Sookie writhed in the center of the salt circle as if she were dying.
Ironically, I circled the salt like a lion wanting into a cage. My fangs were down. My hands were curled as if in claws. My phone was ringing with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”: Pam’s ringtone. I’m sure that she felt my distress. Hell—I felt like I was about to go into battle!
“I’m fine!” I yelled into the phone before hanging up on Pam.
My instinct? To pull Sookie out of her cage of pain and give her my blood.
To make her mine!
To protect what was MINE!
I denied my instinct, however.
Yes—I wanted her to be mine and I wanted her to take my blood and welcome my body. However, I wanted to be chosen by her.
And she would need time to heal from Compton’s machinations.
Time to trust herself and others again.
Time to mourn her grandmother once Compton’s blood is no longer inside of her to anesthetize and manipulate her.
Time to get used to the fact that she was a Supernatural being.
Time to understand that—by embracing her lineage—she could protect herself in some ways.
I was a fucking expert with time, and I counted down the five minutes required for the severing spell to take effect with the efficiency of a Swiss clock.
And as soon as the last second ticked down, I had Sookie’s collapsed body in my arms. I quickly carried her inside of her home and lay her on her couch before zipping into the kitchen to get her some cool water. Drinking many glasses of this liquid—Octavia had said—would help Sookie fend off the worst of the “hangover” from the severing spell. Oh—she would still be a little tired for the next several days (apparently nothing could stop that except for vampire blood—the taking of which wasn’t currently on the table). However, she would be okay to work—an important consideration for Sookie.
I looked down at the sleeping woman. Her face was peaceful, and I contemplated letting her rest, but then I recalled Octavia’s directions and gently woke her up.
Her face screwed up with pain as I offered her the water.
“Slowly,” I instructed when she started gulping it down. “Drink slowly.”
She nodded and did as I instructed. I had a second glass ready as soon as the first was gone.
As Sookie was in the middle of that one, her house phone rang. We both looked at the old answering machine located in the living room as it clicked on.
As soon as Sookie’s recorded instructions to leave a message had ended, Bill’s desperate voice was heard.
“Sookeh! Are you there? Are you alright? I—uh—felt that you might be in danger, and now I cannot feel you at all! Sookeh! Please, if you are there, pick up the phone!”
As Bill spoke, Sookie motioned for me to pick up the “antique”-looking cordless phone.
She took a deep breath.
“Be cautious about what you tell him,” I warned.
She nodded and answered the phone.
“Hi, Bill. Sorry. I was in the bathroom. I think I have food-poisoning,” she explained wearily.
Of course, the weariness was authentic, but the excuse was brilliant.
I listened to Bill’s desperate voice.
“Why can’t I sense you?” he asked.
“I vomited a lot,” she offered.
“And I am running a fever. Maybe it’s the flu?” she brilliantly lied. “Could that affect how you feel me? And you’re far away—right? Is there a range?”
“Sookeh, I’m coming home right now. You are not well. My blood will help you!”
She sighed and looked up at me. I could see an idea forming in her mind, and it was beautiful to witness.
“Bill, I don’t want you to get into trouble with Eric. We both know how he can be. Just do your work, and don’t worry about me. Humans get sick all the time; I’m sure I’ll feel right as rain in a couple of days. And then you’ll be back anyway.”
“But—with you ill and the killer lose—I will make Eric understand that you need protection.”
Her eyes twinkled. “But the protection you got for me is already enough! Thank you for that—by the way. I’d usually argue, but I know you did it only because you love me.”
“Protection,” Bill half-asked and half-stated.
“Yes. Pam called earlier and told me that it had been arranged for me to have Were guards during the day and a vampire guard at night. Of course, her explanation of Weres was surprising. Hey—did you know that Sam was shifter?”
“Yes,” Bill said, his jaw obviously clenched.
“I get why you didn’t tell me before, though, honey,” Sookie assured.
“I could not,” Bill lied.
I wondered if his fucking pants were on fire.
“Pam mentioned something about a bonus coming your way too. Is it because of your work up there?”
She was fucking brilliant in her questioning of him!
“Yes,” he answered.
“That’s great for you,” Sookie said with feigned sincerity that even I would believe.
“It is required for a sheriff to pay other vampires for services rendered,” he explained.
Her eyes filled with rage, but she’d held her composure—in a manner of speaking.
“Oh! Sorry, Bill—feeling sick again. Gotta go!”
She hung up.
I grinned at her as she took another drink of water and calmed herself.
After my third glass of water, I wasn’t feeling nearly as much discomfort.
“How do you feel?” Eric asked.
I sighed. “Pissed off.”
He chuckled. “Care to elaborate.”
“When I met Bill, I will admit that he intrigued me. I’ve always felt like an outcast, and I thought that maybe—just maybe—he and I could be friends. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t a little attracted to him too, but the main reason why I liked him was that his mind was silent. I can remember all of that clearly now. I can also remember just how quickly I fell in love with him after I had his blood! Even when fucked-up things happened—like when Malcolm, Diane, and Liam pawed at me or Bill started claiming me left and right—my misgivings seemed to disappear the very next time I saw him.”
I frowned. “Thinking about it, he hasn’t treated me well. And, if he cared, he would have never taken my virginity on the night of Gran’s funeral! He would have been the one to make us wait. Plus, he would have helped me clean up Gran’s blood. Or he would have noticed things—like the fact that I told him that I couldn’t really afford having a lot of TrueBlood in the house. Or the fact that I’d been taking as many shifts as possible since Gran died. If he would have cared, he would have asked me why I was doing that, and he wouldn’t have acted annoyed because of it. And—he would have given me some of the money for the services I rendered!”
“Speaking of which, I have a very important question to ask you,” Eric smirked.
I could tell that he wasn’t upset at all that I’d pretty much figured out that my “love” for Bill had been based upon the manipulation of his blood and my desperation for affection from the one being I’d met whom I couldn’t hear.
Yes. I had been a perfect victim for Bill. And I knew that—eventually—pain would come. But, right now, I felt anger both at Bill and at myself for not questioning how fast I’d fallen for him. Of course, with his blood influencing me, I wondered how much I’d really been able to question.
“What’s the question?” I asked Eric.
“Do you renounce Bill’s claim upon you? Do you belong to Bill Compton?” he asked.
I didn’t need to think. “I renounce Bill Compton’s claim. Oh—and I rescind his invitation to my house too! I do not belong to him.”
Eric smiled like the Cheshire Cat himself before dialing his phone.
“Desmond,” he said into the receiver, even as he turned on the speaker phone.
“Eric Northman,” a man with a gravelly voice said. “How may I help you this evening? Is this in regards to Hot Rain?”
“Not really,” Eric responded with a smirk. “I need you to craft a contract between myself and a newly-found and tested asset. A Miss Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Sookie,” the man said in a surprised whisper. “Granddaughter to Adele?”
Both of my eyebrows sky-rocketed, even as one of Eric’s did the same.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “She is with me now, and we are both highly curious of how you know about her.”
He sighed. “It is an association that has been kept secret for her safety. Tell me—how is she known to you?”
“Are you still serving the queen, too?” Eric asked.
“Yes, but my employment with you predates hers and my alliance with Miss Stackhouse’s,” he paused, “family is long-standing, so in areas of conflict of interest, I will recuse myself from involvement on the queen’s side. And—of course—attorney-client privilege is a sacred idea to a demon.”
“Demon?” I asked with a gasp, probably because I was still trying to catch up with the whole “long-standing” thing.
“Ah—Miss Stackhouse. Hello,” the demon said. I am Desmond Cataliades, and—yes—I am Dae, or demon in the layman’s term. Will you tell me how you came to be known by the vampire in your company?”
Eric offered me an encouraging nod, and I spilled the whole story, pausing between elements to give the vampire the chance to stop me or the demon the opportunity to ask questions. Neither spoke. In fact, Eric looked pleased that I was speaking about the matter to his lawyer—his lawyer who somehow knew my family!
Once I was done with my story, Mr. Cataliades spoke.
“In light of your introduction to the supernatural world—thanks to Hadley, the Queen of Louisiana, and Bill Compton—I feel that it is time to tell you how I knew your name.”
“Okay,” I said, my voice quivering.
“Some of it might be difficult to hear,” the demon warned.
“It’s a night for that,” I intoned, reaching out to take Eric’s hand. I was glad when he didn’t pull away. I found his presence comforting, which was why I denied Mr. Cataliades when he asked if I would prefer hearing the news without Eric present.
“Very well,” he began. “My involvement in your family’s life began many decades ago—when my closest friend, Fintan Brigant, met your grandmother, Adele Stackhouse. He was simply using the fairy portal in the area when he heard her crying. He investigated and fell in love with her at first sight.”
“Brigant,” Eric whispered.
“Fintan is Niall’s son,” the demon said. Of course, none of those names meant anything to me, but they clearly meant something to Eric. His eyes were wide open, and his grip on my hand loosened. I found I didn’t want to break contact, so I laced our fingers together.
Eric looked down at our entwined hands and explained, “Niall Brigant is the Prince of the Sky Fae, which is the most powerful group in Faerie.”
“Ooooo-kay,” I said. “So his son met Gran. What does that have to do with me?”
The demon cleared his throat. “Sookie, Adele was crying over the fact that she’d just learned that her husband couldn’t father children because of a childhood disease. Fintan offered Adele and Mitchell Stackhouse his services as sperm-donor in exchange for three nights with Adele.”
I felt my mouth gaping. I’d never been more shocked. “But Gran wouldn’t!” I stopped, my mouth suddenly dry. “Gran wouldn’t agree to that—let alone would Grandpa!” I added defensively.
“They both wanted children badly,” Mr. Cataliades explained. “Fintan offered them a memory charm so that Mitchell would never recall the true nature of any children made. On the other hand, Adele would remember only on the nights that Fintan came to her.”
I was speechless. Thank God Eric wasn’t.
“They agreed to that?” he asked.
“Yes. Fintan really did love Adele. Their first two encounters, timed two years apart, both bore fruit. During the third, Adele told Fintan that she didn’t want another child—that even if she couldn’t remember the next day—she didn’t want to be unfaithful again. Fintan, though he craved his lover, settled for simply spending the night with her and the young children. And then, knowing that his father had many enemies, he used magic to conceal his involvement with the Stackhouse family—though he did ask a request of me.”
“Request?” I managed.
“I was to keep watch over your family, especially over any child born with the essential spark, and—if Supernatural beings were to interfere in that child’s life—then Fintan asked me to contact him if he were alive or act on his behalf if he were dead.” The demon’s voice caught. “Fin died many years ago, and the magic that had concealed your family from other Supernaturals died with him. By then, Fintan already knew that you had the essential spark and the gift of telepathy, but—given his agreement with Adele—he couldn’t contact you directly. However, he did keep tabs on you from time to time. Once he was gone, I did the same.”
I gripped Eric’s hand harder.
The demon continued. “I have kept an informant in the area—a shifter. I believe that you work for him. He was to tell me if any other Supernaturals showed any interest in you, and he was to inform me immediately if they did—so that I could extract you.”
Again, I was too dumfounded to speak. Sam was the demon lawyer’s spy? Why hadn’t he told Mr. Cataliades about Bill being in the area?
Eric seemed to be asking himself the same questions I was pondering, but he was the first to voice a question: “Extraction?”
“I am what might be called a godfather to Sookie,” Mr. Cataliades said. “Trust me when I tell you that the Queen is an entitled brat who will not take no for an answer. Thus, the only way to keep Sookie safe is for me to claim her in Fintan’s stead. And I will have to contact Niall, too. We must both claim her and file her status as Fae with the Council—if she is to remain safe.”