Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(9)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(9)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Thanks," I said. "I guess you know my phone number?" He nodded. I'd thought he was ready to leave, but he lingered. He seemed as reluctant to part as I was. "So," I began, clearing my throat. "What do you do all day?" I can't tell you how strange and neat it felt to be with a family member. I only had Jason, and he wasn't exactly a close brother, the kind you told everything to. I could count on him in a pinch, but hanging out together? Not going to happen.

My great-grandfather answered my question, but when I tried to recall it afterward, I couldn't come up with anything specific. I guess he did secret fairy-prince stuff. He did tell me he had part ownership in a bank or two, a company that made lawn furniture, and - and this seemed odd to me - a company that created and tested experimental medicine.

I looked at him doubtfully. "Medicine for humans," I said, to be sure I understood.

"Yes. For the most part," he responded. "But a few of the chemists make special things for us."

"For the fae."

He nodded, fine corn-silk hair falling around his face as his head moved. "There is so much iron now," he said. "I don't know if you realize that we are very sensitive to iron? And yet if we wear gloves every moment, we're too conspicuous in today's world." I looked at his right hand as it lay over mine on the white tablecloth. I extracted my fingers, stroked his skin. It felt oddly smooth.

"It's like an invisible glove," I said.

"Exactly." He nodded. "One of their formulas. But enough about me."

Just when it was getting interesting, I thought. But I could see that my great-grandfather had no real reason to trust me with all his secrets yet.

Niall asked me about my job, and my boss, and my routine, like a real great-grandfather would. Though he clearly didn't like the idea of his great-granddaughter working, the bar part of it didn't seem to disturb him. As I've said, Niall wasn't easy to read. His thoughts were his own as far as I was concerned; but I did notice that every now and then he stopped himself from speaking.

Eventually, dinner got eaten, and I glanced at my watch, astounded at how many hours had passed. I needed to go. I had to work the next day. I excused myself, thanking my great-grandfather (it still made me shiver, thinking of him that way) for the meal and very hesitantly leaning forward to kiss his cheek as he'd kissed mine. He seemed to hold his breath while I did so, and his skin felt soft and lustrous as a silky plum under my lips. Even though he could look like a human, he didn't feel like one.

He stood when I left, but he remained at the table - to take care of the bill, I assumed. I went outside without registering anything my eyes saw along the way. Eric was waiting for me in the parking lot. He'd had some TrueBlood while he was waiting, and he'd been reading in the car, which was parked under a light.

I was exhausted.

I didn't realize how nerve-wracking my dinner with Niall had been until I was out of his presence. Though I'd been sitting in a comfortable chair the whole meal, I was as tired as if we'd been talking while we were running.

Niall had been able to mask the fairy odor from Eric in the restaurant, but I saw from the flare of Eric's nostrils that the intoxicating scent clung to me. Eric's eyes closed in ecstasy, and he actually licked his lips. I felt like a T-bone just out of reach of a hungry dog.

"Snap out of it," I said. I wasn't in the mood.

With a huge effort, Eric reined himself in. "When you smell like that," he said, "I just want to f**k you and bite you and rub myself all over you."

That was pretty comprehensive, and I won't say I didn't have a second (split evenly between lust and fear) of picturing such activity. But I had larger issues to think about.

"Hold your horses," I said. "What do you know about fairies? Aside from how they taste?"

Eric looked at me with clearer eyes. "They're lovely, male and female both. Incredibly tough and ferocious. They aren't immortal, but they live a very long time unless something happens to them. You can kill them with iron, for example. There are other ways to kill them, but it's hard work. They like to keep to themselves for the most part. They like moderate climates. I don't know what they eat or drink when they're by themselves. They sample the food of other cultures; I've even seen a fairy try blood. They have a higher opinion of themselves than they have any right to. When they give their word, they keep it." He thought for a moment. "They have different magics. They can't all do the same things. And they are very magical. It's their essence. They have no gods but their own race, for they've often been mistaken for gods. In fact, some of them have taken on the attributes of a deity."

I gaped at him. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't mean they're holy," Eric said. "I mean that the fairies who inhabit the woods identify with the woods so strongly that to hurt one is to hurt the other. So they've suffered a great drop in numbers. Obviously, we vampires are not going to be up on fairy politics and survival issues, since we are so dangerous to them... simply because we find them intoxicating."

I'd never thought to ask Claudine about any of this. For one thing, she didn't seem to enjoy talking about being a fairy, and when she popped up, it was usually when I was in trouble and therefore sadly self-absorbed. For another thing, I'd imagined there were maybe a small handful of fairies left in the world, but Eric was telling me there once were as many fairies as there were vampires, though the fairy race was on the wane.

In sharp contrast, vampires - at least in America - were definitely on the increase. There were three bills wending their way through Congress dealing with vampire immigration. America had the distinction (along with Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden, England, and Germany) of being a country that had responded to the Great Revelation with relative calm.

The night of the carefully orchestrated Great Revelation, vampires all over the world had appeared on television, radio, in person, whatever the best means of communication in the area might be, to tell the human population, "Hey! We actually exist. But we're not life threatening! The new Japanese synthetic blood satisfies our nutritional requirements."

The six years since then had been one big learning curve. Tonight I'd added a huge amount to my store of supernatural lore.

"So the vampires have the upper hand," I said.

"We're not at war," Eric said. "We haven't been at war for centuries."

"So in the past the vampires and the fairies have fought each other? I mean, like, pitched battles?"

"Yes," Eric said. "And if it came to that again, the first one I'd take out is Niall."

"Why?"

"He's very powerful in the fairy world. He is very magical. If he's sincere in his desire to take you under his wing, you're both very lucky and very unlucky." Eric started the car and we pulled out of the parking lot. I hadn't seen Niall come out of the restaurant. Maybe he'd just poofed out of the dining room. I hoped he'd paid our bill first.

"I guess I have to ask you to explain that," I said. But I had a feeling I didn't really want to know the answer.

"There were thousands of fairies in the United States once," Eric said. "Now there are only hundreds. But the ones that are left are very determined survivors. And not all of those are friends of the prince's."

"Oh, good. I needed another supernatural group who dislikes me," I muttered.

We drove through the night in silence, wending our way back to the interstate that would carry us east to Bon Temps. Eric seemed heavily thoughtful. I also had plenty of food for thought; more than I'd eaten at supper, that was for sure.

I found that on the whole, I felt cautiously happy. It was good to have a kind of belated great-grandfather. Niall seemed genuinely anxious to establish a relationship with me. I still had a heap of questions to ask, but they could wait until we knew each other better.

Eric's Corvette could go pretty damn fast, and Eric wasn't exactly sticking to the speed limit on the interstate. I wasn't awfully surprised when I saw the blinking lights coming up behind us. I was only astonished the cop car could catch up with Eric.

"A-hum," I said, and Eric cursed in a language that probably hadn't been spoken out loud in centuries. But even the sheriff of Area Five has to obey human laws these days, or at least he has to pretend to. Eric pulled over to the shoulder.

"With a vanity plate like BLDSKR, what do you expect?" I asked, not so secretly enjoying the moment. I saw the dark shape of the trooper emerging from the car behind us, walking up with something in his hand - clipboard, flashlight?

I looked harder. I reached out. A snarled mass of aggression and fear met my inner ear.

"Were! There's something wrong," I said, and Eric's big hand shoved me down into the floorboard, which would have provided a little more concealment if the car had been anything other than a Corvette.

Then the patrolman came up to the window and tried to shoot me.

Chapter 5

Eric had turned to fill the window and block the rest of the car from the shooter's aim, and he got it in the neck. For an awful moment, Eric slumped back in the seat, his face blank and dark blood flowing sluggishly down his white skin. I screamed as if noise would protect me, and the gun pointed at me as the gunman leaned into the car to aim past Eric.

But he'd been a fool to do that. Eric's hand clamped on the man's wrist, and Eric began squeezing. The "patrolman" started doing a little shrieking of his own, flailing uselessly at Eric with his empty hand. The gun fell on top of me. I'm just lucky it didn't discharge when it fell. I don't know much about handguns, but this one was big and lethal-looking, and I scrambled to an upright position and aimed it at the shooter.

He froze in place, half in and half out of the window. Eric had already broken his arm and had kept a tight grip. The fool should have been more afraid of the vampire who had a hold on him than the waitress who hardly knew how to fire the gun, but the gun commanded his attention.

I was sure I would have heard if the highway patrol had decided to start shooting speeders instead of ticketing them.

"Who are you?" I said, and no one could blame me if my voice wasn't too steady. "Who sent you?"

"They told me to," the Were gasped. Now that I had time to notice details, I could see he wasn't wearing a proper highway patrol uniform. It was the right color, and the hat was right, but the pants weren't uniform pants.

"They, who?" I asked.

Eric's fangs clamped into the Were's shoulder. Despite his wound, Eric was pulling the faux patrolman into the car inch by inch. It seemed only fair that Eric got some blood since he'd lost so much of his own. The assassin began crying.

"Don't let him turn me into one of them," he appealed to me.

"You should be so lucky," I said, not because I actually thought it was so darn great to be a vampire but because I was sure Eric had something much worse in mind.

I got out of the car because there was no point in trying to get Eric to release the Were. He wouldn't listen to me with the bloodlust on him so strong. My bond to Eric was the crucial factor in this decision. I was happy that he was enjoying himself, getting the blood he needed. I was furious that someone had tried to hurt him. Since both of these feelings would not normally be colors in my emotional palette, I knew what was to blame.

Plus, the inside of the Corvette had gotten unpleasantly crowded, what with me, Eric, and most of the Were.

Miraculously, no cars passed while I trotted along the shoulder to our attacker's vehicle, which (not so much to my surprise) turned out to be a plain white car with an illegal flashing attachment. I turned out the car's lights and, by punching or disconnecting every wire and button I could find, managed to kill the flashers, too. Now we were not nearly so conspicuous. Eric had shut down the Corvette's lights moments into the encounter.

I looked over the inside of the white car quickly but didn't see an envelope marked "Revelation of who hired me, in case I get caught." I needed a clue. There should at least have been a phone number on a scrap of paper, a phone number I could look up in a reverse directory. If I knew how to do such a thing. Rats. I trudged back to Eric's car, noticing in the lights of a passing semi that there weren't any legs sticking out of the driver's window anymore, which rendered the Corvette a lot less conspicuous. But we needed to get out of there.

I peered into the Corvette and found it empty. The only reminder of what had just happened was a smear of blood on Eric's seat, and I pulled a tissue out of my purse, spat on it, and rubbed the drying blood off; not a very elegant solution, but practical.

Suddenly, Eric was beside me, and I had to stifle a shriek. He was still excited by the unexpected attack, and he pinned me against the side of the car, holding my head at the correct angle for a kiss. I felt a lurch of desire and came very close to saying, "What the hell, take me now, you big Viking." It was not only the blood bond inclining me to accept his tacit offer, but my memory of how wonderful Eric was in bed. But I thought of Quinn and detached myself from Eric's mouth with a great effort.

For a second, I didn't think he was going to let go, but he did. "Let me see," I said in an unsteady voice, and pulled his shirt collar aside to look at the bullet wound. Eric had almost finished healing, but of course his shirt was still wet with blood.

"What was that about?" he asked. "Was that an enemy of yours?"

"I have no idea."

"He shot at you," Eric said, as if I was just a wee bit slow. "He wanted you first."

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