“I missed you at sunset,” Eric said with sincerity in his voice that didn’t sit well with Nora.
She was sitting in the control room back at headquarters, watching the meeting Sookie was having. Just to be on the safe side, Nora had dispatched a team in case things went south. Not only was she concerned about Sookie, but Adele as well. During the negotiation stage years ago, Nora and Adele had talked quite a bit. Nora was aware that it was Sookie’s grandmother that had gotten Sookie to come around on working for the Authority. It was obvious where Sookie had learned to see things in a colorblind fashion.
If Bill Compton so much as bared his fangs at either woman, Nora was going to have them as earrings.
“I missed you too,” Sookie responded with the same sweetness and sincerity. “How’s your night going so far?”
“Not bad, but it will be better when I’m with you,” Eric said, and for the first time in three centuries Nora felt nauseous.
“Awww, you’re so sweet to me,” Sookie practically purred.
Ugh. It was disgusting how cute both of them were being with each other.
Eric had insisted the night before that he had only taken Sookie’s blood as part of their little rouse. Who would believe she was his pet if he didn’t smell of her? Nora didn’t like it. She knew how easy it would be for feelings to shift, and in the position both of them were in, neither could afford getting sidetracked by feelings. Disgusting, annoying things they were.
Nora rubbed the sore spot on her ribcage. It had been a while since she’d fought someone Eric’s age and skill hand to hand. As a young vampire, Eric had been the one to teach her how to fight. In her human life, Nora had been born into aristocracy, a third cousin to the Duchess of Kingston. Her education had been limited, although her father had allowed her to listen in on conversations from time to time. Her mother, a governess through and through, had discouraged Nora from spending too much time minding the affairs of men.
It wasn’t as if Nora could march right out and find herself a job. Her place was in the home, raising sons and entertaining guests. She was decorative, not functional as anything other than a hostess or baby factory. It was a frustrating life that felt as if it offered her nothing. Being a vampire allowed Nora to grow into her potential, and then exceed it.
She continued to listen to all the cutesy crap going back and forth between Eric and Sookie. It was almost too much.
“It sounds like they’re getting cozy,” Salome said from behind Nora, lightly running her fingers through Nora’s hair.
“It’s all an act,” Nora said, but she didn’t sound very convincing.
“Come now, Nora. You had to know that someday our little mind reader would require companionship outside of these walls. The Viking is a good choice for her. He’s a strong leader and his people speak well of him. Perhaps she will be the one to convince him to join our side,” Salome said.
“Eric isn’t much of a joiner.” Keeping secrets from Salome was difficult. She was a world class manipulator when need be. So far Nora had been able to keep her connection to Eric a secret.
“Everyone has their price, darling. A pretty, sweet smelling thing like Sookie… I’m sure she can find his. Make it happen.” Salome kissed the top of Nora’s head and then left the control room.
“Mr. Compton, I hate to be a bother, but I belong to a group that would be positively tickled to hear your recollections of The War. I don’t suppose you would have the time in your schedule to come and give a talk one night?” Gran asked.
There was a moment’s pause while Bill considered it before saying, “Mrs. Stackhouse, I would be delighted.”
Gran was positively beaming. Sookie couldn’t remember the last time she had seen Gran so happy.
“Mr. Compton, you have no idea how thrilled I am,” Gran said with tears in her eyes.
Bill smiled back at her and for a moment, Sookie thought Bill might actually get up and offer Gran a hug. There was a knock at the door so Sookie got up to answer it while Bill and Gran discussed the details.
“Can I help you?” Sookie offered when she opened the door to find a petite strawberry-blonde woman in a sleek suit standing before her.
“I’m Mr. Compton’s assistant, Katie Sommerfeld,” the woman extended her hand and Sookie shook it. She was warm, and her thoughts were surprisingly quiet.
This house reminds me of my Mamaw’s house, Katie thought.
“It’s nice to meet you, Katie. I’m Sookie Stackhouse. Would you care to come in?” Sookie offered.
Katie nodded and Sookie stepped back to let Katie in. She followed Sookie to the living room, where Gran was talking in a very animated fashion. Bill listened patiently, absorbing everything Gran was saying.
“Mr. Compton, I’m sorry to interrupt, but we do have other engagements this evening,” Katie said when there was a break in conversation.
“Yes, of course. Mrs. Stackhouse, I’m going to have you speak with my assistant, Katie Sommerfeld. She keeps track of my appointments and calendar,” Bill said.
“Lovely to meet you, Katie,” Gran offered her hand.
“Likewise, Mrs. Stackhouse.” Katie shook Gran’s hand and then produced a business card. “I’m available twenty-four hours a day, so call anytime.”
“Thank you, dear,” Gran said politely. “Mr. Compton, it was lovely speaking with you. I look forward to your talk.”
“And I look forward to seeing you again as well, Mrs. Stackhouse.” Bill stood to go and turned toward Sookie. “Sookie, I would like to meet with you again as well. For business purposes, of course.”
“That can be arranged. Leave word with the Authority and a meeting will be scheduled,” Sookie responded coolly.
No way was she getting in a room with Bill without the Authority keeping a watchful eye.
Bill offered her a hand as well, and just for Gran’s sake, Sookie took it. His hand was cold, not unlike his dark eyes. Sookie quickly took her hand back when it started to tingle like it always did just before she dosed someone with her Light. She could imagine the shitstorm that would occur if she obliterated the king of Louisiana, never mind Gran’s embarrassment.
As soon as Bill and Katie were out of the house, Sookie rescinded Bill’s invitation and locked the door.
“Sookie, what was that about?” Gran demanded as Sookie pulled out her phone to text Eric so he’d know Bill was gone.
“He gives me the creeps, Gran,” Sookie explained. “The minute he walked into the house, the hairs on my arms stood up. My hands kept tingling. There’s something not right with him.”
“He seemed perfectly polite and charming to me. He answered all my questions and he’s doing me a great favor by giving that talk at the DGD,” Gran argued, and Sookie could tell that she was snowed. Bill had Gran in the palm of his hand.
Sookie checked quickly to make sure Gran hadn’t been glamoured, but she was clean. There were a few muddled spots, but that was normal. Sookie associated them with Gran’s advancing age. The spots were always in the same place and got a bit dimmer with each passing year. They weren’t the result of glamouring.
The last thing Sookie wanted to do was burst Gran’s bubble. She trusted her instincts, but as yet Bill hadn’t done anything that would lend credence to her gut feelings. Gran was right; Bill had been perfectly pleasant, polite, charming and willing to cooperate. But that was part of what was so off-putting. It was rare for a vampire to be so casually conversational with a human, particularly one it never met.
Liars were always quick to elaborate. They felt the more details they offered, the harder it was to argue that their story was a lie. The fact that Bill was such an open book told her that he was hiding things.
Sookie went back to the living room and started to clean up. She was washing dishes when the doorbell rang. Eric. That had to be Eric. Sookie rinsed her hands and turned off the water. While she dried her hands she made her way to the front door to let him in.
“Eric,” Sookie greeted with a smile.
“Lover,” he responded, looking her up and down, taking in the pinstriped pants and fitted button down shirt Sookie was wearing. Her hair was pulled back in a bun at the nape of her neck and she was wearing glasses. Eric leaned in to smell her, and paused to place a lingering kiss on her warm cheek.
“Lover?” she whispered.
Eric winked at her as he straightened himself up. “You look like a sexy librarian.”
“You hush with that before Gran gets the wrong idea,” Sookie admonished in a whisper. “Come on in, though, so you can say hello.”
Sookie stepped back and Eric walked into the house. Gran wasn’t in the living room but the bathroom door was closed.
“Are you thirsty? I can get you a TruBlood,” she offered.
“No, I’m fine.” Eric leaned down again and whispered, “I can still taste you.”
Sookie’s breath caught and the tingles were back, but now they were in her ovaries. The two of them got caught in another stare. The tension between them was growing at a ridiculous rate.
“You must be Eric,” Gran said. Sookie hadn’t even heard the bathroom door open.
“Yes, ma’am,” Eric said politely.
“Good gracious, you’re a tall one.”
“I get that a lot.”
“Eric, this is my grandmother, Adele Stackhouse. Gran, this is Eric Northman,” Sookie said.
“So, Mr. Northman, Sookie says you are a Viking,” Gran said.
“Actually, I’m a warrior. Viking is a verb in my native language. Warriors went a viking,” Eric explained.
“I never knew that.” Gran was back to smiling like a school girl. “Do you have some time, or do you need to be on your way?”
Sookie looked to Eric since he had planned the rest of the evening.
“We have some time,” he said. “You lead the way, Mrs. Stackhouse.”
“Adele, please,” she said, and led Eric into the living room.
“Gran wasn’t too hard on you, was she?” Sookie asked on the drive back to Shreveport.
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Adele was a trip.
It was easy to see where Sookie got her personality from. From all Eric could tell, the two women were very similar.
“She loved you,” Sookie informed him. “She liked Bill, but she loved you.”
“Oh?” Eric felt the urge to preen, but didn’t know why he cared.
Because you care about Sookie.
What? Who said that?
“Bill didn’t get to call her by her christian name,” Sookie explained. “That sounds silly and old fashioned, but that’s Gran’s way.”
Pride. Eric felt pride. What the fuck was that about?
Part of him wanted to bail on Sookie immediately and come up with some bullshit excuse for why he couldn’t help her. Before they left the house, Sookie was gathering her things and Gran had pulled Eric aside. Without any reservation whatsoever, she had laid it on the line.
“You be good to my Sookie, young man,” she’d said despite the fact that Eric had dozens of lifetimes on her. “She’s had a difficult row to hoe and she deserves someone who will love her for who she is instead of what she is. She deserves someone who can appreciate all the things her big, generous heart has to offer, someone who will cherish her. If you’re not that someone, let her go before she starts to care for you anymore than she already does.”
Adele’s request gave him pause. It was a fair and honest plea from a concerned grandmother. There were no threats to track him down and stake him if he broke Sookie’s heart, but that was unnecessary. Once again Eric told himself that it was just sex that he wanted–sex and her blood.
Gods, her blood. Just the thought of it made his fangs throb… among other things. Her sunny sweet scent lingered all over his house. He had been surprised to go up to the master suite to find the bed made and the towels hanging perfectly after being used. The t-shirt of his that she’d slept in was folded and sitting on the edge of the bed, along with a note thanking him for letting her use it.
Sookie hadn’t asked, but he didn’t mind. He meant what he said about her looking fuckable in his clothes. The image of her standing beside his pool, bathed in moonlight with a pissed off expression on her face was one he wasn’t likely to forget anytime too soon.
“So, Eric, what’s your plan for the rest of the night?” Sookie asked, cutting into his thoughts.
“Fangtasia. I have some things to do there and I thought it might be good for our little scam for us to be seen in public together,” he said.
“Good idea,” she smiled and put her seat back a little. “Do you mind if I rest on the way back? I don’t want to go falling asleep on you at the bar.”
“Not at all. I’ll wake you when we get to the house,” he promised.
“Thank you. And thank you for being so polite to my Gran. I really appreciate you humoring her.” Sookie shrugged out of her jacket and folded it up to use it as a pillow. She shifted onto her side a little bit and with the number of buttons left undone on her top, Eric got a good look at her cleavage when he glanced over at her.
With her eyes closed Sookie looked peaceful, almost angelic. Eric turned on the radio and started a CD of Gregorian monks chanting. He didn’t care much for the message, but their voices were beautiful. The harmony of it was soothing to him, and judging by how quickly Sookie fell asleep she was either very tired or very relaxed. Either way, Eric decided to drive beyond their exit to give her a little more time to sleep.
What should have been a forty-five minute drive turned into two hours. By the time they pulled into the garage it was almost one in the morning. For him the night was just getting started.
“Sookie,” Eric said softly, and reached over to gently touch her cheek. “Sookie, wake up.”
Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at him. “That music you were playing was beautiful.”
“I’m glad you liked it. Come on, let’s bring your things inside. I have something for you,” he said.
Pam had dropped off the outfit he requested. He was fully prepared for Sookie to refuse it. It wasn’t at all her taste, but that was kind of the point. The two of them collected her things from the trunk and brought them upstairs. While Sookie started to unpack, Eric went down to the living room to get her pet outfit.
When he got back upstairs, he handed Sookie a dress bag and said, “Put this on and then we’ll go.”
“Eric, you didn’t have to do this,” she insisted.
“I doubt you have clothing befitting a vampire’s pet. You can thank me later,” he wiggled his eyebrows.
She rolled her eyes, but took the bag and went to the bathroom. He heard her unzip the bag and then she shouted, “No fucking way!”