Eric watched Sookie as she slept beside him. Her breathing was deep and even, her heartbeat steady. Moli was curled at the foot of the bed on Sookie’s side. He wasn’t sure how to go about influencing Sookie’s dreams, but he concentrated on the tie that he had with her and let himself fully feel the connection. Eric closed his own eyes and in his mind he visualized a pathway, of sorts, and saw himself pushing his feelings toward her. The connection seemed to suck them in eagerly, and a short time later he noticed Sookie’s eyelids moving.
She was dreaming.
He paid close attention to her blood, and the feelings that were floating around inside her, but it was hard to say what kind of affect the push had on her subconscious. Influencing blood was one thing, but dreams came from the brain. He was curious to find out what the result of his efforts were when the sun set. Eric waited for the pull of dawn, and then let himself slip under with Sookie in his arms.
Sookie lazed in the sunlight, stretched out on one of those cheap, plastic folding chaise lounges from WalMart. A little yellow and white striped bikini was tied to her body, and her hair was hanging in soft waves. The sunlight on her skin was warm, and there was gentle breeze blowing over her body. She stretched the way a kitten would if it fell asleep in a patch of sunlight on the living room floor. A figure blocked the light from reaching her face, and Sookie opened her eyes.
The sun behind the figure prevented her from seeing a face, but she knew by stature that it was Eric standing over her from behind. He bent down to kiss her, and his hand stole into the top of her bikini. She arched into his touch, and before she knew it he had adjusted their position entirely so that she was straddling his lap. Despite the sunlight there was smoldering of Eric’s skin, and he seemed perfectly content to be there in the sunlight with her.
“Does it hurt?” Sookie asked cautiously.
“Only when we aren’t together,” he said, and put her hand on his chest.
She gasped to feel a heartbeat under her palm.
“How?” she asked, her eyes going wide as she focused on his smiling face.
“This is a dream, Sookie. Anything is possible here,” he told her.
“Can I make it stop?” she wondered aloud.
“Why would you want it to stop?” he questioned in response.
“Because you aren’t human… at least not this way. I like your silence,” she confessed, and when she shifted to press her ear to his chest, the beating stopped to give her the silence she wanted. “That’s more like it.”
“You don’t wish for me to be human?” Eric ran his fingers through her hair.
“You’re a vampire, Eric. As annoyin’ as you might be sometimes, it’s one of your best qualities. I like who you are. I don’t want to change you,” she said, and snuggled against him. “I feel safe with you.”
“And if I tried to bite you right now?” he asked her, his fingers toying with the knots on her back.
“I would offer you my throat. All you have to do is ask, and it’s yours,” she said, and then they were on the ground, but not on grass.
A bed of fur pelts had magically appeared, as had the sun. The moon and stars hung overhead in place of the sunshine, and Sookie’s eyes adjusted to compensate for the lack of light. Eric was dressed differently, more like he would be if she went to see him at Fangtasia. When she looked down she realized her bikini was gone, and she was wearing the same dress she had the night she met him. There was hunger in his eyes, and his fangs glistened in the moonlight.
Her head turned to the side, baring her neck for him. Rather than biting her, however, he simply lowered his head to kiss the spot where he would normally bite. He whispered to her in a language she didn’t understand, but the cadence of it suggested it was his native language. When he looked into her eyes, there was adoration there. She got so lost looking into his eyes that she didn’t hear the approaching footsteps until it was too late, and Eric’s body exploded into a bloody mess.
Standing over them both was Bill, and he had a bloody, silver stake in his hand. He bared his fangs, and then descended on Sookie…
Sookie was upright in bed, and moments alter Moli was on her feet, growling and stalking at the edge of the bed. The doorbell rang moments later, and Sookie wondered how many times it had rung before she woke. She looked over at Eric to see that he had died for the day, and she covered him up after kissing his cheek. Sookie got out of bed and went to grab a nightgown, and then ushered Moli out of the room, making sure to close the bedroom door behind her.
At the security monitor she saw Alcide’s face, and buzzed him up. She was in the kitchen putting together a pot of coffee when the elevator doors opened and Alcide stepped into the apartment. He found Sookie in the kitchen, and she put up her shields so she wouldn’t hear his thoughts.
“Afternoon, Sookie,” he said respectfully.
“Hello, Alcide, how are you today?” she smiled over her shoulder.
“Fine,” he said gruffly, but his demeanor suggested there was something wrong.
Sookie considered dipping into his mind to fish out what was bothering him, but decided it was better not to. Alcide seemed like a nice guy and all, but there was something about his attitude toward vampires she wasn’t too keen on. All the same, she could be hospitable and well-mannered.
“Would you care for some coffee?” she asked him.
“Sure,” he said, and took a seat at the small table on the other side of the island. “So, what are your plans for today?”
“I have to work tonight,” Sookie told him, and his brows furrowed.
“Where do you work?” he asked.
“Merlotte’s Bar and Grille over in Bon Temps,” she said, and the frown on his face got a little deeper.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea considering the sort of trouble Eric seems to think you’re in. Couldn’t you take a few days off until the dust settles some?” Alcide suggested.
“I’ve taken enough time off lately,” Sookie sighed, and poured two cups of coffee when it finished brewing. “Contrary to whatever the usual thing is that happens when a vampire claims a human, I’m not just going to spend my days waitin’ around for Eric to wake up. I have a life, and I intend to keep on livin’ it as normal as I can.”
Alcide looked her up and down, and shook his head. “Northman warned me you might be trouble.”
“Is that right?” Sookie asked, feeling slightly offended.
“He explained to you that when vampires decide to claim something, they don’t usually give up until they get their way, didn’t he?” Alcide growled, and Sookie nodded. “Then you’re taking a pretty big risk by going out without him. I can smell him on you, but the smell isn’t strong enough for you to be bonded to him. Until that happens, you’re still fair game in his world. If his queen wants you, she’s still within her rights as a regent to take you.”
“Eric didn’t tell me that,” Sookie said, but didn’t know how to feel about that. She had assumed that having his blood in her was enough. Regardless, she shook her head and said, “You’ll be with me. My boss is a shapeshifter, my brother is a… well, he’ll be there, and I know two pretty powerful witches that have my back. If Bill Compton wants a fight, he’s going to get one.”
“Bill isn’t your biggest threat, Sookie. Have you met Russell Edgington?” Alcide asked.
“No,” she admitted, and took a seat.
“He’s three times Eric’s age, and he’s the king of Mississippi. Not only that, but I know for a fact that he’s got some pretty powerful allies that will do just about anything he tells them to for a price,” Alcide said, and she detected a hint of pain in his voice.
Sookie dropped her shields to peek into his mind and saw Alcide with a pretty brunette. At first they were happy, laughing and kissing on each other, but then her image started to degrade and get darker. She went from the happy, smiling girl to one wearing too much eye makeup, and looking like she’d just won top prize in the Miss Redneck pageant. Not only that, but she was hanging out with some rougher, biker looking type guys who were nothing like Alcide.
The last bit she saw in Alcide’s mind was of the woman on stage somewhere, nearly naked and on her knees in front of a crowd when a brand was applied to her neck. Sookie heard the woman’s horrific screams, and then the whimpers and howls of pain when the hot iron was taken away, leaving a mark on her skin forever. The vampire on stage bit his wrist and poured his blood into shot glasses, which were then passed around to the other people on stage.
As soon as the shots were taken, the people in the room began to shift and change until they all became wolves. All of them, that is, except for the brunette on stage who looked more like a strung out drug user than she did the woman who had once been smiling like she was up for a toothpaste commercial. Sookie could feel Alcide’s longing, and desperate need to help the woman.
“Who is she?” Sookie asked before she could stop herself.
“Who is who?” Alcide asked, clearly confused by Sookie’s question.
“The woman you’re thinking about,” Sookie said, and Alcide looked at her suspiciously. Sookie remembered then that she hadn’t told him she was a telepath.
“How did you—”
“It’s all over your face, and only one thing makes a man look the way you do right now,” Sookie said with a faint smile, and put her hand on his.
When she touched him his thoughts came in much clearer, and any doubts she might have had about what she’d seen in his mind were erased. The woman he was thinking of was named Debbie, and for quite a while Alcide had thought he would marry her.
“Ex-girlfriend,” Alcide said gruffly and took a drink of his coffee. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
“I understand,” Sookie took her hand off of his. “Bein’ in the situation I’m in right now ain’t exactly easy. I want to move on from Bill, but every new person I meet asks about him, and that makes movin’ on a lot harder. I keep wantin’ to find a way to justify what he did, but I can’t. Sounds kinda like a bad country song, doesn’t it?”
“No,” Alcide said softly. “Sounds human.”