"That’s not the feeling I get," Bill said.
"She’s not out to get me?" Your life was not right when you were actually surprised that someone didn’t want to kill you.
"No. She asked me many, many questions about you, about Bon Temps, about the strong people and the weak people in your circle. She would have told me if her intent had been to harm you. Karin is not as complex as Pam . . . or Eric, for that matter."
I had about four instant responses to Bill’s information, but I wisely shut my mouth on all of them. "I wonder why she didn’t come right to my door to ask, if she wanted to know all that," I contented myself with saying.
"I believe she was gathering information for some purpose of her own."
Sometimes I just didn’t get vampires.
"There are a few things you need to understand about Karin," Bill said briskly, when I didn’t respond out loud. "She takes . . . umbrage . . . at any perceived slight to Eric, any disparagement. She was with him for many years. She was his guard dog."
I was glad I always had a Word of the Day calendar on the kitchen counter. Otherwise, I’d have had to whip out a dictionary to get through that sentence. I started to ask Bill, if Karin was so hung up on Eric, why hadn’t I met her before? But I skipped that in favor of telling him, "I don’t go around disparaging Eric. I love Eric. It’s not my fault he’s upset with me. Or that his ass**le of a maker engaged him to a vampire he hardly knows." I sounded just as bitter as I felt. "She should take umbrage with that."
Bill looked thoughtful, which made me very nervous. He was about to say something he knew I wouldn’t like. I squeezed my ankle a little harder.
"All the Area Five vampires know what happened at the Long Tooth pack meeting," he said.
That wasn’t exactly a shocker. "Eric told you." I cast around for something else to say. "It was a horrible night," I said honestly.
"He returned to Fangtasia in a towering rage, but he wasn’t specific about what had made him that way. He said, ‘Damn wolves,’ a few times." Here Bill was careful to stop. I figured Eric had added "Damn Sookie" a few times, too. Bill continued, "Palomino is still dating that Were, Roy, the one who works for Alcide." He shrugged, as if to say there was no accounting for taste. "Since we were all naturally curious, she called Roy to discover the details. She relayed the story to us. It seemed important for us to know." After a moment Bill added, "We’d asked Mustapha, since we could tell he’d been fighting, but he would not comment. He is very closemouthed about what’s going on in the Were world."
There was a long silence. I simply didn’t know how to respond, and Bill’s face at this moment didn’t give me any clues. Mostly, I was feeling a rush of appreciation for Mustapha, the Were who was Eric’s daytime guy. Mustapha was that rare thing, a person who could keep his mouth shut.
"So," I made myself say, "you’re thinking . . . what?"
"Does it make any difference?" Bill asked.
"You’re being very mysterious."
"You’re the one who kept a huge secret," he pointed out. "You’re the one who had the fairy equivalent of a wishing well in your possession."
"What?" Bill was genuinely startled.
"Eric knew I had it. Though I didn’t tell him."
"How did he know this?"
"My great-grandfather," I said. "Niall told him."
"Why would Niall do such a thing?" he said, after an appreciable pause.
"Here’s Niall’s logic," I said. "Niall thought that I needed to find out if Eric would pressure me to use the cluviel dor for Eric’s own benefit. Niall wanted it himself, but he didn’t take it because it was intended for me to use." I shivered when I remembered how Niall’s impossibly blue eyes had blazed with desire for the enchanted object, how sharply he’d had to rein himself in.
"So in Niall’s view, giving Eric this piece of knowledge was a test of Eric’s love for you."
Bill contemplated the floor for a minute or two. "Far be it from me to speak in Eric’s defense," he said at last, with a hint of a smile, "but in this instance, I will. I don’t know if Eric actually intended you to, say, wish Freyda had never been born or to wish that his maker had never met her . . . or some other wish that would have gotten him out of Freyda’s line of sight. Knowing the Viking, I’m certain he hoped you would be willing to use it on his behalf."
This was a conversation of significant pauses. I had to think over his words for a minute to be sure I understood what Bill was telling me. "So the cluviel dor was a test of Eric’s sincerity, in Niall’s eyes. And the cluviel dor was a test of my love for Eric, in Eric’s eyes," I said. "And we both failed the test."
Bill nodded, one sharp jerk of his head.
"He would rather I had let Sam die."
Bill let me see how startled he was. "Of course," he said simply.
"How could he think that?" I muttered, which was a stupidly obvious (and obviously stupid) question to ask myself. A much more pertinent question was, How could two people in love so misjudge each other?
"How could Eric think that? Don’t ask me. It’s not my emotional reaction that matters," Bill said.
"I’d be glad to ask Eric, if he’d just sit down and talk to me," I said. "But he turned me away from Fangtasia two nights ago."
Bill had known that, I could tell. "Has he gotten in touch with you since that happened?"
"Oh, yes indeedy. He got Pam to text me to say he’d see me later."
Bill did a great impression of a blank wall.
"What do you think I should do?" I asked out of sheer curiosity. "I can’t bear this halfway state. I need resolution."
Bill sat forward on the couch, his dark brows raised. "Ask yourself this," he said. "Would you have used the cluviel dor if it had been – say, Terry or Calvin – who was mortally wounded?"
I was stunned by the question. I groped for words.
After a moment, Bill got up to leave. "I didn’t think so," he said. I scrambled to my feet to follow him to the door.
"It’s not that I think Terry’s life, anyone’s life, isn’t worth a sacrifice," I said. "It’s that it might not ever have occurred to me."
"And I’m not saying you’re a bad woman for that hesitation, Sookie," Bill told me, reading my face accurately. He put a cold hand to my cheek. "You’re one of the best women I’ve ever met. However, sometimes you don’t know yourself very well."