I watched Doctor Ludwig minister to Sookie. Her heart was faltering. Every time it skipped a beat it felt like my own heart wanted to pick up the slack, as impossible as that would be. I was pacing behind my desk to keep away from the doctor and let her do her work.
“Eric, she will be fine. She lost a lot of blood so she’s dehydrated. As soon as she wakes up you can give her your blood,” Doctor Ludwig said. She was a tomte, a brownie, though she looked more like a hobgoblin. Her short stature belied her strength and her gift of healing. At that moment she laid her hands on Sookie’s chest and made her heart beat evenly, taking my main worry away.
“How long until she awakes?” I asked the tomte.
“That I have no way of telling. But I can tell you that the poison is gone from her body. She will recover,” the doctor said. “I will remain until she does.”
I nodded my thanks, glancing at my computer screen. Pam had been researching snakes and had left the page open to information about the cottonmouth snake. “Hemotoxic,” she had said, meaning it hampered the coagulation of blood. No wonder the creature had told me to lick Sookie’s wound.
Pam snuck her head through the door without knocking. I felt her worry. “How is she?”
“Better. Doctor Ludwig has seen to it that there is no more poison in her body,” I explained to my child, though it didn’t alleviate her worry at all.
“Why is she still unconscious?” she asked.
Doctor Ludwig answered for me. “She suffered a shock and needs to recover. She will be fine.” She was curt with Pam, but her bedside manner was better. She had been monitoring Sookie very carefully since she had arrived.
“Bill is here,” Pam said, returning to her usual tone.
“Send him in,” I said, deciding not to sit. I doubted Bill would attack Sookie, but I needed to make sure he understood who was his master.
“Eric,” Bill said in that awful accent of his. While Sookie spoke in pretty southern cadences, Bill’s accent was now a jumble from everywhere in the United States. I wished he would just settle for one of them.
“I want you to go and find the creature that attacked Sookie, find out what she is and what she’s doing here. And while you’re at it check our cars, have them towed to a body shop and get someone to retrieve the contents and bring them here.” I paused, waiting for some kind of rebuke.
“Yes, Eric. I would like to ask Sookie some questions when she is alert enough. It will help with my investigation. In the meantime I will see to your vehicles,” he nodded and left.
I would let him talk to Sookie. What other choice did I have? He was the fucking investigator. Now I wasn’t sure if he was working for Sophie-Anne or the King of Arkansas. I was leaning towards the latter, since Arkansas was courting Sophie-Anne’s attentions. More like her wealth.
Doctor Ludwig was mumbling something under her breath in a different language. It sounded Celtic, but I couldn’t be sure. Of all the languages I’d learned, that wasn’t one of them. At the end of her incantation she looked up.
“She is beginning to wake. Come sit beside her,” she ordered.
Talk about doctor’s orders. I sat on the couch next to Sookie intent on her face, holding the hand that did not have the IV needle in it. The lure of her blood had been extinguished by my worry. Doctor Ludwig had already replaced two pints of blood, and a third pint was hanging from a portable IV pole.
Sookie’s eyes fluttered open but didn’t focus and closed again. I quickly looked at the doctor who nodded, as if this was normal. This wasn’t normal, and I felt incredibly guilty by what happened, though I’d had no way of knowing it would happen to begin with. I’d left her on the side of the road instead of taking her with me. I was strong enough to have subdued her if she had given me any problems. The truth was I hated forcing her. She’d been mad enough already.
And why was that, anyway? Obviously our conversation about the bank account wasn’t over. I could not understand why she had rejected it. She didn’t even give me a reason. I had thought she was coming around to understand what she was to me, our relationship, but obviously I’d been mistaken.
I felt Sookie’s fingers tighten their hold on my hand. “Eric?” Her voice came out raspy. “I’m thirsty.”
I looked at Doctor Ludwig asking her the silent question. The doctor nodded. It was time to give Sookie my blood. “You will drink my blood first and then some water.”
Sookie opened her eyes a little and she nodded without protest. Doctor Ludwig left us alone while I propped Sookie up and sat behind her. She winced briefly but then sagged into me. I pierced my wrist, anticipating the arousal of watching her drink my blood. It was not a conscious decision to pull her skirt up and touch her as she drank. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her mouth on my wrist, as I started rubbing my cock against her back. I reached inside her panties to touch the little pearl of her pleasure, making her moan. My favorite sound in the world.
Sookie started drinking slowly, becoming greedier as her strength returned. She pushed her hips against my hand, sending her lust to me. I kissed her neck and sucked it, tasting the tiny bit of blood that colored the underside of her skin. Her blood called and I answered with a growl. I was doing my damndest not to bite. Instead I kept rubbing my erection against her, my body always anxious to have her.
She came with a sigh at the same time as me, staining my pants with what ought to have been inside her. No matter. She was already looking better, and that’s what counted. Sookie reached for the hand still inside her panties, pulling it out and threading her fingers into mine. Her skirt fell back to cover her.
Doctor Ludwig came back into my office after several minutes with bottled water for Sookie. I felt Sookie’s apprehension at the sight of the tomte. She was too polite to ask the question that must have been burning in her mind. She was probably thinking that Doctor Ludwig was a hobbit.
“Hello, Sookie. I am Doctor Ludwig,” she handed Sookie the water. “How are you feeling?”
Sookie took a few gulps of water before answering. “Much better than before I passed out,” she said, catching her breath after drinking so much.
“Do you remember what happened?” the doctor asked.
“Yes,” Sookie said carefully. “I remember the woman by the side of the road, and I remember the cottonmouth biting me.” She looked down at her ankle. The bites were already disappearing, and the skin around them was returning to its natural color.
“Then you will be fine, but I still want you to take the last of that pint of blood. Eric, do not take her blood for at least two days. I know you have healed her, but her body still needs some time,” the doctor said and waited for me to nod. “I will wait outside while you talk to your investigator. By the time you are finished talking to him the transfusion should be complete.” Doctor Ludwig turned and left.
Pam came in without knocking, again. “Thank God! You look better Sookie.” She paused, smelling the air. Her fangs ran out and Sookie covered her eyes mortified. “What have you two been doing?”
“Nothing,” I barked. “Go tell Bill to be here in five minutes.”
“Yes, Master,” Pam said, smiling like a fucking lunatic.
Sookie shook her head. “We are so bad. I’m worse than you in that I don’t stop you.”
I could only imagine she was talking about sex. “We are married, Sookie. It’s natural. But I should change. I don’t want to give Bill any ideas concerning you.” I got up, checking to make sure she wasn’t wet too, and then helping her recline back on the sofa.
“I feel shaky, like I just broke through a fever,” she said when her strength failed her.
“You did have a fever, according to Doctor Ludwig,” I said. Inside my closet I found a pair of black jeans. They were old and not as nice as the ones I’d been wearing (one of Sookie’s gifts), but they would have to do for now. No underwear. I’d have to start bringing some. I changed quickly, though I knew my wife was looking at me with lust. I looked up and she smiled shyly. Fuck, I loved her!
Her smile turned into a frown once I zipped up. “I have to talk to Bill?”
“He’s the investigator for this area. Do you know what that creature was?”
“Yes, she told me. But I’d rather tell the story only once, if you don’t mind.” She drank her water again in huge gulps and finished the bottle. “Honey? May I have a Coke, in a glass with lots of ice, please?”
I didn’t hesitate and went to the door. Pam was standing guard, so I gave her the task. She was back with Bill at her heels, and when she stood guard again, she did so inside my office. I was not about to argue. It was obvious she was my child, always thinking like me.
“Good evening, Sookie. I would like you to tell me everything that happened tonight.” Bill sat at the chair I pointed to. I’d rather have him sitting as I stood next to Sookie.
Sookie looked up at me. I couldn’t read her expression, but her feelings were pointing towards something that felt like annoyance. She took a deep breath and began. “Eric’s car broke down, so he went to get mine from my house. While I waited for him this woman approached me. She came from the woods. Her hair was a mess and her dress was torn. She had the cottonmouth wrapped around her, but she said not to be scared of it, that it wouldn’t attack me. She said she would keep me company while I waited or my ride because things had happened to…” Sookie’s voice trailed and she took at sip of her Coke. “She said she was protecting me. When I asked her what she was, she said she was a maenad of the Thiasus. She serves Dionysus.”
“What the fuck is a maenad doing in the United States?” I said out loud, not quite believing it. I knew it was true, of course. I’d seen her with my own eyes. In the heat of the moment I hadn’t had the wherewithal to figure out what she was.
Bill had been riveted to Sookie as she told her account and tore his gaze from her to look at me. I could have killed him for looking at her in that manner. “She might have come through New Orleans. The fact that she had a pet cottonmouth makes me think she spent some time in a bayou.”
“Not necessarily,” Sookie piped up. “My brother has seen cottonmouths around his property. He has a small man-made lake next to his house.”
I arched my eyebrow at Bill, daring him to contradict her. He didn’t. At least his sense of self-preservation was intact. Did I really have to go to Dallas with this idiot? Suddenly I was wishing Sookie would say no to the trip.
“I will search the area where your cars were found and get back to you by the end of the night,” Bill said, standing up and nodding to Sookie, then to me. He had the hierarchy wrong, and did it on purpose.
“Is he gone?” Sookie asked, looking up at me.
I made a motion for Pam to check that Bill was indeed out of the building. He was. “What’s on your mind Sookie?” I asked, wondering what was on her mind that she felt Bill should not hear.
“The maenad said something bad had happened to one of ours, including me in her group. So I asked her if I was a maenad too, and she said no, that I was her sister. I couldn’t get her to elaborate anymore,” Sookie shook her head. She’d been looking at Pam while she spoke. I wouldn’t blame her if she was upset with me.
“Eric, you told me I’m some kind of supe. Could I be related to a maenad?” Sookie asked, not really looking at me.
“I don’t think so, Sookie,” Pam answered, grasping the fact that Sookie was mad at me. “Your blood is sweet, almost like a fairy’s. A maenad’s is rancid. I’ve only encountered one and it wasn’t a meeting I particularly enjoyed.”
I chuckled. I remembered that night. Pam had been a vampire for a little over a month, and I had secluded her in the forests of Scotland to keep her away from her family. It was a good enough idea at the time. Pam went crazy for blood and had attacked the first human-looking thing she’d seen. The maenad had turned out to be less than appetizing. Not that our stay in the Scottish woods had been wholly awful. Pam also got her first taste of fairy. We’d shared. It was not a memory I wanted Sookie to be privy to. I thanked my lucky stars she could not read my mind, or Pam’s. The orgy that followed would have broken Sookie’s heart, not to mention what the sight of the torn fairy corpse would have done to her mind. It hadn’t been one of my finer moments.
My smile faded quickly. “Pam, go see if they have retrieved our things from the cars. Do I have a car to go home?”
Pam was her normal efficient self. “Your things are already inside the car, and it’s waiting for you in your usual spot,” she said, handing me the keys to what appeared to be a Lincoln vehicle.
“Then I’ll take Sookie home. Tell Doctor Ludwig we’re ready to leave,” I said.
The tomte doctor took the IV out of Sookie’s hand and said good night. I quickly lifted Sookie and left right behind the doctor.
“I can walk,” said Sookie. I knew she was rolling her eyes.
I paid no mind. I’d seen her hand shaking infinitesimally as she’d held her glass. She wasn’t completely healed yet. I set her down carefully in the passenger seat of what turned out to be a Lincoln Navigator. Whatever gave Pam the idea that I needed a car this size? Although, I had to admit, it was more comfortable than my Corvette. Sookie wiggled into the leather seat. She seemed to like it too.
“We need to talk,” she said as we approached the house. The closer we got to the house the more I felt her anger.
“I understand, but perhaps you should rest,” I said. I wasn’t avoiding the argument. Once in a while her heart still fluttered and skipped a beat, before resuming its normal rhythm. I knew I would spend all night listening to it.
“No,” she said vehemently. “As soon as we get home, we’re having this conversation.” She crossed her arms. At the very least she had acknowledged that what was once my house was now her home too.
I helped her out of her outfit and into the pajama ensemble she had worn the night I had visited her house after her grandmother’s funeral. I took advantage and ran my hands over her warm skin whenever I could. Her lust would flare, and so would her anger. I would have liked nothing more than to have a mad Sookie fuck me.
“Eric, I’m really thirsty again. Can you please bring me some juice?” she asked. She knew better than going to get it herself because I would have stopped her.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. She was right. I’d forgotten everything about how to cook food, but she had some things that were easy to put together. I was sure I could figure out a sandwich.
“No, but thank you,” she said. She was being too formal in her politeness. I didn’t need to feel what she felt to know she was still angry.
When I returned I waited for her to finish in the bathroom. As soon as she did we sat together on the bed, using the headboard as a backrest. She took a drink from her juice and made an awful face.
“Did it go bad?” I asked about the juice.
“No, no. I just didn’t think this through. I brushed my teeth before drinking the juice. Not one of my smartest moments,” she answered and smiled.
Her smile morphed into a pained expression. “What’s with the bank account, Eric?”
Oh, right, this again. For a moment I thought she would be upset about putting her in harm’s way by attacking the maenad. Leave it up to Sookie to put weight on the wrong things.
My own anger started rearing its ugly head. “Are you not my wife? I have lived alone for many centuries, but I know that mates share everything. I’m not stupid, Sookie, nor do I think that you are either. My wife, the wife of the sheriff, should know everything about her husband. I’ve only started telling you everything because there is so much information to give you. That money is only part of what I own. You will eventually have control over everything. I’ll tell you what I own, give you passwords to accounts. I’m not asking you to stop being Sookie Stackhouse, the first woman I’ve fallen in love with. I’m asking you to be my wife as well. Can you do that? Or have I put my trust in the wrong person?” I know my voice was deeper and louder than I would have liked, but sometimes she needed me to show my own ire.
“You can trust me,” she said in a small voice. I had humbled her. Good.
“Imagine it the other way around,” I continued. “Imagine me with all my wealth and not willing to share it with you. Would you think that fair? Because I do not. I would think that would show disrespect for what you are.”
She was silent. I couldn’t read her feelings, much less her emotions. Her heart fluttered and I took a deep breath, willing it to right itself. I closed my eyes, listening intently for several seconds as it resumed its steady pace once more. I’d almost lost her tonight. The pain of loss still stung deeply, even if she was alright and by my side.
“You are my beloved wife,” I said, softening my tone.
She turned to me and her eyes leaked thick tears. She was still so dehydrated. “Then why didn’t you talk to me before putting my name on the account?” She brushed her tears quickly with the back of her hand, as if mad that they were there.
“Because I make mistakes too. I’ve been making them more often with you because what we have is new to me. I don’t mind apologizing a thousand times for a thousand mistakes, as long as you are here with me, where you ought to be,” I pointed at the mattress to emphasize my point, but really I meant wherever I was, there she should be.
“In that case,” she paused, “I apologize too. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.”
“Let’s forgive each other. You need to rest now and we can talk more tomorrow,” I said, gathering her in my arms and getting us both under the blankets.
I hated to ask her now, but I needed to call Bill back before the night was over, or else he would call me. “Sookie,” I said her name and waited for her to say “hm?” to make sure she was still awake. “Are we going to Dallas?”
“Yeah, okay. I can help the sheriff there find his friend. If we lost one of ours we’d want other people to help us too,” she said and yawned.
I was very surprised. She was including my people into her own circle. I wasn’t expecting her to embrace all of them so readily, particularly since some of them scared her like Thalia and Clancy, but it was nice to know.
“Alright, my love. Go to sleep,” I ordered her. She fell asleep mere minutes later.
“I believe the shifter has been cavorting with the maenad,” Bill said on the phone when I called him to ask for his findings about the maenad.
“The shifter has a name Compton,” I said. I didn’t know many true shifters, and Sam Merlotte was the only one in my area. I also owed him for Sookie being where she was: in my bed, under my roof, and married to me. Besides, one had to respect a man who had fought in a war and built his business from the ground up. Bill sometimes forgot things of that nature. He had spent too much time amongst our own.
“Of course. I was referring to Sam Merlotte. I tried to rouse him from sleep, but he did not come to his door. The maenad has been all over the woods leading away from Hot Shot to the interstate. Her range is extensive,” Bill informed me.
“That means she’s been around the woods of both yours and Sookie’s house,” I concluded for him. “Hot Shot? Are they Weres there? I’ve never checked.”
“I believe they are werepanthers, but have inbred too much and have a lot of problems. They like to keep to themselves,” Bill answered.
I’d known there was something going on down in Hot Shot, but the community straddled the line between my fiefdom and that of Area 3. Besides, as Bill had said, they did keep to themselves and preferred their privacy. I knew enough to respect that. The maenad, however, did not.
“Sookie and I are going to Dallas. Make plans to meet me there the day after tomorrow, or you may arrive earlier to start investigating,” I said, not wanting him to arrive after us. “Get in touch with Stan Davis’ people. They’ll arrange the hotel and transportation.”
I hung up without waiting for him to confirm whether or not he was going to do it. It had been an order anyway.
I lied beside Sookie in our bed. I’d borrowed her book, just to peek inside her mind. She had been reading a paranormal romance, and this one was better than most. It had me chuckling enough to worry I was going to wake her up. For once, I wasn’t poking holes at the story, but truly enjoying the characters.
Sleep claimed me as I finished the book. I’d taken my time and read each line. Maybe I could use some of them on Sookie. She would laugh at me and with me, and we would be happy.
I realized I hadn’t done that since I was rearing my children when I’d been human. I used to memorize poems for them, to entertain them at night. My wife had been a good woman, and I’d loved her in a way, but I hadn’t been in love with her. I had, however, deeply loved my children. I felt an infinite sadness remembering their faces as I fell into my daytime sleep. I felt one other thing: Sookie’s hand on my cheek and her distress at seeing me cry.
I awoke knowing something was wrong. I could hear Sookie crying, but I couldn’t open my eyes and couldn’t move. It must have been daytime. She was reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over. Something had happened and she was grieving. Her own grief was so strong it had brought me out of my daytime rest enough to hear her.
I managed to say part of her name, but I simply had no strength. She heard me.
“Eric?” I heard her sniffling, I could hear her heart beating a fast pace. When it fluttered and stumbled my fear made me open my eyes.
“Eric,” she breathed. “Eric, it’s awful. Someone killed my friend Lafayette and left him inside a car,” I could see her as if she were underwater. She put her hand under mine and I managed to squeeze hers weakly before succumbing once more.
My dreams that day consisted of Sookie’s grief, so I knew what to expect when I awoke for the night. I’d felt her grief when her grandmother had died, but now that we were bonded it was much more intense. I was sorry for her, but it made me feel better that if she had been in danger, I would have woken up to defend her.
She was eating dinner and ready for work when I joined her in the kitchen. She was sitting at the island on a tall stool, looking good enough to eat. I was thirsty, and without Sookie’s blood I would have to gulp more True Blood than necessary for the next few days.
“How are you?” I asked her. She wasn’t really eating, just pushing her food around the plate. I made her look up at me. Her eyes were red and puffy. She’d been crying all day.
“You were crying when you fell asleep,” she said, putting her own suffering behind mine.
“Tell me again what happened to your friend Lafayette,” I redirected the conversation. Now was not the time to tell her about my human life, my wife and children, or what happened when I was turned.
“They found him this morning inside Andy Bellefleur’s car, and he was dead. Andy had left his car at Merlotte’s because he had drunk too much and his sister came and got him. When Sam went to get the bar ready, he saw the car and the door ajar, and found Lafayette dead in the backseat. Eric, I can’t help but think of the maenad. She didn’t do it, she said she was protecting me because she had seen several things that should not happen to one of ours, and I wonder if she saw Lafayette getting murdered.” Sookie stopped, a tear rolling slowly down her cheek.
I hugged her to me, thinking of many things and none of them good enough to share. Her tears felt hot against my skin. “He was so young and he was always so nice to me. He was the only human man who could offer me genuine comfort, without expecting anything from me,” she said. A man like that must have been gay, I thought, because any straight male with a pulse would want Sookie.
Gay. Fairy. Fairies were distant cousins of Bassarids, or maenads. A maenad would have called a fairy her sister. Perhaps Sookie’s sweet blood was due to some fairy ancestry. It would also explain her ability to register other’s thoughts. Sookie was the human version of a fairy’s ability to sense energy. Why I hadn’t seen it before was beyond me. I’d been too busy falling in love. It was also ironic. I could kill fairies in the blink of an eye, but I was exercising a lot of care in keeping Sookie alive and healthy.
“I’ll be okay,” Sookie said, pulling away from me and dabbing her eyes and nose with a napkin. “Go get ready. I haven’t worked in, how many nights? I need to clear my head.”
“My little Sookie. You’re a worker bee, aren’t you?” I asked her, but didn’t wait for her answer. I claimed her lips and felt her spirits lift. There was no lust in this kiss. It was simple, deep love.