On my way home from work I stopped for flowers. So much had been happening lately and while I wasn’t exactly lonely, I found myself missing Gran a great deal. When Eric had first woken up with no recollection of what had happened between us, my heart broke. I’d tried not to let myself get attached to him but it was hard not to. He saw me, the real me, while we were together. He looked at me in ways he never had in the past and it didn’t seem fair he should be dangled in front of me like he was, only to be taken away just as easily.
The selfish part of me was kicking myself for not taking him and running while we had the chance to get away. I tried not to think about how happy we could have been together, off on our own without the pressures of his job weighing on us. The problem was, it wasn’t my decision to make. I knew how it felt to have Eric making decisions for me and I hated it. I didn’t like not being fully informed and getting a vote. Sure he’d been the one to suggest we stay together but he didn’t really know what he would be sacrificing by doing that and frankly, I missed the other version of him.
I came to realize I liked that he was a confident leader. He was smart, calculating and very good at predicting what was laying in wait. The other Eric, the softer, gentler Eric, was relying on me to step into shoes I was never going to fill. I already had a target on my back and I wasn’t going to be able to protect him forever.
After a quick shower and a small dinner, I grabbed the bouquet of daylilies I bought and headed through the woods into the cemetery. I stopped at my parents’ graves close to where Gran was buried and put a flower on each headstone. I never really talked to my parents much but I didn’t know what to say to them. I was so young when they died. It had been years since I could even remember what either of their voices sounded like.
My mother, in particular, was harder to remember. She’d had such a hard time accepting the telepathy I’d been plagued with. At the time, it had hurt to feel so rejected by my own mother. When I look back on it now, I see things differently. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether or not she loved me like I once did. Now I think it’s more like she didn’t know what to do with me. It’s not as though there’s a cure for my particular affliction. All she wanted was a normal daughter and instead she got me; the girl who can read minds.
I moved on to Gran’s grave and started pulling weeds. I’d been lax in visiting lately on account of the cold and everything that had been happening with Eric and the other supes. In warmer weather I was there every Sunday to visit and tell her about my week. I didn’t know if she could hear me, wherever she was, but I felt better after I got it all off my chest. That was all that mattered, right?
“Hey Gran,” I said as my gloved fingertips ran over the cold granite beneath them. “I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I have lots to tell you.”
I sniffled in the cold winter air and started spilling my guts. I told her all about what happened starting with New Year’s Eve, up until the night before. I told her about Eric, the witches, Jason being kidnapped and how scared I’d been, and then what life was like all by myself again. It hit me then how lonely I really was living out in the old farmhouse.
“I miss him, Gran. Every night when I crawl into bed I close my eyes and I wait to feel him slip into bed next to me, uninvited and willing to just lay there next to me and hold my hand.I think about what I’d do if I rolled over in the middle of the night to find Eric laying there beside me and…well, you probably don’t want to hear about all that. The point is, it might be a mistake to let myself care about him, but I don’t think I get a choice in the matter. The heart wants what it wants, right?” I sniffled again and looked around at all the other tombstones staring back at me.
Someday, a pretty piece of granite is all I would be reduced to. My life would be shrunk down to my name, a few days and maybe some kind words. Sookie Stackhouse: sister and friend. Was that all I was?
Not to me, lover, I heard Eric’s voice in the echoes of my mind. He certainly saw me as more than that. Life moved so quickly and I suddenly felt like I was wasting it. I was sitting in a cold cemetery talking to a ghost when there was an undead man not so far away who would be thrilled to see me if I wasn’t so stubborn all the time about keeping him at arm’s length. I told myself I’d been trying to let him in, but that wasn’t really true. I’d been holding back because I was scared. I was scared of getting hurt or of finding out he wasn’t telling me the complete truth.
I made a decision right then and there that I was going to try harder. I wasn’t going to let myself stay so closed off to him. I wasn’t going to punish him for Bill’s mistakes. Eric had certainly done a few things that irked me but I realized it was a matter of perspective. If you looked hard enough, you could find the bad in anyone. Since I had been looking for reasons to push Eric away, that was exactly what I’d done. I had given myself a list of legitimate reasons why being with him was a mistake.
“I was wrong, Gran,” I admitted out loud and only because she was the only one who would hear me. “I thought he all he wanted was sex and blood. Maybe that was true before but it’s different now. He looks at me differently…and I look at him differently, too.”
I was crying by then and had to force myself to say goodnight to Gran before I froze. I walked quickly back to the house and kicked my wet boots off at the back door before going inside. I gently fingered the pretty buttons on the coat Eric had sent me. I’d known he would send it but it had exceeded my expectations. He knew me well, as much as it pained me to admit it.
Him knowing me meant that he’d been paying attention, which meant that while he might still have the ultimate goal of seducing me, he cared enough to try and make it memorable for me as well. If he was really just after sex and blood, there were easier ways to go about it than confessing his feelings for me and trying to be my friend and not just a lover. It wasn’t quite ten o’clock yet. For him, the night was early. He was just getting started at Fangtasia.
I wanted to see him but with everything that had been happening lately I knew he needed to be at Fangtasia. I could have driven up to the bar and surprised him but then what? My nerves started to get the better of me. I got a fire going in the fireplace and then grabbed my phone to call him. If I couldn’t see him, hearing his voice would at least settle me a little bit.
I dialed the number for Fangtasia and a waitress I couldn’t recall having met before answered my call, “Fangtasia, the bar with bite. This is Selia, how can I service you?”
I rolled my eyes at the greeting. Did Eric really pay them to say those things or did the waitresses come up with their own greetings?
“Hi, Selia, may I please speak with Mr. Northman?” I asked kindly.
“Master is busy at the moment, but I can take a message.” Selia offered politely.
It wasn’t really important but she didn’t need to know that, so I lied. “If you’ll just tell him it’s Sookie Stackhouse on the line, I’d appreciate it.”
If he didn’t take my call knowing it was me…well, he could be busy. In fact, he probably was and I was just being a silly, needy girl trying to suck up my boyf- vampire’s attention when he had more important things to focus on than making me feel better.
“One moment please,” the friendly tone was gone and I was put on hold.
The music that played while waiting on hold was as Gothic and strange as the music in the club. I didn’t know who was singing but he was singing about wanting his girl to join him in death. The song gave me chills and I pushed away the inevitable conversation Eric and I would have to have at some point about whether or not I would let him turn me. Forever, while a very romantic notion, was a very long time. In fact, it ceased to have meaning after a while since it went on and on and on.
“Good evening, Sookie,” Eric’s voice suddenly filled me and the jumping of my heart in my chest didn’t go unnoticed.
“Hi,” I breathed into the phone, suddenly caught with a case of severe cotton mouth.
“How are you?”
“Fine,” I stammered less than convincingly.
“I don’t think you’re being truthful with me,” I could hear the smile in his voice as he spoke.
I took a deep breath and told myself it was now or never. Just say it, Sookie, I berated silently. “I miss you.” I blurted it out quickly.
The line was silent. Great! I finally work up the nerve to take a leap and-
“I would much rather be in Bon Temps with you, dear one, but if I want to have tomorrow night free I have things I must see to tonight.” Eric sounded regretful.
“I know, which is why I’m not in my car right now, driving up to Fangtasia to see you.”
“But you thought about it?” he seemed surprised. When I took too long to answer he said, “I suspect you have the most enticing blush on your cheeks right now.”
“I have a fire going,” I said defensively, which made him laugh that loud, barking laugh of his I didn’t get to hear often enough.
“Tell me, Sookie, if you were here, what would we do?” Eric’s voice took on that deep, seductive register that always made my breath catch and my heart go bananas.
I had a feeling I knew where he was going with his line of questioning and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with it. While I’d certainly gotten a little more risque when it came to my sex life, I wasn’t sure I could have a conversation about the things I wanted to do to him and I definitely wasn’t ready to hear the things he wanted to do to me. Especially since I would be left alone to deal with the riot he started with my lady business.
“Eric, I didn’t call you so we could have phone sex. I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you, that’s all.” I said as innocently as possible.
“Pity for me,” Eric pouted slightly.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” I offered instead.
“As am I. I think you’ll enjoy where we’re going.”
“And where is that, exactly?”
“It’s a surprise. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
“You won’t even give me a hint?”
“And spoil the fun? Not a chance. You’ll just have to be patient,” he was having far too much fun toying with me but I really shouldn’t have expected anything less.
“Well, then I guess I’ll let you get back to your work. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I promised him.
“Yes, you certainly will. Oh, and Sookie?” he caught me just before I could hang up.
“If you were here right now, I would press you up against the door and kiss you until you were breathless. I’d kiss your neck long enough for you to catch your breath and then I would-”
“Stop,” I said quickly. “That all sounds wonderful but if you don’t stop there I’m going to end up in the car and you have work to do. Goodnight, Eric.” I said reluctantly while Eric laughed again. He’d pay for being so smug with me, I’d make sure of it.
“Goodnight, Sookie,” he purred in response and then he was gone.
I was safely nestled in bed, burrowed deep under my blankets and very close to being asleep. After I got off the phone with Eric I’d read for a while before cleaning up my kitchen. I was going to need to do a load of laundry in the morning before work and I was pretty sure it was going to be a late night. I was working the lunch shift at Merlotte’s and would have just enough time to get home, shower and change clothes before hurrying to Shreveport to meet Eric.
I took a deep breath and let my mind go blank. I thought of nothing as I started to drift away. As it had been several other nights since he was cursed, I felt the imaginary dip of the mattress next to me. I reached my hand out under the blankets, expecting to feel nothing but cool sheets. Instead what I felt was cool flesh.
My eyes popped open and I just about jumped clear out of my skin, I was so caught off guard. When I turned my head to the right, I found a familiar pair of blue eyes staring at me. Eric. Eric was in my bed! I pinched myself, literally, and when I registered the pain that came along with it, I knew I wasn’t dreaming.
“Eric?” I sputtered, pulling the blanket tighter around me. “What are you doing here?”
“Snuggling,” he said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
I remembered the last time something like this happened. It was before Jackson, back when I was still very unclear about his intentions toward me. I’d been furious with him for inviting himself into my bed. I’d also been very turned on by the way he touched me, which had caused all kinds of confusion at that point.
“But what-” I didn’t get to finish. One of his long fingers pressed against my lips to keep me from talking.
“Turn over for me, Sookie,” he requested delicately.
I stared at him for a moment, but the lifting of his eyebrows convinced me to turn over. I rolled onto my left side and stared straight ahead. In my mind, I saw him sliding my nightgown up over my hips and dipping his fingers inside my panties. Part of me hoped he would do just that. He would tease me mercilessly until I couldn’t take anymore before tearing my panties away and filling me from behind. I could practically feel his hand on my breast when I felt him move behind me.
His hand ran up my warm leg. The coolness of his skin made me shiver and I wondered if maybe I was going to get what my body was wishing for. But no, Eric behaved himself. He moved up behind me and wrapped an arm around my waist. He was serious about the snuggling? I didn’t know if I should be relieved or angry.
It hit men then that I missed the Eric who would do, or say, just about anything to fuck me. Where did that Eric go? Or maybe he just wanted me to take matters into my own hands. Slowly, my heartbeat returned to normal. We didn’t say anything else to each other. I knew, without asking, he would be gone when I woke up.
The last thing I remembered feeling before I fell into the abyss of sleep was Eric’s lips on the pulse point in my neck and his arm draped protectively over me. I felt safe. With that, I let myself go.