God had found a last way to torment me. I had experienced the feeling of falling in love, even as my child had been comforted by Eric’s presence.
My child had clung to Eric’s void as if it were his only chance at peace. Perhaps, it was. I could not help but to wonder if I—too—had “looked” for peace as an infant. In the end, it did not matter, the vampire gave my child reprieve from the minds around him. And that was the best gift I could offer him during his last weeks of life.
But then William returned. And I no longer felt Eric in the castle—not even when I stretched my gift out as far as I could.
A smaller void was still present during the days; perhaps it was Pamela, the child Eric had told me about. But I could never get my son close enough to take comfort in the lesser void.
And what of my own heartbreak over a love discovered and lost? It was simply another torment for me—a test to see if my legs could stay strong enough to stand under the additional pain of loss. When Eric had touched his lips to mine, it had been my first kiss. For Bartlett had not tried such a gesture. And William preferred to hit when he fucked.
But Eric’s kiss seemed to me, now, to be another sign that I was God’s most hated creation for some reason.
It was joy shown to me, but then taken away. It was pleasure that I had been allowed to taste for a moment, but only so that I could starve all the more violently after it was gone.
Still, I would not trade my nights with Eric for anything—except for my child’s life.
When William returned to my bed, my suffering was even greater than before because of the contrast between the violence of my human husband and the kindness of my vampire beloved.
Even then, however, I remained grateful that I had once had a companion who had cared enough to sit with me for my child’s sake.
Of course, William, as always, enjoyed hitting me as he used my body. But what upset me the most was that the child was distraught from both losing his nightly comfort and from my own distress, which I had failed to hide completely when I was receiving the worst that William offered me
Another failure to be added to my long list of them.
But my son’s pain would last for less than a week more. That was the comfort I tried to send to him when I cradled him.
“You will be in heaven soon. Gran will look after you,” I soothed over and over again.
It was two days from the end of my son’s last week that God decided to show me that he had not yet even begun to make me suffer. It was Sam Merlotte who first smelled the child growing in me.
Fuck shifters and their supernatural sense of smell!
Before Merlotte had spoken of the life inside of me, I’d had a clear plan.
Care for my son as if my very soul depended upon it.
Make my hopeless guesses to the goblin.
Give up my child.
Take the poison.
Suffer for my failure to my child.
Burn in hell.
My fate had seemed resolved.
But there was now a second child.
If I killed myself, I would kill him or her too! If I did not, I would have to stay alive at least long enough to birth the child.
Nine more months of a hell worse than hell.
Nine more months to live with the fact that I had traded away my son’s life.
Nine more months of remembering what I could never have with Eric.
Nine more months of enduring William’s “affection.”
And—after that? Could I abandon the child? Could I leave him or her all alone to be reared by William to be a monster?
And if I did, what kind of monster would that make me?
I had thought of Sookie throughout all of my waking hours since the last time I had seen her. With King William back in court, it was too dangerous for me to see her, but I did hear tell of her from Pamela, who glamoured maids to feed me information. Sookie had suffered new wounds on her body in the days since I had last left her.
My blood had boiled and I had be forced to stay away from the castle, lest my bloodlust cause Sookie’s situation to become even worse.
However, my beloved’s focus was—as always—on her son.
And, then, there was other news; she was with child again.
She had told me that she intended to take her own life after she knew her son’s was gone. But I knew—now—that she would not allow herself that release from captivity and torment. Not if she would have to kill a child to do it.
I was tempted to ruin everything that vampires like my father had fought millennia for—by taking Sookie and her child to Nenvia with me, but I knew we would all be killed there.
Law was law—even for a vampire king’s child.
And then there was a glimmer of hope: a letter from a fairy.
I had never met a full-blooded fairy before. Part of our treaty with them required that questing vampires stay away from their territories. And I had done just that during my time in Terra. Even trying to contact a fairy through emissaries—as I had done multiple times since I had met Sookie—was frowned upon. But—on the second to last night I was to spend in Terra—I was given audience with Niall Brigant himself.
Of course, there were rules to our meeting. I had to literally place my body into silver in order to show that I had come in peace. But I had not hesitated to do so. Neither Sookie nor the child had time for that!
“You are the child of the rulers of the vampire realm,” Niall said as he approached me once I was secured. I leaned toward him and my fangs elongated; I could not help myself.
Indeed, he smelled that damned good!
But, within a few minutes, I had regained control. I forced my fangs into my gums.
“Yes,” I finally said, responding to his question. “I am the child of those venerated vampires; I was made by Godric—though Pythia is just as responsible for my rearing.”
“And why are you here?” he asked.
I held nothing back. “Your son Fintan had at least one child with a human. From that child came another. And then another. The product is a young woman named Susanna—Sookie. She is, as far as I can tell, Fintan’s only descendant with a Fae spark. As a child, she was beaten for her telepathy, for her father thought it was a sign that she was devil-touched. I have killed the priest that spear-headed her beatings already. His suffering was great.
“Before she was a woman, Sookie’s uncle molested her, but the child was blamed for the sins of the man when he was discovered right before he could fuck her. The priest of the parish made sure that everyone thought that Sookie was to blame. And the devil was—once more—beaten from her. The uncle—too—has been taken care of. And I offered him even more of my skill than the priest was given.
“Despite all she faced, Sookie endured. She learned to use her gift of telepathy in order to keep her safe, but her human father’s idiocy eventually led her to become the plaything of King William of England Her father had boasted that she could spin straw into gold. The king believed this, for he had known a goblin before—who could do the same. Sookie was sold to the king by her father. She was placed into a room full of straw. She was given three days. On the second night, the goblin teleported into the room. He offered to turn the straw into gold for a price: her firstborn.”
Niall looked at me in question after this statement, but he had not spoken.
“King William gave Sookie two options when he locked her into that room—actually three options. If she accomplished the task, he would make her his bride, and—as long as she gave him an heir and spread her legs whenever he desired—he swore not to ask her for more gold. If, on the other hand, she did not accomplish the task, he vowed to hand her to his Weres and shifters; she would have been passed around.”
Niall began to growl. At least that was something.
“King William, having dealt with the goblin before and knowing at least something of fairies, told Sookie that if she took her own life or tried to escape rather than accept one of the two options he ‘mercifully’ offered, she would be condemning her entire family and one hundred innocents to their deaths. Sookie did not even think about killing herself after that, though I believe she has longed for death for a long time.”
I did not pause before I went on, for I knew time was limited.
“During the second night of her time in the room full of straw, Sookie received a visit from the goblin. He offered to turn the straw into gold, but only in exchange for her firstborn, which she had to give him one year after the bargain was struck. She accepted the deal, but only because the goblin told her that he would kill her otherwise. You see—she was prepared to belong to the Weres as their whore, for, in that case, it was only she who would suffer. But the bastard goblin took that choice away from her! So to save 107 lives, she sacrificed one: her very own child. And she knew that it would be a death sentence for the child, for the goblin taunted her with honesty, saying that he would eat her baby.
“However, as goblins do, this one offered her a riddle—though one that he felt was unsolvable. She has three tries to guess his name. But, of course, her telepathy is useless with goblins, and you know how covetous they are with their names.”
“Speak a goblin’s name and his magic will wane,” Niall muttered.
“Is that saying true?” I asked.
Niall shook his head. “I do not know, but—you are right—they covet their names more than anything else.” He sat down near to me, likely testing my control. “How do you know my great-granddaughter?”
“I happened upon Sookie by chance when I first met King William in his court. By a twisted twist of fate, I am due to go home to Nenvia on the same night that she is to hand over her child to the goblin.”
“What is she like?” he asked.
“She believes herself to be a failure and quite broken, but she is the strongest person I have ever known. She is a good woman. An excellent mother,” I continued, my voice now betraying my love for her. “In fact, she offered me her story in exchange for my presence so that her child could experience the peace that my mind affords. But King William has returned to court and now I cannot be with either Sookie or the babe.”
Niall looked at me through wizened eyes. “You love both of them.”
I thought for a moment. I had known that I loved Sookie, but did I love the child as well? I knew the answer to that question even as I knew my own name.
“I love all three of them,” I corrected. “Sookie is with child again.”
Niall was silent for several minutes as he studied me. I could not help but to wonder what he saw. I was about to enter my six hundredth year, but the fairy before me was even older than my maker. I found myself wanting to be approved of by him.
“Direct contact between fairies and vampires is almost always forbidden, according to the treaty that I helped to put into place many, many years ago—the same treaty that made the vampire realm of Nenvia possible. Tell me—have you held to that treaty—with her?”
“No,” I whispered.
“Explain,” he ordered, though his voice did not sound angry.
“I kissed her goodbye and told her that she was loved,” I answered honestly. “However, I never took the blood that she offered me.”
I nodded. “Yes. She offered every night that I visited her in her chambers.”
“She is but part Fae. I wanted her—more and more each night—as my affection for her grew. But I resisted.”
“Except for the kiss?” he asked.
“Yes. I am ready to receive your punishment, fairy prince,” I said evenly.
“That punishment could be your true death,” he returned.
“I am prepared for that.”
“Was she worth it?” he asked.
“There is no limit to Sookie’s worth!” I said fiercely.
Niall was silent again—this time for even longer than before. “What do you want of me, vampire?”
“I want nothing,” I whispered.
“What do you wish for me to do?” he clarified.
“If you know of the goblin, I would ask that you allow Sookie to learn his name so that she may save her child. I would ask that she be rescued from the hell within which she lives. I would ask that you offer her sanctuary in your territory. I would ask that she be free.”
“You have asked more than I can give,” Niall said heavily. “Right now, Sookie would be accepted into Faerie only if she agreed to mate with another fairy. I could offer her say in her choice, but not exemption from the task. If her firstborn is telepathic—as you say—I could give him sanctuary with us, but if she bore a child without a spark for her second child, the babe would not be able to survive in my realm.”
I closed my eyes. “She would likely lose a child AND be a brood mare to your kind too?”
Niall sighed loudly. “There is dissention among the Fae. Treaties have been forged for the greater good and I cannot break them.”
“Not even for your kin?” I challenged.
“Especially not for my kin,” he said, looking agonized. “If I show her favoritism, my tenuous grasp on the throne will become even more vulnerable.”
“Then all hope is, indeed, lost for her,” I said resignedly.
All of a sudden, the remarkable scent of him disappeared, and the fairy removed my chains.
“Not all hope, Eric.” He smiled at me. “You are my hope. And hers.”
I had honed my stealth through years of practice. It did not hurt that a fairy had teleported me to within a mile of my prey. It did not hurt that he was waiting to teleport me back to London. It did not hurt that I could fly. It did not hurt that I was a vampire. And it certainly did not hurt that I had been given a potion to cover my scent by the prince of the fairies himself.
I was not above taking advantages of ALL advantages.
According to Niall, the goblin who was most likely responsible for “saving” Sookie and for her woe was one who coveted his name as much as he coveted children’s flesh to eat. Luckily, Niall knew where the cruel bastard had settled down!
Concealed in the trees half a mile away from the goblin’s cottage, I heard celebratory singing. It sickened me. And it heartened me.
“To-day I bake, to-morrow brew,
the next I’ll have the young queen’s child.
Ha, glad am I that no one knew
that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.”
I was ready to return to Sookie with knowledge—and with an offer.