Warning: Lots of violence towards the end of the chapter.
It was still daylight when I woke up and gently unwound my body from Eric’s, kissing him on the cheek before I quietly clambered up the ladder. I didn’t have to worry about waking him, but still. I was quickly falling into vampire time, and I took a moment to enjoy the light. I made some coffee and picked up the phone to call Alcide to ask him to come out and talk about putting an addition on the house. He wasn’t the only contractor I knew, but he was the one I trusted. This was Eric’s life I was talking about. I needed to have confidence that there wouldn’t be anything to fear from a person who might have a secret prejudice against vampires. The Fellowship of the Sun hadn’t been as active lately, but as I had learned the hard way, anyone could be part of the hate group masquerading as a church. I dialed Alcide’s office number.
“Herveaux,” his voice came over the line, clipped and professional.
I smiled hearing his warm voice. We had almost dated a few years back, but…well once you kill someone’s ex-girlfriend in self-defense there tends to be a barrier erected to any further romantic relationship. He was dating a wolf named Kandace now and things were going well from what I understood.
“It’s Sookie. How ya doing?”
“Good Sookie. Work’s slowing down for the season. Happens during the holidays. So it seems you survived your suicide rescue mission,” he said without heat. “Eric’s King now I hear.”
“Yup. Happens that way sometimes,” I responded.
“Coups are like that. What can I do for you?”
“Well Eric and I are back together,” I started.
He interrupted, chuckling, “Well took you two long enough.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked without sarcasm, actually wanting to know.
“Anyone who’d seen the two of you together knew you wouldn’t stay apart for long, Queen or no. You aren’t a woman to allow an injustice like that no matter who it is. That Eric was taken from you forcefully just assured that you would fly into action as soon as you realized you’d never be a normal small-town girl. You’re too special for that Sookie.”
“Thanks Alcide, that means a lot to me. I know that I went a little Brady Bunch there for a while,” I answered honestly.
“You went through a rough time of it, but you’re back now and that’s all that matters. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?”
“Eric’s going to be moving into my place, but since the light-tight space I have for him is only slightly bigger than he is, I want to expand the house. Put in a bedroom that he doesn’t have to worry about turning to dust in. I trust you and your company to do the work and I was wondering if you had some time to come out and talk designs.”
“I’m coming to the coronation on Saturday so we could talk on Sunday if you’d like.”
“Could we make it Monday? I’m getting married on Sunday. In fact, I’d love it if you’d stay for the ceremony. Bring Kandace.” If he hadn’t been dating anyone I would never have asked, but I was hoping that we were actual friends, not just two people who almost dated years ago. He had come and helped me after I’d been accused of Arlene’s murder last summer. I thought we’d left things on good terms. “It’s just going to be a small gathering in my backyard. It’d be really nice to have you there.”
“I’d be honored. I’ll just extend my reservation at the hotel. Kandace would love to meet you and things are starting to get serious between us. A wedding will be a good way to feel her out. And Sookie?”
“Congratulations. Seriously. I’m glad Eric’s free and you two are working things out. He and I might not have always seen eye to eye on things, but he’s an honorable man.”
“Thanks Alcide. I’ll see you Saturday then. Tell Kandace I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“Will do. Til Saturday. Bye Sookie.”
“Bye.” I said and clicked off the call.
Feeling contented at having moved forward with the addition, I cleaned up a bit around the house and then hopped into the shower. I needed to be ready for when Pam dragged me out for another shopping expedition. Once the hot water hit my skin I sighed in pleasure. The last week of my life had been busy and filled with unknowns. The heat loosened the tightened muscles in my body and I closed my eyes, just standing and letting the stream pour over my body. One hand on the smooth tile wall I used the other to massage the knots from my shoulders. I felt a brush of cool air.
“Need any help with that?” Eric replaced my one inadequate hand with his two larger ones, pressing his fingers into the muscles that curved around my shoulder blades. It felt heavenly.
“Mmmmm, that feels amazing. I didn’t realize how tense I was,” I said leaning into him.
He bent down kissing the back of my neck. “You were up early today. I missed you.”
“Only a vampire could consider four-thirty early,” I laughed. He ignored me continuing his mouth’s descent, his hands moving to my lower back. “I wanted to enjoy the sun a bit and I called Alcide.”
He froze. “Lover?” He asked his voice tinged with jealousy.
“I thought he could be my wolf on the side,” I teased him, smiling at the growl that rumbled through his chest, vibrating against my back. I turned to face him and alleviated his fear. “Don’t worry my love. I called him regarding the addition on the house. He’s already coming for the coronation and I asked him to stay for the wedding. We’re going to discuss ideas on Monday. You don’t mind do you?”
He visibly relaxed and something like pride fixed itself across his posture. “No lover, I am glad that he will be here to see us wed. He will see that you are mine.”
“He already knows that I’m yours, Eric,” I reassured him, “and you’re mine. There’s no one who’s gonna come between us, ever again. I promise.” I wound my arms up and over his shoulders, searching his eyes for understanding.
He grabbed me fiercely and his mouth found mine, the length of his body pressed against me. Moving me backwards until I was against the wall, his fangs scraped down my skin and his gracious plenty slipped inside, thrusting in and claiming my body. He needed this as much as I did. Our separation had been hard on both of us and our physical melding reassured our hearts. We didn’t last long, our coupling too fervent for a drawn-out love-making.
We got out of the shower, drying each other, our movements tender where only moments ago they had been a clutching need. We dressed and I chose one of the new outfits that Pam had picked for me when we went shopping before the Oklahoma battle. I topped the pale purple dress with a grey cardigan with an embroidered flower on the left shoulder. Slipping my feet into a pair of comfortable flats, I was going to be shopping with Pam so it could be a long night, I turned to Eric.
“So, what do you think? Pam’s been using me as her personal Barbie doll.”
“You are stunning, but then you always are. Pam’s shopping expertise can be overwhelming on the best of days. Are you sure you’re ready to go out with her again tonight? I can think of several things we could do instead,” he smiled seductively.
“Na, I don’t mind, and besides if I put her off it’ll just make her even more persistent. I’ll just go with it it’s easier that way, though the offer to stay here with you sounds fabulous.” Then I remembered, “we shouldn’t be too late. I forgot that she wants to spend some quality time with Bill before his execution. I’m sure she won’t want to visit him before our shopping trip, so that means it’ll happen after. What do you have planned for this evening?” I asked knowing that even if he wanted to stay with me all night, he had other things to do.
“I’m meeting with Cataliades to draw up the regent contracts. That’ll take up a good portion of the evening, and then I have a few personal items to take care of.”
“Hmmmm, personal?” I asked intrigued.
“Yes lover,” he said without explanation, but a suspicious smile flickered across his features.
“What have you got planned?” I asked my voice apprehensive.
His grin widened. “Something I should have done long ago.”
A quick knock sounded from the front door before Pam’s voice carried through the house. “You two better get yourselves decent unless you want me to join, which I am, of course, not opposed to.”
We headed out to the living room finding Pam sitting in one of the chairs looking elegant dressed in a pink silk blouse with impeccably tailored tan slacks. She rose, joining us as we headed into the kitchen. They settled at the table as I popped two bloods into the microwave warming them up.
A thought flickered across my consciousness. “Eric, why is Alcide coming to the coronation? I thought that it would be more of a vamps only kind of affair.” It wasn’t a secret that weres and vampires didn’t really get along.
“The wolf is coming to the coronation?” Pam asked derisively making my point for me.
Eric ignored her and answered my question. “Traditionally, yes it is, but I started thinking. If I’m going to be King I want to start changing the status quo. It was your comment about the inequality between human and vampire that got me thinking. How can we expect the humans to change their dealings with the supernatural community if we are fighting amongst ourselves? I have extended an olive branch as it were. It’ll cause some problems at first, to be sure, but if you and I are any indication, we can find common ground. We just need to focus on our similarities and not our differences.”
I beamed at him, delighted with this change. I gave the two of them their blood and settled myself in Eric’s lap, “I love you so much Eric. You really are incredible. I think your idea is a really good one.”
“Our idea, lover. You’re in this with me since you’ll be my Queen,” he said seriously.
“Queen? Me? Um, yeah, I’m not so sure about that. Do you really think that the vamps will accept a fairy princess as Queen?” I asked skittish at this new development. “Besides I’m not really Queen material. I’m a barmaid, remember?”
He kissed me quickly. “Yes you are my love and I don’t think we’ll give them a choice. You have proven to be strong in your own right and with our plans for Bill no one will think us weak, which would be their biggest apprehension.”
Pam added her two cents worth. “Hmmmm…It’ll be difficult. The supes aren’t as forward thinking as me so it’s a good thing you two have me to back you up. I’m in, though I’m not sure that Fairy Queen has quite the same ring as Fairy Princess.” She looked slyly at me, “And this will give me a reason to keep updating your wardrobe.”
Leave it to Pam to twist this into a way to shop. “I figure you can still call me Princess if it makes you happy.” The pleased look on her face told me that she intended to do just that. “I’m still not real sure about this plan, but I’m willing to try. So it’s the three of us then charting the unbroken path. Looks like you’re stuck with me after all Pam.” I joked and stifled a shudder of worry choosing instead to focus on the future.
“Looks like it. So is business time over? Can we go have fun now?” She asked standing to rinse out her bottle and put it in the recycling bin.
“You’ll never convince me that shopping is fun, but we should get a move on. I’m sure you have other fun things in store for tonight.”
“Oh yes you will think shopping is fun, now that Eric will be footing the bill.”
I didn’t know how I felt about that, but Pam was right. If I was going to be Queen, a tremor of terror rippled through me at that thought, I was going to need to dress the part and I certainly couldn’t afford to do that on the tips I made at Merlotte’s. Oh Merlotte’s, I realized suddenly. I’d spent so much of my life working there, but I didn’t see Eric being cool with me continuing to work there. It made me sad, but my life was definitely changing now, I had to accept that. I had made the decisions that lead to the changes that were unfolding. For so long I’d been so content to be nothing more than a waitress, but, I admitted to myself for the first time, I wanted more now. Alcide was right, I would never have been happy staying a small town girl. I sighed.
“What is it lover?” Eric asked concerned.
“Merlotte’s,” I paused a lump forming in my throat. “I won’t be able to work there anymore.”
“You can if you want Sookie, we can work it out.”
I was shocked at his response, but I shook my head. “No. That part of my life is ending. We’re moving forward together now. I need to leave the past behind. I’ll still live in Bon Temps.” I gave him a grateful glance, “but it’s time to grow up. I’ve seen too much to retreat to what’s comfortable. Besides I won’t really miss hearing frat boys thinking about the ladies,” I said indicating my breasts and focusing on the bright side.
A flash of jealousy flared and faded in Eric’s eyes. “Never again. No one will ever see you as only a pair of, admittedly luscious, breasts. They are for my enjoyment only.” His eyes flitted to the ladies in question.
“Oh god,” Pam exclaimed. “Don’t start. I’ll never get to shop if you two don’t stop making googly eyes at each other.”
Eric gave me a quick kiss and I stood. “Alright, alright Pam. I’m coming. Let me just grab my coat.” The night was chilly and I went to my room and pulled the cranberry coat out of the back of my closet. I ran my hand over its soft material and slipped it on. When I rejoined Eric and Pam, I felt his happiness flicker through the bond. We walked through the front door, which I locked behind us, and after kissing Eric goodbye and promising to see him back home later, Pam steered me towards her silver BMW. I opened the passenger door and slid into the leather seat, watching as Eric launched himself into the air, heading towards his meeting with Cataliades.
The meeting was as tedious as I knew it would be, but we took our time ensuring that all the changes I wanted to start making were included. I knew that those I had chosen would go along with them, but I wasn’t foolish enough to think it wouldn’t be difficult. Every one of my allies would have my support when the problems arose. I was anxious to get back to Sookie, missing her even though we had only been apart for a few hours. I heard Pam enter the bar and she walked into the office.
“I’ll turn your Princess into a Queen yet Eric. She didn’t protest near as much as she usually does.”
“That bodes well for me and the present that will be delivered to her house tomorrow,” I said relieved. I hadn’t been sure about how she would feel about it, but I was willing to take the risk that it would have to be returned. I had called to ensure that everything was set for its delivery tomorrow.
“Mmm Hmmm,” she murmured, uninterested since she already knew what I had intended on buying for Sookie. She held a small bag in her hand and headed towards the rest room in the rear of the office. “I didn’t say anything in case you were wondering,” she called out. She had changed into a pair of scrubby clothes, presumably ones she wouldn’t mind burning after her time with Bill. I didn’t begrudge her need for a bit of retribution herself, but it made me all the more impatient for tomorrow evening.
“Has everyone been informed as to where to meet tomorrow?” I had chosen a spot on a tiny island in the center of Cross Lake. It was far enough from civilization not to attract any attention and what I had planned needed to take place outside. There would be boats available to transport those who could not fly.
Pam responded quickly, wanting to get downstairs, “Yes, of course. Midnight. They’ll be there.”
“Good. Enjoy your time with Bill. I’m heading back to Sookie’s.” I shut down the computer, stood, and grabbed my leather.
“Oh I will,” was her only response.
When I woke the next night, one of Sookie’s arms and a leg draped over mine, her blond hair splayed across my chest mixing with my own. Her back rose and fell in an easy rhythm. As if she could sense me watching her she opened up her eyes.
“Morning handsome,” her voice sleepy. She turned and stretched, almost falling off the bed in the process. I reached out, drawing her back to me, her uninhibited laughter bouncing off the walls of the small room. “I can’t wait til we get the addition built. I love waking up next to you, but this room is seriously tiny.”
I filled the bond with love, making sure she knew how happy I was. “There’s a surprise for you upstairs.”
“Huh? How do you know that? Is it later than I thought?” Sookie asked a bemused look on her face as she pushed up on her elbows and her eyes searched for a non-existent clock.
“No, darling, it’s just after sundown. I know there’s a present because I arranged for it. I thought that today of all days, you might want to start with a little bit of joy.”
She looked skeptical, “Good lord, you really are going to spoil me.”
“Not at all, this is something you have needed for a very long time. I’ve just finally figured you loved me enough to accept it. Promise me you won’t be angry with me.”
“What have you done Eric?” She asked, tiny frown lines forming around her perfect mouth.
I pushed excitement into the bond trying to persuade her before she made it upstairs. “Just go. You can be stubborn and yell at me all you like after you’ve seen it.”
She hesitated, but then turned and jumped off the bed, heading up the ladder. I followed anxious to see her reaction. I hoped she liked it. She scanned her bedroom and then the living room, noticing nothing new.
“Check the kitchen table.” I turned her body towards the room. Sitting on the antique white tablecloth was a small black box tied with a red ribbon that I had hidden before I retired last evening. She picked it up, shaking the box to try and figure out what was inside.
“Is it a pony?” She joked.
I was going to explode if she didn’t open it soon and I knew she could sense it through the bond. She was having fun with me. “Open it already, before I do it for you.”
“Don’t you dare,” she responded tugging the bow loose and removing the lid. Nestled inside was a single key. “Eric…you didn’t?”
I looked away, unused to being the uncertainty that flooded my body. She ran to the front door, whipping it open, and squealed. My head jerked up at the sound. Was that a happy noise? She flew through the screen door and I trailed after her. She ran up to the metallic blue convertible Beetle and she circled it, seeming to dance around it. She halted mid-shimmy and flew across the yard, jumping into my arms and kissing me fiercely.
“So…you like it?” I asked when she finally allowed me to come up for air.
“Like it? Oh my goodness are you kidding? I love it! It’s perfect. But it’ll still be so small for you. Why didn’t you get something bigger?” She was right, my long legs would barely fit inside it unless I moved the seat all the way back.
“Because this is only for you. I couldn’t have you driving that rust bucket anymore. I was constantly worried that it would break down and you’d be stranded on some dark highway one night without any help. I went to buy a new Corvette and saw this and automatically thought of you. So you don’t mind, truly?”
“No, not at all. I’m not saying that this isn’t an extremely extravagant gift, but I can see the sense in it. Besides, I’ve wanted one of these since the new line of them came out. You know they have a little vase next to the steering wheel for flowers right? Oh Eric, you’re the best husband to be ever. No woman has ever been as lucky as I am to have your love.”
My heart soared. “Would you like to take it for a spin?” We had a few hours before we needed to head to Shreveport and prepare for the execution, but I wanted to allow her happiness.
“Do we have time?”
“Absolutely. Why don’t we get ready to go and we’ll tool around until it’s time for…” I let the thought wander off of its own volition. No need to ruin the moment.
She darted back into the house and we showered quickly. I reminded her to dress warmly as we’d be outside later on. Within the hour we were out on the highway and Sookie wore a fierce grin on her face that did not waiver until we pulled into the parking lot of Fangtasia to collect the traitor.
The huge black Ford truck I had rented for the occasion sat idling outside the bar. Thalia and Palomino opened the doors and got out. Sookie and I joined them, nodded, and we all walked in. Sookie waited upstairs while we retrieved Bill, and we walked back into the parking lot, the iron coffin carried solemnly between us. We pushed it into the bed of the truck, metal grating against metal, slamming the gate behind. Thalia and Palomino glided into the back, Sookie buckled herself into the passenger seat, and I reversed the truck, heading out onto the road that would take us to the lake. Pam would already be there, readying everything. She was the only one I trusted with the preparations.
I sped through the night, taking the back roads. No one said a word throughout the trip. There wasn’t anything to say. Sookie sat stoic next to me, staring out at the moonless night. I slipped my hand across the space between us, taking hers into mine and squeezing it in reassurance. She didn’t look at me, but I could tell she was grateful at the connection. It didn’t take long before we pulled up to the normally abandoned area now filled with vehicles. Thalia and Palomino hopped quickly out of the cab, grabbing the coffin and moving it to the awaiting barge. They moved across the lake, heading towards the small island, the only sound was the small splashes of their oars.
Sookie stood at the lake’s edge, her arms wrapped around her middle, staring off at the shifting reflection of the water and shivering. I came up behind her and pulled her close. The night fell heavy and I could feel the weight of Sookie’s darkened mood.
“Are you ready?” The others would have gathered by now. Thalia and Palomino would wait on the far shore for us to escort the prisoner to the site of his true death. A bitter wind blew through the slightly brittle leaves of November. The water lapped at the tips of our feet, whispering and withdrawing, the repetition adding to the deepening oppression. A fish broke the surface and the silence and Sookie turned to face me.
“Yes.” She wrapped her arms around my neck and I tightened my grip on her torso. The cold wind parted as we flew through the night, landing next to Thalia and Palomino. They bent down, grabbing the handles on one side of the coffin while Sookie and I grabbed the two on the other side. We marched through the trees, shoes scattering the stones. The insects stopped their chorus. Small animals scurried through the underbrush seeking safety. It was as if the thick forest and the living bodies within could sense the gathering of predators and shriveled, a sinister atmosphere enveloping the path.
Bill was unconscious when we made our way into the clearing full of vampires. Not a sound escaped until we propped the coffin against a tree and shards of bark fell to the ground. Standing on end to the left of the coffin was a steel barrel, holes dotting the top half, with a metal handle at one end. Thalia and Palomino faded into the gathered crowd and Sookie and I walked towards Pam stirring the huge cast iron pot of boiling silver, a pile of wood next to her. A second larger fire lit the center of the circle creating shadows that flickered against the overarching treetops. The throng extended into the forest, hundreds of eyes illuminated by firelight watching in silence.
“Is everything prepared?” I asked Pam when her eyes met mine, black with vengeance. She nodded and I let go of Sookie’s hand, kissing her gently and walked across the empty space. Pam handed her the long ladle to continue the stirring. I took a set of keys out of my pocket unlocking the top of the coffin. Bill’s body had started to heal itself, but without the blood it would need, it was still raw muscle and oozing wounds. He was covered in his own blood and the scent of death emanated from his mutilated body. I didn’t look at her, but I checked the bond to see how Sookie was holding up. She was a pillar of determination.
Pam picked up the barrel and set it into place above the fire giving it time to warm, returning to take the ladle from Sookie. Leaving Bill’s mangled unconscious body on display I stalked to the center standing only five feet from the fire. The flames dancing across half my body: shadow and light vying for dominance. I felt Sookie walk up beside me, her presence a solid show of strength. No one would ever consider her weak again.
I met the stares of the attending vampires. “Bill Compton swore fealty to me and mine. For years he worked among us, yet when given the chance he sold his loyalty for an empty promise, killing one of our own, and attempting to take the woman who stands beside me. He betrayed me as well as the allies who fought beside me when we overthrew the Queen of Oklahoma who thought to control me. I ripped out her throat and bathed in her last blood. He was willing to sell me to the King of Nevada, who met his true death, burned to ash in the Nevada desert. I left a string of bodies in the wake of my vengeance. They thought me weak.” I paused, glaring at the crowd. “Bill Compton thought to take what is rightfully mine. I tell you now; I will not suffer a traitor to live. Let this death be a warning to all those gathered here and all those who will hear the story told of this evening. Betray me and mine at your own peril.”
I walked over to Bill and picked up his broken body, his blood smearing my arms and chest. Pam opened the lid that ran the length of the barrel and Bill woke to consciousness as I dropped him inside. I gave him no last words, the traitor deserved none. Crossing to the cast iron pot, I carried it to the barrel, overturning it and covering Bill’s body with the molten silver. I threw the pot aside and slammed the door closed. Smoke and screams seeped through the holes and echoed through the forest. Pam and I crossed back to Sookie handing her a heavy log of wood which she threw on the fire, feeding its flames which licked at the bottom of the barrel. For an hour the three of us fed the fire and stared, listening to the shrieks of our vanquished foe. No one else moved or spoke.
When his cries finally silenced I walked over, opening a small hole in one end and grabbing the handle on the other to lift and drain the remaining silver onto the ground. I rotated the barrel and the weight of Bill’s body crashed through the lid and onto the fire. I kicked the heated barrel, launching it across the clearing and scattering several vampires who stood off to the side. I took Sookie’s hand and we watched as Bill’s body burned. We waited until there was nothing left of him but cinders.
I turned and my voice bellowed, “Remember this night. You are dismissed.” The vampires melted into the forest, scurrying away. Thalia and Palomino cleared the area of any evidence. Pam, Sookie, and I waited until nothing remained of the fire. It wasn’t until it was only the three of us that Sookie finally curled herself into my body seeking comfort. I searched the bond. There was no regret over what happened here this evening, no, instead she felt vindicated. She sought comfort because this nightmare was over. He would never hurt her again.