Hope was a new phenomenon for me. But I found that I now had it.
Perhaps it simply took believing in the right “devil” for me to gain it—though I loathed to call Eric any word that had ever been given a negative connotation. No—he was my savior.
But a part of me still feared that I was being given hope only to have it stripped away like everything else.
However, this time seemed different. I trusted Eric more than I had ever trusted anyone, though I had never heard anything from his head.
Still, I felt that I had heard his heart, though he assured me it no longer beat.
No matter. William’s beat, but he had none.
However, the world as I knew it had often lacked logic. A priest had been a monster. A family member had been a fiend. A king had been a brute.
And a vampire had been the only man I had ever known who had not taken my blood, though I wanted him to—very much.
Yes, the world often lacked logic.
I would not be meeting the goblin alone, nor would I be meeting him in the dark. But I would be meeting him in the “gold” room.
I had receive a note that afternoon—or rather I had found it on my rocking chair by the fire. It read simply: “Midnight. Where we met before. Bring the child and your three guesses.”
I had asked William to secure three bales of hay to place in the room: one to commemorate each of my initial nights in the space. I told him that I wanted to make him an anniversary present, for—indeed—it was almost a year to the day since William had taken me for his wife after finding the gold. I also told him that I would be taking our child with me. I told William that the child had inherited my gift and that I wanted him to begin learning immediately by watching me work.
To say that the greedy king was pleased would have been an understatement.
I invited William to come to the room ten minutes after midnight to see my handiwork and to celebrate our wealth.
His enthusiasm was pathetic.
I walked into the “gold” room without a guard escorting me or locking me in this time, and I was comforted when I felt the nearby voids of two vampires: Eric and Pamela, his child, whom I had met the night before when Eric had brought me his news and a choice—not that it was a difficult one.
Just as the bell of the cathedral rang to signal the new day, the goblin appeared, and I got my first look at the little creature. He seemed to project malice and evil.
The goblin looked around the room, first at the straw and then at the child before eying my belly hungrily. Obviously, he could somehow tell that I was pregnant again.
“Do you wish for me to change this straw into gold in exchange for the child you now carry, milady?” he asked with a cruel cackle.
“No,” I said calmly.
“Too bad,” he grinned as he looked back at my son who was asleep in his small basket. Next to it was a bag containing changing cloths and a few other things belonging to the child. “I see you packed provisions for the infant,” he laughed even louder than before. “I can assure you that I will not need them.”
“I, too, can assure you that you will not,” I said.
The confidence behind my words surprised him.
And angered him.
“Let us get this over with,” he huffed, suddenly impatient. “Make your first guess.”
I looked at him as if I was studying him, trying to pick out his name from his face. Eric had told me that goblins were uncommonly short, and this one was no exception. He stood only three feet tall. And if there really were such things as demons, he looked like he was the father of them. His various expressions all showed a twisted cruelty, and his eyes were black pools that seemed ready to absorb all of the happiness in the world.
“I’m waiting!” he said even more impatiently as he tapped his foot on the floor.
“Is your name Stephen?” I asked, prepared to toy with him for a moment.
After all, he’d had a year to toy with me.
“No!” he said, back to his cruel grin.
“How about Bartlett?” I asked.
“No!” he triumphed.
“Strange,” I mused, “I have known demons with those names.”
“One more guess and then my prize!” the little man demanded.
I looked him right in his beady eyes. “Your name is Rumpelstiltskin.”
His mouth gaped open in surprise, and from that open space came an unworldly yell.
“The devil has told you that! The devil has told you that!”
“I thought that you were the devil,” I smirked.
He screeched running toward me—no doubt to inflict harm.
However, he was met by a wall of vampire, for Eric had zipped into the room.
Rumpelstiltskin bounced backwards off of Eric.
“I am no devil,” Eric said with a smirk. “Leave now, goblin!”
I noticed that Pamela, too, had entered the room. She was standing protectively next to my son.
“No! The child is mine by right! This bitch cheated! She has cheated me!” Rumpelstiltskin wailed.
“She had beaten you,” Eric corrected. “Now go!”
“No!” The goblin yelled even as he stomped his right foot through the floor so hard that his whole leg was lodged into the stone.
The vampires and I watched in disbelief as the creature—his rage having obviously driven him insane—pulled at his left leg and quite literally tore himself in two, spraying the bales of hay with his blood.
The commotion had clearly caught William’s attention as he had approached the room. He hurried in, his sword drawn.
I could tell that neither vampire was concerned by the human weapon.
“What? What has happened here?” he stammered.
I turned to face him. His eyes were not quite as dark as the goblin’s had been, but they—too—contained much cruelty.
“This goblin came to me a year ago. In exchange for the gold that he made, I was forced to promise him our firstborn child, you greedy bastard!”
“You will be punished for speaking to me like that!” King William yelled before looking at Pamela and Eric. Pamela had picked up my child and his belongings.
“What are you two doing here?” William asked.
Eric’s voice was menacing. “The treaty that allows vampires access to this world also prevents us from becoming involved in supernatural matters here. And we are forbidden to kill any supernatural unless we are personally attacked. I was hoping that the goblin would attack me so that I might rip him apart. However, he saved me the trouble by doing it himself.”
The vampire continued. “The treaty also forbids a vampire from taking blood from or bonding with a fairy. However, there is a little-known loophole—almost forgotten by time, for it has never been used. Luckily, one of the treaty’s architects remembered. Since Sookie is mostly human, she can choose to bond with me as long as she has the permission of the patriarch of her fairy bloodline, as well as a member of the Supernatural Council.” Eric grinned. “Luckily, I was able to obtain all the permissions I needed. I will be taking Sookie back to the vampire realm tonight. And—once she is there—I will ask her to marry me.”
I gasped and looked up at Eric. He was looking back at me with love in his eyes.
Meanwhile, King William had taken a step toward Pamela. “You may not take my child! My children!” he added, looking toward my belly.
“Oh—but I can and will,” Eric growled. “They will stay with their mother until they come of age. Then they will be able to decide where they choose to dwell. Again, I have received the permissions required,” he smiled, showing William his fangs. I had never seen them before, but they gave me no pause, nor did they spur my fear.
“You cannot steal them!” King William yelled. “And you cannot marry this whore either, for she is mine!”
“There is an interesting thing about that treaty I referred to earlier,” Eric grinned. “It contains no rules regarding humans!”
With that, Eric zipped to William quickly and did to him what the goblin had done to himself. He ripped him in two. William’s blood was soon running in small streams down the piles of gold.
“You may consider that a divorce,” Eric said as he threw the pieces of William next to the pieces of the goblin. He looked at me. “Let the Weres and shifters figure that out,” he smirked before licking some of William’s blood from his lips. He frowned.
“Not good?” I asked.
“Like acid after yours, my love,” he said gently, his tone contradicting in all ways the violence he had just committed.
I smiled. I had offered to feed him again the night before—after he had told me about Niall. He’d not hesitated. Soon, he would give me his blood too; however, we’d had to wait so that the more recent bruises that William had given to me would not be healed.
“Are you ready to begin your new life?” he asked. “You may still choose to remain in this realm—you know. You cannot live with Niall, but he would help you find a safe place and give you means of support,” he added with some trepidation.
“I choose you,” I smiled.