Sookie whimpered due to Bill’s manhandling of her. However, eyes showed innocence. “Bill, you’re hurting me.”
The vampire looked at where his fingers were gripping her arm, and he loosened them a little.
“I don’t blame you for thinking that Eric’s controlling me,” Sookie whispered. “But he can’t influence me with his blood—just like I can’t be controlled by glamour.”
Bill was thoughtful for a moment as he considered the difficulty he’d had exerting any but the most subtle kinds of control over Sookie. He released a sigh of relief.
“I’m sorry, Sookie,” he apologized.
“It’s fine,” she replied offering him a little smile as she rubbed her arm. “It only hurt because of what,” she paused and sniffled, “he had already done.”
“I still wonder why Hallow would help Eric. He is my enemy, after all,” Bill mused.
“Bill, Eric and Hallow are lovers.” Sookie cringed. “For what I can tell, there’s no genuine affection between them. I’ve heard them,” she paused, “having sex several times. But—despite that—it’s clear to me that she’s obsessed with you. And she’s jealous.”
“Of you?” Bill asked.
“For one. That’s why she took such pleasure in hurting me when she broke our blood tie. But mainly she’s jealous of Russell.”
“Of course!” Bill said with realization.
“She doesn’t want to share you with Russell—or anyone. Eric has promised to make sure you aren’t harmed during the battle so that you can,” Sookie paused as tears streamed down her cheeks, “become her puppet.”
Bill growled. “What happened after they spoke?”
“They had sex and then left,” Sookie whimpered. “They were going to go meet with Roman.”
“How did you get out?” Bill asked.
“The Ancient Pythoness. I think she somehow arranged for the Were guard to be drugged. He was dead asleep; there was a room service tray next to him. I was able to slip out of the room. She told me where to find you, too. She left the key to this room for me under the vase near the elevator,” she continued, her voice in awe. “I followed her instructions, and they led me to you!”
Bill drew her into his embrace.
“Bill,” Sookie offered, “she told me that there is a way for us to be together and for you to save Russell from Eric and Roman!”
“What is it?” Bill asked, holding her tighter.
“If you can kill Hallow—kill her before the Masquerade tomorrow night—then she can’t help Eric.”
“I’ll kill her tonight,” Bill growled.
Sookie shook her head. “You can’t. The Ancient Pythoness said that it has to be tomorrow night so that the future progresses in the way we want.”
“What do you mean?” he asked in confusion.
“If you do it now, Eric and Roman would regroup—make new plans. But—tomorrow night—if you do it then—Eric and Roman won’t find out in time. Eric will go to his meeting place with Hallow as planned, and Russell can ambush him there.”
Bill’s eyes widened. “Yes! He can kill the bastard!”
“Yes,” Sookie said, even as she began to cry again.
“You aren’t crying for him—are you?” Bill asked with an angry twinge to his tone.
“No. I’m crying because . . . . Because . . . .”
“Bill, you have to forgive me!” Sookie said, looking at him with pleading eyes.
“For what?” he asked.
“Eric—he’s been raping me!”
“No!” Bill yelled out, grabbing her shoulders.
Sookie cringed at the pain of his touch, but buried her head against Bill’s chest, nonetheless. “I’ve fought him every single time he’s done that to me, but—when he takes my blood, he’s so . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
Bill held her—more gently now—though his body was shaking with rage. “It will be fine,” he finally said, his voice steely. “We will overcome this together.”
“Oh, Bill!” Sookie said her voice brimming with gratefulness and disbelief. “Really? You’d forgive me?”
“There is nothing to forgive. Eric is the villain here—as I always told you he was. But I must tell Russell of all of this.”
Sookie nodded. “Okay, but not yet. Not until Hallow is dead. She has a way of knowing everything Russell is doing. She told him that the talisman he wears is a ward to keep others from spying on him. But Hallow’s the one doing the spying!”
Bill’s eyes opened wide as he opened his shirt to reveal the talisman that Russell had given him.
“Then she will know about this,” Bill stammered in fear. “She will know that you have come to me.”
“No,” Sookie said immediately. “I was there the day when she made this one. She’d come to Texas where Eric was keeping me at the time. They had sex for hours, and then I overheard from her head that Russell had asked her to make this talisman for you. She was happy he had—glad that she was going to be able to know everything you did. Like I said—she’s obsessed with you, and Eric has promised that you will be fully in her power after this is all over!”
“You said that before, but how can that be?” Bill asked, obviously affronted.
“Eric’s helping Hallow to collect the ingredients for a spell that will bind you to her—body and soul. As if she were your maker,” Sookie whimpered. “That’s the main reason why I was brave enough to come to you tonight! I couldn’t let them do that—not to you!”
“But the talisman,” Bill gasped.
“It’s nothing,” Sookie laughed through her tears. “Hallow was going over her ingredients in her head. One was your hair. Eric was making me be a brunette at the time, and I was able to replace your hair with mine. And, just tonight, I overheard her saying that the talisman she made for you was not working. Eric was furious!” she laughed ruefully. “That’s how I knew that I could contact you safely. That’s how I knew that we could trust the Ancient Pythoness.” Her eyes widened. “She told me that I could be just like her one day, Bill. And I’m scared—scared of how Eric would use me if I did. Please, Bill. Please, protect me!”
Bill’s eyes widened as he thought about the implications of what Sookie was saying. He’d overheard Russell mention the name of the Ancient Pythoness with some derision before, but the king obviously didn’t know about her dissention with her child.
“You will be a seer one day?” Bill asked.
“That’s what the Ancient Pythoness said. And I’d be able to help you with my ability—unless you thought it made me too much of a freak,” she added insecurely.
“I would never think that, Sookie. You are just,” he paused, “unique.”
Bill smiled as he caressed Sookie’s back. He couldn’t believe his luck! Not only was Sookie alive, but also she would become a powerful being—like the Ancient Pythoness—and she would be his! He would help her learn how to use her new skill—without becoming prideful about it—just as he’d once helped her learn how to control her telepathy. She would need him, and one day, he would turn her.
He considered some more. Indeed, what Sookie was saying to him about Hallow made sense. Why else would the witch be so anxious to manipulate him with the spell that made her take on Sookie’s appearance? Plus, at every turn, Hallow was making an excuse to be with him. Even earlier that night, she’d called him—wanting to meet up and fuck. But he’d denied her because he had business to attend to for Russell. That must have been before the bitch had gone to Eric! Fucked Eric! Hell—even Russell had insinuated that Hallow was not to be fully trusted, which was why Bill had kept his dalliance with her from his king.
“Tomorrow night,” Sookie said, sounding desperate. “Tomorrow. Like I said, if you kill Hallow before the Masquerade, Russell will be able to ambush Eric and kill him once and for all! And then we will be free to be together. But you can’t tell anyone about anything I’ve said; you can’t tell anyone that I’m alive. If you do, the Ancient Pythoness said that our chance to be together forever will be lost. And Russell will be in danger. Bill,” she said reluctantly, “I have to go back now.”
“Wait! I can’t let you go back to him tonight,” Bill said fervently.
Sookie sighed. “I don’t want to go back; I’d give anything to stay with you—forever.”
Sookie sniffled. “I can’t risk you, Bill—not when I finally have,” she paused, “hope.” A tear fell down her cheek. “At least, he’s already,” she paused, “fed from me tonight. And he will have sated himself with Hallow. He always does when she visits.”
Bill growled. “He raped you—earlier tonight?”
Sookie lowered her eyes to the floor with shame. “Yes. I tried to wash him off, but you must smell that he did.”
Bill inhaled deeply. His growl reverberated in the room.
“Just one more night,” she whimpered. “I can survive just one more—for you. For us.”
Bill held her closer and kissed her head before bringing his lips to hers. She returned the kiss for a moment, but then pulled away from him.
“He mustn’t smell you in me,” she gasped, her tone full of fear.
“You’re right!” Bill agreed. “Will you be able to bathe? Can you get rid of these garments?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes. The Ancient Pythoness told me I’d be able to sneak back in. And these clothes aren’t even mine. I convinced a maid to let me borrow them. Usually he doesn’t . . . .”
“Doesn’t what?” Bill asked with a growl.
“He doesn’t—allow me to dress beyond a robe,” she whispered, even as she kept her eyes focused on the floor.
“Oh, darling!” Bill exclaimed.
She looked up at him, her eyes full of tears. “Just promise me that you will rid the world of Hallow tomorrow night. And then let Russell deal with Eric. The Ancient Pythoness told me that you are my only hope! And Russell’s only hope, too! But she was very specific about how things needed to happen. Otherwise, we won’t be able to be together!”
“Sookie,” Bill sighed. “I hate letting you go again. I thought you were dead.”
“And I feared that you were, too—for a long time,” Sookie whispered in despair. “Eric told me that he’d killed you! But—if we do as the prophetess has said, then we can be together tomorrow night. If you still want me,” she said uncertainly, “despite what he’s done.”
“I will always want you,” Bill assured.
Sookie cried, even as her eyes brimmed with hope. “Thank you, Bill. Thank you. I’d given up hope . . . ,” she said, her voice trailing off.
“I am part of Russell’s retinue now,” Bill informed. “We can’t go back to Bon Temps.”
“I know. But I also know that Russell’s a good man. The Ancient Pythoness told me that he is destined for greatness, and you’re going to be right by his side, Bill,” she added proudly. “Eric is the monster. After being his prisoner, I’d be happy to work for Russell—as long as you and I can be together.”
We will be,” Bill promised. “But I still think I should at least tell Russell—warn him about all of this.”
“After,” Sookie emphasized, “you kill Hallow. Then it will be safe for you to tell him everything. And Russell will be grateful to you. But if he finds out tonight, things won’t happen as they should.” She smiled softly at Bill. “You’ll be a hero! You will have protected Russell—just as you have always tried to protect me.” She let out a sob. “I’m so sorry, Bill. I’m so sorry I believed Eric’s lies about you in the hospital. It’s just that—you’d almost drained me that day. I didn’t know what to do! I was so confused!” She threw herself back into his arms.
“I forgive you,” Bill said, hugging Sookie close.
“My brother,” Sookie asked frantically. “Is he okay? Eric has threatened many times that he will have Jason killed if I don’t cooperate.”
“Jason’s fine,” Bill assured.
“And Tara? Sam?”
“I don’t know about Tara,” Bill said. “But Sam is still running Merlotte’s. And Lafayette is fine too.”
Sookie looked up at him, her brown eyes wet with tears. “I’ve never stopped loving you, Bill. It’s what’s kept me alive.”
“And I’ve never stopped loving you either, darling.”
Sookie leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips.
“I’m counting on you, Bill. I’m counting on you to save my life,” she said earnestly.
“I will. I swear it!”
“I have to go,” she said, looking around pensively. “I’ve lingered too long as it is.”
“Are you staying here? At the hotel?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. I don’t know where we’ll be going, but the Were guarding me has been ordered to take me somewhere before morning. But I should go,” she said again—just as reluctantly. “I trust that the Ancient Pythoness would have ensured that the Were stay asleep, but I don’t want to risk staying longer.”
“I know,” Bill agreed before giving her a lingering kiss. He rose, helping her to her feet as well.
“I will be waiting for you and Russell to save me, Bill,” Sookie whispered, placing a slip of paper in Bill’s hand. “This is the address where Eric’s meeting Hallow at midnight tomorrow night. Give this to Russell after you’ve killed Hallow. But—please—promise me that you will not tell him before that. If you do, I’ll lose you!”
Bill looked at his beloved. “I swear it, Sookie.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said with undeniable sincerity. “The Ancient Pythoness helped me to get this room for your use. She arranged for clothing for you in the bathroom.”
Bill looked at her in surprise. “Why?”
“She’s very smart, Bill. She reminds me of you,” Sookie said with a shy smile. “She said that you should shower here so that you don’t smell like me after you leave,” she added somewhat fearfully. “Remember, no one must know of this meeting, or we will both die, according to the seer. Tomorrow night you can reveal everything to Russell, including the roll of the Ancient Pythoness. I know that Russell will be pleased to learn that she’s his ally. And he’ll be pleased with you. After the time you’ve spent with him, I know that Russell must trust you a great deal. But if he doubts you, bring him to this room to let him smell the clothes you’re wearing now. He knows my scent. Here’s the key to the room,” Sookie said, handing him the object.
Clearly impressed by the Ancient Pythoness’s interest in him and what he knew must be the vampiress’s foresight, Bill nodded. “Okay.” He looked around the room. “I’ll bring Hallow here to kill her,” he mused. “I will lure her here.”
“Brilliant!” Sookie said, looking up at Bill with admiration in her eyes. “I knew I could count on you to know what to do.”
“Tomorrow, Sookie,” he said softly, caressing her cheek. She leaned into his touch. “Tomorrow night, Russell will kill Eric, and you’ll be safe.”
“And we’ll be together,” she added with a sigh.
Sookie kissed Bill one last time and then hurried from the room.
Bill sat back onto the bed heavily, allowing his shock at seeing Sookie—at her being alive—to wash over him. He weighed his options. Despite what Sookie had said, a part of him wanted to tell Russell what was happening. But there was a bigger part of him that knew he needed to obey the directions of the Ancient Pythoness. He smiled. Obviously, that legendary creature had taken a great interest in him and in Sookie. He smiled even wider as he thought about the next night—when he would be able to tell Russell that he’d not only killed a betrayer, but also knew of the location of Eric Northman! Moreover, he’d bring the news that the Ancient Pythoness wished to align herself with Russell and that Sookie was going to become a seer!
Thinking of how grateful his master would be, Bill practically skipped as he went to take his shower.
These were the feelings that Eric felt from Sookie as he tried to prepare for his meeting with his allies.
Of course, most of what he’d done was to wear a track into the carpet with his pacing.
Meanwhile, he sent his mate support and comfort.
Knowing that he’d tear the hotel apart if he witnessed Bill’s “reunion” with Sookie, Eric had wisely stayed in his and Sookie’s room—away from the surveillance equipment. Thalia and Leonie were nearby Sookie—ready to act at a moment’s notice—and, from the living room of Eric’s suite, Brady, Maggie, and Klymene were carefully monitoring the footage of the hallway outside of Room 2605. So if Bill tried anything—or if things went too far—Eric was comforted by the fact that Bill would be dead within moments.
Of course, if he would have felt his wife’s fear at any moment, all bets would have been off! At most, he’d felt anxiety from her.
His cell phone rang in his pocket—the cell phone that only Sookie’s phone could dial.
“Min kära,” he answered.
“I’m safe,” she said.
“Okay,” he returned. “Where are you?”
“I’m going to shower.”
“Dulcina’s room. Leonie is with me. We’ll join you soon.”
“Why are you showering?” Eric asked with a growl.
“To get the smell of vermin off of me,” Sookie returned sourly.
His growl intensified.
“Eric!” Sookie said sternly.
“Yes,” he responded.
“What happened is exactly what we knew had to happen—no more.”
“Sookie,” he growled desperately, “I need you—now.”
“Eric,” she responded, sending him calm, “just start your meeting, and stop worrying about me! You need to concentrate, and I’m not going to come to you smelling like this. We don’t need a Berserker on our hands.” She chuckled a little.
Eric sighed. “My Valkyrie, I know you’re right, but . . . ,” he started.
“But nothing. I’ll be there soon, General Northman,” she returned.
“Okay,” he said, unable to stifle a little smile. “But I cannot be,” he paused, “easy until you are with me.”
“Soon,” she said with longing in her voice. “I’ll be there before the meeting is over—I promise,” she added as she hung up.
Eric tried to calm himself. Having heard from Sookie and knowing that she was away from Bill and safe helped. The Viking fought back his urge to seek her out, and managed to turn his focus onto finishing preparations for the meeting. For safety’s sake, the gathering in his suite would be corresponding to the time of the trial which would determine who King Mitchell’s marriage partner would be. Given the gossip from the night before, it was safe to assume that most of the vampires in the hotel would be in the large ballroom where the courtroom had been set up.
Eric thought about Duncan, who would be presiding over the trial, and said a quick prayer that his brother would remain safe.