Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
Happy New Year to you all! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! My book, In Your Shoes, is now available through Liquid Silver Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online retailers. It’s a story about a couple on the verge of divorce, trying to understand each other. It’s funny and sad and everything in between, with just a hint of magic … and as always, a happy ever after.
This chapter is short and plot-filled. Brace yourself. All mistakes are my own.
Sookie frowned. “The queen?” She scrambled away from Eric to try and reach the phone, sliding onto the couch. “Is she calling to find out where we are so she can kill me?”
Eric laughed. “She knows where we are. Maybe she has news about Compton.”
The phone rang and vibrated again. A smile spread across her face as she imagined getting to tell Bill that his ancestral home burned to the ground. Guilt nagged at her for thinking something so mean, but memories of what he’d put her through put those feelings to rest.
“Hello?” Eric said, answering the phone. He nodded. “Yes. I know the way. Of course.” He looked at Sookie and said, “Give her another night.” He disconnected. “We’re going to see Compton.”
“Why is she helping me see Bill? She could’ve just said no.”
“Because she wants you to work for her and after finding out how angry you were last night, she’s willing to do just about anything to make that happen.”
“She’s offering a lot.”
Eric shrugged. “Not really.”
She scoffed. “Excuse me, Mr. Moneybags, but two hundred grand is a lot of money.”
“I’m not saying it’s nothing, I just happen to think you’re worth more.”
“You mentioned that before, that I had options.”
“I could support you,” he offered.
She lifted her eyebrows. “I’m not a free-loader.”
“I didn’t say it would be free,” he teased.
She shook her head trying to keep their conversation on track. “I feel like I owe her something for letting me see Bill.”
“She doesn’t care about Compton. She’s trying to make you happy by giving you what you asked for.”
“I need to go, but I’m not happy about going to see him,” she said.
“Do you want to go now?” he asked.
Sookie took a deep breath. “I’m nervous.”
“Don’t be. I’ll be right there with you.”
That was all she needed to calm her racing heart. That and a little protection.
* * * *
An hour later, Sookie was finally ready to go. Her leg bounced as they made their way out of his neighborhood and drove to the edge of the bustling city. Eric slowed as they approached a small booth smack dab in the middle of an elegant fence enclosing what appeared to be a high-end gated community.
“Northman and Stackhouse,” he said to the vampire behind the glass.
The man nodded and the gate opened.
“Where are we?” Sookie whispered. The lights from his car swept along the road ahead of them. Lavish mansions dotted the perfect landscape.
“The Containment Area.” He paused and then went on, “This is Louisiana’s vampire prison.”
Sookie laughed, sure he was messing with her. “These mansions hold prisoners?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Human authorities have no knowledge of this place, or any of the other prisons we run nation-wide.”
“Oh. So you make it look like a regular neighborhood so no one suspects anything?”
“What if a prisoner escapes?” A shudder worked through her body as she thought of a pissed off vampire let loose on a city full of unsuspecting humans.
“They don’t.” He wouldn’t look at her. “That’s the one.” He pointed through the windshield at a benign, beige home. “That’s where Compton is.”
She swallowed hard. “I want to talk to him. Alone. Okay?”
“Alone? No. That’s not a good idea.”
“He knows who you are, right? He won’t talk to me if you’re there. I just know it. Please?” she pleaded with him.
Eric sighed and then nodded. “Okay, but I’m going in with you as far as I can.”
They followed the curved walkway to the house and Eric rang the doorbell. The chimes hadn’t finished reverberating through the windows when a petite vampire opened the door, dressed in a crinkly white suit from head to toe, a hood covering their face. Despite the vamp’s slight frame, they blocked the entrance with ease.
“Northman and Stackhouse,” Eric said again.
The guard’s shoulders relaxed. They nodded, moved to the side, and said in a soft, feminine voice, “We’ve been expecting you. Follow me.” She led them past a bank of monitors, each one showing a camera feed of a jail cell. When they reached a room full of white suits, she finally removed her hood, exposing vibrant red hair. “Part of his treatment is food depravation. For your safety, you must wear protective gear before you enter his cell.” By the end of her sentence, she was lisping through her fangs.
Sookie gave her a nervous smile. “Will Eric be able to go with me?”
“I’m not sure we have a suit big enough for him,” the woman said, looking him up and down and then scanning the racks of clothes. “You’ll have to make do.”
Eric shrugged and stepped into the suit, zipping it up the front. It hugged his body and exposed the bottom six inches of his pants.
The woman handed Sookie a matching outfit, which Sookie pulled on over her clothes. Within seconds, it was uncomfortably hot. “What’s this made of?”
“Tyvek. It’s not breathable, so our detainees can’t smell what we’ve been eating, or what they might want to eat,” she added giving Sookie a meaningful glance.
Beads of sweat formed around Sookie’s hairline. “Great. Can we go before I cook inside this thing?”
The guard nodded and unlocked a series of doors leading down to the basement. A long, concrete hallway stretched out in two directions. She nodded to the left. “Compton is in the north wing.”
Eric stayed close to Sookie, which was just fine with her. Sweat trickled down her back. Partly from anticipation of finally facing Bill, but mostly because she was encased in plastic.
Another guard waited outside the north wing. Their guide motioned for them to go ahead without her.
“We’re here to see Bill Compton,” Sookie said to the vampire.
“Hoods on,” he said in a gruff voice.
Eric and Sookie both complied.
The guard glanced at Eric and said, “Once you’re inside, don’t touch the door. It’s lined with silver.”
Sookie’s heart hammered in her chest. She took a deep breath and nodded to the guard, who led them to the farthest room from his station. Six rooms lined the walls, three on each side. Each had a window the size of a fist. While the guard unlocked the cell, she caught a glimpse of Bill sleeping on a long bench against the back wall.
“Visitor,” the guard shouted as he pushed the door into the cell and then stalked back to his station.
Bill didn’t move. Sookie took a deep breath and stepped inside. She held her hand up to Eric, stopping him from following her, silently pleading with him to let her go in alone. Eric nodded and wedged his shoe in the door so it wouldn’t close all the way.
Sookie shuffled a little closer and noticed a cuff on Bill’s ankle restraining him to the floor. “Hi, Bill.”
Bill sat up slowly and looked at her as if she were a mirage. His dark eyes glazed over as if he couldn’t really see her. “Sookie? Is it really you, sweetheart?”
She nodded and clenched her fists. She wished Eric were with her. She wanted to see his face, to feel his touch, but she didn’t dare look back at where he was waiting.
“Where have you been?” Bill asked. He didn’t stand up or make any effort to reach out to her.
“They took me. It was horrible. My gran was worried sick. How long have you been here?”
“Four days.” He glanced up at the camera pointed down at them, his movements sluggish. “They’ve kept me locked in here without food for four days.”
It was then that Sookie noticed the dark circles under his eyes and the sunken flesh below his cheekbones. His skin was also more pale than usual. Faint scars marred his forearms.
“Four days?” She tilted her head, counting all the days she’d been at the cabin. “What about the others?”
His face shifted from anger to artificial sweetness. “I was staying with a friend.”
A friend. She wanted to spit in his face, but she needed more information from him. “Why didn’t you come rescue me?”
“I wanted to,” he said, “but I was running for my life!”
“I thought you said you were with a friend. They tortured me,” she said, hoping to get a real reaction out of him. Nothing.
Sookie forced a few tears out of her eyes. Not out of sadness, but out of anger. “It was terrible. The pain was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. They said I had to endure it because of your blood. Because you had too much control over me.”
He slumped against the wall and shook his head. “Not enough,” he whispered.
She ignored his comment and went on. “It’s a good thing you were with a friend. Your house is gone.”
He frowned. “Gone?”
“Burned to the ground. Everyone wondered if you were inside. That would’ve been terrible.”
“My home… Are you quite sure?” he asked with far more concern than he’d shown for her.
She nodded and forced herself to ask the next question. “Were you there that night the Rats attacked me?”
“Of course I was! I made sure they wouldn’t bother you ever again.” He clicked his tongue. “You probably don’t remember very much.”
“No,” she said, staring a hole into the top of his head. “Before they attacked me. Were you there?”
His silence proved his guilt.
“Why? They almost killed me.”
“I wouldn’t let them kill you!” he said defensively.
“No, of course not.” She chose her words carefully from the rehearsed speech she’d been practicing for a week. “You didn’t want a dead telepath, that’s not what the queen asked for,” she added casually.
“She would’ve been furious, not that I cared much about what she wanted. I had my own plans for you,” he whispered. His addled brain didn’t seem to be processing how she knew so much. “You wouldn’t be any good dead.”
She bit back her anger and asked her next question. “Why did you agree to take me to Fangtasia?”
“I wanted to have a little fun.”
“Fun?” she asked as calmly as possible. “Trying to make Sabine jealous?”
He licked his lips. “It worked,” he whispered as he caressed the scars on his arms. “She would’ve enjoyed you, too. I was going to share.”
Her stomach churned and anger boiled up in her like lava. She lunged toward him and slapped his face as hard as she could. For the first time he looked at her. Really looked at her. She pushed the hood off her head and loomed over him. “Apologize,” she said between clenched teeth.
“You hurt me.”
“No. I never got a chance,” he answered coolly. “I had plans for you, but you ruined them. Better late than never, right?”
A chill went down her spine and the next thing she knew, he had his hand around her throat. Even in his weakened state, her soft tissue was no match for his iron grip.
He ripped open the front of her jumpsuit and blouse, inhaled deeply and scowled at her. “Who is he, whore?” He crushed her throat as he pulled her on to his lap.
She tried to pry his fingers off, but couldn’t. Her scream died on her lips as he sank his fangs into her neck.
Read on … Relapse: Chapter 6