Drained: Chapter 20
Sophie-Anne Leclerq had a sympathetic expression on her face as she began.
“Well, aren’t you just the belle of the ball?” she asked.
I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with you, Sookie.” She cocked her head as if to get a different view of me. “Where’s your choker?”
“In my dresser.”
“Well, let’s put it back on.”
I got off the bed and retrieved the choker from my dresser drawer and sat back down beside the Queen. She took it from my hand and fastened it around my neck.
“I’d like you to keep this on for now.”
“And don’t come back into the parlor tonight, alright?”
“You seem to cause quite a stir. Andre is obviously very interested in you. And Eric Northman seems to think you’re his own personal pet. I don’t like seeing what I just saw in my parlor. If you were just any human, I’d have you dismissed. But if you were just any human, I wouldn’t have this problem either.”
Again, I was at a loss for words.
“Let me ask you something, Sookie. What would you like?”
I wasn’t expecting that question, but I knew the answer, of course. “I want to go home.”
“Yes, I would imagine that you do. Do you not like your new job?”
“I don’t mind it at all. I don’t mind reading people.”
“And do you not like your room here? Your lovely new clothes? Is the food not to your liking?”
“It’s all very nice, but I don’t have … um … you know, free will.”
“I see. Well, let me give this some thought. I obviously won’t be just letting you go home, but I do want you to feel comfortable here. And you obviously won’t be comfortable as long as there’s a feeding frenzy every time you step into a room of vampires.”
She stood up and continued, “I’ll need you for a reading shortly. Rasul has your schedule. Feel free to leave your room, but just keep that choker on and stay out of the parlor tonight, alright?”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, dear.”
And with that, she left the room.
I double-checked for blood on me in the mirror and Eric seemed to have gotten every bit. I was glad to know he was back in New Orleans, and in spite of my ordeal, I was grateful for the few minutes alone with him, even if it had been under the scrutiny of the cameras that were apparently everywhere.
It felt so good for him to hold me and comfort me when I was scared. When he was in the room, everything just seemed better.
I was glad to see he was well enough to fight. I knew it was something that worried him in Magnolia Grove, and now I understood why.
I was also relieved to see that the Queen was somewhat reasonable, even if she had no intentions of giving me back my life. At least she recognized that having me cowering in the floor of my shower all the time wouldn’t be very productive.
I opened my door to a waiting Rasul. He held his arm out for me in his usual style.
I took his arm and asked, “Could I trouble you to take me to the cafeteria for a cup of tea?”
“It would be my pleasure, Sookie,” he responded as we headed down the hallway. “And please accept my heartfelt apology for what happened earlier.”
“Apology accepted, although it wasn’t your fault.”
I sat alone at a table and drank my tea and read a newspaper that had been left behind while Rasul stood beside me.
After about half an hour, he said, “You have an appointment, Sookie. Would you like to bring your refreshment?”
“No, I’m done here, thanks.”
We walked to the conference room in which I had done my previous readings. Eric and Sophie-Anne were sitting across the table from a human man with thinning brown hair and glasses. Eric was in a clean black suit and there were no marks on him from his scuffle with Andre.
Rasul excused himself and closed the door behind him.
“Sookie, this is Dr. Brandeis,” Eric said.
I shook his hand as he stood since he was a human. “How do you do, Dr. Brandeis?” I said.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he responded.
I sat beside him and asked, “May I touch you?”
He seemed a little surprised, as they always are, but said, “Sure.”
Eric began the questions with, “How long have you been a chemist?”
“Nineteen years.” Should I count when I was getting my PhD?
“How do you feel about vampires?” Eric asked.
“I’ve only met a few, and they seem very nice.” You’ve had exceptional manners.
“How do you feel about the True Blood poisonings?”
“I found it appalling. It was murder, plain and simple. I’m sure we’ll look back and see this as one of the darkest times in our nation’s history.” I wonder if these two were poisoned.
“Do you have any connections to anyone responsible for the poisoning of True Blood or its cover up?”
“No.” Not that I know of, anyway.
“Do you feel confident that our product will be successful in preventing further poisonings?”
“Yes, I have every confidence.” And am very excited about the new venture.
“Would you ever willingly harm a vampire?”
“No.” They’re people too, aren’t they?
“Sookie?” Eric asked. “Please speak freely.”
I let go of Dr. Brandeis. “He’s telling the truth,” I answered.
“Don’t hold back,” Eric added.
“Um … he wonders if you and Sophie-Anne were poisoned. He wonders if he should include getting his PhD in his years of experience. He thinks you have exceptional manners. He’s excited about the new venture. I think that’s it.”
“Thank you, Sookie. You’re excused,” Eric said.
I stood to leave and extended my hand to Dr. Brandeis. He looked at me as if I had two heads, but he remembered to shake my hand.
“Sookie is a telepath,” Eric said in explanation. “Of course, that is confidential.”
“Of course,” he said to Eric, and then to me, “It was a pleasure to meet you.”
When Rasul returned me to my room, I was surprised to see a small cabinet across from my bed with a flat screen TV sitting on top of it.
I opened the door and asked Rasul about it.
“The Queen doesn’t want you to be bored since you don’t have the parlor at your disposal tonight.”
I watched a little TV, which was great. It was probably crazy, but it made me feel less isolated from the rest of the world. I got caught up on some news and watched part of an old Twilight episode. Of course, I felt like I was living in one.
When I got hungry, I stepped out to find Rasul to take me to the cafeteria. We’d just begun our way down the hall when suddenly Andre appeared in front of us. I had a brief thought that he might apologize to me like Rasul had, but, of course, he was no Rasul.
In a motion that was too fast for me to track, his arm was suddenly in front of my face and there was blood on it.
“Drink,” he said.
Rasul began to growl beside me and I thought, oh no, here we go again.
“I don’t want to,” I said and took a step back.
He stepped closer, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before there was nowhere else for me to go. I was nearly against the wall already.
“No,” I stated firmly, and wondered if it might get me killed.
Suddenly, Eric was in the hallway and said, “What’s going on here?”
“I want her to drink my blood,” Andre said as if it were the most obvious and normal thing in the world.
I glanced at Rasul, who’d stopped growling, but still looked very scary as he eyed Andre.
“I wasn’t going to bite her. I see the choker,” Andre added. “She needs to be tied to us more securely. These are the Queen’s wishes.”
Eric was completely still as he looked at Andre and I wondered what was going through his mind. He finally spoke. “She already is.”
Andre lowered his arm and looked at me. “You’ve had his blood?” he asked.
I didn’t answer and had no idea what I should do.
“Yes, she has,” Eric said.
My heart raced. Was Eric putting himself in jeopardy?
The parlor door opened and I turned to see the Queen on her way to our little gathering.
“Am I going to have to muzzle you all? Have you neutered?” she asked, clearly annoyed as she came to stand beside Andre. “What’s going on here?”
“Apparently, Eric has already given blood to Sookie,” Andre said in a tone that sounded like a child tattling to the teacher.
“Is this true?” the Queen asked, looking at me.
Eric said, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I’m asking Sookie,” she said, ignoring Eric’s answer.
“Yes,” I answered.
“I see,” she said. “How many times?”
I wondered what that had to do anything. I looked at Eric and he said, “Twice.”
That seemed significant and there was a moment of silence in our circle.
Finally, Andre spoke, “Well, then she should have my blood as well. What can it hurt?”
“I’d rather not,” I said and all eyes turned to me. “If it’s all the same,” I added meekly.
“I can give her mine, Your Majesty, and we will be bonded—a secure connection. Much more secure than having the blood of two vampires.”
My gut told me that being bonded wasn’t something I’d want forced on me against my will. Even if it was Eric I was bonded to, it sounded suspiciously like another way to deprive me of my free will.
“Would you like to be bonded to Eric, Sookie?” the Queen asked.
I looked at Eric, but couldn’t read his expression.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what being bonded means,” I said.
“Fair enough,” said the Queen. “I think we’re done here tonight. Whether she and Eric become bonded will be decided by Sookie and Eric. It’s between them. I’m satisfied we’re connected enough to her through Eric’s blood. Now, back away from my telepath, gentlemen.”
Everyone took a step back and I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. Rasul stuck his elbow out and I took it, noting that my hand was shaking.