Mark and Allan stood with the third man and said their hellos before Mark offered, "Sookie this is John Quinn. The Council sent him." Since the human painters weren't close and the construction crews working on the guest house were all around back Allan added, "He's a weretiger."
Eyes widening Sookie gasped, "A tiger? Really?" She scanned her eyes up and down to take in Quinn's figure. He was well over six feet, and she guessed probably almost as tall as Eric. He was wearing low rider jeans, boots, and a white muscle shirt. He had a shaved head and a very muscular body. What really caught her attention were Quinn's eyes. They were a beautiful violet. "You have really pretty eyes."
Quinn smirked and nodded his head at Sookie as he replied, "Likewise, and you smell really nice. You plain human?"
"As far as I know."
Putting his hands in his pockets Quinn laughed, "Well you've got to be something special. The Council bought out my debt to the Nevada Vamps so I could be assigned to you personally. I got the impression they didn't give my former bosses much of a choice when it came to letting me go either. That's no small thing. Normally the Council doesn't get involved in affairs like that so you've got to have something going on to get this kind of attention. I was in debt for millions and owed more favors than I'd ever be able to repay to those damn Nevada bastards, and with one phone call I'm all of a sudden out of the Pits and on a plane headed here within an hour. So what's your story, Babe?"
Shrugging, Sookie smiled and said, "Your guess is as good as mine. This Council I only just heard of a few weeks ago seems to be doing an awful lot of interfering in my life lately, and they don't seem too keen on telling me why. I'm just trying to keep up right now."
"You're bonded to a Vamp. I can smell his scent in you. Why would a pretty little thing like you want to go and do something like that?" Quinn asked as he flashed another charming smile at Sookie.
A frown marring her features, Sookie growled, "I didn't know I was bonding myself to him at the time. Eric tricked me into all of this and I'm just trying to figure a way out of it all while staying alive and away from whoever it is that is trying to kill me."
"Sounds like a plan," Quinn laughed. When the Council representative had spoken to him before he'd been put on a plane for Louisiana, he'd been told that he was to charm the girl he was being sent to watch over during the days. The representative had stressed he wasn't actually to ever put hands on her, but to be as charismatic as possible to make her bonded jealous. He'd heard of Eric Northman, of course, but since the Council had assigned him the Viking couldn't send him packing for heating up his bonded. 'Besides she's fucking beautiful.'
Sookie found it strange that Quinn's thoughts were so much hazier to her than the Werewolves were. She was only able to catch a few words here and there in his thoughts, but she didn't pick up on any ill intent coming from him so she decided to trust him. 'Besides he's too cute to be a bad guy.' When Thor hopped back up on the porch Sookie finally looked at Mark and Allan, who seemed awfully uncomfortable with the little flirting episode between her and Quinn, and said, "Since there's so much going on I figured I'd get ready for today, we'd collect Han and Ivan's coffins from Bill's and head into Merlotte's for breakfast since they're open in the mornings on weekends. That way when we're done there we can just hit the road."
Mark and Allan nodded their heads and Mark said, "Sure. Sounds good, let us just call Alcide and Tray and tell them to meet us at Merlotte's."
Patting Thor on the head, Sookie added, "That's great. I have to swing by my brother's though. He called last night and said he'd come by but I know he'll forget. After that, we can get some breakfast."
When Sookie went back into the house to get ready, Quinn turned to face Mark and Allan as he said, "I like her. Got that Southern Belle charm going for her."
The brothers shared a look before Allan offered, "You might not want to flirt with her too much. Northman made it clear to all of us he'd rip our hearts out if we touched her. We got a little too friendly with her at first and he had a little chat with us in private about it. He's not someone you want to mess with."
Shrugging Quinn replied, "As long as I don't touch her, he can't touch me. I'm here on Council orders, not his." With that he and the other two Weres sat back on the porch steps to wait for Sookie.
45 minutes later, Quinn was driving Ivan's Hummer up to Jason's house with Allan driving a black Denali with Ivan and Han's coffin's stored in the back behind them. All the luggage was in the backseat of the Hummer, but it wasn't all that much. Sookie and all of her guards had packed four days worth of clothing just in case they ended up having to stay in New Orleans for longer than the night they planned. When they got to Jason's Sookie turned to Quinn and said, "I'll just be a minute. Keep an eye on Thor."
"Sure thing, Babe," Quinn said as he threw the Hummer into park.
Hopping out, Sookie grabbed her keys out of her purse and flipped to Jason's. Stepping into the house she called out, "Jason? Jason!" Since his truck and Challenger were the only two cars out front she was hoping he was alone. Doing a quick scan, she found only one mind in the house, and sent a quick prayer of thanks that there wouldn't be an awkward confrontation as she got her brother out of bed so she could speak to him. Looking around, she smiled as she saw how nice the place looked with the new furniture. Of course, Jason had picked all rustic and masculine wood and leather furniture, but it still looked good. Making her way to his back bedroom, she found her brother laid out face down on his new solid wood sleigh bed drooling all over his pillow. She was glad he was wearing boxers as she screamed, "JASON!"
"Huh! What!" Jason stuttered as he fell off the other side of the bed when he jumped at his name being screamed.
Giggling madly Sookie plastered an innocent smile on her face as Jason sat up and glared at her from the floor on the other side of the bed. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"
Sending his sister the death glare from hell Jason crawled back into bed and pulled the comforter over his head as he said, "Go away Sook. I said I'd come by later. On a Saturday you know damn well later means after one for me."
Moving to sit on the side of his bed she pulled the comforter back enough to see his face and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to New Orleans today and I should be back tomorrow but it might be later. I'll call and let you know if it is."
Nuzzling his head down into the pillow Jason mumbled, "For what?"
"I've just got some things to take care of. It'll be fine and I'll bring you back something. But I wanted to tell you one more thing before I go since I know Lafayette and Tara won't be able to keep their traps shut for much longer."
"I paid for you to go to Louisiana State University at Shreveport while we were there on Thursday buying cars. I paid for you, Lafayette and Tara to go for six years part time. You start next semester."
That got Jason's attention and he sat up in bed and asked, "What did you say?"
Smiling brightly, Sookie explained, "I used the money Eric gave me to pay for six full years of schooling for you guys. You can go part time and graduate with a full degree. You're going to college, Jason. Everything's paid for. Just go up there to the Registrar's office, show them your license and pick out the degree you want. Books and labs are paid for. You're all set."
Jason's mouth opened and closed a few times before he whispered, "Are you serious?"
"Yeah Jason I am. Go to school. Get a degree like you always wanted. Be something great."
Putting his head in his hands, Jason said, "Sook I can't take this. I can't take this knowing it's costing you. I know that Eric is hurting you in some way. You aren't telling me everything, but I know something is seriously wrong." Looking up at her he added, "I'm really worried about you."
Tears filling her eyes, Sookie leaned forward to kiss her brother's cheek as she replied, "That means a lot to me Jason. It really does, but I want you to take this. Helping you guys with this money is my silver lining right now. Right now the only thing it's costing me is my time and the use of my gift. So please Jason, please take this."
Looking deep into his sister's eyes Jason asked softly, "Eric's got you in deep don't he?"
Smiling softly, Sookie answered, "Deeper than I want to be, and deeper than he originally led me to believe … but for now I have some wiggle room. I'm still at my home and I might still have a chance to get out of this."
"Take it all back Sook. Give that bastard back everything you bought with the money. The keys to that car are on my kitchen counter, and I'll deliver that furniture back to the store personally. Tell him to hell with finding Bill. I don't know the whole story, but I do know whatever's got you looking so scared right now ain't worth it. Take everything back and walk away. Bill was nice and all but you'll find another man. You really only knew him for a few months anyways."
Shaking her head sadly Sookie replied, "It's too late for that Jason. Way too late. Bill's returning next week and I signed a binding contract with Eric to work for him until he doesn't need me to anymore, I can't just walk away. Eric wouldn't let me even if I did."
"Then let's run! Those cars are in all our names so we can sell 'em for cash quick. Let's just cash out and hit the road!"
Taking her brother's hand Sookie whispered, "Jason, running isn't an option. I'm learning it never was. Eric … well you know how dangerous he is. Right now he's holding back and letting me live my life as much as possible. If I were to run with you we wouldn't make it very far before we were caught and then Eric would rip me out of my life and I'd never see any of you ever again."
Eyes narrowing Jason hissed, "Then I'll kill him! Vampires are strong but they aren't invincible!"
"Eric isn't Eddie, Jason, you'd never even get close before he cut you down."
Eyes widening Jason stuttered, "Y ... you—uh, you know about Eddie?"
Nodding her head and smiling softly at him Sookie answered quietly, "Yeah, I saw it in your head. I'm not happy with what happened, but I know it wasn't your fault. Amy got you caught up in her plan and when you tried to fix it she killed him. Eddie was only a few years old Jason. Eric is a thousand. He'd see you coming before you were even close enough to hurt him and he'd kill you. Then I'd still be indebted to him and I'd have lost my only family. Please Jason, please don't do anything stupid. Let me handle this and I promise if there is a way for you to help I'll ask."
Running his hands over his face Jason asked, "So what are you going to do?"
"I've got a few ideas, but nothing you can help me with. Right now I've got to tread carefully with Eric so that he doesn't get more high handed with me than he is already. For now he's content to let things go on as they have been, and I want him to stay in that mindset for as long as possible. And I need you, Lafayette, and Tara to go to school. I haven't gotten half as much out of my deal with Eric as I thought I was, and I need to see something good come out of all of this to give me hope. I'm in a real tough spot right now and I need to see some good things happen because of what I've done so I can keep on fighting. So take this chance to go to school Jason. Take it and run with it. Please."
"I just don't feel right taking it when I know you're hurting."
"It'll hurt me worse if you don't. I've made a lot of sacrifices over the last month and I'm learning most of them were for nothing. I've basically screwed myself here, and I need to see something good come of my foolishness. You guys getting to go to school is real good in my book. Please do this for me, Jason."
Jason looked into her eyes for a minute before pulling her into a hug as he replied, "I'll do it Sook, but you just say the word and I'll grab my shotgun and have your back. Or if you want to run I'll be packed and ready to go in an hour. I'm with you Sook, all the way."
Hugging him back Sookie whispered, "Oh Jason, you don't know what that means to me." They continued to hug for a bit more before she said, "I gotta get going. We're going to Merlotte's for breakfast and then hitting the road. You want to come?"
"Nah, I'm going to go back to sleep. Long night and all."
Seeing the flashes of two leggy blondes he met up with in Monroe Sookie gasped, "Two? Jason!"
Blushing he replied, "Well if you don't want to know stay outta my head Sook! Sheesh! Can't a guy get a little privacy in his own bedroom!"
Sookie laughed as he threw a pillow at her and headed out while saying, "Well at least you left them satisfied."
She laughed all the way to the car. She saw Thor barking at the window in her seat and put him back on the floor as she slid in. When she was buckled she said, "Thanks for waiting."
"No prob Babe. Next time take your dog though, little sucker bit me after you left," Quinn replied as he put the car in drive and headed back to the road.
"He did not!"
"He did. Dogs and cats don't get along too well or haven't you heard?"
Giggling as Thor stood on his back legs with his front paws on the seat by her thigh while he growled at Quinn Sookie whispered, "You're such a good boy Thor! Protecting Mommy from the mean ol' tiger!"
"Good boy my ass. Punk bit me because he knew he'd get away with it. I can't bite him back without you getting mad. That just ain't fair."
Sookie just laughed harder as she pet Thor on the head and told him to stop growling. When they pulled up to Merlotte's she was about to get out but Quinn stopped her and she asked, "What's wrong?"
Quinn unbuckled his seat belt and said, "I didn't bother with your brother's house since it was your brother and all, but from now on full security precautions will be taken. I'm trained in security and I've given a little update to the others before you woke up about how things are going to go from now on. Before you enter a building I'm going to do a quick sweep. Tigers got real good noses and hearing. Better than wolves. So I'll make a quick sweep of the area to make sure there is no bomb residue I can pick up, and to get a feel for the people inside. I'll check the bathrooms and back areas to make sure no one's lying in wait for you so they can shoot off a few rounds once you're inside. When I clear the area Mark and Allan will escort you inside. Ok?"
"Is it really necessary to do all this? It's just Merlotte's."
Quinn eyed Sookie for a moment before he replied, "Sookie I don't know you all that well, and while I was informed you're a telepath there's got to be more going on here for the Council to be going to all these lengths to protect you. You don't know me either but I'm big stuff when it comes to security and manpower. Ask your Vamp tonight. I've taken down Vampires in fights. More than one at the same time. The Council paid off more than twenty million worth of my accumulated debt to the Nevada Vamps and nullified my lifelong debt to them. Whatever is after you is major. I was told your life and safety are their top priority right now so whatever it is you are, or they need you to do, is big. And whoever is after you is big too. There's no such thing as a being too cautious anymore."
Sookie watched as Quinn pulled a Glock 9mm out of his bag in the back with the holster and attach it to his belt before he put two extra clips in his pocket. "This is really serious isn't it? And do you have a license to carry that?"
"Yeah it is serious, and I've had a license to carry a firearm since I was 18. I'm a good shot too." Quinn watched as Mark and Allan came to stand by the car. They each were carrying guns now as well and had been given emergency carrying permits. He'd had his for years, and the Council had arranged for it to be extended into Louisiana by the time he landed early this morning. With the other two guards in place Quinn shot Sookie a smile and said, "See you in a minute."
Walking inside Quinn took a look around and saw about 20 people in the bar. The owner, who he'd been informed was Sam Merlotte and was a Shifter, nodded his head at him in recognition that he was a Supe and Quinn walked up to him. "Hey … you're Sam right?"
"Yeah … you are?" Sam asked while wiping off the counter.
"Sookie's head of daytime security. Need to take a look around before she comes in."
Sam's eyes widened and he said, "I heard about the pledging the other night by Han and Ivan. Something big is going on huh?" He glared at Arlene when she tried to sidle up and hear their conversation.
When the fake red head was gone Quinn nodded and replied, "Big enough that the Council bought out my life debt to the Nevada Vamps and ordered me here to protect her during the day. Name's John Quinn by the way."
"John Quinn? The Pit fighter?"
Shaking his head Sam whispered, "She's in a whole world of trouble then. They wouldn't have gotten you unless she was in serious danger. Look around all you want."
Nodding his head Quinn made a quick tour of the building. He checked the storage room, the kitchen, the back office and both bathrooms before heading back to the front and scanning the patrons. Everyone seemed real interested in him but he didn't spot any threats. Mostly families, and he didn't see any bulges in anybody's clothes that looked like they could be carrying a weapon. Pulling out his phone as he took up a booth in the back corner so he could see all the entrance and exits he said to Allan, "Bring her in." When Allan and his brother escorted Sookie in a few minutes later with her dog padding after her he slid out of the booth and indicated for her to get in as he said, "You always sit on the inside and with your back to the wall."
Sookie decided to do as he said and slid in while Thor walked under the table to lay down on her feet. When she sat Quinn slid in next to her and took up the majority of the seat while Mark and Allan sat down on the other side of the booth. Before their waitress came the bell rang and Alcide and Tray walked in. They immediately took a seat in the booth in front of Sookie's. It was about this time that Arlene strolled over. Sadly the booth Quinn had selected was in her section.
"What can I get for y'all," Arlene asked as she batted her eyes at Quinn.
Quinn looked at Sookie and said, "Ladies first."
Sookie smiled at his manners and then told Arlene, "I'll have the vegetarian omelet, a glass of orange juice, and a glass of chocolate milk."
Arlene rolled her eyes at Sookie before focusing back on Quinn and continuing, "And what about you sugar?"
"Steak and Eggs. As rare as the cook will make it. A cup of coffee. Black." Quinn handed her his menu back without a smile. The woman was a little too over the top for his taste and he couldn't understand why she'd dye her hair that color. Not to mention he didn't like her manner towards Sookie.
A little put off by Quinn's cold demeanor, even if he was drop dead sexy, Arlene took everyone else's orders quick before walking off. When she was gone Sookie asked, "Alcide I hope we didn't interrupt any of your and Tray's plans this morning when I decided for us to come to breakfast."
Shaking his head Alcide replied, "Nah. We were just finishing up packing. Tray and I were actually going to be heading to your house in a few minutes anyways. This way we get a good breakfast instead of grabbing something on the road on the way."
Sookie was glad to hear that and for the rest of breakfast she and her guards made light conversation and ignored the questioning stares of all the patrons that wondered why she had so many men with her, and why they all had guns. When it was time to go Sookie used one of her credit cards to pay and decided to be generous and left Arlene a $50 tip since she knew Colby's birthday was coming up.
Once they were back on the road with their little convoy of a Hummer, a Denali, and Alcide's new truck Sookie looked at Quinn and asked, "So how did you get indebted to the Nevada vamps?"
"You don't want to know."
"No. You don't. You like me right now and if I told you why I owed them you won't."
Sookie smiled softly at them and said, "Why don't you let me be the judge of that."
Quinn was silent a moment before he explained, "My Mom…uh… well she's got some psychiatric problems. She escaped from a mental facility for Supernaturals when I was young. She changed into a tiger and some hunters caught her. When she reverted back to her human form they raped her. I caught up to them as one of them was…well I was young and didn't have as good of control of my instincts back then. I changed … none of the hunters survived. My mother was hysterical and I was just a teenage boy. I was big and strong but I didn't know what to do. I knew the Vamps had The Cleaners so I called Felipe De Castro, the Sherriff of Vegas and King of Nevada and struck a deal. I didn't understand that once you're in with Vampires there is no getting away from them. They made the problem go away but then they kept dragging me down deeper and deeper in debt for every little thing. I was working for them full time and I couldn't afford to pay for my Mother to go to a better hospital so I had to make another deal for them to pay it. Not to mention the rape ended with my Mother pregnant which gave me my sister Frannie. Obviously my mother couldn't keep her so I needed additional funds for a full time nanny to watch her while I was working. Within a few years I was so deep there was no getting out. I'm actually glad you're so important to the Council. They told me as long as I keep you safe through the next couple of years while they deal with the threat to you then I'll be free and clear to live my own life afterwards."
Sookie thought over what Quinn told her and finally decided she had no right to judge. She didn't approve of killing, but she was learning that Supernaturals had instincts inside them that drove them. She also couldn't imagine what it must have been like for Quinn to be tracking his sick mother and find her being pinned down and raped by a group of men. Her own brief encounter with near rape and her childhood memories rushed into her mind. Putting her hand on his arm as he stared straight ahead at the road she whispered, "I'm glad you don't work for them anymore, and I think it's noble you took total responsibility for your mother and raised your sister afterward. Do you still take care of her?"
Smiling at Sookie's acceptance of his actions Quinn replied, "Yeah. She's just fifteen. She was going to a private school in Las Vegas but the Council has arranged for her to move here with me. They bought us a house in Monroe and she's going to enroll in school there. I talked to her on the phone this morning and she's really excited to meet you. She really wants to thank you. I know you didn't arrange for us to get to come here, but the fact is your needing us saved our lives. The Nevada vamps would have found a way to use her against me over and over again. Thanks to you we're free. The Council even arranged for my mother to get into the best treatment facility for supernaturals in the country. It's in Texas, so it won't be too hard for me and Frannie to see her from time to time."
"I'm glad things are working out for you then. No one should have their family used against them like that."
"So what's your story, Babe? Why are you where you're at?"
With that, Sookie launched into her tale of how she came to be with Bill, all that had happened to her since meeting him, his kidnapping, her deal with Eric and everything that had happened since then. She talked for a little over an hour and a half. "So that's about it. I'm blood bonded to Eric though I didn't agree to be, and I'm stuck in the middle of some huge conspiracy involving me that I know nothing about."
Letting out a whistle Quinn laughed, "And I thought I had it bad. Babe you're in a whole world of trouble."
"Yeah. I'm getting that. Any advice?"
Shrugging, Quinn said, "As long as Northman is alive you're bonded to him. No ifs, ands, or buts. From his reputation as a fighter, and the trouble the Council is going to keep you and him bonded I'd say he's not going anywhere. All the advice I can offer you is to play smart Sook. Don't make any rash decisions and really think before you act. Nothing is ever as immediate as these Vamps make you think. When something happens unless you're actually in immediate in your face danger sit your ass down and think of every option you can before asking for a favor."
Sookie laughed and replied, "Yeah … I'm learning that lesson a little late in the game."
The trip to New Orleans was actually pretty quick. They stopped once to get gas and to stretch their legs, but other than that they drove nonstop for the entire five and a half hours. It was half past 5pm when they pulled up to the Hilton Riverside hotel in New Orleans. They were greeted warmly at the front and directed to the 29th floor to check into their executive suites. Eric had booked four rooms. One for her Vampire bodyguards; light tight, of course. Two for her Were guards to split between them, and of course he'd booked the light tight Governor Suite for him to share with her. As the bellhop carried her bags in Sookie looked around the room in awe as Quinn swept it for hidden attackers or other possible threats. When he was satisfied that it was clean he went to his own room and told her that she was not to leave hers without him. He'd given her his cell number earlier so she could contact him easily.
When he was gone Sookie toured her room in wonder. Everything was luxurious to say the least as the suite sported a large bathroom and a living area. Jumping on the bed she laughed as she bounced atop the California king size mattress. Running her hands over the silky down comforter she spotted the box atop the table in the living room and headed over to check it out. On top of the boxes there was one of Eric's black envelopes and Sookie opened it up to read:
This is your dress, shoes and jewelry for tonight. As always the jewelry is yours to keep. Normally I like to see you in red, but the queen always dresses in that color and is displeased by others outshining her in that color. As you are so much more stunning, I've decided to adorn you in a different color for tonight. Go to the hotel spa and relax for the rest of the day. You need to be back in your room by 7pm so that you can shower and let your makeup and hairstylist get you ready for the evening. We are due at the Queen's compound by 9pm, but it is only a 15 minute drive from the hotel. I'll meet you in the lobby of the hotel at 8:45pm.
See you soon lover.
EShaking her head Sookie decided she'd like to be surprised at her dress later and called Quinn to come get her so they could go to the spa. She could definitely do with a massage. For the next two hours, Sookie got waxed, rubbed, oiled, and steamed to her heart's content and made it back to her room to meet with her Stylist, Sarah, at a few minutes past 7. The woman was nice, but rushed her through a fast shower so she could plop her down in front of the bathroom mirror in a chair and begin working on her hair and makeup. Her hair took the longest since Sarah worked it into a very complicated hairstyle with an amethyst and diamond headband that weaved through her straightened hair. When her hair and makeup was finally done Sarah helped her into her dress, and Sookie had to admit it was one of the prettiest dresses she'd ever seen.
It was a floor length lavender silk and sheer gown that hugged her curves tightly. It had a halter top made of silk that attached to her bust. A sheer material swirled with the silk and was embroidered with silver and various shades of purple flowering. She'd never seen a dress like it before, and she absolutely loved it! After the dress was on Sookie put on the matching bracelets, ring, and earrings to finish up her outfit along with matching beaded stilettos. She felt like a princess in her gown and was so pleased with her image in the mirror she almost forgot she was about to walk into the lion's den.
"Don't you look a vision," Sarah commented as she toyed with a strand of Sookie's hair before stepping back to admire her work.
Nodding her head Sookie replied, "I do look nice. Usually the clothes Eric picks for me aren't things I would choose for myself, but I really like this dress."
"It is an unusual style, but it looks wonderful on you." Hearing a knock at the door Sarah added, "I guess that's your cue. It's a little past 8:30 now. It was nice meeting you Miss Stackhouse and feel free to call anytime you're in New Orleans and need your hair and makeup done."
Sookie nodded her head before heading for the door. She'd left Thor with water, food and toys to hang out in the suite while she was gone, and Alcide had promised to take him outside while she was gone.
Opening the door, she smiled at Han and Ivan. They were both in black suits with their weapons strapped tight to their backs again. "Don't you two look nice?"
Han and Ivan nodded at her before Han said, "The Northman is downstairs in the lobby waiting for you. We must go."
Closing her door behind her and handing to the key to Han since she wasn't carrying a purse Sookie followed after her guards. It wasn't hard to spot Eric in the lobby. He was wearing a two button high sheen black Armani suit. He had no tie and his shirt was the same lavender color of her dress and opened enough to show his chest. Sookie hated to admit it but he looked good.
Eric watched Sookie approach and forced himself not to get an erection. Just as he knew it would, the dress looked wonderful on Sookie. He knew most of the vampires would have their pets dressed scantily tonight and he wanted it to be apparent that Sookie was different. Taking the last few steps towards her Eric held his hand out to hisbonded and when she took it he kissed her fingers and said, "You look stunning, my Sookie."
"Can't you call me just Sookie? Why do you always have to add the my to it?"
Smirking as he tucked her hand in his arm to lead her to their limo Eric replied, "Because I like reminding myself and everyone else that you are mine." He felt the sharp spike of her anger at his response and smiled down at her predatorily. "Do you like the dress?"
"Yes. It's better than most of the ones you pick me. Where did you get it?"
"It's by a couple of well known Lebanese designers. You'll be hard pressed to find one here in Louisiana. I sent away for it. I'm glad you like it as I have several gowns for you by them."
Sookie waited until Eric had helped her into the Hummer limo and Han and Ivan joined them before she asked, "How long are we going to have to stay here tonight?"
"As long as it takes. The queen might dismiss us after only a few minutes, or keep us there till nearly dawn. It is entirely up to her. You will be flanked by Han and Ivan the entire time, and should the queen maneuver it so that we must spend the night I will send for your Were guards and they will be there before I, Han and Ivan must seek rest for the day. You will be well protected."
"And you're sure she isn't going to try and take me?"
"Not with us there Sookie," Han said before Eric could reply. "She would be a fool to try. Queen or not, she hasn't the skill or manpower to defeat Ivan and I."
"Ivan protect Sookie," her big brute of a Russian bodyguard assured with a nod of his head. Despite them being in a Hummer limo he still looked scrunched over to fit inside and it was all Sookie could do to keep from laughing at the uncomfortable picture he presented.
"Thank you Ivan. That makes me feel better." Turning to Eric she asked, "So what will I have to do?"
"Hopefully nothing. The Queen might just wish to meet you. Or she and the other monarchs will simply want a demonstration of your power and we will be released so they can continue their plans to deal with the Fellowship afterwards. They might have human employees of yours there they wish you to question. Beyond that I cannot say," Eric answered.
"Why don't they just glamour their humans for information? Why would they need me?"
Shrugging Eric replied, "They might simply wish a demonstration as I said, and also glamour is not always ideal in interrogation. When you glamour a human into answering you they can only answer specific questions. If you ask them something vague like "are you going to betray me" they will say no because at that exact moment they aren't. Specific questions are needed, and sometimes we don't know exactly what to ask. It is why torture is used so often. You, however, can ask a vague question and get many correct and specific answers. That is why some of the monarchs might be bringing their human employees. Probably their daytime people who are close to them."
"But you'll be there right?" Sookie wouldn't say it out loud, but she was scared of what was going to happen tonight. She may be mad as hell at Eric right now for him bonding her to him without her permission and tricking her into so much, but he was one of the few familiar things at the moment. He made her feel somewhat safe.
Feeling her uneasiness through their bond and the need to be reassured Eric kissed her temple and assured, "I will only leave your side if the Queen asks to speak to me privately, and even then you will have Han and Ivan with you at all times. No one can force you to be alone with them. No one even has the right to ask. If they do you are to tell them you're my bonded and I've ordered you to not go with anyone."
"Is that it? That's all that you think is going to happen?"
"I cannot predict what will happen. The queen enjoys surprises so any number of things are possible. I remind you that you will see things you do not like and that shock you. You must remember not to speak unless spoken to. You will address me as Master tonight as you did the night Andre came to Fangtasia, and act in the same manner. You are also to tell me immediately if anyone tries to glamour you since as my bonded it is forbidden."
Sookie looked disgruntled at that, but she knew she had no choice. It was obvious that vampires had no respect for humans, and the only protection or standing she had was as Eric's bonded. She needed to make sure she upheld appearances so that no one would hurt her while she was there. Han and Ivan assured they'd protect her and Eric had as well, but from the way Andre had practically drooled all over her the night she met him she knew that vampires tended to covet what other Vampires had.
They pulled up to the queen's compound all too soon for Sookie's taste and she took a deep breath as she stepped out of the limo and allowed Eric to lead her inside. While the outside of the house was certainly stunning, she wasn't overly fond of the inside. It was far too overdone for her tastes. In her opinion if you're trying too hard to show off your wealth it's a sign of insecurity. They were greeted by two vampires in black suits and ties with ear pieces that led them and Sookie's guards into Sophie-Anne's throne room.
The queen had bright red hair in a 50's style cut and she wore a crimson Grecian style dress with diamonds littering her neck, ears, and arms. She was sitting on a gold and red velvet throne atop a raised marble dais in the center of the room. On one side of her stood Andre, who Sookie immediately recognized, and on the other side stood two similar looking vampire men she didn't know the names of. All around them were other well dressed vampires and dozens of human pets whose thoughts ranged from wondering when the sex would start and those that wondered why she wasn't left near the door like they had been when their masters stood before the queen. Sookie curtsied when Eric bowed at the waist and she kept silent while he addressed the queen.
Eric had felt Sookie's fear grow the moment their limo came to a stop and began sending her a steady stream of calm and comfort to her as they were brought before the queen. He was pleased at Sookie's manners when she curtsied next to him as he bowed and when they were both standing straight again he said, "My queen. You are looking beautiful as always."
Nodding her head at Eric the queen then focused on Sookie as she replied, "Northman introduce me to your pet. I've heard so much about her."
Smiling Eric wrapped one arm around Sookie's waist while holding her hand in his and saying, "My queen, this is my bonded Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie this is Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Queen of Louisiana."
"Your Majesty," Sookie whispered softly; trying to keep the fear out of her voice and failing miserably.
Sophie-Anne let her eyes wander up and down Sookie's form before adding, "Well you certainly are a pretty thing aren't you?"
Sookie looked up at Eric since she didn't know how to respond to that. Eric squeezed her waist in encouragement and she gave the Queen a shaky smile before replying, "Thank you ma'am."
Sophie-Anne laughed, "Well mannered too!" Her eyes then traveled to the forms of Han and Ivan standing guard behind Sookie and continued, "It is not often that I have the honor of having two such worthy Enforcers in my home. Step forward Guardians of the Pythoness and allow us all to pay you homage."
Han and Ivan moved to stand on either side of Sookie and Eric as Han replied, "We are Guardians of the Ancient One no longer. We have pledged our lives, loyalty, and protection to Lady Sookie till final death takes us."
There was a resounding gasp from all the vampires in the room as Sophie-Anne arched a brow and pressed, "So the rumors are true? You did kneel before the girl in Northman's bar last night and make The Pledge before vampires and humans alike? Most curious. Why would you do such a thing?"
"We do not answer to you. Queen you may be but our standing is higher. Our mission and reasons are our own. Know only that none will attempt to harm Lady Sookie or try to take her from the Northman while Ivan and I live," Han stated as he narrowed his eyes at Sophie-Anne.
Ivan nodded his head and added, "Ivan protect Lady Sookie. Ivan protect bond. Till final death come."
There was a stunned silence as Andre and the other two vampires at Sophie-Anne's side flashed their fangs at the insult to their queen while she merely sat quietly and regarded the four in front of her. Finally she smiled and said, "Well isn't this interesting?" Looking straight at Sookie now she added, "You must be far more valuable than I originally believed. To think you were almost mine."
"Your majesty?" Eric asked with an arched brow.
Sophie-Anne regarded her sheriff coolly. She had not truly given up her pursuit of Sookie since she was more determined now to have the girl as her pet, and eventually child, than ever. However it was obvious that obtaining the telepath would be harder than she had imagined. She had not intended to reveal her original plans for the girl, but decided she might as well. Eric had reported a few days ago that he'd located Bill and the fool was being returned by his maker sometime next week. She knew Bill loved the human girl before her now, and as punishment for him failing to secure the human for her she would let the girl know exactly why Compton had returned to Bon Temps. That way Bill would return to find that he had not only lost the girl but she hated him as well. And this girl would once she found out why Bill had returned to his ancestral home in the first place.
'Serves him right for failing me, even if I do still intend to obtain the girl for my own. It will just take a little more time and planning than I had originally thought.'
Turning to Andre, she ordered, "Go fetch my favorite." When he nodded and headed off to retrieve her favorite pet she addressed Northman and his bonded. "I was so hoping to have you for myself, you darling girl, but as Northman was able to ruin my plans without even trying. I guess there is no point in being secretive anymore."
Sookie got a bad feeling in her stomach and her nerves were nearly fried as she looked up at Eric in puzzlement. Eric was just as confused as Sookie and asked, "My queen, I'm afraid I don't understand what you are trying to say. Could you clarify?"
"You'll know in a moment," Sophie-Anne replied with a smirk.
A few tense minutes passed before Sookie gasped in shock and whispered, "Hadley?" Her mind was in turmoil as she watched her long lost cousin be escorted into the throne room by Andre.
Hadley's eyes widened at the sight of her cousin and she gushed, "Sookie! What are you doing here?"
Eric looked down at his bonded and asked, "Who is she?"
Sookie didn't look up as she replied, "My cousin, I haven't seen or heard from her in years. She disappeared a while ago."
Just like that, the truth clicked in Eric's mind, and he felt a knot form in his stomach. He knew now what the queen was about to do, and he knew there would be nothing he could do to shield Sookie from it. He tightened his grip around her and slammed strength, resolve, and calm into her through the bond as he stared stoically at the queen. 'Damn that Compton! That's why he was so protective of her in the beginning. That's why he staked Long Shadow. He didn't bond Sookie to him because he was sent for her! He was sent to retrieve her for the queen!'
As Andre retook his place beside the throne, Hadley moved to sit on the steps at Sophie-Anne's feet and waved at her cousin while the queen ran her fingers through her pet's long blonde hair. Smirking, Sophie-Anne began, "I was so intrigued by Hadley's tales of her cousin that knew things she shouldn't; her cousin that could read minds. I was so impressed with her stories of you and your abilities I decided to send one of my underlings to investigate and see if Hadley's claims were true, and if they were to secure your cooperation."
Sookie gripped Eric's hand tightly as she felt her knees go weak.
'NO! No, she isn't saying—he wouldn't—no, no, no!'
She could feel Eric bombarding her with strength and comfort through their bond, but for once she wasn't upset. Had he not been giving her help she would have already burst into tears.
Taking note of the anger in Eric's eyes and the tearing up in his bonded's, Sophie-Anne continued, "Bill reported almost immediately that all of Hadley's stories were true, and that your skill was more considerable than we had ever believed. You didn't just get flashes of people's thoughts or memories, you could literally hear every word inside their heads! I was ecstatic to say the least and ordered Bill to secure your affections. He reported that he watched as you got attacked by those drainers you saved him from, and waited for just the right moment to step in and save you in order for you to require his blood to heal so he could ensure you'd be attracted to him. Of course I had instructed him he wasn't to bond to you fully so he never actually exchanged with you, but from the messages he sent me that one donation worked quite well and you gave yourself to him soon after. Your virginity too! What a bonus that must have been for him."
When Sookie gasped in horror, the queen smiled and added, "He was reporting great progress with you until that bitch maker of his ruined my plans by taking him away. Had she not interfered you would already be married to him and he would have moved you here to my court to serve me. I of course would have bonded you to me immediately, but would have allowed him to continue in his relationship with you if you wished. Alas the Northman was able to take you for his own during Bill's absence and I lost out on acquiring such a beautiful and useful asset. Perhaps I should not have told Bill to hide so many of our ways from you? Was that how Eric succeeding in bonding you to him? Because you did not know you could refuse him blood by claiming to be Bill's? If it is I could kick myself!"
As the queen laughed cruelly Sookie collapsed against Eric's side as her mind went numb. She would have fallen if he didn't keep her upright with his arm wrapped around her. 'He—Bill, he was sent—it was a lie? It was all a lie! He let me get attacked so he could give me his blood! Our first time together, it—it was part of some plan of his!'
Eric wanted to rip the queen's head off. He knew she was just talking to hurt Sookie now. He glared down at the idiot girl lounging at Sophie-Anne's feet before focusing on Sophie-Anne and replying, "It seems Compton was better at manipulation than I had originally believed. I can sympathize with you my queen about your plans falling through, but I cannot say that I'm not happy with how things turned out. Compton lost a true treasure and I have gained a bonded and future child."
"Oh Sookie! He's going to turn you? That's wonderful!" Hadley cried as she clapped her hands and smiled at her cousin. She was totally oblivious to the pain and suffering she had helped create. "I'm hoping to be turned one day too!"
Sophie-Anne slapped Hadley on the head and hissed, "Be quiet pet! You know you are not to speak unless spoken to!" When Hadley cowered at her feet and whispered how sorry she was the queen continued, "I will deal with Bill's incompetence when he returns. For now I guess I must concede defeat. So Northman, you intend to turn the girl? Strange since you blood bonded to her."
Eric kept Sookie tucked tightly against his side and replied, "It is uncommon, but I have made up my mind. Sookie will be with me for eternity." He wanted to get Sookie out of here. He needed to get Sookie out of here as soon as possible. She was nearing the breaking point despite his waves of comfort, strength and reassurance. 'I will kill Compton! I might just kill the queen for disgracing Sookie this way!'
Looking at Sookie, who she could tell was close to falling into hysterics at the truths she'd just learned, Sophie-Anne continued, "Well I'm feeling generous. So Northman I will allow your bonded to reconnect with her cousin while you and I discuss the additional information you learned from the Fellowship spy last night. The human pets will be escorted to my sun room while you and I speak with the other monarchs waiting in my study." Addressing Han and Ivan she added, "I'd like the two of you to join us. We have a tentative plan in place in response to the terrorist site and the input of two such fine warriors will be invaluable."
Han shook his head and refused. "No. We are Lady Sookie's guards and our place is with her. Tell your plans to Northman and he will relate them to us. We will stay with Lady Sookie."
"You dare defy my queen!" hissed Andre as he took a step forward.
Ivan took his own step forward and replied, "You queen gives orders no right to give. We no follow her. We follow Lady Sookie."
Han nodded his head and continued, "We have given ourselves into service to Lady Sookie. None but her and her bonded may command us."
"This is my court!" the Queen declared in a strained voice.
"And these are our vows. Attempt to order us from the side of our Lady again and swords will be drawn. Our word is our bond and it has been given. You have no right nor power to try to interfere. As I said you may be a queen, but you are not our queen," Han insisted.
There was a tense silence as everyone waited to see what would happen. The queen and her children were obviously outraged. Eric was still holding Sookie up and sending her as much support as he could through the bond. Han and Ivan didn't appear bothered in the least as they knew none there posed a true threat to them. And Sookie? Sookie was lost in her own world. Her mind was in total chaos as the truth threatened to overwhelm her.
Finally Sophie-Anne stood and said, "The human pets will go to the sun room. My vampire guests please feel free to partake of any of my pets roaming around save my favorite Hadley. I have business to attend with some of the visiting monarchs pertaining to the Fellowship threat. Northman, join us."
"My queen, I'd like to get my bonded settled before I join you and the other monarchs if I may? She is not good in new surroundings and your home overwhelms her," Eric asked.
Sophie-Anne waved a hand dismissively and replied, "Do as you will but I expect you in my study in five minutes."
Eric didn't waste a minute as he swept Sookie up in his arms and carried her in the direction he knew the queen's sun room to be. It was already filling with human pets and visiting vampires. He knew that soon there would be people engaging in open feeding and fucking, and he wished the queen hadn't ordered that Sookie had to sit in here with the others. He'd prefer to put her in the car so she wouldn't be subjected to what was about to happen. Setting Sookie down on the chaise lounge in front of the pool Eric knelt in front of her and said, "Sookie. Sookie look at me." Her eyes were glazed over and a tear slipped down her cheek. She was lost inside her head and he cursed Compton and the queen again. "Sookie?"
When Eric took hold of her chin and brought her gaze to his Sookie whispered brokenly, "He lied Eric, it was all a lie, all of it."
He didn't have time to get into this with her. He really didn't. If he was late the queen would punish him, and since she'd just been publically humiliated by Han and Ivan she would not go easy on him. Nodding his head he replied softly, "I know, and I'll make him pay. Right now I need you to put it out of your mind. I don't know how long the Queen intends to keep me but you must stay in this room while I'm gone and things are about to get very open in here. Do not leave your guards and try to block out what's happening around you. Keep your shields up. I will come for you as soon as I can and we will leave." When she didn't answer and merely continued to stare at him blankly as tears slipped down her cheeks he swore to himself he would kill Compton for this. For now he would continue to flood her with comfort and strength while he spoke with the Queen. He pressed a kiss to her brow and stood. "I'll be back."
When Eric was gone Han took a seat beside Sookie on the bench while Ivan moved to stand in front of her to block the view of the humans and Vampires that were beginning to undress each other so they could have sex. Han looked at the human woman next to him and said softly, "Your bonded will make all of this right."
Sookie looked deep into Han's eyes as she whispered, "No, he won't … he can't … there is no fixing this." She cringed as she heard the sounds of people having intercourse around her while her shields were bombarded with over sexed thoughts of the humans around her.
"Sookie?" Hadley asked as she approached her cousin. When the giant Vampire in front of her relative flashed his fangs at her she backed up and asked worriedly, "Uh—can I talk to you? I haven't seen you in so long. I was wondering if you could tell me about back home?"
Sookie leaned around Ivan and saw her cousin standing a few feet away wringing her hands. She also saw a girl on her hands and knees sucking on one vampire's cock while another thrust into her from behind and immediately ducked back behind Ivan as she whispered, "How could you do this to me Hadley?" The enormity of the situation was overtaking Sookie's mind.
'Bill came to Bon Temps to check me out and get me under his queen's control. That's what he's been hiding from me. That's why he came into Merlotte's that night. He—he let the Rattray's attack me! Everything, everything from the moment we met has been part of some plan of his! Oh God it hurts!'
Not understanding what her cousin was so upset about Hadley moved to stand at the side of the chaise lounge after casting a worried glance at the huge mountain of a Vampire standing in front of her cousin and asked, "Do what? Are you upset about something?"
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Hadley! I know you weren't always the brightest crayon in the box but you can't really be this dumb can you!"
Normally Sookie would never speak to anyone this way, but she felt like her heart was shattering in her chest and her mind being pulled apart. Kindness and manners just weren't her priority right now.
Tears filling her eyes Hadley backed up a step and whispered, "Don't call me dumb Sook. I never made fun of you when we were little, did I?"
Burying her head in her hands Sookie replied, "You've ruined my life, Hadley! If it weren't for you I never would have met Bill! Gran would still be alive! Jason never would have gotten in trouble and I never would have had to go to Fangtasia! I never would have met Eric and I wouldn't be in this situation!"
"What situation? Don't you like your Master? He's real nice looking and he gives you pretty things. And he's going to turn you! Isn't that great? I hope Sophie-Anne changes me one day. I'm trying to be good for her so she will."
Shaking her head as tears poured down her face Sookie looked at Han and asked, "Can you make her go away? I—I can't. I—"
Nodding, Han said something in Russian and Ivan immediately grabbed Hadley's arm and pushed her back as he ordered, "You go. Stay away. No near Sookie."
When Hadley was gone Sookie wrapped her arms around herself and rocked back and forth as her mind whirled with the truth that everything she'd sacrificed, everything she'd given of herself to and for Bill was for nothing! 'I gave him everything I had! I—I've sacrificed my Freedom to get him back and it was all for a lie! Oh Lord it hurts! I want Gran!' Time passed around Sookie but she was unaware. She kept her shields up to ignore the sexual thoughts of those around her as the room degenerated into one big orgy while she sat silently in her own misery.
Eric spent the next three hours filling in the queen and the six other monarchs that had come to speak with her about what he'd learned from Nancy, and listening as they discussed their plans for how to deal with the Fellowship site and the terrorist cells attacking their people. The entire time he felt the horror, despair, and self loathing coming from Sookie and he sent her strength and support back.
He wanted nothing more than to get her and get out of here, but he could not leave without the queen's permission. He was fairly certain she was only making him stay as some form of punishment since he was the only Sherriff there. None of the other monarchs had any of their sheriffs with them, so his presence was definitely an oddity.
When the meeting finally drew to a close he watched as the other monarchs left while the queen asked to speak with him alone. Now that he was aware of what her original plan had been regarding Sookie he knew she hadn't truly given up on getting his bonded for herself. She would bide her time. She definitely wanted him dead so she could claim Sookie as her own, but she wouldn't be so foolish as to act now. She would wait until the Fellowship problem was handled and she could get rid of him without casting suspicion on herself. If he were to disappear tonight or in the near future she would be suspect for sure.
Bowing he said, "You wished to speak with me, my queen?"
Sophie-Anne sat at her large mahogany desk and replied, "Indeed. Take a seat, Northman." When he was sitting in the chair in front of her she continued, "Perhaps I should have assigned the task to bring the girl to my court to you. Obviously my trust and faith in Compton was foolish. He will pay for failing me in this. Once he has reported back to you in Area 5 you will tell him I wish to speak with him personally."
"Yes my queen."
Sophie-Anne tapped her nails on the desk before she added, "I trust the use of your pet will be available to me and the other monarchs as the need arises?"
Nodding his head Eric replied, "As long as I can assure her safety and certain criteria for her care are met I will always make my bonded available to the benefit of my people."
Smirking at Eric's reiteration of the word bonded, the queen laughed, "Fond of calling her that are you?"
"I just want everyone to be clear on her status and my claim upon her."
"Yes. You've managed to make quite the beneficial connection have you not Viking? Such a stunning creature she is, not to mention the fae in her blood."
Hiding his surprise Eric asked, "You detected that in her scent? I myself had to taste her to pick up on it."
Laughing, Sophie-Anne replied, "Oh your Sookie is definitely sweet smelling Northman, but no. I did not detect it in her scent. Hadley is Sookie's cousin on her Father's side where the Faery was introduced. While Hadley's blood is certainly not as sweet smelling, and probably nowhere near as delicious as your bonded's, I am able to detect the slight hint of Fae. Regrettably, Hadley only got looks and charm from her heritage. Your Sookie seemed to get so much more. Hadley mentioned a brother. Is he perhaps gifted in some way?"
Shaking his head Eric answered, "No. The boy is much like your pet. All looks and no brains. Sookie seems to be the only one with a gift."
"Tragic that as Hadley was an only child and her parents are just as dead as your Sookie's. Only three in the litter and you got the best one."
"So you've investigated her then?"
"Indeed. I was quite interested in her once Hadley told me of her gift. I studied her well enough to know she likes Southern Gentlemen and her favorite movie is Gone with the Wind. It's why I sent Bill to her. I believed him perfect for the job of seducing her and bringing her under my control. Pity I didn't factor that bitch Maker of his in."
"Yes, such a pity. Though it has worked out quite well for me, I must admit."
A few tense moments stretched between them as the Eric held the Queen's gaze without waiver before she finally smiled and replied, "Your Sookie continues to help us. The information she got from Nancy was invaluable. Alerts will be sent out through all the kingdoms about these pills given to Fangbangers that affect Vampires. For now you and your bonded may return to you area and I will call if I have need."
Recognizing a dismissal when he heard it Eric stood, bowed his head, and turned to leave the office. He was beyond eager to get Sookie and head back to the hotel. He could still feel her pain and anguish radiating through the bond, and his desire to comfort her was nearly all consuming. He'd never felt such a desire before, but he wouldn't ignore it.
From his place at the door Eric turned around and asked, "My queen?"
Sophie-Anne smiled secretively, "She is a tasty little thing. Congratulations on your victory. I envy you and your bond with her."
Sensing the underlying threat of the statement Eric gave her his own smile and replied, "Many will, but mine she is and will always be forever."
With that he nodded once more and left the queen's study. He strode quickly through the house and found the sun room in much the condition he knew it would be; dozens of vampires and humans were scattered on the floor and in the pool engaged in various acts of sex. Ivan stood in front of the chaise lounge blocking Sookie from the sight and Eric could tell that Han was seated next to her. He didn't waste any time and made his way towards them. He found Sookie staring blankly at Ivan's back and he could tell she was in a catatonic state. Her mind had obviously shut down for self preservation. He swept her up in his arms, tucked her face into his neck, and headed out of the compound.
When they were in the limo he cradled her in his lap and stroked her arms while kissing her temple but she didn't respond. He was not pleased by her behavior, but knew the car was not the place to handle the problem. When they pulled up to the hotel he looked at Han and Ivan and asked, "Which one of you has the room key?" When Han handed it over he said, "See to it we are not disturbed the rest of the night." After giving that order he was out of the limo with Sookie in his arms and striding towards the elevators.
Sookie could see the world passing by her as Eric moved quickly and fluidly, but she couldn't register it. Her mind was a total blank. She'd sat in that sun room hearing the words of the Queen about her plan to send Bill to seduce her roll around in her mind again and again, before she'd finally shut down. The truth that everything between her and Bill had been a lie, every time she'd made love with him had been a lie, everything she'd done for him had been based on a love that wasn't there had broken her heart. The truth that she'd given everything she had to offer to save Bill and all she'd ever been to him was a mission literally tore at her soul. She wanted to crawl into a hole and die. She hardly noticed as Eric let them into their room and moved to set her down on the bed. She didn't notice anything anymore.
Eric set Sookie down on the bed and removed her shoes, jewelry, and headband. Thor came over to see them with his tail wagging but a sharp command had him heading back to his makeshift bed in the living room leaving Eric to handle his bonded. He felt complete emptiness coming from her through the bond and it worried him. She had never felt like this to him before. Not when she found out she was his slave. Not when he spanked her that first time. Not when he made her touch herself in front of him as punishment. Sookie was always a whirlwind of emotions, but now there was only silence and darkness in her mind and soul. He didn't like it. Crouching in front of her he asked, "Sookie can you hear me?"
She didn't even blink. Her eyes were glazed over and she looked straight through him. He stood up and went to the bathroom to wet a washcloth. Returning to her he took her chin in his hand and began to wash her face to take her makeup off, but she didn't respond in the least. When that was done he dropped the washcloth on the floor and headed for her luggage. He noticed it was old and made a mental note to buy her a new designer set as he sorted through it to pull out her overgrown sleep shirt.
Tossing his suit jacket on the couch he headed back into the bed room and pulled Sookie to her feet. Turning her around he unzipped her dress and let it drop to the ground. She hadn't been wearing a bra and was only in the pair of lavender lace boy shorts he'd sent with the dress so he slipped her sleep shirt over her head and moved her arms to put them through the sleeves. She didn't resist or help. She did nothing. She was literally a doll in his hands.
He sat her back down on the side of the bed while he retrieved her brush from the bathroom. For the next ten minutes he removed the pins holding her hair in place and brushed her silky locks out for her as she sat unmoving on the bed. When that was done he crouched in front of her again and said, "Sookie you need to say something to me."
Shaking his head, Eric straightened and began unbuttoning his shirt as he watched her. She never even blinked as he took it off and tossed it onto the floor while kicking his shoes off. As he undressed down to his black silk boxers Sookie didn't respond in the least. Her breathing was so slow and so shallow he actually had to look for it. Her behavior was starting to worry him. He had planned to spend tonight seducing her in their shared light tight suite, but that was definitely out of the question now. Pulling back the comforter he settled Sookie under the blankets before crawling in behind her and pulling her into his arms with her back to his chest. He wrapped one arm tightly around her waist while the other stroked through her straightened hair. "Say something Sookie."
He tightened his arm around her and nuzzled her hair as he sent a sharp jolt of lust to her through the bond. She didn't respond. Her breathing didn't spike. She didn't even twitch. Now he was really worried. "Sookie? Answer me."
When she still didn't respond he trailed a hand up under her shirt to cup a breast and toy with her nipple. He was looking for her to get angry and push him away. To call him a jerk for bothering her at a time like this…but she did nothing. She just laid there staring at the wall as he held her in his arms. He didn't know what to do. He'd never had or wanted to comfort someone before and he was at a total loss. He knew how to handle Sookie when she was mad, annoyed, happy, sad, and any other number of emotional states. But this? Complete oblivion? He didn't know how to handle this.
He set his hand over her heart and waited to feel the throb of heat that always jolted between them when they touched one another's marks, but there was nothing. No spark. No fire of lust or passion. There was just emptiness. 'Her heart is cold,' he realized.
Getting desperate for a reaction now he nuzzled her hair away from her neck and sank his fangs into her pulse. She always responded to his feeding, but instead of the rush of heat, power, and excitement that always tore through him at the taste of her he experienced a wave of pain, betrayal, sorrow, and total despair instead. He pulled back quickly and stared down at Sookie in horror. It was all he could do to force himself to lean down and lick her wounds closed. He couldn't even enjoy the taste of Faery in her blood it was so tainted by her emotions. He swore then and there that Compton would die screaming at his hands for this crime against his bonded.
Completely out of ideas now Eric buried his face in Sookie's hair and pulled her tighter against his chest as he sang.
Vyssa, vyssa liten!
Grytan hänger i spisen,
Kokar vit och goer gröt
Åt det lilla barnet.
Far han sitter och harpar korn,
Mor hon blåser så vackert i horn,
Syster hon sitter och spinner gull,
Bror han går i skogen,
Jagar alla vilda djur.
Är den vit,
Så tag den hit.
Är den grå,
Så låt den gå,
Är den brun i bogen,
Så låt den gå i skogen.
He sang the song from his homeland again and again. It was the only song he remembered from his childhood. He'd never sung it to anyone before, and was surprised that he remembered enough of it to sing to Sookie now. For over an hour he sang softly the words of his people in Sookie's ear as he held her in his arms. He sang because he didn't know what else to do. For the first time Sookie was beyond his reach and he didn't like the fear that rose up within him because of that.
Sookie slowly became aware of the vibration of Eric's chest at her back, the tightness of his arms around her body as he held her in the bed, and the soothing cadence of his voice in her ear. At first she thought she was dreaming again before she realized Eric actually was singing to her. Her voice was hoarse when she whispered, "Are you singing?"
Eric tensed behind her as he let the song trail off before he replied softly, "Yes."
"You have a nice voice. What song is it?"
"A song of my homeland."
Stroking his hand through her hair Eric said, "Sookie, we must discuss—"
"NO! Eric—I—not now. Just talk, talk to me and don't stop. Later, there will be time for the rest later," Sookie begged as tears filled her eyes.
Feeling the sheer desperation in her for a distraction, and not wanting her to revert to her former state, Eric asked, "What do you want me to talk about?"
"Anything. Talk to me about anything. Anything but truths. I've had enough truth to last me a lifetime."
Eric thought for a moment before he kissed her temple and started talking. "In the beginning the world was nothing. There was no air, no water, no earth, no fire. There was only Ginnunga-gap, the soundless, endless Nothing. The bottomless abyss of time and space. To the North of Ginnunga-gap was Nifl-heim; the home of mist and darkness. In the center of Nifl-heim was the exhaustless spring of Hvergelmir, a seething cauldron, from which twelve rivers flowed into the Ginnunga-gap. The cold of the abyss hit the streams and created great blocks of ice that floated in the nothingness. To the South of Ginnunga-gap was Muspells-heim; the home of elemental fire where everything was bright and warm. Muspells-heim was guarded by Surtr, the flame giant who wielded a flaming sword. He brandished his sword again and again creating showers of sparks that travelled into Ginnunga-gap and met with the ice blocks and melted them partly. The steam from their friction rose in the abyss and built over time until it created hoarfrost."
Pleased she was interacting with him, even if it was only a little, Eric answered, "Rime or frost created on grass and trees in the cold."
"Oh … keep going."
"So with the meeting of hot and cold again and again as time wore on Ymir came to being. He was the ice giant and the personification of the frozen ocean. Ymir floated in the Ginnunga-gap for ages until he dreamed a dream of Audhumla, the nourisher, which was a great ice cow that gave forth four streams of milk from her udders. While Ymir found his nourishment from her she sought her own by licking the salt from the ice blocks in the abyss with her rough tongue. She licked and licked until hair by hair, limb by limb appeared the god Buri, the producer, who immediately begat Borr. As Audhumla licked the ice Ymir slept and from his arms came man and woman, and his feet produced a six-headed giant named Thrudgelmir who brought forth the giant Bergelmir from whom all the frost giants were born. Thus the Gods and Giants were born."
"Were there many?"
"Too many to name. As soon as they became aware of each other they began to war. They believed they were the forces of good and evil and each side claimed righteousness. The war lasted for ages until Borr married the giantess Bestla, daughter of Bolthorn, and bore him three powerful sons; Odin the AllFather and spirit of all things, Vili the will, and Ve holiness. Borr's sons immediately joined his war against the giants and finally succeeded in slaying the first giant, Ymir. As Ymir fell his life blood flowed freely from his body and drowned the rest of the giants save Bergelmir who escaped on a boat and went with his wife to the far reaches of the world. Here he created a home, the Jotun-heim, to breed a new race of giants that would take up their fallen ancestors fight and often traveled to the home of the gods to steal and wage war when they could."
"What about the Gods? What did they do?"
Taking Sookie's hand in his and holding it atop her stomach to toy with her fingers Eric explained, "They looked about the desolate Ginnunga-gap and decided to create themselves a world. They took Ymir's body and from his flesh created the Midgard, or middle garden as earth was called. From Ymir's blood and sweat they created the ocean. His bones were used to make the mountains and hills. His teeth formed the cliffs, and his curly hair the trees and vegetation. His brains they used to make the clouds."
"Sounds like the Native Americans. They used all of the buffalo too."
Eric smirked at her attempt at a joke as he continued, "To support the sky the Gods stationed the dwarfs Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Westri to stand at the four corners and hold it up on their shoulders and thus was born North, South, East, and West. To make light they took sparks from the Muspells-heim. They threw most of the sparks into the night sky to make stars, and then the rest were fastened to chariots to create the sun and moon. Arvakr, the early waker, and Alsvin, the rapid goer, were the steeds of the sun chariot. The Gods feared the horses would be burned by the sun and would not be able to bear it across the sky so the created the shield Svalin, the cooler, to attach to the front of the chariot and protect them from its heat. The moon was pulled only by Alsvider, the all-swift, but as the moon is cool he needed no shield on his chariot. The brother and sister Sol and Mani rode the chariots and bore the orbs of life across the sky in day and night. After that the gods …."
Eric continued to tell Sookie the tale of Creation for over an hour. She made few comments, but slowly he began to feel her emotions return through the bond as he kept sending her never ending comfort and support from his end. He played with her fingers and stroked her hair as he spoke softly to her. "And thus Man was created to live in Midgard as they were watched over by AllFather and the rest of the Gods in Asgard, and that is the story of Creation that my people believed."
"It's a beautiful story."
Eric looked at the clock on the bedside table and saw that it was only 2am. He wanted to talk about what had happened but was reluctant to bring it up. He didn't want Sookie to go away from him inside her mind again. He didn't want the bond between them to go cold as she shut down. So he stayed quiet with Sookie lying unmoving in his arms. The only sound in the room was her gentle breathing and the occasional yip Thor emitted in his sleep from the living room. Nearly another hour passed with them lying pressed tightly together before Sookie finally spoke.
"He lied to me."
Eric tested the bond and found a deep yawning ache inside of Sookie, but no denial. He thought carefully for a moment before deciding all he could use in this moment was the truth. She'd been lied to enough by everyone. "Yes."
Fresh tears filled her eyes as Sookie stared at the wall in front of her and whispered, "I lost everything for a lie."
Eric didn't know how to respond to that and said as much. "I don't know what to say to you about this."
For some reason his words made Sookie smile. The fact that he was admitting that he didn't know what to say, but obviously wished he did made some small part of her feel better. "I don't know what to say either."
Eric was quiet for a moment before he offered, "I'll kill him for you if you'd like."
She laughed softly and replied, "No. I appreciate the offer, but I don't want anyone dying for or because of me. He's caused me enough pain. I don't need guilt as well." She couldn't even say Bill's name.
"What can I give you to make you feel better?"
Sookie was silent for a moment before she whispered, "Will you let me go?"
"No, ask for something else."
"There is nothing else."
"I'll buy you an island."
Eric tightened his arms around her and said, "I do not like the feelings coming from you for now. Tell me how to fix it."
Sookie smiled sadly and replied, "I wish it was that easy Eric. It's not…I don't know how to get over this. I gave Bill everything I had. I sacrificed everything to you to save him because I thought he loved me. Now? Now I've got nothing, and I gave it all up for a lie."
"You have me."
Shaking her head slightly Sookie replied, "You're the Master here Eric. You have me. I'm just the pawn … again."
He didn't like the resignation in her voice or the feeling of it in her from the bond. He had thought he wanted her to accept her place as his slave, but now he wasn't so sure. He wanted her fire back. He wanted her to scream, to yell, and throw things at him. He wanted her to slap him and tell him this was all his fault. He wanted anything but the desolation inside her now. "You can slap me if you'd like. I promise not to punish you as long as you don't tell anyone I let you do it."
Sookie actually laughed at that and replied, "Can I take an IOU?"
"Will you stop feeling this way if I agree?"
"Eric, it doesn't work that way," she replied as silent tears continued to slip down her cheek.
He was silent for a moment before saying, "He's not worth the pain you're feeling, little one. He was never worthy of you."
"Considering the circumstances I won't disagree with you, but I still don't feel any better."
Nuzzling her hair and toying with her fingers as his hand held hers over her stomach Eric asked, "What will you do now?"
Looking at their fingers and noting how much larger his were Sookie replied, "Well when I get back home my first step will be to get Tara and Lafayette and have a girl's night where we eat our weight in chocolate and Rocky Road ice cream. Second step, I'll cry and sob for a few days and wear nothing but pajamas as I curse all men to hell. Third step, I'll throw away everything he ever got me or anything that reminds me of him. Afterwards I'll repeat steps one and two. And after that? I might burn his house down to make myself feel better. I haven't decided. I'll see where I'm at after the second round of chocolate."
"Chocolate is important in the human grieving process?"
Smiling softly Sookie answered, "Almost as important as Gran's Pecan Pie; it's a staple of the breakup process. A must-have. The ice cream, too."
"I still think you'd feel better if you let me kill him."
"We'll just have to agree to disagree on that."
"You are far too merciful."
"Yeah. Me and my damn tender heart. Get's in the way of your blood thirsty ways doesn't it?"
Eric smirked as he kissed her temple and replied, "If only a little."
Sookie was quiet for a moment before rolling over in Eric's arms to look into his eyes. He stared straight back into hers with a curious expression as he cupped her face and used his thumb to wipe the tears from her cheek. For long moments they simply continued to gaze at each other before she asked, "If the queen had asked you to do what he had would you?"
"I would have secured you, but I would not have taken your virginity under false pretenses. And once I'd met you I wouldn't have been willing to turn you over. I would have taken the same steps I have now to make you mine."
"Wouldn't that be betraying your queen?"
"Yes, but I still would have done it."
"Couldn't she order you killed for that?"
Shaking his head lightly Eric replied, "I would have killed her first and kept you anyway, we just might have had to leave Louisiana if I didn't take over the kingdom once she was dead."
"Do you want me for my telepathy?"
"No. Your gift got me interested in you I'll admit. But the more I was around you and the more I got to know you it has become merely a bonus to having you. You are what I want to have. In fact I wouldn't mind if your gift disappeared. It keeps getting me in trouble with you and has far too many people interested in taking you from me."
"Do you promise you're not after me for my telepathy?"
"I give you my word."
Sookie gave a heartbroken laugh and replied, "You've broken your word to me a lot lately. How do I know you're telling me the truth now?"
Kissing her eyelids as she closed them and licking off the tears from her lashes, Eric whispered, "I swear on Godric and everything I hold sacred that he taught me that your gift is not what I'm after with you."
Sookie's eyes shot open in surprise. She held his gaze for a moment before pressing close to him to wrap her arms around his waist as she buried her face into his chest and whispered, "Tell me another story."
Enfolding her in his own arms Eric said, "I shall tell you the story of the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie were battle maidens. They were led by Brunhild, Odin's daughter, and the greatest warrior among them. They were virgins that collected Odin's half of fallen warriors and bore them to his Great War Hall Valhalla. The Valkyrie …."
For the rest of the night, Eric told her story after story of his kinsmen and their beliefs. He spoke softly as he stroked her back and hair and didn't stop until he felt her slowly drift off to sleep. When she had finally lost consciousness and the pain she felt from Bill's betrayal abated from the bond with her descent into slumber, Eric nuzzled her hair and whispered, "I will make him pay little one. No one is permitted to hurt you like this and live."
Tucking her into the bed he rose to retrieve his cell phone. He had calls to make and orders to give. For the next hour he made arrangement after arrangement in response to tonight's events. When he was done he climbed back into bed with Sookie and pulled her into his arms again. He nuzzled her hair and kissed her lips softly before preparing to die for the day. He could feel that the sun had risen outside and despite it being earlier than he normally died for the day he found he was weary and needed rest. Pressing a final kiss to Sookie's forehead as she lay safely in his arms, he let death take him. His final thought that she would never know this pain again. Ever.