The witches arrived a little before sunset to set up for the spell they would cast. Octavia was as polite as before, and Amelia’s loud mental chatter was a bit quieter. She was concentrating on all the steps needed to complete the spell properly. For someone who had struck me as an obstreperous (Word of the Day) know-it-all, I had to say she was behaving like a professional that night.
Octavia and Amelia were “setting up shop” (Amelia’s words) in the far west corner of my property, close to the line of trees. Octavia said she needed a sacred space.
“I don’t want anybody to come too close to the house and find out what we’re doing,” I said to Octavia little cryptically. What I meant is I didn’t want Bill to wake up and come anywhere near the house or see what the witches were going to do to Eric.
“That’s easy enough,” Octavia nodded, and gave Amelia instructions to widen the house magic to encompass my whole property. She saw my confused look. “You know how vampires can only enter your home if they have your invitation?” I nodded. “Amelia is going to make it so that same magic is at work through your whole property. Only persons allowed inside your home will be allowed inside your property, plus it will apply to all manner of creatures, human, vampire, shifter, or otherwise.”
“Oh!” was all I could think to say. “That’s awful nice of you.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Octavia, and continued working on setting up for Eric’s spell.
I left them to it and went to wait for Eric impatiently, sitting on the bed in the spare bedroom. He came out of the cubby hole at quarter to six.
“My love, are you alright?” he asked. I’d jumped from excitement when he came out.
“Yes! The witches are here. They’re setting everything up,” I said, almost hopping. I couldn’t smile. My nerves were getting the better of me. It had been an eventful day and I had so much to tell him, but I had to address one problem at a time.
Eric put both his massive hands on my shoulders and held me down, making me stop all the bouncing. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to steady my nerves. He put his forehead to mine. “I love you, Sookie.”
And with that I relaxed completely. I put my arms around his waist and pulled him close. He hugged me too, moving to put his cheek on my head. Even though his embrace was cool, it warmed me. Everything would be fine. I knew it in my gut.
I pulled away from Eric reluctantly, but didn’t let go of his hand. I grabbed the quilt that Octavia needed and bundled us up. I knew Eric would have gone outside without his coat and shoes, but I wasn’t about to allow that, so even though he griped he put on his coat. We joined the witches outside. Octavia looked ready. Amelia was nervous.
“Sookie,” Octavia smiled at me in greeting then looked at Eric, holding her hands out to him. He looked at me first, looking for some sort of confirmation, and I nodded enthusiastically. Eric put his hands in hers. “Eric, we’re not going to do anything different than your people used to do. I am a seið-kona, and I will invoke Freyja to help us rid you of the curse. Can you approve of that?”
“Yes,” Eric said immediately. Obviously what the witch had said made sense to him. It only had to make sense to him and the witches. I was a little lost.
Octavia switched her gaze back to me, sensing my skepticism, or else my confusion. “The goddess is known by many names. Eric knows Freyja best. She will help us, have faith.”
I nodded. I had to have faith that this would work. I loved Eric, and even if he loved me without his memories, it was still a tentative love. He would never understand us fully until he remembered the night he chose me, the night we bonded, our wedding; our fights… the way we made up. It was more than that, because the real Eric was missing, the one who ran his businesses and his fiefdom with an efficient and fair hand. All of us needed that Eric back.
I set the quilt where Octavia pointed and Eric lied on it, looking up at the stars through the empty tree branches. It was bitterly cold, but thankfully there was no wind. I stood aside and let the witches do their thing, while I read Amelia’s mind. They were putting amber and jet in the ground, starting a chant as they moved in a circle around Eric. He looked at me briefly, his confidence filling me and igniting my own. I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I myself prayed.
I sank to the ground and asked Eric’s goddess to listen to me too. I didn’t question whether she was real or not. After everything I’d learned in the past few months, I knew that anything was possible. After all, my fairy cousin was working on becoming an angel, and I’d always known that angels belonged in the realm of God. What else belonged up there? An old feeling of deep faith enveloped me, something I hadn’t felt for a very long time. It was the belief in the divine I’d had when I was very little and said my prayers at night with my dad. I used to imagine my guardian angel was a beautiful red-haired woman. I’d forgotten all about her, but I remembered her that night as the witches intoned their chant, becoming louder, until it was more of a song than a chant.
My eyes were closed and I was deep in prayer when I felt Eric’s fear tumble into me, then heard him cry out in pain. I looked up immediately. He was writhing in agony. Before Octavia even told me, I was by his side, kneeling beside him. I took his face in my hands. His own hands were ripping the quilt underneath him, digging into the earth. The witches didn’t stop their song, so this must have been part of the spell.
“I’m here. I’m here, Eric, look at me,” I whispered. His blue eyes were wild, but they didn’t turn black like I expected, and his fangs didn’t run out. Finally he fixed his gaze on me, breathing raggedly as if he was out of breath. He must have been in pain, but I couldn’t understand his body’s reaction. Vampires in pain became beasts. Eric looked every bit the man.
I caressed his hair, trying to soothe him, but it wasn’t helping. He let out a long wail that ripped my own soul in two, then another, then another. I cried in desperation, bending over him and asking my guardian angel to protect him, to deliver him from this.
There were no sounds, nothing from the night. No insects. No night birds. No witches chanting. Eric was silent. The only thing I could hear was my own heart beating frantically in my ears. I looked up from my protective position over Eric, and found myself looking into a pair of green eyes.
Amelia’s thoughts hit me first. She kept repeating the goddess, the goddess, over and over. All I could see was Tina standing on Eric’s chest. I looked down at Eric. His eyes were closed and he was completely still. He was crying, his blood staining my hands.
“Eric? Eric!” I tried to rouse him. Tina came closer to his face and licked his chin. Only then did he open his eyes. “Eric?”
He responded, looking up at me briefly before he succumbed again. Tina licked my hand, her raspy tongue making me take my eyes off Eric. She meowed, leapt off his chest, and ran towards the woods. I couldn’t spare her any more thought. I used the extra strength I still had thanks to Eric, and pulled him to me. I held him tight, willing him to wake up, say something, anything.
“It is done,” Octavia announced at the same time that Pam’s sedan screeched to a halt in front of the house.
Pam ran towards us. She was in all manner of distress. She knew something was wrong with her maker, but hadn’t been here to see it happen. “What happened?” she demanded of the witches.
“It is done,” Octavia repeated. “He will sleep while his memories return. They became too much for him to handle while awake. I suggest you take him where he can spend the rest of the night and day without being disturbed.”
Pam and I exchanged a look and then we both looked at Eric. We both loved him, each in our own way. Pam’s emotions became too much and she started crying silently. “I didn’t know what was happening. It felt like he was dying,” she confessed in a very quiet voice, meant for only me to hear.
I wrapped my free arm around her shoulder and pulled her to me. She hugged me and hugged Eric, all three of us. Our family. I composed myself slowly. The witches were still praying as they removed stones from the ground then left us as they walked around my house with what looked like wands.
“We should take him to Shreveport,” I said to Pam. She nodded, picking him up easily. She walked him to her car and settled him in the front passenger seat, after I moved the seat and the backrest all the way back.
The witches approached us. Octavia put a pouch in my hand before speaking. “These stones will protect you from any further witchcraft. They have been imbued with Freyja’s magic. Sookie, Pam, there is something you ought to know,” Octavia started. She was talking while I was reading Amelia’s mind. In it she was equating Tina with the goddess Freyja. I blocked her and continued listening with my ears. “So the appearance of the cat was most auspicious. Surely the goddess sent her, if it wasn’t the goddess herself.”
I shook my head, trying to clear it. “That was Tina. She used to be my cat and I gave her to Jason because I wouldn’t be able to care for her.”
Octavia eyed me carefully, choosing her words. “Sometimes things are more than they seem.”
I cleaned Eric’s face, changed his shirt, tucked him tight, and waited. Octavia said he would not wake until the next night. Pam had left to take care of his businesses and hers, saying she’d come back as soon as she could the next night.
Too nervous to remain idly by his side, I started cleaning the house. It really didn’t need it. I’d just cleaned it top to bottom the week before, and I was the only one putting out dead skin cells. Nevertheless, it kept my mind occupied. So I dusted, wiped, scrubbed, vacuumed, swept and mopped every available surface, and when that was done I did laundry… all ten items. By the time I was finished it was nearly dawn and I was exhausted.
I took a shower and washed my hair, later drying it perfectly straight. There was no reason for this, really. Eric liked it in waves better. I’d found that even though I was tired and sleepy, I didn’t want to sleep. I painted my fingernails and toenails, and waited patiently until they dried. Finally I couldn’t postpone sleep anymore. I lied next to Eric and hugged myself to him. My body was too exhausted to allow me to remain awake, and I was out like a lamp the minute I closed my eyes.
I awoke with a start when I heard my name. I sat up so fast that the room started spinning and I had to lie back down. I looked to my right and Eric was awake. “Eric!” I practically threw myself at him, ignoring the spinning room.
He held me tight without speaking, burying his face at my neck, taking deep breaths. Before I could form a thought and a sentence, he’d moved his mouth to mine and was kissing me wildly. I put my leg up on his waist, and he reached between us, ripping cloth and getting inside me as soon as he could. He groaned loudly into my mouth. He’d started moving fast but stopped suddenly.
“Look at me Sookie,” he said. I gasped.
“Do you remember?” I asked. I was barely registering his feelings within me. My joy was overwhelming.
“Yes, yes, my love,” he smiled and began moving inside me slowly. I didn’t care if he wanted to look at me. I hugged him tight, using his shirt as a handkerchief for my tears of joy. I looked up and asked for his lips. We kissed and made love for what seemed like hours – though it was only minutes – neither one of us willing to let go of the other’s gaze. When we came together, it was like coming home after a long journey.
He held me tight as we rode the aftershocks together. “I didn’t know I could love you any more than I already did,” he said in his quiet voice. I took a deep breath, letting his words fill me and make me whole again. “I am so sorry to have hurt you, Sookie. Can you forgive me?”
I tightened my grip. “Yes,” I answered simply. I really wanted to remind him that he’d sworn to tell me everything so that I wouldn’t be caught blindsided. This was not the time, and I was sure he needed no reminder.
“And I’m sorry about the things I said when I was not myself,” he continued.
I blinked. “What things?”
He looked up, resting his chin on my chest so he could look at me as he spoke. “About having children,” he mumbled.
I gave him a half smile, a sad smile. “It was more your wish than mine.”
He looked at me, trying to decipher my feelings on the subject. “You don’t feel as if I’ve taken that away from you?”
“No,” I said quickly, and he looked surprised. “My quirk,” I began. He gave me a knowing look. “I don’t know, and there’s no way to know, if I could pass it to my children. I never imagined a regular life for myself, with a husband and children. When you came along and made me your wife, I figured I got lucky beyond belief. But, honestly, I can’t miss something I never wanted.”
“You don’t ever want children?”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant that it was never something I actively wished for,” I explained.
He searched my eyes again. “I had children,” he said, without taking his eyes off mine.
That tidbit hit me in more ways than one. I hadn’t expected it, though why wouldn’t he have had children? He was a grown man before he was turned. He’d probably had a wife, children, land, and a whole family that missed him when he “died.” Then his sadness hit me hard. I understood now.
“I’m sorry,” I said, unable to stop the tears from prickling my eyes and making their way down my cheeks to my neck. His wish had been tied to something he’d already had, something he wanted back. It broke my heart, again. “I’m sorry,” I repeated as he brought himself up to kiss my damp cheeks.
“I shouldn’t have told you. I’ve made you cry enough for all my lifetimes. I’m the one who’s sorry, Sookie. My dear one…” he whispered. “My love,” he kept kissing my tears away. “Why didn’t you set me straight? Why didn’t you tell me we couldn’t have children? You even had Pam go along with it.”
“I didn’t want to break your heart,” I answered with the truth. “I hope you can forgive me.”
“Forgive you? Sookie… You were so good to me. I owe you for so much; I don’t even know how to repay you.”
“Now who’s being absurd?” I asked him, smiling through my tears. “You do know you’re my husband, right?”
“I seem to remember I owe you a honeymoon someplace warm,” he said, smiling.
I smiled, but I knew there were a lot of loose ends to be tied before we could take time off. He’d been away from his life for more than half a week. Then there was the matter about Bill. My smile faded. “Come on. Pam will be here any minute,” I said, attempting to get up from under his weight.
He didn’t let me and held me tighter. “What happened? Why are you mad? Are you mad at me or at Pam?”
Um… whoops! “No, honey, I’m not mad at either of you. There’s something I have to tell you both, about how the witches found me. But I want to say it once, and then we have to go back to Bon Temps. So let’s get ready, okay?”
Eric raised an eyebrow. Not only did he know I was mad, he knew I’d just gotten madder. “Alright, but I want to hear everything the minute Pam arrives.”
“Trust me, you will,” I promised.
Pam must have gotten to Eric’s house while we were getting dressed for the night, because we found her in the kitchen where she’d already availed herself of a True Blood. She looked at Eric wide eyed, waiting…
“I’m back to normal,” Eric said, putting her out of her misery.
“Oh, thank God!” she said, letting out a big puff of air she’d been holding. Honestly, why did vampires hold their breath and do such things? They didn’t need to breathe, and they could hold their breath indefinitely.
“And Sookie has something to tell us,” he announced then they both looked at me expectantly.
It was my turn to take a deep breath. “I didn’t tell you exactly how the witches found my house,” I looked at Eric. “They knew I was in Bon Temps, so they went to Bill Compton’s house, the only vampire in town, to see if you were spending your day there. Obviously they didn’t find you, but they found…” I stopped talking. The bile was rising in my throat at the thought of the one picture that told me well and truly that Bill was a stalker.
“Found what, Sookie?” Eric pressed. He was starting to get stressed.
“Bill had compiled all kinds of information on me and Jason. He even had pictures of me tacked onto the walls of his bedroom. Plus we found a database that has me listed as your wife and a telepath,” I said, not watching my words.
“Wait a minute! What do you mean you found? Who found what? Did you go to Compton’s house?” Eric asked. He was mad, but I wasn’t sure at whom.
I swallowed hard. “I called Jason and we went there yesterday, during the day. He helped me break in and I took all the papers and photos. They’re in my house.”
Eric was fuming and Pam… was smiling like a lunatic. “We need to go see those papers,” she said. She was enjoying this too much.
We took Pam’s car to Bon Temps, the only car big enough to accommodate all three of us comfortably. At the house, Pam and I made our way upstairs and retrieved the papers. We all sat at the kitchen table to look at everything. Well, actually, they were looking at everything. I was averting my eyes as much as possible.
Eric and Pam were getting madder and madder. I left the kitchen to answer the door. Jason came after I’d sent him a text. “Just stay here. Eric might tear the kitchen apart,” I said to Jason.
Sure enough, at the same time that I felt his rage inside me Eric bellowed out every kind of obscenity he could think of, some in foreign languages.
“He found the photo,” Jason said in a quiet voice. He hadn’t seen the photo in detail, because I’d taken it down so quickly, but he knew what was in it.
We made our way slowly to the kitchen. We found Pam making phone calls, talking so fast and so low that it all sounded like a hiss. Eric was pacing, looking like if he put his hand on anything he would break it and imagine it was Bill’s neck. Moreover, both vampires had their fangs out in their rage.
Eric turned to look at me. “What was in the disk?”
Jason answered instead. “It allows the user to access a database with information about vampires. The reason we took it is because there was information about Sookie. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want everybody in your world to know she’s a telepath.”
Eric examined Jason, and calmed down. He was still in battle mode, to be sure, but now his determination had taken over. “Very well. We will need to see Queen Sophie-Anne as soon as possible and show her the information. She will not take kindly that Bill has been gathering extraneous information about my blood bonded and her family.” He turned to me. “When we tell her what you are and who you are, the Queen will have no choice but to punish Compton.”
“What do you mean?” Jason asked.
My fear spiked. I hadn’t told Jason he was part fairy and that we had a whole entire side of the family living in another realm. Or was it dimension?
Eric caught on quickly. “She’s my wife and blood bonded, but also my business partner at Fangtasia,” he said to Jason. I wasn’t his business partner, but Jason needed some kind of explanation.
“Will she kill Vampire Bill?” Jason asked, referring to Bill as they knew him around Bon Temps.
“The will of the Queen is not known to me, but I will highly recommend it,” Eric answered.
Yikes! I thought. But… Bill had brought it on himself. What was he thinking? The photo of me naked could only serve one purpose, and I shuddered, thinking of Bill… looking at me and… playing with It… “Aaargh!!! Yuk!!! Blech!!! Oh, disgusting!”