Last time: Sookie cringed a little. “I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to be in control. I don’t think I’ve ever felt in control—not of my telepathy, not of my life. Not of anything.”
“Maybe he can help you gain what you have been missing. Maybe you can help him reconcile the fact that sometimes the things we cannot control are the best things we ever have.”
“You don’t sound like yourself,” she said.
“I am as much what you need him to be as I am him.”
“So you aren’t real?”
“No. I’m sorry. I’m not. I am just a dream, but I do carry a part of him. Perhaps, it is the part you need and the part he cannot show you.”
“There are things that I haven’t shared with him either,” she admitted. “Things I’m ashamed of.”
She curled into her dream Eric and put her head onto his comfortable shoulder.
She sighed. “But I don’t wanna think about those things right now.”
“Then don’t,” he answered simply. “Rest.”
[Two evenings later, Fort Stockton, Texas]
Eric awakened to the familiar scent of Sookie. She was very close, and from her even breathing, he knew that she was asleep in the back seat of the car again—just as he’d found her the night before. She’d seemed self-conscious that he “caught” her sleeping close to him, but he’d made clear to her that it was fine—nothing that required embarrassment or shame on her part. After sundown, he quietly got out of the car and got his duffle bag and his laptop.
He quickly took a shower and applied some of the potion. By the time he was done, Sookie was awake and in the kitchen, preparing herself a meal.
“How was the drive?” he asked.
“Not a lot to see and not a lot of traffic, but it was nice,” she said of their trip from Fredericksburg to Fort Stockton, Texas.”
“Well?” he asked with a smile. “What do you think?”
“I love it!” she said excitedly, gesturing toward the backyard.
Eric had told Sookie that she would get to take the next day off from driving. And he could already tell that she’d gotten some sun.
“Your skin is slightly darker,” he observed. “Did you enjoy the pool?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “I sunbathed for about an hour and waded around in the pool a bit.”
“Was the water warm enough?” the vampire asked. He knew that the nights in the desert could get cool, but—in September—daytime temperatures were hopefully hot enough to keep the temperature of the water warm.
Sookie nodded. “Yes. It was nice. Perfect.”
Eric smiled. “Good. Can you hear the neighbor?”
Sookie chuckled. “Barely.” Unlike the Fredericksburg house, which had been in a very crowded neighborhood, their nearest neighbor in the Fort Stockton home was more than a mile away, and even with the practice she’d done to increase her range, she could barely make him out. “This place is pretty perfect for me—as a ‘resting’ place, I mean.”
Eric nodded. “I’m glad. I’ve always liked this particular home too, though it is the opposite of where I grew up—as far as weather and landscape go.”
Sookie grinned. “I bet. I’d never seen a real desert before today. I can’t believe all the cactuses in your yard!”
“Did you learn anything new today?” Eric asked, gesturing toward the Fae book on the kitchen counter.
She smiled uncertainly and bit her lip. “Yeah. Wanna see?”
He nodded. “Of course. If you want to show,” he added with a smirk.
She smiled a little wider and wiped off her hands. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. Then, she extended her hands, palms up, and opened her eyes to stare at them.
Eric watched with awe as small balls of white light pooled in her hands.
“I learned how to call up my light today,” she smiled, even as she brought her palms together. The light seemed to reabsorb into her.
“How do you do it?” he asked.
She blushed a little, but tried to hide it by going back to her cooking. “It’s connected to my emotions, so I have to call on a feeling to get it to work.”
Noticing Sookie’s blush—but choosing to ignore it because she was obviously trying to conceal it—Eric didn’t ask what emotion she used to create the light. Instead, he focused on the success of her practice. “This is good,” he remarked.
She smiled, but then frowned a little. “I think I killed a cactus though—when I shot it.”
He chuckled. “There are plenty to go around. And remember, one of the reasons we are staying here for an extra day is to give you the opportunity to practice a bit before you have your meeting with your fairy cousin.”
She nodded. “I’ll have to show you what I can do later.”
“I look forward to it.” He looked at her seriously. “Do you want to hear this?” he asked holding his phone out for her to see.
Immediately nervous, Sookie turned off the stove burner. “Yeah. But will she be able to hear me—my breathing?”
“I don’t think so. Most vampires could not hear just your breathing over the phone. And even if she did, she would likely think that I was feeding off of a glamoured human.”
“Okay, but let’s go into the living room, and I’ll sit across the room from the phone with this over my mouth,” she added, holding up a hand towel.
Eric smiled and nodded at her caution and then led Sookie to the living room, which was quite large. In fact, the whole ranch style home was big.
“Have you already contacted Mr. Cataliades?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, I texted him after I rose as I waited for the sun to set. Octavia has already been to the Houston home and found no trace of you. Cataliades is going to contact Russell sometime in the early morning hours so that he will not be able to make it to Texas before sunrise. By the time he arrives tomorrow, he and Victor will be in for a bit of a surprise if we have our way.”
“Ready?” Eric asked.
“Yep,” she said, settling into a chair in the corner of the room.
Eric dialed and put the phone on speaker.
“Yes?” a woman with a Latina accent answered.
“Isabel,” Eric said. “Is this a secure line?”
“Of course,” the vampiress responded smoothly. “Well—if it isn’t Eric Northman—wanted fugitive. It is surprising to hear from you.” There was amusement in her voice. “You are in much trouble with the Authority.”
“It was not I who killed the Magister,” Eric said evenly.
“Hmm,” she sounded. “What of Bill Compton’s telepath? I have heard that you killed her as well.”
“Some things cannot be helped,” Eric said, somewhat coldly, giving Sookie a wink as he did so. He was rewarded with an eye roll from her.
“I must say that I was surprised to hear that you killed her, given your fascination with her in Dallas.”
“As I told you then, I had no interest in the late Miss Stackhouse, beyond what she could do to help me find my maker.”
“Then why bother killing her?” the vampiress asked. “It seems so unlike what I know of you—and what Godric told me of you.”
“I had my reasons,” Eric said, “many of which had to do with the help she could have given to my enemies.”
“There is rumor that more vampires than just the Authority are looking for you,” she said.
“Indeed. Russell Edgington is the one who killed the Magister. He wants to kill me too.”
“So the plot thickens,” Isabel commented. “Russell was the one who told the Authority that you murdered the Magister before you threatened Sophie-Anne’s life. According to Edgington, you went into a jealous rage after finding out that he had married Sophie-Anne. He said that the Magister stepped in to protect the queen and suffered for his efforts.”
Eric scoffed. “And the Authority believed that?”
“My source tells me that they had no choice but to believe it. Nan said that she saw video footage which proved it.”
“Interesting,” Eric said. “I was not aware that Nan Flanagan was involved in this situation.”
“You know Nan. Like a cockroach, she will always be where it is most annoying for her to be.”
“And how are you, Isabel?” Eric asked, changing the subject.
“I am adapting to my new role,” she responded quietly. “I miss my sheriff very much, however.”
Eric sighed. “I have heard that you are filling Godric’s place well.”
“I have his role. I will never fill his place.”
“I have a favor to ask,” Eric said after a moment of silence had passed between them.
“What is it?”
“Russell Edgington will soon be coming to Texas to search for me.”
“Are you in Texas?” she asked.
“Not at present,” he lied smoothly, winking at Sookie again. “I was, however, in your fine state just a few days ago.”
“I cannot stand against Russell,” Isabel said warily. “Few could.”
“Nor would I ask you to,” he responded. “I would just like for the Authority to get wind of the same information that will lead Russell Edgington to my residence near Houston so that Russell will have,” he paused, “company. But that information must come from the right source. Tell me—how is Miguel? Have you seen him lately?”
“Sí,” the vampiress responded with a smile in her voice. “Miguelito and I are lovers once more. After Hugo, I felt the need to reconnect with my vampire brother.”
Sookie cringed a bit. She knew that vampires didn’t think the same as humans and that terms like “brother” and “child” weren’t seen as familial in the same way, but she was still getting used to terms like “brother” and “lover” being in the same sentence.
“Do you want me to have him pass along information to the Authority?” Isabel asked.
“Yes. It would be easy for him to do so since he is lieutenant to the sheriff of the Houston area, as well as the area’s investigator,” Eric said. “Plus, he knows me and would recognize my scent.”
“I suppose that your wish would be that the Authority received this information soon?” she asked almost mischievously.
“Russell will likely be in Texas tomorrow evening—along with Victor Madden.”
Isabel scoffed. “Es una pena que nadie ha puesto un trozo de madera en él todavía.” [“It is too bad that no one has put a piece of wood into him yet.”]
Sookie looked at Eric in question.
“Yes,” the Viking said. “It is a great shame that a piece of wood has not found Madden’s heart. I believe Miguel would agree.”
“Sí,” Isabel said. “After what Felipe de Castro and his little bitch boy did to our maker, there is nothing Miguelito and I would not do to take revenge. Unfortunately, we were unable to prove the treason charge before we had to flee Nevada.”
Eric nodded to Sookie, and she breathed a silent sigh of relief. Eric had told her the story of how Isabel’s maker, Federico, had once been the king of Nevada; however, Felipe and Victor had staged a coup almost sixty years before. Isabel and Miguel had sought refuge with the queen of Texas—Queen Dulcina—who had been an ally of Federico’s. Dulcina had also been well-respected by Godric even though she was over thirteen hundred years his junior.
“What do you need?” Isabel asked passionately. “Miguelito and I are at your service, Viking. If it is a chance for revenge against Madden and de Castro that you offer, we offer our lives.”
“I hope it won’t come to that,” Eric said honestly. “However, I will eventually have to face Russell, and the less I have to worry about the likes of Madden and de Castro, the better. For now, however, I want Russell to think that the vampires of Texas might be helping me, but there can be no direct proof of this. I do not want Dulcina to incur his wrath. I just want the question to be in Russell’s mind.”
“That is why you want the Authority and not the queen’s vampires to interfere with Russell’s search of your Houston residence?”
“Exactly. However, I am certain that Russell will not check in with Dulcina when he passes into Texas.”
Isabel chuckled. “I am certain you are right. And that would be extremely rude of a king not to do.”
“Indeed,” Eric said. “I will text you the address. Oh—and Isabel?
“Given the fact that Nan is extremely,” he paused, “annoying, perhaps your queen should consider contacting someone else in the Authority when my scent is discovered in her state.”
“I’m sure she would be amenable to that suggestion,” Isabel returned after a moment.
“I will call Miguelito as soon as I hang up with you. When you need us, you will have friends in Texas.”
“Eric . . . ,” Isabel began a little hesitantly.
“Godric would be disappointed that you killed Sookie Stackhouse. He valued her—despite their short acquaintance.”
“I valued her too. But—as I said—some things cannot be helped,” Eric said before hanging up.
Eric and Sookie looked at each other in silence for a few moments.
“She’ll help?” Sookie asked.
“Without a doubt.”
“I’m glad Godric felt that way about me,” she said with a little smile.
“He was a good judge of character, and he knew me well. He could tell that I valued you too.”
Sookie nodded, understanding well the significance of Eric’s words. He was emphasizing the fact that he had valued her before the blood tie and before the Fae bond—as more than just an asset—or a piece of ass.
“Can I ask you some questions about the vampire bond during dinner?” Sookie asked as she moved to return to the kitchen. Eric had had his dinner with her the previous night as well, and she hoped that the practice would continue.
He nodded. “Of course. Would you like to eat outside on the patio tonight? There are candles that I can light—to keep away the insects.”
“Yes. That’d be nice,” she said a little shyly. “Uh—I’m baking a casserole; it’ll be ready in about an hour,” she informed. “Can you wait to eat till then, or do you want your TrueBlood now?”
“I’ll wait,” he said.
She smiled a little. “The—uh—big bedroom is light-tight, right?” she asked. “I put your things in there, but I wasn’t certain whether you had another resting place in the house.”
“No—the bedroom is the only light-tight space here.”
She’d found out from Eric the previous night that his homes had various types of light-tight spaces. The one in Fredericksburg had had only a simply crawl space accessed by a trap door in the bedroom closet. However, most of the homes had a basement area or a bedroom that was light-tight.
“I moved your things into the master bedroom as well, Sookie,” Eric said seriously. “There is no need for us to pretend that we wish to rest anywhere other than together. It is not just you who cannot sleep when we are not near to each other,” he added.
She blushed a little. “I didn’t want to presume.”
“You can—presume,” he said sincerely.
She smiled and looked down at the floor, a slight blush ghosting her cheeks.
“I will scope out the area,” he said when she didn’t speak for a moment. “Have you made your list?”
Sookie nodded and pulled a list out of her jeans pocket. Their nearest neighbor, Charlie Johnson, was actually the official owner of the house they were in, and he was also the caretaker of the property. In addition, Eric sent him money to help keep up his own property in order to ensure that Charlie wasn’t compelled to move.
“Have you decided?” he asked.
“I think I want to,” she smiled.
Eric had told her that Charlie raised horses and gave lessons, and he’d offered to glamour the man so that he would give Sookie a private lesson the next day.
“I’ve never ridden a horse,” she added.
Eric smiled. “That will change tomorrow,” he said before flying out of the home. His plan was to check the area for any unusual scents and then to drive to Charlie’s and glamour him to take the car and fill it up as well as pick up their supplies. While there, he would also glamour Charlie to accept a first-time student without question the next day. If Sookie enjoyed horseback riding, perhaps they could go riding together the night after that. He’d not ridden a horse for almost a hundred years. In fact, he was half-tempted to teach Sookie himself, but he wanted to give her the chance to figure out for herself whether or not she liked the activity. He didn’t want his emotions—through blood tie or Fae bond—to influence her. So it was best if she tried horseback riding while he was asleep.
He chuckled as he flew past a decimated cactus. “You really did blow it all to hell, didn’t you, min kara!” he said with a chuckle.
As he continued to the old rancher’s home—still chuckling at the sight of the destroyed plant—the vampire didn’t even realize that he’d called Sookie his “beloved.”
A/N: Here’s about how I’m picturing the Fort Stockton house. (I know–I know. This house isn’t actually in Fort Stockton–as you might be able to tell from the mountain in the background and the tree types, but this is the idea of it.)