When I got home, I was ravenous, and I quickly started a pot of water to boil before changing into more comfortable clothing. Celebrating my current electricity, I decided that I’d watch a movie, and I put on The Sound of Music, one of Gran’s favorites. Mac-n-Cheese was a mindless meal to make, so I checked on the noodles only occasionally as the head nun sang to Maria about climbing every mountain.
I paused the movie to mix up my dinner once the noodles were done. And then I put half of the meal into a Tupperware container and placed it into the refrigerator, cursing myself for not thinking about my need for that appliance in my musings about the need for electricity.
But surely one could live without a refrigerator—right? I didn’t have to use milk to make Mac-n-cheese, after all. Water would do just fine. “But I’ll try to keep the electricity,” I promised myself.
Plus, in about two months, Gran’s life insurance check would come, and—after I split that with Jason—I’d have enough for this year’s property taxes and about half of Gran’s remaining funeral charges. “I’ll just be careful,” I promised myself, flipping off the kitchen light.
In fact, I made sure that all the lights in the house were turned off.
The light from the television was enough.
I will admit that I may have cried just a little when I finished my dinner and was still hungry. But I knew I’d get through. Plus, my tears might have been for the movie!
Sookie’s house was mostly dark, though her car was parked in the back. I smelled tears as I approached the darkened home, which was alit only by the flickering of a television.
A flower—Edelweiss—was being sung about.
I flew around the home, taking extra time to try to pick up any scents, given the fact that a serial killer had, apparently, murdered someone in the home. But there were many, many trace scents, and I recalled that human funeral rituals often included a wake at the victim’s home. That meant that the whole fucking community had been in Sookie’s house since her grandmother had been slain.
I sighed in temporary defeat and knocked on the door.
Smartly, Sookie didn’t just open the door to me; she flipped on a porch light and looked out the front window to determine who was visiting her home.
“Eric?” she asked.
“Do you know any others who look like me?” I smirked, hoping to make her laugh and stifle the tears in her eyes even before I entered.
If she allowed me to enter.
“What are you doing here?” she asked suspiciously.
“I saved your life last night,” I said, hoping to appeal to her hospitality or her sense of obligation. I didn’t care which one at the moment. “In my human culture, that meant that I was bound to you for the rest of our lives,” I added.
Her skeptical look didn’t fade. “I’ve been warned about you.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior,” I swore. “And I brought you something!”
I produced the meal I’d purchased from a restaurant between Fangtasia and Sookie’s home.
“I believe it will still be warm enough to eat,” I said when she looked at the Styrofoam container with wide eyes. Suddenly, I’d feared that I’d made a mistake. I’d learned that she’d been working that night and had thought that she might need sustenance. Perhaps, I was incorrect about humans’ eating schedules, however.
“Or—if you take it out of this conveyance container and place it on a plate, I believe that you could warm it in your microwave tomorrow.”
I’d even asked the restaurateur to be sure.
I sighed with relief as she threw open the door.
“You brought me dinner,” she said incredulously.
“It is a little thing,” I returned.
“Do you—uh—expect dinner in return?” she asked.
I frowned. “No. I am currently in no need of blood.”
She smiled as if she were uncertain about whether she was allowed to do so.
“Eric, won’t you please come it,” she invited.
I stepped in somewhat cautiously. “Thank you, Sookie,” I said trying to remember Southern manners.
She frowned and flipped off the porch light. “I don’t have any TrueBlood left.”
I shook my head. “I am fine,” I assured, handing her the food container. “I had a bag of bagged blood earlier.”
“Bagged?” she asked, even as she eyed the food hungrily.
I nodded. “It has been my preference for a while.”
“Not fresh?” she asked. “Not fangbangers?”
I shrugged. “Occasionally? Sure. But they tend to taste horrible because of cigarette usage or alcohol consumption. Bagged blood is dependable,” I added.
“Oh,” she said as she took her dinner into the living room where the flickering light was steady since she’d paused the movie that was creating it.
“Do you mind?” she asked as she opened the container and gasped at the steak inside of it. “I just came off a shift,” she said in a whisper as she eyed the meat.
“The food is for you,” I smiled as I looked at the scraped bowl on the coffee table.
From it, I smelled some kind of pasta and fake cheese—surely not enough to nourish a human.
She practically skipped to the kitchen to get a steak knife and fresh fork before stabbing into the meat in the container. I will admit that I’d asked for the most expensive meal on the menu—but just because I was mostly ignorant about human meals these days. Happily, I’d recognized the scent of cooked meat and vegetables, so I knew that the meal would suffice for Sookie’s nutritional needs.
I didn’t speak—for words failed me—as she moaned her appreciation with each forkful.
I couldn’t help but to wonder why she was not used to such tiny gestures. Surely Bill saw to her needs.
After she’d virtually inhaled her food, I asked a question I’d learned would go over well during the research I’d done as I made my way to Sookie’s home.
“How was your day at work?”
She looked at me in shock and then collapsed into tears.
I was on my knees in front of her in the next moment.
“I am sorry,” I stammered. “The website—it assured that—do not women like being asked such things? Um—the—uh—steak—was it to your liking? I thought that medium would be safe since it is—um—in the middle of the cooking spectrum. Did it suit you?”
She cried a little louder.
I wanted to kick myself for being so goddamned unsure of myself, but her continued tears remained my main focus.
I found that I—inexplicably—hated those fucking tears!
Even as I wanted to drink each one! Gods, they smelled delicious.
“Sookie,” I said, moving to sit next to her on the couch. I know I did it awkwardly, but I attempted to comfort her by patting her back. “I didn’t come here to make you cry.”
She moved to place herself in my arms. I found that hugging her felt less awkward. In fact, I liked the feeling.
But I didn’t like the fact that her tears continued.
“I will un-pause the movie,” I said with a confidence I didn’t possess.
Thankfully, she turned her attention toward the screen.
“Why did you come?” she asked finally—though she was still sniffling.
“That question has many answers,” I sighed. Hell—even I didn’t know all of them.
She leaned back a little. “Start with one?”
I couldn’t help but to smile at her simple request.
“I wanted to make sure that you were okay—after last night,” I began.
She showed me her arm. “All healed. I guess it was Long Shadow’s blood that did it?” She shrugged. “Ironic that he tried to kill me, yet his death is what healed me.”
“You didn’t seem surprised that our blood could heal,” I commented.
She looked concerned. “Um—no. But please don’t be mad at Bill; he—uh—told me. He had to—uh—because he saved my life with his blood. And it’s not like he tells me a lot of vampire secrets or anything,” she added quickly.
“You were mortally injured? When?” I asked. I was also feeling concern in that moment, but certainly not because of anything Bill may or may not have told Sookie.
She nodded. “More than a month ago. Um—June 12.” She smiled. “I have a good memory for dates. I was attacked by the Rats.”
“Rattrays,” she clarified. “They were a couple of redneck drainers who decided they wanted to get revenge because I’d stopped them from draining Bill the first night I met him.
There were several things about Sookie’s statement that immediately troubled me.
I started with her use of the past tense. “Were?”
She bit her lip. “Yeah—um—Bill killed them after they attacked me.”
I suppose I couldn’t blame him for that. But he should have reported the deaths to Area 5’s sheriff—me! It would have been my ass if the deaths had been linked to vampires, after all. And, as sheriff, I would have sent someone to make sure that the cover-up of vampire involvement was effective.
“How were their deaths explained?” I asked, trying to sound curious rather than pissed off.
“Bill—uh—took them to their trailer and made it look like they died in a freak tornado.”
It was getting harder to hide my anger! What was Bill—a fucking infant?
“And authorities here bought the explanation?” I asked.
She nodded. “Plus, they were glad that the Rats wouldn’t be around anymore. They’d always been trouble makers.”
I sighed. Thank the gods that the local authorities seemed either incompetent or lazy. Of course, that was also likely why there was still a serial killer targeting women in the area—another thing Bill should have informed me about. It should never have been Sookie who’d had to do it.
“You said these Rats were drainers?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, reaching out to get her tea. I found that I was greatly disappointed that the action caused her to move further away from me.
“I picked it up from their minds that they intended to drain Bill on the first night he came to Merlotte’s. He was the first vampire we’d ever had in Bon Temps, but Mack and Denise buddied up with him right away.” She shook her head and took another drink. “I was going to warn Bill to keep away from them, but before I could, they had all left together. If I hadn’t gone after them, they would have drained him for sure!”
“You went after them alone?” I asked, my frustration clear.
“I’m not helpless!” she said with the sass that I’d first noticed—and liked—about her.
I couldn’t help my smirk. “I know.”
She nodded as if my acknowledgment was enough to placate her. “They had him trapped under some silver.”
“Chains?” I asked.
“More like one long band.”
She shook her head. “No—pretty thin. Why is that important?”
“Just trying to understand the standard drainer kit better,” I offered. “How did they use the band?”
“They sort of crisscrossed it around his wrists and then put it over his ankles too.”
I nodded in acknowledgement. Bill should have been able to avoid being taken down, and—unless they’d had a silver net—they should never have been fast enough to secure his wrists in the way she described.
Especially not with a thin cord!
Curiouser and curiouser.
And another fucking strike against Bill!
To not report drainers to the area sheriff—again me—was a punishable offense!
“I think he was embarrassed that he’d let himself get captured,” she said with a frown. “And—to tell the truth—he was a little creepy that first night. But—then again—I touched his face when I couldn’t hear his thoughts, just to make sure I wasn’t having trouble with reception.”
“So he learned of your gift that first night?”
She shrugged. “My disability? Um—I’m not sure. He might have guessed there was something up, but I didn’t tell him outright until a few nights later—after he’d healed me.”
I ignored her critical remark about herself for the moment. Another infraction on Bill’s part. He should have contacted his sheriff—me again—about a potential asset. Of course, that would have required him checking in first!
Which he’d also failed to do! From the timeline I was getting from Sookie, Bill had been in Area 5 for more than a week before he’d darkened Fangtasia’s door—contrasted by the light that was Sookie Stackhouse.
My mind whirled.
“You said that Bill acted a little creepy?” I asked.
“Well—I think he was trying to flirt, but y’all tend to leer.”
I chuckled. “That we do.”
“When I showed him that I was using the Rats’ silver chain to protect my neck and wrists in case he tried to bite me, he said something about being able to feed from my groin.” She shuddered.
I kept my fangs at bay only by biting my tongue with my blunt teeth.
“Oh—and he offered me his blood. Either to drink or to sell.”
By my count, Bill had already had enough strikes to be “out,” but this revelation added exponentially to the shit-storm he would soon face! Clearly, Bill had been wanting to get his blood into Sookie from that very first night. And, clearly, he’d found another way to do it only a few nights later!
I was too goddamned old to believe that that was coincidence.
“So you saved Bill’s life? And that is why the Rats attacked you?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’d been waiting for Bill outside of Merlotte’s after a shift. Gran—my grandmother—was hopin’ to talk to him about the Civil War.”
“And he was late,” I commented, still working very hard to keep my voice calm.
The situation seemed clear to me. Bill glamoured the drainers to attack him. And he let himself get captured. That was the only way he could have been secured as Sookie had described—unless . . . .
“Sookie, I am going to ask a couple of—delicate questions,” I said tentatively.
“Okay,” she responded nervously.
“Did either of the Rattrays have bite marks on them—when you went to save Bill?”
She frowned. “Not that I saw, but—like Bill said—there are other places to get bitten other than the visible ones.”
“Were either of the Rattrays in a state of undress?” I asked.
She blushed, but shook her head in the negative.
Drainers working in tandem had been known to distract a vampire in order to secure him or her—though such a thing should never happen to one older than a decade or so. However, it seemed clear to me that Bill didn’t have his fangs in a neck—or other intimate place—when he’d been “caught,” so I was back to the theory that he’d arranged the whole initial “draining.” And that meant that he had known that Sookie would come! And that meant that he had known that she was a telepath. And that meant that he had known what the Rattrays were thinking about because he’d implanted the fucking idea!
“You were badly hurt?” I asked.
She looked down as if remembering her pain and nodded. “Yeah. If Bill hadn’t come, I’d have died.”
“Did he have your blood that night?” I asked tensely.
She nodded. “When I regained consciousness, he was—uh—licking my wounds.”
“Did he tell you that he formed a tie with you?” I asked.
“A blood tie,” I clarified.
“Well—I know his blood healed me. And Bill said that he’d be able to feel it if I was in danger and find me. When he gave me a little of his blood the night before we went to Fangtasia, he told me that I’d feel stronger and he also figured I’d be able to control my telepathy more.”
“Have you had his blood a third time?” I asked nervously.
I shook my head. “No.”
I sighed with relief.
“Three exchanges forms a permanent bond.”
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“Exchanges?” she asked.
“Blood in the mouth at the same time,” I clarified.
She thought for a moment. “Then Bill and I have had only one exchange. He—uh—didn’t take my blood the second time.”
I sighed, knowing that Sookie would find that both good news and bad news.
A/N: Thanks for the comments on Chapter 1! I really appreciate your feedback, and your words always motivate me! I hope you enjoyed this first interaction between Eric and Sookie in this chapter!