Close to Dead

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Chapter 24: Please

Washing my face in the bathroom of my hotel room, Eric leaned in the doorway and said, “I don’t want you to come to the trial tomorrow night. You really don’t know anything, and they don’t plan to call you as a witness, anyway.” When I didn’t pay him any heed, he walked into the small bathroom and sat against the vanity, as I started to rinse my face.

I was too tired to argue right now, and I knew I was going to go to the trial anyway, no matter what he said, so I decided to placate him, at least in theory. “I’m plum tuckered out right now, Eric, so I’m not in the mood to argue. Can we discuss this tomorrow evening?”

He glared at me, and when I tried to leave the small space, he placed his leg on the opposite wall to block the doorway, so I couldn’t leave. I looked at him innocently and asked, “What?”

“You gave in too easily, and I don’t like it one bit,” he said, creasing his brow.

“This is a new Sookie,” I shrugged. A shrewd, sinister, underhanded Sookie, but he didn’t need to know that. Let him think I meant ‘a pliant, agreeable, pleasing’ Sookie.

“I don’t like this new Sookie,” he said, frowning.

I almost wanted to laugh at him. I pointed at his chest and said, “Too bad, Northman, I am what you made me. I’m a product of my environment.” I went out to the main room, sat on the bed, and began to peel away my clothes. He shut the bathroom door, probably to think alone for a moment. When he came back out, I was already in my nightgown, and I was under the covers. It was after four in the morning, and I really was worn out.

He stripped down to his briefs and slowly made his way to bed. He turned out the main light, but left the dim light on the bedside table burning. I turned to face him when he sunk in beside me. I placed my hand on his, “So tell me the truth, although I know that’s the antithesis of your usual way of operating, but Eric, are you worried at all about tomorrow?”

He smiled. Sometimes when that man smiles, my heart melts. “I truly have not one worry about myself.”

“I’m not sure that answers my question,” I complained. “I didn’t ask you if you were worried about yourself, exactly. Are you worried about the outcome?”

“No, I’m not, but Sookie, if something does go wrong, Pam and Bill have already been instructed to get you and Iain out of here, and you will go. Don’t try any heroics. Please.”

My God, a thousand year old vampire just said ‘Please’ to me. I racked my brain and I tried to remember the last time he said please, at least, as a sincere request, and I couldn’t recall it. I nodded slightly. I wanted to promise him anything right now.

“Eric, if I promise you this, will you promise me something in return, please?” I asked him, returning the simple request. He smiled again, and then reached over and cupped my cheek. He nodded, just like I did, and then he leaned over and kissed my mouth so sweetly that I forgot for a moment that he was a big bad ass vampire. “Will you start at the beginning, and tell me everything there is to know about you and Larkin and your plans with de Castro?”

He was quiet for so very long that I was beginning to wonder if he was on vampire downtime, because he wasn’t moving either. He was still on his side, his hand was still on my cheek, but neither a word nor a movement came his way. Finally, he said, “I’ll tell you what I feel you must know. I know that will probably not sate your curiosity, but it is all I’m willing to tell. Are you prepared to hear? I thought you were tired.”

“Suddenly I’m wide awake,” I answered truthfully. This vampire was going to tell me something that he normally would have kept secret, so yeah, I was awake.

“Years ago, Niall, your great-grandfather, first became aware that there was something, some ingredient, in fairy blood that made it so that vampires, very old vampires, could withstand daytime. Not the direct sunlight, but they did not feel compelled to sleep when the sun rose. He had his scientist work on this for many, many years, but because of the way fairy blood made vampires react, every test was unsuccessful.”

“Because vamps want to drain fairies dry, right?” I interrupted.

“Correct, because they taste like nothing you would believe. They taste almost as good as you.” He laughed, then leaned over and actually licked my cheek.

I squealed. “Eww, Eric, gross.”

“My tongue has been in every nook and cranny of your body, so save it, Sookie,” he joked. “Anyway, Niall’s scientists were unsuccessful. Larkin became aware of these experiments, and began to work on the same thing, on the side, much to Niall’s vexation. That’s where Hadley came in.”

“He turned her?” I asked.

“No, but he found out about her,” he started. “She wasn’t being protected by Niall’s half-son, Fintan, the way you were, and so he had her turned. He used her blood for experiments, and found that it did work on extremely old vampires, to some degree. He brought his information to the Queen of Louisiana, and she took Hadley into her fold.”

“To use her,” I assumed.

“In the beginning, yes. Her blood wasn’t strong enough to work the way Larkin had hoped. He couldn’t really make any money out of it, so to speak. Therefore, he convinced Hadley to turn him.”

“Hadley turned him, after he had her turned,” I said, in disbelief.

“He used her. He played on her loneliness and lack of family,” Eric stated plainly. “She was a sad creature, alone in the world, with drug and alcohol problems, alienated from her family, and after he changed her, she became a true favorite of the queen, and she became the queen’s lover, but she was still basically unhappy and insecure, deep inside. Larkin fed on her insecurities. He offered her family, when she felt she had none. She happily changed him, not even thinking of retaliating because he was the reason she was a vampire.”

I made a sort of moaning noise. Poor Hadley. She left a little boy behind, too. I was really beginning to hate Larkin more and more. I know it’s wrong to hate, but sometimes it was right too, you know?

“Where does Iain come into this story?” I asked. I also yawned. Eric drew his long index finger down my face.

“Aren’t you tired?”

“Extremely, but you’re finally talking, so I’m not passing this opportunity up for anything. Now, continue,” I persisted. He took my hand in his and continued.

“Larkin was working exclusively for the queen and she was paying him handsomely. She was letting some of us use him as well. After the queen became attached to Hadley, she had no need for Larkin, who by this time had perfected his blood so that it could be used for vampires to stay awake during daytime. He used his own unique blood, part fae, part human, part vampire, but he no longer had a market. He began to search for other clients, but our former queen, ruthless thing that she was, didn’t want him to reveal his secrets. She wanted it all for herself.”

“Okay, still not following, and I’m getting a little tired, so speed this explanation up,” I pleaded.

“Speed it up?” he asked. He turned on his back and looked up at the ceiling. I moved his arm, cuddled up to his side, and placed my head on his chest. “Speeding things up is that the queen contacted Niall, requested that he use his persuasion to make sure that Larkin did not ‘sell his services’ to any other vampires, and that he not bother Hadley any longer. Niall extended his edict that Larkin also was not to have contact with you or your brother.”

“The problem was that Larkin had a half brother, Iain. They had the same father, Fintan, but different mothers. He found Iain, turned him, and used him. He took him as a prisoner, marketed Iain’s newfound blood properties to several very powerful and old vampires, and thus, he circumvented Niall’s diktat, and the queen wasn’t any wiser, because she didn’t know about Iain’s existence.”

“Poor Iain.” I sat up in bed. “And then Pam and Bill had the poor thing in iron shackles. Wait a second, he’s your private supply! Larkin said so!” I got out of bed and pointed my finger at him. “So poor Iain went from being used by his own half brother … turned into a vamp without his consent, his blood used against his will, being held prisoner, and then he went to being your prisoner!”

He sat up slowly. “Don’t make assumptions, Sookie, because it’s unbecoming. Iain is under my protection. Niall rescued him from Larkin before he crossed over, and he asked me to help protect him from Larkin. I’m sorry for the way that Pam and Bill persuaded him to come here. It was wrong of them, and they will be dealt with, but that’s neither here nor there. Yes, I use his blood on occasion, but no, he’s not my prisoner, and he’s treated very, very well. I have only consented to do this for Niall because of Niall’s connection to you, lover.”

He got out of bed. He seemed genuinely upset by my accusations. I took several cleansing breaths, thought about everything that he told me, decided it made sense, and so then, I sat down on the side of the bed. He sat down beside me.

“When Niall crossed over, why didn’t he do something about Larkin before he left?” I asked.

“He should have,” Eric conceded, “but the prince has a softness for all his grandchildren, though he shows it differently for different ones. He also thought Larkin would keep his promises to leave Iain alone, and to leave you alone. Apparently, Larkin lied. He has been trying to forge a relationship with you since the prince left this realm. He thought you would be weak and needy, after what happened to you with those evil fairies. He thought you would be lonely the way Hadley was, but he doesn’t know you the way the rest of us do.” He smiled and wrapped his arm around my waist.

I rested my head on his shoulder. Before I knew it, he pulled me onto his lap. “When we were at the bar, the night you had all the northern vamps there, and Larkin was there, why did it appear that he was on your side? I thought maybe you were blackmailing him or had something on him.”

“No, I was playing him, I think it’s called. I wanted him to believe that I was planning a coup d'état against the king, who was one of his clients, so I asked him for his supposed help. He happily helped me, but I knew he would betray me. I was counting on it. I knew it was a risk, because I was afraid he might come after you, but once he thought I was no longer against him, he saw no rush in getting you under his spell.”

“He was a cog in the Eric Northman machine,” I joked. “Another question,” I posed.

“Aren’t you tired yet?” he asked. “I can’t recall the last time I revealed so many secrets in one setting. I might spontaneously combust if I continue to tell so many truths. Truths have the same effect on me as the sun, I think.”

“The pile of horse shit is getting deep,” I observed. “As I was saying, can I ask one more question?”

“You may,” he said, correcting my grammar in that irritating way of his.

“Did Sam, Bill or Pam know about any of this?”

“No.” Well, that was a short and concise answer. “However, Alcide did.” I looked up at him and he stood, lifting me in his arms as he did, and he placed me back on the bed. He pulled down the covers, climbed over me, looked down at me, nose-to-nose, and said, “Now, I want to have sex once more, before dawn, okay?”

I placed my hands on his shoulders and said, “You cannot stop your story there, Eric, and I don’t care if you want sex, or if it’s dawn or not. Tell me more!”

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