Eric seemed to sigh with relief for a second time in as many minutes. The action was odd for a vampire. My thoughts on the matter were interrupted, however, when the video ended, thus causing the room to darken.
“I’ll turn on the light,” Eric volunteered.
I bit my lip in order to avoid asking him to light the candle on the coffee table instead. That’s what I’d been intending to do. But I suppose my pride got in the way of that; plus, Eric was a guest. And I figured that guests deserved light.
“So—um—will you tell me more about all this blood stuff? I should probably know since I’m dating a vampire. Or,” I paused, “is it forbidden or something?”
In fact, I wondered if Bill would get in trouble for already telling me some things about it all.
“It is not forbidden for a claimed human to know,” he said thoughtfully. “Though it would be better coming from Bill.”
“Oh well,” I said, “I’ll ask him when he comes back. Um—is he right about why you sent him away?”
“Why did he say?”
“So that you could take advantage of me—steal me from him.” I shrugged. “And you are here, after all. You know—I love Bill. I’m not gonna cheat on him.”
He tilted his head a little as if studying me for a moment. “I would like to steal you from him,” he said bluntly. “And I do want him out of the way for a while.”
“Why? So you could try to seduce me?” I asked, feeling my cheeks heat up with a blush. “You know—even if I wasn’t with Bill, I’m not the kind of girl to do a one-night stand.”
He chuckled. “I’m pretty sure that one night would not quench my thirst for you, Sookie Stackhouse.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. Don’t forget that I can hear people’s thoughts, and your fans at Fangtasia have very loud ones. And none of them get more than one night with the great Eric Northman.” I felt my face get even hotter.
He laughed even louder. “I am a single man,” he said. “And I do enjoy taking what pleasures I can in this life,” he added, emphasizing the word “life.”
I shook my head. “That’s what Bill said.”
“You judge me,” he commented with amusement.
“No. I just don’t understand casual sex. I mean,” I paused, “I get the concept of it. But—well—I just don’t think it would work for me.”
“Yet some humans have loose ways,” he commented, his eyes dancing.
“Like my brother—yeah,” I said under my breath.
He laughed heartily. “Yet I imagine that he might one day settle down—if the right woman came along.”
“Yeah,” I allowed.
“The right woman is difficult to find for a vampire,” Eric relayed thoughtfully. “Most vampires do not want to make themselves vulnerable to another vampire. And—our ages are certainly a factor too.”
“Yes,” he responded. “We get more powerful as we age, so there is—inevitably—a dominant and a passive member when two vampires couple. Most of us do not enjoy passivity. But—paradoxically—I have always liked strong women.”
“You’ll have to find a vampire of equal age then,” I commented.
“There are few my age,” he smiled ruefully. “And those whom I’ve met that are do not suit me.”
“What about a human?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Before the Great Revelation, vampires who let humans know of our secrets were killed or—at least—punished. Unless the humans were totally controlled by vampire blood.”
I shivered. “Like Renfield?”
He nodded. “Exactly like that, though the humans are much less raving. However, too much blood influence and glamour take away a human’s,” he paused, “ability to function on his or her own. And—like I said—I like strong women.”
“What about after the Reveal?” I asked curiously. “I mean, Bill is mainstreaming, and he found me.”
“Yes, but there is only one you,” he said sincerely, making me blush. “Plus, we have been public only for a couple of years. Finding a true partner can take a long time—even for a human. Correct?”
I nodded but then frowned. “So—uh—if I keep taking Bill’s blood, I’ll be like Renfield?” I shivered at the thought. “Is that was a bond is?”
Again, he tilted his head as if to study me.
“I think Bill has offered you only incomplete knowledge,” he finally said. “But, if you want me to tell you about the full implications of having vampire blood, you must agree to the consequences.”
“Consequences?” I gulped out.
He nodded. “Yes. Knowledge is power. But gaining it can hurt like hell.”
“Hurt?” I cringed and moved further away from him.
“I do not mean in a physical way,” Eric said, looking a little confused for a moment.
“Oh. Well—with vampires, you—uh—never know,” I stuttered.
“You do not know enough about us,” he said, with a little anger in his voice.
I took a deep breath. “Will you tell me? Even if it hurts?”
“I will,” I said after a few moments of looking into her questing blue eyes. Yes—I would be honest with her, even if it ended up hurting us both. “You are right that some things are kept secret among us, but there is plenty you can and should know.”
“Okay. I’m ready,” she said bravely.
“Once you know, you cannot un-know,” I said, giving her a final warning.
“I know,” she whispered.
I nodded, acknowledging both her courage and her choice. “Okay then. Firstly, vampires can take blood from all the humans we want without ever forming any kind of connection with them. On the other hand, when we give blood—which is quite uncommon as Pam suggested last night—ties or bonds get made. To make a Renfield, I would force a blood exchange and then periodically give the human more of my blood, but—though I might feed from that human—I would make no more exchanges. Each dose of my blood would heighten my power over the human. After the first, I could sense most strong emotions and the location of the recipient. I would also be able to affect the human’s moods in a way. The human would become attracted to me and would have dreams about me—erotic ones. Thus a dependence would begin to grow within him or her.”
She paled, but I went on.
“With each drink of me, my allure—in the human’s eyes—would grow. I would be able to influence his or her thoughts and actions more and more, for the thought of pleasing me would be paramount to the human. The good news is that Renfields cannot be made quickly, and ties can be broken by magic or time or,” I paused, “a stronger vampire’s blood.”
“Bill has tied me to him,” Sookie said with realization.
“Yes, but you must judge his intentions for yourself,” I said truthfully. “You must gauge why you love him. It is possible that what you feel is from you and not from him.”
She bit her bottom lip and looked thoughtful for a moment. “How’s a bond different from a tie?” she asked.
I couldn’t help but to smile in reverence. “A bond is sacred. It is about equality rather than conquest. With three exchanges, the two forming the bond become dependent upon each other—in the most revered of ways. Emotions are felt on both sides. Location is known on both sides. Influence can be given on both sides, but it can also be denied by both. And the bonded ones know the difference between themselves and their partners. Lying is impossible. Long separations are impossible. Most bonded couples also pledge.”
“Pledge?” she asked.
“More sacrosanct than human marriage, a pledge is a public demonstration of shared interests and devotion. Its term is a minimum of one-hundred years, but most bonded couples make an eternal pledge.”
“So—uh—only vampires can do it?”
“No. A vampire can bond with another vampire or any other kind of being, though bonds are rare. The bonded pair’s lives are tied together—you see—so if one dies, so does the other.”
“You thought that Bill had bonded with me? Earlier?” she asked.
“I worried that he might have,” I admitted.
“Because I was jealous of the possibility,” I confessed. “But a bond would—indeed—mean that his intentions were undeniably honorable.”
“And that thought made you jealous?” she asked.
“Uncomfortably so,” I owned.
She shook her head.
“Emotions are often unexpected,” I said somewhat cautiously.
“So Bill obviously wasn’t working on a permanent bond with me,” she said, her cheeks flaming. “I wouldn’t have minded if he’d taken my blood when I took his the other night.”
I was silent for a moment. “To intentionally form a permanent bond without giving a bonded a choice in the matter would go against vampire law and tradition. It would lead to resentment on both sides,” I observed.
“Why are you being so forthcoming?” she asked suddenly.
I closed my eyes. “The thought of Bill making you a Renfield has created a knot inside of my very soul,” I confessed. I opened my eyes to find the surprise in hers. “I cannot say why I’ve reacted so strongly to you, but I can tell you that I’ve never felt this level of attraction before. I appreciate your beauty and your bravery and your spunk and your cleverness. I appreciate your gift, too, but I do not like that you think of it as a disability. And I do not appreciate it only because I covet it. I appreciate it because the look in your eyes as you worked last night stirred me. You were magnificent!”
She gasped. “You really are trying to seduce me!”
I sat back and laughed long and hard. I couldn’t remember laughing like that in a long time. Soon enough, she was joining in, though her laughter was clearly fueled by stress—at least in part.
“I appreciate that too,” I said after composing myself.
“Not many can make me laugh.”
“Why do you think I’ve kept her around for so long?” I said with a smirk. “Makers and their progeny often get tired of each other after a while. Of course, Pamela and I maintain separate residences, and that helps, but she is quite amusing.”
Sookie smiled. “She’s the worst leerer of you all—you know.”
I chuckled. “She will be pleased to hear that you think that and will redouble her efforts.”
Sookie suddenly looked uncomfortable.
“What?” I asked.
“Laughing like that,” Sookie said, her cheeks flushing. “It makes me—uh—need to take a human moment,” she added apologetically.
“I used to pee too, Sookie,” I smiled. “I promise that I will behave myself while you are gone. I will snoop only in this room.”
She shook her head almost fondly and chuckled her way out of the living room.
I did intend to snoop, however, not through her personal items. I wanted to investigate the crack I’d seen in the ceiling. I hovered upward and took a closer look. Luckily, it seemed to be a simple imperfection in the plasterwork. I landed in front of the fireplace and focused on a recent picture of Sookie, a young man, and an older woman. I assumed the young man was her promiscuous brother and the woman was “Gran.” My eyes scanned the rest of the pictures, paying special attention to the ones that included Sookie. I smiled to myself as I saw her at various ages—some of them quite “awkward.”
She came back into the room and stood beside me, though she didn’t seem to be upset by my “snooping.”
“Why is one turned down?” I asked of one of the pictures, though I didn’t move to right it.
“Oh—that frame never stays up,” she commented with a sigh as she moved to fix the picture. “It’s a cheap frame, but it was the only gift Hadley ever gave to Gran, so she never changed it out.”
Hadley. The name was familiar. I looked at the picture more closely.
The face. Also, familiar.
“Sookie, do you remember what I said about knowledge?”
“Yes,” she answered, suddenly nervous again.
She was right to be anxious.