As Lillith continued to feed Eric blood and monitor his healing, she teetered on her feet a bit. It felt as if the whole world had been placed upon her, and she didn’t know how to move forward. She felt that she was on borrowed time in the midst of Russell Edgington’s madness, and she had only herself to blame for that. She scrambled to think of a solution—a way to get out of her situation with her undead life.
However, her mind was a muddled mess of thoughts and feelings—most of them contradictory.
She felt the irony of her situation profoundly. The vampire she was caring for was her enemy—or, at least, that was what Bill had made him to be. Her transgression had been not to question what Bill had presented as fact. No—that was not true. She had questioned Bill’s actions, but she’d done nothing to stop them.
She sighed as she thought about her life.
Her human mother had always said that sin was knowing something was wrong but doing it anyway.
Bill—at least in the end—probably didn’t even recognize that his actions were wrong, but Lillith had recognized it. And she’d done nothing.
For many years—long before Bill had called her to join him—Lillith had felt the heaviness of her many sins. During the periods of her life when she’d been free of Lorena, Lillith had tried to tell herself that she was not responsible for all of the killing that she’d done. She’d been forced to follow Lorena’s commands, after all. Lillith had tried to comfort herself with the fact that she’d never taken a life because she’d wanted to do it. She’d never taken a life when not commanded to do it.
There was a flaw in her logic, however. And it was that flaw that haunted her.
Lorena had never commanded Lillith not to meet the sun—not like she’d had to command Bill.
A few years before Lillith got the call from Bill that requested her help, she’d been studying history with one of her long line of glamoured professors. They’d been studying World War II. It was in that war―Lillith had found out―that her own human family line had died off. Lillith’s parents had no children besides her. Her father’s brother had had a son, and when he married, another son was produced. But that young man died in Germany during the war.
Perhaps, that was why she became so engrossed in her study of the era.
She’d become fascinated by the Nazi soldiers in the Concentration Camps who obeyed their leaders’ bidding and then made the defense that they should not be held responsible since they had not given the orders. They had claimed that they had no choice in the matter.
Lillith knew better. There were always choices to be made—just hard ones. They could have chosen to refuse to commit genocide; they likely would have been killed, but they would have prevented themselves from becoming monsters.
Lillith had also failed to make the right choice.
She remembered that morning so long ago on that little stoop in Philadelphia. How many lives would have been saved if she had simply stayed on that stoop and watched the sun until it had burned away all of the sins that she’d already committed because of her maker’s commands—all the sins that she was yet to commit? She had known what Lorena would have her do; she’d foreseen all of the lives her maker would command her to take. Yet Lillith had chosen her own life over countless others.
And worse—she’d made that same choice every morning after that as well.
Her attempt to atone for her sins as a nurse had been futile. How could one make up for even one life being taken?
But of all her time walking the earth, the last two years was perhaps what she was most ashamed of. It was ironic, given the fact that she’d killed no one in that time.
But her mother’s words about sin came to her again and again: Sin is knowing what is wrong and doing it anyway. She’d not been commanded by a maker to plot with Bill to kill everyone in Eric’s household. She’d known that was wrong; she’d done it anyway.
She’d not been commanded to tell anyone about the location of Russell Edgington. She’d known that digging him up was wrong—would lead to countless deaths—but she’d done it anyway.
She’s not been commanded by Lorena to help Bill enslave the child, Hunter. She’d not been commanded to help do to that boy what Lorena had done to her—take him from his home and place him at the mercy of a vampire who just wanted to use him.
The man on the table in front of her had been helped by her care, but why had he needed that help? If a man shot another on purpose and then healed him, would he be forgiven for the shot? Should he be?
Russell Edgington loved to rant—especially about what Eric had done to Talbot. Lillith regarded the Viking’s still form. He’d told Russell that he was sorry for killing Talbot; those words had cost him a great deal of energy that might have cost him his life. But he’d said them anyway.
Did Eric know that he was doing wrong as he’d killed Talbot? Or was he answering the insane call for revenge—the blood-thirst of the moment? Had he sinned? Had he known that what he was doing was wrong and done it anyway? Or did he only realize the iniquity of his action later?
Lillith frowned. There was no such ambiguity when it came to her situation. She had known that it was wrong to help Bill. The fact that she did it out of love to him didn’t change that; it made it worse. It made it selfish.
It was sin she had chosen to do so that Bill would—perhaps—love her.
She had known it was wrong to dig up Russell. The fact that it was to try to save her own skin didn’t change that; again, it made it worse. Being the yes-man to Hitler’s plans of genocide in order to keep oneself alive and safe did not change the fact that it was sin. And it sure as fuck didn’t change the fact that countless lives were lost because of that sin.
Sin always had its consequences.
She sighed as Eric stirred below a touch she’d unconsciously placed upon his brow. It was a nurse’s touch that she had used countless times to try to comfort her patients. But it had also been the touch that her mother had given to her whenever she’d been sick or upset. The only other being she’d ever received such a touch from was Bill on her last night in Philadelphia right before he left.
Eric was the one who had killed her vampire brother and beloved—the only person who had been kind to her since that night in 1905 when Lorena found her.
However, Lillith couldn’t help but to admire Northman.
He’d survived―now twice―the insane violence and wreckage of Russell Edgington. Lillith cringed as she thought about how she’d created the mess she was in.
Before his death, Bill had been working very hard to convince her that Russell should be dug up so that he could eliminate Eric. Bill was certain that Russell would be so grateful for his release that he would “overlook” Bill’s past error in helping Eric. Bill even planned to twist the story so that it seemed that Eric had forced him to help bury Russell. Bill intended to convince Russell that he’d been trying to free him since he’d become king but that Eric had stood in his way again and again.
With Sookie seemingly gone forever, Bill thought that Russell would simply leave after Eric was dead. Bill figured that he would either try to reclaim Mississippi or leave the United States for South America or Europe, where mainstreaming was not necessarily the most popular model among vampires.
Then, Bill could simply take Sookie if she ever came back, and Russell would be none the wiser.
Plus—Bill had argued—it would take Russell a long time to heal from his ordeal in the cement, so Bill and Lillith would have ample time to gauge whether Russell was a danger to them.
Using Russell to kill Eric had become Bill’s favorite fantasy, and she’d had to talk him out of it several times.
Bill’s impatience after the confirmation that Hunter was indeed a telepath and living at Eric’s residence had compelled Bill to drop his ideas about Russell and to form the plan that had eventually killed him.
Lillith had tried to talk her brother out of going after Eric without a larger force, but Bill was convinced that the Viking was too incapacitated by his mysterious illness to be a threat. His overconfidence got him killed.
However, Lillith survived because she had a back-up plan; she always did. She’d taken advantage of a useful cloaking spell given to her by the witch, Hallow, whom she’d met through Yvetta when Bill wanted her to track down anyone who could help them take revenge on Eric.
Unfortunately, they didn’t know of the protection spell around Eric’s home, and Bill did not want to get involved with a witch after what had happened with Marnie, so he’d refused her offer to give him the spell as well. But Lillith knew when to take her own advantages. The spell given to her by Hallow had covered her scent and obscured her just long enough to allow her to escape the melee on Northman’s property. If so many of Eric’s forces had not been taking care of the injured Bubba, she would never have gotten through to the woods and then to the car she’d parked behind the cemetery as part of her escape plan.
Lillith had tried not to focus on the intense grief she felt because of Bill’s death. She let her survival instincts kick in as Eric sent Pam and then others to try to find her. The years of learning how to evade capture with Lorena had helped to prepare Lillith for such a flight, but her dreams of settling back down into a quiet life were dashed after a while by the Viking’s relentless search for her.
After seven months of running, she’d ended up with Yvetta, who had then introduced her to de Castro. Things had progressed quickly from there, and before she knew it, she was telling the Nevada king about Russell Edgington.
She’d known it was wrong, but she’d done it anyway.
Of course—at the time, she’d thought of several justifications for volunteering the information. She wanted to avenge Bill’s “wrongful” murder. She wanted to protect herself from Eric. She could no longer run because she was out of money. And she’d almost convinced herself that Bill had been right about Russell—that he would simply kill Eric and then disappear into the world. Almost.
De Castro agreed to pay Lillith handsomely in exchange for getting Russell’s help with the “Louisiana problem.” Of course, Lillith had hoped to leave the whole mess behind after Russell was free—to disappear with the money de Castro had promised her. However, the Nevada king—stirred by his hatred of the Louisiana vampires—had refused to pay her until Thalia and Eric were dead.
De Castro’s plan—if it could be called a plan—was simple. Russell was going to kill both the queen of Louisiana and her strongest sheriff. In exchange, de Castro was going to make sure that the Authority didn’t try to hunt down Russell. The Nevada king was convinced that as soon as Thalia was out of the way, he’d once again be in favor with most of the members of the Authority. De Castro figured he could convince the Authority that Russell would keep a “low profile” for fifty years or so. After that amount of time, the humans would have “forgotten” his “little indiscretion” of killing a newscaster on live television.
Lillith sighed; she figured that the chances of Russell keeping a low profile were zero to none.
At first, de Castro had hoped that Russell would be happy with simply retaking Mississippi so that the Nevada king could have Louisiana. Of course, de Castro had anticipated the fact that Russell would want Louisiana too, which the elder vampire had. In the end, de Castro settled for Thalia’s death in exchange for giving Russell all of the resources he needed. Unfortunately for her, Lillith had been one of those requested resources.
Having been the one who had freed Russell and nursed him back to health, Lillith had made her own bed. She’d so badly wanted Eric to die because of what he’d done to Bill. That desire and the desire to live were all that Lillith could see for a while.
By the time she acknowledged to herself that Russell truly was insane and that Eric Northman might not be the devil she’d been told he was, it was already too late.
Lillith sighed; she was in too deep with Russell, and she was scared as hell of him. He was the most powerful vampire she’d ever known, and he was a loose fucking canon.
Certainly, the vampire on the table in front of her seemed to be her enemy, but at least he was sane, and in the last weeks, she’d opened her eyes and changed her tune about him as she’d learned more about the complete picture that Bill had obscured from her.
Oh—it wasn’t that Lillith didn’t see the problems with Bill’s actions before; it was that she simply didn’t allow herself to acknowledge them. She’d ignored the wrong and hoped to temper his actions in the end.
Undeniably—her vampire brother had been planning a variety of morally questionable things—especially with the boy, Hunter.
But Lillith was no better. She had been holding onto her knowledge of Hunter’s existence and gift as her back-up plan―her ace in the hole that would keep her alive.
Unfortunately, she knew that she would most likely need that ace the next night if she didn’t succeed in killing Pam as Russell had ordered. And given the fact that Pam was tucked away behind a wall of magic she couldn’t hope to pass through, Lillith was glad she’d held onto the Hunter secret even though a large part of her wished she’d never received that piece of information from Bill.
Lillith felt the harsh stab of guilt when she thought about Hunter. At first―after Bill’s death—Lillith had told herself that she’d remained silent about the boy because she wanted him for herself: a nice fairy telepath all her own. But she knew that wasn’t the truth. On her own, she would have never sought out the child. If she had her choice, she would simply disappear back into the obscurity of her life as a nurse to humans.
But she had to be honest with herself. There had been those fleeting moments when she’d fantasized about Bill letting her help him raise Hunter—raise a child. Lillith grazed a light touch over her belly. She’d never dared to dream of having a child. No―that wasn’t quite true. There was one day that she did—the day that Lorena had “let her go.” Of course, that same night, Lorena had made her into a vampire, so that had put an end to all of Lillith’s thoughts of finding a husband, settling down, and raising a family.
Yes—Lillith could admit that a part of her had very much liked the idea of having a child to bring up with Bill.
Of course, Bill had tainted her dream by explaining his ultimate goal to make the boy his lover. It had been Lillith who had convinced Bill to let Hunter fully come of age before trying to couple with him. It was Lillith who had reminded him of how things had been with her when she was so young.
It was as if Bill was so engrossed in his fantasy of revenge against Eric and his obsession with having his own telepathic fairy that he failed to see anything else.
It was Lorena all over again, but this time, her maker was speaking through her beloved. Truly, Lorena had won, after all. She turned Bill into the monster he’d always wanted to avoid becoming. And she’d taken everything good from Lillith at long last.
Bill had failed to see the wrong in his actions; Lillith had seen it but had done it anyway even though Lorena was long dead.
Lillith sighed as she continued feeding Eric. She remembered being a young human and being at the mercy of Lorena; it had been a miserable life. Looking back, Lillith knew that Lorena had been “grooming” her all along—just as Bill had intended to groom Hunter.
She shivered—though she hadn’t been cold for a hundred years. Not since the night that Lorena had killed her.
Lillith had loved Bill—loved him for the way that he’d helped her to survive her first years in Lorena’s clutches. She also loved him as a woman loves a man; he’d been her only love—though Lorena had forced other lovers upon her. But she still recognized that Bill himself had succumbed to a kind of insanity in the end, and she’d been sucked into it with him because of her affection and obligation. And her weakness.
From Bill’s first mention of the child, Lillith had felt that what he was planning was wrong―just as wrong as Lorena taking Lillith from her home and family at such a young age. But knowing something and acting against it were two different things, and Lillith had loved Bill more than she’d ever loved anyone else. So she’d done nothing.
Lillith tried to refocus—to think of a way out of the mess she’d put herself into.
Knowing that there were no witches to find, Lillith thought about the next night.
The best case scenario was that she could find a way to kill Pam and then disappear, leaving Russell to his own devices. But Pam’s death would be yet another sin in the name of her own survival.
In that moment, she made an agreement with her human parents’ god that she’d never tell anyone about Hunter if she could just get the fuck away from the insane vampire who had caused the destruction to the body in front of her. Otherwise, she was certain that she’d become Russell’s next target.
She agreed to never kill again after the next night—no matter what. She agreed to atone all of the rest of her nights.
But killing Pam and making a clean escape didn’t seem possible anymore. And Lillith knew that when push came to shove, she would try to barter the information about the boy for her own life. His life or her own? Which was the more valuable? It was a sin to even ask the question.
However, like a cockroach, Lillith knew that she would scurry to survive—just like her maker.
She shook her head even as she prayed that the Viking had some plan in place that would protect Hunter no matter what. She knew that she was weak, but that didn’t mean that Eric had been.
He had to have a plan in place, so it wouldn’t matter if she told Russell—at least that is what Lillith tried to tell herself so that she would have some absolution.
Of course, as always, Lillith felt no comfort from her many justifications.
Her mother spoke softly into her memories. “Lillith, you must always remember to be good—to do good.”
“Good is for those who lack imagination,” Lorena had always said. “Good is for the cows that hope to buy their way into heaven.”
Lillith closed her eyes and stopped her self-reflection for a while. She needed a distraction.
She looked down at Yvetta’s body, which she would need to dispose of before dawn. Despite the nice taste of the dancer’s blood—AB-negative—Lillith couldn’t muster up much sympathy for her. She’d rant about her love for Eric, and then in the next breath, she would talk about a transcendent love for Hallow. Of course, this was all while she’d been telling de Castro that he was the love of her life. That kind of overt changeability when it came to love had always annoyed Lillith.
Not for the first time, she wondered why Russell had kept Yvetta around after she’d failed to bring down the protection spell a few days earlier; if it had been up to Lillith, they would have shipped her back to Las Vegas. Russell had cited the fact that he wanted to use the Estonian to seduce Eric, but Lillith couldn’t help but to think that it had more to do with the mysterious talisman now hanging around Russell’s neck.
She’d not asked any questions about that. Knowing things would just get her killed.
Upon closer examination, Lillith saw no marks on Yvetta’s body. Again, Lillith wondered how the Estonian had died, but she was not going to pursue the matter with Russell. If Yvetta had failed to seduce the Viking, then that would have been cause enough for Russell to kill her—at least in his deranged mind. Perhaps, he’d poisoned her.
Lillith looked back down at Eric as he finished his fifth bag of blood. Despite Bill’s obsessive hatred for Eric Northman, she could admit that part of her had always respected the vampire before her. His strength and resilience alone were amazing.
As she opened another bag of blood, she heard him speaking into the dark. Lillith knew that he was not speaking to her.
Eric’s words were whispers. “Shall we see to the shallow ones now, min kära?”
Lillith looked on in fascination as the non-emergent cuts on Eric’s body now began to heal. She shook her head, knowing that she was not going to report her observations about the way Eric had healed to Russell.
Between drinks, Eric spoke into the night―again clearly not addressing Lillith. “Your eyes are beautiful, Sookie. How can anything be so beautiful?”
Lillith said nothing. She simply continued to feed her patient.
Truth be told, half of her still wanted to stake the Viking and avenge Bill. The other half wanted to free him so that he could perhaps kill the insane vampire that she herself had helped to free.
An hour before dawn―and with seven empty bags of blood and three empty bags of red blood cells in the wastebasket―Lillith could tell that Eric was healed enough to satisfy even Russell. She removed the bandages that remained on the Viking’s body to find them no longer necessary. She picked up the last sheet that she’d brought downstairs and tucked it around his body—just as she’d done for countless human patients.
She wanted—no needed—to talk to Eric. She wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was because of the hope he made her feel.
Lillith used her senses and quickly ascertained that Russell had not come back. As always, he’d left his veritable army of V-addled Weres from Mississippi to guard the perimeter of the place; however, only one Were currently manned the surveillance station.
Lillith had no idea where Russell went for the day, and frankly she didn’t want to know. All she did know was that de Castro was supplying Russell with several donors a night—all male and all young—and he liked to take them to his “lair.” Of course, none of them lived long enough to disclose Russell’s location.
And, of course, Lillith had done nothing to stop him.
From his slight movements, Lillith could tell that Eric was more aware than he’d been for several hours. She quickly zipped up the stairs and glamoured the Were who was handling surveillance. As soon as she left, he was going to “make a mistake” with the camera and audio feeds for the room Eric was in. Russell would never know the difference anyway, and the fact that the Were was so far gone on V would add to the story’s plausibility if the break in footage was noticed by de Castro.
When she returned to Eric’s side, Lillith spoke freely—honestly. She knew that Eric would be able to hear her. “I hate you for killing Bill.”
Eric’s eyes were still closed. “I know. You loved Bill.”
“I still do,” Lillith confirmed.
Eric responded to her comment with a nod. He could not be sorry that he’d killed Bill, but he could show the vampiress who loved him some compassion—just as she’d shown some to him.
Eric sighed deeply. “I swear that it was not like this with Compton—with Bill. I would not have,” his voice trailed off.
Lillith knew what he was referring to and merely nodded.
“I was angry, and I wanted to punish him,” Eric continued, “but Bill showed some honor in his defeat. He told me what I wanted to know. And his death was swift and came with very little physical duress. At first, I regretted that swiftness, but now I am glad to be able to offer it as some comfort to you—after what you have done for me tonight. Your discretion was an unexpected and a welcome gift to me. You have shown something that your maker would not have been capable of—compassion. And you have earned my gratitude for this act.”
A lone tear was traveling down her cheek. She couldn’t quite muster up gratefulness for the vampire who had killed Bill, but she did feel some relief knowing that her beloved had not suffered a similar night to the one Eric had just been through.
“Thank you for telling me that,” she said cautiously.
“Thank you for your help tonight. Without it,” Eric said with just a little smirk, “I would likely still be on the throat wound.”
“What you did,” Lillith began, “surviving—it was impressive.” She sighed. “I will try to keep the boy out of all of this if I can. If not, I hope he stays safe inside the magic field. I hope you have measures in place that not even Russell could defeat.”
Eric’s eyes opened, and he looked at Lillith closely. She was as beautiful as ever, but her eyes betrayed guilt and fear. And Eric knew she was not afraid of him. He quickly ascertained that neither Russell nor any of the Weres were in range, and he had not heard the buzzing of the camera since she’d last entered the room. He guessed that their privacy was her doing.
He asked in a whisper, “Who all knows about him? Will you tell me that much?”
Lillith responded, “Right now—just me. Bill shared his knowledge only with me, and I have kept it from de Castro and Russell.”
“Why?” Eric asked, genuinely surprised.
“I loved Bill, but I never liked what he planned for the child. It was,” she paused, “too similar to what Lorena had done to me.”
Eric narrowed his eyes and tried to assess whether Lillith was telling the truth. His instincts told him that she was. “Thank you,” Eric said softly.
Lillith spoke honestly, “Do not thank me. I said I will try, but if I must exchange the information about the child to live, I,” she stopped for a moment. “I will try to survive. I always have.” She sighed. “Is he protected?” she asked with a sense of urgency.
He nodded. “Yes, he is. But it would be better if he were to stay unknown.”
Lillith’s expression was pained. “Russell has ordered me to kill Pam. If I fail, he will most certainly kill me—unless I can offer him something.”
“I realize that,” Eric said.
“If I fail, I will have but two choices,” she said softly.
“Die at Russell’s hands or use my son as a bargaining chip and perhaps die anyway,” Eric said, just as quietly.
“Can you run?” Eric asked. “I could tell you where to find money.”
Lillith gave him a rueful smile. “I ran from you, but it was not long before I was cornered, and—no offense—but Russell is more frightening than you.”
Eric nodded. “None taken.”
“What if my people could offer you sanctuary until Russell and de Castro are dead?” Eric asked.
Lillith closed her eyes and considered Eric’s offer for a moment. When she opened them again, they were rimmed with red. “Over the years, I have studied many things; I always glamoured college professors to be my tutors. My most recent thirst was for mythology. I was studying the concept of wyrd or urðr the night before Bill called me.”
“Fate,” Eric said simply.
Lillith nodded. “My fate was decided the moment I stepped out of my home on a warm summer’s night for a walk. I’d done the same thing hundreds of times, but that was the night my path was set.”
“You can change your fate,” Eric said.
“I have tried, but I cannot change 100 years of accepting that fate. That is my undoing.” She sighed. “And it is not that I don’t want you to win either; I do—or, at least I do now.” She smiled, but Eric noticed that it didn’t reach her eyes. “However, neither de Castro nor Russell fully trusted me.”
Realization hit Eric. “They have both made you take their blood.”
Lillith nodded. “So you see—I cannot run and I cannot hide. My only prayer is that they lose interest in me.” She put her face into her hands for a moment. “I would bring only more worries onto your household, Eric. If I am ever to succeed in changing my fate—as you suggest—I cannot begin that way.” She sighed and shook her head. “I will never out-distance my sins, Mr. Northman. But for your offer and for your,” she paused, “kindness, I will always be grateful.”
Eric was still holding her gaze. “I cannot wish you luck in your endeavor since the task that Russell has set for you involves killing my progeny.”
Lillith looked at Eric, still obviously conflicted about something. “I am,” she paused, “sorry. I do not want to kill Pam.”
“Being forced to sleep with her couldn’t have helped,” Eric said.
“I was not forced,” Lillith said bitterly.
Eric knew that the bitterness was not aimed at him.
“I chose to align myself with my brother.” She sighed. “How long did you and Pam know about me? How long was her seeming affection for me a performance?”
“You were both performing from the beginning,” Eric said quietly.
Lillith smiled ruefully. “Looking back now, I thought that was the case.” She laughed a little. “I’m glad actually. When I was not trying to seduce you or her, or when I was not spying for Bill—which unfortunately was most of the time—I quite liked Pam. She made me laugh. I’m glad that she was never in a position to be,” she paused, “hurt—at least emotionally.”
Eric nodded. “I will cheer for my progeny to end you, Lillith―despite the good you have done for me here and the secret you have kept about Hunter to this point―but whatever happens, I wish you peace. And I,” Eric paused, “think that Bill found some peace in the end.”
“How can you know that?” Lillith asked, tilting her head to the side a bit.
Eric looked at her intently. “I would rather not tell you.”
Lillith closed her eyes. “Because it would hurt me to know?”
“I think so,” Eric said softly.
“Tell me anyway,” she said opening her eyes. “If he found peace, I need to know how; I need to know that you are right in your assessment.”
Eric sighed and nodded. “I believe that his last thoughts gave him comfort. He mentioned Caroline.”
Lillith closed her eyes again and thumbed the ring on her finger. Eric saw her action but made no comment. He gave her a moment to process his words. Her face looked like she was grieving.
“I could have never been part of his peace,” she finally said, her eyes still closed. “He would have always seen me and remembered Lorena.”
Eric shook his head. “I have seen more humanity and compassion in your eyes this night than I saw in Bill’s during all the years I knew him. You were not his peace because you did not allow Lorena to take away your humanity and he did. You were stronger than he was, Lillith.”
“No,” Lillith whispered inaudibly. “I was the weaker one. If you only knew what I have done,” her voice trailed off.
Eric left her to her silence.
After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and smiled regretfully at Eric. “Bill was wrong about you, Eric; I tried more than once to tell him that he might be wrong, but he was obsessed with Sookie.” She sighed. “And as I said, I loved him. And after he died, I’m afraid, I became a bit obsessed with you myself. I wanted to see you pay. And now I will likely be the one to pay first.”
Eric nodded. “Love is powerful. When it breaks against us like a wave, we cannot help but to be swept up into it.”
She smiled. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I helped Russell out of his concrete prison.”
“Me too,” Eric sighed as his eyes flickered with remembered pain. “I’m even sorrier that I didn’t just kill him and let him find his own peace. I became obsessed as well. We both made errors.”
Lillith nodded. “Yes.”
Eric looked at Lillith curiously. “You glamoured the Weres I had guarding Russell’s location during the daytime?”
“Yes,” Lillith confirmed. “I glamoured them right before dawn one day so that they would not even notice that a crew was digging. Before nightfall, my people had fixed the site using fast-drying cement. It took only a few hours, and your Weres were glamoured not to see a thing.”
“You took Russell out in the day time,” Eric observed. “That was wise, but risky.”
“Yes—it was lucky that he was on the lowest level of the parking garage. The sunlight could be contained. And the scent was covered by a spell from Yvetta.”
“You were also the one to discover the separate surveillance feed?” Eric asked, clearly impressed by Lillith’s cunning.
Lillith nodded. “After the attack on your house, I figured that you had known we were coming. I guessed that you had also used surveillance on Bill. That’s when I realized just how thorough you were. I figured that you would have back-up to the Weres. After that, it was easy to find the signal for the footage and to create a loop. The human company you had monitoring the security feed was difficult to find, but once I had, glamouring them to do what I needed was easy.”
Eric chuckled. “If I live, I will keep all this in mind for the future. And if you live, Lillith, you should go into security. But—like I said before—I cannot root for that outcome.”
Lillith chuckled before her face went serious. “I can’t believe that you are,” she paused, “whole after tonight.”
Eric narrowed his eyes. “You gave me blood. You helped my body to heal.”
“I know,” Lillith said quietly. “But that is not what I mean. I cannot believe you can laugh.”
Eric looked at Lillith closely; there was something in her eyes that he recognized. She wanted to be “whole” as well.
He decided to speak to her honestly. “Tonight, Russell brutalized all that he could touch and all that he could see, but that was not me—that was not the important part of me. That—he will never touch unless I let him. My wife, Hunter, the rest of my family—I have many reasons for staying whole. Perhaps if you found a reason, you could find your peace.”
Lillith shook her head. “Bill is lost to me. My work is lost to me. Maybe one day—if I live and if Russell and de Castro forget about my existence,” her voice trailed off.
“It took me a thousand years to find my way,” Eric smiled kindly.
Lillith smiled a little. “I know how good of a warrior you have trained Pam to be. I likely do not have a thousand years. Lorena was good at teaching her children how to kill—not how to fight.” She paused. “But then again, I will never face Pam; I will be forced to return to Russell having failed.
Lillith turned to see to Yvetta’s corpse.
Eric spoke up. “Call Pam. You said yourself that Russell will most likely kill you―even if you tell him of Hunter. I agree with this assessment. You will survive if you can defeat my progeny, and Hunter’s identity will be protected if one of you dies tomorrow night.”
“What?” Lillith asked, once again returning to Eric’s side. “Why would you take the risk that I would kill Pam?”
Eric spoke honestly, “Let me be frank; I do not think it is a risk, Lillith. I strongly believe that Pam will be able to kill you in a fight. Even if caught by surprise, she is an excellent warrior. But you will have a chance against her—even if it is only a small one. Against Russell, you will have none. Even if you tell him of Hunter, there is only a slight possibility that he would allow you to live. More likely, he will see your knowing about Hunter as a liability, and it will be yet another reason for him to end you.”
“You’re right,” Lillith said with resignation, “but I have to try to survive; I have to take the chance.”
“Your only chance is to fight Pam,” Eric insisted.
“But she is safe inside the magical barrier around your property. And I have no way to get to her. Despite what Russell may think, witches who have the power to counteract strong protection spells are very rare. And Pam would never agree to leave the protected area to face me.”
“Tell her the truth, Lillith,” Eric said sincerely. “Tell her that you have been ordered to kill her by Russell. Tell her that if she doesn’t face you, then you will use your knowledge about Hunter to try to bargain for your own life. If you tell her these things, then she will leave the protective barrier and face you.”
Lillith shook her head. “I know Pam. She will never agree. She won’t exchange herself for a child, Eric.”
“She will,” Eric averred. “And I can tell you how to convince her. Just promise me that if you win, you will never betray Hunter.”
Lillith considered for a moment. “I give you my word; it is all I have to give.”
Eric nodded. “It is enough.” He paused. “To make Pam fight you, tell her that it is hers or Hunter’s life that she must choose. Tell her that I will love her no matter what she chooses. But I know that as Hunter’s chosen sister―his “sissy”―she will choose to protect him. Tell her that I am confident that she will win.”
“Even if she agrees to fight me, she will never come alone,” Lillith said.
Eric shook his head. “She will. I promise. Just tell her that it must be just the two of you.”
Lillith looked uncertain but then nodded.
Eric looked at her closely. “I can tell that your life has held misery, Lillith.”
“No more than I have doled out,” Lillith said in a whisper.
Eric shook his head a little. “In a thousand years, one can accumulate many misdeeds.”
“Have you killed tens of thousands?” Lillith asked.
Eric narrowed his eyes as he remembered. “No. I have killed many though.”
Lillith nodded. “To protect yourself? In war?”
“Mostly,” Eric agreed. “But I made mistakes when I was a new vampire and a few times when I was injured. I have also never shied away from killing my enemies before they could hurt me and mine.”
Lillith sighed. “Pam is no longer my enemy, Eric.”
“But you would be killing her to defend yourself.”
“Yes,” Lillith said softly. “Why did you kill Talbot?”
Even though the question took Eric aback a little, he answered it truthfully. “I wanted to hurt Russell the same way he once hurt me. I wanted him to suffer.” Eric sighed. “I could not think clearly. All I could see was the blood of my human family. All I could feel was the thirst for revenge, and I felt powerless to take those feelings out on Russell, so I made Talbot my victim. There was no honor in it.”
Lillith closed her eyes. “Do you believe in forgiveness, Eric?”
“Yes. My wife has helped me to understand it,” Eric said.
She smiled little. “You have surprised me these last two nights, Mr. Northman. You are,” she paused, “a good man.”
Eric smiled a little. “Again—my wife’s influence.”
Lillith became immediately serious. “Was she ever Bill’s?”
Eric shook his head. “I do not think so. His blood made her think so at first, but he was forcing it.”
Lillith shook her head as a tear fell from her eye. “I loved Bill. I wish he could have,” her voice trailed off.
Eric didn’t need to say anything.
“I do not know what I would have done if my Sookie had not chosen me,” Eric observed.
“Pine away for more than 100 years.” Lillith smirked. Her expression changed as she looked at him sincerely. “Whether Pam faces me or not, whether I live or die, whether I am freed or live a life of servitude to de Castro or Russell—no matter what—I will not tell of Hunter. I swear this to you now. Perhaps,” she managed a little smile, “this will change my fate.”
Seeing the sincerity in her eyes, Eric nodded in gratitude.
“I hope you find what you are looking for, Lillith,” he returned.
The vampiress picked up Yvetta’s body and quickly turned to leave the basement, knowing that she still needed to dispose of the corpse before dawn.
As Lillith climbed the steps leading to the ground floor, she heard one last utterance from Eric. Again, it was not meant for him.
“Sookie—min kära—our son will be safe. She will not tell.”
Lillith paused on the staircase. She felt Eric’s confidence in her down to her marrow. It was a wonderful feeling. She felt strong and resolved for the first time in a long time—maybe the first time ever.
If she could fight Pam and win, she would find a way to escape Russell and de Castro’s control. They had made her take their blood, but the ties would fade in time, and they might forget all about her once she’d fulfilled her use to them. If that was not the case, then she would likely die at their hands. Or she would die the very next night at Pam’s hands. But no matter what, she would never speak of Hunter to any of them. She would not use her back-up plan this time; she would not sin.
He silence might not make up for the wrong she had done, but it would hopefully ensure that the child did not fall into hands that would mold him into a monster like the one she had been molded into. And, in that fact, there was a kind of grace. She felt a little lighter as she continued her progress up the stairs.
A/N: I cannot thank you enough for your comments about these Lillith chapters. Some of you are hoping for her “redemption”; others have talked about how she shouldn’t be easily forgiven—that she is still responsible for her “sins.” I have loved all of your viewpoints. And—more than that—I have been amazed by the fact that you have been “debating” a character that I made up. It makes me feel like an author (with a capital “A”). Lillith—like many of the other characters I wanted to create in this story—is “gray.” (I argue that Eric is quite gray too in some ways, but he’s trying to work them out and accept that aspect of himself.) I think that the concept of forgiveness—forgiving others and forgiving oneself—is one of the themes of this story, and that’s why—I think—Lillith began to “talk” to me. Again, the fact that there is actually some debate about her makes my heart go, “Yeah!” And it is another reason why y’all are the best.