His eyes were dreamier than usual, but that was often the case when he was in bed with her. There was a softness to them that he didn’t like to show to the rest of the world, while it seemed as though her eyes had picked up some of his edge. It was a delicate transfer that was made, and it could only be made when they were in bed together. Candles flickered around them, her tan limbs stretched out. Her left arm crooked to cover herself as she rolled onto her back. The movement causes the fitted sheet to fall just a little bit lower, showing the bumps of her pelvic bone on her right side. She was beautiful laying there, and he wondered how it was ever possible he could have tried to deny her.

He reached out to touch the silky strands of her golden hair, and his fingertips grazed her warm shoulder. Her head rolled in his direction, and he slowly inched closer to her. He could feel her breath on his hand. It was one of the most basic human functions, and it drove him mad. His fangs extended, making her smile. She knew what was coming, and she rolled her body toward his to welcome it. Her palm found his face and stroked his cheek for a second before she grazed her soft lips against his. His hand snaked under the sheet, and a soft moan escaped her lips.

“Sookie?” Bill broke into her thoughts with an expectant look on his face.

“I’m sorry.” Sookie shook her head, trying to shake away her thoughts of Eric. He kept creeping into her head at the worst possible times, and she couldn’t seem to control it. “What was the question?”

Bill scoffed at this, and his eyes darted down to the black box resting on the table in front of her. Sookie gasped, and then looked at Bill. “Will you marry me?” he asked for a second time.

Sookie’s jaw dropped. The ring in the box was absolutely beautiful. It was precisely what she wanted, and had dreamed about since she was a little girl. And yet, this was nothing like what she’d planned as a child. Bill had done it all the right way, just at the wrong time, and it was just ruined for her. She looked back and forth between him and the ring, not sure of what to say. She had so many questions, and the stress of it all forced tears out of her eyes that she just couldn’t stop.

“Sookie?” He whispered quietly.

“When I was a little girl, I used to imagine this moment of my life all the time. It was all so clear, and every single time I always said yes.” Sookie sniffled, and dabbed at her eyes with the napkin in her lap.

“So then this should be simple.” Bill said with a faltering smile.

“Then how come it’s not?” Sookie sobbed quietly. “Oh, Bill, I love you. Please don’t think I don’t, but I just have so many questions. We haven’t even talked about getting married before and there are so many things we need to discuss. Like, what about kids? We can’t have kids together. And what about when I’m old and you’re the exact same as you are right now?” she sputtered.

“Sookie, I love you as you are.”

“I know you do, Bill, but that’s just it. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am.”

“What?” Bill was clearly confused by this. “What do you mean?”

“I did something to Maryann and I don’t know what it was, or how I did it, but I did. I need to know what it was, and I need to know if it’s something that I have to control, or if it’s just going to happen at random times. I need to know more about what I am, Bill, because I don’t know. The only other person I’ve ever met with my abilities is somewhere in Dallas, probably cursing my name for ever having met me. I don’t know anyone else who can do what I do, and now I have this electricity running through me, and I just don’t get it! I don’t understand it, and I don’t understand how you can be so passe about it when I’m so scared. What if I’m not human, Bill?” Sookie was talking a mile a minute, and Bill just felt like he was being steam rolled.

“Sookie, whatever it is, we can face it together. That is what a marriage is,” he told her.

“Yes, I know that, Bill. I just…I need a minute.” Sookie gathered up her purse along with the ring, and ran for the bathroom.

Thankfully, Bill didn’t try to stop her, nor did he follow her. She leaned over the old-fashioned pedestal sink and just cried for a minute. Then her eyes caught the ring on the side of the sink, and she grabbed it from its box. She slid the ring onto her finger. It was a perfect fit. She laid her hand on her chest, looking at her reflection in the mirror. While it was a beautiful ring, and she enjoyed the burden of its weight on her finger she wasn’t sure a pretty piece of jewelry was a good enough reason to accept a marriage proposal. Yet, she couldn’t take the ring off. She fixed her face as best she could and then went back to the dining room to find Bill. He was standing near a bay of windows looking up at the moon. He heard her coming before she even turned the carpeted corner.

“Are you better now?” Bill asked hopefully.

“I’m calmer, but I’m not better.” Sookie tried to keep her bitterness out of her voice. This wasn’t Bill’s fault. “This ring is beautiful, Bill, and it would be an honor to wear it for the rest of my life.” Her words suggested promise, but someone forgot to tell her face that.

“But you haven’t said yes,” he pointed out to her.

“And I’m not sure if I can. I need some time to think about it,” Sookie told him.

Bill looked crushed, which wasn’t at all what she wanted. “You do not want to marry me, do you?”

“That’s not what I’m saying, Bill. Don’t put words in my mouth. Especially words that might come back to choke you later,” Sookie said sternly. “All’s I’m saying is I need to figure out a few things, and I just…I can’t promise to join my life with yours until I know more about my life. That’s all I want. I think that’s rational.” Sookie stepped closer to him. “Please don’t be angry with me.”

“I am not angry, Sookie. I am disappointed.” Bill hung his head.

“You think I’m not, Bill? You think this is what I wanted? I was supposed to be able to look at you and know that no matter what, we could somehow get through it.”

“So this is my fault?” Bill glared at her.

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Sookie took off the ring and put it back in the box. “I just…I need time, Bill. Please? Can you give that to me? We’re talking about for the rest of my life here, but not for the rest of yours,” Sookie pointed out to him, and it was as if she punched him in the stomach.

“I will take you home then.” Bill walked past her, and out the front door.

Sookie sighed and grabbed her wrap off the back of her chair. Well that was fun, she thought to herself before walking out of the restaurant.

The ride back to her house was completely silent and at one point, Sookie even considered getting in the backseat. Just this once she wished she could hear his thoughts. Was he really mad at her for not being able to say yes right away? It seemed as though he never bothered to try and see things from her perspective. He was so busy thinking about what he wanted that he wasn’t giving much consideration to her thoughts or feelings, and Sookie wasn’t sure if she could be married to someone like that. There were just too many questions in her head for her to even consider committing to afternoon tea the following day, let alone a lifelong commitment.

When he car stopped in front of her house, she didn’t hesitate to get out of the car, but he was right behind her.

“Bill, I don’t think you should come in.” Sookie put a hand on his chest. If he were a human, his heart would be racing like hers, but instead his chest remained level as ever.

“Can’t we talk about this? Maybe we can figure it out together?” he suggested.

“I need to figure it out for myself,” Sookie spoke softly in attempts to keep fresh tears at bay.

“Fine. Goodnight then, Miss Stackhouse,” his voice was a little colder than she would have liked.

“Do you want this back?” Sookie asked, holding out the little black box that contained the engagement ring.

“Only if you are saying you do not want to marry me,” Bill answered.

“That’s not what I’m saying.” Sookie tilted her head ever so slightly. “I do love you, Bill.” She wrapped her arms around him weakly, her head finding that familiar spot on his shoulder.

His cool hand reached up, and stroked the back of her neck. He found the pin that was holding her hair up, and he removed it so that her hair cascaded down. He could spend hours laying next to her in bed, just twirling her hair around his fingers. He always said it reminded him of sunlight, which she thought was sweet. He twirled her hair now, gentle as ever, and kissed the side of her head. She tilted her head back and kissed him goodnight before going inside her creaky old farmhouse. She watched from the foyer as Bill drove off into the night before locking her doors. She dropped her wrap and purse on the dining room table before proceeding into the kitchen.

Her house was still a bit of a mess thanks to Maryann. There were lots of repairs that needed to be done, but nothing had been damaged beyond repair. Well, except for Gran’s wedding gown. That realization was enough to make Sookie go back to her bag to retrieve the little black box Bill had given her. She pulled the ring from the box, and put it back on her finger. A sudden wave of exhaustion nearly knocked her off her feet, and Sookie retreated to her bedroom. She didn’t even bother to take off the beautiful dress Bill had bought for her. She simply kicked off her shoes, and climbed into the old handcrafted bed that Stackhouses had been sleeping in for centuries.

She rolled onto her side, and held out her left hand to look at her ring. “Why can’t I say yes?” She muttered out loud to no one, and then closed her eyes.

His cool hand between her warm thighs was a delightful contrast, and even better than that were his cool lips on her hot neck. She could feel her blood coursing through her veins, and it was only a matter of time before she felt the sweet release of his fangs sinking into her somewhere. He never seemed more alive than when he was touching her, and that was when she liked him best. She could let go of absolutely everything that might hold her back, and she could be herself at her most primal level. He didn’t judge her, or try to make her over into something she wasn’t. He encouraged her to find her inner strength, and to challenge him. Without knowing it, she inspired him to be something bigger, better and stronger than he’d been for many more years than she’d been alive.

She wasn’t just his lover, she was his muse. She was poetry in motion in his eyes. “I want to kiss every inch of your skin,” he whispered to her.

Start here,” she pointed to her lips, and he did without removing his hand from between her thighs.

He could feel the pulse in her femoral artery, and he knew that it would only quicken the more he kissed her. She moaned and gasped against him, her minty sweet breath creating a small tornado in his mouth. With the candles flickering around them, she seemed to be angel. He kissed her face gently and slowly before moving down to her jaw, and then her neck. He paused just for a moment at her jugular vein, contemplating feeding on her then, but deciding it was better to wait. He knew the anticipation of that moment would work her into a frenzy, and she would be difficult to keep up with.

As he made his way across her collarbone, her legs squeezed together as she cried out. “All systems are go,” Eric mumbled quietly, and continued down her chest.

Sookie woke with a start, and sat upright in bed. It was just after midnight. She thought she heard someone outside the house, but decided it was just her mind playing tricks on her. With Maryann dead, who would want to harm her? Oh that’s right, Lorena, the Newlins or maybe Maryann wasn’t as dead as they’d thought. Bon Temps certainly had become a bit of a hotbed for supernatural activity.

It seemed like anything was possible now, and Sookie was tired of being the guinea pig for the Supernatural World. As if just being a telepath wasn’t bad enough, she was caught in a rather frustrating love triangle with two vampires, she’d been clawed by a Maenad, watched a 2,000-year-old vampire meet the sun and then, of course, there was just the small issue of being forced into being the maid of honor for the same creature who could have poisoned her to death. Where did it all end?

Sookie got out of bed, determined to find some sort of snack that was really unhealthy, but comforting at the same time. In the end all she found was graham crackers and fluff, but to her way of thinking those were the best parts of a ‘smore anyway. So, she sat down at the kitchen table and had herself a snack. She replayed a few things over in her mind, trying to remember what she had been thinking when she’d touched Maryann’s face, and that electric current had flowed from her fingertips. All she could seem to recall thinking was, “Hey psycho, get your crazy ass out of my fucking house before I shoot you with my brother’s shotgun.”

Somehow, Sookie didn’t think thoughts like those were enough to cause electrical currents to run from her fingertips. If that were the case, she probably would have zapped someone other than Maryann long ago.

She finished her snack, and headed back to her bedroom. She unzipped the dress and hung it in her closet to take to the cleaner’s in a day or two. She opened the drawer where she kept her nightgowns, and came across the shirt she’d worn home from Fangtasia after being clawed and poisoned by Maryann. A light bulb went on in her head, and she stopped to look at herself in the mirror.

“Eric’s blood,” she whispered, and then backed away from her dresser. “Oh God.” She covered her mouth, thinking for a second that she might be sick. As if the dreams she’d been having weren’t bad enough, now she was electrifying people?

If it wasn’t Eric’s blood that was causing this, what else could it be? Sookie couldn’t imagine many situations in which Eric would be giving away his blood. He certainly wasn’t selling it to drainers. Eric had very specific feelings about how drainers should be dealt with, and he felt even more strongly about people who sold vampire blood to humans for recreational purposes. Given that Sookie’d had vampire blood herself a few times she knew exactly what it was like to be on it. Although, anytime she’d ever taken Bill’s blood it was because she was injured, and vampire blood was the ultimate medicine. But with Eric, she’d been perfectly healthy. There were no broken bones, no internal bleeding, no claw marks on her back. She was just fine.

Rather than getting into a nightgown, Sookie pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. She had to know if this new power was something permanent, and the only person who might be able to answer that question was about forty-five minutes away. If she hurried, she could get there before last call.

“Is he here, Pam?” Sookie asked without bothering to wait in line like the rest of the people outside the bar.

“There is a line to get in this evening.” Pam pointed to the pissed off tourists and strung out fangbangers behind them.

“Just answer my question,” Sookie snapped at Pam, which earned her a smile that included a flash of Pam’s fangs. “Please,” Sookie softened her tone.

“Of course he’s inside, but I don’t think he’s up for visitors this evening,” Pam told her.

“Jag har här, Pam. Inte ett ord om var jag har varit.” I’ve got this Pam. Not a word about where I’ve been. Eric appeared from out of nowhere, his tone stern, and slightly ominous.

“Som om jag skulle vara dum nog att lita på en människa.” As if I would be stupid enough to trust a human. Pam responded with a roll of her eyes. “Jag förstår inte vad som är så speciellt med det här ett fall som helst, utom hennes smak i skor.” I don’t see what’s so special about this one anyway, other than her taste in footwear.

“Du kan dregla över hennes skor senare. Låt henne I.” You can drool over her shoes later. Let her in. Eric said with just a hint of amusement, and waited for Pam to let Sookie pass.

Sookie had watched Pam and Eric exchange words in what she presumed to be Swedish, but she wasn’t sure. In fact, she wasn’t sure how many languages Eric spoke, exactly. She assumed he spoke many, but he seemed to prefer Swedish when he was talking business with Pam. It was less likely to be translated down in Cajun country than French, or even Spanish, being that they were so close to Texas. Eric stood at the door of the bar with his hands behind his back. He was dressed nicely in a gray suit, his hair slicked back.

“Sookie, what a pleasure to see you this evening. What brings you to Shreveport?” He sounded genuinely interested, which she wasn’t expecting.

She got the feeling that while there was a part of him (and she was pretty sure she knew which part that was) that was always happy to see her, he was equally put off by her presence. No matter how attractive she was, she was still a human. She made for a tasty meal, and he had no doubt that she was a tiger in the sack, but when the sun came up she wouldn’t be retiring to a coffin beside his. She would be soaking up the sunshine, pondering morality and ethics. There was something about his welcoming attitude that she found disconcerting, but she tried to tuck away her cynical nature, and enjoy Eric’s kindness for as long as it lasted. She was sure it wouldn’t be long before he was his snarky self.

When she didn’t answer him right away he said, “I didn’t think Bill let you stray so far from home unattended this late in the evening.”

Sookie glared at him, which only coaxed a smile from the Viking. “I don’t need Bill’s permission to do anything,” she retorted.

“Would you like to come in?” He gestured toward the door of the bar.

Fangbangers and tourists were lined up watching this exchange, wondering what the petite blond’s response would be to this. If she didn’t have so many questions that needed answering, she might have turned and walked off on him just to prove a point. But since she was in a somewhat desperate mood, and her marriage might depend on getting answers, she felt like she had no choice. She walked past Eric without another word, and she heard the fangbangers cursing her in their heads, while the tourists worried for her safety. Sometimes she wished she carried that same worry. Although it did frighten her to think that maybe her confidence was a false one. Just because Eric hadn’t hurt her yet didn’t mean he couldn’t, or that he wouldn’t. Maybe the perfect opportunity just hadn’t presented itself yet.

She went straight to his office, rather than the bar. “Would you care for a drink? I can have one brought in for you.” Eric arranged himself behind his desk.

No, thank you,” Sookie said as politely as she could muster. “You looked surprised to see me just now, but since I’ve had your blood I know you knew I was coming here.”

Eric looked at her with a blank expression. He had one hell of a poker face, that’s for sure, and sometimes that annoyed her more than the sleazy comments he made. “I assumed you would be bringing Bill with you, and I am not in the mood to deal with him this evening,” Eric said dismissively. “From the look on your face, and all I can sense, you aren’t particularly fond of him at the moment either.”

Sookie held up her left hand, flashing her engagement ring at Eric. “Bill has asked me to marry him.”

Eric shook his head and said, “Will it be a spring wedding, then?”

Actually, it would probably be a in a couple of weeks in Vermont. It’s lovely there in the fall,” Sookie retorted.

So Bill asks you to marry him, and you come to see me? Interesting.” Eric sat on the edge of his desk in front of her so that if she looked straight ahead she’d be staring at, well, not his eyes. “I’m guessing that if you’re here to see me then you didn’t say yes to his proposal.” Eric removed his suit jacket, and laid it over the back of his chair with precision.

I need some time to think it over,” Sookie said simply. “I have a few questions about what happened with Maryann that I need to figure out before I can marry Bill.”

And you thought that I might be able to answer those questions for you?” Eric asked.

Actually, what I want from you right now has very little to do with talking.” Sookie stood up, and took off the ring Bill had given her. She laid it on Eric’s desk, the heat from her body bouncing off of his.

Her smell was sweet but crisp, and it was easy for Eric to understand why Bill would want that scent everywhere he went. It was an intoxicating aroma, but it was familiar for reasons other than it belonged to Sookie. What he smelled went so much deeper than her skin, and he had a pretty good idea of what it was he was smelling. His fangs ran out at the realization of what was standing in front of him, and when Sookie looked at him there was no mistaking the lust in his eyes.

What do you want from me, Sookie?” Eric asked.

Nothing you haven’t been trying to give me since the second we locked eyes.” She stepped closer to him so that their bodies were just about pressed up against each other. There was just the tiniest pocket of air between them, but Eric could feel the heat radiating off her body.

The way she looked up at him with pleading big brown eyes would have annoyed him to no end if it had been any other human, but Sookie wasn’t just any other human. He’d had humans. He’d been having them for centuries, but she wasn’t like any other human he’d ever met. There was something unique to her that made him want her, even if he knew it would lead nowhere good. Having feelings for humans was never good. It would just never work the way he wanted it to. Feelings got in the way, and the simplest acts of being a person were somehow muddled by the endless discussions, or proclamations, of devotion to one another. There was no freedom in having feelings for a human. For him, it was like a strong silver chain clamped on his ankle, tethering him to a life he hadn’t lived for centuries. He wasn’t a human. He was a vampire, and no matter how much she thought she could accept that, her human brain just couldn’t comprehend what that really meant.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the spoils of what she was offering him. He had been dreaming of this very thing happening since the minute he set eyes on her, and now, here it was. Clothing was coming off of both their bodies at record speed. If he’d needed to breath, he’d be struggling for it now the same way she was. Her focus was all on him, and that was what he found most desirable about her in that moment. She was modest and humble, and hugely unaware of how sexy she was. Her indifference was intoxicating, and it kept him wanting more. Even if it was just little annoyances that got under her skin, it was good enough because he knew she would be thinking of them later when she was at home in bed at night. She might be laying there with Bill, but she would be thinking of someone else. It was his goal in life to always be that someone else. Now if only there was a way to accomplish this without feelings getting involved, it would be perfect.

He laid her golden-brown body down on his black leather couch, and went to work doing all of the things he’d been thinking of doing for months. Her body twisted and turned under his hands and lips, small sounds escaping her sweet mouth. She whispered his name like a prayer, and lost herself in the moment. Her concerns for her impending marriage slipped away, and all that was left in the world was this beautiful vampire who was prepared to worship every inch of skin bared before him. He felt his blood pumping through her veins, and he was enamored with the taste he found when he sank between her legs. She gasped and shook, scratching at him as he sank his fangs into her thigh.

When he turned her around so that she was braced against the back of the couch he watched just the littlest bit of blood run from the small wound in her thigh. She turned back to look at him, her eyes big with anticipation. There was a part of him that wanted to hear her beg for what was going to happen next, but pushing his luck probably wasn’t a good idea. He found that it was a warm but snug fit when he was inside her, and she seemed to lose that high moral edge (what she would probably call ‘uppity’) she had when she was fully clothed, and on Bill’s arm. He never would have been able to guess that her back could bend the way it was in front of him, but that didn’t stop him from resting him palm against it.

She continued to look back at him, urging him to thrust into her faster or harder, and soon enough both of their heads were spinning. She was growling in tandem with him, and that only served to turn him on even more. She was calling out his name and all sorts of dirty words when he sank his fangs into the back of her neck. Her body shook under his with his arms wrapped around her, holding her up. For just a moment, he could feel sunlight on his face again. No wonder Bill is in love with her, Eric thought to himself.

Sookie startled herself awake once again at the sound of Eric’s office door closing behind her, and she wondered if Eric had any knowledge of the dream she’d just had. She crossed her legs uncertainly, and tried to keep herself from looking up into his radiant face.

“Sorry to keep you waiting for so long. Would you care for a drink? I can have one brought in for you.” Eric arranged himself behind his desk.

“No, thank you,” Sookie said as politely as she could muster. “You looked surprised to see me, but since I’ve had your blood I know you knew I was coming.”

Eric looked at her with a blank expression. He had one hell of a poker face, that’s for sure, and sometimes that annoyed her more than the sleazy comments he made. “I assumed you would be bringing Bill with you, and I am not in the mood to deal with him this evening,” Eric said dismissively. “From the look on your face, and all I can sense, you aren’t particularly fond of him at the moment either.”

“Your senses are wrong. I am perfectly fond of Bill. I love Bill,” Sookie argued, and Eric held up a hand to stop her from going any further down that track.

“Do not talk to me of your feelings for Bill,” Eric’s voice was full of disdain, but his face remained blank as ever.

“Fine. Then I have a few questions for you.” Sookie leaned forward.

“I think we can work out something.” Eric smiled.

“What do you mean?”

“Oh Sookie, we have an agreement. You do something for me, and I do something for you. It’s a very simple arrangement.” Eric’s eyes almost flashed at her, and she sat back.

“I need answers, Eric.”

“I have needs too.”

Sookie sighed with disgust. “I’m not having sex with you, so you can just forget it.”

“Maybe not tonight, but someday you will.” Eric’s tone was a tone of warning, and it sent chills down Sookie’s spine.

“And you know this how?” Sookie tried to keep her voice full of disgust, instead of the rabid curiosity that was coursing through her. It was a pointless gesture since the blood pumping through her veins was now Eric’s blood too.

In a flash he was on the other side of his desk, leaning over her like a pre-schooler in trouble for not sharing her dolls. “Your blood is my blood now,” he reminded her.

“It’s Bill’s blood too, you know?” she pointed out.

Eric’s eyes flickered again, and she wondered if that was anger or jealousy she was seeing in them. She wouldn’t have pegged Eric for the jealous type, even if that seemed to be part and parcel of being a vampire. They were a possessive lot, but Eric had always struck her has different from the others. While it was true he had a nasty temper that she wasn’t really anxious to test, she had also come to the conclusion that Eric had a fairly level head. But then Eric seemed to be more of an antagonist. He enjoyed ruffling the feathers of others, and watching them work themselves into a frenzy. The key to dealing with someone like Eric, Sookie thought, might just be remaining calm at all times, mirror his poker face. That wouldn’t be so easy to do now that she shared his blood.

“So what questions do you have for me? I assume it’s not whether or not I would be interested in giving you away.” Eric picked up her hand to examine the rather sizable diamond on her finger. Sookie almost winced. She’d forgotten she had put the ring back on. “Bill has asked you to marry him, I take it?”

“He has,” Sookie admitted, since there was no point in lying.

“And you are here to see me about this? You do not need my permission, although-” Eric looked intrigued.

“I’m here because of Maryann.” Sookie took her hand back.

“The Maenad? She’s dead. What’s there to discuss?” Eric sat up straight on the edge of his desk. His long legs crossed in front of Sookie, and his thick arms folded over his chest.

“I did something to her that I can’t explain, and I thought maybe it had something to do with your blood,” Sookie told him.

“What did you do, exactly? I heard that it was the Shifter who tore out her heart.” Eric’s head tilted just a little.

“It was before that. When I first got back to Bon Temps, she tried to attack me, and I put my hand on her face, and this electricity came out of me,” Sookie explained.

“Electricity?” Eric’s eyebrows arched.

“Well I don’t know if that’s what it was, exactly, but it felt like it. It was some sort of energy. It threw her across the room,” Sookie recalled.

“Interesting.” Eric turned and walked around to the other side of his desk again. “And you think my blood has given you this power?”

“I don’t know.” Sookie shook her head, trying not to get all upset again. “That’s why I’m here, Eric. If you know anything, please, you have to tell me. I love Bill, and I want to marry him, but I want him to know what he’s marrying, and right now I don’t have a clue.”

“He’s marrying Sookie Stackhouse, waitress from Bon Temps. Of course he’d be sharing a part of you with me.” He just had to throw that in there.

She wanted to ask him why he felt the need to constantly remind her of such things. “You know, on second thought, maybe I will take that drink after all.” Sookie sighed.

“Gin and tonic, yes?” Eric looked at her, and he could tell she was surprised he remembered her drink. He picked up a phone that connected him directly to the bar. A few seconds later Chow appeared, albeit begrudgingly, with her drink. He didn’t say a word. He just handed over the drink and left.

“Thanks.” Sookie rose her glass to Eric ever so slightly, and took a sip. It was a strong drink, but she needed it right about then.

“Before we go any further, you should know that I think vampires marrying humans is a big mistake.”

“There’s a surprise.” Sookie rolled her eyes. She spoke before she could stop herself. She was astutely aware that sassing Eric was never a good idea, and it was even less of a good idea when she needed something from him. So she tried to smooth her rough tongue by saying, “You’ve never said a single thing to me that would make me think you approve of vampire/human relationships that last longer than an orgasm or a snack.”

Eric couldn’t help but smile at this. “You will never be equals, Sookie. Someday you will get old. The body you have, as beautiful as it is now, will become infirm and begin to wither. Your vision will decline, as will your hearing. You will lose the ability to do the most basic things, and Bill will be the exact same physical man he was the day you married. You will never have his children. The most fundamental reasons to marry him are defunct in a relationship like yours.”

“There are lots of couples who marry and don’t have children, Eric,” Sookie pointed out.

“This is true, but they will walk through life together with the same eyes. They will be able to watch a sunset on their porch swing, or go for a walk whenever the mood strikes because they are the same. If you marry Bill, you are signing yourself up for a life that is nothing like the one you dreamed of.” It was like Eric was pulling every doubt in her head, and reading them back to her.

“You think I don’t know that? You can’t control who you love, Eric. It just happens. Sometimes it’s inconvenient, or you find it in the place where you least expect it, but it’s there,” Sookie argued in return, but she could see that it was a moot point.

“Who are you trying to convince, Sookie?”

It was a perfectly logical question, and Sookie abandoned the straw in her drink to take a gulp of it instead of a sip. “Can we please get back to my question now?” Sookie asked him.

Eric thought about it for a second, his fingers steepling under his chin. There was something devious in his expression, and Sookie got the impression that he was trying to hide something from her. The second she thought it, his eyes darted up to hers. “Do you think I would lie to you?”

“I think you would say just about anything you had to if it meant getting me away from Bill.” Sookie answered him honestly. “Why do you find me so interesting, Eric?”

That was something that Sookie could never figure out. She wasn’t terribly sophisticated or smart. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the room (although she didn’t think she was ugly either). She didn’t have the smallest waist, or the biggest boobs. She was just plain ole Sookie Stackhouse, waitress at Merlotte’s. Did it have something to do with the telepathy? Eric had already gotten the benefits of that gift without having to sleep with her, so she figured that couldn’t be it. There had to be something more.

“Is it because I belong to another?” Sookie asked, and the way his eyes flickered told her far more than his silence did. She was pretty sure she’d hit the nail on the head.

“Your feelings toward me have changed recently, haven’t they?” Eric asked, although he didn’t need to. He could feel it all coursing through her body, one delicious artery at a time. His mind diverted from the conversation long enough to think of all the places inside of her his blood had been, and it made him excited just thinking about it.

“It’s just the blood. Bill said that happens,” Sookie shook it off, but Eric knew that was only part of it. She’d seen him cry on the roof of the hotel before Godric’s death. She looked at him differently after that. She looked on him with compassion and pity, which was a big mistake to make with any vampire.

“So then what makes you think your feelings for Bill aren’t just a product of his blood? You have far more of that in your system than you do mine,” Eric pointed out.

Of course that was true, but Eric was also much much older than Bill. “But your blood has more power in it. Isn’t that the way it works with vampires? You’re centuries older than Bill. You were already what, like, 800-years-old when his human body was born?” Sookie ventured.

“Something like that.” Eric was on his feet again. “You are asking all of the wrong questions, Sookie.”

“Oh really? And why is that?” Sookie looked at him pointedly.

“Marriage is not a supernatural act. It is a human bond.”

“What if I’m not human?” Sookie almost shouted in frustration. She felt like they were going round and round in circles. The more questions she asked, the more confused she became.

“So what if you aren’t? Does that change who you are as a person? Labels don’t change what you are made of.”

“But I don’t know what I’m made of, Eric!” She wanted to hit him, she was so angry.

His fangs lowered, and he growled at her as he moved so they were eye to eye. She recoiled in her chair, not at all suspecting that from him. He caught her gaze, and they stared hard at one another. In that moment all of the dreams she’d been having about Eric were floating in front of her eyes, and there was a slight temptation to see if the real thing felt as good as the dream did. It’s just his blood. You love Bill., she told herself. But now she was starting to wonder if maybe there wasn’t some truth to what Eric had said. What if her feelings for Bill were, in part, at least, because she’d had so much of his blood? This wasn’t going the way she’d thought it would, that’s for sure.

“You have a heart that beats. You have lungs that expand and collapse. You have warmth in your skin.” Eric touched her throat with the tips of his cool fingers, and she closed her eyes at the sensation of it. He felt a chill run through her body, which only served to further excite him. “You cry human tears. You walk in the sunlight, and sleep under the moon. You are a human, Sookie, but you are special. There is nothing wrong with being special.” His fangs retracted as he backed away from her.

“Yeah, I’m special alright.” Sookie wiped a tear that was on her cheek, and then set down the drink Chow had brought her. “I should go. This was a mistake.”

“What did you expect when you came here, Sookie? Did you think I would somehow have all of the answers for you?” Eric seemed more amused by this than he did angry.

“You are just a walking contradiction.” Sookie shook her head. “You hate humans, and all of their emotions, but you need us for sexual purposes, food and money. You want me because you can’t have me, but you won’t let me get close enough to you to actually want you back. You can’t have it both ways, Eric. I came to you because I saw the look in your eyes before Godric died, and I saw a shred of humanity in you. I thought maybe, just maybe, you might be the one person in the world who understands how lost I’m feeling right now. I don’t want to make a mistake that could ruin not only my life, but Bill’s as well. But I forgot that Eric’s number one priority is Eric.” She got up off her chair, and turned toward the door.

Eric, of course, was already standing in front of the door. “Do not marry a vampire, Sookie. Love him if you must, but do not marry him,” Eric advised her, and stepped out of the way.

They stared hard at each other for a minute, and he could feel every single emotion that was coursing through her body. It was disappointing to him that not a single one of those feelings was desire, because he certainly wanted her in that moment.

“Goodnight, Eric.” Sookie opened the door slowly, taking her time moving beside him. He inhaled as much of her scent as he could before she walked away.

After she was gone, he stood with his back pressed against the door and his eyes closed, just savoring her smell. When he opened his eyes a few minutes later, he realized her engagement ring was sitting on his desk, and he wondered how it had gotten there. “Excellent.” He smiled devilishly, and pocketed the ring.

On the drive home, Sookie’s mind was swampy with all sorts of thoughts. She tried to separate her feelings for Bill from what had happened with Maryann, since they really didn’t have much to do with one another. The bigger question in her head now was thanks to Eric. Did she love Bill because of the blood in her body? If she hadn’t had to take his blood, would she still feel the same devotion to him? That was a pretty big question, and the truth was, she had no way of knowing for sure what the right answer was. She’d been attracted to him the night they’d met before she’d had his blood, but attraction and love were two very different emotions. She felt attracted to Johnny Depp, but that didn’t mean she loved him.

“Oh I so don’t need another fantasy right now.” Sookie grumbled to herself as she drove along the back roads to get back to Bon Temps. The sun would be coming up soon, and she had to decide if she was going home to her Gran’s house, or to Bill’s place.

Then it occurred to her that while it was true Eric’s blood was causing her to fantasize about him, she wasn’t in love with him. In fact, the very idea of being in love with Eric was enough to turn her stomach. She decided that what she felt for Bill was natural, and not some trick being played on her by his blood. It was the real thing. He was a good man, and he adored her. Okay, so he had a bit of a temper, and he had a tendency to take things a step too far, but he was just trying to protect her.

“He staked another vampire for me, for crying out loud. Eric would never have done that.” Sookie thought she might start to cry again, and it dawned on her then that she was a fool for not saying yes to Bill the second she laid eyes on that ring. “The ring!” Sookie looked at her left hand to find that her engagement ring was gone.

She slammed on her breaks and pulled to the side of the road. She dug into her purse to look for the ring, but it wasn’t there. Her eyes closed when she realized where she must have left it. She hit the steering wheel a few times, and wondered how in the hell should was going to explain all of this to Bill without him thinking Eric had somehow manipulated her into going to Shreveport to see him. Still, she put the car back in gear, and drove toward his house with the intention of telling him that she wanted to marry him. She would be his wife.

She pulled into his long driveway and parked her car around back by his. But before she even got out of her car, she could sense that something wasn’t right. Nine times out of ten Bill would come out of the house when he heard her car approaching. If he wasn’t at her door by the time the car stopped, he was waiting for her on his front porch. While it was true that dawn would be in just a few minutes, she doubted he was already in his hidey-hole for the day. She walked around to the front porch, and realized that his door was open just the tiniest crack.

“Bill?” She called out, hoping that would summon him from wherever he was inside the house, but there was no response.

She pushed the door open slowly, trying not to let the creaking get to her. The joints in the door made a quiet wailing sound as she pushed. She called out his name again, but there was no response. His car was outside, and a fire was lit in the fireplace. He’d been home. She turned back to the porch, thinking maybe he’d taken a quick trip to her house to check on her. But when the sky began to brighten, she knew he’d have to be back in a few seconds or risk weakening himself.

She went back into the house, a little further this time, and called out to him again. “Bill Compton, if you’re here, you better show yourself now before it’s too late!” she threatened, but again, she got no response.

She moved to where the kitchen was, and that was when she found the bottle of True Blood on the floor. There was a small pool of red spread all over, and more than one set of footprints on the floor. Her voice seemed to go into hibernation then. She wanted to call out to him again, but a lump in her throat prevented her from doing just that. She could tell there had been a struggle in the kitchen. Blood had spattered in a violent pattern on the wall. Sookie felt her stomach turn. She backed slowly out of the kitchen, and ran upstairs to see if maybe Bill had fallen asleep there by accident. That could be just as fatal as laying outside in the sun. She didn’t know what to think when she found the second floor of the house as empty as the ground floor.

She retreated down the stairs to the little closet where his hidey-hole was. She opened the door and knelt down to feel for the trigger in the floor. She found it easily, and the trap door popped open. If Bill were inside, she would be able to spot him easily, but he wasn’t there. Her breath caught in her throat, and she didn’t know what to do. If he wasn’t in his hidey-hole, then where the hell was he?

She closed the hidey-hole and then the closet door. Should she call the police or Eric? She didn’t know which protocol was the right one to follow, but that didn’t really matter. Seconds later there was a cold white hand on her shoulder, and she screamed.

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