Dinner didn’t taste like much, even the apples, which I normally went gaga over. There was still no sign of Gran by the time I started to clean up, but I made her a plate anyway and put it in the oven to keep it warm. My brain had to be missing something. Gran had to be somewhere obvious that I just hadn’t thought of. I told myself to stop thinking about it for a while to give myself a rest.
It was like when I tried to think of a word I needed but couldn’t find it. Once I settled my brain on something else the word always just popped right into place and I always felt silly for not thinking of it sooner. I hoped that the Gran situation would be no different.
I was still standing at the sink washing dishes when the doorbell rang. My heart leapt up into my throat and in my mind I could see Bud Dearborn standing at the door with a mournful look on his face. I choked up a little and my stomach flopped with nerves. I almost didn’t want to answer the door just to delay what might be the inevitable, but I couldn’t keep Bud waiting all night. I turned off the water and grabbed the dish towel off the counter to dry my hands as I walked do the front door.
I didn’t see the swirly red and blue lights of a police car, but that didn’t mean anything. I felt like I was walking to my death, and took a few deep breaths before opening the door. I was prepared to see Bud Dearborn but what I saw instead was Eric.
“What are you doing here?” I asked in a breathy voice as my eyes met his.
“You’re in distress,” he said softly.
My jaw dropped, wondering how he knew that but then I remembered—I’d had his blood.
“The blood,” I whispered, and Eric nodded.
“My blood allows me to feel your emotions and locate you,” he explained. “All day long I’ve felt your anxiety and fear. I debated whether or not I should come to you, but then I saw your gifts.”
“You shouldn’t be here, Eric,” I said, even though I wanted him to come in.
“Will you tell me what’s had you so wound up today?”
I thought it over, wondering if it was even worth it. What could Eric do anyway? Then again, what could it hurt?
“My Gran is missing,” I told him. “She didn’t come home last night from her meeting, at least I don’t think she did, and she wasn’t here when I woke up. I’ve looked all over town for her and I can’t find her. No one’s seen her or heard from her and I’m worried something’s happened to her. I’m afraid that she’s de—”
I couldn’t bring myself to finish that sentence because it was too horrible to give a voice to. Eric understood where I was going with that line of thought and before I knew it I was wrapped in his arms. The dams broke and I let myself sob against him. I knew I could make it okay on my own without Gran, but I didn’t want to. She was Gran.
Eric stroked my hair and let me cry it all out. In spite of how things had worked out between us he still came for me when I needed someone. I hadn’t even realized how much I didn’t want to be alone until he was holding me, and then I didn’t want to let him go. Vampire or not, I hated the idea of being by myself while Gran was missing. Something about it just didn’t feel right.
When I lifted my head to apologize I found I was sitting on Eric’s lap on the couch. I hadn’t even felt him move me.
“How did I…” I trailed off as I looked around.
“This seemed a little more comfortable for both of us.”
My head screamed at me to get off of his lap but I didn’t move. Like it or not, I was comfortable right where I was.
“Tell me what I can do to help you,” he said.
“Eric, this isn’t your problem. I can handle this.”
“I have no doubt that you can, but I might be able to speed up the process. You know how your sense of smell is heightened now?” he asked, and I nodded. “Well mine is a hundred times more powerful than that. If you take me to her room I will get her scent, and if we go to the place where she last was I might be able to track her.”
“You can do that?”
Eric nodded and said, “I can do a great many things, but only if you let me.”
“Why would you do that for me?” I asked. “After the way things ended, why would you want to do me a favor?”
Eric looked deep into my eyes and said, “Because I owe you this.”
He didn’t need to say why; we both knew the reasons. The smart thing to do may have been pushing him away and insisting that I deal with this all on my own, but I wasn’t very smart sometimes. Besides, hadn’t Gran advised me to try and find a way to work things out with Eric? The fact that he was a vampire didn’t seem to bother her at all, which was pretty progressive, even for someone like Gran.
“Tell me what I can do for you and I will do it,” Eric said.
The sincerity in his eyes told me he meant it. Anything I asked for he would make sure I got what I wanted.
“First I want to know more about vampires,” I said, and moved off his lap. “I want to know what’s true and what’s not true. I want to know what your blood can do to me. I want to know how many times you’ve had mine without me knowing it.”
“I’ll tell you what you want to know, but I have a question or you as well,” he said.
“You go first,” I insisted. Not only was it the polite thing, but Eric already had a ton of advantages over me in the knowledge department.
“Vampires have been around for millennia,” he started. “My own Maker is twice my age and not a vampire you would wish to meet. He released me from his side many centuries ago and I rarely have cause to see him, for which I am grateful.”
“Pam told me that you turned her,” I said. “The night I found out about you, she picked me up from a gas station and drove me home. She told me a little about vampires and how she was turned.”
“I suspected as much. I felt the two of you arguing in my blood,” he admitted with a smile. “Which of you won?”
“I suppose I did since I still have a pulse.”
“Pam couldn’t harm you even if she wanted to. I have commanded her not to, and once a Maker issues a command to their child it cannot be overridden or ignored,” he told me.
“So if you wouldn’t have told her not to kill me I’d be dead right now?” Well wasn’t that just great? “Why did you tell her that? I could tell everyone I see that you’re a vampire.”
“Because your honor would prevent you from doing it,” he said with certainty. “You’re the kind of woman who bends over backward to keep her promises.”
“I never promised you I wouldn’t tell anyone about what you are.”
“And what would you gain from it if you did?” he asked. “Would you sell me out for a few dollars to some tabloid meant to line bird cages? Greed doesn’t motivate you, Sookie.”
He was right about that.
“In fact, I’m willing to bet you’ve been slightly offended by all the flowers I’ve sent you,” he said with a smirk.
“A little,” I admitted. “But I suppose it was nice to know that you were still thinking of me. Most guys would have given up by now.”
“I’m a patient vampire, Sookie. I’m also old enough to know that when you find a good thing you don’t let go of it easily.”
“I’m just a barmaid from a small town in the middle of backwater Louisiana,” I said with a shrug. What could he possibly find fascinating about me? “Actually, I’m not even a barmaid anymore. Sam fired me two days after he attacked us in the parking lot.”
Eric growled at that and his fangs emerged faster than he could stop them from dropping. I recoiled a bit, purely out of surprise, but when he apologized I stopped him. I reached up and gently touched his teeth. His eyes closed and he groaned quietly.
“Does it hurt when I touch them?” My finger pulled away just in case.
“Quite the opposite.” Eric pulled me closer and I could feel that he was telling me the truth. My breath caught in my throat but before I could do something foolish I pushed back.
“Tell me more about vampires,” I said to get us back on track.
Eric went on to tell me about what vampires could do. He talked about their above average senses, speed, strength and some of the special gifts that vampires could receive upon being turned. He explained that it was all myth that vampires could shapeshift into bats, but he supposed it was possible for one to become invisible. He demonstrated their speed for me by setting me down on the sofa and going to get my mail so fast I had barely blinked before he was back.
“Jiminy Christmas,” I muttered when he handed the stack to me.
“And there’s this,” he said. I looked up and Eric was floating around the room.
The mail fell to the floor as I watched him. He was careful not to knock anything over and I couldn’t help laughing when he did a somersault mid-air. When he touched down again he moved in a blur to gather up my mail for me.
“Here you are,” he handed me the stack again.
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“Now about my blood,” he said, and sat down on the couch again. “The first time you had it was when you bit me at the orgy. It was easier to let you think that Callisto had done something to you than it was to tell you the truth, and for that I apologize. I should have been forthcoming with you then.”
“Yes, you should have,” I agreed. “But I suppose I understand why you couldn’t be. I didn’t take it very well when you did tell me the truth.”
“You had good reason to be angry and feel betrayed. You were right in that I had insisted on complete honesty. I had demanded that you trust me, and I shattered that by being dishonest with you.”
“You know before that, everything was good. The problem now is that I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. Is Eric even your real name?”
He smiled and said, “It’s a modern version of the name I was given by my parents. Should you ever meet some of my associates you’ll hear me referred to as the Northman. It’s a tribute to my people and where I come from. It’s rare for a vampire to reach the age I have without meeting the true death.”
“The true death?”
“When a vampire is staked, meets the sun, is beheaded or dies of silver poisoning, that is meeting the true death. There is no coming back from that. It’s my hope that if I ever meet mine I will be spirited to Valhalla by Valkyries.”
“So you really are a Viking,” I said with a slow shake of my head.
“No, I am a warrior. To my people, Viking isn’t a noun but a verb. I am a warrior who went a viking.”
I nodded and said, “So you weren’t telling the truth about the ex-wife then.”
“In my human life I was married and I did lose my wife within hours of the birth of our sixth child. We lost the baby first and she followed shortly after.”
“That’s awful,” I said sympathetically.
“It was common in the those days. In fact, it was miraculous that Aude survived as many births as she did before a fever took her and the infant.”
“How old were you when you were turned?”
Eric thought for a moment and said, “Somewhere in my early twenties, but I couldn’t tell you the exact number. Age wasn’t marked then the way it is today.”
“So you don’t know when your birthday is?”
“I was born late in the summer, so probably sometime at the end of August or beginning of September, but that’s as close as I can figure it.”
It was a lot to take in, but I believed everything Eric was telling me.
“My blood allows me to feel your emotions, locate you if you’re in trouble or missing and to call you to my side should I ever need you,” he explained.
“Call me? How?” I asked.
“I’ll show you,” he said, and then disappeared again.
“Eric?” I called out but he didn’t answer.
Moments later I felt a tingling in my body. At first it was like being lightheaded from not eating for too long, but the longer I put off trying to deal with that feeling the stronger it became. I didn’t feel the hunger I normally would when I got that feeling. Instead I was compelled to find Eric, only I had no idea where he was. The stronger the feeling got the faster I moved. My legs took me to the kitchen and out the back door. By the time I reached the lawn I was running. I had no idea where I was going but I couldn’t stop until finally I saw Eric standing in the line of trees at the edge of the property.
“Did you feel it?” he asked me as I slowly approached him.
“I felt it. Why didn’t you do that before? I wouldn’t have been able to ignore it.”
“Because my own sense of morality and maybe my ego demand that a woman choose me of her own free will. Had I called you to me it would have only further pissed you off.”
“Very true,” I agreed with a smile. “So was it really just what you felt in your blood that made you come here tonight?”
“What’s the other part?”
“The other part is what I said last night. I do miss you. My life suddenly got very interesting with you in it.”
“You missed training someone?”
“No,” he said, and cupped my face in his large hands. “If all I wanted was to train someone there are dozens I could choose from at the club. I missed you.”
I sighed and said, “I don’t know what to do here, Eric. It’s not just because you lied to me, but… what kind of a future can we really have together? It’s not like we could ever get married, and I’m guessing that you’re not capable of having children, assuming you’d even want them at your age. I could maybe go back to letting you train me only at the club, but I would only end up wanting more and it seems like it would be a dead end.”
“It’s true that I couldn’t give you a child the natural way, but even if I could we’re a long way from that discussion. If you wanted to go back to training only at the club I could do that for you. I enjoy having you in my life, no matter the capacity. Whether or not you choose to come back to me is your decision, but I hope that you do.”
“Now’s not really the time for me to think about that. Right now I need to focus on Gran,” I told him. “I hope that I’m just overreacting but my gut keeps telling me that something is wrong. It’s not like her to just disappear like this.”
“Then let’s go look for her. I’m yours until sunrise,” he promised, and got up off the couch. “Show me her room.”
I got up and led him to Gran’s bedroom. Even from outside the closed door I could smell the hyacinths I’d put in there for her. Judging by the way Eric was looking down at me he could smell them too.
I opened the door for him and Eric stepped inside. He looked around the room and inhaled deeply. I wondered how he was able to filter the smells, and then he went closer to her bed.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing to her pillow.
“If it’ll help.”
Eric picked up the pillow and inhaled again. When he got what he needed he set the pillow down and said, “I think I’ve got it. Do you know where she was last?”
“In the church basement, most likely,” I said. “But that was almost a full day ago.”
“Scents linger for much longer than a day,” he informed me. “If I am able to catch her scent I should be able to track her. If I can’t, I know vampires that can.”
“Thank you, Eric, for doing this for me. You have no idea how much it means to me,” I told him,
He didn’t hesitate to reach out and press his palm to my chest over my heart before he said, “Yes, Sookie, I do.”