The way he held Sookie in his arms it was easy to imagine it was Eric’s own heart beating wildly in his chest. He noticed, however, when he began to hum a song from his human life that Sookie’s nerves began to quiet. Her blood took on a peaceful calm, and the activity in her chest slowed to a normal rhythm. By the time they were approaching Bon Temps, she was nearly asleep. Her arms had gone slack around his neck, but she hadn’t let go.
It was going to take all the control he had not to kiss her goodnight.
But then he had told her he would require a favor. He had promised it wouldn’t be able sex or her blood, but a kiss was something else. A kiss could be a precursor to sex, or a mere sign of affection. Eric tried to remember the last woman he had kissed, and it was before the Great Revelation. Since that time there were so many willing donors that it wasn’t necessary to woo them anymore. They lined up by the droves, all pathetically willing to offer up their life force for a taste of the dark side.
Eric thought back to that last battle as a human, and how exhilaratingly alive he had felt during the course of it. He recalled every swing of his sword, every wound inflicted, every life he personally cut short. The road to becoming the warrior he eventually became was a complicated one, pocked with rebellion, arrogance, laziness and apathy. Oddly enough, some things never changed. The wars sons waged against their fathers hadn’t changed much in a thousand years, and he suspected there would always be such conflict.
He recalled his father’s final moments, and the vow he had made to avenge his father’s death. The horrible, bloody massacre raised his ire, and washed away the tenderness he had been feeling for the drowsy telepath cradled in his arms. If he was right about Compton, and he was quite sure he was, Eric intended to personally make sure that Bill suffered for his foolishness.
She isn’t mine to avenge, Eric thought as Bon Temps came into view below him.
Were he not a long-time sheriff in his area he wouldn’t have been able to find Bon Temps so easily. It was a little backwater place that no one really cared much about. It was almost an island unto itself. The only good thing about the place, as far as Eric could tell, was currently resting in his arms. Her warm nose nuzzled against his neck, and Eric realized that Sookie really was very close to being asleep.
He touched down softly in front of her home a short time later, although he had delayed his landing for as long as he could see fit to do it. Eric looked around, expecting to see the yellow shitbox that had screeched up in front of Fangtasia the night Sookie was wounded by the Maenad, but it wasn’t there. He sniffed the air and caught the scents of vampire and shifter. Bill and most likely Sam had been patrolling her property recently. To Eric’s liking that was two supernaturals too many checking in on her.
“Sookie,” he spoke softly, not wanting to scare her from the daze she was in.
Eric would have taken her inside directly, but he had never been invited into her home before that moment. He wasn’t sure she would invite him in then either, but a vampire could hope. Her head lifted, and she startled some to see that they really were back in Bon Temps.
“I thought I was dreamin’,” her smooth southern drawl a little thicker than usual in her sleepy state. “You really can fly, can’t you?”
“For well over 900 years now,” Eric said, but didn’t make a move to put her down.
“So what’s your favor?” Sookie asked.
Eric thought it over and said, “Invite me in.”
Sookie wiggled in his arms and he put her down on her feet. She stared up at him with suspicious, and slightly pissed off, eyes. “Why?”
“Because you never know when it might come in handy,” he shrugged.
“Or when you might decide to use it to your advantage and sneak into my house whenever you feel like it,” she charged back.
“Sookie, I’m more than 1,000 years old. I give you my word that I won’t be showing up for random panty raids,” Eric promised her and she rolled her eyes. “Or to ensure that you’re able to shower safely.”
“Can’t I just read minds for you one night? I would really rather not be handing out invitations into my home willy-nilly at the moment,” Sookie said, and her blood told him that she really did feel conflicted about it.
“You realize you have the ability to rescind said invitation any time you wish, yes? Bill did at least share that information with you,” Eric said, trying to control his contempt for the other vampire.
Up until Bill arrived in Bon Temps Eric never paid him much mind. What was the point? Bill was a power hungry ‘dork,’ as Pam would call him. Not a single vampire that Eric was aware of looked up to Bill with admiration or respect. There was no one following in his footsteps—until Jessica was turned- that gave a good goddamn whether Bill Compton remained undead or met the True Death. Rather than earning his position as Eric had done by building a solid network of supernatural creatures that owed him fealty and debts, Bill had gone straight to the power teat and started suckling.
But that is what makes him a good procurer, Eric reminded himself.
Unlike Bill, Eric wasn’t willing to lie to get what he wanted. He was a good manipulator, of course, but such a thing was necessary in his world. Being no less than ten steps ahead of the pack, so to speak, was necessary. Eric had eyes and ears everywhere, and was forever being notified by friends and loyal former residents of the little things going on all over the place. Perhaps the most important thing was that his memory was flawless. Eric had the ability to recall things with perfect clarity.
When he sifted through his memories he could recall the slightest details, from the angle of a stapler on a desk, to the number of buttons on a shirt, or the distinct noises of birds in the distance… all of it was there in his mind. It was amazing the little things he could recall simply at will. Not all vampires had such an ability, and it seemed Pam had inherited it as well. Pam’s gifts had manifested quickly, and when flying wasn’t one of them she covered up her disappointment by wisecracking that it least she wouldn’t have to worry about fucking up her hair.
Instead, Pam could run faster than the average vampire, and that was saying something. Just for the heck of it she had run the length of Ireland one night. She probably could have done it twice if she hadn’t been distracted by a lovely girl with long, dark hair and icy blue eyes. For years Pam had referred to the girl only as “Bon Bon,” and Eric suspected that Pam had gotten a taste of fairy that night based on the starry look in her eyes when she had returned to him so they could go to ground.
“I don’t think there’s anything but trouble coming my way if I let you in,” Sookie braced her hands on her hips.
“You agreed you would owe me a favor, and I promised you it wouldn’t be about sex or blood. We have a deal, Sookie, and I already own your services at my request,” he pointed out, feeling a little thrill when her temper started to rise.
“Oh, fine,” she threw her hands up in the air and stomped toward the porch steps.
Sookie grumbled unintelligibly while she dug through her purse to find her keys. Once she located them she moved to open the door. The house was dark, just as it was supposed to be. Sookie pushed the door open and turned around to find Eric was standing right behind her. She hadn’t even heard him move.
“Cheese and rice!” she cursed, slapping his chest. “I hate it when vampires do that!”
“My apologies,” Eric took a step back, a smile of amusement on his face.
“I’m glad you find scaring me half to death to be entertainin’,” Sookie glared at him, and then stepped over the threshold into her house.
For a moment they stared one another down. It occurred to Eric that Sookie could very easily just close the door in his face and there would be very little he could do about it. Maybe if Sookie was of a weaker character that was precisely what she would have done, but it wasn’t her way to give her word and then go back on it. It was rare to see such honor and loyalty in a breather anymore.
“Mr. Northman, would you please come in?” Sookie said the magic words, and stepped out of the way to let him into her home.
The words had been spoken, but Eric didn’t intend to go inside. A trust had been established between them, and that was really his ultimate goal.
When he didn’t move to come inside, however, Sookie found herself confused. “Aren’t you going to come in?” she asked.
“I asked for an invitation and I got it,” Eric smiled at her, but remained right where he was. “I trust that you won’t rescind it the second you close the door.”
“What are you up to?” Sookie asked, and for good reason. She knew him well enough to know that he was always plotting something.
“Why did you come to me, Sookie? Why not just go straight to Bill with your questions?” Eric asked, knowing there was only a fifty-fifty chance of getting a straight answer out of her.
She was just about to speak when he motioned for her to be quiet. He scented Compton in the woods, and he was getting closer. Eric pointed to the woods to the side of Sookie’s house. She moved to stop outside, but Eric stopped her.
“Rescind his invitation,” Eric told her in a whisper.
Sookie looked up at him with confusion in her eyes, unsure of what to do. She had planned to do it, but it felt wrong with Eric standing there, like she was making a choice between the vampires.
Maybe she was.
Eric took a step closer and whispered, “Trust me,” in her ear the same as he had done in Dallas when she worried that his plan wasn’t going to work.
Sookie was still looking up into Eric’s eyes when she just barely whispered the words she needed to in order to revoke Bill’s invitation. Her eyes stayed on Eric’s, trying to figure out what he was thinking when Bill stepped from the brush and asked, “Eric, what are you doing here?”