“People can do all kinds of things that maybe aren’t wise in hindsight because of jealousy.”—Kristin Bauer van Straten
“When Bill almost drained me, I was taken to a hospital. The doctors there discovered that I don’t even have a blood type. Not even Jason’s blood could be given to me. So I’m pretty much screwed when it comes to blood transfusions from humans anyway. And,” I paused and looked into his eyes so that he would see my sincerity as well as feel it, “I have chosen you, Eric Northman, and I know that we’ll keep each other safe.”
“Or die trying,” he whispered.
“Or die tryin’,” I agreed.
Eric sighed. “Thank you, min kära.”
I knew he was thanking me for choosing him.
“Thank you,” I echoed.
Eric stood me on my feet and kissed my cheek as he got up too. “The others are finishing up. They will be here in a minute or two,” he said.
I nodded. “So—after we bond, you can still take other people’s blood. Right? And you’ll still have your bonds with Willa and Pam. Right?”
“Yes—to both questions.”
“You’re sure?” I asked.
He nodded. “Willa and Pam are of my blood in a way that cannot be erased. They are my line, and no vampire who has bonded has ever lost the connection to his maker or child.”
“But we know that I won’t be able to take blood from others. What if you can’t either?” I asked worriedly.
Eric’s voice conveyed his patience, just as it had the night before when I’d asked the same questions. “Sookie, because I am vampire, I will be able to take blood to nourish and to heal. It’s just like you eating human food or taking a Tylenol. The aspects of our natures will not change. I will still be a vampire and you will be a human-fairy hybrid. All that will alter is that our blood will reject anything that would interfere with our bond.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay,” I said.
“But you already know that I will not take the blood of others except in emergency situations or unless you become unable to feed me.”
“Right,” I confirmed. Together, we’d decided on that “rule” the night before when the thought of him feeding from others had disgusted us both.
He lifted my chin with his hand. “And during battle, I will be able to use my fangs to protect myself—just as you will be able to use your light—though not in the same way you use it with me,” he grinned.
I didn’t take his bait to lighten the mood. “But you’re still giving things up,” I reminded.
“Yes,” he agreed. “Like you, I will not be able to form ties or bonds with others by giving them my blood, but I wouldn’t want to.” He paused. “And, as we discussed last night, I’m not sure if I would be able to make other vampire children—unless it is you. No other bonded vampire has ever felt compelled to make another child—though most bring over their bonded mates, rather than losing them.”
“Are you sure you want to give up the possibility of making other children?” I asked.
“By being with a vampire, you are also giving up the chance to have children,” he reminded.
I nodded. We’d talked about children early that morning. He’d even offered to help me adopt or seek artificial insemination if I wanted to be a mother, but I’d decided that I didn’t want to bring a baby into our lives. I wasn’t sure if my motives were selfish or unselfish. In truth, they were likely both.
He smiled. “Anyway, I already have two phenomenal daughters and the promise of a bonded mate for a child. I cannot imagine being so greedy that I want or need more.”
“I don’t know. We both know that you can be pretty damned greedy,” I challenged.
He winked at me. “I just want what I want. And, now that I have it—all of it—I will want for no more.”
I sighed. As I looked into his intense blue eyes, I fell in love with him even more. I smiled at him. “I can’t imagine wanting for more either.” I took a deep breath. “And once you make me a vampire, I’ll be able to—uh—take other blood—right? I’d hate to make that choice and then starve to death.”
He smiled at my words. The night before, we’d agreed that he could make me a vampire to save my life. We’d also agreed to have a talk about my becoming a vampire once a year, and if nothing changed, then I would be turned on my thirty-seventh birthday, giving me ten more years as a human.
“Your body will accept blood then because your nature will be changed. Blood will become like food or medicine to you and will not have the ability to interfere with our bond. We will both have to feed from others or take bagged blood for nourishment. But we will always have each other for dessert,” he whispered into my ear before nipping my earlobe.
Immediately, goose bumps broke out all over my body.
Just as he began tracking kisses down my neck, we heard voices coming from the stairs.
“Later,” Eric whispered, as Pam led Tara, Jason, and Willa into the room. Alcide was finishing his errand.
Intuitively knowing I would want to go to Jason, Eric let me go.
I ran to my brother, embracing him. “You okay?” I asked him.
“Thanks to him,” he said, motioning toward Eric, “I’m A-OK.”
I reached backwards and was happy when I felt Eric’s cool hand in mine. I looked back at him. “Thanks,” I mouthed.
“No problem,” he responded, squeezing my hand before letting it go.
I moved to Tara next and hugged her; I almost cried when she hugged me back. “Glad you’re okay,” I said.
She looked from Eric to me. “I’m guessin’ you’re at least partially responsible for that.”
I smiled. “Maybe a little, but the actual rescuing part was all your grandpappy.”
Tara chuckled at the nickname as Eric gave me a mock glare.
“Sookie,” Eric said, gesturing toward a pretty brunette vampire who looked a little timid and shy, “this is Willa. She is my new child.”
I stuck out my hand and wasn’t surprised when she took it—although Pam rolled her eyes. “Nice to meet you, Willa,” I said. “Eric told me that he was proud of you today.”
Eric huffed from next to me.
“What?” I asked, looking up at him. “You did. And I know it’d take you a hundred years to tell her yourself.”
“More like a thousand,” Pam intoned.
Willa smiled. “Nice to meet you, Sookie.”
“Why was there a dog outside barking orders?” Pam asked testily, obviously tired of the greetings and introductions. “And what’s the fairy doing here?” Pam followed up, giving me a glare that conveyed her intense distaste for me.
“The werewolf is an ally,” Eric said gruffly. “And Sookie is my bonded—though no one beyond this room can ever know that fact.”
That information shut Pam’s lips faster than a jar of super glue, even though her glare remained fixed in my direction—becoming even deadlier, in fact. I figured that if she’d had another rocket launcher handy, I’d be dead.
“Bonded?” Jason asked. “What’s that?”
“That means that I’m Eric’s—by choice.” I looked at Pam. “And I’m gonna stay that way—forever.”
“Forever?” Tara asked.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Wait!” Jason said, catching up and then looking at Eric. “You’re gonna make my sister a vamp?”
Eric moved closer to me and put his arm around my shoulders. I was happy to sink into him—happy that he was safely away from a building full of people who had wooden and silver bullets in their guns. Happy that he was claiming me.
“Not right now, but one day—yes,” Eric answered.
“Oh—okay,” Jason said, processing and accepting the new information much more quickly than I’d thought would be possible. He shared a meaningful nod with Eric. I’d have to ask what it meant later.
I couldn’t help but to notice that Pam was still silent and glaring—a deadly asp ready to strike.
“So—what now?” Tara asked.
It didn’t escape my notice that everyone looked to Eric to answer that question.
When he started speaking, I felt my pride for him soar as his tone commanded the room. “Ten minutes after sunrise, the Vamp Camp and the TruBlood factory producing the Hep-V are both going to explode thanks to some dynamite that Herveaux and Sookie placed earlier. As that is happening, Sookie and I will be completing our bond, which will make anyone else who has given her blood feel certain that she is dead. Earlier tonight, I tricked Warlow into completing a faint tie with me; that too will disappear when Sookie and I bond—hopefully prompting Warlow to believe that I died with her. By 2:00 this afternoon, Mr. Cataliades will be on MSNBC exposing the happenings at Vamp Camp and the plan to systematically kill vampires using Hep-V. He’ll be using phrases like ‘Concentration Camp for vampires’ and ‘genocide.’ And he’ll be showing plenty of pictures to support his claims. He’ll also be announcing that the vampire who gave him the information was killed when the people running the camp and factory destroyed their own facilities in a desperate attempt to cover up the truth.”
“And he’ll be letting everyone know that older vampires—those who are 700 and up—can actually smell the Hep-V in the tainted blood,” I added.
Eric looked down at me with pride in his eyes. “Did you get that information during your little excursion earlier?”
Eric looked back at the others. “Bill will have to focus on the PR issues that will result from Cataliades’s announcements. If we are lucky, he won’t spend a moment thinking of our deaths.”
“And if we’re really lucky Warlow will just implode or somethin’ when he thinks that his plans to make a new faepire have been blown to smithereens—literally,” I added.
Eric grinned. “If he doesn’t do the world that favor, Warlow will likely,” he paused, “wallow.”
“Wallowing Warlow,” Tara snickered.
Eric nodded. “Meanwhile, Sookie and I will be long gone—off the grid. In fact, we plan to play dead for the foreseeable future—at least until Warlow and Bill manage to kill each other off.”
The room was silent for a moment. Jason’s mouth was opening and closing, as if he were trying to come up with the words he wanted to say. Tara looked mostly indifferent while Willa looked understandably insecure. And Pam looked furious enough to explode. It was Jason that finally spoke.
“You’re leaving?” he asked me, his voice full of pain.
I nodded and blinked back some tears. “Yeah. Bill wants to take over the world for all I know, and Warlow wants to own me and turn me into what he is. And—according to Niall—I have only one big fairy light ball, so that means I could kill only one of them.” I took a deep breath. “I won’t risk them killing Eric to get to me, so—yeah—we’re gettin’ the hell outta Dodge.”
“I could not defeat either Bill or Warlow when they are at full strength,” Eric admitted. “And I will no longer be without Sookie. If we just left, Warlow—at the very least—would track us. Maybe Bill too.”
“But they won’t track you if you’re dead,” Tara volunteered.
I nodded. “Exactly. However, if we hear that one of them has met the true death, we plan to go on the offensive and take out the other one—with my supernova ball, just like Niall explained I could.”
Eric tightened his hold on me, and I could tell that he was happy at my words and the matter-of-factness with which I’d said them.
“Uh,” Jason said, looking a little lost, “I have this weird feeling about Niall. I feel like I should know where he is, but I don’t.”
I sighed, “Warlow sent Niall to another dimension, and he probably glamoured you to forget. I’m also sure that Warlow gave you some blood when you were sick, which means that you’ll have a tie with him for a little while. So—if you’ve been dreaming of him,” I started.
Jason blushed redder than a beet.
“What your sister is trying to say,” Eric picked up helpfully, “is that when a vampire gives you blood, you cannot help but to dream about him or her. Those dreams can be about things you desire or things you fear,” he said, looking at Jason meaningfully. “They can also be sexual in nature. However, you cannot control them, and they don’t necessarily indicate something you would want to happen in real life.”
Jason immediately looked relieved but then troubled again. “What about Niall? Can we—uh—get him back?”
“Holly’s trying to help with that, but it’s possible that he’ll be stuck where he is for a while,” I said sadly. Part of me still felt guilty for his being trapped in another realm; if I’d agreed to be Warlow’s, he would have brought Niall back. However, I would have been sentencing myself to an eternity with Warlow. It had been a no-win situation.
Feeling my guilt, Eric tightened his hold on me a little more. I appreciated the comforting gesture.
“And now you’re leaving too—because of Warlow and Bill,” Jason said bitterly.
I sighed. “Yeah. But—to tell you the truth—even if they were both gone, I would still be leaving with Eric. We need a break from the world for a while.”
Jason nodded, and I was happy to hear from his thoughts that he understood why I needed to escape for the time being. I hated leaving my brother, but I knew he’d be okay, especially given the fact that Alcide had already agreed to look out for him. And what I’d said was true. I was ready to start a new life with Eric, and neither one of us thought that Louisiana was the best place to do that.
“So you—uh—really think Warlow and Bill will try to kill each other?” Jason asked Eric.
“Almost certainly,” Eric responded. “Meanwhile, as I said, Sookie and I are going to play dead—at least, until one of them succeeds in taking out the other.”
Pam finally found her voice. “So you’re running away!” she said mercurially. “You’re just going to leave! With her!”
“Yes,” Eric said evenly.
“What?” Pam intoned. “Did Tinker Bell here turn your balls into earrings? I’ve never known you to run away from a fight before.”
I was surprised when Eric’s fangs didn’t drop at that remark. The arm he had around me didn’t even tense up.
“I’ve never fought a battle that I couldn’t win either,” he said in an unfluctuating tone. “Would you have me stay and fight a demigod and a 5,500-year-old faepire who is immune to the sun? Because you and I both know that I couldn’t share a sandbox with either of them.”
Pam sneered. “You mean you couldn’t share a fairy with a glittery super snatch with them!”
“Whoa!” Jason yelled, taking an aggressive step toward Pam.
I gave my brother a look and a shake of my head, signaling that Eric and Pam were the only ones who needed to be talking at that point. I could see that Eric was giving him a similar look, and—to his credit—Jason backed up.
“You are right,” Eric said vehemently as he looked back at Pam, “I will not share Sookie.”
Since he was holding me closely to his side, I couldn’t see the look on Eric’s face, but—then again—I didn’t have to. Everyone else in the room—except for Pam—seemed to shrink in fear as he glared at his oldest child. Tara put a hand on Jason’s shoulder and backed them away a few steps. Willa backed up even further.
“You’re choosing that cunt over both yourself and me! Again!” Pam stormed.
“No,” Eric said, his tone an eerie mixture of calm and electricity. “There is no choice to be made. Sookie is my bonded—my mate.”
“But,” Pam started.
Eric cut her off. “And—I am in love with her! Being that way and staying that way—those are not choices for me, Pamela. They just are.”
“What are you saying?” she demanded.
“I am saying that the only choice that must be made here is from you. Accept Sookie! Or—at least—accept that she makes me happier than a million strolls in the sun would.
“And if I don’t?” she asked stubbornly.
“If you don’t, I will continue to love you,” Eric said simply. “That is not a choice for me either.” He paused. “But I would kill anyone who tried to harm her, Pam—even someone I loved.”
Pam gasped. “And when she leaves you for someone else—again?”
“You can kill me—slowly,” I said.
Pam looked at Eric as the others in the room gasped. “You heard her,” Eric said to Pam.
“But,” Jason started.
“But nothing,” I interrupted, my tone forceful. “I’m not gonna hurt Eric again, and I’m certainly not going back to a vampire who wants to make me a Stepford wife. And—that is exactly what both Warlow and Bill would want from me. Even before he was Billith, Bill always wanted me to be the perfect little Southern Belle for him—someone to make him feel human again.”
“Yeah—like a human in the 1860s,” Tara said under her breath.
“Exactly!” I agreed. “And Warlow wants me to fit some image he’s had for his ‘mate’ for hundreds—if not thousands—of years. So,” I finished, looking back at Pam, “if I ever did end up with either of them, then I’d want you to put me out of my misery.”
Pam looked dumbfounded as she looked at Eric and then at me again. “Do you love him?” she asked me. “Do you love him like I feel he loves you?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Is she telling the truth?” Pam asked Eric.
She closed her eyes tightly for a moment. “But you’re running. Why not stay and fight them, Eric? You are a warrior.”
“Do you not remember your Sun Tzu, Pam?” Eric asked.
She nodded and quickly brushed away a tear so that it wouldn’t fall. “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious,” she quoted.
“Yes,” Eric said. And this: “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.”
“Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance,” Pam said quoting The Art of War again.
Eric smiled at his eldest child. “The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.”
“That’s not Sun Tzu; that’s Nietzsche,” Pam snarked.
Eric chuckled. “I was trying to trip you up.”
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” Jason said out of nowhere.
Everyone looked at him like he’d grown a second head.
“Are you aware that you just quoted Leo Tolstoy?” Eric asked with amusement.
“Who’s that?” Jason asked.
“Gran used to say that when she would ground Jason,” I laughed.
Jason shrugged. “I never was real sure ’bout what she meant by it. But since y’all was quotin’, it seemed right to say.”
Jason and Eric shared another nod; somewhat surprisingly, I saw mutual respect in it.
I smiled and squeezed Eric’s hand before looking around the room. Jason had effectively deflated all the tension that had been rising.
“I’m surprised you didn’t quote something from Sesame Street,” Pam deadpanned.
Jason shrugged. “I don’t remember no quotes from that show,” he said, completely serious.
Eric chuckled and then looked back at Pam. “Are we good?”
She looked at him warily. “I don’t know. Are we?”
“On?” she asked.
“Any more questions about my plan?”
She shook her head.
“Any more questions about Sookie?”
“Tons,” she said, “but I’m willing to give her one more chance.” She looked at me warningly. “Just don’t fuck it up.”
“I won’t,” I swore.
Eric squeezed my hand again. “Pamela, you may come with us if you want, but we will be leaving this morning.”
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Guess,” he said, grinning.
“No!” she said back.
“Yes,” Eric responded.
“Why?” she asked petulantly.
“What?” Jason asked, obviously confused. “Where are y’all goin’?”
“Öland,” Eric smirked.
“Huh?” Jason asked.
“Where I was born,” Eric answered. “It is in Sweden.”
“It’s a windy shithole,” Pam complained.
“Breezy,” Eric corrected.
Pam thought for a moment and then sighed. “I’d rather stay in Louisiana having slumber parties with Billith and Warlow than go there.”
“It’s not that bad,” Eric chuckled.
“Vampires aren’t supposed to chafe, Eric,” Pam returned. “When we went there in the 50s, I chafed!”
He chuckled again and kissed my cheek before going over to Willa. He got onto his knees before her, causing both Pam and I to gasp and then to look comically at each other. Maybe she and I could learn to get along—after all.
“I wronged you when I made you like I did and when I sent you away,” Eric said to Willa. “But I offer amends. You will come with me and my bonded, and I will teach you all that I know.”
There was silence for a moment until Pam zipped over to them.
“Oh—hell no!” she said, looking at a confused Willa. Pam winked at her new sister. “I already have one newborn. A second won’t hurt. And I won’t subject my sister to that windy hellhole either! Anyway—if I know you—you’re in one of your isolationist phases. Willa does not need to be subjected to that shit!”
Eric looked from Pam to Willa as he stood up. “It is your choice, child,” he said to Willa.
“When he said off the grid, he meant it,” Pam warned. “His dumb farm is the only thing for miles!”
Willa bit her lip nervously. “What if I want to stay with Pam, but then change my mind?” she asked Eric.
He smiled at his newest child. “Then you’ll come to me.”
“Thanks,” she smiled. “I want to stay with Pam and Tara then,” Willa said, looking at Tara. It was obvious that they’d become friends at the Vamp Camp.
Eric nodded. “Pam knows where to find me, and any of my bloodline are welcome beside me at any time,” he said glancing at Tara and Willa before refocusing on Pam.
Pam flinched a little. “So Nora is gone then?” she asked quietly.
I figured that it must have been the way that Eric had said “my bloodline” instead of “Godric’s bloodline” that had clued her into the fact that Nora was no longer undead.
Eric nodded. “Yes. Now Godric’s blood resides in only four beings.”
Pam nodded in understanding.
“Don’t launch an offensive against Bill or Warlow unless you know you can win. No doubts!” he said to her.
“I won’t,” she promised.
Eric nodded. “Good. And you must all pretend that Sookie and I are truly gone. In fact,” Eric said to Pam and Willa, “as you maker, I command you to behave as if Sookie and I are dead to anyone outside of this room. You may not speak of our plans or us unless you are sure that no one else will hear.”
Willa immediately nodded.
“You released me,” Pam said with a smirk. “You cannot command me anymore.”
“I know,” Eric said. “But you’ll still do as I asked—just as I always obeyed Godric.” He paused and his voice became barely audible. “To the very end.”
“Yes,” Pam said sincerely, “I’ll do it. And so will Tara.” She looked at her progeny. “Tara, as your maker I command you to act like Sookie and Eric are truly dead with anyone not in this room.”
“Yes, Mommy,” Tara said, rolling her eyes.
Eric smirked. “I also command that you and Willa and Tara come to the windy shithole if you are ever in a bind.”
Pam and Tara rolled their eyes in unison as Willa nodded obediently.
However, I could tell that even Pam would come if needed. And I could also tell that that fact made Eric feel better about leaving her—and Willa—behind.