The fact that he couldn’t look me in the eyes told me all I needed to know. I felt myself starting to go numb inside. He didn’t try to stop me from leaving either. He had given up, which only made me that much more angry. I wanted to think of something scathing to say, but nothing came to mind. Instead, I slammed the door as hard as I could, and stomped to my car. I threw my purse inside, and then fell into the driver’s seat. The engine chugged to life, and I sped away from his house as fast as I could.
He’d promised me there were no more secrets. He’d sworn he’d told me everything. Accepting Jessica as a new fixture in his life was difficult enough, but I understood Bill hadn’t had a choice in that scenario. Killing Uncle Bartlett was a whole different story. Yes, Uncle Bartlett hurt me. Yes, I thought he was an evil old man. No, I didn’t want him in my life. I didn’t want an apology, and I didn’t want him to try and make amends for what he did to me. And sure, I might have wished for revenge once or twice, but it wasn’t up to Bill to play God. He had no right to do what he did, no matter what his reasons were.
I drove through town in an angry fog for a while before getting on the highway. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized where I was going. The parking lot was half full. I sat behind the wheel, debating my next move. I didn’t want to go home, just because I didn’t want Bill to show up and try to convince me to see things his way. He had murdered a man in cold blood, and then lied to me about it. How was I supposed to look the other way? And why would he think I would be willing, or able, to do such a thing?
On the other hand, I knew if I went inside the building, I’d be playing with fire. Fangtasia loomed large in front of me. I could see Pam at the door- checking licenses- as she usually did. Eric’s face flashed before my eyes, and I felt an unexpected rush of excitement. Regardless of his arrogance or stony personality, there was no denying he was a gorgeous man. He also happened to have a pair of the most interesting blue eyes I’d ever seen. The first time we locked eyes, I found myself curious about him.
Of course, Bill warned me that Eric was ruthless, dangerous and would only use me up and throw me away if I let him. I believed Bill, since I’d had no reason not to. Only now I found myself wondering if maybe Bill was just as ruthless and dangerous. When you have the ability to read a person’s mind, you figure out pretty quick that people learn to hide the parts of themselves they don’t want others to see. Maybe Bill was just better than Eric at hiding things away.
I decided there was only one way to find out, and before I could talk myself out of it, I got out of the car. I walked up to the door of the bar, and Pam looked pleasantly surprised to see me. “Your escort is absent,” she observed.
“Yes,” I handed her my ID and cover charge. She read my license as if she was trying to memorize it. “I thought I was in the vault?”
She smiled coyly at me before handing me back my ID and money. “Go on in. Eric will be thrilled to see you.”
I smiled nervously, and started inside. For some reason, I couldn’t imagine Eric being thrilled about anything. The bar was much busier than the parking lot indicated. I made my way to the bar and ordered a drink. The brains were all thinking many of the same things as they were the very first time I was there. It was all about sex.
I felt eyes on me, and it took me a minute to figure out they belonged to Eric. The last time I’d seen him was the night he came to Merlotte’s. I’d been repulsed by his lack of compassion or understanding. I had no doubt he had been equally repulsed by my attachment to Bill, and his attachment to me. All the same, Eric was staring at me like a starving man would stare at an eight course dinner. Gulp.
He waved his fingers- his signal that I should approach him, but I hesitated. If I talked to him without Bill being there, I was afraid my suspicions might only be confirmed. A part of me was perfectly happy hating Eric, but the rest of me was curious. So, after a quick debate, my legs carried me toward him. It was the longest walk of my life.
“Sookie Stackhouse.” He greeted me with a look very similar to the one Pam had given me.
“Eric,” I answered, trying not to put any emotion in my voice.
“Please sit.” He gestured, and I sat down slowly in a chair across the table from him. “What brings you to my establishment this evening?” The way his accent muddled his speech was enough to make my knees go a bit wobbly.
“Thirst.” I held up my drink, and Eric smiled at me.
“Ah yes. It is a feeling I am familiar with.” He didn’t try to hide the flirtatious nature of such a statement.
“You cut your hair.” I observed, and decided I liked it better shorter.
“It was Pam’s idea,” he confessed, almost as if he was ashamed of it.
Before I could stop myself, I said, “It looks good. It suits you.” There was a moment of silence.
Eric broke that silence by saying, “Bill did not accompany you.”
That didn’t take long. “No, not tonight.” In spite of my best effort, my face betrayed me.
It was dangerous to let my heart spill itself in front of a man like Eric. If what Bill said was true, I was sharing a table with a predator who would exploit my loneliness and confusion for his personal gain. Part of me was excited. The other part was cautious. I suppose that’s the blend of emotions I always felt around vampires. With Eric, it was just a bit more intense.
“Do you still belong to him?” Eric wasn’t wasting any time.
“I don’t know,” I said honestly.
“I’m almost sorry to hear that.” At least he had the decency not to let his fangs show when he smiled at me. Jerk.
At least he was honest. At the moment, that was almost as appealing as his smirk. I’d never thought of myself as the girl stupid enough to get mixed up with the “bad boy.” I’d known girls in high school who were like that, and it was heartbreak after heartbreak when they realized they wouldn’t be changing the bad boy they’d fallen for. But then, I had no desire to change Eric. I didn’t even want to change Bill. I just wanted him to tell the truth.
“So, what happened, Sookie?” He asked.
I snickered and said, “You don’t care.” I sounded more angry than I’d planned.
“I actually find myself intrigued. I like knowing what pushes another person’s buttons,” he confessed.
“So you can push them?” I cocked an eyebrow, and he smiled. “He lied to me.”
I held my breath for a second. I didn’t want Eric to know about Uncle Bartlett. I didn’t think it was any of his business, and really, I didn’t want him to see me as damaged goods the way so many other people had.
“He kept something from me, and he shouldn’t have.”
“So then you’ve met Jessica?” Eric’s eyes sparkled with amusement, which made me remember- just a little- the reasons why I had been so turned off by him when we met.
“You know about her?”
“I watched him turn her,” Eric said with disgust, but I knew it wasn’t because Bill had murdered a human to make her immortal. “He pleaded for another punishment.” Eric found Bill’s weakness to be nothing short of traitorous to their kind.
I would have argued Bill didn’t have a murderous, bloodthirsty personality, but that argument seemed invalid in light of his confession. “I can’t blame him.” I said instead.
“But you are human, Sookie.”
“So because he’s a vampire he’s supposed to want to kill all the time?”
“It’s what we do,” Eric answered dismissively.
“How many have you turned?” I asked pointedly.
“Just Pam,” he leaned forward a bit, “But turning someone and killing someone are two different things.”
“So you are jealous of Jessica, then?” he asked me.
“What? No,” I shook my head, but wondered if maybe that wasn’t just a little bit true. “I would make a terrible vampire anyway.”
Eric leaned back and smiled again. His eyes scanned the room, and I realized I had become so engrossed in my conversation with him that I didn’t notice how many people were watching us. Thoughts began to bombard me, and I almost reached out to touch him. I would be able to block out the thoughts if I did. I’d learned that from being with Bill. I closed my eyes in attempt to steady myself, and then everything around me went silent. I felt something cool on my leg, and I looked under the table to discover it was Eric’s large hand. If the silence wasn’t so blissful, I would have pulled away.
“What are you smiling about?” My question came out a little more flirty than I’d intended it to. To steady my nerves, I took another big gulp of my drink. Hello, gin, I almost coughed, but managed to hold back.
Eric leaned over the table with lightning speed, and my breath caught in my throat. “Something tells me you’ve only just begun to realize what you’re capable of,” he whispered to me.
I froze at feeling his energy so close to me. I’d always known he was powerful. From the second I saw him, I could feel it. There was something magnetic about him. It was hard not to stare, or get sucked into him. I knew he couldn’t actually glamour me, and he knew it too. If he wanted me- and he’d made it clear he did the night we met- then he would have to earn me. He couldn’t just take me with a little bit of glamour.
“What makes you say that?” I took another sip.
“Humans are always slow to meet their potential. They’re plagued by self-doubt and the inability to think outside the box. To humans, the world is a very black and white place. But to us, we live in the gray. We know better.” Eric reached for my hand and lifted it gently. The more he talked, the crazier my heartbeat became.
“And what do you think I’m holding back?” I looked him in the eyes.
“Everything.” He kissed my hand, and my stomach flip-flopped.
This is what you came here for, Sookie, I thought to myself. The realization was both surprising and nerve-wrecking. I could have spent a few minutes trying to convince myself that I was being ridiculous, but that would be a lie too. I’d had enough lies lately. I found myself trying to picture being in an honest to goodness relationship with Eric. It’s easier said than done.
Something about Eric made me feel powerful in my own right. Maybe it was because he seemed to find me so fascinating. He was interested in me, even if it was mostly in a sexual way. My inner feminist told me I should be offended at the notion of being his toy for the night, but I suspected that if I were to give in to Eric, he would make it worth my while.
“Isn’t that against the rules?” I looked at the spot on my hand where his lips had been just seconds before.
“Do you belong to another?” He didn’t seem at all nervous about my answer.
“I belong to myself,” I said after thinking for a moment.
In the morning, I might feel different. At the moment, I just wanted to be myself. I didn’t want to be half of a sad couple that might be broken up. I knew, though, that by denying Bill I was painting a great big target on my back. If it wasn’t for my ability, I’d have been completely screwed. Without Eric being able to glamour me into making a decision, I would have to make it on my own.
“If you could glamour me, would you?” I asked. Bill had tried- at my request- but said he didn’t feel comfortable with it, not that it had worked.
Eric kissed my hand again and said, “I don’t think it would be necessary.” It was a mildly arrogant thing to say, but he wasn’t entirely wrong.
I kept waiting to snap out of it, and remember all of the reasons why I was supposed to hate him. I waited and waited, but the moment didn’t come. Instead, he led me away from his table, and toward the back where I knew his office was. But we didn’t stop at his office. Instead, we continued down the hall, and out the back door of the bar.
We stood in a dark alley. I had this quick flash of him draining my dry, and leaving my body there to rot. Or worse, he would turn me, and make me like him. I didn’t find much appeal to either option. His hand was still linked with mine, and I waited to see what he was going to do next. There was broken glass on the ground, and I could faintly hear the music booming away inside the bar.
There was just enough gin in my drink to give me an overall feeling of cheerfulness, and put a slight buzz in my head. I was relaxed, and I knew my reflexes weren’t nearly as quick as they would normally be. I had no idea what we were doing in a dark alley, which didn’t help matters any either, and yet, I trusted Eric. It was strange to feel that, but I did. Maybe I was just fooling myself into thinking I was safe with him because I didn’t want to consider the alternative.
I leaned against the brick wall of the building and closed my eyes. When I opened them, Eric was standing right in front of me. He had one hand on either side of my head, effectively boxing me in. Not that running would have done me much good even if I could. We stared at one another, and he was slowly moving his face closer to mine. I closed my eyes, anticipating that he was going to kiss me. If I said I’d never thought about it, that would be another lie. I’d buried it, of course, but I was curious to know what it would be like.
His lips grazed mine to gage my reaction, and when I leaned in to kiss him back, he smiled at me like he’d known this was going to happen all along. I completely ignored the smug look on his face, and kissed him again. This time it was the real thing, and I felt my toes curl almost instantly. I hadn’t kissed a whole lot of men in my life. I’d only been on a handful of dates before I met Bill, so I could count the number of men I’d kissed on both hands. Still, it was easy to tell that Eric was in a class all by himself.
Another debate flared up inside of me. Eric was an amazing kisser, and I figured if the kissing was good, the other skills he had were probably just as great- maybe even better. The thought of it caused me to whimper quietly, and that only deepened Eric’s kisses. I didn’t mind the scratching on my arms from the brick behind me, and I didn’t mind the way he was tugging on my hair just a little bit as he turned my head. His lips were much softer than I’d thought they would be, and not nearly as cool as Bill’s were. His hands slipped down from the back of my head past my neck to my chest. When his lips followed suit, I started to feel a little bit nervous.
I heard the familiar clicking of fangs. I knew it was a reaction that couldn’t always be controlled, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a snack for Eric. I knew that if he had my blood, we would be connected in a way I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. I wasn’t like the other humans he fed on. I assumed he didn’t have relationships with most of them that went beyond a single night. It wouldn’t be like that for Eric and me. Scarier still was the idea of having his blood. If that happened, he would be able to track me, and I didn’t want him in my head that way. I didn’t want him to know what I was feeling just by thinking of me, and I didn’t want him to be able to find me anytime he wanted.
He had enough power over me already. “Eric, wait.” I whispered, and tried to push his hands away from my chest. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Because you still care for another?” He asked me.
“Because I’m not just a fangbanger, and I don’t think you want anything more than what a fangbanger could offer,” I told him. I essentially called him a manwhore, and I didn’t feel the least bit sorry for it.
From the way he looked at me I could tell he wasn’t used to women pulling the plug on him like that. It wasn’t easy to walk away, but I thought maybe I was saving myself from making a huge mistake. It seemed like a good idea, in the moment, but it might not turn out that way later on. I had to be smart, and think about how things would be next week, or next month. As much as Bill hurt me, I didn’t want to get into games of revenge with him. Bill had proven to me he could be deadly, and I didn’t want to tempt him to get even by sleeping with the one man he seemed to truly despise.
“Don’t dismiss me so easily, Sookie.” Eric pressed himself against me, and it made me jump just a little. “I will not hurt you.”
He wasn’t just talking about physical pain either, I could tell that much. “I’m really confused right now. I don’t think it’s right-” He cut me off with another series of kisses that never seemed to end.
In spite of my better judgment, I continued to kiss him. I knew I was sending out mixed signals, but I was getting them from my brain. One half wanted to stop this right then and there, and the other half wanted to pull off my clothes and have sex with him right there in the alley. I’d never felt an instinct to do such a thing before, and it was a hard one to fight. My body was tingling from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. My knees were starting to go a little weak, and I knew if I didn’t put a stop to it all soon, I wouldn’t have the strength to stop him when he started to remove my clothing.
Just as he was reaching to unzip the sweater I was wearing, my phone rang in my pocket. Our lips parted, and we looked at one another while I reached for my phone. “Don’t,” he tried to stop me.
“I have to.” I pulled the phone from my pocket, I knew by the ring that it was Bill calling. If I didn’t answer, he would only track me down.
Eric stepped away to give me a little space, which I wasn’t expecting him to do. I figured he’d be right on top of me, listening in to everything that was said. But then I remembered he had amazing hearing, and would probably hear everything that was said anyway.
“Hello?” I was still a little breathless from the kissing.
“Sookie, I am at your home. Where are you?” Bill asked me.
“I need a little time to myself, Bill. I’m okay, but I can’t talk right now.”
“You are not alone, are you?” I couldn’t tell if Bill was disappointed or angry. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
“No, I’m not alone.” I glanced over at Eric, who had his back to me.
“Just tell me you’re not in Shreveport.” Bill spoke quietly, his voice a little staggered.
I was silent. He was getting a taste of his own medicine here. He hadn’t been able to speak when I’d confronted him earlier about Uncle Bartlett, and his involvement in the old man’s death. If it was good for the goose…
“Sookie?” he prompted me.
“I have to go, Bill. We can talk tomorrow night,” I promised him.
“Giving yourself to Eric will not undo what I have done, Sookie,” Bill told me, and that just totally set me off. If Eric hadn’t been standing right there, I would have let Bill have it.
“I have to go, Bill. Don’t call me again, and don’t you even think about going looking for me. Goodnight,” I barked into my phone, and then shoved it into my pocket again.
Shock of all shocks, Bill didn’t try calling back. The debate that had been raging inside of me flared up again. Half of me thought now was the perfect time to stop off, and go home. The sensible side of me said I should go home, and spend the night thinking about how to deal with Bill. Since we weren’t officially broken up, I would be cheating if I slept with Eric. It was bad enough we’d been making out like a couple of teenagers, but if I actually had sex with Eric…well, that was a horse of a different color.
Of course, the naughtier side of me was begging to stay and see what else Eric had to offer. My body wanted to know if other parts of him were as big as his hands and feet suggested. I bit my bottom lip, and for a moment, contemplated hurling my phone against the brick wall because I was so frustrated and lost. I didn’t know what the hell to do.
“I think I should go.” My cautious side won the debate.
“You are going back to Bill.” Eric shook his head with disbelief.
“I didn’t stay that,” I said quickly, and with heaviness in my voice.
“But you will. You still see him as the safe choice.” Eric turned to look at me over his shoulder.
“He’s a vampire, like you. I would hardly say that’s a safe choice.”
“Bill is a vampire, but he is nothing like me.” Eric pointed out, as if I had forgotten.
“I’m sorry if I led you on.” I apologized, since it was the right thing to do.
Eric was again moving at lightning speed, and I was up against the wall. His arms boxed me in, and he leaned down so his face was right in front of mine. He looked me in the eyes for a moment like he was looking for something, and the moved his lips closer to my ear.
“When you get tired of playing house, you know where to find me,” he spoke softly. He kissed the side of my face, and then went back into the bar.
I stood there shaking for a moment, and then gathered myself together. I walked back to my car, and sat behind the wheel for a few minutes before starting the car. I backed out of my parking space, and started out of the parking lot. I stared at Fangtasia in my rear view mirror. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I also knew I would always wonder what might have been if I’d had the courage to stay.