Hours later Eric and Sookie were lying together in the penthouse bed. The spell had been cast at Jason’s and he had been brought up to date on everything that had happened with Bill. Sookie warned her brother to stay as far away from Bill as possible, and Eric had suggested he avoid Jessica as well. Being that Jason didn’t discriminate much when it came to women, it wouldn’t be too far fetched for Jessica to glamour Jason for information.
He had been momentarily offended by Eric’s suggestion that he was an easy mark, but the looks on Sookie and Lafayette’s faces brought Jason back to reality. By reading his mind, Sookie learned that Jason thought Jessica was pretty but because she was Hoyt’s girl he considered her off the market. Never mind the fact the Jessica was more than a decade Jason’s junior, but the same could be said for Hoyt. The big difference was that Jessica was inexperienced in relationships because of her age. Jason was inexperienced with them because of his lack of maturity. For Hoyt it was his mama, and not many people in town wanted to get involved with her that personally.
Sookie lay with her head resting on Eric’s bare chest, and his cool fingertips ghosted down the heated skin of her back. She was breathing hard and still trying to get her heartbeat back to normal. Just as it had been earlier in the night, the sex was phenomenal. Aftershocks continued to ripple through her, and for a little while at least, she had forgotten about everything else that was going on in her life. Sookie didn’t feel comfortable saying it out loud, but she liked being in the penthouse. It was like being in her own little world. She knew it wasn’t realistic to think she could stay cloistered away there forever, but for the time being it was exactly what she needed.
Just a little bit of the real world started to creep in again and Sookie started thinking about the bond she had agreed to with Eric. Again she questioned his motives. Even though she trusted him, she was curious as to what he would expect from her once it was done. Would they return to their usual lives, and she would only see him from time to time when he needed her help with something, or would he be expecting something more like what they were currently doing? Sookie meant what she said about being a kept woman, and moreover she didn’t want to feel like she was just his whore. If what he had in mind was a purely sexual relationship, that wouldn’t be good enough for her. Yet, when she tried to picture Eric taking her out on a date she couldn’t help laughing.
“What tickles you, lover?” Eric asked in a voice full of curiosity.
“You mean other than the fingers on my back?” Sookie lifted her head and shifted so her chin rested on his chest. Eric smiled at her, and she felt his fingers twirl her hair. “I was just tryin’ to imagine you askin’ a girl on a date.”
“Any girl, or you?” Eric asked, and Sookie felt her face flush a little. “I see,” Eric said with a smirk.
Sookie started to turn her head, feeling suddenly embarrassed, but Eric turned her face back to his. Really she had no reason for being embarrassed for thinking about it, or even for wanting it. Like it or not, she was a human woman. She didn’t need a date to be as conventional as the kind Bill took her on, but it would be nice to get to know Eric better away from all the outside influences that always had his mind in overdrive, plotting ways to keep Sookie safe.
“What do you want to know, Sookie? Anything that will not endanger your life, I will answer,” Eric told her.
“I have a question about the bond,” she said, and Eric nodded for her to continue. “After it’s done, what do you expect from me?”
Eric seemed surprised by her question, and just for a moment the twirling of her hair stopped. He resumed again and said, “It depends on what you want out of it. A vampire and human can bond to each other for any number of reasons. When I first proposed the bond I told myself that it was merely for the purpose of protecting you. Then tonight when I saw you so upset, I felt the urge to avenge the wrong done to you. It was good that you couldn’t feel my emotions then. I find that in spite of my better judgment, I have come to care about you a great deal. If I’m being honest, I don’t like it. I don’t like having a weakness, and I know if something were to happen to you it would hurt me.”
Sookie shifted again and sat up on her knees beside him. She wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly, and she didn’t want to get any signals crossed.
“What does that mean, Eric?” she asked quietly.
“It means that I am asking you to be Mine,” he told her, his pose remaining as casual as ever, like he was asking Sookie if she wanted coffee in the morning with her eggs.
Sookie was pretty sure of what that meant, but she couldn’t stop herself from asking, “And what does that mean, exactly?”
“It would mean that we would spend time together, that you would have my protection and that you wouldn’t become involved with any other vampire on a romantic level,” Eric told her.
“If I agreed to be yours, would that be mutual? Would you be able to stop yourself from feeding on another human? I wouldn’t tolerate cheating, so if I’m yours then you’re mine, and my rights are exclusive. I don’t share,” she told him.
“Me either,” Eric smiled softly. “Anything else you would require of me in the capacity of a mate?”
Sookie thought for a moment and said, “You already know how I feel about the notion of being a kept woman. I want to continue working and earning my own living. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to remain a barmaid at Merlotte’s, but I won’t spend my days sunning myself and waiting for you to rise. I don’t want to end up feeling like I’m your toy, or a weight around your neck. I also want you to promise me that if you ever decide that you don’t want to be bonded to me anymore that you’ll tell me. I don’t ever want someone in my life because they feel obligated to be there.”
Sookie felt all of her ‘demands’ were reasonable. She didn’t think she was asking for anything she wouldn’t expect from a human boyfriend, minus the feeding part. To her it was all very simple. But she also knew that for someone like Eric, it could be a tall order to fill.
“If you don’t think you can do it, then we’ll just keep it professional. I’ll see you when you need my assistance, or the other way around,” Sookie offered as a backup.
Eric sat up and cupped Sookie’s face in his hands and said, “I can give you those things, but I need you to give me something in return.”
“What’s that?” she asked a little nervously. She could only imagine what Eric would want from her.
“I need for you to not see a gift I give you as a blow to your independence. As Pam can tell you I can be quite generous when it strikes me to be. I will never attempt to buy your affection, nor do I give gifts to others because I expect something in return. When I expect something in return, you will know it. But a gift… I have always felt those should be given freely and unselfishly. If you decide to be Mine, everything I have becomes yours too, Sookie, and I mean everything. Whether or not you choose to take advantage of it is your decision, but know that you will have the option. I will take care of you,” he said with sincerity in his eyes.
Sookie nodded and realized she had a big decision in front of her. She swallowed the ball of emotion in her throat and asked, “How long does it take to complete a blood bond?”
“I think an exchange a day would be sufficient, so if we were to make the first exchange tonight the bond would be completed the day after tomorrow,” he said.
Sookie took a deep breath and once again heard Gran’s voice to follow her instincts. Even without the vampire blood in her system, there was still the fact that she had recently broken up with Bill. Her feelings there were all kinds of conflicted. She knew that even with all of the betrayal there would always be a part of her that cared for him. For the time being she wanted nothing to do with Bill, and found it difficult to imagine a time when she could forgive him for what he had done. If he’d played a roll in Gran’s death, and Sookie could prove it, she would find a way to get justice.
Sookie wasn’t quite sure where she stood when it came to her feelings for Eric. Her affection for him had come quietly into her life. He had worked his way in slowly, and by giving her the things she needed. He had shown an interest in her beyond her disability, blood or sex. She had been the one to make the first move both times they’d had sex. Eric hadn’t pushed her at all, in spite of having been so vocal about wanting it.
There was a part of her that said it wasn’t fair to Eric to agree to be his when she wasn’t able to go into it with a clear conscience and the ability to give him her whole heart. She wouldn’t want just the pieces that were leftover if the shoe was on the other foot. Could she see herself really letting Eric into her life at some point, sharing herself with him as she had with Bill? Yes, she could. Was she convinced she could give him that right at that moment? She wasn’t sure, and as long as she felt that little hint of doubt she didn’t think it was fair to make a promise she wasn’t sure she could keep.
“Can I give you an answer before the third exchange?” Sookie asked him.
Eric nodded and said, “I want you to be sure because Sookie, once it’s finished there will be no going back. I won’t want an escape clause; it will be you and me for the rest of your life.”