Eric continued looking into the space where he had seen Sookie, long after she had disappeared. He was now―at least―certain that he was not crazy. The image of Sookie this time had been more fixed and firm. And, more than that, he had felt the vampire bond enliven, even as he’d seen her hazy image in front of him.
For the first time in more than eight months, he had felt Sookie’s emotions―her love for him―and he’d been able to send his emotions and strength to her through both of their bonds as well. And there was more. Through their bonds, he had received some of her healing magic—of that he was certain. The bond sickness he’d been experiencing was no longer there.
He sighed. He’d seen the love and devotion in her eyes; however, he’d seen longing and regret there as well. And then he’d seen her resolve. He did not know―could not know―what was happening and why she had not come to him in that moment, but he had seen that look of resolution in her eyes before. She was facing danger―of that he was certain―so he had flooded both the fairy and the vampire bonds with all the strength that he could send to her. She had answered by sending even more love to him, but he had felt her regret too.
Her eyes had told him that there was something keeping her in the fairy realm that could not be helped; they had begged for him to understand. He hoped that she understood how much he did trust her.
Now―once again―the vampire bond felt hollow, and Eric was worried about whatever danger Sookie might be facing.
Finally, after several hours of sitting on the edge of his desk and seeing if she would return, he stood up and went to the kitchen. He was weakened from sending his energy to her and needed blood. However, he was also even more determined to try to get to her immediately. After downing two bottles of TruBlood, he took his phone out of his pocket and dialed Pam.
He spoke without preamble. “I am moving up my New Orleans trip to tomorrow. We need to try the spell right away.”
Pam answered, “Octavia told you it wouldn’t be ready to attempt until next week.”
“I am well aware of what Octavia said, but Pam, I felt Sookie tonight―felt her through the vampire bond.”
“She’s back?” Pam asked.
“No,” Eric said, “not like that.” He paused, “I don’t know how to explain it, but I know that she was here even though I know that she is still in the fairy realm as well. I saw her, and I felt her, and she’s in trouble. And that means that I need to get to her as soon as I can.”
There was a moment of silence between them.
Eric continued, “Call Octavia and tell her I will be there tomorrow night, and I want things ready to go when I get there. Jesus and Lafayette have been down there for the last week working with Octavia and Amelia anyway, so they are ahead of schedule. Jesus texted me earlier this evening to tell me that the spell was ready.”
“What about Hunter? Have you told him you are leaving? Have you told him that you are trying to go to the fairy realm?” Pam asked.
“Not yet,” Eric said. “I intended to tell him next week, but since Sookie came to me tonight, things have changed.”
“Eric,” Pam said, the concern clear in her voice, “what if it doesn’t work? What if you are killed? What if you get stuck in the fairy realm? What would happen to Hunter then?”
Eric shook his head, “I’m not planning on dying. But if something does happen, Hunter has many people to care for him―many people who love him, including you.”
“It’s not the same, Eric, and you know it. He loves many, but he loves you more—needs you.”
“I know, Pamela,” Eric said wearily. “But he will understand that I have to try to get to his aunt and his mother. He will understand why I’m willing to do anything to get them back.”
“Will he really, Eric?” Pam asked almost confrontationally. “Will he understand that even if everything works perfectly―even if everything happens exactly as you wish it―that you may be gone for years, Eric? And that’s IF everything goes exactly the way you want it to go.”
Eric shook his head. “I will not allow that to happen, Pam. I will smell Sookie as soon as I get there, I will speed to her, I will get her and Hadley, and then I will come right back.”
“And if Sookie has eaten that fruit and you stay there with her? What happens then?”
“Then, “Eric paused for almost a minute. “Then, Hunter will need you Pam. You will take over his guardianship for me, just as we discussed―you and Jason.”
Eric had had this discussion with Pam at least twenty times during the last two months, ever since he’d come up with his idea about how to get into the fairy realm. Mimicking the process for making TruBlood, the scientists at one of the TruBlood research laboratories―which Eric now owned outright―had synthesized fairy blood. It had been Jason who had agreed to donate the blood for the experiments, and the scientists―heavily glamoured, of course―had been able to isolate the anomalies in Jason’s blood―which were, of course, the fairy elements. After that, it had been easy for them to make a prototype of synthetic fairy blood. They’d simply followed the same procedure for making synthetic human blood.
The witches had taken longer to do their work. Amelia Broadway had found some fragmented information on the kind of magic used to produce fairy portals, and their job was to try to help Eric get into the fairy realm by making one. Eric knew from Bill’s confession that he had traveled to the fairy world only after drinking a lot of fairy blood—Sookie’s blood. He also knew from Bill that Claudine had not called him into her realm. Therefore, he posited that Bill had gotten inside because of his proximity to the fairy portal in the graveyard, which had still been functioning at the time. In other words, Eric felt that Bill had been lucky.
Eric planned to make his own fucking luck. The witches would show him the door to the fairy world and then unlock it with their magic. And he didn’t plan on knocking.
“I will tell Hunter right after I rise tomorrow, Pamela,” Eric said. “And then I will go to New Orleans. Call Octavia, and tell her to be ready.”
Eric hung up the phone and walked out into the back yard, signaling for Bubba to come into the house on his way. Eric looked at the now-finished swimming pool and smiled. Hunter was becoming quite proficient at several different strokes. They generally spent the first hour of each clear night in the pool. Eric had taught Hunter how to float first. And then Hunter had learned something called the “crawl” from his Uncle Jason. After that, Eric had taught Hunter the freestyle stroke and then the breaststroke. Eric chuckled. Hunter was a natural swimmer and could kick just like a little frog.
Eric had also made sure that there was a patio around the pool with many lounge chairs, not only for the two-natured and humans who now frequented their home, but also for his Sookie when she came back. He knew that she would love the pool and imagined her soaking up her beloved sun on the patio.
Eric inhaled deeply. Most of the blossoms were now gone from the peach trees, and because the trees had just been re-planted that year, very little fruit had grown, but there were a few peaches still maturing on the branches. Eric breathed in their scent as he walked toward his workshop. Once inside, he pulled out his carving tools and went to work on the intricate design he was carving into Sookie and his headboard―a Celtic knot to match the one on his ring.
Again, he tried to process and to analyze all that he’d seen and felt that evening. And he tried to process it rationally. Sookie had been right there, and somehow he intuited that she could have returned to him. But there was something holding her back―something that he’d been almost able to sense from her expression and her feelings coming through the vampire bond. If he had to guess, he would posit that Sookie had chosen to stay behind in the fairy realm to help Hadley. A note of bitterness crept into him when he thought about Sookie choosing anything over getting home to him immediately, but that note disappeared almost immediately. He shook his head ruefully. Sookie wouldn’t be his Sookie if she wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself to help others. Arguably, she was sacrificing his happiness too, but if it was for Hunter’s mother―as he suspected―then how could he blame her?
Eric thought again about how his wife’s eyes had looked. In addition to seeing her love pouring from them, he had seen that she was faced with some kind of impossible choice. He sighed. He knew all about impossible choices. The next night, he was going to be saying goodbye to his son so that he could go to the fairy realm to get his wife. And that goodbye might mean months or years that he would be apart from Hunter. And if the worst had happened—if Sookie had been forced to eat the light fruit—then Eric knew that he would try to stay in the fairy realm with his bonded. And that would mean leaving Hunter behind. Eric shook his head and tried to shut out that thought. No—he would find a way to bring Hunter to them if that happened. He wouldn’t abandon his son.
But his decision to go to the fairy realm had still felt impossible. In choosing to leave, he would be hurting Hunter; he knew it. If he didn’t go, however, Sookie and Hadley might never get back. It was an impossible choice because it involved the two people he loved most. And both needed him.
He needed them too.
He had seen the pain from making his choice staring at him in the mirror for the past two months. He’d seen a similar pain in Sookie’s eyes that very night.
No—he could not fault his Sookie for making hard choices or for being who she was. He fucking loved who she was. And he was going to fucking get into the fairy realm to help her do whatever she needed to do. That was who he was.
Eric saw a soft glow of light next to him and closed his eyes to it.
Godric chuckled, “You cannot ignore me, my child.”
Eric growled, “Just get the fuck away from me. Tonight is too good of a night for you to fuck it up. Tonight, I felt Sookie through the vampire bond, and tomorrow, I’m going to go to her.”
“Yes, Eric,” Godric said sadly. “You have many plans in the works. You always did have so many plans, young one. And you have accounted for all the variables that you see—as always. Still—your plans may not work as you wish for them to.”
“Then I will make better plans.”
“You will become smarter? You will become a better vampire? You will become a more worthy mate?” Godric asked his questions almost tauntingly.
“Yes—all those things—if I can just find a way to get Sookie back with me. I will do anything I have to do.”
Godric shook his head. “Yet—what if nothing is ever good enough, Eric? What if you are never good enough to get her back? That is what you fear most―is it not?”
“Yes,” Eric found himself saying before he even realized he’d let the word slip from his mouth or mind. Eric closed his eyes again—tightly. He shook his head against Godric’s words. His plans would be good enough. They had to be. And if they weren’t, he would make better plans. And he would keep on making better and better plans—doing more and more—until he did succeed. “No,” he re-answered Godric’s question.
But when he opened his eyes again, his maker was already gone.
Eric worked on the headboard until twenty minutes to dawn―trying to remember what it was like to feel Sookie’s emotions again and trying to forget Godric’s words.
Then he went into his home, quickly checked on his son, and sank into his sleep.