Sookie lay down to go to sleep on the comfortable bed that Claude had given to her. Unfortunately, it didn’t contain her husband, so she didn’t feel very comforted.
She flipped over and tried to relax. She gripped her pillow like it was Eric’s body, but the smell was wrong. And it was too soft.
“How am I supposed to sleep with a soft pillow?!” she angrily grumbled to herself and then chuckled ruefully at the ridiculousness of her query.
“Damn!” she swore. She felt wide awake now and knew that sleep would be a long way off.
She sighed loudly and flipped over again, taking her too-soft pillow with her.
Hadley and she had been at the fairy pool for a little over a month by human reckoning, and Niall was still maintaining that Sookie was not ready. Sookie sighed again―even more loudly this time. Unfortunately, she had to agree with him.
Though she felt that she was improving in almost every area involving her fairy abilities, it always took an emotional reaction to spur on the combustive mixing of her and Eric’s power within her. In other words, she could draw water from both of her sources into the fairy bond to power various operations, but she couldn’t get the water from those two sources to mix properly—so that there would be an ignition of that power.
Sookie had tried to assure Niall that if Eric was really in danger, she’d be more than capable of delving into her emotions, and since the magic seemed to work best when she did, she wondered what the ‘F-in’ problem was.
However, if her great-grandfather was right, she would need to act with her intellect first, instead of her emotions. And she was certain that Niall was right about something else too; she had precious little control when she was acting due to an emotional response. Niall was also concerned about what the A.P. had told him—that if Sookie counted on only her emotions or Eric to fuel her fairy abilities, both her and her mate would be lost. So Sookie kept practicing.
She tossed and turned again.
She had tried to stay positive throughout the almost-twelve hour days she was putting into her training. However, despite her efforts, she’d been unable to find the kind of strength she’d had in Mab’s palace when Eric was sending her his energy from the pool. She still couldn’t keep her protection field erected and shoot her light energy at the same time. And a month of failing to do this—more than a month actually—had left her stressed out and anxious.
She turned over roughly in her bed.
During the last thirty-four nights, Sookie had continued to bring Eric into her dreams, and they had become more and more certain that the threat that the A.P. had warned them about was de Castro. The Nevada monarch had already spent a small fortune to set up an army to take over the state. The shifty de Castro was leaving nothing to chance as he methodically planned for the demise of the Louisiana vampires, and though Quinn was relatively discrete gathering his army, Eric took subtly and subterfuge to a whole new level.
Sookie smiled. One of the best things about having a family you could trust was that the people physically closest to you were looking out for you too. De Castro didn’t have a ‘family’ working for him; he had ‘employees.’
Sookie smiled wider. And her particular family was—well—it was kick-ass. Even as Quinn continued to recruit Weres to form his daytime forces, Miranda and Jarod were getting in touch with others who owed them favors or who were simply their friends, and the Werelioness and the shifter had a lot of those. They’d worked in security around the world for years, and they’d left behind a trail of people who respected them. That trail was very quietly taking up positions in Louisiana, especially in Areas 1 and 2.
Moreover, Tray was well-respected, and his father had had very good friends in almost every Were pack around the state. That meant that even within the groups willing to aid Quinn for money, there would always be one or two members who were loyal to Tray and who would keep him informed of their orders and preparations.
The vampire who was Eric’s spy in de Castro’s court was completely unsuspected by the Nevada king. He was also proving to be Eric’s best asset as he prepared for the looming war.
Duncan Scott—whom Eric had nicknamed Loki—was a Scotsman by birth. Sookie had laughed when her husband had told her Duncan’s last name and lineage; she’d asked if a lot of older vampires decided their last names that way. Eric had chuckled and told her that Duncan was just a copycat.
Eric and Duncan had been comrades for almost seven hundred years—ever since Eric and Godric had run across him in Glasgow. Duncan had been a very young vampire, less than a month old. His maker had perished, and Duncan was reckless, as all new vampires without guidance were. He wouldn’t have lasted long, according to Eric. The Scotsman had been a warrior, and he reminded Eric of the men that he fought with as a human. So Godric had taken Duncan under his wing and taught him how to be a successful vampire. For all intents and purposes, Godric became like a maker to Duncan, and Eric thought of him as a brother.
Duncan’s connection to Eric was not widely known, and since he had lived in Nevada for almost thirty years, de Castro didn’t suspect him. Also, Duncan was extremely well-placed, a trusted member of the king’s own security forces. Given Duncan’s warrior background, he’d often been employed in this kind of capacity over the centuries by various vampire kings and queens.
So working for de Castro was merely a job to him, and he’d been content to do that job well—until Eric told him of the threat against him, that is. From then on, Duncan had no compunction undermining de Castro from within.
Better still, though Duncan enjoyed the Vegas scene, he didn’t particularly care for de Castro, and he hated Victor Madden. Duncan called de Castro a ‘blighter’, and he referred to Madden as a ‘fuckin’ erse.’ Also, Duncan didn’t like de Castro’s demands for higher-than-normal tributes—even from his guards—to ‘fund his fuckin’ cape fetish.’ Of course, most of the royals he’d worked for were ‘bullocks,’ according to Duncan. However, he was fine with the idea of relocating.
In fact, since Chow had recently moved to Isabel’s area to run a struggling casino that Eric had invested in, he was hoping that Duncan would come help Pam run Fangtasia once all the dust from the attack settled. Eric and Sookie had both chuckled when Eric admitted that now that he had a taste of what a real family could feel like, he wanted his adopted brother around too.
Sookie had loved hearing stories about some of the exploits Duncan and Eric had gotten into over the years. And Duncan had proved to be very good at getting information. He’d been the one to let them know that Madden was to lead a group of vampires into Louisiana at sundown after the initial Were attack. Those vampires were going to immediately take over the hopefully-dead sheriff’s positions, or if the daytime attack had failed in any of the areas, they were the back-up plan. Eric had immediately put counter-measures into place.
Yes—for every one of de Castro’s moves, Eric had a counter-move. And Eric’s forces—though he was paying them well—were both qualified and loyal too. Each area now had a trusted Were/shifter force in place, coordinating with the vampire sheriffs, who were keeping the impending attacks from all of their underlings—except for those they trusted the most—just in case there were other ‘Felicias’ in their circles. Miranda was overseeing the Were/shifter forces, and Tray was working with the Were spies. Duncan had also told them of de Castro’s order that human mercenaries be procured to provide back-up for the Weres.
Sookie was extremely proud of her husband. With the help of their ever-expanding family, he had successfully and secretly prepared four separate defensive forces that would go on the offensive as soon as the attack came.
Thalia still hadn’t resurfaced in Area 5 since the night Eric had told her Quinn had been in the cemetery, but she sent a nightly text to Bubba, so they knew she’d not met her true death.
Eric had received a text from her several weeks before, commanding him to continue taking care of her ‘kingdom shit’ as if she were still there. Given the fact that Thalia had not talked to the AVL or the Authority personally after the night she had claimed the death of Bill Compton and the state, no one was the wiser to her absence, especially since—according to Eric―Jessica seemed to have perfected Thalia’s dismissive and annoyed tone in emails. Eric knew from Duncan that de Castro was none the wiser to Thalia’s having left the area.
So Eric and the other sheriffs were just waiting—waiting for de Castro to attack and for the other shoe to drop. And Sookie was waiting to get her shit together and control her abilities so that she would be by her husband’s side when it did.
Sookie tried to shake thoughts of strategies and plans from her head. She needed to sleep, and that wouldn’t come if her mind kept spinning. She sighed in frustration and flipped over like a fish out of water, once more trying to get relaxed. She was anxious to get to her dreams—to get to her vampire.
She was stirred up by anxiety, however—by the picture Niall had painted of Eric being at the mercy of his enemy. Would that enemy be Quinn during a daytime attack? Would it be Madden? Would it be de Castro himself? Maybe the witch? Eric knew that he was stronger than Quinn, Madden, or de Castro, but he remembered well the effects of witchcraft, and both Sookie and he reckoned that it would be a combination of witchcraft and one of those three enemies, who would have Eric incapacitated. Eric figured that the most likely scenario would be that Madden and the witch would somehow get to him the night after the initial attack or that Quinn and the witch would get to him during his day rest.
Of course, Eric was taking precautions against both scenarios. For instance, Lafayette and Jesus had temporarily moved into the guesthouse—both to keep them safe and to keep Jesus near. Jesus and Amelia were constantly working on charms to counter various kinds of spells that might be thrown at Eric to disable him. And Jesus was also able to channel some of his demon power now.
Jesus was what Mr. Cataliades called a myndo, which was the demon name for one skilled in wielding magic. It turned out that Jesus also had a very useful trait shared by other fairies; he could shoot energy bursts from his hands. His bursts—like those of all Fire Fae—were based on fire, so if he lost control of his gift, whatever he hit would literally burst into flames.
Sookie chuckled as she remembered what Eric had told her about Lafayette carrying around a fire extinguisher during the week or so when Jesus was learning how to control his new ability. Eric assured her that it was mostly to tease Jesus, but there had been an incident involving a lounge chair that had to take a ‘dive’ into the pool because of an inadvertent fire set during Jesus’s first day using his new power. Sookie had had a giggle fit when Eric told her Hunter’s version of events.
Diantha, Mr. Cataliades’s highly-energetic niece, had been delivering some books to Jesus when she decided that they should see whether or not he had what demons called “the gift of fire.” Until then, Cataliades had figured he didn’t since he was only one-eighth Fire Fae and had never accidentally started anything on fire, which seemed to just happen with young demons that had the gift. The excitable Diantha, however, was determined to test her uncle’s theory. She had very quickly explained to Jesus how to call forth the gift if it was within him. And then Jesus had had her explain it a second time―at a rate he could follow, this time. Then they’d gone to the swimming pool to test his ability.
Hunter and Jarod had been outside playing, and Hunter was allowed to watch Jesus’s attempts as long as he stayed well back and next to Jarod.
Well—apparently, Jesus did have the gift. According to Hunter, Jesus had been doing a good job sending “cool blue flames” into the swimming pool. The trouble had occurred when Uncle Lala decided to bring Hunter’s snack out to him and saw fire shooting from his fiancé’s hands. Uncle Lala had shrieked out words that Hunter knew he wasn’t allowed to repeat. Jesus had been startled and lowered his aim a bit—without stopping his bursts. One of the “poor pool chairs,” in Hunter’s words, was the victim, and before anyone knew it, the chair was in the deep end of the swimming pool due to Batanya’s efforts.
Needless to say, everyone had breathed a sigh of relief when Jesus learned how to not “accidentally” set his targets on fire.
Sookie flopped over again, this time onto her belly.
With Diantha’s help, Jesus had learned how to control his magic very fast. Sookie just wished that she had been as fast in mastering her own abilities. Oh—she knew that she was dealing with more complicated skills that Jesus had, but that didn’t help to alleviate her current frustrations.
She tried to concentrate on the positive, as Claude always counseled. She had made much progress during her time at the “in between” place. She’d learned to project her thoughts into the minds of others―and not just telepaths either. She could now project to Hadley. Her force fields were stronger than ever, and she could shoot her light energy in very powerful bursts with frequency and control. However, raising her protection field still prevented her from using her light energy.
Sookie sighed. She could feel the fairy inside of her growing a little stronger each day, but she longed to give both her human and fairy sides what they desperately needed: Eric―in the flesh! She was grateful for every single dream that they’d had together—for every touch and every conversation that those dreams had afforded them―but she was not fully satisfied, and though he didn’t let on, she knew that Eric couldn’t be completely satisfied either.
Except for the vampire bond being missing, everything ‘felt’ right in the dreams. But it wasn’t quite right. The sex felt wonderful as it always had, but Sookie woke up with no soreness, and no sign of it even occurring except for the wetness of her arousal. And worst of all, she didn’t wake up next to Eric. Her husband had told her that in the dreams she smelled as she always had, and she often caught him luxuriating in her scent. But he had admitted that her scent didn’t linger after the dream.
In the dreams, however, they could and did talk with each other about their days. Sookie found herself more and more anxious to hear all about Eric’s time with Hunter. It was like a salve to her frustrations. Meanwhile, Eric was always there with encouragement and advice about her training.
But they were unable to share their days with each other physically. It was all reported happenings. Both had the strong sense that they needed to belong in each other’s days and not just hear about them.
In the dreams, they could and had fed from each other many times. The flavor was the same as it had always been, but the feeling wasn’t. The feedings didn’t nurture the fairy bond or the vampire bond as Sookie and Eric had been used to. She sighed ruefully. Her blood didn’t nourish Eric either, and she hated that.
Another toss. Another turn.
About two weeks before, she’d begun to feel a dull ache within her vampire bond. She talked to Niall about it the day after it had started.
Niall had used his gifts as a healer to assess what was causing the ache, and he found that she was suffering from what vampires called bonding sickness. Since she was physically so far away from Eric, the vampire bond was literally beginning to stretch for him. Sookie had told Niall about how she’d been able to heal the bonding sickness within Eric. And then Niall had realized what was happening. A fairy like Sookie would produce the healing magic necessary to cure herself automatically; the problem was that Sookie wasn’t using that magic for herself. Instead, she was instinctively giving it to her mate.
Sookie sighed as she remembered her conversation with Niall. Apparently, every day, Sookie’s body would naturally produce enough magic to heal her—but only her. Healing magic needed a physical target, and it was produced only as required; since Eric wasn’t physically close to her, she wasn’t producing enough for both of them—only enough for one. And Sookie was giving it to Eric in their dreams. Niall had no idea how she was able to do that, but he’d counseled her to stop healing Eric or at least to take the magic for herself every other day, but Sookie had outright refused. As long as the ache or pain didn’t interfere with her training—which Niall assured it wasn’t—she was determined that her healing would continue going straight into her mate.
Sookie had decided not to tell Eric that she was experiencing the bonding sickness. She hated keeping something from him, but she knew that if she told him, he’d demand that she stop healing him altogether. The stubborn Viking would probably refuse to come to her dreams if she didn’t.
If the pain got worse or began to interfere with her training, she would attempt to use the healing magic on herself every few days and then gauge if this caused Eric any pain. Until then, she’d just cope.
So Niall had tried to offset the ache and the dull pain with his own healing magic—though it didn’t really work that well. It was like taking Tylenol for a broken bone. Sookie also bathed in the pool twice a day now and watched Eric for a longer period of time each night too. When she saw him, there was always a little twinge of feeling in the vampire bond as well as the fairy bond. All this helped, but her body knew that it was missing Eric.