THE FIRST WEEK
"I feel bad that I'm leaving you like this," Amelia said. Her eyes were puffy and red. They'd been that way, off and on, ever since Tray Dawson's funeral.
"You have to do what you have to do," I said, giving her a very bright smile. I could read the guilt and shame and ever-present grief roiling around Amelia's mind in a ball of darkness. "I'm lots better," I reassured her. I could hear myself babbling cheerfully along, but I couldn't seem to stop. "I'm walking okay, and the holes are all filled in. See how much better?" I pulled down my jeans waistband to show her a spot that had been bitten out. The teeth marks were hardly perceptible, though the skin wasn't quite smooth and was visibly paler than the surrounding flesh. If I hadn't had a huge dose of vampire blood, the scar would've looked like a shark had bitten me.
Amelia glanced down and hastily away, as if she couldn't bear to see the evidence of the attack. "It's just that Octavia keeps e-mailing me and telling me I need to come home and accept my judgment from the witches' council, or what's left of it," she said in a rush. "And I need to check all the repairs to my house. And since there are a few tourists again, and people returning and rebuilding, the magic store's reopened. I can work there part-time. Plus, as much as I love you and I love living here, since Tray died ..."
"Believe me, I understand." We'd gone over this a few times.
"It's not that I blame you," Amelia said, trying to catch my eyes.
She really didn't blame me. Since I could read her mind, I knew she was telling me the truth.
Even I didn't totally blame myself, somewhat to my surprise.
It was true that Tray Dawson, Amelia's lover and a Were, had been killed while he'd been acting as my bodyguard. It was true that I'd requested a bodyguard from the Were pack nearest me because they owed me a favor and my life needed guarding. However, I'd been present at the death of Tray Dawson at the hands of a sword-wielding fairy, and I knew who was responsible.
So I didn't feel guilty, exactly. But I felt heartsick about losing Tray, on top of all the other horrors. My cousin Claudine, a full-blooded fairy, had also died in the Fae War, and since she'd been my real, true fairy godmother, I missed her in a lot of ways. And she'd been pregnant.
I had a lot of pain and regret of all kinds, physical and mental. While Amelia carried an armful of clothes downstairs, I stood in her bedroom, gathering myself. Then I braced my shoulders and lifted a box of bathroom odds and ends. I descended the stairs carefully and slowly, and I made my way out to her car. She turned from depositing the clothes across the boxes already stowed in her trunk. "You shouldn't be doing that!" she said, all anxious concern. "You're not healed yet."
"Not hardly. You always jump when someone comes into the room and surprises you, and I can tell your wrists hurt," she said. She grabbed the box and slid it into the backseat. "You still favor that left leg, and you still ache when it rains. Despite all that vamp blood."
"The jumpiness'll get better. As time passes, it won't be so fresh and at the front of my mind," I told Amelia. (If telepathy had taught me anything, it was that people could bury the most serious and painful of memories, if you gave them enough time and distraction.) "The blood is not just any vampire's. It's Eric's blood. It's strong stuff. And my wrists are a lot better." I didn't mention that the nerves were jumping around in them like hot snakes just at this moment, a result of their having been tied together tightly for several hours. Dr. Ludwig, physician to the supernatural, had told me the nerves - and the wrists - would be back to normal, eventually.
"Yeah, speaking of the blood ..." Amelia took a deep breath and steeled herself to say something she knew I wouldn't like. Since I heard it before she actually voiced it, I was able to brace myself. "Had you thought about ... Sookie, you didn't ask me, but I think you better not have any more of Eric's blood. I mean, I know he's your man, but you got to think about the consequences. Sometimes people get flipped by accident. It's not like it's a math equation."
Though I appreciated Amelia's concern, she'd trespassed into private territory. "We don't swap," I said. Much. "He just has a sip from me at, you know ... the happy moment." These days Eric was having a lot more happy moments than I was, sadly. I kept hoping the bedroom magic would return; if any male could perform sexual healing, that male would be Eric.
Amelia smiled, which was what I'd been aiming for. "At least ..." She turned away without finishing the sentence, but she was thinking, At least you feel like having sex.
I didn't so much feel like having sex as I felt like I ought to keep trying to enjoy it, but I definitely didn't want to discuss that. My ability to cast aside control, which is the key to good sex, had been pinched out of existence during the torture. I'd been absolutely helpless. I could only hope that I'd recover in that area, too. I knew Eric could feel my lack of completion. He'd asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to engage in sex. Nearly every time, I said yes, operating on the bicycle theory. Yes, I'd fallen off. But I was always willing to try to ride it again.
"So, how's the relationship doing?" she said. "Aside from the whoopee." Every last thing was in Amelia's car. She was stalling, dreading the moment when she actually got into her car and drove away.
It was only pride that was keeping me from bawling all over her.
"I think we're getting along pretty well," I said with a great effort at sounding cheerful. "I'm still not sure what I feel as opposed to what the bond is making me feel." It was kind of nice to be able to talk about my supernatural connection to Eric, as well as my regular old man-woman attraction. Even before my injuries during the Fae War, Eric and I had established what the vampires called a blood bond, since we'd exchanged blood several times. I could sense Eric's general location and his mood, and he could feel the same things about me. He was always faintly present in the back of my mind - sort of like turning on a fan or an air filter to provide a little buzz of noise that would help you get to sleep. (It was good for me that Eric slept all day, because I could be by myself at least part of the time. Maybe he felt the same way after I went to bed at night?) It wasn't like I heard voices in my head or anything - at least no more than usual. But if I felt happy, I had to check to make sure it was me and not Eric who felt happy. Likewise for anger; Eric was big on anger, controlled and carefully banked anger, especially lately. Maybe he was getting that from me. I was pretty full of anger myself these days.