It took a moment for Leonie’s words to sink into Sookie’s confused head, but when they did, she felt intense betrayal.
“What? Stop him!” Sookie yelled.
“Stop him yourself,” Leonie said casually.
Sookie felt her light rise into her body.
“You could stay out here and try to fight us,” Leonie said calmly, “but by the time you get in to your vampire, he will already be cut. Or,” the fairy paused, “you could teleport to him and stop that from happening!”
Sookie shook her head in desperation even as she heard a loud roar from inside the house.
“Eric!” she yelled loudly, her heart thrumming with fear.
In the next moment, she felt herself moving—almost as if she were floating away from herself. She heard a popping noise and immediately opened her eyes. Eric was in front of her, safely in bed. Kuruk was nowhere in sight.
Shaking ferociously, Sookie took in the form of her sleeping vampire. She felt suddenly light-headed as if all the air had been taken from the room.
“Breathe,” came a soft voice from behind her.
Sookie tried to obey, but she couldn’t seem to find any oxygen as she opened her mouth.
She closed her eyes as her legs began to sway. She felt two hands take her securely by the shoulders.
“Breathe, Sookie!” the voice ordered again, this time sternly.
Sookie opened her eyes and saw Elina in front of her. The Werebear shook her.
Sookie once more tried to find air, and this time was rewarded when she felt it move into her lungs.
“Good,” Elina said. “Nice, slow breaths, Sookie—not too deep,” The Werebear instructed as she demonstrated such breathing for the telepath. “Good,” she repeated as Sookie followed her lead.
A few minutes later, Kuruk peeked into the room. Sookie immediately tensed.
“I’m sorry,” the young Werebear apologized. “She asked me to wait thirty seconds and then shift and roar as loudly as I could. I didn’t know it would hurt you. She said it would help you.”
Sookie relaxed. “It wasn’t your fault,” she assured the worried young man. “And it did help.”
Elina said some words to her grandson in their language, and he left.
“It’s really not his fault,” Sookie said, having calmed down.
“I know,” the elder Werebear said. “I asked him to get you some water and to tell the fairies that you are okay and that their test was successful.”
“Oh,” Sookie said, glad that Elina wasn’t angry at Kuruk.
When the young man returned a minute later, he had a glass of water.
“Thanks,” Sookie said, taking the drink gratefully. She looked at Elina. “Will you tell them that I’ll be out in a minute?”
Elina nodded and left the room with her grandson, closing the door behind them.
Sookie sat next to Eric in the bed and ran her hand along his shoulder. She bent down and kissed him softly on the lips.
“I love you so much, Eric. I won’t let anything happen to you,” she promised. She kissed him again and then went to rejoin Leonie and Claudine.
Twenty minutes before sundown, Eric woke up to scents he did not expect. There were two Werebears in the cabin. He also smelled a fairy, though the scent wasn’t overwhelming to his senses. In the next moment, he heard a popping noise, and suddenly Sookie was next to him.
“Sookie?” he asked.
“Hi,” she returned. “Uh—I can teleport now,” she said almost apologetically.
“Busy day?” he asked with a smirk as he reached out to her.
Quickly, she sank into his embrace. “Yeah—tiring.”
He inhaled deeply, taking in her scent. He pulled back from her and quickly stood up. “You smell of the fairy outside.”
“Oh—uh—sorry. You okay?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s just best if I’m not that close to you while you smell that way. It makes me want to do things.”
“Like drain me?” she asked a little fearfully.
“No,” he responded quickly. “But bite you—yes. And fuck you; I very much want to do that. And basically rub my scent all over you.”
She blushed a deep red and felt her heartbeat escalating, but not because of teleporting this time.
He smirked. “You would probably not like me doing those things while we have company.”
“No,” she whimpered. His words and the intensity with which he’d said them made her blood feel like lava—and her panties completely useless. “Uh—I asked Elina and her grandson, Kuruk, to stay for dinner. I thought you could talk to him.”
“Why?” he asked with curiosity. “About what?”
“About what it’s like to be a teenager rebelling against his father—who happens to be the ruler of his people,” Sookie said meaningfully. “But you don’t have to,” she added quickly. “Elina is just worried about him.”
Eric nodded. “I will shower as I wait for the sun to go down and the fairy to leave. You will want to tell her goodbye—I imagine. Then you should shower—if you want me to behave,” he winked.
“Uh—there’s someone else here too,” Sookie said sheepishly, “another fairy. And she wants to stay past sunset to meet you.”
Eric tensed. “I smell no one else.”
“She’s concealing her scent,” Sookie said.
“Who is it?”
“Niall’s wife, Leonie. But—don’t worry—she’s actually nice. She offered to help me and answered some of my questions today—questions Claudine couldn’t answer.”
“My treaty with Niall was for Claudine only,” Eric said a little cautiously.
“I know. But Claudine asked before she brought Leonie. Niall doesn’t even know she’s here.”
“What does she want to talk to me about?” Eric asked suspiciously.
“I’m not sure, but I’ll send her away if you want. She agreed to go without question if you didn’t want to meet with her.”
Eric thought for a moment. “I will speak with her.” He walked over to kiss Sookie on the forehead before backing away a little because of the fairy scent. However, his nose twitched a little, and his lustful look suddenly changed to concern. “You cried in this room today. I can smell your tears on me, little one.”
“Can I tell you about it later?” she asked, frowning as she remembered what Claudine had told her about her grandfather.
“Yes,” he said before he approached her again and held her for a few moments.”
“What about my scent?” she asked.
He sighed. “After I smelled your tears, the Fae scent did not seem as,” he paused, “potent anymore.”
She wrapped her arms around him and lifted herself onto her tiptoes to kiss his lips lightly.
“I’ll see you after sunset,” he said once the gentle kiss ended.
Sookie smiled and slipped through the door. Although she’d teleported three times now, it tired her out. And she could tell that she wouldn’t be able to do it again so soon.
She was met on the porch by Claudine’s embrace. “I am going to miss you, Cousin,” the statuesque fairy said with a sob.
Sookie found her tears welling up too. She’d known Claudine only for a day, but it had been an emotional and full day, and Sookie found herself wishing that she could get to know her cousin better.
“I hope that Niall will one day let me come and see you again. I will nag him until he does,” she whispered. “Or I’ll just come anyway if he doesn’t.” She kissed Sookie on the cheek and smiled at her.
“Thanks for everything, Claudine,” Sookie said sincerely.
“It was my pleasure, Cousin,” Claudine said before popping away, right as the sun fell into the horizon.
Leonie smiled warmly. “I am glad the vampire has agreed to see me.”
Sookie looked confused. “How did you know?”
Leonie lifted her hair over her ears.
“Oh!” Sookie said with realization. She’d known that fairy hearing was good because of Claudine, but it was easy to forget that she was dealing with the supernatural at times.
The elder fairy smiled. “If it is okay with you, I would like to speak with him alone for one-half hour while you bathe. I heard what he said about Claudine’s scent on you.”
Sookie blushed at that.
Leonie giggled at Sookie’s reaction. “Plus,” the fairy continued, “before I go, I want to make sure you can cover your scent without the aid of the witch’s potion.”
Sookie nodded in agreement and then went back inside. She smiled in Kuruk and Elina’s direction before going into the bedroom. Eric was freshly showered and dressed.
“Leonie wants to talk to you alone,” she said as Eric applied the potion to his forehead.
He nodded. “Okay.”
“For half an hour,” Sookie said flatly.
He nodded again. “I cannot imagine what she wishes to speak to me about, but I will listen to her.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said with a smile. “I’m gonna take a shower. I learned some things about my scent today, and Leonie wants to make sure I can do them without Octavia’s little brew. Plus,” she smiled shyly, “I don’t want you to wanna do those things you mentioned earlier just because I smell like Claudine.” She leaned forward and whispered in a barely audible voice, “But I do want you to do them—later.”
Eric leered at Sookie but refrained from kissing her because she now smelled even more strongly of the fairy; knowing Sookie, she had likely just embraced her fairy cousin. He also smelled tears in her eyes; he’d been worried that Sookie would become quickly attached to her family member, only to be forced to say goodbye. She’d had to do that too much lately. He just hoped that the pros had outweighed the cons when it came to her day with Claudine. If Sookie had learned to cover her scent, that would be a pro indeed, for they had only twenty or so more applications of the potion, which would last them only a little more than a week if they both had to continue using it. Of course, once they were in California, he planned to use the larger concealment spell Octavia had given them to hide all the scents in his house there, so that would buy them a couple more weeks when they didn’t need to use the potion at all.
He nodded to Elina, who was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of savory food. He liked the smell of it; it reminded him of his human days and the food his mother made.
“This is your grandson?” Eric asked, assessing the youth before him. The young Werebear was obviously strong, and his eyes held a kind of arrogance that Eric recognized.
“I am Kuruk,” the young man said, standing at his full height.
Eric recognized the cocky posturing of the boy too.
“I knew your grandfather. His name was also Kuruk, though he was bigger than you—quite a bit bigger, in fact, and stronger.”
Kuruk’s brow furrowed. The young man missed the fact that his grandmother’s lips curled into a smile.
“I enjoyed hunting with Kuruk.” The vampire looked at Elina with a little smirk and then asked her in perfect Apache if the “small” bear could hunt.
Kuruk snarled at the question, even as Elina grunted out an almost unintelligible response through her laugh.
“Then, we will hunt together later,” the Viking said to the young Werebear. “We will see if you are worthy of your grandfather’s name.” With that, he winked at Elina and went outside onto the porch, even as Kuruk growled sulkily.
Leonie was waiting for Eric a few feet from the porch. Her hands were out as if to show him that she meant him no harm.
“I hope you will not kill the young bear,” Leonie smiled as Eric eyed her warily. “He is cute.”
“Sookie believes I can help him.”
“Why does she think that?” Leonie asked.
“Once upon a time, I was a teenaged boy who was very full of himself; plus, Sookie has a good heart, and she is always looking for ways to help others.” Eric narrowed his eyes at the fairy as if to study her. “Do I know you? You look familiar to me, but I cannot say from where.”
Leonie smiled a little wider. “We will get to that at the end of our conversation.”
“Then let us be done with the beginning of it,” Eric said tensely.
“Very well,” Leonie said, her tone suddenly serious—almost deadly. “I want to know what your intentions are with Sookie.”
Eric crossed his arms over this chest. “What gives you the right to question me? Niall made it very clear that her Fae family would have nothing to do with her after today.”
Leonie straightened a little. “Niall and I differ in our desires for our great-granddaughter.”
Eric tilted his head. “You are a fairy. Wouldn’t Sookie’s great-grandmother be a human and long dead?”
Leonie spoke in a strong voice—almost a growl. “I raised her grandfather and his brother as if they were my own children. I am here because Fintan cannot be. And I will know your intentions, vampire! Now!”
“I intend to keep Sookie and myself alive if I can,” he snarled.
“Do you love her?” Leonie narrowed her eyes as she awaited the vampire’s response.
“My feelings are none of your damned business. I will take care of her. Our fates are tied.”
“She loves you,” Leonie said.
“I know,” Eric responded. “The Fae bond has made us both feel things we would not have otherwise.”
“She has accepted and embraced her feelings for you.”
“I know. I feel it. It is good that she has done this.”
“Why?” Leonie asked.
“Because she is more content now—less anxious—at least most of the time.”
“But she is anxious some of the time?”
“Yes,” Eric admitted.
“Anxious about the danger you are facing with Edgington?”
“Do you want to guess what else makes Sookie feel anxiety?”
“Any number of things could,” Eric said stiffly. “And I am in no mood for guessing games, fairy.”
“Do you know what her worst fear is, Viking?”
Eric studied the openness in Leonie’s expression and decided to respond. “Yes,” he said after a few moments. “Sookie fears most that everyone she loves will leave her—reject her. But I will do neither one of those things.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Leonie said with a little smile forming on her lips. “I can tell that you will not abandon her. But I fear for her nonetheless.”
“Because she loves me?” Eric asked.
“Yes. She is in love with you—and not just because of the Fae bond. Her love is amplified by it—no doubt. But it is also her own.”
“How do you know that?”
“I trust my instincts, fairy—not yours.”
Leonie sighed. “Regardless, Sookie will soon feel all that you feel. She asked me today if I could help her shield herself from your feelings after the vampire bond is completed.”
As if he’d been struck, Eric sat down heavily into one of the porch chairs as realization hit him. “She fears me.”
“She does not fear you. She fears for herself. But she loves you enough to risk feeling everything you feel for her.”
Eric sighed. “She did not tell me of this. But when I suggested we wait to complete the vampire bond, I felt relief from her. I thought that was because she worried it might be dangerous for us to complete it.”
“Sookie does believe it is dangerous. But I have confirmed that it will not endanger either of you physically.” Leonie sighed. “She will go through with the vampire bond—despite the fact that I could not help her to shield herself. She may develop her own shields eventually, but that is not a skill that I—or any other living fairy that I know of—can teach her.”
Eric sat in silence for a moment.
“Do you hate the bond she made with you?” Leonie asked. “Do you resent it?”
“Yes,” Eric said quickly. “I resent it.”
“Do you resent Sookie? Hate her?”
Leonie smiled smugly. “I know you are in love with her, vampire. And you will acknowledge it soon enough. Meanwhile, you should know that the Fae bond has the ability to strengthen you both—if you let it.”
“How?” Eric demanded, pissed off at the fairy’s self-satisfied smile.
“When two fairies bond, the magic between them is shared. Sookie implied earlier that she has shot you with her light?”
“Yes. Three times.”
“And?” Leonie asked.
“The first time, she healed me of a small amount of silver poisoning. The healing was more potent than if I had taken her blood.”
“I asked for her light,” Eric said quietly.
“And none of your goddamned business!” Eric snarled.
“The third?” she asked.
“Also not your business.”
Leonie snickered yet again. “In Faerie, a bonded pair will exchange their light to grow stronger and to grow closer. Since your magic is contained in blood―not light—it is with your blood that I believe you could give Sookie more strength. Her light will, in turn, strengthen you.”
“And both will strengthen the Fae bond,” Eric said bitterly.
“Yes,” Leonie replied evenly.
“I would not have it stronger,” Eric said insistently.
Leonie sighed. “If that is truly what you feel, then do not complete the vampire bond with my great-granddaughter.”
“Why not? What will happen if we do?”
“I do not know for sure,” she said. “But I believe the Fae bond would strengthen. I believe your two bonds would feed from and be fed by one another. And since you clearly aren’t ready for that to happen, my fear is the same as Sookie’s—that you would become bitter and angry. At her.”
Eric sighed deeply and ran his hand through his still-wet hair. “And Sookie would be the one to have to suffer from my feelings,” he said in a low tone.
“Yes,” Leonie responded, “until you pulled your head out of your ass—that is.”
Eric glared at Leonie, but the fairy ignored his look.
“Sookie is a remarkable young woman,” Leonie said. “She has endured every human in her life leaving her or hurting her in some fundamental way, yet she still cares for others more than herself. She has borne the deceit of Bill Compton, yet she still has the capacity to love—and to love with her whole heart—despite her fears. And she will soon endure the disappearance of more family members from her life because she will outlive them so that you can live on, yet she would build you a home of warmth and happiness if you let her, but . . . .” Leonie stopped and looked at Eric pointedly.
“But she could not bear it if she were to feel my resentment.”
“Or your hate.”
Eric sighed deeply. “The witch—Octavia—indicated that the vampire bond would allow Sookie and me more domain over our own feelings. She thought it might offer us some level of independence—actually. Right now it is difficult for us to be physically apart, and Octavia hypothesized that if we could feel each other, the Fae bond would be more ‘satisfied.'”
“That is all likely true, but that small amount of independence would come at a steep price—for her—if Sookie felt mostly negative things from you.”
“Vampires have the ability to shut down a bond.”
Leonie nodded. “And Sookie was looking for that same ability for herself—though she wanted to shield herself from your emotions, rather than to stop you from feeling her emotions. But if either of those things happened, your purpose would be defeated. If you blocked your feelings, the vampire bond couldn’t provide the assurance you wish for it to.” The fairy sighed. “Plus, I sincerely doubt that you could block your emotions from her—even if you tried. The Fae bond wouldn’t allow that.”
Eric looked at Leonie warily. “The Fae bond will continue to strengthen no matter what we do—won’t it?”
The fairy nodded. “Yes. That is why some among the Fae believe bonds to be types of parasites. In fact, the word for ‘bond’ in our language is the same as the word for ‘parasite.’ Many among our people disapprove of the making of bonds; Niall is one of those people.” She sighed. “Of course, he saw a bond pull his mother to her death right after his father died in battle, so his feelings are understandable—and biased.”
“A parasite,” Eric said nodding. “Yes. That is exactly what the Fae bond is.”