11. Long Road to Ruin

Chapter 11 – Long Road to Ruin

I slept fitfully, dreams of Eric in an animal skin, being kidnapped by Vegas Showgirl vamps and having a make-over at the hands of a multitude of donors made me feel more tired when I woke up than I had been when I went to bed. Dragging my carcass to the bathroom, I splashed cold water on my face to try and clear my head relieved the pressure on my bladder and checked the time, 4.30pm! I had a shower and called room service for some food, throwing clothes on while I waited for my toast and eggs to arrive. Eric had asked me to meet him at first dark in the lobby, which would be around 6.30 at this time of year. I managed to make it downstairs by 7, Eric was pacing a little.

“I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here, I slept late and I had to wait for food and …”

“Sookie its fine, I was concerned that you had gone out and something had prevented your return.”

“Oh well, again, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

He smiled and nodded, offering me his arm to escort me to his car. I decided to use some of the travelling time by catching up on some phone calls, I asked Eric first if he minded – I didn’t want to be rude! First I called Gran to make sure everything was okay with her and Jason, apologising profusely for not calling earlier. They were both fine, although Gran mentioned that old Jessie Compton had been found dead in his house. She didn’t know any details other than Saturday he’d called Danny at Grabbitqwik to deliver some groceries but on Sunday he didn’t answer his door, Danny called Sherriff Dearbourne and that’s how they found his body.

I called Hadley to find out what exactly I was coming back to, she almost deafened me screaming down the phone when I told her I wasn’t a virgin anymore. I promised to give her more details when I got to the compound but until then just let everyone know how good a time I had in Baton Rouge.

“Damage control?”

“You could say that. I don’t want to go back there and find any creeps lurking around waiting to try and seduce the poor virgin.” He laughed at that “It’s not funny Eric! Do you know how … humiliating it is to know that guys are lining up to have sex with me just because I’m a virgin and for no other reason?”

“I imagine it’s very disconcerting. If it’s any consolation I wanted to have sex with you before I established your … innocence.”

“Uh … thanks?”

“I’d like to change the subject. I’m curious as to how those Nevada vampires knew you happened to be in Baton Rouge this weekend. Who have you told about your employment and what it entails?”

“Well my Gran and Jason know but they didn’t know where I was. I told Sam Merlotte what I did for a living, I also told him where I was but that was, like, an hour before Bill got called by Lorena.”

“The Nevada vamps checked in the same night as us, it’s possible that they were lying in wait for information from him but it’s doubtful. We may have to question this Sam Merlotte but if he’s clear then that only leaves the employees under the Queen. That is most disturbing. Sophie-Ann has made no secret of your existence but I know for a fact that your schedule is to be kept under wraps for the very reason of your safety. The last thing she wants is for you to have to travel with an entourage of security.”

“You said before that only you and Pam were aware of who I was and what I’d be doing in your area. Is that the case with all of the Sherriff’s?”

“Yes. It was a direct instruction from her Majesty and I have adhered to it strictly. I have other concerns though. Do you think it was coincidence that your guard was called to his maker and scouts from another state showed up on the same night?”

“So you think whoever leaked info to De Castro also arranged for Bill to be called?”

“Yes. If I hadn’t been so … interested in your work then you would have been left prone to many things.”

“That’s … scary.”

“Quite.”

I think I spent the rest of the trip in shock. We arrived at the compound and Eric handed his keys to emmenthal Paul and stared into his eyes as he asked him to take special care of his ‘baby’. Hadley was waiting in the hall for me with another girl, she was around my height, with a heart shaped face and her brown hair was styled in a fashionable pixie cut. Eric excused himself to go and make his report to Sophie-Ann

“Sook, this is Amelia she’s a witch and we asked her to ward your room, she’s also my landlady!”

“Hi Amelia It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too Sookie.” I read that Amelia hadn’t thought much of Hadley, a vampire, moving into her spare apartment, but once she got to know her and saw that she didn’t cause any trouble she was fine with it.

We all went upstairs, I noticed Hadley looked really sad and that bothered me. I hoped we’d have some time after Amelia was finished so I could try to help her. In my room Amelia unpacked a hoard of witchy paraphernalia and started stinking the place up a treat, she asked for a personal item, so I gave her my toothbrush, I had a fresh one in the bathroom in case it got ruined. I thought it would be really interesting, but I couldn’t understand a word she was saying or what she was doing so it was actually pretty boring – and smelly.

“Okay I’m done here, let’s just test it out!”

She asked Hadley to go out of the room and try to come back in, it was like an invisible force field blocked the door. I invited her in and she was able to enter but when she went back out she couldn’t get back in again!

“That’s amazing! Does it just work with vampires or will it work with … uh … other beings?”

“Should work on everyone, let’s try it on me.”

We done the same thing with Amelia and it worked just as well. She reached into her bag and handed me a personal alarm, apparently this had been given the witch treatment as well, making it three times as loud as it was originally. At least if it didn’t stop me being killed, my attacker would probably be deaf afterwards. Amelia left and it was just me and my cousin.

“Hadley, I know something’s wrong. Can you talk about it?”

“Things are just … hard right now Sook. When Soph turned me I thought it would be amazing but …”

“Did you guys have a fight?”

“Not really, it’s politics. Right before we found you, Peter Threadgill, the King of Arkansas made a marriage proposal, Soph turned him down but a couple of weeks ago he came back with another offer and she’s considering it.”

“Umm … okay Bill didn’t really talk to me about this stuff. Does she love him? I mean, why does he need to make an offer for marriage?”

“Well, vampire marriages are mostly for politics, to join the states, share the wealth, yadda yadda. I think I’ve only heard of 2 or 3 that have been made for love.”

“So if she doesn’t love him then what’s the problem? The states join and you two still have your feelings.”

“She doesn’t love him but when vampires marry they are no longer able to take other vampire lovers and have to solidify the union, sexually, once a year. There’s no way me and Soph could be together if it goes ahead and I’ll be lost without her!”

She sank to her knees and cried deep red bloody tears. I hugged her tightly to me and rocked her back and forth. This was horrible! I wondered if there was anything I could do to make it better but my only talent was finding out what someone’s favourite ice-cream was without mentioning the subject! I don’t even know why the Queen would consider having a union with Arkansas – there’s nothing remotely interesting to vampires there, maybe he was blackmailing her? Louisiana is a rich state for vampires, New Orleans was the vampire capital for the USA, so it’s easy to see why he would be interested.

“Had, you mentioned an offer. Do they have lawyers and stuff to do all the paperwork?”

“Yeah but I don’t know if Soph will want you in on this, I know what you’re thinking Sook.”

“I thought I was the telepath!” I slapped her lightly on her upper arm “I’m just wondering why she’d consider an offer from a state like Arkansas.”

“She gets proposals all the time; De Castro is the worst offender.” My heart almost stuck in my throat when she mentioned his name “I think she’s going with Arkansas so he’ll leave her alone.”

“That’s a shame she feels like she has to do that. I’m going to talk to her about it. I need to get more into vampire stuff, that visit to the private club really hit home about how little I actually know about vampire life. I want to be involved as much as possible so I don’t get anymore nasty shocks.”

“Sook, that makes sense in theory but” she sighed, she didn’t need to but she did anyway. “Just be careful okay?”

“I will.”

Hadley cocked her head to one side and said that Sophie-Ann wanted to see us in the conference room. I asked her if the Queen had ‘called’ her and Hadley explained that Sophie-Ann’s vampire gift was that she could keep her children with her always and communicate with her mind through the maker/child bond. I found that interesting as it was, essentially, a form of telepathy! Sure it was localised but I thought it still counted.

We got to the conference room at the same time four donors were leaving, when we entered Sophie-Ann, Eric, Andre and Waldo were sitting at one end of the table. I felt a pang of jealousy at the fact Eric had fed from one of the donors, that surprised me, I mean how else was he supposed to feed? While the general public were under the impression that Vampires could survive on only synthetic blood, it was the last resort for most of the undead. I guess it wasn’t the actual feeding that got that little green monster going but the other intimate aspects that were usually linked to drinking blood.

I composed myself and tried to shake off my mood when Eric smiled at me, I was tempted to throw him a dirty look. My inexperience and lack of knowledge was once again making romance difficult. Just like Frank had obligations to his pack, Eric had to feed. I suppose the difference would be that Eric could feed from me, no! I didn’t want to go down that path, I’d seen the donors and the pets, I didn’t want to be like them. Controlled, dependant, submissive, I actually wished Bill was there for me to ask more questions, despite it being unwelcome at times he always told me the facts and had never lied to me to make me have a rose-tinted view of the world I was in.

The Queen addressed me and told me what Eric had reported and asked if I had anything to add, I didn’t, he’d told her all about Bill and Gervaise’ behaviour and also my reaction to the incident at Privilege.

“Sookie, The Northman has observed your discomfort at moderate vampire behaviour first hand and has suggested that I am perhaps prone to coddling you. Do you agree with this opinion?”

“To be honest your Majesty, I had no idea that the acts I witnessed in Privilege were commonplace among Vampires and yes, it shocked me. I understand that you’re aware of my seclusion from the outside world and realised that I wouldn’t be able to handle too much too soon. I don’t think you were coddling me, but I think perhaps I’m ready to be exposed gradually to things I’m likely to find on a regular basis in my work for you.”

“That is an interesting idea. How, pray tell, would we engineer this gradual exposure?”

“Well … for the most part I’m only present for your dealings with humans. I often pose as your assistant for these, would it be … unseemly … if I actually was your assistant and was present for your dealings with Vampires also?”

“I’m a Queen Sookie; I can have whoever I want as my assistant. This would give you exposure to some potentially violent, bloody and sexual situations; however, it would also take work away from Hadley as she takes care of most of my administrative work.” Sophie-Ann looked at Hadley “On the other hand it would give Hadley more time for pleasurable pursuits.”

Hadley was smiling; she turned to me and leaned in close “I hate administration!”

“Well, the only problem remaining is whether you think you can handle it Sookie.”

“I want to be ready the next time I leave court for another area. At least here it’s more controlled and I have more support while I adjust to things.”

“It’s settled then. Northman, Sookie, Andre, you will accompany me to my office.”

Eric placed his hand on the small of my back to usher me into the Queen’s office and sat very close to me on the leather sofa next to her desk. Sophie-Ann sat in her big wing-back chair and Andre stood to her right and a little behind as always. As I suspected this private meeting was about the Nevada Vampires turning up at the same time my usual Vampire guard got called by his maker.

“If Eric hadn’t been there do you think they would have taken me?”

“It’s possible” Sophie-Ann’s eyes flashed with anger “Although even if you had William with you, he’s still young, he could have been overpowered easily if the two Vampire were like aged or a little older than him.”

“Majesty, I think the most important part is that they knew that Sookie was in Baton Rouge this weekend. There was one person Sookie informed of her whereabouts and it seems unlikely he was the leak due to time scales, he was the only person not in your employ who had the information.”

“Yes Eric. That is … disturbing. From this point onward we will not be scheduling your visits to other areas, the only ones to know when and where you are going will be myself, Andre, Sookie and … I was going to say Bill but we have no idea where he is or if he will return. We will need to find you another Vampire guard Sookie.” She smirked at me “New guards all round; you will meet Tom Drummond, your new day guard, tomorrow.”

“Will I know my new vampire guard? How will we know who to trust?”

“That is a very important question. The vampires I trust most who are strong enough to protect an asset and gentile enough to deal with you are in this very room Sookie.” Andre grunted, Sophie-Ann might trust him but I sure as hell didn’t. I looked at Eric; he was looking at Sophie-Ann “Northman, will your child be able to watch over your area for a time?”

His mouth twitched “Pamela is very competent, I’m sure she would do an adequate job for a short while.”

“Excellent! We will begin investigations into Bill’s whereabouts as soon as possible, when he is found, Lorena will be punished for going against my commands and he will resume his role.”

“Excuse me?” I waved my hand “Does this mean that Eric is my night guard for now?” They all nodded. Well it looked like we’d be getting more time to get to know each other after all.

“He is a known warrior and you are already … acquainted.” Her lip curled up in a sly smile. “Or were the rumours of your loss of innocence in Baton Rouge false? You don’t smell the same, that is certain.”

“What? No!” her eyebrows flew up into her hairline “I apologise your Majesty! It’s just that … we didn’t … it wasn’t … urgh!” I took a deep breath “The rumours are true however it happened before I was placed in Eric’s care.”

“Oh! I see. Well you cannot blame me for assuming. Eric has a certain reputation when it comes to women. I am not the only one to come to this conclusion but perhaps, now that he is here guarding you, it would be best if we just … didn’t correct anyone else’s assumptions?”

“I don’t really know what that would accomplish Majesty. Wouldn’t it just make me look bad, if everyone thought I had … been with my guard after everything with Frank?”

“If you were Eric’s human people would be less likely to approach you with malicious intent. As I said he is a known warrior. As to your reputation, again, I have previously mentioned his … skills … with the fairer sex. In fact, many would think you unbalanced if you hadn’t yielded to him.”

“His … human? Like a pet? I … I don’t really want that.” I turned to Eric and he was smirking “No offence meant, I’m sure you’re a very kind Master but …”

Eric placed a hand on my knee and looked at me “You are an asset to the Queen – you could never be as lowly as a pet. Your talent raises you to a completely new status, perhaps … companion, while I am staying here, would be more suited?”

He looked at the Queen and she smiled and nodded, Andre grunted – again. Would I have to have sex with him even though I wasn’t sure if I was really ready? Would I have to let him drink my blood? What if I had to drink his blood? Sophie-Ann’s voice brought me out of my hurricane of questions.

“I think we’re done here for the time being, Hadley is waiting for me in my chamber. I have a meeting tomorrow night with some visiting vampires from Arkansas. Sookie, I expect you to be in the conference room at 8pm sharp.”

“Certainly your Majesty.”

I walked out of her office in a daze. Did I just agree to let everyone think I’d had sex with Eric and that I was now his human? I felt his presence at my side as I wandered back to my room.

“Eric, what just happened?”

“As you had no vocal objections at the time, you agreed to perpetuate the rumour of my taking your virginity and also to become my human companion.”

“That’s what I thought. I think we need to talk, my room is this way.”

He nodded and walked beside me, dwarfing me in his shadow from the wall lamps that lined the maze like corridors of the compound. We passed many vampires and other staff and were stared at unashamedly. I unlocked my door and wandered in, flicking on my coffee machine and digging out my favourite mug. I was sniffing the milk to make sure it was still okay after I was out of town when I heard Eric clearing his throat at the doorway.

“Oh! I’m so sorry, please come in! Everything over the last few days has really fried my brain!”

“It’s quite understandable. Sookie, your room reeks of magic.”

“Yeah. Hadley’s landlady, Amelia, she’s a witch and came round to put wards on my room. Once someone goes out they can’t get back in without an invite.”

“This works for all species?”

“Yep. We tested it out on Hadley and Amelia.” I finished making my coffee and sat down on the small sofa, indicating he should join me “So … how exactly is this … companion thing going to work? I know how pets are treated and expected to act but you mentioned that I would be … higher on the totem pole than them so this is unknown territory for me.”

“It is unknown to me also. I have had human pets before, centuries ago mind you, and I had a bonded human once but your companion status would be somewhere in between the two.”

“A bonded human? What’s that?”

“It is when a human and vampire exchange blood enough times to have a mutual connection, they feel each other’s emotions, sense when the other is in danger, they are unable to lie to each other. It is a serious thing, for a vampire to allow a human to see or feel that part of themselves, it works best if the relationship is … romantic or at least amicable. Bonding to a human you feel nothing but hate from would be highly uncomfortable not to mention volatile.”

“I see. So we wouldn’t be bonded but I would be trusted and regarded more than a pet who is used for blood and sex and errands?”

“I would never use you Sookie, it is evident that there is an attraction between the two of us so sex shouldn’t be a problem. I have Bobby and some other human staff to run my errands; I prefer to pay someone a fair wage for their loyalty than to attempt to control them. You would sit at my side rather than at my feet to relay your raised status. The only … sticking point … is blood.”

“You wouldn’t want to control me or make me submissive? Isn’t that how I’m supposed to be … as a human whatever?”

“Some vampires may want that. Younger vampires without political sway like to use their control of their human to make them feel powerful. I’m 1,000 years old, a highly regarded Sherriff and have no insecurities about the amount of power I hold. The only thing I would ask is that you do not disrespect me in public, we all have a mask to wear.”

“Well I know all about deference, it was made clear to me my first week here. I’m confused, what exactly would change between us?”

“Only a couple of things” he smirked “We would be expected to have a physical relationship beyond kissing and you would be expected to provide your blood to me.”

He said it like it was no big thing; oh hey Sookie just let me sink my fangs into your juicy artery! I excused myself and went to sit in the bathroom for a while so I could think. Would the extra protection it would grant me be worth it? The ‘more than kissing’ thing I could handle, it’s not like I didn’t anticipate that happening at some point anyway. It was the blood thing that bothered me. I thought about the donors, they seemed happy; they seemed to enjoy being fed from most of the time. My fears of having my blood taken really only pertained to having it taken by force or being drained, would he need a lot? Would I enjoy it like the donor’s do? Crap! The only way to answer those questions is to ask Eric. I took a deep, calming breath and went back out to the sitting area.

“You seem overwhelmed Sookie. Are you well?”

“Uh … I’m okay, I guess. I just had to take a minute to get my head around things.” He nodded and looked concerned “Eric I’m apprehensive about the blood stuff and I’m being … pushed into this whole thing, so are you for that matter. It’s not the most comfortable situation.”

“I agree, I would have preferred for our relationship to progress at a more natural pace.” He moved closer to me on the couch and brushed my hair behind one of my ears “The things we need to do as a vampire and his companion are perhaps a little more … commitment than I had planned on but I’m sure it will work out.”

Commitment. The word seemed so … serious. Not that I was the type of girl to usually even contemplate having a sexual relationship without any form of commitment, I was still having flashes of shame about my one-night stand with Bobby. It was also a strange word to use as Bill had already told me monogamy wasn’t the done thing with Supes. Great! Like I needed another issue to contend with!

“You say commitment Eric but what does that word mean to you, really? I know from what I’ve been told that I would be punished for … straying and that the vampire can basically do what … or rather who they want. That’s not commitment in the sense that I have come to know it.”

He pulled back a little with a slight frown furrowing his brow “My commitment to you would be your care and safety, I am not unfamiliar with the human notion of monogamy, I just haven’t had cause to practice it. This arrangement is temporary, only required for the duration of my stay here to guard you. I can conform to your ideals for that time, after that who knows, I may enjoy it so much I’ll want to take you home with me!” He winked.

I sighed, that wasn’t exactly comforting but he was willing to keep it in his pants unless I asked him to take it out and he indicated that any relationship we might have may extend beyond his time here. Considering a couple of months ago I thought I’d either be in Valmont trying to fend off the pervy guards or living a hermit-like existence with my Gran, I feel like I’ve come a long way with interacting with the opposite sex. Eric is … gorgeous and funny and I like spending time with him, his kisses made me tingle all over and as the Queen said – I’d be crazy not to yield to him.

“Okay, I think I can handle this.” Eric smiled and I stood up. “So I guess we’ll need to smell like each other huh?” I nodded towards my bed.

“Sookie that’s an offer I definitely can’t refuse!”

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