“Stand back,” Eric told me as he stepped forward to start digging in the mud. Whatever was buried there was moving on its own.
I did as he asked and took two steps back from the grave. Eric’s big hands began hurling mud away from the grave. A hand became an arm and it wasn’t until I shined my flashlight on the arm that I knew who it was. The tattoos gave it away. There were the bands of wavy lines that may have noted Godric’s rank in some ancient, Roman army but I didn’t know for sure.
Eric’s digging became more frantic. He moved at vampire speed, flinging mud every which way. I backed up a little more to avoid being buried in it myself. It didn’t take long for Eric to pull Godric from the mud. Both vampires were filthy, but once again it was Eric who dropped to his knees out of respect. They spoke to each other in a different language that I couldn’t follow.
My eyes were quickly drawn back to the hole Godric had just been pulled out of. Yet another hand emerged from the mud, and even though it was dirty and dark, the beam of the flashlight told me the hand was older. No one told me, but I knew what it meant and whose hand it was. All at once my knees buckled and it was like a system overload for me. Everything went completely black.
My eyes fluttered open and I wasn’t at home. Nor was I on the couch in the office at Fangtasia like I might have expected. It wasn’t like a Dorothy moment after her injury induced trip to Oz, either. While I wasn’t at Fangtasia, I was definitely lying on a leather sofa. My knees felt stiff when I tried to move them, but I quickly discovered that was just because of the mud. Slowly reality filtered back in and I remembered why I had finally hit the dirt – so to speak – in the woods.
“Gran!” I called out.
It was strange how I was expecting it but not yet prepared for it when she came into the room at vampire speed, all blurry and crashing into the wall next to me.
“I’m still learning when to put the brakes on,” she said jovially while my head spun.
Gran had never expressed any negativity where vampires were concerned, at least not as a race. Of course there had been reports of vampires killing humans, but she didn’t condemn the lot for a few bad apples. After all, humans killed each other all the time and for much more petty reasons than they were starving. Just last week I heard a story on the news about a kid getting shot over an MP3 player. It was ridiculous.
Yet, Gran had never said anything about wanting to be a vampire. As far as I knew, she was waiting for God to call her Home so she could spend eternity with Grandpa and her children. I had no idea she was interested in being a vampire.
“How? Why? How?” I stammered.
Godric came into the room with Eric right behind him. Gran sat down next to me and began to explain.
“I was coming back from visiting Maisie Wynn. She looked so small and sickly in the bed.” That was no easy feat for a woman Maisie’s size. “The procedure was a success, but of course there was talk about all the medications, the diet changes, the exercise regime… All that was assuming she didn’t catch an infection in the hospital and drop dead. I left that visit depressed, Sookie. I tried to take good care of myself but my body was just getting older every day and I wasn’t going to get better. On the drive home I started to feel a little woozy, so I pulled off the road into the cemetery, thinking that if I had to, I could send you or Jason to fetch the car later for me. I got out of the car for some fresh air and that was when I met Godric.”
The look Gran sent in Godric’s direction was very similar to the one I had seen on Eric’s face in that church basement. It was awe, respect, admiration and extreme gratitude from the depths of their soul.
“So he turned you because you were afraid of getting older?” I looked from my grandmother to her Maker. My brain was having a hard time processing it.
“We got to talking about things. He thanked me for raising such a kind, compassionate young woman. Godric told me the things you said to him and I felt inspired by those things too. God does forgive, Sookie. He loves all His children and I know in my heart right this moment that He hasn’t forsaken me,” Gran said with conviction that was unshakable.
“Of course He hasn’t, Gran,” I agreed. When I reached out for her hand it was cold. Tears sprang to my eyes. It never occurred to me to savor the last hug I got from her but I wished I had.
“Don’t cry unless those are tears of joy. I feel blessed, Sookie. Being a vampire never occurred to me because I thought no one would ever turn an old woman like me, but Godric assures me that age is just a number,” she said with a smile. Godric was characteristically quiet as Gran spoke. “I think that woozy spell might have been a stroke because I got all disoriented and ended up in the woods, going the wrong way to get home. Godric made me an offer I couldn’t refuse as a way of showing his gratitude for what you have done. You’ll never lose me now, Sookie.”
At that I made a strange noise, somewhere between a sob and a laugh. The tears spilled over and I let Gran gather me close. She hugged and rocked me, like she had done when I was a child. I couldn’t say I quite understood her decision, but the idea of having her around for the rest of my life didn’t sound so bad. Gran stroked my hair and hummed quietly until I calmed down. There was a mortal part of her that I did have to grieve for because there were certain things we could no longer do.
“Mrs. Fortenberry is going to have a kitten when she finds out about this,” I said as I dried my face.
Gran chuckled beside me and said, “I’ll take care of old Fussy Britches.”
I wasn’t usually one for glamouring people, but if anyone needed a personality makeover, it was nosy, judgmental, big mouth Maxine. Between all the trash she talked and the way she tried to run her grown son’s life, I had no idea how she had any friends. She was a bully, really, used to coercing her way into getting what she wanted. It wasn’t easy for her to lose her husband, but damn. There was no telling how Hoyt would have turned out if it wasn’t for her interfering in every part of his life.
“Say, I wonder how fast I can thread a needle!” Gran said with excitement. “My eyes and hands haven’t worked this well in decades. I bet I could do cartwheels again if I wanted to! Can you imagine the look on Mayor Hammond’s face if I cartwheel into the next town meeting?”
She was giddy. The last time I saw her so excited, she was planning her flower beds with Xavier, the landscaper. I looked at Eric and then at Godric. Eric obviously had no idea that Gran had been turned. Frankly, I was surprised Godric did it. It was possible he had me in mind when he chose to turn Gran, but I was pretty sure his true motivation would stay with him.
I got up off the couch and even though I didn’t have his permission and he probably wasn’t expecting it, I gave Godric the tightest hug I could muster. He was all clean and back to being dressed in his off-white linens. Godric didn’t smell as good as Eric, but he was easier – less tree-like – to hug.
“Thank you,” I whispered to him.
He didn’t quite return the hug but he did pat my back.
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
Suddenly he moved away from me to get a hold of Gran. I caught a look between Eric and Godric, but it was the fangs hanging menacingly in Gran’s mouth that got my attention. Yes, she was my grandmother but she was also a hungry newborn with impulse control issues.
“It’s time to go, Sookie,” Eric told me.
“Let her stay. She smells tasty,” Gran said. “Like one of my warm pecan pies with vanilla ice cream melting on it.”
That was high praise since I was covered in mud.
“It’s not safe, Adele. You don’t want to hurt her, do you?” Godric reasoned with her.
For a moment, Gran looked torn. Of course she loved me. Deep down I knew she knew that, but I also knew the stories Jessica told about the gripping, insatiable hunger that came with being a new vampire. She had told me it was an impossible instinct to ignore. Her body demanded she feed, and so she hunted until the need was fulfilled.
“Just a little taste?” Gran whimpered. It broke my heart not to go to her.
“I’ll feed her,” I offered.
“Sookie,” Godric and Eric said simultaneously.
“It’s not a good idea. Give it a day or two and then we’ll try,” Godric told me.
Eric pulled me out of the room, but didn’t stop there. No longer could I hear Gran’s thoughts. If the fangs and speed weren’t convincing enough, the void in her mind would do it. I let Eric pull me out of the house. It was set off the road a bit, but not as much as mine was.
“Is this your house?” I asked him.
“Godric’s,” he answered. “We flew here.”
I nodded and took a deep breath. Gran seemed happy with the change in her life. I didn’t know how I was going to tell her about Jason, but that could wait.
He could probably tell by my blood that I needed it, but Eric pulled me into a hug. It was comforting and made me feel safe. Knowing that Gran was alright, that I hadn’t lost her, made me feel a million times better. Finding comfort in Eric still seemed strange or unexpected to me. I told myself it was probably Bill’s attempts to brainwash me, but it was Eric’s actions as well. He had presented himself to be as cuddly as a cactus.
“How long will Gran have to stay with Godric?” I asked quietly.
“A few weeks, at least. Months would be better,” he told me. “She can have visitors and I’m sure she’ll come by the house in Bon Temps.”
The reality hadn’t sunk in yet. No more weeding the garden together in warm spring afternoons. No more early morning walks to the cemetery to bring flowers on birthdays. No more going to church together Sunday morning or watching Jason make a fool of himself at the parish fair pie eating contest. There were so many activities that I wouldn’t be able to do with Gran anymore. Sunlight just wouldn’t allow it.
Yeah, we could weed the garden at night or move some of the other activities to nighttime, but I couldn’t do everything at night. I had a job that sometimes required I be awake during the day and I couldn’t restructure my life around Gran. She wouldn’t want me to anyway.
“I’ll take you home,” Eric offered.
It wasn’t like I had any other choice. Since we had only been out in the woods I hadn’t brought along my keys, cell phone or wallet. If we found Gran injured I would have been in the company of a vampire who could have saved her life with just a few drops of his blood, or flown her to a hospital faster than paramedics would have found us.
“Thank you,” I said.
My mind was still swimming on the flight home, but the one thing that stuck out for me was the way I felt nestled in his arms. I felt safe there. While it was true that Eric had given me gifts by proxy, he hadn’t been too opulent about it. Even the car he gave me wasn’t as fancy as he probably could have gone. I would have expected the rockstar experience, so to speak.
Instead his gifts were modest – relatively speaking – and were more about my needs than luxury items. It was like he knew I would have been offended by a Mercedes Benz or fancy jewelry. Maybe offended was the wrong word. It was more like I had no use for those things. A six carat diamond ring might be beautiful but what good was that for a small town barmaid? More likely than not, wearing something like that to work would just get me jumped in the parking lot after closing time.
A newer, bigger stove was much more useful. With a new stove I could carry on where Gran left off with making meals for the sick or baking pies or cookies for the church bake sale. Not that she couldn’t still do those things, but the stove was actually useful and way more efficient than the old stove, which was older than me. That old oven didn’t heat evenly and one of the burners didn’t work on the stove.
Replacing it wasn’t an option at the moment.
We mostly lived off the money I made at the bar. When the economy went in the tank, patronage dropped off and tips declined quite a bit. It was hard to budget on an income that wasn’t steady or reliable. Gran tried to supplement the household fund with her needlepoint, knitting and baking but it was still a struggle to make ends meet. That money Uncle Bartlett left me would have been really helpful, but I couldn’t take it knowing every time I walked into the kitchen to see the new water heater that it was those awful things he did to an innocent little girl that paid for it.
“Do you want to come in?” I asked Eric when we landed on the front lawn.
“Yes,” he answered simply.
He followed me up the front steps and in through the front door. The old house still needed a lot of work, but someday I hoped I would be able to restore it.
“I’m going to go upstairs and take a quick shower,” I told Eric.
He nodded and I could feel him watching me run up stairs. I went straight to the bathroom and started the water for the shower. It was anyone’s guess who’s shirt I had on. The front of it made me chuckle when I saw it in the mirror. It was a little too appropriate for the evening’s festivities.
Zombie apocalypse rescue team.
I pulled off the shirt and the dirtier clothes I had on under it. That stuff was going straight to the washer after my shower. I stepped under the spray and pressed my hands against the wall. The water running down my back felt better than I could have imagined. My eyes closed and the combination of warm water and deep breaths helped me relax. A good back massage would have helped, too.
It was only mildly surprising to me when I heard the shower curtain moving along the rod. My head turned to see Eric stepping into the tub behind me. A week ago I might have shooed him out and cursed him for being so high-handed and presumptuous, but I was too worn out just then to try arguing with him.
Besides, it wasn’t like he didn’t already have intimate knowledge of my body.
My mind just hadn’t quite yet grasped the concept of Eric being a nurturer. I couldn’t picture him going so far out of his way for every woman he hoped to seduce or feed from. I didn’t even want to know how many women he’d had sex with in more than a thousand years. No good could come from me knowing, assuming he even knew what the number was. Why bother counting after a certain point?
A large pair of hands settled on my shoulders. His thumbs started the massage at the base of my neck, rubbing along my spine to release some of the pressure there. Eric worked slowly and I was grateful for the water heater Gran and I chose over the new stove. The water stayed perfectly warm while his hands worked magic on my back. My shoulders weren’t left out either. It seemed as though he was determined to massage every inch of my back. By the time he was getting to the lower part of my back I felt much better.
His thumbs pressing along either side of my spine made me moan, which caused something else of his to start pressing on me. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for sex, but I did want to show my appreciation for everything he had done in the last few days. Eric didn’t have to help me. He could have told me to fuck off and figure it out on my own. My missing grandmother wasn’t his problem. He hadn’t even asked for anything in return and there wasn’t much I wouldn’t give to get Gran back.
I waited until Eric was finished with his massage. I knew because of the way his lips tried to massage my jugular.
“Bite me,” I whispered, tilting my head to the side for him. I reached up to move my hair out of the way.
“You’re sure you want this?” His voice was gruff and gravelly.
I nodded and turned to face him.
“I don’t know if it’s your blood, mine or the way the two mix together but it feels… right,” I told him. “I gave you the chance to ask for just about anything but you offered me kindness instead. I won’t forget that, Eric. You have gone out of your way for me and for my family. I won’t forget that either. I don’t have much to offer you, but I have me, this blood. I want you to have it.”
His gorgeously stormy blue eyes flashed some emotion I couldn’t read, but my speech made his fangs drop. Only he didn’t move in immediately to bite me. No, to my surprise, he bit his wrist and offered it to me.
My heart skipped a beat. Eric offering me his blood for no reason other than he wanted me to have it…
“What will it do?” I asked. I wasn’t going to go blind into taking it.
“It will unite us,” he answered in that same tone with all that intensity in his eyes. Bill had never given me his blood recreationally. It was always because I was injured in some capacity, which was probably why I didn’t resist it like I should have.
“Long enough,” he answered. The vagueness of it bothered me a little bit but none of my instincts were screaming at me to run away. It didn’t feel like a trap was being set.
I licked my lips and locked eyes with Eric. I brought his bleeding palm closer to my mouth and let my lips seal around the wounds. He growled and somehow managed to get me pinned against the tile wall with my legs wrapped around his waist. The first time around I hadn’t paid any attention to it, but the flavor of Eric’s blood overwhelmed my taste buds. My hips rocked and he groaned when I swallowed the first mouthful.
Sharp fangs tickled my neck and Eric waited until I swallowed again to sink them into my flesh. I think it caused a small, unexpected orgasm. All I knew was that Eric reached down to put his thick tip at my opening and on the next swallow, he was buried in me. It was the most incredible experience I’d ever had.
I didn’t want it to end.