The air inside Eric’s car seemed to be suffocating me. My brain was struggling to comprehend exactly what was going on, the confusion had rendered me speechless. He knows what’s going on in my dreams but he’s not controlling them, how does that work? I was feeling torn, on one hand I was desperate to get to the bottom of this dreaming business despite Eric putting the discussion to the side until we finished with the Queen. On the other hand I was comforted by the soft touches of Eric’s hand on mine and wondered how much there actually was to discuss. The touches are gentle, reassuring, he doesn’t seem angry and his cockiness hasn’t raised its head like I imagined it would, he didn’t seem to mind knowing what I was dreaming and I had become comfortable, if a little pent up, dreaming them so what was the problem?
I shook those thoughts from my head – this is what got me into trouble with Bill, blindly following and taking him at his word instead of asking questions. No, Eric and I needed to talk about this and that made me realise a huge difference between the two vampires. If it were Bill in this situation he’d just tell me to sit tight and he’d sort it out, not telling me a thing or explaining anything to me. While Eric may be arrogant, smug and downright insufferable sometimes – he never made me feel dumb for asking questions, in fact he seemed to encourage it. I cleared my throat
“So can you tell me about this Queen?”
“Sure. You’ll see for yourself soon enough anyway. She’s much younger than me, by over 400 years, she likes to keep pets and antagonise people.”
“So if she’s so much younger than you why is she Queen and you’re just a Sherriff?”
“She got here first. Not that would change anything; I have no desire for endless politicking or brown-nosing ‘yes’ men.”
“Isn’t that a little under-ambitious?”
“You’re one to talk.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I yanked my hand away from his.
“Only that there is so much more you are capable of, like me, yet you are … comfortable with what you have, like me.”
“Oh.” I guess I couldn’t really argue those points. Before Bill walked into Merlotte’s I was happy, a little bored and lonely, but happy with what I had. I was looking forward to going back to that – if I ever could. Surprisingly I managed to fall asleep despite the crazy speeds Eric was driving at and he had to wake me up when we got to the Queen’s place. He turned in his seat, looking me right in the eye
“Sookie, I don’t know what we will be walking into here so you must be prepared to witness many things.”
“Feeding, sex, nudity, vampires acting on base instincts, the Queen is decadent in her activities and looks down on humanity, she will greatly enjoy making you feel uncomfortable.”
I nodded and built up my shields as strong as I could. Eric zoomed around the car to open my door for me and placed a hand on my lower back, ushering me forwards but soothing me by rubbing small circles with his thumb. He nodded to two very large guards and we entered the building. Decadent was one word you could use to describe it, I thought gaudy was a more appropriate description. I was guided towards a set of French doors where I could hear a great number of voices shouting, squealing, giggling and moaning alongside splashing noises. Eric looked at me with concern before opening the doors and showing me into the room.
Being at the palace was amazing, so much better than Fangtasia! The only thing I missed was Hoyt, I called him every night. He wanted to know what I was doing here but I could only bring myself to tell him that I was being taught how to be a better vampire. I couldn’t tell him that I’d been having sex with my meals and that it was out of this world, even if my hymen had to grow back 5 times a night. The Queen said it was okay and that it was natural and if my boyfriend knew what vampires were really like he’d understand but sometimes just before I died for the day, it felt like cheating.
I wondered if Bill had ever told Sookie about this kind of thing. I doubted it, although she would be even more un-accepting than Hoyt would so I wouldn’t have blamed him if he kept his feeding a secret. I was completely shocked when I was told that the only reason he got to know Sookie was so Sophie-Ann could use her telepathy, I really thought that he loved her. Now I have to go back to that shithole and get all pally with her to see if her mind doohickey comes back – if it ever left.
The Queen thinks she’s lying but I’m not sure, I know that she lost it after Bill almost drained her; I think maybe her brain shut down for a while until she fully healed. Sookie is coming to the palace tonight; the Queen prepared everyone and told us all what we had to do. It seemed so cruel, like it wasn’t just the mind reading that Sophie-Ann was interested in; it had become personal for some reason. Maybe because of the way Bill went about things, I don’t know, but she seemed to want Sookie to break down somehow and what she would walk in and see would probably shock the bejesus out of her.
No matter what I told Sookie, nothing could have prepared her for this. I hadn’t seen anything this hedonistic since the 60’s, there were around 12 vampires, each of them had 2 humans and they were all in the throes of feeding and a variant of sexual activity. Sookie had gone as stiff as a board next to me, I watched her eyes scan the room and settle on … oh, one vampire wasn’t feeding or fucking, Jessica. Strange. From her behaviour at Fangtasia I would have thought she’d jump at the chance to take part.
“What do I do Eric?”
“Try to relax. I’ll take you to the Queen.”
Sookie’s level of anxiety and … rage? Was at such a high I was finding my concentration lapsing. The smell of blood and sex was also making things hard – in more ways than one. I wanted nothing more than to tear Sookie’s clothes off and join in the fun. Sophie-Ann was on her sofa with a blonde female head bobbing between her legs and her fangs in the neck of another young woman who was playing with her breasts. I managed to get Sookie to move enough so we were in front of her and cleared my throat.
It was awful. Worse than the orgies I saw through Tara’s eyes when I went into her head to release her from the Maenad’s hold. The humans were very … excited and I could feel their thoughts pressing on my shields. I tried to find someone to look at who wasn’t naked, feeding or having their intimate parts handled thoroughly and saw Jessica. She looked annoyed, whether she was annoyed that she was here and not with Hoyt or that she was Hoyt’s girl and couldn’t take part is anyone’s guess.
Eric led me towards a very beautiful vampire with red hair and clothes all askew as she was ‘taken care of’ by two women. The blonde between her legs looked up as Eric made our presence known and I had to fight back the nausea when I saw it was Hadley, she even smiled at me like we’d just bumped into her in the supermarket. The red head – I’m guessing she was the Queen – stopped feeding and pushed the other girls away, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand.
“Northman. Would this be Miss Sookie Stackhouse?” I opened my mouth to speak but Eric pinched me lightly where his hand was resting at my back
“It is.” I smiled my crazy Sookie smile at her, she was unimpressed
“Well let’s get started” she looked right at me and I could feel her poking against my consciousness with her glamour “I have some questions for you Miss Stackhouse.”
I looked at Eric and he nodded “I expect you have … uh … your highness.” She shifted along the sofa and patted the space next to her; it had an ominous looking stain on it. “Here? I thought you’d … um … want to talk in private.”
“Oh dear!” she laughed, it wasn’t a nice laugh, it was an ‘I’m laughing at you’ laugh “If any of the humans overhear anything they shouldn’t it will simply be glamoured out of their memories.”
I felt her trying to influence me with her mind again, it was more insistent this time. That combined with the pressure of so many rampant brains was really starting to wear my shields down. If I hadn’t had Eric’s blood so recently I’d have caved more easily, I had to get this done and get out of here.
“Northman, you may leave us.” Eric made no move to leave; in fact he walked around the sofa to stand behind me, putting his hands on my shoulders.
“Miss Stackhouse has a verbal contract with me, as my asset I’m within my rights to remain here during the questioning.”
She laughed but it was cold “Whatever. So Sookie” she wrinkled her nose and grinned when she said my name “What’s this I hear about you losing your mind reading?”
“Well” I wished so hard she would stop pressing on my mind “I had a traumatic experience and the next time I was around humans I noticed that it just wasn’t … there.”
“And this ‘traumatic experience’” the bitch actually air quoted with her fingers “What exactly happened there?”
“Didn’t Bill tell you?”
She was across the sofa in less than a second, her fingers digging into my face where she held my chin “I am asking the questions here blood bag. Tell me exactly what happened.”
“Okay” I managed to squeak it out and she let me go “We … uh … found out where Bill was and me, Eric and Alcide went to get him. When we got there he smelled Alcide and Eric on me and attacked me, accused me of … fucking both of them while he was away”
“And did you?”
“No I did not.” I ground it out through my teeth “He told me that he’d show me who I belonged to or something like that and tore into my neck. Eric pulled him off and that’s all I remember until I woke up back in the room I had been staying in at Alcide’s.”
“I see.” She kept on staring into my eyes and I couldn’t look away, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold on “So, do you belong to him?”
“Why not? I thought you were in love.”
“I was but I’ve been lied to, stifled, manipulated and almost killed, while I will always have a place in my heart for Bill” I felt Eric’s grip on my shoulders tighten “I cannot let all of those things slide. He’ll have to become a very different man if he wants me to accept him back into my life.”
“Oh that is too much! You actually refer to him as a man? He. Is. A. Vampire. Apart from that I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment. Now about this alleged telepathy loss, can you hear anything from these humans?”
Lord help me, the … too much pressure “No, but your continued attempts to glamour me are giving me a very bad headache.”
The pressure was instantly gone “Not only can’t you be glamoured but you can actually tell when it’s being attempted?”
“Yes ma’am.” That was a very large gamble and thankfully it paid off. I could feel Eric moving his hands slightly to reassure me.
“Well, I think we’ve learned all we need to. As you are in Sherriff Northman’s area you will report to him immediately if or when your telepathy returns and resume your verbal agreement.”
“Oh … yeah … of course.”
“So, we’re all done! Time for fun! Do you want to join in?”
“I’d rather not.” I could feel a cold sweat coming on.
“What about you Northman? If I remember right this is just your scene.”
I could actually hear Eric grinding his teeth behind me “No thank you your Majesty. I must be returning Sookie to her home and I have business to attend to at my bar.”
“Fine.” She huffed and beckoned Jessica over “You can take this one back; she’s a fast learner under the right circumstances.”
“I’m sure she is, however I only have two seats in my car so I will be unable to provide Jessica’s transport.”
“Well, I suppose she could stay another night and I’ll have Andre take her back tomorrow.” It was subtle, but I saw Jessica’s eyes light up like it was Christmas morning for just a fraction of a second, so much for missing Hoyt.
I tried not to notice the groups of bodies writhing that we had to step over to get out, my foot slipped on something gooey – I didn’t want to know what it was – but Eric grabbed me to keep me upright and lifted me over everyone and out of the door. As it closed behind us I let myself sag like a rag doll in his arms and be carried out to his car.
Vampires are so fucking annoying. This one was adamant he was superior to us, even when I hit him with the ‘cold hard truth’ curse, he was spewing about how he’d get free and rip my flea ridden arms off yadda yadda yadda. Mark had done well, not only did he find a fairly young vamp (around 70 years old), he found one that worked at Fangtasia.
“So bloodsucker, do you dream?”
“Uh … no. I don’t sleep, I die. No dreams.” Shit. Plan B was risky but if this experiment went well it would be perfect.
“Okay. Tell me your fantasies.”
“I … I fantasise about sex usually. Lots of sex, with a swimming pool of blood, with a lot of women at the same time.”
“Well, what self respecting vampire wouldn’t?” I stood up and started to chant “may vestri fantasies planto vos suum mancipium.”
As soon as the incantation was finished he became frantic, I nodded to Mark to let him go and we watched him for over an hour, making phone call after phone call, trying to hire a pool, trying to order enough blood to fill a pool, trying to entice enough women to join in his venture.
Thirty minutes before sunrise we returned to the warehouse and he was still at it, amazingly he’d managed to get 25 women to agree to join him, but still lacked the pool and blood. The vampire paid no attention to my brother and me as we retied him to the chair and dragged him outside to a small parking area. As the sun crept over the horizon, he was arguing over the price of buying an abandoned property that had a pool in the yard, he kept talking as his body started to smoke, sizzle and collapse in on itself. Perfect.
I carry Sookie to my car and open the door for her but she asks to sit and get some fresh air first, so I set her on the bonnet making sure she’s able to balance herself before I let her go.
“Thank you for your support in there Eric. I … I don’t know if I could have …”
“Shh … don’t speak about it right now, let’s wait until we’re somewhere more comfortable.”
I try to convey the need to keep any talk about this evening’s activities out with the prying ears of Sophie-Ann’s guards without actually saying it; thankfully Sookie is quick on the uptake. The wind shifts and blows her scent towards me, she smells like nothing I’ve ever come across. The whole night had been a test on my self control; I closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind. I was interrupted by a sensing a movement and saw that Sookie had stood up and was reaching a hand towards my face. I gripped her wrist firmly
“Not now. Are you recovered enough to leave?”
“Uh … yeah.” She was filled with confusion as I helped her into the passenger seat before getting in the car myself. I could see her looking my direction as we sped northwards, apprehension and doubt leaking through the tie we had.
“You done well tonight Sookie but make no doubt that Sophie-Ann will have her people keeping an eye on you for the foreseeable future.”
“I don’t think I could have handled it if it wasn’t for your blood and the way you were just … there for me y’know?” I placed my hand on her knee, much like the way we had travelled to New Orleans. “Eric did I do something wrong? You seem really out of sorts.”
I glance at her “No Sookie, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sure you are aware of how certain sights and smells affect vampires.”
“Huh? You’re … uh …well.” she waved a finger in the direction of my crotch “I know that Bill would go nuts of I got a tiny paper cut, said he couldn’t control himself, which kinda explained the bruises but how are you so … not going wild?” I had grinned at her realisation of my predicament but that slowly turned into a scowl at her admission of Bill’s readiness to blame lack of control on causing her physical harm.
“Sookie, I have impeccable self control as you are now witnessing first hand as I didn’t pin you to the bonnet of the car and fuck you senseless as soon as I had the opportunity.”
Her cheeks reddened and was that … lust? I moved my hand towards her inner thigh and she raised a hand to cover mine. I expected her to move it to its previous position or away from her altogether; she just held it halfway up her thigh.
“Look Eric, I’m … attracted to you but until we sort out what everything means with the dreams an’ all I don’t want to have sex with you.”
I sighed dramatically and prepare to hide my amusement “I understand Sookie, I’ll settle for road head.”