I listened carefully to Bill as he told me that Dr. Hido Takahashi would have Warlow’s blood ready to create a “sunlight inoculation” by nightfall the following day. Apparently, the magical qualities of Warlow’s blood degraded outside of his body; the same thing happened to “regular” vampire blood. Thus, we didn’t form ties and bonds with human V-addicts and the like. In fact, unless the human drank the blood directly from the tap—so to speak—our magic rejected the transfer to another body. Warlow’s blood, apparently, could last about half an hour outside of his body before the magic in it began to decay. Takahashi claimed that he was well on his way to fixing this problem.
Every cell in my body called for me to invite Bill to go fuck himself when he “ordered” me to “be patient” until Takahashi had finished his work. After all, I figured I could just take a big drink of Warlow, get myself inoculated, and then return immediately to the Vamp Camp that Governor Burrell had set up. My Viking blood and my vampire blood boiled, and I wanted to burn through that camp until there was nothing left.
However, I knew that doing that would likely get me killed, and I’d made a promise to Sookie that I would try to avoid that. Plus, many vampires—including my progenies—would likely die if I acted recklessly. Nora had been right. I needed to try to go on and to make sure the blood of my maker continued to flourish—even if Godric and Nora were no more.
Thus, I would wait. I would make sure that I protected Pam and Willa and Tara—and even Jessica. And—after I had ensured that Godric’s line would survive even if I did not—I would take my revenge.
“So—do you agree?” Bill asked once he was through spewing the details of his half-ass plan. I intended to modify it.
“Your plan has holes, Bill,” I said. “For instance, how will I smuggle the blood into the camp. You wish for me to be ‘caught’—correct? They will take away my clothing and belongings immediately.”
“Oh,” Bill said with a smirk, “I’m sure you can come up with something.”
I may have groaned a little. I had already “come up with something”—as he well knew—but hiding vials in my rectum was an unpleasant thought. Luckily, since vampires’ colons were purely decorative, at least it wasn’t an overly disgusting prospect.
“Yes,” I said. “But I hate carrying things there. The feeling is,” I paused, “disagreeable.”
Bill chuckled. Pretty much every vampire I’d ever known had used his or her ass as a conveyance at one time or another. It was sometimes necessary to be ready to move quickly, and if one had small items that one wanted to keep, the ass was a convenient “storage facility.”
But I hated making myself into a goddamned kangaroo! And Pam would never let me hear the end of it—so to speak.
“Surely in your thousand years you have experimented with men,” Bill said tauntingly. “I cannot believe that you would be,” he paused, “shy about such things.”
“I am not,” I said simply.
“What other holes do you find with my plan?” he said, laughing at his own pun.
I rolled my eyes. One other “hole” was definitely the asshole who’d come up with said plan.
I sighed. “Fine—let’s say that I’m able to get everyone the inoculations. While we are in that room, there will be guns pointed at us—guns with silver or wooden bullets. So we may avoid the sun just to be shot in the heart.”
Bill frowned. Yep—it seemed that he was finally seeing the big, gaping holes in his plan to save “everyone.” I was actively ignoring the fact that he’d conveniently forgotten about all the other vampires in the camp—vampires who were likely drinking Hep-V as we spoke. Nora had received a large dose, but I figured any amount of the Hep-V would eventually lead to a vampire’s death.
It wasn’t really that I cared much about the other vampires at the camp. But—as the vampire savior he claimed to be—Bill should have turned a thought to them.
“What do you suggest?” he asked me.
Wasn’t he supposed to be the demigod here? How about a lobotomy—for him—for starters? With difficulty, I refrained from making that suggestion out loud. Instead, I decided to ask for some details about his vision.
“The room in your vision—describe it.”
“It is circular and white.”
I nodded. I had been there. “How many vampires were in your vision?”
He thought for a moment. “Eight.”
“I recognized Jessica, Pam, Tara, Steve Newlin, and—of course—you. There were three others, two women and one man.”
“Was one of the women petite and brunette?” I asked.
“Both of the women were brunettes; I didn’t regard their heights,” he said somewhat churlishly.
Yep. I was right. I had been starting to like Bill, but Billith was an asshole.
I closed my eyes and recalled every single detail about the room. Truly, the phrase, “the devil is in the details,” took on a whole new level of meaning when it came to vampires.
“There is a hatch at the top of the room,” I said. “Our captors will—no doubt—open it to let in the sunlight. They will be surprised when we don’t burn, and that surprise will allow me to fly out, but given the size of the opening, I could take only two others with me.”
“Jessica will be one of those two,” Bill said. “I do not care whom you choose as the other.”
So much for his benevolence regarding saving “all” the vampires. Speaking of holes—there were a lot in his character.
However, agreeing with Bill would be beneficial for the moment. The inoculation was necessary for the “real plan” that was forming in my brain.
I nodded. “I will take Jessica and Tara, and I will instruct Pam to try to remove the threat of the guns until I can return for the others. If we are lucky, the Vamp Camp bastards will wish to study why the sun didn’t kill the ones left behind.”
Bill narrowed his eyes, looking for duplicity in mine.
“Fine,” he said.
“Then what?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he responded.
“Do you intend to allow the Vamp Camp and the TruBlood factory to stay open?” I asked. “Or do you intend to destroy them?”
“While you are making sure that the others don’t burn, I will be collecting evidence that can be used to prove what that facility is really doing to vampires. Since the governor is now dead,” Bill boasted, “the lieutenant governor will take over. He is more sympathetic to vampires, and once the nature of the Vamp Camp is exposed, public support will grow for our kind again.”
“Might I suggest that you bring back a couple of the tainted TruBloods for the good doctor to study,” I commented. “He could figure out how much Hep-V was placed in each one and begin to work on a cure.”
Bill considered my suggestion. Why he hadn’t thought of it himself was fucking beyond me—just as his purposeless excursion to kill the governor, which had apparently accomplished nothing, was beyond me.
“Good idea,” he allowed. “Likely the formula for Hep-V was developed elsewhere, so a cure will be needed.”
I nodded as if in agreement. There was no need for Bill to know that I intended to expose the happenings at Vamp Camp and destroy the TruBlood factory in a much more grandiose way.
“I have some arrangements to make,” Bill said.
I nodded again. “I will watch the good doctor work for a while,” I said motioning toward Takahashi, who was busy at a microscope. Science had always fascinated me; even the rudimentary medicine-making of my own people had captured my attention as a youth, although the mixing of the curative herbs was generally seen as women’s work. Thankfully, my own mother hadn’t had much time for traditional gender roles. Looking back, I understood that my father was a great king at least partially because my mother was by his side.
I settled into a seat and focused on the doctor.
“You returned smelling of her,” Warlow grumbled from his silver cage. In truth, I’d pretty much forgotten he was there during my conversation with Bill. The silver didn’t burn Warlow, as it did other vampires, but he couldn’t free himself either. It was nice to know that he had a weakness.
I said nothing in response to him.
“I said that you returned smelling of her!” Warlow repeated somewhat petulantly as if he were five years old instead of over five thousand.
Again I didn’t respond to him.
“What is she to you, vampire?” he asked in a clipped tone.
Still not looking at him, I couldn’t help but to contemplate his question.
What is Sookie Stackhouse to me? She is infuriating—for one. Humans, especially young ones, were often self-contradictory and indecisive beings, but Sookie’s stubbornness and inconsistency made my skin crawl at times.
Of course, the other things that she did to my skin more than made up for that.
Sookie had attracted me from the start. And then I’d become intrigued by her. Before long, I was thinking of her more than I thought of any other. And that was before the witch’s spell had taken my memories.
To say that I loved her was a mislabeling, however. With Sookie, I’d come to discover that the vampire equivalent of romantic love was much more profound than any emotion I’d ever experienced during my human life. I’d used the word “love” twice to express myself to Sookie: once the night she’d hit me with her light to prevent me from killing Bill and once just an hour before. However, even as I’d said the word—”love”—I had been confronted by its inadequacy.
“Love” wasn’t a big enough word when it came to describing what I felt for Sookie, but it was the closest thing I’d found. Maybe she was my soul mate, after all. Maybe that was the pull I felt when she was near to me. Maybe that was the ache I felt when she was far from me.
“She is my soul mate,” Warlow proclaimed from his cell.
“Can you read vampires’ minds?” I asked. Given his words, which seemed to be responding to my thoughts, I figured it was a distinct possibility.
Immediately, I turned my thoughts to having sex with Sookie in the woods to see if he had a reaction to them. He did not.
“No, I cannot,” Warlow said. “Vampires are dead. Their minds are blanks to me.”
Just to be sure, I thought about fucking Sookie on her floor, on her chair, against the wall, and in her bed. My memories flowed through my mind quickly and vividly. Again, there was no reaction. Nope—I guess he couldn’t read vampire thoughts, after all.
I tilted my head a bit to study Warlow/Ben, the fairy-vampire who had so recently shared carnal pleasure with my beloved.
The ancient vampire was a handsome man; thus, I was not surprised that Sookie had been attracted to him. He was also able to go out into the daylight, a definite perk to someone like her.
However, I couldn’t bring myself to be jealous. It wasn’t my way. After the confrontation with the witch at the Festival of Tolerance, I had felt pain—not jealousy—when Sookie told me that she still loved Bill. Two nights later, I had felt torment when she told me that she did not want to pursue a relationship with me. And I had felt irritation when I smelled Warlow on her. But jealousy was a useless emotion, and, over the years, I had witnessed it driving many people to ruination.
The fact was that Sookie hadn’t really given me anything to be jealous about. The new insurgence of Bill’s blood—piled upon the speed at which she and I had formed an attachment, as well as my regaining my memories—had caused her confusion. Could I blame her for that? I had been a little “freaked out” by the convergence of the witch situation and then the Authority situation and then the Russell situation and then the Billith situation—not to mention falling in love for the first time—and I was over a thousand years old! Sookie was not even thirty. And how could I be jealous of Warlow? Sookie had promised me faithfulness only 90 minutes ago! Before that, I’d had no official claim to her.
No. I couldn’t begrudge her for trying to find power or comfort from a fuck.
I certainly hadn’t been “chaste” during the weeks following the witch war. I’d enjoyed my reunion with Nora too much to let my unresolved feelings for Sookie get in the way of my carnal pleasure. And I’d had a relationship with Nora—a real one. Yet I’d not felt jealousy from Sookie earlier; on the contrary, I’d felt acceptance and understanding when I told her about having sex with Nora and Salome. I figured that I owed her the same when it came to Warlow, especially considering the things that Sookie had been dealing with for the last weeks. The only thing that made me angry was that she’d pushed me away, instead of letting me help her.
But she was not pushing anymore. And neither was I.
Yes. I could see the lure of someone like Warlow/Ben. But there was a shiftiness in him too—something I had distrusted right away. I decided to “test” it.
“Does she agree?” I asked, following up on something he’d said several minutes before.
“Agree?” he asked.
“Yes,” I responded. “Does Sookie agree that she is your soul mate?”
This time, he was the one that did not answer.
“You were made by Lilith?” I asked, taking a different track with the conversation.
“Yes,” he said.
“Was she a deity?” I asked.
“She was powerful. But she was not indestructible.”
I nodded. “You were able to kill her.”
“You hated her?” I asked.
“Yes—she abandoned me without teaching me. I returned to my village and—having no control—killed everyone, except for one child, who didn’t emerge from his dwelling.”
“Being in Vamp Camp has made it impossible for me to follow all the gossip of my old area,” I smirked. “However, I heard the name Niall. Could that be the fairy you were unable to get to?”
“Yes,” he said.
“And Niall is related to Sookie?”
“And you banished him to another realm?” I asked.
“Just returning a favor,” Warlow said. “I was sent there for years. And I did not wish to kill him.”
“Tell me,” I inquired leaning forward a little, “how did you manage to incapacitate a full-blooded fairy long enough to send him through a portal?”
Surprisingly, Warlow answered my question without hesitation. “I almost drained him so that I could transport him to the location of the portal,” he informed, “and then I gave him some of my blood so that he could survive being pulled into the other realm.”
“But you killed those at the fairy club,” I observed.
“How do you know of that?” he asked.
“Your voices carried earlier,” I said evenly. And I’d “inherited” extra sensitive hearing from my maker, though Warlow didn’t need to know that.
“I did not intend to kill them,” he claimed.
I almost laughed. Warlow was a wonderful study in contradictions. He claimed a lack of control with the fairies at the club, but he’d been able to stop himself from draining Niall before he died? And then he’d apparently formed a tie with him—likely so that he’d be able to find him again more than out of any benevolence. I figured that—at some point—Warlow planned to use Niall to try to gain leverage over Sookie.
I decided not to mention the holes in Warlow’s character. Instead, I kept digging to see if I could find more of them.
“I understand well the temptation of Fae blood,” I said, sitting back in my chair and lacing my hands behind my head. “I once drained a full-blooded fairy right in front of Sookie’s eyes. I believe Sookie referred to her as her fairy godmother. She was delicious,” I said, licking my lips.
“You see—we are monsters,” Warlow responded broodingly.
“Yes,” I nodded. “All apex predators are thought of as monsters by their prey.”
Warlow shook his head. “You are completely unapologetic about that,” he said with disbelieving judgment in his tone.
“Completely,” I confirmed. “Still—even a monster does not have to be all bad. It is a pity that your maker did not better teach you of that,” I added sincerely.
“Yes. Immediately after I awoke as vampire for the first time, Godric commanded that I never approach my village again. He understood that I would want to be close to the humans from my life, but that I had little control over my appetites. He was merciful.”
“So he took them from you. How is that mercy?”
“He allowed me the choice of whether to die or live this way,” I said, gesturing toward myself. “I chose life.”
“Life as a monster—a shark of human blood.”
I shook my head. “The difference between vampires and sharks is that—in addition to being predators—vampires can also be wise enough to appreciate our prey. Take the professor, for example,” I said, gesturing to the man who was busily working on the other side of the room. “He obviously gains much satisfaction from his work, and I gain from it as well. To not acknowledge that would be foolhardy. And to kill him would be a waste.”
“But you have no problem killing humans you have no use for?”
“All humans have use,” I said, “though your original maker seemed to have thought that their use was only equivalent to how most humans now see cattle.” I smirked. “Is it not ironic that a human scientist is now using the blood from a fairy-vampire hybrid to create an inoculation which will save vampires?” I sat forward again. “My maker would have seen this as a lesson. Nora would have seen it as a blessing. I see it as yet another example of humanity pushing itself forward and taking us with it.”
Warlow said nothing to that.
“Tell me something,” I said, leaning forward. “How were you able to kill Lilith?”
“She killed herself,” Warlow said. “She made a child who could walk in the sun. I opened a hole in the cave where she rested and introduced her to it.”
I grinned, thinking about how much Nora would have liked being in on this conversation. She had known the Book of Lilith backwards and forwards. I’d read it in the same phase during which I’d read the Christian bible, the Koran, the Tanakh, the Kangyur, and various other religious texts. Most such texts were equivalents in my way of thinking. It wasn’t that I didn’t see value in them; on the contrary, I felt that it was foolish not to appreciate the wisdom housed in the texts—even if one didn’t subscribe to the particular tenants of the particular faith or doubted the holiness of the particular religion. I also “believed” in them—all of them—to a certain degree. I was wise enough to know that the magic that animated the world was beyond me. However, that didn’t stop me from trying to understand it. Books of faith could be helpful with that—as could literature, art, and science.
“The Book of Lilith seemed to foretell this day,” I observed conversationally, “a day when the world of vampires would be threatened, but that a ‘being of light’ would save them. It seems you are that being—whether you want to be or not,” I smirked. “Of course, Lilith also supposedly foretold that you would kill her too. Have you read the book?”
Warlow growled a little. “I am very familiar with its content,” he choked out.
I chuckled. “Fifty-five hundred years would be conducive to getting a lot of,” I paused, “reading done, though I believe that the disciples of Lilith did not write down the text until quite some time after her death.”
“Lilith’s other vampire children,” Warlow scoffed. “Many times, they have tried to end me.”
“Killing their maker may have prompted that,” I smirked. “But are you certain that they really tried? After all, Lilith foretold that the one to end her would also be the one to help her walk in the light; I guess that was referring to Bill.” I paused. “Surely your brothers and sisters were merely playing with you until you could fulfill Lilith’s prophesy—and your use.”
He glared at me. “You would do well to remember that I am thousands of years older than you and could kill you without any problem.”
My smirk grew. “For one who supposedly hates vampires so much, you certainly speak and act like one.”
“You know nothing of me and the horrors of my life.”
“I don’t suppose I do,” I responded sincerely. “My own maker reached his limit after two thousand years. He met the sun.”
“I do not even have that option.”
“No—I don’t suppose you do.”
“I have always hated being a vampire. I have always hated the destruction that I became capable of.”
I decided not to point out that control could be learned—even with fairies around. When he’d annihilated his village, he’d been just a fledgling, so he couldn’t be blamed for that. However, the fairy club was a different story. He could have—from what I’d picked up—simply avoided that temptation altogether.
“You despise being vampire,” I responded, looking for confirmation.
“Yes—I would have met the sun if it were possible,” he responded.
There were other ways to die, but I refrained from mentioning those. I wanted to keep him talking since we were finally getting somewhere productive.
“Yet you would turn Sookie into a vampire?” I asked.
“I would not,” Warlow averred, but I saw the shiftiness in his eyes again. I couldn’t help but to feel a little sorry for him. To reach his age and still have so much self-loathing and contradiction in his life must have been difficult.
“You use words like eternity to describe the timeframe in which you wish to keep Sookie,” I observed.
“She will be what I am,” Warlow said. “She will be my mate.”
“So you do wish to turn her into a vampire?”
“I am not vampire,” he stated flatly.
“You could have fooled me,” I returned.
Once more, he glared at me.
“Do you plan to give her a choice, or will you turn her by force?”
“She will want the life I offer once she understands.”
Knowing Sookie, I somehow doubted it. However, I now knew what I needed to know about Warlow. He had tried to use guile to get Sookie. He had also attempted blackmail. It looked like he’d resort to force too.
“Well—this conversation has been scintillating,” I said rising from my chair, “but I have an errand to run.”
“What are you to Sookie?” Warlow asked evenly, though I could sense his rage under the question.
“You’ve had her blood,” I responded. “Can you not tell what I am to her?”
“No,” he seethed.
Curiouser and curiouser.
“And I can tell that she has had your blood,” I said, forcing my tone to remain even. I wondered if he sensed my own bubbling rage. I might not have been a jealous creature in the conventional sense, but that didn’t mean that I wanted another to share blood with her either.
“Yes—she wanted to take my blood,” he said triumphantly.
“Yes. I imagine she did—at the time.”
“We exchanged blood in our passion. She wants me,” he insisted. “She loves me—as I love her.”
“I have no difficulty sensing what she feels for you,” I said enigmatically. In truth, Sookie didn’t feel affection or even great lust when Warlow’s name was mentioned. She felt sympathy, some guilt, and quite a bit of anger. But I wasn’t about to tell Warlow that. I was surprised that he didn’t know already; after all, he should have been able to sense her emotions. Perhaps he was in denial.
Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.
“Tell me—did you start a bond with her when you exchanged blood?” I hedged.
“That is just a matter of time,” he insisted.
“Should I take that as a no then?” I asked.
“Another bond is already there,” he said accusingly.
“I believe that Bill has had much of her blood,” I informed. “And I know of at least five times that she’s had his.”
“A bond requires a mutual exchange,” he said, “like the one she shared with me.”
“I am well aware of the logistics,” I smirked. “I was just making an observation about the frequency at which Sookie has had Bill’s blood. Of course, most of those times were about saving her life after he’d put it into danger.”
He growled a little. I could empathize. The incident with the Rattrays had been set up by Bill with the single purpose of getting his blood into her. The Maenad incident had occurred because Bill had let Sookie run off into the night after they’d had an argument. Then, Bill had almost drained Sookie as they had returned from Mississippi. He’d given her his blood after she’d been shot during the witch war. Of course, the only people who’d had guns that night were his men. I had certainly not forgotten that little fact—though I’d been willing to give Bill the benefit of the doubt that it had been “friendly fire.” I was, however, beginning to doubt that assumption.
Of course, Bill had also given Sookie blood after Russell and I had taken hers. We’d taken a lot—though she wouldn’t have died from it. I’d made sure of that. But Bill’s blood-giving had been my fault that time.
“Is her bond with you?” Warlow asked accusatorially.
“You’ve had her blood, and she has had yours. Can you not tell?”
“No,” he disclosed.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” I observed—out loud this time. I could feel every single drop of my own blood in Sookie, and all those drops were tightly clustered around a light inside of her. I could also feel Warlow’s and Bill’s blood in her. That blood moved throughout her body like it was in search of something, but—as if it were afraid that it might be destroyed—it never ventured toward the light. I somehow knew that Sookie and my fledgling bond was inside of that light, so that was where my blood stayed—perhaps to protect the bond or perhaps to bask in her. Probably both.
“Maybe you are not the ‘being of light’ spoken of in the Book of Lilith, after all,” I said quietly, thinking of the light I saw when I looked at Sookie and the way Warlow’s blood was repelled from the source of it as much as Bill’s was.
“Why do you say that?”
“Though you can dwell in the light, you seem to be frightened of it.”
“Why do you say that?” he repeated.
“Just an observation,” I said.
“Are you the reason she and I couldn’t bond?” Warlow probed impatiently. “Her blood was still on my lips as she drank from me. It should have worked!” he added. “We should have a bond even now!”
“I believe that a level of choice must be involved for a bond to be created, and the human must not require the blood for healing when it is taken,” I said evenly.
“Sookie did choose. And she wasn’t injured,” he informed.
“Was she not?” I asked. I’d felt her torment even as I’d been feeling my own over Nora’s illness.
“She was uninjured,” Warlow said again.
“What happened to her then?” I asked.
“Her friend tried to kill her.”
“He was possessed by the spirit of her father.”
“Ah—Lafayette. But why would Sookie’s father wish to kill her?”
“To keep her from me,” Warlow snarled. “That is why I had to kill him many years ago. He was trying to kill her then too.”
“So Sookie had just discovered that her own father had tried to kill her when she was a child? And another attempt had been made on her life by his spirit.”
“Yes—but I saved her both times,” he said. I saw the arrogance seeping into his eyes.
“Then you have my sincere thanks,” I said frankly.
He stepped forward and tested the bars of his cell. Though the silver didn’t burn him, it obviously made him uncomfortable.
“Stay away from her,” he warned. “You are not good enough for her!”
I considered his statement for a moment. It had never even occurred to me to wonder if I was “good enough” for Sookie—or for anyone for that matter. The only relevant factor was that Sookie thought I was.
She’d chosen—finally chosen me.
I had felt acceptance, care, and love from her in the graveyard. And for the first time, those emotions were not mixed with fear and indecision.
And—if I lived—I would go to her. And we would try to find that “other life” together. That was already decided upon.
“In fact,” I said aloud, though not really to Warlow, “why wait?”
I turned and left the makeshift laboratory that Bill had set up in his basement.
“Stay away from her!” Warlow called after me.
My eyes were rolling even before he’d completed his “command.”
Fat fucking chance.