Close to Dead

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Chapter 13: Well, huh

My knees almost buckled when Larkin smiled at me from his perch on the couch, because so help me God, he had fangs. Vampire fangs. I don’t know how that was possible, but I wasn’t about to stay in Eric’s office with him to find out. As soon as he smiled, and I saw that hint of fang, I got a flashback of what happened to me with those evil fairies and I turned as quick as a flash. My hand went to the knob, and I threw the door open, rushed into the hall, and before I knew it, Eric was standing there, holding my upper arms with his hands and asking, “What’s wrong now?”

“Fangs,” I gasped. “Larkin has fangs!” I couldn’t say anything more. I buried my face in his chest.

He put his arms around me, but then he patted my back, as if I were a child and said, “I know, so? I really have to get back to my meeting, Sookie. Was there a problem?”

I looked up at him, and I said, “Well excuse me, Mr. Sheriff, but I find the fact that a half fae, half man has vampire fangs creepy as all get out, but you go on with your bad self, have your important meeting, and don’t worry about me. I didn’t ask you to come back here and check on me again, anyway!”

“No, but I felt your fear,” he acknowledged, as if he was blaming me or something.

I pointed toward the closed door and babbled, “Fangs, Eric! Larkin has fangs!”

He sighed. “I know. Please, Sookie, go back in the office. You will be safe, I promise.”

“What? First, you didn’t want me to have anything to do with Larkin, and now that he has fangs, you’re perfectly fine with us being alone together. You know what?” I said, throwing my hands up in the air. “I should have called first. You’re busy tonight. Go on back to your important people, really. I’ll go home, but I’m not about to go back in that office with that fairy, knowing that he has fangs, especially considering that just a couple of weeks ago you were afraid of him seeing me alone.” I gave a little nod to my head, as if to cap off my statement with a, ‘so there’ and I started down the hall.

Eric grabbed my wrist and pulled me back.

“First, lover, I wouldn’t let you go back in the office with that man if I thought he would hurt you now, and you know it. Second, I am pleased you are here, I really am, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. I cannot stop everything just to please you, no matter how happy I am to see you. Third, for your own safety, I want you to wait for me in my office, away from the other vampires that I am entertaining, which means that Larkin no longer poses a threat to you, because I would never put you in harm’s way.” After his speech, he topped my nod of ‘so there’ with a ‘take that’ eyebrow raise, and pushed me back toward the door.

He opened it and suggested, “Ask him about his fangs. You’re find the story fascinating, I’m sure.” He kissed my forehead, smiled at me, and damn it all to hell, I felt placated.

I stepped back in the office, slowly, and I looked at the fairy with fangs. He was still on the couch, only this time he was regarding me anxiously.

“You have fangs,” I blurted out. Just call me Captain Obvious.

“Yes, I do,” he affirmed calmly.

“Why do you have fangs?” I asked unevenly. I shut the office door, but not tightly. I stayed by the door, just in case I had to make a haste retreat.

“That’s quite a story, are you sure you’re up for it?” he asked. He patted the seat beside him, answering his own question. Apparently, he thought I was up for it. I moved cautiously, reluctantly, toward the couch. I sat beside him and motioned with my hand that he should continue.

“A few years ago,” he began, “I went to visit our cousin Hadley. I was forbidden from seeing you, as you know, by Fintan. He protected you very well. He wasn’t as protective of Hadley. I found out it was because she had been turned.”

“Did you tell her that you were our kin?” I asked.

“I did. I explained to her who Fintan was to her, who Niall was, and how Fintan was my father. She seemed nonplussed about the whole thing, in fact, she seemed disinterested, as I suspected she would be.”

“Why did you think she wouldn’t care about meeting you?” I questioned.

“I was part of a past she wanted to forget. I admit I was worried about meeting her, what with her being a vampire, and me being half fae, but she seemed immune to me and to my intoxicating smell, which got me wondering … why? Why did my smell, my blood, not affect her the way it affected other vampires?” He leaned forward, and so did I, because now he had my interest.

“What did you discover?” I asked.

“She herself was part fae, wasn’t she? Not as much as I, but as much as you, so I wondered if that made her immune to me,” he revealed. “After our first initial visit, which was short, I visited again. I asked her about you and your brother. She told me to leave you both alone, and that your lives were turbulent enough without me showing up, so I respected that.

“She told me she was a favorite of the Queen of Louisiana, and we talked for a long time. I visited her often. After several visits, she revealed a secret. She told me that for some reason, she could go out in the sun, not for long periods, not without some damage, but unlike some vampires, she could stay awake during the day if she so desired, and that she could bear to go outside, on cloudy days, and if she was well covered. She asked me if that was a result of her fairy blood, and I truthfully told her that I did not know.”

I was really paying attention now. “Did you really know, and just tell her that you didn’t?” I asked.

“I really didn’t know,” he admitted, “but it got me wondering. I asked Niall about it, and he had never heard of anyone with fae blood being turned before, so he, too, was curious, and he gave me permission to conduct a few experiments with some vampires. I gave them some of my blood, but none of them were impervious to the sun, as Hadley claimed to be.”

“Did she ever share this information with the queen?” I wondered if THAT was the real reason that the queen wanted me in the first place, instead of for my telepathy.

“Not in the beginning. At first she never told anyone but me, because she was afraid if anyone found out, they would use her, which they would have, or, I should say, which they did,” he confirmed.

“So, you found some unwilling vampires, conducted some experiments with your blood, and they all, what, burned in the sun, and then what happened?”

He grinned at me. “I like you, cousin.” I didn’t know what that statement had to do with anything, but fine, he liked me. He continued, “Yes, I found some unwilling vampires, as I said, and merely ingesting my blood did nothing to protect them from daylight. Then, I wondered if it was because they were new vampires, or if it was because my fae blood was diluted. I also wondered if the reason Hadley was able to withstand daylight was because of her unique combination of being a part fae and part vampire, because surely, she was one of a kind.”

“Perhaps,” I offered. What else was I to say?

He sat there for a quiet beat and said matter-of-factly, “I soon discovered that was the reason, so I asked her to turn me.”

I stood up, stiffened in shock. “What?”

“I asked Hadley to turn me. I wanted to see what would happen to a part fae, part vampire.”

“Why? Are you nuts?” I asked impulsively. Apparently, that was a rhetorical question.

“No, not nuts, as you say, just a curious creature at heart,” he replied lightly. “Also, I was rebelling at the time against Fintan and Niall, who both forbade me from continuing my relationship with Hadley. You see, I wanted something completely of my own. I wanted to be unique, and so she did it. She turned me, and it worked. I was able to go out in the sunlight, but even more so than Hadley, and besides having fangs, and an occasional craving for blood, I was basically the same as I was before the change.”

“And that’s when you decided that your new blood could be sold to vampires as a sort of vampire sunblock, right? You decided to make money by selling your own blood to the highest bidding vampire, so they, too, could walk the day, right?” I provoked.

“Yes,” he said, seemingly proud. “I saw that by this time, Hadley was selling her blood to a select few, for the same purposes, so I decided I would do the same, and my blood was even more powerful than hers.”

Okay, I thought the man was sick, but … whatever. “Then my blood really doesn’t keep Eric awake in the daylight, right? Because if your blood alone didn’t keep vampires awake during the day, then my blood surely doesn’t do anything, because your blood is stronger than mine.” I was trying to figure this entire thing out in my head, but he was already adamantly shaking his head no.

“No, cousin, your blood really wouldn’t be strong enough for a vampire to stay outside or awake for long, but it would be potent enough for a vampire as old and strong as Eric, if he wanted to merely wake earlier, or stay inside during the day,” he answered. “Anyway, surely he told you, he had another source for his daytime elixir, years before he met you.”

“Yes, he told me that,” I answered. “Who would that have been?”

“Hadley, of course,” he said slowly as if explaining to a child. “I told you that she was already selling her blood for that very reason by this time.”

“Whoa,” I flinched in disbelief. “Back the truck up.” I stood up. “Hadley?”

“Of course,” he chuckled. “She was the queen’s lover, so she was obliged to tell the queen, and the queen told a few of her trusted subjects, one of which was Eric. When Hadley died, they all assumed their source died, even when they became aware of you, none of them thought your blood would be strong enough. They didn’t know about me at the time. I was selling my blood strictly to another source.”

“Which was who?” I asked.

“I must maintain some secrets,” he said in his contradictory manner.

“Why tell me anything, then? Why did you tell Eric, because I’m assuming you did, or else he would feel that you’re still a threat to me,” I reasoned.

“Ah, Eric Northman is a shrewd man,” he accepted. “I hate him passionately, but he’s a wonderful business man, I have to give him that. I’m here today, as a bargaining tool for his new business arrangement with the Kings of Ohio and New York, and the Queen of Pennsylvania. They are his guests tonight. I am not here of my own freewill.”

“He’s conducting business with the heads of Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania? And you’re helping, but not willingly?”

He laughed mirthlessly. “I would hardly say that I’m helping, and you’re right, I’m not here voluntarily. I’m being forced to do his bidding, but that’s all I’ll say for now.” He closed his eyes, sighed, and placed his arm back over his face. “I’m tired, cousin. Do you mind if I stop talking now? I need to rest. I need some blood.”

“No, of course.” I stood up to leave. I thought a moment, then turned back to him and said, “By the way, thanks for helping me in the bathroom, with that vampire.”

“I’m glad I was there,” he said, “although I’m sure Eric would have been there in another minute or two if I wasn’t there first.” He kept his eyes closed, his head back, and he added, “I will always be there for you, and I’ll never hurt you.”

Interesting. I wanted to trust this man, this creature, this … thing. I wanted family almost more than I wanted anything. I didn’t have a mother, a father, grandparents, (not really), my brother and I were estranged, I would probably never marry, and although I wanted children more than I would ever admit, I would probably remain childless all my life. Therefore, I would take family any way that I could. I walked back over to him, removed his arm from his face, which caused him to open his eyes and raise his head in surprise.

I placed my hands on each side of his face, and kissed the top of his head. “Thank you.” I turned back around and walked out of Eric’s office. I wondered, as I walked back toward the bar, what Eric had on him to make him suddenly do his bidding. Was he blackmailing him somehow, and with what?

I saw Eric out in the bar with a small entourage of vampires. He was pointing at different things in the bar, and several of the vamps were laughing. Some had bottles of Trueblood in the hands. What was Eric doing? What was happening here? Did I care?

I decided I didn’t. I didn’t want to get into any more vampire politics, (also known as vampire shit). I just wanted to go home. I weaved through the crowd, in and out, ducking my head so Eric wouldn’t see me, even though I knew he could feel me. I almost made it to the door. Almost.

He grabbed my wrist again right as I was about to make my getaway.

“May I have this dance, lover?” he asked. He didn’t wait for a response. He urged me to the dance floor just as a slow song came on overhead. He grabbed my hand, drew me in closer, and placed his free hand on my back, his other hand still holding the hand he grabbed captive, on his chest, in a very old fashion way.

His mouth was on my neck, kissing me, before I knew what was happening. His tongue darted out, and touched behind my ear, and I shuddered. My knees went weak, and I started to feel aroused, right there on the dance floor. He whispered, “I wish there was only you and me here on the dance floor, lover. I would pick you up, wrap your legs around me, and make love to you in time to the music.”

Well, huh.

His lips grazed my neck, up my jaw line, to my cheek, and I felt shivers go up and down my spine. He had the softest lips; his hands were doing the most amazing things up and down my back. He pressed his hard body against my soft one, his thigh pressed slightly between my legs, and he said, “You taste so good, Sookie.” He kissed my neck again, and then right on the dance floor, I felt the sting of a fang, but he only scratched it back and forth against my skin. He didn’t lose control. He didn’t bite down.

The song ended too soon in my estimation. He kissed my lips gently when the music ended and said, “Would you do me the honor of meeting my guests now, Sookie?”

“I don’t want to be a part of vampire shit again, Eric,” I insisted. “I was leaving when you grabbed me to come back and dance. I’ll meet them if that’s all there is to it. I won’t meet them if I’m part of a business arrangement, or part of your agenda. You can use Bill, you can use Larkin, but I swear, I won’t let you use me.”

“I didn’t know you were coming this evening, so how could you be part of my business agenda?” he asked reasonably. “If you aren’t up to meeting them, that’s up to you, but I’m proud of you, and I’m proud to call you mine, and that’s the extent of why I want to you to meet them, lover.”

For the second time, I thought, ‘Well, huh.’ “Fine, let’s go meet these people.”

I took his hand and started toward the large table in the corner, where they were all sitting, but he drew me back for a moment and said, “Before we go over there, I have two requests, dear one.”

“What?” I asked.

“First, it was an associate of New York’s who offended you earlier, thereby offending me. I have already asked that he be punished severely, and the king has assured me that he will be, so please, do not mention the incident again. Consider it solved.”

“I don’t intend to mention it, what else?”

“I told them we were bonded, so please, do or say nothing that disputes that,” he suggested. I almost felt like it was an order.

“What’s really going on here, Eric?” I asked uncertainly.

“Our possible freedom from Nevada, Sookie,” he said, setting his jaw. “Now smile, we have to put on a good show, Lover.” He squeezed my hand and practically dragged me over to the table.

A good show? Instead of thinking, ‘Well, huh,’ this time, I was definitely thinking, ‘well, shit.’

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