“Ana, open you eyes for me, okay Darlin’?”
My head followed the sound blindly. I had a headache. I felt out of sorts. And hot and cold all at once. I shivered and threw the covers off and tried to sit up.
Instead I peeked one eye at the man with the beckoning voice.
My mouth felt like I’d swallowed a pair of wooly socks. “Whuzamattuh?”
“You been sleepin’ all day. I’m worried ’bout you. You’re burnin’ up.” I felt a hot hand on my clammy brow.
I did summon the strength to sit up then. “Aw, Dante! You let me jus’ sleep?” I was woozy. “Didn’t you get any at all?”
“I been too worried. I almost took ya to the hospital a couple times.”
“Oh, it’s not as bad as all that! I’m just never sick so it must have hit me extra hard. Maybe that burger I had last night was off.”
“Yeah, maybe. I still don’t like it and I wish you’d let me take ya to a doctor.”
“I’ll be just fine. Now you lay down and get some rest. Getting up will do me more good than anything.”
He sat wearily on the bedside looking at me. He could have just run a marathon. He was beat.
“Dante, exactly how much sleep have you had in the last three days?”
“I slept when we got here,” he answered defensively.
“You just lay yourself down this moment, Buster!”
He did, and because I was still tired and dizzy I did too.
“Get better, okay?”
“Yeah, all right, Dante. I know we gotta move on soon.”
“I don’t give a damn about that. You had some scary moments while ya slept. Started glowin’ and shakin’. That’s when I was gonna take ya to the hospital, but I didn’t think they’d know what to do with a convulsin’, lit up, fairy girl.”
“I’m only a little bit fairy, I told you. I have extra magic in me, but I’m too human to use it. I guess it wanted to come out a bit last night. I’ll ask… I don’t guess I can ask Claude now…” Who could I ask? I know I wanted to talk to Claudine, but I still didn’t have any bright ideas there. Siobhan? How would I unless I went to Fae? If I went there, I wasn’t ever coming back, even if I wanted to or needed to. I knew it as surely as I knew Niall was dead and Eric had killed him. I suppose I was the selfish one for not wanting to be the human equivalent of a fairy NiMHy battery. Sure, fairies had to die to save their land, but I had to live a dead life, forever. Wasn’t gonna be any 80-150 years for me in Fae. I would be there until it went supernova, or set me free, or both. They had to find a better way. One that did not include me, my crazy light, or making me stay single, alone, and a virgin forever. That last one really got to me. If you’re going to unfair me on an epic scale, at least let me get laid, right? Preferably with someone very tall, with long golden hair, and marble smooth white skin, arms and a chest (oooohhhhh man) like a Greek God, and eyes (eeeeeep) like sapphires that danced when he smiled, or laughed, or looked at me…
“You got real far away there.”
“You’re not thinkin’ about the vamp, right? Didn’t you say he killed your kin?”
“Yeah it was the vamp, yeah he killed your kin, or yeah to both?”
“Yeah to all three, I guess.”
I felt rather than heard his low growl.
I tried to hush him, tell him he had no business making that sound over me, and that I was getting mad, but a sharp pain behind my eyes made the world go black for a second and then I had a wet washcloth on my forehead and my body felt like I’d just been beaten within an inch of my life with a plastic toy bat.
“Happened again,” the Were said with a stern brow. “What happened, you remember?”
“No, I honestly thought I just closed my eyes for a second because It hurt right behind them, and then I was getting my head cooled.” I put my fingers to my temples and rubbed in circular motions. Dante moved my hands away and began doing it for me. I wanted to say thanks but all I managed was a sigh. “You’re a good man, Dante MacNamara. Not many would be willing to risk his life for another then take care of them while they’re sick and compromising your health and safety.”
“Ana, sometimes you meet a special person and just know you’d do anything they asked even if it didn’t make a bit a sense. That’s you. You’re special, I can tell.”
I sighed again. That made me think of Eric too, but it would be rude to keep going on about a man that wasn’t here mopping my brow and making sure I wasn’t dying.
“Aw, I feel real lucky to have met you too. I don’t see too many Weres or shifters anymore. Used to be they filled out my life the way the fairies do. I felt like part of their… I dunno, pack I guess, but right before our daddy got sick, my brother moved away to New Orleans and joined a pack (on the periphery cause he’s not a Were.) His girlfriend is though. I wonder if he’s asked her to marry him? Anyway being around you feels really famili-”
I had another pain behind my eyes followed by the cold cloth bath for my head again.
“Those were real close together. Do you think it’s gettin’ worse?”
I partially shrugged one shoulder. It was all I could do.
“They happen in minutes of each other like that again, I’m callin’ the ambulance, Northman be damned.” He stood and walked away. I just kept my eyes shut and tried not to move. Cold liquid sloshed against my lips moments later. “You gotta drink, Darlin’. You gotta be real dehydrated.”
I took a few swallows and opened my eyes. I could feel the water soaking into the least functioning areas of my brain, well sort of, not really, but I imagined that’s what was going on and it felt good.
“You know, I think that was just it. I needed some water. I feel lots better already.”
The Were shook his head and frowned. “Yeah, maybe that’d explain the shakin’, but what about all that light just shootin’ out. Ana, I’m tellin’ you, last night you screamed light. Once in the middle of the night, and once ‘fore dawn. I thought the cops’d come for sure, thinkin’ we had some crazy party on in here.”
He was right. I was losing control. All I could hope was that these episodes didn’t hurt anyone but me. I’d never be able to live with myself if someone got burned, or blinded, or whatever light could do to hurt people.
Oh my God! If I had been with Eric and Pam, would it kill them? Was this light like sunlight? I tried to remember if I’d burned Eric that time he got all claimy-vamp. I didn’t think so, but he took off so fast and I was in a right state.
Maybe leaving was for the best. I could’ve gone vampire atomic bomb anytime.
There was a knock at the door. I thought my heart was going to jump right out of my chest. I listened to the buzzing void behind the door. Eric! my heart pleaded.
Dante rolled off the bed and approached the door cautiously. Did motel’s count as human dwellings? Did they need an invite? I had a feeling if Eric hadn’t needed one the door would’ve been gone by then.
“Who’s’ere an’ whaddya want?” He grunted as if he’d been interrupted in his sleep.
“My name is William Compton, and I am a vampire.”
“Okay, I’m a Were. What’s your business Mr. Compton?”
Compton… Compton… William Compton… I knew it should have rung bells, or jumped up and sang on the church pews, but I couldn’t wrap my hurting brain around that name.
“I am looking for a young lady named Anabelle Merlotte. I believe you were last seen with her.”
“Yeah, I was hired by a vamp to watch some fangbanger,” he pleaded an apology with his eyes. “But she… met someone in her family and run off. Big guy, long black hair. Looked homosexual.”
“Would you mind opening the door Mr. Uh…”
“Just call me Dante. And I think we’re done and you’re still on that side, and I’m on this’n.”
“You see, I knew her Great-Grandmother very well, I was hoping to speak with her.”
Oh my God! It was Bill Compton! The one who owned the creepy house across the cemetery from mine! I shot Dante the four whites listen to me eyes, and let down my shields (not too hard they were hanging by a thread at that point anyway.)
I’m going to talk to him, think at me really hard and I’ll hear you.
His own eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Guess I forgot to mention this. What the hell? No way! You got a death wish? He sent back to me in a haze of snarled, red confusion and panic, while to the vampire outside the painted blue door he called, “Look for fairies, vampire, I’m not your wolf.”
I know him! I mentally insisted.
I thought you only knew the two vamps you told me about!
“I’m truly sorry to have disturbed you.”
Don’t let him go yet!
“I’d appreciate it if my whereabouts was kept a secret from Northman,” Dante waffled. “I assume that’s why you’re here. I didn’t do the job he asked, an’ I don’t expect to be paid or nothin’, but I don’t want no pissed off vamps lookin’ to spill my blood.”
“Of course, Dante. I understand.”
I was waffling. Time for a decision.
“Wait! Bill! I mean Mr. Compton!”
“Yeah, sorry we lied. I’m here.”
“No matter, I knew you were there.”
“How?” Dante asked almost accusingly.
“Her scent is… unmistakeable.”
“Mr. Compton?” I asked. “If we open the door, can you come in here?”
“Is that an invitation?”
“Nope.” Dante answered succinctly before I even opened my mouth.
He can’t come in. He’d have done it by now.
“Just do it, Dante.”
He put the security latches in place (I rolled my eyes, that would be effective,) and he opened the door. An average sized man in casually conservative clothing came slowly into view. He had a really dated haircut and sideburns and brown eyes like pools of darkness in a glowing white face. I finally knew what Bill Compton, the man that began Sookie’s crazy adventures, looked like.
He inhaled in a deliberate fashion, which was a little creepy, not going to deny it, and he looked at me hungrily. Actually, I don’t think he had spared a single glance at the dangerous Were standing nearly in front of him. He only had eyes for me. His eyes searched every part of my face, lingering on my eyes, then scoured the rest of me for good measure.
If this was a typical characterization of the behavior of the species, Eric was so far removed from the average vampire it was a joke. I often forgot Eric was a vampire with his ability to blend (as much as a 6’4″ viking God of a man can anyway) in with humanity. For one thing, he’d never looked at strangers like he wanted to eat them, even if he did, you know, want to.
“Hello, Anabelle. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.” He smiled, and to his credit, he put the fangs away. Okay, maybe I could see what the heck my great-gran was thinking. He looked almost charming when he smiled.
“Hello. The pleasure is mine. If I invite you in, do you intend to cause either me or Dante harm?”
“Of course not.” He put on a wounded face before it slipped into a silky-smooth mask of nothing.
Doesn’t mean he won’t take you from me, Ana.
“Will you try to take me to Eric?”
“Not unless you ask me to. Eric has no dominion over me.”
“I thought you worked for him.”
Bill Compton actually chuckled at this. “No, my dear, not for many years. I am doing him a favor, he is very worried, but I am the King of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Nevada.”
Dante looked ready to split down the middle. He wanted to make the vamp leave, but this wasn’t just any vamp apparently. “When did that happen?” he demanded.
Bill didn’t even favor him with a look, he had eyes only for me. I wished he would look elsewhere. I felt woozy again and wanted to lay down.
“Last night, Eric Northman helped defeat a coup that would have been my true death had they succeeded, and they did not. By our law, their sovereignties now belong to me.”
“Alright then, come in.”
“Eric, what?” I asked. “He’s okay then? Safe? Not hurt… He’s…” I was having trouble tracking the conversation, and picking up random thoughts from the couple watching a movie next door. I felt my head hit the mattress as I got another pain behind my eyes.
Please, not with a vampire here! What if I hurt him with the light?
Dante, take back your invita-
My vision went black.
I came back from this one with a cool hand stoking my face and hair. As a matter of fact, my head was in a very cool lap.
I tried to sit up to fast and fell back down, but mission accomplished anyway, now I knew it wasn’t Eric. It was Bill. And he looked pissed. My Were looked pissed too, he was pacing the room like to wear holes in the carpet. Go figure.
Trying to talk was still out. Wooly mouth-socks had revisited.
He wants to give you blood. Still pacing, he shot Bill a nasty look.
“That’s what I told him,” Dante said lapsing into audibility.
“Bill, thanks, but I don’t need your blood. I’ve just been dehydrated.”
“You shine.” His tone was reverent. He continued to stroke my hair.
“Yeah. Fairy stuff, I guess.”
“If you take my blood, you will heal and have more control over your magic.” He turned my head slightly using my chin to make me look him in the eyes. “I thought you’d want to ease the minds of those who care for you.”
“And bond with you instead of Eric?”
If a vampire could look stunned…
“Your Highness, I know all about bonding with vampires. I had a full account from Sookie in her journals.”
“I simply wish for your speedy recovery,” his voice was backpedaling into monotone. Coercion or cajoling obviously wouldn’t work. “Bonding with a human would be unwise for a vampire in my position.”
Reverse psychology wasn’t going to either. “Thank you, again, but I decline.”
He looked disappointed, but it melted into… determination? before settling into a cold mask of nothing.
“Hey, you didn’t burn up when I did the light show thing!”
Both men just looked at me like I’d grown another head.
“I was afraid when I lost control it would hurt vamps, you know, like the sun. So fairy light isn’t the same as the sun. I wonder how it works then…”
I looked at Bill Compton. He was nice enough, but had just tried to make me his by giving me his blood when I was unconscious. I said a silent prayer of thanks for the Sookie-Book once again.
“Bill – Your Highness,” I started but he cut me off.
“It’s Bill. To you, I always want to just be Bill.”
“Bill, thank you, but Dante and I will be moving on from here and I think it’s time we left.”
“Can I do anything at all for you?”
“No, Bill. Thank you, but no. Not this time. Maybe just tell Eric I’m all right, and I’m sorry, and that I know about Niall. It’s why I left.”
Bill nodded, “Anabelle, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. You’ve given me a gift tonight that I will never forget.”
Okay… Confusing… But vampires leaving with gratitude is a good thing. Especially vampire kings. So I just nodded and watched Dante close the door behind him.
He smiled at me as he turned back and nearly laughed as he came to sit next to me. “You handle bloodsuckers like I never saw before. They listen to you.”
“Oh, they don’t either. Do you know how much easier my life would be right now if they did?”
“That vamp woulda forced his blood on any other girl.”
“Maybe, I don’t think he was all that bad. He just misses my great-gran. Pretty sure he loved her.”
“I think you are just about the scariest, most awe-inspiring, and prettiest gal that’s ever happened to this world.”
I blushed. “You’re crazy. I thought I was crazy forever, but y’all are the crazy ones. I’m just me.”
“What do we do now?”
“We try to summon an angel.”
“How we gonna do that?”
“Well, I’ve gotta come close to death.”
I felt like an idiot even saying it.