NINETY MINUTES LATER
“Hello, my lover,” Eric said as he crawled into bed behind me.
“Hey,” I mumbled, looking at the clock. It read 3:54 A.M., but I hadn’t been asleep. Just in that stage between dozing and wakefulness.
Thalia had driven me part-way to one of Eric’s safe houses before she’d flown me the rest of the way—just in case Eric’s vehicle was being tracked.
Of course, the vampiress and I had stayed in Eric’s car until Bill had—predictably—called after he’d spoken to Rasul. Thalia had been dismissive and vague—just as we’d planned.
Sadly, Thalia had ditched my old cellphone in the car—though Eric promised to get me a new one. I figured he’d try to get me a lot of new, fancy things before all was said and done. And I’d resolved to let him—as long as his gifts were within reason.
I’d always been so afraid of the notion of being a “kept woman” that I’d failed to recognize the irony of that label. “Kept women” weren’t really “kept.” They were ultimately disposable. At best, they were “maintained” by a lover so that they would “keep their distance.”
What I’d realized—what I’d come to trust—was that Eric aimed to actually “keep me.”
Keep me with him.
Keep me close.
Keep me for as long as I let him.
And I’d decided, in turn, to let him.
So—if buying me a new phone or even a new car pleased him, he would be “kept” happy.
Just as long as the silly vampire didn’t go overboard.
But, honestly, I trusted him not to. Eric had never tried to adorn me in jewels or lavish me in furs—not that the latter would have been practical in the Louisiana heat. On the contrary, he’d bought me a driveway and a coat. I used to interpret that as Eric knowing that I wouldn’t accept extravagant things from him. But now I recognized that Eric bought me practical things because he, too, was practical.
Yes—I was finally ready to be kept by my vampire. And I intended to keep him as well—with both hands gripped onto his fantastic ass if possible.
Speaking of that ass—I found it in my grips even as I continued to stir from my near-dozing state.
“All went well? With your trip here?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
After Thalia and I had ditched any electronics that might have been used to track us, the vampiress had delivered me to a residence that Eric had bought and redecorated with me in mind—one he’d told me about only the night before. It wasn’t too large, and it looked like a “real” house—rather than like a “cookie-cutter” had created it. The house was isolated and comfortable. No—”cozy” was a better word for it. The main floor had a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room. Upstairs was a large loft bedroom and bathroom. There was a light-tight bedroom below the living room—with a small bathroom attached.
However, the entire house could become light-tight at the touch of a few buttons.
Eric told me that the house would be our retreat—and that, even if he became king, the house would be a secret haven for us if I liked it.
I did like it—very much.
Currently, only three people knew about the safe house: me, Thalia, and Eric.
A glamoured human had delivered food and other human necessities like toilet paper—though he’d thought that the items were for an agoraphobic woman in her fifties. According to Eric, an all-human team had been used to do the renovations on the house, and then my bonded had glamoured them to forget about the nature of those innovations—especially the vampire-specific elements.
Though the home had all the “technological comforts” I could ask for, Eric had assured me that the house was “off the grid”—thanks to the designing of the home’s security system by Molly, a vampire in Eric’s retinue.
Even, Molly, however, had needed to talk Eric through the installation of the security system since he’d not allowed her to know the location of the home either.
After arriving at the house and looking around, I’d decided to lie down in the bedroom below ground. I knew I’d have to leave Eric at some point the next day when a glamoured human would come to collect me and take me to my home in Bon Temps, but I vowed to spend whatever time I could in my vampire’s arms—even once he was dead for the day.
“Where’s Thalia?” I asked my mate.
“Already on her way to Bon Temps.”
I nodded. “You know—when I told her that she could rest for the day in the old cubby Bill built, she looked at me like I’d insulted her entire family.”
Eric chuckled. “She will likely dig a hole to rest in.”
“I just hope that she’ll eventually make her own resting place inside the house,” I sighed, “so that she’s comfortable.”
“She might, but—then again—I’ve always known Thalia to prefer the ground,” he commented.
I chuckled, but didn’t comment. Thalia was certainly “old school,” but—then again—she knew what it took to survive. I was glad that she was on our side. “She agreed to be Plan B—by the way,” I shared.
“I inferred that. And I’m glad of it,” Eric sighed as he rubbed his nose against my neck.
“Your part of the bond is practically sizzling with whatever it is that you’re thinkin’ and plannin’,” I commented as I leaned into his touch. “Care to share?”
He sighed and I could feel him nod in affirmation against my neck.
“We have more enemies coming tomorrow than I’d anticipated.”
I tensed up.
“But we also have more allies.” He paused. “It will be a coin flip.”
“So that part hasn’t changed,” I commented after a moment.
“Who are the extra enemies?” I asked.
“Felipe called Freyda for back-up earlier tonight,” he explained. “It seems that he intends either to kill me or to made sure that I return to Oklahoma with Freyda.”
I felt a growl well up in me. “I knew I should have made my claiming of you official today,” I practically snarled as I turned over and gripped Eric in my arms—likely digging into his body with my nails. But I couldn’t help myself.
I felt . . . like a fairy.
“My vampire!” I cried emphatically.
“Yes. Yours,” he returned, his eyes full of passion and amusement in equal parts.
“So—what will Freyda’s presence do to the plan?” I asked after reining in my possessive feelings, at least to a certain extent.
Eric shrugged. “The queen will not actually be present at Fangtasia—unless her people give her the all-clear signal. Likely, she will go back to Oklahoma once she realizes that her people are lost and Felipe is dead.”
“And if she doesn’t?” I asked.
Eric smirked, his eyes twinkling with mischief and the promise of mayhem.
Eric was mine—but he was also my vampire. And—in that moment—something in me clicked. Perhaps, it was a new level of acceptance of his violent side.
Or a new level of trust in his honorable side—that it would always rule the rest of him.
I suppose it didn’t matter.
“If Freyda tries to claim me, I believe that a fairy of my acquaintance will have something to say about that. Plus, Freyda will be powerless if we take down Felipe. The Council will make me king or they will order my execution for treason. Either way, Freyda will soon become a non-issue.”
“But?” I asked sensing a bit of hesitation in the bond.
“If Freyda were to be killed somehow, that would be very bad for me,” he said.
“How so?” I asked. Truthfully, the thought of Freyda dying was appealing to me on many levels. It wasn’t as if she’d done anything malicious; who wouldn’t want Eric, after all!? But I still wanted her gone in the worst way possible because of the threat she posed.
Because she wanted to take Eric away from me.
“If Freyda were to die tomorrow night, my motives would be in question—more than they already will be,” Eric relayed contemplatively. “If Freyda dies, my play against Felipe will likely be interpreted as a move to get out of the contract Appius made with Freyda—instead of an attempt to avenge Sophie-Anne.”
“Felipe having Freyda in Shreveport is him covering his bases—isn’t it?” I asked.
“Astute observation,” Eric complimented. “And—yes. I believe that Felipe recognizes that Freyda being killed tomorrow night would benefit him in many ways, so I would not be surprised if he does not manufacture the situation so that she is ‘unexpectedly’ present at Fangtasia.”
“How would Felipe benefit if she were killed and he wasn’t?” I asked.
“For one, he would likely get her state—if she died fighting with him against me. Of course, Felipe is likely hoping that things are as I said they were so that there will be no further conflict. In that case, Freyda’s appearance will serve only one purpose: to hurry along the enactment of Appius’s contract. After all, Felipe now expects to receive a sizeable bounty from Freyda. And—now that Victor is dead—Felipe could never fully trust me again. Not that he ever did. And—because of that—he will want me in Oklahoma as soon as possible.”
“Plus, if you were gone—and if our blood bond was no more like Felipe thinks—I’d be ripe for the picking,” I sighed. “So we have to make sure that Freyda survives.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “Regrettably, but yes—for now.”
“Then we will,” I said confidently.
“On a more positive note, Sandy Sechrest reached out to me. She and most of the vampires Felipe is bringing with him tomorrow night will join us.”
“You think you can trust her?” I asked with surprise.
“I do, but I’m not fully counting on her,” he shared.
I smiled to myself. Eric was nothing if not a “pragmatist” (thank you word-of-the-day calendar). He wasn’t about to put his complete trust in a vampire he didn’t know very well.
“But you have a good feeling about her?” I asked. I’d met Sandy Sechrest before, and I’d always wondered why someone who seemed so intelligent would throw her lot in with the likes of Felipe and Victor.
“Yes. Her maker was like me,” he whispered, even as he gently stroked my hair.
“Like you? How?” I asked.
“She fell in love and bonded with a human,” he responded. “Not that you are fully human.”
“What happened to her? To Sandy’s maker?”
“Rina met the sun,” Eric sighed. “From the accounts I heard, she was like Godfrey in some ways. You remember him from Dallas?”
“Yes,” I responded softly. Godfrey had been suicidal because of having to endure an incredibly long life. A part of me had understood why he’d been weary of his existence, but I would never understand why he would help the Fellowship of the Sun capture another of his kind.
“Rina was certainly not a danger to other vampires,” Eric clarified. Sometimes I really thought he could read my mind!
“But she wanted to die?” I asked.
I felt Eric nodding against my neck. “Rina was a good maker by all accounts. But Sandy was not her first child—just her youngest. Rina had lost her other children and had lived a very long life by the time she met her human beloved. She made the choice to bond with him and live out his human life with him.”
“He didn’t want to become a vampire?” I asked.
Eric stiffened a little. “I do not know,” he responded. “From what I have heard about the situation, Rina’s human was aware of her nature, but the inner workings of their relationship were between them—and, perhaps, Sandy to a lesser extent. In truth, the vampire who told me what became of Rina ridiculed her choice to bond with a human. I did too,” he added, his tone full of regret. “I did not—then—know what a bond could mean.”
We were silent for a few moments as we simply looked into each other’s eyes. I wasn’t angry that Eric had once been less than charitable in his thoughts for a bonded couple. Indeed, if anything, I was impressed by how far he’d come.
How much he’d evolved.
We’d both evolved a lot since meeting one another. And I knew that we’d change even more before all was said and done.
“Change is a good thing,” I said into my bonded’s chest.
“Yes,” he agreed.
“You’ll change me one day,” I whispered significantly.
“If you want,” he said, tensing again.
“Do you want?” I asked.
“More than anything.”
“Then you will,” I said with an assuredness and certainty I’d not felt before about the topic of becoming a vampire. “We’ll decided on the right time together. Or—more likely than not—you’ll have to save my life by changing me,” I added quietly.
He pulled me impossibly closer to him, and—through the bond—I felt relief swell inside of him like a large wave making its way slowly but surely through the ocean.
That was Eric in a nutshell, I thought, as I snuggled against him. Strong. Assured. Inevitable. Yet calming and evolving at the same time.
“So—Sandy has a reason to be on our side?” I asked.
“Yes. She loved her maker very much, but—by the time Rina turned Sandy—she was already lamenting the length of her existence and the losses she’d had to endure. If I interpreted Sandy’s words correctly tonight, the only time she felt her maker truly content was when Rina was with her beloved human.”
I enjoyed the feeling of Eric’s caresses as I took in what he’d told me.
“So Sandy and her people are most likely with us,” I observed.
“Yes. If they aid us, they will easily counteract Oklahoma’s number, leaving only Felipe and his loyal guards for the rest of us. Plus, I have called in every local ally I know I can trust. And then there are the demons. And the witches.”
“Oh—how are Bob and Amelia?” I asked.
“Rasul has removed them from the home they were in and taken them to an apartment that cannot be traced to me. They are safe; Amelia has been given a disposable phone. Feel free to call her tomorrow if you wish.”
I nodded against him. “Thanks.”
“Your witches will meet up with Octavia tomorrow afternoon, and Molly will join them after sunset—as planned. Molly will use the surveillance system in Fangtasia to help them work their magic.”
“How?” I asked curiously.
Eric responded matter-of-factly. “Having the witches in the middle of the action would be dangerous for them and for us. But—we will station them a block away from Fangtasia after the king and his forces arrive. That should be well within their casting range. By watching the surveillance feeds, which Molly will supply to them, they will be able to use their magic to protect you, me, and our allies from things like stakes.”
“Really?” I asked incredulously. “They don’t have to actually be there to—uh—do the hocus pocus stuff?”
“No,” Eric returned, a smile in his voice.
I sighed with relief. “Okay. Well—that’s good.”
“Yes. It is good,” he agreed.
“So—as soon as Felipe and his people are dead, what will happen?” I asked.
“It depends on Freyda. Hopefully, she will remain alive and well. If she returns to Oklahoma without a word, she will likely disavow any involvement in the takeover. And we will just wait for the Council to decide our fate.”
“What if Freyda doesn’t just leave?” I asked.
“If she comes to Fangtasia—if you are still willing—you can claim me right then and there. Of course you will have to claim your Fae heritage at the same time,” he said somewhat hesitantly. “Desmond has agreed to substantiate the claim.”
“If?” I asked playfully as I ran a fingernail down his sculpted chest. Conveniently, he’d stripped before getting into bed.
“If,” he said, his eyes intent upon mine. “It is not too late for you to back out.”
I stopped the “naughty” passage of my finger down his body and brought my hand up to cup his cheek.
“It was too late not to fall in love with you the first night I saw you, Eric Northman. And I’ve already waited way too long to claim you!”
Whether it was the passion in my voice or the fervor from my side of the bond that convinced him, he was on top of me the next second, taking my breath away with a kiss that seemed to grip my lips almost violently.
I wasn’t complaining—until I needed to breath. Thankfully, Eric seemed to sense that need before I did, and he moved to lavish my chin and neck with kisses.
“Is this what your bloodlust feels like?” I panted.
“What it feels like when I’ve stifled it all night,” he practically growled.
I should have been afraid when his feral eyes and sharp fangs met my view. I should have recoiled when he hissed to signal that he was more animal—monster—than man in that moment.
“My monster,” I whispered.
My head tilted back by instinct—in order to offer him the best “biting” angle. And bite Eric did.
And he drew my blood and made it his own—hard.
Though unstimulated by his fingers, tongue, or cock, my walls pulsed as Eric took me into himself, and then he put his wrist before my mouth.
I looked from the wound to his eyes. They were pools of pleading blue as he drew again of my blood. I grabbed his wrist and bit hard—as hard as I could.
Certainly, there was one aspect of vampirism I knew I would be able to handle once Eric changed me over: biting and taking blood.
And—yes—I did intend to let him change me. My mate had too much joie de vivre to become depressed like Rina—let alone Godfrey—but I worried about what he’d do if I died on him. Indeed, as soon as I realized that I wouldn’t want to live without him, I knew that I wasn’t about to make him live without me.
However, despite my decision, I hoped that my time as a human would stretch out as long as possible. Indeed, I was hoping for another decade or so of sun and “human” food before I graduated to stars and blood—and whatever other enhancements vampirism brought my way.
Thinking of blood, I bit harder into Eric’s flesh and sucked his rich life-force into my mouth. Before the wound I’d made in his wrist had closed, he’d sealed the bite he’d made in me and had positioned himself above me. He didn’t need to check to see that I was wet and ready for him; I’m sure that he smelled my arousal.
He sank into me, even as I greedily nipped at his healing wound.
The lust now barreling into me through the bond I shared with Eric was almost too much to take, but I did take it—just as I took every inch of him as he stretched me.
And then I sent my own desire and pleasure back to him.
He grunted and pistoned into me hard—and fast.
How he didn’t break me in two was beyond me! How I kept up with him? Well that was a miracle. And then I added fuel to the fire by asking for more.
His fangs, still glistening pink with my blood, would have scared most people in the world—especially since his eyes were animalistic and his hair was hanging wildly about his shoulders. I realized, then, that I was truly seeing my mate in not just a lust-filled state, but also a bloodlust-filled state. As he’d said, he’d suppressed that bloodlust after the battle—even during the battle because he needed to be just as tactical as he was lethal. And then he’d suppressed his bloodlust again—with Jannalynn and Sandra Pelt.
I felt my love hitting against and then swirling with his bloodlust in our bond, and he shuddered above me. But before his eyes could soften, I ratcheted up my own lust.
“Harder, Eric,” I gasped. “Keep fucking me harder!”
He yelled out several curses in his native language, as I wrapped my legs tightly around his thighs and began to lift my body more forcefully against his.
I said a quick thank you to Amelia for introducing me to Pilates, even as Eric’s darkened eyes rolled back in his head. I smiled to myself with satisfaction. Getting him to break eye contact during sex meant that I was driving him wild.
And right now, I was happy for wild. I was happy to accept his “wild.”
“More!” I yelled out.
“I’ll hurt you,” he growled, clearly trying to control himself.
“I’m not even close to being hurt,” I growled back.
I could practically feel him assessing me through the bond before he began to take me a little harder. I wasn’t naïve. I knew that Eric could “break” me during sex if he truly lost control, but I still wanted more. Maybe it was the fairy in me—or the fact that I was finally accepting that I was “more” than human that welcomed knowing more of the “beast” in him.
Whatever it was, I liked it.
And, clearly, he did too.
I could tell the exact moment when he freed himself to test both of our limits. The bed buckled a little and squeaked out a mild protest. But I was not protesting.
“Yes!” I yelled out as I bit at him—scratching at him and drawing his blood with both teeth and nails.
“Cum! Cum right now!” Eric yelled almost angrily, though with a hint of desperation in his tone. He was never one to let himself finish before I did, and it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to hold off for much longer. He needn’t have worried. I was so close to cumming that I felt as if I was in the front car of a roller coaster—just dangling over the edge until the last car cleared the top.
And then it did in the form of Eric making his strokes shallower and moving so fast that his cock literally vibrated right against my G-spot.
But it was his forehead against mine that pushed me over the edge. It was the tenderest of touches, contrasting with what was happening below the waist. Indeed, his head practically rubbed against mine like a cat might rub against the leg of an “owned” human.
Intense possessiveness. He was marking me.
Intense pleasure. He was enjoying me.
Intense need. He was aching for me.
Overwhelming love. He was cherishing me.
He was trusting me with the knowledge that I owned him as much as he owned me.
Eric—and everything about him—was all that I could sense in my world at that moment.
My scream of passion and pleasure was soundless as my body began to contract.
I felt him thicken, grunt, and then spill into me several times before I lost myself for a moment.
I didn’t black out—not exactly. But I got darned close.
I knew I didn’t lose consciousness, however, because I continued to feel pleasure in both my body and the bond.
His pleasure. My pleasure.
I was pretty sure that it was all the same now.
“Are you well, min kära?” Eric all but purred, reminding me again of a cat.
I half-chuckled and half-panted. “You can feel how I feel, and you know that I am very well,” I emphasized. “That was amazing,” I added as I opened my eyes and cupped his cheek. “You are amazing.”
“As are you,” he said with a contented rumble. His forehead was still against mine, though we’d changed positions to be lying on our sides and facing one another. “You are happy. It is nice to feel you so happy,” he added.
“You too,” I said, frowning. “Eric, I’m so sorry that I . . . .”
He stopped my apology with a kiss that took away my ability to form words—as well as my breath—for a moment.
“No regrets, min kära,” he said, his eyes leaving no room for argument.
Still, I tried to protest, but he kissed me breathless and speechless again.
“I can keep this up perpetually,” he grinned boyishly.
“Until you die for the day,” I reminded with a pant.
He shrugged. “It will not matter then. I will not hear you.”
I couldn’t help but to laugh.
“Just be happy, Sookie,” he said sincerely. “The lives we are being forced to take on will not be easy. I will be a king and you will be my queen, but we will always face struggles—personally, politically, and professionally.”
“That’s just life?” I asked with a little smirk.
“Yes. And it is un-life too. But now we will be together for it.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, snuggling close to my vampire. “Together.”
A/N: Hello all! A lot of this chapter was to get Sookie and Eric (and us) caught up on everything that had been going on since they separated at Fangtasia. Plus, Eric had some pent-up bloodlust to expend on his woman. 😉
I hope that you enjoyed the chapter.