SOOKIE POV, CONTINUED
I was brought out of my thoughts concerning my most recent near-death experience when the limo stopped outside of a former monastery, which was where Queen Sophie-Anne’s ball was to be held.
The queen had asked that I attend that night as the first of my “training exercises.” I was to listen in to the thoughts of the humans with the Arkansas delegation. But as Quinn escorted me into the large ballroom full of mostly vampires, I chuckled ruefully.
“What could go wrong?” I asked myself sarcastically.
“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you, babe,” Quinn assured, probably thinking that I’d been talking to him.
I clutched my clutch a little tighter. “Remember—I need to speak to Sophie-Anne ASAP,” I whispered.
And give her the bracelet Hadley had stolen so that the queen could avoid an “incident” with her fiancé or—uh—betrothed, King Peter Threadgill of Arkansas. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what the two monarchs were calling each other—or even whether vampires had a different name for their marriages.
Knowing of my errand, Quinn guided me toward Andre since Sophie-Anne had apparently not made her grand entrance yet.
I held out my clutch to Andre, wondering if it would be returned to me; the clutch wasn’t anything special. I’d bought it on sale at Walmart a few years before, but—still—I’d always liked it.
“I wanted to return the bag that the queen was kind enough to let me borrow,” I said to Andre.
Even though he had to have guessed what was inside the clutch, Andre frowned when he took the object. Apparently, my bag wasn’t up to his high standards—even as a mere carrying case for his queen’s missing jewelry.
Only with difficulty did I refrain from rolling my eyes; needless to say, I wasn’t a big Andre fan.
Without even a thank you, Andre quickly left the room, presumably to give his maker the bracelet.
I shouldn’t have been surprised; vampires weren’t really known for their politeness.
“Well—look what the cat dragged in,” a familiar voice said from behind me. “Sookie Stackhouse.”
Quinn hissed quietly as we turned around to face the voice.
“Hi, Pam,” I said with a sincere smile on my face. A part of me had missed the acerbic vampiress.
“Eric said that you might be here,” she grinned, looking me up and down with appreciation in her eyes. As immodest as it made me feel, I had to agree with her to a certain extent. The dress I’d borrowed from Amelia was lovely, and—luckily—just stretchy enough to work with my curves.
“How did he know?” I asked, sounding a little defensive to my own ears. I’d not heard from Eric since his exit from my life more than a month before. To say that my feelings were still all jumbled together where Eric was concerned would have been an understatement. I continued to miss “my Eric,” though I was trying to look at our short time together with gratitude, rather than just sorrow. I figured that a lot of people never got to experience what I’d found with “my” Eric.
Not even for four nights.
And—as for the “real’ Eric? Well—I regretted losing him as a friend. Once upon a time, I had enjoyed his company, especially his sense of humor. I might have tried to reestablish that aspect of our relationship if I hadn’t been aware of just how difficult it would be to see someone with “my” Eric’s face.
I learned that I was right about that difficulty when I heard a familiar, deep voice from beside me.
“Hello, Sookie. I take it the demon received the details of our contract.”
As Eric moved to stand next to Pam, my breath seemed to catch in my lungs. Eric was physically striking in anything he wore—or didn’t wear. But in a tux, he was drool-worthy. I’m sure that Quinn noted my increased heartrate and my decreased breathing rate—just as the vampires did.
To make the situation even more awkward, Bill zoomed over to join the “party.”
“Eric, what are you doing here?” Bill asked.
Eric regarded Bill for only a moment before rolling his eyes. “I don’t know, Bill. The queen is throwing a ball to announce her upcoming pledging with the King of Arkansas. What would a sheriff of Louisiana be doing at such a function?” he asked, his voice laced with sarcasm. “I suppose I could ask why the investigator of Area 5 has left his post without contacting his sheriff, but . . . .” He paused, waving his hand dismissively. “But I honestly don’t give a fuck,” he finished.
The tall Viking looked me in the eye for the first time. “I take it that your contract negotiations with the queen were successful?”
“Yes,” I responded somewhat breathlessly, feeling even more awkward as the only three men I’d ever had sex with seemed to be closing in on me. But then Eric took a step back from me.
“Good,” he said, even as he looked past me. “Well—I will take my leave.” I couldn’t help but to follow Eric’s exit from the little group with my gaze. He walked toward a beautiful woman who was carrying a glass of champagne in one hand and a glass of blood in the other. Eric took the drink she’d brought for him and smiled at her before taking her arm and disappearing with her into the crowd.
“Beautiful—isn’t she? Her name is Olivia, and she’s with the new accounting firm we just hired.” Pam commented, clearly amused at my discomfort.
While I’d expected to feel awkward when/if I ever saw Eric again, I didn’t expect that I would feel jealous. But the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head, nonetheless.
“I didn’t notice,” I lied. Making things worse, everyone still gathered around me knew that I’d lied. And—immediately—I felt guilty. After all, I didn’t have the right to my jealousy. And I didn’t have the right to care about whether or not Eric had moved on! I certainly had.
I looked up at Quinn and smiled. “Okay—I did notice. Eric’s date is very pretty. And I really do hope Eric’s happy because that’s what I’m looking for myself.”
Quinn beamed down at me.
Thankfully, after my confession, Bill and Pam went off in different directions to mingle—or to do whatever the vampire version of mingling was.
“Well—I guess I’d better get to work,” I said to my date.
Quinn looked a little nonplussed (thank you Word-of-the-Day Calendar) when I told him that I needed to not be touching him in order to drop my shields and listen to everyone else. I figured he had the right to feel a little possessive. It was quite evident that he hated the fact that I’d had to take Bill’s blood the day before. And I hadn’t even told him that I could now “feel” Bill’s emotions to a certain extent.
But—then again—I hadn’t told Bill about my new ability either. Similarly, I had hidden my very rare forays into vampires’ minds. So it seemed logical to hide my knowledge of Bill’s emotions.
I’d just dropped my shields when all hell broke loose!
Screaming from voices and from minds!
There was a sudden frenzy in the room, along with cries of violence and of fear. And there was blood, seemingly floating in the air!
“Was that a head?” I gasped in surreal disbelief as I watched something fly by me.
Quinn didn’t answer me, but—then again—he was busy shifting into his tiger form. With a loud roar, he jumped into the melee. At the same time, I ducked behind one of the columns in the large room in order to avoid a sword strike and tried to figure out an escape route. From my crouched position, I noticed that most of the fighting had—thankfully—broken out on the other side of the room, and I carefully made my way toward the nearest wall in the opposite direction, hoping that I could hover against that wall until I could reach the nearest exit.
I felt a swish of air nearby and noticed that Eric had zipped his date over to the same door that I was looking to get to. After speaking words I was too far away to hear, Eric bent down quickly to kiss her forehead, and I felt a pang in my heart. He watched her retreating figure for a moment—obviously making sure that she got away safely—and then he literally flew into the battle. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him for a moment. With a kind of brutality that I didn’t have the ability to describe—let alone to understand—he ripped off the head of a vampire and threw it toward another—as if he’d invented a new kind of bowling. I wondered briefly if he’d also been responsible for the first head I’d seen flying through the room. I cringed and refocused on the wall and my exit, being careful to avoid the various fights that had broken out in my path.
I noted that Desmond Cataliades seemed to have ripped the leg off of Jade Flower’s body. And he was hitting her with it. I had to alter my escape path in order to avoid them, but I eventually got to the wall and began to inch my way toward the door.
That’s when I saw a flash of dark hair; moments later, a lethal-looking vampire appeared between me and the door.
Before I could even scream for help, however, another vampire flashed to my side and killed my would-be attacker, who’d apparently decided that I would be a tasty mid-battle meal.
“Eric,” I whispered as he dropped his foe’s quickly dissipating body onto the floor. For a moment, his eyes seemed to shine as they scrutinized me. And then he was gone again. Almost immediately, Pam appeared in his place.
“Pam?” I asked, my brain not quite caught up with the quick switching of blond vampires in front of me.
“Why Ms. Stackhouse,” she said almost casually—despite the fact that her gorgeous white pantsuit now looked like a Jackson Pollock piece. “I see that you have attracted trouble—just like always.”
“I’m trying to get out of here,” I returned with a hiss.
“Well—in that case—then let me help you,” she grinned. I noticed that her fangs were stained red with blood, and she looked terrifying.
But I was still happy she was there.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely as she took me by the arm and led me to the door to the ballroom.
“Where’s your tiger? Where’s Bill?” she asked.
“Fighting,” I said with a frown. “Why?”
She sighed and shook her head a little. “No reason. Look—the kitchen it down that corridor and to the left,” she explained as she pointed. “Get there, and you will be safe.”
And, with that, she was gone.
I followed Pam’s directions and quickly made my way to the kitchen, but the door was locked—not to mention the fact that it seemed to be made of steel and/or silver. I was just getting ready to head elsewhere when the door opened and I was pulled inside by a man in a chef’s uniform. Quickly, the door was shut behind me, and I noticed that there was a camera feed showing the corridor outside. Looking around, I saw about a dozen humans, including Olivia, hunkered down.
“What’s going on out there?” the man in the chef’s uniform asked me.
I looked at him with confusion.
“With the battle,” he clarified.
“Oh—uh—lots of killing,” I stammered.
“Of course! But is our side winning at least?” the chef asked with impatience.
“Uh—yeah—I think so,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure. I lowered my shields to make sure that everyone in the room was, indeed, on the queen’s side. They were—thankfully—but the fear, anxiety, and excitement in their thoughts quickly overwhelmed me.
I’m certain that crushing feeling showed on my face before I was able to put my shields back in place.
“Don’t worry about anything,” another man said. “That door is steel with a silver coating. We’ll be fine in here until the battle’s over. Queen Sophie-Anne takes care of her humans,” he added, motioning to the monitor.
I could see that there was another human outside.
“Is he one of ours?” a woman asked.
“Yeah, that’s Michael, Rasul’s companion tonight,” Olivia said. “Eric introduced us.”
Quickly, the door was opened, and Rasul’s date joined us inside.
He was gasping for breath.
“You okay?” Olivia asked with concern as she went over to Michael and placed her arm around him as if to help to steady him.
“Yeah—but it took some doing for Rasul to get me safely out of there! We were right in the middle of things when the fight broke out.”
The chef brought him some water. “Is our side winning?” he asked.
Michael nodded. “The Arkansas bunch is fighting hard, but last I saw, Sheriff Northman had captured King Threadgill, so it will be over very soon.
I noticed that Olivia smiled softly—proudly—as she led Michael to where she’d been sitting and got him settled.
I couldn’t help but to study her for a moment. She truly was lovely. She had brown hair, which seemed to shine. Her eyes were hazel—the kind of eyes that would change color depending on what a person wore. Her impeccable strapless black dress brought out the green and the blue flecks in them. She was likely about an inch shorter than I was, but she seemed taller, given the height of her heals and posture that Gran would have celebrated.
She’d certainly never celebrated mine, always having to remind me to stand up straight and tall when I would slouch. Even at that moment, I realized that my shoulders were slumped as the anxiety of the thoughts in the room was beginning to bear weight against my shields.
Quickly, I tried to straighten my back, but I could easily see that, even then, I compared unfavorably to Olivia. She had a natural grace about her, and she seemed a perfect representation of what society would think of as beautiful—without being too skinny. She was also clearly compassionate and her eyes seemed kind as she looked after Michael. And Pam had said that she was an accountant too, so that meant she was smart.
She was the kind of woman that women like me often hated, but I found myself unable to do that as she continued to fuss over Michael, bringing him another glass of water before talking to him quietly until he had calmed down. I still felt a little jealousy when I looked at her, but I wasn’t petty enough to ignore the fact that she was clearly better for Eric than I was.
Hell—she’d likely be better for anyone than I was!
My thoughts were interrupted as a vampire suddenly appeared in front of the monitor.
My heart skipped when I saw that it was Eric.
However, when the door opened, he didn’t come to me. He zipped to Olivia.
“Is it over?” she asked as he embraced her.
“Yes. You are alright?”
“Good,” Eric said warmly.
“Did we win?” the chef asked.
“Oh—yes!” the vampire said with an almost sinister smirk on his face. Clearly, he’d enjoyed the battle. “If there are any willing donors in here, please meet with Rasul and my child, Pam, outside the ballroom. They will ensure your safety as you feed the wounded.”
Quickly, every human except for Olivia and I had left to help.
I would have too, but I worried that my blood might cause another battle.
Surprisingly, Eric shut the door behind the humans quickly, though he was careful not to touch the silver.
“Do you need to feed?” Olivia asked him.
Eric shook his head. “No thank you. What I took earlier has sufficed.”
Olivia blushed a little, and I felt my jealousy spike again.
“I do, however, wish to ask you a favor,” he said to Olivia as I stood there watching them. I wanted to turn away, but I couldn’t.
“Of course,” she said.
“I need to speak with this woman for a moment,” he said, gesturing slightly in my direction, “and I need to do it in private; however, I don’t want you to be alone out there,” he explained.
“You want to glamour me—so I don’t remember what I’m about to hear?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Okay. I trust you,” she responded quickly and assuredly, even as my jealousy turned to shame.
Yes—Olivia put me to shame in a lot of ways. And she was certainly better for Eric, a fact which bit into me with the venom of a snake bite.
“Thank you,” Eric said before capturing Olivia with his glamour. “You will sit quietly and not remember anything else which occurs in this room.”
“Sure,” Olivia said in the dreamy tone that humans under the influence of glamour adopted.
My heart skipped as Eric turned to look at me for the first time since he’d come into the room.
He looked angry. And his tone conveyed that anger. “I thought you craved a normal life, Sookie.”
“What—uh—I do,” I responded, my own hackles immediately rising.
“Then why pick the weretiger? Why complete a bond with Bill?” he yelled.
“Quinn is normal—for me!” I yelled back.
“Quinn runs a company catering to Supernaturals. And he works for the King of Nevada—likely as a fucking spy!”
“Well—I don’t care what his job is or whom he works for. He’s not spying on me!” I said insistently, my hands going to my hips. “And what do you mean by completing a bond with Bill?”
“Tell me—do you feel Bill’s emotions?” Eric asked bitterly.
“Yeah, but that’s just because I had to take a lot of his blood yesterday,” I returned, immediately worried that I shouldn’t have admitted feeling Bill’s emotions at all—let alone to Eric.
“I felt your anxiety,” Eric frowned.
“Huh?” I asked, not quite following the turn in the conversation.
“Yesterday night and two nights before that,” he clarified, “I felt your fear.”
“Yet you didn’t come,” I said bitterly.
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “You calmed relatively quickly both times. Plus, I was in Shreveport when I felt your distress.”
“Oh,” I responded, my anger deflating a little.
He looked frustrated. “You know—you don’t get to have it both ways, Sookie. You cannot be angry at me for not coming to your rescue when you don’t want me in your life.”
“I never said I didn’t want you in my life,” I whispered.
He didn’t respond to that declaration. And-honestly—I was a little surprised that I’d made it, but I knew it was true.
“I miss you, Eric,” I admitted before shaking my head. “I know that’s not fair of me to say. But I do. I miss you. And I miss him. I wrung my hands as a tear swept down my cheek. I’m sorry. Everything’s just so confusing.”
“I can feel your confusion,” he said softly.
I sighed and looked over at Olivia. “She seems like a good person.”
“She is,” he responded.
“Does she make you happy?” I asked, trying not to sound like a jealous twit.
And trying to remind myself that the Eric I was looking at wasn’t the man who’d once fallen in love with me—trying to keep myself from grieving over the loss of him yet again.
“Olivia is a good companion for me,” he answered. “And she is not a trouble magnet,” he added with a slight smirk.
“Well, thank God for that!” I chuckled, wishing that I could laugh away the awkwardness that had settled into the room. But I couldn’t.
“Did Bill—at least—tell you that your blood bond with him was permanent now?” he asked after a moment, his shoulders slumping a little.
“Permanent? What do you mean?”
He shook his head and frowned. “Of course, he didn’t. Bill is too much of a fool to be upfront with you.”
“Wait a minute. He saved my life,” I defended. “And—uh—what do you mean about being upfront?”
“I mean that Bill in not as he seems,” he said, his voice sounding far away for a moment.
I sighed with exasperation. “Eric, is this really the time to talk about all this?”
“I suppose not,” he returned, his expression hardening. “And, even if I told you what I know, you would not believe me,” he added bitterly. “However—remember this: Sophie-Anne now owes you a favor.”
“The bracelet,” he responded. “I was told to bring several in my retinue to the ball because the queen knew that there would be a fight if it couldn’t be recovered. But—as it turned out—it didn’t matter that she had the bracelet. Peter Threadgill was just looking for an excuse to try to take over Louisiana. Luckily, we were ready for battle anyway.”
“Why did the queen make an arrangement with him to begin with?” I asked. “I mean—Arkansas can’t be that rich of a state.”
“Arkansas is a good investment,” Eric informed. “Vampires now own several casinos along the Mississippi. Plus, Arkansas is a bordering state, and that is usually best when forming alliances.”
“Why not go for Texas or Mississippi then?” I asked, even as I found it somewhat odd that Eric was talking politics with me. However, politics was certainly an easier topic to deal with than the ‘personal.’
“Stan and Sophie-Anne are already committed allies, so a marriage would do little for either of them. And Mississippi will soon be marrying the King of Indiana,” the vampire informed. “I advocated Tennessee—for Bubba’s sake, really. But the king of that state is boorish, and Sophie-Anne couldn’t abide him. At least, she didn’t go for Oklahoma,” he said with a look of distaste.
“Oh?” I asked, not knowing what other reaction to make, given the fact that this was my first lesson in the region’s monarchs.
“She’s an unimaginable bitch,” Eric clarified.
“Um—okay. So—uh—the queen picked Arkansas. What’ll happen now?” I asked.
“Threadgill has been captured. There will be a trial. He will likely lose his head, and the queen will get Arkansas through,” he paused, “legal means.”
“Oh,” I said. I figured that the “legal means” Eric was talking about didn’t refer to human laws.
The Viking seemed to be considering his words for a moment. “You should use your favor with the queen to find out about Bill.”
I sighed, wishing that the conversation hadn’t veered back to that topic. “Why?” I asked, trying to keep my frustration from bubbling over.
“Earlier tonight I learned something regarding Bill’s assignments,” Eric said enigmatically.
“His database?” I asked.
“That and more,” he emphasized. “I think you have a right to know about the reasons why he left Sophie-Anne’s court, and she could tell you the whole story. And you would believe her.”
Suddenly, I felt frustration that wasn’t mine, and I noticed Bill in the monitor.
Eric noticed him too and looked torn. He went to take Olivia’s arm and moved toward the door, but he paused there, looking at Bill in the monitor. “You should not trust Bill to tell you about the bond, but learn about it where you can. And—if you ever want to learn more about,” he paused, “everything, then call in your favor with the queen.” He looked at me even as he raised his hand toward the door handle, which obviously had no silver in it. “But make sure that you truly want to know before you ask.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He didn’t answer that. He just looked at me for a moment, his eyes momentarily seeming so much like “my” Eric’s eyes that my heart ached. And then he opened the door to Bill.
A/N: So—we’ve met Eric’s new love interest. Again, I picked someone other than Nora or Yvetta because I wanted to start with a blank slate. I wonder what you think of her so far.
And—yes—just to clarify: Bill and Sookie are bonded now. Sookie can feel Bill’s emotions, but she’s keeping that to herself. And—as for Bill? Well, he “thinks” that they are bonded, but he’s actually not 100% sure. As a younger vampire, he’s never experienced a bond with a human (nor is he a maker in the books), nor can he connect to the bond with Sookie well. After all, we know that Sookie can resist some vampire-related things (she doesn’t heel). Bill was betting that Sookie would react to feeling his emotions; then he would have claimed ignorance about knowing that bonds could become permanent, etc. At this point, if Bill asks her if she can feel his emotions, then Sookie will know what Bill has done. So don’t be surprised if Bill tries to get even more blood into Sookie—in order to be sure. And—as for Eric? He is certain there is a bond, but just as certain that Bill won’t be honest about it.
Anyway, I hope that clears up any confusion.
Thanks to Kleannhouse for looking this over and Sephrenia for making banners for the “new” people I’m introducing and/or casting. 🙂 I’m also “recycling” some of Seph’s banners from previous stories so that I can include pics of other characters. The new ones below are Quinn, Olivia, and Andre!