Exactly nine minutes later, three suitcases were packed, and a trash bag containing Hunter’s few toys was filled. Still with his hand latched to his mate’s, Eric cautiously opened the front door and inhaled. There were no new scents. He motioned to Conway from across the street, and the P.I. quickly approached. Eric threw the man his car keys. “Black sedan, a block away.”
Conway nodded in understanding, and Eric closed the door and turned to face the others, who were waiting anxiously in the entryway.
It would have been faster for Eric to retrieve the car, but he wasn’t about to leave Sookie. And he felt it unwise to separate from Hadley and Hunter. That wisdom was not―unfortunately—unfounded.
As soon as Conway was about half the block away, Eric smelled the fairy from before. And to that smell were added the scents of three others.
Sookie felt Eric’s anxiety in the bond even as she heard the fairies with her telepathy.
Within seconds, Hunter broke free of Hadley’s grasp and moved next to Eric. He took hold of the vampire’s pant leg tightly and looked up at him. “I can hear what they’re thinkin’,” the little boy whispered. “They wanna take us and kill you.”
Confused, Hadley asked, “What’s happening?”
“Fairies,” Sookie whispered, “at both the front and back doors.”
“You might as well come out!” an eerily familiar female voice said loudly from outside. “We have this home surrounded, and your little helper is dead on the street, so do not count on help from him.” The voice cackled a bit.
Sookie looked at Eric, who nodded in confirmation. With his extra-sensitive hearing, he knew that Conway was no longer moving toward the car, and the smell of his blood was in the air.
Sookie looked down for a moment, saddened by the loss of life; she also knew that Conway would have had his gun at the ready and was proficient with it. Apparently, the fairies were formidable. She shuddered.
She looked up at Eric and whispered, “We have to decide to go—remember?” She turned to Hadley, “They can’t just take us—I don’t think, at least. We have to go willingly, Hadley. So do not agree to go willingly.”
Looking very frightened and confused, Hadley reached out and pulled Hunter to her. The boy looked reluctant to break his hold on Eric, but went to his mother. His eyes stayed focused on Eric’s face, however, and Sookie could hear from Hunter’s thoughts that he was very frightened of the people outside and that he wanted to stay close to Eric because he didn’t hear fear coming from the vampire’s head. Sookie could also tell that the strength of the fright coming from Hadley’s thoughts was hurting Hunter―especially now that she was touching him―and, remembering her own lack of control with her telepathy as a child, she wished that she could take that pain away.
The voice from outside spoke again, interrupting Sookie’s thoughts about Hunter. This time, that disconcertingly familiar voice had a taunting tone. “If you come out and make this easy, vampire, we will allow you to live. If not, we will bring this house down around you all. And though you would likely survive that destruction, vampire, I doubt that either woman or the boy would make it.”
“No,” Hadley gasped, picking up Hunter. The child closed his eyes tightly as if in pain and then looked at Eric’s face once more, obviously finding something in it that strengthened him. The vampire had noticed little Hunter’s reactions to him, and given what he knew about Sookie’s childhood, he figured the boy was drawn to his silence. Eric looked at the child and gave him a slight nod. Something inside of him wanted to tell the boy that everything would be okay, but he couldn’t; Eric was never one to make a promise he couldn’t keep.
Eric’s attention moved to his mate, who was looking up at him, and the two had a silent conversation, bolstered by their trust in each other through their bonds. Neither one of them was built to not face an enemy―to just wait around until fate caught up with them or a house fell down around them.
“It is only a couple of hours until dawn, vampire. Perhaps we can wait until then. Once you are nice and crispy, we can do whatever we wish with the others,” the voice spoke in a sing-song way that made Sookie cringe. “Then again, none of that sounds fun. I have my own reasons for wanting you dead, vampire, so I don’t think I’ll wait.”
Suddenly, a burst of power shook the foundations of the building. Then the voice spoke again. “That was a warning shot. Come out now, and we will negotiate. Otherwise, I’ll,” the voice giggled sardonically, “‘huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.’”
Eric and Sookie looked at each other again. They were outnumbered. However, if they stayed inside, they would be sitting ducks. They would have to go outside.
Eric spoke up, “I love you, min kván―min krigare. My warrior.”
Sookie gave him a little smile, “I love you too, min bóndi―min krigare.”
He bent down and kissed her softly on the lips and then dropped her hand, feeling immediately naked without it. Both, however, knew that she’d need her hands to fight, and he’d need to be swift. There were now six fairy scents outside, three in the front and three at the rear of the house. Sookie reached into her jacket pocket and thumbed the safety so that the weapon was ready to use.
Eric put Sookie slightly behind him and opened the front door slowly. One female and two male fairies stood in the small front yard.
“Claudine?” Sookie asked as she saw the woman. “But you’re . . . ,” she gasped.
“Dead?” the fairy laughed. “Yes―that monster next to you killed Claudine. She was my twin sister. I am Claudette.”
“You’re a triplet?” Sookie asked.
“That’s right,” the fairy said, “you met my traitorous brother Claude when you were in our realm.” She angrily spat out her words. Sookie noticed that the woman in front of her looked exactly like Claudine, but had none of her seeming kindness.
Eric slowly walked onto the porch, keeping Sookie behind him. Hearing that the other fairies were now coming through the back door, he motioned for Hadley and Hunter to follow them onto the porch, and Eric placed his large frame so that he was in front of his current charges.
“You can never defeat us all, vampire,” Claudette laughed, “and what will you do once you try to bite one of us―eh? You will become unable to think properly once you take our blood. Then you will be a simple kill. The sacrifice of one―even two—of these fairies to kill you will be nothing to me.”
Eric’s voice was menacing, “There are more ways to kill than by taking blood.”
“None that you have available to you right now, vampire,” Claudette spoke venomously. “Now―let’s be reasonable. Really, we came only for the woman, though we would have taken the boy too, of course. He is decidedly less useful to us, however, so I will let you keep him. Now―of course―finding Sookie here―we must have her as well as Hadley. She is quite the prize.”
Sookie spoke up, “Why only Hadley and me?”
“Ah―Claudine said you were clever, and now you are asking the right question. Perhaps we can become friends in time,” Claudette said sarcastically. Then her voice took on an almost seductive quality. “Sadly, this is not the place to give you your answers, Sookie, but if you come with me to the fairy realm―to your true home and to your true family—I will tell you all you wish to know.”
“Eric is my true family!” Sookie shouted.
Just then, two other fairies appeared as if out of thin air, one right between Eric and Sookie. The other grabbed Hadley and threw Hunter to the ground. A struggling Hadley tried to reach out to her child as Hunter whimpered in pain.
Eric had turned to face the fairy who had landed behind him. In the large fairy’s hands was a sword, which Eric knew was silver. The fairy swung it, but Eric side-stepped the blow. The two fairies that were coming through the house emerged through the front door, and Sookie turned her attention to them, shooting the first to emerge with her light. That fairy fell back into the house, and Sookie shot the next one, but the second blast of her light was not as strong and only stunned him.
Sookie heard a sizzle and a snap next to her. Eric had a long, though shallow, wound in his shoulder, but he’d killed the fairy by snapping his neck. The fairies in the front yard, except for Claudette, converged onto the porch, and Sookie tried to shoot them with her light as well, but it was no longer strong enough to stop them at all.
She pulled the gun from her jacket pocket, cocking it as she raised it. She steadied the weapon with her other hand and fired straight at the closest fairy coming up onto the porch.
Claudette again cackled, and Sookie watched in horror as the bullet seemed to disintegrate right before hitting the fairy. She shot again and again until the gun had been ridden of all of its bullets, but the same thing happened each time.
As one of the fairies grabbed for her, Eric put his large body between his bonded and the fairy; from the angle of the fairy’s attack, Eric had only one choice―to bite. He launched into the fairy’s neck.
Meanwhile, Hunter had gotten up and tried to run at the fairy that had his mother. He hit and bit the fairy as hard as he could, but the fairy just laughed and kicked Hunter away roughly. Another of the fairies grabbed Hunter, and the boy screamed, even as his mother yelled, “Let him go!”
“Enough of this game!” Claudette shouted, coming onto the porch herself. Eric had killed the second fairy and then a third and was trying to spit out their blood as he kept his eyes trained on Claudette and his body between hers and Sookie’s. Claudette smiled a sinister smile and then shot Eric with a hard blast of yellow light. He fell to his knees at the force, and one of the other remaining four fairies threw a silver net over his body. The sizzle of his flesh rang into the night air.
“No!” Sookie yelled as she tried to pull the net off of Eric. One of the recovered fairies from inside grabbed her from behind. Sookie tried hitting him with the handle of the gun, but the fairy merely slapped the weapon away. She tried one last time to use her light, but the force of her power was depleted, and she was unable to fight off the larger fairy, who dragged her into the front yard.
Two other fairies were pulling Hunter and Hadley into the yard as well. Eric looked on powerlessly from under the net even as Claudette picked up the silver sword that had fallen onto the porch. She raised it above her head and spoke coldly, “Your death is for my sister, vampire.”
“Stop!” Sookie yelled right as Claudette went to swing. “If you kill him, I’ll never willingly go with you, and you can’t take the unwilling, can you, Claudette?”
Sookie’s seemingly-deranged fairy cousin stopped her swing about two inches from Eric and motioned for another of the fairies to come to the porch. She handed him the sword. “If the vampire tries to get out from the net, cut his head off,” she said emotionlessly, causing Sookie to shiver.
Claudette approached Sookie. “You are a smart one, Sookie Stackhouse. Fine―you have figured out that we cannot take those who do not go willingly, but we could just kill you all. There will certainly be some disappointment from my queen if you and your cousin are lost, but the deaths of the unwilling are always the back-up plan―so to speak.”
Sookie cringed. “What if I agree to go with you in exchange for all their lives? If you promise to let them go free, I will go with you.”
From underneath the net, Eric yelled out, “No, Sookie!”
Sookie looked into Eric’s blue eyes—turned turquoise by the rocky emotions within him—and her heart broke. They both knew what would happen if she went to the fairy realm, but Sookie also knew what would happen if she didn’t; her mate would be killed. Eric tried to struggle out from under the net, but it only bit into his flesh more.
“Move like that again, vampire,” Claudette said menacingly, “and I’ll order your true death.”
“Eric, please!” Sookie begged.
Her mate stopped his struggles and looked at her again. “Sookie,” he whispered.
Claudette turned her attention back to Sookie. “I have thought over your proposal, and have decided to agree to part of it. I will take you in exchange for not killing him,” she smiled a sinister smile at Eric. “But that won’t be enough, not nearly enough.” She turned to Hadley. “You will also come with me willingly, or I will kill the boy.”
“Leave him alone!” Hadley yelled out. “Help! Help!” Hadley prayed that one of her neighbors was calling the police even then after hearing the struggle and then the gun shots.
Reading Hadley’s thoughts, Claudette laughed, “Do not expect help, dear. I have set up a spell in order to keep what is going on here private—in order to keep others away. There are no policemen coming to save you from the evil fairies,” she said in a belittling tone.
Hadley whimpered as Claudette continued cruelly, “Now―decide! If you come willingly, I won’t kill the boy.”
Defeated, Hadley cried, “Anything―just don’t hurt him.”
Claudette chuckled, “I’m glad to see you are coming around.” She gestured for the fairy that had Hunter to take him onto the porch.
“Wait!” Hadley yelled. “Let him come with me―at least.”
“No!” Claudette said maliciously. “We were willing to take him when we thought this was going to be an easy extraction, but given the choice now, it is better not to. There are too many hybrid males already. You are lucky that I don’t just kill him now.” The fairy took Hunter into the house and left him there, slamming the door behind him. “Seal it!” Claudette ordered. The fairy used the magic from his hands to lock the door and then to melt the metal so that it couldn’t be opened. “Do the back as well,” she ordered. The fairy quickly disappeared to the other side of the house.
“No!” Hadley cried.
“Do not worry. The magic will wear off in a few hours.” She laughed maniacally. “I’d say a couple of hours after sunrise―if my estimation is correct.” She winked at Eric.
During Claudette’s exchange with Hadley, Eric and Sookie had had eyes only for each other. Their hearts were in pieces, and they were unconsciously reaching for one another, each one holding out a hand, though Eric’s sizzled against the silver netting. The air and space between them was as nothing as their bonds caused the energy separating them to dance, making it seem as if they were actually touching.
Claudette now turned to Sookie. “It is time to go, my dear.” She looked at Eric. “I would very much like to kill you myself, vampire, but a promise is a promise. The sun in this realm, however, will do my work for me—and much more slowly and painfully than even I could, I think.”
Sookie shook her head hopelessly as Claudette called the fairy on the porch to the yard. When Eric began to struggle again, Claudette grabbed the silver sword from the fairy and put it to Sookie’s throat. “Remember―she is merely a bonus to me tonight. I never agreed not to kill her.”
Eric stopped struggling immediately. “Sookie,” he whispered, powerlessly.
“Eric, I love you so much,” Sookie cried.
“How touching,” Claudette said laughing out loud. “And just so wrong. Imagine that!―a fairy loving a vampire.” She snarled, “Unnatural!”
“Shut up, you fucking bitch!” Sookie yelled. “Eric, please, no matter what happens, I need for you to wait for me. Eric, remember―WAIT.”
Eric smiled at her as much as he was able, blocking out everything but his wife from his vision. “I will always wait, min kära. I swear it, and I will find a way to come for you.”
“And I will always come to you―come back to you―my love,” Sookie said even as tears flowed down her cheeks in rivers.
“No matter how long it takes,” Eric vowed.
“Take care of Hunter, Eric―please.”
“Eric,” Sookie started.
“Enough of this sap!” Claudette shouted.
“We will be together again,” Eric vowed, ignoring Claudette. Unconsciously, he moved his hand over their bond above his heart.
“I know,” she whimpered.
“I love you, Sookie,” Eric cried out, as crimson tears began to flow from his eyes. “I will love you forever.”
“Forever,” she repeated, moving her hand over their fairy bond in her own body.
“Sookie, dream of me,” he pleaded.
Overcome by her tears, she could only nod as their shared gaze seemed to heat them. Intuiting that they would soon lose the ability to feel each other’s emotions, Sookie sent all of her love and trust for him through the vampire bond even as her eyes spoke all of her emotions to him. At the same time and sensing the same thing, he sent his love and devotion to her. Their emotions grasped onto each other through their bonds, as if hoping to hold them together.
Sookie and Eric kept their eyes locked as Claudette took Sookie’s hand, and the whole group―except for the three fairies Eric had killed, who had already disintegrated into dust―disappeared into the darkness. The vampire bond between Eric and Sookie was suddenly hollow, just as the tie had been when Sookie had gone to the fairy realm before.
Having no place else to go, the emotions that racked Eric’s body fell down his cheeks in waves of bloody tears. “Forever,” he vowed into the empty night.