Chapter 21: Keep the Change
I stepped into my bedroom, and started to close the door, but Eric slipped into my room behind me.
I huffed. “Eric, we don’t have time for this. I want to get to the bar and talk to Danika before it gets much later,” I said as I shuffled through my clothes, looking for something appropriate to wear.
Eric sat on the foot of my bed. “I still don’t like this,” Eric muttered. It was strange to hear grumbling coming from my Viking.
A dark red long sleeved turtleneck sweater stood out among the pile of clothing. At least my black pants would work, and the sweater would help to not draw attention to my pregnant condition. At this point, nothing could hide it, but I could try to minimize it. “I know you don’t like it, Eric, but I need to find Barry,” I said as I pulled my top off. Eric once again stood behind me and helped to pull it over my head and helped to lower the new sweater over my body.
“Why can you not magically bring Barry here as you brought Dr. Ludwig here?” he whispered in my ear as I smoothed the sweater over my belly.
I picked some socks out of my luggage, and sat on the edge of the bed to try to pull them on. Eric saw my intentions and took the socks from me as he knelt to slip them on. I was grateful since it had become quite a production to slip my socks on these days. “Well, there’s several reasons I can’t do that, Eric. For one, I’m sure wherever he is, he’s being watched real carefully, and if he just disappeared all of sudden and turned up here again and I’m spotted here too, well, there gonna know I was somehow involved. I’d rather not have anyone know I can do magic. The few who do know some of what I can do, I try to limit just how much they know. You, Robert, and Dr. Ludwig are the only ones who know I can summon people magically like that, and I want to keep it that way. Stan knows I can heal and suspects I can do more, but I’m real careful that he doesn’t find out more. It’s safer for now to look for Barry the old-fashioned way. If push comes to shove and we can’t find Barry, I might try summoning him again but I doubt it would work.”
“Why would it not work?” Eric said as he slipped the black leather mules onto my feet when I handed them to him.
“There’s something about us being telepaths that makes us resistance to magic. I’m really not sure why, but just as neither Barry nor I can be glamored, neither are we susceptible to fairy magic. I tried once to influence Barry using my magic, but nothing happened. He could tell I was trying to do something, but I never let him know what. I tried summoning Barry right after we landed at the airport, but nothing happened,” I answered with a shrug.
Eric sat on the bed beside me. “Why would being a telepath have such an affect?” he asked looking at me curiously.
“I don’t know. I asked Niall once if it was a fairy trait, but he said it wasn’t, that it was something else. I’m guessing that whatever it is that makes Barry and me telepathic is also what makes us resistant to magic,” I guessed.
Eric leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. “What if this is a trap?” he whispered.
I had been fighting with myself every since I woke up from my nap, part of me wanting to keep my distance from Eric, not wanting to set myself up to get hurt again, but another part of me still trusted Eric, even after everything that had passed between us. I reached over and carefully took one of Eric’s hands to hold in my own. “I can look after myself, Eric. If it is a trap, I have no qualms about using my magic to protect our kids and myself. If it looks like there might be trouble at the bar, I’ll pop myself right out to the parking lot, and we can get out of there,” I told him.
Eric pressed his other hand over the top of mine. “Take my blood. I need to be able to feel you, to feel if you are safe or if you are in danger,” he requested, his eyes boring into mine.
My body stiffened, but before I could respond, he continued, his eyes watching me with a sad understanding. “You still do not trust me.”
“I told you Eric, it’s more complicated than that. I’ve been on my own for the past five months. I’ve gotten used to making my own plans and doing my own thing,” I explained.
Eric sighed, “How long will you punish me for my transgressions? What must I do to make it up to you?”
I shook my head. “It’s not about punishing you, Eric. Or at least, it’s no more about punishing you than it is punishing me,” I shook my head again at my train of thought. “Look, I can undo the block I placed on our bond, I think, but it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to take more of your blood yet. We still have a lot of things to work out between us.”
Eric’s eyes shone with disappointment. “You will remove the block on our bond though?” he asked with some hope.
I nodded and closed my eyes, focusing and slowly lifting the veil on our bond. I didn’t want Eric to feel every nuance of my emotions, so I didn’t lift it fully, but I could tell when Eric could feel me again. He closed his eyes, and pressed his forehead into the side of my head. His arms wrapped around me as he said, “I can tell you are not fully letting me feel you, but I will make you trust me again. You will let me feel your being fully within myself again.” We were both silent for a few moments, then he pulled back from me and asked, “Can’t you understand how difficult it was for me to accept that such an impossible thing had happened. Can’t you understand how distraught and irrational I was feeling?”
I pulled out of Eric’s arms and stood to face him. “Difficult for you? I was pregnant and the only person I had slept with in months was a vampire. I was freaking out. It was like the Virgin Mary of vampires! All I knew was I was pregnant when it should have been impossible, and then you showed up and started accusing me of being unfaithful, and all I could think was this was what everyone was gonna think when they saw me. But worst of all was that you would think I could do something like that,” I said, furiously wiping at stray tears.
Eric looked up at me, still sitting on the bed. “I am sorry,” he whispered. “But you left me. You gave me no chance to redeem myself.”
His quiet response took the wind out of my sails. I stepped closer and put my hand on his cheek. “I’m sorry too. But this is why I can’t take your blood yet. There’s so much we need to figure out and repair between us. A couple of years worth of stuff, not just this past five months. If or when I take your blood again, I want it to be because we’re both gonna be serious about this thing,” I said, waving my hand between us, “and gonna really try and make whatever it is work. This is about more than just you and me now. We’ve got the lives of these kids to think about.”
Eric gave a slight smirk. “I am not going anywhere, lover. And you will take my blood again. Soon,” he proclaimed, with a light kiss to my belly, followed by a light kiss on my lips. “Come, if we must go to this bar and interrogate the telepath’s Were, we should get it over with.”
“Talk, not interrogate,” I admonished, as Eric led me out of the room.
I walked through the bar, trying to ignore the odd looks I was getting. Most people were curious about the obviously pregnant woman in a bar, but no one seemed to be more than mildly curious. As I sat at the bar, I saw Danika right away. She was pretty close to how Barry had pictured her in his mind. It was pleasantly amusing to see that as Barry recalled her to me, she was slightly prettier than she was in real life. She looked to be around her mid 20’s and had plain round features on a small, heart-shaped face. Her brunette hair fell in wild waves and curls well past the small of her back, but what was really impressive was her build. I knew she was a Were, but even for a Were she looked well muscled. She was wearing black knit, boot cut pants, and a dark red leather bustier. Her arms were uncovered and somehow that only seemed to accentuate her well-toned biceps.
Barry had never really thought about her muscles when he pictured her for me, so I found it very funny that the slight-built Barry was dating a woman who I was pretty sure could bench-press him if she felt like it.
I held some cash out in my hand to get Danika’s attention. Stopping in front of me, she gave me a curious look. “What can I get for you, sugar?” she asked, trying not to let her gaze linger on my belly. She gave an indiscreet sniff, and I knew she could smell vampire all over me. Her brows furrowed slightly in confusion at a pregnant woman smelling of vampire, but then she replaced it with the pleasant uninterested gaze of any bartender.
“Can I just get a ginger ale?” I asked.
She nodded and went about pouring my drink. “Here you are,” she said, carefully setting the glass in front of me.
“Is there any chance I could talk to you for a few minutes in private on your break?” I questioned before she could move back down the bar.
Her eyebrow quirked up. “Honey, I don’t swing that way. Sorry.”
I laughed. “No, I’d just like to talk to you for a few minutes.” She still looked skeptical, so I added quietly, “I’m a friend of Barry’s whose looking for him.”
She immediately looked guarded, her eyes dancing around the room. “I’ve got nothing to say,” she said quickly.
Before she could move away, I reached out and grabbed her arm over the bar. “Please, Danika. I really am a friend of Barry’s. I just want to find him,” I pleaded.
“Look, I don’t want to get mixed up in whatever vampire shit is going on that he got drug into,” she whispered harshly.
I almost smiled at her words “vampire shit” having used them many times myself, but managed to keep a serious face. “I’ve never wanted to either, and if you talk to me, I’ll do my best to make sure you stay out of it and find Barry. I can tell that you care for him and are worried about him, but you’re scared. All you’ve got to do is talk with me, and I’ll keep you out of it.”
“What are you?” she asked as she stepped closer and sniffed me again, still looking guarded.
“I’m a telepath, like Barry,” I answered.
Her eyes lit up in recognition. She leaned forward and looking me in the eye, pushed her thoughts at me. Are you Sookie? I nodded. Barry said you were a good friend and that I could trust you if I ever got into trouble. I’m guessing if he’s the one in trouble, I can still trust you, huh?
Again, I nodded. “Is there somewhere we can go to talk?”
“Yeah, my folks own The Hunger, so we can go in Dad’s office in the back to talk. It should be empty. Just let me tell Justin to cover the bar for me for a while,” she said. She moved down the bar and talked quietly with the other bartender before she slipped from behind the bar and nodded towards the door at the back of the bar. I grabbed my drink and followed through the crowd to the back.
She was holding the door to the office open for me, tensely drying her hands on a towel. She looked down at her clothes and seemed self-conscious. “You must think I have no business dating someone like Barry. A Were with no education and tends a bar,” she said nervously as she motioned me to the tattered couch in her father’s office.
I gingerly eased myself onto the couch while listening to her thoughts to try to make sense of her comment. I burst out laughing and covered my mouth with my hands when I read her thoughts. “You think I’m some well educated, well bred woman?” I giggled, surprised at how pleasing it was that this girl had so mistaken me. She looked hurt at my laughter, so I quickly asked her, “Barry must not have told you much about my past, did he?”
“No, he just said you were another telepath and that you moved around the country a lot doing mindreading work. He never even said you were pregnant,” she admitted, pulling at the top of her bustier in her nervousness.
I shook my head. “It’s important to keep that quiet, a telepath having children is just too tempting of information for others,” I told her. She nodded in understanding, but was still pulling nervously at her top in an attempt to cover herself more, so I reached out and took one of her hands. “Danika, I’m hardly any different than you, honey. I graduated from high school, that’s it, and up until five months ago, when I found out I was pregnant, all I did for a living was sling beers and food in a bar. I worked some for the vamps too, but when I found out I was pregnant, I decided it was best if I stay in hiding, so to speak.”
“You were a waitress in a bar?” she asked incredulously.
“Damn straight. And a fine one too, if I do say so. Course I doubt I could waitress very well right now, unless I could figure out how to balance a tray of beers on my belly,” I joked as I patted my belly.
She laughed, relaxing a great deal. “Yeah, I suppose that would make things pretty tough.”
I still held onto her hand, and I hoped she was relaxed enough now to answer my questions. “Can you tell me what you remember about the night Barry disappeared?”
She looked down at her lap sadly, but didn’t pull her hand away. “I wish I could tell you something useful. I wish like hell that I’d seen something. We had a couple of drinks here in Daddy’s office and then he walked me to the bar when my shift started,” she explained with a blush. I could see from her thoughts that they’d done a bit more than have drinks in “Daddy’s office” but I didn’t comment. “The bar was pretty busy when I went to work, so I didn’t really watch Barry leave. And that’s it, that was all I saw of him,” she finished.
I could tell that she was genuinely upset and scared for Barry, and really liked him, despite his “special ability” as she called it. She liked that Barry listened when she talked and he never made her feel like what she had to say was dumb or that topics were out of her depth like her previous boyfriends had. It seemed that her low opinion of herself had been instilled in her by boyfriends who liked her body, but didn’t think much of her mind because she didn’t have more than a high school education. I could empathize with that.
“Did you see any strange vampires hanging around or following either of you, around that time or before that? Or maybe see anyone strange hanging around the bar that night?” I asked. I agreed with Stan. In my mind, either Felipe or Victor seemed like the most likely candidates. Felipe might have decided to replace “his” telepath, or maybe Victor had decided he needed one to take Louisiana from Felipe.
“No. This is mostly known as a Were bar, so only humans and the two-natured come in here. I’d for sure remember seeing a vamp in here. Barry doesn’t like for Stan’s men to follow him either, so I’d remember seeing a vamp follow us around,” she explained.
“Danika, I’d like to try something. I’d like to try looking into your memories of that day and night, and play through them to see if there is anyone that I recognize or that looks suspicious. Maybe there was someone watching in the bar that night even,” I said.
“Would it hurt?” she asked cautiously.
“No,” I assured. “I would just need you to close your eyes and relax. I can sift through your memories and replay the events of that day and evening.”
“I’m willing to try if it means finding Barry,” Danika finally said, finding her courage.
“All right, give me your other hand, and lean back against the couch, closing your eyes and relaxing,” I instructed. She nodded and did as I asked. “Now, I want you to think about when Barry picked you up that day. I need to find the starting point of the memory in your mind and then I can start looking, okay.”
She nodded and started thinking about when Barry picked her up at her father’s house. They were going out to celebrate her birthday a day early since she was spending her birthday with her family. Once she had started the memory, I locked onto it and started replaying the day. I had found that people’s memories were usually locked away in their minds with almost perfect clarity of everything they saw and did; the problem was in a person’s ability to recall that memory. It was there and perfect, but our mind would twist it or even leave out parts when we were trying to recall it. If someone could bring a memory up, I had discovered that I could latch on to it and play it almost like a movie, even speeding it up and slowing it down when I wanted to.
As I replayed that day in Danika’s mind, I slowed it down in several places to study people that were usually just on the peripheral of her vision and attention. They didn’t stand out in Danika’s mind since they were obviously well trained to blend in, but I could see the telltale signs of people who were watching them and trying very hard to make it appear that they weren’t. It was what gave them away; they were too studiously avoiding even glancing at Barry and Danika. People normally look and glance at the people around them, but these men were looking everywhere but at Barry and Danika.
I fast-forwarded, looking for anyone I might recognize that could give me a clue as to who took Barry and more importantly, where. Finally, I saw what I was looking for. Or more importantly, who.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” I whispered when I saw who was sitting discreetly at the end of the bar at The Hunger that night. Barry never even noticed he was being followed as he weaved through the throngs of bar patrons on his way out that night. “I certainly wasn’t expecting that,” I whispered to myself.