Home > Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse #10)(4)

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse #10)(4)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"Bill," I said, trying to sound less shocked than I felt. "Are you feeling better? This poison in your system ... Is it going away?"

I could swear he sighed. He gestured me to precede him into the living room. The lamps were off. Bill had lit candles. I counted eight. I wondered what he'd been doing, sitting alone in the flickering light. Listening to music? He loved his CDs, particularly Bach. Feeling distinctly worried, I sat on the couch, while Bill took his favorite chair across the low coffee table. He was as handsome as ever, but his face lacked animation. He was clearly suffering. Now I knew why Sam had wanted me to visit.

"You are well?" he asked.

"I'm much better," I said carefully. He'd seen the worst they'd done to me.

"The scars, the ... mutilation?"

"The scars are there, but they're much fainter than I ever expected they'd be. The missing bits have filled in. I kind of have a dimple in this thigh," I said, tapping my left knee. "But I had plenty of thigh to spare." I tried to smile, but truthfully, I was too concerned to manage it. "Are you getting better?" I asked again, hesitantly.

"I'm not worse," he said. He shrugged, a minimal lift of the shoulders.

"What's with the apathy?" I said.

"I don't seem to want anything any longer," Bill told me, after a lengthy pause. "I'm not interested in my computer anymore. I'm not inclined to work on the incoming additions and subtractions to my database. Eric sends Felicia over to package up the orders and send them out. She gives me some blood while she's here." Felicia was the bartender at Fangtasia. She hadn't been a vampire that long.

Could vampires suffer from depression? Or was the silver poisoning responsible?

"Isn't there anyone who can help you? I mean, help you heal?"

He smiled in a sardonic sort of way. "My creator," he said. "If I could drink from Lorena, I would have healed completely by now."

"Well, that sucks." I couldn't let him know that bothered me, but ouch. I'd killed Lorena. I shook the feeling off. She'd needed killing, and it was over and done with. "Did she make any other vampires?"

Bill looked slightly less apathetic. "Yes, she did. She has another living child."

"Well, would that help? Getting blood from that vamp?"

"I don't know. It might. But I won't ... I can't reach out to her."

"You don't know if it would help or not? You-all need a Handy Hints rule book or something."

"Yes," he said, as if he'd never heard of such an idea. "Yes, we do indeed."

I wasn't going to ask Bill why he was reluctant to contact someone who could help him. Bill was a stubborn and persistent man, and I wasn't going to be able to persuade him otherwise since he'd made up his mind. We sat in silence for a moment.

"Do you love Eric?" Bill said, all of a sudden. His deep brown eyes were fi xed on me with the total attention that had played a large part in attracting me to him when we'd met.

Was everyone I knew fixated on my relationship with the sheriff of Area Five? "Yes," I said steadily. "I do love him."

"Does he say he loves you?"

"Yes." I didn't look away.

"I wish he would die, some nights," Bill said.

We were being really honest tonight. "There's a lot of that going around. There are a couple of people I wouldn't miss myself," I admitted. "I think about that when I'm grieving over the people I've cared about who've passed, like Claudine and Gran and Tray." And they were just at the top of the list. "So I guess I know how you feel. But I - please don't wish bad stuff on Eric." I'd lost about as much as I could stand to lose in the way of important people in my life.

"Who do you want dead, Sookie?" There was a spark of curiosity in his eyes.

"I'm not about to tell you." I gave him a weak smile. "You might try to make it happen for me. Like you did with Uncle Bartlett." When I'd discovered Bill had killed my grandmother's brother, who'd molested me - that's when I should have cut and run. Wouldn't my life have been different? But it was too late now.

"You've changed," he said.

"Sure, I have. I thought I was going to die for a couple of hours. I hurt like I've never hurt before. And Neave and Lochlan enjoyed it so much. That snapped something inside me. When you and Niall killed them, it was like an answer to the biggest prayer I'd ever prayed. I'm supposed to be a Christian, but most days I don't feel like I can even presume to say that about myself any longer. I have a lot of mad left over. When I can't sleep, I think about the other people who didn't care how much pain and trouble they caused me. And I think about how good I'd feel if they died."

That I could tell Bill about this awful secret part of me was a measure of how close I'd been to him.

"I love you," he said. "Nothing you do or say will change that. If you asked me to bury a body for you - or to make a body - I would do it without a qualm."

"We've got some bad history between us, Bill, but you'll always have a special place in my heart." I cringed inside when I heard the hackneyed phrase coming from my own mouth. But sometimes clichés are true; this was the truth. "I hardly feel worthy of being cared about that strongly," I admitted.

He managed a smile. "As to your being worthy, I don't think falling in love has much to do with the worth of the object of love. But I'd dispute your assessment. I think you're a fine woman, and I think you always try to be the best person you can be. No one could be ... carefree and sunny ... after coming as close to death as you did."

I rose to leave. Sam had wanted me to see Bill, to understand his situation, and I'd done that. When Bill got up to see me to the door, I noticed he didn't have the lightning speed he'd once had. "You're going to live, right?" I asked him, suddenly frightened.

"I think so," he said, as if it didn't make any difference one way or another. "But just in case, give me a kiss."

I put one arm around his neck, the arm that wasn't burdened with the flashlight, and I let him put his lips against mine. The feeling of him, the smell of him, triggered a lot of memories. For what seemed like a very long time, we stood pressed together, but instead of growing excited, I grew calmer. I was oddly conscious of my breathing - slow and steady, almost like the respiration of someone sleeping.

I could see that Bill looked better when I stepped away. My eyebrows flew up.

"Your fairy blood helps me," he said.

"I'm just an eighth fairy. And you didn't take any."

"Proximity," he said briefly. "The touch of skin on skin." His lips quirked up in a smile. "If we made love, I would be much closer to being healed."

Bullshit, I thought. But I can't say that cool voice didn't make something leap south of my navel, in a momentary twinge of lust. "Bill, that's not gonna happen," I said. "But you should think about tracking down that other vampire child of Lorena's."

"Yes," he said. "Maybe." His dark eyes were curiously luminous; that might have been an effect of the poisoning, or it might have been the candlelight. I knew he wouldn't make an effort to reach out to Lorena's other get. Whatever spark my visit had raised in him was already dying out.

Feeling sad, concerned, and also just a tiny smidge pleased - you can't tell me it's not flattering to be loved so much, because it is - I went home through the graveyard. I patted Bill's tombstone by habit. As I walked carefully over the uneven ground, I thought about Bill, naturally enough. He'd been a Confederate soldier. He'd survived the war only to succumb to a vampire after his return home to his wife and children, a tragic end to a hard life.

I was glad all over again that I'd killed Lorena.

Here's something I didn't like about myself: I realized I didn't feel bad when I killed a vampire. Something inside me kept insisting they were dead already, and that the first death had been the one that was most important. When I'd killed a human I'd loathed, my reaction had been much more intense.

Then I thought, You'd think I'd be glad that I was avoiding some pain instead of thinking I should feel worse about taking out Lorena. I hated trying to figure out what was best morally, because so often that didn't jibe with my gut reaction.

The bottom line of all this self-examination was that I'd killed Lorena, who could have cured Bill. Bill had gotten wounded when he came to my rescue. Clearly, I had a responsibility. I'd try to figure out what to do.

By the time I realized I'd been alone in the dark and should have been mortally afraid (at least according to D'Eriq), I was walking into my well-lit backyard. Maybe worrying about my spiritual life was a welcome distraction from reliving physical torture. Or maybe I felt better because I'd done someone a good turn; I'd hugged Bill, and that had made him feel better. When I went to bed that night, I was able to lie on my side in my favorite position instead of tossing and turning, and I slept with no dreams - at least, none that I could remember in the morning.

For the next week, I enjoyed untroubled sleep, and as a result I began to feel much more like my former self. It was gradual, but perceptible. I hadn't thought of a way to help Bill, but I bought him a new CD (Beethoven) and put it where he'd find it when he got out of his daytime hiding place. Another day I sent him an e-card. Just so he knew I was thinking about him.

Each time I saw Eric, I felt a little more cheerful. And finally, I had my very own orgasm, a moment so explosive it was like I'd been saving up for a holiday.

"You ... Are you all right?" Eric asked. His blue eyes looked down at me, and he was half-smiling, as if he weren't sure whether he should be clapping or calling an ambulance.

"I am very, very all right," I whispered. Grammar be damned. "I'm so all right I might slide off the bed and lie in a puddle on the floor."

His smile became more secure. "So that was good for you? Better than it's been?"

"You knew that ... ?"

He cocked an eyebrow.

"Well, of course you knew. I just ... had some issues that had to work themselves out."

"I knew it couldn't be my lovemaking, wife of mine," Eric said, and though the words were cocky, his expression was definitely on the relieved side.

"Don't call me your wife. You know our so-called marriage is just strategy. To get back to your previous statement. A-one lovemaking, Eric." I had to give credit where credit was due. "The no-orgasm problem was in my head. Now I've self-corrected."

"You are bullshitting me, Sookie," he murmured. "But I'll show you some A-one lovemaking. Because I think you can come again."

As it turned out, I could.

Chapter 1

APRIL

I love spring for all the obvious reasons. I love the flowers blooming (which happens early here in Louisiana); I love the birds twittering; I love the squirrels scampering across my yard.

I love the sound of werewolves howling in the distance.

No, just kidding. But the late, lamented Tray Dawson had once told me that spring is the favorite season of werewolves. There's more prey, so the hunt is over quickly, leaving more time to eat and play. Since I'd been thinking about Weres, it wasn't such a surprise to hear from one.

On that sunny morning in the middle of April, I was sitting on my front porch with my second cup of coffee and a magazine, still wearing my sleep pants and my Superwoman T-shirt, when the Shreveport packleader called me on my cell phone.

"Huh," I said, when I recognized the number. I flipped the phone open. "Hello," I said cautiously.

"Sookie," said Alcide Herveaux. I hadn't seen Alcide in months. Alcide had ascended to the position of packleader the year before in a single evening of mayhem. "How are you?"

"Right as rain," I said, nearly meaning it. "Happy as a clam. Fit as a fiddle." I watched a rabbit hop across the clover and grass twenty feet away. Spring.

"You're still dating Eric? He the reason for the good mood?"

Everyone wanted to know. "I'm still dating Eric. That sure helps keep me happy." Actually, as Eric kept telling me, "dating" was a misleading term. Though I didn't think of myself as married since I'd simply handed him a ceremonial knife (Eric had used my ignorance as part of his master strategy), the vampires did. A vampire-human marriage isn't exactly like a "love, honor, and obey" human pairing, but Eric had expected the marriage would earn me some perks in the vampire world. Since then, things had gone pretty well, vampire-wise. Aside from the huge glitch of Victor not letting Eric come to my aid when I was dying, that is - Victor, who really needed to die.

I turned my thoughts away from this dark direction with the determination of long practice. See? That was better. Now I was hopping out of bed every day with (almost) my old vigor. I'd even gone to church the past Sunday. Positive! "What's happening, Alcide?" I asked.

"I got a favor to ask," Alcide said, not entirely to my surprise.

"What can I do for you?"

"Can we use your land for our full-moon run tomorrow night?"

I made myself pause to think about his request rather than automatically saying yes. I'm learning through experience. I had the open land the Weres needed; that wasn't the issue. I still own twenty-odd acres around my house, though my grandmother had sold off most of the original farm when she was faced with the financial burden of raising my brother and me. Though Sweet Home Cemetery took a chunk out of the land between my place and Bill's, there'd be enough room - especially if Bill didn't mind allowing access to his land as well. I remembered the pack had been here once before.

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