Sookie couldn’t believe she had been asleep for that long. While it was true she felt better rested than she had in… well, as long as she could remember, she just couldn’t imagine it. It had seemed she was only asleep for a few minutes, if that. The dream had happened so quickly. But when Eric showed her his phone and she saw the date on it, she knew he was telling the truth.
She had been asleep for three days.
“Cheese and rice,” she muttered under her breath, and when she did she felt herself crushed against Eric in a hug strong enough to knock the wind right out of her. “Air!” she gasped, and Eric loosened his hold a little.
In three days she hadn’t moved, eaten or been to the bathroom and the effects of that hit her body all at once. Her stomach growled while her legs started to regain feeling in them and her bladder suddenly demanded she move. Quickly.
“Eric, I have to… let me go, please,” Sookie tried to push away from him.
Reluctantly he let her go when her eyes darted toward the little bathroom. She still smelled of Plumeria, but she left behind the orchid she had been holding. As soon as she let it go, the flower began to decay. By the time she returned two minutes later, it was a sickly brown.
“I brought this out of my dream,” Sookie said in a dazed kind of way.
“That’s not the only thing,” Eric pointed to her chest.
Sookie looked down to see the same pendant she had seen when she was walking the hallway in her dream. Her unplanned trip to the Summerland was completely overshadowing any news that Eric may have had, and Sookie decided to put the brakes on the fairy talk until Eric had a chance to tell her what had happened in New Orleans.
“Eric, I promise to tell you everything I can about my dream, but I have to know about the meeting with the queen first,” Sookie said, and allowed Eric to pull her down onto his lap.
“It went about as well as can be expected. Nora dropped the necessary hints in regards to Bill to get Sophie-Anne to reconsider whether or not she’s backed the right horse. I also, in a show of good faith, proposed a deal with her on your behalf,” Eric admitted, and Sookie’s eyes narrowed.
“What kind of deal?” she asked, trying not to let herself get angry until she had a reason for it.
“The kind where she has the ability to request permission for your services—”
“I am not working for that bitch!” Sookie interrupted. “Not after what she did to me, and I’ve never even met her!”
Eric locked eyes with Sookie and gave her a moment to calm down before he asked, “Are you going to let me finish?”
“Only if the rest of that sentence ends with me having the right to tell her to fuck off whenever I want,” Sookie folded her arms.
“I understand your anger, Sookie, but in this instance it’s best to give her a false sense of security. Let her think that you’re playing her game and she will let her guard down. Sophie-Anne, while impetuous, isn’t very bright. She fails to see the long run and the big picture. She’s so focused on her short-term goal that she doesn’t see beyond it,” Eric explained.
“I think wanting to get her fangs in me is a pretty big goal of hers and I don’t think she’s going to give it up just because I agree to some stupid negotiations that I didn’t even get a say in,” Sookie argued.
“Do you really think I would let that happen?” Eric glared at her.
Sookie got up off his lap and started to pace just as she had while she was waiting for him to come back. He got up and pulled the manila envelope containing the contract that Sophie-Anne’s lawyer had drawn up. He handed it to Sookie and returned to his spot on the bed.
“What’s this?” Sookie asked while she opened it.
“A contract. You should read it before you just throw it away,” he told her.
Sookie sighed heavily and pulled the document from the envelope. She read it over slowly, sometimes reading things twice just to make sure she was understanding everything she was reading.
“This says that I have the right to deny services at any given point,” Sookie looked up.
“That’s correct,” Eric nodded.
“It also says that I am allowed the guardian of my choosing for any and all jobs I agree to.”
“I thought it might be a bit presumptuous to impose myself in that capacity, but I certainly hope that I would be that guardian,” he told her.
“And she’ll pay me…” Sookie’s eyes went wide at the figure she saw there.
“You’ll also notice in the contract that there is a no biting clause that will prevent any vampire from feeding from you that you do not offer yourself to, the queen included,” Eric said, and Sookie searched to find that clause.
“My stars,” she mumbled, and then looked at Eric. “How in the world did you get her to agree to this?”
Eric gave one of his devilish smirks and said, “Once she realized she didn’t have much of a choice, it was simple. I walked in with a vampire she believed to be telepathic, and since we had information in regards to Bill’s duplicity it was either take the deal I was offering, or take her chances where Bill is concerned.”
Sookie thought for a moment and said, “And what is she getting in return for her generosity? This deal is too good to be true. Gran always told me if something is too good to be true than it probably is. So what aren’t you telling me?”
“Two things,” Eric stood and took the contract from Sookie. “First is that I didn’t get back until close to midnight the night after I left you. The queen required that Nora and I stay the day. She is under the impression that, at this point, Nora is my lover.”
“Why?” Sookie felt her heart sink. “Did you fuck her?”
“No,” Eric said firmly. “But the queen thinks I did. Several times, in fact. She also insisted that Nora and I stay for a feeding after rising. I fed from someone else.”
“Did you fuck her?” Sookie pulled away from him.
“It was a him, and no, I didn’t,” Eric said truthfully.
There was a pause before Sookie said, “Okay. What else?”
“The queen is very unhappy with Bill at the moment. She perceived you to be an easy mark, and presumed your ignorance and desperation for male companionship would be enough to sway you. She chose Bill specifically because he’s not only a good procurer, but because she was aware of your fondness for southern gentlemen,” Eric explained. Knowing that Gone with the Wind was Sookie’s favorite book made that piece of information make sense. “She has underestimated your intelligence and strength, but she is counting on those things now, and hoping that you will use them to her benefit.”
“How?” Sookie asked, her head already starting to ache from all the political doubletalk that was going on.
“She has proposed the same idea that Nora did the night before the meeting,” Eric said, and Sookie burst out laughing.
“Their big plan to get Bill is to use me? He’s never told me anything in the past. Why in the world would he—” Sookie stopped talking suddenly, remembering something she’d learned in her dream.
“What?” Eric prompted her to continue.
“While I was in the Summerland I met my cousin, Claudine. She helped me with my telepathy and I learned something pretty important,” Sookie smiled and set the contract aside. Eric arched an eyebrow and she continued, “I can read vampire minds if I choose to.”
Before Eric would say anything Sookie reached out to Eric’s mind, and she knew he felt it when his eyes widened. Her cheeks flushed when she read the thoughts she found there.
“You most certainly will not do that!” Sookie reached out and slapped his arm, getting her a smile from him.
His smile faded a few seconds later and he said, “Sookie, this is a gift best left undisclosed to anyone else. Being able to read a vampire’s mind is a dangerous thing.”
She withdrew her presence from Eric’s brain and when she touched his cheek she listened, but heard nothing but silence. If she wanted to hear him, she was going to have to work for it. That was good to know.
“Claudine told me that you have a pure heart,” Sookie sat on his lap again. “She told me that she’s listened to you, and she believes in your ability to keep me safe. She also showed me how to turn my telepathy off.”
“With vampires, you mean?”
“No,” Sookie shook her head. “With humans, too. I can make my head soundproof whenever I want now thanks to her. I’m anxious to give it a try the next time I’m out and about.”
Her stomach rumbled then, and she climbed off of Eric to go to the little refrigerator to grab some food.
“I still owe you a date,” Eric reminded her. “And it just so happens I had plenty of time to consider the activities on that date.”
“None of them better involve what I heard in that brain of yours,” Sookie teased and sat beside him while she ate diced pears from a plastic cup.
“Of course not,” Eric kissed her head. “That’s third date activity.”
Sookie nearly choked on her fruit and slapped his thigh for it. Eric chuckled and kissed the side of her head again. The smell of Plumeria clung to her hair, and Sookie smelled much sweeter than she had before.
“Are you going to sign the contract?” Eric asked her.
“What would you do if you were in my shoes?”
“Look for bigger shoes,” he teased and she rolled her eyes. “I would sign the contract.”
“Is there room for negotiation?” Sookie asked, much to his surprise.
“Perhaps, but it will depend on what it is, exactly, you wish to add or subtract from the deal.”
“I want it noted that the queen has no ownership rights over me, and if she meets the True Death then the contract becomes null and void. I’m not going to be some asset of hers that gets passed on to the new regent,” Sookie said.
Eric smiled and said, “I think that’s an excellent codicil.”
“Thank you,” Sookie nodded.
“I’ll make the addition and fax the contract back to Mr. Cataliades for the queen’s review,” he told her.
Sookie set aside the plastic cup that had contained her fruit when she was finished eating. She remembered the importance of taking it slowly after fasting for an extended period of time. Trying to eat too much would only make her sick.
“Have you fed since…” Sookie trailed off, unable to get herself to mention the other person he had fed from.
“Only TruBlood,” Eric picked up her hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before I left that the queen would more than likely require me to feed from another.”
“You didn’t have a choice in the matter though, did you?” Sookie said, and for the first time she felt a little bit of sympathy for Bill.
“I probably could have refused her request but it would have caused more problems than it was worth and it was more important to me to return to you than it was to take a stand over feeding from a human,” Eric explained.
“And the boy you fed from there was nothing sexual about it?” Sookie asked.
“Absolutely not,” Eric looked deep into her eyes. “I’m sorry if this damages your trust in me.”
“I don’t like it; I won’t lie about that,” she said. “But I also understand it. I think if you were trying to pull a fast one on me you wouldn’t have confessed so quickly. Is this something I can expect to have happen again in the future?”
“Once we are bonded I will be within my rights to decline the blood of another out of respect for you,” Eric told her.
“So if I wouldn’t have backed out of bonding myself to you the other night then you wouldn’t have had to feed from that boy,” Sookie said quietly.
“It’s to our advantage what we didn’t finish the bond before I went to see the queen. Her thinking that you are still fair game was a good thing.”
Sookie nodded and asked, “How soon is she expecting to get that contract back?”
“In the next few days. I told her I would take it up with you as soon as possible.”
“What about Russell Edgington?” Sookie asked.
“There wasn’t enough evidence to give him a True Death sentence, but he’s on probation.”
“Probation?” Sookie snickered. That seemed awfully lenient to her. “So then he’s still a problem, is what you’re saying?”
Eric nodded and said, “Lorena is his child.”
“And she’s Bill’s Maker,” Sookie said, all of it starting to get a bit clearer. “Everyone pulls someone’s strings in your world.”
“I’m afraid so,” Eric agreed.
“So what do we do now?”
“Now we fax that contract back to New Orleans for consideration, get you fed and go on the date I promised you while we wait for word from the queen,” he said with a smile.