Pam came back for Bill and the other vampires that she had brought with her from Fangtasia. The puddles that were left from the other vampires would just stay where they were to burn in the sun. It was easier to do that than it was to try and clean up the mess. What to do with Nora was the biggest question, and Eric ultimately decided to just let her go. He gathered up the letters that had been stolen from the penthouse and did a quick sweep of the car to make sure there was nothing else there that didn’t belong. He had been too preoccupied to notice it before, but there was definitely the scent of werewolf in the car.
Where they had gone, however, was another story. He reached into his pocket and made a quick phone call to Ruben, who would be able to send out the trackers to locate the weres that were prowling around on borrowed time. When he was satisfied, Sookie removed the still from Nora. Eric spoke to her in her native language so Sookie wouldn’t understand and his message was simple.
“Godric would be disappointed in your betrayal,” he told her, knowing those words would sting more than anything else he could possibly say or do.
The lining of red in his eyes told him he was right in his assumption. No more words were exchanged. Nora simply disappeared into the night, and for her benefit, Eric hoped he never saw Nora again unless she was planning to make up for the damage she had done. Eric turned to Sookie and scooped her up easily.
“Where are we going now?” she asked him.
“My house,” he said.
“In Red Chute?”
“No,” he said. “Where I usually rest.”
“Oh,” Sookie said with a hint of a smile. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
“Pam is the only vampire aware of its location. It will suffice for the day.”
Sookie trusted his judgment and held onto him tightly as he lifted into the air. She rested her head on his shoulder as they flew to Eric’s nearest safe house to pick up one of his cars. She spoke only to ask after Moli, and Eric promised he would have Bobby retrieve her.
The last thing Sookie expected was for Eric’s regular resting place to be in the middle of an upper class subdivision in the fancy part of town. She had expected something more opulent for some reason, but the house blended in with all the others on his block. His house was at the end of a cul-de-sac on Scarlett Drive. She snorted at the thought of him only buying homes on streets associated with red. Scarlett Drive, Cherry Lane… she couldn’t help laughing at the coincidence.
“What are you laughing at?” Eric asked since it had been silent for the last few minutes.
“The street name,” Sookie admitted, and explained the coincidence.
“I never paid attention,” Eric smiled at her observation. “Then I guess you would find it humorous to know I also own a house on Rose Boulevard.”
Sookie cracked up at his admission as Eric pulled into the driveway, and then the garage. Inside was a sleek, black sports car she couldn’t readily identify the make of, but then Sookie never paid much attention to cars unless she suspected she was being followed. The garage door lowered and he turned off the ignition. Sookie got out of the car and followed Eric into the house.
The floors were glossy hardwood. The walls were painted a neutral off-white shade. The banister was the same rich shade as the floors, and she wondered how many bedrooms upstairs went unused. Eric showed her around and she was surprised by his use of color outside of the little entryway from the garage. A chandelier hung in the foyer, but it wasn’t too big or fancy like in some houses. Plush, navy carpet covered the stairs, and presumably most of the second floor.
The dining room had a fireplace in it and she wondered if he ever used it. Paintings depicting small villages on a coast hung in the dining room, and a hutch boasted of what looked to be a few artifacts from his human life. There were ancient bowls and eating utensils, but it was the horn tipped in gold that appeared to be the prize in the collection. One more stand rested inside the hutch, but it was empty.
“What goes there?” Sookie asked curiously, pointing to the display.
“My father’s crown,” Eric stood behind her and she looked up to see his eyes had done that glazing thing they did whenever he thought that far back into his past. “The person responsible for my family’s murder stole it. When I get it back, I will have my vengeance.”
Sookie turned her head and kissed the hand resting on her shoulder. She wanted him to have it. A thousand years was a long time to carry a grudge, but she couldn’t really blame him. She hadn’t forgiven Rene for what he’d done, assuming it was even him that had killed Gran, and she had missed a golden opportunity where Bill was concerned to get inside his head. But now that she knew that she could do just about anything with her power, she could use it as she saw fit. Presuming the Magister or the queen didn’t kill Bill first.
“That horn is huge,” Sookie said and felt the rumble of Eric’s laughter behind her.
“Yes, of course it is,” he said, and opened the hutch to take the horn out for her.
“You drank from this, right?” she asked and reluctantly took the horn from him when he offered it to her.
Eric nodded and proceeded to explain the importance of drinking horns to his people. Sookie had thought that to just be something of a myth, but she found it entertaining that men boasted of their… stature in such a fashion. Leave it to men to come up with something like that.
“But how did women know that the men were being truthful? Guys lie all the time about how big or powerful they are,” Sookie pointed out.
“Very true,” Eric smirked. “However, as you well know, I have definitely chosen a horn that represents my size and ability.”
“Maybe,” she shrugged in a teasing way.
He arched an eyebrow and took the horn from her to put it back in its proper place in the display. It was nothing short of a small miracle that the things he’d carried with him since he was turned had managed to survive so well, but then he had taken good care of them. Eric wasn’t too much of the sentimental or nostalgic sort, but there were a few things that would always be near and dear to him. The things from his human life always found a home with him, wherever that might be.
Long ago he had resolved to never lose that horn. It had been a gift to him from his father to celebrate Eric’s twelfth summer—the year Eric was counted a man among their people. How much potential his father had seen in him then and Eric had squandered it simply because he could. It took sudden bloodshed and the loss of those he loved to understand just how precious his family really was, and it was too late.
That crown, the missing crown, was rightfully Eric’s. He hadn’t earned it then, but he had in the years that followed. When he took it back from his father’s killer he would do so with a smile in his heart and his father’s name on his lips.
Eric closed the hutch and they moved on to the next room. The living room was painted a shade of red that Sookie could only call ruby, and there was another fireplace there. The furniture was heavy, wooden… manly. It looked like it had probably been handcrafted, and some of the carvings were so intricate that she was guessing it had taken a master of that particular craft months, if not years, to complete the job.
“Eric, this is beautiful,” Sookie stepped closer to what Gran would probably call a snuff box that was sitting on one of the end tables.
“You can pick it up,” he said, and she did.
“Did you do this?” Sookie asked as she opened the box. It was empty, but the carving on the lid was absolutely beautiful.
“I did,” he nodded, which somehow didn’t surprise her. “I had a lot of free time on the steamer ships coming over the Atlantic.”
“I bet,” Sookie ran her finger over the carving on the lid of the box, and then put it back where it belonged on the table. “Did you make anything else in here?”
“There are a few pieces upstairs,” Eric told her. “And Pam has a mirror that I made a frame for.”
“Awww that’s sweet,” Sookie smiled. “I never would have pegged either of you as the sentimental type.”
“I imagine there are a great many things about me that you wrongfully presume,” Eric said, which got Sookie to both raise an eyebrow in offense and feel a bit guilty at the same time.
“I think the same can be said about you,” Sookie fired back, not liking the way he had retorted so quickly. She hadn’t meant her comment to be an insult to him, but it certainly seemed as if he had taken it as such.
“I think I know you better than you think I do,” Eric said. “My long life has given me the ability to see more than just what you present to me, Sookie. Although I will admit you have a better poker face than most humans thanks to your gift.”
In her mind her telepathy was hardly a gift. It had kept her feeling segregated from everyone her entire life. Either people chose not to accept what she could do, or they hoped to use her for it. She was always trying to stay out of the minds of the few people who did allow her to get close to them, and anytime her ‘gift’ might actually be useful to someone they were too afraid to approach her and ask for help.
“You have no idea what it’s like to be me, just like I have no idea what it’s like to be a vampire,” Sookie finally said. “This ‘gift’ of mine, it’s kept me feeling like an outsider my whole life. I suspect you might know something about that because you’re a vampire and you spent centuries concealing the truth about yourself, but you also have the ability to glamour humans into accepting you, no questions asked. I’ve spent my life listening to people think about what an evil person I must be, that my power comes from the devil or that I’m some kind of witch.
“My own brother is afraid to come near me sometimes because he knows I can hear his deepest, darkest secrets anytime I want. My mother was afraid to hug me as a child for the same reason. The only person in my life that has ever full accepted me is my Gran, and she was murdered. More than likely, she was murdered by someone who claimed he loved me but was just trying to ensure he would have me all to himself. I have a long list of enemies that would love nothing more than to take away what little life I have left and I never did a fucking thing to any of them.
“I am never going to have a normal human life. I’m never going to get married. I’m never going to have babies. I’m never going to have grandbabies crawling all over me, asking me to tell them stories of my youth. So what’s the point, Eric? Why are you working so hard to preserve a life that means so little to anyone but me?”
Eric felt her sorrow, frustration and all of the things she had been burying for so long finally coming to the surface. All of her strength was stripped away in that moment, and he saw a scared, sad girl standing in front of him, desperate to understand anything. And that was when he knew it was time to come clean and tell her the truth he had been hiding from her.
She would know it as soon as the bond was complete anyway. Sookie might reject the words, but when the bond was complete she would feel it. She would know everything, and even though he could close off his side of the bond if he chose to, he wouldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be fair to her, and if there was one thing he knew Sookie wanted, it was to feel like she was someone’s equal.
While it was true she would never best him in strength, speed, agility, or any of those other things that came along with being a vampire, he could match her emotionally. In that regard, he could give her more than anyone else ever could and it was time she knew the truth.
“I love you,” he said simply.
As expected, Sookie scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“It’s true,” he said calmly, his keen vampire eyes fixed on her small frame.
Sookie folded her arms over her chest, a defense mechanism designed to give him the impression she was defiant or incredulous. In this instance it was both, and he felt her rebelling in his blood.
“You don’t see the same qualities I see, Sookie. When I look at you I don’t see an outsider who has no place in the world because your place is with me,” he told her. “I see your strength, your independence, your intelligence, your cunning, your kindness, your desire to understand the world around you. You’re a fighter just like I am. I see your potential and I want to help you find what you are meant to be.”
He felt her emotionally waver. Slowly her arms came down, taking her defenses along with them.
“You really love me?” she asked, and the disbelief coursing through her veins was almost painful to him.
“For some time now,” he admitted.
“Since when?” Sookie asked, curious to know just how long ‘some time’ really was.
He’d told her in Dallas that love was a word he didn’t understand. She supposed that was probably still true, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel it. Sookie would never in a million years put herself on the same pedestal that Godric was on, but she would be lying if she said there wasn’t a part of her that secretly delighted in the notion that someday she might get close.
Assuming she lived that long.
“Since the night you slapped me,” he admitted with a small smirk.
Sookie raised an eyebrow and said, “You love me because I slapped you?”
“No,” he laughed, and she found that it broke some of the tension that had mounted between them. Eric closed the distance between them and picked up the very hand that she had dared to raise to him. “I love you because you challenge me. No other human would have the mettle to speak to me the way you sometimes do, let alone raise a hand to me in their anger.”
Sookie pulled her hand back and looked away from him. She didn’t feel like the girl he claimed to see. She felt like she was a mess, a shell of the person she could be. He’d talked of potential, but she didn’t feel any of that. She felt like a target, a weakling for always needing someone to come to her rescue. And now she was eager to complete a blood bond that would keep her tied to Eric for life.
Even if their relationship didn’t work he would always be a part of her. She would always feel him, know when he was in trouble or what he was feeling. Sookie didn’t understand why her mind had suddenly gone to such dark places. She told herself it was probably just the stress of what she had been through in the last few hours. She had been drugged, kidnapped, brutally bitten and damn near drained. That was a lot for anyone to take, but with everything else that had transpired in the last few weeks it was too much.
But then Claudine’s words came back to her. Eric was her mate. Sookie had no idea the fairy in her had chosen him, but she had. There had to be a reason for that.