ERIC POV, CONTINUED
I massaged my furrowed brow.
The one seemingly impossible situation to deal with on my list was my maker.
Thanks to Sookie, I knew roughly when Appius would enter Oklahoma.
But my hands were pretty much tied when it came to eliminating the threat he posed to me—or anyone else I cared about. Long ago, Appius had commanded me not to do anything to jeopardize his life—including engaging others to move against him.
I knew that Karin wanted to act against Appius, but when we’d reconciled following Rome, I’d asked her not to. I knew how strong Appius was—and how difficult it was to catch him off-guard. As strong as Karin was—as crafty—I wouldn’t give her much chance if she decided to go up against my maker. Thankfully, she was practical enough to know this too.
Still, I had considered many options for dealing with Appius. I’d thought about taking a “vacation” and seeking out Appius while he was still in Europe—claiming that I’d “missed him.” Of course, once I saw Appius, I would volunteer to “help” with Alexei.
However, this plan was flawed. According to Sookie, the “boy” vampire had gotten worse after being around me, for he’d become jealous that Appius might prefer me to him.
I shut my eyes tightly, wondering what the fuck had possessed my maker to turn a thirteen-year-old human—a hemophiliac no less! Even if Alexei was royalty and attractive to my maker, there was no fucking excuse for Appius’s shortsightedness.
I had thought about having Alexei killed. But what would losing his latest child do to Appius? It was quite possible—probable even—that he would call me to him if Alexei met his true death. I thought of Rome and worried what a “repeat” would entail. Alternatively—if he lost his “current project”—Appius might become “nostalgic” and come to me instead of calling me.
And that was an even more frightening thought.
I didn’t want him anywhere near me!
In fact, imagining the havoc Appius might cause in my life compelled me to command Pam to leave the area immediately if I phoned her and used a particular code word. For her sake and for mine, I wanted her far away from Area 5 if Appius put one toe into it. Going a step further, I also released her so that Appius couldn’t compel me to “call” her.
Moreover, I took steps to have Pam hide the material possessions that meant the most to me. For—no matter what occurred with my maker—I didn’t want the things that I treasured to be lost to me.
Given the way that many things had already changed because of Sookie’s information about the future, I knew that Appius wouldn’t be killed as he’d been during her first life. However, the idea of him being finally dead appealed to me more and more with each passing night.
I wanted him gone. I just didn’t know how to accomplish that goal.
Despite Rome, I’d—unforgivably—become too complacent regarding my maker. After I’d heard that he’d successfully made a new child, I’d relaxed, believing that he’d now have no more use for me. After all, it had been centuries since I’d seen or felt anything from him.
Other than “feeling” that he still existed.
But—clearly—Appius still remembered me and thought of me as his property to do with as he wanted. Or—at least he would remember.
The more I thought about the fact that he’d simply parceled me off to Freyda—albeit in Sookie’s other life—in order to keep his brain-damaged whelp from being executed, the more pissed off I became.
I considered killing Freyda. After all, she was the one who had apparently agreed to take me in exchange for Alexei’s life. Without her in the equation, I wouldn’t have been “sold off.”
But—then again—if I killed Freyda and was caught, I’d be fucked!
Plus, who was to say when someone else would barter with my maker for me. Appius clearly hadn’t considered my wants when he’d made his deal with the Oklahoma queen. Thus, it stood to reason that he’d never consider what I wanted—not that he ever had before.
In the end, I knew with certainty that it was Appius who needed to die. But I still couldn’t do a goddamned thing to make that happen.
Meanwhile, I had treated everything else on the list “from the future” with as much speed and completeness as possible.
Hell—I’d even dealt further with the Compton situation.
Having heard from Sookie about Bill’s database concept—and about how it had made the asshole “indispensable” and somewhat powerful in the future—I’d contacted an old associate and friend of mine, Alastair Cross, with an idea I pretended to have “out of the blue.”
Alastair had been living in New York for about a decade, but hadn’t taken up permanent residence there because he preferred having “visitor status” wherever he went. He was probably the best-connected vampire I knew—and certainly the most liked.
In fact, Alastair was so personable that he was welcomed almost anywhere he went. Plus, his maker, a vampiress named Marion, was practically revered as a goddess because of her age and kind spirit. I couldn’t count the number of vampires she’d fostered when their own makers proved worthless. Hell—I’d even spent quite a few years with her.
I’d met Marion in Tibet. It had been she who’d helped me to feel mentally strong again after Rome. It had been she who’d convinced me that I should “live” again—just to give Appius a proper “fuck you.”
However, unlike his maker, Alastair wasn’t known for his philanthropy or his practicality. For example, he had never really made his own money. Oh—he was not destitute. His many friends and his maker made sure of that. But—in a candid moment he and I had shared decades before—he’d told me that he wished he could find a pursuit that would be both profitable and enjoyable for him.
He wanted for his maker to be proud of him.
It was when I was considering Bill’s database idea that I finally thought of a good “job” for Alastair. I offered to finance a computer database project for Alastair to oversee—one that I knew would be superior to Compton’s.
Basically speaking, I offered to pay Alastair to travel and socialize; I foresaw that he could get information that Compton would never even dream of. To support Alastair, I hired two computer experts—one vampire and one Were. They would develop the actual program, enter the data, and ensure that the information was protected much better than Bill’s collection seemed to have been in Sookie’s future.
All that I asked of my old friend was that my name never be connected with the project.
Alastair had jumped at the opportunity. The first version of Alastair’s database had been completed months before Bill’s was in Sookie’s “future.” And Alastair 1.0 had been extremely profitable!
In fact, my friend’s name had now reached the status of a verb. One had either been “Alastaired” or one was waiting to be.
I smiled as I thought about the pride with which Alastair had spoken of the project when we’d last met. He now enjoyed respect in addition to the cordial welcomes he’d previously received in vampire courts. Moreover, the vampires he’d not yet “Alastaired” practically begged him for visits—with both money and favors. Indeed, being a part of Alastair’s database was seen as an honor, for—unlike Bill—my friend had been careful about the level of information he included about the vampires he interviewed. He also held “veto power” over every entry and would painstakingly go over it before it was officially added to the database. Because of this, Alastair’s work was perceived by my kind to be a useful—though innocuous—tool.
Since Alastair hadn’t been an official resident of any state or nation at the time when his database came out, I advised that he should volunteer to pay the “usual tribute” from the profits of Alastair 1.0 directly to the Vampire Council—thus gaining the Council’s protection and support.
And—of course—my cut of the profits went straight into an account in the Caymans before it was wired to a Swiss account and then back to the Caymans. Needless to say, no one would ever connect the database to me.
Because of this, Queen Sophie-Anne had no idea that I’d “killed her potential cash cow” before it had been born. Compton’s database was rushed to the market as soon as possible after Alastair’s was launched. However, it was clearly inferior and made no profits. Sophie-Anne had kicked Compton out of the state soon after, and—the last I heard—he and his maker, Lorena, were living in Peru.
As petty as it may have made me, I wished them a very miserable life there.
In addition to eliminating any “Compton love” before it ever started, Alastair had proven to be useful in other ways too.
It had been Alastair who had “delayed” Appius’s travels to the United States. I’d asked my friend to approach my maker and his new child during his first data-gathering mission in Europe. Unsurprisingly, my maker already knew of Alastair, who was over 600 years old. Also not surprising—given his amiable nature—was the fact that Alastair was able to calm down Alexei a little. Some bridges that had been burned in Europe because of the unruly child had been rebuilt—thanks to Alastair’s help. And my name was never brought into the matter.
I figured my friend’s efforts would buy me at least an extra year or two to figure out what to do about Appius.
As I’d been reflecting on the previous months and on my efforts to stop Sookie’s previous future from happening, I’d also been seeing to the night’s ledger, and when the figures added up to the penny—as they always had since I’d taken over for Bruce following the Longshadow incident—I closed the book with satisfaction.
Opening my desk drawer, I saw the picture I kept of Sookie. It was a copy of her DMV photo. I also thumbed through the letters I’d exchanged with Adele since I’d met her. Those letters were the only contact I allowed myself with the Stackhouses—except for the slight feeling of the blood tie between Sookie and me. Time had lessened its effects, but I could still feel Sookie’s life force and tell her approximate location. By all rights, the tie should have been completely faded by now, but it had endured—probably because Sookie was part fairy.
There was a knock on the door.
“Enter,” I called out after closing my desk drawer.
Pam approached with a smirk. “Your pen pal wrote.”
My child dropped the night’s mail on my desk. A letter with Adele’s handwriting was on top. Pam enjoyed teasing me about the old woman, but she knew nothing about Sookie.
Eventually, Pam had asked me about how I knew “so much about so much.”
Like with Karin, I’d told Pam that I knew the things I did because a psychic had honored me with some of his knowledge. Because Pam had asked follow-up questions that Karin had not (typical Pam), I’d told her that the psychic had exchanged his information for a small fortune. Pam didn’t question the fact that the “well from the future”—as she liked to call it—was about to dry up. In truth, Pam believed that Adele was the “psychic,” and that the well would dry up when the old woman died.
But—to her credit—Pam didn’t bother Adele or seek to interfere in my relationship with her in any way.
Unless her private teasing was counted.
After updating me about the happenings in the club, Pam left the office.
As I thumbed the edges of Adele’s letter, I opened my desk drawer to again look at Sookie’s picture. It was a horrible likeness, but I’d memorized it nonetheless.
Of course, I’d memorized a lot more about Sookie Stackhouse—during the two nights I’d known her. The curves of her body. The tones of her voice. The luster of her hair. The brightness in her eyes. The softness of her lips.
The feelings she’d felt for me—feelings I’d experienced as soon as our blood tie took hold.
Feelings I still couldn’t quite comprehend.
I picked up Adele’s missive and smiled to myself.
I’d found myself writing to the Stackhouse matriarch a few nights after I’d met her. Even without Sookie in the equation, Adele would have been worth my time. So I’d given it to her.
Moreover, I’d recognized that Adele had wanted for Sookie and me to be a couple, and—since that no longer seemed likely thanks to the list of obstacles in our way—I’d wanted for Adele to believe that I was to blame for our “issues.” I certainly didn’t want for Adele’s thoughts or hopes to harm Sookie.
So—in my first letter to Adele—I’d told the matriarch that Sookie and I just weren’t compatible enough to pursue romance. I expressed that I was “too jaded” for someone as innocent as her granddaughter. I explained that my life was too violent. In short, I painted myself as the villain.
Still—Adele had written back to me. She’d assured me that any differences I had with her granddaughter didn’t affect the fact that she considered me a “friend.”
She said that Sookie’s inexperience would have encouraged a “lesser man” to try to lie to and take advantage of her. She admitted that she’d grown to think that violence was sometimes needed to drive out “worse violence.” In other words, she refused to accept that I was “as bad as I pretended to be.”
Obviously, she was as singular as her granddaughter, but she was “safer” to interact with.
Adele expressed her hope that I would eventually give the possibility of Sookie and me another chance.
But, even if I didn’t, she asked me to keep writing to her—because I reminded her a little of her husband.
How could I refuse her?
It had been one of Adele’s letters—sent a few months after Sookie and I had met—which “informed” me that Sookie had had a “nice time when she worked for me” in New Orleans. From a letter I’d gotten from Sookie the week earlier, I’d known that she was using me as an excuse to “get away.”
In my next letter, I’d asked Adele leading questions about the supposed work trip. Adele had offered specific dates, even stating the name of the hotel Sookie had stayed in. The elderly woman had also admitted that she’d hoped that Sookie and I might rekindle our “courtship” during that trip. However, not long after, she’d learned that I was “with Dawn” and had pretty much given up hope that Sookie and I would ever be a couple. Unfortunately, Adele had waited to mention Dawn until after I’d ended things with her. In typical Adele fashion, she’d wanted to assure me that Dawn was “fine.”
Of course, I didn’t spill the beans that Sookie had made up the business trip to New Orleans, but I did investigate just what Sookie had been doing there.
She’d ordered several overpriced meals from her hotel’s room service.
She’d been greeted at her hotel door by Gladiola on the first morning she’d been in the city. I didn’t need to be a genius to know that she must have gone to visit the demon lawyer.
Needless to say, I destroyed the video of Gladiola making contact with Sookie.
Other than that one outing, however, Sookie had stuck to her room like glue.
It struck me that the trip to New Orleans had likely been Sookie’s first “vacation.”
But she hadn’t done anything “fun.”
And she’d pretended that the trip was “work” for Adele’s sake.
I supposed that it had been work in Sookie’s mind.
I could only speculate about the topics that Sookie had raised with Cataliades. I didn’t dare contact the demon to ask him—just in case Sookie hadn’t told him about “our” future.
I leaned back in my chair and swiveled.
Had I considered contacting Sookie about I million times to “work” for me?
In fact, I’d wanted to contact her for a variety of reasons.
For her talent.
For her amazing blood.
For her company.
For more than I could express with words.
Sookie’s proclamation that she “loved” me was a nightly memory—one I’d begun to treasure as soon as she’d uttered her words. However—I reminded myself that that proclamation was the main reason why I didn’t contact her.
By the time I’d left her, I’d believed everything that Sookie told me about her future. And I had no doubt that there was a “me” who would be enthralled by her to the point that “I” would eventually come to love her enough to propel her back in time.
But Sookie’s “first” future hadn’t worked out well for either of us.
Especially not for her.
Plus, until the Appius situation was dealt with once and for all, I refused to add variables to my life. And Sookie Stackhouse was the mother of all variables.
Adele Stackhouse, however, was a “safe” source of “Sookie information”; plus, if anyone asked (which—let’s face it—no one but Pam would), I could pretend that I was just indulging an old woman who liked history.
I leaned forward and opened Adele’s letter.
Almost immediately, I was chuckling.
Complaints about Maxine Fortenberry and Caroline Bellefleur.
News that her grandson had become engaged to a nice girl named Michele Schubert, to whom Sookie had introduced him.
The news about Sookie was scant, but welcome nonetheless. She was taking the maximum number of college courses allowed by her college. She’d managed straight A’s for the fall semester, except for her macroeconomics class, in which she’d earned a B+. With all the extra classes she was taking, Sookie was on track to have her Associate’s Degree in accounting by that July. After that, she would try to find work in the field, even as she continued taking classes toward a bachelor’s degree.
Unsurprisingly, Adele was as proud as could be.
The matriarch spent the rest of the letter commenting upon and asking about history—specifically, the “history” I’d experienced firsthand.
In my last letter to her, I’d given Adele some information about the Peasants’ Revolt in fourteenth century England. She had several follow up questions about my commentary—as well as a query regarding what I’d found myself doing “next.”
I chuckled. That was always Adele’s final question in a letter. She always wanted to know what was “next.”
Through our letters, I’d told her a lot about my experiences. Mostly I’d shared “innocent” historical snippets with her—though they were most certainly more than I’d ever shared with anyone else.
Sometimes I wondered if Sookie also read my letters. I wondered what she thought about the fact that I hadn’t contacted her since our second meeting. I wondered if she missed me.
I wondered if she hated me for disappearing from her life.
I wondered a lot when it came to her. But I refused to allow myself to wander to her.
A/N: I decided to offer this bonus for four reasons. 1.) It is the birthday of a dear reader, who prefers not to be named. 2.) It continues Eric’s POV from the previous chapter and is good to be read together. 3.) I had a bit of time and was able to give it a final editing pass (I usually don’t have time to do this for more than one chapter a day.) 4.) Your comments about this story have been so thoughtful and thought-provoking. So I hope you will consider this extra as a big, fat “thank you.”
So—I hope you enjoyed and I hope you will comment some more!
Next up: A time jump—but how long?
P.S. Seph did these banners for Alastair and Marion so you can see them. They will pop up again before the story is over.
Many thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse!