SEPTEMBER 25, 2:41 P.M.
I couldn’t think about anything other than Eric as the elevator doors opened, depositing me and a Were named Timothy onto Eric’s floor. Not knowing exactly when the bombs would go off, I had been afraid of taking the elevator, but with a large, pregnant belly—as well as other guests hurrying to evacuate via the stairs now that the alarms were blaring—I figured the elevator was my and Timothy’s best and fastest bet since the Were was pushing a coffin trolley too.
We hurried to Eric’s room, and I cursed when I dropped the key because my hands were shaking so much due to fear and adrenaline. I tried to gather myself and thought about what a difference ten minutes could make.
Ten short minutes.
2:31 P.M. (TEN MINUTES EARLIER)
My phone alarm went off at exactly the time that the Ancient Pythoness had told me to set it for.
The phone had been a “gift” from Sophie—meaning that she’d insisted that I have it.
I lay looking up at the ceiling for a moment, not knowing what to expect or why I was supposed to wake up right then. The night before had been very taxing, and not just the throwing up part of it either. The wedding, too, had been difficult. Strangely, Olivia had made things better by being good company, but—inevitably—the reception had begun. I’d sat in a corner, thankful that Thalia deterred anyone—including Bill—who wanted to speak with me by doling out murderous glares and glimpses of her fangs. Meanwhile, Eric and Olivia had danced beautifully together; in fact, I found myself awestruck that any couple could be so graceful! Olivia’s smile had lit up the room.
After a while, I’d closed my eyes to the sights of the party and had concentrated on reading the thoughts of the Weres and humans in the room. I learned that the King of Florida had a spy in Sophie’s court, but I’d not been useful beyond that. When my headache worsened, I raised my shields, and Thalia escorted me to my room, where I’d literally fallen into bed after having scrubbed my face and changed into a two-piece pajama set that looked like something a grandpa would wear. I no longer wanted to sleep under any covers—call it a pregnancy quirk—though I did like to be covered, thus the old-fashioned cotton pajamas.
Knowing that I’d be forced to the bathroom very soon by my “awakening” bladder, I turned over to look out of my window. The glass on my floor was not the “vampire-safe” version, but it was still opaque, so the world outside looked gray—gloomy. With a sigh, I sucked it up and let my mind stretch out and listen to what was going on around me.
In the next second, I was sitting up straight and panting with fear. Even my bladder went on hiatus! I thrust my phone into the pocket in my pajama top and put on the only practical pair of shoes I’d brought—a worn pair of New Balance sneakers I’d found at a secondhand store. I didn’t bother with socks.
I ran out into the sitting room.
“What’s wrong?” Hennesy asked with alarm as soon as she saw me.
“There are bombs in this hotel. Lots of them,” I panted.
“What? How do you know?” she asked somewhat skeptically.
“I’m a fucking telepath, and I know!” I yelled. “So shut the fuck up and do what I tell you to do!”
“What I’m going to do is get you out of here!” she said, standing up.
I glared at her. “No—what you are going to do is go get Olivia, and you are gonna get her out of here.”
“You are my charge, not her,” Hennesy said gruffly.
“Look—we can stand here arguing, or we can get a move on!” I yelled. “Listen—I’m going to go downstairs to speak to the hotel manager. You go get Olivia and meet me down there—okay? You know where her room is—right?”
Hennesy growled. “Fine!”
We ran from the room, neither of us bothering to take anything else with us. I was pleased when Hennesy ran towards the stairwell. Olivia’s suite was a couple of floors above mine.
Meanwhile, I pushed the elevator button and cursed the conveyance for taking its time.
When I finally reached the lobby—probably a minute later—I was given a few “looks” because of my outfit, but I ignored them and ran toward the concierge desk.
“I need to talk to Matthew—right now!” I yelled. The concierge looked at me like I was insane. “Plumbing problem!” I screeched, knowing that would get the fastest action from him—without causing a panic. Matthew had been the hotel manager who had listened to me about the soda can bomb. He was a Were, and he knew that I was something “different.”
Not 30 seconds after he was called, Matthew hurried toward me.
“Miss Stackhouse, what is it?” he asked.
I spent another 60 seconds telling him about the thoughts I’d heard from one of the Fellowship members currently making sure that a large number of suitcase bombs were in place throughout the building.
To his credit, Matthew didn’t doubt me and didn’t question how I knew what I knew. He simply pulled the evacuation alarm and told the concierge to call the police and the bomb squad.
“What about the vampires?” I asked.
“We have a plan in place for them,” he assured.
“Is there a pecking order?” I asked, thinking of Eric.
“We start on the highest floors,” he said. “Weres will get them into coffins and then down to vans.”
Not good enough.
“Listen,” I hissed. “I’m pulling rank. I want you to evacuate these first,” I said as I cried out the names of the vampires I knew and hoped to ensure would be saved: Isabel and the other Texas vampires, Russell Edgington, Bartlett Crowe, the Ancient Pythoness, King Isaiah of Kentucky, and Thalia.
I didn’t know many more vampires by name. And—probably to my discredit—I paused before adding Bill to the list.
Matthew told me that Russell and Bartlett had left the hotel before morning and that the Ancient Pythoness had also left. He also said that Thalia wasn’t staying at the hotel. He promised that he’d personally oversee the vampire evacuations I’d requested—but that still wasn’t enough for me where Eric was concerned.
“I want Eric out first!” I said. Yes—it was selfish of me, but I had to make sure he was safe.
“Okay,” Matthew said, motioning toward a burly-looking Were. “This is Timothy. He’ll get Mr. Northman.”
“I’m going with him!” I said insistently.
Matthew tried to convince me to evacuate immediately for only a moment before I showed him how convincing and potentially deadly my pregnancy hormones could make me. And then he realized that it was just easier to give me the key to Eric’s room. He had other things to worry about—after all.
“Tell my guard, Hennesy that I left the hotel,” I said beseechingly to Matthew.
The Were manager looked reluctant, but nodded.
Hurrying as fast as I could, I accompanied Timothy to a service elevator, even as the alarms continued to sound to spur the humans to leave the premises.
I didn’t know when the bombs would start going off, but I hoped that the time given to me by the Ancient Pythoness was an indication that they’d wait at least until I’d gotten Eric out of the hotel.
I tried to take deep, calming breaths as we waited for the elevator to come.
Had the Ancient Pythoness known about the bombs? If so, then why in the hell hadn’t she told the authorities about them the night before?!
I didn’t have time to contemplate that question, however, as the elevator doors opened to take me, Timothy, and a coffin trolley higher up in the full-of-bombs pyramid.
Thankfully, Timothy quickly picked up the key my shaking hands couldn’t hold onto and unlocked Eric’s door. It was only then that I recalled that Quinn was in the hotel somewhere. An evil part of me hoped for a moment that he was sleeping—with headphones on.
I certainly wasn’t going to make an effort to save him—or Bill (beyond what I’d already done). Maybe that made me a bad person.
But there was only one person I loved enough to risk myself and my child for: Eric.
I was hoping—no praying—that Timothy and I could get Eric into a coffin—if he wasn’t already in one—and get him downstairs to the parking garage before the first bomb went off. There we would find the hotel’s fleet of light-tight vans—one of which Timothy had the key to.
As I flipped on the light in the room and saw that Eric was lying on the bed, there was a loud rumble from somewhere below us, and the room seemed to vibrate.
It looked like my prayer wasn’t going to be answered.
“We have to hurry!” I said, quickly running over to where Eric lay.
But Timothy stayed in place by the door.
“Come on!” I yelled. “We need to get him into a coffin!”
“I’m sorry,” the Were said. “I have a family.”
And with that, he ran from the room.
“Goddammit!” I yelled, even though I knew Gran would turn over in her grave if she heard me taking the Lord’s name in vain. “I have a family, too!” I cried.
They were all in the fucking room with me!
Even if one of the members of that “family” had no idea that I thought of him in that way.
As I felt another rumble from below, I knew there was no time to waste lamenting Timothy’s exit, and I also knew that I couldn’t move Eric into a coffin by myself. At least his coffin was already on a trolley. I began shaking Eric’s body and yelling.
“Eric! Eric! Wake up!”
I slapped him as hard as I could, and when that didn’t work, I punched him—hurting my hand in the process.
“Eric! Eric! Wake the fuck up!”
“Sookie, what are you doing? Doing here?” he asked, his voice slurring and his eyes barely opening.
“There are bombs going off in the hotel! I need you to move, Eric! I need you to get up!”
He seemed to be struggling to keep the little consciousness he had achieved—despite my warning, and his eyes closed.
And that’s when I started begging. “Please, Eric. Stay with me! Stay awake! I can’t move you on my own! Please! Fight! Fight with me Eric! Come on! Get on your fucking feet, Viking! Fight! Please!”
I could feel hot tears streaming from my eyes as I beat his chest as hard as I could.
His eyes opened again and seemed to focus a little more. There was another explosion—this one closer to us, and the whole building seemed to screech and lurch.
But—at least—the blast worked as an alarm clock for Eric.
“Come on!” I begged. “There are light-tight vans in the garage.”
Eric stood up, and though he stumbled a little, he stayed upright. He was wearing black silk pajama pants and nothing else, and any other time, I would have appreciated the view.
He looked at me and then my belly. “What are you doing here, Sookie?” he asked, his tone almost angry.
“Trying to save you!” I responded, not quite understanding why he’d ask a question that had such an obvious answer—and certainly not understanding his anger.
Maybe he was angry about the bombs?
I grabbed his hand. “We have to go!”
There was another rumble, and the air seemed to become hotter.
“We cannot go down through the building,” he said, looking around and grabbing and putting on the ceremonial cloak he’d used to perform the marriage ceremony of Russell Edgington and Bartlett Crowe.
“What?” I asked.
“There is a fire below us,” he said, even as another rumble hit—this one a little closer than the last.
He looked worried. “Alarms are going off. Where is Hennesy? Why didn’t she get you out?”
“I sent her for Olivia,” I responded.
He gave me a look that would have taken years to decipher, so I didn’t even bother to try.
“The blasts are moving upward,” he said as the heat in the room seemed to rise again.
For once, I hoped that I was in the middle of a hot flash.
Eric looked at the coffin, and his eyes seemed to light up with an idea the second before he pushed the coffin—impossibly hard—against the specially-made glass that framed the hotel and kept out the sunlight.
Obviously, the vampire was trying to let some of that light in.
I held my breath.
Again, Eric rammed the supposedly indestructible coffin against the supposedly indestructible window. I guess the makers of those objects didn’t count on a thousand-year-old vampire doing the destroying, however, and I breathed in relief as the glass of the window cracked in about a thousand directions with the center of them being the impact point of the coffin. However, the glass didn’t shatter.
Eric looked at me and then at my belly again before saying something in a language I didn’t understand. Hell—maybe no one but the Viking had understood it in centuries. But whatever he said seemed to be motivational for him because when he pushed the coffin into the glass a third time, the pane he’d been targeting was literally pushed from the building.
The vampire’s eyes widened at he saw the sun for—likely—the first time in a thousand years. And he hissed as he felt its effects. Quickly, he took the coffin from the trolley—before pulling the hood of the cloak over his head and then pulling me inside of the cloak with him.
I’d not been that close to Eric for so long that I almost wept tears of joy at the contact.
“Trust me!” he said, in an almost begging tone.
“I do,” I responded, finally catching up with his plan. I looked up and into his eyes, which were glowing inside the hood of the cloak.
If I had to die, at least it would be in his arms.
“You will not die,” he said, making me wonder if I’d spoken my thought aloud. “And neither will your daughter.”
In the next moment, Eric shoved the coffin through the open space a little before jumping on top of it. We teetered between building and air for a moment before the coffin tipped downward and found purchase on the smooth outer façade of the pyramid-shaped building.
I had never been skiing. Or snowboarding. Or sledding. Those activities were not exactly common in Louisiana.
But I suppose that I was doing a mixture of all of those things with Eric as we literally rode the coffin downward.
I knew that—despite his sluggishness and the sun—he was using his considerable strength to keep us relatively upright and steady on our makeshift sled. However, I quickly began wondering just how—or, rather, if—he had a plan for slowing us down.
But I shouldn’t have wondered.
Eric wouldn’t have been Eric without a plan.
Right when the ground was looming like a concrete giant, he flew us away from the coffin. I heard its hard impact on the cement even over another explosion and wondered how the coffin had faired, given that it had survived up to that point.
However, before I could wonder any more, Eric had landed us safely onto the ground as if he were placing me onto a pillow. His large hands immediately moved to my belly. My daughter kicked him.
“Okay,” he whispered. “You’re both okay.”
And then he released me and collapsed onto the concrete—dead for the day again. Immediately, the parts of his body not covered by the cloak began to smoke.
“Help!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, even as a piece of fiery debris lit the cloak on fire. I used my own hands to pat it out.
“Help!” I yelled again, looking around me desperately.
Seeing no one, I righted the cloak so that it covered Eric and then used my body to cover him more as I continued to yell for help as loud as I could. We seemed to be on the backside of the pyramid, however, and though there was a service road nearby, the main evacuation was clearly happening from the front of the building.
When I knew help wouldn’t find us itself, I once again checked the cloak and then took off running in search of help. When I turned a corner, I panted out a breath of relief as I saw several ambulances, including one just arriving; I quickly ran over to it.
Before the crew could get out, I yelled at them. “No! Please! Wait! You have to help me. There’s someone injured over there!” I pointed in the direction I’d run from. “There’s an access road. Please! Come with me.”
“Miss, there are a lot of people hurt here,” the driver of the ambulance said to me. “We’ve been ordered to go to the triage area. Get your friend over there.”
“I can’t! He can’t move!” I yelled with frustration. “Please! You have to help me!”
The driver looked uncertain, but still attempted to open his door to get out.
Not. Fucking. Happening.
I used all my strength to stop him from getting out, as I looked at him intensely. “Lionel!” I hissed out his name. “If you don’t help me right fucking now,” I said, my voice low and cold, “I will make sure that Shirley knows you fucked her sister!”
Lionel’s eyes went wide and—though he had a ruddy complexion—he paled to white.
“How did you . . . ? Who are you?” he asked.
“Not important! You are coming with me. Now!” I growled.
Lionel nodded. “Okay. Uh—just keep quiet.”
“What’s up, boss?” one of the two paramedics in the back asked. “Are we moving or not?”
“We have a confirmed critical injury toward the back of the building,” Lionel said, glaring at his crew, before looking back at me. “Get in and lead the way, Miss.”
I ran to the passenger side, which wasn’t occupied, and jumped in.
Quickly, Lionel drove in the direction in which I pointed, and soon we were back where I’d left Eric. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the cloak was still in place.
“You have to be careful! He’s a vampire!” I cried.
“A fuckin’ vamp!” Lionel spit out.
“Yes!” I returned. “And you’d better take real good care of him, Lionel!” I emphasized. “Or Shirley will find out about her mother, too,” I added in a low hiss.
That made Lionel move his ass!
Thankfully, the others in the ambulance weren’t bigots, and they followed me to Eric’s side. Soon, they had my vampire better covered and into the ambulance.
Not that Eric was mine.
But I was claiming him until he woke up.
One of the paramedics—a woman whose nametag read “Jane”—helped me into the vehicle, and we sped away from the scene.
A part of me wondered if I should stay—try to find survivors with my gift. But as I placed one hand onto Eric’s under the blankets he’d been covered with and one onto my belly, I knew that I couldn’t go back to that still-exploding pyramid.
I prayed that alerting Matthew had made a difference between life and death for a lot of people. I knew that—come nightfall—vampire rescue squads would be called in. Between them and the Weres on the police and rescue squads (and there tended to be a lot in such positions—unbeknownst to humans), I knew that supernatural noses and ears would find any survivors.
Just as well as—or better than—my telepathy could have.
No. I wasn’t about to leave Eric—not until he asked me to.
He’d saved me so many times. It was my turn now.
To save him.
To make sure that he stayed safe.
Even if he could never be mine.
I said a quick prayer for Olivia and Hennesy.
And then I heard a deafening explosion behind us—different from the previous ones—and a wave of energy jolted the ambulance.
I felt my body being propelled, and I hit something.
I felt pain.
I saw sunlight.
And then the world went dark.
I woke up to intense pain and the smell of burning flesh.
I turned my head and looked at Victor Madden. He, too, was awake and on fire. But how?
No longer willing to take another night of pretending I was a loyal Louisiana subject, I’d gone to Victor’s room the night before, and I’d let him make me his lover—though I would have preferred not participating in such an unnatural act. Still—Victor had been skillful enough to make me feel pleasure, though that pleasure had shamed me.
A necessary sacrifice on my part, however.
I’d fallen into my day-death next to him after he’d promised that he’d be secretly taking me and my research to Nevada the very next night.
Other promises had been made too.
Sookie would be kidnapped and brought to Las Vegas where I would be able to solidify our bond once and for all! And—if Sophie-Anne or Northman tried to do anything about it—de Castro would kill them!
Yes—I’d gone to my rest with a smile on my face.
But I knew that I would never smile again as I yelled out in pain because of the flames licking at me. And then I had the sensation of falling. And then I was crushed by other falling things.
But at least the fire seemed to have been put out during the fall.
The air was thick with smoke, and I could no longer see Victor. But then the smoke began to clear, making way for the sun, which seemed hazy and completely harmless for a few moments before it began to burn my flesh.
I tried to move, but most of my body was trapped by twisted metal.
I screamed as the sun’s rays pushed more intensely through the smoke and soot. But I couldn’t look away from the orb. I felt my eyes burning.
I felt everything burning.
I tried to make my last thought be about Sookie—or even about my human wife, Caroline.
But my last thought was of Lorena–and pain.
A/N: Let me start by saying I’m not a physicist or an explosives expert, so I’m not sure how realistic this scene was. But here is what I was imagining: the bombs began going off at around 2:43 p.m. and then continued going off thereafter for about ten minutes, with each one jarring the building, affecting its overall structural integrity, and starting fires in its wake. I could imagine the building creaking and heating up until it finally “gave in” to the heat and pressure. As for Eric and Sookie, I imagined them escaping the pyramid, only to find themselves away from where the help was gathering. Thus, it takes a little while for Sookie to get the ambulance that eventually begins to take them away from the scene only moments before the building gives in to at least a partial collapse, causing a large explosion and shockwave. Again, sorry to anyone who knows better about these kinds of things, but—regardless—I hope that the scene was still good for the purposes of drama.
Thanks for reading,
I want to share my appreciation of Kleannhouse and Sephrenia!