Sookie sat beside the bed in the dingy room below the bar. Pam had come, just as Eric said she would. Reinforcements arrived at roughly the same time as a pair of highway patrolmen pulled over to investigate the accident. Sookie ignored their unwanted presence and focused on Eric instead. Pam had loaded Eric into the back of Sookie’s car while the other vampires had taken care of getting rid of the cops and then Pam got behind the wheel to get Eric to a safe place.
There were more vampires standing by at Fangtasia and the waitresses on his staff had all volunteered their blood to heal him. The thoughts of his human employees were full of concern for their employer. Not a single one of them had been coerced into donating for him. They loved him. They prayed for him. They hoped for his recovery. They worried over him.
Eric was genuinely loved.
He was generous with his staff, paying them well above what the average barmaid would make and allotting them paid time off and health insurance options in their benefits package. When the daughter of one of his waitresses had been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of three, Eric had paid off what medical bills the insurance wouldn’t cover, and he had done so completely of his own volition. He hadn’t been asked and the waitress didn’t even know how Eric knew about her money troubles, but he had taken care of it quietly.
And that was just one example of the kindnesses he bestowed to those that were loyal to him. Sookie was impressed, and even though Lafayette was terrified and cowering in another room, it was Eric’s side she remained at. By comparison being left alone in a damp, dank and dark room was nothing. If the Authority had gotten a hold of him first, Sookie could guarantee there would be no honoring of the Geneva Conventions. Not when evidence of torture could be erased both physically and mentally. Lafayette was scared and nervous, but not injured.
Unable to think of anything else to do to help Eric heal, Sookie stretched out beside him. His legs were where the worst of his injuries were. Pam was furious about what had happened to him. Sookie told her about the black sports car that had come from out of nowhere with the reckless driver behind the wheel. Sookie couldn’t recall the license plate number, and the adrenaline rush she’d experienced blocked out the make and model of the car.
The only possible way for Eric to be healed faster was by Claudine, but no full blooded fairy was going to heal a vampire, much less one wounded as badly as Eric. All they could do is wait and hope that tomorrow was a sunny day. The sunlight would do wonders to restore Sookie’s energy and power. Pam and Sookie had cleaned Eric up and dressed him in fresh clothes when they got him back to the bar. His healing, mangled legs were bare below the knee.
In some places Sookie could see all the way to his bones when they were cleaning him up. Her stomach had turned more than once, but she refused to leave his side. She felt guilty. To her, this was all her fault. Eric wouldn’t have been on the highway if it wasn’t for her.
Eric hadn’t been lucid long enough for her to ask what had happened, but she doubted he’d simply lost control of his car. A vamp his age, with his reflexes and ability to fly, should have been out of the car before it hit the tree. The damage to his legs suggested that wasn’t the case. Sookie remembered the black sports car, but could only remember the plates were from Louisiana. It would have been a great time for another telepath to find her and read her mind to see if they could see something she couldn’t. Time ticked by and even though the bar was open for business upstairs, she was able to absorb Eric’s silence and block out all the other minds.
She dozed off feeling surprisingly comfortable cuddled up to the vampire who, under other circumstances, would absolutely be trying to fuck her senseless. In fact, as soon as he was awake again Sookie was sure he’d be right back at it. At least she’d know he was in the mend. She let herself relax and enjoy the silence he offered her.
“Thank you, Sookie,” Eric said softly, ripping her right out of her own downtime.
She sat straight up and scrambled to turn herself around so she was looking into his mostly healed face. The skin where he’d been cut or burned was still a little pink and shiny, but his healing had definitely been accelerated by Sookie’s blood and Light.
“You’re welcome,” she smiled softly. “How are you feeling?”
“Fantastic.” His eyes closed and he shifted just a little.
“Do you remember what happened?”
“Black car was playing grab ass with me. Obviously I lost,” Eric said and then sat up. Sookie didn’t look back at his legs. She already knew that condition they were in. “Did you heal me?”
Sookie looked down, nodding at her lap and said, “I tried to, but the storm drained me too quickly. I only got the north half before I had to stop.”
Eric lifted her chin and slowly leaned in to kiss her so she had the chance to stop him if she wanted to, but she didn’t want to. His lips brushed against hers, but quickly came back and pressed more firmly. Sookie made a little moaning/purring kind of noise and that was all Eric needed. Without a second thought his tongue swept into her mouth and he pulled her closer. Sookie wrapped her arms around his neck carefully, not wanting to agitate any of his sore spots. She allowed herself to melt into the kiss and even straddled his lap when she didn’t feel close enough.
The kissing completely disregarded her earlier wish to keep things professional, but Eric could have been killed. She rationalized that his near death was a game changer, that kissing him was about celebrating the fact that he wasn’t a puddle in high grasses off to the side of I-20. Sookie had to pull away to breathe a few seconds later.
“Is that how you thank everyone?” Sookie asked breathlessly.
“That wasn’t my preferred way of thanking you,” his eyebrows danced.
Sookie laughed and said, “You’re going to be fine.”
“Have you spoken to Lafayette?” he asked.
“Not yet. He’s not injured, just scared. I want him to get the point that he can’t keep doing the things he’s been doing without serious consequences. This is nothing compared to what could happen to him.”
“If he’s caught dealing V after this his end will not be pleasant,” Eric said.
Sookie knew that already. She could request that Eric glamour Lafayette into never dealing V again but she was sure this experience would be enough to get his head on straight. She was, however, curious as to how he had gotten into dealing V to begin with. Something told her it was no accident that he had been chosen to sell on the queen’s behalf.
The pain in his legs had decreased, but it would probably be at least a few more days until he was completely healed without Sookie’s assistance. She brought him bagged blood that had been donated by his staff. His waitresses were all tested once a month for Hep-D just to be safe. Feeding was expressly forbidden in his bar, but what the waitresses did in their spare time could be a potential health hazard to anything with fangs.
Eric wasn’t hungry, but the blood would help him heal a little faster. Sookie reclaimed her place at the edge of the bed while he fed.
“Before the accident I spoke to Nora. We’re expected in Jackson the day after tomorrow for the funeral. After that there’s a pack ritual we’re supposed to attend to speak with the pack members. Alcide knows we’re going to be there so it shouldn’t be an issue,” Sookie said.
“I wouldn’t count on full cooperation. You know that Weres and my kind like to keep our interactions limited.”
“I do,” she nodded. “But my being there might help discover who killed an important member of their pack. I’m hoping that will be motivation enough for everyone to answer my questions.”
“What does the Authority plan to do with the vampire accomplice?”
“I’m sure you can figure it out,” Sookie said.
He certainly could. Actually, he could think of some pretty vile and disgusting ways for a vampire to meet a slow and painful true death. Vlad the Impaler was an inspiration to his kind. Oddly enough the man was never turned as far as Eric knew.
“Will we have backup in Mississippi if things go south?” Eric asked.
“No. I’m sure I could call in the troops if it becomes necessary, but we won’t be going in with V-Fed surveillance. As far as your kind is concerned my presence in Mississippi has nothing to do with the Commandment Killer investigation.”
So she was told, but things had a way of getting around. There were spies everywhere. He would know since Eric had a few in various key states in the country. He wasn’t politically motivated, but pragmatism required that he be aware of the climate so he could remain several steps ahead. If word got out that a vampire was involved in the recent murders he was sure it would cause an uprising among humans, and civil war would lead to disaster for both species.
Sookie offered him another bag of blood, but he declined.
“Do you think you’ll be okay to travel tomorrow night?” she asked.
“Yes. I’ll rest here for the day but I’ll send Pam to my house to pack the necessary things for you. Has the Authority arranged for transportation?”
Sookie nodded. “We’ll be flying out on an Anubis jet tomorrow night at midnight. We also have a suite booked at Magnolia House in Jackson.”
Eric assumed it was a vampire friendly hotel if they were going to be keeping up the appearance of a vampire traveling with his pet.
“A meeting has also been arranged with Russell Edgington,” Sookie informed him.
That would certainly be a test for her. Russell was at least three times Eric’s age. Fooling him wasn’t going to be easy.
“What do you know about Russell?” Eric asked her.
“Not much. When I got the email from Nora I asked for a little background info, but I didn’t get much so I’ll take anything you want to tell me.”
“For starters, he’s three times my age,” Eric said. “If you expect to fool Russell Edgington into believing that you’re my pet, we’re going to have to get creative. He won’t buy the idea that you’re being punished by denying you sex.”
He wasn’t just saying that because he still wanted to fuck her, although that would always be a priority for him.
“I’m still not having sex with you,” Sookie said, even as her heart rate was rising.
Eric smirked. “Yet.”
Sookie shook her head. “Professional, remember?”
“What happened to doing things in the name of the job?”
But Eric knew the answer to that. The agreement had been made before they spent much time together, before Sookie had the chance to develop any feelings for him. Things had changed quickly, and his blood had told him how scared and concerned for him she had been when Sookie found him in the grass.
“Because that’s a line I won’t cross,” Sookie said firmly.
Eric moved at vampire speed so his face was right in front of hers. She was so close he could feel that heat radiating off her skin and her warm breath on his mouth and chin. He heard the skip in her heartbeat and felt the rush in her blood. She could deny it all she wanted, but the fact remained that she wanted him.
“Then do it because you want to,” he said, and before Sookie could argue with him, he kissed her again.
Sookie gave in to it for a few seconds, but then pulled away. “No,” she said. “I’m sure you’re used to women falling at your feet and giving you everything you want, but I’m not like them. We’ve been over this, Eric. It’s too confusing to mix my personal life with my work.”
“Then we’re going to have to figure something out,” he said.