Last night, after my escape from Faery, I knew I hadn’t gone far from gran’s grave when that vampire saved me and took me into his lair.
But this? This was one sight, that even in my wildest dreams I had not expected to open my eyes to, any time soon. I didn’t know whether it was the nerves, or the aftereffects of my adrenaline rush or just pregnancy hormones, but as soon as I opened my eyes and looked around to see where I was, I started sobbing… The loud, messy snotty kind of sobbing…I cried because I was in gran’s old room. My beloved gran’s room…I cried because after years of torture, killed dreams and hopeless prayers to a God I didn’t believe in any more, I was finally home. I cried, surprised at myself that I still had it in me to cry.
I was home. And I didn’t know how to react to this unexpected fortune.
I looked around with numb, wet eyes. It was different now, though the changes were well concealed. There were additions that I could see everywhere, first and foremost being the strange shutters on the windows. There was an air conditioning unit mounted on the front facing wall, which hadn’t been there before. The curtains were new. So was the bedding and the rug. The bed frame was the same. As were the dresser, gran’s old rocking chair in the corner by the window and the fireplace. Whoever redesigned the room did it well. They didn’t take its soul away. A small piece of my heart awakened from deep sleep at the sight of this blessing.
I didn’t know how long I sat there, staring at the room. Eventually, I had to move to use the en suite bathroom. On my way, I touched and caressed the surface of every old piece of furniture in the room as if they were my long lost family members suddenly standing flesh and blood in front of me, and I just had to touch them to make sure they were really there. Each piece had bravely lived through generations of Stackhouses. Each piece, that came alive with thousands of memories as I walked past it.
The dresser, behind which I used to hide to surprise gran, riffled through its drawers to look for gran’s wedding veil to play with in her absence, hid Jason’s toy cars in the middle of gran’s handmade doilies where he never thought to look for them.
The rocking chair on which gran sat with her knitting or crocheting, while I sat by her knees playing with my dolls. Sitting in her lap as she rocked me gently and told me stories of beautiful places far away till sleep took me. Jason jumping and rocking on the chair especially to annoy gran. Painting the chair yellow when the old white paint started chipping…
Cuddling in a blanket in front of the fireplace in winters…
So many memories of things that were…So many things that could have been…
I reached the bathroom door and twisted the new brass knob. The bathroom was changed more than the bedroom. It now had a modern stone-tiled shower stall with a rain shower, a huge bathtub, granite vanity and a washbasin that looked like it was cut out of one piece of marble and then smoothed along the edges. All the stone matched. I liked it. Gran would have liked it as well.
My bladder was killing me so before I marveled at the new fixtures, I saw to that need first.
I noticed my trembling hands when I was washing them. I didn’t give it much thought and surmised that maybe my adventures of the night were finally catching up to me.
Suddenly my head swam and my sight went black at the edges. I could not risk falling over on the hard floor in my condition. So as best as I could with my shaking numb fingers, I clutched the stone basin for support and just let myself slowly drop to the floor, till I lay down on my side. The cool stone felt nice.
Half a minute later, I heard the door to the outer room open and a subsequent knock on the bathroom door. I heard it, but could not muster the energy to get up and open the door. So I remained where I was, curled up on the floor on my side, watching the door.
The knock was repeated, followed by a man’s gentle voice.
“Are you alright in there?”
‘I am alright’ I thought but didn’t find the will or the energy inside to speak it out loud.
The man, most probably my vampire savior, knocked again and jiggled the knob. I wanted to tell him that I was fine and would be coming out in a minute. I wanted to tell him to give me a moment to close my eyes and rally my strength…Just enough to…
I closed my eyes.
The next thing I heard was a loud snap of the door knob being twisted and broken, before a huge shadow descended on me.
He cursed under his breath and I was lifted off the floor. A voice in my head told me to inform him that nasty words weren’t supposed to be uttered under gran’s roof and especially in her room. Gran would scrub his mouth with soap if she heard…Thought of his fangs getting a good scrubbing was strange but funny…
I was placed on the bed and the next second, felt a cool wet wash cloth on my forehead. The vampire must have called someone up and was talking urgently on his phone. I opened my eyes and watched him pace the room while he made his phone call. My eyes could be playing tricks on me again because he looked like a giant! Huge and taller than any man I’d met and I had seen quite a few.
With the big vampire going to and fro across the fireplace, the room shrank in size. He finished his call, snapped his phone shut and came to sit at the end of the bed, staring at me anxiously. He said something that I couldn’t understand. It was as if my ears were ringing and all other sound was muffled. He came closer to kneel by my side and looked intently in my eyes. His lips moved again as he tried to talk to me. His gaze became more insistent when I didn’t reply. Then I felt a pressure in my head and a strange urge to speak up.
“Are you doing this?”
“She talks!” he said but looked relieved and grabbed a glass of water from the bed side table to offer me, “Here…drink this first.”
I took the glass and gulped the water down. As soon as the water hit my stomach, a sharp pain went through my side, followed closely by an embarrassing tummy growl.
“What is wrong? This was just plain water!” the vampire frowned.
“Cold water on an empty stomach would do that vampire!” a sharp voice sneered from somewhere, “Honestly, you do know that humans need to feed don’t you? Now get out of my way!”
The vampire’s frown became a scowl as he stood up and turned to whoever had joined us in the room.
“Lovely as always Ludwig!” he said and stepped aside.
A little hobbit of a woman, with a suitcase as big as herself, trotted over to me and jumped by my side on the bed.
“What’s her name? And what species is she? She doesn’t look completely human to me.” The hobbit said briskly as she shone a small torch in my eyes and then started listening to my pulse.
“I’m not sure. She has not spoken till now.”
“Typical!” the doctor interrupted his fumbles, “you can fuck ‘em and drink ‘em but you don’t remember to feed them or even know their names or their kind! And this one…” she felt my belly, paused, turned to the vampire and glared at him, “is pregnant too! Are you trying to kill her?”
“Of course not! I didn’t feed from her. I found her almost dead on my property this morning.” The vampire shot back.
“I certainly haven’t fucked her!” he grumbled a second later.
“And I am supposed to believe that pile of stinking shit? I may not be as old as you Viking but I do know a thing or two about vampire and their pets. I can smell you on her. And in her. Now fess up and tell me exactly what happened.”
“That’s what I am trying to tell you woman!” he growled menacingly.
“Stop ranting and listen to me! I found her in my grounds this morning. She was…” he glanced at me for a moment before turning his eyes to the doctor again, “in great pain, almost dying. I healed her with my blood. But then I had to die for the day. I just rose and felt her discomfort. She was passed out on the bathroom floor. So I lay her on the bed and called you.”
He looked at me again and his eyes softened, “I don’t even know her name!” he added in a low voice.
“So you are saying that you, rescued her and fed her your blood? And you don’t even know who or what she is and how she ended up on your front door? That doesn’t sound quite like you. You wouldn’t do that for strangers.”
“I’ll be the judge of what I will and will not do. She may be a stranger but she clearly needed help and I helped her. I don’t know how she got here.”
‘She’ was right here in the room but none of the two seemed to be interested in asking ‘her’ what had happened.
“My name is Sookie.” I interjected, looking at the vampire, putting an effective stop to their argument, “Some miscreants were following me and I ran here. I am human.”
I hoped that story would fly with the doctor because I was not going to tell her about the portal at the back of this house or how the vampire pulled me through. She may be a doctor but she was some kind of hobbit and might be in contact with the Fae.
The vampire cocked an eyebrow and stared at me, clearly not impressed with my story.
“Umm…I am mostly human?” I added.
“Northman. Leave the room.” The doctor snapped.
“No!” he growled.
“I need to do a check up. It’s supposed to be private.”
He clenched his jaw and glared at the doctor, before reluctantly leaving the room. He turned to glance at me at the door and then went out, shutting the door behind him.
“Now” the doctor’s continued briskly, “fairy, how long ago was your last meal? And care to tell me what the hell you are doing with a vampire in your condition?”
So this doctor knew I was a fairy and didn’t spend any time on niceties. Alright then…
“It’s night time now, around six thirty in the evening. So that means I last ate a full meal some eighteen hours ago.”
I pointedly ignored her second question and she looked expectantly at me for a couple of seconds, maybe waiting for that answer. I didn’t give her that answer and just stared back.
“Alright. You can keep your secrets although I can assure you that whatever you tell me will not be disclosed to anyone or anything under any circumstance.” She sighed and then took hold of my chin, gently, which was at odds with her rude tone of voice, “but you have to eat. Are you trying to kill your baby?”
“Of course not!” I shot back.
“Hmmm. So you were dying in the morning? What happened?” she asked while she lifted my skirt and felt my abdomen.
“I don’t know what happened. I felt like I was burning all over. The pain was excruciating.”
“How much fae are you?”
“The father of your baby is fae?”
“Yes. Full fae.”
“And the vampire is your lover?”
“Of course not. I just met him this morning.” I snapped back, coloring up a bit.
“I asked only because I need to know if you would have access to vampire blood or not. So when was this burning sensation triggered?”
“It was not a sensation. I was actually burning. My skin got blistered and my hair were singed before the vampire gave me his blood to stop it.”
She pulled over my braid and smelled the ends of my hair. They were uneven, shortened and the ends looked brown as opposed to my usual wheat gold color.
“So it would not be actual burning. Vampire blood does a lot of things but it does not douse honest to goodness physical fires. You were spelled.”
I didn’t answer. She kept systematically pushing and prodding my lower abdomen.
“Are you in any kind of pain now?”
“No. I’m just extremely hungry.”
The doctor opened her bag case and set up a small portable IV on my arm.
“This is just basic glucose water solution. To make up for your lack of nourishment and hydration. Here’s the list of standard do and don’ts, for pregnant fairies” she handed me a huge stack of sheets, “and child?”
I detected a hint of gentle in her tone again.
“Please be careful. Fairy pregnancies are delicate on the best days.”
“I will be. Thank you.” I replied softly.
“Do you need me to contact anyone on your behalf? Someone who might be interested in news of you?”
“No.” I answered without hesitation.
She snapped off her gloves and rubbed some disinfectant on her hands. “Ok then. I’ll be off.”
“NORTHMAN?” she yelled.
The door banged open and in walked, the Northman.
“I’ll send you the bill. Here…” she thrust another stack of papers in his hands, “the list of foods you need to feed her and the timetables. Make sure she eats and rests.”
The vampire snatched the papers from her and led her out of the room. As soon as the door shut off behind them, I removed the covers and got off the bed. My shoes lay right beside the bed. I put them on. I walked to the door and opened it to walk out. I couldn’t. I just walked into an invisible screen and couldn’t cross the thresh hold. I took a deep breath and tried again. Only to stumble back again.
“It is spelled. You can’t leave this room unless I escort you out of it.” The vampire said in a low voice as he came to lean against the wall opposite the door. He stood in a way that made his body look sinfully inviting. If I hadn’t been struck numb from physical beauty in Fae, I would feel attracted to him. But I was numb. In fact, beauty now made me distrust people.
“Am I your prisoner?”
“Then escort me out of here.”
“I can’t do that without questioning you first.”
“Which means I am your prisoner. Why do you have to question me?”
He seemed to consider his words before answering me gravely.
“I am the vampire sheriff of this area. I need to know about all supernatural beings in my area that could pose a threat to vampires. You are fae, a natural enemy.”
“I am only one-eight fae. I don’t have magic to save my ass on a good day, let alone purposely attack a vampire. I just want to go.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Not your business. Just know that I want to leave this area. You may escort me till the state-line if you wish. I want to be as far away from this place as I can be.”
That seemed to bring a reaction. A flicker in his eyes I couldn’t translate.
“Why do you want to go away from here? This was your home wasn’t it?”
Home. This was my home. Was! I swallowed the lump in my throat and asked him another question instead of answering his.
“How do you know this was my home?”
“Old pictures in the attic, a very good eye for detail and a lucky guess.” he shrugged, “You haven’t been here for years. But you are not old enough for the number of years to have passed since you lived here. You jump in here suddenly through a crack in the air and now you want to leave as soon as you can get back on your feet. Without food in your stomach or so much as a dollar in your pockets. With a child to care for…”
He let that statement hang in the air between us. I knew he wanted me to crack and tell him my story. I knew how these conversations went. I hadn’t just fucked and soaked the sun in Faery.
“Again, all of that is my business and mine alone. All you need to know is that I’ll only be in your area for as long as it takes me to leave it. Once I’m out, you need not think about me ever again.”
He paused a couple of seconds before answering me this time.
“You can’t just leave.”
“Can’t I? I thought I wasn’t a prisoner?”
He sighed. A very human gesture on an otherwise frighteningly huge vampire.
“Can you at least just…sit down. Let me feed you some food as we do this talk? Have you forgotten I saved your life from an unknown inflection a few hours back? If my intentions were lest than honorable, I would have drained you already. Your scent is heavenly to me, in case you forgot.”
I felt a twinge of guilt when I saw that small amount of hurt in his eyes. He did save me. He didn’t have to. He helped me and got me a legit doctor. All without asking for anything in return. For now at least.
“Why are you helping me?”
“Out of the goodness of my dead beat heart.” he rolled his eyes, “why do you think?”
Despite the seriousness of the conversation, his response and the eye-roll brought a hint of a smile on my face. I noticed that he was smirking too.
“I think you want me to trust you so that my legs would magically and willingly open for you and you can have me on tap, whenever you like. If you help me keep my baby safe then in a few months, you’ll get another fairy on tap. It’s a win win for you. You just need to show some kindness and a little patience and the little fugitive fairy in need would fall for your charms forever.”
His eyebrow continued to rise as he listened to my argument. My diabolical accusations seemed to have a different effect on him than I was aiming for. He didn’t look outraged or hurt or caught. If anything, he looked amused.
“Well done fairy! You have me all figured out.” he smirked, “So is it working? This show of kindness?”
“Want me to sweeten the pot? Maybe, add some seduction…” he crooned, pushed himself from the wall and walked to me. He sauntered across the narrow hall and came to stand right in front of me. I had to crane my neck to look at his face. But I wasn’t stepping back or stepping down.
“It won’t work on me.”
“You have eyes. You are a woman. I have skills accumulated over a thousand years. You’ll fold. Sooner or later.” he said, all smug and arrogant like.
His eyes twinkled. His lips parted in a grin. He looked…drop dead gorgeous. He was right! I did have eyes and they liked what they saw.
Suddenly I realized how close we were standing. How poised to lean towards each other we must look.
I took a step back and turned away from him. The moment broke. Guilt returned to hound me with a vengeance. This time, not for saying hurtful things to him but for being attracted to him. After all my lessons learnt from the Fae, how could I desire an attractive male again, just because he was pretty? I didn’t know him two seconds and I was already flirting with him. What was wrong with me? I was thinking like one of my ‘cousins’ would in a situation like this.
The thought of becoming or thinking like my fairy relatives turned my stomach. I ran to the bathroom and fell on my knees in front of the sink. Dry heaves wracked my insides as my body tried to find something to throw out. There was nothing however and I just sat and went through the painful motions of throwing up.
Cool hands gently touched my forehead and collected my hair at the nape of my neck. I felt him rub my back in circles, slowly, delicately. It was… comforting.
When it finally stopped, he wiped my sweaty face with a wet washcloth and gave me a glass of water. I swallowed two mouthfuls and staggered to stand. He supported my weight and then silently walked me to the bed. I sat down and closed my eyes in exhaustion. I heard keys being pressed on a phone. From the corner of my eye, I saw him going over my dietary requirement pages and order me a huge dinner. He ended the call and sat silently on the bed. I could tell he was staring at me.
I sighed and opened my eyes to look at him.
“Thank you. For everything you are doing for me.” I said as sincerely as possible.
He nodded in acknowledgement and his stance relaxed a little.
“So,” he drawled, leaning back on his elbows to sprawl on the bed, again displaying himself expertly, “You’re a fugitive.”
This is what I got for getting carried away and running off with my rants!
“You caught that huh?”
“I was paying attention.” he shrugged his massive shoulders. Fixing his gaze on the ceiling, he went on, “You are a pregnant hybrid fairy fugitive. Your human family is dead. You want to run away as far as possible from here. There is a portal in my backyard. Clearly you are running from the fae.”
“So? Are you going to rat me out?”
He snapped his head to look at me again and cocked an eyebrow.
“Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know! Curry favor with the fae?”
He chuckled humorlessly and shook his head with a sigh, resuming to stare at the ceiling again.
“You don’t trust easily do you? You are what? 25? 26? But you have this look on your face of a person much older than you are. You mistrust good deeds and good intentions. You are locked up like Fort Knox! You don’t even open up to your doctor. You are ready to run at the first chance you get even if it means foregoing care and protection you most obviously need. All because you can’t risk not being on the move.” he shifted suddenly and came to kneel on the floor beside me. He took my hands in his and looked deep in my eyes, “What happened to you Sookie?”
There was a moment there, when I wanted to open up my heart and share everything that had happened with the vampire. What relief it would be to lay down the load for a while and trust him to protect my secret and my life as he was claiming? How easy it would be to lean on to his willing shoulders and let him help.
As easy as it had been to trust Claudine and cross over to the other side.
I snatched back my hands and averted my eyes from his piercing gaze, shutting him out.
“As I said vampire…That is none of your business. Don’t pretend you care about me. Just because you haven’t attacked me yet doesn’t mean you won’t in future. Tell me whatever it is you want from me, in return to saving my life and then let me go my way. If you won’t, then I’ll find a way to escape this house just like I found a way to cross between realms.”
He stood up abruptly and walked away from my side, off towards the window, turning his back to me, his hands clasped behind him. This time when he spoke, his voice was colder. Business-like.
“My name is Eric Northman. Not ‘vampire‘. As far as payment is concerned, I prefer to hoard them as favors, to be called in later. So for now, just know that you owe me your life.” he said and started briskly towards the door.
He still had his back to me when he stopped for a moment on the thresh hold.
“I’ll send someone in with your food and procure the medicines Ludwig prescribed from her office.” he tilted his head so that I could look at his profile but not his eyes, “Try to… take it easy…” he added and then disappeared with a flash.
I decided to ignore the tug in my heart when he left and cradled my stomach. I knew I needed to wisen up and stand on my own two feet for the sake of my child. I knew I had to be the strong only parent he or she would have. I also knew that this child’s future was my one and only priority. I couldn’t afford entanglements of any kind.
“Don’t worry kiddo…” I whispered, “Mommy will find a way to raise you and keep you safe. You will be born free. You will always live free. They won’t take you away. I promise you.”