“Hello?” I said uncertainly as I looked at the vampire, trying to concentrate once more on “hearing” his thoughts.
Still a blank.
The vampire, a muscular, 6 feet tall, black male—who seemed to be glowing just a little bit, or maybe it was just all the glitter he was wearing—looked at me from foot to head. He whistled. “You’s is just my kinda drink o’ water.”
“Don’t you drink blood?” I asked, my voice trembling a little.
“Oh—you’s really is too cute for words!” the vampire chuckled as he wrapped his arm around mine and led me into the bar as if I’d agreed to be his date. Or his meal. Another vampire immediately took his place at the door. “My name’s Lafayette, and you’s looks like you could use a drink,” he leered.
“Um—what about the cover charge?” I asked.
“Oh—your money’s no good here,” he chuckled. “My mistress has taken a liking to your looks, but now that I’ve seen you up close, I thinks I’m gonna have to convince you to be mine instead.”
He tightened his arm around mine, and—though my long-sleeved shirt prevented our skin from touching directly—I was still shocked that I couldn’t “hear” him.
“Mistress?” I asked.
“Forget I said anything ’bout her,” he leered. “I’ve decided that I’s is gonna keep you.”
In truth, I wasn’t really put off by Lafayette’s obvious flirting. Though I’d never been attracted to men, I figured that people had a right to pick who they liked—even if the people they liked were of the same gender. Hell—I didn’t think that I had the right to judge anyone for their differences or their preferences.
And something about the vampire made me feel at ease; he seemed—for lack of a better word—”friendly.”
And I was curious about him—mostly because I couldn’t hear him.
His mind was a void.
And I liked it immediately.
“Please tells me that you’s here to gets drunk, lose yo’ motherfuckin’ mind, and experiments with others of your own kind,” he purred, as we approached the bar.
“Humans?” I asked, even as his hand came close to my own, though he still didn’t touch my flesh. I couldn’t help but to wonder what would happen if he did.
I stretched out my telepathy again and realized that the vampire’s touch—even over the cotton of my shirt—was somehow muffling many of the thoughts of the humans around me. I smiled at Lafayette; I couldn’t help myself.
Of course, that just encouraged his flirting.
“Men!” the vampire grinned in answer to my question as his fangs popped down and his hand brushed against mine for a second. I gasped, but that wasn’t because of the deadly teeth that had been presented to me.
“I can’t hear you,” I whispered.
“Men!” he said louder, clueless to the true meaning behind my words. “Don’t you wanna try one out? Ain’t it on your bucket list?” he ogled.
As he looked at me with a question in his eyes, I felt a little pressure on my head, but I still couldn’t hear him. “How ’bout I show you the offices?” he asked.
“Um—no thanks,” I stammered out a response.
Looking a little surprised that I’d turned him down, he released my arm. To stop the bombardment of thoughts that immediately hit me, I quickly put my shields back up.
“Um—I’m sorry,” I said to him. “You’re handsome and all. But I’m not here to make a connection in that way.”
His surprise turned to amusement. “Then why is you here, tall, blond, and yummy? Is you lookin’ to be bitten?”
“No!” I answered quickly. “An—uh—acquaintance of mine is a suspect in two murder cases. Both of the women he’s been accused of killing had vampire bites on them. I was hoping to find out if any vampires here knew anything about them.”
Lafayette’s fangs jetted down—this time menacingly—and I heard a similar click from behind me.
“You think a vampire committed the murders?” he growled.
“No!” I gasped. I began to sweat as he zeroed in on my neck. “Neither victim was drained. I was just hoping to find out if there were other women who were targeted for being with vampires. I was thinking that the murders might have been done by someone who hated vampires—a member of one of those hate groups?” I said quickly, hoping that my fast response would buy me a few more seconds of life.
The vampire’s fangs disappeared as quickly as they’d dropped. “Well—that’s good. I’s woulda hated to damage you,” he said, leering at me as if he’d not just threatened me. “Tell me,” he added, “you ain’t from around these parts. Where is that delectable accent from?”
I could feel my cheeks blushing. “Um—I’m from Sweden originally,” I answered. “But I’ve been living in Bon Temps for several years now. And I’m almost a citizen,” I added—though I wasn’t sure that fact would mean much to a vampire.
“So is I!” he cackled. “I’s just needs the AVL to get the Vampire Equal Rights Amendment through, and I’ll be more citizen than I ever was when I was breathin’,” he added.
“You were a slave?” I rasped.
“3/5ths of a person—to be precise—’cording to the law when I was turned,” he grinned. “But—don’t let that fool ya. I is all man!”
He leered at me playfully, and I couldn’t stop my chuckle. Whether it was because I couldn’t “hear” him or because he seemed so comfortable with who he was—a stark contrast to me—I liked him, despite the fact that he’d threatened me only moments before.
“What’s your poison?” asked an impatient voice from behind me. I turned around to see a striking Native American vampire—and, by striking, I mean that he looked like he wanted to strike me.
“Beer. Anything you have on tap,” I responded, trying not to let my fear show in my voice.
“Not the domestic shit,” Lafayette said. “Or the lite shit. Gives him something good.”
The other vampire rolled his eyes before pouring my beer. Then Lafayette gestured for me to follow him to a table at the far end of the dance floor.
I took a long drink of my beer as soon as we got there, praying that the alcohol would steady my nerves as I started dropping my shields again.
Immediately, I “heard” a lot people who were thinking only of being bitten and fucked.
I also heard other voids in the room.
Other vampires! As I looked around, I noticed that they were “glowing” a little too.
“You is like a fish outta water,” Lafayette smirked, breaking me from my thoughts and interrupting my scanning.
I nodded in agreement.
“By the way, I never caught your name, sugar,” he said.
“Eric Northman,” I said, extending my hand and readying myself to lower all of my shields in order to try to hear him.
Unfortunately, Lafayette looked at my hand as if it held the plague.
“Sorry gorgeous,” he smirked, “vampires don’t care much for physical contact. Unless it matters,” he added suggestively.
“Um—oh,” I said, pulling my hand away. Internally, I was envious that I couldn’t simply adopt that stance about touching—at least when it came to non-vampires. “Sorry. You’re the first vampire I’ve met.”
“And you’s the first Viking I’ve ever seen up close,” he grinned.
He nodded, his glittery eyelashes batting with each head bob. “Oh yeah! And rights now, I’m picturin’ you ravagin’ me.”
I choked a little on my drink as Lafayette sat back in his chair and laughed.
“You is cute, but you’s really don’t belong here, pretty Viking,” he chuckled as his eyes moved down to judge my clothing. By his slight frown, I could tell that it didn’t reach his standard of approval.
I looked down at my garments. I was wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved, cream-colored Henley. Looking around, I noted that most of the people in the bar were in all black.
There was a lot of leather.
“I guess I don’t,” I said with a frown. A vampire bar—I supposed—would have to be added to the list of places where I didn’t belong.
Not that there was a long list of places where I did belong.
“So—someone’s been killin’ women in your neck of the woods?” he drawled.
“Uh—yeah. My landlady’s grandson has been accused of killing them—since he’s had—uh—sex with both,” I returned, feeling myself blush.
“You really is too precious for words, Mr. Eric Northman. You sure I can’t tempt you to experiment with a little man-love?”
I blushed even more as Lafayette chortled.
“So—tells me—how is you gonna go about you’s investigation in our humble little bar?”
I stiffened. I didn’t figure that answering, “by reading all the minds here,” would work out well for me, even though I couldn’t read his. So I thought of my backup plan. “I have pictures of the girls,” I said. “I was hoping that someone would recognize them and could tell me if any suspicious humans had taken note of them with vampires,” I emphasized.
Lafayette tilted his head in curiosity. “Show them to me.”
I took the clippings of the young women that I’d taken from the newspaper out of my wallet and handed them to Lafayette.
I’d seen Maudette Pickens a few times—always at the gas station. At first, she’d seemed pleasant enough—though, like many, she’d inventoried my body as if I were a commodity. The last time I’d seen her, however, she’d wondered if I would be up for choking her during sex. After that, I’d made a point of going to a different gas station.
Dawn Green’s thoughts had been “worse” in some ways. I suppose that most heterosexual men would have bent over backwards for the dark-haired beauty. But Dawn’s inner musings were not nearly as lovely as her face. She had worked at Merlotte’s, Bon Temps’s local watering hole. I’d been in there only a few times—because, frankly, the owner of the place had made me uncomfortable because he seemed to always be staring at me.
And I’m quite sure he’d sniffed me a few times too.
However, I’d been there enough to hear what Dawn was really like. It wasn’t just that she thought about me sexually either. I was used to that from others and was always a little flattered by it. No. It was how she thought of most other people—as if they were lesser than she was because she happened to be pretty.
To me, that made her ugly. During the few times I was around her, I’d also “heard” her thinking about married men that she’d slept with—just to spite their wives.
But Jason had much less discerning tastes; he was bothered by neither Maudette’s fetishes nor Dawn’s mean-spiritedness.
And that’s why I was waiting with baited breath to hear whether Lafayette knew anything about either of the two murder victims.
“I’ve seen them both,” the vampire said before letting out a chuckle. “This one,” he pointed at Maudette, “tried to rub her nasty puss against anythang with fangs.” He winked at me. “She was desperate. But she,” he pointed to Dawn, “was actually fought over by a couple of my kind.” He grinned. “Course, I know how that feels.”
“Who were the vampires?” I asked hopefully.
Lafayette leaned toward me conspiratorially. “Sorry, pretty Viking. But what happens in Fangtasia stays in Fangtasia—least when it comes to vampires,” he said, batting his eyes. “Which is why—if you did decide to experiment a little—I’d never tell,” he added significantly.
I chuckled in response. For whatever reason—maybe foolishness—I didn’t feel that Lafayette was a threat to me. Or—maybe—I was just euphoric that I couldn’t “hear” him.
Plus, I found it ironic that a vampire was only the second person to treat me like I was a “normal” person. I certainly wasn’t going to “experiment” with Lafayette in the way he was suggesting, but I also wasn’t anxious to lose his company either.
At least, not until I saw her.
She seemed to float into the room, displaying a kind of elegance that would have signaled her otherworldliness even if I’d not been able to tell that she was a vampire just by the slight glow of her alabaster skin.
And I wasn’t the only one who noticed her.
It seemed as if every eye in the room—and every thought—was riveted toward her. In fact, the thoughts of those around me were so centered upon her that my shields couldn’t withstand the sheer focus of them. And—because of that—many thoughts “attacked” me all at once.
Oh, please, just let her look at me tonight.
I’d do anything for her.
She’s so beautiful.
I hope that she bites me.
Hurt me. Please.
Shit! Now that she’s here, I’ll never find a man who will just focus on me.
I wonder if she likes women.
Maybe I should have worn my hair up to entice her.
The things she can do with her tongue! Please let her pick me again.
My reaction to the onslaught of thoughts must have shown on my face.
“Hey, pretty Viking,” Lafayette said soothingly, “you okay?” He placed his hand on my shoulder.
Lafayette’s proximity—and the blankness of his thoughts—seemed to be exactly what I needed to reclaim my control, and I was able to put my shields back up.
“Uh—yeah,” I said with some embarrassment.
Lafayette patted my back and then chuckled once he saw that I was back to “normal.” “Don’t worry yo’self none,” he grinned. “I can’t think of a person who doesn’t have a reaction to Miss Sookie. All the men—’cept those that want me, that is—are here hopin’ to get a little action from her. And there are lots of hopeful ladies here too—though she ain’t swung that way for a while now.”
“Sookie,” I whispered, my gaze locking back onto the blond beauty.
She was dressed all in black. Her leather skirt hugged her curves to perfection, and her toned legs were made even more amazing by the five-inch stilettos she wore. Her top was a bustier that offered the illusion that it could be seen through, and my eyes strained to find the breasts that caused that top to be more fucking alluring than any garment I’d ever seen. Over her top, she wore a black jacket. My eyes made their way up her long, porcelain-colored neck to her full, ruddy lips and then her brown eyes. Her blond hair was up and—though it was an odd thought, considering that she was a vampire—it reminded me of the sun.
Hell—given the way that everyone in the room seemed be orbiting around her in that moment—maybe she was the sun.
One of those “orbiters” was on his knees before her and was literally crawling toward where she’d sat down, which was upon an elegant throne placed atop a raised dais. He reached a quivering hand out and touched her leg. I gasped as Sookie kicked the man away from her without even raising her eyes from her phone.
He crashed about twenty feet away from her, his head bleeding from where her shoe had been.
Immediately, a female vampire crouched down next to him. I saw that her fangs were down as she hurried him toward the back of the club.
“Pathetic,” Lafayette said, rolling his eyes. I had a feeling that he was talking about the man’s actions.
“Is she—uh—a queen?” I asked, my eyes still fixed on Sookie.
Lafayette chuckled. “She’s certainly old enough to be one, but no.”
“Old?” I asked. I had no concept of vampire ages, but Sookie looked about 25 to me. Of course, Lafayette looked to be about the same age in human terms, and I already knew that he’d been alive long enough to have been a slave.
“She’s the oldest being in this club,” Lafayette said cheekily. “Hell—the oldest being in this state!” He leaned in conspiratorially. “Does the phrase Roman Empire mean anything to you?”
“Goddess,” I whispered.
Lafayette leaned back and laughed heartily. “Oh, boy, you’s got it as bad as all the rest!”
My breath caught in my throat as Sookie turned her eyes toward me.
She kept them there for a moment, and I felt a little nudging in my head again.
Maybe it was oxygen deprivation—since my lungs continued not to work properly—but I thought I saw a flash of surprise enter her eyes.
Lafayette chuckled. “Well—look at you, pretty Viking,” he grinned. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or to ask if you’s Will is up to date.”
“Huh?” I asked dumbly, even as Sookie motioned in a come-hither gesture with one of her elegant fingers.
“My mistress is ready to see you,” Lafayette said, rising to his feet. “So I guess I’ll have to stop tryin’ to convince you to give beef a try.”
He gestured for me to stand, and I obeyed without protest.
Lafayette motioned for me to walk in front of him, and I heard him whistle from behind me. “Damned shame! I coulda done some wicked, wicked things to a fine ass like that,” he muttered. “But—no—my maker’s gotta be a selfish bitch.”
I heard Lafayette’s words, but couldn’t quite process them, nor could I quite process steady breaths. It seemed as if my higher brain functions weren’t quite working, though I was glad that my feet continued to walk toward the captivating vampiress.
“Lala,” she said, her smooth voice entrancing me even more, “who’s your friend.”
“That’s right. My friend,” he said petulantly as he walked onto the dais and stood next to Sookie.
“He’s yours?” she asked with amusement.
“Yes?” Lafayette said as if his answer were a question.
“So—are you his?” Sookie asked me significantly.
I could only shake my head. “No. We just met.”
“I’m very pleased to hear that,” she smiled, her fangs clicking downward. I found that I was more fascinated by them than frightened. She seemed to notice and leaned forward a little, giving me an even closer look at her deadly weapons. “So—do you have a name? Or should I make one up for you?”
“Viking,” Lafayette said wistfully.
“Eric,” I managed at the same time. “Eric Northman.”
She smiled even wider. “Eric Northman—sounds like a vampire name.”
“Vampire name?” I asked, glad that I’d found my breath and my voice.
“Mmmm,” she said, looking me up and down and licking her lips.
Okay—breath and voice both lost again.
“Older vampires have needed to change their names often throughout the years. It was quite the bother—really. After the revelation, many of us settled on a name that reflected our places of origin. For example, I became Sookie Vercelli.”
“The town in Northern Italy,” I said, my brain somehow managing to access my knowledge of geography.
She smiled. “Impressive. Most humans have no concept of where things are nowadays. Sit,” she invited, pointing to a chair next to her.
I felt my feet taking me to the place she’d indicated. In truth, my whole body seemed to be singing as it got closer to hers.
One part in particular seemed anxious to sing a duet with her. And her eyes raking toward that part didn’t discourage “him” at all.
I shifted in the seat I’d just occupied.
“So—Mr. Northman,” she purred. “Or may I call you Eric?”
“Oh—here she goes,” Lafayette muttered from behind her.
“Eric’s fine,” I squeaked out, sounding like a preteen whose voice had yet to drop.
“So—what brings you to my club, Eric?” she asked.
I looked up at Lafayette uncertainly. He gave me a little nod, and I repeated my queries about Dawn and Maudette, explaining to Sookie that I was looking into the matter to help my landlady and her grandson when she seemed pissed off that I might have an interest in the girls themselves.
Or maybe I was just imagining that part.
As soon as I’d made my nervous and stutter-filled spiel—thanks to the beauty I was speaking to—Lafayette and Sookie exchanged a few words in a language that I assumed was an ancient dialect of Italian since it had some similarities to Latin and modern Italian. However, I couldn’t quite make out what they were speaking about. Lafayette nodded in agreement as Sookie turned back toward me.
“It is bad for both of our kinds when humans are killed simply for fraternizing with vampires,” she said in a measured tone. “Thus, I will look into this matter—personally.”
“Thank you,” I said gratefully.
“Now—I have a problem that you could help me with,” she leered, her eyes once again traveling toward my still-aroused cock. As long as it had been since “he” had seen action beyond my own hand, I was surprised that “he” hadn’t unzipped “himself” from my jeans.
“How can I help you?” I gulped, even as she reached out a hand to touch the top of my own.
Her flesh to mine.
On its own, my hand turned so that we were palm to palm, and then our fingers interlocked.
I gasped as a bolt of what I could only describe as electricity jolted through me. I looked up to see her eyes staring at our hands; she, too, seemed affected by our touch.
But—then again—I wasn’t affected in one very profound way. I couldn’t hear anything from her—despite the direct and sustained touch.
As her eyes trailed upward to take hold of mine again, I held my breath.
“You are quite the surprise, Mr. Northman,” she said in a low voice.
“I am?” I practically whimpered.
“Yes. And I am rarely surprised,” she mused, almost as if to herself.
In that moment, I was surprised, too. At age 33, I was holding my first hand, for my cursed abnormality had prevented me from enjoying even the simplest kinds of connections. I’d always envied those who took touch for granted—always lamented that it “hurt” me when it was the thing that humans seemed to “need” the most in order to be happy.
Maybe I was a masochist. Maybe I just needed to be absolutely certain that I couldn’t hear her. Whatever the case, I dropped my shields completely, despite knowing that I’d be on the receiving end of a cacophony of thoughts from the humans in the bar.
But I wasn’t.
Not only could I not hear her, but I also couldn’t hear the specific thoughts of the humans in the room either! It was as if the void of her mind could protect me—take me into itself and shelter me. I’d felt some “protection” from Lafayette’s void, but it was nothing compared to what I felt now that I was touching Sookie.
I closed my eyes as my smile formed.
I felt safe.
I opened my eyes to find that Sookie was looking at me intensely.
She made me safe.
At this revelation, I let out a shaky, surprised breath, even as she squeezed my hand.
I figured that she was strong enough to easily break it, but the squeeze was gentle and made me feel warm all over, despite the fact that her flesh was cold.
“This is amazing,” I whispered, speaking about so many things at once.
The fact that I was holding a hand—like a “normal” person.
The fact that I was sitting with the most beautiful woman in the room.
The fact that I couldn’t hear her thoughts, despite the connection of our flesh.
The fact that I felt in complete control of my telepathy for the first time in my life.
It was this last thought which made me focus on a single human and seek out her thoughts.
I heard them loud and clear. She was imagining a threesome with both Sookie and me—vividly imagining it!
Immediately, I pulled myself from the woman’s thoughts, even as Sookie squeezed my hand again.
“What are you doing?” she asked as if trying to solve a mystery.
Speechless, I could only shake my head as I focused on another person, a man sitting at the bar.
For probably the hundredth time that night, I gasped. Only this time, it wasn’t out of surprise or amazement or even fear. It was out of concern—for her.
“What’s wrong?” Sookie asked.
“The man at the bar,” I whispered. “He’s an undercover cop. You are about to be raided.”
Her eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”
“I just know,” I whimpered.
“Are you a cop, too?” Lafayette growled in a low tone.
I shook my head, praying that the vampires would believe me. “No.”
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing illegal is happening here,” Sookie said cautiously, her eyes glancing at the man at the bar.
I closed my eyes and let my mind drift around, hoping to confirm Sookie’s words—trying to tell myself that she knew what she was doing and probably dealt with the police all the time. I gasped yet again as I “heard” something that might harm her. “The man you kicked is being fed on in the women’s bathroom.”
Sookie’s eyes widened as she turned her gaze back toward me.
However, she composed herself quickly and then rose. “Come!” she said firmly, never dropping my hand. I had to move fast to keep up with her, despite my longer limbs. Lafayette was right behind us.
We were outside of the club within seconds. And, inconceivably to my brain, I was soon lifted into Sookie’s arms as if I weighed nothing. She looked at Lafayette. “Take care of it—before there is trouble if possible,” she ordered as I heard a distant siren.
Lafayette nodded, even as I felt myself moving even higher off the ground. A moment later, I realized that Sookie was flying.
“You fly!” I exclaimed.
“And you are Captain Obvious,” she intoned before increasing her speed, leaving me breathless.
She set us down a few minutes later in a back yard of a home that was so “suburban” that it looked as if it had been cut from a cookie-cutter.
“Come,” she ordered as I tried to find my balance without teetering.
Not knowing what else to do, I followed her into the house; she gestured that I should sit on a comfortable-looking couch in the living room we’d entered. She took a seat in a comfortable-looking leather chair facing the couch. Immediately, a cat jumped up onto the couch and began sniffing me.
Automatically, I reached out to pet the creature. As might be expected, I’d never had a pet growing up. However, Adele kept two cats, and I’d come to love the comfort and company they could offer.
I was especially grateful to the feline since she seemed to be the only comfort I was bound to get as Sookie studied me with penetrating dark eyes.
“She likes you,” Sookie commented after a few minutes of silence—except for the cat’s purring. “She hates Lafayette.”
“He said that you were his maker,” I commented, not knowing what else to say. “What does that mean?”
“Just what it seems to mean,” she responded. “I made him a vampire.”
“You—uh—killed him?” I stammered.
She sat forward, though—thankfully—she didn’t seem affronted by my accusation. “I offered him another kind of life because he was strong and brave—and deserved much better than the life he’d been given during his human time,” she responded evenly.
I nodded in understanding—acceptance.
“What are you, Eric?” she asked.
“A teacher,” I responded quietly.
“You are more than that,” she said confidently.
As she stared at me, I felt a pressure to my head that was well beyond anything that I’d felt before, and I placed my hand onto my temple and rubbed.
“For one thing, you cannot be glamoured,” Sookie remarked. “And—for that alone—I should kill you,” she added emotionlessly.
My breath was taken away by fear rather than by her beauty in that moment, even as the cat meowed because I’d stopped petting it. Automatically, my hand returned to that task.
“I didn’t know,” I whimpered.
“Didn’t know what?” she asked.
“That I couldn’t be—uh—influenced by vampires.” Like everyone else, I’d heard rumors that vampires had the power to influence humans. “I’d never even met a vampire before Lafayette,” I added.
“How did you know about the raid?” she asked.
I took a deep breath. I knew that it was time to bite the proverbial bullet. I’d never uttered the words I was about to speak, for I had come to understand that the truth would get me killed. But—sitting in front of Sookie—I was struck once again by the feeling of safety I had with her, despite the fact that she’d threatened my life only moments before.
“I can read thoughts,” I said in barely a whisper.
In the next moment, Sookie was next to me on the couch, and I had been turned to face her. My shirt collar was in her hands and her fangs were down. Her cat quickly fled.
Well—there went that buffer.
“Can you hear my thoughts?” she snarled.
“No,” I said quickly, my voice shaking and body trembling. “I can’t hear any vampires.”
Again, her eyes narrowed as if to gauge whether or not I was telling the truth. Those orbs glowed until the deep brown in them became almost caramel.
I was left to wonder what she’d been looking for as she retook her seat as quickly as she’d left it.
“What are you, Eric?” she asked yet again. “You smell divine, so much so that I want to fuck you right on that couch before I drink your cum and your blood.”
My eyes widened and my cheeks flamed. And, though I’d been scared for my life moments before, my dick hadn’t gotten that memo; indeed, “he” was ready to comply with her request.
“A teacher—history. French,” I whimpered. “And a telepath,” I added, my body still shaking as I waited for her reaction.
Would she kill me? Would she shun me? Or would she deny ever even knowing me—as my parents had long ago.
“I knew a psychic once,” she responded, surprising me with the coldness in her tone. “He was more, and so are you,” she mused. “And—if you don’t tell me—I might just have to kill those whom you came to Fangtasia to aid.
“Adele,” I whispered. “No. Please!”
“Then, tell me what you are,” she said sternly.
Before I knew it, I was spilling the fact that I was “dead” just like her—at least, officially. I relayed the secret of my lineage and the identities of my natural parents—if those who abandoned a child could be called “natural.”
Trying not to taking any unneeded breaths, I quickly told her about how I’d been raised among strangers and “cured” by the cruel Marnie Stonebrook. I told her about my tutors and about how my caretakers had left on the day I’d turned 18. I told her about how I’d worked to start my own life after that. I told her about how I’d been “paid off” by Appius Ocella. I told her about how I’d gotten control of my shields and then served in the army before going to university. I told her about how I moved to the United States. I told her about my job and about Adele and her kindness. And I begged her not to kill the only person who had ever treated me like I was a person too.
I was panting when I finished.
“I believe that you do not know what you are,” she commented softly, her eyes softening too. She moved to the couch next to me once more. “I am sorry. But I had to know whether you were a danger to me and mine.”
“I’m not,” I promised.
She smiled as she took my hand. Inexplicably, I immediately went back to feeling safe with her.
“You needn’t worry,” she said. “I will not harm the human you care about.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I never would have—you know,” she offered. “I am many things, but the killer of innocents isn’t one of them.”
I nodded, somehow trusting her despite hardly knowing her.
“I would like to make you mine, Eric Northman,” she said in a low, penetrating tone.
“Yours?” I stammered.
“Yes. Mine. My human. My companion. My lover. My blood source. But I will let you choose.”
“Yes. I am attracted to you,” she said without shame or shyness, “in a way that I’ve seldom been attracted to another. No—in a way that I’ve never been attracted to another. You smell divine, and I’m sure that everything about you tastes even better than your scent,” she grinned suggestively. “I am not ashamed to admit that I want your body and your blood—as well as the use of your gift. I would pay you for any work that you did for me in that arena, however.” She tilted her head and looked down at our joined hands. “And then there is this—connection that I feel to you. I cannot explain it, but I have lived long enough not to disregard it. In addition, you have proven yourself to be brave and loyal to the one person in your life who has deserved your regard. You are intelligent, and I believe that I will enjoy speaking with you. Oh—and my cat likes you,” she added with a smirk.
“Yours?” I asked. Admittedly, I was still “stuck” on her earlier statement, even as I was trying to process her litany of the reasons why she wanted me.
“Mmmm,” she sounded in both affirmation and desire. The vibration of her voice made my cock strain against my jeans once again.
I shifted on the couch as she gave me a knowing look.
“Yes. You would be my human. That means that no other Supernatural could touch you without my permission,” she clarified.
“Why would any other vampires want me?” I asked.
She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Not just vampires,” she smirked. “And as for the why?” She leaned forward and inhaled deeply, sending shivers down my spine—the pleasurable kind.
“Eric,” she purred, “don’t sell yourself short. You smell divine.” She licked her lips.
“I really smell that different? From normal?” I asked.
She smiled. “You smell like the sun.”
“And you look like it,” I said before I could stop myself.
She chuckled. “Then we are a pair.”
“Wait—you said not just vampires? What did you mean?” I asked, once again shifting in my seat.
“Hmmm.” She was thoughtful for a moment. “Bon Temps is the home of a shifter; if I had to guess, I would say that he already has an eye on you.”
“Shifter?” I asked.
She nodded her head almost indulgently. “Sam Merlotte. He is two-natured.”
I cringed at his name.
“I see you know who he is,” she grinned wickedly. “He smelled like a mutt when he checked into my area. Tell me—has he tried to mark you? Pee on you?”
I frowned and shivered in disgust at the thought, even as my brain tried to catch up with the meaning behind her words. “Dog?”
“Yes. Merlotte can shift into various animals, and I’m certain—based upon your reaction—that he’s taken a whiff or two of you. At the very least,” she smirked. “There are others creatures of two-natures in Area 5, too—a group of werepanthers in Hotshot and a very organized Were pack. Werewolves,” she clarified. “Mostly in the Shreveport area. And some lone wolves, too. But again, if you were mine, you wouldn’t need to worry about such things.”
“There are also some fairies in the Monroe area—but one of my rules for Area 5 is that no vampires get anywhere near them.”
“Fairies?” I asked, realizing that I’d not been able to speak a complete sentence in a while.
She nodded. “Yes. Fairies and vampires have a very difficult time coexisting,” she leered, “unless the fairies have the power to cover their scents.” She chuckled. “You smell extraordinary, Eric. But the scent of a full-blooded fairy is like cat-nip—laced with crack and sunshine—to a vampire. And their blood intoxicates vampires,” she added almost wistfully.
“Fairies?” I repeated.
“There are also other kinds of creatures that poke their noses in and out of this world. Demons. Britlingens. Elves.” She sneered. “Just last week, I had to deal with a Maenad. Luckily, she was old school when it came to her tribute.”
“Tribute?” I muttered, still trying to reconcile myself to the fact that vampires were not the only so-called mythological creatures who were real.
“A bull.” She winked. “You should have heard Lafayette complaining about how the smell of the beast ruined his Armani.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
When I opened them, her face was within inches of my own, and she was looking hungrily at my lips.
“Become mine, Eric,” she said huskily. “I promise that you will not regret it.”
“And I’d be—what? Your sex toy? Your blood bag? A fangbanger?” I asked, trying to sound a little indignant, even as my cock continued to try to be heard on the topic.
“His” opinion was as obvious as the bulge “he” was making in my pants.
Sookie seemed to be considering something for a moment as she leaned back in her seat. “Vampires aren’t known for emotions or things like fidelity, Eric. We rarely have anything resembling relationships—unless our makers and children are counted. And many of those relationships are about nothing more than power and force,” she added bitterly.
In her eyes, I could see pain flash like a bolt of lightning.
“Your maker?” I asked, guessing the source of her inner storm.
“Dead,” she said calmly. “I arranged for him to be staked,” she added, looking at me with scrutiny—gauging my reaction to her cold words.
“I suppose he deserved it then,” I said, my jaw clenching.
“He deserved centuries of torture and pain,” she returned.
I flinched as she continued to watch me.
However, my eyes didn’t leave hers. Her brown orbs showed me both strength and vulnerability. They showed me a kind of history that no book could—or should—ever convey. In that moment, I somehow knew that she’d never looked at anyone the way that she was looking at me.
She was trusting me.
“But you didn’t deserve to feel his pain with him,” I said softly.
“You know about the fact that the children of vampires can feel what their makers feel?” she asked.
“I’m not sure I know anything about vampires at all,” I responded quietly—honestly. “And I’m happy about that,” I sighed, pointing to my head. “But I will admit to reading some articles on the Internet before I came to Fangtasia.”
She chuckled, though her eyes still held much pain. “Much of what is written is ridiculous, but it is true that I would have felt my maker’s pain if I had arranged for him to be punished for all of his many sins.” She shrugged. “It was almost worth it, but—in the end—I love myself more than I hated him.”
I found myself reaching out across the space between us in order to take her hand.
I didn’t do it to comfort her. The strength radiating from her unbroken spirit clearly conveyed that she didn’t need my comfort.
I didn’t even do it to convey my awe of her—though I was awestruck.
I did it because I’d missed having her hand in mine.
“I think I would like to invest my time in getting to know you,” she said, her smile softening.
“I’d like that,” I said honestly.
“Then you will become mine?” she asked.
Was that hope in her eyes?
“I don’t know. I’m sorry,” I quickly added.
She squeezed my hand.
“No matter. You soon will,” she smirked confidently. “Meanwhile, as I said before, I will help you with the mystery that brought you to Fangtasia tonight.”
“How?” I asked curiously.
“You have a unique gift, Eric, but—if I am correct—someone must be thinking of his or her sins for you to hear them. Correct?”
I nodded in confirmation.
She pointed to her nose. “Many vampires rise with gifts. I have two: the ability to fly and this.”
“Your nose?” I asked cluelessly, even as I remembered what it had felt like to be in her arms—literally—as she’d flown us to her home.
She giggled, looking suddenly much younger. “A keen sense of smell. Vampires all have heightened senses, and those get better with age; however, even as a newborn, my nose could pick up scents that even my maker’s could not. I will go to the scenes of the crimes. And—even though time has passed—I will be able to discern the common scents between the two scenes.” She smiled at me. “Then I will sniff out those scents and you will listen to our suspects.”
I frowned. “But—like you said—I’ve tried listening already.”
“True, but I will drop fang or maybe even kiss you,” she purred, leaning toward me again. “So—if the killer hates my kind and/or hates humans who have encounters with my kind, then he will likely not be able to prevent himself from thinking about the other killings.”
I thought for a moment and then nodded. Her plan was sound—especially the kissing part. I felt my cheeks redden at that thought.
She squeezed my hand, reminding me again that there was an “electric” force between us as we touched.
“You feel this too,” she stated, looking down at our interlocked fingers.
I nodded in agreement.
“I’ve never felt anything like it,” she shared. Given her age, that was an almost overwhelming thought.
“Me neither,” I whispered. “But—then again—touching was always,” I paused, “a daunting proposition for me. Before tonight.”
She tilted her head slightly to the side. “I suppose it would have been.”
“Touching you is,” I paused looking for an adequate word, “amazing.”
She chuckled. “I’m flattered.”
“It’s not even just the electricity,” I said, my brain-mouth connection suddenly not having any kind of filter. “Yours is the first hand I’ve held. And—not having to worry about hearing your thoughts is,” I paused again, “amazing.” I frowned, knowing that I was repeating myself, but the adjectives I knew—from every language I knew—didn’t seem superlative enough. “Not to mention that—when you touched me at Fangtasia—it blocked out other thoughts, even when I completely relaxed my shields.” I shook my head, awestruck as I remembered the feeling. “It was as if I could use your void to stay in complete control!” I finished excitedly.
“Void?” she asked.
“Your mind. I cannot hear you, but I can feel you there.”
“Can you feel other vampires?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yes. But your void is biggest—strongest. Maybe because of your age?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
We sat silently for almost a minute, just looking at each other.
“I think you and I could be good together, Eric,” she said solemnly.
“As long as you quit scaring me—or threatening Adele,” I muttered.
She smiled widely. “Okay—then. I promise. So—about your being mine then?” she asked somewhat jokingly.
“How long does mine last?” I asked in return.
She seemed to be contemplating for a moment. “Until one or both of us decide to end our association,” she said. “I could, perhaps, force you to stay mine indefinitely with my blood after we exchange. But I promise you that I will not. You are too much fun to keep on a leash.”
I took a breath. “Force? Exchange? Leash?”
She shook her head as if amused by the words I was focusing upon. “When you agree to be mine, I will feed from you, and you will take my blood. That will create a tie between us. That blood tie will identify you as mine. Generally, with a tie in place, a vampire can influence a human with his or her blood.”
“You could control me?”
“I don’t know,” she said contemplatively. “When I asked what you were before, it was because I have the feeling that you are much more than human—a theory that I could, perhaps, confirm if I drank from you,” she said, licking her lips. “And, if my hypothesis about what you are is correct, then controlling you would be difficult or impossible.” She shrugged. “It may surprise you, but—despite my age—I have never taken a human as mine before because I have never wanted a puppet or a sycophant as a human companion. But I find that I want you,” she said intensely. “But your choice is what I am interested in.”
“But—uh—I barely know you. You barely know me,” I stammered.
“I thought we’d already established that we will remedy that—with a little time,” she said confidently—arrogantly.
I suppose she had the right to be arrogant. Not only was she spot on about my interest in her—hell, I was already 90% sure that being hers would be a very good thing—but also she’d survived long enough to have earned any haughtiness she had. Lafayette had indicated that she’d been born—as a human—sometime during the Roman Empire. That would make her much more than a millennium old—perhaps even more than two millennia. It was clear to me that she would be a storehouse of history. It was also undeniable that I was physically attracted to her. And, amazingly enough—given all my blushes, gasps, and stammers—I could tell that the feeling was mutual, though I worried that I would inevitably disappoint her with my inexperience.
“What if you choose to discard me—when you tire of me?” I asked with a frown, not able to hide my self-doubt.
She studied me again. “I very well may tire of you.”
I inhaled deeply at her words.
“I won’t lie to you, Eric” she said, “but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to tell you whole truths either.” She shrugged. “Humans believe that the vampire world is an open book, but—so far—they have been allowed to read only the first chapter. Tonight, I have let you in on some information beyond that; however, my function in the vampire world requires that I remain discreet about certain things.”
“Function?” I asked.
She nodded. “I am a sheriff—the Sheriff of Area 5, which encompasses Northern Louisiana. There is a queen in this state—a queen who would foam at the mouth to get her hands on you if she ever learned of you. And—trust me—unlike me, she is not known for giving choices.”
“Are you trying to scare me?” I asked.
She frowned and shook her head. “Warn—yes. Scare—no. How you’ve not already been claimed by a supernatural is beyond me. However, it is clearly my good fortune that Merlotte had to have been neutered at some point in the past.”
“You are also lucky that Lafayette knew that I desired you before you even walked into my club; otherwise, the twelve other vampires in Fangtasia would have been on you like vipers on a mouse.”
My eyes widened.
“Yes. You smell that good, Eric,” she smirked. “But don’t worry. I am old and have much control.”
I frowned. “You want me just for my blood?”
Her brow arched. “I thought that we’d already established that I want you for many reasons. And I thought that we’d also established that you ought not to sell yourself short.”
I took a breath. “Old habits.”
She nodded indulgently. “It wasn’t your scent that made me first notice you,” she admitted after a few moments of silence. “You caught my eye when I drove into the parking lot of Fangtasia. Waiting in line, you seemed lost—probably inside of that past you told me about.”
“You pitied me?” I asked.
“No,” she shook her head. “I recognized you. You might have been lost, Eric, but there was still purpose in your eyes. I watched on the security feed as you fought your uncertainty and a little bit of fear before entering Fangtasia. I saw Lafayette scare you a few times as well—but you still treated him more like a,” she paused, “human than a monster.”
“I know what it’s like to be treated like a monster,” I commented.
“All the more reason to treat others that way,” she returned. “But you didn’t. You know—I stood in the shadows waiting to go to my throne—watching over you. I listened to your exchange with Lafayette. I enjoyed your wit and you lack of discomfort with his advances—though it was clear that you were straight.”
I frowned even more deeply. “Hey—he tried to glamour me! Didn’t he? That’s the pressure I felt in my head—wasn’t it? Would he have,” I blushed, “taken advantage?”
She giggled, her voice musical. “No. Don’t worry. He enjoys a challenge as much as I do. He’s never needed glamour to get a man into his bed; like maker, like child,” she added with a wink.
My blush fired back into place.
“It wasn’t a coincidence that my child was at the door when you entered. It wasn’t a coincidence that he escorted you once you were in the club. He was supposed to glamour you to come back to my office without asking any questions.” She smirked. “When he failed, I felt it. So I took my throne to check you out for myself.” She looked me up and down as she squeezed my hand again.
I was sure that my blush deepened to an impossible red.
“Do you want to fuck me?” she asked bluntly.
Yes and please—I thought.
“Uh—um. I—uh,” I gasped.
I was clearly not having my finest moment when it came to speaking.
“Are you a virgin?” she asked without judgment or embarrassment—as if she were commenting on the weather. “Is that why you hesitate in becoming mine?”
I cringed and my cheeks became even hotter. “No,” I whimpered. “But I’m not exactly very experienced either.”
“Because of your gift?”
I scoffed. “Curse.”
She nodded. “I suppose you would think of it that way.”
There was another minute of silence between us, thankfully giving my flesh the chance to become a more “human” color again.
“I know the vampire queen of Sweden,” she said, her tone now icy. “Would you like for your parents to be killed? A human king would be more difficult to slay, but I could probably swing the death of your uncle, too.”
“No!” I yelled out.
“But they abandoned you,” she said, her expression tinged with confusion.
“They were scared of me!” I returned. “I remember that much about them.”
“They were weak,” she corrected.
I shook my head. “They were normal.”
She squeezed my hand again, once again making me cognizant of the fact that I was still holding hers. After a lifetime of not touching anyone, pulling away from her seeming unthinkable, despite the fact that she was threatening to murder my parents.
I looked into Sookie’s eyes and realized that she was actually offering me yet another choice: revenge or forgiveness. Or—maybe something different from forgiveness. Maybe just the knowledge that I now held their lives in my hands, just as they’d always held mine in theirs.
I realized something else too. I was—already, probably, inexplicably, mysteriously, magnificently—in love with her. The evidence of it pounded in my heart.
It seemed that “love at first sight” wasn’t just a storybook fantasy.
“You love them,” she whispered. “You love your parents?” she asked.
I wondered if she could see my love for her in my eyes too. She seemed to see everything else.
I felt myself nodding before I verbalized my answer. “Yes.”
A soft smile framed her face. “Choose me, Eric,” she said enticingly. “You’ve nothing to lose. At best, we will be good together. And—at worst—we will have fun together for a while. And then you can choose to end our acquaintance.”
“What about my heart?” I found myself asking, even though I hadn’t intended to vocalize my fear. Yes—I knew that societal ideas about masculinity should have made my decision easy. After all, Sookie had clearly inferred that we’d fuck if I chose her. And wasn’t that what “real men” did? Make conquests? I shook my head. It was I who was worried about “feelings”—not Sookie.
I could imagine a man like Jason Stackhouse calling me a “pussy” for considering the consequences of having my heart broken—or even admitting to having a heart at all. Similarly, Jason would likely ask for my “man card” and suggest that I’d lost my “balls.”
But I’d read enough male minds to know that those kinds of sentiments were defense mechanisms. The strongest—and happiest—men I’d ever “heard” in my life were the ones who allowed themselves to feel and who were unashamed of their feelings.
I just wasn’t sure if I was that strong—yet.
Sookie’s other hand came up to stroke my cheek. I leaned into her confident touch and tried to take strength from her confident eyes. “Do you think I will break your heart, Eric?”
“I think you could,” I confessed.
“After all that you have experienced—after being abandoned by your family—you still have a heart to break,” she said, her voice sounding a little awestruck.
I didn’t answer, intuiting that my pounding heart was doing it for me.
“I will try not to hurt you,” Sookie said, leaning toward me a little. “Trust me.”
Taking a leap of faith, I closed the small distance between us and kissed her.
It was the first kiss I’d had where I could totally relax.
It was the first kiss I’d had where there were fangs present, too. But I discovered that I didn’t mind that at all as the kiss deepened and my tongue began to explore her mouth and those fangs.
And then her phone buzzed, signaling the breaking of our kiss.
When she removed the ringing devise from her bustier, I was the one moaning.
She gave me a knowing look as she answered. “Lafayette.”
Their conversation began in English, and—from her end of the conversation—I gathered that Lafayette had managed to get the feeding vampiress and the “injured man” out of Fangtasia before the police found them. However, Sookie and Lafayette’s conversation soon shifted to the ancient language I’d heard before, even as she tensed up and gripped my hand harder—almost uncomfortably so.
But I wasn’t about to let go of her.
Though I knew Latin, which was clearly related to the language she was speaking, I caught only a snippet of their conversation.
Something about a queen.
Something about me.
Something about a man named Bill Compton.
When Sookie hung up, she gave me a wry smile.
“Someone must have noticed you. Other than me, of course. And before tonight.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The queen’s procurer has just taken up residence in Bon Temps—tonight. He hasn’t checked in yet—as protocol dictates he should have, but my spies in New Orleans are very efficient.”
“Procurer?” I asked.
She nodded. “I bet you can guess what he’s come to procure in your little town.”
“But—how would he even know about me?” I asked with trepidation. “No one knows I’m still a telepath—no one but you.”
“I won’t take that as an accusation,” she said with amusement.
“I didn’t mean it as one,” I said honestly.
She shrugged. “Perhaps Appius Ocella is looking for insurance that you will never be a problem again,” she speculated. “I’m sure that he has kept track of you. Or—maybe—Merlotte told somebody about the sweet-smelling man who moved to his town. He has quite a few questionable associations. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one of them is the queen.”
I sat dumbstruck for a moment.
Sookie sighed deeply, a sound that didn’t seem right from a vampire. “Would you like help getting away? I could aid you in assuming a new identity and going somewhere that very few vampires would ever find appealing.”
I scoffed. “Like the North Pole?”
“No,” she said with a grin. “For half of the year, such a place would be quite appealing.”
“Longer days,” I said ruefully.
“Yes. It is places along the equator that get the least amount of traffic from my kind and most other supernaturals as well. Or islands. For instance, I know that Kauai currently has only one vampire resident, and she’s sworn off human contact. Plus, the two-natured don’t tend to constrict themselves to islands either.”
“Kauai, Hawaii?” I asked.
She smiled. “You really do know your geography, Mr. Northman. Would you like to go there? To escape the political mess you are likely to find yourself in if you stay here?”
“Political mess?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yes. If Sophie-Anne knows about you and has sent Bill Compton—who is a real douchebag, by the way—then she is also trying to poach in Area 5. Thus, I will be forced to use either passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive tactics to put her back into her place and to remind her that the throne of this state remains hers only because I don’t fucking want it!” she finished with a growl.
I took a deep breath. “What if I become yours? Now?”
She growled even louder, but her eyes became lustful as opposed to angry. “Then I’d get to be much more passive aggressive than aggressive aggressive. You’d be under my protection, and Sophie-Anne wouldn’t dare to cross me. Meanwhile, I’d do a little investigative work to find out how she knows about you. If it was the shifter or another supernatural who simply had the delight of smelling you and wanted to gain the queen’s favor, then the matter will likely be dropped quickly. Sophie-Anne would have to recognize that you’ve been claimed by her better, and she will likely bow out gracefully.”
“If she doesn’t, I’ll kill her and make Lafayette be the king,” she chuckled darkly.
I chuckled as well. “I think he’d like that too much.”
She nodded in agreement.
“I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I’m causing you trouble.”
She laughed, the sound literally lifting my spirits. “Oh—Mr. Northman, if you had any idea how bored I was before I spotted you, you would know that your apology isn’t necessary.” She winked at me. “Plus, I love trouble.”
“What if your queen found out from Appius? That could bring you a lot of trouble—from more than just vampires—if you try to protect me.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Do not worry about that, Eric. Once you are mine, all threats against you will be dealt with.”
Given the intensity in her eyes, I believed her. “Then make me yours, Sookie.”
Her answering growl sent vibrations through my entire body.
“You are sure? There will be no turning back,” she said seriously.
I didn’t want to move back. I wanted to move forward.