“Come,” Pam ordered brusquely as she placed her arm around Sookie’s waist and propelled the trembling blonde through the crowd toward Eric’s office. The sudden change in her demeanor, as well as the unpleasant stench of the acrid waves of fear rolling off her, convinced Pam that she needed to bring this situation to Eric’s attention immediately.
If something really was wrong with the human, and she didn’t inform her Maker, he’d never let her live it down…possibly literally.
Sookie couldn’t believe this was happening. Why, of all nights, did that horrible drainer have to be in the bar tonight? She really didn’t want to expose herself, and had worked so hard for her entire life to keep her secret safe. Besides, there was no way of knowing what could come of this. Would her own life be in danger now? What would these vampires expect of her? How much could she trust them? But…there was no way she could keep quiet about this. The horrifying, revolting things she’d seen in that man’s cruel, cruel mind…
After a perfunctory knock on his door, Pam strongly guided Sookie into Eric’s office, and was promptly rewarded with a glare of displeasure from her Maker. One look at Sookie’s face, however, had him quickly ending his call.
Feeling trapped and torn, and guilty because she felt torn, Sookie was very glad the couch in Eric’s office was so handy.
When she abruptly sat on the sofa instead of answering him, he turned his glare to his child and demanded succinctly, “Pamela?”
“I don’t know, Eric. We were sitting at the bar talking when she suddenly…” Pam broke off when Sookie grabbed her arm.
Both vampires looked down at her and were startled to see a tear rolling down her cheek. Not knowing where the impetus for such an action came from, Pam nonetheless covered Sookie’s hand with her own and patted it twice.
Eric knelt before the distraught blonde and took her other hand in his own. “Sookie,” he demanded harshly since her tears caused the most discomfiting sensation in his chest. Then in a softer voice, he tried again, “Sookie, what is it? You are safe here. What is wrong?”
With difficulty Sookie attempted to calm herself down, then sniffed. Pam reached into a pocket hidden in her vamp-gear skirt and handed over a folded tissue. Momentarily startled out of her fearful reaction, Sookie took the tissue and gave Pam a puzzled look.
“We must always be prepared. Breathers tend to leak and smudge,” she deadpanned.
Sookie gave a weak laugh as she dabbed at her face and nose. When the hand holding the tissue started trembling again, Pam sighed and quickly disappeared. Feeling embarrassed, terrified, and fighting a very strong urge to flee, Sookie did her best to memorize every wrinkle in the tissue.
Eric squeezed the hand he was still holding to gain her attention. What in seven hells was wrong with the girl? If someone had done something to her…
“Sookie, if you don’t tell me what is wrong, I can’t fix it, now can I. Whatever it is, we will keep you safe.”
Straightening her shoulders and dabbing her nose one last time, Sookie looked Eric straight in the eyes. “Promise? No matter what?”
Mystified and intrigued by the entire situation, Eric nodded. For some reason the slight trembling in her lower lip was killing him. “Yes, I promise. Now, tell me what’s going on.” He struggled to keep his voice level. Coddling anyone, particularly a human, was never his strong suit, especially when his curiosity was killing him.
A moment later Pam returned, and handed Sookie an orange colored drink. “It’s a screwdriver. Apparently it has something called vitamin C in it, so it’s healthy. Drink.”
After doing just that, Sookie sat the now half-empty glass to the side, and cleared her throat. She looked at Eric, pointedly glanced at Pam, then back to Eric.
“She will guard your secret as well. Now, damn it, what’s going on?” Eric theorized that he had conquered several small villages with less effort.
Sookie took a deep breath, then dove in. “First of all, there’s a man at a table out there, mid-twenties, has on an old black t-shirt and new black jeans. He’s brown-haired, and wears wire-rimmed glasses. He’s sitting alone toward the back, and he’s a drainer.”
Both vampires automatically bared their fangs and hissed at this revelation. A split-second later Pam disappeared through the door.
Eric, still kneeling, fangs still bared, raised up before her and gently grabbed her upper arms.
“Tell me how you knew this. Now.”
Immediately realizing that he was unintentionally scaring her, he added a belated, “Please.”
Sookie squeezed her eyes shut for a second, opened them back up to focus on his beautiful blue gaze, then threw caution to the wind when the floor didn’t conveniently open up to swallow her.
“I’m a telepath.”
Still holding her gaze with his own, Eric immediately stilled as only a vampire can for a very long moment. Finally he nodded as if he had figured something out to his satisfaction, then stood up to quickly pace the small confines of the office.
“What,” he answered somewhat distractedly.
He whipped back around to face her. “More? What else can you do,” he demanded with deceptive calmness.
“Oh, not me. Her. That drainer I told you about? He has a female vampire in a room somewhere and they’re draining her.” Sookie’s voice had risen in agitation and she took a moment to collect herself. “From what I could see in his mind, she’s a little taller than me, has dark eyes and long, dark hair, and she’s absolutely beautiful. She looks tan for a vampire,” she paused for a minute, the continued with a shaky voice, “and that guy in the bar? He and a couple of other men captured her right outside this building.”
“Felicia,” he growled out. At her inquiring look, he clarified. “That call was from one of her nest mates to report her missing.”
Sookie picked up her drink and finished it while Eric paced. With an intense glare in her direction, he suddenly broke the brief silence.
“Can you hear vampires?”
“No and thank God, too. It’s bad enough hearing humans, even the fuzzy ones.”
Sookie was fervently thankful that she couldn’t read vampire minds. She couldn’t imagine what kinds of thoughts they might have, but she could definitely imagine a much-shorter and quite painful future for herself if she could read their minds.
At any rate, at this point she was just glad that Eric had retracted his fangs even if he did keep looking at her weird.
He stared intently at her for another very long moment, then broke eye contact to face the door. Seconds later Pam returned and stated quite happily, “The target is acquired and secured, Master.”
He nodded, then stilled in thought.
“Sookie, how does your telepathy work?”
She sighed. The very few times anyone had shown any interest in her ‘disability’, well, ‘hidden talent’ as she was trying to consider it these days, was long ago and far away. But, as of tonight, her talent was no long quite so…hidden, anyway.
“It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. I just…I hear what people are thinking, and sometimes if they’re thinking about something that they’ve seen, I’ll see that image in my mind as well. But whatever I hear, or see, it has to be something that’s crossing their mind right that second.”
“So you can only hear or see what they’re thinking about in that moment? You can’t search their memory?”
“Nope. Unless I’m blocking them with my shields, I only hear or see what’s crossing their mind the second that I’m listening to them.”
“Shields?” Pam couldn’t help but ask. It seemed this little blonde bloodbag might be even more interesting than she’d previously thought. She sat down on the other end of the couch and turned so she could watch the proceedings.
“That’s what I call them. It took me forever to learn how to try to block other people’s thoughts, and even now they don’t always block every thought, especially if I’m tired.”
“And that’s how you heard the drainer,” Eric stated more than asked.
Sookie nodded, then blurted out as she stood up abruptly, “We need to help the woman they’ve got, this Felicia. They’ve got tubes running out of her arms, Eric!”
Pam cocked her head sideways, surprised that the human was worrying so much about a vampire she’d never even met. She was worried, too, of course. Felicia was a promising bartender.
Eric was surprised at Sookie’s vehemence as well. From his thousand-plus years of experience, he knew that humans generally didn’t care this much for others of their own kind, much less a vampire they didn’t know. His Sookie was definitely proving to be one of a kind.
“Calm down, Sookie. We will retrieve Felicia. For now tell me again exactly what you heard from the drainer.”
Feeling a little stronger and a bit calmer, Sookie stood up to pace while she recounted what she’d ‘heard’ to the two vampires giving her their unnervingly rapt attention. When she finished, Pam asked, “Can you, erm, “hear” anything from in here?”
Her small burst of energy didn’t last long. Suddenly feeling the weight of the events of the evening, Sookie once again sat back down on the couch. She closed her eyes, folded her arms around her waist, and concentrated on scanning the humans in the bar area.
Noticing her exhaustion and regretting his part in causing it, Eric sat beside her and placed his hand on her knee. Sookie gasped, and her eyes flew up to meet his. Eric jerked his hand away, wondering if the contact somehow disturbed the telepath.
“Wow! No, wait, don’t,” Sookie cried disjointedly. She reached over and, to his shock, took his hand firmly in hers. She closed her eyes and refocused.
Sookie couldn’t believe how much easier it was to focus when she was touching Eric. When he’d placed his hand on her knee, it seemed like a lot of the “background noise” suddenly just faded away, leaving the mental voices she wanted to hear even clearer. She was focusing so strongly that it took her a minute to notice that he was gently smoothing his thumb in small circles over the back of her hand.
Finally she opened her eyes and declared, “I didn’t hear any other drainers, or anything else about Felicia, but there is a group of under-age girls…they’re wearing black and dark purple fake leather…weird eyeliners…and all three of them have super-thin eyebrows.” She glanced at Pam and shrugged. Teenage concepts of beauty eluded her.
Pam nodded and vamp-sped out of the office.
Eric leaned back beside her and kept hold of her hand. She wasn’t sure he even realized that he was still rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, but she certainly wasn’t going to complain.
“This telepathy…it’s hard for you, isn’t it?” His quiet voice interrupted the silence.
Sookie nodded. She was exhausted, confused, worried, thirsty, and starting to get hungry again. “Yeah, it is. It wears me out, and then I have to live with whatever I see or hear from someone else’s brain.”
Eric mentally shuddered. He could just imagine the foul miasma brewing in some people’s minds, and hated to think of some of the things she’d seen or heard in her young life.
“And you’ve always had this gift? Even since you were a child?”
“Gift?” Sookie snorted. “Not hardly. But, yeah, I’ve been cursed since I can remember. I used to consider it a disability, and to some extent it still is since it can sometimes make my life so much harder than it would be without it, but I’ve been trying to think of it more as a hidden talent here lately. I don’t guess it’s so hidden anymore, though, is it,” she finished dejectedly.
Eric turned to face her. “Sookie, I gave you my word, and I will keep it. Your secret is safe with me.” He needed to erase that worried, hopeless look from her face.
Not completely believing him, yet not automatically doubting him, either, Sookie simply nodded.
Eric could sense her continuing doubts, but now wasn’t the time to assuage them. He briefly squeezed her hand, the rose.
“I need to speak with Pam, then I’ll drive you home.”