Okay, this was definitely getting weird.
I was pressed between the two of them, both touching me in urgent hungry sweeps. I couldn’t pry Eric out of my hair with a crowbar, and Claudine had fastened onto my stomach in a very uncharacteristic violation of my personal space. Her breezy calm seemed to have deserted her. In fact, she seemed just as enthralled with my tummy as Eric was with the rest of me.
“Uh, guys? A little space here?”
They ignored me.
I put one hand square on Claudine’s chest and the other on Eric’s stomach. I pushed as hard as I could without actually shoving.
“Come on, now. Sookie needs air,” I tried to sound light and unconcerned.
Claudine came back to herself and dropped her hand, taking a small step back. Her eyes didn’t leave my stomach, however. Eric, like I suspected, only tightened his hold and refused to budge one single inch, rubbing himself along my back and making that guttural, pre-sex noise deep in his throat.
I turned my head to hiss at him. “Baby,” I warned. “Not now.”
The grunts only got deeper.
“He can’t hear you,” Claudine said, making a slow, fascinated circle around the both of us.
“Why the hell not?”
Captured by a vampire. Stalked by a fairy. Yep, this was definitely creepy.
“My presence has brought out more of your Fae essence, cousin. Your scent is much stronger than usual. It has struck him insensible.”
I smothered a squeak as my vampire’s hands started to stroke up and down my hips. His fangs were down. His tongue found my ear. I tried hard not to let my eyes roll back into my head. Instead, I distracted myself by talking.
“Why…why isn’t he smelling you? Don’t…um… you smell stronger than I do? Quit!” I smacked at his hand as it found my breast.
A knowing smile cracked Claudine’s concentration. “He’s your Chosen. He doesn’t want anyone else.”
“I guess,” I muttered.
Turning into him, I cupped his face and locked my eyes into his. Hey! I shouted mentally at him. Stop it. You need to focus. Remember? I looked down at the book on the ground. You have questions.
The heavy clouds in his eyes were reluctant to leave. He was alive with hunger, as if he’d been pining for me for decades. He was so desperate. So empty without me. I leaned up and put my forehead against his.
“I’m here,” I soothed. “I’ll give you some blood later. Okay?”
His jaw unclenched slightly. Suddenly he saw me again.
“No,” he answered gruffly, pressing his head to mine. “I’m all right. I just feel… I want to drink every drop of you.”
Claudine came to a halt in front of us, having completed her circle. I felt like I’d been appraised from every angle. Looking down at myself, I didn’t see anything worth such a weird reception. Just my t-shirt. Maybe my shorts weren’t appropriate for company, but I hardly felt they deserved such a pointed stare. Claudine was a fairy godmother, not Mary Worth. I seriously doubted she cared that my upper thighs were on display.
I took a deep breath and stood straighter. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s start from the beginning. Claudine, why are you looking at me like my hair’s on fire?”
Her gaze had settled back on my waistline. I cocked my brow. “Hello?”
“Sookie…you…” She cleared her throat, looking away with a troubled expression. I felt my face crinkle in confusion. What the hell was wrong with everyone all of a sudden? She bit her lip before speaking, her voice clear and directed at Eric. “You needn’t worry, Vampire. Your reaction is normal. Fae and their mates always feel a need to consume each other.”
Eric snorted in derision. “In my case, Fairy, it’s an actual risk. You should leave. I’m having trouble controlling myself with her.”
The stately woman gave an elegant wave of her hand, dismissing him. “You won’t hurt her. You can’t.”
Eric growled at her indifference. “Don’t make light of me. Her smell is maddening. If I broke her skin now, I wouldn’t be able to stop from draining her dry.”
I was starting to feel invisible as the two ancient creatures of my life talked about me like I wasn’t there. Claudine shook her head, gesturing to the book at our feet. “Did you not even read this before you summoned me? Do you not understand your union at all?”
“I’ve read all I care to,” Eric replied, ignoring me. “All I want to know is if Sookie will now share my life.” He leaned towards Claudine threateningly. “All of my life.”
I blinked. “What?”
Claudine looked almost bored. “Gods, Vampire. Is that honestly your biggest concern?”
I pushed at Eric’s roaming hands again. “Guys,” I drew out.
“Biggest concern?” Eric spat. “I’m bound to a human fairy. I have no interest in the madness that will consume me if she dies of something as mundane as heart disease in forty years.”
“Die of heart disease in forty years? You tire me, Viking. Fairies do not sicken. Sookie herself has never been ill. Nor will she live a human’s lifespan. A mated pair’s life forces are entwined. Permanently.”
“Guys!” I shouted, then drew up short. “Wait, what?”
Claudine graced me with her attention now. “Your lives, cousin. Surely you realize now that Eric’s life and your own are no longer unequal.”
“How the hell would I have realized that?” I replied, incredulous. “And what do you mean ‘unequal’? Eric,” I looked up at him. He was still hovering too close, his hands plucking at me despite my admonishments. “What are you asking her? And you!” I rounded on Claudine. “What do you mean Eric can’t hurt me even if he tried? And why the hell are you still looking at my stomach?”
Her eyes did that weird skittering thing again. She was annoyed that I’d brought us back to this question. To avoid it, she chose the first one. “Eric cannot hurt you. A Chosen never can. He can gorge on your blood for hours. He needn’t withhold his strength when he touches you. He’ll inflict no injury.”
Like Eric, I snorted disdainfully. “Yeah, right. Eric can tear a Miata in half like a it was an Applebee’s menu. Of course he can hurt me.”
She merely blinked. “No longer.”
She smirked. “No bullshit.”
Fuck! Stupid fairy telepathy. I forgot I wasn’t the only one who had it.
“And how would you even know? You told me no fairy’s ever even asked a vampire for the time, never mind mated to one. How can you be sure he can’t hurt me?” I stopped and remembered. “My mean Light can certainly hurt him.”
“Hardly,” she reasoned. “Our Smite kills when a fairy is angry enough. Your training with Eric merely stunned him. Were you to Smite another vampire with the same fury, you’d kill him outright.”
She rolled her eyes and wiggled her fingers. “Your weapon. Did you not read the tome, either?”
“Hey!” I defended. “That book is a zillion years old and written in gibberish. Gimme a break.”
Eric’s body was now practically humming with intent. One hand smoothed up and down the curve of my ass while the other staked its claim just under my breasts. Claudine wasn’t fazed. She seemed completely uninterested in Eric’s volatile, fairy-hungry state.
I switched focus again.
“What about Eric’s question? About our life spans?”
Her brow went up. Again, the conversation seemed to bore her. She gracefully bent down and retrieved the book that she’d so unceremoniously knocked from my hands. She cradled it in her arms, like suddenly it was the dry, frail tome of our people again and not a TV Guide that ended up on the living room floor. Her fingers caressed the binding.
“Exactly as I said,” she replied. “If you’d Chosen a human, you’d live an average lifetime. But you’ve Chosen a vampire. Hence, you’ll live as long as he does. Indefinitely.”
Eric murmured happily from my neck. He’d somehow managed to snuggle into it again. But my brain collided head-on with Claudine’s words. It made a serious mess.
“I don’t understand.”
My godmother sighed dramatically. “Eric is immortal,” she said slowly, as if speaking a toddler. “You have given him your Radia. Your Radia is your life force, hence it will live within him for as long as he walks this earth.”
“So what if he’s staked tomorrow?”
“Then your Radia will extinguish. You, no matter where you are, will die as well.”
“Oh, my God,” I whispered. Jesus, Lord in Heaven, this couldn’t be possible. “But… but what if I die tomorrow? Another vampire attack? Car crash or something?”
Eric, who had exited the conversation and was slithering around my shoulders, yanked me closer and rumbled angrily. I guess he was paying just enough attention to get pissed off at an unpleasant question.
At this Claudine softened slightly. “Another vampire will not be able to, assuming the attack is designed to separate you. The bond will prevent such a death. But you’re not indestructible. If you die in a car crash, your Radia will extinguish inside your vampire. He will not die, but your gifts to him will disappear. He’ll no longer be able to day walk.”
I said the first thing that popped in my head. “Thank God.”
I mourned the thought of him never seeing the sun again, but at least he wouldn’t die with me. Me, being so much weaker and slower than him, had a much better chance of checking out sooner. But again, he clutched me even tighter.
“It wouldn’t matter,” he gruffed in my ear. “The day you die, I’ll meet the sun. I refuse to live without you.”
“Hush!” I smacked at him.
He took my smack without noticing. “The second your Light leaves me, I’m following you into death and taking it back.”
A ball of tears rose in my throat. I swallowed, making them retreat. “I love you,” I murmured.
“Then don’t die.”
I smiled wanly and nodded. “Kay.”
I turned back to Claudine. “So, if Eric dies two thousand years from now, I’ll finally die as well? Won’t I be just a dusty, crusty shell of an old woman by then?”
“Of course not,” she said, insulted. “Fairies are the most beautiful creatures on earth. We don’t putrefy like humans. You will remain the age you were the moment you Chose a mate.”
She said it so casually. Like I hadn’t Chosen a mate a week and a half ago. I swallowed carefully. “I’m going to be twenty-six forever? Two thousand years from now, I’ll look like this?” I gestured down to my not-fit-for-company tee and short shorts.
She nodded. “Precisely.”
Oh, shit. A thick, blinding wall of panic came at me. My lungs froze. I gasped. Little white dots filled my eyes and made me squeeze them shut. I inhaled and gasped again. And again.
Eric’s hands went steely around me. His rubbing body turned solid and still as he buoyed me up against my own freak-out. If I’d been able to think, I would have remembered that he’d been here himself.
“It will pass,” he murmured into my hair. “Do not fear your youth. It is a gift.”
“It’s unnatural,” I whispered in a cracked voice. “People die for a reason. It’s God’s will.”
“If that’s true, then everything is God’s will,” he countered softly. “Including your life with me. You said so yourself, remember? I was made twice for you.” He was pleased with his own logic. “Now you have been made twice for me.”
I kept my eyes shut. Suddenly I didn’t want to look at the two examples of ancient youth in front of me. Eric might have had a point, but right that second, I refused to believe it. I was a human, goddammit. I might have had a fairy gene or two that helped me tan well and Smite bad guys, but there was a limit. Living forever was a far cry from the little perks I had.
Eric felt my overwhelmed thoughts. He roused himself out of his lustful stupor and took over.
“Can I drink anyone other than her now?”
She shook her head. “Never again. Unless she dies before you, then you may ingest whomever you like.”
I felt his wish to strike her dead and I quickly squeezed his arms in fear. “Listen when I speak, Fae,” he rasped angrily. “I won’t resume eating humans if Sookie dies without me. I will kill myself the moment I feel her leave me.”
He turned back into me and licked along my hairline, making goose bumps break out everywhere. “Don’t,” he punched the word, “leave me.”
I wanted to push him away and pull him closer. His possessive nature was wound so tight I could barely breath. At the same time, not having him right next to me felt like taking a sobriety test on cliff’s edge. I chose not breathing and curled into him.
From my Eric lean-to, I held my hands out to Claudine. “I’d like the book back, please,” I asked politely.
At this, she shook her head hard and clutched it tighter. “No. This tome has been missing from our world for many centuries. I don’t know how the vampire queen obtained it, but it cannot stay here. We risk our secrets leaving it in your hands.”
“The girl wants it,” Eric spoke softly. “Give it to her or I’ll take it from you.”
The air instantly grew heavier with magic and gold hues. The essence of Fae increased tenfold around us. Eric’s mindset fell a few more notches into animal impulse, snarling and pawing and snorting my scent. My eyes widened with fear. I knew what was coming.
“Wait! Don’t go! I take it back. You can have it. Just…” I watched as the air swirled around my kin, my face crumpling with disappointment. I had so many more questions. She couldn’t just leave! I gave Eric another solid push and prepared to beg her to stay. If she popped away now, I wasn’t sure if she’d ever deign to come back if Eric was going to threaten her with bodily harm.
She stood impassively. The sphere of magic around her didn’t shrink, but it didn’t evaporate, either. She was listening, but she wasn’t going to wait around for Eric to pounce, either. I did the only thing I could think of. I took Eric’s hand from my waist, kissed his fingertips, and froze him.
In our bond, Eric went ballistic. Every fear he’d ever entertained about me – scaring me, killing me, losing me to someone else, dying because he couldn’t protect me – exploded in his head as I held him inanimate. He fought against my hold, his muscles going rigid against his invisible captivity. But his struggles, just like in the meadow, were useless. I sent my apologies silently and turned to Claudine.
“Lover,” he hissed at me. “Let me go.”
“One second,” I promised, not looking at him.
Claudine was clearly impressed. Her transport sphere withered and vanished, her expression full of approval. “You have learned to Still. Excellent.”
I really, really wished I’d tried to read more of that damn book. “Still?”
“The telekinetic ability to capture objects with your mind,” she spelled out.
Eric roiled against my hold like a ham-strung tiger. There was no danger of him breaking free, but at the same time, the vampiric power fighting against my fairy ability was truly astounding. I leaned up against his motionless chest and kissed his lips softly. “You can’t threaten her,” I tsked gently. “We need her.”
“Let me go, Sookie.”
I turned my head. “Will you stay?” I asked her. “Please?”
She looked from me to my very pissed-off vampire, then back again before nodding. “The book goes with me,” she replied. “No discussion.”
“Sure,” I nodded quickly. “Whatever, just…just don’t go yet.”
I released Eric’s hand. My Stilling, as Claudine called it, vanished. I felt him uncoil from my invisible harness, furious at me and fit to be tied. Again. I raised a finger before he could break the peace. “Stay calm,” I warned. “Or I’ll do it again.”
He opened his mouth to argue. I pressed my finger against his chest. Come Hell or high water, he was going to behave. He looked down at it, then closed his mouth again, docking his heart-shaped fangs against his lower teeth. “Fine.”
Super. I retracted my finger and returned to the one section of the book I did remember reading. One that Claudine was clearly very happy to ignore.
“What the hell is a scion?” I asked.