While standing on the patio behind Eric’s house, I wrapped my arms around my torso in an attempt to comfort myself. My emotions were a mess and, as I watched the last bit of orange and red fade from the sky, I couldn’t help but wonder for the hundredth time if I’d made a mistake.
The last couple of days have been an emotional rollercoaster for me due to the dramatic revelations and life altering decisions, but it is my conversation today with my newly discovered fairy grandfather that has left me questioning everything I thought I knew.
After my dismissal of Alcide earlier in the afternoon, I made myself lunch, took a shower, and got dressed. I didn’t know the details of Eric’s plan for the evening so I decided to wear my yellow sundress. It was strapless, short, and had a mostly open back. At first, I was worried it was too sexy and might give Eric too many ideas, but I decided I didn’t care because it was comfortable and familiar. Two things I desperately needed right now.
When Fintan arrived at two o’clock, we spent the first hour or so talking about my life, the Fairy realm, and my other fairy relatives. Of course, I took time to go over the list of questions Eric and I had each put together, but Fintan didn’t really have a lot of insight into what would happen to my fairy powers when I became a vampire. Honestly, I didn’t think Fintan told me anything Eric would find useful but I was certain I’d have to recount the entire conversation to Eric later regardless of my opinion on the subject.
Towards the end of my grandfather’s visit the mood turned darker and more serious as he told me about the unrest in the Fairy world and the danger I would be in if anyone found out about me while I was still human. Well, mostly human.
“So, let me get this straight.” I knew my tone was indignant but this was a lot to take in. “Other fairies would want to capture me and torture me because I’m related to this Prince, your father, even though I’ve never met him and he doesn’t know about me.”
“Yes. You are his blood. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t know you, Sookie.” Fintan’s voice was resigned.
“But why?” My voice was starting to get louder and higher pitched as I thought about being captured by these evil fairies.
“They would want to use you to convince my father to do what they want.”
“But he doesn’t know me. Why would they think he would care?” I challenged him.
“As I said, you are his blood.” Fintan’s voice was confident and implied there would be no arguing with his logic. “Supernatural beings do not view family the same as humans do, granddaughter. The fact you are his blood means he would kill to protect you and die for you if needed. This is expected amongst fairies when it comes to our bloodline. We protect what is ours.”
I had no experience with fairies so I couldn’t exactly argue with what he was saying. Even if I thought all of this was insane, it didn’t mean I could change it. To be honest, he sounded a lot like the vampires with the whole “protect what is ours” mentality.
I sighed in defeat. “What is it that these other fairies want from the Prince?”
“They want him to close the portals to the human realm.” It was Fintan’s turn to sigh. “They believe our relationships with humans are to blame for our decrease in fertility and magic. If they had the opportunity, they would kill every fairy/human hybrid.”
“So, they would want to torture me to blackmail the Prince, but they’d also want to kill me because I’m a hybrid?” I just couldn’t win either way.
“Well, that just sucks.” I mumbled as I slouched back into the leather of the couch.
“Unfortunately, I feel I need to tell you one more thing that is going to cause you pain and anger.” Fintan said remorsefully.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes before saying, “That seems to be a common theme this past few days, Grandfather. You can just tell me.”
“Your Mother and Father were killed by water fairies, not a flash flood. They were killed for being hybrids. The fairies were not hunting your family specifically, but they happened to cross paths with them and killed them. We were lucky that you and Jason were not with them and the fairies did not investigate to see if they had any more family.”
“Wha . . . Why? Why was this kept from us?” I stood up as my anger and disbelief grew. “If these fairies were out there close enough to kill our parents, did it not occur to you that maybe we should know the truth so we could know how to defend ourselves or at least know when to hide?”
“I’m sorry for distressing you, Sookie, and I can only say that Adele and I made the best decisions we could at the time. Hindsight is often perfect at illuminating the best path, but it cannot help us go back to the fork in the path when there was still a choice.” Fintan stood from his place on the couch and walked over to stand in from of me. He held my hands in a loving grasp as he continued. “I’m truly sorry for the pain, seclusion, and loss you have had to endure. I also want to express my regret for upsetting you so much tonight when you’ve been through so much these past two days, but I felt you needed to know all the facts before you made your choice.”
“What choice?” I asked with confusion.
My grandfather leaned forward and looked deep into my eyes for a moment before replying to my question.
“The choice of whether or not you are going to become a vampire.”
I was startled out of my memory by strong arms wrapping around my waist.
“What are you thinking about, Lover?” Eric whispered into my ear.
It was strange how my body automatically relaxed back into his and all my tension seemed to melt away as soon as I heard his voice. When did he start having this effect on me?
Throughout the day, I had stubbornly refused to deeply evaluate any of last night’s interaction between Eric and I. It was just Eric attempting to provide comfort.
Very sweet, enjoyable, and sexy comfort.
But still just comfort.
“I’m hoping tonight is less dramatic and challenging than the last two nights.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.
“I believe you were thinking about something more, Sookie.”
I sighed in response. I didn’t want to get into this conversation yet. “It was a very long day. I’ll fill you in while we are out later.”
“Is there anything I should know sooner?” I couldn’t see his face but I knew that eyebrow of his was quirked up to challenge me.
“No. Nothing is going to change in the next couple of hours.” I replied evenly to his question, but what I was really thinking was – Not unless you want those couple of hours to hunt down the grandfather who is offering to help me leave you and stay human.
“Then if you’re ready we should head to Fangtasia. I need to take care of a couple of things and my lawyer will be meeting us at 10:00. We will start our evening once we have finished our business with him.”
For the first time in three nights, I actually had an hour of the night that was not filled with drama.
We had left the house right after Eric rose for the night and our drive to Fangtasia had been comfortably silent. He had asked before we left if I wanted to eat dinner before or after we went to Fangtasia and I chose the latter. I had only had “lunch” at around six o’clock. Keeping vampire hours did that to your schedule.
Pam had greeted us with her normal sarcasm and thrown me the latest copy of “Vogue” to keep me entertained while Eric got caught up on work. She said if I was going to be her sister then I needed to learn how to talk fashion.
I didn’t have anything better to do so I lounged on the couch in Eric’s office and flipped through the magazine. However, the strong smell of perfume coming from the pages started getting on my nerves so I tossed it onto the table beside me and rested my eyes for a few minutes.
I was surprised Eric had been so silent since we left the house. He didn’t seem angry or worried at all and it wasn’t uncomfortable, but I did feel like he was consciously giving me space. Maybe my emotions from earlier clued him into the fact that I could use a little peace.
I had to admit I did feel a little more grounded after the relative normality of the past hour. Well, as normal as sitting in the office of a vampire nightclub reading the latest copy of Vogue magazine while your soon-to-be bonded maker signs payroll checks and finishes a report to the Vampire Queen of Louisiana on his area income could be.
This was what I now considered normal. I had to chuckle to myself a little.
“Care to share what you find funny?” Eric asked with a slight smile.
“Nothing really.” I chuckled a little more. “Just the inner musings of a part-fairy telepath.”
Eric retained his small smile as he shook his head slightly and returned to his work.
I decided to drop my shields to see if there was anything interesting in Fangtasia tonight. I had heard the music start about a half hour ago when the doors opened but I hadn’t “listened” in on the clientele yet.
After about five minutes of scanning the crowd, I decided I wanted to go out to the bar until the lawyer arrived. I wasn’t going to be able to drink alcohol for very much longer so I might as well go and enjoy a gin and tonic.
“Yes, Sookie.” He responded while looking up from his work.
“Do you mind if I go out in the bar until the lawyer arrives?” It was against my nature to ask permission, but it would have been rude to just walk out of the room also. My manners won out over my pride.
“Pam.” I was confused for a second as to why he said Pam’s name in response to my question, but my confusion quickly morphed into annoyance when I realized he was summoning Pam to be my babysitter.
“Eric! I don’t need a babysitter. I’ll be 20 feet away.”
He didn’t address my statement. Instead, he turned his attention to Pam as she entered his office.
“Take Sookie to my booth so she can have a drink. You are to ensure nothing happens to her while she is in the bar.”
Pam nodded and motioned for me to make my way out of the office.
I knew arguing wouldn’t get me anywhere but I was still annoyed so I huffed as I walked out the door.
“And Pamela?” Eric called out to her as she started to close the door behind us.
“I expect you to execute your orders better than you did last night. You will be punished after the Magister’s visit for disobeying me.” Eric’s voice was level and held no emotion but it sent a chill down my back.
“I understand, Master.” Pam bowed her head slightly before closing the door.
I followed behind Pam silently as she led the way to a corner booth in the bar. Before we had even settled into our seats, a waitress was waiting to take my order.
Who the hell is she and why is she sitting in the Master’s booth. Humans are never allowed to sit in his booth even if he’s here. Why would Pam allow her to sit here?
“I’m Valerie. What can I get you?” At least she wasn’t rude.
“Gin and tonic please.”
“Sure thing. Be right back.”
I hope she’s gone soon. I’ve been working here for a month now and I was hoping the Master would . . .
I stopped listening to her because I really didn’t want to know what she wanted Eric to do to her. Besides, I had an apology to give.
“Pam, I’m sorry. He noticed the bruises and put it all together.” I started my explanation about what had happened the night before. I didn’t want her to think I went crying to “Daddy” to get her in trouble.
“But I need to.” I argued.
“No. You don’t.” There was a note of command in Pam’s voice. “I disobeyed our Master, not you.”
“Pam, I was the one that . . . ”
“Stop it!” She hissed at me. “This is our way, Sookie. Whether you consider it right or wrong or you think I was somehow justified it does not matter. You cannot disobey your Master. You need to understand this or your undead life will be hell until you do. I trust that my punishment will be just. Now, I do not want to talk of this subject again. Do you understand?”
All I could do was nod in response since Valerie chose that moment to return with my drink. However, I believe she may have sensed the tension at our table because she left quickly.
The silence between us was heavy as I sipped on my drink. As a distraction, I decided to scan the crowd again to see if there was anything of interest since the crowd had doubled in the last fifteen minutes.
After a couple of minutes of listening I reported my findings to Pam.
“Pam?” She had gone into downtime during our silence so I waited for her eyes to focus on me before I continued. “The two brunettes in the corner booth are underage. They have fake IDs.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “Anything else?”
“I don’t know if you care but the blonde waitress, Kelly, is being harassed by two members of the Fellowship of the Sun. They live in her apartment building. They’ve already keyed her car and they are usually waiting to harass her when she gets off work. It’s becoming too stressful for her and she’s going to quit.”
“Fucking Fellowship.” She growled while motioning for a dark haired vampire to approach our booth.
“Maxwell, the two in the corner booth have fake IDs. Escort them out.” He nodded before leaving the booth to take care of the problem.
“I’ll speak to Kelly later.” I didn’t know exactly what she would do. I didn’t really think she cared what happened to the waitress but I wasn’t going to question her about it right now. “Anything else interesting?”
“Not unless you want to know how many sexual fantasies you are currently starring in.” I laughed.
Before she could respond, I gasped aloud as when I noticed Maxwell walking back towards our booth. It wasn’t his approach that shocked me, but the company he had in tow.
“Jason? Mr. Lancaster?” Seeing Jason again this soon, and at Fangtasia, was surprise enough, but seeing the elderly lawyer in a vampire bar was shocking.
Before either of them could respond, Maxwell addressed Pam.
“This one,” Maxwell pointed to Jason, “says you are expecting him, and he brought the other one with him to see his sister.”
Pam nodded in dismissal to Maxwell and turned her attention to Jason as soon as the other vampire had left.
“Stackhouse, it’s good to know you can follow directions and show up on time, but I don’t remember telling you to bring company.” Pam sneered at him menacingly.
Mr. Lancaster looked extremely uncomfortable and Jason looked worried so I decided to intervene.
“Pam, Mr. Lancaster is the lawyer that handled my Gran’s estate.” I thought it best to explain to Pam who he was before finding out why he was here. “Mr. Lancaster, you needed to see me?”
“Yes, Ms. Stackhouse. I’m sorry for tracking you down here. I’ve left messages at your home and on your cell but I hadn’t heard from you. Today, I stopped into Merlotte’s looking for you and Jason told me this was the only place he knew of to contact you.”
“Is there something wrong with Gran’s estate? I thought we finished everything up?” It hadn’t been very long since Gran’s death but she had all the paperwork in order to make her estate easy to settle.
“No, Ms. Stackhouse. I need to talk to you on a completely different topic.” He explained as he looked around him nervously. “Is there somewhere private we can talk?” Poor man. He really was committed to his job to track someone down at a vampire bar. He was sweating bullets.
“Pam?” I looked at her in question.
“Come.” She ordered as she rose out of the booth and led us all back down the hallway to Eric’s office.
“Enter.” Eric ordered before she could knock. I guess he could hear us coming.
“Master, Stackhouse has arrived and brought a Mr. Lancaster whom wishes to speak with Ms. Stackhouse regarding a legal matter.”
“What do you need to discuss with her, Mr. Lancaster?” Eric had on his business hat and kept his voice cool and confident as he leaned back in his chair to assess the older man.
“Sir, I’m sorry but I can’t speak with you on the matter without Ms. Stackhouse’s permission.” Mr. Lancaster’s words held authority but the delivery was understandably shaky.
Eric gave me a look that conveyed the fact he wanted me to provide permission. However, I wasn’t going to give the lawyer the okay without knowing what he came her to discuss. So, I lowered my shields to listen to his thoughts.
What’s Sookie doing in a place like this? She’s such a sweet girl. I hate to be the one to tell her about her uncle.
I felt the blood drain from my face and my stomach and fist clinch.
“Sookie?” I turned my gaze to meet his. His normal cold exterior was firmly in place but I knew he had felt my emotions shift.
I swallowed loudly before asking, “Can I just have a couple of minutes with Mr. Lancaster?”
He studied me for a minute before telling Pam and Jason to wait in the hall for a moment.
“Eric?” I knew there was pleading in my voice and I didn’t care as long as it worked. I didn’t want him here for this.
“No.” He wasn’t going to budge. I could here it in his voice.
I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath to settle my nerves. I could do this. Whatever he had to tell me about that devil I would keep calm and keep the conversation away from painful areas.
After calming myself a little, I opened my eyes and turned my attention back to Mr. Lancaster. “Please, have a seat.”
After we had settled on opposite ends of the couch, I asked the lawyer about the reason for his visit.
“Ms. Stackhouse, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this so soon after Adele’s passing, but her brother, your uncle Bartlett, has passed on as well.” He’s voice conveyed sympathy but I was too lost in my own emotions to acknowledge his kindness.
Bartlett was gone and I no longer had to worry about running into him on the street or him showing up unexpectedly on my doorstep. I was happy he was gone and I knew that made me a horrible Christian. I was taught to forgive those who wronged me, but he had stolen too much from me. I didn’t know how to forgive what he did and I didn’t really want to. I knew it was wrong to feel relieved he was dead and I had small twinges of guilt that were deeply rooted in my Christian upbringing, but the freedom I felt from knowing he was dead was much more powerful.
“Ms. Stackhouse,” The attorney reached over and patted my hand as if to console me. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I realized I had been silent for a few moments and he must have thought I was in shock or grieving. I needed to say something. Something the lawyer would find appropriate for this situation.
“Do you know what happened?” That was a question a grieving family member would ask, right?
“It seems he drowned in the river. It was a little strange since he was in a wheelchair, but the police figure he was on the bank of the river behind his house and fell out of the chair and into the water.”
That did sound a little strange. Wouldn’t someone in a wheelchair have difficulty getting to a riverbank without help?
It was also ironic that he died now. The bastard had been pushed to the darkest recesses of my mind until the past couple of weeks. In fact, I hadn’t spoken his name in years until the night I had confided in . . .
My stomach clenched again.
“Mr. Lancaster,” I strained to keep my voice calm. Maybe if he heard the emotion and worry behind it then he would attribute it to the loss of a family member. “Were there any marks or injuries to his body?”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Eric sit up straighter in his chair. He knew what I was getting at even if the older man in front of me didn’t.
“Well . . . you see Ms. Stackhouse . . . ” I could tell he was trying to soften the news he was about to deliver. “There are a lot of gators in that river and he had been there a few days.”
I swallowed at the visual and shook my head to show that I understood what he was saying. I was also putting together my theory of how the pedophile ended up in the river.
“The reason I was looking for you Dear was to discuss Mr. Hale’s will.” The lawyer continued after a couple of moments.
“His will?” I was confused. Why would he need to talk to me about his will?
“Yes, Dear. He didn’t have much but he left all his monetary wealth to you.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. I reached out slowly to take it when he held it out for me. “It’s a little over $11,000.”
I felt like I would vomit.
I felt used and abused all over again. The asshole was haunting me and taunting me from the grave.
Did he think the money would make up for what he did? Or was he purposefully trying to make me feel horrible by paying me?
I felt dirty and ashamed.
And the fact the bastard could make me feel like this again even when he was dead made me extremely angry.
On top of all of that, I felt guilt. It was a different kind of guilt than before.
Before, I thought he had died naturally and I was just a little guilty that I was glad he was gone. This guilt was different because I had a feeling I had signed his death warrant. I had given a known killer a reason to end my Uncle’s life and now I was reaping the rewards.
Being relieved that he was dead was one thing, but realizing he was murdered because of me was wholly different. Despite everything he did and how much I hated him, I couldn’t condone murder. I had enough difficulty justifying killing someone in self-defense.
“He must have cared very much for you.” The lawyer continued kindly thus breaking me out of my thoughts.
I couldn’t open my mouth to answer him. I wasn’t sure if I would throw up, curse, or cry. So, I just nodded and stared at the envelope in my hand.
“Mr. Lancaster,” Eric stated as he rose from behind his desk. “I believe Ms. Stackhouse may need some time to herself. Can I have someone show you out?”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” The attorney stuttered as he stood up. It was obvious Eric made him uncomfortable. “Sookie, you let me know if you need anything.”
I nodded and continued to stare at the object in my hands.
I guess Eric had someone walk my lawyer out to his car because Mr. Lancaster was gone and Eric was kneeling in front of me trying to get my attention.
“Sookie?” He spoke gently. “Look at me.”
I slowly shook my head no. There were several reasons why I didn’t want to look at him. First, I was certain he had felt my guilt, shame, and relief. I didn’t want to know the conclusions he had come to and I didn’t want to answer any questions. I also didn’t want to see any pity. My pride was too strong to accept anyone’s pity.
The second reason for not looking at Eric was more involuntary. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the envelope. In my mind, it was now the physical manifestation of all the pain, guilt, fear, shame, and embarrassment I had felt as a child.
A cool finger touched my chin in an attempt to pull my gaze upward. However, I was so lost in my thoughts and emotions that I flinched away from the contact.
Eric withdrew his hand before speaking softly, “Talk to me”
I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to run and more than anything I wanted this barrage of historical emotions to go away.
Suddenly, the envelope I was staring at became the cause of all my problems and the root of all evil. I needed to get rid of it. I needed it to be far away from me. I needed to never see it again.
I stood up so quickly that I surprised Eric. I heard him question what I was doing but I ignored him as I walked to the door.
When I opened it, Jason and Pam were still waiting in the hallway like Eric had asked them to do.
“Jason, come in.”
Jason looked startled when I opened the door but he came into Eric’s office closely followed by Pam.
“Sook, you alright?” He asked guardedly. I guess I must have looked as bad as I felt.
“Fine.” I lied. “Mr. Lancaster was here to tell me that Barlett died.”
“What? How?” He was shocked and sounded sad. “And why couldn’t he tell us together?”
“He fell in the river behind his house and drowned. Mr. Lancaster came to me because Bartlett left his money to me.” I explained as quickly as I could.
“Why would he do that?” He said angrily. “I was the one who always took care of his yard and stuff until him and Gran had their fallin’ out. You never even liked him.”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” I gritted through my teeth. I wanted this over with. “You can have it.” And I thrust the envelope into the space between us.
Jason looked at the envelope for a second before he took a deep breath. “Nah, Sook. I can’t take it all. Why don’t we split it?”
That was surprising. I expected him to just take it. Was my brother growing up or was he on his best behavior because Eric was watching?
Didn’t matter really. It didn’t change anything. I didn’t want any of it.
“Jason, take it.” I shook the envelope at him.
“Sook, I . . . ”
“Damn it! Take the fuckin’ money.” I shoved it into his chest. “I. DO. NOT. WANT. IT”
“Shit. Okay. Fine.” He took the check and stepped away from me a little with a confused look on his face.
“Good.” I said firmly as I turned towards the door. “I’m going to the ladies room.”
I half expected someone to stop me before I reached the door or for Eric to order me to stay, but I made it into the hallway without any interference.
Instead of taking a right to go back down the hall to the bar and the public restrooms, I took a left and went to the employee’s locker room. I had used the employee’s restroom to wash off Longshadow’s remains a few nights ago so I knew it was private.
And that was what I needed.
Luckily, no one was in the locker room or the ladies bathroom so I wasn’t stopped along the way. Once inside the room, I closed the door and locked it before leaning my back against the wall and sinking to the floor with my eyes closed.
I wasn’t going to cry and I wasn’t going to have a melt down. I wasn’t going to let the past control me.
I just needed silence. I needed everything to stop for only a minute so I could regain my composure.
I thought I had handled everything really well in the past few nights. Sure, I had moments where I cried, yelled, and lost focus on the important things, but I was dealing with a lot of change. Hell, I had even accepted the fact that my Gran had children with a Fairy!
However, everything I had been learning and adjusting to in the past couple of days was new to me and I was an adult. I could handle most things that came my way. But the news the attorney had shared with me picked at an old scab that made me feel like I was a child again. A child without someone to protect them from the pain, fear, and self-loathing caused by a perverted old man.
The thought pissed me off. The asshole was dead but his death had opened an old wound wide enough to make me feel like I was eight again and needed protection. Damn it! I was even hiding in the fucking bathroom like I used to when he visited.
I was off the floor and on my feet in a second. I walked resolutely over to the sink and checked my make-up and hair in the mirror.
I stared at myself in the mirror for a minute while harnessing my self-confidence and anger.
I was no longer a child. I did nothing wrong. He could no longer hurt me.
“Fuck him.” I told my reflection. “Let him burn in hell.”
With those words bolstering my self-worth, I unlocked the door and flung it open to find Pam waiting on the other side.
She held up a shot glass for me. It appeared to have some type of clear alcohol in it.
“Thought you might need to wash out your mouth.” She smirked. “Southern ladies aren’t supposed to curse like sailors.”
God bless her for making me laugh. “You’re suppose to use soap, Pam.”
“That’s just crazy. This will taste better.” Her voice was so serious as I took the shot from her that I couldn’t help but laugh again. She definitely didn’t understand the point of the soap. I was glad though because I really could use the alcohol. I wasn’t a big drinker but I figured I had plenty of excuses to indulge a little tonight.
“Besides,” She continued as I downed the shot and it burned my throat, “this is my last chance to get you drunk unless we run into fairies at some point. Oh! That would be yummy!”
“Pam! Don’t you think that would be wrong considering my connections?” I chastised her half-heartedly as we walked back towards Eric’s office.
“It’s not like you have connections to every fairy!” She countered.
“So, we’ll just ask them for their pedigree before drinking I suppose?” I asked sarcastically. This conversation was so wrong on so many levels that I wasn’t even repulsed as I talked about drinking.
She stopped in the hallway outside of Eric’s open door to put her hand on her hip and raise an eyebrow in challenge to my sarcasm. “Are we going to ask every human for theirpedigree?”
I laughed loudly as I replied, “And witches.”
The corner of Pam’s mouth actually quirked upward for a moment when I brought my witch ancestry into the mix. However, our temporary reprieve from drama was ended when Eric called to us from his office.
“I hate to interrupt your fun ladies, but it seems we have another issue to attend to tonight.”
As we joined Eric and Jason back in his office, I could tell by Eric’s clenched jaw that this was going to be another long night.