Sookie was thankful, very thankful, when Claude used some kind of magic to transport them to Queen Mab’s palace walls faster than they could have walked there. She knew that every single minute was crucially important—for her, for Eric, and for Hadley.
“This is as far as I can go without being felt by those inside,” Claude whispered.
“Thanks,” Sookie said.
Claude nodded. “I have brought you to a side gate of the complex. After you enter the courtyard, you will see an entrance about twenty yards away. There will be a hallway to the left when you enter. My guess is that Hadley is in one of the rooms along that hall.”
“Won’t there be guards and stuff?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Claude shook his head. “Their magic is their guard. Good luck, Sookie.”
Sookie gave him a little smile and then went inside the gates, trying to focus on Claude’s directions and on what Niall had told her. She needed to use her telepathy to find Hadley, but he had cautioned her to try to block all others from hearing her. Sookie raised her shields but then lowered just one―as if she were trying to tune into just one radio channel.
As Claude had said, there were no fairy guards in the courtyard or at the door, so Sookie progressed quickly into the building, which was reminiscent of a medieval castle. She entered into a large foyer, and several hallways led to different parts of the dwelling. She took a deep breath, steadied her nerves, and went down the left hallway. She heard Hadley’s thoughts as soon as she was about halfway down the hallway. And what she heard in her cousin’s head made Sookie throw caution to the wind and start running to the door she knew Hadley would be behind.
Sookie tried the door, but there was some kind of locking mechanism in place. She trained her power onto it and was able to break the lock. She burst into the door; what she saw in the room made her want to retch.
[Cut portion: Basically, Sookie sees that Hadley has been raped and she zaps Joren. She goes over to Hadley, who has obviously fought her attacker and his bruised. Hadley is shaking and rocking herself. She is heartbroken because of her ordeal and also because she feels she has failed Hunter because she was not docile with Joren. Sookie assures her that Eric is taking care of Hunter and that her child is safe.]
“Hadley,” Sookie said, shaking her cousin a little bit. “Hadley!” Sookie said louder, trying both to get her cousin to calm down and to hold back her own tears. “Listen to me. I know that you fought, and I know that you are worried about Hunter, but I need you to get up so that we can get out of here. Eric is taking care of Hunter―I swear―and he won’t let anything happen to him, okay?”
Hadley looked at Sookie as if really seeing her for the first time. “Your vampire is taking care of Hunter?”
“Yes―I saw him doing it myself, and Hunter was safe. Now we have to get the fuck out of here before someone finds us, or that son of a bitch wakes up,” Sookie said as she gestured toward the unconscious fairy on the floor.
Sookie ran to a closet and grabbed what looked to be some kind of ornate nightgown. “Here, Hadley, put this on.” She helped her cousin put on the garment, and then Hadley stood up on shaky legs. She was looking fearfully at Joren the whole time.
“Did you kill him?” Hadley asked in a whisper.
“No,” Sookie said, “I don’t think so―at least. I think I just stunned him real good. Now come on.”
The two went out the door and started down the hall. Cautiously, Sookie led her cousin in the direction she’d come in.
“Well―look what we have here!” Sookie heard Queen Mab’s taunting voice behind her.
Sookie whirled around to face Mab, trying to keep Hadley behind her. Sookie backed them into the foyer and toward the door.
“Not so fast,” a male voice said from behind her. Sookie turned again and saw that Hadley and she were surrounded by five fairies in the foyer area. Mab and another followed them into the foyer from the hallway, making it a total of seven fairies surrounding them.
“Did you decide to join us, after all, Sookie?” Queen Mab asked sarcastically. “Ivan here will be so glad to hear it. After all, you are meant to be his. He―by far―has put in the highest bid to breed with you.”
Sookie followed Mab’s gaze to the male fairy who had spoken. He was leering at her like a buzzard intent upon his kill. Sookie cringed at the sight of him.
Sookie kept Hadley behind her and raised one of her hands. “Y’all stay the fuck away from us!”
“Oh―I don’t think so,” Mab’s sinister voice said mockingly. “Soon, it will not matter that you didn’t eat the fruit before. Soon you will be filled with Ivan’s seed, and then you will be forced to eat the light fruit or to kill the child he implants into you. And once a hybrid has a child of the Fae, there is no leaving,” Mab taunted.
“The fuck you say!” Sookie yelled as she propped Hadley up against the wall so that both of her hands could be free. “I’ll fuckin’ die before that bastard lays a finger on me, and there’s no way in hell that I’ll stay here!”
Mab cackled gleefully, “It will be quite entertaining seeing you choose between your bond with the vampire and an innocent child, Miss Stackhouse. I only regret that I didn’t think of this before! I could have killed you and missed all the amusement you are certain to afford me.”
Sookie raised her hands, feeling the power gathering there.
Mab laughed. “There are seven of us, Sookie dear, and you are a hybrid. What do you hope to accomplish?”
“I’m gonna see all your fuckin’ asses on the floor before I’m done,” Sookie yelled. “That is what I’m gonna accomplish, bitch.”
Mab grinned and said casually, “Take her.”
All the fairies around her except for Mab began to step closer.
The one called Ivan moved closest to her, and Sookie blasted him with her light. He was sent flying. Another fairy tried to hit her with his light, but Sookie instinctually evaded it with her own. A frenzy of activity ensued as some fairies were trying to zap her and others were trying to grab her and Hadley.
Try as she might to stave off the fairies, Sookie was growing weak. She tried to take her magic from her bond with Eric, but in all the tumult, Sookie lost her concentration. And soon, she became lost to her fear and uncertainty. When that happened, her power immediately began to wane.
Ivan, who had recovered, grabbed her roughly. She kicked him and scratched at him, but he did not let her go. Her magic seemed to have dissipated completely as she tried futilely to zap Ivan with it. And though she once again tried to call it from the place Niall had told her to, she was unable to calm herself down enough to focus.
Mab laughed. “I think she will be quite docile for you now, Ivan.”
Sookie answered that remark with a kick to Ivan’s shin. The fairy, who was both slightly taller and broader than Eric, pushed her away and hit her soundly on the cheek, sending Sookie a couple of feet away and dazing her.
Mab laughed even louder, “Okay―maybe now she will be docile.”
“I would not want her too cooperative,” Ivan said sinisterly.
“Whatever you prefer,” Mab said indifferently with a wave of her hand. “But take her now regardless! I want her seeded and finished! Either she will accept your child and her new place here, or she can starve! And if her body rejects your seed because of the bond she has with the vampire, you have my permission to use her however you wish or to kill her.”
“Will I receive a refund if she cannot be impregnated?” Ivan asked as he yanked Sookie to her feet.
“Of course,” Mab smiled sweetly. “As you know, I always guarantee success with the hybrid breeders.”
Ivan pulled the still-dazed Sookie roughly to his side. She was still trying to regain her focus after Ivan’s strike; she saw that one of the other fairies had grabbed Hadley, who was too meek to resist at all. Despite the pain from Ivan’s hit and her own unsteadiness, Sookie again tried to struggle against the enormous fairy.
[The rest of the chapter is cut. Summary: Ivan begins to take Sookie to his room and then uses his telepathy to send her images of what he plans. He also dives into Sookie’s worst fears and memories and finds her experience with Uncle Bartlett. He uses that experience to increase her fears, and Sookie retreats into her own mind as a form of self-protection.]