Chapter 11

He could have slain me about sixty times in the seconds I stood there. Despite the fact that he didn't, I still didn't want to take my eyes off him.

"Don't be afraid," Dermot said, rising with a grace that Jason could never have matched. He moved like his joints were machine made and well oiled.

I said through numb lips, "Can't help it."

"I want to explain," he said as he drew nearer.


"I wanted to get closer to both of you," he said. He was well into my personal space by then. His eyes were blue like Jason's, candid like Jason's, and really, seriously, crazy. Not like Jason's. "I was confused."

"About what?" I wanted to keep the conversation going, I surely did, because I didn't know what would happen when it came to a halt.

"About where my loyalties lay," he said, bowing his head as gracefully as a swan.

"Sure. Tell me about that." Oh, if only I had my squirt gun, loaded with lemon juice, in my purse! But I'd promised Eric I'd put it on my nightstand when Claude had come to live with me, so that was where it lay. And the iron trowel was where it was supposed to be, in the toolshed.

"I will," he said, standing close enough that I could smell him. He smelled great. Fairies always do. "I know you met my father, Niall."

I nodded, a very small movement. "Yes," I said, to make sure.

"Did you love him?"

"Yes," I said without hesitation. "I did. I do."

"He's easy to love; he's charming," Dermot said. "My mother, Einin, was beautiful, too. Not a fairy kind of beautiful, like Niall, but she was human-beautiful."

"That's what Niall told me," I said. I was picking my way through a conversational minefield.

"Did he tell you the water fairies murdered my twin?"

"Did Niall tell me your brother was murdered? No, but I heard."

"I saw parts of Fintan's body. Neave and Lochlan had torn him limb from limb."

"They helped drown my parents, too," I said, holding my breath. What would he say?

"I ..." He struggled to speak, his face desperate. "But I wasn't there. I ... Niall ..." It was terrible to watch Dermot struggle to speak. I shouldn't have had any mercy for him, since Niall had told me about Dermot's part in my parents' deaths. But I really couldn't endure his pain.

"So how come you ended up siding with Breandan's forces in the war?"

"He told me my father had killed my brother," Dermot said bleakly. "And I believed him. I mistrusted my love for Niall. When I remembered my mother's misery after Niall stopped coming to visit her, I thought Breandan must be right and we weren't meant to mingle with humans. It never seems to turn out well for them. And I hated what I was, half-human. I was never at home anywhere."

"So, are you feeling better now? About being a little bit human?"

"I've come to terms with it. I know my former actions were wrong, and I'm grieved that my father won't let me into Faery." The big blue eyes looked sad. I was too busy trying not to shake to get the full impact.

In a breath, out a breath. Calm, calm. "So now you're thinking Jason and I are okay? You don't want to hurt us anymore?"

He put his arms around me. This was "hug Sookie" season, and no one had told me ahead of time. Fairies were very touchy-feely, and personal space didn't mean anything to them. I would have liked to tell my great-uncle to back off. But I didn't dare. I didn't need to read Dermot's mind to understand that almost anything could set him off, so delicate was his mental balance. I had to stiffen all my resolution to maintain my even breathing so I wouldn't shiver and shake. His nearness and the tension of being in his presence, the huge strength that hummed through his arms, took me back to a dark ruined shack and two psycho fairies who really had deserved their deaths. My shoulders jerked, and I saw a flash of panic in Dermot's eyes. Calm. Be calm.

I smiled at him. I have a pretty smile, people tell me, though I know it's a little too bright, a little nuts. However, that suited the conversation perfectly. "The last time you saw Jason," I said, and then couldn't think how to finish.

"I attacked his companion. The beast who'd hurt Jason's wife."

I swallowed hard and smiled some more. "Probably would've been better if you'd explained to Jason why you were going after Mel. And it wasn't Mel who killed her, you know."

"No, it was my own kind that finished her off. But she would have died anyway. He wasn't taking her to get help, you know."

Wasn't much I could say, because his account of what had happened to Crystal was accurate. I noticed I hadn't gotten a coherent response from Dermot on why he'd left Jason in ignorance of Mel's crime. "But you didn't explain to Jason," I said, breathing in and out - in a very soothing way. I hoped. It seemed to me that the longer I touched Dermot, the calmer we both got. And Dermot was markedly more coherent.

"I was very conflicted," he said seriously, unexpectedly borrowing from modern jargon.

Maybe that was as good an answer as I was going to get. I decided to take another tack. "Did you want to see Claude?" I said hopefully. "He's living with me now, just temporarily. He should be back later tonight."

"I'm not the only one, you know," Dermot told me. I looked up and met his mad eyes. I understood that my great-uncle was trying to tell me something. I wished to God I could make him rational. Just for five minutes. I stepped back from him and tried to figure out what he needed.

"You're not the only fairy left out in the human world. I know Claude's here. Someone else is, too?" I would've enjoyed my telepathy for a couple of minutes.

"Yes. Yes." His eyes were pleading with me to understand.

I'd risk a direct question. "Who else is on this side of Faery?"

"You don't want to meet him," Dermot assured me. "You have to be careful. He can't decide right now. He's ambivalent."

"Right." Whoever "he" was, he wasn't the only one who had mixed feelings. I wished I knew the right nutcracker that would open up Dermot's head.

"Sometimes he's in your woods." Dermot put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed gently. It was like he was trying to transmit things he couldn't say directly into my flesh.

"I heard about that," I said sourly.

"Don't trust other fairies," Dermot told me. "I shouldn't have."

I felt like a lightbulb had popped on above my head. "Dermot, have you had magic put on you? Like a spell?"

The relief in his eyes was almost palpable. He nodded frantically. "Unless they're at war, fairies don't like to kill other fairies. Except for Neave and Lochlan. They liked to kill everything. But I'm not dead. So there's hope."

Fairies might be reluctant to kill their own kind, but they didn't mind making them insane, apparently. "Is there anything I can do to reverse this spell? Can Claude help?"

"Claude has little magic, I think," Dermot said. "He's been living like a human too long. My dearest niece, I love you. How is your brother?"

We were back in nutty land. God bless poor Dermot. I hugged him, following an impulse. "My brother is happy, Uncle Dermot. He's dating a woman who suits him, and she won't take any shit off him, either. Her name is Michele - like my mom's, but with one l instead of two."

Dermot smiled down at me. Hard to say how much of this he was absorbing.

"Dead things love you," Dermot told me, and I made myself keep smiling.

"Eric the vampire? He says he does."

"Other dead things, too. They're pulling on you."

That was a not-so-welcome revelation. Dermot was right. I'd been feeling Eric through our bond, as usual, but there were two other gray presences with me every moment after dark: Alexei and Appius Livius. It was a drain on me, and I hadn't realized it until this moment.

"Tonight," Dermot said, "you'll receive visitors."

So now he was a prophet. "Good ones?"

He shrugged. "That's a matter of taste and expedience."

"Hey, Uncle Dermot? Do you walk around this land very often?"

"Too scared of the other one," he said. "But I try to watch you a little."

I was figuring out if that was a good thing or a bad thing when he vanished. Poof! I saw a kind of blur and then nothing. His hands were on my shoulders, and then they weren't. I assumed the tension of conversing with another person had gotten to Dermot.

Boy. That had been really, really weird.

I glanced around me, thinking I might see some other trace of his passage. He might even decide to return. But nothing happened. There wasn't a sound except the prosaic growl of my stomach, reminding me that I hadn't eaten lunch and that it was now suppertime. I went into the house on shaking legs and collapsed at the table. Conversation with a spy. Interview with an insane fairy. Oh, yes, phone Jason and tell him to be back on fairy watch. That was something I could do sitting down.

After that conversation, I remembered to carry in the newspapers when I got my legs to working again. While I baked a Marie Callender's pot pie, I read the past two days' papers.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of interest on the front page. There had been a gruesome murder in Shreveport, probably gang-related. The victim had been a young black man wearing gang colors, which was like a blinking arrow to the police, but he hadn't been shot. He'd been stabbed multiple times, and then his throat had been slashed. Yuck. Sounded more personal than a gang killing to me. Then the next night the same thing had happened again, this time to a kid of nineteen who wore different gang colors. He'd died the same awful way. I shook my head over the stupidity of young men dying over what I considered nothing, and moved on to a story that I found electrifying and very worrisome.

The tension over the werewolf registration issue was rising. According to the newspapers, the Weres were the big controversy. The stories hardly mentioned the other two-natured, yet I knew at least one werefox, one werebat, two weretigers, a score of werepanthers, and a shapeshifter. Werewolves, the most numerous of the two-natured, were catching the brunt of the backlash. And they were sounding off about it, as they should have.

"Why should I register, as if I were an illegal alien or a dead citizen?" Scott Wacker, an army general, was quoted as saying. "My family has been American for six generations, all of us army people. My daughter's in Iraq. What more do you want?"

The governor of one of the northwestern states said, "We need to know who's a werewolf and who's not. In the event of an accident, officers need to know, to avoid blood contamination and to aid in identification."

I plunged my spoon into the crust to release some of the heat from the pot pie. I thought that over. Bullshit, I concluded.

"That's bushwah," General Wacker responded in the next paragraph. So Wacker and I had something in common. "For one thing, we change back to human form when we're dead. Officers already glove up when they're handling bodies. Identification is not going to be any more of a problem than with the one-natured. Why should it be?"

You go, Wacker.

According to the newspaper, the debate raged from the people in the streets (including some who weren't simply people) to members of Congress, from military personnel to firefighters, from law experts to constitutional scholars.

Instead of thinking globally or nationally, I tried to evaluate the crowd at Merlotte's since the announcement. Had revenue fallen off? Yes, there'd been a slight decrease at first, right after the bar patrons had watched Sam change into a dog and Tray become a wolf, but then people had started drinking as much as they had formerly.

So was this a created crisis, a nothing issue?

Not as much as I would have liked, I decided, having read a few more articles.

Some people really hated the idea that individuals they'd known all their lives had another side, a mysterious life unbeknownst (isn't that a great word? It had been on my Word of the Day calendar the week before) to the general public. That was the impression I'd gotten before, and it seemed that still held true. No one was budging on that position; the Weres got angrier, and the public got more frightened. At least a very vocal part of the public.

There had been demonstrations and riots in Redding, California, and Lansing, Michigan. I wondered if there were going to be riots here or in Shreveport. I found that hard to believe and painful to picture. I looked through the kitchen window at the gathering dusk, as if I expected to see a crowd of villagers with torches marching to Merlotte's.

It was a curiously empty evening. There wasn't much to clean up after I'd eaten, my laundry was up to date, and there was nothing on television I wanted to watch. I checked my e-mail; no message from Judith Vardamon.

There was a message from Alcide. "Sookie, we've set the pack meeting for Monday night at eight at my house. We've been trying to find a shaman for the judging. I'll see you and Jason then." It had been nearly a week since we'd found Basim's body in the woods, and this was the first I'd heard. The pack's "day or two" had stretched into six. And that meant it had been a very long time since I'd heard from Eric.

I called Jason again and left voice mail on his cell phone. I tried not to worry about the pack meeting, but every time I'd been with the whole pack, something violent had happened.

I thought again about the dead man in the grave in the clearing. Who had put him there? Presumably, the killer had wanted Basim's silence, but the body hadn't been planted on my land by mistake.

I read for thirty minutes or so, and then it was full dark and I felt Eric's presence, and then the lesser though undeniable company of the other two vampires. As soon as they woke, I felt tired. This made me so twitchy I broke my own resolution.

I knew that Eric realized I was unhappy and worried. It was impossible for him not to know that. Maybe he thought by keeping me away he was protecting me. Maybe he didn't know that his maker and Alexei were both in my consciousness. I took a deep breath and called him. The phone rang, and I pressed it to my ear as though I were holding Eric himself. But I thought, and I wouldn't have believed this possible a week ago, What if he doesn't pick up?

The phone rang, and I held my breath. After the second ring, Eric answered. "The pack meeting has been set," I blurted.

"Sookie," he said. "Can you come here?"

On my drive to Shreveport, I wondered at least four times if I was doing the right thing. But I concluded that whether I was right or wrong (in running to see Eric when he asked me to) was simply a dead issue. We were both on the ends of the line stretched between us, a line spun from blood. It trumped how we felt about each other at any given moment. I knew he was tired and desperate. He knew I was angry, uneasy, hurt. I wondered, though. If I'd called him and said the same thing, would he have hopped into his car (or into the sky) and arrived on my doorstep?

They were all at Fangtasia, he'd said.

I was shocked to see how few cars were parked in front of the only vampire bar in Shreveport. Fangtasia was a huge tourist draw in a town that was boasting a tourist increase, and I'd expected it to be packed. There were almost as many cars parked in the employee parking at the back as there were at the main door. That had never happened before.

Maxwell Lee, an African-American businessman who also happened to be a vampire, was on duty at the rear entrance, and that was a first, too. The rear door had never been specially guarded, because the vampires were so sure they could take care of themselves. Yet here he was, wearing his usual three-piece suit but doing a task he normally would have considered beneath him. He didn't look resentful; he looked worried.

I said, "Where are they?"

He jerked his head toward the main room of the bar. "I'm glad you're here," he said, and I knew Eric's maker's visit wasn't going well.

So often having out-of-town visitors is awkward, huh? You take them to see the local sights, you try to feed them and keep them entertained, but then you're really wishing they would leave. It wasn't hard to see that Eric was on his last nerve. He was sitting in a booth with Appius Livius Ocella and Alexei. Of course, Alexei looked too young to be in a bar, and that added to the absurdity of the moment.

"Good evening," I said stiffly. "Eric, you wanted to see me?"

Eric scooted over closer to the wall so I'd have plenty of room, and I sat by him. Appius Livius and Alexei both greeted me, Appius with a strained smile and Alexei with more ease. When we were all together, I discovered that being close to them relaxed the tense thread inside me, the thread that bound us all together.

"I've missed you," Eric said so quietly that at first I thought I'd imagined it.

I wouldn't refer to the fact that he'd been completely out of touch for days. He knew that.

It took all my self-control to bite back a few choice words. "As I was trying to tell you over the phone, the pack meeting about Basim has been set for Monday night."

"Where and when?" he said, and there was a note in his voice that let me know he was not a happy camper. Well, he could pitch his tent right alongside mine.

"At Alcide's house. The one that used to be his dad's. At eight o'clock."

"And Jason's going with you? Without a doubt?"

"I haven't talked to him yet, but I left him a message."

"You've been angry with me."

"I've been worried about you." I couldn't tell him anything about how I'd felt that he didn't already know.

"Yes," Eric said. His voice was empty.

"Eric is an excellent host," the tsarevitch said, as if I expected a report.

I scratched up a smile to offer the boy. "That's good to hear, Alexei. What have you two been doing? I don't think you've ever been to Shreveport before."

"No," Appius Livius said in his curious accent. "We hadn't been here to visit. It's a nice little city. My older son has been doing his best to keep us busy and out of trouble."

Okay, that had been a tad on the sarcastic side. I could tell from Eric's tension that he hadn't entirely succeeded in the "keeping them out of trouble" part of his agenda.

"The World Market is fun. You can get stuff from all over the world there. And Shreveport was the capitol of the Confederacy for a while." Geez Louise, I needed to do better than that. "If you go to the Municipal Auditorium, you can see Elvis's dressing room," I said brightly. I wondered if Bubba ever visited there to see his old stomping grounds.

"I had a very good teenager last night," Alexei said, matching my cheerful tone. As though he'd said he'd run a red light.

I opened my mouth and nothing came out. If I said the wrong thing, I might be dead right then and there. "Alexei," I said, sounding much calmer than I felt, "you have to watch it. That's against the law here. Your maker and Eric could both suffer for it."

"When I was with my human family, I could do anything I wanted," Alexei said. I really couldn't read his voice at all. "I was so sick, they indulged me."

Eric twitched.

"I can sure understand that," I said. "Any family would be tempted to do that with a sick child. But since you're well now, and you've had lots of years to mature, I know you understand that doing exactly what you want to do is not a good plan." I thought of at least twenty other things I could have said, but I stopped right there. And that was a good thing. Appius Livius looked directly into my eyes and nodded almost imperceptibly.

"I don't look grown up," Alexei said.

Again, too many options on what I could say. The boy - the old, old, boy - definitely expected me to answer. "No, and it's an awful pity what happened to you and your family. But - "

And Alexei reached over, took my hand, and showed me what had happened to him and his family. I saw the cellar, the royal family, the doctor, the maid, facing the men who had come to kill them, and I heard the guns fire, and the bullets found their marks; or in the case of the women, they didn't, since the royal women had sewn jewels into their clothes for the escape that never came about. The jewels saved their lives for all of a few seconds, until the soldiers killed each groaning and bleeding and screaming individual. His mother, his father, his sisters, his doctor, his mother's maid, the cook, his father's valet ... and his dog. And after the shooting, the soldiers went around with bayonets.

I thought I was going to throw up. I swayed where I sat, and Eric's cold arm went around me. Alexei had let go, and I was never gladder of anything in my life. I would not have touched the child again for anything.

"You see," Alexei said triumphantly. "You see! I should be free to go my own way."

"No," I said. And I was proud that my voice was firm. "No matter how we suffer, we have an obligation to others. We have to be unselfish enough to try to live in the right way, so others can get through their own lives without us fouling them up."

Alexei looked rebellious. "That's what Master says, too," he muttered. "More or less."

"Master is right," I said, though the words tasted bad in my mouth.

"Master" waved for the bartender to come over. Felicia slunk up to the table. She was tall and pretty and as gentle as a vampire can be. She had some fresh scars on her neck. "What can I get you-all?" she said. "Sookie, can I bring you a beer or ... ?"

"Some iced tea would be great, Felicia," I said.

"And some TrueBlood for all of you?" she asked the vampires. "Or, we do have a bottle of Royalty."

Eric's eyes closed, and Felicia realized her blunder. "Okay," she said briskly. "TrueBlood for Eric, tea for Sookie."

"Thank you!" I said, smiling up at the bartender.

Pam strode up to the table. She was trailing the gauzy black costume she wore at Fangtasia, and she was as close to panic as I'd ever seen her. "Excuse me," she said, bowing in the direction of the guests. "Eric, Katherine Boudreaux is visiting Fangtasia tonight. She's with Sallie and a small party."

Eric looked as if he were going to explode. "Tonight," he said, and one word spoke volumes. "With much regret, Ocella, I must ask you and Alexei to go back to my office."

Appius Livius got up without asking for further explanation, and Alexei, to my surprise, followed him without any questions. If Eric had been in the habit of breathing, I would say that he exhaled with relief when his visitors had left his sight. He said a few things in an ancient tongue, but I didn't know which one.

Then a stout, attractive blonde in her forties was standing by the table, another woman right behind her.

"You must be Katherine Boudreaux," I said pleasantly. "I'm Sookie Stackhouse; I'm Eric's girlfriend."

"Hi, honey. I'm Katherine," she said. "This is my partner, Sallie. We're here with some friends who were curious about my job. I try to visit all the vampire workplaces during the year, and we hadn't been to Fangtasia in months. Since I'm based right here in Shreveport, I ought to make it in more often."

"We're so glad you're here," Eric said smoothly. He sounded like his normal self. "Sallie, always good to see you. How's the tax business?"

Sallie, a slim brunette whose hair was just beginning to gray, laughed. "Taxes are booming, as always," she said. "You ought to know, Eric, you pay enough of them."

"It's good to see our vampire citizens getting along with our human citizens," Katherine said heartily, looking around the bar, which was so thinly populated it almost wasn't open. Her blond eyebrows contracted slightly for a moment, but that was the only sign Ms. Boudreaux gave that she noticed Eric's business was down.

Pam said, "Your table is ready!" She swept her hand toward two tables that had been put together for the party, and the state BVA agent said, "Excuse me, Eric. I've gotta go pay attention to my company."

After a shower of pleasantries and pleased-to-meet-yous, we were finally by ourselves, if sitting in a booth in the middle of a bar can be counted as being by ourselves. Pam started over, but Eric checked her with a raised finger. He took my hand with one of his and rested his forehead on his other hand.

"Can you tell me what's up with you?" I said bluntly. "This is awful. It's very hard to have faith in us when I don't know what's happening."

"Ocella has had some business to discuss with me," Eric said. "Some unwelcome business. And as you saw, my half brother is ailing."

"Yes, he shared that with me," I said. It was still hard to believe what I'd seen and suffered with the child, through his memory of the deaths of everyone he'd loved. The tsarevitch of Russia, sole survivor of a mass murder, could use some counseling. Maybe he and Dermot could be in the same therapy group. "You don't go through something like that and come out Mr. Mental Health, but I've never experienced anything like that. I know it must have been hell for him, but I've got to say ..."

"You don't want to go through it, too," Eric said. "You're not alone in that. It's clearest for us: Ocella, me, you. But he can share that with other people, too. It's not as detailed for them, they tell me. No one wants that memory. We all carry plenty of our own bad memories. I'm afraid that he may not be able to survive as a vampire." He paused, turning the bottle of TrueBlood around and around on the table. "Apparently, it's a nightly grind to get Alexei to do the simplest things. And not to do others. You heard his remark about the teenager. I don't want to go into the details. However ... have you read the papers lately, the Shreveport papers?"

"You mean Alexei might be responsible for those two murders?" I could only sit there staring at Eric. "The stab wounds, the throats? But he's so small and young."

"He's insane," Eric said. "Ocella finally told me that Alexei had had episodes like this before - not as severe. It has led him to consider, very reluctantly, giving Alexei the final death."

"You mean putting him to sleep?" I said, not sure I'd heard him right. "Like a dog?"

Eric looked me straight in the eyes. "Ocella loves the boy, but he cannot be allowed to kill people or other vampires when these fits take him. Such incidents will get into the paper. What if he were caught? What if some Russian recognized him as a result of the notoriety? What would that do to our relationship with the Russian vampires? Most important, Ocella cannot keep track of him every moment. Two times, the boy has gotten out on his own. And two deaths resulted. In my area! He'll subvert all we're trying to do here in the United States. Not that my maker cares about my position in this country," Eric added, a little bitterly.

I gave Eric a sort of heavy pat on the cheek. Not a slap. A heavy pat. "Yeah, let's not forget the two dead men," I said. "That Alexei murdered, in a painful and horrible way. I mean, I realize that this is all about him and your maker and your personal cred, but let's spare a tip of the hat to those guys he killed."

Eric shrugged. He was worried and he was at his wit's end, and he didn't care at all about the deaths of two humans. He was probably thankful that Alexei had picked victims who wouldn't attract much sympathy and whose deaths were easily explained. Gang members killed one another all the time, after all. I gave up on making my point. At least partly because I'd had a thought - if Alexei was capable of turning against his own kind, maybe we could steer him onto Victor?

I shuddered. I was creeping myself out. "So your maker brought Alexei to you hoping that you'd have some bright ideas about keeping your half brother alive, teaching him some self-control?"

"Yes. That's one of the reasons he's here."

"Appius Livius having sex with the kid can't be helping Alexei's mental health," I said, since I simply couldn't not say it.

"Please understand. In Ocella's time, that was not a consideration," Eric said. "Alexei would be old enough, in those times. And men of a certain station were free to indulge themselves with very little guilt or question. Ocella doesn't think in the modern way about such things. As it happens, Alexei has become so ... Well, they are not having sex now. Ocella is an honorable man." Eric sounded very intent, very serious, as if he had to persuade me of his maker's integrity. And all this concern was about the man who'd murdered him. But if Eric admired Ocella, respected him, didn't I have to do the same?

And - it popped into my head that Eric wasn't doing anything for his brother that I wouldn't do for mine.

Then I had another unwelcome thought, and my mouth went dry. "If Appius Livius isn't having sex with Alexei, who is he having sex with?" I asked in a small voice.

"I know this is your business, since we're married - something I've insisted on and you've belittled," Eric said, and the bitterness was back in his voice. "I can only tell you that I'm not having sex with my maker. But I would if he told me that was what he wanted. I would have no choice."

I tried to think of a way to round this conversation off, escape with some dignity. "Eric, you're busy with your visitors." Busy in a way I'd never imagined. "I'm going to that meeting at Alcide's Monday night. I'll tell you what happens, when and if you call me. There are a couple of things I need to bring you up to speed on, if you ever have a chance to come to my place to talk." Like Dermot appearing on my doorstep. That was a story Eric would be interested to hear, and God knows I wanted to tell him about it. But now was not the right time.

"If they stay until Tuesday, I'm going to see you no matter what they're doing," Eric told me. He sounded a little more like himself. "We'll make love. I feel like buying you a present."

"That sounds like a great night to me," I said, feeling a surge of hope. "I don't need a present, just you. So I'll see you Tuesday, no matter what. That's what you said, right?"

"That's what I said."

"Okay then, until Tuesday."

"I love you," Eric said in a drained voice. "And you are my wife, in the only way that matters to me."

"Love you, too," I said, passing on the last half of his closing statement because I didn't know what it meant. I got up to go, and Pam appeared by my side to walk me to my car. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eric get up and walk over to the Boudreaux table to make sure his important visitors were happy.

Pam said, "He'll ruin Eric if he stays."

"How so?"

"The boy will kill again, and we won't be able to cover it up. He can escape if you so much as blink. He has to be watched constantly. Yet Ocella argues with himself about putting the boy down."

"Pam, let Ocella decide," I warned her. I thought since we were by ourselves I could take the huge liberty of calling Eric's maker by his personal name. "I'm serious. Eric'll have to let him kill you if you take Alexei out."

"You care, don't you?" Pam was unexpectedly touched.

"You're my bud," I said. "Of course I care."

"We are friends," Pam said.

"You know it."

"This isn't going to end well," Pam said, as I got in my car.

I couldn't think of a single thing to say.

She was right.

I ate a Little Debbie cinnamon roll when I got home, just because I thought I deserved one. I was so worried I couldn't even think of going to bed just yet. Alexei had given me his own personal nightmare. I'd never heard of a vampire (or any other being, human or not) being able to transmit a memory like that. It struck me as peculiarly horrible that it should be Alexei who was so "gifted," when he had such a ghastly memory to share. I went though the royal family's excruciating ordeal again. I could understand why the boy was the way he was. But I could also understand why he might have to be - put to sleep. I pushed up from the table, feeling thoroughly exhausted. I was ready for bed. But my plan got altered when the doorbell rang.

You'd think, living out in the country at the end of a long driveway through the woods, that I would have plenty of warning of guests. But that wasn't always the case, especially with supes. I didn't recognize the woman I saw through the peephole, but I knew she was a vampire. That meant she couldn't come in without being invited, so it was safe to find out why she was there. I opened the door, feeling mostly curious.

"Hi, can I help you?" I asked.

She looked me up and down. "Are you Sookie Stackhouse?"

"I am."

"You e-mailed me."

Alexei had blown out my brain cells. I was slow tonight. "Judith Vardamon?"

"The same."

"So Lorena was your sire? Your maker?"

"She was."

"Please come in," I said, and stepped aside. I might have been making a big mistake, but I'd almost given up hope that Judith would respond to my message. Since she'd come all the way here from Little Rock, I thought I owed her that much trust.

Judith raised her eyebrows and stepped over my threshold. "You must love Bill, or else you're a fool," she said.

"Neither, I hope. You want some TrueBlood?"

"Not now, thank you."

"Please, have a seat."

I sat on the edge of the recliner while Judith took the couch. I thought it was incredible that Lorena had "made" both Bill and Judith. I wanted to ask a lot of questions, but I didn't want to offend or irritate this vampire, who'd already done me a huge favor.

"Do you know Bill?" I said, to kick off the talk we had to have.

"Yes, I know him." She seemed cautious, which was odd when I considered how much stronger she was than I.

"You're the younger sister?" She looked to be about thirty, or at least that had been her death age. She had dark brown hair and blue eyes, and she was short and pleasantly round. She was one of the most nonthreatening vampires I'd ever met, at least superficially. And she looked oddly familiar.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Lorena turned you after she turned Bill? Why'd she pick you?"

"You were Bill's lover for some months, I gather? Reading between the lines of your message?" she asked in turn.

"Yes, I was. I'm with someone else now."

"How is it that he never told you how he came to meet Lorena?"

"I don't know. His choice."

"Very strange." She looked openly distrustful.

"You can think it's strange till the cows come home," I said. "I don't know why Bill didn't tell me, but he didn't. If you want to tell me, fine. Tell me. But that's not really important. The important thing is that Bill's not getting well. He got bitten by a fairy with silver-tipped teeth. If he has your blood, he might get over it."

"Did Bill perhaps hint to you that you should ask me?"

"No, ma'am, he didn't. But I hate to see him hurting."

"Has he mentioned my name?"

"Ah. No. I found out by myself so I could get in touch with you. It seems to me that if you're Lorena's get, too, you must have known he was suffering. I find myself wondering why you haven't shown up before."

"I'll tell you why." Judith's voice was ominous.

Oh, great, another tale of pain and suffering. I knew I wasn't going to like this story.

I was right.

P/S: Copyright -->www_novelfreereadonline_Com