All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #7)

1,567
05.03.2019

"I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY." I UNLOCKED MY car and tossed my purse inside. Then I turned to face Pam, though I was tempted to get in the car and go home.

"We didn't know," the vampire said. She walked slowly, so I could see her coming. Sam had left two lawn chairs out in front of his trailer, set at right angles to the rear of the bar, and I got them out of his yard and set them by the car. Pam took the hint and perched in one while I took the other.

I drew a deep, silent breath. I had wondered ever since I returned from New Orleans if all the vamps in Shreveport had known Bill's secret purpose in courting me. "I wouldn't have told you," Pam said, "even if I had known Bill had been charged with a mission, because…vampires first." She shrugged. "But I promise you that I didn't know."

I bobbed my head in acknowledgment, and a little pocket of tension in me finally relaxed. But I had no idea how to respond.

"I must say, Sookie, that you have caused a tremendous amount of trouble in our area." Pam didn't seem perturbed by that; she was just stating a fact. I hardly felt I could apologize. "These days Bill is full of anger, but he doesn't know who to hate. He feels guilty, and no one likes that. Eric is frustrated that he can't remember the time he was in hiding at your house, and he doesn't know what he owes you. He's angry that the queen has annexed you for her own purposes, through Bill, and thus poached on Eric's territory, as he sees it. Felicia thinks you are the bogeyman, since so many of the Fangtasia bartenders have died while you were around. Longshadow, Chow." She smiled. "Oh, and your friend, Charles Twining."

"None of that was my fault." I'd listened to Pam with growing agitation. It's so not good to have vampires angry with you. Even the current Fangtasia bartender, Felicia, was much stronger than I would ever be, and she was definitely the low vamp on the totem pole.

"I don't see that that makes any difference," Pam said, her voice curiously gentle. "Now that we know you have fairy blood, thanks to Andre, it would be easy to write all this off. But I don't think that's it, do you? I've known many humans descended from the fae, and none of them have been telepathic. I think that's just you, Sookie. Of course, knowing you have this streak of fairy makes one wonder how you would taste. I certainly enjoyed the sip I got when the maenad maimed you, though that was tainted with her poison. We love fairies, as you know."

"Love them to death," I said under my breath, but of course Pam heard.

"Sometimes," she agreed with a little smile. That Pam.

"So what's the bottom line here?" I was ready to go home and just be human, all by myself.

"When I say 'we' didn't know about Bill's agreement with the queen, that includes Eric," Pam said simply.

I looked down at my feet, struggling to keep my face under control.

"Eric feels especially angry about this," Pam said. She was picking her words now. "He is angry at Bill because Bill made an agreement with the queen that bypassed Eric. He is angry that he didn't discern Bill's plan. He is angry at you because you got under his skin. He is angry at the queen because she is more devious than he is. Of course, that's why she's the queen. Eric will never be a king, unless he can control himself better."

"You're really worried about him?" I'd never known Pam to be seriously concerned about much of anything. When she nodded, I found myself saying, "When did you meet Eric?" I'd always been curious, and tonight Pam seemed to be in a sharing mood.

"I met him in London the last night of my life." Her voice was level, coming out of the shadowy darkness. I could see half her face in the overhead security light, and she looked quite calm. "I risked everything for love. You'll laugh to hear this."

I wasn't remotely close to laughing.

"I was a very wild girl for my times. Young ladies weren't supposed to be alone with gentlemen, or any males, for that matter. A far cry from now." Pam's lips curved upward in a brief smile. "But I was a romantic, and bold. I slipped out of my house late at night to meet the cousin of my dearest friend, the girl who lived right next door. The cousin was visiting from Bristol, and we were very attracted to each other. My parents didn't consider him to be my equal in social class, so I knew they wouldn't let him court me. And if I were caught alone with him at night, it would be the end of me. No marriage, unless my parents could force him to wed me. So, no future at all." Pam shook her head. "Crazy to think of now. Those were the times women didn't have choices. The ironic part is, our meeting was quite innocent. A few kisses, a lot of sentimental claptrap, undying love. Yada yada yada."

I grinned at Pam, but she didn't look up to catch the smile.

"On my way back to my house, trying to move so silently through the garden, I met Eric. There was no way to slip silently enough to avoid him." For a long moment, she was quiet. "And it really was the end of me."

"Why'd he turn you?" I settled lower in my chair and crossed my legs. This was an unexpected and fascinating conversation.

"I think he was lonely," she said, a faint note of surprise in her voice. "His last companion had struck out on her own, since children can't stay with their maker for long. After a few years, the child must strike out on its own, though it may come back to the maker, and must if the maker calls."

"Weren't you angry with him?"

She seemed to be trying to remember. "At first, I was shocked," Pam said. "After he'd drained me, he put me in bed in my own room, and of course my family thought I'd died of some mysterious ailment, and they buried me. Eric dug me up, so I wouldn't wake up in my coffin and have to dig my own way out. That was a great help. He held me and explained it all to me. Up until the night I died, I'd always been a very conventional woman underneath my daring tendencies. I was used to wearing layers and layers of clothes. You would be amazed at the dress I died in: the sleeves, the trim. The fabric in the skirt alone could make you three dresses!" Pam looked fondly reminiscent, nothing more. "After I'd awakened, I discovered being a vampire freed some wild thing in me."

"After what he did, you didn't want to kill him?"

"No," she said instantly. "I wanted to have sex with him, and I did. We had sex many, many times." She grinned. "The tie between maker and child doesn't have to be sexual, but with us it was. That changed quite soon, actually, as my tastes broadened. I wanted to try everything I'd been denied in my human life."

"So you actually liked it, being a vampire? You were glad?"

Pam shrugged. "Yes, I've always loved being what I am. It took me a few days to understand my new nature. I'd never even heard of a vampire before I became one."

I couldn't imagine the shock of Pam's awakening. Her self-proclaimed quick adjustment to her new state amazed me.

"Did you ever go back to see your family?" I asked. Okay, that was tacky, and I regretted it as soon as the words passed my lips.

"I saw them from a distance, maybe ten years later. You understand, the first thing a new vampire needed to do was leave her home area. Otherwise she ran the risk of being recognized and hunted down. Now you can parade around as much as you like. But we were so secret, so careful. Eric and I headed out of London as quickly as we could go, and after spending a little time in the north of England while I became accustomed to my state, we left England for the continent."

This was gruesome but fascinating. "Did you love him?"

Pam looked a little puzzled. There was a tiny wrinkle in her smooth forehead. "Love him? No. We were good companions, and I enjoyed the sex and the hunting. But love? No." In the glare of the overhead security lights, which cast curious dark shadows in the corners of the lot, I watched Pam's face relax into its normal smooth lines. "I owe him my loyalty," Pam said. "I have to obey him, but I do it willingly. Eric is intelligent, ambitious, and very entertaining. I would be crumbled to nothing in my grave by now if he hadn't been watching me slip back to my house from meeting that silly young man. I went my own way for many, many years, but I was glad to hear from him when he opened the bar and called me to serve him."

Was it possible for anyone in the world to be as detached as Pam over the whole "I was murdered" issue? There was no doubt Pam relished being a vampire, seemed to genuinely harbor a mild contempt for humans; in fact, she seemed to find them amusing. She had thought it was hilarious when Eric had first exhibited feelings for me. Could Pam truly be so changed from her former self?

"How old were you, Pam?"

"When I died? I was nineteen." Not a flicker of feeling crossed her face.

"Did you wear your hair up every day?"

Pam's face seemed to warm a little. "Yes, I did. I wore it in a very elaborate style; my maid had to help me. I put artificial pads underneath my hair to give it height. And the underwear! You would laugh yourself sick to see me get into it."

As interesting as this conversation had been, I realized I was tired and ready to go home. "So the bottom line is, you're really loyal to Eric, and you want me to know that neither of you knew that Bill had a hidden agenda when he came to Bon Temps." Pam nodded. "So, you came here tonight to…?"

"To ask you to have mercy on Eric."

The idea of Eric needing my mercy had never crossed my mind. "That's as funny as your human underwear," I said. "Pam, I know you believe you owe Eric, even though he killed you – honey, he killed you – but I don't owe Eric a thing."

"You care for him," she said, and for the first time she sounded a little angry. "I know you do. He's never been so entangled in his emotions. He's never been at such a disadvantage." She seemed to gather herself, and I figured our conversation was over. We got up, and I returned Sam's chairs.

I had no idea what to say.

Fortunately, I didn't have to think of anything. Eric himself walked out of the shadows at the edge of the lot.

"Pam," he said, and that one word was loaded. "You were so late, I followed your trail to make sure all was well."

"Master," she said, which was something I'd never heard from Pam. She went down on one knee on the gravel, which must have been painful.

"Leave," Eric said, and just like that, Pam was gone.

I kept silent. Eric was giving me that vampiric fixed stare, and I couldn't read him at all. I was pretty sure he was mad – but about what, at whom, and with what intensity? That was the fun part of being with vampires, and the scary part of being with vampires, all at the same time.

Eric decided action would speak louder than words. Suddenly, he was right in front of me. He put a finger under my chin and lifted my face to his. His eyes, which looked simply dark in the irregular light, latched on to mine with an intensity that was both exciting and painful. Vampires; mixed feelings. One and the same.

Not exactly to my astonishment, he kissed me. When someone has had approximately a thousand years to practice kissing, he can become very good at it, and I would be lying if I said I was immune to such osculatory talent. My temperature zoomed up about ten degrees. It was everything I could do to keep from stepping into him, wrapping my arms around him, and stropping myself against him. For a dead guy, he had the liveliest chemistry – and apparently all my hormones were wide awake after my night with Quinn. Thinking of Quinn was like a dash of cold water.

With an almost painful reluctance, I pulled away from Eric. His face had a focused air, as if he was sampling something and deciding if it was good enough to keep.

"Eric," I said, and my voice was shaking. "I don't know why you're here, and I don't know why we're having all this drama."

"Are you Quinn's now?" His eyes narrowed.

"I'm my own," I said. "I choose."

"And have you chosen?"

"Eric, this is beyond gall. You haven't been dating me. You haven't given me any sign that was on your mind. You haven't treated me as though I had any significance in your life. I'm not saying I would have been open to those things, but I'm saying in their absence I've been free to find another, ah, companion. And so far, I like Quinn just fine."

"You don't know him any more than you really knew Bill."

That sliced down where it hurt.

"At least I'm pretty damn sure he wasn't ordered to get me in bed so I'd be a political asset!"

"It's better that you knew about Bill," Eric said.

"Yes, it's better," I agreed. "That doesn't mean I enjoyed the process."

"I knew that would be hard. But I had to make him tell you."

"Why?"

Eric seemed stumped. I don't know any other way to put it. He looked away, off into the darkness of the woods. "It wasn't right," he said at last.

"True. But maybe you just wanted to be sure I wouldn't ever love him again?"

"Maybe both things," he said.

There was a sharp moment of silence, as if something big was drawing in breath.

"Okay," I said slowly. This was like a therapy session. "You've been moody around me for months, Eric. Ever since you were…you know, not yourself. What's up with you?"

"Ever since that night I was cursed, I've wondered why I ended up running down the road to your house."

I took a step or two back and tried to pull some evidence, some indication of what he was thinking, from his white face. But it was no use.

It had never occurred to me to wonder why Eric had been there. I'd been so astounded over so many things that the circumstances of finding Eric alone, half naked, and clueless, early in the morning on the first day of the New Year, had been buried in the aftermath of the Witch War.

"Did you ever figure out the answer?" I asked, realizing after the words had left my mouth how stupid the question was.

"No," he said in a voice that was just short of a hiss. "No. And the witch who cursed me is dead, though the curse was broken. Now she can't tell me what her curse entailed. Was I supposed to look for the person I hated? Loved? Could it have been random that I found myself running out in the middle of nowhere…except that nowhere was on the way to your house?"

A moment of uneasy silence on my part. I had no idea what to say, and Eric was clearly waiting for a response.

"Probably the fairy blood," I said weakly, though I had spent hours telling myself that my fraction of fairy blood was not significant enough to cause more than a mild attraction on the part of the vampires I met.

"No," he said. And then he was gone.

"Well," I said out loud, unhappy with the quiver in my voice. "As exits go, that was a good one." It was pretty hard to have the last word with a vampire.