nora—just in case you decided to take me up on the offer to let her rest here.”
My curiosity was piqued—because of both her words and the certainty in her eyes. Her brown eyes shone with a richness and a clarity I’d never seen in them before. I’d always found them captivating, though they’d infuriated me so many times as they’d displayed her ambivalent feelings for me. Tonight, however, the feelings emanating from them were not mixed. I looked closely for pity, knowing that I’d be furious if I saw that emotion from her. However, there was none; something else was shining from her orbs—something that looked like acceptance.
I “listened” to my blood inside of her. It confirmed the emotions gleaming from her eyes. There was acceptance there. But I felt something more too—something I needed to ignore for the time being.
Instead of commenting on what I saw and felt from her, I decided to speak of what she’d said. “What did you tell your grandmother about Nora?” I asked curiously.
Sookie’s lips turned up into a sheepish smile. “That she didn’t like me much. And,” she paused, “that I didn’t like her much either.”
I couldn’t help but to chuckle a little at her honesty. “What else?”
“That she always seemed to want to eat me.”
“That she did,” I admitted with another chuckle. “You do smell delicious.”
I knew that only Sookie—only she—had the ability to make me feel “lighter” in a moment like the one I was living through. And that—more than anything—was why I loved her. Perhaps there were other people that I “should” have fallen in love with—Nora or Pam or even Willa, who’d already proven herself worthy of being a vampire. But love—at least of the romantic variety—was something that I’d only recently admitted that I could feel. And I hadn’t even begun to try to explain it. I had simply been adapting to it—as I had adapted to all new things over the years.
Of course, there were some growing pains involved in that adaptation; specifically, part of me wanted to kill Sookie, but from what I’d learned so far about the topic of romantic love, that reaction was quite normal—human even. It seemed that the old cliché about there being a thin line between love and hate was quite true.
Sookie chuckled. “Yeah—I kind of figured that Nora wasn’t my biggest fan. And she did look at me like I was a giant T-bone. Um—do I smell different than before? Stronger?”
I nodded in confirmation. “Yes. A little. You should be careful—especially around younger vampires—at least until the blood shortage has passed.”
“Okay,” she said. “And thank you.”
She looked at me just as she had the night she’d comforted me after my “night-vision” of Godric. There had been no pity in her expression that night either—just a kind of understanding.
She took a deep breath. “I also told Gran that Nora was fiercely loyal and devoted to you—that she seemed like a good friend and sister to you.”
“She was,” I said in a whisper. “She was more than that to me.”
“You loved her,” she observed.
I nodded. “As much as I was capable,” I confirmed, not feeling the need to deny what I felt to Sookie anymore. “I was the one who took her to Godric. She was dying of the plague, and I asked him to turn her.”
“Why didn’t you just turn her?” Sookie questioned.
“I’ve asked myself that same question many times over the years,” I shared. “I was captivated by Nora’s courage, and I could tell that she was beautiful, even though she was being ravaged by her disease. And I was certainly old enough to be a maker when I found her, but I just didn’t feel compelled to be her creator.” I laughed a little. “Actually, I’ve never felt compelled to make a vampire child.”
“Pam?” she asked.
“Pam was a madam at a brothel. She learned what I was, but showed no fear of me. One night after we’d had sex, she slit her wrists and forced my hand.”
“So you turned her in order to save her life?”
I chuckled. “Ironic—isn’t it.”
“Yeah—but Pam is stubborn,” Sookie said with a smirk. “I can see her doing almost anything to get what she wants.”
I nodded. “And—without doubt—she has been an excellent and loyal progeny—despite the beginning.” I moved forward and gently laid Nora down upon the grass next to the grave that already held the decaying body of Sookie’s grandmother. There was a shovel nearby; I recognized it as being from Sookie’s home.
“She wouldn’t mind?” I found myself asking inexplicably as I gestured toward the grave.
“No,” Sookie said. “In a strange way, Nora’s family.”
I felt my eyebrow shooting up in question.
Sookie shrugged. “That day in the cubby—you said that we’d be one. And if we are, then Nora is my family, just as much as Gran is yours.”
I shook my head. “But you,” I stopped mid-sentence, not able to finish my thought.
“I know I did,” she said, seeming to know what I had been intending to say.
We stared at each other for a while, her standing on the opposite side of her grandmother’s grave and me still crouching down next to Nora’s remains.
I wasn’t sure what to say to her. I didn’t want to admit aloud just how much her multiple rejections had wounded me. I didn’t want to tell her that we’d begun a blood bond in the cubby—the most sacred kind of link that vampires could make. I didn’t want to tell her how much her emotions—and my own—had rattled uncomfortably through me since we’d begun that bond. And I certainly didn’t want her to know that every cell in my being thirsted to complete our bond. I pushed back all those thoughts—thoughts that betrayed my vulnerability to her. Instead, I let my anger at her mixed messages flow.
“You fucked and took blood from another! And he has had your blood,” I said bitterly. “I can smell his blood in you—along with Bill’s and mine.”
Sookie sighed loudly, though her own anger didn’t flare up as I’d thought—or maybe hoped—it would. My own anger was immediately deflated a little because of her calm reaction.
“Eric,” she began evenly, “when did you last make a mistake?”
I could think of a few moves I should have made differently—a few steps I should have taken to better ensure Nora’s, Pam’s, Willa’s, and Tara’s safety.
“Yesterday,” I admitted. “I thought Bill could save Nora. I was even willing to entertain the notion that he was a god.” I shook my head in disgust. “I told him that I believed in him.”
“But his blood didn’t heal her,” Sookie said sadly. She reached for the shovel, but stopped just short of grabbing it. “Listen—it might not mean anything to you, but Bill didn’t tell me Nora was dying. He just said that he needed Warlow to try to help you, Pam, Tara, and Jessica avoid the fate in his vision. If I would have known that Nora was near death, I would have hurried—instead of,” she stopped.
“Instead of?” I asked, feeling my rancor building again. “Did you feel the need to fuck him before you brought him back to this realm? Is that why he was there too late to try to save my sister?”
This time, her anger did swell, and she glared at me through narrowed eyes. That was more fucking like it!
“If you must know—I fucked him yesterday, Eric! I fucked him because my life felt like it was no longer mine, and as fucked up as it seems, I was trying to take control for once!”
“Well—how the fuck did that work out?” I yelled.
“About as well as it always does!” she yelled back. I watched as her shoulders slumped in defeat and her anger deflated.
“Sorry, Gran,” she muttered under her breath as she glanced at the headstone. Before I could ask what she was sorry for, she continued speaking, though her voice was once more calm. “This morning, I left Warlow and returned here alone. I came back to comfort a friend whose husband died just yesterday. Bill found me at their home and told me about his vision of the future. He asked me to bring him Warlow, and as soon as I’d told my friend goodbye, I came back here.”
“Here?” I asked, my tone also evening out.
“This cemetery is some kind of conduit to a fairy place, though it can’t be the fairy world itself because there are no big time jumps. It’s where I took Warlow after he saved my life yesterday.”
My fury and fear spewed forth, and I found myself standing directly in front of Sookie in the blink of an eye.
To her credit, she didn’t recoil at all. No wonder I was enthralled by her!
“Who tried to kill you?” I asked as icy terror shot through my veins. I had lost Godric. I had lost Nora. But I could NOT lose her. I was done losing people I loved.
“It’s a long story,” she sighed.
“Then give me the short version,” I demanded.
Clearly, Eric has some “mixed feelings” when it comes to Sookie (and a lot of other things). But I love it when Eric is rational and not rash—when he uses that beautiful brain of his to figure out the best solution to a problem. He—like Sookie—also tries to fight his “scary” feelings. But I certainly don’t want to portray the Viking as too “soft” and “sensitive.” I hope I’m doing him justice.
FYI: The title of this chapter is from Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” speech. 😉