“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.”—Victor Hugo
Last Time: Before Octavia could move to help Eric with the pain—before Eric could even ask for help—there was a light shining from Sookie’s hands and transferring straight into Eric’s body.
Sookie was frightened as she saw the light flowing from her hands. She’d seen it before—when she was fighting MaryAnn and when she was trying to fend off Russell’s Weres. She’d used it to attack.
But Eric was not her enemy!
And she had just shot him with more power than she’d ever unleashed before!
The air in the room was electrified as Sookie shook and wept. She’d not even noticed that she was now in Eric’s arms—rather than Eric being in her arms.
“Little one,” the vampire soothed.
“Oh—God I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“What did you do wrong?”
“Hurt you,” she whimpered.
“No,” he assured. “No you didn’t.”
She was still quivering and her eyes were shut tight, so he cupped her chin gently and raised it. After a few moments, she looked at him with tears in her eyes.
“You’re alright?” she asked with a mixture of relief and disbelief.
“Yes. The pain from the silver was there, but then it was gone.” He smiled. “The sun versus the sludge,” he continued with wonder in his tone. “But this time, the sun didn’t burn.”
Their eyes were locked, and—in that moment—there was nothing or no one but them. And suddenly—without either one of them registering that they had moved—their lips were pressed together.
Their kiss moved from light and searching to hard and urgent in seamless stages. But while their lips and then tongues pressed together in harmony, their hands were at opposite tasks. His stayed in one place—a stabilizing force on her shoulders, keeping her just where she was—while hers tested his control by touching everywhere they could reach before settling onto his chest.
Sookie had kissed four men—just four—including the one that she was kissing right then. JB de Rone had been the first. His thoughts were much less objectionable than those of other boys she’d been around. Still—she’d not really relaxed enough to enjoy the kiss, and soon enough JB had begun comparing her—unfavorably—to other girls he’d kissed. He’d not really wanted to kiss her again and had quickly moved on to date someone else.
Bill had been her second. His mind had been silent, and that had helped her to relax. Kissing him had seemed perfect. There was passion and exploration—and so much novelty for her. Sam and she had shared a kiss after that. His mind had been red and hot and somewhat frightening. Since then, she’d had many other kisses with Bill and had grown more confident in her own kissing ability.
But what was happening to her now was not something that she could imagine a kiss could be. She’d seen movies where a woman’s foot would pop up when she was receiving a good kiss. She’d seen others where the woman seemed to go weak at the knees during a kiss. She’d read phrases in romance novels to describe kisses: “toe-curling,” “panty-melting,” “breath-stealing.” However, she’d never really believed any of those phrases. After all, how could a kiss melt panties?
For herself—at least when it came to things like kisses—Sookie had been trained to expect something less than a romance novel or a movie promised. She’d heard disappointments from hundreds of women’s heads when it came to kisses. And how could “crazy Sookie” expect something that a “normal” girl didn’t get? How could any telepath expect the stuff of fiction when she’d been inundated with nonfiction and disappointments from the thoughts of every woman she’d ever known?
Gran had liked to quote one of her favorite actresses, Mae West, who said that a man’s kiss was his signature. Sookie hadn’t had many signers onto her lips, but she’d found that most kisses she’d received—even Bill’s after the first few—were like the careless signatures that people scrawled onto checks. They got the job done.
But the way that Eric was kissing her now was every romantic fantasy she’d ever had kissing into her pillow as a teenager wrapped up into one. Soft and hard. Giving and taking. Relaxed and insistent. Revelatory and natural. Searching and finding.
Yielding and unrelenting.
And—in that moment—Sookie knew that she would never be the same. She would never want to kiss another set of lips than the set she was kissing. And it wasn’t because she was kissing some kind of “super-kisser” either—though Eric had had a thousand years to work on the physical craft. No. It was because she was kissing him—the man who had come to mean so much to her. For so many nights, his lips had been sharing his burdens and commenting on the burdens that she would share. His lips had—with sighs and smiles and smirks and frowns and winces—been communicating with her own. His lips had been placing tender kisses against her hair, onto her forehead, and upon her cheeks in order to comfort and uplift her.
His lips—his beautiful, perfect lips—had been speaking and curving and kissing her whole ever since she’d known him.
And now—as they finally moved with hers—it seemed as if they were whole together.
Neither Eric nor Sookie was ready to end the kiss when it ended, but a noise from across the room—the clearing of a throat and a little chuckle—interrupted them.
Eric and Sookie looked at each other wordlessly for a moment before turning to the witch.
“Dat light of yours should be nurtured, child,” she said with a soft smile. “Dee magic in you is ancient and pure, and I suspect it will surprise dee guest you two have coming soon.”
“Guest?” Eric asked, finding his voice before Sookie could.
“My godfather has informed me dat the prince will be here to see you after nightfall, and he is anxious to meet with his great-granddaughter.”
With those words, Octavia turned and walked out of the room, leaving both Eric and Sookie gape-mouthed.
“Eric?” Sookie asked, looking at him with still swollen lips. “Who’s the prince? And what did she mean by ‘great-grandfather?”
Eric looked a little shell-shocked. “The prince is Niall Brigant, prince of the Fae.”
“Fae?” she asked, her eyes wide and her hands still pressed against his bare chest.
“Fairies,” he said, his eyes suddenly looking guilty.
“Eric?” she asked again.
He sighed deeply. “I contacted Niall because he owed Godric a favor from long ago. Queen Sophie-Anne—using your cousin Hadley—learned that you are part Fae. That accounts for your telepathy and your light.”
Sookie felt like the bottom had dropped out of her world. “A fairy? Like Tinker Bell?”
“No,” Eric said. “By all accounts, fairies are deadly. And they have no wings. They are a natural enemy of the vampire.”
“Why?” Sookie asked, her lower lip now trembling.
“Their blood is intoxicating to us,” he said quietly.
In that moment, many thoughts came to Sookie like a light bulb over her head. She pushed herself back from Eric’s body and stood up before taking a few steps back from the bed.
“Why didn’t you tell me about all of this before? About what I am?”
He sighed. “I wanted to try to find Niall first so that he could explain things to you better.”
She shook her head. “After everything that has happened between us—all of our talks—that’s not a good enough answer, Eric.”
“I know,” he admitted, wanting to reach out to her to close the distance she had now put between them. He wanted to go back to her lips—to return to the feeling that kissing her had given him.
“You said fairy blood intoxicates vampires?”
“Is it my blood then? My blood that made you and Bill want to be with me? Is it just that?”
“Both Bill and I made clear to you that your blood was unique, Sookie,” Eric said—almost defensively. “And—yes—I admit that the first thing I noticed about you was the scent of your blood.”
She closed her eyes tightly. “You once told me that blood is everything to a vampire, Eric.”
“I know,” he said in a stilted voice.
When her eyes opened, he saw the hurt in them. “This Niall—is he really related to me?”
“I don’t know,” Eric responded, once again forcing himself not to reach out for her.
“You don’t know, or you won’t tell me?” she asked angrily.
“I don’t know,” he repeated.
“A fucking fairy?” she said burying her face into her hands.
He couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to her this time. He rose from the bed and took a step toward her. However, she didn’t accept his comfort; instead, she moved to sit on the chair.
She looked up at him when he took another step toward her. “This was what you were talking about the night you got me from the hospital. You told me that you’d learned something about me―that there was ‘more’ to me—but that you didn’t have time to tell me then. You said you wanted to talk to someone about it all first—to make sure of things. Is Niall who you meant?”
“Yes,” Eric confirmed with a sigh. “The night before I came for you in the hospital, I questioned the queen about why she’d sent Bill to procure you. At first, she insisted that it was just your telepathy, but given what Russell had told me about the light he saw shooting from your hands, I knew there had to be more. Sophie-Anne told me nothing, despite the fact that I threatened to drain Hadley. I did almost drain her,” Eric admitted. “Yet Sophie-Anne still didn’t tell me anything beyond what I already knew. Hadley eventually did.”
“So you almost killed her? You didn’t—did you?” she asked with fear in her tone.
“No,” he said. “I gave her my blood so that she would heal.”
“Doesn’t that count as one of those exchanges then?” Sookie asked, trying to ignore the jealousy that was rising in her.
“Yes,” Eric said, “but if I don’t exchange with her again, it will work just as a tie does, and I wanted to be able to track her. She will likely be with the queen most of the time. Or I could use her blood.”
“You could manipulate her with your blood inside of her?”
“Yes,” Eric said unapologetically. “In a heartbeat—if it helped us.”
“You don’t have a heartbeat, Eric.”
He chuckled a little. “One of hers then.”
Sookie sighed heavily. “So Hadley said that I was a fairy?”
Eric nodded. “At least that is what Sophie-Anne thought. It was clear from your telepathy that there was something supernatural in your DNA—though such a gift has been known to lie dormant for many, many generations. Telepathy, however, is not strictly a Fae trait. But the sweetness of Hadley’s blood—combined with the knowledge of her telepathic cousin—compelled Sophie-Anne to believe that you and your cousin were part Fae. Bill was studying your family tree.”
“Why didn’t you tell me once we were here, Eric?” Sookie asked, the hurt clear in her tone. “You knew how much I was trying to come to terms with things in my past—with who I am. Knowing why I was different would have helped me.”
Eric closed his eyes. “At first, you were too sick. And then I wanted to wait for Niall to contact me—so that I could make sure you were Fae. It is not uncommon for years to go by between contacting the Fae world and getting an answer. Time works differently there. Sometimes minutes there seem like a year here. Other times, a year here can be a hundred there. Time within the Fae world is not constant. It shifts as fairies enter and exit other realms.” He sighed heavily. “And then—after a while—it seemed too late to tell you. I knew that you would be upset that I had been keeping it from you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Eric.”
“Very few of my actions and feelings regarding you make any sense to me,” he admitted, looking at her with an intensity that went straight to her heart.
“Your not telling me—that hurts me,” she said softly. “I thought we were past the point where you would keep things from me—especially things about my own life.”
“It was not my intention to hurt you, but I knew I would. And I did not want to. That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
His eyes looked almost tortured, racked by a kind of confusion that Sookie had never seen in them before. She felt that same kind of confusion—twisting into her—even as she still felt the tingling of her lips because of the kiss they had shared. It all seemed like too much in that moment—too much to process, too many questions to answer.
So she changed the subject.
“Did I hurt you—with my light?” she asked, looking at his chest.
“No. I don’t know how you did it, but it seemed as if all the silver was suddenly burned out of me—but it didn’t hurt. It felt,” he paused, “like nothing I have ever experienced before.”
She looked at him with curiosity in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if I can describe it. I have been a vampire too long to understand or to explain sunlight that doesn’t hurt me. But that is what your light seemed to me.”
“Why didn’t my light hurt you? It’s always hurt people before.”
“I cannot say,” Eric responded. “I could only guess that you intended it to do something else.”
“I didn’t intend for it to come at all,” Sookie said with frustration.
“Sookie?” came Amelia’s tentative voice from the top of the stairs.
“It is almost nightfall,” Eric said. “The witches will be going soon.”
Sookie nodded and stood up. “Will you sleep again? Sleep until night?”
“I do not feel called to rest,” he said. “I’ll take my shower and join you downstairs after the witches leave—once the sun goes down.”
Sookie sighed. “I don’t know what to think about everything, Eric.”
“Nor do I,” he said quietly.
“I don’t like that you hid something like this from me.”
“Nor do I,” he repeated, looking down.
“And I don’t like thinking that it’s just my blood that made you want me.”
“You know it’s not,” he insisted.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” he responded unequivocally. “Sookie, I was wrong not to tell you that you are Fae. And I was wrong about blood too; it’s not everything.”
They each moved a step, him to go into the bathroom and her to leave the bedroom. But those steps put them in front of each other. They hesitated. Their eyes exchanged unspoken words—words that neither one of them could have found to speak anyway.
And then, in the next moment, they were kissing once more. This kiss, however, was not a long one. It was over in a second—maybe even less. It was soft. It was him asking for her forgiveness. It was her promising to forgive—to keep trusting in him.
It was a kiss that neither one of them fully understood—but one that they both needed.
Sookie sat on the couch, looking toward the fireplace. Amelia had brought in more wood, and Sookie wanted for Eric to build a fire, despite the fact that it was warm outside.
She had wanted many things for their last night in the house, but it was difficult to imagine them all happening now.
Eric would be subsisting on mostly TrueBlood in the coming days, so Sookie had made sure that there would be A-positive bagged blood in the house. That, she’d come to find out, was Eric’s favorite type. She’d also had Amelia pick up the ingredients for her own favorite meal, Gran’s fried chicken.
It was to be their last night in the Slidell house—their last night before they left the protective enclave of Octavia’s spell. It was to be the night that she told him that some things between them should stay as they had been—the closeness they had established being one of them. She didn’t want to imagine sleeping a night away from his cool body now. She didn’t want to imagine a time when they didn’t sink into each other in a tub of warm water and talk about anything—everything.
But—now—she wasn’t sure of things. Could she really trust him if he wasn’t even willing to tell her what she was. She wanted to. She shook her head in confusion.
She couldn’t imagine where that blood had come from—couldn’t imagine what being a fairy really entailed. All that she knew was that it was an explanation for why she was the way she was.
And that—in and of itself—was comforting.
“You said goodbye to the witches?” Eric asked softly as he entered the room.
“There is wood left for a fire,” Eric commented, going over to the hearth. “It is warm outside, but perhaps a fire would be . . . .” His voice trailed off.
“It’d be nice,” Sookie said, giving him a kind of permission. In their short time thrown together, she had learned that Eric loved fires. They reminded him of his human home. But she’d also learned that Eric would do nothing that “comforted” himself—at least not so long as something was bothering him.
He turned and gave her a hesitant half-smile and then went about building the fire.
“You had a good last visit with your friend?” he asked, not turning back toward her.
“Yes,” Sookie said, content to speak of things other than the topics they needed to speak of. “Of course, Amelia won’t be able to initiate contact with me, but when I’m able to go back to Bon Temps, she has promised to visit.”
Eric nodded, knowing that Sookie and Amelia had become fast friends.
“And her lover? Bob?” he asked.
“Still a cat,” Sookie smiled. “But Octavia is looking into how to transform him back.”
“I think that their relationship will be over once he is back to his human form,” Eric said thoughtfully.
“So do I,” Sookie responded with a chuckle.
“Octavia pronounced you well enough to travel—I assume?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” she answered.
“So this will be our last night here,” he pronounced as he looked into the fire.
Before she could answer, there was a popping noise. In a flash, Eric was between Sookie and the noise, though she was able to peek around his large body and see a man standing before them. His hair was silver gray—like a beam of moonlight. His eyes were sharp and seemed to hold blue, brown, and green—all at the same time. He was dressed in a silvery gray suit, impeccably fitted and with long tails. He carried a cane that looked like it seconded as a weapon—an extremely lethal weapon.
“My dealings with your maker will protect you for this visit, Viking,” the man said by way of greeting. His complex eyes spoke of nothing but derision for the vampire in front of him. “And my great-granddaughter has nothing to fear from me, of course.”
Sookie’s hand went to Eric’s arm, and that more than anything else caused the vampire to relax his stance a little.
“I will speak with my great-granddaughter alone,” Niall said.
“No!” Sookie immediately said. “No,” she repeated even more firmly.
Niall glared at the vampire but then nodded to his kin. “Fine.” The elder fairy sat in the stiffest looking chair in the room even as Eric sat down next to Sookie.”
“You are Sookie’s great-grandfather?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” the fairy spoke. “My son Fintan formed an attachment with Adele Hale. They married—a fact which caused my son to renounce the throne of the Fae and move to this realm for a time. Because of Ms. Hale, the Fae kingdom is now in disrepair,” Niall said harshly.
“My grandpa was named Earl, not Fintan, Mr.—uh—Brigant is it? And pardon me, but Gran taught me better manners than to pop into someone else’s house, make threats and demands, and then make not-so-subtle insults of someone’s grandmother,” Sookie said as she reached next to her and found Eric’s hand already waiting for hers. He squeezed her hand lightly, a sign of support she needed dearly in that moment.
Niall seemed to be looking straight into Sookie. “You inherited Fintan’s spark. And—you may call me Niall.”
Sookie shook her head in confusion. “I’m sorry, but I still don’t know what you are talking about. Gran was married to Earl Stackhouse, not someone named Fintan.”
“After my son became attached to Adele Hale, he took the name, Earl Stackhouse, in order to better fit into this realm. The real Earl Stackhouse—who was the last of his own line—was killed in an accident the week before Fintan met Miss Hale. My son used Fae magic to alter the memories of the townspeople to forget all about that accident and to accept him as being Earl Stackhouse. Miss Hale was the only one who knew the truth of things, though she, too, underwent a memory spell after my son was kidnapped and brought to Faerie by my enemy. I saw to the spell myself.”
Sookie felt her world sputtering as Niall continued in an indifferent tone, “I am certain that it is not pleasant to learn that the things you thought were true are not. However, your true family name is not Stackhouse; it is Brigant.”