I wish I would have had a camera on hand when it was decided that Bill would spend the next five years in a coffin chained with silver. His lack of respect for myself or the Magister was just unbelievable. The mainstreaming must have gone to his head. I can’t think of any other reason why he would deliberately put his foot in his mouth the way he did. If it weren’t so pathetic, it might have been comical.
I leaned against the trunk of the car behind me where a girl was whimpering and crying inside. She was to be Bill’s alternative punishment. Had Bill kept his big mouth shut, he might have been able to go home to Sookie. As it was, she was now wide open for the taking.
“Bill, I feel I owe you thanks.” I clapped a hand on his shoulder, intending to rub as much salt in his wounds as possible.
“How so?” Bill’s jaw was set. Indignance would get him nowhere now except, perhaps, more time in the coffin.
“I had planned to take Sookie from you, but now, well, it seems you have just given her to me. She is quite a treat.” I smiled at him, and his fangs ran out. “Careful, now. You wouldn’t want to tack on time to your sentence. The Magister is still watching, after all.”
Bill’s fangs disappeared and he turned away from me. “Sookie should be protected, Eric, not used as bait.”
“I have no intention of using her as bait.” I removed my hand from Bill’s shoulder. “My plans for Sookie are much greater than that.”
“What are you going to do with her, Eric?” Bill snarled at me.
I simply smiled and walked away with my hands clasped innocently behind my back, Bill calling out after me, demanding an explanation. I didn’t give him one. He would just have to wait and see.
More than a week had passed since Bill left for the tribunal he said I couldn’t go to. He had kissed me goodbye, and I had expected I would hold onto those feelings and replay that kiss over and over in my head until he came back. Instead, what I saw when I closed my eyes, was Eric’s lingering stare before he walked away that night. It gave me shivers.
I’d had more than one dream where I would be in some random place doing some random thing, and Eric would just appear and stare at me. I would feel his eyes searching me, trying his hardest to glamour me into doing whatever it was he wanted me to do. I would wake up in the middle of the night breathing hard and wiping away a cold sweat. The hardest part was admitting I wasn’t scared of Eric, so much as I was curious.
Curiosity had gotten me almost beaten to death once. Eric was far more powerful, and because of that, I’m sure had much more dangerous enemies. The last thing I needed was to go and get involved with someone like Eric. Besides, I was waiting for Bill. I didn’t know if I loved him or not, but I certainly did miss him. I saw potential for us as a couple, and I hated the idea that he was being punished for defending me.
I walked through the cemetery to Bill’s house. He’d left a set of keys for me in my mailbox before coming to Merlotte’s to say goodbye. He’d told me to go there if I ever felt unsafe in my own house. With a murderer on the loose looking to strangle fangbangers to death, it really wasn’t a good time for me to be left alone. Sam was looking out for me as much as possible, but I couldn’t have him stopping his life to look after mine.
I was a big girl. I could handle whatever came my way.
I made my way up to Bill’s house and was surprised to see a light on in the living room. Had I done that the list time I came by? Bill had a few plants in his kitchen that I had promised to look after. I was also picking up his mail and making sure the house didn’t get too dusty in his absence.
“He’s home!” My heart swelled, and I ran into the house. “Bill?” I called out, running through the first floor of the house. No answer. “Bill, it’s Sookie!” I started up the stairs.
The light was on in the bathroom, but I didn’t hear water running. I did, however, hear music. I didn’t recognize the voices that were singing, but it was awfully pretty. My heart skipped a beat. It had only been a week, but I missed Bill much more than I thought I would. I stopped outside the door and straightened up my dress. I was sure I looked terrible, and that wasn’t how I wanted Bill to see me.
“Bill?” I knocked on the door, but got no answer.
I pushed the door open just a little and peeked inside. The tub was full and the music was still playing, but it wasn’t Bill in the tub. I threw the door open and glared at the six and a half foot tall vampire with his feet propped up.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I glared hard at Eric.
His eyes were closed and his fingers were lightly stroking the porcelain underneath them. “Waiting for you, sweetest. There’s room for two, if you’d care to join me.” A small smile danced on his lips.
“My name is Sookie, in case you forgot, and I think I’ll pass.” I reminded him.
“Another time then.” He opened one eye and smiled at me. “Don’t you look delicious this evening?”
“What are you doing here, Eric?” I repeated my question.
“Like I said, I was waiting for you. I thought just showing up at your home would be in poor taste. I knew you would come here eventually, so I decided to wait.” He sat up, and I knew I had maybe seconds before he was on his feet.
“What do you want, Eric? I’m not working for you if Bill’s not around.” I looked away from him then.
“That poses a problem on several levels, Sookie.” Eric said and my eyes snapped back to him in preparation to argue with him. I heard the tell tale sound of water falling away from his body. “Could you be a dear and hand me a towel?”
Eric stood quickly, and before I could avert my eyes, I got the full monty. I didn’t mean to look, but I just couldn’t turn around fast enough. I handed Eric a fluffy white towel while my cheeks burned with embarrassment. I kept my head turned away from him, and I felt his hand brush against a part of his body I had absolutely no intention of touching when he took the towel.
“Jerk!” I wanted to hit him, but decided that was probably a bad idea.
“Thank you, Sookie.” Eric remained calm.
“I’m going downstairs. When you’ve dried off and put your clothes back on, I’ll be in the living room.” I started to stomp off, but Eric’s voice called me back.
“I have a message for you from Bill. He would have called you himself, but the Magister would not allow it. It seems Bill had difficulty minding his manners while appearing before someone who was to decide his fate. Not to mention, vampires are not supposed to get attached to humans. You come and go so quickly from this world.” I turned to see Eric standing a little too close to me with nothing more than a towel wrapped around his waist.
I didn’t want to get into a philosophical discussion with Eric about the ridiculous attitude vampires took toward humans. So we didn’t have super speed or senses, but without us, vampires wouldn’t last long. In fact, they wouldn’t be possible. Apparently that was an aspect of the vampire superiority complex that wasn’t taken into consideration. I sighed and then started down the stairs again.
“Find me when you’re dressed.” I didn’t look back.
I was dressed and downstairs before Sookie had a chance to sit down on the raggedy couch in Bill’s living room. I could appreciate having a sense of pride for one’s birth place. I certainly enjoyed my trips to Scandinavia when I was able to take them, but Bill had been living in Bon Temps for a considerable amount of time and his home still looked like he was squatting in it. It was unacceptable.
“So, sweet Sookie, how have you been?” I figured I would try and draw the conversation out. I didn’t want to just spill the beans, as the humans say, and shatter whatever sensitivities she had.
“Cut the crap, Eric, and get to the point.” She was certainly in a feisty mood.
“What happened to the polite darling I met? You so looked as if you were stopping in on your way to a garden party.” I reminded her.
“Eric, I’m tired. It’s been a long week and I’m worried about Bill. So if you have a message from him, I would really like to hear it so I can go home and get some sleep.” I realized then that her eyes were darker than usual. She was trying to hide it with makeup, but that didn’t work well with my sight. I could see beyond the powders and creams. She was exhausted.
“For your sake, and your sake alone, it pains me to tell you that Bill will not be returning any time soon.” I sat down on the couch and waited for her reaction.
“How long will he be gone?” Her voice was tight. She was bracing herself for the worst.
“Had Bill been a bit more willing to take responsibility for his actions, and had he shown more respect for his elders, he would have been offered an alternative. As it stands now, Bill has been sentenced to the regular punishment for the crime he has committed.”
“Five years in a coffin chained with silver.” My voice was emotionless.
Sookie’s mouth dropped open. She was shocked and obviously very upset about this turn of events. “Five years?”
“But that’s crazy! Five years in a coffin…won’t that kill him?”
“It will weaken him severely, but it will not kill him. He will sleep through much of that time, I imagine.” I could see Sookie’s future flashing before her eyes. It wasn’t as much fun to watch as I’d thought it would be.
Clearly she was thinking about the things she would be missing out on with Bill. I wanted to tell her that I could give her more- that I would give her anything she wanted- but I kept silent. She needed time to process this.
“Can’t you appeal to have his sentence reduced?” Sookie asked in a voice so innocent that I had to restrain myself from laughing.
“Sookie, this is not like American courts. When the Magister has spoken, that is it. Bill knew this going in, and still he chose the path he did. He knew his disregard for our ways would lead him to harsher penalties.”
“But he killed Long Shadow to save me. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Sadly, it does not count for much. The Magister was willing to offer an alternative to Bill because he had staked a vampire who was stealing from his sheriff. However, as I have said, Bill couldn’t quite keep his tone in check, and that cost him the chance to avoid time in a coffin.”
“And what was the alternative?”
“The alternative would have been making a new vampire to replace the one that was lost.”
“So he would have had to commit a second murder to atone for the first?” Sookie looked at me like I had two heads. “That’s crazy.”
“Only because you are thinking like a human.” I sighed and she glared at me.
“And just what am I supposed to think like?”
I enjoyed her fire. Not many had the guts to speak to me the way she did. The last woman to talk to me in such a fashion found herself drained and buried in the ground at my side for three nights. Now she sits at my right hand. I appraised Sookie, thinking about what a wonderful child she would make if given the proper training and time to adjust to the idea of it.
“I realize you find this idea repulsive, dear one, but the loss of a human life is of no consequence to my kind. Had Bill turned the girl that was chosen, we would not have seen it as a murder of a human, but as the creation of new life for our own.” I explained to her. “As you may have figured out by now, being a maker is a big deal for vampires.”
“It’s murder.” Sookie shook her head. “Bill would never do that.”
“Wouldn’t he?” I looked at her closely. “Had he known that he had the chance to return to you, I’m quite sure that Bill would have drained the girl in a matter of seconds. He is attached to you in a way that is unusual for our kind.”
“You don’t know anything about my relationship with Bill.” Sookie spat at me.
“I know that for as protective of you as he is, he has left you unmarked.”
“You are not blood bonded to Bill.”
“I’ve had his blood.” Sookie said quickly.
“Not enough. You see, a blood bond is only formed after three mutual exchanges. He has given you his blood to heal you. That is different. A blood exchange is most often done in the throws of passion. By your scent, I know it wasn’t until shortly before he staked Long Shadow that you became intimately involved with him.” I hated to recall the change in Sookie’s smell.
The night she had come into Fangtasia for the first time, her smell had been sublime. I had never smelled anything like her. She was perfect. It was a lovely hybrid of sweet, sunshine and innocence. I could smell her purity from across the room. It just about drove me mad. Then she approached me when she was summoned, and I could smell the sweetness. It was faint, and hard to place, though I knew I had smelled it before. I was sure that if I could taste her, I would be able to identify the scent that was eluding me. Her scent, however, had changed since that night. She was still delightfully sweet and it would take years for the sunlight to leave her scent, but the innocence wasn’t the same. It was still there, just not as concentrated.
“You could smell that?” Sookie looked absolutely mortified. Her face flushed in the most adorable fashion, and I wanted to attack her right there on the couch. The desire to feed on and fuck her was nearly overwhelming.
“Oh, yes.” I smiled at her and she turned away from me. “Frankly, Sookie, when you think about it, Bill got off easy for what he’s done.”
“You think five years in a coffin is easy?” Sookie glared at me with those fiery eyes of hers.
“Bill acted foolishly. He must pay the consequences for his actions.” Five years in a coffin would be more than enough time for Sookie to move on to someone else. In fact, I was quite sure that five months would be more than sufficient time for her to find someone new to occupy the lonely spaces in her life.
“This is all my fault.” Sookie muttered and her hand covered her face.
“Nonsense. You were merely doing what you were asked to do. Bill could have pulled Long Shadow off of you, but instead, he killed him. I might have done the same if I were in his position, but I would have done it without witnesses.” I smirked at the thought.
I couldn’t very well tell Sookie what I had in store for Long Shadow if he had lived. Sookie would find it beyond gruesome, and would never understand the rationale behind it. Not only had I trusted Long Shadow as a friend and as a business partner, but as my subject. He had sworn fealty to me, and he had broken his vow. He committed much more than an act of theft. In my eyes, it was treason, and there was no excuse for that.
Sookie looked at me with contempt in her eyes. She stood up quickly and began to pace back and forth around the living room. I watched her move from one side of the room to the other. I could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. I wasn’t prepared for what she said next.
“I want out of our arrangement, Eric.” She said it like it was a command instead of a request. She had guts.
“Why would I do that, Sookie?”
“Because I don’t trust you.” She stopped pacing and stared at me. “Nothing good has come into my life since I met you.”
“You give me too much credit, I think.” I stood before her, startling her with the use of my vampire speed.
“You think this is funny? Bill will spend the next five years in a coffin because of me. A vampire died because of me. You want to stick around and see what will happen to you if you’re in my life?” She tried to sound threatening. I had no fear.
“I am much smarter than most.” I knew that was a fact, and Sookie seemed to realize I was right after a moment. Still her pride wouldn’t allow her to verbally concede this point.
“You didn’t know a vampire was feeding from a human in your bar.” She pointed out.
“And she has been dealt with accordingly.” I smiled at the thought of Pam pulling her fangs in the basement of the bar.
I thought about all of the things I knew about Sookie. I hadn’t learned much about her, but I knew enough to know that she was the sort who would come to me in her own time. Something would happen and she would need assistance the Shifter would be unable to provide.
“If you wish to be released from our agreement, I can do that.” I decided to let her have her way, knowing it would only be a matter of time before she came back.
“That’s it? It’s just done?” Sookie looked like she didn’t believe me.
“You have fulfilled your purpose. You managed to figure out who was stealing from me, and you got Bill out of my area. I should reward you for the second part, as it was an unexpected bonus.” I couldn’t stop from leering at her.
“I’m still Bill’s, you know?” As if I needed a reminder.
I couldn’t believe she would let that pathetic excuse for a vampire lay so much as a finger on her, much less allow him inside of her. The thought made me cringe on the inside.
“For now, you are still Bill’s, but five years is a long time to keep your heart locked away. Come see me when you decide to set it free.” I bent to kiss her cheek, and then I was gone.
Of all the nerve! Just who in the hell did Eric think he was? Okay, so he was a very powerful vampire who probably could have laid claim to me the second he saw me. Bill had warned me more than once how dangerous Eric was. I could see it, sometimes, in the way Eric looked at me, but I didn’t feel like my life was at stake when he was close by. Actually, I felt rather safe. I got the feeling if Eric wanted me dead, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. At the same time, if Eric wanted me dead, I’d be dead already.
Well that certainly gave me a lot to think about. What was I supposed to do with myself? I barely knew Bill. Our relationship was still in those beginning stages, even if we had slept together. It seemed wrong to just move on and forget, but could I really wait that long for him? It wasn’t as if we were in love, or engaged. We hadn’t made each other any promises.
I kept working at the bar, hoping that whoever was out there killing girls wouldn’t put me on his or her list. Sam was watching me like a hawk, and it wasn’t just because Bill had asked him to. While I appreciated Bill’s concern for my safety, it didn’t seem right that Sam should be on the hook for looking out for me. I was a grown woman. I could take care of myself. I just needed to be vigilant of my surroundings.
It surprised me that Eric was true to his word. I didn’t hear a peep out of him. It seemed almost like he disappeared from my life after agreeing to leave me alone. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I missed him, but it just seemed strange not to have him calling me to come help with something. Although, technically, I had only helped him out that once. I had assumed he had all sorts of projects lined up for me. The case of the missing money had just been the most pressing issue at the time.
I was at work one night when a vampire came strolling in I had never seen before. The second I spotted her, I looked over in Sam’s direction behind the bar. He seemed to know she was a vampire, too. Sam had the same keen eye I did for vampires, only he was much more suspicious of them than I was. I don’t know why, but I even after the things I’d seen I still saw vampires as people. I didn’t see them as the killing machines Sam did. Call me naïve, but it was hard to look into eyes that showed the same emotions as my own and see nothing but death and destruction.
“Welcome to Merlotte’s. I’m Sookie. I’ll be your waitress this evening. Can I get you something?” I asked the beautiful vampire with dark auburn hair hanging in waves around her alabaster shoulders.
“Bill Compton.” She smiled up at me. She wasted no time identifying herself as vampire. Her fangs descended.
“Bill’s not in town at the moment.” I looked down at my order pad.
“Where might I find him?” She asked in a smooth as silk voice.
“I couldn’t say. You might want to talk to Eric about that.” I just assumed she knew who Eric was.
“Eric Northman?” She sneered at me.
“You don’t know Eric?” This surprised me. I thought all vampires knew him. Maybe he wasn’t as powerful as his ego projected him to be.
“Oh, I know Eric.” She gave me a leering smile. Then again, maybe Eric was every bit as powerful as I’d first thought. I had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes. I really didn’t need to know anything about any sort of relationship she had with Eric. “Is he still sheriff around these parts?”
“To the best of my knowledge, but I haven’t spoken with Eric in a few months now.” That was the God’s honest truth.
The only encounter I’d had with a vampire of any sort was when I’d seen one at the Grab-It-Quick a few weeks before. I’d stopped in for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread on my way home. A vampire I didn’t recognize was buying a couple of cases of True Blood and some other synthetic product. We didn’t exchange names. I just made my purchases and went on my merry way.
“You wouldn’t happen to know how I might get in touch with Eric, would you?” I realized then that I hadn’t gotten the vampiress’ name.
“I might. Could I tell him who is searching him out?” I had no doubt that if I called Eric to tell him a female vampire was looking for him he would want a name.
“The name’s Lorena, pretty lady.” Her dark eyes sparkled. She leaned closer to me and inhaled. “I can certainly see why Bill was so fond of you.”
“Are you a friend of Bill’s?” I asked cautiously, knowing how secretive vampires could be.
“Much more than that, little human.” She gestured for me to sit.
I glanced over at Sam who was looking like he had all ants in his pants. I sat down in the booth across from Lorena. “Would you mind telling me how you know him?”
She regarded me for a moment before saying, “Bill and I were lovers for quite some time.” She seemed to enjoy the reaction she was getting from me. I was doing my best not to react at all, which was quite amusing to Lorena. “But I can smell him on your skin. You have had his blood.”
“I saved him from some drainers the night I met him. They retaliated by nearly beating me to death. Bill found me in the parking lot outside and he healed me.” I explained to her.
She shook her head. “My Bill was always so sensitive to the human condition. He had a soft spot in his heart for a damsel in distress.”
“I’m no damsel in distress.” I shot right back at her, causing her to give me a terrifying smile.
“Not yet.” The warmth in her eyes disappeared.
I took that as my cue to leave her.
“Can I get you something, Lorena? We have all of the varieties of True Blood behind the bar.” I offered her.
“I don’t drink synthetics.” She said with disgust.
“Well, no offense to you, but if you aren’t going to have a drink-” She was gone before I could finish my sentence. I stood there staring, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
“Who was that?” Sam had his hand on my shoulder, and I could hear his thoughts loud and clear. He was thinking about how much he needed to protect me and how he hated that I was getting caught up with vampires. I blocked him out.
“I’m not sure.” I lied to Sam and pulled away.
I guess I’d be calling Eric after all.
“Master, you have a phone call.” A waitress going by the name of Giselle bowed before me.
“Take a message.” I waved her off. I wasn’t in the mood. If it was a pressing matter, whoever it was could call my cell phone.
Pam approached with a look of amusement on her face. “You turned down a phone call from Sookie Stackhouse?”
My head snapped up. “Sookie called?” This was certainly interesting, not to mention, unexpected.
“Would I send Giselle to bother you with a phone call from someone I knew you didn’t want to speak to?” Pam rolled her eyes at me. “Honestly, Eric…”
I smirked at Pam and then left my seat to return Sookie’s call. Long ago I had gotten a hold of her home phone number. I knew precisely where she lived, thanks to Pam’s vault, but had yet to make my presence known to her there. I had spent quite a few nights outside of her home. I could listen to her breathing from outside. I had watched her sleep a time or two and she never knew I was there. Had she seen me, I had no doubt she would have let me know it.
I called Sookie’s house, but didn’t get an answer. I was about to call the bar she worked at when I was alerted she had called back. Apparently she wouldn’t be taking no for an answer. I had to admire that about her.
“Good evening, Sookie.” I greeted her cordially when I picked up the extension her call was parked on.
“Hello, Eric. I’m sorry to bother you, but a vampire I’ve never seen before came into Merlotte’s tonight looking for Bill. She said she knows him. The last time vampires Bill knew were in town there was a fire. I don’t know what she wants with him, but she said they used to be lovers. I didn’t know who else to call. When I mentioned your name, she seemed surprised that I knew who you were.” Sookie rambled on. She was clearly upset by the visit.
If one of Bill’s former lovers had come to town in search of him, it could only be one person. I couldn’t help but smile at this. Bill may have bedded several humans over the course of his vampire life, but there was only one of our kind he had ever been involved with. If a vampire lover was looking for him, it had to be Lorena.
“Is she still in the bar?” I asked Sookie.
“No. She refused to order a drink, so I was going to tell her she had to leave-”
“You were going to kick her out of the bar?” Oh this was too good. Sookie didn’t find this as amusing as I did.
“It’s a Saturday night, Eric! You own a bar.”
“This vampire…her name wouldn’t happen to be Lorena, would it?” I asked her, and heard her gasp.
“How did you know? Did you send her here to mess with me so I would call you?” Sookie demanded, and I laughed loudly. Sometimes she was just too much.
“If only I were that clever.” I couldn’t help laughing. I could practically see Sookie’s face flushing with anger. “Sadly, no, I did not send Lorena to rattle your cage.”
“Then why is she here?” Sookie demanded.
“I suppose she is unaware of the charges made against Bill. I must admit, I was surprised she wasn’t at Bill’s trial, but it happened so quickly there may not have been enough time for her to arrive before then. The last I heard, Lorena was living in Prague.”
“Why would she go to Bill’s trial?” Sookie was confused. It dawned on me then that Lorena hadn’t told Sookie the full story.
“What, exactly, did Lorena tell you was her relationship with Bill?”
“She said they were lovers a long time ago.”
“What’s going on, Eric?” Sookie asked me nervously.
“When do you get off work, Sookie?”
“I close tonight.”
“Then I will meet you outside the bar at one.” I promised her.
“Can’t you just tell me over the phone?”
“I could, but I would prefer to see for myself that you are alright.”
“Am I in some kind of trouble, Eric? Should I be worried about Lorena?”
“That remains to be seen, Sookie. I’ll see you at one.” I promised her and then hung up the phone before she could argue with me any further.
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and searched to see if I had Lorena’s number saved in there somewhere. I had many, many phone numbers. I had asked for hers when Bill came into my area. Any vampire coming into my area with a living maker was required to provide me with a way to contact their maker. This was helpful for several reasons.
For instance, if a vampire went missing for a period of time and it was reported to me, I could check in with the maker. If the maker had not called to its child, then I could assume the disappearance might be involuntary. The maker would then call to its child. If the child did not answer the call, that could mean any number of things, but none of them were good.
This also came in handy if the vampire was a discipline problem who refused to accept my authority. If the vampire would not heel to me, it would to its maker.
“Lorena, I hear you’re in my area.” I said when she answered her phone.
“I am looking for my child. He is not answering my call.”
“There is good reason for that.”
“Your child was sent for judgment by the Magister. You were not made aware of this?”
“I went underground for a while.”
Interesting. I wondered why, but decided that didn’t matter. What mattered was that Lorena had come into my area without contacting me. She knew the rules. This was a violation of our laws.
“Your child is in a coffin chained in silver.”
The line was silent.
“Why?” She demanded.
“He staked another vampire. I am surprised he didn’t tell you this himself.” Actually, I wasn’t surprised at all.
“When did this happen?”
“And I am just now being made aware?”
“It is not my duty to inform you of these things, Lorena.” I rolled my eyes. She was every bit as annoying as her child. “Have you not been contacted by Long Shadow’s maker about this?”
“He staked Long Shadow?” Lorena practically shrieked.
“In defense of his human.”
“He staked a vampire for his pet?” Lorena sounded disgusted and then her voice turned menacing. “It wouldn’t happen to be that delicious little blond that works at the Shifter’s bar, would it?”
I didn’t like where this was going. Lorena had potential to be real trouble. I was aware of her reputation for theatrics. When I thought of her, I often thought of Loki, a God to my people when I was human. He was a troublemaker in his own right who was eventually captured by the other Gods after his role in the death of a God named Baldr. Loki was bound in the entrails of one of his sons. His wife was given a bowl to hold over Loki’s head to stop poisonous snake venom from dripping on his head. Unfortunately, his wife would need to empty the bowl so venom would drip onto Loki anyway. The venom caused Loki to writhe in agony, and it is said that is how earthquakes began.
What I wouldn’t give to see Bill bound in entrails with poison dripping on his head while Lorena watched. Not all makers feel the sort of affection for their children that I feel for Pam. While it is true that Pam and I were lovers for a time shortly after she was turned, we have since moved on from that. Pam has her tastes as I have mine. Lorena, on the other hand, turned Bill so that she would have an eternal lover at her disposal. Only Bill had no interest in being turned, much less being Lorena’s lover for eternity. It is my understanding their relationship has been timultuous, at best.
“The whereabouts of Bill’s human are of no concern to you, Lorena.” I wasn’t going to bring Sookie into this.
“Then I suppose I will have to start glamouring humans in this backwater town until I find her.” Lorena gave a dramatic sigh.
“Almost five hundred years old, and you still have the sense of a newborn.” I muttered into the phone. Not only was I a sheriff, but I was more than twice Lorena’s age. I was her superior in every sense of the word.
“Are you ordering me out of your area, sheriff?” She asked suddenly.
“You have no business here, Lorena. It would be in your best interest to leave before you cross a line that cannot be uncrossed.” I advised her.
“Are you saying Bill’s human is under your protection?”
“I am saying I will not allow you to hunt on my turf for an innocent human. Your child is serving his sentence for his crimes. I would advise you contact Hot Rain immediately to settle what your child has done.”
Lorena let out a hiss. “I will leave your area at sunset tomorrow, Sheriff.”
The line went dead.
At exactly one o’clock I walked out of the bar. I felt the presence of a vampire brain nearby and I stood under one of the flood lights in the parking lot to wait for the vampire to approach. I assumed it was Eric milling about somewhere in the woods that surrounded the bar. I found it odd that Eric wasn’t leaned against my car in a seductive manner like I had anticipated he would be. Maybe he thought he’d get his kicks by scaring me half to death before explaining to me who Lorena was.
I got the feeling there was quite a bit I was missing from the story. Vampires just never seemed to be able to spit out the whole truth at once. They liked to give it up in installments, and only the ones they deemed necessary in that particular moment. Then again, Eric didn’t owe me anything. I had asked to be released from our agreement. He had granted me my freedom.
Admitting that to myself was frustrating. I had managed to keep my gift mostly to myself for so many years. I made the mistake of revealing it to a vampire and all of a sudden I was commodity. Well, Bill hadn’t seen me that way. He had tried to shield me from people like Eric who would use me when they wanted. Like he’d said, I suited his purpose. I’d done what he wanted, and I’d even managed to get Bill out of his area. Just what was his beef with Bill, anyway?
I made the mistake of losing focus for just a second, and I found myself slammed down on the hood of my car with a cold hand wrapped around my throat. I gasped for air and got nothing. I clawed at the hand holding my throat. I looked up into the blackest eyes I had ever seen.
“Lorena.” I choked out and then everything went black.
“Unhand her.” I ordered from behind Lorena. I would give her a chance to release Sookie, and then the fight would be on.
“It is because of this bloodbag that my child is bound in a coffin.” Lorena glowered at Sookie with hatred in her eyes.
“Sookie was merely doing as I asked. Your child, you see, had very bad manners and the sense of tree bark.” I stepped forward and grabbed Lorena’s unyielding hand until I heard bones crunching. She winced and then released her grip on Sookie’s neck. Sookie was passed out. “He made the mistake of dangling his shiny new toy in front of me. He said she was his without marking her. Surely you know what a mistake that would be.”
“What’s so special about her?” Lorena’s fangs were out.
I had no intention of telling Lorena anything about Sookie.
“You will not feed on her.” I told her.
“Is she under your protection?”
“She is.” I had yet to release my hold on Lorena’s wrist. To make my point, I began to twist. “Leave now.”
Lorena looked as if she wanted to demand some sort of recompense for Bill’s punishment, but there would be none. Bill acted of his own volition. Although, truth be told, had Bill not moved first I would have stopped Long Shadow before he bit Sookie. I took a very calculated risk to see what would happen in the situation we were in. In a single moment, Bill tipped his hand entirely too much. His loyalty to his human had clouded his judgment. Yet, without intending to, he had also done me a number of favors.
Just what was it about Sookie Stackhouse that was worth potentially dying for?
I picked her up off the hood of the car and cradled her head gently against my chest. I kissed her forehead, and then took to the air. She needed healing, and fast.
I woke with the taste of something sweet and metallic in my mouth. My vision was blurry. I was in a room I didn’t recognize and Eric was towering over me with a look of concern on his face. That was new.
“Where am I?” I asked him, scrambling back toward the headboard of the bed I had been laying on.
“One of my safe houses.” Eric sat at the edge of the bed.
“How did I get here?”
“I brought you here, of course.”
“Gone. She is no longer welcome in my area having assaulted a human under my protection.”
“Under your protection, huh?” I sniggered and touched my neck. It was still sore, but nowhere near as bad as it was before.
“Did you not call and ask for my assistance?” Eric reminded me.
“I called because I didn’t know what else to do, Eric. She was asking about Bill. I could have handled this if you would have told me what you knew.” I said defensively.
“Had I not shown up, Sookie, you would be dead. Lorena would have drained you without a second thought. She is not rational when it comes to her child,” Child?! Lorena was his maker? Great! That’s just great! “And his problems with authority.” Eric moved my hand out of the way to look at my neck. “You are just about healed.”
“Healed? You gave me your blood?” I should have known that taste! “Why did you do that?”
“You were unconscious. You were bruised. You have done me services in the past. I was returning the favor.” Eric said this so casually when we both knew the ramifications of me taking his blood were much more complex than a simple healing.
“Did you bite me?” I had to ask since I had been out cold for an undetermined amount of time.
“I have no doubt, Sookie, that when I taste your blood it will be divine. Your scent guarantees it. However, I would not take from you what you are not willing to give.” Eric looked deep into my eyes as he spoke.
I wanted to jump off the bed and check my neck for fang marks. They would be hard to spot in the dim light of the bedroom. I would just have to wait until I got home.
“Thank you, Eric, for keeping your word.” I pulled my knees to my chest and hugged them.
I wasn’t thrilled about this new connection I had to Eric, but that was no reason not to be polite. He had kept his word when he said he would let me be. He said he would come for me and he did. He had even healed me, which I was willing to bet was motivated by multiple factors.
“What will your blood do to me?” I was curious to know if the side effects of his blood would be different than the things I had experienced with Bill’s.
“You have had vampire blood before, Sookie.” Eric looked slightly dumbfounded.
“Well, isn’t it different with every vamp? You’re older than Bill, aren’t you?”
“Considerably.” Eric nodded and smiled broadly. “Several centuries, in fact.”
“How many?” I asked nervously. I’d heard whisperings that Eric had been a Viking in his human life, but I’d never outright asked him.
He regarded me for a moment before saying, “I am more than 1,000 years-old.”
My jaw dropped. I was speechless. What was the right reaction to something like that? “Well, you don’t look a day over twenty-one.” I joked and Eric laughed.
“I was in my early twenties when I was turned.” He confirmed for me.
“Amazing.” I shook my head and suddenly felt the desire to reach out and touch the smooth skin of his face.
“Go ahead.” Eric leaned forward, which only made me recoil and ball my hands into fists.
“Go ahead?” I tried to play dumb which is something not easily done with a vampire. It’s damn near impossible when the vampire is as old as Eric.
“You wanted to touch me. I can feel it.”
“The blood, of course. I can feel my blood in you.” Eric explained in a sensual way that forced him to close his eyes. Almost like he could feel every single part of me where his blood was. Maybe he could. Oh Lord.
I’d seen Bill in the throws of bloodlust before, but that was when he had spent the night underground. His eyes had been wild and a little scared. Eric, on the other hand, was lusty but there was a very obvious train of thought in his head. Passion smoldered in his eyes.
“What else can you do?” I whispered without reaching to touch his face, though I desperately wanted to.
“Should you ever find yourself in danger, I will be able to find you.” Bill had been able to do that, too.
“Hopefully, that won’t be an issue for much longer.” I said before I could stop myself. Shit.
“Lorena.” I tried to back peddle, but it was too late. Eric knew I was lying.
“Be honest with me, Sookie. I can feel your deception.” Eric prompted.
He made me very uncomfortable. He was powerful, dangerous and gorgeous. He was every mother’s worst nightmare. Even without being an undead man, he was precisely the type my Gran had warned me to stay away from. He was smooth with his lines and quick with his temper. I had no doubt I was treading dangerous waters.
“You remember Dawn and Maudette?” I asked him, but he seemed lost. “The first night I came to Fangtasia, I showed you pictures of two women. They were murdered.”
“Ah, yes.” Eric’s eyes lit up just a bit.
“Well, the man who killed them has killed again. The police seem to think that my Gran was killed because he came for me.” I confessed this to Eric, who looked ready to do a little killing himself.
“Why did you not mention this to me before? I would have insured your safety. Lorena would not have had the chance to harm you.” Eric glared at me angrily.
“I didn’t call you because like I said before, I don’t trust you. Not to mention, I’ve been doing just fine these last few months without any vampires in my life, thank you very much. The killing has stopped. The last person killed was my brother’s girlfriend, Amy.” I explained to Eric.
“She was a fangbanger?” Eric was amused by the notion.
“No, she wasn’t.” I didn’t want to tell him that Amy was a V addict just like my brother was. Jason had seen the error of his ways in the wake of Amy’s death, but whoever killed her was still out there.
Being that I wasn’t working for Eric anymore and Bill was out of the picture, I felt safer. Whatever threat there may have been to my life seemed to have lessened. I still had every intention of clearing my brother’s name. How anyone could think he was capable of such a thing was beyond me, especially where Gran was concerned. It might be one thing to get carried away with a lover in the heat of the moment, but it was something entirely different to bludgeon your Gran to death in her own kitchen. Jason could never do the former and I knew he would rather kill himself than do the latter. It just wasn’t Jason.
“And your brother is still suspect in these crimes?”
“Unfortunately. The police can come up with no one better. My brother has ties to all four women that have been murdered.” I sighed and rubbed my eyes. I was tired.
“And you believe he is innocent?”
“I know he is, Eric. I’ve been listening to him every chance I get. If he was the one who did those things, I would know. I really do know my brother inside out.”
“I will make some calls.” Eric promised me.
“No, Eric, you don’t need to do me any more favors.” I shook my head.
“This will not be a favor, Sookie, this will be a payment.” He gave me one of those cat who swallowed the canary grins I came to associate with something I wasn’t going to like hearing.
“Payment for what?”
“For your assistance in interviewing new accoutants for the bar. The one you met before couldn’t take the heat, as you humans say, so he got out of the kitchen.” Eric grinned at me.
I could relate to that accountant big time.
I wondered if Sookie knew anything about Jason’s one and only trip to Fangtasia. Pam had told me Jason had been to the club. He was jittery and fidgety the night he had come, and Pam had scented vampire on him. It was the scent of a vampire who had recently gone missing, Pam would recall later on. That was night he had met that hippie.
I knew who Amy was. She was a known dealer, and had she not left with Sookie’s brother the night she came into my club, she would have been glamoured into not dealing anymore. Since she hooked up with Jason, that put me in a precarious position. Sookie would know if Amy had been glamoured, and I could only imagine the reaction I would have gotten from her if she knew her brother had been glamoured as well. I had no doubt she would easily put the pieces together as to who was responsible for that.
Since I couldn’t very well walk into Bon Temps without being noticed, I had a vampire in my area by the name of Della do a little work for me. I had her speak with the locals in regards to what they might know about the murders that had taken place. She also glamoured a few people who smelled of vampire to find out what their connection was to our kind. Her questions always led her to the same person time and time again: Lafayette Reynolds.
Lafayette worked at the bar with Sookie, and as it turned out, he was also familiar with all four victims. Could he have been the one to strangle the dead women? I would need to do a little more research on this. It was Pam who proposed an interesting way of flushing out the killer.
“Use her as bait.” Pam shrugged nonchalantly one night while I was pouring over the information Della had provided me, along with the copies of the police report that had been made while a secretary was glamoured at the Renard Parish Sheriff’s office.
I had to admit, as much as I hated it, that it wasn’t a bad idea. “It would be an interesting way to go.” I conceded, though I made no commitment to the idea.
I had taught my child well, and she was as good a strategist as I. We came up with a plan- a trap- and I decided I would discuss it with Sookie before putting it into motion. Normally I wouldn’t bother with such a thing, but she had said more than once she couldn’t trust me. If that was what was standing in the way of her giving herself to me, then I would take steps to rectify the situation.
Bruce’s resignation came at a good time. I lined up candidates with Pam’s assistance. A new bartender had already been called to take Long Shadow’s place. His name was Chow, and failed to see how Sookie’s help was needed to make a decision regarding the new employee. He changed his mind the second she walked through the door. In spite of what must have been a chilly night for a human, Sookie was dressed in one of those garden party dresses that made me want to throw her down on my desk and fuck her senseless.
This time the dress was red and white checkered. She wore a snow white cardigan over the dress and those little red shoes I wanted to feel digging into my back. Her hair tumbled down her back in perfect waves. In spite of the winter months, her skin was still bathed in the smell of sunshine. It was like watching a cupcake walk through my door.
“Sookie, good evening.” I smiled at her from behind my desk, feeling a tightness in my pants she would no doubt notice if I stood up.
“Hello, Eric.” She marched right up to me and sat down in the chair opposite my desk. “So, how long do you expect this will take?”
“Not long, I should think. Do you have a date tonight?” I asked her, appraising her appearance.
“No.” She didn’t offer anything further, though I could hear the racing of her heart.
“Is something wrong?” I tented my fingers under my chin.
“There’s a vampire hiding out in Bon Temps, I think. I’ve come across a lot of brains that have been glamoured lately. I was wondering if you knew anything about that?” Sookie gave me an accusing glare. My response was a smile.
“You always assume the worst of me.”
“Then prove me wrong.” Sookie folded her arms under her breasts, forcing more beautiful skin out of the neckline of her dress.
“We will discuss it later. For now, I have people waiting.” I decided to save the rest for later.
She glared at me once more and I explained to her what I needed her to do. When I offered her my hand to lead her out to the front she didn’t take it. That wasn’t a very encouraging sign, but she was clearly aggravated with me.
“You smell delicious.” I couldn’t resist telling her as we walked into the bar.
“Lucky me.” She muttered and then took her seat at the table in the center of the bar.
I don’t know who Eric thought he was fooling. Flattery wasn’t going to get him anywhere with me. He scratched my back, so now I was going to scratch his. I wanted to know if he had gotten anywhere on clearing Jason’s name for those murders, since it was absolutely ridiculous he had been accused in the first place. On first glance, yes, I could see how maybe a cop would think he was responsible. Jason didn’t have a whole lot of sense. But Gran’s murder changed everything, as far as I was concerned, and to top it off, Jason had loved Amy. He might have even cared about Dawn. Maudette was just some silly fling. Regardless of his relationships with the women in question, he just couldn’t have done it, and it bothered me to no end for anyone to think he could have.
I sat quietly and waited for the first candidate to be brought forward. Eric wanted me to make sure he wasn’t about to hire a crook or someone involved with a rival competitor, or even worse, a spy from the Fellowship of the Sun. They weren’t a real big threat in this part of Louisiana so far, but it was better to be proactive, I suppose.
He had four candidates waiting for me to listen to. The first was younger woman about my age. She was more interested in being Eric’s pet than his bookkeeper. She was harmless from a criminal standpoint, but I had to spend the duration of the interview listening to her think of all the nasty things she wanted Eric to do to her in bed. I think Eric figured it out from the way my face flushed bright red. I’m not so sure Miss Fangbanger figured it out. If she did, she didn’t seem to care.
The second was an elderly gentleman with excellent references and no qualms about working for vampires. He wasn’t interested in their politics or being part of their world outside of this bar. Mostly, he was looking for something to keep his mind sharp and young. He was a hard worker who lost his wife the previous year after a long struggle with cancer. He just needed something to keep him going. As far as I could tell, he would be more than capable of doing the job Eric needed him to do.
The third candidate was a middle-aged man with a wife and three kids. He was involved in his church and coached little league. He drank a little too much from time to time, and kept glancing over at the bar and wishing for a whiskey sour to calm his frazzled nerves. Pam made him nervous. Chow intimidated him. Eric was the only one he didn’t seem to be afraid of, which I found interesting. But if he was going to work for vampires, he couldn’t be fidgety. It would get him killed. He wasn’t going to work out. The stress would get to him the way it got to Bruce, and he had a wife and kids to consider.
Finally, there was a woman a few years older than me. She had references from another vampire down in New Orleans. She have overseen the accounting for the vampire’s small empire that included two bars, a dry cleaners, a restaurant, a move theater and two boutiques. She had done her job well and was used to managing a staff of accountants. I found it strange that she was willing to take a step backward, but it was obvious from her thoughts that she was suffering from a slight case of burn out. She needed to take a break for a while, but she wasn’t one to rest on her laurels.
When the interviews were concluded, Eric released the candidates to go about their business. Ginger brought a tray of bloods for the vampires and a gin and tonic for me. I sipped it slowly, letting the alcohol slowly numb the tension that had started to build in my head from trying so hard to listen. I didn’t want to miss anything vital.
“So, dear one, have you found anything of value?” Eric sat directly across from me at the table with Pam and Chow flanking him on either side.
“Well, I honestly think your best bet was the second one.” I said, much to the surprise of the two standing vampires. Pam rolled her eyes.
“But the first one had such a lovely smell.” Pam’s fangs were out.
“Her bigger interest was in becoming a pet.” I kept my eyes on Eric.
“Jealous?” Chow offered, earning him a glare from Eric. Chow dropped his eyes and kept his mouth shut.
“If you’re looking for a pet, Pam, shouldn’t that be a separate interview process?” I figured if Pam could tease me, I could tease her back. Eric was amused by my suggestion.
“Why have you chosen the second one, Sookie?” Eric kept his smile and Pam kept her silence.
I went over my reasons for choosing the second one. Chow clearly disagreed with me, thinking the fourth candidate was the best choice. She had vampire references, after all.
“She’s walking a fine line right now. She left her last job for that vampire because she was stressed out. I think if she got a little rest she might be better equipped to handle the workload here.” I offered my opinion.
Pam’s expression was vampire blank. Chow looked at me like I just escaped the slow class. Eric’s thoughts were the only ones I really cared about, and he maintained the same slight smile. Without warning he reached out and took my hand.
“Pam, Chow, excuse us.” Eric said in a calm voice. In a flash, Pam and Chow were gone.
“Look, Eric, I did what you asked. So if you could just tell me what you know about the murders…” I trailed off. His fingers were stroking the back of my hand, and it was sending chills up my spine.
“You want me.” Eric smiled at me.
“No I don’t.” I shook my head.
“I can feel you, remember? What was that woman thinking?” He asked and I knew which woman he was referring to.
“I’m not going to repeat it, Eric. Lets just say that she wanted you to be something other than her boss, and leave it at that.” I tried to take my hand back but he wouldn’t release it.
“I have a plan.” Eric leaned over the table so that our faces were face close together. I backed up just a little bit.
“A plan?” My heart skipped a beat. “A plan for what?”
“Many things, actually, but I am referring to catching that killer you’re so worried about.” Eric’s hand was still on mine.
“What’s the plan?”
“I had one of my vampires do a little research for me. She is the source of the glamouring you found.”
“What? Eric!” I glared at him.
“It was necessary, dear one, to find out what people knew. If they were being coerced into keeping quiet, or threatened from revealing what they knew then glamouring was the only way they would come forward.”
“So then what’s the plan, Eric?” I sighed, wanting to hear whatever it was he had cooked up so I could go home and get some sleep.
“It seems the best way to catch this killer is to flaunt a vampire/human relationship in front of him or her.” Eric looked at me with intensity in his bright blue eyes. I had a feeling I knew what he was about to say, and I was already shaking my head. “I will come to your bar and we will pretend to be lovers.”
“No way!” I shook my head. I wasn’t going to pretend to be Eric’s girlfriend! The plan was ludicris, not to mention dangerous. I didn’t want to die to find the killer. I wanted to help my brother, but offering myself up as a sacrificial lamb wasn’t an option.
“You will be in no danger, Sookie. I will be there to protect you.” Eric said in a soothing tone.
“And what about those pesky hours when the sun is up, huh? You can’t be with me all the time, Eric, and I’m not going to be a prisoner in my own house while I wait for sunset.” I shook my head.
“I am asking you to trust me, Sookie.” Eric said in earnest, and it made me snicker.
“Oh you’re asking me for more than that.” I shook my head again. I couldn’t believe him.
“Sookie, there is more at stake here than just a killer on the loose.” Eric revealed. That got my attention.
“What do you mean?” I was curious, but not sure I should be getting involved. Still, I could feel myself getting sucked in, and even before he told me everything, I knew I would end up agreeing to what he was asking.
Before I even finished my story, I knew she would have a change of heart. When I revealed to her that I was aware of her brother’s use of vampire blood she turned white as a vampire. I could feel her fear and I immediately assured her that I had no intentions of harming her brother.
“He’s clean, Eric. It was a mistake. He got involved with the wrong people. I swear, he’s not doing it anymore.” Sookie was on the verge of tears.
I wasn’t thrilled that her brother was such a fool, but that was hardly my biggest concern in all of this. I wanted to tell her that it was only for her that he had been spared. If I could find proof that he had anything to do with the missing vampire in my area, I wasn’t sure I could afford such leniency. Until I had hard evidence in my hands that he was responsible, my hands were tied. I would have taken him for questioning had he not been Sookie’s brother.
“Your brother is not my concern.” I tried not to sound too cold since she was obviously upset by the idea of her brother being in trouble. “It is good to know he has stopped using vampire blood. It is dangerous to do so when a human is not injured.”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had it just for fun.” Sookie wiped the tears from her cheeks that had escaped. The smell was heavnely, and I wanted to knocked the table out of the way and lick the ticks from her beautiful skin.
“Perhaps I can change that.” I suggested and her hand recoiled from mine.
“Eric, I want to clear my brother’s name from all of this, but I won’t sleep with you to do it. And if this plan of yours is going to get me killed, then what good will it do? I love my brother, but I’m not willing to die for it.” Sookie stared at me with stony brown eyes. She would make a great vampire.
“Do you still belong to Bill, Sookie?” I asked her, since I didn’t know where she stood on that. Not that I cared about Compton’s feelings. As far as I was concerned, he didn’t deserve her.
“No, I had to let him go.” Sookie looked away from me.
“A punishment much more severe than five years in a coffin.” I tried not to gloat, knowing she wouldn’t approve.
She surprised me then by explaining her reasons for her choice. “I told him a secret about me, and he used it as a motive to kill someone.”
“Might I be so bold as to ask who?”
“My uncle.” Sookie whispered to her lap.
“He killed your family, and you defended him?” This was certainly an interesting turn of events.
“I don’t really want to discuss it, Eric.” I could feel her discomfort with the situation.
For a moment I wished I could hear her thoughts. She really was a fascinating creature. I wondered just what sort of secrets she kept locked away in that pretty head of hers. She was having a hard time meeting my eyes after confessing her reasons for letting go of Bill.
“Did you love him?” I asked her out of nowhere, and quickly realized I hoped the answer was that she hadn’t.
“No, I didn’t. I might have if we had more time, but I didn’t know enough about him. Bill was very good at hiding things from me.” Sookie sipped her drink, and I watched the veins in her neck as she swallowed the liquid that was loosening her nerves bit by bit.
I took the drink from her hand, not wanting her to get drunk. Relaxed was good. Intoxicated was not.
“I can’t pretend to be your lover, Eric.” Sookie’s eyes met mine, and I felt a jolt of something from her I couldn’t quite put a name to.
“You don’t have to pretend. It could be the real thing.” I reminded her.
She looked away from me then, but not before I caught a hint of a smile on her face.
Eric invited me to stay once the bar opened. I thought about going home, but decided I had nothing better to do. I sat on that silly platform with Eric and we actually talked for a while. Actually, we were flirting pretty heavily. I don’t know where it came from, but I was willing to put the blame on the gin and tonics I was drinking.
Every now and then a fangbanger would come up to offer him or herself to him. I did my best to block out their thoughts since my first trip to Fangtasia had given me a pretty good idea of what it was they were thinking anyway. It wasn’t too hard to guess. I did, however, manage to point out a few kids who had managed to get their fake IDs past Pam, and they were promptly escorted from the premises. What Pam did with them, I wasn’t too sure. Frankly, I didn’t want to know.
Out of nowhere Eric said, “I knew you would come back to me when you came to your senses.” He stared hard at me, like he was trying to gain entrance to my body through my eyes. It was working. It was working big time.
“What made you so sure of that?” I rested my chin on my palm.
“I have spent many years on this earth, and I have learned to read people quickly. You are a person who is driven by her passion. You need it in order to function, especially in a relationship. You might have cared for Bill, but you did not feel passion for him.” Eric told me.
“I felt passion for him.” I argued, though it was a pretty weak argument.
Eric leaned closer to me. So close, in fact, that his lips grazed my ear. A chill shot up my spine, bounced off the ceiling, and then slammed back into my body before resting in my toes. “Making love to someone, and feeling passion for them is not the same thing.”
My breath caught in my throat. I was tempted to tell him the only man I’d been with was Bill, and so I had no basis for comparison. Thankfully, I was able to override the gin in my body, or I might have actually allowed the words to leave my mouth.
“Is that right?” I asked him instead.
“Absolutely.” Eric was looking at me with smoldering blue eyes I felt myself starting to drown in.
We sat there locked in a stare for a few minutes. Neither of us spoke, but the silence between us wasn’t as awkward as it had been in the past. There was still tension there, but it was more welcome than it had been before. I was waiting for Eric to make a move on me, since I had always assumed he would be the one to do it. But after a few minutes of just sitting there looking at him, I realized he was waiting for the same thing as me. There we were again, locked in a power struggle. Who was going to be the first to break?
I was afraid to take the playing around too far, since I had a tendency to forget to quit while I was ahead. Eric got absorbed in his cell phone, sending text message after text message, and I was starting to get restless. I could feel my skin crawling, and since I couldn’t very well pounce on the man next to me, I decided I would get up and dance instead.
“Where are you going?” Eric asked without looking up from his phone.
“To dance. You’re boring me.” I said over my shoulder, and went down to the semi-crowded dance floor.
I could feel Eric watching me, and I kept my back to him. I didn’t want him to see me smiling. I don’t have a long list of talents, but I’m not a bad dancer. A string of songs that were easy to dance to came on, and I found myself in the middle of the floor. I don’t know if it was the gin, or the fact that I was so focused on ignoring Eric, but I didn’t care that I was being watched. I found it slightly comical that even though Eric was more than a thousand-years-old, the classics still worked on him. Making a vampire jealous is a dangerous thing to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I bounced, swayed and wiggled to various beats and rhythms before a slow song came on.
I was thankful for the change in tempos. A guy a few inches taller than me, who was also a pretty good dancer, asked me if I would dance with him.
“She’s spoken for.” Eric suddenly appeared.
The young man standing to my right made the mistake of looking Eric in the eyes, and then all of a sudden, he turned and walked away. “Did you just glamour him?” I whipped around to face Eric. He grabbed my hand, and pulled me through the crowd toward his office. “You can’t just go and glamour someone because-”
I had a whole rant prepared on this very issue thanks to the time I’d been dating Bill. I was ready to let him have it with both barrels, and I would have, if he wouldn’t have flashed his fangs at me. I backed up against the office door. I was trying not to look as nervous as I felt, but I’m sure I was failing miserably at it. Eric stepped closer and closer to me. The fact that he wasn’t talking didn’t help me to relax. Finally, we were just inches apart. If he had been breathing, I would be able to feel that breath on my face and neck.
“It is dangerous to tease a vampire, dear one.” His voice was low and scary in a sexy kind of way. All of a sudden, he turned my head so that my neck was exposed, and he leaned into me. I felt his fangs against my neck, and my breath caught. “Is this what you came for? Do you want to be like one of them?” He his lips brushed my neck. I wasn’t sure what he meant, exactly, since he was the one who had invited me to his bar.
He turned my face back toward his, and again we got locked in a stare. There were things I should have been saying, but I couldn’t find my voice. I concentrated on the feeling of his hand on my chin, and watched as his face got closer to mine. I could feel my own breath bouncing off his beautiful porcelain face. His lips grazed mine. They were cool and soft, just like I remembered from that kiss on my cheek months before. He grazed them a second time, and when he did, my lips followed his. As if to test me, he started to pull away from me.
I grabbed the lapels of his jacket, and pulled him back. Our eyes locked for a third time. After a few seconds of staring, his mouth was on mine. I figured out then how Eric knew about my need for passion- he felt the same way. If I went that far, sex with Eric would be anything but casual. In fact, I was pretty sure it would change my life forever. I started to debate with myself if that was a good thing or not, but quickly shut that debate down. In the end, what mattered was that I was attracted to him, and he was attracted to me. I was a single woman. He was a single man. Maybe it wouldn’t last forever, but I thought I might be okay with that.
He was a glorious kisser, and I started to chide myself for waiting so long to find that out. While I hadn’t kissed a whole lot of guys in my time, I’d kissed enough to know that there were lots of not-so-good kissers out there. There was perfect balance in Eric’s kisses. They weren’t too sloppy or wet. He wasn’t too forceful, but he didn’t hold back anything either. The best part was his hand on my throat. He wasn’t choking me, but I could feel the weight of his hand there. It was reassuring, and kept me from thinking I was dreaming up the whole thing.
It wasn’t until Eric started to undress me that my brain started to function somewhat normally again. I wanted him, there was no doubt about that. I just wasn’t sure his office was the right place. “Wait,” I put my hand on his chest, and he reluctantly pulled back. “Not here. Not like this.”
The idea of being caught, or someone walking in on us clearly didn’t bother him, but it bothered me. He reached around behind me and locked the door. He smiled at me as if that solved the problem, and his mouth found mine again. I got lost in his kisses for another couple of minutes, but when his hands drifted back to the hem of my shirt to pull it up over my head, I stopped him again.
“Eric, come on,” I whispered, and pulled away from him again.
“What’s the problem?” He tried not to sound annoyed with me, and he failed miserably.
“This is a big deal, isn’t it? Or is this just a one time thing?” I’d thought I would be okay with just a one time thing, but after spending close to a half hour making out up against his office door, I was starting to think differently.
“What do you want?” He asked me.
“I want to know that if I spend the night with you, I won’t regret it tomorrow.” I told him honestly.
He gently stroked my cheek and said, “I can’t make you such a promise, Sookie.”
“What can you promise?”
“That if we spend the night together, iI/I will not regret it.” It was an honest answer, and I appreciated that. Then again, I couldn’t recall a time when Eric had lied to me. So far, he’d kept his word. “What can you promise me in return?”
I thought about it for a second. “Passion.” The word left my mouth before I could think about it any further, and then his mouth was on mine again.
The bed was large, but that was to be expected for a man of Eric’s size. His house wasn’t far from Fangtasia. I didn’t know if he slept in the bed, but I wasn’t about to ask him where he rested. I knew that was an important detail that vampires kept secret from the world. It was an old habit that would die even harder than feeding on humans. The mattress was one of those fancy pillow-top kinds, and I felt like I was being seduced on a cloud.
I sat up so he could remove my little white sweater. I watched it float through the air until it disappeared on the floor behind Eric. My dress was next to go, and he watched with delight as I wiggled out of it. There was an awkward moment of hesitation on my part. A tiny voice in my head that hadn’t been quite as affected by gin shouted at me to be absolutely sure of what I was doing. I told that voice to shut up, and then helped Eric out of the fitted tee he was wearing.
I thought back to when I’d found him in the tub, and how I’d wondered if his chest was as hard as the chiseled marble it appeared to be made of- it was. His skin was smooth and cool, which was an interesting contrast to my own, at that point. It seemed like every part of me he touched got to be a degree warmer. By the time all of our clothes were off, I felt like I was on fire. I had never felt that with Bill. I never had any doubts about Bill, but I started to think maybe that wasn’t such a good thing. I felt safe with him. I was comfortable.
But with love, there are no guarantees. It can fade away just as quickly as it can captivate you. It’s like walking a tight rope, or so I’ve heard, but with Bill it was more like a warm blanket. The problem with blankets is that they can smother you if you aren’t careful. The more I thought about Bill, the more I started to think that’s what would have happened if we had stayed together.
I was jerked back into The Moment at the feeling of Eric’s lips moving down my body, stopping at one point or another to linger for a few seconds before continuing toward their final destination. I found out quickly that Eric was not only talented, but thorough. His hands were just as talented as his lips, and before long I was squirming and darn near begging for more. My very vocal responses to his touches seemed to be stroking something other than his ego.
His fangs appeared, but then there was the distinct possibility I just hadn’t noticed them before. Once I noticed them, I couldn’t stop staring at them. My heart was already pounding in my chest, and it only started to beat faster after that. He looked up the length of my body with a predatory expression in his eyes. I expected to feel the sting of his bite on my thigh, but instead, he moved up my body so that we were face to face again.
He looked at me like he was going to say something, but he didn’t. My hands found the sides of his face, and again we just laid there looking at each other. His eyes were intensely blue. It was freeing to be that close to someone again, and not have to worry about what thoughts might be rattling around in his head. When I looked at him, all I heard was the sound of my own heart beating. I stretched forward to kiss him, and when I did, I kissed each of the razor sharp fangs that were just waiting to sink into my skin. I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. At that moment I wanted him too much to be afraid.
I made a promise to myself right then and there that no matter how this turned out, I wouldn’t regret it. I wouldn’t look back on this night with shame or remorse. I wouldn’t wish for the chance to take it back, or erase it from my memory. This was the way it was supposed to be, even if it wasn’t meant to last. The weight of his body on top of mine was reassuring instead of heavy. It was while we were still staring at each other, that he pushed into me. My eyes widened at the surprise of it, even though the anticipation of it had been driving me crazy. He mumbled something in a language I didn’t understand, and started to pull out again.
The thrusts were slow, at first, which I was thankful for. I was ready for him, but he was large all over, and sex was still a fairly new activity for me. I tried not to compare one against the other, but so far it was obvious to me that Eric was a bit more concerned about my experience than his own. I found that surprising Up until that moment, I never would have used the word ‘considerate’ to describe Eric Northman. Not only was he considerate, but he was gentle and patient. I had promised him passion, and I was doing my best to live up to my end of the bargain. If the growls, groans and purrs coming from him were an indication of the job I was doing, then I had definitely brought my A game.
His lips found the pulse in my neck. I could feel them shuddering against my skin in the lulls between thudding heart beats. His hips moved faster, and I moved my in attempts to keep up with him. I had no doubt he could move much faster than I could ever possibly hope to, but I appreciated his willingness to hold back. Not just for my enjoyment, but for my safety as well. My fingers found the back of his neck and tangled in his hair. I felt the pressure of his fangs against my neck, and I braced myself for the bite I knew was coming.
And then, out of nowhere, we were flipped around. I froze for a moment, unsure of what to do with myself. I’m guessing he saw the nervousness in my eyes because his hands rested on my hips and guided me. We managed to find a steady rhythm that worked for us both. A tight coil of pleasure began to unwind itself and I threw my head back. My hands moved from his chest to his hands, which were still holding my hips. I heard myself cry out, but I don’t remember making the sound. His hands pushed and pulled me with a bit more force and I cried out again.
Before I knew what was happening I was gasping and saying, “Bite me, Eric. Bite me.” I said this over and over, wanting to feel his sharp teeth scraping at my neck.
Without hesitation I found myself on my back again. My legs wrapped around Eric in a grip I didn’t now I had in me. Our hips continued to move together while his mouth went in search of that pulse point again. He teased the spot with his tongue until I was begging him to bite me. When he did, there was a white explosion in my mind that coincided with the one I was feeling much lower. Every muscle in my body locked up for just a few seconds, squeezing the vampire on top of me as tightly as I could. The feel of his tongue on my neck felt like it was somewhere else, and my eyes rolled into the back of my head.
My body was still coming down from the most intense orgasm it had ever had when Eric’s exploded. He howled for a few seconds before muttering again in that language I didn’t know. He collapsed against me, but I knew he didn’t press his full weight on me. It was just enough to remind me he was there, and he was vampire. My arms closed weakly around him and I stroked his hair. Part of me wished he would breathe, even if it wasn’t necessary. There was something reassuring about the whole thing.
He cleared some of my hair away from my face and smiled at me. “You surprise me, Sookie.”
“Why?” I was afraid I had done something wrong.
“I never would have thought you had that much fire in you.” He kissed the tip of my nose.
I wanted to say something, but didn’t know what the words were. Besides, his lips claimed mine, and any chance I had at saying anything was out the window. Words weren’t what mattered right then, it was action, and I was about get plenty of it.
Sookie surprised me yet again with her ability to keep up with me. Not many human women can, but it was as if we had done this many nights before. Her body felt like it was meant for me. We fit perfectly. She was asleep in the bed beside me. It was just after four in the morning. I hated to wake her, but it was necessary. I couldn’t leave her in the safe house all day while I rested and her car was back at Fangtasia.
I fluttered kisses down her shoulders and back and waited for her eyes to open. She groaned her displeasure at being woken. When her big brown eyes opened reluctantly she smiled at me. I must confess I wouldn’t mind starting each day in the same way.
“What time is it?” She mumbled, her smile fading ever so slightly.
“For me it is late. For you, it is early. Sadly, I must get you back to your car so I can rest for the day.” I hated the idea of rising at dusk to find she wasn’t there, but I didn’t think she was prepared to spend the day in my chambers any more than I was sure I was ready to share it with her.
My hand slid up the curve of her hips, past her waist and to the gloriously soft and supple skin of her breast. I felt her shudder and her smile returned. “Eric…” She moaned quietly and turned on her back.
I pulled my hand away and said, “Have you any idea how gratifying it is to hear you say my name that way?”
She rolled her eyes at me and forced herself to sit up. She wanted me. I wanted her. Damn sunrise.
“Was last night a mistake to you?” I asked her since the idea popped into my head.
She looked at me with hurt in her eyes and I regretted asking her that question. I certainly didn’t, as I had promised her I wouldn’t. She pulled the sheet up over her body and smoothed her hair back from her face.
“Was it to you?” She countered. I could feel her nervousness.
“I told you it wouldn’t be, and for me it wasn’t.” I promised her.
She regarded me closely and then pulled my face to hers. She looked deep into my eyes and then kissed me. How could I not respond? She was so sweet. Her tongue swirled over my fangs and I wanted to strip off all clothes and take her once more, but there simply wasn’t enough time.
“You haven’t answered me, lover.” I whispered against her skin.
“No, Eric, last night wasn’t a mistake.” Her fingers played in my hair, scratching lightly at the back of my head. It felt nice.
I planted a few more kisses on her neck, her pulse vibrating under my lips. I wanted to bite, but I knew if I did she wouldn’t make it back to the bar before sunrise. I pulled away from her and bent to retrieve her clothing from the floor.
“As much as it pains me, you must get dressed now, Sookie. The sun will be up soon.” I held out her clothes to her. Yet, when she reached to take them, I tugged them back. She laughed for a second and tugged on her end. Soon we were laughing and wrestling around on the bed until finally she was straddling my lap.
“I could do this all day.” Sookie smiled down at me as she began to dress herself. “Where are my underwear?” She looked around the room.
“I’m not sure where they disappeared to. Are you sure you were wearing a pair when you came to me last night?” I waggled my eyebrows at her. She slapped my chest playfully.
“Darn right I was! Just what kind of girl do you think I am?” Sookie’s face flushed.
I had a whole list of adjectives prepared, and none of them were fitting to describe her. “Beautiful. Sexy. Smart. Creative. Loyal. Generous. Intuitive. Funny. Intelligent.” I could have kept going but she stopped me with another kiss. Her hips moved against me. “Lover, you must stop that now or I will not be held responsible for what I do to you.”
Sookie giggled against my lips. I was relieved not to feel any guilt or regret in her blood. She was happy. I left her to use the bathroom to take care of her human needs while I went downstairs. I listened for her movements upstairs and when I knew she had emerged from the bathroom I hid in a corner while I waited for her to come downstairs. She didn’t seem to see me in the darkness and so I jumped out at her.
She wheeled around and shoved me. “Don’t do that! I hate it when vampires sneak up on me!” She laughed in spite of her anger and I laughed along with her.
“Famous last words.” I bent to kiss her. She didn’t find my words threatening. She knew I was being playful. Most humans would have run screaming.
“So how many bedrooms does a person need who doesn’t even sleep here?” Sookie asked me.
“What makes you so sure this isn’t where I rest?” I took her hand and brought it to my mouth.
“Oh come on, Eric, you vampires are so secretive about that. I can understand why, of course. I just find it hard to believe you brought me to your resting place so soon.” Sookie took her hand back. “And honestly, I’m not sure I even want to know where you spend your days.”
“You surprise me, Sookie.” I had to say it.
“You have this innocence about you, but the things you say tell me you aren’t quite so sweet as you appear to be.” I told her.
“I’m not nearly as crazy as people think I am.” She sighed and headed toward the front door.
“Why would anyone think you are crazy?” I was a bit intrigued by this.
“Because of my ability. They don’t understand it. They think I’m psychic or something, and they don’t want to acknowledge what I can really do when they know deep down exactly what I can do.” Sookie shrugged and buttoned her sweater.
“Humans are always slow to accept what they do not understand.” I agreed with her, and it dawned on me then that perhaps that was part of the reason she was attracted to my kind. “Is that why you enjoy the company of Supernaturals?”
“Well, the only supernaturals I know are vampires.” Sookie smiled up at me.
She didn’t know her boss was a shifter. Interesting. If she didn’t know, it wasn’t my place to tell her. “You might be surprised, lover, just how many supernaturals you know and don’t realize it.” I winked at her.
I felt her curiosity rise, but there was no time to go into it. I led her out of the house and to my car waiting in the driveway. I leaned in to buckle her seatbelt and she grabbed my face to kiss me again. I pulled away from her reluctantly and closed the door. She was still letting out a deep breath when I got in on the other side. My car rumbled to life and seconds later we were peeling out of the driveway. She reached for my hand and I laced my fingers with hers.
We returned to Fangtasia a short time later. I was opening her door for her before she got her seatbelt unfastened. I helped her from the car and walked her to her car a few spaces over. She unlocked the door and let it swing open. We stared at one another in silence, trying to think of the perfect exit lines. I gave up the search for words and kissed her again until she had to pull away to breathe.
“I guess we don’t have to be pretend to be lovers anymore.” Sookie blushed faintly under a sky that was starting to brighten.
“I suppose we don’t.” I agreed. I didn’t want her to go. She didn’t want to go.
“When will I see you again?” She asked.
“Do you work tonight?” I tucked some of hair behind her ear.
“I work the dinner shift. I should be getting out around midnight.” She said with a shy but hopeful smile.
“Then I will see you tonight.” I promised her and bent to kiss her once more.
She dropped into the driver’s seat of her car and I closed the door to her. Her car chugged to life and she waved to me as she backed out of her space. I watched as she drove away, and then I went into the bar to take shelter for the day.
I was in the process of serving beers to my brother and Hoyt when I felt the energy in the bar change. I turned to look behind me, and there were Eric and Pam. I felt my heart flutter and Eric gave me a knowing smile. I blushed a bit and then led them to a booth in the back. Everyone in the bar stopped to stare at Eric and Pam. Clearly everyone remembered them from their first visit.
“I remember you.” Pam stopped at a table full of rednecks. “You never came on ladies night. Guess you couldn’t find that date after all.”
“What’s she talking about?” I bent to whisper to Eric who was smiling at Pam as she sauntered over to the booth.
“You had to be there.” Pam said in that smooth tone of hers.
“Can I get you something to drink?” I held my tray loosely at my sides.
“Are you on the menu?” Pam winked up at me and Eric growled in response.
I blushed for a second time and Pam smiled a fan-filled smile that earned her a second growl from Eric. “Be careful, Pamela.”
“We have True Blood, Pam. There’s no feeding on humans in this bar either.” I said politely.
“Pity.” Pam sighed and then continued. “I’ll have an A positive if you’ve got it.”
“Sure thing. Eric?” I looked to Eric who was giving me the once over. His eyes lingered a little too long on my breasts, and I felt heat flush between my thighs. Pam sniffed the air and then was smiling at me again. Good Lord! “Eric?” I prompted.
“O Negative.” He responded in a staggered voice. If he was acting for the sake of catching a killer, he was certainly laying it on thick.
“Coming right up.” I smiled at the vampires and then walked over to the bar.
“What the hell are they doing here?” Sam was the one to voice the question, but Tara looked just as disturbed as my boss.
“Eric is helping me clear Jason’s name.” I said quietly as I pulled two bottles of blood from the cooler.
“And probably to your lady business while he’s at it.” Tara shook her head.
“That’s none of your business, Tara Thorton!” I glared at her as I put the blood in the microwave.
“That wasn’t a no.” Sam’s tone was just as disapproving as Tara’s.
“It’s none of your business either, Sam Merlotte! And I don’t seem to recall giving y’all two a problem when I found out you were sleeping together so you just stay out of it.” I shouted in a whisper.
When the timer on the microwave went off I shook the bottles before removing the caps. Arlene picked just that moment to saunter over. “Sookie, I wish you’d stop bringing vamps around these parts.”
“I didn’t bring them here, Arlene, but I’m not going to ask them to leave, either.” I glared at her. What was the big problem?
“They give me the creeps, Sookie.” She said with wide eyes.
“They aren’t going to drain you, Arlene. They’re here to do me a favor.”
“You’re going to get yourself killed one day.” Rene felt it was his turn to speak.
“Why don’t y’all just mind your own business?” I stared from one face to the next. “Besides, I dare someone to try and hurt me when I’m with Eric. Then we’ll see who gets killed.” I huffed and walked back to the booth.
Eric was watching the crowd at the bar. With his hearing I knew he heard every word that had just been said to me. I put the bottles of blood down on the table. Pam said something in another language and Eric responded in kind. I had no idea what they were saying. Then, all of a sudden Eric pulled me down into the booth with him.
“Eric, what are you-” I was cut off with a kiss that made my toes curl. “Eric, I’m working!” I slapped at him when he lips left mine.
He turned his face toward my ear. “Play along, lover. We’re being watched.” His eyes moved toward the expanse of the bar.
Pam rolled her eyes and sipped her blood.
“I have to get back to work, honey.” I tried to sound sweet as pie, and Pam about choked on her blood.
“Honey?” She smirked at Eric who may have kicked her under the table.
Eric kept his mouth close to my ear and asked, “Would it be going too far if I cornered you in the bathroom and fucked you up against the wall?”
I turned bright red, I’m sure, and Pam laughed. “Yes, it would.”
“Pity.” Eric kissed my jaw and then released me so I could go back to work.
I felt him staring at me for the rest of the night. I didn’t notice it when Pam left. The bar was far too busy for that. I tried not to pay Eric any mind, but that’s like trying to ignore the elephant in the room. The harder I tried not to think about him the more I did. It made me clumsy and disoriented until finally Sam was dragging me out of the main area of the bar and back toward his office. I tossed a glance in Eric’s direction and he was none too happy with the way Sam was grabbing onto me. Thankfully, he didn’t follow us.
“What’s with you, Sookie?” Sam asked once the door was slammed behind us.
“I’m sorry, Sam, I’m just having an off night.” I apologized.
“It’s because of Eric, isn’t it?” Sam’s eyes were white hot angry. I didn’t answer, and that was reason enough for him to continue. “I hate to say it, cher, but Rene is right. Bill was bad enough, but Eric…Eric is dangerous. And with someone out there killing women for associating with vampires…it’s not safe, cher.”
I wanted to tell him that was the whole point, but that would have only been half true. Yes, Eric had promised to help me find the killer, but that wasn’t the whole reason I was so off my game. But that wasn’t any of Sam’s business. I didn’t owe him any explanations about what I did on my personal time.
“Sam, I’ll tell him he has to wait for me at my house if it’ll make you feel better.” I sighed.
Sam gave me a horrified stare. His mind was racing at the speed of light, trying to figure out how he was going to protect me from Eric. I glared back at him in a challenging way.
“Who I spend my time with isn’t really any of your business, Sam.” I reminded him. “If you don’t want him in your bar there isn’t much I can do other than ask him to wait for me elsewhere, but he hasn’t been causing any trouble in here tonight. If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at me.”
Sam’s face softened a little and he let out a deep breath. “Just try to keep your focus, Sook. Take a few minutes and get yourself together.”
“I will.” I promised him.
Sam left his office and I just stood there for a minute. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until I felt myself deflate. I rubbed the back of my neck until I felt large cool hands take over for me. My heart fluttered and without even turning to look, I knew it was Eric standing behind me.
“I could kill him for grabbing you that way.” Eric’s voice was smooth even in his anger.
“He didn’t hurt me, Eric. He just wants to make sure I’m safe.” I pulled away and turned around.
“I have no intention of harming you, lover. You are far too much fun.” He leered at me and pulled me close to him.
“Eric, I think maybe he’s right. Maybe you should wait for me at my house.” My breath caught. My heart was racing and I knew Eric could hear it. I started thinking about his earlier suggestion, and Eric smiled broadly.
“How could I go anywhere with thoughts like those racing through that beautiful head of yours?” He tilted my face up to kiss me.
She’s fucking that vampire. I thought she learned her lesson after Vampire Bill left town. Guess I was wrong. I’ll get her tonight when he takes her home. She won’t fuck another vampire ever again. Dirty whore fucking a dead man. Makes me fucking sick!
The thought ran through me like a shock of cold water and I pulled away from Eric. I tried to figure out whose voice it was that I was hearing, and I couldn’t get it.
“Sookie, what’s wrong?”
“The killer is here.” I whispered, knowing he would hear me plain as day.
“Where?” Eric hissed and turned like he expected to see the man standing behind him holding up a sign that said ‘guilty’.
“I don’t know. I just heard him thinking about how when you take me home tonight that’ll be the end of me fooling around with vampires.” I cleaned it up a bit.
Eric hissed again and then was a blur of motion. I followed him and nearly ran smack into his back. He stood close to the bar, surveying everyone in the room. It seemed to me he was memorizing every single face in attendance so he could recall it all later.
“Eric, what are you doing?” I whispered.
“Go back to work, lover. I’ll see you at home.” Eric grabbed me and kissed me for all he was worth, and I heard the voice again. I cringed and Eric pulled back. “Do you hear him, Sookie?” He whispered in my ear.
“I do, but I don’t know where he is.” I whispered back.
Eric looked around once more and then kissed my forehead. “I will not be far.”
I half expected him to call out a warning of some sort to the patrons of the bar, but a menacing stare seemed to be enough of a warning to everyone. I looked over at Sam and Tara behind the bar. Sam gave me a disapproving stare while Tara couldn’t seem to decide if she was horrified or livid. I shook myself and went back to my tables. Only a few hours to go and I could go home.
It didn’t occur to me to wonder how Eric knew where I lived in order for me to meet him at home.
I flew over to Sookie’s house to make sure there were no humans present. The house appeared to be secure. I saw no signs of a break in.
“Pam, I need you to come to Bon Temps right away. Bring the van.” That was all I said before I hung up. She would know where to find me.
She arrived a short time later with a look of disdain on her face. She arrived on foot. She was smart enough not to bring the van up to the house with her. Pam’s biggest flaw was laziness. She looked down at the shoes she was wearing to let me know she wasn’t happy with the order I’d issued.
“She owes me a new pair of shoes.” Pam held out of her foot to show me the mud on the satin pumps.
“Stay here. If any human other than Sookie comes to the house, detain it.” I ordered.
“Can I play?” Pam didn’t break her steely expression.
“Later, perhaps, if you’re good.” I winked at her and then took to the sky.
I flew over Bon Temps toward Merlotte’s. It was to my advantage that the bar was in the woods. I had years of practice to make myself invisible. I landed on the roof of the bar and listened to what was going on inside. It sounded like any other human bar on any given night. I didn’t sense Sookie was in any sort of danger. Yet.
The Shifter announced last call and a few people came stumbling out of the bar, laughing in drunken ripples. I faded back into the woods and just listened for the right moment to strike.
“Goodnight, Sam!” I called as I walked toward the employee entrance of the bar.
“Sookie, wait, let me walk you to your car.” Sam offered.
“Sam, I’m fine.” I insisted, but Sam was already running toward me. “Really, Sam, you don’t need to.”
“I want to.” Sam smiled at me. His mood had certainly changed.
Eric’s not the only one who wants her. She should know she has options that don’t die during the day. She’s too good for him.
I exhaled heavily. I really didn’t need to hear that from Sam. “Sam, I know things have been kind of complicated for us, but you’re my boss. And you’re my friend. The more I think about it, the more I know it would be a bad idea if we tried to be something else.”
That took all the wind out of Sam’s sails. “I just want you to be happy, cher. I think we could be happy together.”
I felt horrible for what I was about to say, but I had to say it. “I have feelings for Eric, Sam.” Sam cringed and then turned away from me.
“He won’t love you, Sookie. Not the way you deserve.” Sam shook his head.
“You don’t know that. And besides, if you were so sure we’d make such a great couple then why didn’t you say something before? I’ve been alone for months, and this is the first I’m hearing a peep out of you about this since Bill left. Why is it that you only decide you want me when you can’t have me?”
“Sookie, it’s not like that.”
“No, Sam, that’s exactly what it’s like.” I argued and he lowered his eyes in defeat. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings…”
“I know you don’t. Will you still let me walk you to your car? If Eric’s hovering around, something must be wrong.”
I wanted to ask him how he knew that, but decided to just keep it to myself. “Fine. Walk me to my car.”
I walked a few steps ahead while Sam locked the door behind us. He hadn’t put the money in the safe yet. I heard something in the woods and I dropped my shields to listen for it. The voice. I heard the voice.
“Sam, go back inside.” I said in a panic.
“What?” Sam laughed, not understanding why I was so scared all of a sudden.
I started running for my car and I heard a thud behind me. Sam groaned and then there was another thud. I looked over my shoulder just in time to see Sam fall to the ground in a heap. Standing over him was Rene with what appeared to be a tire iron in his hand.
“Rene, what are you doing?” I was breathing hard. I scanned for brains and caught a nasty image in Rene’s head of the him strangling Maudette, Dawn and then Amy. The worst was seeing what he did to my Gran. “You killed my Gran?”
“It was supposed to be you.” He dropped the tire iron and began to loosen his belt.
“Rene, just calm down.” I held up a hand.
“It’s not right, Sookie! You’re a good girl! Why you fuckin’ with the vampires?!” He screamed at me as he advanced toward me.
I reached into my purse to get my car keys. I watched the leather slide from the loops on his pants. His eyes were so vacant while his brain was simmering with hatred. I stopped against the car door. If my blood told Eric I was scared, I hoped he would move fast. The look on Rene’s face told me I didn’t have long to live if Eric didn’t come.
“Rene, it doesn’t have to be like this.” It was the weakest argument ever, but trying to defend my choices in life wasn’t going to stop him from doing what he was going to do.
“Where’s your vampire now, Sookie?” He slapped me hard, knocking me off my feet.
“Eric!” I screamed as loud as I could. Sam was still passed out cold on the ground by the bar. “Eric!”
I felt the leather slide around my neck and start to tighten. “I’m sorry, Sookie. You made me do this.” Rene said, but I never started to feel myself being strangled.
I’d closed my eyes in anticipation of it and the next thing I knew, Eric was crouched at my side. He pulled the belt away from my neck and helped me up. He checked me over for bruises and hissed when he saw that my lip was bleeding where Rene had hit me.
“Where’s Rene?” My body shook with adrenaline.
“He’s tied up at the moment.” Eric smiled and looked over his shoulder.
Rene was tied to a tree.
“We have to call the police.” I said as Eric pulled me to my feet. I rubbed my face.
Eric tilted my chin up slowly and looked at the damage Rene had done to me. He looked at me with this questioning expression. He was silently asking for my blood. I nodded my consent. He lowered his face toward mine and licked the small cut. I felt him draw a little on the wound before sealing it shut.
“Exquisite.” He managed to mutter before kissing me. I tasted something metallic and sweet. I figured it was my blood, but then the pain in my jaw began to lessen and I wondered if maybe Eric hadn’t pricked his tongue on his fangs in order to heal me.
“I’ll go call Bud.” I said when we broke apart. “Will you keep an eye on Sam?”
Eric nodded and I went into the bar to make my phone call.
I had my own ideas about how to deal with the bloodbag I tied to the tree, but I knew Sookie wouldn’t agree to it. Although, if something were to happen to him while in jail, I couldn’t be held responsible for that. At least, not outright. I had no doubt Sookie would have her suspicions, however. I stayed with her while the police interviewed her and the Shifter. The bloodbag was still unconscious when he was untied. He was handcuffed to a gurnee and taken to a local hospital. I had Pam follow the ambulance just to be sure the bloodbag didn’t escape.
Sookie’s resilience was impressive. She calmly explained everything she had gotten from the bloodbag’s head, though she never really said how she got the information. A officers were dispatched to his home to find a box Sookie mentioned that would prove the bloodbag wasn’t who he said he was. Not long after that the annoying redhead from the bar was brought in for questioning. She swore up and down she had no knowledge of what her fiance was doing. Sookie seemed to believe her, but I had my doubts. There was something shifty in her eyes.
Finally, after a few hours of questions, Sookie was sent home. We walked out of the police station together. I could tell Sookie was both exhausted and tense. When I reached out to touch her, she flinched and pulled away.
“I need some space, Eric.” She spoke softly as we walked to the car.
We drove to her house in silence. She kept her eyes straight ahead. I could feel her turmoil. She was confused, sad, disappointed and a few other things. We pulled up to the house and it seemed like she didn’t realize where we were. I cut the ignition and reached to unfasten her seat belt.
She slowly pushed herself out of the car and I watched her walk toward the door. She stopped in front of the car and looked at me. I could feel her trying to push on my brain, but she wouldn’t be able to get in any more than I could get into hers. In this way alone, we were equals. She looked like she wanted to say something, but instead turned toward her house.
She didn’t get far before I blocked her path. She gasped and swatted at me. “Don’t do that!”
“Invite me in.” I suggested. Her eyes caught mine again and I could tell she was searching for a good reason not to.
“Isn’t it getting a little late for you?”
“I have time.” I assured her.
She nodded and then led me up the steps to her front door. She unlocked the door and stepped inside. She dropped her bag on the floor and kicked off her shoes. She pulled the elastic band from her hair sending golden waves tumbling down her back. She smelled like Valhalla.
Sookie gave me a sleepy smile and then said, “Eric, won’t you please come in?”
I felt the magic barrier that kept me out fade away and I stepped into the house. I wanted to tackle her right there on the steps and finish what had been put on hold earlier in the day. She stepped around me and locked the door before taking my hand and pulling me toward the stairs. She didn’t say a word. She simply pulled back the covers and crawled into bed. She left enough space and patted the mattress beside her. I removed my shoes and laid down next to her.
Her body folded itself to mine. Her heart rate slowed and her eyes closed. I wouldn’t be able to stay for long, but the fact that she was inviting me stay at all was a good sign. She hugged me close to her and I listened as her breathing became deep and even.
“I know you won’t be here when I wake up, but thank you for staying for a little while.” She whispered sleepily. “Will I see you later?”
“If you’d like.” I answsered her and she nodded against me.
I kissed her forehead and felt her smile against my chest. I wrapped an arm around her and with that, she fell asleep.
A/N: I have plans to continue this, skipping ahead five years, and I’ve started on it but it’s not finished yet. Keep your fingers crossed that I actually get it done at some point.