Chapter 1 – The Worst is Just Around the Bend

Nothing’s Gonna Change My World

“I’d changed in order to survive, and I was paying the price of survival.  I had to be willing to change myself forever, or everything I’d made myself do was for nothing.”
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

~~~~~~~

All the wondering had left me tired, plus the blood loss from the night before, so I actually fell asleep watching Jeopardy.  I hadn’t meant to.  One of the commercials came on, I closed my eyes instead of hitting the Fast Forward button on the DVR’s remote, and I was out.  I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing in the kitchen, and I kicked myself for not thinking of bringing the handset with me.  I literally kicked myself too, when I stubbed my toe trying to run to the kitchen.

I picked up without glancing at the caller ID, and silently swore because the pain on my toe was excruciating.  “Hello!” I yelled into the receiver, blaming my clumsy feet on the caller.

“Sookie?”  It was Sam.  I had a moment of dread trying to figure out if I’d been scheduled to work and I was late, but I recovered quickly.  I’d taken the whole day off thinking I’d be too tired to work after Tara’s baby shower.  After collecting my sleep addled thoughts I was able to answer Sam properly.

“Hi, Sam.  What’s up?”

“I heard what happened last night,” of course he did.  “Just checking up on you, is all.”

Other than a stubbed toe and a bruised heart, I was terrific.  “Physically I’m okay.”

“And in other ways?” he asked.  He knew me well.

“I’ve been better.  But, really, Sam.  It’s nothing.  I’ve been through worse,” I said, thinking all the while not really.  Physically, yes, absolutely I’d been through worse.  Mentally?  It was a tossup.  Eric and I were at an impasse.  If he married the Queen of Oklahoma, then there went my boyfriend.  It wouldn’t be the first time, but darn it if it didn’t hurt like a bitch!  Moreover, after the kind of night we’d had last night… I’d called it a turning point.  Either I accepted the changes within me and accepted that Eric was who he was, or I would lose him forever anyway, with or without Oklahoma looming in the distance.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sam asked.  I knew he meant well, but since things with Jannalynn were so precarious between me and her, I didn’t want to add fuel to that particular fire.

“No, not really.  I have to sort this out on my own,” I said, but really I was thinking that I wanted someone, anyone to talk to… other than Sam… and Eric.  Or Pam.

Sam and I hung up, and rather than make heads or tails of the situation in one night, I decided I’d earned a true night’s rest.  I left the porch light on for Dermot, turned everything else off, and headed straight for bed.  I read for a little bit and finished the last book I had out from the library, and then I curled up and fell asleep.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Sookie…” I heard my name and thought Oh, God!  Not now!  I tried to burrow deeper into my covers, hoping that it was simply a bad dream, or a good dream depending on what was about to happen.  “Sookie, dearest, you didn’t answer your phone.”

“That’s because I wanted to sleep one whole solid night, so I left it charging in the kitchen,” I said, but didn’t open my eyes.

“I am sorry, but after last night’s events it was important for me to know that you were okay.  Are you okay?”  I opened my eyes then.  Eric was kneeling by my bed, which was a very unusual position for him.

“I’m perfect, as you can see,” I said, and decided not to elaborate on that statement, although there were a few choice things that I wanted to say to him, particularly with regards to the way he’d taken blood from me the night before.  “I’ve had a really busy day.”

“Will you tell me about it?” he asked.

Now I was truly surprised.  We hadn’t had time to chat like we cared about each other, ever since the whole business with Victor.  “Eric, what are you trying to do?”

“There is so much we need to talk about, Sookie.  I don’t want to lose you because we failed to communicate.  There are things you expect from me that I cannot even begin to fathom, and you don’t tell me.  By the same token, there are things I expect from you, things important to me too, and I haven’t told you.  Don’t you think it’s time for us to… talk?” he asked.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.  My brain wasn’t all there because I was sleepy, and my emotions were still too raw.  I’d also noticed he hadn’t touched upon the subject of Victor, Nevada or Oklahoma, and those were important subjects too.

“Can you give me tonight to recover?  Just one night?  I promise… no.  I swear we’ll talk tomorrow night.  Just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.  Please?” I almost begged.

“Tomorrow night, be at my house early with all your things.  You’re moving in with me and act like my wife,” he said, and he saw that I was about to say something.  He put his index finger on my mouth to silence me.  “For once, Sookie Stackhouse, do not say something that you will regret.  I know you’re upset about Oklahoma, and you have every right to be.  I’m trying to fix it and for that I need you in my house, living there, with me.  You have Khan’s number.  I’ll leave him a message to come and help you with your things at four in the afternoon.”

“I don’t have enough luggage,” I said, trying to find some argument.

“I’ll tell Khan to bring some.  Just have everything ready to go, Sookie.  At some point you will get it through your brain that you are needed and loved by me.  If you need and love me too you will be ready to move in with me tomorrow,” he said.  He was not leaving anything up for discussion anymore.  “I love you,” he said one more time.  For once, I believed him.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I spent too long in the library.  It was a weekday, so there wasn’t anybody there other than the librarian, Mrs. Beck, and one other older lady.  Their brains were easy to block while I sat in a hidden chair and perused through each book I’d selected.  By the time I was done and had a decent selection picked to go home with me, I found out I’d spent two hours.  It was almost eleven in the morning and the sun beckoned.

As soon as I got home I got me a tall glass of what was left of the peach iced tea, and put on my bathing suit.  I went out to the chaise lounge in the sunny part of the front yard with my tea and a book.  Dermot was home, but I couldn’t hear anything.  Maybe he was sleeping.  At some point I’d have to talk to him about my moving.

I’d have to talk to Sam too, about my moving in with Eric.  As far as I was concerned this was going to be something to try, not something permanent.  I’d still work my shifts at Merlotte’s, but I’d ask Sam to give me early ones as much as possible.  Hopefully Eric would keep his word about that.

My thoughts were interrupted when Dermot blocked my sun.  It was only briefly.  He sat next to me on the grass and I turned to look at him.  He had his face turned to the sun with a smile.  “Hi, Dermot.”

“Hello, niece,” he said, but didn’t say anything else.

I figured it was now or never.  I had to tell him I was moving eventually.  “Dermot, I have some news.  Eric asked me to move in with him, and I agreed.  I don’t know how long we’ll live together, but I want you to know that you can stay in my house as long as you want,” I said, eyeing him carefully.  Part of the reason that Claude and Dermot had come to live with me initially was to actually be with me (or be near the cluviel dor, but I was still not sure about my theory).  Once I left, there would be no reason for Dermot to remain.

“Do you love him?” Dermot asked.  He hadn’t moved from his position facing the sun, but his smile had disappeared.

“I do, and we’re having some issues that we need to work out.  Being apart hasn’t been good for our relationship.  We don’t get to talk as often, things get left unsaid, and now we’re struggling.  But we love each other and want to try to make it work,” I said, having a small epiphany.  If I had moved in with him when he’d first asked me, maybe we wouldn’t be in this self-made mess.  Eric would understand why I found all the violence disturbing, and he would have been able to show, without shadow of a doubt, that I was indeed his wife.  Our marriage would be common knowledge and the Queen of Oklahoma would not have accepted to marry him.

I shook my head.  Maybe Eric did know what he was doing.  Smart old man.

“May I ask you something, Sookie?” Dermot asked, finally turning to look at me.

“Sure,” I said.

“What about the shape shifter?  What is he to you?”

I didn’t have to think about my answer for very long.  “He’s my friend.”

“What about the other vampire?  The dark one that loves you so much?”

I had a harder time answering that one.  “Bill used to be my boyfriend.  Now he’s just a friend,” I said, even though Bill still loved me very much.  He was nothing if not steadfast.

“Neither of them think of you as a friend,” Dermot said and shook his head.

“I know Bill still has feelings for me…”

“And so does the shape shifter.”

“He’s dating someone else.”

“That barely ever matters.”  Dermot stopped talking, and I didn’t know what to say.  I knew Sam and I had shared a couple of steamy kisses that had never led to anything, and then we just gave up and went our separate ways.  His disinterest in any more romantic overtures was hardly the sign of someone who is truly attracted.

Dermot spoke suddenly, interrupting my half thought.  “Think carefully about how much you love your vampire.  Relationships are not always perfect, but you know you are in a good relationship when the good outweighs the bad.  There will always be something bad and you must be prepared to accept it along with the good.  Otherwise you will end up alone.  It is one thing to choose to be alone because that is your choice, but another thing is to end up alone even when you loved somebody who loved you back.”

Dermot stood up and left my side to go back inside the house.  I never thought I’d get relationship advice from my great-uncle, but there it was.  It forced me to take a good look at myself and realize that I was not perfect either.  I’d been willing to forgive Bill after he raped me, and I forgave him after I learned he’d been tasked to find me and bring me to his Queen.  Eric had… what had he done, exactly?  Not thought like me?  Was I really expecting a being that had spent a millennium on Earth to think like me?  He didn’t have to think like me for me to love him.  He had to understand me, and I had to understand him in turn.  To be fair, I’d always been the one to postpone our talks, and I’d always been the one to push him away.  I couldn’t do that anymore, not when the thought of losing him was so heartbreaking and painful.

My new resolution made me move faster than ever.  I took the quickest of showers, and began pulling things from my dresser and my closet.  I didn’t have to bring everything tonight, but I felt like Eric needed to see that the bulk of my things were in his closet, inside his house.  I packed what I could and left the rest sitting on my bed, waiting for Mustapha Khan to arrive with more luggage at four.  In the meantime I resolved to make one last phone call.

“Sam?” I said when he picked up his cell.

“Sookie!” I could hear him moving through the bar to a quieter spot.  “How are you, cher?”

“Good.  Fine.  I have to tell you something,” I took a deep breath, while Sam stayed completely quiet.  “I’m moving in with Eric.”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“So that’s it?  You’re never coming back?”

“No!” I said immediately.  “No, I just wanted to tell you, and to ask you to please fit me in the earlier shifts as much as you can that’s all.”

“This is the beginning of the end Sookie,” he said, and he sounded beyond sad.

“Don’t say that, Sam.  We’re trying to work on our relationship, and the distance isn’t helping.  I always thought we needed time apart, but obviously that isn’t working, so now we’re going to try spending time together,” I explained.  He knew that meant that we’d tried it my way, now we were going to try Eric’s way and see how that went.

“I’ll work out your schedule, cher,” Sam said, trying to sound like he cared, but I knew he didn’t.  It would be tough for him.  He’d never approved of either of my vampire boyfriends, so he couldn’t care less about my trying to save my relationship with Eric.  In a way that hurt, but I understood there was no way for me to make Sam think differently, even if I did think of him as a friend.

After I hung up with Sam I packed the contents of the very top drawer of my dresser, including the cluviel dor.  I figured it would travel safely inside my pocket, while the rest of my doodads could go in a small overnight bag I had.  I wrapped the cluviel dor inside a handkerchief that used to belong to Gran, and put it in the front pocket of my jeans.  It looked like I had a handkerchief stuck inside the pocket of my jeans, so that would work.

Instead of pacing and waiting, I decided that I needed to take food with me as well.  The perishable things wouldn’t survive the forty-five-minute trip from Bon Temps to Shreveport, but I could take my coffee, my Splenda, some canned things, and then go to the grocery store tomorrow to get whatever was missing.  Mustapha Khan rang the doorbell when I was finishing up packing the things I wanted from the kitchen.

“I brought the luggage,” he said, and pointed to a large SUV with the trunk open and several pieces of luggage ready to go.

“I might not need that many.  Can you bring in two and then we’ll figure out if I need more?” I asked, he nodded curtly and retrieved two large pieces.  He carried them inside for me.  The whole time I tried to read his mind, but I wasn’t getting much from his snarly brain other than a list of things to do for Eric: help Sookie, take Sookie to Eric’s, unload luggage, ask Sookie if she needed dinner, get her dinner… I didn’t tune him out or shield him, but I didn’t pay any more attention to him either.  It seemed that Bubba’s recommendation had turned out to be a good one.

Then I remembered something.  “Mr. Khan, is Bubba staying at Eric’s house?”

“You may call me Mustapha.  And no, I believe Bubba is staying with Pam tonight,” he said.  Again, I got nothing fishy from his brain other than the images associated with his answer.

Mustapha helped me put all the luggage in his SUV, and the groceries in my car, and I followed him out of Bon Temps.  I didn’t say goodbye to my house because somehow I didn’t feel like I would be gone for very long.  I could be gone for years, or days.  I could have come back that same night, or months from now.

I did say goodbye to Dermot, and it cost me everything to not say “thank you for watching the house.”  I knew about fairies and gratitude.  So I simply said, “See you soon,” and tried to mean it.  Whichever way Eric and I did this, I would still have to check on the house often.

Eric’s house always looked nicer during the day while the sun shone through the windows.  After Mustapha left I set out to populate the ground bedroom’s closet with my things.  Somebody (probably Pam) had made room for my things and had even left brand new hangers.  Another dresser was added to the bedroom, a replica of the one that held some of Eric’s clothes.  I filled it with my things, feeling the cluviel dor burning a hole in my pocket as well.  But I wasn’t willing to part with it just yet.  I suspected that my calm during this situation could be attributed to its fairy powers.  I needed it for now.

Mustapha brought me dinner a few hours later.  It seemed like we were starting to grow on each other.  Even without my asking, he’d brought me dessert.  He’d said the place where he’d got me my dinner was famous for their pecan pie.  I wasn’t about to argue with such a gesture.  He left shortly thereafter and I ate alone in the kitchen, thinking that this would now be my house, and how boring the kitchen looked because I’d barely used it before, and Eric certainly never did, other than the microwave to heat up blood.

I was cleaning up after myself when I heard the door to the downstairs open.  It was the only clue I had that Eric had woken up for the night.  The night we killed Victor I’d been happy that we no longer had our bond, because I didn’t want to feel what Eric was feeling after all the violence.  But at moments like this I missed the connection.  It wasn’t like being free.  It was like being alone.

“My wife is home,” Eric said, walking slowly to me.  He was still wearing sleep pants and a tank top, and I was glad he was wearing clothes at all.  We had a lot to talk about before we indulged in any carnal pleasures.  Nevertheless, when he hugged me tight I felt something inside me give and settle, like the feeling you get just after a fierce afternoon thunderstorm, when the hot day has been cleansed and is leading to a calm cool night.  I returned the hug as tight as I could, which wasn’t very much since I hadn’t had his blood in so long.  “Thank you, Sookie.”

He brought my face up to kiss me, but he kept it chaste.  I knew he was preparing for our talk.  We made our way to the living room and took seats across from each other.  It would be the best way to keep talking without succumbing to our obvious desire for each other.  I took a deep breath, getting ready to say something (though I wasn’t sure what) but he beat me to it.

“I must apologize for the other night.  I should not have called you a hypocrite, and I should not have hurt you.  It was unforgivable of me but I hope you will forgive me anyway,” he said, trying to look up but ending up looking down at his hands between his knees.

“I was thinking I was being a hypocrite for not rejoicing along with you, and then you went ahead and called me on it.  That part doesn’t need forgiving, you were right.  But I do forgive you for hurting me.  It was only a small pain.  I might have even deserved it,” I said.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?  In hindsight I was happy that Victor and his lackeys were gone.  We saved many more lives than we took, including those of the people we loved.  That’s the way I saw it.  In hindsight.

“No, Sookie.  You did not deserve the pain, not the physical or any other kind.  And that’s why we’re talking now.  Something about the way I am has been hurting you, and therefore hurting us.  I wish to know what it is.”  Eric sat back in his seat, choosing his body language carefully.  He didn’t cross his arms over his chest like I expected him to.  He kept his arms limp at either side of him.

“The way you view the violence,” I began, “is not how I see it.  To me vampires are people.  A lot of people died the other night,” I tried to keep my voice low and steady, because I didn’t want him to think I was accusing him of anything.  “I didn’t feel like celebrating our good fortune among the dead and wounded.  I hope that is something you can understand.”

Eric nodded slowly, letting it sink in.  “I am different than you in that respect, and have always been, even during my days as human.  Rejoicing after the defeat of an enemy was part of my human culture, and it is now part of my vampire culture.  My nature and who I was born to be preclude me from feeling any other way.  But I do see your point.  You are not of my time, and you are not vampire.”

“And I see yours,” I added quickly.  “I don’t want you to change.  I’ve done enough changing for the both of us already.”

“What do you mean by that?  I don’t follow.”

“I’ve made compromises and I’ve done things that I’m not proud of, just to save my own skin,” I’d looked down, but I looked up again because I hadn’t done those things solely to save my own skin.  “I killed Debbie Pelt to save you.”

“And yourself as well,” he added.  “Her next bullet was meant for you.  You saved countless lives in Rhodes.  The good outweighs the bad in you, Sookie.  Why do you not see it?  Everybody else does.”

I was speechless, but not for long.  “I killed Lorena to save Bill, but that was sheer luck.”

“You saved someone you cared for from agonizing pain and torture,” Eric said.  I noticed he didn’t say I’d loved Bill, though I had at the time.  “That same night you saved a clerk from death, and cared about me enough to go look for me.”

I grew silent.  All these arguments about why I was still a good person, at least in the eyes of the vampire sitting across from me.  “So, what are we saying here?”

“Are you really that different now from the woman who first came into my bar trying to clear her brother’s name?  You warned us of the raid.  You cared then even though you were scared of us.  What has changed within you?  What is this change of which you speak?”

He got me.  I couldn’t answer.  I looked at him wide-eyed.  He’d made some very good points and it was hard to explain to him why I thought I’d changed.  “I can understand the violence, now,” I said finally.  That was what had tripped me the other night, why I’d said that our relationship was at a turning point, because I at last understood Eric.

“I suppose, since you’ve never been a soldier, you don’t see the violence around you.  In a way you’ve been sheltered, and that’s a good thing for someone with your remarkable gift…”

“I have something to tell you about that too,” I interrupted.

“I will not forget,” he leaned over to me, scooting as close as he could to the edge of his seat and asking for my hands with his.  We threaded our fingers together.  “The violence is over.  With Victor gone everyone will think twice about antagonizing the people in my area.  We’re safe.”

“What about Felipe?”

“What about him?  I already sent word that Victor and his people mounted an unprovoked attack on my people, and we had to defend ourselves.  All my people will testify to that if they are asked.  Felipe wasn’t fond of Victor anyway, as you well know.  He sent him here to get him out of Nevada.”

Something about that statement made my instincts itch, but I had to accept (finally) that Eric was better versed in these matters than me.  “Okay.”

“Are we okay?” he asked.

“I think we’re okay.  We still need to work on a few things, like…”

“Like Oklahoma,” he interrupted.  I nodded and he continued.  “I don’t like being forced to do anything,” he said and his nostrils flared.  I guessed he was remembering his maker.  “If I wanted to marry a vampire queen, I could have done so long ago.  I like power, but not that kind.  I wouldn’t suddenly become King of Oklahoma therefore my power would depend upon the Queen’s.  Besides, I’ve never wanted to be king.”

“They’ve told me she’s really pretty,” I said in a small voice because I was feeling jealous and insignificant all at the same time.

“She doesn’t hold a candle to you, my dearest wife.  But to settle the matter, I have already sent a letter explaining our situation, as I promised you I would.  If she is as queenly as she seems, she will not want someone like me, who chose a human for a wife.  Mind you, I am the envy of many, starting with Compton,” he said and smiled, as if the thought of sticking it to Bill still gave him pleasure.  He composed his features to address the other matter at hand.  “What did you want to tell me about your gift?”

I told Eric everything that Mr. Cataliades had said.  The further I delved into the account, the more his eyes widened.  “All this time, the demon lawyer could read minds just as good as you,” he said astonished.

“Yes, and Eric… there’s one more thing.”  I reached in my pocket, taking out the cluviel dor.  I’d made up my mind to tell Eric.  He wasn’t likely to show the fairies, and I trusted him implicitly.  I doubted he would try to use it himself when his most sincere wish had always been to keep me safe.  I unfolded the hanky in my hand and showed him the small round talisman, the golden edges of what I perceived as the lid catching the light from the lamp next to me, scattering it to the ceiling.  He frowned but didn’t touch it, which was probably a good thing, I thought.  “It’s a cluviel dor,” I said, to see if the name would register with him.

It did.  His eyes widened large as saucers, and he backed away from it.  “Who gave you that?” he asked with a hint of accusation.  I understood his reaction.  He probably thought some fairy admirer had given it to me.

“I found it inside an old desk together with a note from Gran.  It was a gift from my half-fairy grandfather to her.  She hid it and meant to give it to me, but she was killed before she could tell me about it,” I said, and let the words sink in.  I noticed that I had to do that a lot with Eric, or maybe it was just tonight.  His expression became absolutely serious and resolute.

“Sookie, I want you to keep that with you at all times.  It can save your life.  Do you understand how much magic is inside that tiny little thing?” he asked.

“Yes, it does have an effect on me as if I were hugging a fairy… lots and lots of fairies,” I said and smiled a little giddy because talking about the cluviel dor apparently had that effect on me as well.

“Thank you for telling me you have it.  Now I feel better about not having our blood bond,” he said and watched as I rewrapped the cluviel dor and put it in my pocket.

“About the blood bond…” I started.

“Yes?” he said, his eyes lighting up.

“I don’t like not having it.  It feels… lonely,” I said.  It had cost me a lot of pride to say it out loud.  But this is what we were doing, right?  Communicating, learning how the other felt about “us.”

“Would you be willing to bond with me again?” he asked, but he had kept his face neutral, as if showing me he was happy about it would have made me change my mind.  In all honesty, it might have.

“Ye…” I didn’t get to say the whole word.  As soon as the beginning of it escaped my lips we were on the bed.  His hand dug inside my pocket, retrieving the cluviel dor and putting it carefully on the nightstand.  Then he proceeded to rip my clothes off me.

“Eric!  I don’t have money to replace those!” I said, hearing tear after tear of cloth, buttons snapping, vampire growling.

“I’ll give you a credit card just so I can rip your clothes off you, darling,” he said, his mouth already kissing my belly and making its way down, down, and oh, my goodness! Down.  I gasped at the sudden assault of his tongue.  It felt so wonderful to be close to him again.  It had been too long.

Eric never took his eyes off me as he pleasured me, and even though I was trembling and losing my breath, I tried my best to keep my eyes on him too.  But as soon as the golden wave crested I threw my head back and called his name, knotting my fingers through his hair to keep him from moving from that spot until I was done.  He made his way up my body, planting kisses here and there, taking his time.

“Last time you were mine it went too fast,” he said with a smile.  “Tonight we have all night long.”

“Do we?  That’s great,” I said weakly, still recovering.

“Yes.  We must celebrate.  This is your home now.  I want to hear your moans echo through all of it,” he said, this time his smile had turned wicked.  He was kneeling between my open legs, teasing me where I was tender.

“Bring it,” I said a little less weakly.

He brought it alright, gliding inside me in one smooth stroke.  He kept a slow languid pace, caressing my body, teasing my nipples.  It felt like we were truly making love, not just having sex.  It felt good.  It felt right.  Eric brought his body down to mine, covering me completely, knowing that I always felt safe and cherished whenever I could feel his whole weight on me.  He was still looking into my eyes when he spoke.

“Do you remember our first night?” he asked, running the back of his fingers over my face.

“Yes.  Unforgettable,” I muttered and smiled.

“You took such good care of me,” he said and kissed my lips.

We made love for what seemed like a long time, talking a little, teasing a little.  I was reminded of why I loved him.  It wasn’t the amazing sex, it was the intimate moments when we were of each other, and I knew him better.  Did this make up for all the violence?  I wasn’t sure yet, but I was willing to see it through.

Eric rearranged us so that we could exchange blood.  He sat on the bed and I knelt over him, keeping the rhythm as he bit into his wrist and offered it to me.  I put my mouth over the wounds, sucking to make the blood flow better, bracing for Eric’s sudden lust.  He loved to give me blood.

He took over the movement of our bodies and sank his fangs into my vulnerable neck.  That blissful feeling he’d withheld the other night was back in full force, and together with our lust I was carried out to sea, moaning into his wrist as I tried to keep enough wits to keep sucking.

We remained in our embrace, slowly coming down from our ecstasy.  Eric was licking my neck slowly, and when he was done I sagged against him, relishing the feel of his arms around me.  This could be easy if I stopped fighting it.

“I think we needed this,” he said, his voice rumbling inside his chest.

“What’s that?” I murmured, caressing his chest.

“We needed to make love, to reconnect.  I’ve missed this more than anything.  Sex with you is out of this world, but sometimes I like to make love to my wife,” he said, running his hands over my back and butt.

I looked up to look in his eyes.  “I feel the same way,” I said.  Now it was my turn to kiss him.  Our kiss started slow, but apparently Eric was done with slow because he took over the kiss and we quickly began a new frenzy, nipping and biting, sucking and pulling.  Not that I was complaining.

Just as we were about to get hot and heavy, his cell phone rang.  He looked up at the ceiling with a groan, and tried his best to reach it without separating his body from mine.  It was kind of funny, actually.

“Yes, Pam,” he said by way of answer.  His displeased look gave way to a worried one.  “We’re on our way,” he said and hung up.  “I’m sorry, dearest.  Duty calls.  Pam says I’m needed at Fangtasia, something about a new nest.  Will you come with me so you can see what we did after we cleaned up?”

I nodded.  It came with being married to a powerful vampire, I supposed.  I cleaned myself up and got dressed; all the while Eric’s eyes were following my progress through… through our bedroom.  It felt odd to say it.  It was such an Eric room.  Maybe I would buy some sheets in a floral pattern, make it more of a Sookie & Eric room, instead.  I smiled at my own thoughts and stuck the cluviel dor inside a pocket of my jeans.

We made our way to Fangtasia in the Corvette, but Eric was driving slower than what was normal for him, holding my hand whenever he didn’t have to shift.  He brought it up to kiss it at a light, and looked down at it thoughtfully.

“It is customary for the husband to give the wife a ring.  Would you be opposed to wearing a gold band on your finger?” he asked.

“I’ll wear one if you wear one,” I said.  “The wife gives one to the husband too,” I added.

“We’ll go shopping,” he said and shot me a wide smile.  I shook my head.  He was beyond happy.  Obviously getting rid of Victor and the sudden weight that had lifted made him act more like himself.

Fangtasia was supposed to be closed that night, which explained the lack of cars in the parking lot.  Pam’s was there, and some others that I didn’t recognize.  We went in through the back entrance, and as soon as Pam opened the door for us we were seized from behind.

I screamed at the sudden fright, immediately feeling stupid for doing so.  I was more focused on Eric, who was now wearing a silver net over his head and a thin silver chain all over his body.  He collapsed with a growl on the ground, and the vampire who had caught Eric by surprise picked him up and carried him inside as if he weighed no more than a few pounds.  I struggled against the strong arms around me, but I knew it was futile.  It was another vampire.  The swiftness of the attack had been such that neither Eric, Pam nor I had a chance to sense anything was amiss.  Pam was being carried in the same way as Eric, and the vampire behind me simply pushed me forward.  I wasn’t restrained, but I knew that if I attempted anything, I was as good as dead.

We were taken all the way to the main area of the bar.  Felipe de Castro was sitting on one of the thrones on the stage, wearing his usual cape and holding his usual cane.  I suspected the cane turned into a handy stake if the need arose.  Next to Felipe were several of his people, guards.  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that Felipe really did mind that we had killed Victor, no matter if Eric’s argument had been justified.

They sat Eric and Pam in chairs far away from each other and in front of the stage, while I was made to climb and sit next to Felipe.  He turned to me with a beatific smile that in no way fit with the current turn of events.

“How are you this evening, Miss Stackhouse?” he asked, pretending to be cordial.

“I’ve been better,” I answered honestly as my eyes roamed over to Eric and Pam.  The skin on their faces was beginning to smoke under the silver nets, but they didn’t move at all.  Eric’s eyes were trained on me, while Pam’s were moving all around us, assessing every threat.  Either that or she was making up her mind about who she was going to take down first.

“I can understand,” said Felipe.  “Then again, you are not the one who killed the regent of the state of Louisiana.”

As he said that, my eyes widened.  I’d had help, but yes, I’d been the one to kill Victor.  Obviously Felipe wouldn’t believe me even if I’d felt the need to tell him.  I tried to hide the fact that I was having a hard time catching my breath, but I couldn’t hide the fact that my heart was doing somersaults inside my chest.

“So, which of you killed Victor?” Felipe asked Eric and Pam.

“I did,” Eric said, taking all the blame, even though he’d done the least damage to Victor.

“Why?”  Felipe stood up as he asked the question, and I was filled with a new sense of dread.  Instead of moving to Eric or Pam, he moved to stand on the other side of me.

“I had to kill Victor in self defense.  His people attacked mine, and then he attacked me,” Eric said.  His voice did not give away the type of agony he was surely in.

“What role did your wife play in this fiasco?” Felipe asked, caressing my shoulder with the cane.

Eric let go of a low growl before answering.  “She had none.  She knows she must hide if there is a fight.”

“You’re a smart woman,” Felipe said, probably looking at me, but I couldn’t tear my gaze from Eric to check.  “So tell me, Sookie, will you join my staff once I carry out your husband’s sentence?  I have a need of a smart woman.”

I swallowed some choice words.  I would not let my mouth get me into trouble, but I did have a question.  “What are you going to do to Eric and Pam?”

“I might let Pam live, but Eric must pay for killing the regent of Louisiana.  I cannot have his crime go unpunished.  You understand, don’t you?” Felipe asked with sugar in his voice.  It tasted bitter.

For once fear made me immobile.  I felt the bile rise in my throat as they took off the net over Eric’s head.  It had left a crisscross pattern on his skin, the welts looked open, red and angry.  I couldn’t stop my tears as much as I tried.  Seeing him like that broke my heart.

Eric roared as he tried to come undone from the silver chains, thrashing this way and that on the chair.  Pam had somehow slid from the chair to the floor and was now on her feet, still in chains but without the net.  Her face was just as mangled as Eric’s.  Everyone’s attention was directed away from me, and I took the chance to get the cluviel dor out of my pocket.  I held it tight in my hands, feeling how my body heat had warmed it.  It was the only bit of sanity I had left.

I watched helpless as three vampires tried to subdue Eric again, but every time they came close he would move in a way to sear them with the chains on his body.  Pam was knocking her body into one then into another, doing the same thing as Eric, but neither of them was doing much damage.  They were the ones who were bound in silver.  Felipe’s guards were just waiting them out.

Felipe moved a little forward so I could see he was taking the cane apart.  Sure enough: it turned into a stake.  I felt a pair of strong arms hold me against the chair, and looked up to find another guard.  The guard was not looking at me, but there was no way for me to escape.

“This cannot be happening,” I muttered, willing the cluviel dor to stop Felipe, who was now moving with purpose towards Eric.  “This cannot be happening,” I said more forcefully, watching as two guards held Eric’s shoulders and knocked him to the ground, with a third guard pouncing on his legs immediately.  The ground shook with the force they used on him.  “This cannot be happening!” I said a third time, my voice echoing above Eric’s voice telling me to get out of here.  The cluviel dor lay motionless within my grasp.  It wasn’t helping my loved one, and it wasn’t helping me.  I felt a sob rip through my chest when I realized that my wish wasn’t coming true and I was about to lose everything I held dear.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t watch as Felipe sank the stake into Eric’s chest.

Felipe’s arm went up in the air, taking aim, and as soon as his arm began moving down I shut my eyes and screamed.  “THIS NEVER HAPPENED!

Everything stopped.

Felipe’s stake was just piercing through the outer layer of Eric’s skin.  Pam was motionless and looked to be in mid-flight, launching herself at Felipe.  I looked around me and down at my hands, where golden tendrils of something that looked like fairy dust began to swirl and shoot from the cluviel dor.  I felt free of the hands that had me locked in the chair, so I stood up.

Something told me to stay exactly where I was, so I obeyed my gut feeling, still holding the cluviel dor and marveling.  It had come to the rescue of the one I loved.  It had done what it was supposed to do.  I’d despaired and wept, but it had ultimately done its job.  I watched enthralled as more and more tendrils appeared, this time wrapping around me.  I felt warm and at peace, the same way I felt whenever I’d hugged Claudine.  I thought about her now, feeling her presence, though I knew she wasn’t there.

The tendrils began to tighten around me, making it difficult to breathe.  For some reason, I couldn’t seem to care.  If I was meant to die at the same time as Eric, then it was okay by me.  But I had to have faith that the cluviel dor was going to make everything right.  This was its true purpose: to right the wrongs and fix what was broken.

I closed my eyes and knew I would pass out at any moment because I’d been without breath for too long.  A pain shot through my stomach, then another through my lower abdomen.  The same pain pierced through my chest, but the cluviel dor was making it impossible for me to panic.  Just when I thought there would be no more pain, I was shot through my head, which made me open my eyes and take in my new reality.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Sookie?” I heard Bill’s voice next to me.  He was holding my hand and we were in Fangtasia.  The place was hopping.  I turned to him with a question in my eyes.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

I didn’t know how to answer.  I didn’t know what was happening, other than I was having a feeling of déjà vu.  I looked down at myself and I was wearing a white dress stamped with large red flowers.  “Oh, my God in Heaven!” I muttered.  “I need to sit down.”

“We can’t.  There is going to be a raid any moment now.  We have to go.  You said so yourself,” Bill said.  I turned to look at him, and he had a worried look on his face.  I could only nod as he led the way swiftly out the front door.

And there, waiting for us out in the parking lot, was Eric.  My heart ached to see him, but he didn’t know me yet.  I looked up at the night sky, letting Bill guide me.  I was wondering if reality would come crashing down and this was only a dream.  The sky was just as dark as ever.  No planets were about to fall from the sky.  Reality wasn’t shimmering at the edges.  Everything looked solid.  I switched my gaze back to Eric and smiled involuntarily, remembering that Gran was still alive on this night that seemed so long ago.  It had the effect of making Eric think I was smiling at him… and I sort of was.  He smiled back with surprise in his eyes.  I finally had my second chance.

Next Chapter

12 thoughts on “Chapter 1 – The Worst is Just Around the Bend

  1. I am so glad I found this story again! I had started reading it over on fanfiction.net and had an alert on it, then it disappeared and I tried to find it again and couldn’t remember the name or author. I have it bookmarked here so I can read it now and hopefully won’t lose it again! Thanks!

  2. This is such a great alternative. I was so upset after reading dead reckoning. Keep it going
    I so enjoy your stories.
    B

  3. Pingback: And the Winner Is…. « Ladyhlin's Bubble

  4. I loved it when we voted and I loved it here too. Thank you for continuing this. I can’t wait to see how you reweave their story! There’s a million places you could go and I’m sure you’ll surprise us all. Can’t wait!

  5. This is a wonderful solution to what seemed to be an impossible situation. And I’m thrilled you are going to continue this delightful and creative idea. Charlaine Harris could take a lesson from what you wrote. It uses what is provided in the book, and finds a way for them to have a second chance.

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