“There is that awful moment when you realize that you’re falling in love. That should be the most joyful moment, and actually it’s not. It’s always a moment that’s full of fear because you know, as night follows day, the joy is going to rapidly be followed by some pain or other. All the angst of a relationship.”—Helen Mirren
FEBRUARY 5, 2005 (FOUR DAYS BEFORE THE PREVIOUS; PICKS UP FROM MID-CHAPTER 2)
I shook all thoughts of Appius Livius Ocella from my head as I turned onto the rocky driveway that Eric had purchased for me even before Hallow’s spell.
It had been a “token of love that could be couched in the practical” Pam had told me. She’d also told me that Eric had planned to write the driveway off as “a necessity for an asset” as if using the term “asset” would show all others that I wasn’t important to him.
The other Eric, it had seemed, had always been interested in making sure that my importance to him and my potential importance to the Supernatural world was obscured—at least in the perceptions of others.
It made me love my husband even more. It made me appreciate the other Eric more too.
I got out of the car and hurried toward the back door—though I had no fear. I could sense a Were guard in the woods—supplied by Pam, of course. Similarly, Bubba or Thalia often patrolled the woods at night.
No—I did not hurry out of necessity or because of danger. I was anxious to see my husband, even though he was still dead for the day.
I smiled as I bounded up the stairs. Eric had literally demolished the upstairs of the house two and a half weeks before—as a wedding gift. And then—after having observed one of Alcide’s crews for about half a night, he had made for us a large, light-tight suite, complete with a luxurious bathroom. It had taken him only two night; needless to say, I’d been amazed by the speed of his work!
The thing I liked most about the suite was that I could be with my husband during the daytime. There was no more need for the little cubby—though it was still around for guests.
Wanting to be close to him, I stripped and curled myself against his cold body. He felt like heaven against my sore muscles.
We’d spent about an hour one night arguing about whether or not I should continue to work. In many ways, Eric was a Viking man—as in straight out of that era. And he felt like my work in the home was more than enough contribution to the household. I’d argued that I needed consistent contact with humans to keep my shields strong. We’d compromised on the idea of day shifts.
We’d compromised again when he’d decided that forming his own demolition company would be more fulfilling than working for someone else. He’d asked me if I would be the “day manager” for his new business once it was up and running. In that way, I would be able to practice my shields with humans and Weres, but would be out of a situation that was often unpleasant for me.
He was right. Working at Merlotte’s was often unpleasant. So I’d agreed.
After that, he’d begun to call his new brain-child “our business.”
For once, I didn’t feel like a dead weight—pardon the pun—when it came to a set of big plans. As Eric had been making them, I’d discovered that I had a decent head for business and had even offered quite a few ideas. I was intending to take some business courses, too—so that I could offer even more.
I smiled. I was excited about the new business—excited about being a true partner in it. Like Eric himself, it was a gift.
Until the new venture was open and flourishing, however, I had decided to continue working at Merlotte’s. But I would soon approach Sam about cutting out a couple of shifts a week since Eric and my household was now a two-income one. I sighed. I’m sure Sam was going to shit a few more bricks when I changed my schedule again, but he could just add them to his collection.
I smiled as I thought of all Eric had already done to “provide for me.” My box freezer was literally teeming with meat from the animals that Eric had hunted. He truly was a Viking through and through, and he’d quickly “replenished the stores,” as he’d put it. Not only had he known how to field dress the animals, but he’d also skinned them and cut the meat into steaks and such that even Jason had been impressed by. In fact, I had enough pheasant, quail, wild boar, and venison to serve as my protein for a long time.
In addition, the house itself had never looked better—at least not during my lifetime. With only a little guidance concerning modern tools from Alcide and the Internet, Eric was on his way to being a carpentry wizard. He took pride in the home in a way that even Gran might have envied, and he was always repairing or improving something.
“Why have I awoken to you sad, min kära?” he asked as he turned to face me.
“I was thinking about Gran. She would have loved you.”
He grinned. “Yes. I am a good husband,” he said unabashedly.
I giggled. “That you are.”
“Speaking of which,” he leered. “I believe that it is part of my obligation to come to ‘know’ your body even more tonight.”
I felt my heat rising, and I welcomed his cool as we made love.
FEBRUARY 11, 2005 (SIX NIGHTS LATER, AN HOUR AFTER SUNDOWN)
Our fingers were thread together—wedding ring to wedding ring.
“A man would not have had a ring in my time,” he said of the band of gold I’d gotten to match the band he’d given me.
“Don’t you like it?” I asked. I knew that he did. We’d bonded on our wedding night—as in, formed the final part of our permanent blood bond (which Pam had needed to explain to us). Thus, I knew that he was happy to wear the ring.
“Hmm . . . . Are you asking if I like being claimed?” he asked teasingly.
“Do you?” I teased back.
“Only by you,” he responded before kissing me hard.
God, I loved his kisses.
“So—do you have work tonight?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he responded, “but I just have to pull up the existing tile from a small bathroom. The job is scheduled for 4:00 a.m. It won’t take long.”
“Mmm,” I moaned. “You’ll want a bath after pulling up all those tiles.”
“But not alone,” he growled as he kissed my neck.
He never did like to bathe alone, and since I didn’t have to work the next day, I could stay up and have it ready for him.
We were interrupted from having a pre-bath shower by a knock on the door.
I had modified my schedule several weeks before, so it wasn’t “late” for the visit, though it was after midnight. I tended to sleep from about 3:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. each day; six hours was plenty of sleep for me, given the fact that I was regularly taking Eric’s blood. And I needed to be at Merlotte’s by 10:30 a.m. on the days I worked.
“Two vampires,” I said, using my extra sense to identify the voids.
“Pam and Bill,” Eric reported, though the second name was said sourly.
Eric had not warmed to our neighbor—not that I blamed him. Bill hadn’t been around much that I’d seen, though Eric had reported that he was often in his home across the cemetery. In fact, I’d seen Bill only once since he’d returned from Peru. He’d brought Eric and me a wedding gift—a set of silver silverware, a customary Southern gift but, perhaps, a figurative stab at Eric.
I wasn’t sure. Bill had seemed sincere when he’d given us the gift.
Regardless, Eric was always a pragmatist. Thus, he’d taught me how each item in the set could be used as a weapon against a vampire. How he knew the knowledge that he relayed, I didn’t know. Nor did I want to. I simply listened and I learned.
As it turned out, Bill’s gift had been practical. But it would never grace the Stackhouse-Northman table.
Despite the unwelcome visitor and the slightly less unwelcome visitor, Eric knew how I was. He immediately put on jeans and a T-shirt.
“I will get the door and make sure they have TrueBloods,” he assured, kissing my forehead.
I nodded and raised my lips to nick his chin. I appreciated that he knew me so well. Some might call my husband “pussy-whipped,” but I tended to think that they would be only the most ignorant of people—those who didn’t think men could be polite without suddenly becoming “pussies.” That very thought revolted me, for I knew that Eric was all man.
He was the modern, and he was the ancient. A perfect mix.
And Eric didn’t apologize or hide from his desire to make me happy, just as I didn’t shy away from a complementary desire to make him happy. Moreover, he recalled the part of his Viking heritage that would welcome and ally. And—even if he disliked Bill—he did regard his child as an ally.
I walked down the stairs only minutes after Eric had—having put on sweats and pulled my hair into a loose pony-tail.
I could tell from the somber faces of our visitors that much was wrong. Eric was waiting for me on the couch, and I went to sit next to my husband.
I’d always had a gift for glamour. I had no problem glamouring humans or Weres—even from the start of my second life. The only exception had been Sookie.
I’d grown to love her. And I loved her still, but I could tell that she was happy with the Viking.
Her life was “right” for her, and I was getting ready to take that away from her.
I hated myself all the more for it.
My vampire nature made me desire to kill Eric Northman—especially now that he was more “vulnerable”—for he had the woman I still wanted.
As for the human nature I had left?
Well—it just wanted to thank Eric.
Pam and I had tried hard to keep the couple in front of us insulated. Hell—I would likely be flayed and staked for the lies I’d told to Sophie-Anne during the previous month. But I would do it all again—just to enjoy seeing the light that had been in Sookie’s eyes during her time with the vampire next to her.
He was good for her—perfect—in ways that I never could have been.
I regretted that I’d betrayed Sookie, but my fate where she was concerned had been set from the very day that I had introduced Sophie-Anne to her “very special human,” Hadley.
No. It had been set from the day I became the Queen’s procurer.
What vampire of my age would have turned down a position in Sophie-Anne’s court—especially since that position had assured that I could remain somewhat independent of my maker? I’d simply never allowed what lingered of my moral compass “to point” as I’d procured the things—the people—that Sophie-Anne had asked for.
And I’d never concerned myself with their fates after I’d delivered them. I knew that some lived and some died.
But—at least—some lived.
With Lorena, I’d killed almost every night—sometimes many times a night. Thus, providing the Queen of Louisiana with the tasty morsels she desired every week or so was a downright cleansing of my soul!
When Sophie-Anne had asked me to secure Sookie—someone who was not to be killed but to be “used” for her gift—I’d felt almost “saintly.” This time, I was assured that my gift of glamour and my skill at procurement would not lead to death.
I’d been grateful.
And then I’d met my “mark.”
And completely innocent.
I’d fallen in love with her early on in our association—at least as much as I was still capable of love.
However, the best I’d been able to do for Sookie had been to delay the inevitable, but—in so doing—I’d inadvertently put her in the path of the vampire she’d made her husband.
Where I’d wanted to make her my wife.
I thought of my human wife, Sarah—and of the life I’d shared with her once upon a time. Expecting two soul mates in a lifetime—even a vampire lifetime—was expecting too much, apparently.
In truth, I knew that I was not Sookie’s soul mate. Our relationship had been based on lies, and Sookie was a truth-teller. I sighed. Ironically, my chance with Sookie had dried up at the same point in time that I’d concentrated 90% of my attentions upon the Queen’s database, a deliberate act on my part to divert attention away from Sookie.
Not surprisingly, my change of attention had caused Sookie to question our relationship too. Because of the tie between my blood and hers, I’d known that Sookie was becoming unhappy—well before Lorena had called me. She’d felt ignored and pushed aside.
If I was proud of one thing I’d done, it was this: the part of me—the part that was still moral—had pushed Sookie to the side on purpose. The “good” part of me had made sure that Eric was left as her custodian when I had to go to Lorena.
I was a fucked up kind of matchmaker.
Indeed, I could have given myself a little credit for Sookie’s happiness. But I did not. I knew I deserved no credit—no forgiveness.
Vampire instincts to the side, I’d raped Sookie in the trunk of the very car she’d saved me with.
I’d violated her.
If not for Eric tearing into that trunk, I would have killed her.
I’d seen his face in that moment, and it had sobered me of my bloodlust.
I’d known from his expression right away that he was in love with her.
He’d not killed me for one reason only: that love.
I was lucky to be alive—still undead.
From the moment I’d regained an ounce of myself, I’d sworn to the God of my humanity that I would do whatever I could to protect her and to serve him—come what may. I owed both of them my life.
So—yes—I might have been risking torture and death at the hands of my queen, but I didn’t give a fuck. And—yes—I had to stand by and watch Sookie be with another man, but I knew he deserved her. Thus, I had worked with Pam—more like followed her orders—for the last month. And I had kept my eyes opened for trouble. I had lied to Queen Sophie-Anne and her child, Andre, multiple times. I had opened my home to Thalia and Bubba. I had started a version of the database that Pam and I intended to use to manipulate, blackmail, or destroy anyone who threatened the bubble around Sookie and her Eric. I’d glamoured humans to think they’d seen Eric—the Sheriff—at Fangtasia. Basically, I’d done whatever Pam had deemed necessary.
But it had all been for naught.
For there was one force that Pam and I couldn’t protect them from.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who has been commenting on and reading this story! I know this one is angsty, but that’s just how it came out.