Eric flew as fast as his body could go toward the cabin. He flew so fast that the tendons and ligaments holding his arms and legs to his body actually ached. He’d flown that fast only one other time―when Debbie Pelt had kidnapped his Sookie and he’d been flying to her. Now there was no way for him to fly to his wife, but he still flew until his body was stretched to its limits—until his physical body could feel even a fragment of his inner anguish.
He told himself a little lie, however. He told himself that he was flying so quickly so that he could get back to Hunter in case the boy woke up in the night. It was true that he didn’t want to be away from Hunter for long, but it was also true that he needed to feel something other than the loss of the vampire bond for a few moments.
He landed outside the cabin and inhaled; there were no fresh scents. However, Sookie’s smell lingered. He knew that it would be even stronger inside their cabin. And he was not wrong. He gave himself two minutes―and two minutes only―to go into their bedroom where her scent was the strongest. He closed his eyes and remembered her lying in the bed, spent from their love-making on the night he’d brought her there after the Debbie Pelt incident. She’d passionately told him not to compare them to Romeo and Juliet or any other lovers. She’d asked him about his necklace—the eagle talon from Godric. She’d laid her body into his as if they were interlocking puzzle pieces. Without her, it felt like he was missing the whole damned puzzle.
He walked toward the closet and picked up his black dress shirt—the shirt that she’d worn when they’d left the bed to get her some food. She’d taken to wearing it around the cabin after that―the shirt and nothing else. For his second minute in their bedroom, he simply took in the scent of the garment and relived the last time he’d seen her in it. He’d slipped it off before they’d climbed into a bath together. She’d lain against him, they’d made plans to visit Sweden that spring, and then they’d made love in the water. She’d scolded him for ‘making’ her get water all over the bathroom floor, and then she’d made him clean it up because he did have ‘vampire speed’—as she’d put it. He shook his head as a red tear made its way from his eye. There would be no spring trip to the place where he was born. There would be no more baths with his wife for the foreseeable future. There would be no playful scolding.
His two minutes spent, he put the shirt back where it had been before. He would allow himself another minute with it the next time he returned to the cabin.
When he left the bedroom, he shut the door. Her scent would linger longer that way. He roughly wiped the tear from his eye and then quickly went to the boxes of books in the corner of the living room. Sookie had been the last to touch them. Both her scent and Godric’s scent clung to them―as if they were words on the pages. Now, he’d lost them both.
He shook his head and wrestled his feelings to a room in his mind that he was building for all the emotions that threatened to bring him to his knees, and there were many of those at the moment. He went into the hall and got a large, sturdy canvas tote from the closet. He’d flown many things to the cabin using that bag. He quickly transferred the books into the bag and then zipped it up. He took in Sookie’s scent once more―ten more seconds in front of the fireplace where she loved to lie with him on a pallet of blankets―and then he turned to leave.
Eric had just secured the cabin and was about to take to the air when he saw Godric shining in front of him―just as he’d done outside of Fangtasia and again next to Russell’s cement grave. His maker was surrounded by a soft white light and seemed much less corporeal than he’d been in Eric’s vision while he’d had amnesia.
“You cannot deny your feelings, my child. You must face them,” Godric said.
“You are one to talk,” Eric said bitterly. “You come to me only to lecture―not to help. Your words are empty.”
“Words are not empty, min barn, if you empower them.”
“Save your platitudes. I have a child of my own to return to. And I do not intend to fucking leave him as you did me!” With that, Eric took off into the air, leaving behind the ghost, or the phantom, or the fucking psychosis that was his maker.
Twenty minutes later, Eric landed back at the farmhouse and checked the surroundings. All was quiet, as it was when he had left. He quickly went over to Bubba. “Any activity?”
“No,” the ex-singer answered. “Mister Eric, you’ll get Miss Sookie back. I know it.”
Still angry over his encounter with Godric, Eric closed his eyes, wishing that people would not mention his Sookie. He fucking knew that he was going to get her back. He’d bend the world in two to get her back, but he couldn’t do it right then! Right then, he didn’t fucking know how, and that fact was tormenting him.
Controlling his emotions, Eric simply nodded to Bubba—who was just being kind, after all—and strode toward the front of the house, texting Jesus to tell him that the books were going to be in the ground-floor bedroom at the farmhouse and that he could work from there the next day while Lafayette sorted out Hunter’s dietary needs.
Eric went to the front porch and picked up the afghan. It still smelled very strongly of Sookie, and he hugged it to himself. He spoke quiet words into the night, “I will get you back, min kära. I swear I will.” He hugged the blanket to himself once more.
As soon as Eric entered the door, he immediately knew something was wrong. Hunter was in the living room, sobbing. He dropped the bag of books and the afghan in the entryway and zipped into the living room. Miranda was holding and rocking the child, who was crying against her chest.
“What has happened?” Eric asked.
“He had a nightmare,” Miranda whispered. “But he’ll be okay―right little man?”
Hunter raised his tear-streaked face up to Eric, along with his little arms. Quickly, Eric picked up the child and held him to his chest, patting his back lightly. The kitten looked concerned as well as he sat on the living room floor watching the goings-on.
“What was your dream, Hunter?” Eric asked in a soft tone.
“The bad men came and took you too. They killed you,” he whimpered.
Eric’s voice reassured, “It was a dream―you see? I am here now.”
The boy nodded into Eric’s chest. His crying had stopped, but he still clung to the vampire.
“Come, smár rekkr. Let us get you back to bed, okay?”
“Can I sleep in your bed, Uncle Eric?” Hunter hiccupped as he rubbed tears from his eyes.
Eric looked at Miranda and Jarod and quietly spoke, even as he unconsciously rocked Hunter in his arms. “Can you rig something in the hall in front of Sookie and my room―some kind of barrier, a thick curtain maybe, that will keep the sun out, but that will allow Hunter to pass through when he rises? That way, the door to my room can stay open so he and the cat may move through freely.” He paused and then added significantly, “Now that Sookie is gone, I will need the room I sleep in to be completely free of sunlight.”
Jarod nodded, “I will rig something that can last until the renovations begin, and after they are finished, we will be able to control all ambient light in the house.”
“Okay, Hunter,” Eric said, “let’s go up then.”
Eric turned to go upstairs, Hunter still hugged tightly to him. He turned around to Miranda. “Make sure that the bag I brought inside is put into the bedroom downstairs. And call Lafayette as soon as Hunter rises. He will most likely be hungry right when he awakens, so give him one of those apples that Sookie likes to eat as he is waiting for his breakfast. She calls those healthy, and they have a nice smell to them.”
“Sure,” Miranda said.
Eric scooped up the afghan and carried Hunter to his and Sookie’s room. He placed the boy on a chair. “Do you wish to have your train blanket?”
Still brushing away his tears, Hunter nodded.
“I’ll return in moments, okay Hunter?” Eric zipped into Hunter’s room and got his train blanket and then put it around the child. He wetted a washrag and used it to gently wipe off the boy’s face. “Do you need to potty, little one?”
Hunter shook his head.
Eric decided to change the sheets on the bed, sheets that still smelled strongly of his and Sookie’s lovemaking from the evening before. He knew that Hunter would be unable to tell this, but Eric could, and he deemed it inappropriate to have the boy sleep in them.
He placed the used sheets into a plastic bag and tied it up tightly so that the scent of his wife would remain intact longer. He put the bag into the corner of the closet, pulled out fresh sheets, and shut the closet door before quickly making the bed. He tucked Hunter into Sookie’s side and then grabbed a pair of track pants, a T-shirt, and a fresh pair of underwear.
“I’ll be back in five minutes—okay Hunter?”
The boy nodded his head.
Eric went into the bathroom and quickly took a shower and dressed. He pulled a new toothbrush from the drawer, since Sookie had packed his, and then brushed his teeth. As he did so, he glanced into the mirror. It was the first time he’d looked at himself since his bonded had left this world. He had to turn away from his image, hardly recognizing the empty eyes that he saw in the mirror.
He went back into the bedroom and lay down in the bed. He turned toward Hunter, who was looking at him with eyes that still showed the after-effects of his nightmare.
Eric spoke softly, “Hunter, in the daytime, I will be sleeping very soundly, and I will not move or breathe. I will also feel cold to the touch.”
“Like when you were sleeping yesterday—in the bathroom?”
“Yes, like then. Do not be scared. This is the normal way for vampires to rest. Given your dream, I want you to know that even though I cannot move in the daytime, I am still very much living. Do you understand?”
“Good,” Eric said. He heard Jarod tacking up nails to hang up a covering in the hall. The kitten, frightened by the noise, jumped up on the bed too. Eric sensed it was thirty three minutes before dawn, and he hoped that Hunter would be asleep before then.
“Do you wish to tell me more about your nightmare?” Eric asked.
Hunter shook his head.
Eric nodded, “As you wish.” There was a moment of silence as they both petted the cat, which had settled between them. Eric spoke, “His favorite spot to be petted is behind the ears—see?” He demonstrated and then Hunter mimicked as the cat purred happily.
Eric moved his hand away as Hunter continued stroking the kitten. He could tell that the little boy was lulled by the purr of the animal. Eric spoke in a soothing voice, “When I was a young boy, I used to have nightmares as well.”
“You did?” Hunter asked surprised.
“Of course,” Eric said. “I believe most humans have them, both children and adults. I dreamed of the monster wolf, called Fenrir, coming into my village and taking me from my parents.”
Hunter gulped, “Did he ever come?”
“No,” Eric said with a soft smile. “He was not real. He was just from a story I had heard.”
“I wish fairies weren’t real,” Hunter said.
“I don’t know,” Eric smiled wider. “Your Aunt Sookie and you are both part fairy, and I like both of you very much.” He ruffled the boy’s unruly bangs.
Hunter giggled a bit.
“Anyway,” Eric continued. “You would not be who you are without your fairy blood.”
“I wouldn’t have my stupid head thing,” Hunter said ruefully.
Eric sighed, “Your aunt Sookie felt that way when she was young too. I do not know what it is like to hear everyone’s thoughts, Hunter, but I know that it must be difficult. That is why you are going to learn how to shut people’s thoughts out of your mind―just as Sookie learned to do.”
Hunter looked up at Eric with wide eyes. “Do you really think I can?”
“Of course,” Eric said confidently. “You will learn from the people around you. It may take time, but your shields―as your aunt calls them―will become stronger and stronger.”
“Okay.” Hunter was silent for a few minutes as he continued to pet the kitten. “How did you get the wolf to stop coming to your dreams, Uncle Eric?”
“Ah,” Eric sounded. “It took a long time before he went away, and I spent many nights one summer in my mother’s bed seeking her protection from him. My mother finally convinced me that I was safe, but it took time.”
“Are we safe, Uncle Eric?” Hunter asked timidly. He bit his lip. “The fairies beat you last time.”
“Yes,” Eric said in a low voice. “But I will learn how to defeat them now. And in this house, we are safe. You see―there is magic around the house, magic that will protect us from those who would harm us. Jesus and Lafayette are witches—good ones, of course—and they have made a spell that will protect us.”
Silently, Eric hoped that he was right about the spell extending to Hunter and himself, along with Sookie’s property. He certainly felt like Sookie owned him and knew that his wife would want to make sure Hunter was safe as well. Still—he knew it would be a good idea to have the ownership of the house changed so that is was in both Sookie’s and Hunter’s names. He wanted for the protection spell to directly safeguard Hunter. With Sookie being gone and because of Hunter’s age, there might be some difficulty making the change in the ownership of the home, but he trusted Mr. Cataliades to move legal mountains if need be; the demon had always managed to do so before. He would put Pam at his disposal too—for any glamouring that might need to be done.
Even as Eric thought about different ways to protect Hunter, he continued trying to assure the boy. “We also have Bubba and Miranda and Jarod here with us to help fight if need be.” Suddenly, Eric wondered if all this protection would be enough and decided to talk to Batanya himself to see if she was available to guard Hunter. The Britlingen would be able to pass into other realms and follow if Hunter were taken by the fairies. She would also be able to take him to her own realm if a threat against him were great.
Next to Eric, Hunter relaxed a bit. “So there is magic around the house?”
“Yes,” Eric said. “All around the property, so you will be safe if you play outside as well.”
Hunter closed his exhausted eyes in relief. “Okay, Uncle Eric. I think I want to try to go to sleep again.”
Eric lightly patted the boy on the shoulder and then stroked the hair from his forehead again. Within minutes, Hunter was asleep. Eric sent a quick text to Mr. Cataliades about contacting Batanya for him directly instead of for Jesus. He also told the demon lawyer to begin the process of adding Hunter to the ownership of the house. Then, Eric sent a quick text to Pam and found out that she and Jessica would be stopping for the day at a hotel outside of Tucumcari, New Mexico, which was a small city a little more than one hundred miles from Amarillo. They would begin driving again at first dark and hoped to reach Shreveport about ten hours later. Knowing Pam’s propensity for speeding, Eric knew it would be more like nine and wondered how fast a U-Haul could be driven. His child would certainly find out.
Next, Eric busied himself with an email to Tray, giving the Were a brief about what had happened. Then he emailed Isabel, Rasul and Thalia to give them briefs as well. Finally, seven minutes after dawn, he felt the pull of day. He checked Hunter one more time and then he picked up Sookie’s pillow. He’d given Hunter one of the several extras that Sookie seemed to keep around the bed.
Knowing he would need its comfort, Eric had left the pillow case from the other set of sheets on Sookie’s pillow. He covered his body with the afghan—curling into it so that it would cover his whole body. His nose in her pillow and her scent surrounding him in the afghan, he gave himself one minute, exactly sixty seconds to think of his wife―to think about her with his whole being―and then he pushed her into the contained, walled-up place now constructed in his mind. He fell into his sleep, wishing it was Sookie’s arms embracing him rather than the folds of the afghan.