Last time: “Take a while to consider whether you want a vampire bond,” Eric said. “When you are ready, we can talk again.”
Sookie nodded. “Okay. I guess I’ll try to sleep now. I should take a shower when I get up in the morning and then reapply the potion—right?”
“Yes. While you sleep, I will do another sweep and then get your route information ready. I’ll leave it on the kitchen counter for you.”
Sookie sighed as Eric broke their shared grasp and got up. She also got up, grabbed the fairy book and her quilt, and went into her bedroom. She used the en-suite bathroom to take care of her human needs and to brush her teeth. Then she went to the bed and wrapped herself into the quilt. It was a comfortable bed—not as big as the one in Slidell—but the mattress was obviously of good quality and new. Still—she knew that it would likely take her a long time before she could sleep.
An hour later, Eric was pacing in the basement. It hadn’t taken him much time to do what he needed to do that night. He decided that he would use his home just beyond Fredericksburg, Texas, for their next stop. It was more of a duplex than a stand-alone home, but it would be good for Sookie to practice her telepathy and shields in such a place. Also, it would take her only four hours to get there. Eric liked to space his homes 4 to 6 hours apart by car. Had he been traveling alone, he would have needed to drive or fly at night, and he didn’t like to be out in the open for too long at any one time.
He sighed heavily and looked at the ceiling. After planning the route and plotting it on the map for Sookie, he had written down the codes for the Fredericksburg residence. Then he’d made another sweep of the surrounding area, hoping that he would hear the even breathing of Sookie’s sleep when he got back.
Sadly, he had not. She was tossing and turning.
Hoping to get good news about Hunter—and to distract himself from the restless woman upstairs—Eric pulled out his phone to check in with Cataliades.
The demon answered on the first ring. “Cataliades here,” he greeted.
“Is there any news on the child?” Eric asked the lawyer, not bothering with a greeting of his own.
“Yes,” Cataliades responded. “Niall contacted me with Hunter’s location. I am sending someone to make contact with the father—a Remy Savoy—tomorrow.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Anything else?”
“No,” Desmond reported. “But I will have to provide him with something soon,” he said somewhat hesitantly. “If I don’t, he may begin to suspect that I am impeding rather than helping in his search for you.”
Eric sighed. “Understood. I will leave behind a trace of myself where I am today, and I will contact you again in two days’ time to give you the location. At that time, you can tell Russell that you have discovered a new property that I own through a human couple—a home where someone matching my description has been spotted.”
“That will be satisfactory,” Cataliades said. “After you tell me the location, I will have Octavia conduct a sweep in order to ensure that Sookie’s scent has not been left behind before I contact Russell.”
“Good,” Eric said, looking again toward the ceiling. “It is best if no others find out Sookie is alive.”
There was a pause in the conversation.
“Just tell me that I will be sending Russell and Victor somewhere they will hate visiting,” Cataliades said with an amused tinge in his voice.
“Oh—it will be,” Eric said with a smirk. “And I think I can arrange for a little surprise for them as well.”
“Good,” Cataliades remarked. “I will speak to you in two nights, Eric,” he added before hanging up.
Eric once more looked at the ceiling as he heard Sookie tossing and turning again.
At least now he had a reason to go up to her. He quickly zipped up the stairs to see that she’d left the door to her room open.
“Sookie?” he asked from the doorway.
She sat up in bed and looked at him, a bit startled by his voice. “Was I bothering you? Sorry. I guess I’m not tired yet.”
“No, you weren’t bothering me,” he conveyed. And she wasn’t—not really. Or, at least, not intentionally. “We just need to talk about something. Cataliades is feeling pressured to give some information to Russell.”
Sookie tensed. “Okay.”
“In two days’ time, Cataliades will tell Russell and Victor of this location, but that means that nothing of you or your scent can be left behind. You haven’t washed your face since you arrived at this house—have you?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Good. I’m afraid your shower will have to wait until our next destination, but it is only a four hour drive.”
“Oh—okay,” Sookie said. “That’s fine. My clothes and things won’t leave a trace—will they?” She paused and then had another thought. “But if Victor and Russell come here, won’t they smell human food?”
“Yes,” Eric said, “but that is where Mike and Diane Aldridge will come in. I will glamour them to move in here for a while.”
“But Victor or Russell might hurt them,” Sookie said with fear in her voice.
“They won’t,” Eric assured. “Victor will glamour them. And I can anticipate what he will ask so that they will tell him what we want him to hear. When Cataliades shows Russell the paperwork for this house, he will see that I used the Aldridges to buy it. Plus, I intend to have a little surprise for Victor and Russell when they come. Russell will likely keep surveillance on the Aldridges, but no harm will come to them.”
Eric nodded. “Neither Victor nor Russell would risk killing humans in Texas, especially since the Aldridges will be forthcoming under glamour, but know very little.”
“What about the light-tight technology here—and the alarm?”
He smirked at her. “You are good at seeing many angles, Sookie. You will soon outpace me, I think. Come,” he said, “get dressed. I need your help.” Eric left the room and waited for Sookie. Within two minutes, she had joined him, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers.
“Good—you look non-threatening,” he smiled. “What are our neighbors doing?”
Having already used her telepathy to figure that out as she was dressing, Sookie had an immediate answer. “Mike is reading a book, but he’s dozing. Diane is playing computer solitaire.”
Eric nodded and reached out for Sookie’s hand. Hers was in his immediately. He led her to the back door and into the backyard. “Wow!” she whispered. “A pool,” she added longingly.
He smiled to himself, knowing that their destination two days from then—a ranch house in Fort Stockton—had a pool. He planned for them to stay there for two days, and though Sookie couldn’t swim much—lest she wash away the potion concealing her scent—she could lay out in her beloved sun.
Eric flew them over the fence and to the Aldridge’s front yard, and after assessing the area, he gave her a nod.
She rang the doorbell.
“Mike!” shouted a female’s voice. “Someone’s at the door.”
“Diane doesn’t answer the door at night,” Sookie whispered nervously as she read the woman’s mind.
Eric nodded and stayed in the shadows.
Mike opened the door a little cautiously. “Hi. What can I do for you, Miss?”
As before, Eric zipped in front of Sookie and caught Mike in his glamour. “Hello, Mike, do you remember me?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” Mike answered in a dazed way as if he were looking for a memory. “Hello. Please come in,” he said.
“Thank you,” Eric responded, taking Sookie’s hand and leading her in as well.
Twenty minutes later, the vampire and the telepath exited the home, and the Aldridges were thoroughly glamoured.
The next day, Mike and Diane were going to be moving into the home next door. They would take their personal items, such as family photos. They would also take their clothing and hygiene items—anything that they normally needed. They would bring their office furniture over for the empty bedroom and would also bring anything else they wanted, such as their television and things from their kitchen.
In short, they would behave as if the home next to theirs was their “real” home.
If asked, they would tell their neighbors that their house had structural damage from a pipe bursting and that, until they could arrange for repairs, Jacob Brown—their often-working next-door neighbor—had offered to let them stay in his home for as long as they needed. They would volunteer no other information about their living arrangements to anyone else they knew.
However, if strangers came around asking questions, the Aldridges were to believe and to speak of a very different story. They were to act as if they lived permanently in the home in which they were staying. They would claim that their “nephew,” Eric, came to stay with them from time to time and that when he was there during the day, one of them would always stay home from work in order to make sure that no one came into the house since their nephew slept during the day because of his job. Beyond giving a physical description, they would not be able to say anything more about their nephew. But sketchiness was the goal. Eric wanted for there to be holes in the Aldridges’ story so that the presence of glamour was very clear.
He also wanted Russell and Victor to believe that he operated similarly with the rest of his safe houses.
Mike and Diane would claim that their “nephew” had visited them several times during the last month, from September 10th through the 12th, from September 16th through the 18th, and again from September 20th to the 23rd. They would say that they didn’t know when he’d be back, but that he’d asked them to buy some more of his “special drink.” And Eric glamoured the couple to do just that—to buy several six packs of TrueBlood and place them into the small refrigerator kept in the basement.
Sookie had watched with amazement as Eric had knitted together the story for the Aldridges to tell. Of course, one feature of that story had been forgetting completely about the girl their “nephew” had been with. And, as long as strangers weren’t asking them questions, the Aldridges were to go on with their lives as normal—the only difference being that they would be living next door to their own home for a year.
It was only after Sookie and Eric were back in the safe house that Sookie asked some questions. “Why did you tell them to stay here for a year?”
“I want Russell to think that I may come back here. He will likely have this place watched for many months, and it would be best for the Aldridges if Russell and Victor thought they might still be of use to me.”
“Oh. What if a year comes and goes and they move home?”
“By then, Russell probably won’t be watching; however, if he is, that would actually be even better. The Aldridges will not remember their little masquerade after a year, so Russell will know that their glamour runs quite deep. He will likely continue to keep an eye on the house, but, after a year, he won’t give the humans another thought.”
“How are you going to make it seem like you’ve been here more often than you have been?”
Eric smiled and then went to the sink. He grabbed the wet washrag from the counter and refreshed it with warm water before scrubbing his forehead. “I intend to leave evidence,” he smirked.
His next action was to go to the refrigerator. Since they had a case of bloods in reserve, he got the six pack of TrueBloods that the man across the street had bought earlier and warmed them up one by one. He drank a large gulp from each before pouring the rest down the sink.
“Given my age, I would generally need to drink only one of these every other night in order to maintain my strength, but I want for Russell to think that I see this place as safe—and, therefore, will likely return here,” Eric said as Sookie watched him with curiosity in her eyes as he began to rinse out the bottles. “Plus, Russell will assume that I occasionally feed on my hosts and heal their marks when I’m here. As for these,” he said, motioning toward the now-rinsed bottles, “I will leave them in the garbage can in the garage.”
“That’s why you told the Aldridges not to take out the garbage in there for a week?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “Yes. After the bottles have been in a hot Texas garage for a few days, Victor won’t be able to tell if they have been there for hours or weeks, but he will pick up my scent on each of them.” He smirked. “I have some more clothing in my room downstairs. I keep a little at each of my safe houses. I will wear some of it so that it carries my scent, and then I will leave it behind.”
“But my scent won’t be left behind?” Sookie asked with trepidation.
Eric shook his head. “No. But to make sure, we will leave half an hour before dawn, and once you are out of this neighborhood, I will check for your scent. Remember that the potion accounts for any of the items that belong to you too; thus, as long as you have the potion on, your scent won’t be left behind—nor will it be transferred from your personal items.”
“What about the quilt?” Sookie asked a little sheepishly.
“The potion likely recognized that as yours as soon as you took it from the Slidell house, but that is one of the reasons why I will double check things.”
“Why can I still—uh—smell your scent on the quilt?” Sookie asked with a blush. “And—uh—I can still smell you too when we’re close.”
“The potion doesn’t eliminate our scents fully,” he explained. “It simply eliminates our ability to leave them behind—on anything.”
Sookie nodded in understanding.
“As a safeguard, Octavia will come here before Victor or Russell. I promise you that they will not be told of this place until I am a hundred percent certain that no trace of you has been left behind.”
Sookie nodded again and sighed with relief.
“There are now only five hours before I must wake you for us to leave,” Eric said quietly. “Tomorrow, you can nap after we have reached our destination, and—hopefully—you will be able to get on a more consistent sleep schedule soon. I have to go downstairs so that my scent there is strong.”
Sookie nodded for a third time and went into her room. She used the bathroom and then sunk into the bed, feeling even less sleepy than she was before—but much more tired. She was already looking forward to getting to Fredericksburg early in the day. She had a plan. Once they were safe in the garage, she’d curl up in the backseat and sleep until an hour before dark. Eric would never even have to know that she was that close to him, and she would be able to sleep soundly with him near. Of that, she was certain.
Meanwhile, Eric was glad for another distraction from the mix of feelings coming from Sookie. He went down to the basement and quickly took his dirty clothing from Slidell from his knapsack. Since the spell was no longer in effect on his body, his personal effects would also leave behind his scent. He put that clothing into the hamper and also took off the clothing he had on. He jumped into the shower and cleaned himself before deciding to leave behind a bottle of his shampoo and the bar of soap he’d been using.
Next, Eric checked the dresser. As was the same at all his safe houses, there were a couple of pairs of jeans, a few T-shirts, a pair of lounge pants, a pair of boots, and several pairs of socks in the drawers. There was also some money. He dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and used a pair of the socks. There was an empty knapsack in the closet, and he got it down and packed the other clothing and money inside of it before putting it back into the closet.
He’d glamoured Mike and Diane not to clean or wash anything in the basement for at least a week, which would give Victor plenty of time to find his “nest.” Satisfied with the little imprint he’d left in the room and bathroom, Eric climbed into the bed in order to make sure the sheets carried his scent.
Unfortunately, once he was settled, he was unable to go into downtime because of the tossing and turning from the main floor. It seemed that Sookie still couldn’t rest either, and Eric could easily guess why.
The vampire stared at the ceiling for another twelve minutes before he heard a single muffled sob. He was up and outside of Sookie’s door almost before he could register moving.
“Sookie,” he said softly as he approached the bed.
She turned over and looked up at him. Even in the darkness, he could see that her eyes were red from lack of sleep and unshed tears. He bent down and scooped her into his arms, making sure to take their quilt with them. Her arms went around his neck automatically.
“We will have to go to the basement,” he said. “I cannot leave too much of my scent in the room. It would be natural for me to come into Mike and Diane’s bedroom to feed as they slept, but my scent shouldn’t be too prominent.”
She nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“There is nothing to be sorry about,” he soothed as he walked them down to the basement at human speed. “I should have brought you in here with me earlier. You need your sleep so that you can drive safely.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“The bed is small—I’m afraid. It is what you would term a twin bed.”
“I noticed that before—in the basement of the Slidell house. Do you always have a small bed in your resting places? I’d think—since you are so tall—that you would have something bigger.”
Eric chuckled as he settled them into the bed. So that they could fit comfortably, he lay her on her side and tucked in behind her. Although he didn’t spoon himself fully against her body, he lay his hand on the place where her waist began to curve upward to her hip.
“Is this comfortable for you?” he asked.
She sighed her answer. “Yes.”
“Good,” he answered. In truth, it was the most comfortable that he’d felt that day as well. “To answer your question,” he said, “I do not need a large bed for my resting places. Up until this moment, I have always been in them alone, and—once I am dead for the day—I am quite literally dead, so comfort is not really a factor.”
“But your legs must stick off the bed,” Sookie chuckled lightly before yawning deeply.
“If I am lying stretched out, they do, but like this, they do not. Remember, I grew up during a time when a bed was a pallet of furs and straw. And I have slept in the ground many a day. This is luxury,” he chuckled.
“Oh,” she said as her body relaxed more into the bed. “Will you talk to me until I fall asleep? Like you used to do?” Her voice already sounded near sleep, and Eric knew that her fatigue was what was causing her to ask what she had. He’d become accustomed to telling her things about his long life as she’d fallen asleep—bedtime stories, as it were.
He hesitated for a moment, knowing that they had both been compelled by the Fae bond to share so much of themselves, but—with her next to him—he decided not to think about that. He’d let the Fae bond “win” this time.
He began speaking softly, “My mother was about six months pregnant when my father took me on a raid with him for the first time. A group of Danes from across the sea attacked a village that we were allied with at the time, so we joined them in seeking revenge. The Danes had also kidnapped the chieftain’s daughter, as well as some other women, but they had not killed most of the men because they’d been on a hunting trip. Anyway—my father, Ulrick, felt it was time for me to take my first journey with the men. I was fifteen winters old at the time and more than ready. I will never forget how my father fretted over leaving Mother while she was so great with child. Of course, no one let on that we knew why he was so upset, but all the men did.”
Eric paused his speaking as he heard Sookie’s light snore. He sighed; she was finally resting and that thought comforted him more than he was ready to acknowledge. Careful not to disturb her, he moved his body so that they were touching more fully. He inhaled deeply and brushed his lips against the back of her neck before finishing his story.