I tried to sleep after Eric dropped me off at the house, but I was nervous about what would be going on out in that little torture shack in the woods. Eric and Pam could handle themselves, no doubt about it, but they were going to be outnumbered. If something went wrong, it could go very wrong. They weren’t dealing with just any werewolves. I paced for a while, torn between wishing I had asked to go along, and being thankful they hadn’t asked me to come because I wasn’t sure I could handle the brutality.
I had an application installed on my phone that told me the time of sunrise and sunset everyday so I knew when about Eric would rise or rest for the day. He had promised to call if he needed to go to ground out there for some reason. It was getting on to four in the morning when my exhaustion overtook my nerves. I curled up in the big bed of the room that was still mine and left my phone on the bed next to me so I would hear it if Eric called or sent a text message.
Since getting back together with him I hadn’t had any more of those fucked up dreams I’d been having for a while there. I chocked them up to the stress I’d been dealing with and decided they were all meaningless. Sleep generally came easily for me.
Of course I was just getting to a deep sleep when I felt a gushing sensation between my legs. For a minute I wondered if I’d mentally spoken too soon, and had wet the bed, but when I looked at the sheets I discovered I was wrong. The period I had been freaking out over had finally arrived, and in a big way.
I whined and then forced myself off the bed. Shit, I didn’t know where to find spare sheets. Judging by the sizeable stain my period had started a while ago, or at least I would assume so. Then again I hadn’t experienced any of the usual symptoms. There had been no cramping, no sore breasts… mood swings were only an indication I was breathing.
Since there was nothing I could do at the moment but get the sheets off the bed, I stripped it down and then went to my closet to get new clothes to change into. Since I’d be up and down I grabbed a nightgown and fresh panties. I’d put supplies on my shopping list back when we first started seeing each other.
I started the water in the giant tub so I could soak the sheets there. I assumed Eric had a washing machine, but didn’t know where it was. He’d always told me to leave my dirty clothes on the closet floor and they would be picked up for laundry. Even back then I hadn’t thought of Eric doing my laundry himself, but given the personal nature of the stains there was a certain level of modesty and embarrassment that flowed through me.
After changing clothes and finding a tampon, I collected the sheets and brought them in to soak in some cold water. I hadn’t thought to put peroxide on my list of supplies, but I would be bringing some the next time I came over. Once the sheets were soaking I grabbed one of the towels to lie on. Thankfully there had been no damage to the mattress. Back in the bedroom, I checked the comforter and was relieved to see that it was okay.
I climbed back into bed and tried to get comfortable. I always slept like shit when I had my period. My mind seemed to never fully shut down and I was always waking myself up to make sure I hadn’t made a mess of my sheets. Sometimes being a female really sucked.
About twenty minutes later I was still trying to doze off when I felt the black hole of Eric’s brain come into range. I sat up in a panic. My vampire boyfriend was coming home in what I would consider to be a dangerous state of mind, and I was bleeding. I grabbed up my phone and dialed his number.
“Hello, Lover,” he purred.
“I need you to not come down to see me,” I said in lieu of a hello.
“Just trust me, okay? Now’s not a good time.”
“Are you injured?”
“Of course not,” I said, and wondered if he would be able to smell my blood the second he walked in. “But I… my period came.”
The line was silent for a moment and I could feel Eric getting closer.
“Let me take care of you,” he said, and I had a pretty good idea of what he meant.
My gut reaction was to cringe and be utterly grossed out by his suggestion. My human mind couldn’t grasp the concept of anything about a period being attractive, but Eric clearly didn’t think along the same lines as me. To him it was food… food I was letting go to waste. I had no idea what etiquette would dictate in that sort of situation.
“Can you control yourself?” I asked, since my safety was what I was most concerned with.
“I’m not experiencing bloodlust,” he said. “I’ll be gentle as a lamb.”
“I’ll be there shortly,” he warned.
“I know. I can sense your brain,” I answered. “See you soon.”
With that we hung up and I set my phone on the nightstand. I lay back against the pillows and closed my eyes. Despite my realization that I loved Eric I had yet to tell him. I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for. We had been spending a lot of time together lately and he had been instrumental in dealing with a lot of things lately.
He hadn’t given up when I tried to push him away and he had been there for me when no one else was. Eric said he enjoyed my company and I knew he had taken an enormous risk by revealing himself to me, but he had yet to declare any sort of feelings for me. If he loved me he never said so.
Maybe his actions should be enough to tell me how he felt, but sometimes a girl just needed to hear the words in order to know it for sure. It wasn’t asking too much to know what his feelings were. I wasn’t a girl that needed constant reassurance that he loved me, or that I was the only one, but every now and then it was nice to hear.
With all the talk about pregnancy, Eric had sworn he wouldn’t disappear from my life if I got pregnant. He had almost seemed excited by the idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I was sure a baby wouldn’t really fit into his life. I wasn’t worried he would drain it or anything like that. In fact, I was sure it would be quite the opposite. Eric didn’t do well with threats to what he had determined to be his, and his child would certainly grow up with his protection.
But if it was discovered that my magic fairy womb could breed babies for vampires, how many of them would be interested in doing whatever was necessary to ensure that Eric wasn’t the only one with new human kin after centuries of impotency? I would end up being one hell of a boon to whoever might get the notion I should be theirs instead. My child would also be a target, used to get to Eric or me in attempts to get their way.
No, a baby just wasn’t going to work in our life.
Then all of a sudden Eric was there in the room with me. I knew by the growl he let out. My eyes weren’t even open and already he was on me.
“Eric!” I squeaked in surprise.
“I could smell you the second I walked into the house,” he said as his hand traveled up my thigh. He sniffed along my neck and anything I had planned to say went right out the window when he got to my panties.
I braced myself and tried to remember that to him, this wasn’t disgusting. To Eric this was probably a gift since he could have my blood without weakening me. If anything, he might speed up the process a little. When I looked at it from his perspective it suddenly wasn’t so bad.
It was still a little gross, though.
“What happened with the Rogues?” I asked, even as he was ripping my panties off.
Nagging him about ruining my clothes because of his impatience did no good. It was all wasted breath on an ancient vampire that insisted he could buy and sell several eastern European countries without batting an eyelash… and he could do it in cash.
“Two of them expired,” he said. “But now is hardly the time to be concerned with them. Right now there are much more pressing matters at hand.”
Eric kissed me and it was then that I noticed how clean he was. He had to have showered before coming home. When he’d dropped me off he had dried blood on his face, neck and clothes. A quick search with my hands told me his wound had closed. Eric was good as new, and ready to take care of business.
He knew all the right buttons to push, and did so expertly. By the time he made his way down between my legs I’d momentarily forgotten I had my period. That is until he had to get rid of the tampon, and then my face flamed red.
“Why are you embarrassed, Sookie? This is a natural process for your body. It just so happens you’ve found a lover that appreciates it for selfish reasons,” he said.
I was prepared to be too mentally icked out to enjoy his ministrations, but Eric could be very convincing and determined when he wanted to be, and every pass of his tongue or little growl of approval brought me closer to the edge. When I came the first time I finally felt little cramps and the groan I got from Eric sounded like he was in heaven.
Two more orgasms and a bunch of cramps later, Eric had to stop for the day. Sunrise was upon us, and I was thankful because by then I was completely exhausted.
“Thank you, Lover,” he said with a goofy smile on his face as Eric climbed off of me.
“You’re welcome.” I needed to get up and take care of myself so I could pass out for the day.
“Where are the sheets?” he asked.
“Soaking in the tub so they don’t stain.” I got up off the bed and went to the bathroom.
“Will you be here at sundown?” he asked, following behind me.
“That’s my plan,” I said as I retrieved a new tampon from under the sink. “We have negotiating to do.”
“Indeed,” he agreed, and then came closer to me. His large hands cupped my face and he said, “Come rest with me.”
The last time we had talked about this, Eric had denied my request. At the time I had asked because I didn’t want to be alone. Was he asking me now only because I was like an ambrosia fountain?
“Why?” I asked him.
“Because I want you close,” he said simply.
The look in his eyes told me it probably wasn’t quite that simple, but Eric inviting me into his personal space at a time when he would be so vulnerable was yet another gesture in the love column. He might not be able to say it, but he was showing it. For the moment that was more than enough.
“Okay. Just let me get a few things,” I said and went about gathering up the few things I thought I should take with me.
When I was ready he led me up to the second floor of the house and down the hall to what I presumed was his office. There was a pretty serious looking security setup for him to monitor, as well as several pieces of office equipment. Heavy looking mahogany bookshelves lined one wall, and it was there that he reached for a book up high and tilted it like we were in a real life version of the Addams Family, and the shelves moved to reveal a doorway.
Just beyond it we were in Eric’s bedroom. His personal style was evident in the room. Like in the library, there was heavy wooden furniture, hand-carved and probably older than I thought. What caught my eye the most was the carving on the headboard of his enormous bed. There was a woman with a sword and birds flocking to her.
I had questions but Eric’s increasingly sluggish movements convinced me to wait to ask until later. I put my things on top of his dresser and then followed him to his bed, which had fur pelts on it instead of a comforter.
“This bed is beautiful, Eric,” I said as we walked toward it.
It almost reminded me of an old Viking ship with the way it was framed. Both the head and footboard came up fairly high, although the headboard was higher. The footboard was bowed just a bit and there was an intricate carving coming up from the apex of the curve that looked like a dragon.
If ever I doubted whether or not Eric was a Viking, this certainly helped to dismiss those thoughts.
“It took a long time to complete it, but it was well worth it,” he said, and gestured for me to climb up.
“Wait, do you have a bathroom in here? I’ll probably sleep for most of the day, but just in case I need to… clean up.”
“Through there,” he pointed to a door.
I nodded and then climbed onto the bed. It was easily the most comfortable bed I’d ever been on. The pelts were so soft and they tickled my skin as I got arranged myself.
“If you need to leave the chamber for some reason you’ll find a release mechanism hidden in the molding by the door,” he informed me.
“And I won’t wake you no matter how much noise I make?”
“You would only awaken me by your emotions going to extreme levels. This room is soundproof, and even though it may not seem like it, extremely secure. Pam is the only person who knows where to find me at rest, and she won’t be joining us. If you sense other minds they belong to the household staff, which Bobby is managing.”
Ugh, Bobby. I still didn’t like that little cretin.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I said. If I left the room it would be for food or yet another change of clothes. “How do I get back in if I need to leave?”
“You won’t. There’s a retinal scan required to get the door open.”
“So once I’m out I stay out.”
“Okay,” I nodded. “Anything else I should know?”
“I sometimes rise a bit before sunset, but can’t leave this room until the sun is gone.”
Also good to know. All of a sudden an alarm sounded and the windows in Eric’s room blacked out as if by magic.
“Two minutes until sunrise,” he explained.
That didn’t seem like much time but Eric could do a lot in two minutes. Like, say, turn on a light for his human girlfriend that didn’t have night vision. He left the closet light on for me with the door mostly closed.
“Are you sure you want to stay?” he asked once he was back in bed with me.
He kissed me sweetly and I snuggled into him. Eric muttered something in Norse, and then he was out like a light. I wasn’t very far behind him.
Negotiating with Eric was interesting. I didn’t have much experience with negotiating in general, and Eric was a master at it. He’d have to be given all of his businesses and the number of people he managed on a daily basis.
My fancy pants cell phone had come in handy for giving me a lesson. I started by laying out my list of demands. I had no idea what my service to Eric might be worth, but I came up with a number I thought was fair. When Eric looked at it, he was clearly surprised.
“Too high?” I asked him.
“Too low,” he said. “Sookie, I think you underestimate how valuable your skills are. You could potentially save millions of dollars, not to mention lives by doing what Apollo gifted you to do.”
I sighed in frustration. This was where I realized I was in way over my head. My understanding of the supernatural world was miniscule, at best. Eric was doing his part to educate me and I appreciated that he was trusting me to delve deeper into his life.
“Okay, then what do you think is fair?” I asked. “I know this isn’t generally how a negotiation goes, but I clearly don’t know what I should be asking for here.”
“You don’t want to short change yourself. You’ve said before that having your shields down for an extended period of time causes you headaches and stress. Compensate yourself for those hardships. Consider whether or not you would be interested in being loaned out to other vampires. Special rates could be charged for that, including your travel expenses and compensation for a guardian that would attend the appointments with you for safety reasons. Allot yourself vacation and sick time,” he said, and that was only the beginning.
When Eric started to show me the numbers my eyes about popped out of my head. My annual salary just for the regular work I’d do for him was more than I ever thought I could make in a year, but when he factored in the special assignments I could take on I was completely stunned. In no time at all I would be a millionaire, and Eric insisted that vampires all over the world would be lining up for my services.
“Is it a good idea for me to run around telling people that I’m a telepath, though? If my ability is so desirable wouldn’t that just put a great big target on my back?” I proposed. “I don’t want my family and friends to end up as targets as well because of me.”
“If I were to hazard a guess I would presume it’s only a matter of time before your ability is discovered. It would be better to have a plan in place for dealing with such things. If you go public with the information you would be taking a risk by putting yourself out there, but you would also build allies with those you help. It would be much more difficult for you to be taken against your will for any length of time without someone coming to your aid,” Eric pointed out, and that made sense.
“Can I think about that? Maybe talk it over with Gran?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. Take your time in considering your options, Sookie. Just know that if you choose to do outside consultant work you will not only have my full support, but my protection as well,” he told me.
“And that will still be true in the event that we don’t work out as a couple?” I couldn’t imagine going to new vampires without him there as my touchstone for safety.
“It might not be me personally, but I would send a trustworthy vampire,” he promised.
There was a lot to think about.
Eric and I went back and forth on the numbers until we reached an amount I was comfortable with. The crazy thing was that I knew he would be willing to pay me triple what I ended up negotiating for. What he was offering me would allow for me to not only move out on my own, but still be able to take care of Gran. As long as Apollo didn’t go repossessing his divine gift, my money problems were solved for life.
While we talked, Eric made notes to send to his attorney so a new contract could be drawn up. This one had nothing to do with sex, although he had jokingly suggested an orgasm guarantee clause. After about four hours of bickering, compromising and agreeing we finally had something workable. My official job title had yet to be decided, but there was time for that later.
Eric typed up his notes in a matter of seconds and after letting me read them over, he sent them to the lawyer. Frankly I was impressed by his ability to control himself given the way he had attacked me when he rose for the night. Eric had spent close to an hour going down on me, and only let up when I told him I couldn’t take anymore. My mortal body didn’t have his stamina.
“I need to go up to the club,” Eric said a short time later after receiving a text message. “My superior is making a special visit for the evening to discuss the issue with the Rogues.”
“I’ll go with you,” I offered.
“It’s not safe for you there right now. You smell delicious to begin with, but now it’s very difficult to resist you. A younger vampire wouldn’t be able to, and my queen is known to follow her impulses rather than good sense. Since we aren’t bonded or pledged to one another there is nothing to stop her from demanding I give you to her.”
“She could do that?” I asked with wide eyes.
“Indeed she could, so it’s best if I keep you away from her. Besides I need to check in with the Rogues to see if any progress has been made.”
I definitely wasn’t interested in seeing the condition the Rogues were in.
“Okay. Then I’ll stay here and read. Tomorrow I need to go see Gran,” I told him.
He nodded, not that Eric would try to keep me from trying to see Gran. If I didn’t let him have it, Gran would certainly verbally tan his hide and he knew it. He’d already gotten a tongue lashing or two from her. She didn’t buy all that, “I’m older so I know better,” malarkey.
Eric went upstairs to change his clothes and when he came back down he was dressed in black from head to toe. Black didn’t show bloodstains, of course.
He kissed me goodbye and then he was on his way. After making myself a snack I headed up to the media room next door to the playroom to watch a movie and relax. It felt like I hadn’t done that in ages, and I was due a break.
Eric didn’t get home until just before sunrise. He found me asleep in his chamber, thanks to the retinal scan he’d done the previous evening after he finished his ‘breakfast.’ I let myself sleep late and then decided to go on back to Bon Temps. What I was going to do about Sam had been nagging at me and I decided it was time to go clear the air.
I also wanted to give Gran an update on Hadley. I worried for Hadley’s safety. Even though all of the Rogues that had crossed the border into Louisiana had either been killed or were about to be killed, that didn’t mean they had been wiped out entirely. I also had to wonder who was watching the Rogues during the day if they weren’t all dead yet. Eric hadn’t said whether or not he got the information he needed about who was supplying blood to the Weres so I wasn’t sure what was going on there.
It occurred to me that I could go out there by myself during the day to see if I could get some answers. Maybe the Rogues would be more willing to talk if they didn’t have Eric standing there just waiting to rip their throats out. I knew Eric would outright reject my idea, saying it was too dangerous for me to go out there alone, but once the idea seeded itself in my brain there was no getting rid of it. After a quick breakfast I got in the shower.
If I wanted to do my own little reconnaissance mission, talk to Sam, update Gran and get back to Eric’s house before dark I needed to get a move on. I dressed in a pair of black cargo pants and a long sleeved T-shirt. My hair was wound back and pinned at the nape of my neck. A little makeup always seemed to make men more likely to talk to me, so I put on a little mascara, some eyeshadow and lip gloss.
The good thing about all of the brain flexing I’d been doing was that it had improved my memory. I didn’t know the exact address where the torture shack was, but I remembered landmarks to get myself there. It took a while once I got off the highway, but I eventually found the little cabin I had been to before. I parked a safe distance from the cabin and turned off the engine.
My shields dropped to listen for who was inside. I counted more than a dozen Rogues, most of them either asleep or unconscious. But there was one mind that was awake and alert. The guard. His thoughts were as muddled as the Rogues’ were. He had to be a shifter of some sort.
I got out of the car and started to creep toward the cabin. Not that I’d made a lot of noise, but the guard should have at least heard me drive up. I was about halfway to the cabin when there was that bubble popping sound and then Claudine was standing in front of me.
“What are you doing here, Sookie?” she asked me.
“Using the gift Apollo gave me,” I answered in a whisper. “Eric needs to know where the werewolves inside are getting their vampire blood from, but they won’t talk. I thought I might come out here and see for myself if I could get some answers.”
“This isn’t a very safe idea. What if one of them gets free?” Claudine pointed out.
“Can you help me? Maybe do that shrouding thing again? I suggested. “Then I can get what I need and the Rogues won’t see or hear me. They’ll never even know I’m there.”
“Don’t you think this is a matter best left to the vampires to handle on their own?” Claudine looked concerned.
“Maybe but it would save everyone a lot of time, and probably suffering, if I could just get the information Eric is looking for.”
“I understand you are a compassionate person and that you want to help others, but when it comes to the supernatural, you must learn when to step back. This isn’t safe for you,” she said.
The stubborn voice in my head wanted to argue that it wasn’t any of Claudine’s business whether or not I helped Eric, but if I got myself killed in the process I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors. Then again if she just did that shrouding thing there wouldn’t be anything to worry about. But this wasn’t Claudine’s problem, nor was it really mine when I thought about it. In the end I asked myself what I thought Gran would do.
Yes, help others when you can but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would probably just stir up more trouble by getting involved. As much as I hated to admit it, Claudine was right.
“You win,” I relented. “I won’t go in there.”
“Good,” she nodded. “Now stay here and I’ll see what I can do.”
Claudine proofed away and moments later I started to get clearer images from three of the Rogues. It was sort of like they were bleeding together, but they still made sense. Little by little, Claudine added more of the Rogues to the mix. I closed my eyes and leaned against a nearby tree as all of the pictures moved in my head. It was like an old filmstrip I saw in school as a child where some frames were a bit damaged or a little out of focus, and there was a delay between the audio and the visual, but I could still make out what was going on.
I saw a group of Rogues in what looked like a barn. Hadley was doing some x-rated things to a man in the corner and I could see a jealous woman watching them. Another man entered the bar with an air of superiority to him. He had the same glow to his skin that Eric and Pam had so I was sure he was a vampire. All the activities in the room ceased when the vampire came in.
“Mein Führer. Lang lebe das blut,” a Rogue said in what sounded like perfect German. I held onto that sentence to tell Eric later since I definitely didn’t know German.
The vampire responded and the Rogues lined up, single file, on their knees with their heads tilted back and mouths open to wait for their dose of blood. The vampire spoke in German for a while, pacing back in forth in front of the werewolves until finally, he bit into his wrist and began to bleed into the mouths of the waiting Rogues. As soon as they were dosed they shifted they shifted into their animals form. Some went hunting while others took to mating right then and there.
Through it all, Hadley remained quiet in the corner until she too was approached by the vampire.
“Meine schönheit,” he reached out and touched her chin. “Öffnen.”
Hadley dropped her head back and opened her mouth. He lifted his wrist to off her his blood and she took it eagerly.
“Danke, Russell,” she said after swallowing.
Holy shit. So Hadley knew, but it had most likely been glamoured out of her who this vampire was. I had what I needed so I turned and hauled ass back to the SUV. The sooner I got away from that cabin, the better.
There were a few cars in the lot at Merlotte’s, but Sam was sitting on the steps outside his trailer when I pulled in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say to him, but I needed to put all of this behind me so I could get on with my life.
My gift told me Sam was in somewhat of a pensive, contemplative mood. I parked by the trailer and he looked surprised to see me. I got out of the car and he stood up.
“Sookie, what are you doing here?” Sam asked, but he was smiling.
“I was hoping we could talk,” I told him.
“Sure,” he nodded and stuffed his hands in his jeans. “Look, I know I owe you an apology for what happened. You have to know I never meant to hurt you. I was out of line for what I did. At the time, I thought I was protecting you. It was obvious that you didn’t know the truth about Eric, but it wasn’t my place to get involved like that. I could have gotten you killed, and I’m sorry you got hurt.”
I had come prepared to battle with Sam. I wasn’t expecting him to apologize straight out of the gate like that. A lot of what I was planning to say was immediately wiped out because of it. An apology was what I had come for, and I got it. Rather than force the issue further I decided to just let it go.
“Apology accepted,” I said. “I wish you would have told me the truth about yourself, but I understand why you didn’t. Gran knows, but I won’t tell anyone else, and neither will she.”
“I know. She uh… she came up here a few days ago and gave me what for about firing you,” he admitted. “She’s a tough old lady. You’re a lot like her.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I smiled.
“So what have you been up to? Gran says you’re doing well.”
“I am. Eric and I have worked things out and I’m starting a new job soon, so I’m good. I’m thinking about moving to Shreveport, but I haven’t made a decision about that yet. I like knowing I have the option, I’ll just say that.”
“You’re thinking about living with Eric?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, then I guess that proves he’s not glamouring you. If he was there wouldn’t be anything to think about.”
“He’s not like that, Sam, and I told you I can’t be glamoured anyway. Now I know why.”
I went on to give him the vague version of my family history to explain my aversion to glamour. We talked for quite a while until he had to excuse himself to go into the bar and I had to get on to Gran’s.
“It was really good to see you, Sam,” I gave him a hug.
“Don’t be a stranger, okay?”
“I’ll try not to be.” I pulled back and Sam opened my car door for me.
I got into the car and watched him walk into the bar. I was glad we’d talked things through. I felt better about things and I was really happy Sam apologized. I wasn’t sure we would ever be like we were before, but never say never. I started the car and headed toward Gran’s to give her the update on Hadley and to tell her about my new job.
With a little luck, I’d make it back to Shreveport before sunset.