Sookie shook her head. “I don’t understand you, Eric Northman. One minute, you say things like that. And the next, you trick your blood into me or tell me you want to use me. You’ve made it clear that you want to take my blood too. And I know you want my body.”
“But I’ve taken neither, Sookie. I want to, but I have not.”
“So you are fighting your vampire instincts?”
Eric smiled. “Yes. Every single fucking minute I am with you.”
“But you tricked me into taking your blood. And now you can feel me and apparently affect my emotions.”
“True,” Eric said. “But I do have a line, Sookie. I may not draw it where a human might, but I draw it very differently than many vampires would.”
“Like Bill?” Sookie asked as she trembled a little.
“Yes. It is safe to say that Bill and I have very different lines,” Eric said before standing up and returning to the window again.
There were several minutes of silence between Eric and Sookie as Eric pushed the mini blinds apart and gazed outside. Meanwhile, Sookie kept her eyes trained on his back. She had no idea why she was staring at him—had no idea what she wanted to find out by studying the set of his shoulders or the strength of his posture. She didn’t need to look at him to know that he was a beautiful man or that she was attracted to him. She’d known those things from the first moment she’d seen him in Fangtasia, and she’d also had the opportunity get an even better look at him in the basement of his club.
Despite the memory of seeing him in all of his naked glory, Sookie wasn’t looking at him with lust, nor did she feel fear or anger anymore. She found herself curious more than anything else. She found herself wondering about all of the worries that Eric clearly had resting on his broad shoulders. She found herself wanting to help him. She found herself wondering if she could.
“You are curious about something,” Eric remarked as he let the mini blinds close and turned once more to face her.
“You wonder what the spell would entail?” he asked.
“Yes. But that’s not what I was curious about. I was wondering about you.”
Eric chuckled. “I am—as they say—an open book, Sookie Stackhouse.”
She tilted her head a little. “That’s a lie. Just then—you lied to me.”
“It was more of a joke really,” he remarked. “Tell me—what did it feel like?”
“A little twitch?” she said half-answered and half-asked.
He smirked. “I’m not sure.”
“You’re not lying,” she smirked back.
“You’re right,” he chuckled before becoming more serious—too serious for her all of a sudden. “I’m never quite sure when it comes to you.” His blues eyes seemed to tread into her very soul.
She closed her eyes for a moment in order to regain her bearings. “What would doing the severing spell entail?” she asked when she opened them again.
“I will not lie, Sookie. It would be painful for you. Very painful.”
She took a deep breath. “Figures,” she said sarcastically.
“Your reaction is amusing, Miss Stackhouse.”
“Glad to be of service, Mr. Northman,” she said even more sarcastically. However, her tone changed to one of concern. “And Bill?”
Sookie’s obvious care for Compton caused a deep sigh to emanate from Eric’s chest. “The spell would be done during the daytime. Bill would go to his rest feeling you, and—if all went according to plan—he would rise not feeling you. He will think that you are dead, but he will feel no physical pain from the spell.”
Sookie took in Eric’s words with a gasp. “What if I don’t break my tie with him?”
Eric paced for a moment before sitting down before her. “Okay, Sookie. Here is the score. I flew us to this location for three reasons. First, as I have pointed out, you are a homing beacon for Compton, and as far as I am concerned, he is my enemy and will inevitably be exploited by a much greater enemy—Russell. This residence is, thankfully, far enough away from the hospital to ensure that Bill cannot get to us before daybreak—that is, if he’s been able to track you at all.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“As we journeyed here, I used my blood to try to block his—to keep it from being able to pull him to you. I am not sure if I was successful—at least, not at first. But—once I determined how to do it—I believe I was able to block him. However, my learning curve likely gave Bill some insight into the direction we took.”
“What about now?” Sookie asked. “Are you still using your blood to—uh—block him?”
Eric shook his head. “No, but that brings me to my second reason for bringing you here. As I told you earlier, this home is the first stop on my escape route; thus, it boasts a little magic. When I walked in the door tonight, I activated that magic.”
“What kind of magic?”
“It is a spell that conceals the presence of the beings in this place from any Supernaturals,” Eric answered. “It even blocks blood connections—like my connection with Pam. I can sense her location, but she would not be able to sense mine. While you were sleeping, I went outside of the spell’s perimeter and tested its efficacy. As soon as I passed the property line, I could neither sense you inside, nor could I connect with my blood in you. And—until I was back on the property—I couldn’t smell you either. I could sense that you were living, but that is all. I had no sense of where you were.”
“So Bill can’t find me here?” Sookie asked.
“No. He cannot sense you as long as you are inside the borders of the spell.”
“Would I be safe if I stayed here?” Sookie asked. “I mean—if I don’t do the severing spell, would it be safe for me to just stay here?”
Eric shook his head a little sadly. “Now that it has been activated, the concealment spell will last for only forty-eight hours or so. The spell could be renewed, but—if I was unsuccessful in blocking his blood—Bill may have been able to sense your general vicinity before your trail was blocked by the spell. If he did, he will come to this area sooner rather than later, and the magic used to keep your presence in the house concealed couldn’t be sustained indefinitely.” He ran his hand through his hair. “That said, you could stay here if you wished, and I would even arrange for a witch to come and renew the spell for as long as possible. That might buy you a week—maybe even a month—depending on the amount of ingredients my witch associate has available, but her supplies are not infinite.”
He paused. “This residence is officially owned by a human; thus, vampires must have permission to enter, but Weres could come in or vampires could burn you out.
“I see,” Sookie said dejectedly. “What’s the third reason you brought me here?” she asked after a moment.
He gestured toward the window. “The sun will be up in about forty minutes, and—as much as I would like to stay here for the day—that is no longer wise.”
Sookie sighed. “Because Bill might have been able to track me.”
“Yes. If he did, he couldn’t make it here before daybreak, but he could call in reinforcements, and I would be vulnerable. We both would be.”
Sookie closed her eyes. “So it’s not safe here.”
Eric shrugged. “Like I said, the spell does conceal our scents, so Weres couldn’t sense us inside, but,” he sighed, “they could establish a radius around the area which would essentially trap us inside the house. If that happened, flight would be our only escape option, and Russell is capable of flight too. And he is faster than I.”
“And his Weres could move him into position before nightfall,” Sookie said.
“Many things would have to happen in order for him to be here before dark tonight, but it is possible,” Eric said. “I cannot take that chance.”
“And we couldn’t wait Russell out because eventually the concealing spell would run out.”
Eric nodded. “Yes.”
“So Bill’s blood—is it—uh—doing anything in me right now?” she asked with trepidation.
Eric sighed. “Yes. Bill’s blood is quite active—even now. It is trying to seek him, but I can tell that it has no current contact with its master.”
“But the spell on the house didn’t stop your blood from influencing me.”
“That is because we are both inside the spell. As I said, it works only to cover us from those who are outside.”
“How can you tell all this stuff about Bill’s blood? Is that normal?” Sookie asked curiously.
“I have little experience with blood ties,” Eric answered honestly. “All I can say is that I’ve been able to monitor the actions of Bill’s blood in you—just as I can monitor my own blood. But I cannot control his blood.” He paused. “I tried once we got here, but still it seeks its master.” He paused again, this time for a little longer. “Bill’s blood in you is resilient. And he did manage to find you at the hospital—despite the fact that you were very weak.”
“You found me too,” she reminded.
Eric grinned, enjoying the challenge that was in her eyes. “Yes—but I am older, and I am an extremely proficient tracker.”
“And now that you healed me tonight? Now that I’ve had so much more of your blood?” Sookie asked.
“Bill may have a harder time tracking you down now, but, as I said, he will be able to do it eventually, after the spell around this house dissipates.” He sighed. “It takes much concentration to block his blood from seeking him. Even if what I did worked, I cannot guarantee that I could keep it up.”
“Okay,” Sookie said with determination in her eyes. “So what do you want to do?”
He smiled. “Down to the chase—eh? Well, that suits me just fine. The third reason I chose this location is because I have a car nearby, one that I had specially made and one that cannot be traced to me. It has a compartment that is light tight. I suggest that I call my witch friend in New Orleans and ask her to get ready for a severing spell that will remove Bill’s blood from your body. I propose that we go to my car and that once day begins, you drive us to Slidell, which is only thirty minutes or so from New Orleans. I have another safe house there.”
“The second stop on your personal underground railroad?” she asked.
He chuckled. “Actually it’s the first stop on an old route, but I’ve kept the residence in reserve for emergencies.”
“Always prepared—eh?” she asked.
“It’s the boy scout in me,” he winked.
She rolled her eyes as he continued, “By the time I awaken tonight, we will be in Slidell, and—the morning after that—the severing spell can be done if that is what you choose.”
“What about Bill? Wouldn’t he be able to track me to Slidell once it’s nighttime again?”
“No. I would ask the witch to place a concealment spell—similar to, though longer-lasting than, the one here—over the Slidell house. If you decided not to do the severing spell once we got there, that spell would buy you more time, and Octavia could renew it there as much as she were able, but—again—it could not be sustained indefinitely.”
“And if I did do the severing spell?”
Eric moved to sit next to her on the bed. “After the spell, Sookie, you would likely be very ill and weak for several days, but we could stay in the Slidell house while you recovered. After that—well—by then, I hope to have some things figured out. Maybe Octavia could even help with Russell.” Sookie noticed that he looked a little uncertain, and that expression worried her.
“Octavia is the witch’s name?” she asked.
“Do you trust her?”
He shrugged. “I have saved her life, so she owes me. And I have known her for over four decades. She practices the old ways, so loyalty means something to her. Many witches work for the highest bidder, but Octavia is not one of them. I trust her as much as I am capable of trusting someone who does not share my blood, and no one, except for you, knows of my connection with her—not even Pam.”
Sookie inhaled deeply. “What if I decide not to trust her? What if I decide not to go with you at all? What if I stay here?”
Seemingly emotionlessly, Eric pulled out his wallet and grabbed a wad of cash and a business card. “Then I suggest you run, Sookie. This card is for a man in Shreveport who can get you new driver’s licenses and passports. This is important: you must say a code word—’meatloaf’—whenever you call him.”
“Meatloaf?” she asked incredulously.
“Brady likes to think he’s funny,” Eric smirked. “I had to take flight to get us both out of a jam once, and he sings ‘Bat out of Hell’ to me whenever he truly wants to annoy me.”
Sookie chuckled, but sobered immediately when Eric went on.
“Brady can also teach you how to conceal your additional identification papers so that they are not found as you travel.” He handed her a disposable cell phone. “He’s expecting your call and has already started to get documents together for you. All he needs is a picture. I will also instruct him to give you additional money.”
Not giving Sookie a chance to protest about the money, Eric continued, “You should be able to arrange a pick-up of your documents day after tomorrow. As soon as you get them, go to the nearest airport and get on a plane. Pay cash for the ticket and make sure the flight takes off during the daytime—the earlier in the day, the better. I suggest you go to an island; Hawaii would be a good starting point.
“Then you should move, and keep moving. Change the name that you use with every plane trip if possible. And rotate your identities. Asia is a good place to get lost in, and it is not very friendly to vampires, so you should make your way there as soon as possible, but don’t stop moving once you get there. Remember that Bill will still be able to track you, though the farther away you are from him, the harder it will be for him to get a lock on you. At times, Brady may be able to help you find some relatively safe locations to stay the night, but you will have to find others on your own.”
“But Bill—he’ll still find me?” Sookie asked meekly. “He’ll still get to me?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. If he pursues, he will catch up with you eventually. But—if you are very lucky—Russell will not have gotten to him, and you will both be across the world when Bill tracks you down. Then—perhaps—the ‘love’ that he bears for you will help him to forgive you for running from him in the first place.” Eric lowered his voice. “However, he will no longer trust you, and—when he finds you—he will likely feed you even more of his blood to ensure your compliance. But—perhaps—you could resist him,” he said, sounding almost as disheartened as she felt in that moment.
Sookie shivered. “What if I do the severing spell and then separate from you?”
Eric tensed up a bit. “I am a reasonable vampire, Sookie, but if you go through with the severing spell, then you throw your lot in with me. If I were kinder—perhaps—I would arrange for the severing spell with no strings attached, but,” he sighed, “I truly believe that I will need you to help me defeat Russell, so the severing spell comes with a price.”
Sookie went to speak, but Eric stopped her with a stern look.
“Before you protest about your inability to do anything of great importance to help me, think for a moment about the value of just having a telepathic human that I trust along with me. You could drive to new locations during the day. You could monitor for danger with your gift.”
“How do you know I wouldn’t just pick a day and leave you behind?” Sookie asked. “Even if I had your blood, I doubt if you’d deviate from your route to track me down,” she added perceptively.
“You’re right,” Eric responded. But as I said, I trust you, especially when it relates to keeping your word. And if you decide to go with me, you would be—in effect—promising to help me until Russell is dead and we are both safe.”
She sighed heavily. “So you would trust my word?”
“Yes. I believe that—once given—your word means a great deal to you.”
“How long would I have to run from Bill if I didn’t do the severing spell?”
Eric sighed. “When did Bill last give you blood?”
Sookie blushed. “Does it count when he healed his bite marks with his blood after—you know . . . .” Her voice trailed off.
Eric shook his head. “No—you have to drink directly from him for it to count.”
Sookie thought for a moment. “The Maenad. No wait!” She turned redder. “Actually, two days before he went missing, we were . . . .”
“Having sex?” Eric supplied, a mixture of amusement about her modesty and something akin to jealousy in his eyes.
“Yes,” Sookie confirmed. “We were doing that, and I tasted blood while we were kissing.”
All of Eric’s amusement was suddenly gone. “Bill pierced his tongue with his fang?”
Sookie nodded. “Yes.”
“Think, Sookie,” he ordered. “Had that ever happened before during your sexual encounters?”
She shook her head. “No—that was the only time I ever tasted his blood like that during—uh—sex. I figured it was an accident.” She blushed. “But it kind of added to the overall effect, so I didn’t. . . .” She paused and looked at the floor as her blush spread to her neck. “I didn’t complain.”
“It could have been an accident,” Eric said almost to himself. Then he looked at Sookie seriously, “Tell me, Sookie. Did he bite you that night?”
She nodded. “Yes. He always bites—or—uh—bit—me during. . . .”
Eric tensed. “Always?”
Sookie nodded as Eric got up and paced a little, saying something in another language that sounded a lot like angry cursing.
When he spoke to her again, his tone was forceful. “Did he bite you before or after you tasted his blood in your kiss, Sookie?”
Sookie thought for a moment. “After. He likes to bite right when he is—um—you know,” she paused, “finishing. But wait . . . .”
“Wait?” he asked.
“That’s not right. That night, he bit me right after I tasted his blood. I figured that he was just—um—extra excited.” By now, she was the color of a beet.
Eric cursed again.
“What?” she asked.
“Listen, Sookie,” Eric said almost regretfully. “The severing spell might not even be an option for you. It seems that Bill was trying to bond with you.”
Eric nodded. “There is no time to tell you everything about bonds, but I will say that they are permanent and unbreakable.”
“What?” she gasped.
“Sookie, I need you to answer my next questions quickly and accurately.”
“Eric, you’re scarin’ me,” she said, “even more than I was scared before!”
“Good!” he exclaimed. “You should be scared! Now answer! How many times have you and Bill had an exchange of blood?”
“An exchange?” she asked.
“Yes,” Eric explained. “An exchange occurs when a human and a vampire drink each other’s blood simultaneously or within moments of one another. Specifically, the taste of one another’s blood must be in both of your mouths at the same time. A bond forms after three such exchanges. If you and Bill have a bond, then no spell will sever your connection.”
Sookie tensed. “The first night Bill gave me his blood, I’d been attacked. He saved my life; when I woke up, I tasted his blood, and he was licking my wounds. Does that count?”
Eric closed his eyes and nodded. He lifted two fingers. “Yes. That is twice when the other night is counted.”
Sookie shivered and thought back to every time she’d taken Bill’s blood: after the Rattrays beat her, after the Maenad attacked her, and during sex two nights before he proposed to her. Could there have been other times that she didn’t remember? Could there have been times when Bill made her drink his blood while she was sleeping?
As if he could sense her questions, Eric shook his head. “Sookie, you have to knowingly drink for the magic to work; that means you would have tasted his blood.”
Sookie closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. “He drank from me a lot more than three times, and I drank from him three times exactly—if you factor in what I took after the Maenad attack—but he didn’t take from me that night. So there were only two exchanges.”
Eric also looked relieved. “Using my blood in you, I’m going to try to confirm that there’s not a bond—okay?” he asked.
“I’m going to isolate some of Bill’s blood and try to surround it with mine. If it is fully bonded to yours, I don’t think I will be able to do it.”
“You might feel something when I do this.”
“Okay,” she repeated nervously.
He closed his eyes and activated his blood, once more telling it to look for Bill’s blood inside of Sookie’s body. As he looked, he picked up traces of blood that held Lorena’s and Longshadow’s essences, but he did not mention those lifeless and drifting cells to Sookie. Now that those vampires were dead, their blood would wear away. Meanwhile, that blood would remain harmless and dormant inside of her—unless, of course, she agreed to the severing spell. Then it would burn quickly away.
As Eric found some of Bill’s blood, he used his own to study it—to analyze it as he’d not done before he’d found out that a bond could be a possibility.
The Viking thought of his maker as he surrounded Bill’s blood cells with his own. Godric had been fascinated by science, and, over the centuries, had often glamoured scientists to study aspects of both human and vampire blood. In fact—before his radical character transformation—Godric had once bonded with a human, partly so that he could learn about the chemistry of such a connection.
Godric had told Eric that when vampire blood bonded to human blood, there was an extra linking that could be felt and “seen” in the blood. If bonded to a human’s blood, the vampire’s blood literally traveled as part of the human’s blood through the bloodstream—instead of alongside and separate from that blood. Since vampire blood generally traveled slower than human blood, the vampire could sense a “quickening” of his or her blood in the human once a true bonding occurred.
Godric had said that his bond with a human had literally enlivened his own blood. But there had been a consequence. When Godric’s bonded human had died of old age, Godric had immediately become depressed by the loss. Eric pinpointed that moment as the one that eventually led to his maker meeting the sun.
“Well?” Sookie asked impatiently. “I feel something like a tickle inside of me. What are you—uh—seein’ in there?”
“Bill’s blood does not seem to be bonded to yours,” he said as he opened his eyes.
Eric nodded. “Yes. But we’ll get Octavia to confirm.”
Sookie sighed with relief. “Okay. Well—at least you didn’t see something obvious. That’s something.”
“Yes.” Eric looked toward the window. “My car is five minutes away by flight, Sookie, and it is now only twenty minutes before dawn.” He paused and looked back at her. “The last time you had Bill’s blood was two days before he disappeared—correct?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Just over a week ago,” she said with amazement as she thought about how much had changed in such a short amount of time.
“Then, you will need to keep running for 112 days if you don’t undergo the severing spell with Bill. That is the longest his blood could stay alive in you without a new dosage. And you can begin a count of 120 days for mine as of today. Until that time is over, keep moving from place to place and stay to yourself. Change your appearance often. Do not make friends, and do not get a job. Claim that you are a tourist. Travel during the day and try to stay in private residences at night when you can. Things like bed and breakfast establishments or private boarding houses will be closed to vampires; however, vampires can freely enter into hotels, so try to avoid those if you can. Brady will, as I said, get you the money you require, and—hopefully—he can help you find some safe havens too.”
“And after that?”
“Then, you can stop moving so much, but stay away from this area. Do not return home—or even to the United States. Follow the summer and the sun by going far north or far south with the changing seasons. Go where the night is short. And, every few months, check in with Brady at that number,” Eric pointed to the card. “If I succeed in killing Russell and Sophie-Anne so that the threat against you is eliminated, I will get you word through him.”
Sookie bit her lip. “Why are you willing to help me? I mean—whatever I choose to do, you are helping me.”
“You are an asset,” Eric said in a quiet, almost strained tone.
Sookie looked into Eric’s eyes, knowing that she would have to trust him no matter what her decision was—and knowing that she did trust him.
“You have four minutes to make your decision, Sookie,” Eric said softly before getting up to put the rest of the clothing in the dresser into a duffle bag that he pulled out of the closet.
She took a deep breath. “I don’t need them,” she said. “I’m choosing you—uh—to go with you, that is.”
Eric turned around and gave her a little smile.
“Yes,” she confirmed.
“Good. Take care of your human needs quickly while I prepare directions for you to follow to get to the Slidell house.”
Sookie nodded and went to the bathroom. Then she grabbed the toothpaste and unopened toothbrush she saw on the counter.
As she exited the bathroom, she saw that Eric was pouring some liquid from a small bottle onto his fingers. He then rubbed the liquid onto his forehead.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“This will conceal my scent once we leave this place.” He gestured for her to come closer and then rubbed a few drops of the liquid onto her forehead as well.
His touch made Sookie shiver, as well as feel other things that she wished she didn’t.
“Is that feeling because of your blood?” she asked as Eric put the stopper back onto the bottle and carefully put it into the duffel bag. He showed her some bottled water and granola bars, which he put into the bag as well. She didn’t ask where they’d come from.
“Maybe,” Eric smirked. “Or maybe you’re just attracted to me on your own.”
Sookie rolled her eyes.
“Ready?” he asked, even as he activated his blood to block Bill’s once they were outside of the concealment spell.
He threw the duffle bag over his shoulder, quickly picked her up, zipped up to the roof, and took off into the graying sky. He would have just enough time to get himself into the light-tight compartment in the car and text Octavia before the sun rose.