I’d met many an individual with a martyr complex during the many days of my life. However, Bill Compton was one of the worst.
Actually—no. He was hands-down the worst!
Up until the moment when Victor had called Bill an hour before, the antebellum asshole had been an innocuous spy, but he’d now agreed to become an active participant in ensuring that I was parted from my bonded.
The only thing that might spare Bill’s life was the fact that he probably really did think that I would “punish” my bonded. How little he knew me.
How little he knew Sookie.
In all honesty, I’d killed very few people out of extreme malice. Indeed, few had crossed me during my years. But Bill was an individual whom I’d fantasized about killing for a long time. And I wanted to take a long time in doing it. I could even remember the first time I’d truly wanted him dead.
It wasn’t when he’d first brought Sookie to Fangtasia. No—I had been willing to win Sookie.
To earn her.
It wasn’t even when I’d had to kill Longshadow while Bill had stood there with a figurative thumb up his ass as “his” human was attacked. But Bill was younger than I, and his reflexes weren’t as good as mine. So his tardy response could be explained.
Not excused, but explained.
The first time I’d wanted Bill dead was when he’d not come to check on Sookie before he’d gotten his fill of the attackers at Stan’s nest. It had been the look of disappointment in Sookie’s eyes—the look which had told me that Bill had made her feel like an afterthought—which had made me want to slay him.
After Dallas, it seemed as if Sookie was always just waiting to be disappointed—as if she accepted the idea that she wasn’t good enough to be anyone’s main priority.
Yes. I hated Bill most for that disappointed look of self-doubt that Sookie had worn way too many times. I hated him for the inevitability of that look. I hated him for all the pain that Sookie had been forced to go through in order to finally overcome that look—in order to finally trust me.
Of course, I, too, had disappointed Sookie.
However, one difference between Bill and me was that I hated myself for causing Sookie to doubt herself. Oh—Bill acted as if he “hated his very being” on a daily basis, but he’d never actually admitted blame for any of his actions. He preferred to blame his “nature.”
Another difference between us? I didn’t want Sookie to ever suffer doubt again. Bill? I was almost positive that he would cultivate her self-doubts if he were able—so that she would remain dependent upon him.
Yes—I wanted to kill Bill, even more so when his stupidity blared like a fucking siren on a still night as it had ten minutes before.
Oh—I’d heard every fucking word of his conversation with Victor because I’d bugged his house phone, and Bill was predictable in that he always used a “land line” for “serious business.” The idiot was too stupid or blind to understand that Victor wanted Sookie for his own and was using him to get to her. A tiny bit of flattery and an empty promise had been all that were required to make Bill turn on his sheriff. And his greed for Sookie had finally made him turn on her too.
I sometimes wondered why Bill even wanted Sookie—not that she wasn’t worthy of being wanted by all who knew her.
But Bill had neglected her when they were together—even before he was called by Lorena. That much I’d found out from Sookie herself. Bill had reclaimed her after Dallas, but he’d become so wrapped up in his ill-advised database project that he’d made her feel inferior to it.
Yet another occasion when she’d worn “the look” I hated.
And, then, Bill had had the gall to task me with being his living “Dear John” letter once Lorena did summon him. Another reason to kill him!
The question I always found myself returning to was why Bill had seemed so anxious to get Sookie back after the Jackson incident. Honestly, I’d never arrived at a good answer for that question.
Had being with Lorena pushed him to see Sookie’s superiority?
Did Bill have “mommy issues?” In other words, had the fact that Sookie killed Lorena made her the natural substitute for “mommy” in Bill’s mind?
Was Bill simply a jealous asshole with an “if I can’t have her, no one can” attitude?
I didn’t know what truly motivated him, and—honestly—I really didn’t need to know. What I did know was that I’d rather see Sookie end up with the shifter, the weretiger—or even the Were—compared to Bill. And that was saying a lot!
Of course, Sookie would end up with none of them. She was mine, and I intended for things to stay that way.
I waited until I’d confirmed that Bill was long-gone from Bon Temps before I called Sookie—though not by phone. I nudged her through our fully functioning blood bond. I’d been worried that it would be damaged when Sookie’s blood tie with Bill was destroyed, but I needn’t have been. It was stronger than ever since Bill’s blood was no longer interfering with my own.
I’d never known how much of a hindrance it had been until it was gone.
Leave it to Bill to be an annoying asshole in all ways possible!
I flew around my bonded’s home a few times—just to make sure that we were truly alone. But I didn’t go to the house. Instead, I “nudged” Sookie again and concealed myself behind the tree-line.
My beloved walked out of her home with a small bag slung over her shoulder. She didn’t say a word as she came toward me, her eyes shining brightly with confidence and love.
There was no self-doubt—no indication that she felt as if she was anything but my first priority. No indication that I was anything but hers.
When she was a few feet from me, she threw me her bag and then stepped into my embrace.
I lifted us into the air.
And we flew together.
Warm and tan.
Slightly salty from perspiration.
My fingers could spend forever mapping it. Celebrating it.
Humans couldn’t tell, but vampires could discern the subtle changes to human skin. Humans “shed”—for a lack of a better word—but more skin always came.
Yes—unlike vampire skin, human skin changed.
Even since I’d made love to Sookie in my office earlier that night, my bonded’s body had altered—subtly, but surely.
My fingers drew over—learned—those beautiful evolutions to Sookie as she caught her breath. I’d brought her to my safest safe house, the one where I intended for us to spend the majority of our time if we stayed in Area 5. The security system was state of the art—thanks to Molly.
I’d redesigned all the light-tight areas with Sookie’s comfort in mind. And I’d designed other facets of the home to offer her a day-time sanctuary too. Sookie was not the kind of woman to do nothing. Thus, I’d outfitted the property with a pool so that she could enjoy the sun. She also had a suite of rooms that would be light-filled during the day. If she ever wished to take a nap while sunlight streamed through her windows, she’d be able to do so. The suite also included a sitting room/office for her—one already filled with books and a computer so that she could actually take those online classes she’d talked about.
I’d even had my new day-man, Mustapha Khan, deliver some college brochures to the office for Sookie to peruse when she was ready. He’d also stocked the kitchen.
Already, he was proving a better asset than Bobby.
I’d given Sookie a tour before she’d asked to see “our” room. There we’d made love.
“Tell me we’re gonna be okay,” she whispered once she’d calmed down from her physical exertions.
“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “But I think so.”
“Good enough,” she sighed, wrapping her body closer to mine.
“Have you decided?” I asked after a moment.
She shook her head. “No. I can’t. I don’t want to accidently make a choice that will make you unhappy.”
“Losing you would make me unhappy,” I whispered as I kissed her hair.
“Tell me again?” she asked.
“Three choices,” I whispered.
“Go,” she said.
“Choice one: After Victor dies, Felipe will come to Louisiana. I kill him and take Louisiana back”
“Won’t you be punished? For killing your king?” she asked.
I pondered for a moment. “I could be. But some might see my killing Felipe as my effort to reestablish Sophie-Anne’s monarchy. The Vampire Council is just as likely to support me as to behead me,” I added.
“So your fate comes down to the flip of a coin,” she sighed.
“Yes. But—in my favor will be Felipe’s lack of judgment.”
“Because he let you stay a sheriff and didn’t kill you?” she asked, gripping my body.
“Yes. Exactly that,” I whispered, bending down to kiss her forehead.
“Choice two?” she prompted.
“We go to Russell. We swear fealty to him. We try to convince him to take out Felipe after Madden is gone.”
“But Russell might not want the hassle. And—even if he’s okay with taking over Louisiana—he might not wanna deal with Nevada and Arkansas,” Sookie said.
“Likely, he’d give at least Nevada to the Vampire Council to deal with,” I said.
“Would he be a better king? Better than Felipe?” she asked.
I’d come to “like” Russell, but Sookie asked a good question.
And I wasn’t certain of the answer.
“He might be a better king—where we are concerned,” I responded measuredly. “In truth, Russell is not as progressive as Felipe. But he also likes you because of the Betty Joe incident. He respects you because of Rhodes. And I know that he was amused that I assumed an alter ego to enter his state to look out for you when Lorena had Bill.”
“Amused?” she asked.
“Yeah—well, once he learned that I was Leif, he did ask that I perform his marriage ceremony,” I responded.
“You’re right. Weird,” she commented. “Would he leave us alone if he was our king?”
“No,” I said honestly. “He’d have tasks for you, but I don’t think they’d be unreasonable. I know he wouldn’t force you to be with him sexually or covet you as Victor does. But I’d have to allow you to work for him whenever he desired.” I stroked her back with my fingertips. “And he’d likely farm you out to King Bartlett too.”
“Would Russell try to kill you? So that he could bond with me?” she asked with trepidation.
“Russell is older—crueler that many vampires in some ways,” I answered after a few moments of contemplation. “I doubt he’d have much patience if you asked him to turn over the humans who betrayed him to the human authorities. But—at the same time—the ‘old school’ notions of honor that he holds would likely stand us in good stead. He would give me the chance to serve him. And—as long as I was loyal—he would be a fair king to me. And—by extension—to you. And—almost certainly—he would honor our bond.”
“Almost certainly?” she whimpered.
“Choice three?” she asked after expelling a long breath.
“Freyda. I will offer a counter-proposal to the contract she made with Appius. Mostly, she wants me to protect her state. I will agree to do that, to offer her fealty, and to train Oklahoma’s vampires for two hundred years.”
“A hundred more years than you’re already down for,” Sookie whispered.
“Yes—but, the time isn’t so much to me. It would be like being a sheriff in a lot of ways, and that, I could do for a long time. Hell—Freyda might even want me to function as one of her sheriffs. But I won’t marry her. I won’t give myself to any other as long as you are alive. Or undead—if becoming a vampire is eventually your choice,” I added. “You would come with me to Oklahoma and be protected by her, or the contract would become null and I would kill her.”
“Yes—but why would Freyda agree to any of that? She obviously wants you too. And I’m sure she’d just see me as an impediment.”
“Well,” I chuckled, “Freyda will soon learn that a fairy is claiming me. And she likely won’t want that mess. If she fears that the whole contract could become null, she might take what she can get.”
“But we’d have to leave Louisiana,” she frowned.
“Yes,” I responded.
“And Felipe might come after us in Oklahoma too—for betraying him. Or he might hurt the people I love here.”
“Yes,” I sighed. “And the fear of his retaliation might prevent Freyda from dealing with us.”
“So Felipe needs to go,” she whispered.
“Yes—I think so.”
“You don’t want to be a king.”
“Hmm. I never did before,” I commented.
“And now?” she asked.
“It might be better if I am one,” I said honestly.
“Because of the complications that I have brought into your life?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said honestly. “You are a complication, Sookie.” I squeezed her body as hard as I dared without bruising her skin when she tried to pull away a little.
“Shhh,” I comforted. “You are complicated, but I love complicated. And this is me picking you—putting you first. I didn’t—couldn’t—do that correctly before. I was unsure after the witch cursed me. And then I was stubborn—stupid for staying away. And then I was trying to protect you from Felipe.”
She whimpered in my arms.
“But you picked me earlier tonight. You were the brave one first, and I will never be able to thank you adequately enough for that. And you’re going to claim me as your own—officially. And I never thought you’d do that; I never thought you wanted me that way. But you did; you do. So—yes—you are a complication. But you are the best complication of my existence. I love you! And I am willing to become a king to keep you safe—just as long as you will stand by my side as my queen.”
“Eric,” she whimpered.
I petted her hair to sooth her. “But it’s okay if being a queen is not what you want. The Russell scenario would keep me as a sheriff. The Freyda scenario would make me something like a hired consultant.”
She sighed. “People will always come after you because of me.”
“Not always,” I shushed her.
“I’ve been living a ‘normal life’ on borrowed time,” she said with surety.
“Yes. You have been,” I confirmed. “And I wanted you to keep that. But—if you are with me . . . .” I felt my voice trailing off like water propelled over a tall waterfall.
It just disappeared from sight and became lost in all the other drops.
And—for a moment—I was unsure.
But my bonded could read my mind—even if she couldn’t “read my mind.”
“I’m yours. And I will be yours,” she whispered. “We already went over that.”
There was a moment of silence—obviously a moment too long for Sookie, given the fact that she hit my chest as hard as she could.
“Right!” she demanded.
“Right,” I chuckled in agreement.
“Good,” she said as she settled her cheek back against my chest.
This time, she seemed to welcome the silence that fell between us, and I didn’t begrudge her it. She was considering our choices, and none of them were ideal.
“I like Russell, but I think he’d be better as a neighbor,” she whispered.
“I don’t want to live under Freyda’s rule. I don’t think we’d be safe,” she continued.
“Can you take just Louisiana? Can you give over Arkansas and Nevada to the Vampire Council?”
“I can if they don’t kill me. And doing so might go a long way to proving that my motive for killing Felipe wasn’t ambition—that I was trying to avenge my queen.”
“Sophie-Anne,” she sighed. “I miss her.”
“She wasn’t really the queen I was referring to,” I whispered with a kiss to Sookie’s temple.
“Promise me that you won’t tell anyone else that,” she chuckled worriedly. “I don’t want you to get into more trouble than you’re about to be in—once you kill Felipe.”
I chuckled. “I won’t tell anyone else that you are the only queen in my heart—I promise.”
Again, there was a period of silence between us as we both reconciled ourselves to what was to come.
Victor would have to die first.
And then Felipe.
And then I’d have to face down the Vampire Council.
And then—if I was lucky—I’d become king.
Meanwhile, I’d have to convince Sookie to accept the contingency plan I was beginning to form in my head for her in case something went wrong.
“I won’t have to wear a tiara all the time—will I?” she cringed, breaking me from my thoughts.
I laughed loudly. “No.”
“There might be another option,” she whispered before moving away from me and pulling an object from her bag.
It was green and lit the room with its magic.
“A cluviel dor,” she said as she handled the item gently. “I found it the other day. I wasn’t sure what it was, but—earlier—I showed it to Amelia. And—tonight—while I was waiting for you, I called Desmond Cataliades.”
“A wish,” I said in a whisper. “You get a wish.”
“I could wish that we’d always be happy and together. I could wish it right now,” she said.
“But that wouldn’t mean we wouldn’t have to work for it,” I said with a chuckle.
“I know. But we would be happy and together,” she insisted.
“Good things—to be sure. But what about the others in your life?” I asked. “What if you needed this magic to protect them?”
She frowned. “You’ll help me—to protect them. Right?”
“Of course,” I assured. “But a cluviel dor is a strange thing. If you ask for ‘always,’ that might involve that you get turned by another vampire. And what if it only ‘hears’ the happy part? Or the forever part?”
She frowned. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should save it—for when we really need it,” I said, staring at the magical object—wanting to touch it, but denying the impulse.
“What if I wait so long that it becomes too late?” she asked reasonably. “I could ask it to help you successfully become the king. Or I could ask it to make it possible that you never have to become king. I could ask it to ensure that our plan works.”
I chuckled again. “Which plan? Which part of the plan? There will always be a plan, Sookie. That’s just how life is—new foes, new allies, new plans. Yes—I might have more variables with you in my life, but I’ve faced challenges before. Without them—without complications—life wouldn’t have been worth living for so long.”
She gasped and let the sheet around her drop—not that I was complaining about the wonderful sight I’d just been afforded.
“I know what to wish for, Eric. I know what to wish!”
As she spoke those words, the object lit up in her hands, and then it dulled and became useless.
“What did you do?” I asked her.
A/N: Hello all! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. I felt like Eric/Sookie needed some quality “alone time” as they worked out what their plans for Victor/de Castro would mean for their future. Also, they wanted to have lots of sex, so I let them. I hope that you will let me know what you think if you have the time.
Many thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse!