Close to Dead

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Chapter 18: Elvis, I mean Eric, Has Left the Building:

Bill appeared at the bedroom door and opened it quickly. “Eric, the time has come. They’re here.”

Eric held me tight and kissed me quickly. “Sookie, stay up here with Bill for just a moment. I have to go downstairs for a while. I’ll be right back up, I promise.” He went to the door, but before he left, Bill whispered something in his ear. He nodded, looked back at me, frowned, and ran down the stairs.

Bill stood in the doorway, but didn’t consider to look at me.

I waited for what felt like forever, but was really only a few moments. I paced by Bill’s bed, and I was just about to look out the window when I felt a hand on my arm. I gasped as the person turned me around. It was Eric.

I looked up at Eric as he held me in his arms and I knew he felt my fear, my apprehension, my worry, but still, he smiled and tried to brush it all aside. “Lover, it seems I have visitors. Will you do me one small, infinitesimal, minuscule, tiny, little favor? It will be so small, you will hardly notice it.”

“What, Eric? What?”

“Stay up here, and don’t come down until I’ve left,” he said. “No matter what, stay up here with Bill. He’s going to stay with you until dawn, and then the shifter will see you home.”

“Where are you going?” I asked, a hitch to my voice.

“I have to leave for a while,” was all he would say. He patted my back in a soothing pattern, and I stayed motionless in his arms, afraid if I moved a muscle he would leave right then and there. He lifted me slightly and walked over to the bed, held me in his lap, and said soothing words in that language he sometimes used, until my heartbeat became regular again. His hand slid over my waist and hip, and it was so familiar, real, and reassuring, but I knew that soon it would be gone. I felt his lips brush lightly over my hair, to my forehead. He finally murmured my name and I looked up at him, his blue eyes brighter than I ever imagined, and longing for something unattainable, out of his reach, which made me nervous all over again.

“But who’s here? Who’s taking you away, the bad guys or the good guys?” I asked. I clutched the front of his shirt, and I swear, he gave me another reluctant smile, and I felt like slapping that smile right off his face, the stupid son-of-a-bitch.

He merely continued to smile, he wrenched my hands from his shirt, stood up with me by his side, and said, his voice distant, “Bill.” Bill walked over and embraced me from behind.

“But where are you going?” I agonized, struggling to get out of Bill’s clutches.

His smile vanished and he took my chin in his hand, brought my face up to his and while Bill Compton held me tightly from behind, Eric kissed my lips softly, so softly it felt like a breeze blowing past my face, and he said, “I love you, and I’ll be back soon.”

My heart slammed against my ribs. I stomped my foot again and said, “Not good enough, Eric! Tell me where you’re going and with who!”

He turned before he left the bedroom, smiled again, and said, “With whom, darling girl, with whom, not with who.” He laughed, turned back around and was gone so fast I didn’t even see him leave. I began to cry and if Bill hadn’t been behind me to hold me up, I would have fallen on the spot. In fact, Bill lifted me up and placed me on his big old bed.

And I cried and cried.

I cried all night, and I didn’t even know why I was crying.

When dawn came, Bill walked up to the bed, where I had spent the night crying, and stroked my head and said, “I have to seek my daytime rest now, Sookie. Sam is downstairs.”

I grabbed Bill’s hand. He sat next to my legs on the bed. “Where did Eric go?” I demanded.

“I really don’t know,” he responded carefully.

“Who was waiting outside your house, when he first arrived? It had to be just Weres and Vamps, because I couldn’t read any of them.”

“Yes, there were some Weres; I assume Alcide and some others. That vampire fairy anomaly, who claims to be your kin, was there as well. When I left to get Sam I could only smell them, I didn’t see them. I could tell there were some vampires there as well, but none that I knew,” he answered.

I rolled over to my back, took his hand in both of mine and held it tightly. “Did the good Vamps, Eric’s friends from the North, ever come? Did he go with them?”

“Yes, they came,” he said reluctantly.

That answer didn’t answer my question so I asked again, “And Eric went with them?”

Bill closed his eyes, took his hand from mine and cursed. “I hate that Eric left me to do his dirty work!”

I sat up on the bed. Bill turned to me and said bluntly, “No, Sookie, he didn’t leave with the good vampires, as you call them. He couldn’t. There weren’t enough of them, and there wasn’t enough time to broker peace. Larkin told him that no harm would come to you, or to him, if he went with them peacefully, so because we were outnumbered, that’s what he did.”

I stood up and screamed, “NO!”

“He had no choice, darling,” Bill maintained, his lips pulling taut against his teeth in a grimace. “Felipe knows of his treachery, but by this time, that hardly matters. Larkin Talkington is playing for himself, so it would seem. The Northern Vampires are still going to try to broker a peace, and they will try to get Eric back, through the proper channels, I swear.”

I sat down on the bed, numb, eyes closed. “No.” It was all I could think to say. Sam stood in the doorway. “Go on to bed, Bill. I’ll see to her.”

Somehow, I ended up at home. I don’t even know how. Somehow, I ended up in a pair of sweats, again, I don’t know how. Somehow, I ended up in my bed. Nevertheless, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was happening, or why it was happening. Why would Eric have to go with those men? Was it to protect me? If he did this for me, I would kill him, plain and simple.

I knew one simple truth. I could still feel him. That alone brought me a bit of comfort.

Jason came later in the day, stepped into my room, spoke to me, but I didn’t listen to a word he said. Sam kept checking on me, off and on. Around four in the afternoon, I had to go to the bathroom so bad I thought I would burst, so I went. On my way back to bed, I heard someone knock on the front door.

Then all hell broke loose. I heard yelling, cursing, banging and the like. I ran from my room and I saw Jason on the floor, being held there by Alcide, and Sam up against the wall, being held there by none other than Larkin Talkington.

He turned to look at me. “Nice to see you, Cousin. Do you mind if we have a talk?”

“Let him go!” I screamed to Larkin and then I looked down at the floor and said, my voice raging with resentment, “Alcide, let my brother go, too!”

“Gladly,” Larkin said dispassionately. He let go of Sam’s throat, because that’s where he was holding him … one hand, only one hand, to the throat. Alcide got up from the floor, but he kept hold of Jason’s arm. He brought Jason up with him, holding his arm behind him to keep him at bay. My brother was strong, but Alcide was stronger. Sam rushed up to me and put his body in front of mine.

Larkin rolled his eyes, “Your chivalry is admirable, shifter, but not necessary. Do you really think I would hurt my own blood? Step aside. I need to speak to Sookie.”

“Speak to her here,” Jason said bravely, (well, as bravely as one could while being held against his will).

Larkin held up his hand, “I promise, no harm will come to her. I could have killed her many, many times by now if I had wanted to, but I haven’t. Eric hasn’t really been protecting her as much as it is that I haven’t really tried very hard to hurt her. If I had wanted to hurt her by now—or kill her, she would be dead. Even after Eric began his supposed blackmailing of me, I could have killed her if I wanted to, or had her killed, but I didn’t. Now, run along, doggie, you too, Cousin Jason. I want to talk to Sookie, alone.”

He seemed resolute, but Sam and Jason seemed just as staunch as he was, so I finally just grabbed Larkin’s hand and pulled him toward the back porch. I grabbed my jacket, the one from Eric, off the peg by the door on the service porch, and then opened the back door, walked outside, and waited for him to follow me.

I sat on the steps to listen to what he had to say. He sat next to me.

“So, the tables have turned,” he observed dryly.

“Cut the crap and tell me what you want,” I shot back.

He laughed, “Very well. First things first, Eric is gone, probably not for good, but I can hope. In other words, or in words that are plain enough for someone like you to understand, Elvis has left the building.” He laughed at his own joke.

“What do you mean, Eric’s gone?”

My throat began to close, at the implication of his words, but then I realized, he wasn’t Gone-Gone, because if he was GONE I wouldn’t still be able to feel him through the bond, and I could. I could still feel him.

“Eric has left the state,” he said. “He’s been taken to Las Vegas to face a tribunal, and the charges are treason.” He looked at me and smiled. I wanted to hit him so badly, but I kept my anger in check. “He has many friends, mind you. The Northern kings, from some very powerful states, are going to be his witnesses, and are going to tell the tribunal how Felipe took control of the state without just cause, and when it was vulnerable.”

“Why are you telling me all of this?”

“Because I am working for the temporary Sheriff,” he replied matter-of-factly. “And you are my kin, so you are now under my protection.”

“What was your role in Eric’s downfall?” I asked.

He smiled a wicked smile, “Sookie, dear, Eric’s downfall started the moment he fell in love with you.” He stood up. “I don’t frankly care how all of this turns out, he can live or die, become king or be reinstated as Sheriff. I could care less. I only want one thing from all of this.”

“What? My inheritance? You can have it, I don’t want it. Total control of the fairy-blood market so that Vamps can stay awake during the day? Fine, Eric says my blood is too diluted anyway, so it’s all yours. Whatever you want, and whatever’s in my power to give you, I will, just help Eric! Help him!” I stood before him, pleading with him.

He scratched the side of his face, and for a moment, I thought he looked confused. He stilled. “You really don’t know, do you? For a telepath, sometimes you are completely obtuse, although I know you can’t read my mind, I would still think it was plainly obvious what I want. I don’t want your inheritance. I hated Niall, and the fact that he gave his money and businesses to you means little to me, since I have plenty of money of my own. I know your blood is of no real consequence, so I’m not afraid of you taking over my vampire blood trade. No, Sookie, really, haven’t you figured it out yet? Don’t you know?”

“What?” I asked. I grabbed the front of his jacket and held on tight.

“I want you.”

“Holy Shit,” I winced, eyes wide, letting go of his jacket, and falling back down on the steps.

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