The silent emptiness surrounding me began to recede slowly, yet the horrific pain was still there, becoming more intense by the second. While my blood rushing through my body felt like liquid flame, my body was ice cold. Moving was impossible, and when I took a deep breath, I regretted it immediately as the thunderous pounding in my head became worse, threatening to drag me back into the darkness.
“Sookie!” I heard from far away. It sounded like Eric, but what was he doing so far away? “I need you to drink for me,” he spoke from a distance.
My lips brushed against cool skin before I felt something wet touching them. Slowly a thick, sweet tasting liquid made its way into my mouth. After a few swallows, the sweet liquid was gone, and in my slowly receding darkness, I felt my body being carefully moved.
As my body became more alert, pain surged through my head once again. My hands instinctively grasped my head willing the pain to go away.
“Sookie, can you hear me?” I heard Eric’s voice asking me in a seemingly echoing tunnel. This time, he sounded as though he was closer. Good, I needed him. My only response was a moan as my head was suddenly cradled against his chest and the darkness of my vision lifted to a veil of gray.
“Can you tell me where it hurts? What’s happening to you?” he asked, his voice tinged with panic and fear. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t figure out why my head was in such agonizing pain.
“Please don’t let me lose her again. I can’t… I won’t be able to take it if she’s lost to me once again. Why isn’t my blood working?”
“Am I dying?” I whimpered quietly. The vampiric gasp was loud in the already quiet room.
His arms tightened around me like iron bars, nearly to the point where I couldn’t breathe and just on the verge of becoming more than painful. I felt him bury his head in my hair before he whispered in a choked voice. “Is that what it feels like, that you’re going to die?”
My head was in excruciating pain, but I was certain I wouldn’t die from it, or, at least, I hoped not. I softly moaned a ‘no’ and felt Eric sigh with relief as his body and iron grasp relaxed.
“You won’t lose me,” I said, barely above a whisper finally daring to look at Eric despite the pain.
I was startled to see Eric’s face devoid of emotion as he stared at me. Even his emotions were on lockdown, and the bond was a complete void to me.
“Pam, we’re leaving,” he said quietly, but with a sharpness that even I could recognize in my unusual state. The Viking was not happy with this situation, and he was taking over.
Something was wrong, and I had no clue what. I flinched when another white-hot flash of pain tore through my head.
Why was this happening to me?
“All will be well, dear one. I promise you. Right now we need to get you home, make you comfortable, and I’ll take care of you,” he said with a tight smile.
Trusting my husband, I laid my cheek back on his chest and closed my eyes. I could feel Eric stand up and with a kiss to the top of my head he began to move toward the exit. Once we were outside, he took off into the humid night sky with me safely cradled in his arms.
The further we moved away from Fangtasia, the less my head hurt. By the time we landed on our deck, there was only a dull throbbing pain left. I was exhausted from the pain and the stress of the night. All I wanted to do was climb into bed with my husband and snuggle, but I had a feeling that something was wrong.
Eric’s face was still a blank mask and his emotions were still on lockdown as he walked into the house. He went directly into the kitchen, grabbed a water bottle from the refrigerator, and then headed upstairs to our bedroom. Sitting me down on the edge of the bed, he went into the closet and came out with one of his favorite t-shirts.
Standing in front of me, he carefully, almost clinically, undressed me before he placed his shirt over my head for me to wear. He pulled back the blankets on the bed, laid me down, and then covered me up before he stripped off his clothes and got into bed beside me.
I wasn’t surprised he hadn’t spoken a word since we had left Fangtasia; I could almost see him planning different strategies at warp-speed flying through his brain. The moment he was in bed with his arms around me, I felt his body finally release the tension that had been thrumming through him since I had awakened.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked from where he rested with his head laying as close to mine as possible.
“Why didn’t my blood heal her right away?”
“I don’t know why it didn’t work, but I started to feel better a few minutes after we left Fangtasia,” I stated snuggling into his chest.
“What didn’t work, Sookie?” he asked, his question filled with concern.
“Your blood,” I replied confused. “Doesn’t it typically work right away?” I asked. From what I had been told, it should have worked almost instantly, although maybe not as I wasn’t physically wounded. I’m not exactly sure what I was in that silent emptiness.
“Yes, it does, and I didn’t know what was happening to you. All I could feel was that you were suddenly in excruciating pain and that I had been taking the pain from you throughout the night.”
“Why wasn’t I able to pinpoint where her pain was coming from?”
“Can you normally tell where I’m hurt?” I asked, wondering why he was talking so strangely. His body tensed up once again, and his arms tightened around me for a moment.
“Normally I can tell the exact location of your injury. If you stub your toe, I know which toe it was that you stubbed. Earlier I felt it throughout my whole body. Tell me what happened to you, what hurt.”
“I’m not sure what happened,” I said, pulling back to look at him. “It started when the Queen ordered me to touch Quinn.”
“What started? The pain?” His cerulean eyes bore into mine with an intensity to solve this mystery as quickly as possible.
“It wasn’t at that moment. I heard a voice in my head telling me that Quinn is a were-tiger, and he isn’t allowed to touch me unless he has your permission. Is that what he is?”
“Yes,” he said sternly. “Is that when the pain started?”
“No, it was after he told me that I had never lost my telepathy; that my shields are what have been blocking me from reading people.” As I finished my statement, I saw Eric’s eyebrow arch as he fired questions at me.
“He knew that you’re a telepath? What else did he say? You’re sure that it was a man? Did he sound close or far away? Was his tone menacing or informative?”
“It sounded like a man, but I’m not sure who. I tried to look around and not give myself away. I knew it would be bad if the queen thought I was hearing anyone’s thoughts.”
“You gave nothing away, dear one. I can feel every emotion you have and yet I knew nothing of what you were going through besides the pain.”
“Speaking of emotions, why are you blocking me? There’s something wrong. What is it? Did the queen hurt you?” I asked. He was acting strangely, and he had promised me he wouldn’t block his emotions from me unless he were going through bloodlust. I knew that wasn’t the case here.
Eric looked down at me and scoffed, “The only way the queen could ever hurt me is if she hurt you in any way. I am not hurt. You don’t need to worry about me. We need to figure out what happened to you.”
“So if I were feeling you right now I’d be worried about you?”
Slowly I felt his emotions coming back to me. First, I felt his eternal love for me. It put a smile upon my face until I felt the rest of the following emotions. My smile faded as I felt his worry, fear, concern, and protectiveness.
“Eric, I feel much better now,” I said, tightening my grip on him. I wanted to reassure him that I was fine for now, and nothing would happen to me. “Really, I’m okay. Please, I don’t want you to feel this way.”
“Seeing and feeling you in pain… I… I didn’t know what was happening to you. There was no outside cause for your pain, but I was able to take your pain away every time it came back. Was there something that triggered it each time it returned?”
“Every time I heard the voice in my head the pain came back and each time it became stronger.”
“Was there anything different when the pain became unbearable, and I couldn’t take it away?” he asked with regret.
“I don’t know what it was,” I replied, thinking about what had happened. “I’m not sure if it was a memory or something that was sent to me. It didn’t seem like a memory,” I paused thinking about it once again. “It had Hadley and Jason in it. We were swinging and she said that I couldn’t go as high as she could, but Jason was pushing her. I looked back and saw him. He looked exactly like I’ve seen him from the photo albums when he was young. Then she said that no one liked me because I was a freak. It ended there and that’s when the pain started to become more intense by the second.”
Eric quickly moved to place himself above me, holding himself up by his elbows. “You are not a freak,” he growled as his eyes almost glowed with his conviction.
“I’m certainly not normal,” I said. Even without my telepathy, I wasn’t an average twenty-six-year-old woman. I had a vampire for a husband who was a thousand-years-old, and I could feel his every emotion, except when he blocked me, and he could feel mine. We were bound together for an eternity. I didn’t think there were many humans, vampires, or fairies who could say the same. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, though. I knew what I had and how lucky I was to have Eric in my life and that he loved me more than anything.
“Normal is overrated,” he said with a small smile before he leaned down to brush his lips lightly against mine.
I closed my eyes enjoying the feel of his body’s weight against mine making me feel safe and secure, and the taste of his lips. I loved the taste of every single inch of him.
It wasn’t long before he pulled back with a smirk on his face. “We can’t get distracted right now,” he said, and then let out a sigh when I stuck my bottom lip out and pouted. I wanted him and wanted to get lost in our own little world, and forget about what had happened tonight.
He peppered kisses all over my face before he made his way back to my mouth where he sucked on my bottom lip. He nipped at it with his blunt teeth before he plunged his tongue into my waiting mouth, stealing my breath away.
“You know I want you; I always want you, but we need to figure out what happened tonight. We need to know who was talking to you and if your telepathy or memories are coming back. We can’t hide from this, and it’s better to figure it out now than later be blindsided. Who knows what could happen tomorrow night? I also know you’re exhausted. Let’s lie down, relax, and try to figure out what happened.”
Tears welled up in my eyes when I tried to answer any one of his questions and couldn’t. I had no idea what had happened to me earlier, but I knew that I didn’t like it. If the queen ever found out that I had even heard the slightest little thing, she would be relocating Eric and me to New Orleans to live in a fish bowl.
“Please don’t cry. I can’t stand it when you cry,” Eric pleaded with me as he softly kissed my forehead. “Why are you about to cry? Sookie, I wasn’t rejecting you, I promise you. Figuring all of this out is also important.”
“It’s not the rejection. It’s that I have no answers to any of your questions,” I stated grimly.
“That’s no reason to be so sad. I’m always here for you. Always. We’ll work through this together. The simplest one is if you have any of your memories back. Do you remember anything from before the accident?” he asked as he lay down beside me, his eyes roaming over my face.
“No,” I replied.
“See that was easy,” he said, but I knew he had a small hope that maybe I had remembered something and that there may still be a possibility that I would get my memories back. “What you saw earlier, you don’t think it was a memory?”
“No,” I shook my head. “I think it was a memory of Hadley’s if that makes sense.”
“None of this particularly makes any sense, but you’ve always been smart, and you know what you saw and heard. If you don’t think it was a memory, then it wasn’t a memory.”
“Are you disappointed?” I asked quietly as my heart waited in anticipation.
“Of course not, Sookie,” he responded immediately, taking my hands in his and kissing my knuckles. “I’m worried about you. I don’t want you to have to go through that pain ever again, and we need to know who caused it.”
“How are we going to do that? I don’t think anyone is going to willingly tell us that they were sending me their thoughts,” I said, now exasperated.
“They may not want to tell us willingly, but I have my ways of getting information out of anyone I want,” he said seriously.
“What are you going to do? Kidnap and torture everyone who came with the queen? Won’t it seem a little suspicious when each person comes up missing?”
“I don’t really care what it seems like as long as we find out who it was that was talking to you. They could tell the queen they know of your telepathy to gain favor with her. I can’t let that happen. I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.”
“If this person knew I was a telepath and wanted to tell the queen, wouldn’t they have come out with it tonight?” I questioned.
“We can’t take the chance that they could go to the Queen with their information,” he said, imploring me to agree with him.
“I thought I did a good job of convincing her that I’m not a telepath. Well, either I did, or I didn’t. If I did, then she’s not going to believe that all of a sudden I’ve got telepathy.”
“You’re right. I was letting my worry for you get the best of me. There were not that many individuals there. You said that it was a man,” I nodded my head. “The only men there tonight were Bill, Quinn, the human male you didn’t read, Mr. Cataliades, and the vampire who brought everyone in.
“We can exclude Bill. If he was capable of doing what happened tonight, I believe he would have done it before now,” Eric stated.
“I think you’re right, and I hope that he will be out of our lives from now on. He’s creepy, and I don’t want to be around him anymore. I don’t think it was Quinn or Mr. Cataliades either. That leaves the vampire and the human. Whoever it was told me that Quinn is a were-tiger and that Mr. Cataliades is a demon. He also told me the other woman was a powerful witch. I was so happy that I didn’t have to touch her…,” I shivered from the thought, “She’s scarier than the queen.”
Eric laughed and shook the whole bed with it, putting a smile on my face. “There’s nothing scary about the queen. She’s a spoiled child who’s used to getting what she wants, but she’s half my age, and, if I wanted to, I could kill her easily. She knows that I let her rule this state because I don’t want to be the king. My Area is the most profitable and I have no problem with the vampires here, so I am left alone to do as I wish.”
“She’s not scary to you, but she is to me. The thought that she could take me away from you…”
Eric interrupted me, “She cannot take you away from me, not ever. We are pledged by vampire law, married by human law, and we are blood bonded. She knows she would meet the true death if she even attempted to take you.”
“She could make you leave your Area and move to hers while I was made to work for her. She could make our lives miserable,” I explained as the fishbowl life flashed through my mind’s eye again.
“True, but it wouldn’t be very smart of her if she wants to live. Let me worry about the queen. Now I want you to try something,” he said, sitting up on the bed, bringing me with him.
“I’ll do whatever you want,” I replied.
He gave me a small smile that put a smile on my own face. Eric had such a beautiful smile. It was the nervousness that I felt coming from him that had me worried.
“I want you to concentrate on me and see if you can find my void,” he said. He moved his body away from mine, so we weren’t touching.
It only took a second for me to find his void and I let out a gasp. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
“You found me?” he asked. I could only nod my confirmation. “It’s okay. Now I want you to try to see if you can read my thoughts.”
“You said I had never been able to read you,” I stated, confused as fear began to grow slowly through my body. “Why do you want me to try now?”
“Try for me,” he stated seriously before his look softened. “Please.”
“Okay. I’ll try,” I said apprehensively.
I love you, Sookie. Everything’s going to be fine. I promise you. Just remember that I love you.
“I love you too, Eric,” I answered him from his thoughts. He reached out, grasping a hold of me, pulling me into his lap, before wrapping his arms around me, and placing a kiss on my forehead before I could panic. “You knew I’d be able to read you,” I stated.
“Yes,” he grimly replied. “You have answered a few of my unspoken thoughts tonight.”
“Then why haven’t I been hearing you this whole time. Why can’t I hear you now?” I asked. This was not good news. What if I could hear any vampire? I knew that would be bad.
“I’ve been blocking you. I can stop if you want me too.”
I concentrated on the building and found no one else. Why were there no thoughts? The only thing I found was Eric’s void. Why could I now hear him?
Tilting my head to the side and concentrating I said, “Why can’t I hear anyone else? There are no other voids. Nothing.”
“I’m sure all the other vampires that live in this building are out for the night, and Amelia placed a spell on our apartment when we first moved in so that you would not have to have your shields up all the time when you’re at home. You wanted to be able to relax and asked her if it was possible before you bought this place. It would have been too much for you otherwise with all people around.”
“Why could I hear you then?”
“We were touching all but once when you heard me. The last time I tried to send my thoughts to you since I knew you shouldn’t be able to hear me with the spell in place.”
“Do you think I can hear all vampires or only you?” I asked with a shaky voice.
“It’s hard to say since we don’t really know what happened to bring your telepathy back. Tomorrow night we will meet Pam somewhere so that we can test it on her. I can command her never to speak of it if you can read her.”
“Why would you have to command her?” I asked. Pam and I were close. We were not as close as we were before my accident but still I didn’t think she would tell anyone about my telepathy.
“It’s only a precaution. Vampires will do anything to get the information that they want. Pam is very strong, but even she might break with enough torture,” he said gravely.
“I don’t want Pam to be tortured so they can get information about me,” I said, covering my mouth with my hands. The thought of someone torturing her made me sick to my stomach.
“Neither do I and only an ill-advised vampire would even attempt it. As I said, I will only command her as a precaution. You need not worry; my age and reputation protect you both.”
“Who’s going to protect you?” I asked him as he settled us to lie back down.
He placed a kiss on the tip of my nose and then pulled back with a smile on his face. “You’re worried about me?” he asked in fascination as he grinned a little boy smile only I ever got to see.
“Why wouldn’t I be worried about you? I love you and don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“I still cannot get over the fact that you worry about me. You always have, but it’s unnecessary.”
“I think it’s necessary. You need someone looking out for you just like you look out for me, Pam, and all the other vampires in your Area.”
“I guess it can’t hurt,” he said before his lips melded to mine. His tongue brushed along the seam of my lips waiting for entrance. I couldn’t deny him anything and I eagerly opened to let him in. Caressing my tongue with his, he moved to lay on top of me grinding his erection into my core. Pulling back, he spoke.
“Thank you for taking care of me, worrying about me, and loving me. I don’t know what I did in my lifetime to ever deserve you, but I thank the Gods every day for bringing you into my life,” he proclaimed in a fervent whisper before his mouth crashed back onto mine, devouring me as if it were our last moment together.
He released my lips to let me breathe, kissing and licking down my neck. “I feel the same way about you, Eric. I don’t think anyone else would have been as patient as you were with me. To give me the time I needed to adjust and to love you again.”
Lifting his head, he looked up at me. “I’d do anything for you,” he exclaimed, taking my lips once again in a passionate kiss.
Ripping the shirt from my body, he licked and nibbled his way down to my breasts where he sucked and nipped until they were both tight pebbles. My hands roamed over his wide shoulders and down his back feeling each muscle flex with my touch until I reached his glorious ass.
Eric quickly rolled onto his back pulling me on top of him. His hands cupped my heaving breasts as his eyes glowed with his love. My hips rose, and I slowly impaled myself on his steel shaft.
We both groaned as our bodies connected. We made love with fierce intensity, thoughts full of how our night could have ended.
I cried out his name and scratched my fingernails down his chest as I came in wave after wave of intense flowing pleasure. Eric sat up, pulling a nipple into his mouth as he bit, causing another orgasm to fire through me. I felt him shudder as he joined me in his release.
Eric laid me back on the bed and snuggled up behind me, entwining our hands before he whispered in my ear. “Sleep now, you’ve had a demanding night, min vackra fru.”
I woke up to something skimming along my neck tickling me. I slowly turned to see Eric with a sheepish grin on his face before he went back to trailing his nose along my neck.
“I’m sorry to wake you, min älskare, but you smell divine, and I couldn’t help myself,” he said hoarsely.
“Did I sleep all day?” I asked as I stretched my body.
“You did. I’m afraid the events of last night were too much for you and you needed to recover. How are you feeling?”
“I feel great,” I said and then my stomach rumbled, “but I’m a little hungry.”
“Why don’t you take a quick shower and I’ll make you something to eat?” he said sitting up and walking toward the closet to get dressed.
Seeing him naked made me want to do other things besides shower and eat. Feeling my flare of lust, Eric turned around and gave a mischievous grin. “Later, lover.”
I quickly took a shower and got dressed before I met Eric in the kitchen where he had a bowl of oatmeal waiting for me.
“You must really love me if you made me oatmeal. I know you think it’s disgusting,” I said before I ate my first spoonful.
He shrugged as he leaned his hip on the counter. “What I think doesn’t matter. You like it, and it’s easy to make.”
I giggled as I placed the spoon back into the bowl.
“Is that why you made it? Because it’s easy?”
“I made it because it’s easy and you like it. Win-Win,” he replied.
I was washing out my bowl when I noticed Eric zipped out of the room, and then just as quickly he returned with his phone to his ear speaking quickly to whoever was on the other end.
“He wouldn’t say who he is?” he asked the person on the other line. “We can’t meet at Fangtasia; it needs to be someplace secluded.” He was quiet for a moment. “I’ll explain later. Do you think it’s a trap?”
Hearing that definitely caught my attention.
“I want you to be close, but not too close in case we need you. Tell him when he calls that we will meet him in thirty minutes and give him the location,” he said before he ended the call.
“What’s going on?” I asked warily.
“Someone called Fangtasia saying that he needed to meet with you and that he knows what happened to you last night. We can’t meet at Fangtasia or anywhere else with a great deal of people until you get your shields under control. We are certainly not inviting an unknown person here. Pam suggested your farmhouse in Bon Temps so we are meeting him there. The farmhouse is warded against ill intent and has a privacy spell on it. If he means us no harm, then he will be able to get past the wards and no one will be able to hear what we discuss. Pam will be waiting in the cemetery just in case. Go get your shoes,” he said, swatting my behind.
“You really think it will be safe?”
“You wouldn’t be going if I didn’t.”
It didn’t take us long to get to Bon Temps and no matter what Eric said I was still worried about meeting this mystery man. We pulled up to the farmhouse that I had only been to once before when Eric had brought me here a few weeks after my accident.
Eric could feel Pam in the cemetery, and we saw there was a shadowy figure on the porch waiting for us.
“If he’s made it onto the porch the wards have recognized that he has no intention to harm you,” he whispered in my ear.
I got out of the car slowly, keeping my eyes on the figure that hadn’t moved since our arrival. I took Eric’s arm and wrapped my hands around it as we walked toward the house.
Once we got onto the porch, the security light came on, and I was surprised to see who our mystery caller had been; it was the vampire from the night before.
Eric looked him over for a long time. I guess he was deciding if he could trust this vampire standing in front of us.
“Let’s talk inside. The house has a privacy spell, and I don’t want anyone to hear what we have to discuss.”
The man inclined his head, and we all walked toward the door. Eric and I walked inside, and I noticed our visitor had stopped outside the door.
“You must invite him in, Sookie.”
“Please come in, Mr.….” I didn’t know his name or what to call him, so there was a moment of awkwardness before he answered.
“Please come in, Mr. Hauk,” I invited.
Eric and I sat on the couch while he took a seat in the chair across from us.
“You said you know what happened to my wife last night,” Eric stated.
“Yes. I’m the one who unlocked her shields so that she could regain her telepathy,” he replied.
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
“Sooner or later you’re going to be in need of it,” he responded.
“How did you know that she’s a telepath?” Eric asked.
“Because before I was turned, I was a fairy and a telepath.”