I wish my memories came with “Save,” “Delete” and “Play” buttons. This was a memory I would soon like to delete. I’ve had people say some pretty mean things to me in my lifetime. Kids and adults can be so cruel, especially if they don’t know you can hear the unspoken. Over the years, I have developed a very thick skin. Why had these three words cut me so deep? I blinked back tears and picked through the parfait while I tried to pretend that all was well.
“I despise you.” I never believed such ugly words could come from such a pretty mouth. I expected CJ to be a little sore because I ran off with Eric last night, but his words had an extra bite. He was washing his hands of me and officially kicking me to the curb.
I was being overly sensitive but after the emotional rollercoaster of a night I’d had (which was loaded with many Save and Delete moments), this was the last thing I needed. CJ had arrived a few days after the Fae war, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. He had been my Prozac during those hellacious days of recovery. He had been there when Eric abandoned me or I, him. I also considered him a really good friend. Despite my efforts to put up a good front, tears welled in my eyes. My granola, fresh fruit and yogurt didn’t look so good, all mixed together, but I continued to taste on it.
“I didn’t think you would be jealous, Mr. ‘I don’t partake of the flesh,’” I mocked. A haughty brow lifted in – respect? “Didn’t think I caught that, huh?” Although his thoughts were referring to a vegan meal when he’d had them, I had the feeling that it meant more. The look of surprise he gave me now just confirmed it. He was not embarrassed in the least. If one could conjure up Napalm laced orgasms in his mind, he didn’t need to “partake.” I quickly pushed those thoughts out of my head. I didn’t want or need to go there.
CJ screeched the music that blocked his thoughts to display a very vivid and detailed, steamy image that had me clutching my pearls. CJ was in a pool surrounded by many women. They were all over him. One of them was really ambidextrous. What was that thing for? “Whoa!” My eyes danced, trying to take it all in. They all had hair like mine. Upon closer inspection, I realized that they could all pass for . . . me, only better. They were all flawless and glowing replicas of me. He was clearly having the time of his . . . the vision blanked out like an old TV tube on the fritz, losing me any further insight or entertainment. Cue the music. I got the message. He was showing me that he could make me ten times over and therefore, had no cause to be jealous.
“And they would be much less breakable and half the trouble,” he said, dryly. He sported a most devilish grin.
“Show off,” I said under my breath. That was a pretty cool trick but I wasn’t ready to concede. “True, but they wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. (Well, except for the one who . . . never mind.)
“I just . . . I need to get out of here.” His voice relaxed and softened but he didn’t look at me. “I didn’t come here to fight with you. I like to think of you as my little diamond in the rough. I keep hoping that one day you will come into your own power and shine and fight back, but you seem to be content with hiding your gift in this Podunk town and given the honor of being a glorified Supe toy to be passed around for their amusement. It sickens me.”
“What do you want from me CJ?” Why didn’t he just spit on me instead of figuring out wordy ways of hurling insults.
“Let me go in peace,” he said after a long moment of silence. “Your mind,” he sat down at the foot of the steps and held his arms around his body “It keeps calling and calling me. When you’re lost or alone, I know it and I am filled with an overwhelming need to swoop in and save the day.” I was about to ask him how long has this been going on. He turned and exposed the scars that I put on his chest weeks ago. They had not healed.
“Last night I felt your every emotion; fear, love, insatiable lust, thirst, confusion, sadness and remorse,” he told me.
“All of it?” I asked. I didn’t want anyone to know those details.
“Yep!” He looked a little sick at the stomach.
“Even the . . .”
“Oh Yeah! Especially that.”
“You read all that? Can you read my mind too?” He shook his head.
“Just trust me when I say that I must leave this God forsaken place before something really bad happens.” His voice went up an octave. Seeing him lose patience made me speechless. “You seem to be auditioning the next fire-breathing dragon to save the damsel in distress but I assure you that I am not the one. In this episode, I will be playing the caring brother, friend and musician not the sorcerer.” He finally looked over at me and said “It’s time you rescue yourself, Sookie.”
That was the first time he actually said my name, I think. It was usually Mz. Brickhawz or Princess or hey you. It must have been loaded with a charm because I was immediately soothed. Or maybe it was just filled with farewell. “I just wanted to stop by on my way to my dad’s,” he continued. “I seemed to have worn out my usefulness here.”
“I could use you.” My voice sounded vacant and foreign but I needed to force the words out. “Amelia needs you, too.” Plus my roomie would kill me if she knew her brother left because of me.
“I can’t hold the sorcerer back while you figure things out. It has taken years to train my trinity to live in harmony, all undone in one night.” He looked completely distraught.
“CJ, honey, what did you do?” I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Nothing that can’t be righted in the next few months.” He chuckled nervously “I left a check in the apartment’s mailbox to cover the damages. Hopefully, Sam won’t be too angry.”
I didn’t even want to know the details but I had to ask. “You trashed the apartment?”
“More like demolished . . . the top level . . . of the building,” he said, sheepishly. “Better the building than the entire town, which was about to make the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah look like a neighborhood barbeque.” He stood and paced in front of the porch kicking rocks along the way. “Cuppy, she’s getting pretty good at her craft.” He beamed like a proud papa. “She sealed me in a vacant apartment with a spell that could only be countered when I regained control of myself.”
“That was pretty smart of her.” I told him. Although powerful, she was still considered a novice among her peers.
“It was amazing!” He rambled on about how she surprised him with her abilities but my mind had just digested the part about him leaving. He had said it several times but I just couldn’t get my mind around it.
I was about to go through a most trying time without my human chill pill. I have an appointment with Dr. Ludwig and the press conference with the vamps. Then, there is the wedding and/or the coronation. I still don’t know how a human can be a vampire queen. Then there’s Bill’s sickness and trial. I stacked up, only a few of my problems and felt like I was drowning. I had come to depend on CJ to help me but I couldn’t figure out how he could fit into my plans.
“Can I share something with you?” he asked. He could see that I had drawn inward, my mind focusing on my own problems. I’d stirred my food until it resembled something the cat wouldn’t eat. The beverage holder trembled while he spoke and then the cup of green tea shimmied loose from the base, levitated in front of me and then the straw nudged my lips. I laughed and took a sip. It floated back to the floor of the porch.
“Telekinesis?” I said with a childlike giddiness. Seeing something move around on its own never gets old for me. I loved that he had mastered his gift. It gave me hope that one day I could do the same. He only smiled. The spoon was next. My eyes followed as it floated up in the air, took a nose dive into the untouched parfait and delivered to my mouth a perfectly layered taste of all that was good. It was so much better that way. (Note to self: do not stir parfait.)
“Magical humans,” he told me, “such as us, are made up of three parts:
- Animal or Subconscious, responsible for all supernatural actions, like telepathy. The traits have been known to travel through family ties. It operates on instinct.
- Ego or Conscious controls and directs the animal. Its job is to guide us to a higher self. It can have a bad side and take over.
- Spirit, it makes your plans and can change them. It will do no harm.
Together, this three corded strand can perform miracles. If any are too strong or too weak, you have chaos. You must have balance.”
I was completely intrigued. “How do I obtain enlightenment, Mr. Miyagi?” I said it jokingly but I desperately wanted to know. He shoved another spoonful of parfait in my mouth to hush the peanut gallery.
“Soon,” he said in a low, regretful voice. “I have to go.” He stood. I could feel the power that he used to move the cups in a thin, electric-charged strand that held on and pulled the cups over as he moved. The contents spilled on the porch, soaking the paper. “I can’t help you in these volatile surroundings. I fear that someone is going to get good and dead and that is sure to put a strain on our relationship.”
“I need help, like yesterday.” I’d learned more about magical gifts in the last few moments than I had most of my life and he was leaving. I imagined holding Felipe at bay like CJ held Eric the other night. I wanted, no, I needed to do that. I wondered if I could protect myself from the type of spells that the Fae, Neave and Lochlan, used to subdue me. I could arm myself with something more powerful than a water gun filled with lemon juice and an iron garden tool. I could depend on me and not my “Friend of the Pack” status from the Weres or the vampire’s on again off again promise of protection. Desperation crept up and held me in a choke hold until I blurted out “Take me with you.”
“Not for love or money!” He refused to even give it a thought. He went up the stairs and into the house to retrieve some of his belongings. “Helping you must be done from afar.”
He was right, I thought. I scraped the spilled yogurt into the cups. The paper was ruined. A swipe of my hand revealed a disturbing headline. The ink ran down the page from the liquid, distorting the image but there was no mistaking the headline: “Charges Dropped on Local Suspects” with a mug shot of Arlene and Whit Spradlin on the cover. Inhaling became a huge effort and I got light headed.
Maybe it was the headline telling me that my former BFF, who planned my death was being released from jail. Maybe it was the truth of CJ’s words. Maybe it was the way Alcide felt the need to “let the dog out” every time he had the chance to communicate with me. Maybe it was the nonchalant way Eric told me that Bill wasn’t getting any better. Or the fact that despite Niall’s gift, Eric insisted on going further into the vamp world, and being crowned king, no less. Or Felipe’s haunting “Come with me” that makes me fall to pieces every time it pops in my mind, which is all the time. But whatever it was, I – just – snapped.
By the time CJ returned I yelled in a panic “Now! Please, get me out of here now!” Leaves of the paper slid from my trembling hand, blanketing the steps in front of me.
He offered a resolute response before heading to load the car, “NO!”
I blurted out all the reasons why he couldn’t leave me here so defenseless. The one that concerned me most made him stop in his tracks. Now that was the reaction I’d wanted all along dangit! An uninvited vampire, in my house was cause for alarm. Most importantly, CJ believed me.
“What?” He was completely flabbergasted but I wasn’t sure of exactly why. I gave him the five W’s of my dilemma. He was especially interested in the silver coloring that Felipe’s eyes changed to. He walked around my front yard for a moment, deep in thought. He started to talk a few times but changed his mind. He kept looking up at the house as if he was trying to find a hole that the vermin was sneaking in through.
At first he looked extremely pissed. Every muscle in his face tensed and his eyes were wide. Then, I saw a sort of panicked look that he quickly masked when he saw that my eyes were glued on him. He let out a nervous laugh while rubbing his sternum. It reminded me of my laugh. It’s what I do when I’m overwhelmed or can’t get a handle on something. Could he see something that I couldn’t?
“CJ?” I said with a little alarm in my voice. He looked over to me with this spacey, bewildered gaze. Simultaneously, he stumbled backward and reached for me. I stood, he grabbed my hand and we were off. I didn’t look back. I was afraid that my farmhouse had sprouted horns or was breathing fire.
“Run!” He growled with a since of urgency that made my legs propel forward instinctively. He was pulling me toward the woods. I had no idea where we were going, but getting away sounded good. As we got to the end of the garden, CJ, who was holding my hand in a vice grip, just disappeared. I don’t mean that he dipped into the bushes or ran really fast. He dissolved into a warm breeze that kicked up debris in the yard. The warmth encircled me as I continued to run. Although I could not see him, I felt his presence driving me farther into the woods. I dug my heels in and kept going.
My blood boiled and my heart pounded and ached. The familiar trails in the woods reminded me of careless childhood days. Jason, Hadley, Tara, Hoyt and I played hide and seek in the thick of these woods when we were children, while my grandmother hung the laundry out to dry. I was crossing the point where she would say “Don’t go too far now.” I was tiring from the run and began to slow down when the warm breeze picked up speed, lifting me from the ground. I was weightless.
I floated high above the clearing and thought of Arlene’s kids. It was right there that Jason had taught Coby to catch a baseball, while Arlene, Lisa and I looked on from the porch. Lisa loved to play in Aunt Sookie’s hair and was a natural at plaiting. Then, I remembered the day that Arlene tried to have me killed. The thought of it was so disturbing that I curled into a protective, fetal position in mid-the air. It was as if she was coming after me now, trying to kill me. It was like I could smell her cheap perfume and I could still hear her crazed voice in the distance screaming my name. “Sookie . . . Soooookieeee!” Her voice grew louder and louder, closer and closer. The breeze swirled around like a funnel, going so fast that I could hardly focus on a single object and finally it consumed me.
Before I was lost to the abyss, many questions went through my head: Could I leave my beloved childhood home in a second’s notice? Would Eric understand that I needed a break? Did I turn off the coffee pot? The most pressing question, what in the world or outside of it, could spook a sorcerer?
I was not sure if it was teletransportation, going through a nearby portal or sinking in a wormhole but one moment I was floating through the air and pumped with adrenalin and the next I was waking up in an SUV. We were barreling down the freeway. Before us, the open road, behind, a white blanket of? “Is that a blizzard? Good Lord.”
I gawked out the rear windshield in amazement. We don’t get much snow in Bon Temps. I only remember playing in the snow once as a child. I don’t even think the town has a snow plow. CJ was cool as a cucumber. He was relaxed far back in the driver’s seat, maneuvering the car with the slightest of motions. He was humming a melody that seemed to dance on the air. My heart sank as I realized this wasn’t just a natural disaster. He was covering our tracks with a blanket of snow.
I already knew that he could manipulate the elements. He mostly wore light clothing. Standing next to him outside was like having a personal summer. He glanced over me with a look of concern. He was doing all this for me? I said to myself. I fought back the tears that were stinging that back of my eyes and gave him a reassuring smile. My mind raced for a while. I didn’t know how I was going to explain this to anyone.
“What happened back there? At my house? Did you see something?” I shot the questions before he could respond.
“Let’s just say I was feeling some bad juju.” He started with the rubbing of his sternum again. “The safety of your living quarters has been compromised. I don’t know if you are the target. I only know that it is not safe.” Then the information highway shut down.
It was a long while before I posed the selfish and idiotic question. “Bill – can we go and see him?” I owed Bill so much.
“I don’t think that would be wise, Princess.” CJ said coolly, keeping his eyes on the road. I braced my self for the look that would be filled with rage but he was only concerned.
“Bill is suffering from silver poisoning because he saved me. He has a death sentence because he saved me.” I pleaded in a quiet voice. Bill introduced me to the world of the supernatural, where I didn’t feel like a freak for having a gift. I had to know that he would be okay.
CJ pulled the truck over to the side of the road and put the hazard lights on. This was dangerous considering the road conditions and I peered out the rear window at the oncoming traffic that was barely visible.
CJ’s eyes locked on mine and our close proximity made me claustrophobic. “Listen to me very carefully, Princess.” He paused for a moment before saying, “You have been glamoured.” I knew that glamouring me was impossible and I nearly laughed. Vamp glamour didn’t work on me, which is why I was able to survive in their world for as long as I did. He grabbed my hands and continued, anticipating my objections. “They have not been able to erase your memories but they can distort perception.” I gave him a puzzled look of expectation and he continued. “Most magical beings have an allure to fool prey. Vampires are walking dead, yet to most they appear beautiful and appealing. That is the glamour!” I absorbed the comment for a moment. The truck shook a little as an 18-wheeler sped by, too closely.
I thought about all the Supes I knew. It was true, I had to admit, no matter how scary I felt when vampires, Shifters or Fae were close, they were are provocative and I wanted to be near them. I was also sitting across from the ultimate eye candy.
“Bill’s weakened state prevents him from putting up any pretence. Please trust me when I say that you cannot handle seeing him now.” I had seen Bill at a very vulnerable time already. Bill had been tortured and starved at the hand of his maker. When I found him, he was barely alive and after an injection of Sookie syrup, he was good as new. I was about to throw in my opinion when a car scraped the side of our vehicle. CJ’s jaw line tightened and he gripped the steering wheel. A cloud-like sphere surrounded him and continued to grow, encompassing me and soon, engulfed the entire car. A protective bubble! Even the snow ceased to fall on us and sounds of the traffic became muffled.
A compact car cart-wheeled past us, caving in its sides as it bounced off our barrier and started a chain reaction of cars that slammed into one another. “I got you,” he said, squeezing my hand. Still, my heart raced. The collision finally came to a halt with a green car landing on its roof in front of us, its wheels still spinning. I was completely mesmerized by the crumpled frame and the driver’s body that protruded from the front windshield. The body twisted in an unnatural form. His dark hair, dripped blood and I knew that he was dead.
We looked at each other with equally grim expressions before CJ exited the car. The sky exploded with an unearthly light and the storm pulled back like a curtain. The sun began to shine boldly and the ground dried instantaneously. He slowly walked, surveying the damage, stopping at the green car with the young man. I would have been next to him but my body was glued to the seat with magic. CJ had used this hold on me when Jason and Alcide were fighting. I couldn’t move.
“CJ!” I called out. He was kneeling at the dark haired young man. He gave me a perfunctory glance and the hold quickly broke. I scurried out of the car and to the sorcerer’s side. Maybe I could help him find survivors, I thought. I walked over to an SUV and helped a mother and her children. The mother soothed an infant dressed in bright pink while her older siblings looked on with concern. They were not hurt and I breathed a sigh of relief. They were quite shaken by the impact of the collision. The baby was crying loudly. We searched through the car until we found the pacifier that was lost and she quieted. I moved from victim to victim and I continued to glance back at CJ and the young man. He had moved him onto the pavement and straightened his body. I helped an elderly couple. They were okay, too. The husband gave me a bright toothless smile and told me that his wrist hurt. I made a makeshift sling for him and moved on to a car full of college students. I saw CJ chanting over the young man as he smoothed him out over the roadway. The young showed no signs of life.
The driver of the college kids had a gash in his head but the passengers were all okay. CJ was still chanting when I got the first aid kit from his truck and tripped over debris in the road as I caught a glimpse of his eyes. The hazels took on a strange hue, like fire was burning in them. I watched while cajoling the students into action and directing them to those who needed help. By the time I cleaned and bandaged the driver, whose name was Marty from Kenosha, CJ was slumped over the young man’s lifeless body. This was the one fatality, I noted and CJ’s grief was tangible. His face was sweaty like he had just run a marathon. I knelt beside them and nearly fell over when the young man opened his eyes and blinked several times.
CJ was unmoving. The sorcerer’s eye cooled to an obsidian cast that stared, soulless, as the man began to stir. CJ was completely depleted of energy but the young man lived. I sat back and stared in awe at the miracle that I had just witnessed. I realized just how exhausted he was when the music in my head faded in and out like poor radio reception. Short blips of his thoughts escaped and entered my mind. This was his first successful healing, I gathered. He had rejected his natural gifts for so long that he hadn’t thought of the consequences of turning them on.
“The first rule of the Shaman is to do no harm,” he said, full of regret. Rising slowly, he walked to the car in a trance-like state, overwhelmed by the magnitude of his powers. We sat on the side of the road as the mess surrounding us was set to rights. Cars rolled upright, wounds ceased their bleeding, crumpled bumpers straightened, people returned to their cars and before long, traffic had resumed to normal. “With great gifts comes even greater responsibility.”
I waited until he was completely calm before I asked him the question. I was being totally selfish but I had to know. I dared to ask “can you heal a vampire?” He pulled out into traffic in dead silence. I tried to delve further into his mind but the music was back and he shielded me, too.
We headed south toward New Orleans. I dozed off and slept for a while. He even let me drive while he rested. Finally, he responded to my question. “I cannot do anything with the dead except bury them. Even if I could, I would not.” He was not angry, just direct. “Our journey today should have taught us not to mess with the natural order of things. Sometimes you have to let things be.” We pulled over to a rest stop for gas and to talk. “For every action, there is an equal or stronger reaction,” he told me “A domino effect that sometimes cannot be reversed.”
“I get that,” I said. That expressway was a complete disaster. “Can I at least see my friend?” I had the crazy idea that maybe my presence could help Bill somehow. CJ pressed his lips in a hard line. In a swift action he reached both arms across the car. I saw his lips quirk into a half smile just before he embraced me and then we melted into nothing.
We reappeared at Dr. Ludwig’s Supe Sanctuary. It looked like a converted warehouse. It was a brightly lit, cavernous space with about ten, white, box-like individual rooms that reminded me of doublewide trailer homes. Each room was light tight and had a single door, a small space, just big enough for one or two people to stand in and then another door that opened into the patient’s room.
“Can you wait here for me, please?” I said, just before turning the knob. He gave an infinitesimal nod, resisting a protective instinct, and exited the space.
A rank stench assaulted my nostrils when I opened the door to the room where William Thomas Compton was laid to rest for the day. My eyes burned from the putrid scent that was making my skin crawl. I was glad that I took a deep breath to brace myself just before entering. I didn’t think that my oxygen reserve was for this. The room was quiet, illuminated only by the dim lights of a machine that appeared to be filtering new blood and removing the old. It cycled every few moments, making a churning sound.
“The silver contaminates the blood soon after it enters him and we have to clean and replace it or he will die.” Dr. Ludwig’s voice piped through a speaker that was clamped on the bed. She could tell that I was gagging and directed me to a salve on a nearby table which I quickly opened and rubbed the substance under my nose. It smelled like the vapor rub my grandmother used to put on my chest when I had a cold. It worked to block the scent.
A catatonic Bill lay, completely emaciated and still, on a large bed. He looked worse than dead. The bones of his face protruded and his shoulders, once broad and thick, were now like sticks. My hands trembled when I rubbed his dark hair, which seemed much thinner. His eyelids flickered at my touch and he tried to speak through cracked lips. “Bill” I said through tears. “I’ve been trying to see you for a long time.” I had to look away for a moment so that I wouldn’t completely break down. His glamour was indeed, definitely down. His lifeless eyes were black as pitch on pale grayish skin. The absence of the white in his eyes made him look demonic. His teeth were different too. All were sharp and narrow, like a carnivorous creature. One descriptive phrase came to my mind, Nosferatu. Somehow, I still knew it was him.
My beautiful, strong, invincible Bill was a monster. Yet, I didn’t flee. I only thought of how I must have looked when he and Niall found me all battered, bruised and lingering at death’s door. Bill didn’t run away from me, then. He entered my torture chamber like a dream, placed a finger over his mouth to silence me. Then he and my great-grandfather killed my captors. I would have certainly died, had he not fed me right then and there. That vision is how I remembered him and what I held close to my heart.
I knew no charms or chants that could break death’s grip on my friend. I did possess something that I was certain would bring him some relief. I composed myself and thought of a plan to help Bill. Emotionally unstable is not a good foundation to build a plan on and I probably should have thought it through. Fearing that I would chicken out of what needed to be done, I gathered my resolve and searched through drawers in the dark room until I found the proper tools. “Dr. Ludwig, I could use your assistance,” I announced to the speaker. She gave a loud protest but I continued. I placed a clip on the tube that pumped blood into Bill’s vein to pause the flow. I opened a sterile scalpel, made two, quick puncture marks on my wrist and placed the open wound over Bill’s mouth. The smell of my blood animated him immediately. My blood trickled into his mouth. His weak and fragile state broke my heart as he mewed against my arm, licking gently. My blood was helping him. I could tell when his hands rose to cradle my arm. It was so sweet and infantile. I felt a maternal pride knowing that my blood was nourishing Bill, saving Bill. He moaned deep in his throat, suckling harder and harder and then dagger like teeth opened wide and then clamped onto my arm. I flinched at the initial strike and then planted my feet, determined to bear the temporary discomfort that could prolong his existence.
With every pull, I could see his strength returning as mine’s diminished. It hurt like a b*tch. When his color became rosy, I tried to reclaim my limb but he was in self-preservation mode. His eyes, now back to their natural color, looked up at me with regret. “Bloodlust! No, no, no, no baby, please.” I cried in a faint, shaky voice. Bill had nearly drained me in bloodlust before. This time he may just succeed, I thought, as his head lifted off the bed, following me to the floor.
Dr. Ludwig burst through the door so fast that the outer door hadn’t had time to close. It spilled sunlight into the room, burning Bill on the face and arm. The shock of it broke his trance and he retreated into the darkness with a loud hiss. She leaned over and pulled me to safety, just in time to avoid Bill as he reached a weak hand down to the floor to grab me again. “Mr. Compton has not moved since he was brought here,” she said, gaping in amazement. “The Sheriff will kill me for allowing him to harm you.”
“Bill didn’t mean to harm me,” I cried. “It’s my fault. Bill . . . Bill!”
“Is about to meet his true maker.” A mellow voice interjected. Bill’s body flew against the wall, slamming so hard that his blood splattered on Dr. Ludwig and me. The hobbit sized doctor was a lot stronger than she looked. She propped me up against the wall, fussing over my mangled wrist.
I was fighting to stay on the right side of consciousness when I saw CJ standing still in the doorway, oozing menace. The door slammed and locked on its own volition as objects hurled themselves at Bill. The room went dark for a moment and I strained to make out anything. I could see a silhouette of Bill due to that faint vampire glow that returned when he fed from me. I could hear things slamming into to him and grunts of agony. I crawled around in the darkness; my hands stretched forth, feeling and moving toward the spot where I last saw CJ.
I heard a click and the room became dimly lit. Dr. Ludwig had turned on a light over the sink. I was at CJ’s feet. I expected to see an enraged, crazed, lunatic, sorcerer, fully animated, flailing his hand as he cast wards over the room to annihilate the opposition. What I saw was an unruffled CJ leaning back on the door, arms folded, relaxed. He looked down at me, his eyes full of pity and he pulled me to him.
“Sorry, love but the sorcerer likes to go hem.” He caught himself and everything paused in the air. “You shouldn’t have to witness this.” The lock disengaged and the door opened. Bill struggled to his feet. His body was covered with gashes that started to heal before my eyes. The room looked like a tornado had ripped through it. Even the built in cabinet had been ripped from the wall and was in splintered pieces strewn over the floor. Splinters or stakes, I thought.
The momentary reprieve gave Bill the chance to regain his strength. He let out a low growl and crouched down, preparing to retaliate. “CJ!” I whispered, my eyes pleading. I circled my arms around his neck and buried my face in his chest. “Let’s just go.” I was strategically placing myself in between him and Bill in the hope that CJ would follow my lead.
He responded with a gentle caress in the small of my back. “When you put it that way,” he said in my ear and I was certain that he would comply. Apparently, no one had ever taught the vampire the valuable lesson, that when you are in it up to your ears, keep your mouth SHUT!
“Darling?” Bill said and stood to his feet. “Did I? . . . Sookie, I’m sorry.” His voice was dry and raspy and it made my name echo like a growl. My name coming out of Bill’s mouth lit a fuse.
“Damn!” Was just not colorful enough word but I used it anyway when I felt CJ’s cool demeanor change in an instant and his body tensed against mine. I didn’t move. The pieces of wood on the floor started to shimmy as a result of CJ’s internal debate that was nearly palpable; Decisions, decisions. Stake the vampire or hug the girl. He inhaled my scent and nearly lost his composure. Hug the girl, stake the vampire. Stake the vampire! She feels really good and soft. Stake him. Killing her hero would be a definite deal breaker.
It was my turn to be cool. I wasn’t even rattled when I saw the wooden stakes, too numerous to count, rise from the floor and point in Bill’s direction. I reached my hand up and softly cradled the side of CJ’s face while whispering so very close in the opposite ear. “CJ, Please.” I rubbed my cheek to his. My behavior was shameful and misleading but desperate times call for desperate measures.
He took a few deep breaths before responding just as gently in my ear, “Touché, Pussy Cat!” I let out a small sigh of relief, as the pieces of wood stilled. There was a groaning sound coming from Bill. I turned to see him setting the room to rights. The parts that was salvageable, anyway. Bill’s body moved mechanically and he didn’t utter another word, nor did he meet my eyes. He even made the bed, got under the covers and returned to a peaceful daytime sleep.
“You don’t play fair, Princess. You are willing to give much to save this one.” I refused to give a thought to that comment. Bill had given even more to save me.
“Thank you.” I gave CJ an appreciative peck on the cheek.
He laughed low and rumbling, “It’s poor pay, but I’ll take it . . . for now.” He sifted us from the room, rambling on about how he can’t take my *ss anywhere and he should have left me at the house.
I heard Dr. Ludwig’s distant voice say “It appears, Mr. Compton, that you have just frightened away your antidote,” amid Bill’s animalistic roar. It was a strong, healthy, rejuvenated bellow and I smiled, in spite of myself. Our surroundings turned into the dark SUV at the road stop, my heart was pounding in my ears.
“Safe Word. Get One!” CJ teased, trying to make light of the grim situation. (Where had I heard that before?) My arm had been mutilated and I had no vamp blood to help me heal. CJ chanted a healing spell over my injury. The throbbing pain subsided and my wound felt as if it was knitting back together. He waited until I calmed down, a light “I told you so” lingered in the atmosphere. Well, it was more like a “WTF” screaming in my ear.
By nightfall, we were in New Orleans and dining at the Carmichael compound. I hated showing up like this. Copley had his personal physician attend to me and give a blood transfusion. I was too tired to ask if it was synthetic blood or the real McCoy. Dealing with CJ who pretended to not be pissed and his dad, Copley, Sr., who clearly wanted me to know he was pissed, made digesting our seven-course meal very difficult. I loathed being in this position and braced myself for the onslaught of insults to be broadcasted from Copley’s brain. It never came. In fact, I didn’t get a reading at all and was quite puzzled.
“Amelia,” was the only word he’d said.
“Cuppy is well and warded,” CJ responded. He was a little nervous around his father but nothing like Amelia.
“Watch your tone, Son!” Mr. Carmichael said in a low growl that I had never heard come from him but I somehow knew he had it in him. “I brought you in this world . . .” The room got quiet. Copley remained stoic, his hands folded on the table near his plate of untouched food.
“and I’ll take you out!” I finished in my head. If I had a dime for every time I heard that threat. I wondered if CJ had charms for enraged daddies, cause he was in deep dew dew.
“Cuppy” CJ began his defense.
Is the one I sent you to see after,” Copley interrupted, stretching out the words through gritted teeth. “It seems that you have been … um … distracted.” CJ was put off by his father’s questioning and dropped my shields. I realized when his father’s thoughts started to seep in. Copley was convinced that I was a devil woman who had seduced CJ and that’s why he was helping me. He also still suspected that Amelia and I were lovers (and nothing would convince him otherwise) which is why she followed me to Bon Temps in the first place, his brain let out in a burst, like cannon balls.
“New Orleans seems to be on the mend,” I said. I wanted to get CJ out of the line of fire. “How’s your partnership with the vamps working out?” I had used Eric to set up a meeting with him and the new regime when the Nevada Vamps took over Louisiana. Copley was a builder and it promised to be a lucrative venture. I thought it would halt his attack but, instead, my question incensed him.
“My intuition, which is never wrong, tells me that she is fleeing from trouble. Otherwise you would have not brought her here dripping blood and smelling of death and decay,” His eyes looked over me and paused at my injured wrist. “What I cannot understand is what would make you remove Ms. Stackhouse from danger and leave my baby in that hell hole?” He was yelling. I gained a new respect for Mr. Carmichael at that moment. He cared about his children and I understood his anger. CJ lowered his head in response to the rebuke and my head followed. I was so immersed in my own issues, that I stole my roomie’s life raft. The truth is, I had a lot of enemies that could harm her.
“I’ll go back to get her,” we both said, simultaneously. This seemed to enrage him more. His eyes glowed with heat and he looked as if he was ready to spit fire. “So I can have your safety on my conscious?” He was getting louder and breathing so hard that his nostrils flared. CJ looked over to me and hummed a familiar melody and I followed his lead.
“Cope,” I used the name he’d always asked me use in the past. He thought it was cool and I hoped that it would put him at ease. “My life is not in danger. I just needed to get away.” That part was mostly true. I tried to assure him. “My brother lives nearby. He is a strong Fae Wolf. He can and will protect Amelia.” I promised with pride. I would call him. CJ stepped away from the table and walked over to the window as he dialed Amelia.
“Like he protected you?” Copley mumbled.
“Hey Sis, time to lock it down! We had to dip. It’s koo tho. Pops is bout to blow cuz I left you. Secure the wards just in case fang boy decides to pay a visit.” He blurted the order into the phone. I could hear Amelia’s muffled response. CJ sounded so discombobulated and out of character. “No doubt he’ll come at our heads . . .” Since Eric was cursed by the witches, he hated wards and would not be coming near my farmhouse if I wasn’t there. “What? WTF! Both of them?” He continued to talk to Amelia and I turned my attention back to Mr. Carmichael who had turned beet red and was making strange noises. I also noticed that the servants moved back to the wall and froze in place. They didn’t even look at the spectacle and kept their minds blank. They were apparently used to this behavior.
Copley began to ramble and flail. His thoughts became ensnarled. I turned away from him, trying to find something to help, and then I heard a familiar gloppy sound. Like a viscous liquid containing nuts and bolts being stirred together in a pot. The lights flickered off and I waited to hear what was happening because I refused to look. The sound of heavy breathing loomed from high above me. Grunts and growls made my heart palpitate with violent thumps. CJ the phone for a moment, terror blanketing his face.