Going to see the psychic was Amelia’s idea. I wasn’t really sure I believed in all that hocus pocus. Time after time I had seen them on TV shows and they usually had to try three or four different stories before they got onto something. A store had recently opened over in Hot Shot by the name of Moon Goddess Emporium. It was a magic shop or something, meant for those who practiced magic, Wicca, Hoodoo and even Voodoo. I didn’t practice any of those things but Amelia was a very devoted practitioner of Wicca.
Personally, I didn’t want any sneaky peeks into the future. Life had its nasty little surprises, of course, but it had plenty of good ones too. I didn’t want to be one of those folks who was always waiting for the next big moment to come, good or bad. So I was going along to the magic shop but I was going only as a spectator. I didn’t want to know anything about my future.
“Sook, you about ready to go? I don’t want to keep Marnie waiting!” Amelia called from the kitchen.
“Almost!” I finished painting my scarlet red lips. They had just the right amount of shine.
I pulled out a pair of fancy Louboutin pumps from my walk-in closet. They were a gift from a lover of mine. He came and went like a summer breeze, but he was awfully generous when he was around. After checking my hair I left the room. My heels made a clicking sound on the newly laid bamboo floors. I could almost still smell the fresh paint on the walls. The entire house had been renovated four months ago, courtesy of the same lover who gifted me with the fancy shoes on my feet.
“You look like you’re fixin’ to be an extra in a Robert Palmer video,” Amelia teased.
“Nope, I’m just tryin’ to look classy,” I replied.
I was wearing a basic little black dress and I had my nails painted a shimmery, deep shade of red. Crimson, I suppose was the color.
“Let me guess…” Amelia pointed to the four inch pumps. “Eric?”
“Of course,” I smiled.
“You sure he’s not your sugar daddy?” she teased.
“Believe me, baby girl, it would be easier if he was,” I said.
Trying to explain my relationship with Eric was as good as inviting advice I didn’t want. I didn’t need the opinions of other people in regards to the way I handled Eric. What we had wasn’t conventional, but it was real. It was so easy for a casual observer to say he was dangerous, that I deserved better. They didn’t know him like I did. I didn’t have to justify jackshit to anyone.
“I don’t know how you put up with that boy’s wandering eye,” she said.
For starters he wasn’t a “boy”, but I wasn’t about to tell Amelia that.
“We have an understanding.”
“Does it include him sneaking out of Dawn’s before sunrise?”
I didn’t like the smug expression on her face, like she might take some sort of pleasure in hurting me by saying that. I wouldn’t let it show, but it did. The arrangement we had didn’t make him seeing other women a crime. There was a damn good reason for why I went along with the way things were but it wasn’t her business. Amelia getting all smug and self-righteous didn’t make me want to confide in her.
“I don’t own him and he doesn’t own me,” I replied simply.
Amelia gave me a skeptical look but I didn’t care.
“Are we going or are you going to keep asking me intrusive questions?”
Judging by the way her head twisted a bit the words were like a verbal slap in the face. I was a nice person but the days of doormat Sookie were over. Amelia could talk as much trash as she wanted, but Eric had taught me how to stand up for myself. After years of being taken advantage of by Arlene Fowler, the town divorcée and notorious woman on the prowl, I had finally told her to stick it where the sun didn’t shine. To put it bluntly, I was fresh out of fucks to give.
“We’re going,” Amelia said quietly, obviously still taken aback by my decision to go on the offensive.
I grabbed my clutch from the little table in the entryway near the front door. Amelia left first and I followed behind, making sure to lock up the house. For the last six generations the land my house was built on had been cultivated and cared for by Stackhouses. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, which was why my house had been renovated instead of moving to a new place. Honestly I was happy with the way my house was. The renovation was all Eric’s idea.
Amelia got behind the wheel of her very sensible Honda Accord and started the engine. My bone white ‘69 Chevy Chevelle Malibu sat under the recently raised carport off to the side of the house. It seemed every generation of the family made some sort of addition or change to the layout of the house. My contribution was to update the electrical, add central heating and air conditioning and to add a carport. It was big enough for two cars, presumably mine and Eric’s on the nights he stayed with me.
The porch had been reconstructed to get rid of the rotting wood. There were no more paint chips on the lawn thanks to the new paint job. The shutters were white but the rest of the house was yellow. It was a soft citrusy shade that Gran would have loved. I had been careful to preserve the character in the house without keeping it out of the twenty-first century. For the first time the house had WiFi. The old water heater was no longer an eyesore in the kitchen thanks to the pantry that had been built to house it.
I didn’t know what it cost to fix up the house and I didn’t want to know. The renovation was a compromise, of sorts. I got to stay in my house and Eric had the modern creature comforts he wanted when he came around. If that was how the “boy” wanted to spend his money that was up to him. If you asked me, it was the smart move. If things went bad between us he couldn’t toss me out on my ass. The house was mine. So was the thirty-six acres – including a pond – it sat on. He had no claim to it, but my little nest was nicely feathered.
His cunning and business savvy was rubbing off on me.
That made folks nervous.
Little Sookie Stackhouse was a sweet, girl next door type who baked pies for neighbors and spent hours tending her garden. I went to church like everyone else on Sunday and I always made the same potato salad Gran used to make for the after church potlucks. I did enjoy good home cooked food and fellowship, after all.
Of course there was also the whispering about one person or another. I had been the topic of conversation more than once. Lots of folks wondered why there wasn’t a sparkly diamond ring on my left hand if Eric was spending so much money to remodel my house. I let them wonder.
I didn’t recognize any of the bands that played in the car on the drive over to the magic shop, but that wasn’t unusual. Amelia often listened to Gregorian chanting for crying out loud. She said it helped her find her center. The Accord came to a stop on the street in a slanted parking spot in front of the Moon Goddess Emporium. A neon sign in the window let us know the store was open for business. Beaded curtains hung in the window, obstructing the view inside from passersby.
There hadn’t been any formal protesting over the opening of the store, but there were whispers about the validity of the psychic. I found it interesting the folks could believe in Hoodoo but not a person’s ability to see the future or talk to the dead. Folks around the parts I lived in believed in possession and regularly sought out exorcists to cast out their demons. My own friend Tara thought she was possessed at one point.
I loved the girl to pieces, bless her heart, but she wasn’t possessed; she was pissed off at the hand in life she was dealt. Her mama was a terrible drunk and her daddy ran off years ago when she was still in diapers. Lettie Mae was a mean drunk who liked to slap around her daughter and drink herself into oblivion between abusive boyfriends. She was an awful role model for Tara. Years of pent up frustrations due to her mama’s drinking had made Tara a bit of a livewire. She’d say she was a big bitch, but I didn’t like that. Tara didn’t choose to be the way she was, her mother made her that way. One bottle of rum at a time.
“Don’t mock her, whatever you do,” Amelia instructed as we walked toward the shop.
“Why? Will she put a hex on me?”
“She could. I heard a rumor she’s a necromancer.”
“A what?” I stopped in my tracks.
“Someone who can resurrect the dead,” Amelia answered.
“Oh hell no. No, no, no, I’m not gettin’ involved with that,” I said firmly.
“You’re not,” Amelia rolled her eyes. “I’m not here for that. I know better than to raise the dead. Besides, I thought you didn’t believe in any of that stuff?”
“I don’t but that doesn’t mean I want to go messing with it,” I replied.
“But if you don’t believe then it’s just a bunch of chicken bones and goat blood,” she shrugged.
“I’m not that naïve, Amelia. On the chance that I’m wrong, I don’t need any voodoo hexes following me around.” Never mind that being rude to Marnie wasn’t okay. Whether or not I believed in her gift didn’t matter since I wasn’t relying on her vision to guide me.
I could admit that as a spectator, I was intrigued about what predictions she may make. As long as she didn’t turn those predictions to me, we were all good.
I followed Amelia into the shop. The lighting was low. Candles and incense were burning.
“Hello.” I turned my head to look for a human, but only found a pretty green parrot in a very large cage. “Welcome,” the bird said.
“No way,” Amelia said quietly.
“Way,” the parrot replied. “Marnie. Marnie. Marnie.”
Bead curtains parted and a woman dressed in bohemian clothing appeared from the backroom. What I could only describe as gypsy music was playing quietly from a record player behind the counter where the cash register was. Marnie looked to be in her fifties if I had to guess. She wasn’t a beautiful woman that was for sure. Her nose was a bit too prominent and her lips were more like slashes in her face than anything else. Streaks of silver ran through brownish/black hair. Her eyes were small and just a little too far apart.
“Amelia,” she greeted my friend.
“Marnie, it’s good to see you again.”
“You brought a friend.” Marnie looked beyond Amelia to me.
“I did. This is Sookie. She’s a skeptic.”
“I can tell. It’s very nice to meet you, Sookie,” Marnie said politely.
“Likewise,” I replied.
“Come, sit.” Marnie motioned to a round table in the corner with an honest to goodness crystal ball in the middle of it.
I couldn’t help asking, “You don’t really think you can see the future in a crystal ball, do you?”
“Sookie!” Amelia hissed. Marnie laughed it off.
“Of course not, dear. People expect it. I’m happy to play to the stereotypes,” she answered. “I prefer to read my cards. I can read yours if you like.”
“No, thanks. I’m here only to observe. I don’t want to know anything about my future,” I told her. “Que sera sera is my life motto.”
Marnie smiled at me but the way she did suggested she knew things I didn’t. I figured it was part of the act. If she could convince me she was the real deal I’d be good advertising. I could bring more people for her to read. It would grow her reputation as well as her bank account. Win/win.
I took a seat next to Amelia and stayed quiet while Marnie read her tarot cards. Reading tarot cards never appealed to me so I didn’t know what the cards meant or how their position in the configuration changed said meaning. There were too many convenient switch ups for my taste. It was like in one breath the predictions changed to cover all the bases. Making all the possible predictions was making no prediction at all.
It really did seem like a lot of hocus pocus to me but the paying customer was eating it up.
I kept my opinion to myself and didn’t try to deter Amelia from enjoying her reading. I smiled at all of her oooohs and ahhhs over the events Marnie was advising Amelia were waiting for her in the great beyond. She spoke of lovers that Amelia would encounter, brushes with good financial fortune, successes in the workplace… It seemed overall Amelia was destined to continue to live a charmed life.
“There is balance in the universe, my darling,” Marnie said in a more somber tone. She went on to talk about the nine of swords and death, how those cards represented the untimely death of a loved one. Other cards suggested it would be someone new to Amelia’s life, but a person who made a great impact in a short amount of time.
“Will it be sudden or a disease?” Amelia queried.
“That the cards do not say,” Marnie said.
But you’re a psychic…
As if on cue, she set down her cards and reached for Amelia’s hands. She closed her eyes and a troubled expression took over.
“A tall man… He likes motorcycles… He’s very rough outside but you will fall deeply in love with his insides,” Marnie predicted.
“When?” Amelia asked, smiling over at me.
“You will not have him long, Amelia. Oh… Oh no,” Marnie frowned. “I feel pressure and pains in my chest and stomach. Gunshots, maybe.”
“Murder?” Amelia gasped.
“You will feel tremendous guilt afterward. Oh honey… It will be a very bleak time in your life.”
“Did I kill him?”
Marnie released Amelia’s hands.
“That is all I see. It’s not good to know too much, Amelia,” Marnie told her.
“You told me the man I fall in love with is going to be murdered but asking if I did it is knowing too much?” Amelia was not happy with that.
“There is a limit, Amelia,” Marnie replied calmly. “Telling you too much might entice you to attempt to alter your future. As a Wiccan, I’m sure you know of the Chaos Theory.”
“A butterfly flaps its wings in Toronto and it causes a tsunami in Thailand,” she replied quietly. “I don’t see what that has to do with answering my question.”
“If I answer that question you will want to know more and more and more. Your friend has expressed interest in not wanting to know about her future. I must draw the line somewhere,” Marnie said. “Telling you more will not prevent the events, Amelia. If I see them, they will happen.”
“When? Can you at least tell me that?”
“Amelia,” I whispered. She looked at me with this frantic, desperate expression.
That look was precisely why I didn’t want to know about the future. This reading was always going to be in the back of her mind. It was going to haunt her and make her second guess every person she met. In my opinion, that was no way to live.
“We should go,” I said to her. Already she knew too much. Hell, I didn’t want to know that much about her future. I felt uncomfortable for her.
I could tell she wanted to argue about the reasons we should stick around, but I didn’t see the point. Marnie wasn’t going to tell her any more information. At that point it didn’t matter if the reading was legit. The important thing was that it had gotten into Amelia’s head. Those little kernels of proposed knowledge were going to fester and cast a shadow over everything.
Lucky for me, I knew how to make the whole damn thing disappear.
God, I really am turning into him…
Amelia put some cash on the table and it was obvious she was still shaken when she stood up. I followed suit but as I turned to follow Amelia out of the store, Marnie grabbed my hand.
“You don’t want to know your future. I respect that. I must tell you this because it is so rare for me to come across it,” she said.
“Ummm… Okay?” If it had nothing to do with the future, I’d listen.
The tip of her boney index finger touched the ring I was wearing. It was a platinum band with a garnet mounted on it. Yet another gift from Eric.
“The man who gave you this ring? You have known him for many, many years,” she told me.
I laughed and said, “I wouldn’t call three ‘many, many’ years.”
“In this life you have only known him for three years. This is not your first life, Sookie. It is definitely not your first life with him. When your eyes met, he felt familiar. Why? He understands your jokes. You understand his reserved nature. You drive each other to the brinks of madness, but you never give up on each other. Your connection goes beyond flesh or the heart. You are tethered in a way few will understand but do not listen when they try to steer you to another. This man, for better or worse, is your beginning, middle and end,” Marnie told me. “He is your soulmate.”
Amelia and I let out twin gasps.
I had never given a whole lot of thought to the idea of soulmates. I knew better than to go by the Hollywood definition of a soulmate. In the movies, soulmates always had it so easy. They fell madly in love and lived happily ever after. Already I knew that wasn’t the way it was for Eric and me. It wasn’t that simple. Relationships were complicated. Anyone who said they were easy… either they got lucky or they weren’t really as deeply connected as they liked to think. Eric and I were both stubborn, which helped exactly no one. Finding compromises wasn’t easy. We fought through things and sometimes we were assholes to each other.
Still it was like Marnie said; we never gave up on each other.
Somehow we always ended up coming back to one another. There were times when I thought about telling him to go to hell or to forget they ever met me, but I couldn’t do it. I loved him. End of story.
“Like we’re destined for a happy ending?”
Marnie smiled and said, “I think we both know it won’t be that simple, Disney ending. You two go back more than a thousand years. The Viking Era, the Renaissance, the Russian Revolution…” Her smile faltered some before she continued. “In your last life you escaped a cruel father and went west toward California. Your paths crossed in Colorado when you sprained your ankle. He had staked a claim on some land. You were very happy together. Together you took in eleven children but had none of your own. You lived to be ninety-two.”
I wasn’t sure if I believed all that but it didn’t matter much. Eric and I may have been soulmates and we may have had a long history together but I tended to believe in the things I could see. There was an exception for religion, of course. Maybe it was just easier not to consider all of the history we might have had together.
“You’ll see. If you want to know more, I can recommend a hypnotist who may be able to help you recall past lives,” Marnie offered.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little intrigued, but I wasn’t sure I could buy into hypnosis any more than I did clairvoyance. Amelia tugged my hand to pull me out of the store. It seemed she wasn’t the only one who would be haunted by the reading.
∞ ♥ ∞
There was comfort in the sound of the old rocking chair creaking as I rocked back and forth. It was late but I had too much on my mind to even think of going to sleep. I hated to admit it, but what Marnie said had gotten to me. It explained a lot about my relationship with Eric. After I got home I had gone over to the cemetery next door to have a chat with Gran.
My grandmother had raised me after my parents died when I was six. It wasn’t that I didn’t remember them, but I was so young when they died that I hardly knew them. My memories of them had faded quite a bit over the last eighteen years. I looked like my mother but Gran said I had my father’s temper. The Stackhouse temper. Jason, my brother, had inherited more of our father’s looks and our mother’s temperament. Either way it meant we were two strong willed, stubborn kids.
The creaking chair reminded me of being a little girl who couldn’t sleep for one reason or another. Gran would cuddle me close and rock with me until I was drowsy enough to sleep. For me the chair represented comfort and a safe place. Crickets chirped and critters played out in the woods. It was safe to do that but then it wasn’t a full moon. In the last few months I had noticed how quiet it got during the full moon. Why that was, was anyone’s guess.
My eyes closed and I rocked like I did when I was a girl, hoping it would help settle my mind enough for me to sleep. It had to be creeping up on midnight. That wasn’t terribly late compared to my usual bedtime, but I was tired. My feet were also a bit sore from the pumps I’d been wearing. Those shoes were now sitting empty on the deck beside my feet. I took deep, slow breaths of clean country air and it helped me relax. In through the nose and out through the mouth. The key was to keep it slow and measured. It was almost like meditating, honestly.
Just as I was finally finding a little inner peace, a pair of headlights focused on my face. It wasn’t exactly intentional since they were coming up the long driveway in front of me. The sound of the engine was enough to tell me who it was. I covered my eyes to block out the bright light, but the lights quickly went out. A black Porsche 550 convertible came to a stop in front of me. Only one person I knew drove a Porsche and it was something of a miracle that he fit in it given his height.
I rose from the rocking chair and walked down the steps without my shoes. Eric smiled up at me, those smoldering eyes looking me up and down. It had been a few months since I saw him last. That wasn’t unusual.
“Lover, you look good enough to eat,” he greeted.
“You look like someone who still hasn’t mastered the art of calling first,” I replied.
“Did I catch you on your way out? You looked like you were resting. Maybe I caught you on your way in.” The engine revved.
“I was enjoying the fresh air. Amelia dragged me to the Moon Goddess Emporium so she could see Marnie for a reading,” I told him.
“It doesn’t surprise me even a little that Amelia believes in psychics. Would you like to go for a ride and get some more fresh air?” he offered.
“You mean you actually have time for me or is Dawn busy tonight?” Just because we had an agreement didn’t mean I couldn’t bust his balls.
“I’ll tell you in the car.”
Part of me – most likely my pride – wanted to tell him to fuck off. The rest of me missed him, even if he was a dick. I turned to go back to the porch so I could toss my shoes in the house. It was unlikely they would be stolen off the porch by why tempt anyone? I locked the front and went back to the Porsche.
Eric lifted my hand to kiss the back of it. He was smooth as a baby’s butt.
Of course he didn’t immediately start explaining where he had been the last few months and why I was hearing rumors about him spending time with Dawn. I worked with Dawn so it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard the whispers before Amelia, but it hurt more coming from her the way she said it. Living in a small town like Bon Temps, I was used to whispered gossip and rumors floating around. Since I worked at the only bar in town there wasn’t much gossip I didn’t hear.
Eric expertly steered the car up the drive, skillfully avoiding the dips and divots in the gravel path. He said just loud enough for me to hear, “I should have this paved.”
“No,” I said adamantly. “I like the gravel. Besides, you’re hardly ever here anymore so what’s the difference?”
“The difference is I don’t want to ruin my car every time I visit. This is a classic,” he reminded me.
“Yes, yes, I know it’s the same model car that James Dean died in. You told me three times,” I sighed. “Where are we going?”
“For a ride.” He turned onto Hummingbird Lane and stomped on the accelerator. Eric had plenty of practice shifting gears so I didn’t even feel it when he went from second to third.
We fell silent for a while. The car sped down a few back roads before he got on the highway. There wasn’t much to see in the darkness. Mostly the drive made me drowsy. We didn’t stay on the highway for too long. Eric got off at the Monroe exit and had to cut back his speeds considerably. He pulled up in front of a gated area and punched in a security code that allowed the gates to part.
“Where are we?” I could only see trees and grass ahead of us.
“My new house,” he answered.
“Another one? How many is that now?”
“In Louisiana or total?” There was a mischievous smirk on his face.
I knew Eric owned a lot of houses and parcels of land, but I didn’t know the extent of his dealings in real estate. My brother wasn’t a fan of Eric’s either. He assumed Eric was more interested in trying to buy my land out from under me than he was in me. I tried not to let that kind of stuff go to my head.
“So why did you buy this one?” I answered my own question when the house came into view.
It was a beautiful house but not the castle I was expecting it to be given that it was gated. I could see there was most likely a guest house or a pool house out behind the main house. The garage was detached and I counted five bay doors. Windows above the garage suggested a loft area or maybe more living space. The house itself was light colored brick that probably looked lighter with the dark roof.
The car came to a stop by the front door and Eric turned the engine off. In the blink of an eye he was opening my door for me and offering me his hand to help me out. I got out of the car and let Eric guide me to the front door. It was painted a deep shade of blue. A crude, forged iron door knocker formed into the shape of a dragon’s head was mounted on the extra wide door.
“This looks old,” I said as Eric reached out to reveal a panel beside the door. I noticed then that there was no lock to put a key into.
“It is,” he confirmed. His thumbprint let him into the house. Fancy.
“Where did it come from?” It was possible he found it in a thrift store but I couldn’t see Eric shopping around for something like that.
“My personal collection. I had it shipped to me from Sweden,” he answered. The door opened and he gestured for me to go in ahead of him.
Lights came on and I was immediately surprised by the décor. There was a lot of white. Well, off-white. I wasn’t a fan of the bright white, asylum white. It was accented with jewel tones, mostly blue. I liked blue. Eric knew that.
I stopped when I saw something completely unexpected. Over the mantle was a framed photograph from the Dracula Night party he had thrown at the bar he co-owned with his partner, Pam. Eric had a fascination with Dracula that ran deep. No one knew for certain the exact date of Vlad the Impaler’s birth, but it was generally recognized in the month December.
Who needs Christmas, the birth of the Christian Savior, when you can celebrate the birth of a horrific mass murderer, am I right?
Then again, Eric had no use for Christianity. He didn’t profess to be part of any organized religion, although I noticed he seemed to be a little superstitious when it came to myths and legends and traditions of the Pagans. I didn’t comment on it. Occasionally Eric spoke of Viking culture and the long, long wait for Valkyries to come and lead him back to Valhalla. He was a never ending well of stories.
The photograph was the first photo I had ever seen of the two of us together on display in one of his homes. In that photo I was dressed in a blood red gown and he was dapperly dressed in a tuxedo. We had been caught dancing together, which wasn’t uncommon. We both loved dancing. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Eric was very light on his feet and so far there wasn’t a dance he didn’t know how to do. From Flamenco, to the Frug, to Waltzes and even the Dougie or the Macarena, Eric knew them all. I couldn’t remember what dance we were doing when that photo was taken, but I was dipped back and my eyes were closed, but I was smiling. Eric was smiling down at me and it was obvious that we were having a good time together.
“I have been spending time with Dawn,” Eric revealed, tamping down on my happiness over the semi-public declaration of my Lady of the House standing. “The terms of my relationship with her fall into our agreement, Sookie.”
So it didn’t mean anything to him emotionally.
“But you enjoy the time you spend with her. If you didn’t, you would come to me,” I said, still staring at the photo.
“I don’t want to wear you out. With my appetites I would and you don’t want to be a kept woman. You have made that exceptionally clear to me,” he said. “I don’t stop needing things just because you want maintain your independence.”
“So what are you hungry for tonight that you finally decided to come see me? You spent all that money fixing up my house but you never come home to it.”
“I did it for you, Lover. That house is your safe place.”
“I was happy with it the way it was,” I argued. “You’re not answering my question, Eric. Why did you come to see me? Why are we here?”
“Do I need a reason to come see you?” He stepped closer and turned me to face him. There was emotion and intensity in his eyes. “I chose this house because I’m hoping that someday you’ll change your mind about living together. When I saw this house I knew it should be yours.”
“You’re spending time with other women and you want us to live together?”
“We have an agreement, Sookie.”
“Oh I know what we have. I can’t get that involved with someone who isn’t willing to give all the same effort I am. We aren’t on the same page, Eric. We tell ourselves we are but the truth is, I’m not enough for you because if I was we wouldn’t have the arrangement we have,” I told him.
He didn’t know it but Marnie’s reading was starting to get to me. We were soulmates who couldn’t get our shit together. I understood the reasons logically but my heart was at odds with it. Maybe I was the one who wasn’t on the same page anymore. Eric was just being Eric. He explained to me when we first got together that he couldn’t promise me monogamy and at the time, I went along with it because I wasn’t really looking for anything serious. I couldn’t get my brain to reconcile the idea of someone wanting the domesticity of sharing a home but still wanting to go run around with other women.
“Sookie, you know why we have that arrangement. It’s for your own good,” he reminded me.
“How do you know that, Eric? When is the last time you tried being with just one person?”
“If I’m with just one person the attachment becomes too great,” he answered. “Life is too short, Sookie. Your life is too short. The things I feel for you scare me. They are powerful and the thought of losing you is crushing to me.”
“So it’s for your own good, not mine. You’re protecting yourself not me,” I said angrily. The sad thing was I had the same powerful feelings. Did he ever want to hear about it? No. No, we didn’t like talking about our feelings. It was too easy for things to get messy if we talked about our feelings. We left a lot of things unsaid.
“No, it’s not like that,” Eric argued.
“Then why Dawn? Why someone I know? Why someone who might actually say something about you in my presence, Eric?” She hadn’t directly come to me and told me about the things she did with him but the fact that he essentially had zero consideration for my feelings really bothered me. I knew I wasn’t his one and only but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear details from the other women. “Do you ever think about how you would feel if I hooked up with James or Roman?”
That got to him.
I heard that unmistakable sound of fangs bursting from his jaw and clicking into place. At first when he told me he was a vampire I thought he needed a good psychiatrist and lots of prescription drugs. Vampires weren’t real, after all. They were just creatures of legends and Hollywood horror films. Then when he introduced me to others like him, I thought maybe it was a cult. Maybe he just had some kind of freaky, weird fetish. When I thought about it I realized he wasn’t like those cult types I saw on TV, the posers who talked about their practicing of vampirism with their pancake makeup, excessive eyeliner and Gothic wardrobe.
Eric looked like a modern day James Dean with his soulful eyes and understated dress. A pair of perfectly fitted blue jeans, a tight white T-shirt and a chiseled jaw made him hard to resist. He didn’t fit the description of a stereotypical vampire. I quickly learned from Eric that it was a mistake to be expecting some Bela Lugosi looking son of a gun to come at me. Vampires, particularly old ones like him, knew they needed to adapt. Keeping up with trends in language, fashion and technology were key to fitting into society without being spotted as an outsider.
“Marnie told me that we’re soulmates,” I confessed. “She said that we have a very long history together, that this isn’t the first lifetime I’ve found you.”
“Soulmates?” He was skeptical but so was I.
“She said last time we met I was running from a cruel father, headed for California. I sprained my ankle on Colorado,” I told him. The light of recognition in his eyes told me I was onto something. “Before that we were together during the Russian Revolution. We met before that during the Renaissance. The first time she mentioned was during the Viking Age.”
“When I was still human,” he said so quietly I barely heard it. “There was this girl back then. Her name was Runa. I fucked around a lot with more women than I should have. I had no sense of responsibility. I had no use for honor or loyalty. My father was a chieftain and I took advantage of the privilege that came with my position. I didn’t think about how quickly my life could end. At that time, an old man was in his thirties. Disease, weather, warring… there was no telling what might kill you at any time. I was a reckless man. At thirteen I was a man by the standards of the day. Today’s thirteen-year-olds wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they had to live in my time.
“Runa was captured during a raid in Iceland. She was brought back to be used as a bed slave,” Eric informed me, making my eyebrows arch. “Specifically, she was to be my father’s bed slave. She had the most beautiful hair and there was such kindness in her eyes when she didn’t look terrified, which she did in the beginning. Rightfully so. My father wasn’t cruel, Sookie. I know what you must be thinking. It was different then. It was actually a position of honor for her, in some aspects. He never forced himself on her. That wasn’t the kind of man he was, nor was I. The few trips I had taken with my father had allowed me to learn the dialect of Norse the Icelanders spoke. Runa was shy in the beginning. It took time for her to come out of her shell. When she made it clear that she would not service my father in a sexual capacity he found a place for her in the house. My mother allowed her to help tend to the younger children.
“Over time I learned that Runa was married when she was taken from her home. Her husband had been killed in the raids. Just months before she was taken, she had buried her only a child, a girl named Thora who didn’t make it through her first winter. Losing the baby had been devastating for Runa and for her husband. Getting pregnant had not been easy for her. She confided things to me and once the gates opened, it all happened so quickly. The night my family was slaughtered, Runa was in the next village, helping my brother’s soon-to-be-bride prepare her things for transport to our village. Had she not gone, she probably would have been murdered. To this day, I don’t know why I was spared, Sookie.
“When she returned, it was to a funeral. My mother, father, three brothers and baby sister had all been ruthlessly killed. I still don’t know who was responsible for the attack, but I will find out someday. For decades it was all that kept me going. In light of my father’s death, someone had to step forward to lead our people. The villagers were unsure of me at first, but my father’s most trusted adviser stepped forward to help me acclimate to the job. In a very unorthodox move, I selected a wife but not from one of the wealthier families, as was expected. I chose Runa. She was tough but kind. Protective but merciful. She was exactly the kind of woman I wanted guarding my home and raising my children.
“Before I left for my last summer at sea, five years after the death of my father, Runa was pregnant with our fourth child. The midwife said it might have been twins because of how big she got so early on. She blessed me with two daughters and a son. I took them for granted, even though I had matured by force. What became of them, I don’t know. I tried to trace the branches of my family tree but so far I have yet to locate any distant relatives. That is, until I met you. The night I told you the truth of who I am, I saw that look in your eyes I saw the very first time I saw Runa. That scared yet brave look in her green eyes shone brightly from your blue ones. You carry the same light I recall seeing within her. I saw that light again in Italy during the Renaissance, again in St. Petersburg while the city burned around us and once more in the Wild West.
“Each time I have seen that light, I have fallen hopelessly in love with it. I am never ready for it to find me but it always does. Every time I cannot turn it away, even though I know I should. I spent years after I lost my beloved Delilah wondering when I would see that light again. It took many years for me to get over losing you, Sookie. Every time I do it gets a little bit harder and yet… Yet, I always wonder how or when we’ll meet again,” Eric confessed to me. The bloody tears in his eyes told me it was the truth.
I crossed the room and didn’t hesitate to kiss him. His lips felt right on mine. No matter what things we said or did to hurt each other, I knew then that what Marnie said was the truth. Eric and I were always going to come back to each other. Somehow, someway, I would always find him.
When the very passionate kiss broke, I daringly licked the tears off his cheeks. I knew what even just that little bit of blood would do to me, but I didn’t care. Eric didn’t seem to mind it either. He liked having that kind of a connection to me. Taking his blood meant he could track me and feeling the things I felt, emotionally speaking. I hadn’t spoken a word of the fact that he was a vampire to anyone. When people asked about where he was, I told them he was highly photosensitive and had been advised by doctors to stay out of the sunlight. People didn’t question it, but why would they?
Vampires weren’t real.
“Stay with me tonight,” Eric requested.
“I can’t. I have to work in the morning. Sam is expecting me there for the food delivery,” I replied.
It was already after two in the morning. Between the drive and the talking, time was getting away from me.
Eric wasn’t happy with that answer but I didn’t want to be a kept woman and he wasn’t willing to be fully committed to me. Until we could come to a consensus on those things, we were stuck in the arrangement we had.
“We should probably get going. I don’t want you to be late,” he said, even though I knew he didn’t really give two shits about whether or not I was late. Eric didn’t much care for my job or my boss.
“I’ll come back to visit sometime,” I promised.
He took my hand and led me out to the Porsche, making sure lights were turned off on the way out of the house. I sank into the small sports car and let Eric close the door for me. It was too bad because the house really was perfect. I might have even been willing to move into it if he was willing to give up the other women, but we weren’t ready for that yet.
Besides, according to Marnie, we had a few more lifetimes to figure it out. Eric and I were going to keep finding each other, time after time, in place after place. A pair like Eric and I never went out of style.