I clutched at Eric’s arm as I peeked around him and looked at the tiny red-head who was stalking toward us.
“Eric?” I whispered, my voice laced with panic.
“There’s nothing to worry about, min älskade,” he responded, still blocking me from view.
“Nothing to worry about?” she said, her lips curled back. “I am your Queen and if I want to take her, I will, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
I gasped. I didn’t want her to take me away from Eric. What were we going to do? Tears started to well up in my eyes as I thought of what my life would be like without Eric. I laid my head against his back as I continued to grasp his arm, wishing this was all just a nightmare.
“Come out here, my prized telepath! Let me get a good look at you!” The red-headed Queen demanded.
I slowly made my way from behind Eric to stand directly between him and this queen. I didn’t know much about her, only that Eric had never mentioned me to her. He was concerned of what she would attempt to do if she ever discovered I was a telepath. Now that it seemed I wasn’t, maybe she’d leave us alone. I could only hope.
She walked around me as if assessing me. I could feel her eyes scanning each inch of my body, and it took everything within me not to shudder. Finally, she made her way back around and stood in front of us, looking at me as if I was her prey.
Eric put his hands on my shoulders and brought my body back against his chest all the while sending enough calmness to me so I wouldn’t go into hysterics.
“She’s very lovely, Eric. I can see why she caught your eye, but what I don’t understand is why you’ve never mentioned her. Is this a new development? It hasn’t been that long since you were in New Orleans. Where was your lovely bride then?” She asked with barely hidden restraint.
“She was visiting with her friend,” he replied. His body was rigid behind me.
“Why have you never mentioned her?” She said through a tight-lipped smile.
“I know you care nothing for humans,” he said, and I felt him shrug.
Her eyes snapped to Eric’s, and she stared at him for a few moments before she spoke. “That is not true. I care for this tasty little morsel and would have loved to have heard all about her. Now,” she said as her gaze set on me once again. “Sookie Stackhouse, how long have you been married to my sheriff?”
I turned my head to look at Eric, unsure if I should speak or not. What if she asked me something that I should know and I didn’t?
He gave me a small smile and a nod to let me know that I should answer her question.
“My name is Sookie Northman, and we’ve been married for four years,” I replied with a steady voice.
“Four years and we’ve never met. Don’t you find that odd?” she asked looking around at the entourage she had brought with her.
They nodded their heads and grumbled their assurances that it was indeed odd that we had never met.
“Do you always meet the companions of the vampires in your state?” Eric asked as he pushed more calmness my way. I wanted to leave. Now. This wasn’t looking good for either one of us.
“No, but when one of my sheriffs has such a unique asset in his control, he should have given it to me. That is my right as Queen,” she sneered.
“She is not an asset. She is my wife, my mate, my bonded and my pledged,” he growled out.
Her eyes widened at the last of his words before she turned and looked at Bill. “Did you know of these claims?”
“The first time we met he claimed that they were married, bonded, and pledged,” he replied.
“Why am I only now hearing about this?” she shrieked at Bill. “Do you know nothing of a bonded and pledged pair?” she asked as she vamped over to him and slapped him across the face. I watched as Bill flew backward into the bar. He was slumped over slightly as he looked at his Queen.
I did not want to get on her bad side. If she hit me like that, I don’t think I’d be getting up anytime soon.
Leaning down, Eric whispered in my ear quietly enough for only me to hear. “Do not worry. She cannot touch you. If she did that to you, it would be a blood offense, and she won’t risk that.”
Turning my head so that I could look at him I whispered. “I don’t like this. I want to go home. Can we go home soon?”
“I know and we will as soon as we can. I promise you,” he said before he gave me a small kiss and wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“Isn’t that sweet?” the Queen said when she turned around and saw us. “You may have made it so that I can’t take her, but I can demand her services. Let’s see how well this telepathy of yours works.”
She turned and looked off into the corner of the bar. “Hauk. Go fetch our subjects.”
From out of the shadows stepped a very pale, blond man wearing sunglasses. All of his clothes were black, and there was something about him that I couldn’t quite place… He scared me… This guy was creepy with a capital ‘C’.
I watched as he walked out the front door and disappeared for a moment before he returned with five more people following behind. They all lined up along the wall across the room.
Turning back to look at the queen, I wanted to set her straight about my telepathy or lack thereof. “I’m sorry, Mrs…,” I paused, looking back at Eric. I had no idea what to call her.
“Your Majesty,” he replied before his eyes went back to cautiously watching the newcomers. “Despite what you have been led to believe, my bonded is no telepath,” he waved his hand at the people lining the wall and continued. “No matter the test you plan on conducting, I promise you, it will not yield your desired results.”
The queen regarded Eric for a moment before she narrowed her green eyes at me.
“Do you not trust your sheriff, my Queen?” Eric not so innocently asked.
With a forced smile, she looked back at him. “But of course, however, I wouldn’t be Queen if I didn’t take certain… precautions.”
We watched as the petite queen turned, walked up to Eric’s throne, and sat down. With her legs crossed and her manicured nail tapping on the arm of his throne, her face became hard.
“Indulge your Queen, Sheriff.”
With no idea as to what I should do, I looked up at Eric. “I don’t know what to do,” I stated with my brow furrowed. What if she didn’t believe me and took me away from Eric? What if… I couldn’t keep the tears from welling up once again and this time, I let them fall.
“Sookie,” Eric said as he wrapped his arms around me and wiped away my tears. “Everything will be fine. Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” I whispered. I had trusted him since the moment I woke up from my accident, and I wasn’t going to stop now.
“Let’s sit down at one of the tables,” he said as he motioned toward one of the tables in the middle of the room.
“Then what?” I asked as we moved toward a table with four chairs.
“We’ll sit and …” he looked over at the line of people standing against the wall for a moment before he pulled my chair out for me and then sat down beside me. “Have each one come over individually and you can try to read their thoughts.”
“How am I going to do that when I can’t read anyone’s thoughts?”
Staring deep into my eyes, he shrugged before he replied. “Concentrate as hard as you can. Do your best. That’s all she can ask for, and we can put this behind us.”
Eric looked over at the queen with a menacing expression on his face while she continued to sit on his throne with her nose in the air.
“Get on with it!” she commanded with a high-pitched voice.
It seemed her patience was running a little thin tonight. Well, she needed to suck it up because my nerves were about shot. I didn’t like the situation one bit, and I was afraid of what was going to happen to Eric and me by the end of tonight.
Hysteria was starting to cloud my thinking before I felt a sense of calm once again soothe my fragile nerves. Looking over at my husband, I gave him a small smile and sent him my appreciation for calming me.
He waved over a small woman with blonde hair and brown eyes who was dressed in a lacy white dress that came down to her knees. I noticed when she sat down across from me that her hands were shaking, and she wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
“Hi,” I hesitantly spoke to the shy woman in front of me. “You don’t need to be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you, and neither is my husband.” I looked over at Eric, and he gave a slight nod of his head.
“I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do here,” I whispered to her. “Um… what’s your name?” I asked her with a tense smile.
She gave me a curious look before her eyes darted toward the queen. “Hadley,” she replied with her voice shaking.
Not understanding why she was so nervous, I looked at first to the queen, who gave me a look that said get on with it, and then to Eric, who smiled and nodded for me to continue.
I sat and looked into the scared girl’s eyes with my face scrunched up as I concentrated on trying to find something… anything. What did I find? Nothing. I didn’t know how long I was supposed to continue on with this test, but the longer I stared, the more ridiculous I felt. How long would this go on?
“Your Majesty,” Eric said, looking over at her. “As I told you before my wife is not a telepath. How long must she sit here?”
“Try someone else,” she huffed, recrossing her legs. The tapping of her fingernails became louder and more insistent.
“Who would you prefer?” he replied with thinly veiled contempt.
“Quinn, let Ms… Mrs. Northman read you,” she commanded with irritation in her voice.
I watched as a large, bald man with olive-colored skin wearing jeans, a white tank top, and biker boots, walked toward us. His moves were fluid and smooth, almost hypnotizing. Whoever this man was, he definitely wasn’t human.
He wasn’t quite as tall as Eric was, but he was more muscular making him broader and thicker, a little too bulky for my taste. Regardless, he did have one feature that stood out and held me captive for a moment.
They were purple, and I had never seen anything like them.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop looking at him as he made his way over to us.
He sat down across from me and gave me a nice smile that didn’t seem to go with his tough guy image.
“You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen,” I blurted out. Embarrassed, I felt my blush quickly cover my face and move all the way up to the tip of my ears.
“Oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
“That’s alright,” he drawled out. “I’m glad you like them.”
“So I guess I’m supposed to try and read you next.”
“I suppose you are,” he said, gazing at me intently.
“You need to move closer,” the Queen ordered. “Maybe if you touch him you’ll be able to get something.”
I instantly felt an intense amount of rage hit me. When I looked over at Eric, his body was rigid, and his jaw muscles were clenching.
I looked at him with wide eyes trying to portray my bewilderment at the situation. His rage dialed down a notch and, in turn; he sent me caution. I didn’t know what to make of it. What was I supposed to do? He obviously didn’t want me to touch this man.
The were-tiger is not allowed to touch you unless he has consent from your bonded.
My eyes search the room as I tried to figure out where the thought had come from. Was my telepathy coming back to me? Why did it have to come back now at the worst possible moment?
You’ve never lost your telepathy, young one. I don’t know what has happened to you, but the shields that you had used to block thoughts from your mind are firmly in place, and that is why you can’t read anyone’s thoughts.
A sharp pain started above my right eye. A headache? Now? I didn’t need anything else happening while the Queen was here.
Eric reached over and took my hand in his. As soon as he touched me, the pain went away. Much better, but why was I getting a headache? Eric had mentioned that I never got sick, not even a headache, so why now?
“Get on with it,” the queen commanded. “If you don’t touch him then I’ll have Quinn touch you, Mrs. Northman,” she sneered out my name.
“No one is allowed to touch her without my permission, and I don’t want her smelling of him,” Eric growled back.
In a move too quick for me to see, the queen had Eric pinned against the wall with her hand around his neck. Both had their fangs ran out, but Eric didn’t fight her, he only looked at her menacingly. But if looks good kill, she would surely be dead.
I stood from my seat rushing over to Eric when he shouted at me, “Sookie, stay back!”
“Let him go and I’ll touch him,” I clenched my fists at my sides as I felt Eric’s anger. “I promise to take a shower when we get home,” I said to Eric desperately. “I just want to get this over with. Please!”
The Queen cackled as she dropped her hand and stepped back away from Eric. I watched as her fangs snapped out of sight.
Eric stood with his fangs still out, looking as if he might kill the queen at any moment before he slowly made his way back over to me.
He stood in front of me stoically, but I could feel how much he hated this, how sorry he was for putting me in this situation, but I knew he didn’t want to be a king. He wanted less responsibility in the supernatural world, not more.
“It’s going to be fine,” I said. I reached for his hand and took us back to the table where we sat previously. He waited for me to sit before he brought a chair right next to mine and sat down. Everything about him screamed at how unhappy he was in this situation. His body was tense, teeth grinding together, eyes narrowed as he surveyed the room, and the bond was ripe with turmoil.
“Are you ready?” I asked Quinn.
He looked at Eric and waited until he gave him a curt nod before he reached his arm out across the table toward me.
Just before I touched his outreached hand, I hesitated. With the feelings that were coming from Eric, you would have thought I was going to be electrocuted when I touched Quinn.
Quinn nodded at me and in his deep rumbling voice said, “It will be alright.”
“It’s okay, kära en,” Eric whispered in my ear before placing a kiss at my temple.
Placing my hand on top of Quinn’s, I jerked it back when they touched. His skin was so hot compared to Eric’s.
“I’m sorry,” I replied to his questioning look. “Your body temperature is so warm. It was unexpected.”
He gave the same nice smile he had given me when he first sat down. We sat there while I tried to concentrate or look like I was attempting to do something. I was really trying to figure out who I had heard previously and if they were going to let the Queen know that I was indeed a telepath or used to be. It wasn’t working and hadn’t since I’d woken up from the accident. Maybe it never would.
After a few minutes, I heard the irritated queen huff before she got up and came over to the table. “Let’s try someone new.” She looked between the remaining two men who stood against the wall for a moment before she decided. “Mr. Cataliades, would you please come over here and let the sheriff’s wife try to read you?”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” he said with a knowing smile.
More pain spread through my head causing me to close my eyes until it went away. I glanced sideways at Eric to see his concern and puzzlement.
Normally he would be able to read your every thought, but as of right now your shields are impenetrable. This demon is trustworthy, but most are not.
“Hi, I’m Sookie,” I greeted my new test subject after he sat down.
He nodded toward Eric before he looked at me. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Northman,” he said. “I’m Mr. Cataliades.”
“Nice to meet you too. Do you mind if I touch your hand?” I asked.
“I do not mind,” he replied. “We must do what the queen has asked of us.”
As I touched the demon’s hand, I tried not to jerk my hand away when I felt the heat of his skin. If I thought Quinn’s skin was too warm, then Mr. Cataliades was scorching. I definitely wouldn’t be touching him if I didn’t have to.
While I touched him, I scanned the room one more time trying to figure out who was speaking in my head and why they were telling me these things.
Everyone in the room was quiet as I tried to get a read on their thoughts. It was absurd that she made me continue. I had no idea how much time I sat with each person, but it was far too long. My butt started to hurt from sitting on the uncomfortable chair. I needed to mention to Eric that we needed chairs that were more comfortable.
Shaking my head, I pulled my hand back and looked at the queen. “I’m not getting anything. I’m sorry you were misinformed about me, but I can’t read anyone’s thoughts.”
She sat quietly with her eyes narrowed at me and a finger tapping her lips as she thought. I was hoping that she wouldn’t ask me to read anyone else, especially the other woman who was still lined up waiting. She was scary, and there was no way in hell that I was touching her. I had a feeling that each person she had me test was in some way different and I didn’t want her to have to come any closer to me than necessary.
She’s a witch. A very powerful witch and you had better hope that Sophie-Anne believes that you’re not a telepath or she may have her try and cast a spell on you to tell her the truth, no matter what.
Looking away from the witch, I cringed on the inside from what she might do to me and because the pain in my head had come back and it was worse this time. There was no way I was going to show that I was in pain in front of the queen. If she saw it, she might think it was from something I had read.
Once again, the pain was there and then it was magically gone. In its wake though was a great amount of concern coming from Eric. I gave him a small smile and sent him my appreciation for taking away my pain.
“Lucky for you, Sheriff, it seems you were right; your lovely wife is not a telepath. The next time you visit me, you will have to bring her with you.” She rose from his throne and walked up to Eric giving him a measured stare before turning and looking at the first woman I had tried to read.
Eric pulled me to his side, wrapping an arm around my waist. I laid my head against him as we watched the Queen and her entourage start to move toward the door. Bill was hissing something at her, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying to her. He was obviously unhappy with the outcome of this surprise meeting.
“You are to leave her alone,” she said, stopping to growl at him. “She is bonded and pledged to another vampire. If I hear word that you caused any problems between the Sheriff and his wife, I will call upon your maker,” she said menacingly.
Bill shrunk back at her threat and kept quiet. I guess he didn’t have a very nice maker. I hoped that her threat would keep him out of our lives.
Right before exiting out the front door, the queen turned around, stopping everyone behind her. “Wouldn’t you like to know who whispered in my ear about your talents to begin with?” she asked in a not so innocent tone, tilting her head to the side with an evil smile upon her lips.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Eric answered her.
When she looked my way, I gave her an affirming nod. “It was Hadley,” the queen replied.
“Hadley?” I looked at the woman the queen had previously called Hadley and remembered that she had seemed extremely nervous, maybe, even more, nervous than me. Why would she tell the queen about me? How did she know me?
I looked up at Eric to see if he would give me any sign at all that he knew this Hadley, but he gave nothing away. The only thing that I received was more caution and calm through the bond.
Once again, the queen watched our every move, trying to find anything that was out of place and catch us in our lie.
“I don’t know why she would know or say anything about me,” I finally replied after a few moments of everyone staring at us and making me uncomfortable. Looking at the woman who had spoken about me, I asked. “Have we met before? Did we go to school together?”
Hadley stood with her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. “Sookie, how can you say that?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know you,” I replied honestly.
Looking up at Eric, I asked him if he knew her. “I’ve only seen her a few times around the palace, but I don’t know her.”
Snarling, the queen grabbed Hadley and turned before leaving the building at vampire speed. Bill gave us a look of disgust before he followed them out. I noticed the guy who had been in the shadows glance back at me before they all left.
Once they were all gone, Eric crushed me to his body before cradling my head in his hands. “Are you okay? Do you have any idea why you were in pain?”
As I shook my head no, a series of images and sounds flashed inside my head.
There were two little blonde headed girls swinging in front of what looked like my Gran’s house.
“I bet you can’t get as high as me,” One of the girls called out.
“No fair, Hadley! You’ve got Jason pushing you,” The other girl called out as she turned her head to see a boy pushing Hadley. He was taller than the two girls with blond hair and blue eyes.
I immediately recognized him from my photo albums as my brother.
“Nobody likes you, Sookie. Not even your own brother. You’re a freak, and everyone knows it,” The little girl named Hadley taunted.
Excruciating pain overwhelmed me, and I screamed out, trying to bring my hands up to my head in an attempt to stop the torture; only Eric had me pinned against his body, clutching me to him as he called out my name.
The pain continued to amplify with each second that passed. It was too much, and I thought my head might actually explode if it didn’t stop soon. Why wasn’t Eric taking it away? Please take it away.
“Pl-please,” I whimpered. “Make it s-stop.”
“Sookie, tell me what is wrong?” I heard Eric’s agonizing cry. It sounded as if he was far away, but I knew he was right there holding me.
“Eric,” I gasped when my legs buckled from the pain. “Help me!” I cried out as another sharp pain ricocheted through my head causing me to cry out once more before my world slowly started to fade away until there was nothing there but black.